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Pot Still Illegal Until Dec. 6, Says City Hall

Passage of Initiative 502 will legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Mercer Island City Attorney Katie Knight said police will follow current state law regulating the possession of marijuana.

If you're on Mercer Island, over 21 and have a small amount of marijuana with you, local officials say despite the passage of Initiative 502, you're still risking arrest.

Like other cities and counties across the state, Mercer Island City Hall is busy trying to adopt guidelines to take into account changes in the law after the passage of I-502 in the general election, but most of those changes won't take effect until 30 days after the passage of the law — on Dec. 6.

The City Attorney's Office and local police department say they are waiting for guidance from their peers as they prepare to move forward when the new law takes effect on that date.

Knight said the city won't, however, be following King County's lead by dismissing all marijuana possession cases. The King County Prosecutor's Office announced Nov. 9 that all 175 possession cases will be dropped. If you are arrested on Mercer Island on Dec. 5 for marijuana posession, you'll be cited for illegal marijuana posession.

"We're going to abide by state law," Mercer Island City Attorney Katie Knight said. "State law changes on Dec. 6."

Instead, Knight said the city is awaiting new rules to be adopted by the State Liquor Control Board on Dec. 1, 2013.

The WSLCB will issue regulations and licenses developed for both growers and processors, as well as the retailers after the yearlong rule-making period.

"We're trying to understand (I-502) before making a decision on what to do about it," said Knight. "To see what comes out of the state liquor control board and to see what — if anything — that the federal government will do."

After I-502 passed, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan issued a statement that re-iterated the federal government's position that the possession of marijuana was illegal, but no word came directly from Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, drug prevention advocates Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention is circulating a letter to supporters on Mercer Island and elsewhere, urging the federal government to declare the new law illegal and pressure state lawmakers (a PDF of the letter is attached to this story).

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