Implementing I-502 in Seattle

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I-502 implementationIn December of last year the Council passed legislation to incorporate part of Initiative 502 into state law.

I-502, which legalized marijuana in Washington State, included a provision setting a fine at $50 for public consumption of marijuana; special assessments could increase the fine total to just over $100. The fine is a civil infraction only, comparable to a ticket.

I heard this legislation to incorporate this section of I-502 into city law in committee in July. City Attorney Pete Holmes drafted the legislation. Without incorporating this into City law, any fines collected would go the state. Adding it to City law would result in the City receiving some of the fine.

After hearing the legislation, I developed amendments before the December vote.

The first amendment specifies the fine level at $27, the same as alcohol. This is the total fine, including assessments.  Now that marijuana is legal in Washington State, treating it the same as alcohol strikes me as the best approach. The fine for public drinking is $27.

Another amendment notes that the Seattle Police Department intends to give a first warning before issuing tickets.

An additional amendment requires SPD to report to the Council on enforcement by race, age, gender, and location of tickets; the first report is due six months after the ordinance went into effect, in January. A separate amendment noted SDP’s intent to contract with a consultant to develop a method for this monitoring.

Separately, the Council passed legislation updating city law for indoor smoking violations. The legislation adjusted city law to include marijuana, and reduced the fine for individuals to $27. The bill was also amended to include the intent of a first warning.

At today’s meeting of the Finance and Culture Committee, the committee voted to send legislation to the Full Council that amends the City’s business license tax (also known and the business and occupation, or B&O) code to clarify that marijuana growers are not exempt from the tax. The city’s B&O tax rate is 0.215% or $2,150 per $1 million in gross taxable revenue. Businesses with under $100,000 in revenue do not have to pay the B&O tax, under legislation passed by the Council in 2009.