TACOMA, Washington -- Day 1 of legalized marijuana passed with barely a ripple in the South Sound.
There was no uptick Thursday in traffic accidents by stoned drivers, no run on Doritos or banana ice cream at Safeway stores; no public displays of stoner joy like the Smoke-ins crowds that lit up the night at the Seattle Center.
For the authors of Initiative 502, the marijuana legalization measure voters approved last month, that was just as well.
Celebrating marijuana was never the intention, said Alison Holcomb, the ACLU attorney who ran the successful I-502 campaign. The intent was replacing a failed prohibition model with a thoughtful and humane new public policy, Holcomb said. That, she said, is serious business.
Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum said his bosses have written no new policies or guidelines for officers with regard to the changed law.
Thanks to a citywide initiative in 2011, marijuana possession by adults already was Tacomas lowest law enforcement priority. Thats been the case in Seattle since 2003. Pierce County sheriffs spokesman Ed Troyer said much the same thing.
Deputies dont target pot offenses now, he said, and I-502 wont change that. The enforcement priorities will continue to focus on people cultivating and selling marijuana illegally. Were not going to do anything more, Troyer said. We not going to do anything less.
Seattle police struck a lighter tone with regard to public use of marijuana, which remains illegal under the new law. For a while at least, officers will let people off with verbal warnings for public use, police Jonah Spangethal-Lee said.
That policy was clearly in effect Thursday, as crowds of pot smokers at the Seattle Center openly lit up and blew smoke at television news cameras, first at a gathering shortly after midnight when the law officially took effect and again in the evening.
The departments going to give you a generous grace period to help you adjust to this brave, new, and maybe kinda stoned world we live in, Spangethal-Lee wrote on the SPD Blotter.
Does this mean you should flagrantly roll up a mega-spliff and light up in the middle of the street? No. If youre smoking pot in public, officers will be giving helpful reminders to folks about the rules and regulations under I-502 (like not smoking pot in public).
But the police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a Lord of the Rings marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to.
Clyde Phillips, 84, a retired narcotics agent who moved to Washington from California four years ago, held his own quiet celebration Thursday at his home in the Lacey area.
I just had a couple of tokes a couple of minutes ago, and Im feeling very relaxed, Ill tell you, Phillips said about 11:30 a.m. on the big day.
In a reflective mood, Phillips recalled the early days of drug enforcement.
People would say you take just one puff of marijuana and youre going to get addicted, he said. That just wasnt true.
And Phillips remembered with regret the many marijuana offenders he helped convict and send to jail, some for possession of as little as a single joint.
In one case, we vacuumed a guys car and found just two or three seeds, he said. That was enough to put him in jail.