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Smoking outside? That could get you a ticket if Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has his way. (AP Photo/File)

Seattle pot smokers may face future fines for toking in public

When someone is drinking alcohol on the street, police can cite them for an "open container of alcohol." That's an infraction that winds up costing you around $27.

Currently, if someone smokes marijuana on the street police may only issue warnings, but Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes wants to change that.

"Remember that I-502 proposes regulating marijuana similar to the way we regulate alcohol. You can't drink a beer going down the street and you shouldn't be able to smoke a joint," Holmes told KIRO Radio's Ross & Burbank.

He's proposed a city ordinance that would create a citation for pot smoking in public under city law.

The ordinance would allow officers to issue a $50 fine, which ends up being more like $103 after additional fees, for pot use "in view of the general public."

KIRO Radio's Andrew Walsh, a supporter of marijuana's legalization said, "I don't think you would say [Pete Holmes] is the man trying to put his boot on the neck of freedom-loving weed smokers."

Walsh reiterated a point of Holmes' shared in The Stranger, saying as pioneers in pot legalization, the eyes of the nation are on us - and in particular, the state's biggest city, Seattle.

"It has to do with using this new freedom we have with a lot more respect," said Holmes.

Those eyes include other states that may want to consider marijuana legalization, as well as the federal government, since it is still illegal to possess marijuana under federal law.

The feds haven't rushed to shut down Washington's pot legalization for the most part - but they did target medical marijuana shops in Washington on Wednesday. How they will handle the legalization of recreational marijuana use remains unclear.

KIRO Radio's John Curley asked his co-host - what's worse - a guy drinking some whiskey on the street corner or a guy smoking pot? Walsh said he thought the handling of pot-related and alcohol-related infractions should be equivalent.

And much like the average barfly in Washington doesn't take their drink outside, police have said they want people to self-police when it comes to smoking pot.

Seattle Police's interim police Chief Jim Pugel told The Stranger that if a citation is created during his term as interim chief, tickets will "only be used as a last resort after someone has refused to put it away. It takes time and money to write a citation. Let's focus on the things that make the city safer."

Pot-smoking infractions have remained the lowest priority for Seattle police since 2003.

Alyssa Kleven, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at MyNorthwest.com. She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.
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