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An increase in public pot smoking has some parents complaining their kids are being exposed to smoke. (AP file)

Public pot smoking around kids sparking growing blowback

With so many more people smoking pot in public - even though it's still illegal to do so - there's growing blowback from those who say even though they support legalization, they don't want their kids to have to breathe it.

Seattle Times columnist Jonathan Martin is sparking plenty of talk with a column this week pointedly telling pot smokers to stop being jerks.

Martin recounts a visit to Seattle's Cal Anderson Park for his son's middle school frisbee match. A group of nearby skateboarders filled the air with pungent marijuana smoke that wafted over the team, prompting him to yell at the tokers to put it out. They didn't.

Martin's friend Natalie Singer-Velush has complaints of her own. She detailed a visit to Golden Gardens Park last Sunday on her Facebook page, interrupted by a cloud of pot smoke that enveloped her and three kids as several adults sparked up just a few feet away on the crowded beach.

Both Martin and Singer-Velush say they voted for Initiative 502, but both say legalizing pot doesn't mean we've given up our collective right and responsibility to protect our kids.

"Legal pot doesn't mean that on a summer afternoon I want my 7-year-old to get a contact high because some supposed adults cannot contemplate that puffing pot her way might violate an unwritten social code of decency," Singer-Velush writes.

"As with cigarettes, a person's vice shouldn't be foisted onto others, be it on a sidewalk or in a park," Martin writes. "It's all about discretion, and being a good citizen."

But KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz argues it's unrealistic to expect all public places around town to be completely smoke free, especially on Capitol Hill.

"This is what you do at Cal Anderson Park. This is where you go to smoke marijuana in the city of Seattle. Nothing has changed since legalization," Rantz says in response to Martin's column.

While Rantz says he doesn't want young people getting high, he does want to see a liberalization of public pot smoking to encourage its growing acceptance.

"I want it to be out in public. I want it to be accepted responsibly and so I don't necessarily feel the need to start telling people don't smoke it in public. I do feel the need to say be responsible, be considerate, show some etiquette, whatever that etiquette may be, and there's going to be a learning curve here, it's not something everyone knows, but it's not the end of the world."

"I don't want kids to smoke it," Rantz continues. "I don't necessarily want you smoking right in front of anyone and just blowing it in their face, but I do think there needs to be a little bit more of a normalization of marijuana before we move forward on this debate."

But Martin argues rather than promoting greater acceptance, blatant public pot smoking could have the opposite effect.

"Blowing pot smoke toward a bunch of elementary-age kids at the beach is an excellent way to chip away at public support," he writes.

Concerns about being exposed to pot smoke aren't limited to public places. MyNorthwest.com digital content manager Stephanie Klein says her neighbors smoke pot daily, and the clouds regularly waft onto her deck and into her house.

"It seriously will fill up my whole downstairs. I can smell it throughout my house, even upstairs when I'm trying to sleep," Klein says.

It's particularly frustrating in the summer, Klein says. The mother of two is regularly forced to bring her young children inside and close all the windows to avoid their exposure to the smoke.

"I voted for I-502. I don't care that they're smoking pot at all. But now I have to deal with my 4-year-old, who's saying 'the neighbors are stinky again, mommy.' What am I supposed to tell him?"

Martin, Singer-Velush and Klein all agree they don't want to be forced to choose between their support for 502 and protecting their kids as long as they can. So what's the solution? Martin says it's simple: "Don't be a jerk."

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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