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Seattle police return marijuana taken from street dealers

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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Seattle Police returned marijuana taken from street dealers this week. (ABC News)

Attitudes about marijuana are changing rapidly in the U.S., so much so that even law enforcement is coming up with some unique ways of dealing with those who consume or even sell the drug.

In what the Seattle Police Department described as its “first time ever” event, authorities returned small amounts of marijuana confiscated from street dealers as part of a police investigation.

Since voters decided to legalize marijuana in November 2012, Washington state authorities have attempted to navigate the unfamiliar waters of drug legalization. For the most part, that has involved figuring out how to deal with individuals smoking or attempting to purchase pot.

A poll released on Thursday found that for the first time a majority of Americans favor legalizing the consumption and sale of marijuana. But Colorado and Washington are the only two states that have so far passed legalization measures on a statewide level.

But how does the law apply to selling small amounts of cannabis? As with alcohol, the current state marijuana legalization does not allow for consumption in public places or for nonlicensed individuals to sell the drug.

So, after a number of complaints from local residents, SPD investigated two dozen individuals suspected of dealing drugs in an area known as the “Ave.”

“Turns out that marijuana dealers actually accounted for the majority of the problem. In the spirit of I-502, Seattle Police coordinated with the King County Prosecutor’s Office to forge ahead with an innovative approach to equitably deal with those responsible,” reads an explanation on the SPD’s blog.

In other words, individuals who were only carrying marijuana and did not have outstanding criminal records were let go.

“In street dealing cases, this would be the first time. Ever,” SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb told Seattle PI.

But the SPD did issue the pot dealers warning, discouraging them from continuing to sell pot and to not consume it in public places like the Ave.

“The offender will have been shown to have been warned about marijuana sales, and that they still returned, despite our attempt at gaining their cooperation,” explained Narcotics Lt. Mike Kebba. "The admonishment letter is reasonable, because we are not restricting their freedom to go anywhere. SPD will just be requiring them to comply with the law while in public places and refrain from drug dealing.”

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