Seattle police return marijuana confiscated from suspected dealers in ‘first ever’ case

You have to hand it to Seattle police. They have been totally chill about adapting to Washington’s legal marijuana status. Right after the election they put up a page on their site to explain the new rules—and it was actually funny, with a video embed from “Lord of the Rings” with Bilbo smoking “the finest weed in the land” and everything. Then they began retraining their police dogs to be mellow around pot. Now they’re actually giving weed back to drug dealers.

In what’s being called a “first ever” case, Seattle PD returned pot that they confiscated from six suspected drug dealers. The six men were arrested as part of a bust targeting 24 individuals total. While some of the men were found to have hard drugs on them or histories of violent crime and were brought up on criminal charges, six were found with marijuana that falls within the limits of legal possession under Washington’s new legal marijuana law passed in November.

Police issued the men a warning to please not deal drugs, gave them their pot back, and set them free.

Seattle PD spokesman Sean Whitcomb said, “In street dealing cases, this would be the first time. Ever.”

It’s still illegal for unlicensed individuals to sell marijuana—but for regulatory reasons, the same way it’s illegal to sell homemade alcohol, not because the substance itself is illegal. Which means that even if the six men were dealing pot as suspected, they still wouldn’t be guilty of a criminal drug charge, just a regulatory violation. Washington announced it expects to have a licensing protocol established later this year for proper retail sale alongside alcohol.

The cops issued the six men an “admonishment letter” warning them it’s still technically illegal to sell pot, and sent them on their way. The department wrote:

A number of suspects possessed marijuana collectively totaling 36.8 grams of marijuana. The marijuana was returned to each individual owner because the amount possessed is legally allowed. All marijuana exclusive dealers were read and given a copy of the Admonishment letter.

Seattle PD’s blog also notes that they found in their bust that “marijuana dealers actually accounted for the majority of the problem” over the quantities of hard drugs being dealt. It’s been less than six months and already Washington’s decriminalization is saving state resources and lives from being disrupted with prison time. Maybe there’s good reason a majority of Americans now support federal decriminalization.