Before moving forward on a ban on underage marijuana consumption, Spokane Valley City Council members said last week they needed more information.
Local school and law-enforcement officials will be consulted by city staffers in coming weeks before council members consider drafting an ordinance similar to Liberty Lake’s, where consumption of marijuana is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 and is a civil infraction. Police can write a $50 ticket to minors in public who are believed to have consumed marijuana due to the odor on their breath. The suspected user must appear impaired or be found in possession or proximity to the drug.
While state law addresses underage possession of pot, it doesn’t specifically address consumption as it does alcohol, said Erik Lamb, deputy city attorney. Liberty Lake’s ordinance, adopted earlier this year, basically takes the state RCW verbiage regarding liquor and adapts it to marijuana use by minors.
But some council members said at their Dec. 16 meeting that they did not want to jeopardize teens’ futures by having a pot arrest go on their permanent record.
“Maybe we could look at community service instead of an infraction,” said Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard. “I’d like something with some kind of muscle…but not go on their record where they can’t get into the military or college.”
Council Member Ed Pace said that he agreed with that, but said the city “has to do something.”
“We have to send a strong message that (pot use) is not cool,” he said. “But I agree we don’t want to mess up a kid’s life.”
Mayor Dean Grafos, however, said he isn’t convinced the city needs to do anything.
“You’re asking the police force to be a parent,” he said.
Council Member Chuck Hafner, a former educator and school administrator, suggested that city staff talk to the local high school principals to see how they are handling the situation in their buildings.
City Manager Mike Jackson said staff would gather more information for council.
“We don’t want to put it off for two or three years,” Woodard said. “I think we need to do something sooner than later.”