When it comes to pot, we live in a strange new world. If we needed further evidence of this, pot dealers on The Ave recently received it - in written form.
According to Seattle police, a six-month investigation to identify street-level drug dealers on University Way NE identified 24 of The Ave’s most prolific dealers. The operation was launched after community members - students, residents and business owners - complained that rampant open-air dealing was eroding the quality of life in the area. During the course of the operation, undercover officers purchased an array of contraband, everything from meth and heroin to at least one handgun.
As it turns out, however, many of the dealers were slinging only pot. And thanks to I-502, this revelation led to a innovative new approach to dealing with the problem: admonishment letters.
In partnership with the King County Prosecutor’s Office, instead of arresting pot-only dealers, SPD decided to serve them with stern letters telling them to stop dealing on The Ave - an approach that was inspired by the city’s Drug Market Initiative. While it’s still illegal to deal pot, even with I-502 as the law of the land, the new approach, according to SPD Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, was designed to “reflect the will of the people in our state.”
Whitcomb calls the admonishment letters “a more pragmatic approach.”
When it comes to pot-only dealers, Whitcomb says the delivery of these admonishment letters is an admission that people are going to “view [selling marijuana] more favorably than someone selling guns on the street or selling methamphetamine to teenagers.”
Of the 24 total dealers identified during the six-month investigation, Whitcomb says roughly nine have received admonishment letters, with a possibility for nine more once everyone has been tracked down by police. If someone was identified as dealing a drug other than pot they didn’t receive the letter and were instead booked into jail. People with violent criminal pasts were also deemed ineligible for the program.
Of course, the key to the admonishment letter program is making sure the dealers actually stop slinging pot. To that end, the letters warn than if the recipient is caught selling pot anywhere in the city in the future - or breaking any other law, for that matter - the charges they dodged through the admonishment letter program may come back to bite them.