Seattle police loosens pot rules for applicants

SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department is loosening rules on past marijuana use by job applicants, officials announced Tuesday.

Until this week, applicants were immediately disqualified if they had smoked marijuana within three years of applying for a position. The new rule reduces that to a year, the department announced through its blog.

“In light of the changing cultural and political landscape, the three-year rule does not make sense,” Assistant Chief Dick Reed said on the SPD Blotter. “We’re trying to find a middle ground that doesn’t exclude viable candidates.”

Washington voters last month legalized the recreational use of marijuana, approving Initiative 502 with 56 percent of the vote. It prompted prosecutors in several counties, including King County where Seattle is located, to dismiss charges of marijuana possession under an ounce. Seattle voters had already decided to put marijuana crimes at a low priority for their police department.

Colorado voters also legalized recreational marijuana this year through a constitutional amendment.

Assistant Chief Jim Pugel said the department will also reevaluate other marijuana-related hiring policies.

The department it’s the first local law enforcement agency to review its hiring policy after Initiative 502 passed.

Reed said that even with the old policy, applicants weren’t often disqualified for past marijuana use. He estimated that in the last round of applications, just a handful out of nearly 500 were disqualified for using pot.

“We’re on the forefront of change,” Reed said. “There is still a lot more to reevaluate.”

Officials said the change to past marijuana use does not change any other part of the application process, which includes screening for the use of other, still illegal, drugs.

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