Skip to main content

15.150 - Narcotics

Effective Date: 05/07/2019

I. Felony Narcotics Arrest

A. Complete a Report

1. Establish and articulate the probable cause for the arrest. Officers must provide enough information so that anyone will understand the nature of the case.

2. Note in the narrative if the incident occurred in a restricted area (SODA/Drug Free Zone).

3. Field test the suspected narcotics and indicate the results in the report. Document negative results as inconclusive.

4. Include recommendations in your narrative for alternative misdemeanor charges.

B. Complete a Property Report

1. List all items of evidence, detail who found it, where it was found and what was done with it.

C. Complete Officer Statement(s)

1. Officer Statements shall be detailed and include the following:

a. The officer’s experience and training (i.e., primary officer, reasonable suspicion/probable cause cases, etc.).

b. Specific details re: “high narcotics area” (in cases where this generated the investigation).

c. Explain the nature of the investigation (i.e. buy/bust, routine patrol, etc.).

d. Explain observations, actions, responses, and opinions (based on facts).

e. Probable cause must be clearly stated.

f. Specific location for all recovered evidence (including dominion and control for the area or basis for believing it was the suspect’s clothing, etc.).

g. All field tests and the results.

h. Specific times and time periods must be clearly stated.

i. Descriptions of suspects involved and their names.

D. Superform

1. Criteria officers should consider when documenting the objections to release section are:

a. The suspect’s true identity is in question.

b. The suspect lacks a verified King County address and the cooperation of a responsible third person that will always know how to contact the detainee.

c. The suspect has a prior felony conviction within five years or pending charges of violating the Uniform Controlled Substance Act, or two or more prior failures to appear in court.

d. The suspect has prior drug related charges.

E. Certification of Probable Cause

1. Complete a Certification of Probable Cause. If possible, the officer should sign his/her name with a blue pen so that detectives and/or prosecutors can recognize the original certification easier.

F. WSP Crime Laboratory Division Drug Analysis Request (WSP-CL-442)

1. Complete a separate laboratory request for each suspect that possessed the narcotics.

2. Place the item you most want tested on the first line of the request. The laboratory will generally only test the first item.

G. Photographs

1. Officers will take two photographs of the suspect. One memory card per Report Number.

H. Field test suspected narcotics.

1. Conducting field tests on unknown substances demands caution.

2. Avoid handling unknown substances, especially those in powdered form. Many noxious materials are water-soluble and may be absorbed through the skin.

3. Always perform narcotics field tests in well-ventilated areas. Avoid doing field tests in vehicles.

I. Compile an Alert Email for the Narcotics Section by Scanning:

1. Statements, if completed on paper

2. Superform, if completed on paper

3. Original Certification for Determination for Probable Cause

4. Original WSP Crime Laboratory Division Drug Analysis Request (form WSP-CL-442),

5. Notice of Seizure and Intended Forfeiture (form 1.1.9)

6. Computer Rap Sheets.

7. All documents will be included on the Alert Email.

8.  The Alert Email is then submitted to the Narcotics Section.

J Send the Report to a supervisor for approval and notify the supervisor directly.

K. The supervisor shall immediately review the Report and, after approval, route it for transcription as normal.

L. The supervisor will send an Alert Email to Narcotics and Records. The email will contain the Report Number.

II. Seizure of Assets

A. Drug Money (Also refer to Seattle Police Manual Section 7.090 - Evidence Money Submission)

1. In order for money to be legally seized and forfeited, State law (RCW 69.50.505) requires:

a. Probable cause exists to show the money can be traced to drug trafficking, or

b. The money was intended for the purchase of drugs.

2. Simply discovering money on a person who has been arrested for a narcotics violation does not allow for seizure and forfeiture.

a. Seizing money under such circumstances, even with the expectation the arrested person may not claim the money, could result in the invalidation of the seizure laws or a revision which makes them difficult to enforce.

b. Do not seize money solely because of proximity of the money to an illegal drug or as a punitive measure.

3. Sums less than $500 generally should not be seized, unless they contain “buy money” with previously recorded bill numbers.

B. Vehicles or Personal Property

1. Seizing vehicles requires either:

a. Removing personal property from the vehicle and returning it to the owner, or

b. Placing the property into the Evidence Unit for safekeeping.

2. The seizing of vehicles or personal property requires the same threshold of probable cause as seizing money. All seized property must be traceable to a narcotics transaction.

a. Pagers, firearms, and marijuana grow equipment should not be seized for forfeiture purposes. Instead, place these items into the property room as evidence. These items are generally not convertible for Department use and seizing them often creates difficulties in the prosecution of the case.

3. Questions about seizing drug money, vehicles, and personal property should be directed to the Narcotics Section (206-684-5797).

III. Special Narcotics Enforcement Programs

A. Drug Free Zones

1. General

a. The establishment of Drug Free Zones is viewed as a method of deterring drug use and sales within those geographical areas surrounding schools and other special sensitive areas as noted below, by increasing the penalties of these activities within the designated zone.

b. In many cases, Drug Free Zone signs are posted on the outermost 1,000 foot boundaries of public and private schools.

2. Penalty/Punishment

a. Definition

(1) RCW 69.50.435 provides that suspects who manufacture, sell, deliver (or possess with intent to manufacture, sell, deliver) controlled substances are subject to twice the fine and increased imprisonment than is ordinarily mandated if the offense occurred in one of the 10 circumstances listed below.

(2) The double penalty applies:

(a) In a school

(b) On a school bus

(c) Within 1,000 feet of a school bus route stop

(d) Within 1,000 feet of perimeter of school grounds

(e) In a public park

(f) In a public housing project designated by a local governing authority as a drug-free zone.

(g) On a public transit vehicle

(h) In a public transit stop shelter

(i) At a civic center designated as a drug-free zone by the local governing authority

(j) Within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of a facility designated under (i) above.

3. Processing

a. Completed Reports should clearly establish the time and location where the arrest took place. When possible, the name of the school for which the Drug Free Zone has been established should also be included. The Report shall be marked with a “Drug Free Zone” special study flag.

(1) Citing or arresting suspects for drug trafficking in School Drug Free Zones must be noted in Reports so the prosecutor may seek expanded sentences.

(2) School hours are considered when applying the enhanced sentencing. Delivery, manufacture, or possession with intent between the hours of 7:00 AM and 6:00 PM weekdays are considered to be in violation of the Code.

(3) Drug Free Zone maps are available at each precinct showing designated drug free school bus stops.

B. Stay Out of Drug Area (SODA)

1. General

a. SODA (Stay Out of Drug Areas) are court orders that prohibit drug traffickers from frequenting areas known for continuous drug activity (RCW 10.66.005).

b. Detailed descriptions and maps of the SODA Zones for each precinct can be found in Seattle Police Manual Section 15.300 - Stay Out of Drug Areas (SODA) – Defined Boundaries (revised 04-2008).

c. King County Superior Court and Seattle Municipal Court will issue written SODA orders prohibiting certain offenders from entering restricted areas (SODA Zones) within the City. The SODA order will indicate which precinct and zone the offender is restricted from entering.

d. The SODA order may be in effect for the duration of the court’s jurisdiction, or until trial if the order was issued as a condition of release from custody.

e. A person in violation of a SODA order may be found in contempt of court if the order was issued as a condition of release from custody.

f. If the SODA order is issued as a condition of probation or parole, the person may be held for parole/probation violation.

2. Arraignment/Sentencing

a. The majority of misdemeanor SODA orders will be issued on Drug Traffic Loitering and Marijuana cases. However, if there is strong evidence to support that the crime committed was related to narcotics and the defendant was a known narcotic offender to the arresting officer, a SODA order could be granted at the time of sentencing.

b. In Superior Court, SODA orders can be issued at the time of arraignment, at sentencing for a VUCSA conviction, and one may be requested by the King County Prosecutor’s Office whenever appropriate.

3. Exceptions

a. SODA orders may contain exceptions that permit an offender access to a restricted zone. Exceptions to the SODA order include travel to and from and/or remaining in the following locations between the hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (unless otherwise marked):

(1) Place of residence

(2) Court/government offices (while open to the public)

(3) Social services provider or treatment center

(3) Place of employment

(4) School

(5) Attorney’s office

(6) Medical services

b. Between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., offenders may not travel through or remain in the restricted zone listed on their SODA order, unless otherwise marked. It is important to document the exact location and time of day that the offender was in the zone.

c. The SODA order defines travel as movement on foot or in a vehicle from one point to another without delay. An offender is required to have a copy of the SODA order on his/her person whenever he/she is traveling through a restricted zone. Failure to present this order or lingering or delaying travel through the zone is a SODA violation.

d. Prior to making contact, officers must observe the offender for a period of time so they can articulate how the offender is not actively moving to and from a particular location. These observations and any statements made by the offender must be included in the narrative of the Supplement Report.

4. Enforcement Procedure

a. SODA information is now accessible electronically through WACIC’s Correction Client File (CCF). That file will provide the following information:

(1) Existence of a SODA order

(2) Issuing court & case number

(3) Original SPD Report Number

(4) Applicable Precinct and restricted SODA Zone

(5) Effective date & expiration date

(6) The confirmation phone number (SPD Data Center)

5. General Process

a. Identify the offender through the MDT or radio and determine that a valid SODA order exists for the zone the offender was observed.

b. Confirm the SODA information with SPD Data and request a faxed copy.

c. All contacts with a SODA order subject should be documented on an SPD Supplement Report using the original Report Number. Include the SODA hit information in the narrative and note which court issued the SODA order.

d. Officers will send the Supplement Report to a supervisor for approval and notify the supervisor directly.

e. The supervisor will immediately review the Supplement Report and, after approval, route it for transcription as normal.

f. The supervisor will send an Alert Email to the Narcotics Section. The email will contain the Report Number.

g. Officers have the option of booking the offender into jail or releasing the offender and submitting the report for an out of custody hearing to address the violation.

(1) When an officer comes across a subject with a SODA order it is important to exercise proper discretion before deciding to enforce the provisions of the order. Discretion consists of the ability to apply reason, professional experience and judgment in decision-making.

(2) The scope of discretion is proportional to the severity or scope of the crime or public safety issue being addressed at the time. For example, if the subject is identified during the course of a stop/frisk situation and no new evidence of a drug crime is produced, a decision to identify and release is justified, with the appropriate supervisory screening.

h. Complete a Superform if the suspect is being booked into jail. Include a Statement of Probable Cause (non-VUCSA) that identifies the SODA Zone and the Precinct where the offense occurred, as well as the issuing court (SMC or Superior) and details of the violation.

(1) For Seattle Municipal Court SODA order violations, the charge will be “Violation of SODA order/SMC” 12A.56.020.

(2) For King County Superior Court SODA order violations, the charge will be Investigation of Violation of SODA order/KC Superior Court.

6. Additional Information

a. King County Drug Court Cases.

(1) If the offender is booked for a violation of a King County Drug Court SODA order, the arresting officer must fax a copy of the Supplemental Report and SODA order to the Prosecuting Attorney Drug Court Legal Assistant at (206) 205-5612.

(2) Questions regarding Drug Court SODA orders should be directed to the SPD detective serving as the Drug Court liaison at (206) 615-1067.

b. If an officer has any concern regarding the validity of the order or the offenders right to be within the restricted zone, the officer should complete a Supplement Report and submit it for an out of custody review hearing.

c. SODA Zone maps and Drug Court Reference books are available at all precincts.

C. Stay Out of Drug Area (SODA) for Juveniles

1. Standard procedures for handling juvenile investigations and arrests are outlined in Seattle Police Manual Section 6.290 - Juvenile Investigations & Arrests, these procedures apply to all juvenile investigations and arrests, including SODA violations.

2. If it is determined (after screening the arrest with a supervisor) that a juvenile suspect should be booked into YSC for violating a SODA order:

a. Contact the YSC screener at (206) 205-9595 to ensure the juvenile meets the criteria for detention.

(1) Currently a SODA Zone violation, alone, does not meet the criteria for detention, however the DYS screener will be able to check for other factors that may make the SODA order violation a detainable offense.

(2) If the DYS screener accepts the juvenile for detention, then complete a Superform for the charge of “Investigation of SODA Zone violation” and deliver the original with the juvenile to the booking staff at the Youth Service Center.

(3) If the juvenile is not going to be booked then complete a Supplemental Report and an Officer Statement and route them to the Narcotics Section.

IV. Offender Programs

A. Drug Court

1. Eligible defendants for Drug Court will have the option of attending court monitored drug treatment. Treatment includes inpatient or intensive outpatient counseling, random urinalysis and sober-support meetings. The program also requires regular Drug Court review hearings and the payment of restitution, if applicable. The defendant must agree to allow the judge to make a determination of guilt based on review of the police report, if they fail the treatment program. Should the defendant successfully complete the approximate year-long program, the charges will be dismissed.

2. Direct questions to the Drug Court Liaison at (206) 615-1067

B. Juvenile Drug Court

1. King County Juvenile Drug Court also has eligibility criteria and program requirements. In addition to attending court monitored drug treatment, participants are required to attend school or a GED program and obey home rules. Juvenile Drug Court review hearings take place weekly instead of monthly.

V. Drug Traffic Loitering

A. General

1. A person commits the crime of Drug Traffic Loitering (DTL) under SMC 12A.20.050 if they remain in a public place and intentionally solicit, induce, entice, or procure another to engage in unlawful conduct contrary to:

a. Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 69.50 (Uniform Controlled Substances Act),

b. RCW Chapter 69.41 (Legend and Prescription Drugs), or

c. RCW Chapter 69.52 (Imitation Controlled Substances).

2. A person’s possession of needles and other items obtained from or exchanged at any needle exchange program sponsored by the Seattle-King County Health Department, and hypodermic syringes or needles in the possession of a confirmed diabetic, shall not be considered in determining whether the suspect intended to engage in Drug Traffic Loitering. The ordinance specifically excludes such items from the definition of “Drug Paraphernalia”.

3. This Ordinance may be enforced only by officers who have been specifically trained in its use.

B. Operational Procedures

1. In completing Reports, officers should take special note of circumstances that may be considered in determining whether individuals are in violation of SMC 12A.20.050. A “DTL Worksheet” may be used to assist in the collection of detailed information related to the arrest.

2.Report details (Intent and Remain)

a. Sufficient evidence of the suspect’s intent to engage in unlawful drug activities must be outlined with as much detail as possible in the Report.

b. Articulation must also establish that the suspect remained in a public place (e.g., park, street, alley, etc.) for a substantial period of time.

c. Guidelines

(1) State exactly how long the suspect was under observation.

(2) State the type of observation used by the officer (e.g., binoculars, rooftop surveillance, etc.).

(3) Outline the time frame and sequence of observation.

(4) Detail how many contacts the suspect made and details of the contacts (e.g., exact location, description of other person(s), etc.).

(5) If packages were observed or exchanged, detail what the packages looked like and if the packaging is consistent with narcotics.

(6) If currency was found on the person of the suspect, detail the denominations, where the currency was found, and whether it was wadded up or folded.

(7) Describe the suspect’s actions (e.g., gestures or use of electronic communication devices).

3. Documentation of officer’s conclusions

a. Articulate how the area is one of high drug-trafficking activity (e.g., SODA).

b. Indicate when officers have observed the same suspect engage in similar types of contacts at the same location on recent previous occasions.

c. Document if the suspect has been the subject of community complaints regarding drug trafficking activities, or how the officers are collectively aware of the narcotics use or trafficking activities of the individual in question prior to the arrest. (“Known Drug Trafficker”, see definition in SMC 12A.20.050.)

4. Documentation of officer’s experience and training

a. Documentation of officer’s experience and training should be detailed in the Report, including number of previous narcotic related arrests made, hand to hand buy experience, ACT experience, etc.

C. Arrests/Filing

1. Drug-Traffic Loitering arrests which result in the actual seizure of narcotics (and marijuana of more than 40 grams, or packaged in a manner indicating an intent to deliver) should be worked up as investigation of VUCSA. The Report must indicate, however, that the initial probable cause to arrest and search was based on Drug Traffic Loitering.

2. Suspects found to be in possession of narcotics paraphernalia with substantial residue should be investigated as “Investigation of VUCSA”.

3. Suspected narcotics and narcotic lab requests should not be included in Drug Traffic Loitering arrests.

4. The crime of Drug Traffic Loitering shall be charged by criminal complaint only, not by officer citation.

D. Additional Note

1. It should be noted that violation of SMC 12A.20.050 (Drug Traffic Loitering) may be used as a basis for the issuance of SODA Orders, in Seattle Municipal Court, Seattle District Court, or Juvenile Court.

VI. Narcotics Paraphernalia

A. Due to the wording of the Drug Paraphernalia Statute, the Prosecutor’s Office has found it difficult to obtain a conviction without a positive lab report.

B. However, if the lab report returns positive then the suspect is guilty of felony Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act (VUCSA). Therefore, officers will refrain from arresting or citing suspects for drug paraphernalia.

C. If officers recover items with enough residue to be tested, the officers should arrest the suspect(s) for VUCSA and complete the case as any other felony narcotics case.

VII. Marijuana - Possession of 40 Grams or Less

NOTE: Officers should not normally book suspects into jail on the charge of Possession of 40 Grams or Less of Marijuana. Officers should continue to use the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab form for incidents of suspected marijuana residue, marijuana seeds or felony cases.

NOTE: Do not issue a Criminal Citation! Seattle Municipal Court is currently handling this offense by Report ONLY.

A. Possession With No Related Criminal Offenses

1. Draw a number.

2. Complete a Report.

a. List “Possess or Consume Marijuana” in the Offenses block.

b. Request that the additional charge of “Possession of Marijuana (<40 grams)” be filed by the prosecutor, pending marijuana leaf test results.

c. Complete a field test on the suspected marijuana and document the results.

3. Place the marijuana into evidence.

B. Possession with Related Criminal Offenses (Suspect Not Booked Into Jail)

1. Draw a number.

2. Complete a Report.

a. List the offenses and “Possess or Consume Marijuana” in the Offenses block.

b. Request that the additional charge of “Possession of Marijuana (< 40 grams)” be filed by the prosecutor, pending crime lab results.

c. Complete a field test of the suspected marijuana and document the results.

3. Place the marijuana into evidence.

C. Possession of Marijuana with Other Criminal Offenses (Suspect Booked Into Jail)

1. Draw a number.

2. Complete a Report.

a. List the offense for which the suspect is booked into jail and “Possess or Consume Marijuana” in the Offenses block..

b. Request that the additional charge of “Possession of Marijuana (< 40 grams)” be filed by the prosecutor, pending crime lab results.

c. Complete a field test of the suspected marijuana and document the results.

3. Place the marijuana into evidence.

4. Follow normal arrest and booking procedures for the jailable offense.

NOTE: Do not list “Possession of Marijuana (<40 grams)” as a charge on the Superform.

D. Felony Arrest and Possession of Marijuana

1. Draw a number.

2. Complete a Report.

a. List the felony offense(s) and Narc-Possess-Mariju”in the Offenses block. .

b. Request that the additional charge of “Possession of Marijuana (< 40 grams)” be filed by the prosecutor, pending marijuana leaf test.

c. Complete a field test of the suspected marijuana and document the results.

3. Place the marijuana into evidence.

4. Follow normal arrest and booking procedures for the felony offense.

NOTE: Do not list “Possession of Marijuana (<40 grams)” as a charge on the Superform.

VIII. Medical Marijuana Act

A. Policy

1. The purpose of this policy section is to assist police officers and supervisors with the investigation of possession and/or manufacturing of marijuana in cases when people assert that they are either a medical marijuana “qualifying patient” and/or a “designated provider”, or qualifying patients in a “collective garden”. This type of investigation will involve determining if there is compliance with Washington State medical marijuana laws and what actions to take if there is non-compliance.

a. SMC 12A.20.060 states that the Seattle Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office shall make the investigation, arrest and prosecution of misdemeanor marijuana offenses the City’s lowest law enforcement priority, where the marijuana was intended for adult personal use. In addition, the Seattle Police Department is sensitive to the fact that some medical marijuana patients and designated providers may have difficulty obtaining marijuana for medicinal use. Although the Seattle Police Department is required to enforce the Medical Use of Marijuana Act and its subsequent amendments, this does not prohibit the police department from exercising some discretion while investigating these cases.

b. However, this policy does not invalidate the detention or the arrest of a person based either on a warrant or probable cause, or on-view violations of any criminal law. Furthermore, case law states that a suspect’s production of a document purporting to be a marijuana use authorization does not prohibit further investigation by police officers who have probable cause to search the suspect’s home when they smelled the odor of marijuana. (State v. Fry, 168 Wn.2d 1, 228 P.3d 1 (2010).

2. In light of this policy, each case requires a responding supervisor to consider the totality of the circumstances when considering a course of action. The supervisor’s decision to take action or not should be weighed in favor of keeping the community safe. Factors to consider may include:

a. An apparent “for profit” operation.

b. Presence of weapons.

c. Theft of electrical power.

d. Other illegal drugs at the premise.

e. Record of citizen complaint and/or nuisance behavior consistent with narcotics trafficking.

f. Presence of children.

g. Fires and other environmental concerns.

h. Violent crime or other demonstrated dangers to the community.

B. Definitions

1. Qualifying Patient: A “qualifying patient” must be a Washington resident and may possess a “sixty-day supply”, which is defined as “no more than 24 ounces of useable marijuana and no more than 15 plants”. Qualifying patients must carry valid documentation whenever they possess or use medical marijuana. Documentation consists of a “healthcare professional’s” authorization on tamper resistant paper and proof of identity such as a driver’s license. Upon request, a qualifying patient must present the above documents to law enforcement. Qualifying patients may designate another person to provide them with medical marijuana.

a. A health care professional may explicitly authorize more marijuana than the standard sixty-day supply. The qualifying patient’s authorization should reflect the increased supply.

2. Designated Provider: A “designated provider” must be 18 (or older) and he/she must carry a copy of the patient’s designation, health care professional’s authorization on tamper resistant paper, and proof of their identity whenever they are growing, obtaining or in possession of marijuana. Upon request, a designated provider must present the above documents to law enforcement. A designated provider is limited to providing marijuana to 1 patient every 15 days.

a. A person may stop serving as a designated provider to a given qualifying patient at any time. However, that person may not begin serving as a designated provider to another (different) qualifying patient until 15 days have elapsed from the date the last qualifying patient designated him or her to serve as a provider.

3. Sixty-Day Supply: A “sixty-day supply” is defined by law as no more than twenty-four (24) ounces of usable marijuana (684 grams) and no more than fifteen (15) plants. Usable marijuana is defined as “the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis plant Moraceae” and does not include “stems, stalks, seeds and roots”. A “plant” is defined as “any marijuana plant in any stage of growth”.

4. Dual Coverage Under the Statute: If a “qualifying patient” asserts that he/she is also a “designated provider” to one other qualifying patient, and can provide the copy of the patient’s designation along with the health care professional’s authorization on tamper resistant paper, and proof of their identity, the sixty-day supply of marijuana should be doubled to 48 ounces (1,268 grams) of usable marijuana and no more than thirty (30) plants. However, if the patient cannot supply the identification information of the other patient, the patient/provider will only be provided with a sixty-day supply for his/her personal use.

5. Collective Garden: A “collective garden” allows up to 10 qualifying patients to grow 45 plants and have 72 ounces of usable cannabis at a collective garden. No usable cannabis from the collective garden may be delivered to anyone other than its qualified members. The law enables cities to license, zone and impose health and safety requirements. “Collective gardens” are for qualifying patients, not designated providers. Only one collective garden can be at one site.

a. If there are only two qualifying patients participating in a collective garden they can only possess their individual sixty-day supply of medical marijuana, not the total amount authorized for a collective garden.

6. Health Care Professional: A “health care professional” includes a physician licensed under RCW Chapter 18.71, a physician assistant licensed under RCW Chapter 18.71A, an osteopathic physician licensed under RCW Chapter 18.57, an osteopathic physician’s assistant licensed under RCW Chapter 18.57A, a naturopath licensed under RCW Chapter 18.36A, or an advanced registered nurse practitioner licensed under RCW Chapter 18.79.

7. Tamper Resistant Paper: If the health care professional’s qualifying statement is issued on or after June 10, 2010, it must be signed, dated, and written on “tamper resistant paper” that includes one or more industry-recognized features designed to prevent copying, counterfeiting, or erasure or modification of information [RCW 69.51A.010(5)].

C. Investigation of Medical Marijuana Cases

1. Medical Marijuana – Supervisory Screening of the Incident.

a. Officers are required to screen medical marijuana situations with a supervisor and the supervisor is required to respond to the scene.

b. The screening supervisor shall review the facts and circumstances and then consult a Narcotics Section sergeant prior to taking enforcement action (arresting the suspect or seizing marijuana). Whenever there is uncertainty regarding a course of action, supervisors are encouraged to consult a Narcotics Section sergeant.

c. Narcotics Section sergeants are available 24-hours a day and may be contacted via SPD Communications Section; however if a Narcotics Section supervisor is unavailable, then an Anti Crime Team supervisor may be consulted.

d. All screening supervisors shall notify their respective chains of command.

e. Any search warrant affidavit related to a medical marijuana investigation must be screened in advance by the Assistant Chief of the Investigations Bureau and then followed up with a review by a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney.

(1) If it is determined that a search warrant affidavit should be prepared, then the “Marijuana Grow Investigative Guidelines” shall be closely followed and articulated in the affidavit. These guidelines are available as an online form (22.2).

2. Medical Marijuana - General Procedures

a. Advise any person asserting medical marijuana protection of their Miranda Rights in accordance with Seattle Police Manual Section 6.150 - Miranda Warnings.

b. Request consent to search (in writing) for any premise that is being used for storage or cultivation of medical marijuana. However, applying for a search warrant is advisable for any medical marijuana operation that appears to be in-excess of the authorized supply.

c. Ask for proof of identity, such as a Washington State Driver’s License or I.D. Card and valid documentation required for “qualifying patients” and/or “designated providers” on tamper resistant paper. Attempt to establish if the person is a qualifying patient, designated provider, or both (dual coverage under the statute).

(1) Whenever a person asserts that he/she is both a qualifying patient and a designated provider they are required to have the documentation for both.

(2) If possible, photograph or photocopy the person’s identification and medical authorization. Originals must be returned to the person. Only in the case of stolen documents or obvious forgeries should the originals be placed in evidence.

d. Convey the following information to qualifying patients and designated providers, and note such advice in the Report.

(1) It is a class 3 civil infraction to use or display medical marijuana in a manner or place that is open to the public.

(2) They should review the Washington State Medical Marijuana Act and obtain the required qualifying documents if they were unable to produce them.

e. Complete a Report which shall include the following:

(1) The facts and circumstances of the incident.

(2) The names of the screening supervisors.

(3) If the amount of marijuana at the scene was “in-compliance” with the authorized supply or “in-excess” of it, for the situation.

(4) If the individual(s) claiming medical marijuana protection had valid documentation and identification. Whenever an individual does not have valid documentation or identification, make a note of this in the Report and any associated officer statements. Share this information with the screening supervisors and narcotics detectives.

3. Medical Marijuana “In-Compliance” with the law – Procedures

a. If the qualifying patient and/or designated provider asserts medical marijuana protection, take steps to confirm the amount of marijuana at the scene is in-compliance with the authorized supply for the situation, whether it’s a qualifying patient, designated provider, dual coverage under the statute, or a collective garden.

(1) Complete a Report.

4. Medical Marijuana “In-Excess” of the authorized supply – Procedures

a. Whenever medical marijuana protection is asserted and the quantity of marijuana is clearly in-excess of the authorized supply then appropriate steps should be taken to seize the excess “usable marijuana” and “plants”. These cases shall be referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney to determine if criminal charges should be filed.

(1) Possession of “useable marijuana” in-excess of the authorized supply (no plants involved - not a grow operation or collective garden):

(a) Photograph the entire quantity of “useable marijuana” to illustrate the amount, the presence of paraphernalia, and any other indication of usage, including any equipment used for growing, harvesting or packaging marijuana. (If there are plants involved then advance to the next section, which is medical marijuana “grow operation” or “collective garden” in-excess of the authorized supply).

(b) Seize all but the authorized supply of useable marijuana.

(c) Provide the qualifying patient or designated provider with approximately twenty-four (24) ounces (684 grams) of usable marijuana by filling two 15” x 18” air-dry bags with marijuana. This amount will be doubled if an individual qualifies as both a qualifying patient and designated provider.

(d) If nobody is present at the location but there is knowledge that it belongs to a qualifying patient and/or designated provider with legitimate paperwork, then the authorized supply of useable marijuana should be left at the scene.

(e) Take a random sample of the useable marijuana by filling one 9” by 12” air-dry bag for evidence. Any remaining “excess marijuana” shall be placed in evidence for destruction (this excludes the authorized supply and the random sample).

(f) Complete a Report.

(2) Medical marijuana “grow operation” or “collective garden” in excess of the authorized supply:

(a) Photograph the entire quantity of marijuana and equipment (used to grow it) to illustrate the amount, size of any plants, the presence of paraphernalia, and any other indication of usage. Include a measurement device when photographing marijuana that is in plant form, this will illustrate approximate size of the plants.

(b) Count the number of “plants” and assess the amount of “useable marijuana” at the scene (typically, “useable marijuana” is found at places where marijuana plants are grown).

(c) Seize all but the authorized number of marijuana “plants” and authorized supply of “useable marijuana”, for the situation.

(d) The qualifying patient or designated provider may select the authorized number of marijuana plants that will remain at the location.

(e) If nobody is present at the location but there is knowledge that it belongs to a qualifying patient and/or designated provider at a grow operation, or qualifying patients at a collective garden with legitimate paperwork, then the authorized number of plants in various stages of growth (including mature plants if present) should be left at the scene.

(f) If the “useable marijuana” at the scene is in-excess of the authorized supply (for the situation) then provide the qualifying patient(s) or designated provider with the following amounts, which are in-compliance with the law:

• Grow Operation: Approximately 24 ounces (684 grams) of usable marijuana (for a qualifying patient or designated provider) by filling two 15” x 18” air-dry bags with the substance. Dual coverage under the statute will double the amount, if valid documentation authorizes it.

• Collective Garden: By law the maximum of amount of useable marijuana allowed at a collective garden is 72 ounces (2,052 grams), even if there are more than 3 qualifying patients. Designated providers are not authorized to participate in collective gardens, so dual coverage under the statute should not be a factor.

• Do Not Harvest from growing marijuana plants to meet the above indicated authorized supplies of useable marijuana because fresh marijuana does not meet the definition of useable (dried) marijuana.

(g) Take a random sample of the marijuana by filling one 9” by 12” air-dry bag for evidence and for use at trial.

(h) The excess marijuana (excluding the authorized supply and random sample) shall be seized and placed in evidence for destruction.

(i) Leave all of the grow equipment at the scene, unless removal is authorized by a Narcotics Section supervisor or Anti Crime Team supervisor.

(j) Complete a Report.



Adrian Diaz, Chief of Police
Address: 610 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98104-1900
Mailing Address: PO Box 34986, Seattle, WA, 98124-4986
Phone: (206) 625-5011
Contact Us

Newsletter Updates


Sign up for the latest updates from Police

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) prevents crime, enforces laws, and supports quality public safety by delivering respectful, professional, and dependable police services. SPD operates within a framework that divides the city into five geographical areas called "precincts".

Site Disclaimer: The Seattle Police Department's website was developed to provide general information. Data contained at this location is generally not reviewed for legal sufficiency. SPD documents displayed are for reference purposes only. Their completeness or currency are not guaranteed. Links or references to other information or organizations are for reference only and do not constitute an endorsement.