Your Pockets Are ‘Pot Paraphernalia’ On Bainbridge Island


Photo: Tobias Elgen
The ferry Wenatchee enroute to Bainbridge Island, Washington (background), where your pockets are considered pot paraphernalia

​Ever hear that if cops really want to bust you, they can find a way? Well, maybe it’s true.

Because there’s no local statute for misdemeanor level marijuana possession — under 40 grams — if you get arrested on Bainbridge Island, in Washington’s Puget Sound, you aren’t prosecuted under any law dealing with pot, reports Josh Farley at the Kitsap Sun.
But that won’t keep you from being busted.

“We can arrest someone for having drug paraphernalia,” said Scott Weiss, an island officer. “But not for marijuana.”
Turns out “paraphernalia” can be defined pretty loosely, to say the least.
“Even if they have marijuana in their pocket, then the pocket becomes the paraphernalia,” Kitsap County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Claire Bradley said.

Photo: S.C. Criminal Justice Academy
You don’t have to have any of this stuff to get busted for paraphernalia on Bainbridge Island. You just have to have pockets.

​​​​The cases are still charged criminally one way or another, according to Bradley. The prosecutor’s office takes those pot cases and charges them with the paraphernalia statute Bainbridge Island does have.
According to Bradley, the penalties for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and for drug paraphernalia are the same: up to 90 days in jail. Still, police claim they would like to see a more accurate and honest description of suspects’ “criminal conduct.”
“Our officers are looking forward to the day this becomes implemented as a city municipal code,” said excited Bainbridge Island Police Lt. Sue Shultz, who may have been fondly imagining what a colossal buzz kill she’s going to be when she slaps the cuffs on some hapless stoner for her first “real” pot bust.
The real bummer is, getting prosecuted under the paraphernalia law — rather than under the misdemeanor marijuana possession law — can actually be worse for suspects.
A conviction for drug paraphernalia can be misleading for police conducting a criminal history check, according to Weiss. While a conviction for under marijuana possession is clear, a paraphernalia conviction could mean the suspect is involved in hard drugs.
“It’s not representative of the law that they broke,” Weiss said.
The city of Bainbridge Island once had a misdemeanor marijuana law. According to reporter Farley, it’s likely that a few years ago, when Washington updated its own criminal cods, Bainbridge’s marijuana statute wasn’t updated along with it.
While Bainbridge doesn’t have a misdemeanor marijuana statute, the state of Washington does, and prosecutors could charge such cases in Kitsap County’s district court in Port Orchard, according to Bainbridge councilman and current Mayor Bob Scales.
But Kitsap County’s district court is almost exclusively used for cases that occur in unincorporated areas of the county, according to Bradley, who said it was “extremely rare” that a Bainbridge marijuana case would get filed there.