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Originally published November 23, 2012 at 8:03 PM | Page modified November 25, 2012 at 10:33 AM

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Seattle police guide to legal marijuana goes viral

Got Super Skunk in the trunk? Can you smoke pot at a magic show? Seattle police's "Marijwhatnow?" guide to legal marijuana use is getting attention around the world.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The most-read news release in Seattle police history includes advice about getting high at a magic show and what could happen if a police dog smells the ounce of "Super Skunk" stashed in the trunk.

It artfully ends with a video clip of Gandalf the Gray blowing a bit of "Old Toby" into a smoke ring shaped like a sailing ship.

It is a strange, new world of soon-to-be-legal marijuana in Washington state, thanks to Initiative 502. And the Seattle Police Department's willingness to play along has gone viral, gaining it attention from the Irish Independent to The New York Times to Rachel Maddow's "Best New Thing in the World," passed among online readers from Honolulu to Paris like a ... well, you know.

The department's "Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle" is intended to provide simple answers to the confusing consequences of I-502, before and after marijuana becomes legal Dec. 6. But Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, a journalist-turned-writer for the Seattle police's SPD Blotter blog, wanted to take an "accessible" approach.

Where can you legally smoke pot? Will Seattle police help the feds bust state-licensed marijuana stores? Can cops light up? The answers are all there.

"Everyone (in the SPD) was just as surprised as me to see it explode the way it did," said Spangenthal-Lee, 29, who gained a following for his crime reporting at The Stranger and SeattleCrime.com.

He had help. The clip of Gandalf lighting up a pipe in "The Lord of the Rings" was suggested by Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. Assistant Chief Jim Pugel provided many of the answers, and laughed when he saw a first draft, said Spangenthal-Lee.

One question: "SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?" Short answer: "No."

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes asked the Police Department and Mayor Mike McGinn to remove one question, related to federal law and seizure of marijuana.

"SPD, to its credit, wants to be able to relate to the community," said Holmes, a sponsor of I-502. "We have to be the lawyers who say, 'OK, tone and style is your call, but let's make sure we have it legally correct.' "

And I-502 is specific, Holmes said: It allows 1 ounce of marijuana, after Dec. 6, for people 21 and over, not in public, and doesn't affect the federal ban or specify how an enthusiast can legally buy pot until state-licensed stores open in at least a year from now.

That's addressed in "Marijwhatnow:"

Question: "December 6th seems like a really long ways away. What happens if I get caught with marijuana before then?"

Answer: "Hold your breath."

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @jmartin206.

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