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Originally published Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 3:59 PM

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In hiring, Seattle police soften stance on past use of pot

Those applying for officer positions will be disqualified for marijuana use in the past year rather than the previous three years.

Seattle Times staff

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What we SHOULD be interested in is *NOT* pot use, but STEROID use. Test all SPD... MORE
What about drinking? MORE
Great! In 1972 I took the mental and physical tests to become a Seattle Police officer,... MORE

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The Seattle Police Department said Tuesday that it will relax its hiring standards for officers in light of Washington's new marijuana-legalization law — applicants will now be disqualified for past pot use within one year instead of three years.

The change, following passage of Initiative 502, stemmed from a policy review ordered last week by Police Chief John Diaz, the department said in a statement posted Tuesday on its news website.

"We are changing our policy as a direct result of the recent vote on I-502," Assistant Chief Jim Pugel said in the statement.

Pugel, who oversees the department's marijuana-related issues, reviewed the policy along with Assistant Chief Dick Reed, who oversees department hiring.

Reed said in the statement that the three-year restriction no longer made sense in light of the "changing cultural and political landscape," and that the department needed to find a "middle ground" that doesn't exclude viable candidates.

While noting the department will be the first law-enforcement agency in the state to soften its standard because of I-502, the statement said the new restriction will not represent a major shift because, according to Reed, it is not often an applicant is disqualified over marijuana use. Fewer than five candidates of nearly 500 were disqualified because of marijuana use, Reed said in the statement.

The department said it will continue to closely screen applicants, including for other drug use, as part of what is described as its rigorous hiring and testing process.

"We're on the forefront of change," Reed said, adding there is a lot more to re-evaluate.

Included will be a re-evaluation of other marijuana-related hiring policies over the next year, the statement said.

"We are deciding to take a much more worldly view of our applicants," Pugel said in the statement.

Last month, the city of Seattle reminded its 10,500 workers that, because it gets federal funding, and because federal law still considers marijuana a banned substance, it must maintain a drug-free workplace.

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