Washington's Department of Corrections is planning to allow parolees to smoke marijuana starting next week, KING 5 News has confirmed.
The policy will permit the state's 14,000 parolees to consume marijuana like any other Washington citizen under I-502, the legalization initiative passed by voters in 2012.
We're putting some changes into effect so that we won't routinely test offenders in the community for THC," said Annmarie Aylward, DOC's assistant secretary.
THC is the compound in marijuana that produces the high sought by users. The Corrections Department currently tests parolees' urine for traces of six types of drugs. But the test for THC will stop as of June 1.
"We don't want them held to that level when, as a citizen, you wouldn't be held to that level either," Aylward said.
DOC insists it is not endorsing the use of marijuana.
"There's no way the department of corrections is endorsing the use of marijuana. We are simply aligning with state law," Aylward said.
Washington state's decision to allow parolees to use marijuana stands in contrast to the only other state to legalize recreational use: Colorado continues to prohibit its parolees from using the drug.
Members of the union representing Washington’s community corrections officers say their members have “mixed feelings” about the change, especially when it comes to officer safety in the field.
"We know that [marijuana use] can lead to behavior changes and other problems with the folks that are on supervision," said Bill Copeland of the Washington Federation of Employees' corrections committee.
DOC noted that Washington judges will still be able to prohibit the use of marijuana on a case-by-case basis -- authority the department said it will also continue to wield. The state also plans to study the effect of allowing the state's parolees to smoke marijuana, DOC said.