Nearly Half of Seattle’s Marijuana Citations Go to Homeless People

Written by Scott Keyes

There are many activities that, while illegal in public, are perfectly acceptable when done in the privacy of one’s home. Changing clothes. Sex. Drinking alcohol. And now, in Colorado and Washington state, smoking pot.

But Seattle’s 2,303 homeless people don’t have the privilege that four walls provide. If they want to partake in these human activities that society as a whole enjoys, they risk citation and arrest.

That’s precisely what the Seattle Police Department found when they examined the first half of 2014: homeless people accounted for nearly half of all marijuana citations.

After Washington state voters opted to legalize marijuana in 2012, Seattle passed a law requiring its police department to report various demographic factors, like age and race, on citations it hands out for marijuana offenses, like smoking in public.

The report for 2014 found that officers had issued 82 tickets for public consumption between January 1 and June 30. Approximately 46 percent of those citations went to individuals who were homeless, despite the fact that just one of every 300 people living in Seattle is homeless. In other words, homeless people are 243 times more likely to be cited for marijuana consumption than people with enough money to afford a home.

Racial disparities were also evident in citation statistics. More than one-third of tickets were handed out to African Americans, despite accounting for less than one-tenth of Seattle’s population.

Some Seattle officials are pushing to rectify these disparities. For instance, Seattle Councilman Nick Licata and City Attorney Pete Holmes told the Associated Press that there needs to be more places in Seattle where people can legally consume marijuana. In a letter last year, Holmes advocated for the development of marijuana cafes in Seattle, calling it “both a race and social justice and an economic development issue” and noting that many renters and tourists didn’t have a private place they were permitted to consume.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago


Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

Covers the pain of hopelessness ... for a while at least ... and allows a roof over their head and a free meal or two.

Why aren't core problems ever dealt with? If they were, some of this endless shit would disappear.

Arlene C.
Arlene C3 years ago


John chapman
John chapman3 years ago

Always easiest to kick the people who are down.

If I was in that situation, I'd want to escape reality, too.

Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole H3 years ago

I really don't understand it anymore. When smoking a cigarette, I feel very bad and like a punished bad child because I have to leave the party, or the family feast to get my cigarette. Whether raining, storming of snowing : I have to go outside. Some pubs and restaurants have started now by creating a very small place inside, where I can smoke, but it is so frequently used that your breath is cut off when entering. Furthermore I have to pay my cigarettes in full, out of my own pocket. Many people look angry at me when standing outside a pub smoking my cigarette. Using pot or other drugs, is being addicted to a product just like smoking cigarets or drinking alcohol. For people being addicted to pot, heroine, etc.. all kinds of measures are taken to protect them. For an alcoholic or a regular smoker, nothing is done. Okay drugs often are the cause aggression, fighting, killing, road accidents ... but what about using abusively alcohol ?? How many wives and children are regularly beaten up by their alcoholic husband / father ?? How many people are disabled for the rest of their live or dead, because being hit by a drunken driver ?? Of course you can go to a rehab, but at your own expense. It is not a good signal to children / youth that so many is them for the addiction of drugs, then they have not to make themselves so many problems. But for smokers and alcoholics very little is done. Look at a series at the tele, and all you see is drinking, drinking, drinkin

James Craigie
James Craigie3 years ago

they've got a hard enough life without making it worse, by constantly hassling them!

Shana Blowers
Shana Blowers3 years ago

I'd think in a city as big as Seattle there'd be much more serious crimes to tackle.

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson3 years ago

I would ask for the standard for law enforcement to be degree of harm not vulnerability

Jean Corcoran
Jean Corcoran3 years ago

Thi is a form of self medicating .... the answer is NOT locking them up!

Rose Becke3 years ago

I like Rosemary's B idea