New FBI Head In Seattle Encounters Pot Smokers Near Office

Jul 23, 2014

While marijuana is legal in Washington, it remains illegal under federal law.

So a recent encounter in front of the Federal Bureau of Investigation offices in Seattle proved a little awkward for the new special agent in charge of the Seattle division.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya, Jr. recently moved to the Seattle area from Washington, D.C. He was appointed to the position in late May.

During an interview with radio journalists, he said he came back from lunch one day and noticed four or five young guys standing in the alcove outside the unmarked FBI building in downtown Seattle. They had a joint. 

“They decided they were going to light up, right? And I was, like, 'What?!' It was surprising to me. I couldn't cuff them, right?" Montoya said.

He asked them what they were doing and if they knew where they were. At that point, he says, they left.

For Montoya, the encounter is "kind of emblematic of where we are today.”

He says the feds are still trying to figure out how they’ll treat marijuana violations in places like Washington where the drug is legal.

Montoya says his focus is on the action, rather than the drug.

"In other words, if there's violent criminal activity associated with it, the use of firearms [for example], that's something that we're still going to be, with our other federal partners, very much focused on," Montoya said.

And the new FBI chief in Seattle says he sees the use of meth and the growing use of heroin in Washington as a far bigger problem.