Marijuana Prosecutions Dropped

Nov 11, 2012

 Pros­e­cu­tors and police in Wash­ing­ton moved Fri­day to swiftly back away from enforc­ing mar­i­juana pro­hi­bi­tion, even though the drug remains ille­gal for another month. On Fri­day, the elected pros­e­cu­tors of King and Pierce coun­ties, the state’s two largest, announced they will dis­miss more than 220 pend­ing mis­de­meanor marijuana-possession cases, retroac­tively apply­ing pro­vi­sions of Ini­tia­tive 502 that kick in Dec. 6. In King County, Dan Sat­ter­berg said his staff will dis­miss about 40 pend­ing crim­i­nal charges, and will not file charges in another 135 pend­ing cases. Pierce County Pros­e­cu­tor Mark Lindquist said he will dis­miss about four dozen cases in which sim­ple mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion was the only offense. “I think when the peo­ple voted to change the pol­icy, they weren’t focused on when the effec­tive date of the new pol­icy would be. They spoke loudly and clearly that we should not treat small amounts of mar­i­juana as an offense,” Sat­ter­berg said. The Seat­tle police and King County sher­iff also announced Fri­day their depart­ments would no longer arrest peo­ple for hav­ing an ounce or less of mar­i­juana, the amount decrim­i­nal­ized by Ini­tia­tive 502, which passed Tues­day. The quick pivot by law enforce­ment reflects Tuesday’s unam­bigu­ous vote in which 20 of the state’s 39 coun­ties endorsed I-502, 55 to 45 per­cent. Mis­de­meanor mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion had not been a police pri­or­ity in Seat­tle for years, but a study released in Octo­ber found it was else­where: more than 241,000 peo­ple statewide were arrested for pos­ses­sion over the past 25 years, at an esti­mated cost of more than $305 mil­lion. I-502 cam­paign man­ager Ali­son Hol­comb said the deci­sion by police and pros­e­cu­tors affirms the campaign’s argu­ment that legal­iza­tion would shift law-enforcement pri­or­i­ties. “If 502 hadn’t passed, we’d see the same amount of mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion cases every year,” said Hol­comb. “What makes a dif­fer­ence is chang­ing the law.” “Peo­ple Have Spo­ken” In inter­views, Sat­ter­berg and Lindquist said their deci­sions do not amount to a free pass for mar­i­juana, and the num­ber of cases were so small that it won’t save much money. But both said their deci­sion reflected the vot­ers’ intent in pass­ing I-502′s decrim­i­nal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana for peo­ple 21 and over, and for an ounce or less. The affected cases in King County involve arrests in unin­cor­po­rated King County, on state high­ways or at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton. Sat­ter­berg said his staff will con­tinue to pros­e­cute felony mar­i­juana cases, but found, “There is no point in con­tin­u­ing to seek crim­i­nal penal­ties for con­duct that will be legal next month.” Lindquist agreed. “The peo­ple have spo­ken through this ini­tia­tive,” he said. “And as a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, I don’t think you could sell a sim­ple mar­i­juana case to a jury after this ini­tia­tive passed.” The max­i­mum penal­ties for mis­de­meanor mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion are 90 days in jail, with one day manda­tory, and a $1,000 fine, although most cases are resolved for less. Sno­homish County Pros­e­cu­tor Mark Roe said in an email that his staff had put mar­i­juana cases “on hold” before the elec­tion, and will decide how to han­dle them after speak­ing with other pros­e­cu­tors at an upcom­ing meet­ing. After bud­get cuts, Roe said his staff has focused on more seri­ous cases. “It sim­ply hasn’t been a big part of our work,” he said. “Equi­table Deci­sion” Pros­e­cu­tors across the state will decide whether charg­ing pos­ses­sion cases would be con­trary to “the new known intent of the law,” said Tom McBride, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Asso­ci­a­tion of Pros­e­cut­ing Attor­neys. He doubted that pros­e­cu­tors would agree to over­turn exist­ing mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion con­vic­tions, and pros­e­cu­tors could clearly enforce exist­ing law up until Dec. 6. “It is an equi­table deci­sion, not nec­es­sar­ily a legal one,” he said. Other agen­cies are also sort­ing out I-502′s impli­ca­tions. The UW and West­ern Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity reaf­firmed that mar­i­juana use on cam­pus would still be banned, even after Dec. 6, because of zero-tolerance strings attached to fed­eral fund­ing. “While West­ern abides by all state laws, it also must fol­low all fed­eral laws and I-502 cre­ates a con­flict between the two,” WWU said in a state­ment. “When state and fed­eral laws are in con­flict, fed­eral law takes prece­dence.” Because of that con­flict, Sat­ter­berg said he expects fed­eral author­i­ties to sue to stop Wash­ing­ton from issu­ing mar­i­juana retail­ing and grow­ing licenses. “It’s the kind of issue the U.S. Supreme Court will have a final word on,” Sat­ter­berg said. “It’s an impor­tant states’ rights issue.” Source: Seat­tle Times (WA) Author: Jonathan Mar­tin, Seat­tle Times Staff Reporter Pub­lished: Novem­ber 9, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 The Seat­tle Times Com­pany Con­tact: opinion@​seatimes.​com Web­site: http://​www​.seat​tle​times​.com/

d938e81104crime.jpeg 150x112 Marijuana Prosecutions Dropped

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Mar­i­juana Pros­e­cu­tions Dropped

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