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Why wait? Marijuana now de facto legal in some Washington counties.

  1. CaptainTripps
    220 marijuana cases dismissed in King, Pierce counties


    King and Pierce County prosecutors are dismissing more than 220 misdemeanor marijuana cases in response to Tuesday’s vote to decriminalize small amounts of pot.

    In King County, 175 cases are being dismissed involving people 21 and older and possession of one ounce or less. I-502 makes one ounce of marijuana legal on Dec. 6, but King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg decided to apply I-502 retroactively. “Although the effective date of I-502 is not until December 6, there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month,” Satterberg said in a statement.

    The dismissed cases involved arrests in unincorporated King County, as well as the state highways and the University of Washington. About 40 of the cases had already been filed in court as criminal charges; those charges will be dismissed. Another 135 cases were pending charging decisions and will simply be returned to the arresting police agency.

    Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said he was dismissing “about four dozen” pending cases where misdemeanor marijuana was the only offense. He said his staff was continuing to prosecute other cases where possession was secondary to a more serious charge, such as drunken driving. “The people have spoken through this initiative,” said Lindquist. “And as a practical matter, I don’t think you could sell a simple marijuana case to a jury after this initiative passed.”

    In an interview, Satterberg said his office would continue to prosecute marijuana possession above one ounce, allowing for “a buffer for those whose scales are less than accurate.” His office also charges felony possession — for people with more than 40 grams — although he said his staff routinely allows those defendants to plead down to a misdemeanor. “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,” he said. I-502 campaign manager Alison Holcomb said she was “incredibly moved” by Satterberg’s announcement, which she said showed “incredible courage.”

    The decision supports a prime argument I-502 made during the campaign. A study by a group of academics found there had been 241,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases in Washington over the past 25 years, 67,000 of them in the past five years. “If 502 hadn’t passed, we’d see the same amount of marijuana possession cases every year,” she said. “What makes a difference is changing the law.” Satterberg is the first prosecutor to change charging policy after I-502, but other prosecutors are also considering these cases. Tom McBride of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys said his office “just starting to work through those issues.”

    Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has refused to prosecute misdemeanor possession cases since he took office.

    Earlier this week, the chief criminal deputy prosecutor in Spokane County, Jack Driscoll, appeared to take a more conservative position. He told the Spokesman-Review that, even after Dec. 6, the only marijuana which was legal to possess was pot sold in the state-licensed stores called for in I-502. Those stores won’t be created for at least a year. “The only thing that is legal is selling marijuana through those stores,” Driscoll said. “That will be regulated by the state. You can’t under this initiative have an ounce of marijuana that doesn’t come from a state-issued provider. You still can’t have black-market marijuana.”Holcomb disputed that interpretation. So did Satterberg, who called it a “very narrow reading” of the initiative. “I don’t know how you trace where (the marijuana) comes from,” he said.

    Satterberg said he expected federal authorities to seek an injunction to block implementation of I-502′s state licensing scheme for marijuana retailers and growers. “I think it’s the kind of issue the U.S. Supreme Court will have a final word on,” said Satterberg, calling it an “an important state’s rights issue.”
    But he does not expect a federal lawsuit to target the types of cases he is dismissing, noting that states already have widely divergent penalties for marijuana possession.


    Posted by Jonathan Martin


    http://blogs.seattletimes.com/polit...g-county-dismissed-because-of-initiative-502/






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  1. CaptainTripps
    Marijuana prosecutions dropped in anticipation of legalization

    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."

    By Jonathan Martin
    Seattle Times staff reporter Originally published November 9, 2012 at 7:15 PM | Page modified November 9, 2012 at 9:06 PM
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2019648851_marijuana10m.html
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