After pot vote, prosecutors to dismiss more than 200 marijuana possession cases

With the Washington voters’ decision to legalize marijuana, the King County prosecutor announced Friday he will dismiss about 175 misdemeanor pot possession cases and the county sheriff said deputies will no longer arrest adults caught with one ounce or less of weed.

In Tacoma, Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said he, too, would be dismissing about one-third of that number of cases.

It was the first fallout from the passage Tuesday of Initiative 502, which will legalize the recreational use of up to 1 ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over.

On Friday afternoon, King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg issued a statement saying he would be dismissing all misdemeanor marijuana cases.

“Today’s decision will impact 175 King County cases that are currently filed or referred for filing involving individuals age 21 and older who possessed one ounce or less of marijuana,” Satterberg said. “With the passage of I-502, marijuana possession of one ounce or less by individuals age 21 and older will become legal in the state of Washington on Dec. 6.”

Satterberg said that dismissing these cases is the right thing to do in light of Tuesday’s vote.

“Although the effective date of I-502 is not until Dec. 6, there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month,” Satterberg said.

Shortly after Satterberg’s announcement, King County Sheriff Steve Strachan issued a separate statement saying county deputies would no longer be arresting and charging people over 21 who have 1 ounce of pot on them.

“Now that the initiative has passed, and now that the prosecutor’s office won’t be charging the individuals, we will also not focus on behavior that will be legal under Washington state law after Dec. 6th,” said Strachan.

There are 12 municipalities that contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police services. It remains the policy decision of the municipal attorneys and policy-makers of those cities to determine how they will proceed between now and Dec. 6, Strachan said. This decision only affects the deputies working in unincorporated King County.

But what about the cops on the streets of Seattle, are they on the same page?

“What people can reasonably expect is no enforcement,” said Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb.

“I think there are a lot of parallels of what happened on Tuesday to what eventually happened during prohibition in the United States and it happened state by state,” said Satterberg.

The law enforcement community says they are learning to deal with this historic law.

“We are still looking at how that law is going to affect our department because there is that conflict between the state and federal law,” said Whitcomb.

“I don’t think the federal government is concerned about adult possession of under an ounce. I think they are concerned about the state of Washington getting into the business, the licensing, the production and retail of marijuana,” said Satterberg.