Clallam County marijuana cases go up in smoke

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The Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will dismiss five pending misdemeanor marijuana possession and paraphernalia charges following the passage of Initiative 502, which legalizes possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use.

Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly announced the decision Tuesday.

“Clallam County has been offering prefile diversion to most offenders who fall in this category for some time and currently has only about five such cases actually filed,” Kelly said.

Under Initiative 502, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana will be legal for people 21 or older after Dec. 6.

The initiative statewide passed Nov. 6 with 55 percent of the vote.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans will wait until Dec. 6 to make a decision, he said Tuesday.

“The feds might walk in and say, ‘Hey, we appreciate what you are doing in Washington, but you can’t make something legal that we say is illegal.’

“[But] if the feds don’t step in before Dec. 6, we’ll probably dismiss those we have,” which he estimated as fewer than a handful.

Rosekraz said most of those who have been cited for possession of fewer than 40 grams — 1.4 ounces — of marijuana are offered drug education diversion.

With proof of a completed class, the office doesn’t file charges.

Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Troberg said earlier this month that most arrested on marijuana offenses for small amounts are diverted to Drug Court.

The measure legalizing small amounts of marijuana passed by 55 percent in Clallam County and by 65 percent in Jefferson County.

“While the initiative was not retroactive and there is no legal right to this relief, a majority of voters clearly prefer that we devote our limited resources to other matters,” Kelly said.

“Accordingly, it makes sense to discontinue prosecution on the handful of such matters currently pending and devote the resources otherwise utilized to crimes against persons and property.”

Kelly joins other prosecutors throughout the state in her decision.

King County will drop 175 cases, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said earlier this month.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist also said his office would drop cases.

Kelly emphasized that possession of any quantity of marijuana for those younger than 21 remains unlawful and that outside of the medical marijuana exception, it remains unlawful for anyone to grow, distribute or possess more than an ounce until the state Liquor Board begins licensing in December 2013.

She also said she is “skeptical that any significant tax revenue will be generated by the initiative and anticipate little to no financial relief from it on prosecution and incarceration.

“Medical marijuana long ago substantially reduced the number of felony prosecutions, and I expect the initiative to have virtually no effect on those remaining,” she added.

“This office will continue to prioritize crimes against persons, but no one should expect that the initiative will have any discernible positive impact on our resources.”

Last modified: November 20. 2012 6:02PM
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