UPDATE 3:03 p.m. 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.