SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker is joining other prosecutors around the state in deciding not to prosecute any new marijuana possession cases in the wake of voters legalizing the recreational use of the drug. Initiative 502 goes into effect in just weeks, on Dec. 6. Although Tucker told KHQ that he does not plan to take legal action for any new misdemeanor marijuana cases in Spokane county, he does still plan to move forward with any pending cases. Surprisingly, that amounts to only one case and Tucker said that person already has a bench warrant out for arrest since he did not show up for court. Tucker said his office only found one marijuana possession case that he could dismiss under the requirement of the new law where the defendant was over 21 and was caught with less than an ounce of marijuana. But Tucker said if he did have more misdemeanor possession cases, he likely would not have dismissed them. "All of these people that had possessed marijuana prior to this law knew that they were doing something illegal," he said. "My basic strategy in this was to prosecute those people but when we looked back through these cases they'd all been closed or they hadn't been updated in the computer." There are, in fact, more marijuana possession cases in Spokane but Tucker said they don't fit within the Initiative 502's new requirements, either because of the defendant's age or because there are had felonies tacked on top of the marijuana crimes. Tucker also said the overall number of marijuana cases in the county was low since local law enforcement focuses on violent crimes. "That's one of the fallacies of the people that were promoting this new law that is was going to clear all these new cases and everything and that's just not true," he continued. "Our jail never had more than a few people in it who were in there solely on a possession of marijuana charge." There are still a lot of questions about how this new law will be implemented. Tucker told KHQ he's waiting to decide until he goes to a prosecutors conference next month. That conference, between Dec. 5 and Dec. 7, takes place during the same time the marijuana initiative takes effect. At that time, officials said, Tucker also plans to speak with federal officials since passing of Initiative-502 puts our state and federal substance abuse laws at odds. PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Lincoln County Prosecutor Jeff Barkdull told KHQ his office is going to immediately drop all minor marijuana cases that fit the requirement of the law including those defendants who are over the age of 21 and were caught with less than an ounce of marijuana. That amounts to about 10 cases. Barkdull said it didn't make a lot of sense to prosecute those cases when they would be legal in a few weeks. Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy also said his office would immediately dismiss similar marijuana cases. Tracy said he'd offer an expedited resolution to the case if the defendant paid $50 and had one month of good behavior. Tracy estimates that will amount to about 20 cases.
Ferry County Prosecutor Michael Sandona said his office is currently handling around 20 open cases of possession of marijuana and says he does not plan to drop any of them. He said he was fine with the current system that's in place to handle them.
Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said he would also will dismiss "simple possession cases" on a case by case basis and as they come up within their normal time frame. He estimated his office handled around 20 open cases. Rasmussen also said he would dismiss any cases where defendants had any associated criminal conduct in addition to the marijuana.
Also today, Clark County prosecutors announced it would drop similar cases, which came on the heels of King and Pierce county prosecutors last week.