The man instead pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor. He won't face any jail time if he remains crime-free over the next two years.
Christopher Healy, 46, told police in 2012 that he was growing medical marijuana for patients. He and his wife were operating a marijuana collective garden in Shoreline. Police found hundreds of marijuana plants in a storage building in Marysville, according to court documents. The majority of the plants were starters, not ready for harvest.
Healy came to the attention of police after officers reportedly received a tip about a possible growing operation. Officers were able to raid the building after obtaining a search warrant based on their reports of smelling a strong odor of marijuana coming from the area.
That sniffing tactic likely will see challenges now that voters legalized the recreational use of a marijuana for adults. State officials are developing rules to govern how marijuana can be legally grown and sold. State-sanctioned sales could begin early next year.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Some state lawmakers, however, have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking them not to prosecute people complying with state's law.
In Washington, people now are allowed to have up to an ounce of dried marijuana; 16 ounces of a pot-infused solid, such as baked goods; or 72 ounces of a pot-infused liquid.
Healy was charged before voters passed Initiative 502.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Kathy Jo Blake explained Wednesday that her office opted to reduce Healy's charge to avoid a costly trial. She told the judge that prosecuting marijuana cases is complex, time consuming and often bogged down by pre-trial motions challenging the state's prohibitions against unregulated marijuana. Healy was given "a great deal," in large part because of a lack of resources in the prosecutor's office, she said. If he'd been convicted of the felony, he faced up to six months in jail.
Healy's wife said Wednesday that they were growing marijuana for 34 patients. She said they hadn't realized that under the law the definition of a plant had been changed.
Voters in 1998 legalized marijuana use for medical purposes by patients with terminal or debilitating conditions. The law, however, is hazy about many of the logistics of patients obtaining marijuana.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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