Misdemeanor court filings for pot possession plunged in 2013

EVERETT — What a difference a year makes.

Misdemeanor court filings for marijuana possession dropped dramatically statewide in 2013 after Washington voters approved Initiative 502 legalizing possession of up to one ounce of pot for people 21 and older.

The number of cases plummeted from 5,531 to 120. There were nearly 8,000 in 2009.

Closer to home, there were just 10 misdemeanor marijuana possession filings in Snohomish County in 2013, down from 306 the year before.

The numbers come from the ACLU of Washington, which filed a public records request with the Washington Administrative Office of the Courts and analyzed the data.

“Our major goal in supporting (I-502) was to seriously reduce the arrests for adults who simply possess marijuana for their own use,” said Doug Honig, an ACLU spokesman. “And clearly the data show that is happening.”

The data also show that the number of court filings for other drug offenses, including felony marijuana charges such as growing, selling, and possession of large quantities of pot, have stayed relatively constant.

Initiative 502 legalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults.

The new law allows law enforcement officers to focus more energy on violent and serious crimes, Honig said.

Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe said it has had a negligible impact on his office.

“With 502, I wasn’t waiting it out with bated breath,” Roe said. “We decided long ago that (prosecuting marijuana misdemeanors) wasn’t going to be one of our priorities. We had to decide what we were not going to focus on any more.”

The priorities in his office are prosecuting sex offenders, violent crime, drunken drivers and domestic violence, he said. Prosecutors do pursue a few marijuana cases when they involve large amounts.

Cmdr. Pat Slack, who leads the Snohomish County Drug and Gang Task Force, said the new law has had an effect on the work of his team of investigators.

It has made it harder “to roll up on a case,” he said. The term refers to the ability of detectives to gain information from people with small amounts of drugs to try to work their way up to large dealers toward the top of the pyramid.

Slack said he feels bad when people call and say they are troubled by a neighbor’s marijuana smoke.

“I have to tell them there is nothing I can do,” he said.

For now, the task force commander is waiting and watching as the state sorts out who gets licenses to sell marijuana and irons out rules overseeing its distribution.

Meanwhile, the task force remains plenty busy.

“We serve the public,” Slack said. “We don’t make the laws. All we do is enforce them. I’m concentrating my efforts more in the heroin area and more in cocaine area… Right now, you have to look at the manpower and taxpayer money and the taxpayers don’t want us to do” small marijuana cases.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Child porn found in forest treehouse and Mill Creek home

Daniel Wood, 56, has been charged with two counts of possession of child pornography.

Former Everett firefighter indicted in new sex-crime case

David “Pete” Vier could go to prison for life if convicted of the charges, which were filed in Wyoming.

Mukilteo fire stations are the newest ‘Safe Places’ for youth

It’s among dozens of designated locations countywide organized by Cocoon House in Everett.

Edmonds man gets nearly 14 years for murder of roommate

Derrick Crawford, 22, admitted that he shot and intended to kill 27-year-old Joshua Werner.

3 hospitalized, 1 arrested in head-on crash near Lynnwood

Troopers believe alcohol might have played a role in the early morning crash along Highway 99.

Masked gunman sought in shooting at house near Darrington

The suspect — a neighbor — is still at large. There were no injuries reported, but a television was hit.

Driver dies in apparent high-speed crash near Snohomish

A passerby found the severely damaged car off Chain Lake Road Saturday night.

In Sultan, walkout was a missed class, leading to detention

Students without parental permission were marked truant and had to attend an “accountability workshop.”

Most Read