I question whether Mark Roe’s Sunday Viewpoints commentary, “Already smart on crime,” tells the whole story about the attitude and conduct of the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office regarding prosecution of simple possession of marijuana and other drugs. Mr. Roe fails to disclose that after the citizens of Washington voted to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana some county prosecutors, such as King County’s prosecutor, dismissed charges in pending cases involving possession of marijuana for personal consumption. Mr. Roe failed to do so. Why?
Mr. Roe cites the statistic for the percentage of people in “prison” for drug offenses. I question whether this statistic includes the percentage of people incarcerated in the Snohomish County jail (as opposed to prison) for simple possession of drugs. As a lawyer, I have observed the criminal justice system at the misdemeanor level and it appears to me that many citizens are still being jailed for simple possession of small amounts of drugs. I wish Mr. Roe would have quoted statistics from the jail not just from prison.
Mr. Roe attempts to present himself as having a progressive attitude about the response of his office to crimes involving simple possession of drugs. However, he is a long way from convincing me that he understands that drug addiction is a medical problem, not a criminal problem. The best way for the criminal justice system to attack drug addiction is to encourage drug treatment. Simply throwing drug possessors in jail is expensive and ineffective. The “war on drugs” is being lost.