Washington Prosecutors Dismiss More Than 200 Marijuana Cases After Drug Use Becomes Legal

On November 6, 2012, the state of Washington made it legal for adults to possess and use marijuana for recreational use. Currently, marijuana use for medicinal purposes is legal in 17 states, but Washington along with Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational use of the drug. Now that marijuana use is legal, Washington prosecutors in King County and Pierce County have decided to dismiss more than 200 marijuana possession cases.

The majority of voters in the state of Washington chose to vote in favor of ballot Initiative 502. The ballot makes it legal for people who are 21-years-old and older to possess no more than one ounce of marijuana for recreational use. The law goes into effect on December 6, 2012.

Prosecutors in the state of Washington decided to dismiss misdemeanor marijuana possession cases that were currently pending. The government considered it a waste of time and resources to enforce a law that will no longer be illegal by December 2012. In King County and Pierce County, more than 200 cases were dismissed that involved individuals 21-years-old and older possessing one ounce or less of marijuana. The King County Sheriff announced that police officers will stop arresting and charging people who can legally possess marijuana under the new law.

Initiative 502 did not make it illegal for the government to prosecute individuals charged with marijuana possession before the new law goes into effect. Prosecutors decided to dismiss those cases based on their own discretion. Since the prosecutors will no longer handle the misdemeanor marijuana cases, there was no point in the police officers enforcing the old marijuana possession laws.

Marijuana possession for recreational and medicinal use is still considered illegal under federal law. The Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. The federal government doesn't recognize it as a legitimate form of medical treatment. The federal government considers marijuana an illegal drug that can be easily abused.

In spite of the new law that has passed in Washington, the U.S. Department of Justice still has the right to enforce federal laws that make marijuana use and possession illegal. When California gave voters the opportunity to decide if recreational use of marijuana should be legal two years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice stated that it would enforce federal law in the state. The ballot subsequently failed to pass in California. Whether the federal government will sue the state of Washington to prevent Initiative 502 from going into effect is still to be determined.

Washington has to figure out how to implement the new law even though state officials are not certain about how the federal government will proceed. Government officials in the state will spend the next year creating laws regarding taxes and regulation of the use and sale of marijuana. The state has already decided to enact a new law regarding driving impaired while under the influence of marijuana. That law will go into effect on the same day as the new marijuana law.

If you have been charged with a drug offense, contact our Maryland office website. Schedule a consultation so that your case can be evaluated by an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer. Retaining a knowledgeable lawyer will help you get a favorable outcome in your case.