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About 220 pot cases are being dismissed in Washington state, and more prosecutions may soon go up in smoke as well.
One week ago, Washington voters passed Initiative 502, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 or over. The first significant fallout from the vote is the dismissal of these misdemeanor cases for adults who had been arrested for possessing one ounce or less of weed, reports Seattle's KCPQ-TV.
In addition, some county sheriffs have indicated they will no longer arrest adults caught with an ounce or less of marijuana, even though recreational marijuana possession will not technically become legal until Dec. 6.
Prosecutors in King County, Wash., say there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month, reports KCPQ. And the King County sheriff's office says they will no longer be arresting and charging people over 21 who have one ounce of pot on them.
Initiative 502 did not have retroactive effect -- in other words, it did not make legal what was illegal when the affected individuals were arrested. Instead, local prosecutors are simply exercising prosecutorial discretion in deciding what cases to pursue (or not pursue).
In general, given limited resources and time, prosecutors do not go after every criminal suspect. For example, in some cases involving first-time offenders or low-level crimes, prosecutors may allow the criminal suspect off the hook as it is not worth their time or effort to prosecute.
With the passage of Initiative 502, prosecutors in King and Pierce counties have made the decision en masse not to go after misdemeanor pot possessors.
Not everyone is so lucky, however. If you are facing misdemeanor marijuana possession charges in Washington state and did not have your case dismissed, you may want to contact a local criminal defense attorney. While only King and Pierce county prosecutors have so far made the decision not to pursue such cases, your attorney may be able to seek a dismissal or help you get a favorable plea deal, in light of the upcoming change to Washington's pot laws.