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Kitsap County prosecutor considering marijuana cases

A couple dozen Kitsap County pot cases will likely go up in smoke in coming days.

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge said that his office is in the midst of reviewing misdemeanor marijuana possession cases to figure out which ones can be tossed following the passage of Initiative 502 and the impending decriminalization of marijuana in Washington state.

“We had not planned anything before the passage of the initiative,” Hauge said. “Unlike King County, we’re not ready with a list of offenders or pending cases we’re ready to dismiss.”

Prosecutors are now going through pot possessions on a case by case basis.

“There’s no reason for us to go forward and spend the resources of the state in trying to prosecutor something that in less than a month is no longer going to be criminal,” Hauge said. “That would be a useless act.”

That’s good news for several defendants and others caught up in the system.

“We’re gonna try to have our analysis of the cases done this week and determine how many exactly we’re going to dump,” Hauge said. “The best I can do is tell you it’s probably gonna be less than 100 and more than 20. I suspect it’s going to be closer to 20 than it is to 100.”

Prosecutors are reviewing cases of misdemeanor possession charges where the offender is over 21 and culling down cases where that is the only charge. They are also looking at paraphernalia possession cases, which under the initiative covers a lot more territory than just marijuana paraphernalia.

“Our intention is not to pursue those cases once we determine which are just violations of the law that will be decriminalized after Dec. 6,” Hauge said.

In addition to a review of those cases already in the system, Hauge said some newer cases have not even been reviewed yet for a charging decision and still others are cases “where no one is in custody and there is no real time crunch” anyway.

Hauge said his office has already been taking a deliberative approach to pot cases for quite some time.

“What we’ve been doing with marijuana cases for a long time, quite frankly, is looking at them very carefully and quite often we don’t charge a person if there is any indication medical use. We generally don’t charge those.”

More often, people that end up getting stopped for another criminal offense and are found to be in possession of marijuana get charged with the latter as well, Hauge said.

Hauge didn’t weigh in on I-502 prior to the election because he felt it would have been inappropriate as someone who is in a position to enforce the laws of the State of Washington.

“I don’t have any personal stake in this at all,” he said. “In terms of the personal use possession amounts, it’s a crime just because the Legislature said it was a crime. It’s not like domestic violence assault was decriminalized or anything like that.”

Locally, Kitsap voters approved I-502 by a 56-to-42 percent margin.

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