Yakima prosecutors to throw out pending marijuana cases

Yakima prosecutors to throw out pending marijuana cases »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Now that Washington voters made it clear marijuana should be legal, Yakima prosecutors are deciding what to do with open cases before Initiative-502 goes into effect.

KIMA asked, "Come December 6th, what do city prosecutors plan to do regarding marijuana cases?"

"If the marijuana case fits within the definition of simple possession under the new law, we will not be prosecuting these cases," said Yakima City Prosecutor Cynthia Martinez. "We will be dismissing them."

For Yakima, that means dropping 14 cases. There are 56 other pot cases that will likely go forward because the defendants don't meet the age requirement or they're charged with other crimes.

"I know a person that has been in trouble for less than a gram of marijuana. Less than a gram of marijuana. Really?" said Initiative-502 supporter Tricia Rogers. "It's a waste, especially when we have a huge, huge methamphetamine problem in this area."

Starting next month, people 21 and older will no longer be prosecuted for possessing up to an ounce of pot.

Supporters of the legalization say this is long overdue but opponents say it could lead to negative consequences.

"I'm really concerned that we're sending a really poor message to our kids that marijuana is not harmful," said Safe Yakima Valley Executive Director David Rolfe. "It's not going to hurt you; that's completely false."

Yakima County's Prosecuting Attorney Jim Hagarty says his office is currently reviewing 119 pot cases that fall within the limits of I-502.

Decisions are pending on all of them to consider the circumstances.

Hagarty says it's likely about a quarter will be dismissed because they involve very small amounts but he won't make a blanket decision to drop all of them like counties on the West Side already did.

Hagarty says he's going to follow the law at the time of the crime.

Yakima County prosecutors expect to have an exact breakdown of the marijuana cases next week.

City attorneys say there are a lot of lingering questions regarding growing marijuana.

A moratorium is in place that bans growing medical marijuana.