A judge has refused to reverse a decision about a marijuana search that local law enforcement says could hinder their ability to investigate pot cases.
U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen said Monday that his decision to prohibit prosecutors from using marijuana plants and other evidence seized during a sheriff's search of a northeast Spokane County home last November stands.
Spokane lawyer Richard Wall, who represents one of five men indicted by a federal grand jury on marijuana charges, had written a motion asking Nielsen to suppress the evidence because police did not consider the Washington Legislature's overhaul of medical marijuana laws when they obtained a search warrant for the home.
“In this case they simply just did what they'd always done,” Wall said.
The Legislature had rewritten the law to state that using, growing or distributing marijuana in compliance with medical marijuana laws was not crime. Before July, it had been an affirmative defense - law enforcement could arrest users and make them prove their case in court.
The request from the U.S. Attorney's Office to reconsider the decision reiterated their previous argument that legislators did not intend to change the law when they rewrote it.
"The Court concurs with the Government that "it is axiomatic that plain language is to be given plain meaning and enforced accordingly,"" Nielsen wrote. "Reading "use" to exclude possession, delivery, or manufacture would be in contravention to the entirety of the statute. It is impossible to imagine a scenario where a person could use without possessing.
Further, the statute clearly indicates exactly how much a person can manufacture under the statute, so clearly the drafters anticipated that manufacture, under specific circumstances described by the statute, also is not a crime. Additionally, the statute permits a person to manufacture the medical marijuana for another, thus the statute addresses delivery of medical marijuana."
A drug detective said the case could prohibit them from investigating suspected marijuana grows because it's difficult to establish whether someone's obeying medical marijuana laws.