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Police in holding pattern on pot

Tue., Nov. 20, 2012, midnight

Straub awaiting outcome of state-federal dialogue

Marijuana use becomes legal in Washington on Dec. 6, but Spokane police aren’t saying how their enforcement will change, despite a push from the Spokane City Council to start the dialogue.

Police Chief Frank Straub said his department already treats possession of small amounts of marijuana as an ancillary charge, but is waiting on what the federal government says about the approved initiative before deciding on a new course of action.

“It’s going to be very difficult for the state and the city to act contrary to federal law enforcement,” Straub told the council’s public safety committee Monday afternoon.

A clear answer from the federal government may not arrive for some time, U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby said late last week, adding that Department of Justice officials hope to meet with state officials in late December.

In addition, Ormsby said, federal authorities have no intention of stepping in to enforce simple possession cases. Federal agents are used only for targeting large-scale trafficking operations, he said.

Jack Driscoll, Spokane County chief criminal deputy prosecutor, said in an earlier interview that his office would no longer prosecute cases where adults 21 and older were in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Despite that confirmation, Straub said he wants to wait.

“We’re going to have to be careful, because the last thing we want to do is end up with the Spokane Police Department … sued by the federal government,” Straub said.


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