Although the Washington State marijuana law won’t kick in for another month, both law enforcement and prosecutors decided, as one county prosecutor put it, “There is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month.”
Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times has the story. Here’s a clip:
Prosecutors and police in Washington moved Friday to swiftly back away from enforcing marijuana prohibition, even though the drug remains illegal for another month.
On Friday, the elected prosecutors of King and Pierce counties, the state’s two largest, announced they will dismiss more than 220 pending misdemeanor marijuana-possession cases, retroactively applying provisions of Initiative 502 that kick in Dec. 6.
In King County, Dan Satterberg said his staff will dismiss about 40 pending criminal charges, and will not file charges in another 135 pending cases. Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said he will dismiss about four dozen cases in which simple marijuana possession was the only offense.
“I think when the people voted to change the policy, they weren’t focused on when the effective date of the new policy would be. They spoke loudly and clearly that we should not treat small amounts of marijuana as an offense,” Satterberg said.
Although it is unclear how the newly passed Washington State and Colorado laws will fare in the long term, given the fact that the are in conflict with federal laws. But they are a welcome step in beginning to address the illogic of crowding our jails and prisons with people arrested on marijuana possession charges—arrests that, by the way, cut disproportionately against minorities [See WLA post here for most recent FBI figures on marijuana arrests.]
AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF DRUGS, LET’S TALK ABOUT THE RASH OF PRESCRIPTION DRUG DEATHS
Scott Glover and Lisa Girion of the LA Times have a an important story about the uptick in prescription drug overdose deaths in the US, and the fact that, in Southern California, nearly half of those drug deaths were caused by medications that were legally prescribed by a physician.
In their exceptionally well-researched and alarming story, Glover and Girion examine the unusual number of deaths attributed to one particular Huntington Beach physician.
Here’s a clip from the story that gives some of the relevant stats:
….Prescription drug overdoses now claim more lives than heroin and cocaine combined, fueling a doubling of drug-related deaths in the United States over the last decade.
Health and law enforcement officials seeking to curb the epidemic have focused on how OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and other potent pain and anxiety medications are obtained illegally, such as through pharmacy robberies or when teenagers raid their parents’ medicine cabinets. Authorities have failed to recognize how often people overdose on medications prescribed for them by their doctors.
A Los Angeles Times investigation has found that in nearly half of the accidental deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, the deceased had a doctor’s prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death.
Reporters identified a total of 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs from 2006 through 2011 in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties.
An examination of coroners’ records found that:
In 1,762 of those cases — 47% — drugs for which the deceased had a prescription were the sole cause or a contributing cause of death.
And how many people died from marijuana in So Cal during that same period? I mean, just on average? (crickets.)
(NOTE: LAT staffers Hailey Branson-Potts and Anh Do contributed to the story.)
DAVID BOIES PREDICTS WIN FOR PROP 8 AND SAME SEX MARRIAGE AT SUPREME COURT
David Boies, who along with Ted Olson, is representing the challenge to California’s Prop. 8, was unusually optimistic when on Friday at an awards event he answered some questions on how he thought the high court would respond to the request to hear the case, and to the case itself.
The Mercury News has the story. Here’s a clip:
David Boies, a lawyer for two couples challenging California’s Proposition 8, predicted in San Francisco Friday that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the case and will eventually rule in his clients’ favor by a greater than 5-4 majority.
“I believe we will get more than five votes,” said Boies, speaking of a possible future decision by the nine-member court on the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
“This is a civil rights case of the same importance as Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia,” Boies said. The two cases were the court’s unanimous decisions outlawing school segregation in 1954 and striking down a ban on interracial marriage in 1967.
“I think the justices have a history of coming together and rising above their personal views to enforce the Constitution’s guarantees of equality,” he said.
Boies, of Armonk, N.Y., spoke in an interview shortly before receiving an award from the University of San Francisco Law School’s Public Interest Law Foundation in a Friday evening ceremony.
Boies and Theodore Olson, of Washington, D.C., are the lead attorneys for a lesbian couple from Berkeley and a gay couple from Burbank who filed a federal lawsuit in 2009 to challenge the ban enacted by state voters in 2008 as Proposition 8.
The two lawyers were on opposite sides of the Bush v. Gore presidential election recount battle in 2000, with Olson representing Bush and Boies representing Gore.