Marijuana: Denver DA Mitch Morrissey to drop pot cases legal under Amendment 64
Original post, 12:40 p.m. November 15: Yesterday, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett announced that his office wouldn't prosecute pot offenses that will be legal once Amendment 64 is signed into law. Garnett's actions won praise in a letter written by Judd Golden, head of Boulder's ACLU; see it below. However, he's frustrated that more agencies have yet to follow his lead.
"The voters have spoken, and there are other priorities out there," says Golden.
This viewpoint isn't universally accepted. Moments ago, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, a vocal critic of Amendment 64, released remarks stressing that his office isn't ready to walk away from any pot cases just yet. The statement reads:
"Our office has an obligation to prosecute offenses that were crimes at the time they occurred. Accordingly, we will not be dismissing existing marijuana possession cases. But more importantly, our office prosecutes low-level possession cases to get drug users help with their addictions. That practice will continue until state law changes."The logic of such an approach escapes Golden.
"I think practicalities are what motivated District Attorney Garnett," he maintains. "To say, 'I suppose we could make the charge, but what are the chances of getting a conviction? And if someone were to request a jury trial, what are the chances of getting a conviction when the world knows this isn't an offense anymore?'
"The mentality of many people in law enforcement is, 'I enforce the law, and that's currently the law, and when the law changes, I'll stop enforcing it,'" he goes on. "And I understand that -- to not make value judgments and simply enforce the laws as written. Which is why you should go up the food chain to those who actually have to try to get convictions. They're the people who should be telling law enforcement, 'Don't make these charges, because we can't get convictions.' That would seem to be the correct way for law enforcement to operate, and the correct way for the prosecution of those charges to be handled."
Maybe so, but as William Breathes reported yesterday, the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office is not planning to alter its tactics until after Amendment 64 is signed, likely by or before the first week of January. And while the Denver District Attorney's Office hasn't been as definitive on the issue thus far (discussions are planned for this week), no move to drop cases has been made to date. And few police departments in these parts have joined the Boulder Police Department in announcing that they will no longer issue citations on such matters.
"We've heard that Longmont has decided not to do any enforcement," Golden says, "and they're going to re-craft their ordinance so it will comply with Amendment 64. But those municipalities that don't have their own ordinance are at the mercy of the DA to make charging decisions."
That's fine, in Golden's view, in the case of Boulder County: "If, for example, Erie, which doesn't have its own ordinance, has its police making charges, they'll take them to the DA, who'll say, 'We're not going to prosecute this. Why waste your time?'" But in counties whose district attorneys aren't yet backing down, the continuing pot-law enforcement efforts are, in his view, pointless.
Continue to read more of our interview with Boulder ACLU's Judd Golden.