Routt County DA to make decision soon on pending pot cases

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Brett Barkey

— District Attorney Brett Barkey said he plans to meet with senior staff members Thursday to decide whether to proceed with prosecuting petty marijuana cases that are pending in the courts.

“I haven’t made any decisions one way or another,” said Barkey, who is the district attorney for the 14th Judicial District encompassing Routt, Moffat and Grand counties.

District attorneys in certain jurisdictions in Colorado and Washington have announced plans to drop pending marijuana cases in light of voter-approved amendments in both states. Colorado passed Amendment 64 last week, which legalizes marijuana possession of 1 ounce or less for adults 21 and older. Routt County voters approved Amendment 64 by a 63 percent to 37 percent margin.

On Wednesday, Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett announced that his office was dropping pending petty offense marijuana cases.

Garnett told the Daily Camera newspaper that prosecuting marijuana cases already had been a low priority in his office and that it would be difficult to prosecute pending cases because juries likely would not return with guilty verdicts.

“It was an ethical decision,” Garnett told the newspaper. “The standard for beginning or continuing criminal prosecution is whether a prosecutor has reasonable belief they can get a unanimous conviction by a jury. Given Amendment 64 passed by a more than 2-to-1 margin (in Boulder County), we concluded that it would be inappropriate for us to continue to prosecute simple possession of marijuana less than an ounce and paraphernalia for those over 21.”

Garnett said he would continue prosecuting marijuana cases involving distribution and driving under the influence. Accused offenders younger than 21 also will be subject to prosecution.

In response to the decision by Garnett, the Daily Camera reported that Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner said his officers would stop issuing tickets for petty marijuana offenses. Separately, Steamboat Springs police Chief Joel Rae said Wednesday that he instructed his officers to stop writing tickets effective Nov. 6 for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older.

Voters in the state of Washington also voted to legalize possession of marijuana Nov. 6, though residents there will not be allowed to grow it. The Associated Press reported that at least three district attorneys in Washington have announced they will drop pending cases that would not be crimes under the new law. King County, where Seattle is located, on Friday announced it would be dropping 175 cases.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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