Seattle prosecutor wants to dismiss pot tickets, says target black men

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 22, 2014 3:20 PM

By Victoria Cavaliere

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The city attorney's office called for the dismissal of every public marijuana use citation written in Seattle in the first seven months of the year, saying on Monday the ticketing process had exhibited a racial bias against black men.

Washington state voted in 2012 to legalize the sale of cannabis to adults for recreational use but does not allow it to be used in public places, such as parks and streets.

City Attorney Pete Holmes told Seattle's city council that about 100 citations issued from January through July should be thrown out because a disproportionate number of tickets had gone to African-American males.

"Enforcement needs to be implemented in a much more even-handed manner," Holmes told a city council meeting, adding that 80 percent of public use tickets given in the first half of the year were written by one Seattle officer.

The officer, who apparently opposed the legalization of marijuana, was reassigned, the Seattle Police Department said.

New enforcement directives should include encouraging officers to issue a warning whenever possible, Holmes said.

The officer will record oral warnings, and any written infractions will be filed in Seattle Municipal Court, similar to other civil violations like having an open container of alcohol in public, he told the council.

A decision on whether to throw out all tickets written in the first seven months of 2014 was expected to be issued in municipal court this week.

The Seattle Police Department issues biannual reports on enforcement of marijuana laws, as required by city officials. A citation for a first-time offender of the public use code is $27.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Doina Chiacu)