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Council To Form Marijuana Committee

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Sit back, roll a joint and relax. There's little to worry about, thanks to
Seattle's voter-approved Initiative 75. Passed in November 2003, the
mandates the City of Seattle to regard adult personal use of marijuana as its
lowest law-enforcement priority.However, the Seattle City Council is reviewing
the effects of the law and forming a panel to consider whether the law is
beneficial to the city and its public image.

The panel, consisting of council members, community representatives,
prosecuting attorneys and public defenders, as well as drug prevention
will receive semi-annual reports from the Seattle Police Department and the
attorney on marijuana arrests and prosecution to "assess and report the
effects of the ordinance."

Offering diverse perspectives on the implementation of the initiative,
members are highly regarded, according to the office of Peter Steinbreuk, City
Council president. Members range from the chief of staff of the King County
prosecuting attorney, Dan Satterberg, to the chairman of Initiative 75's
committee, Dominic Holden.

Required to meet a minimum of four times per year, the panel must submit a
comprehensive written report to the City Council that will include information
concerning the public safety, administration, health and fiscal ramifications
of the initiative by January 2006.

Initiative 75 contends that Seattle and other Washington taxpayers are
already "burdened by the substantial costs of investigating, arresting,
and jailing of individuals for marijuana possession." It says that
de-prioritizing the use of marijuana as a misdemeanor, the Seattle Police
Department will
be able to channel its time and resources toward the prevention of "more
serious" offenses.

Furthermore, in 1998, Seattle voters approved a measure to protect
physician-recommended marijuana use for treatment of such serious medical
conditions as
cancer, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS. However, until November, this sort of
usage warranted prompt arrest and prosecution.

"Seattle police reported making 418 marijuana arrests in 2001 -- an average
of about eight a week. In the six weeks since Initiative 75 was passed, there
have been fewer than five arrests," said Holden, the panel's community
representative in a December interview.

Panel member and City Attorney Tom Carr believes that Initiative 75 sends the
wrong message about marijuana use in the community, especially to young
people: that it's OK to smoke marijuana.

"Initiative 75 cannot change the fact that possession and distribution of
marijuana is a crime," Carr wrote.

When asked whether or not the Seattle Police Department has been affected by
the implementation of the initiative, spokeswoman Deanna Nollette responded,
"It hasn't affected our to day-to-day operations. We rarely made arrests

The Initiative 75 panel plans to meet in the next few weeks in order to elect
a chairperson. Their next order of business in response to Seattle Police
Department data is the establishment of reporting criteria by March 31, 2004.

Source: UW Daily Online (WA)
Author: Maureen Trantham
Published: January 15, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Daily University of Washington
Website: http://thedaily.washington.edu/
Contact: http://thedaily.washington.edu/feedback.lasso