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Tacoma Approves Measure To Limit Pot Arrests

Liz Jones
11/09/2011

In Tacoma, supporters of Initiative 1 are claiming a victory. The measure directs law enforcement to make marijuana possession offenses their lowest priority. KUOW's Liz Jones has that story.

TRANSCRIPT

About a dozen key supporters of Tacoma's Initiative 1 gathered at a medical marijuana dispensary to watch the election results.

Sherry Bockwinkel: "All right, Ruston, Franklin, does anybody else see it?"

That's initiative sponsor Sherry Bockwinkel. She and several others furiously scrolled through the results on their phones.

Bockwinkel: "City of Tacoma Initiative 1 — Yeah baby! Oh my God! 64 percent! Yeah! We won!"

By the end of the night, the initiative held a decisive 65 percent of the vote.

Bockwinkel thinks that sends a loud message to police and prosecutors in Tacoma.

Bockwinkel: "The public isn't interested in this kind of enforcement anymore, and so this is the message we're sending them. There's no more reefer madness out here."

Tacoma's Initiative 1 is modeled after an initiative Seattle voters passed in 2003. It tells law enforcement to make pot possession offenses by adults the lowest priority.

Now, it's up to the city attorney and police chief of Tacoma to decide whether that changes their policies and procedures.

The city attorney has said she doesn't expect this initiative will have any significant effect. She's called the measure unnecessary because pot charges are already a low priority.

Still, last year, more than 200 people were charged with minor marijuana possession in Tacoma. That's compared to zero in Seattle last year.

There was no organized opposition to Initiative 1.

Supporters say they pushed for the measure to help protect medical marijuana patients. And also, they want to press law enforcement to focus their resources on more serious crimes.

I'm Liz Jones, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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