District Attorney Stan Garnett today announced that his office will dismiss all pending cases of marijuana possession under one ounce, saying the overwhelming support for Amendment 64 in Boulder County would make it highly unlikely a jury would ever reach a guilty verdict in any of those cases.
"You've seen an end to mere possession cases in Boulder County under my office," Garnett said.
Garnett said his office will also not prosecute any marijuana paraphernalia charges in light of Amendment 64 passing statewide earlier this month. Amendment 64 will legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in Colorado for those over the age of 21.
"It was an ethical decision," Garnett said. "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."
While Amendment 64 will not go into effect until 30 days after the vote is approved -- most likely sometime in January -- Garnett said the voting numbers for Boulder County convinced him to begin dropping the cases now.
Unofficial results from the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder's Office indicate 66 percent of Boulder County voted in favor of the amendment.
"We were already having trouble sitting a jury anyway," Garnett said. "That overwhelming vote total, that's where we get our juries from."
Garnett the decision will have little impact since he has made possession of marijuana a low priority since he came into office in 2009. He said his office typically handles about five cases of mere possession or paraphernalia a month, and he expects even that number to decrease as local law enforcement agencies also ease up on their enforcement of marijuana possession in light of the impending legalization.
Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner said in in light of the decision his department would also stop issuing tickets or making arrests for mere marijuana possession less than an ounce and paraphernalia.
"We will not be issuing any summonses for the offenses cited by the Boulder DA," Beckner said. "We had already told our officers it was a waste of time to issue summonses for those offenses anyway, given the passage of the amendment. We are in a wait and see mode on how the state will regulate sales and possibly use in public places."
Garnett said his office will direct its resources to prosecuting more serious offenses.
"What's been made clear is that the community does not think that mere possession of marijuana should be prosecuted criminally," Garnett said. "We have enough serious crimes in Boulder County, and we will focus on those."
Garnett said his decision will have no impact in municipal cases or enforcement by the University of Colorado. He also said his office will continue to prosecute cases for those under 21 and in instances where dealing is suspected and DUI offenses involving marijuana.
"Those continue to be a real high priority," Garnett said. "We will continue to come after those cases very hard."