D istrict Attorney Stan Garnett will dismiss all pending criminal cases of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, saying the overwhelming support for Amendment 64 in Boulder County makes 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 Wednesday, becoming the first Colorado district attorney to drop pot cases because Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 earlier this month.
As a result of the announcement, police officials across Boulder County also stated they will no longer issue marijuana-possession citations in light of Amendment 64. The constitutional amendment will legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in Colorado for those 21 or older.
“We will not be issuing any summonses for the offenses cited by the Boulder DA,” Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner said Wednesday. “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.”
Garnett said marijuana paraphernalia charges also will be dropped in cases where it is clear the items were intended solely for marijuana use.
“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 some time in January — Garnett said the voting numbers for Boulder County convinced him to drop 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 actually 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 only five to 20 cases of mere possession or paraphernalia a month, so he was surprised at the amount of attention his decision received after being announced Wednesday morning.
“It’s really not a major decision as far as the resources of the 20th Judicial District,” he said.
‘Not worth our time’
Cmdr. Rick Brough of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said Sheriff Joe Pelle, like Boulder’s chief, issued an order to his department shortly after the election, telling deputies that issuing citations for mere possession was “probably not worth our time.”
University of Colorado police previously had said they would enforce the law until it was enacted, but spokesman Ryan Huff on Wednesday said the department now has decided not to ticket those over 21 for mere possession.
“Given the stance of the District Attorney’s Office and the fact that it will be legal soon, we have decided not to issue tickets for simple possession to those over 21,” Huff said.