Newsbrief: Western Washington US Attorney Solicits Marijuana Cases, No Bust Too Small 8/30/02

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Overworked US Attorneys have traditionally had an informal standard for handling marijuana cases. Depending on the location, busts involving less than 50 pounds or 500 pounds or another arbitrary figure have been foisted on local authorities for prosecution. But according to Seattle criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Steinborn, that is changing, at least in Western Washington and perhaps nationwide.

"US Attorney for Western Washington John McKay met with local defense attorneys recently and told them he was soliciting any marijuana case for federal prosecution, no matter how small," Steinborn told DRCNet. "This is a real change. Up until now, usually if you had 100 plants or less, they wouldn't mess with you," he said.

"This is aimed at growers and medical marijuana providers," Steinborn added. "The feds will be relentless, they're following the Ashcroft line, and this guy is so obviously un-American that even the secret courts have had to rebuke him. There is no moral justification for these savage prosecutions of nonviolent people. These guys will say they're just following orders, but the Nuremburg defense didn't work after World War II and it won't work when this is all over."

Steinborn derided the idea that the move came on McKay's own initiative. "He's following orders from der fuehrer," said the long-time reform advocate.

The move will have real world ramifications for people arrested for marijuana crimes in Western Washington. Under Washington law, which recognizes medical marijuana, certified medical marijuana patients and providers have an affirmative defense to marijuana charges. And recreational marijuana cultivation or sales is punishable by a maximum five-year sentence. In practice, the maximum sentence is rarely handed out. Federal law, however, makes no distinction for medical marijuana and treats both recreational and medicinal marijuana cases harshly. Under federal law, sale or cultivation of up to 50 pounds or 50 plants gets up to five years with no parole; more than 50 pounds or plants draws a sentence of up to 20 years.

The US Attorney's office in Seattle had not responded to DRCNet requests for confirmation of the shift by press time.

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Issue #252, 8/30/02 Editorial: War Crimes Against Patients | Incarceration Nation: US Population Under Correctional Control Hits New Record | Not All Students Will Start School This Week -- Tens of Thousands Lose Aid Due to Drug Convictions | Initiative Foes Play Hardball in Michigan -- Effort Threatened by Certification Board, Conyers Calls for Investigation of Federal Lobbying | RAVE Act Opponents Gear Up | More Black Men in Prison Than College, Study Finds | Dr. Hurwitz Calls It Quits: Leading National Pain Management Physician to Close Practice, Cites Fear of Feds | The (F)Utility of DAWN: Experts Look at the Drug Abuse Warning Network | Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Publishes Comprehensive, Nationwide Guide to Clemency | Medical Marijuana Through the Ages: New Info on MarijuanaInfo.org | Offer: Tapes of Stossel Legalization Special Now Available | Newsbrief: Texas Opens Belated Investigation into Tulia Bust | Newsbrief: New Hampshire Cop Wants to Seize College Dorm After Drug Raid | Newsbrief: Western Washington US Attorney Solicits Marijuana Cases, No Bust Too Small | Newsbrief: Canadian Cops Call for National Drug Strategy, Oppose Legalization | Newsbrief: Canada Medical Marijuana Battles Continue -- Protests in Toronto, Minister Changes Tune | Newsbrief: Drug Raid Leads to Mini-Riot in Minneapolis | Newsbrief: Oklahoma Governor Overrules Parole Board, Orders Man Held for Life for Cocaine Possession | Newsbrief: Vietnam Beefs Up Customs Drug Budget | Newsbrief: Asian Speed Shows Up, Feds Feed USA Today "New Drug" Story | Demos Fellowships in Criminal Justice and Democracy Reform | Legislative Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision | The Reformer's Calendar
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