Sunday, March 6, 2011
Marijuana Arrests Spike in 2010
Posted by Dominic Holden on Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 2:00 PM
Put down that pipe and listen up, stoners!
Seattle police appear to be arresting more people this year on charges of possessing marijuana under Interim Chief John Diaz than under his predecessor, Gil Kerlikowske, who left his post in May 2009 to become the nation's Drug Czar. In fact, police are now arresting people for pot at the highest rate since voters passed a law in 2003 making marijuana possession the city's lowest law-enforcement priority.
Police arrested 88 people for marijuana possession from the beginning of January to the end of April and referred them for prosecution, according to records from the Seattle City Attorney's Office. During the same time frame last year, officers arrested only 52 people for marijuana possession.
Pete Holmes, the city attorney, has vowed not to prosecute any of those cases (except one case in which a defendant plead guilty to having pot and unlawfully using a weapon). But that hasn't stopped officers from arresting the suspects and referring their cases to Seattle Municipal Court.
At this rate, police will bust 264 people for marijuana possession by the end of 2010—more than double recent years. To compare: Police arrested 123 people for the offense in 2008 and 120 people in 2009.
Most of the people being busted are black (45 of the arrests), followed by white people (33 of the arrests), and the remaining 10 arrestees are other races.
According to the City Attorney's office records, 84 of the arrests were for marijuana only (only four of the cases included charges for another crime). This would suggest that arrest patterns for marijuana-law enforcement or marijuana use have changed drastically in Seattle; marijuana referrals from the SPD have historically resulted from the drug being found in association with another crime. But these data would suggest—and I question them—that police have practically stopped referring marijuana cases when associated with other crimes while increasing radically the marijuana-only arrest rate.
"We have had the opportunity to recheck the marijuana reports sent to our office, and the results were the same," Kevin Kilpatrick, an assistant city attorney supervisor who oversees records requests, said when asked to confirm the numbers. Last year only 28 people were arrested for marijuana-only offenses over the entire year (we've tripled that number in the first three months of 2010).
It also seems possible that police activity isn't responsible for the change, but rather the reporting by the Seattle City Attorney's office has changed (Holmes took over the office at the same time the data seem to change). Nonetheless, the city attorney's office insists its numbers are correct. Is the city reporting on pot cases now wrong? Was it wrong under Tom Carr? Have things just shifted drastically—and a police crackdown is underway on pot smokers? SPD said it would look into the matter. We're setting up a meeting with the city attorney's office to find out more.