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Originally published Friday, January 15, 2010 at 9:50 PM

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Seattle's new city attorney to dismiss cases of pot possession

Seattle's new city attorney is dismissing all marijuana-possession cases, starting with those that were already under way under the old city attorney.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle's new city attorney is dismissing all marijuana-possession cases, starting with those that were already under way under the old city attorney.

City Attorney Pete Holmes, who beat incumbent Tom Carr in November, said he dismissed two marijuana-related cases in his first day on the job, and several others are about to be dismissed.

In addition, his new criminal division chief, Craig Sims, said he is reviewing about 50 more cases. Unless there are "out of the ordinary circumstances," Sims said, the office doesn't intend to file charges for marijuana possession.

"We're not going to prosecute marijuana-possession cases anymore," Holmes said Thursday during a public interview as part of Town Hall's Nightcap series. "I meant it when I said it" during the campaign.

Seattle voters approved Referendum 75 in 2003, making marijuana the lowest priority for local law enforcement. City records show that Carr still prosecuted many cases.

In the first six months of 2009, Carr declined eight of the 62 marijuana-related cases filed with his office, a city report shows. Of the cases he took up, marijuana was the only charge in 21 cases. In the second half of 2008, Carr dismissed 21 marijuana-related cases and filed 60 others. Of those, marijuana possession was the only charge in 20 cases.

Holmes' policy change comes amid several state-level efforts to decriminalize or legalize marijuana.

A ballot initiative filed Monday would legalize adult marijuana possession, manufacturing and sales in the state. The Legislature is also considering two bills to decriminalize and regulate marijuana, or to make it legal in the state.

The drug would remain illegal under federal law.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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