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Boulder County DA To Drop Pot Possession Cases

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BOULDER, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – The home county of the University of Colorado is the first in the state to drop pending marijuana possession cases in the wake of a public vote to legalize the drug.

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett told the Daily Camera newspaper Wednesday his office would drop possession cases under an ounce for adults. He said the effect would be minimal because his office already considers marijuana a low priority.

Garnett said overwhelming support in Boulder County for Colorado’s Amendment 64 would make it unlikely a jury would 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.

At least three prosecutors in Washington state announced plans last week to drop similar possession cases. Prosecutors in Denver have said only a handful of adult possession cases are pending, but that those cases are under review.

The measure approved by Colorado voters allows adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of the drug. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“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.”

Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner said his department would also stop issuing tickets or making arrests for mere marijuana possession less than an ounce and paraphernalia.

“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,” Beckner said.

Garnett said his decision will have no impact on enforcement by the University of Colorado, which until this year was home to the nation’s largest April 20 pro-marijuana holiday protest.

Garnett 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.”

Marijuana activists in Colorado cheered Garnett’s decision and called on other prosecutors to follow.

“A strong majority of Coloradans made it clear that they do not believe adults should be made criminals for possessing small amounts of marijuana,” activist Mason Tvert said in a statement.

There are about 50 pending cases in Boulder County that will be dismissed. On average the district attorney’s office says they see about 20 cases a month.

RELATED: Hickenlooper Sends Another Letter To U.S. Justice Department On Amendment 64

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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