A Seattle prosecutor has dropped every ticket issued for public marijuana consumption since the start of the year.

Police Officer Writing TicketThe citations were dismissed Sept. 22 following news earlier this year that one city beat cop was responsible for almost every ticket. That officer, who has since been reassigned, is a vocal opponent of legalization.

“The police do not write the laws,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said. “They enforce the laws. You can’t be a legislator out on the street.”

The decision came amid concerns that Officer Randy Jokela singled out homeless residents and African Americans during his one-man crusade.

Voters legalized weed in Washington two years ago, and the first legal pot shops opened across the state in early July. Business has been booming since, though the program got off to a rocky start.

Buying, possessing, and using pot are all now allowed, but smoking in public is not. In Seattle, scofflaws get a simple $27 ticket – one of the lowest fines for public consumption in the country. It’s the same amount that’s charged for drinking in public.

Marijuana FieldJokela was responsible for writing 80 percent of tickets in the first six months of legalization, which took effect in January. City officials said they still don’t know whether he was simply over-aggressive or invented charges as a way to fight the law. In one case, he said he flipped a coin to decide whether to cite someone.

Seattle police plan to keep issuing tickets despite the setback, but it’s unlikely they’ll hand out such large numbers. The state’s public consumption law encourages cops to issue non-punitive warnings before writing citations.

Public consumption can be a tricky issue for state officials. When the drug was illegal, it wasn’t uncommon to find stoners lighting up in popular public places. Now, though, authorities are cracking down.

About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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