A possible marijuana law side effect do not exist any more: possession of weed by juveniles is now considered not a felony but a misdemeanor.
The recent story about three teenagers (14, 15 and 17-year-old) who could have ended up spending the next five years in prison worked out for the best for the kids. The act of possessing weed will be qualified as a misdemeanor, not as a felony, and the court will decide on the punishment accordingly.
Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols admitted that he made a mistake and had no intention to send the kids to prison. He promised that none of them will be jailed for a single day even though in two cases they have already pleaded guilty to a felony. Nichols noticed that charging teenagers with misdemeanor might produce a more sensible result.
The stumbling block for this case was Senate Bill 5052. It was sponsored by Senator Ann Rivers (R-WA 18th Discrict) in order to create standard prohibition base for drug-related offenses committed by youngsters. It was a sort of a warning message to juveniles to make them be more responsible for their decision of consuming marijuana. SB 5052 regulates the medical marijuana sector, but it was never intended to punish kids for possession of weed in the same way as adults. But the fact is the fact, according to SB 5052, a person under 21 will get a felony in this case no matter what.
The situation is still quite equivocal. One of the very common offenses is possession of alcohol and its consumption by minors, and it can be punished with a maximum 90-day jail sentence and a $5,000 fine. But practically, most kids convicted of this crime never get to prison and the fine is also reduced. At the same time, for possessing the other legal substance, minors can get up to five years in prison plus a felony record.
This time, the three kids from Washington escaped the punishment, not least because of the scandal in media. But what about all the possible cases that might happen in the nearest future? Should they follow the law and spend years in prison just for being caught with a joint?
The law cannot be changed fast. Unfortunately, it will be possible only on the next legislative session after the lawmakers will propose new changes to the bill.