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Snohomish County prosecutor wants to abolish 2-gram drug policy

(Seattle Police Department)

Last year, Snohomish County established a system in which people caught with 2 grams or less of illegal drugs will not be prosecuted.

But new Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell, who was elected in November, wants to pursue getting rid of that practice over the next few months.

“I’m considering revisiting that policy and exercising my discretion in a thoughtful and compassionate way that tries to get people the provision of services and rehabilitation, to ultimately save the county dollars and make the community safer,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

One of his main reasons is that community members have told them they feel less safe since the allowance of personal possession amounts of drugs went into effect.

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Violent crimes take priority and the prosecutor’s office’s resources are limited, so Cornell will need the Snohomish County Council and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers to grant him more funding.

“What I’m trying to do here in Snohomish County is to reconsider the current policy that we have with regard to the lack of prosecution of 2 grams or less, but I’m not going to be able to do that without … additional resources,” he said.

Opponents argue that besides in the prosecutor’s office, expenses will be increased for taxpayers in the terms of public defenders and court costs.

Cornell disagrees. Getting more residents off drugs will be beneficial to the county’s budget, he said.

“I think we can actually save taxpayer dollars in the long run by focusing on fair and compassionate accountability for people, but not just letting people take a walk when we can use the means at our disposal to try to get people help by the provision of rehabilitation and other things to try to staunch the tide of addiction,” he said.

The 2-gram status quo is not always followed by prosecutors 100 percent of the time — Cornell noted that prosecutors are free to and in some cases still do charge suspects with possession of drugs in this amount.

“As prosecutors, we have the discretion to deviate from our very own charging and disposition standards,” he explained. “We exercise our discretion, so it’s not set in stone.”

Ultimately, his goal is to have a system where people addicted to drugs can access the rehabilitation they need and get back to a healthy way of life.

“We’re not going to make drug addiction go away, that’s just not going to happen,” he said. “But I think by approaching this in a way where we don’t have an arbitrary number and we allow my office, prosecutors, to exercise our discretion in a thoughtful way, and let people know that there is going to be some accountability, we’re also going to help to make people better.”

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