Pot hot topic at Connell meeting

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldNovember 14, 2013 

CONNELL -- New marijuana regulations dominated the conversation with a panel of law enforcement officials and prosecutors Thursday night at a town hall-style meeting in Connell.

About 20 citizens showed up at the community center on East Elm Street for the meeting, which was organized by Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant.

Sant invited law enforcement officials throughout Franklin County and Michael Ormsby, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, to attend.

Sant set up the meeting to have an open conversation with citizens about issues in the community related to law enforcement, he said.

The conversation focused on how the recent legalization of recreational marijuana will affect Franklin County residents.

While many local law enforcement officials agreed they are still looking for direction on how to enforce the new laws, Ormsby made it clear that marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of federal prosecutors.

"We are still troubled by many aspects of marijuana and the use of it," he told citizens. "The new laws aren't going to change the way we do business in the Eastern District of Washington."

The new regulations will not greatly affect how Ormsby's office decides to prosecute marijuana-related cases, he said. Only two marijuana-related cases in the past five years wouldn't have been prosecuted under the new state laws.

Federal prosecutors will continue to be tough on offenders who use guns in marijuana-related cases or sell pot to minors, Ormsby said.

Local law enforcement officials are frustrated with how open to interpretation the new laws are, they said. Departments have to adapt to the laws and train officers to make sure they are complying with citizens' new rights.

"Right now the law is about as clear as mud," said Bob Metzger, Pasco police chief.

Officials told the citizens that they will do their best to work with them to make sure everyone is educated on the new laws.

The meeting also provided a chance for Connell citizens to meet the city's new interim police chief, Alan Chertok. Chertok replaces Mike Kessler, who was fired in September.

Sant hopes to bring another town hall-style meeting the to Tri-Cities in the future.

"When I ran for office I told the public I want to be as involved as possible," Sant told the Herald. "This is a good way to do that."

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