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Judge warns police to return marijuana to owner or face charges

By Mason White 5:02 PM April 28, 2013
Joseph Robertson 

By: Eva Fett
(Scroll down for video) A judge has ordered the sheriffs department to return marijuana to its owner or face contempt of court charges.

Officers in Tacoma, Washington may soon be in trouble for possession of marijuana.

Some officers at the Tacoma police department could face contempt charges if they continue to refuse to return a small amount of marijuana they seized from a man during a traffic stop.

Municipal Court Judge Jack Emery, reportedly ordered the department for the second time, to return the drugs to Joseph Robertson within seven days or be found in contempt.

“Appeal or comply within seven days,” Judge Emery told assistant city attorney John Walker. “Or next week, when you appear, I will advise you to bring a lawyer,” the judge added. The judge first ordered police to return the drugs earlier this year, but they refused.

Officers stopped Robertson for speeding. He was cited for driving without a license and misdemeanor marijuana possession. Prosecutors rejected the drug charge after the state’s voters decided to legalize small amounts of the drug.

Robertson then asked the judge to order the return of his drugs. He provided proof that he is a legal holder of medical marijuana. The city refused to follow the order to return the drugs, which led to the judges warning to charge the officers involved.

“I am glad that the judge is prepared to punish the officers if they refuse to follow orders. If any citizen would refuse to follow a judge’s order these same officers would have arrested the man. Officers who enforce the laws should hold themselves to the same standards as everyone else,” Christopher Jones, 24, of Minneapolis, Minnesota told after he heard about the judge’s warning to officers.

The pot, is now in the possession of the Pierce County Sheriff’s office, which operates the property room of the evidence seized.

A spokesperson for the Pierce County sheriff said the department wants to follow the judge’s order, but they are concerned about the consequences of giving marijuana to a citizen. Under federal law, possession of marijuana is still a crime.

The sheriff’s department said the drugs will be returned to the Tacoma Police Department to let them decide what to do with it and how to return it to Robertson.