North Idaho

New marijuana law side effect: Youth possession now a felony

LEWISTON, Idaho - A prosecutor in southeastern Washington has charged three teens with felonies for marijuana possession, saying a new law demands the higher level of offense.

The Lewiston Tribune in Idaho reports three teens ages 14, 15 and 17 have been charged in nearby Asotin County with felonies that could net them up to five years in prison. The offense was previously a misdemeanor with a maximum 90-day jail sentence.

Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols says Senate Bill 5052 contains the new language. Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center says the tougher penalty was designed to deter minors from trying an adult drug.

An Inslee spokesman says the provision is an unintended consequence of a law focused on regulating the state's medical marijuana system.

The Lewiston Tribune reports Nichols said he expects to downgrade the teens' charges to misdemeanors next week after being given the go-ahead by an attorney for the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.