Stories about law and politics in the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Law and Justice reporter, Paula Wissel.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Marijuana legalization could be going back to the ballot in Colorado — a prospect that infuriated pot legalization activists Friday.

The marijuana ballot measure proposal went public as the House started debate on bills to regulate and tax pot. One bill would state how pot should be grown and sold, and the other would tax recreational marijuana more than 30 percent.

Tom Harpel / Flickr

The court-appointed watch dog monitoring the Seattle Police Department has completed his first report on the department's progress, and the report paints a picture of a police force moving unevenly toward reform.

Merrick Bobb and his team's job is to make sure police follow the plan to end excessive use of force and racially-biased policing.

Ed Andrieski / Associated Press

The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that there is no employment protection for people who use marijuana.

In a split decision issued on Thursday, the court said marijuana use is still barred by the federal government, even though state-licensed marijuana use has been approved by voters and is considered lawful.

"For an activity to be lawful in Colorado, it must be permitted by, and not contrary to, both state and federal law," the appeals court said.

David Snyder / NPS

Seattle's elected officials are moving to make sure sprawling marijuana farms don’t take over the city’s industrial areas, though it’s not clear whether growers would want to locate in the city at all.

Just who actually gets licensed to grow marijuana will be up to the state. But Seattle City Council members say any Seattle grower will likely end up in one of the industrial areas along the Duwamish corridor or Interbay.

Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

Frustrated at being left out of an immigration overhaul, gay rights groups are pushing to adjust a bipartisan Senate bill to include gay couples. But Democrats are treading carefully, wary of adding another divisive issue that could lose Republican support and jeopardize the entire bill.

Both parties want the bill to succeed. Merely getting to agreement on the basic framework for the immigration overhaul, which would create a long and costly path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the U.S. illegally, was no small feat for senators. And getting it through a divided Congress is still far from a done deal.

Prosecutors and crime lab scientists say a little-noticed provision in Washington's new legal marijuana law has jeopardized their ability to go after any pot crimes at all, and they're calling for an immediate fix in the Legislature.

The problem stems from a part of the law meant to distinguish marijuana from industrial hemp, which is grown for its fiber. The law defines marijuana as having more than 0.3 percent of a certain intoxicating compound, called delta-9 THC.

New Mexico Department of Public Safety

Sit in a courtroom where people are being arraigned on charges of driving under the influence, and you get an idea of the obstacles Washington lawmakers face in trying to pass tougher drunk driving laws.

I recently spent an eye-opening afternoon in Judge Mark Eide's courtroom in King County District Court in Burien.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Repeat drunk drivers in Washington may soon carry a scarlet letter driver’s license and have to wear an alcohol detection bracelet. Those are just two of the requirements contained in DUI legislation proposed Tuesday in Olympia.

The bipartisan plan follows two recent drunk driving tragedies in the Seattle area. 

House Public Safety Chair Roger Goodman says the ankle bracelet detects alcohol consumption and alerts authorities.

The settlement of a class-action lawsuit, filed on behalf of asylum seekers, should make it easier for people to work in the U.S. while for their asylum petition to be acted on.

The problem has been with something called the “asylum clock.” The clock is actually a complicated formula the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies use to decide when someone is allowed to legally begin working in the United States. Theoretically, it’s supposed to be around six months. But, according to the court case, it stretches into years.

Keith Seinfeld / kplu

Federal law prohibits banks from helping drug dealers. So where do marijuana businesses keep their cash?  

“We would put the cash in the safe on premises, which obviously makes you nervous. You have to leave it there overnight,” said Cale Burkhart, who sells cannabis-infused lotions. His shop closed last year, but he’s still selling a line called Vita Verde.

New Mexico Department of Public Safety

In the wake of several fatal crashes in which alcohol likely played a role, state lawmakers are debating stricter DUI penalties.

Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, has proposed a bill to that would require suspected drunk drivers to use the ignition interlock device.

Do law enforcement officials need a search warrant to use Google Earth images in a criminal investigation?

“It’s interesting to me that it’s worrisome to some people, because we’ve been doing this for some years,” says San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord.

But an Orcas Island court case now questions whether the practice should be allowed.

Two Vietnam veterans are celebrating a milestone in Seattle today: They’re the first graduates of a special treatment court set up for veterans.

Associated Press

Ever try pot? Answer yes to a border agent, and foreigners could face permanent consequences even if they haven't used marijuana in years. 

More and more Canadians are learning the hard way that admitting to U.S. border agents that you smoked pot can bar you from entering the country forever.

Immigration lawyers say some Canadians are under the mistaken impression that legalization of marijuana in Washington state has resulted in leniency by U.S. border agents here, but it hasn't. Marijuana is still an illegal substance under federal law.

Joint Terrorism Task Force

After Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for plotting to attack a military processing center in Seattle, some of the secretly recorded tapes of him planning the assault were released by U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan.

The Supreme Court suggested Tuesday it could find a way out of the case over California's ban on same-sex marriage without issuing a major national ruling on whether America's gays have a right to marry.

Several justices, including some liberals who seemed open to gay marriage, raised doubts during a riveting 80-minute argument that the case should even be before them. And Justice Anthony Kennedy, the potentially decisive vote on a closely divided court, suggested that the court could dismiss it with no ruling at all.

Richard Drew / Associated Press

The tiny dynamo asking the U.S. Supreme Court to turn the world upside down looks nothing like a fearless pioneer. At age 83, Edith Windsor dresses in classic, tailored clothes, usually with a long string of pearls, and she sports a well-coiffed, shoulder-length flip. She looks, for all the world, like a proper New York City lady.

Proper she may be, and a lady, but Windsor, who likes to be called Edie, is making history, challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. The law bans federal recognition and benefits for legally married same-sex couples.

University of Washington

If cyber crime is a growth industry, so is fighting cyber crime.

The University of Washington Tacoma is the latest school to join the ranks of colleges and universities offering degrees in fighting cyber crooks.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Predicting marijuana usage rates in Washington might come down to a test Cheech and Chong would appreciate: the size of the joint. That’s according to one of the state’s new pot legalization consultants.  

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Green thumb? Check. Extensive knowledge of the black market? Check.

Throw in impeccable academic credentials and decades of experience with government agencies, and you have Washington's marijuana consultant — a team advising officials on all things pot as they develop rules for the state's new industry in legal, heavily taxed marijuana. 

Associated Press

 Washington state has tentatively chosen a Massachusetts-based firm led by a University of California, Los Angeles, professor to be its official marijuana consultant.

Botec Analysis Corp. is based in Cambridge, Mass., and has evaluated government programs and provided consulting relating to drug abuse, crime and public health. Losing bidders for the contract can protest the award, but if it stands, Botec will advise Washington state officials as they develop rules for the state's new industry in legal, taxed marijuana.

Eric Gay / Associated Press

Immigrant advocacy groups have filed nearly a dozen complaints and lawsuits against U.S. Customs and Border Protection across the country, claiming federal agents and officers mistreated and discriminated against illegal immigrants and U.S. citizens alike.

The groups alleged Wednesday that officers at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., were complicit in sending a 4-year-old American girl to Guatemala without giving her parents a chance to retrieve her. Officers also detained a naturalized citizen who had been working with farmworkers in New York, kept women in cold detention cells in Texas and lied on an arrest report that led to an illegal immigrant's detention in Washington state, the advocacy groups said.

Alexodus via Compfight / Flickr via Compfight

How do you build a whole new industry – and undermine a black market -- without increasing its customer base?  

That’s the challenge state regulators are facing as they write the rules that will govern recreational marijuana in Washington. The American Civil Liberties Union is urging caution.

Washington lawmakers consider new pot regulations

Mar 12, 2013

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state regulators could consider the criminal backgrounds of people looking to legally sell marijuana. That’s one provision of a bill rolled out Tuesday in Olympia to regulate pot sales.

The Seattle Police Department needs to hire more sergeants to work closely with rank-and-file officers. That’s the view of an independent monitor, Merrick Bobb, who's looking into excessive use of force. He'll present his monitoring plan to a federal judge tomorrow for approval.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The fate of a universal background check measure in the Washington state House could be decided this week. Wednesday is a key cut-off deadline. But recently the gun control measure lost a pivotal “yes” vote.

Maureen Walsh was one of two Republicans who signed onto the measure to require background checks for all gun sales. She says she did so thinking it sounded like a reasonable response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In the world of state legislatures, there’s a powerful breed of players who normally shun the spotlight. They prefer to work behind the scenes to influence policy outcomes. We’re talking about business lobbyists. Inside this often hidden world, you’ll meet two of the most successful corporate contract lobbyists in the Washington state capitol. And learn some of their tricks of the trade.

A federal judge has declared Idaho’s so-called “Fetal Pain Law” unconstitutional. Idaho is one of eight states with a law banning abortions after 20 weeks. As Jessica Robinson reports, the case stems from a woman’s arrest under a separate statute for having an abortion.  

Judge B. Lynn Winmill says the 20-week limit on abortions is unconstitutional because it doesn’t seek to inform the pregnant woman, nor improve her health, as the Supreme Court has allowed. Rather, he writes, it’s solely intended to put an insurmountable obstacle in the path of women seeking abortions. 

Morgan / Flickr

Attorney General Eric Holder says the Obama administration still hasn't decided on how the federal government will respond to the new legal-marijuana laws passed by voters in Washington and Colorado.

Holder appeared Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was asked about the issue by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

The attorney general reiterated what he has said recently — that a policy decision will be announced "relatively soon." He also said he's had good conversations with elected leaders from Washington and Colorado.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday. He will likely get questions about Washington and Colorado’s new marijuana laws. Pressure is mounting on the Obama administration to block the pot legalization measures.

The new push for federal invention comes from a United Nations-based drug agency and nine former DEA chiefs. They say Washington and Colorado's new recreational pot laws violate international treaties.