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The Chronicle - Centralia

No Big Changes From Gov. Inslee Following Biden's Call for Marijuana Pardons

As he announced pardons on Thursday for everyone convicted of marijuana possession under federal law, President Joe Biden also called on governors across the country to issue similar pardons for state marijuana convictions.

But don't expect any big changes in Washington, where the governor, the state Legislature and the state Supreme Court have all taken significant steps in recent years to expunge past drug convictions.

"The president's efforts are very much aligned with ours to correct some of our nation's longstanding disparities in the justice system," Gov. Jay Inslee said in a prepared statement Thursday.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington said it was still assessing how many people in the state might be affected by Biden's order.

As a federal crime, simple marijuana possession is most often charged on federal land, like national parks and military bases.

U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Nick Brown, who was appointed by Biden last year, applauded the president's move.

"I am encouraged that this will reduce the disparate impacts of a criminal conviction and shows a real improvement in our justice systems," Brown said in a prepared statement.

Inslee, in 2019, announced he would give pardons to anyone convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession between 1998 and 2012. Marijuana was made legal in Washington in 2012.

Inslee's pardon offer was less generous than what Biden announced Thursday. Inslee's order not only had date restrictions, but also applied to only those with a sole marijuana conviction and an otherwise clear record.

It also required those eligible to apply for the pardons, rather than granting them automatically. (Biden's pardon applies automatically, although the Department of Justice says that eligible people may need to apply for a "certificate of pardon" in order to prove the pardon applies to them.)

Mike Faulk, an Inslee spokesperson, said the governor has the authority under state law to issue clemency orders in response to requests, but he doesn't have "clear authority" to grant blanket pardons to whole classes of individuals or convictions.

"Beyond what we're already doing," Faulk wrote, "I'm not sure what else is left to do with the Gov's clemency authority."

The governor's office had estimated that roughly 3,500 people were eligible for the pardons, but, nearly four years later, only 38 have received pardons under the program, known as the Marijuana Justice Initiative.

But, shortly after Inslee offered marijuana pardons, the state Legislature followed suit, passing a law allowing people with marijuana convictions to apply to have them vacated.

Unlike Inslee's pardon offer, the law, passed in 2019, doesn't have a time limit and it allows people to vacate more than one marijuana possession conviction. It also applied to both state and municipal convictions. It requires a court to vacate misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions if a person asks and if they were 21 or older at the time of the offense.

In 2018, Seattle Municipal Court agreed to vacate misdemeanor marijuana possession prosecuted before pot was legalized in Washington. As many as 542 cases were affected, officials said at the time.

The biggest step in forgiving past drug convictions came from the state Supreme Court which, in 2021, ruled the state's felony drug possession law to be unconstitutional because it did not require proof that someone knowingly possessed drugs.

The so-called Blake decision effectively, and temporarily, decriminalized drugs in Washington. The state Legislature acted quickly in re-criminalizing drugs, although possession of many drugs was downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors have been working to clear the records of people convicted of drug possession under the old, invalidated law. There are, by some estimates, up to 150,000 old convictions statewide to be vacated.

Meanwhile, Inslee has been commuting the sentences of people who were still on probation or other community supervision under the old law. His office said he has commuted more than 740 such sentences.

WDFW Announces Seven Days of Clam Digging Starting Saturday

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has announced opportunities for clam digging at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis beaches from Oct. 8 to 14.

"Most of the 2,700 harvesters who went out during last week's season opener found easy digging, and we're expecting more of the same," said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. "As usual, we'll continue to test and monitor the situation closely prior to all planned openings."

The new dates come after previously announced clam digging times were canceled due to high levels of domoic acid. A recent test of marine toxin levels at Mocrocks beaches showed levels below the health guidelines. However, two test samples below the health guidelines taken 10 days apart required before a beach can reopen for razor clam digging. 

Not all beaches are open during a dig and clam diggers are encouraged to check whether their intended destination is open before leaving. 

Digging is prohibited on razor clam reserves. The reserves are marked out by 10-foot poles with signs.

The daily limit for razor clams is 15 clams per person regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container. 

All diggers 15 and older must get a fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses may be purchased on WDFW's licensing website or from one of the hundreds of license vendors in the state. Options range from a three day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license. Prospective diggers are encouraged to purchase their license before visiting the digging locations. 

The most successful times to dig occur one to two hours before the listed low tide time. Clam digging will be open at the following dates and associated low tide times:

  • Oct. 8, Saturday, 6:21 p.m.; 0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Oct. 9, Sunday, 7:05 p.m.; -0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • Oct. 10, Monday, 7:46 p.m.; -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Oct. 11, Tuesday, 8:26 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • Oct. 12, Wednesday, 9:06 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Oct. 13, Thursday, 9:46 p.m.; -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • Oct. 14, Friday, 10:29 p.m.; 0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors




Centralia College Swept by Pierce

The Centralia College volleyball team was swept Wednesday by Pierce College at home, 25-14, 25-11, 25-15. 

No stats were reported, but Trailblazers coach Susan Gordon praised the leadership and effort of Catelyn Hunsaker through the three sets of play. 

The Blazers (0-19, 0-4 NWAC) take on Highline at home on Friday for their next match. 

NYT Politics

Biden’s Choice After OPEC Cuts: Woo Saudi Arabia, or Retaliate?
Author: Peter Baker
The announcement by the Saudi-led OPEC Plus energy cartel that it would slash oil production was widely seen in Washington as a stab in the back of President Biden.
Justice Dept. Said to Have Told Trump Lawyers He May Have More Documents
Author: Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Katie Benner
The move underscores the skepticism among investigators about the former president’s cooperation with the effort to retrieve government material, and it exposed a rift among his lawyers.
Jurors in Alex Jones Trial Begin Deliberating
Author: Elizabeth Williamson
A six-member panel in Connecticut will decide how much the Infowars host owes to the families of shooting victims from Sandy Hook Elementary after he was found liable for defamation.
Biden Visits IBM to Promote Investments in U.S. Semiconductor Production
Author: Katie Rogers
President Biden traveled to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to connect a $20 billion investment by IBM to the bipartisan bill meant to spur production of critical microchips.

Portland Business News

Exclusive: Despite pitfalls, Portland metro business owners remain upbeat
Author: Jonathan Bach
“There are still demographic tailwinds for the Northwest (and the Portland metro),” said one bank leader.

Seattle Times Politics

No big changes from Gov. Inslee following Biden’s call for marijuana pardons
Author: David Gutman

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington said it was still assessing how many people in the state might be affected by Biden's order.

Columbian Newspaper

Early data indicates Idaho wolf population is holding steady
Author: KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho’s wolf population appears to be holding steady despite recent changes by lawmakers that allow expanded methods and seasons for killing wolves, the state’s top wildlife official said Thursday.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever told lawmakers on the Natural Resources Interim Committee that preliminary data on human-caused and natural wolf mortality looks similar to three previous years.

He also said the agency is using changes in wolf hunting laws that could lead to killing more wolves in areas with livestock conflicts or where elk herds are below population goals, potentially through a wolf-killing reimbursement program for skilled trappers and hunters.

“I think the best way to describe Idaho’s population right now is that it’s fairly stable, and it’s fluctuating around 1,250,” he told lawmakers. “Part of the year it’s below that; part of the year it’s above that. But the population is fluctuating around 1,250.”

Schriever, in a graph presented to lawmakers, showed the state’s wolf population from 2019 to 2021 fluctuating with a high of more than 1,600 in May when wolf pups are born down to a low of about 800 in April as wolves die through natural mortality, hunting or trapping.

Schriever said that the same pattern with potentially similar numbers could be repeated this year. But the agency won’t have a solid estimate for the 2022 wolf population until January when it analyzes additional information and millions of photos taken by remote cameras.

The agency in previous years picked August as the date to set the wolf population, putting it at about 1,500. The 1,250 estimate is a snapshot of the wolf population in November, at about the midpoint of the annual population fluctuation.

Idaho lawmakers in 2021 approved a law backed by ranchers that greatly expanded wolf killing in what some lawmakers stated could reduce the wolf population by 90%. Backers said it would reduce the wolf population and attacks on livestock while also boosting deer and elk herds.

Idaho wildlife officials also last year announced the state would make available $200,000 to be divided into payments to hunters and trappers who kill wolves in the state.

However, there has been concern the new rules could overshoot the mark because if the state’s wolf population were to fall below 150, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could take over management of wolves from the state.

“If you go below that (150), that’s bad news,” Schriever told lawmakers.

Schriever cited a 2009 Fish and Wildlife Service rule delisting northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves. The rule was blocked by a federal court but took effect when approved by Congress in 2011. Schriever noted the rule has a wolf population for Idaho fluctuating around 500, with a potential high of about 650 and a low of about 350.

“I think there are a whole bunch of us that would be happy if we could get to what’s described in the federal delisting rule as a population fluctuating around 500,” Schriever said.

Getting there could be challenging because wolves, Schriever noted, get wary when hunted.

He gave a breakdown of 389 wolves killed last year by some 50,000 hunters and trappers, noting only 72 hunters and trappers killed more than one wolf, accounting for 236 wolves in all that year.

“Those people are very important in the concept of managing the wolf population,” Schriever said, suggesting the reimbursement program could be a key component to target wolves in specific areas of the state.

“The reimbursement program may, in fact, be very important in keeping some of these highly skilled people engaged in this for a longer period of time,” he said.

Besides setting up the reimbursement program, the law passed in 2021 also expanded wolf killing methods to include trapping and snaring wolves on a single hunting tag, no restriction on hunting hours, using night-vision equipment with a permit, using bait and dogs and allowing hunting from motor vehicles. It also authorized year-round wolf trapping on private property.

Montana lawmakers also changed their laws to expand wolf killing. That prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service late last year, at the request of environmental groups, to announce a yearlong review to see if wolves in the western U.S. should be relisted and again receive federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Such a move would take away Idaho’s management of the species.

On another front, a U.S. District Court judge in August rejected a request by conservation groups to temporarily block Idaho’s expanded wolf trapping and snaring rules. Environmental groups said Idaho’s expanded wolf-killing regulations violate the Endangered Species Act because they will lead to the illegal killing of federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx. Schriever said Thursday that no grizzlies have so far been caught in a wolf trap.

It’s not clear when the court will make a ruling on the merits in that case.

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