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Washington state’s charge to secede starts in Spokane; plus, local prosecutors flip-flop on pot

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Secession Fever

Hoist up your rainbow-colored, pot-scented Stars and Bars — Spokane is leading Washington’s charge to secede from the union.

Following President Barack Obama’s re-election, residents of Washington — along with people from every other state — have submitted petitions on a White House website asking to leave the union. Some, like Texas, have received enough signatures where they’ll prompt a response from the White House.

So far, about 3,600 people — of the 21,000 needed by Dec. 11 to prompt a formal response — have signed the Washington petition. Many are out-of-staters: people from Michigan, Louisiana, South Dakota and elsewhere.

But there’s plenty of hometown pride. In fact, it was a Spokanite — “Sean R” — who began the petition. And at 57 signatures, Lilac City has more signatories than Seattle (54), Vancouver (56), Tacoma (48) or Everett (18).

So should we start polishing grandpa’s musket anytime soon?

“It’s difficult to give that any real credibility,” says Matthew Pederson, chair of the Spokane County Republican Party. “It is post-election venting. I understand that this has happened numerous times following presidential elections.”

Would he support secession? No, says Pederson, adding in jest: “I think Eastern Washington should secede from Western Washington.”

— Joe O’Sullivan

Whitworth and the West

With Whitworth University’s new Ignite program, its partnership with the West Central neighborhood, one of the poorest in the state, has become official.

“It’s going to be in place indefinitely,” says Keith Kelley, both the head of the West Central Association of Business and Whitworth’s director of Center for Service-Learning & Community Engagement. “Until the community says, ‘We’re good now.’”

He says Whitworth is asking the community how its resources and students can help the neighborhood.

“We do not look at the neighborhood as a deprived or deficit-laden entity,” Kelley says. “This isn’t Whitworth coming in as a savior, saying we’re bringing all of our smart people [to fix the] community.”

Two students have been hired as “community health advocates.” Four more students, working for the Whitworth Small Business Support Center, have been making calls or visiting West Central businesses, offering expertise in marketing, website development and business plans.

“If we do our work well, the community is not even going to know the extent to which Whitworth has been involved,” he says.

— DANIEL WALTERS

Peer Pressure

After first saying they still viewed pot possession as a crime, Spokane County prosecutors now say they won’t prosecute any new possession cases for people 21 or older with an ounce or less.

Spokane is one of a handful of counties across the state making such promises in light of the passage of Initiative 502, which legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and begins the process of regulating and taxing growers and sellers. The law takes effect Dec. 6.

While other prosecutors have dropped ongoing possession cases, Spokane County has only one pending case that falls into the new category, but that offender missed a court date and now has an active bench warrant. The other marijuana-related possession cases underway at the county are connected to felony charges or are for people younger than 21, says County Prosecutor Steven Tucker. Those will continue.

Federal authorities have not outlined how they plan to respond to Washington’s new law or a similar one passed in Colorado. There, legislators have drafted a bill that would ban the federal government from blocking state pot laws.

— HEIDI GROOVER

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