Initiative 75, which requires the Seattle Police Department and the city attorney's office to make marijuana arrests and prosecutions their "lowest law-enforcement priority," was supposed to give a new marijuana-policy panel tools to determine whether (and how closely) the city was following the letter of the new law. So why is City Attorney Tom Carr refusing to hand over the information some panel members say they need to do their job?

The information in question--details about the approximately 150 marijuana arrests that are referred to Carr's office for prosecution every year--is protected by a state law known as the Criminal Records Privacy Act. That law says that unless a person is actually convicted, all records related to their prosecution--including case numbers, which are what the pot-panel members are seeking--are sealed. "Case numbers lead to names, and names lead to invasion of people's privacy," Carr's spokesperson, Kathryn Harper, says. But pot-panel member and attorney Alison Holcomb says the law specifically exempts groups that are doing research and analysis--precisely what the pot panel is charged with doing. "We could enter into a written agreement saying we won't show it to anyone," Holcomb says.

In lieu of case numbers, Carr has said he will provide the panel with certain data about the suspects, including race, any other charges that were filed, and the final outcome of the case. "That's more than enough to spot a trend line," Harper says.

Six months from now, the panel will get the first semi-annual report on Seattle marijuana arrests and prosecutions. Anecdotally, I-75 activist and panel member Dominic Holden says, it appears that arrests are going down while prosecution levels remain unchanged. "There is reason to believe that Carr is... digging in his heels in violation of city law," Holden says. Carr's office doesn't dispute that they have not cut back on prosecutions, but they disagree with Holden's interpretation. "The initiative doesn't exist in a vacuum. We can't just ignore state and federal laws," Harper says.

barnett@thestranger.com