TACOMA, Wash. | Police in Tacoma could soon be in real trouble over pot.

The department could be found in contempt if they continue to refuse to return a small amount of marijuana seized from a man after a traffic stop. Municipal Court Judge Jack Emery repeated an order to police Thursday to return the drug to Joseph L. Robertson within seven days or they could be found in contempt.

"Appeal or comply," Emery told assistant city attorney John Walker. "Or next week, show up, and I would advise you to bring counsel."

The judge first ordered police to return the drug on Feb. 28, but they have refused, The News Tribune reported Friday (http://bit.ly/10hwiD9 ).

It was seized in May of last year when an officer pulled over the Tacoma man for speeding. He was cited for driving without a license and misdemeanor marijuana possession. Prosecutors dismissed the drug charge in December, after state voters decided to legalize small amounts of the drug.

Robertson then asked for his pot back, and provided proof of medical marijuana authorization. The city refused, which led to Emery's Feb. 28 order. If the matter is not settled by the May 2 hearing, it could go to higher courts.

The pot is now in the possession of the Pierce County sheriff's department, which operates the property room for seized evidence. Deputies won't give it to Robertson.

"It's Tacoma's case," said sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer. "If they want it, they can come and get it."

Although the judge said he thinks "there's contemptuous behavior here," Emery added that the case was "a quagmire," due to the conflicting provisions of state and federal law.

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