Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland calls on state lawmakers to override veto of SB 517, which would remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced late Friday afternoon that he has vetoed a widely supported bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia, including potential jail time.
SB 517, introduced by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), was approved 32-13 in the Senate and 83-53 in the House of Delegates. The measure would also have designated public marijuana consumption a civil offense punishable by a $500 fine.
Maryland adopted a law last year that decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana, but it did not include marijuana paraphernalia. That leaves the state in the unusual position of having decriminalized marijuana itself, but marijuana paraphernalia is still a crime.
Gov. Hogan’s letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announcing the veto and explaining his reasoning is available at http://bit.ly/1ellF1e.
By Steve Elliott
Things are getting crazy in Ohio. One recreational marijuana legalization proposal, which appears headed for the ballot, would hand over control of all growing in the state to just 10 companies. And now Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has said he has staff looking into a medical marijuana proposal which they'd draft themselves.
The proposal would be "very limited" and "tightly controlled," DeWine told Alan Johnson at The Columbus Dispatch. A Republican who opposes recreational cannabis legalization, DeWine wouldn't commit to saying he supports legalizing medical marijuana.
But the Attorney General did grant that there are people who definitely could use it; he said he's having his staff work up a proposal before consulting with state lawmakers.
Staffers are reviewing medical marijuana systems in other states to see if it's possible to set up rules that can't be exploited by recreational pot users, DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said on Friday, reports Jeremy Pelzer of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Specifically, Tierney said staffers are investigating methods of administration such as ointments or pills, which don't involve smoking.
Tierney said it's still "far too early" to say if or when DeWine will take such a step. The Attorney General still has "grave concerns" about full marijuana legalization, according to Tierney.
By Steve Elliott
The Who's Roger Daltrey on Wednesday night threatened to cancel a concert at Nassau Coliseum, saying he'd walk off stage if someone smoking marijuana near the stage didn't stop.
Daltrey claims he has an allergy to cannabis smoke that affects his throat and singing voice, a condition the band emphasized during the informational slides it projected before the show, reports Glenn Gamboa at Newsday.
Daltrey ultimately confronted the audience member who was toking up; the fan seems to have obliged and the show continued as planned.
"Over the course of The Who's 50 years as a band, you'd think frontman Roger Daltrey would have built up a tolerance to cannabis smoke," wrote Philip Cosores at Radio.com.
"After all, he has performed in weed-filled halls throughout the stony '60s up to present day when weed is practically legal," Cosores wrote. "It is surprising to hear that the singer is not so accommodating to people that want to get high while they watch his band."
A fan video which surfaced shows guitarist Pete Townshend suggesting that a pot smoker stick it in his rear, saying "it is the quickest way!"
Photo of Roger Daltrey: WBAB
By Steve Elliott
A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request from a man convicted for cultivating marijuana to visit his dying father. Ironically, the denial came 10 days after the father had died.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ruled that Malcolm French, 53, was a flight risk because of his estimated worth of $14 million and the long prison sentence (between 20 and 24 years) that he's facing, reports Judy Harrison at the Bangor Daily News.
"The court appreciates Mr. French's desire to physically see and speak with his father and it regrets having to reject Mr. French's request," Judge Woodcock ruled.
French, of Enfield, Maine; Rodney Russell, 51, of South Thomaston; and Kendall Chase, 58, of Bradford were found guilty of a number of charges in the Township 37 marijuana plantation case on January 24, 20-14, after a 10-day jury trial.
All have remained behind bars while awaiting sentencing. Dates for their sentencings have not yet been set. Judge Woodcock said in his most recent ruling that French, who is being held at the Piscataquis County Jail, would most likely be sentenced in late June.
Last month, Judge Woodcock had denied the defendants' joint motion for a new trial, reports Johanna S. Billings at the Bangor Daily News.
A cannabis documentary called Pot (the movie) recently had its world premiere at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. The film is unlike any other on the subject, covering the most common misconceptions and under communicated aspects of marijuana. While the medical side is slowly becoming better understood, the movie also brings to light the public health aspect of the recreational side, presenting cannabis as safer than alcohol.
Michael Hope is an artist, musician and the independent filmmaker behind Pot (the movie). He is on a grassroots mission to educate the public and inspire change when it comes to the perception and legislation of cannabis.
“For the last 90 years or so, there has been a huge misinformation campaign against marijuana,” said Hope. “There are people struggling with disease and disabilities who could benefit from legislative changes related to cannabis use.”
Hope’s goal is to deliver widespread viewing of his movie, which advocates for pragmatic laws for recreational and medicinal use while introducing people to some of the exciting science about cannabis in a digestible and entertaining way. Through a crowdfunding campaign themed “Hope for Liberty and Justice,” he plans to raise $150,000 to help promote the film and make it as accessible as possible with a town-hall style tour offering low or no-cost screenings.
“I firmly believe that once people are informed and understand the benefits, they will stand up and support this movement,” said Hope. “People will care if we educate them.”
Measure Will Be Sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for His Signature
HB 218 replaces the threat of jail time and a criminal record with a civil penalty — a $125 fine, similar to a traffic ticket — for possession of a small amount of marijuana
The Illinois Senate on Thursday approved a bill 37-19 to remove criminal penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana. The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives in April, will now be sent to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.
HB 218, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin) and in the House by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), makes possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana a civil law violation punishable by a $125 fine. Individuals will no longer face time in jail, and the civil offense will be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record.
“Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for individuals who commit serious crimes,” Rep. Cassidy said. “The possibility of jail time should not even be on the table when it comes to simple marijuana possession. Criminalizing people for marijuana possession is not a good use of our state’s limited law enforcement resources.”
By Steve Elliott
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 18-12 to approve an amendment to increase military veterans' access to medical marijuana.
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to the must-pass Senate version of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, if signed into law, would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from spending money to enforce a prohibition on V.A. doctors filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal.
“This is a historic moment," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). "Passage of the amendment was the right thing to do for our veterans.
"We should not be preventing access to medicine that can help our wounded warriors deal with serious conditions, such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries,” Blumenauer said. “Today’s passage coupled with the narrow defeat of my amendment to the MilCon-VA appropriations bill in the House signals there is real movement and bipartisan support in reforming outdated federal marijuana policies. We are now in a good position to be able to advocate for inclusion of this policy in a final appropriations bill.”
By Steve Elliott
Portland police and a U.S. postal inspector had no legal authority to intercept a package headed to a Portland home just because they suspected it contained contraband and a police dog later alerted to it, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling will likely put an end to the long-standing practice of having a postal inspector and two cops pull aside and examine express mail packages at Portland International Airport's postal cargo center without obtaining search warrants, reports Aimee Green at The Oregonian.
It's the first time an Oregon appeals court has ruled on this issue, according to Stephen Houze, the Portland defense attorney representing defendant Max Barnthouse. Barnthouse, then 26, was arrested in April 2012 after cops pulled a package from mail that had been headed to his home.
The cops claimed because the package was addressed to a pseudonym, had a handwritten rather than a typed address, had an incorrect zip code, and the postage was paid with cash or debit card rather than from an established business account, that was enough for them to remove Barnthouse's package from the mail about 6 a.m. at set it aside for narcotics detection dog Nikko to sniff. The dog signaled on the package.
Police and the postal inspector pull 30 or 40 packages a day for the sniff test, according to the appeals court summary. The dog is right about nine out of 10 times, one officer testified.
By Steve Elliott
During the campaign leading up to the passage of marijuana legalization Initiative 502 in Washington state in 2012, many activists -- this writer included -- expressed grave concerns about the effect of 502's unscientific, arbitrary per-se cutoff point of 5 nanograms per milliliter as a "bright line" beyond which motorists are considered too high to drive. On Tuesday, a Vancouver, Washington marijuana user got a six-month jail sentence, followed by five years of probation, in a case that illustrates exactly why we were worried.
You see, the new definition of stoned driving established by I-502 has nothing to do with impairment, unlike the old law. Before, law enforcement had to prove actual impairment if they wanted to convict motorists of driving under the influence of marijuana, but now, all they need is a test showing marijuana metabolites above 5 ng/ml in the driver's blood. Impairment doesn't even matter anymore in a "driving under the influence" case; we've passed through the looking glass.
As the marijuana legalization movement has gained momentum in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and other states, the cannabis industry has increasingly been referred to as a potential opportunity for legitimate start-ups and businesses. Dan Humiston, founder of the International Cannabis Association, recently discussed how his organization helps aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs in an interview with Ganjapreneur.com, a cannabis industry and business news website.
In the interview, Humiston discusses how he first became involved in the cannabis industry, and why he decided to leave a successful career as a business owner to do so.
"In 1985 I opened my first tanning salon and over the next 30 years I grew my chain Tanning Bed Inc. to the largest chain in New York and one of the largest chains in the country," Humiston explained. "In the mid 2000s, tanning industry sales started to fall and by the end of the decade it was apparent that I needed to find ways to reduce or re-purpose the space of my stores which were over 4,000 square feet.
"In 2012 I saw a 60 Minutes report about the cannabis industry and started trying to figure out how divide my tanning salons into tanning salons and dispensaries."
Baker, an order-ahead and loyalty platform for the burgeoning Colorado marijuana industry, has launched publicly. During a successful three-month beta run, dispensaries saw thousands of dollars of orders coming through the Baker app, which allows customers to reserve up to an ounce of their favorite cannabis strain and skip the line.
Dispensaries can easily list their menus, manage inventory, post real time specials and manage loyalty programs on the app, according to the company. Customers order ahead, browse member-only specials and earn loyalty rewards at their favorite dispensaries, and have their order waiting when they arrive.
With more than 400 licensed recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales in Colorado, Baker fills a pressing need for the kind of reservation and loyalty tools which have revolutionized other industries, according to CEO Joel Milton.
The app, which is launching in Colorado with 20 dispensaries, is rapidly adding locations within Denver and in the coming months will expand to other cities with legal marijuana nationwide, according to Milton.
“We currently have a waiting list (well over 1,000+ people and 20+ dispensaries) so that each new user and dispensary has the best possible experience when they first use Baker,” Milton said.
He noted that demand at dispensaries has grown so fast, that many locations often have lines out the door, with the regular customers who know what they want waiting alongside tourists who want to linger and ask a lot of questions.
Measure Would Allow Second Chance for First-Time Offenders and Save Millions of Dollars
Bill Heads to Full Senate
Lawmakers in Louisiana on Wednesday took a major step forward when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to reform the state’s harsh marijuana possession law. If passed, Louisiana would join the growing number of states that have recently reduced penalties for small amounts of marijuana.
“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Louisiana's overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step."
The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last 20 years and is nearly five times higher than Iran's, 13 times higher than China's and 20 times higher than Germany's.
One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the War On Drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.
By Steve Elliott
Former medical marijuana dispensary owner Charles Lynch has for years waged a legal battle against federal prosecutors who want to send him to prison. Last week, he finally got help from some unexpected and influential allies: U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and Sam Farr (D-Carmel).
Reps. Rohrabacher and Farr filed a strongly worded brief with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals accusing prosecutors of flouting federal law as they go after Lynch, reports Joel Rubin at The Los Angeles Times. The Congressmen called on the court to end the case against Lynch.
Rohrabacher and Farr were late last year the authors of an amendment to federal law meant to prevent the Justice Department from interfering in states where medical marijuana is legal. The amendment, receiving unusually broad bipartisan support in December, was written into a government spending bill.
The amendment prevents the Justice Department from using federal funds in a way that hinders states "from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."
It was assumed federal prosecutors would have no choice but to abandon cases such as the one against Lynch. But Justice Department officials have persisted in their war on marijuana. In general, they've argued the spending ban forbids them from interfering with officials carrying out state law, but doesn't stop them from going after sellers.
Four Western Washington recreational retail marijuana businesses this month failed compliance checks conducted by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB).
Officers, working with underage investigative aides, checked 22 businesses for sales of marijuana to minors. The first checks represent an 82 percent no-sales-to-minors compliance rate.
The four businesses will be cited for selling marijuana to minors. The individuals who sold the marijuana will be referred to their respective prosecuting attorney’s office for potential criminal prosecution.
The WSLCB and local authorities regularly conduct compliance checks of area businesses licensed to sell alcohol. The checks, conducted May 15-18 in Skagit, Snohomish, Kitsap, Pierce and Cowlitz Counties, were the first marijuana compliance checks.
The checks followed a recent communication to all licensees that enforcement officers were beginning compliance checks and recommended best practices for avoiding an illegal sale.
Compliance checks are proven tools to reduce the sale of age-restricted products to minors, according to the WSLCB. Investigative aides assist officers with compliance checks. These individuals are from 18 to 20 years old. They must either present their true identification or none at all if asked by a clerk.
Liquor enforcement officers are empowered to issue Administrative Violation Notices to businesses that fail compliance checks. Fines or temporary license suspensions can be issued depending on the severity of the infraction or the frequency with which a business has been cited.
By Steve Elliott
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Tuesday hinted at support for marijuana legalization, saying police didn't focus on arresting people for pot when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont.
Sanders, an independent Senator from Vermont, indicated an openness to legalization during an online question and answer session on Reddit.com.
"I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana [when I was mayor]," Sanders said. "Our police had more important things to do."
Sanders, who describes himself as a socialist, is running for the Democratic nomination for President. He said he supports decriminalizing cannabis in Vermont, and is watching the situation in Colorado "very closely."
"Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana and I'm going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done," Sanders said. "I will have more to say about this issue within the coming months."
Sanders, who announced in April that he's running for President, has acknowledged using marijuana when he was younger, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. He has been an outspoken critic of the War On Drugs, telling Time magazine in 2014 that he had "real concerns" about American drug policy.