By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana has become the most prominent issue faced by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers in the second half of the 2014 session, according to political observers, with advocates pushing to make the Empire State the 21st to legalize cannabis for medicinal uses.
Gov. Cuomo remains stubbornly opposed to a functional medical marijuana program, even as a growing number of legislators have lined up in support, reports Yancey Roy at Newsday.
Others, such as Bay Shore Republican Senator Phil Boyle, are pushing for a limited CBD-only bill which would legalize concentrated oils derived from marijuana, but would prohibit smokable cannabis flowers.
Cuomo is up for reelection and is reportedly considering a 2016 Presidential run. He slightly shifted his position this year, in the face of overwhelming support for medicinal cannabis, by proposing an extremely limited medical marijuana research program.
His plan would revive an obscure 1980 law to begin a medical marijuana research program in which 20 New York hospitals could dispense medicinal cannabis under strict conditions. The program would use marijuana seized in drug busts, according to Cuomo.
"I'm not proposing a law, so it's not the Legislature telling me what I have to do," Gov. Cuomo said. "And that gives me great comfort because if it goes bad, we can correct or improve all within our own control."
U.S.: Attorney General Holder Expected to Answer Questions About Federal Marijuana Policy at Tuesday HearingSubmitted by steveelliott on Mon, 04/07/2014 - 17:42
Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to answer questions about federal marijuana policy during a Tuesday hearing of the House Judiciary Committee regarding Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice. Holder will be providing testimony regarding various Obama administration enforcement policies.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), will be available for comment immediately following the hearing.
In an August 2013 memo, Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced that federal law enforcement organizations would refrain from interfering in the implementation of state laws regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medical or adult use, as long as states adopt and enforce adequate regulations that address specific federal priorities.
WHAT: House Judiciary Committee hearing on Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice, at which Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to answer questions about marijuana policy during his testimony regarding Obama administration enforcement policies
WHEN: Tuesday, April 8, 10 a.m. ET
WHERE: Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building, 45 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.
WHO: House Judiciary Committee
Attorney General Eric Holder
By Steve Elliott
Maryland's House of Delegates on Saturday night passed a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill, already approved by the Maryland Senate, is now headed for Governor Martin O'Malley's desk for his signature or veto.
If the Governor signs the bill, HB 1453, getting busted for 10 grams or less of cannabis won't mean going to jail, reports Alex DeMetrick at WJZ. Under current Maryland law, any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense.
"The key is there will be civil penalties instead of criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana," said Del. Kioeffer Mitchell Jr. (D-Baltimore). Possession of 10 grams or less would result in a citation and a possible fine, but no arrest and no criminal record. Seventeen other states have similar laws.
The House voted 78-55 to impose civil fines, rather than criminal penalties, for less than 10 grams of pot, reports Elizabeth LaForgia at Jurist. Those favoring the move pointed to racial disparities, with African Americans much more likely to both be arrested, and to receive a prison sentence for possession.
Drug Policy Alliance: Rescheduling Is Small Step In Right Direction, But Wouldn’t Protect People From Being Arrested or Punished for Marijuana Possession
DPA Supports De-Scheduling Marijuana and Legally Regulating It
Attorney General Eric Holder said on Friday that the Obama Administration would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to reschedule marijuana.
Re-categorizing marijuana would not legalize the drug under federal law, but it could ease restrictions on research into marijuana's medical benefits and allow marijuana businesses to take tax deductions.
“Rescheduling would be a modest step in the right direction, but would do nothing to stop marijuana arrests or prohibition-related violence,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Now that the majority of the American public supports taxing and regulating marijuana, this debate about re-scheduling is a bit antiquated and not a real solution to the failures of marijuana prohibition.”
Holder’s comments come on the heels of guidance issued by the Department of Justice that indicated the Obama Administration will not undermine state marijuana legalization provided states are responsibly regulating marijuana businesses.
By Steve Elliott
Several rebellious members of the Maryland House of Delegates tried on Friday to revive a bill which would remove criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana, days after the measure got hung up in a committee, according to lawmakers.
Delegates led by members of the Legislative Black Caucus tried to amend the legislation in the full House, an unusual challenge to committee rule in the tightly scripted Legislature, report Fredrick Kunkle and John Wagner at The Washington Post. The move is also a challenge to one of the most powerful men in the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr (D-Prince George's County).
"There are a number of members in the House who feel very strongly that Maryland should be moving in the direction of decriminalizing marijuana," said Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Prince George's County), chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Overcoming a committee chairman's opposition "is very difficult," she said. "But it's not impossible, and it has happened before."
The amendment will likely be introduced during Friday's House session, but debate could be pushed until Saturday, according to several lawmakers.
Last year, the Maryland Senate passed a decriminalization bill, but that one also died in Vallario's committee without a vote. This year was looking like a rerun.
By Steve Elliott
In what could be the first court test of New Jersey's medical marijuana law in the workplace, a 57-year-old Newark man is suing his employer, NJ Transit, for suspending him and sending him into drug rehab because he's a registered medicla marijuana patient with end stage renal failure.
Charlie Davis was as procurement clerk at NJ Transit. He said the nerves in his legs are badly damaged, causing severe pain and sleep difficulties, reports Susan K. Livio at The Star-Ledger. Using medicinal cannabis relieves some of the discomfort, according to Davis's lawsuit.
Davis got "bumped" from his job in December by a more senior employee, according to his lawsuit, filed last month in New Jersey Superior Court in Essex County. When he sought another available job in a field position, he was sent for a physical exam which included a drug test.
"I told them I was taking prescribed medical marijuana," Davis said, reports Karen Rouse at NorthJersey.com. "I wanted them to know that. I was not hiding anything from them. I showed them the identification and everything."
Davis even offered to apply for a "non-safety sensitive position" if that was a problem, according to the lawsuit.
By Steve Elliott
Connecticut on Thursday awarded licenses for six medical marijuana dispensaries, chosen from 27 applications, and said that the dispensaries will be up and running by summer.
The state licensed dispensaries in Branford, Bridgeport, Bristol, Hartford, Montville and South Windsor, reports William Weir at the Hartford Courant.
Two of the dispensary owners on Thursday said that their opening dates will depend mainly upon when Connecticut's four licensed medicinal cannabis growers will have marijuana ready for sale.
The six businesses are:
• Arrow Alternative Care Inc., 92 Weston St., Hartford
• Bluepoint Apothecary LLC, 469 E. Main St., Branford
• D&B Wellness LLC, 2181 Main St., Bridgeport
• Prime Wellness of Connecticut LLC, 75 John Fitch Boulevard, South Windsor
• Thames Valley Apothecary LLC, 1100 Norwich-New London Turnpike (Route 32), Uncasville section, Montville
• The Healing Corner Inc., 159 E. Main St., Bristol
Prime Wellness in South Windsor should have products on the shelf and ready to sell by "late summer," according to CEO Thomas Nicholas, a former registered nurse who worked in Hartford Hospital operating rooms, then became a medical supplies salesman in the 1980s and went on to operate five dialysis centers.
By Steve Elliott
More than two out of every three physicians in the United States -- 67 percent -- say that medical marijuana should be an option for patients, according to the results of a new WebMD/Medscape poll.
WebMD on Thursday released Marijuana on Main Street, a special report looking at the debate over medicinal cannabis. The site surveyed nearly 3,000 consumers and Medscape surveyed more than 1,500 doctors about their opinions on legalization, cannabis as a treatment option, and the perceived risks and benefits of its use.
"Despite more than 20 years of anecdotal evidence about the medicinal effects of marijuana, doctors and consumers remain in search of answers," said Dr. Michael Smith, chief medical editor at WebMD. "The findings of our consumer-physician survey indicate the medical community's support for the use of marijuana as a treatment option, particularly among clinical specialists that have pioneered research.
"Yet these survey data suggest additional studies will inform decision-makers' confidence in where medical marijuana can help and where it might not," Dr. Smith added. Peer-review data on marijuana's health benefits remains limited.
The survey found that overall, 56 percent of respondents are in favor of national medical marijuana legalization.
Current 1,500-Foot Zone Blankets Almost All Urban Areas
CT Senate Bill That Would Reduce Enhancement Zones from 1,500 to 200 Feet Passes Judiciary Committee
The Prison Policy Initiative on Thursday released a report, “Reaching too far: How Connecticut’s large sentencing enhancement zones miss the mark”, that analyzes Connecticut’s failed 1,500-foot sentencing enhancement zones. Connecticut’s law, meant to protect children from drug activity, requires an additional sentence for certain drug offenses committed within 1,500 feet of schools, day care centers, and public housing projects.
The resulting sentencing enhancement zones are some of the largest in the country.
“The law’s sheer expanse means it fails to actually set apart any meaningfully protected areas and it arbitrarily increases penalties for urban residents,” explains report author Aleks Kajstura, legal director at the Prison Policy Initiative, a national, non-profit, nonpartisan research and policy organization, with a focus on how geography impacts criminal justice policy.
The report mapped eight of the zones in the state’s cities and towns and demonstrates that the law doesn’t work, and in fact cannot possibly work as written.
Supporters call on members of the House of Representatives to pass bills approved last week by the House Restorative Justice Committee that would replace criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois with a non-criminal fine
Panel discussion on collateral sanctions of marijuana arrests to take place Friday at Roosevelt University
Supporters of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois on Thursday released the results of a statewide poll showing strong support for such legislation. The Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee approved the bill last week, and supporters are now calling on members of the House to approve the proposal.
The Public Policy Polling survey shows 63 percent of Illinois voters support making possession of an ounce of marijuana a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $100. Only 27 percent oppose the proposal.
The poll found majority support across all reported genders, races, and political party affiliations. The survey, which polled 769 Illinois voters from March 28-30, is available at http://www.mpp.org/ILpoll.
Though not conducted with the methodological rigor of the Pew Poll that came out on Wednesday -- showing 54 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana and two-thirds believe drug policy should focus on treatment rather than prosecuting drug users -- Law Officer magazine has provided Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) a poll of its own showing an even more surprising finding: a majority of law enforcement officers also support marijuana policy reform.
Though some of the provided answers seemed to overlap, the overall effect is one indicating broad support for change among the readership of the publication, 97 percent of whom indicated they are or had been in law enforcement.
Some of the most surprising results include 66 percent saying marijuana possession should be legalized, decriminalized, legalized for medical reasons or illegal but only punished with fines, with the largest plurality (37 percent) supporting legalization. Even more surprising, almost 27 percent supported legalizing “the sale of marijuana in large quantities” with 36 percent calling for some form of change from the current model.
While support for decriminalizing possession of other drugs was significantly lower, 14 percent of this population (generally thought to be the most opposed to reform) supported changes in policy.
By Steve Elliott
Washington State University and private sector audit firm to produce ordered lists of applicants
The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) on Wednesday approved staff’s recommendation for a lottery that will select the "apparent successful applicants" for marijuana retail licenses.
The independent, double-blind process will happen April 21-25, according to the WSLCB, and will produce a list of applicants that the agency will use to continue its retail licensing process. The agency said it expects to begin issuing retail licenses no later than the first week of July.
Initiative 502 directed the WSLCB to limit the number of marijuana retail stores by county. In its rules, the WSLCB limited the number of stores statewide to 334.
The most populated cities within each county are allotted a maximum number of stores, with the remainder at large within the county. The rules further state that if the WSLCB receives more applications for a jurisdiction than there are stores allocated, the state would use a lottery process for producing a ranked order of applicants.
Well, surprise, surprise: There are hella more prospective marijuana store applicants than there are licenses available. And many of the unsuccessful applicants are going to be quite upset, some of them after spending tens of thousands of dollars getting ready to go into the marijuana business. Expect a spate of bitter lawsuits on the horizon.
U.S.: DEA Head Tells Congress Her Agency Is 'Fighting Back' Against Administration's Tolerance of Marijuana LegalizationSubmitted by steveelliott on Wed, 04/02/2014 - 19:35
At a Wednesday House subcommittee hearing, DEA director Michele Leonhart publicly opposed Department of Justice position on legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington and warned of dangers of marijuana legalization … to pets
Dan Riffle of Marijuana Policy Project: 'It's Time For Her To Go'
Drug Enforcement Administration head Michele Leonhart apparently has no problem trash-talking her boss. The administrator of the DEA repeatedly criticized the Obama Administration at a Wednesday hearing on the DEA’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
In a memo released in July 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would not interfere with the effective implementation of laws regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adults in Colorado and Washington. When asked by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) during a Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing whether the Obama Administration’s tolerant views toward legal marijuana had affected morale at the DEA, which is a branch of the DOJ, Leonhart replied that “Our agents are fighting back against those messages. It makes us fight harder.”
The DEA administrator had earlier criticized the DOJ for a perceived delay in issuing a response to Washington and Colorado’s new laws, claiming there was “a lot of confusion in those 296 days.”
Group Will Also Release New Report Detailing Collateral Consequences of Being Arrested for Marijuana in Illinois
Central Illinois man who was denied public housing assistance 13 years after being arrested for possessing 2.5 grams of marijuana will join Illinois religious leader and others at a news conference Thursday at 11 a.m. CT in the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago
Supporters of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois will on Thursday release the results of a statewide poll that show strong support for such legislation. The Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee approved the bill last week, and supporters are now calling on members of the House to approve the proposal.
A new report, “Marked for Life: Collateral Sanctions in Illinois,” which details the impact of being arrested for a marijuana-related offense in Illinois, will also be released. Collateral consequences of marijuana arrests in Illinois will also be the subject of a panel discussion at the Fourth Annual Forum on Drug Policy, which will be held Friday at Roosevelt University. For details, visit http://bit.ly/1jlWPe8.
Two Out of Three Americans Think People Shouldn’t Be Prosecuted for Possession of Drugs Such as Cocaine and Heroin; 63 Percent Support Moving Away from Mandatory Minimums; 54 Percent Support Marijuana Legalization
DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann: It’s Time to Stop Arresting People for Drug Use or Possession
A new national survey released today by the Pew Research Center reveals that a broad majority of Americans are ready to significantly reduce the role of the criminal justice system in dealing with people who use drugs.
More than six in ten Americans (63 percent) say that state governments moving away from mandatory prison terms for drug law violations is a good thing, while just 32 percent say these policy changes are a bad thing. This is a substantial shift from 2001 when the public was evenly divided (47 percent good thing vs. 45 percent bad thing). The majority of all demographic groups, including Republicans and Americans over 65 years old, support this shift.
At the same time, there has been a major shift in attitudes on whether the use of marijuana should be legal. As recently as four years ago, about half (52 percent) said they thought the use of marijuana should not be legal; 41 percent said marijuana use should be legal. Today those numbers are roughly reversed – 54 percent favor marijuana legalization while 42 percent are opposed. Just 16 percent say it should not be legal for either medical or recreational use.