By Steve Elliott
The New York Legislature decriminalized marijuana in that state back in the 1970s. But simple marijuana possession is still the #1 cause of arrest in New York City, with 149,951 pot busts last year. What gives?
NYPD cops use the "public view" exception to the decrim law to trap people, that's what. Officers will misleadingly ask a suspect to "take the pot out of your pocket," and then bust them for "public display" of the weed, which ups what would have been a traffic ticket-like event into a violation with arrest and possible jail time.
More and more civil rights activists have noticed this disturbing phenomenon, and the NYPD is increasingly coming under pressure to stop its dishonest tactics when it comes to busting pot smokers. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried last year to remove the "public view" provision in the criminal code last year, reports John Surico at the Village Voice, and even NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has asked his officers to back off with the pot arrests, already.
Happily, it seems this is finally starting to have an impact, 35 years after decrim.
By Steve Elliott
A former worker for the City of Niagara Falls, New York has been sentenced to 60 months in federal prison for selling imported Canadian marijuana.
Wally Reynolds, 37, told officers he resorted to selling weed because he had been laid off from his former job working for the city, reports WIVB.
Reynolds allegedly admitted he sold marijuana between June 2004 and February 2010, and also managed others who distributed pot throughout the western New York state area, according to assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Catherine Baumgarten, who handled the case.
Baumgarten claimed that Reynolds supervised other individuals in a "drug conspiracy" that imported marijuana from Canada into the United States.
He was convicted of conspiring to possess and distribute more than 100 kilograms of cannabis, and after pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, was sentenced to a mandatory minimum five years in prison.
Reynolds had faced up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million.
The plea was the result of an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero.
By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana advocates on Tuesday dialed up the pressure on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Republicans to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes.
A packed conference room of politicians, marijuana advocates and patients with debilitating illnesses gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to renew the push for a revised bill to protect patients and set up a medical marijuana production and distribution system in the state, reports Casey Seiler at the Albany Times Union.
The bill is gaining support among Democrats, according to state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), and now is the time to pass the bill, which has been around for years, reports Glenn Blain at the New York Daily News.
"Everyone knows this bill will likely pass the New York State Assembly fairly easily," Savino said. "The Senate has always been the stumbling block."
Meanwhile, the other major hurdle is Gov. Cuomo's desk. The Governor has said that while he's "looking" at the issue, he does not support legalizing marijuana for medical use "at this time."
Bill Passes Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday
By Steve Elliott
Patient advocates -– including patients who use marijuana for medical purposes -– and health care professionals came to Albany on Tuesday to support legislation to allow medical use of marijuana in New York.
Patients suffering from severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions could be treated with medical marijuana under legislation introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Senator Diane J. Savino. New York’s bill A. 6357/S.4406 is cosponsored by 68 other legislators.
The bill was reported from the Assembly Health Committee Tuesday by 21-4, including three of the Committee’s seven Republicans voting in favor.
The bill has been endorsed by dozens of organizations, including the New York State Nurses Association; the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York; the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; and the New York State AIDS Advisory Council.
A 2012 Siena poll found that a strong majority of New Yorkers support legalization of medical marijuana, 61 percent-33 percent, including 69 percent-27 percent among independent voters.
By Steve Elliott
New York could be next in line to legalize medical marijuana. A state senator has introduced a bill that would allow the very ill to use cannabis as a medical treatment, but the bill reportedly has an uphill battle.
Diane Savino, a Democrat from Staten Island, is sponsoring the bill, reports John Borsa at WKBW.
"In other countries, the UK and Canada, they've done extensive research on medical marijuana, and have been able to show that there is a direct effect in a positive way on patients," Savino said.
According to the state senator, her bill takes what has worked in other states and leaves out elements that have not been as successful.
Under her proposal, seriously ill patients would need to get their doctor's authorization, and could then buy marijuana through a system of state-regulated dispensaries. The cannabis would be tracked "from plant to patient," Savino said.
But that's where that "uphill battle" we mentioned comes in. Governor Andrew Cuomo has in the past said he "doesn't support" medical marijuana. And of course, some nervous Nellies are fretting about "making marijuana more widely available."
Legislation Would End the Needless Suffering of Thousands of Seriously Ill New Yorkers
By Steve Elliott
New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino on Wednesday introduced a bill that would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs.
If passed, New York would join 18 other states – including New Jersey and Connecticut -- and the District of Columbia in allowing patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses to access to medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.
The entire program, including the registration of patients and the licensing of producers and dispensaries, would be subject to strict state regulation and oversight.
Doctors, physicians' assistants and nurse practitioners could authorize medical marijuana patients to the New York Department of Health, reports Teri Weaver at Syracuse.com. The department would create a patient registry; patients would have photo ID cards and would be allowed to buy up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis at a time from certified growers or dispensaries.
The department would also be in charge of approving growers and sellers. Growers would be required to cultivate marijuana indoors at secure locations. Growing and selling would be taxed up to $250 pound, according to the proposal.
By Steve Elliott
A New York man is in jail after a investigators executing a search warrant found 225 marijuana plants growing in his home in Olean.
Police claimed the cannabis would be "worth about $200,000."
Roman Gabriel, 34, was arrested after police searched the residence around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, reports WKBW.
Investigators claimed they found lighting, an irrigation and ventilation system, and fertilizers in the home, which is owned by Gabriel's parents. They estimated the value of the seized growing equipment at $10,000.
Gabriel was arraigned and is being held on $5,000 bail.
(Photo: WKBW News)
By Bill Lambdin , WNYT
ALBANY - As Burton Aldrich sat in his wheelchair, describing the serious conditions that have caused him to appeal for the legal right to use marijuana he is already taking outside the law, his body stiffened.
"It's a (pain) spasm," Aldrich told us.
Burt, as well as HIV and Hepatitis C sufferer Richard Williams, hope this is the year elected representatives in Albany heed their call.
"Let me not be fear every time I have to go out and try to get some marijuana somewhere," Aldrich said. "(Fear) about who I'm getting it from, whether they're going to kill me or steal from me or whether I've going to get put in jail because of it."
Although medical marijuana proposals have easily passed the Assembly, they have not been permitted to go to a vote in the Republican controlled State Senate.
Tough for Burt to take. He says he is a Republican.
"And I look at my forefathers who came over on the Mayflower," Aldrich said. "It was to find some place where they could be free and this is what America stood for and so as a Republican, I ask my Republican senators to please back me on this."
This year Republicans are sharing control of the State Senate.
By Jacob Sullum, Reason Staff
Yesterday a federal judge ruled that distributing pamphlets about jury nullification—even in front of a courthouse—is not jury tampering. U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood dismissed a 2010 indictment against Julian P. Heicklen, a retired chemistry professor who was accused of violating Title 18, Section 1504, of the U.S. Code, which authorizes a jail sentence of up to six months for anyone who "attempts to influence the action or decision of any grand or petit juror of any court of the United States upon any issue or matter pending before such juror, or before the jury of which he is a member, or pertaining to his duties, by writing or sending to him any written communication, in relation to such issue or matter."
By Craig M. Burridge, Times Union
Albany, N.Y. -- The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York has become the latest professional health organization to endorse the medical marijuana bill under consideration in Albany.
As medical professionals who believe in palliative care, responsible oversight, and -- most important -- relieving the suffering of ill patients whenever possible, we strongly support this legislation.
It will establish a controlled and orderly system, based on established medical practice, for providing seriously ill patients with access to a medicine that has been demonstrated to relieve intractable pain and suffering.
Since 1996, 14 other states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws to allow doctors to recommend marijuana to qualified patients suffering from ailments such as AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis. New York's bill is designed to include the best practices from those states, while at the same time learning from their mistakes.
Compared to other state laws, New York's bill would create a much stricter patient eligibility criteria, and more tightly regulate where the drug can be purchased.
A primary reason why pharmacists support this bill is the active oversight role it grants to the Department of Health. Patients would not be able to grow their own medicine, but rather gain access through a network of licensed pharmacies and nonprofit dispensaries approved and regulated by the Department of Health.
Former Talk Show Host, U.S. Marine and MS Patient Urges Albany Lawmakers to Act Without Delay
By Salem-News, salem-news.com
(ALBANY, N.Y. ) - At a press conference in Albany on Tuesday, former talk show host, U.S. Navy officer and New York City resident Montel Williams urged New York Governor David Paterson and members of the Legislature to act quickly in order to pass New York’s medical marijuana bill.
The New York bill would create one of the best-regulated systems in the country for providing seriously ill patients with safe and effective access to medical marijuana. Mr. Williams suffers from multiple sclerosis, and uses medical marijuana to help ease the effects of his condition.
“New York needs to act now to make marijuana legally available for medical use. Every day that we delay is another day of needless suffering for patients like me all across the state,” Williams said.
“Thousands of New Yorkers suffer from serious medical conditions that could benefit from the medical use of marijuana,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and sponsor of the Assembly medical marijuana bill. “If the patient and the doctor agree that the most effective medicine is marijuana, the government should not stand in the way. It is cruel to turn suffering patients into criminals when they are following what their doctor recommends.”
By Te-Ping Chen
Was it Margaret Mead who said, "Never underestimate the power of 8,809 readers who care about criminal justice?" Okay, maybe not quite that. But I'm excited to announce that one story we've closely tracked here at Change.org -- CBS's refusal to accept a pro-marijuana legalization ad -- resulted in a victory this afternoon.
Last month, NORML reported that CBS had denied the group's request to place an ad in Times Square that touted the potential billions in taxes that would result from legalizing marijuana. Remember, this is a network that boasts marijuana-infused advertisements for their Showtime Network show, Weeds. It's also the network that was perfectly willing to air a controversial anti-abortion ad aimed at peak viewership during the Super Bowl. But still, somehow CBS decided that NORML's message (“Legalize Marijuana – Billions in Taxes”) would ruffle the network's too-delicate sensibilities.
In a Feb. 3 rejection email, NORML was told, "If CBS changes their morals we will let you know."
By DEMETRA GANIAS
ALBANY, N.Y. -- A push to allow for medical marijuana has passed a State Senate committee in hopes that the issue will come to the floor for a full Senate vote this session.
But there are serious concerns among law enforcement that the need for weed could spark new public safety problems.
Michael Kessler of Elmira broke his back in 6 places, then burned 90% of his body in a motorcycle accident.
Timothy Cerrone of Amsterdam has multiple sclerosis, and needs injections to be able to see.
They're among thousands of patients who say medical marijuana is the best way to help dibilitating pain, and won't damage to the liver as badly as decades of taking prescription drugs.
By KIRK JOHNSON, NY Times
GREELEY, Colo. — Health and law enforcement officials around the nation are scrambling to figure out how to regulate medical marijuana now that the federal government has decided it will no longer prosecute legal users or providers.
For years, since the first medical marijuana laws were passed in the mid-1990s, many local and state governments could be confident, if not complacent, knowing that marijuana would be kept in check because it remained illegal under federal law, and that hard-nosed federal prosecutors were not about to forget it.
But with the Justice Department’s announcement last week that it would not prosecute people who use marijuana for medical purposes in states where it is legal, local and state officials say they will now have to take on the job themselves.
In New Hampshire, for instance, where some state legislators are considering a medical marijuana law, there is concern that the state health department — already battered by budget cuts — could be hard-pressed to administer the system. In California, where there has been an explosion of medical marijuana suppliers, the authorities in Los Angeles and other jurisdictions are considering a requirement that all medical dispensaries operate as nonprofit organizations.
By Tom Grace, Cooperstown Bureau
The Chenango County Board of Supervisors has voted to legalize the growing and processing of industrial hemp to help the county's struggling farmers.
The resolution, sponsored by the county's Planing and Economic Development Committee, was passed without opposition July 13. It has been sent to state legislators and is on the way to federal representatives, committee Chairwoman Linda Natoli of Norwich said Friday.
The measure reads, in part, ``Whereas Chenango County has a rich agricultural history and agriculture continues to play an important role in the county's economy," and ``Whereas the decline in agriculture in recent years provides the opportunity for alternative crops such as hemp, and ``Whereas industrial hemp is now cultivated in more than 30 countries, including Canada, France and Great Britain."
The measure goes on to note that "industrial hemp has no intoxicating properties and is genetically distinguishable from marijuana, and the U.S. "is the largest importer of hemp-based products in the world" in citing the benefits that could be had through local production.
Natoli said she pushed for the measure because she sees no reason that local farmers should not be allowed to grow the cash crop.
``When we began to study this, I didn't know much about hemp and didn't have a position on it, but the more I learned, the more convinced I became that our farmers should be allowed to grow it,'' she said.