By Steve Elliott
Voters in Florida and Ohio back legalization of marijuana for personal recreational use, while Pennsylvania voters are divided on the subject, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released on Thursday.
Men support legalized marijuana for personal use more than women in each of the states, the poll finds. The Swing State Poll focused on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960, no Presidential candidate has won without taking at least two of these three states.
Voters in all three states, by overwhelming margins, support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. There is no gender gap on this question; men and women support medicinal cannabis equally. "Only about one in 10 voters opposes legalizing marijuana for medical purposes," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Also in all three states, most voters said they wouldn't use marijuana, even if personal use were legalized.
"If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then the Red Planet might be the more spacey place," Brown said. "That's because men are more likely than women to support legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
Not surprisingly support for the change is linked to age, with younger voters more likely to see personal use of pot as a good thing," Brown said. "But despite the support for legalization, a majority of voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania say they would not use the drug if it were legal."
By Steve Elliott
A new package of spending bills from the Senate, intended to keep the federal government operational for the next year, includes several positive changes in marijuana law.
The bills were filed on Tuesday by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and they've just been uploaded to Congress's website, reports Marijuana.com.
The new spending package put forth by the top Senate appropriator "includes, well, everything us marijuana law reformers could have reasonably hoped for this year," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.
“We won bipartisan votes on all of these issues this year on either the House floor, in the Senate Appropriations Committee or both, so this is a rare case of Congressional leadership actually listening to their members — and to the American people," Angell said.
"Just a few short years ago, politicians used to jump all over each other to be seen as the ‘toughest’ on drugs," Angell said. "But now that polls consistently show that a growing majority of Americans support legalization, more elected officials are beginning to realize that scaling back failed prohibition policies is not only the right thing to do, but that it’s politically smart."
If enacted, the bills would:
Agreement Comes on Heels of Historic Senate Deal
High Hopes that Congress will soon Pass Criminal Justice Reform
House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) on Thursday announced a deal on sentencing reform with his counterpart Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). The bill -- The Sentencing Reform Act -- takes a similar approach to the Senate’s Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, announced last week, although this bill contains new problematic provisions.
“This is not the legislation we would have drafted, but we are encouraged that we now have bills in the House and Senate that tackle similar issues and that move the ball down the field for sentencing reform,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “We are more optimistic than ever that a bill will land on the President’s desk.”
The Senate deal, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), includes reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and expansion of reentry programming and early release, among other things.
By Steve Elliott
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday vetoed a bill which would have created new penalties for making hash oil with flammable chemicals like butane. Brown said the state already has enough laws, and a prison overcrowding problem, and doesn't need to make the problem worse.
The Golden State has seen a rise in explosions and fires caused by the extraction of cannabis concentrates using volatile solvents like butane, reports David Downs at East Bay Express. But it's already against the law to make butane hash oil (BHO) in Cali. Arson and criminal negligence are also already crimes there.
Assembly Bill 849, from East Bay Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, would have created a new crime carrying prison sentences of up to six years for BHO blasters who hurt others. The bill passed the California Assembly -- unanimously! -- on August 31.
But Gov. Brown vetoed AB 849 and eight others for good measure, blasting reationary, "get tough" laws that result in prison overcrowding but don't do a damn thing to improve public safety.
"Each of this bills creates a new crime -- usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed," Brown said. "This multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.
By Steve Elliott
A nonprofit cannabis research institute plans to build a $24 million facility in Ohio and offer medical marijuana insurance if recreational legalization measure Issue 3 passes on November 3.
The International Cannabinoid Institute, a new Ohio-based nonprofit, announced on Tuesday it will rent land in Licking County from, you guessed it, investors who are backing the marijuana legalization ballot issue.
Issue 3 would legalize recreational and medical marijuana sales and use, but would limit commercial growing to just 10 sites owned by the wealthy investors who financed the measure.
Opposition has arisen to Issue 3 because of how it limits commercial growing to those who financed the ballot issue, reports Jackie Borchardt of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. The preselection of site owners means that only investors in ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee backing the measure, would get to participate in the new marijuana cultivation industry.
Wealthy investors have contributed more than $20 million to the campaign, which would basically enshrine their marijuana monopoly into the state constitution.
By Steve Elliott
The Federal Institute of Pharmaceuticals on Monday rejected proposed plans that would have allowed "coffee shops" in Berlin similar to those in Amsterdam, where customers can buy various kinds of recreational marijuana products alongside coffee.
Proponents of the law said they are still hopeful for the future of cannabis legalization in Germany, reports Jess McXHugh at IB Times.
"For us, the rejection of the plans was no surprise, and as such, it's also not a setback," said Georg Wurth, spokesperson for a cannabis advocacy group in Germany, reports The Local. "Political pressure is rising from below," he said.
The Green Party has long favored cannabis legalization in Germany. In 2014, party leader Cem Özdemir had himself filmed doing the Ice Bucket Challenge with a tall marijuana plant in plain view on his balcony beside him.
The Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain borough of Berlin had submitted plans for four "specialist cannabis shops" back in June. The cannabis would have been produced in Berlin and Brandenburg, and sold only to residents of the borough 18 and older.
By Steve Elliott
Farmers in North Carolina may soon be able to enter the booming worldwide industrial hemp market, if and when Gov. Pat McCrory signs Senate Bill 313, which would legalize is cultivation in the state.
SB 313 originally had to do with license plates and registers of deeds -- that is, until an addition from sponsor Sen. Jeff Collins (R-Nash County), who added industrial hemp, reports Kat McReynolds at the Mountain Xpress. Gov. McCrory's signature is the last thing needed after overwhelming approval of the bill in both the North Carolina House (101-7) and Senate 42-2).
"From all indications, the governor is going to sign it," said hemp advocate Blake Butler, organizer of Asheville's recent HempX festival. "He's in support of it."
If McCrory signs the bill, an industrial hemp commission will be in charge of managing a statewide pilot program involving commercial growers and researchers. Industrial hemp is used to make thousands of products, from hempseed oil, to rope, to clothing, paper, plastics, and building materials.
The 2014 U.S. Farm Bill allows states to enact their own regulatory systems on industrial hemp cultivation. Twenty states have now adopted Farm Bill-compliant laws to accommodate hemp cultivation under various conditions. North Carolina law had remained silent on the subject until now.
Amy Schumer, Steph Curry, Ed Norton, Jesse Williams, Chris Pine, Russell Simmons, and Piper Kerman are among 90+ celebrities calling for reform to our criminal justice system -- a call sounded by #cut50, a bipartisan effort to safely and smartly reduce our incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
The historic campaign comes on the heels of major bipartisan legislation in Congress. Last week, an all-star group of Senators including Chuck Grassley (R-IaA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) came together to begin rolling back mass incarceration with the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. In the House, the SAFE Justice Act has been called the most comprehensive justice reform legislation in decades.
President Obama said late last week that he was "optimistic that members on both sides of the aisle, in both houses… can put a meaningful criminal justice reform bill on my desk before the end of this year."
For the first time, major celebrities are petitioning Congress to pass a meaningful criminal justice reform bill and roll back the incarceration industry in America.
Poll after poll shows that the majority of American people, of all political persuasions, agree - it is time to fix our broken justice system.
The #JusticeReformNOW petition, organized by #cut50, has received more than 130,000 total signatures collected across multiple petitions hosted on Care2, Credo Working Assets, MoveOn & a recently launched petition at Change.org/JusticeReformNOW - all petitions call for a comprehensive, criminal justice reform bill this year.
By Steve Elliott
With legalization seemingly a near-certainty coming down the pike in California, there's a lot of excitement in the air. And the smell of money has joined the aroma of cannabis, stoking the excitement to a fever pitch. But there's a fly in that medicated ointment.
Inspired by successes in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, activists are hungrily eyeing California, the biggest prize of all in the recreational legalization sweepstakes, reports Dennis Romero at the L.A. Weekly.
Legalization fell short in the Golden State in 2010 with Proposition 19, and that sad outcome could see a repeat if multiple initiatives compete against each other to qualify, and if two or more reach the ballot and face off against each other.
What was supposed to be the unifying initiative -- ReformCA, from the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform -- was the intended vehicle for all the big players in California cannabis politics to support; they almost pulled it off, too.
Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy to Mobilize Activists Statewide in Effort to Inject Marijuana Policy Debate Into 2016 State Legislative Races; New Texas Lyceum Poll Finds Three Out of Four Voters Support Reform
First of several regional advocacy training events will be held Saturday in San Antonio; UTSA criminal justice professor and former corrections officer Michel Gilbert will be a guest speaker
Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy will hold an advocacy training event Saturday, October 3, in San Antonio that will mark the beginning of a statewide effort to inject the marijuana policy debate into 2016 state legislative races. Regional events are also scheduled for Dallas on October 31, Corpus Christi on November 7, East Texas on December 5, and Houston on December 12.
“Comprehensive marijuana reform saw tremendous progress this legislative session largely because families and regular Texans shared their stories with lawmakers,” said State Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio). “The movement to change our antiquated and dangerous prohibition laws are gaining traction. However, that momentum will be lost unless citizens stay engaged with their lawmakers during the interim and campaign season.
“That's why these advocacy training events are so important because citizens will be the catalyst for change,” Sen. Menéndez said. “I'm excited the inaugural training session is taking place in San Antonio. Poll after poll shows Texans are ready for comprehensive marijuana reform.”
By Steve Elliott
The annual number of arrests for marijuana offenses in the U.S. increased last year for the first time since 2009, according to the Uniform Crime Report released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
There were 700,993 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2014, according to a new report from the FBI. That's one every 45 seconds.
Marijuana arrests comprised 44.9 percent of all drug arrests, and drug crimes are the largest category of offenses people were arrested for, according to the FBI. Fully 88.4 percent of marijuana arrests were for possession alone.
In comparison, there were 693,482 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2013. Data on marijuana arrests for years prior to 2013 is at http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Marijuana#Total.
"It's unacceptable that police still put this many people in handcuffs for something that a growing majority of Americans think should be legal," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "A record number of states are expected to vote on legalizing marijuana next year, so we hope and expect to see these numbers significantly dropping soon.
"There’s just no good reason that so much police time and taxpayer money is spent punishing people for marijuana when so many murders, rapes and robberies go unsolved," Angell said.
By Steve Elliott
For some odd reason, Republican Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh is on a mission to prevent medical marijuana patients from having safe access to their medicine -- despite the fact that it's now legal in Maryland.
Schuh this week vowed to press forward with an effort to prohibit medical marijuana facilities in the county despite a letter from the Maryland Attorney General's Office stating that counties cannot ban operations allowed by state law, reports Rema Rahman at The Baltimore Sun.
The bill backed by Schuh would prohibit not only dispensaries but even individual patients from growing, processing or dispensing medical marijuana in all zoning classifications.
The advice was issued on Tuesday by the Attorney General's Office in response to a Democratic Baltimore County state senator who slammed Schuh's plan to ban safe access.
The nonbinding legal advice, signed by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe, says state law allows counties to decide where medical marijuana may be grown, processed and dispensed, but does not permit local jurisdictions to outright ban facilities "unless a situation unique to that county makes one or more types of facilities inappropriate."
By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana dispensary owners who could be put out of business by Vancouver's new regulations are not planning on going away without a fight.
Only 15 to 20 dispensaries will be approved and licensed after the city goes through 176 applications for business licenses, according to Vancouver Councillor Kerry Jang, reports Laura Kane at The Canadian Press. But owners who are expecting rejection letters said the first "no" from the city will just be the beginning of a process of appeals and legal action.
"With any new rules or regulations or licensing, it will take a long time," said Chuck Varabioff of the British Columbia Pain Society. "I do know a lot of dispensaries will file lawsuits."
"I'll never file a lawsuit against the city," Varabioff said, "but I definitely would appeal if I'm told that I have to move."
The city isn't imposing a cap on dispensaries, according to Jang, but only 15 are 20 shops are likely to meet its stringent requirements, including a clean criminal record and a ban on operating with 300 meters of schools, community centers and other dispensaries. Jang first revealed that estimate to local politicians at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Monday; he said it was his own calculation and not an official figure.
By Steve Elliott
Oregon adults 21 and older will be able to legally buy recreational marijuana on October 1. Well, most of them. If you live in Albany, Oregon, your city council says you don't get to do that.
A large crowd of cannabis advocates filled the room, with about two dozen speaking to the council, "but they might have well stayed home," , reports Hasso Hering.
Four members of the Albany City Council blocked recreational marijuana sales in the town. Councilors voted 4-2, enacting an ordinance that bars medical marijuana dispensaries from selling recreational weed from October 1 through the end of 2016.
After that, recreational cannabis still can't be sold at medical dispensaries, but will be available at recreational retail stores which will be licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Voting for the ban were Councilors Floyd Collins, Bill Coburn, Bessie Johnson, and Rich Kellum. Voting against the ban, and thus actually representing their constituents who voted for recreational marijuana legalization, were Dick Olsen and Ray Kopczynski.
Councilors are also considering passing even more restrictions on marijuana sales. Among the ideas discussed:
• A buffer larger than the currently required 300 feet between dispensaries and residential zones
By Steve Elliott
Pakistan's traditional marijuana crop, basis of its thriving hashish industry, is being threatened by Pakistan's decade-long war against terrorism and Islamist militancy.
Harvest would traditionally take place in October, and hashish production not long after that, reports Tim Craig at The Washington Post. But much of the crop in the Tirah Valley in Pakistan's tribal belt has been abandoned, and is in danger of becoming yet another casualty of the conflict.
After Taj Muhammad Afridi planted cannabis seeds in February, the Pakistani military began a series of operations in the Tirah Valley against Taliban fighters who were hiding out there. The operation forced Afridi and 250,000 other residents to leave their homes; many are still waiting to return.
"We know that our crops are still there," said Afridi, 65, who has for decades helped make stoners mellow around the world. "But I don't know what the future will be. Will the military allow this?"