Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyperson Crystal Peoples-Stokes on Wednesday sponsored a public forum about the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
Under the proposal, those over 21 would be able to purchase small amounts of marijuana from a state-regulated store. The bill would rectify the many problems associated with marijuana prohibition, including the arrests of tens of thousands of primarily young people of color.
“There is no question that New York’s marijuana policies are broken,” said Kassandra Frederique, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Each year, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are swept into the maze of the criminal justice system for nothing more than possessing small amounts of marijuana.
"Enforcement of these policies is focused almost entirely focused on young people, primarily young people of color, such that our laws are now applied differently to different people based on the color of their skin and their income level – this must stop,” Frederique said.
The hearing comes amidst a wave of marijuana policy reform nationally. Four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana for adult use.
At the federal level, Congress has just passed and President Obama on Tuesday signed the omnibus bill that contained an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to interfere with states that have passed medical marijuana laws.
By Steve Elliott
If you've ever doubted the existence of police privilege, it may be time to reassess. A police officer in California who was caught redhanded with marijuana in his home earlier this year -- more than 4 pounds of it -- "probably" won't be charged with a crime due to "lack of evidence."
K-9 Officer Joe Avila has been on paid leave since September, pending results of an internal investigation, according to the Richmond Police Department, reports Rick Hurd at the Contra Costa Times.
The Contra Costa District Attorney's Office has been "investigating" but "is not inclined to file charges," said Robin Lipetzky, the county's chief public defender. That decision "likely" comes from "evidence not strong enough to produce a conviction," according to Lipetzky (remember, they caught this cop with between 4 and 5 pounds of weed in his house).
A search warrant obtained by the Contra Costa Times showed that Avila picked up a box containing 4 to 5 pounds of cannabis from a UPS store on November 25, 2013. He then radioed a dispatcher to say he'd file an incident report.
But Officer Avila never filed that report. Instead, he took the marijuana to his home in Oakley instead of placing it in a department evidence locker, which would have been policy.
By Steve Elliott
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission on Tuesday announced that Tom Burns, a former pharmaceutical lobbyist who now works at the Oregon Health Authority as director of pharmacy programs and ran the state's medical cannabis dispensary program, will oversee the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
Before working for the state of Oregon, Burns served as top administrator in the California Senate and was a lobbyist for GlaxoSmithKline, a Big Pharma giant, reports Nigel Jaquiss at Willamette Week.
The OLCC has been in charge of distributing and regulating liquor in Oregon since alcohol Prohibition ended, and now that the voters have approved Measure 91, it is now in the position of implementing marijuana legalization.
"Tom has navigated these waters before on the medical side," said OLCC Executive Director Steven Marks. "In line with Chairman Rob Patridge's direction, Tom will lead the implementation of Oregon's recreational marijuana law with a measured approach that protects children, promotes safety, and brings the marijuana industry into the regulated market."
Photo of Tom Burns: Willamette Week
A national survey released on Tuesday found teen marijuana usage rates decreased from 2013 to 2014 — a period marked by heightened national debate regarding marijuana policy and implementation of the nation’s first marijuana legalization laws.
According to the annual Monitoring the Future Survey, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), rates of annual, monthly, and daily marijuana use dropped among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. More details are available in the researchers’ press release at http://www.monitoringthefuture.org//pressreleases/14drugpr_complete.pdf.
Teens’ perception of ‘great risk’ in marijuana use also decreased among students in all three grades, contradicting the often-heard claim that public dialogue about the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition — including discussion of the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and other substances — will result in more teens using marijuana.
In August, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among the state’s high school students has dropped since marijuana became legal for adults. More information is available at http://mppne.ws/1BSbM17.
“The survey’s findings and recent polls demonstrate that Americans of all ages are wising up when it comes to marijuana," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Support for ending marijuana prohibition is growing among adults, and marijuana use is dropping among teens.
BC Human Rights Tribunal to Release Prelim Decision on Cop's Right to Advocate for Drug Legalization
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal on Tuesday will release a preliminary decision regarding a complaint of political discrimination against the Victoria Police Department for muzzling an officer who advocates for drug legalization. This particular decision will focus on whether senior police officers at VicPD can be held personally liable for illegal conduct in this matter, setting an important precedent in police accountability.
The decision will be released shortly after 12 pm PT at the following link:
In 2010, the Victoria Police Department banned Constable David Bratzer from speaking off-duty as part of an expert panel on harm reduction. Since then, he has faced progressively more severe restrictions regarding his off-duty advocacy for drug policy reform.
In 2013, after years of harassment, and fearing for his livelihood, Constable Bratzer filed his complaint citing “political belief” as a protected ground of discrimination in Section 13 of the BC Human Rights Code. In advance of the decision today, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is publicly affirming its support for his struggle to regain his voice:
By Steve Elliott
Electronic cigarettes containing extracts of marijuana -- but no psychoactive THC -- are about to hit the market in France any day now. The e-cigs contain cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), which give relaxing and pain-killing effects, according to the manufacturer.
Three young French entrepreneurs are launching the product, which launches before the end of December, and they claim it will be entirely legal, reports The Local.
"KanaVape brings you many of the benefits of cannabinoids without the psychotic effect of THC," claims the website of the product, due to go on sale this month in France.
"Vape pens" which allow consumers to inhale cannabis or tobacco vapor are increasingly popular in the United States. But they've been rare in Europe until now.
"By using only hemp with 5 percent CBD (Cannabidiol) and no THC, KanaVape provides you with a unique cannabinoids excperience," the company claims. "Cannabidiol is a non-psychotic cannabinoid, it will not make you 'high' but will help you relax." (Note the not-very-subtle substitution of the word "psychotic" for the proper term, "psychoactive," perhaps to demonize THC and make it seem more threatening -- a favorite, albeit quite deceptive, marketing strategy for "CBD-only" purveyors.)
CBD-rich hemp, which is grown legally to make products such as oil, rope, cloth, paper, and fuel, will be used to make the vapor mix.
By Steve Elliott
President Obama supports legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Washington, D.C., as approved by voters of the District of Columbia last month, a White House spokesman said on Friday.
But the President also reluctantly supports and would sign the "cromnibus" government funding bill including a rider which would block the measure, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, reports Devin Dwyer at ABC News. Republican Congressional negotiations quietly sneaked into the $1.1 trillion spending bill a provision which blocks the district from spending any money to enact marijuana legalization.
"We do not believe that Congress should spend a lot of time interfering with the ability of the citizens of the District of Columbia to make decisions related to how they should govern their community," Earnest told ABC's Jonathan Karl.
But despite those concerns, "the President supports the passage of this compromise proposal and would sign it if it arrives on his desk," Earnest said.
D.C. voters approved a referendum last month by an almost 2-to-1 margin to legalize possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and up to three plants for personal use.
District leaders have denounced the anti-marijuana rider in the spending bill as interference in the democratic process. Residents of D.C. do not have voting representation in Congress.
Congressional Leaders Agree that Legislative Intent of DC Rider in Spending Bill Allows Initiative 71 to Move Forward
Tax and Regulate Legislation Blocked By Congress
Republicans were successful in including language in the “cromnibus” federal spending bill that interferes with the right of Washington, D.C., to set its own marijuana policies. The language, however, was not what they originally wanted because they had to compromise with Democrats.
The D.C. marijuana rider inserted in the bill allows D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law (passed earlier this year) to stand, while prohibiting D.C. from taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol (a D.C. Council committee recently approved tax-and-regulate legislation and it is widely believed that the Council will legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana next year if it can).
Because the language was poorly drafted there has been disagreement over whether or not the spending bill rider would overturn Initiative 71, an initiative approved by 70 percent of D.C. voters in November that legalizes marijuana possession and home cultivation for personal use. Based on statements by members of Congress, including members who were part of the funding bill negotiations, it is clear that the legislative intent of the rider was to allow both decrim and Initiative 71 to stand, while blocking D.C. from carrying out more sweeping reform in the future.
By Steve Elliott
In an epochal shift likely to change the face of American society forever, the federal Department of Justice on Thursday will tell U.S. Attorneys not to prevent Native American tribes from growing or selling marijuana on their sovereign lands, even in states where cannabis is illegal.
The new memorandum will offer guidance which will be implemented on a case-by-case basis, according to U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon of North Dakota, chairman of the Attorney General's Subcommittee on Native American Issues, reports Timothy M. Phelps at the Los Angeles Times.
Tribes must still follow the eight guidelines or "areas of concern" offered by the federal government after Colorado and Washington voters chose to legalize marijuana in the 2012 elections. The federal guidelines will also apply in Oregon and Alaska, where voters chose to join the ranks of legal states in 2014.
While it is still unknown just how many reservations will take advantage of the new policy, it seems likely that many will, judging by the proliferation of tribal casinos. Many tribes, however, remain opposed to legalizing marijuana on their lands, and federal officials will continue to enforce the law in those areas, if requested.
By Steve Elliott
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission can now begin the implementation of recreational marijuana legalization under Measure 91 after the Legislature's Emergency Board, composed of state House and Senate members, approved funding for staff, legal help and rule-writing.
The board approved a $583,000 loan for the OLCC, reports Anna Staver at the Statesman Journal. The money is coming from the state's liquor taxes, with the promise that the Commission will pay it back by the end of the 2015-2017 budget cycle using revenue generated by marijuana sales.
The money will allow commissioners to hire four workers: a program manager, two policy analysts and a public affairs staffer, reports The Associated Press. Regulating recreational marijuana in Oregon might eventually require up to 30 employees, according to one state estimate.
Oregon voters approved Measure 91 with a lopsided 56 percent to 44 percent margin last month, but the ballot initiative left most regulation up to the Liquor Control Commission to work out by January 2016.
Homegrown marijuana and personal possession will become formally legal on July 1, 2015, with commercial sales expected to begin in 2016.
Congress May Allow D.C. Legalization Law to Stand, But Block D.C. Council From Taxing and Regulating Marijuana
Opportunity to Restore Communities Most Harmed By War on Drugs in Jeopardy
In a dramatic turn of events, media reports suggest that Congress is still negotiating whether to overturn D.C.’s historic marijuana legalization initiative. Currently, sources are reporting that Congress is considering allowing Initiative 71, approved by 70 percent of District residents, to stand while preventing future action on the District of Columbia’s ability to tax and regulate marijuana.
These reports stand in sharp contrast to a previously reported deal that would have stopped the ballot measure from taking effect.
“It’s outrageous that Congress would even consider overriding the 70 percent of D.C. voters who supported November’s marijuana legalization initiative,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “While we are encouraged by reports that D.C.’s legalization law may survive, Democratic leadership can do much more.
"We are deeply troubled by reports that the final language will prevent the District from taxing and regulating marijuana,” Collins said.
Possible budget deal to block implementation of regulated system in D.C. violates overwhelming will of voters
“This is a move that would manage to be both cynical and stupid, not to mention deeply out of touch.” ~ Aaron Smith, NCIA
The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) on Tuesday responded to reports that an upcoming Congressional budget deal may include a provision blocking the creation of regulations for Washington, D.C.’s marijuana legalization initiative, which passed on Election Day with more than 2-1 support from voters.
“D.C. voters overwhelmingly chose to take a smarter and safer approach to marijuana policy by allowing for the creation of a responsible, regulated system for production and sales,” said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith. “Apparently, Congress is not interested in being smart, or safe, or democratic.
“Dictatorially blocking D.C.’s ability to create a regulatory system for already-decriminalized marijuana isn’t just a violation of the voters’ clearly stated will," Smith said. "It would rob the city of the chance to mandate responsible selling practices, monitor for safe products, and benefit from a powerful economic engine.
“This is a move that would manage to be both cynical and stupid, not to mention deeply out of touch with the majority of American voters, who want the federal government to butt out of local marijuana policy choices,” Smith said.
Nevada’s Secretary of State Ross Miller on Monday approved an official petition to add marijuana legalization to the 2016 November ballot.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol needed to file 102,000 signatures, but ultimately filed about 200,000.
If passed, the measure would establish marijuana cultivation and distribution businesses as well as legalize adult possession of up to an ounce.
“Nevada joins an ever-growing list of states with marijuana legalization on the 2016 ballot,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a law enforcement group opposed to the War On Drugs.
“Marijuana prohibition has put countless otherwise innocent people in jail and increased street violence just as alcohol prohibition did in the 1920s," Franklin said. "Nevada is ready to prioritize public safety and we look forward to seeing their state and others responsibly regulate marijuana so that law enforcement can focus on more pressing crimes.”
LEAP is a 501(c)3 nonprofit of law enforcement officers who want to end the war on drugs.
Graphic: The Daily Chronic
Provisions in Must-Pass Spending Bill Would Overturn the Will of D.C. Voters
Civil Rights and Racial Justice Groups Send Open Letter to Democratic Leadership Encouraging Them to Stand Up for D.C. Voters
By Steve Elliott
Media sources are reporting that members of Congress are negotiating provisions to a government funding bill that would block the nation’s capital in its efforts to legalize marijuana. Initiative 71 passed in Nov. 4, with 70 percent of voters approving the measure to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Some Members of Congress, realizing their colleagues wouldn't support blocking the initiative directly, undermining home rule and the will of a majority of Americans, have instead included language blocking thye measure in the spending bill, which can limit the federal funds D.C. receives.
The language has been included in a must-pass funding bill that Congress will likely vote on later this week.
“Democratic leadership made it clear they would stand with voters on this crucial racial justice issue, and push back against Republican opposition to the D.C. law,” said Michael Collins, policy manager at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Democrats have always made claims of supporting D.C. home rule now is their chance to stand with 70 percent of voters in the District who voted for marijuana reform,” Collins said.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana businesses in Colorado have plenty of cash flowing in, but are having a difficult time finding a legal place to put it.
Most banks still refuse to work with marijuana businesses, because they fear enforcement of federal banking laws, reports Alizeh Siddiqui at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Cannabis, is, of course, illegal at the federal level. Now, a new credit union designed specifically for the legal marijuana industry hopes to offer a solution, reports Trevor Hughes at USA Today.
The Fourth Corner Credit Union plans to open within two weeks in Denver, offering to accept cash deposits and to allow members to make electronic cash transfers for payroll and rent, and to buy supplies.
"We are on the one-yard line," said attorney Mark Mason, who is advising the credit union's nine founders.
Banking regulators in Colorado granted Fourth Corner a charter on November 19, and now the union is waiting for the Federal Reserve to issue it a master account number, which would give it access to the U.S. electronic banking system. The credit union's organizers believe it will get the number without a fight, because the Federal Reserve is required give out numbers to organizations that have already been granted state charters.