Panel of Councilmembers Approves Legislation that Would Establish Licensing and Regulation of Marijuana in Washington, D.C.
Council Acts Just Weeks After Nearly 70% of D.C. Voters Approved Ballot Measure Legalizing Marijuana
D.C. lawmakers on Tuesday voted in favor of legislation that would legally regulate and license the production, distribution and sale of marijuana in the District of Columbia during a meeting of the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which is chaired by D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-At Large).
Tuesday's action by D.C. lawmakers on a tax and regulate bill comes just three weeks after nearly 70 percent of voters in the District of Columbia approved Initiative 71, a ballot initiative that legalizes possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and allows individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants in their home. However, due to D.C. law, the initiative was not allowed to address the taxation and regulation of marijuana sales.
The panel of Councilmembers voted to approve sections six through eight of the “Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2013” (Council Bill #20-466), which was introduced in 2013 by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large). Tuesday's vote followed a hearing on Council Bill 20-466 that was jointly held by the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Committee on Finance and Revenue.
“The Empty Chair at the Holiday Table” Campaign Highlights Those Not With Us Because of Incarceration, an Overdose Death or Prohibition Violence
Each holiday season, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) and moms from around the country share their stories of loss while calling for an end to the War On Drugs -- which has been so disastrous for tens of millions of families. Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the War On Drugs.
The holidays are a particularly painful time for families – whether they are separated because of a loved one’s incarceration, lost on the streets due to drug problems, in danger because of drug war violence, or have lost a loved one to accidental overdose.
“I have painful memories of holidays when my son was absent because he was locked behind bars for drug use, and of family celebrations when one of my sons wasn’t included because he was lost in the maze of his addiction,” said Gretchen Burns Bergman of San Diego, founder of A New PATH, Moms United lead organizer and the mother of two sons who have struggled with heroin addiction and incarceration.
“We haven’t celebrated the holidays since 2008, when my son died of an accidental overdose," said Denise Cullen of Palm Desert, California. "We can’t escape the emptiness.”
By Steve Elliott
Legalized marijuana is inevitable, California Attorney General Kamala Harris admitted this week, and she has no "moral opposition" to that happening and is "not opposed" it, she said.
This comes as something of a surprise, since Harris won reelection in California last month by beating the pro-marijuana Republican candidate, Ron Gold, reports RT.com. But while Harris said pot legalization has a "certain inevitability," she didn't actually endorse it.
Harris, the consummately cautious politician, hedged her bets by claiming she had "concerns" over the law enforcement implications of legalization.
"I am not opposed to the legalization of marijuana,” Harris told Buzzfeed News in an interview. “I'm the top cop, and so I have to look at it from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective.
"I think we are fortunate to have Colorado and Washington be in front of us on this and figuring out the details of what it looks like when it’s legalized,” Harris said. “We're watching it happen right before our eyes in Colorado and Washington.
"I don't think it’s gonna take too long to figure this out,” Harris said to Buzzfeed. “I think there's certain inevitability about it."
The small town of Westminster, Massachusetts, made national headlines recently when local health authorities tried to make it the first place in the United States where no one would be allowed to buy cigarettes, e-cigs, cigars and chewing tobacco.
"The Board of Health permitting these establishments to sell these dangerous products than, when used as directed, kill 50 percent of its users, ethically goes against our public health mission," claimed Andrea Crete, chairwoman of the Board of Health, reports Katharine Seelye of The New York Times.
The plan resulted in what The Times called "white-hot fury" among the townspeople. Although only 17 percent of Westminster residents smoke -- many say they have never touched tobacco and find the habit disgusting -- they see the ban as an attack on individual liberties. It would also cripple eight retailers in town who primarily sell tobacco products.
A petition sits on the front counter at Vincent's Country Store in Westminster; it attracts more signatures every day. At last count, 1,200 people had signed, in a town of 7,400.
Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) member and former State Senator Chris Marr will leave the regulatory panel in January 2015, the former Spokane auto dealer has announced.
In a prepared statement to Governor Jay Inslee, fellow board members and Board Executive Director Rick Garza, Marr thanked them all for their hard work over the last two years during which Washington undertook the implementation of I-502, the legalization of recreational use of cannabis, reports Jim Boldt at Cannabis Wire.
Marr said he will pursue a career in lobbying. He leaves the Board at probably its second most important juncture, the real possibility of legislative action to mend the medical marijuana (MMJ) law and blend it with the state’s new recreational use law.
In addition to Marr’s leaving, LCB chair Sharon Foster’s term on the Board is up in January and rumors are she will not ask for reappointment. This would leave the Board with an institutional knowledge shortage, according to Cannabis Wire, and only one remaining member, Ruthann Kurose, who worked through the problematic implementation of the recreational use law, I-502.
Those involved in cannabis policy in Washington mention former state Rep. Lynn Kessler and former state Senator Tracey Eide as possible candidates for either or both slots.
Marr's statement is below:
Cannabix says its hand-held THC marijuana breathalyzer is being developed to give law enforcement and employers the ability to test for recent consumption of the THC component of marijuana -- and interestingly, the company is featuring this product, presumably a tool in the War On Pot, at a generally pro-weed trade show in Las Vegas. Prototype renderings are being showcased at the National Marijuana Business Conference and Expo.
"Cannabix Technologies Inc. is pleased to report the release of its first publicly available device renderings and video presentation of its Cannabix Marijuana Breathalyzer," the company announced in a prepared release. "Cannabix is developing a feature rich, durable, hand-held THC breathalyzer device for law enforcement and the workplace.
Media files and video which show the design and features of the prototype are available for online viewing at cannabixtechnologies.com. The product renderings will also be showcased at the National Marijuana Business Conference and Expo from November 12-14, at the Rio in Las Vegas. Cannabix senior executives will be sharing the video demo and discussing prototype development progress at booth 219.
More than 87% were for simple possession
An estimated 693,481 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana in 2013, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report. More than 87 percent of these arrests were for possession, which means one person was arrested for marijuana possession approximately every 51 seconds on average in the United States.
The same report last year showed that 749,842 marijuana arrests were made in 2012.
“We're pleased to see the drop, but arresting even one adult for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol is inexcusable," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Every year we see millions of violent crimes attributed to alcohol, and the evidence is clear that marijuana is not a significant contributing factor in such incidents. Yet our laws continue to steer adults toward drinking by threatening to punish them if they make the safer choice. These arrest numbers demonstrate that the threat is very real.
"Law enforcement officials should be spending their time and resources addressing serious crimes, not arresting and prosecuting adults for using marijuana," Tvert said. "Every year, these statistics show hundreds of thousands of marijuana-related arrests are taking place and countless violent crimes are going unsolved. We have to wonder how many of those crimes could be solved — or prevented — if police weren't wasting their time enforcing failed marijuana prohibition laws.
Individuals Would Instead be Ticketed and Ordered to Court
Advocates Cautiously Optimistic, But Key Questions and Concerns Remain
An article on the front page of Monday's New York Times outlines a plan by the de Blasio Administration to end low-level marijuana possession arrests in New York City. According to the article, those found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released.
This would be a shift from the current arrest practice, wherein police charge people with a misdemeanor – the person is then handcuffed, taken to the precinct and held for hours, fingerprinted and photographed, and eventually released with a court date and a virtually permanent arrest record. Ending arrests for marijuana possession is a constructive step towards reform, yet many questions and concerns about the new proposal remain.
The new proposal comes on the heels of a recently released report by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which analyzed marijuana arrest and income data. It shows that low-income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates arrests for marijuana possession than do white communities of every class bracket.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) will be covering the elections to legalize marijuana in Alaska, Oregon and D.C.; Prop. 47 in California, which would defelonize minor drug possession and other nonviolent crimes; and the battle to legalize medical marijuana in Florida with up-to-the-minute updates on Twitter, press releases as soon as results are announced, and frequent blog updates as results come in.
"In addition, some of our top representatives will be standing by for comment," said LEAP spokesperson Darby Beck.
In advance of the elections, Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, who has seen legalization firsthand and just spent a week touring Alaska to talk about marijuana legalization, will be hosting a Reddit IAMA on Tuesday at 4 pm PT/7 pm ET to discuss the current ballot measures and why he thinks legalization is good for public safety.
The title will be "IAMA Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and I want to legalize marijuana. AMA!"
Voters in Lewiston and South Portland are considering ballot measures that would make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older
Backers of the initiatives to make marijuana legal for adults in Lewiston and South Portland, Maine, will celebrate Election Night at Thatcher’s Restaurant in South Portland (35 Foden Road). The event will begin after the polls close at 8 p.m. ET. Free Wi-Fi access and parking will be available.
The ballot measures — Question 2 in Lewiston and the “Citizen-Initiated Ordinance Referendum Question” regarding marijuana in South Portland — would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older. It would remain illegal to use or display marijuana in public.
Portland voters approved a similar measure 67-33 in November 2013.
The Lewiston and South Portland initiatives also express support for ending marijuana prohibition in Maine and replacing it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
The organization backing the measures, the Marijuana Policy Project, has filed a committee to support such a statewide initiative in 2016.
WHAT: Election Night watch party for the campaign in support of the Lewiston and South Portland ballot measures to make marijuana legal for adults
WHEN: Tuesday, November 4, after the polls close at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Thatcher’s Restaurant, 35 Foden Rd., South Portland
WHO: David Boyer, Maine Political Director, Marijuana Policy Project
As the midterm election approaches, representatives of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) are hard at work educating voters about the need for drug policy reform in states with relevant initiatives on the ballot.
A pair of police chiefs, Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and sitting Police Chief Larry Kirk, are in Alaska, where voters are about to weigh in on an initiative to legalize, regulate and control marijuana (Measure 2). The two went to seven towns between them, from Anchorage to Kodiak, to educate voters on the public safety benefits of legalization.
In the meantime, a former prosecutor and a retired lieutenant sheriff are doing a similar tour of Oregon (Measure 91) and a former police officer and former Customs agent are speaking to Florida voters about medical marijuana (Amendment 2). These tours have included meetings with civic clubs, conversations with the media and debates with opponents.
Policy Experts and Advocates Testify in Favor of Directing Proceeds from Taxation to Communities Harmed by War on Drugs
Hearing Occurs Just Days Before Voters Decide on Marijuana Legalization at Ballot Box
D.C. Councilmembers Vincent Orange (D-At Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 3) on Thursday are holding a joint public hearing on legislation introduced in 2013 by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) that would establish a system which legalizes, taxes and regulates marijuana in the nation’s capital. Councilmember Orange chairs the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs and Councilmember Evans chairs the Committee on Finance and Revenue.
The hearing specifically examined sections six through nine of the “Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2013” (Council Bill #20-466), and took place Thursday at 11 a.m. in Room 500 of the D.C. Council Chambers located at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C. Advocates provided testimony in support of using the proceeds from legalization towards rebuilding the communities harmed by the war on drugs.
U.S. Sentencing Commission Reforms Take Effect on Saturday
Change is Latest Step to Reduce Mass Incarceration and Scale Back Failed Drug War
Changes to federal drug sentencing guidelines take effect on Saturday, November 1, and courts may begin considering petitions from incarcerated individuals for sentencing reductions. Thousands of people who are currently serving long, punitive drug-related sentences in federal prisons could be eligible to apply, although no one who benefits from this reform may be released for another year, or prior to November 1, 2015.
The changes taking effect on Saturday follow a July 2014 vote by the United States Sentencing Commission to retroactively apply an amendment approved by the same government panel in April 2014 that lowers federal guidelines for sentencing people convicted of drug trafficking. Beginning on Saturday, federal judges may begin referencing the reduced guidelines in the course of sentencing people convicted of drug trafficking and individuals who were sentenced under the old drug sentencing guidelines may begin petitioning a federal judge for a hearing to evaluate whether their sentence can be shortened to match the reduced guidelines.
The underlying drug guidelines amendment that shortened the length of drug sentencing guidelines was approved by the United States Sentencing Commission and submitted to Congress for review in April. Congress has taken no action to disapprove of these reforms to the drug guidelines, setting the stage for these reforms to take effect on Saturday.
Historic Bipartisan Majority in Favor of Reforming U.S. Drug Laws and Letting States Set Their Own Marijuana Policies
Ideologically Diverse Representatives – From Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) – Named 2013-14 “Champions of Reform”
Drug Policy Action on Wednesday released the 2014 Drug Policy Reform Congressional Voter Guide, which grades members of Congress on how they voted on seven key drug policy reform votes in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013 and 2014.
The guide is designed not just to educate voters on which members of the U.S. House of Representatives support drug policy reform – but also to send a firm message to elected officials that they will be held accountable for supporting draconian policies that exacerbate the worst harms of the Drug War. Clear bipartisan support now exists both among the American public and in Congress for ending the Drug War and letting states set their own marijuana policies.
The voter guide examines historic votes on a wide range of issues, such as whether to bar the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws and whether to allow banks to accept deposits from marijuana businesses. The voter guide also summarizes decisive steps taken over the last two years by congressional lawmakers and officials in the Obama Administration toward advancing drug policy reform.
By Steve Elliott
A Madison, Wisconsin couple investigated for marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia in Baraboo won't be charged for possessing the controlled substance after citing a medical exemption.
The Baraboo Police Department and City Attorney Mark Reitz decided not to prosecute the couple after they provided authorities with valid Wisconsin medical marijuana authorizations from a physician, reports Elizabeth Onheiber at the Baraboo News Republic.
While looking into a complaint of a dog left in the vehicle of Greg and Karen Kinsley on September 13 at Sauk County Fairgrounds, Baraboo Police Sgt. Mark Lee and Det. Jeremy Drexler saw a marijuana pipe through the car window. They seized it, along with a small amount of cannabis, after resolving the pet issue.
The couple provided documentation from Wisconsin doctors recommending medical marijuana, and Karen Kinsley presented a valid Oregon medical marijuana registry card. Greg and Karen said their authorizations for medicinal cannabis are intended to treat Crohn's disease and the pain of scoliosis, respectively.
A little-known 1971 law allows Wisconsin citizens to possess marijuana with a valid doctor's note, and serves as an exemption to the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Act.