By Steve Elliott
Public perceptions of marijuana have certainly shifted. According to a recent study, more Americans now favor banning unpasteurized milk than favor banning marijuana.
About 59 percent of Americans support a ban on the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk, while just 47 percent support a ban on the sale of marijuana, according to Oklahoma State University's Food Demand Survey, reports Sam Frizell at Time Magazine.
A patchwork of different laws regulate raw milk in the U.S., much like marijuana. States like New York and Iowa ban the retail sale of raw milk, while California and Idaho allow it.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have, to a greater or lesser degree, legalized the medicinal use of cannabis; four (Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska) have legalized recreational use. According to NORML, 18 states have removed criminal penalties for marijuana, known as decriminalization, reducing simple possession roughly to the equivalent of a parking ticket.
Photo: The Weed Blog
Approximately three out of four voters think seriously ill people should have legal access to medical marijuana; more voters support regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol than oppose it
A strong majority of state voters support reforming Virginia marijuana laws, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday.
Three out of five (60 percent) of respondents support removing criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and designating it a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail time. Under current Virginia law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
The Virginia Senate is expected to consider a proposal this year that would replace criminal penalties for personal possession of marijuana with a civil fine of $100.
“Most voters do not support laws that saddle people with criminal penalties just for possessing a small amount of marijuana,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “These antiquated prohibition laws are causing far more problems than they solve.”
President Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Deputy Attorney General James Cole released a statement saying that the eight individuals "were sentenced under outdated and unfair laws," and "their punishments did not fit their crime."
Half of the eight whose sentences were commuted had been sentenced to life imprisonment, reports NPR.
The step could lead to a vast expansion of presidential clemency during Obama's last two years in office, reports Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press.
The eight new commutations include Barbara Scrivner, who was sentenced to 30 years in 1995, when she was 27 years old, for a minor rule in her husband's methamphetamine ring. The President ordered Scrivner's sentence to expire on June 12, while the others will expire April 15.
The President commuted the sentences of at least four people who were serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, reports the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
By Steve Elliott
The former top drug prosecutor in Maine -- who fled out of state after he was convicted of child pornography charges -- is going to federal prison for almost 16 years.
James Cameron, convicted in 2010 of 13 counts of child porn, had posted bail and was released pending an appeal, reports Catherine Pegram at WABI TV.
He took off out of state in November 2012, and was caught in New Mexico a month later.
Cameron's lawyer was pushing for a 6-1/2 year sentence.
Cameron was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Bangor to 15 years and 9 months in prison.
Photo: WABI TV
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.
Addiction Remains Criminalized Despite Medical, Law Enforcement Community Outcry
Concerned citizens and a coalition of organizations including representatives from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) will gather in cities nationwide on Wednesday, December 17, at noon on the steps of courthouses and other civic buildings. These demonstrations are in response to the 100-year anniversary of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 and call for responsible drug policy reforms that put doctors back in charge of helping people overcome substance addiction.
The Harrison Narcotics Act is considered one of the first American prohibitionist policies. While on its face the law merely regulated opiate and cocaine products in medical settings by licensing those involved in the market, a portion of the bill was interpreted to mean that doctors no longer had the authority to prescribe narcotics as a maintenance treatment for patients already suffering from substance addictions.
By Steve Elliott
An an interesting case of role reversal, marijuana grown in the United States is increasingly being smuggled into Mexico, according to the DEA.
At one time, Mexico supplied the vast majority of cannabis found in the U.S., but that has changed due to more weed being cultivated north of the border. The high quality of American weed is catching the attention of Mexico drug cartels, reports RT.com.
American marijuana, typically with potency between 10 and 25 percent THC, is, on the average, noticeably stronger than Mexican weed, which averages 3 to 8 percent. American weed, meanwhile, typically sells for three to four times as much as Mexican product.
"I believe that now, because of the changes they're having to make because of marijuana legalization in the U.S., the cartel is pushing more cocaine, meth and heroin. They're diversifying," journalist Javier Valdez told NPR.
"It makes sense," said Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Lawrence Payne, reports National Public Radio. "We know the cartels are already smuggling cash into Mexico. If you can buy some really high-quality weed here, why not smuggle it south, too, and sell it at a premium?"
Chief Charles McClelland Says Feds Should Take the Lead; Interview with LEAP Speaker and Radio Show Host Dean Becker To Air This Friday
In an interview with "Cultural Baggage," a radio show hosted by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) speaker and former Air Force Security Policeman Dean Becker, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said marijuana prohibition is a failed public policy.
During the interview, Chief McClelland highlighted pilot programs within his department and others in the state to reduce marijuana possession penalties for first-time offenders. He also discussed the necessary role of the federal government in changing national drug laws.
Because many state-legal marijuana businesses cannot safely use banks and because illegal markets still exist in most states, those markets can still flourish by undercutting the dispensaries, according to the Chief. McClelland also acknowledged the racism inherent in drug enforcement practices which results in the incarceration of a disproportionate number of young black men.
The 30-minute interview covering a variety of law enforcement issues including the rights of protestors, the immense power of drug cartels and why so many Americans use substances will air this Friday, at 4:30 pm CT, on KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston and streaming online.
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.