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LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director December 12, 2014

    In a completely unexpected move by the Obama Administration, the US Department of Justice released a memo on October 28 indicating to Native American tribes that they can engage in cannabis commerce–cultivation, processing and retail sales–as long as they comport with the existing eight rules put forward in a previous August 2013 Obama Administration memo allowing states the autonomy to develop cannabis-based businesses in states where voters have passed binding ballot initiatives or elected policymakers have passed reform legislation.

    • Distribution of marijuana to minors
    • Revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels
    • Diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it remains illegal
    • State-authorized marijuana activity being used as a cover for trafficking other illegal drugs or activity
    • Violence or the use of firearms as part of cultivation and distribution of marijuana
    • Drugged driving or the exacerbation of other negative health consequences associated with marijuana use
    • Growing marijuana on public lands
    • Marijuana possession or use on federal property

    It's NORML to smoke pot

    US News writes that “there are 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow marijuana for medical or recreational use, such as Oklahoma, Utah and the Dakotas. Others are located near major East Coast cities and far from legal pot stores in the West.

    “The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” U.S. attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues, told the Times.

    In a statement, the Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys will review tribal marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the right to enforce federal law.

    “Each U.S. attorney will assess the threats and circumstances in his or her district, and consult closely with tribal partners and the Justice Department when significant issues or enforcement decisions arise in this area,” the statement says. 

    Read the DOJ memo allowing Native American tribes to regulate cannabis-related businesses here.

    A detailed map of Native American tribes is found here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 11, 2014

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton publicly announced plans yesterday to halt the NYPD’s practice of arresting tens of thousands of minor marijuana offenders annually.

    Under the new plan, set to take effect November 19, city police would issue first-time marijuana offenders a summons, payable by a fine, in lieu of making a criminal arrest.

    Though the Mayor and the Police Commissioner have made pledges in the past to reduce the city’s marijuana arrest totals, which average nearly 30,000 per year, they have previously failed to do so. Of those arrested for minor marijuana offenses in New York City, a disproportionate percentage (86 percent) are either Black or Latino. Nearly three out of four arrested possessed no prior criminal record.

    Although New York state law classifies minor marijuana possession offenses as a non-criminal offense, separate penal law (NY State Penal Law 221.10) defines marijuana possession in a manner that is ‘open to public view’ as an arrestable offense.

    Mayor de Blasio called the City’s proposed depenalization policy “a smart policy that keeps New Yorkers safe, but it is also a more fair policy.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 3, 2014

    Philadelphia mayor signs depenalization legislation into lawAs anticipated, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed municipal legislation this week removing criminal penalties for the possession of minor quantities of cannabis by adults. (Watch a video of the Mayor’s ordinance signing and accompanying press conference here.)

    The new measure amends citywide penalties pertaining to the possession of up to approximately one ounce of cannabis (30 grams) from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record. Public use of cannabis will be punishable by up to a $100 fine and/or the completion of community service.

    Philadelphia NORML had long lobbied in support of a change in the city’s criminal classification of marijuana possession offenses. A 2013 review of marijuana arrest data by the organization reported that African Americans are arrested in Philadelphia for minor marijuana violations at five times the rate of whites despite both races consuming the substance at nearly equal rates.

    Council member James Kenney, who sponsored the decriminalization ordinance, acknowledged that it was Philadelphia NORML’s outreach on this issue that ultimately persuaded him to push for the change in law.

    The reduced penalties go into effect on October 20, 2014.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 30, 2014

    A new Maryland law depenalizing marijuana possession offenses takes effect this Wednesday.

    Senate Bill 364, signed into law this past April, amends statewide penalties for marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less from a criminal misdemeanor (presently punishable by arrest, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a criminal record) to a non-arrestable, non-criminal, fine-only offense ($100 fine for first-time offenders, $250 for second-time offenders).

    The new law does not reclassify penalties involving the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, which remains a criminal offense.

    A 2013 ACLU analysis of state-by-state marijuana arrests data reported that Maryland has the fourth highest rate of marijuana possession arrests in the nation.

    Nearly 20 additional states, as well as the District of Columbia, now classify minor marijuana possession as a non-arrestable offense.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 8, 2014

    City mayor Michael Nutter announced today that he will sign municipal legislation into law decriminalizing marijuana possession penalties.

    Under the measure, penalties pertaining to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis would be reduced from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record.

    Members of the City Council in June voted 13 to 3 to reduce municipal marijuana penalties. A slightly amended version of this proposal is anticipated to be before the mayor by the end of this month. The revised language is expected to take effect on October 20.

    Anyone cited under the pending ordinance would be required to make an appearance before a Municipal Court judge, but would not face criminal charges or a criminal record. Those caught smoking marijuana in public would face a $100 fine, which could be waived if the defendant agreed to perform several hours of public service.

    Philadelphia NORML had long lobbied in support of a change in the city’s criminal classification of marijuana possession offenses. A 2013 review of marijuana arrest data by the organization reported that African Americans are arrested in Philadelphia for minor marijuana violations at five times the rate of whites despite both races consuming the substance at nearly equal rates.

    “This will go a long way toward a much more saner and a much better policy for people in Philadelphia,” said Chris Goldstein, PhillyNORML co-chair. “This is something that should have happened earlier in the summer. It would have alleviated almost 1,000 people getting arrested.”

    It remains to be seen to what extent local police will enforce the new ordinance, once enacted. In past statements, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey had publicly pledged to ignore the ordinance, stating, “State law trumps city ordinances.”

    [UPDATE! It is now being reported that Chief Ramsey is on board with the amended ordinance.]

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