NORML filed an “amicus curiae” brief with the Massachusetts Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 18, urging the court to place more limits on police questioning and searches for possession of small amounts marijuana. Attorneys Steven S. Epstein, of Georgetown, and Marvin Cable, of Northampton, authored the brief.
In Western Massachusetts, a judge ruled that based on the odor of raw marijuana an officer could question the defendant about the presence of marijuana and seize a bag of marijuana at the direction of defendant in response to those questions. She reasoned, “a strong odor of marijuana to the officers training and experience triggered a suspicion that there was more than one ounce present.” That suspicion justified asking the Defendant about it and police entering his car to retrieve the marijuana he told them was there.
She further ruled that once police retrieved that bag they lacked the authority to search for more marijuana. She reasoned that a belief the bag was “probably” a criminal amount alone and combined with an officer’s characterization of the odor as “strong” amounted to nothing more than a “hunch.” She ordered the “other bags and the statements subsequently made by the defendant” could not be used at trial. The state appealed.
In its friend of the court brief, NORML reminds the Court of the precarious constitutionality of marijuana prohibition. It then proceeds to ask the Court to rule that: a police officer may not question a person about possible marijuana in his possession or control based only on the officer’s perception of odor, a civil violation in Massachusetts; and, that absent objectively reasonable evidence derived from weighing a bag suspected of containing over an ounce police may not detain, arrest or search a person or their possessions.
NORML argues the citizens of Massachusetts by voting to decriminalize an ounce or less of marijuana do not want police bothering people with anything more than a ticket when there are no articulated facts that a suspected possession of marijuana is criminal in nature. One of the intents of the decriminalization law was to free police to pursue more pressing issues than marijuana possession.
Oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Overmyer is scheduled for March 3, with a decision possible before the summer of 2014.
At eight o’clock this morning, Iraq War Veteran Sean Azzariti stepped up to the counter at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver and made the first ever legal marijuana purchase in the United States. He didn’t have to show a medical marijuana program card, proving he paid a fee and consulted a doctor, he simply flashed his driver’s license to confirm he was over 21 and bought his cannabis products. This is a first for Sean, who uses cannabis to treat his PTSD, as his ailment was not an authorized qualifying condition for the Colorado medical marijuana program.
The first purchase? 3.5 grams of Bubba Kush and a marijuana infused truffle. Total cost? 58.74 with tax included ($40 plus tax for the Kush and $9.28 plus tax for the truffle. You can view his receipt he tweeted out here.)
So far, the 34 stores that were open for business today are reporting massive lines, but no real problems. The sky has yet to fall, drivers aren’t crashing continuously into buildings, violence has not erupted in the streets. Maybe it is possible, after decades of scare mongering, that regulation just might be the better alternative after all? The program is still in it’s beginning stages, and will naturally need fine tuning along the way, but so far it is already looking like a widely better solution than prohibition ever was. Judging by the lines that extended far outside the door and around the building at all of the retail locations, Coloradans seem to be very eager to give regulation a chance. Let’s work together to ensure this program works and that it sets the shining example for all other states to follow in the coming years nationwide.
Congratulations to Colorado and all those who worked so hard to get us to this point. It is truly a historic day.
Despite experiencing setbacks when it came to reintroducing marijuana legalization legislation for the 2014 Maine legislative session, efforts are already underway to prepare for 2015. The primary sponsor of the previous marijuana legalization bills in the state, Rep. Diane Russell, and NORML are seeking input regarding the drafting of this legislation. We feel the current draft is well written and accomplishes a number of goals we can all agree on, such as the establishment of retail outlets to sell marijuana to those over the age of 21, allowing for home cultivation, protecting the current medical marijuana program, dedicating tax revenue to establish subsidies to low income patients to help them afford their medical cannabis, implement a reasonable tax structure for marijuana sold at retail, and give deference on retail licenses to those who have held residency in Maine for several years. Below is a message from Rep. Russell, read it over then click the link to read the current bill draft and leave your comments (be polite and constructive!).
I’ve been working hard to draft a responsible bill that balances a variety of stakeholder interests, along with what is politically viable. It is designed to be a rational, pragmatic bill designed to move Maine forward toward ending prohibition.
My goal has always been to pull together the best version I could, and then open it up for public comment this week so everyone can help make it even better. I just wanted to be sure we had a good version of the bill to start from. Just log in with Facebook or Twitter and leave the comments and suggestions for all of us to see. You can start a “new suggestion” in the control box to the right, after you sign in.
It’s yours now.
So here’s the deal. Write whatever you want, suggest whatever you think makes it better. It’s yours to critique, to provide feedback and to comment freely.
All comments received before December 15, 2013 will be aggregated, and I will work to incorporate constructive, realistic feedback into the final bill which I’d like to release early next year.
Some Key Goals:
1. Adhere to the eight guidelines issued by the Department of Justice.
2. Protect patients.
3. Protect our communities and our kids. Would my mom approve? Would yours?
4. Ensure the industry is for Maine people and boosts local economies across the state.
5. Ensure adults could grow at home.
6. Constructively balance the varied interests and concerns coming from often opposing view points
7. Make Mainers Proud.
It’s in your hands now. Make it a better bill!
-Rep. Diane Russell
Want to do more to help bring marijuana legalization to Maine? We encourage all Mainers to check out www.yesmaine.org to review the information there. You can also submit your contact information if you are interested in playing a role in the formation of a Maine NORML chapter. It was with your support we have made the progress in Maine that we have, keep up the hard work and we can finish the job come 2015.
Together, we will legalize marijuana.
This morning, the Maine Legislative Council voted 5-5 on whether or not to allow Rep. Diane Russell’s marijuana legalization to be introduced.
A tie vote means the motion has failed and the legislation will NOT be introduced this session. Included in the ranks of those voting “No” was Senate President Justin Alfond, who represents Portland…a city that just overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana.
Mainers, please take a moment of your time today to contact your lawmakers at the phone numbers below and tell them:
“I am extremely disappointed with the Legislative Council’s vote this morning on Rep. Diane Russell’s marijuana regulation bill. This issue isn’t just important to Rep. Russell, but to all of us who live in the state. This legislation would have fostered an important discussion on marijuana legalization and laid out a framework for regulation that benefited the people of Maine. The vote this morning is a disservice to the state and the residents these officials are supposed to be representing.”
Please call: Maine Senate President Justin Alfond: (207) 287-1500 and Maine Speaker of the House: (207) 287-1300 to voice your concerns.
The bill would have allowed anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana, cultivate up to 6 plants, and purchase marijuana from established retail outlets. It also contained key provisions in place that ensure individuals with several years residency in Maine and experience as a current medical marijuana dispensaries or caregiver are given priority on business licenses, explicitly leaves the current medical marijuana law in place for patients, and directs tax revenue to help low income patients be able to afford their medicine.
The 2013 NORML Aspen Legal Seminar registration site is now live on the NORML website, and we urge you to register now for what will surely be another exceptional legal seminar and wonderful long-weekend with friends and colleagues in the Rocky Mountains. The dates for the seminar this year are Thursday, May 30 through Saturday, June 1 at The Gant, our usual venue in Aspen.
The program this year will include such timely topics as the legal and ethical obligations of attorneys who represent cannabusinesses; the latest science and law regarding DUID cases; blocking the government from getting your client’s email; avoiding deportation for your non-citizen clients; the changes in probable cause in those states that have some form of legal marijuana; child custody issues for marijuana smokers; various ways to effectively conduct voir dire; all you need to know about cellular telephone tracking; and using your iPhone and iPad for the defense.
We will also be holding our annual benefit dinner at the lovely home of Chris and Gerry Goldstein on Friday evening, and we have been invited back to Owl Farm, Hunter S. Thomspon’s old homestead, for a cookout and live country music on Saturday afternoon, as guests of Hunter’s widow, Anita Thompson.
Please plan to join us in Aspen this spring, and experience first hand what it feels like to live in a state that has fully legalized marijuana.
Those wishing to make your hotel reservations early can call The Gant (970-925-5000), and let them know you are attending the NORML legal seminar to qualify for our block of reduced-rate rooms.
We hope to see you in Aspen in late May.
Keith Stroup, Esq.
NORML Legal Counsel