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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 17, 2019

    A 23-member task force has issued explicit policy recommendations to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham regarding the legalization and regulation of cannabis.

    The report proposes a regulatory framework governing the retail production, sale, and taxation of cannabis. Recommendations by the task-force include: Prohibiting local municipalities from completely restricting cannabis sales; Limiting overall taxes on retail cannabis sales to no more than 20 percent; Automatically expunging criminal records; Allocating tax revenues to various programs and state agencies, including the state’s medical cannabis program; and Allowing those with past convictions to participate in the licensed cannabis industry.

    The report’s authors estimate that adult-use legalization will create an estimated 11,000 new jobs and yield some $620 million dollars in sales within five years.

    States the report’s Chairman: “Together, we believe the framework we are submitting is right for New Mexico. It is clear that we have both the necessary apprehension that goes with the venture, as well as the talent to make this happen the right way.”

    In a comment to MarijuanaMoment.net, Nora Meyers Sackett, Press Secretary for the Governor, added, “The Governor will be reviewing the recommendations, and the next steps will be to incorporate the recommendations of this working group into balanced legislation and working to win the support of legislators and stakeholders ahead of the session.”

    State House lawmakers passed adult-use legalization legislation this past spring, but the bill stalled in the Senate. Lawmakers ultimately enacted separate legislation decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession offenses.

  • by NORML Canada October 15, 2019

    Legal Marijuana Sales Being in Canada

    NORML Canada launches official Post-Legalization platform to focus advocacy efforts on reforming Canada’s legal Cannabis system.

    In light of the first year of legalization, NORML Canada has monitored the Canadian cannabis landscape closely, to determine the next steps for crafting achievable and functional reform of cannabis regulations.

    The five key “pillars” established by NORML Canada are designed to help focus organizational resources to support our ongoing government and public outreach.

    1) Increased Access 
    Our goal is to ensure consumers have ease of access to legal cannabis products, access to medical dispensaries, access to world-class product options, as well as access to affordable legal options.

    2) Transitioning “Unregulated Market” into the legal framework
    Creating avenues for the current unlicensed market to be welcomed as part of the legal cannabis industry in order to achieve the government’s stated goal of disincentivizing the illicit market.

    3) Social discrimination protections
    Putting in place protective regulations that remove stigma barriers and consequences for consumers in the workplace, housing, and family.

    4) US relations – border & banking
    Ensuring international respect for Canada’s sovereign laws. Removal of any unnecessary international banking/travel barriers for legal business and cannabis entrepreneurs.

    5) Expungement, apologies, reparations & beyond
    Government must acknowledge the fact that cannabis laws were historically unjust and discriminatory in the first place.

    NORML Canada invites the public and press to join us at the historic Hotbox Lounge on Oct 17th, from 4-7pm to launch the new official platform, and to discuss the year-to-date. 

    NORML Canada proudly welcomes our sister chapter to the South – NORML Michigan, to share insights on Michigan’s newly passed legal recreational cannabis bill. Our combined goals are to understand how we can learn from and collaborate with one another.

    For additional information please contact Info@norml.ca

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 11, 2019

    Legalize MarijuanaRegulators at the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy affirmed this week that they expect adult-use marijuana sales to begin in the spring of 2020.

    A spokesperson for the agency said that regulators anticipate accepting applications from prospective cannabis retailers by the end of 2019 and that licensed stores should be operational by March 2020. That estimate is consistent with the timeline regulators provided this past June when lawmakers finalized regulations governing state-licensed marijuana sales.

    Former Maine state lawmaker and current NORML Board Member Diane Russell said: “While Maine’s previous Governor worked hard to obstruct the will of the voters, it is refreshing to see the incoming administration take steps to turn things around so quickly. After having pushed for legalization while in the state house, I’m excited to see that politicians and regulators are now finally on the same page with respect to fully implementing adult-use cannabis regulations and sales, and that we are on track to open this new economic sector next spring.”

    Maine voters initially approved the legalization of cannabis sales in November 2016 by passing a statewide initiative, but lawmakers – led by former Republican Gov. Paul LePage – repeatedly took steps to delay the law’s implementation.

    As per state rules, retailers will not be permitted to sell customers more than 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and/or five grams of concentrate in a single day. Retailers will need to first receive local approval prior to applying for a state operator’s license.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 10, 2019

    Some four in ten adults who reported using both marijuana and opioids within the past year acknowledge either decreasing or ceasing their consumption of opioids as a result of substituting cannabis, according to an analysis of survey data published in the journal PLOS One.

    A team of investigators affiliated with the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center assessed the prevalence of self-reported cannabis substitution in a nationally representative sample of pain patients.

    Among those who acknowledged recent use (within the past 12 months) of cannabis and opioids, 41 percent “reported a decrease or cessation of opioid use due to marijuana use.” The most commonly reported reasons for substitution were “better pain management (36 percent) and fewer side effects (32 percent) and withdrawal symptoms (26 percent).” Respondents’ decision to engage in cannabis substitution was not influenced by either the legal status of cannabis in their state or by particular socio-demographics.

    “In a nationally representative survey of US adults, substitution of marijuana for opioids, which included a substantial degree of opioid discontinuation (~20 percent), was common.,” authors concluded. “Our findings are consistent with prior surveys of American and Canadian marijuana users in which substitution of marijuana for opioids was prevalent due to better symptom management and fewer adverse and withdrawal effects.”

    Full text of the study, “Substitution of marijuana for opioids in a national survey of US adults,” is online here. Additional information is available in the fact-sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’

  • by David Holland, Executive Director of Empire State NORML October 9, 2019

    There has been some confusion and misinformation circulating about what New York’s latest expansion of marijuana decriminalization means and what impact it will have on criminal prosecutions going forward. 

     

    The Short Synopsis of the Offenses and Sentences 

    There are 2 provisions of New York’s Penal Law that relate marijuana-related offenses. Penal Law 220 relates to “controlled substances” offenses which include possession of “concentrated cannabis” which is defined as being more than 2 1/2% by volume of the total volume of cannabis seized. PL 220 then imposes escalating grades of punishment depending on the weight of concentrated cannabis. Simple possession of a very small amount of ‘concentrated cannabis’ is an A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. But, possession of just 1/4 ounce of concentrated cannabis is a D Felony and punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment. 

    Penal Law 221 is far more lenient as it specifically relates to cannabis flower penalizing possession based on the pure weight of the flower (minus root balls, stems, stalks, seeds, etc), not its chemical potency like PL 220 does. It too has escalating grades of punishment, but as of August 28, 2019, now permits much greater amounts to be possessed up to 2 ounces before a misdemeanor crime is actually committed. Possession of flower does not become a felony offense unless the defendant is in possession of more than 8 ounces with a corresponding maximum jail term of 4 years. 

    As of August 28, 2019, public consumption and possession of up to two ounces of cannabis flower is punishable as a marijuana possession violation (not a crime) and the sentence of that offense is a monetary fine up to $200 under Penal Law 221. However, possession or public consumption of wax, shatter, hashish, and/or cannabis oil which is more than 2 1/2% THC by volume, otherwise possessed in any amount, is still punishable as a “controlled substances” crime under Penal Law 220 which results in dramatically different consequences. 

    In addition to the potential length of incarceration, a significant difference between those two penal provisions under which marijuana-related offenses may be charge is that when charged under Penal Law 221, the criminal defendant may, over the objection of the prosecutor, request pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law 170.55 or 170.56 asking the court to adjourn the case in contemplation of dismissal (“ACD” or “MACD”). That means that if the person is not rearrested in a 6-12 month period, then the charges will automatically dismiss and all the records sealed as if the case never happened. 

    By contrast, a criminal defendant charged with a controlled substances offense for possession of “concentrated cannabis” (hash, oil, wax, shatter, etc) under Penal Law 220 cannot ask the Court to adjourn the charges in contemplation of dismissal and the court cannot do so without the consent of the Prosecutor. So, the criminal defendant is really at the mercy of the Assistant District Attorney who is handling the case. Worse, if convicted of the controlled substances misdemeanor under PL 220, in addition to the risk of incarceration, there are mandatory fines and surcharges as well as DNA fees and sample collections that can be imposed. Such convictions may not be subject to the newly enacted expungement provisions as they are “controlled substances” offenses and not “marijuana” offenses which were the sole targets for expungement under the new decriminalization law. 

     

    Legal Provisions

    New York Penal Law defines all of the violations and crimes that are punishable in New York State. Drug-related offenses fall under those provisions of the penal code that considered offenses against Public Health and Morals. Those controlled substances which constitute drug offenses are defined and identified in the Public Health Law. 

    Under the Public Health Law 3302(4) “Concentrated Cannabis” is defined as: 

    (a) The separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from a plant of the genus Cannabis; or 

    (b) a material, preparation, mixture, compound or other substance which contains more than two and one-half (2 1/2%) by weight of delta-9 THC… 

    Under PHL 3302(5) a “Controlled Substance” means any substance listed in section 3306 of the PHL. “Marihuana” is a Schedule I controlled substance under PHL 3306(d)(13). Under PHL 3302(21) “Marihuana” means all parts of the plant of the genus cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin. It does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks (except extracted resin therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination. 

    The distinguishing feature between “marihuana” and “concentrated cannabis” is greater than 2 1/2% concentration by volume requirement. Once that concentration threshold is exceeded, the arrestee may be charged with misdemeanor possession of either a controlled substance offense under PL 220 or the more lenient weight-based provisions of PL 221 that specifically pertain to marijuana. 

    The 2 1/2% potency threshold is by volume, so unlike other drugs, the medium in which it is contained, ie, the glass vial, pipe, etc., should not be weighed to raise the potential penalty since the inclusion of the weight of the medium may in fact reduce the potency determination as the wax, oil, etc, thereby reducing the concentration calculation. 

    While the Public Health Law 3306 and Penal Law 220 and 221 each address cannabis oil derived from the stalks and stems (but not the seeds), and resin, the determining feature is the 2 1/2% by volume threshold of demarcation to constitute a controlled substances offense. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, any oil or flower with less than 0.3 THC by volume , is now deemed to be legal and that determination will be binding on the states due to Congress’ ‘commerce clause’ and power to regulate interstate commerce. 

    That means that in New York State, personal possession of any flower or oil which falls between 0.3% THC and 2 1/2% THC by volume should be prosecutable only under the more lenient provisions of Penal Law 221. 

    The sentences for each provision of the Penal Law are found in Penal Law 70.00 et seq. 

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