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LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 26, 2019

    Marijuana LawsThe warrantless search of a passenger’s personal property during a traffic stop is unconstitutional, according to a ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court. The judgement overturns a 2007 decision that barred passengers from challenging similar searches by members of law enforcement.

    Justices unanimously opined that the driver’s voluntary consent to allow the police to search her vehicle did not extend to the passenger’s personal belongings. They determined: “In this case, defendant had a legitimate expectation of privacy in his backpack. Defendant asserted a clear possessory interest in his backpack by clutching it in his lap, and the officer believed that the backpack belonged to defendant because of the way defendant was holding it. Therefore, although defendant had no (and claimed no) legitimate expectation of privacy in the interior of the driver’s vehicle, he had a legitimate expectation of privacy in his backpack that society is willing to recognize as reasonable.”

    Justices concluded, “A passenger’s personal property is not subsumed by the vehicle that carries it for Fourth Amendment purposes.”

    The defendant’s backpack held marijuana and methamphetamine. He had already served nearly three years in prison for the offenses prior to this week’s verdict.

    The case is People v. Mead. A summary of the opinion is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 22, 2019

    Cannabis Penalties[Update: The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday, 4/26, that the announced cite-and-release program is on hold. No further details were provided.] A spokesperson for the Jefferson County (population: 658,000) Sheriff’s Office announced today that local law enforcement will begin citing, rather than arresting, low-level marijuana offenders.

    Under the new policy, police will issue a summons to those who possess personal amounts of marijuana or cannabis-related paraphernalia. Offenders will no longer be arrested or booked. Those cited and released will still have to either pay a fine or appear in court at a later date. Those with prior cannabis violations will still be eligible to receive a summons.

    Under state law, marijuana possession is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one-year in jail and a $6,000 fine.

    Similar cite and release programs are in place in other cities and counties around the country, including in Palm Beach County, Florida and in Harris County (Houston), Texas.

    Additional information is available from NORML’s ‘Local Decriminalization’ report, online here.

  • by Jax Finkel, Texas NORML Executive Director March 26, 2019

    Fellow Texans,

    Today, I attended a press conference held by the Texas Police Chiefs Association (TPCA) at the Texas State Capitol. They discussed “the myths vs. the facts as they pertain to marijuana sales, production, distribution, possession, usage along with its long-term effects as well as impact on quality of life for all citizens.” While there, I was able to livestream the press conference and ask the Chiefs three questions regarding medical marijuana. (Watch here.) After the press, I was able to talk with Chief Dye for about 15 minutes on policy and real-world implications. I appreciate him taking the time to talk about this and hope he will be open to more conversations in the future.

    These are the people advocating for the status quo in our state.

    Please support our efforts at the Capitol!

    It was disappointing to see Law Enforcement advocating for policy that continues to saddle Texans with criminal records and all those collateral consequences as well as putting fear ahead of regulated patient access to medical marijuana. It is past time for us to update our statues to be inline with both the Republican and Democratic platforms.

    Please take action and let your legislators know that you support common sense policy!

    Support Medical Marijuana in the Senate and in the House.

    Support Penalty Reduction in the House and in the Senate.

    Sign this petition to Lt Gov Patrick.

    Here are a few quotes from today’s press conference:

    “Currently small amounts of marijuana are rarely criminalized as police officers are regularly employing proper discretion and procedural justice in not overcriminalizing someone for possession of a personal use amount. Our research has found that marijuana in legalized states can increase crime, negatively impact public health, place additional strain on social services, fail to eradicate criminal enterprises, and that expenditures often outpace revenue collection. The blueprint for proponents of marijuana legalization is clear and has been effectively used in other states that have now legalized this drug. Phase 1: Achieve passage for limited medical use. Phase 2: Push for decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana and expanded medical use. These first two phases are meant to desensitize the public for phase 3 when full legalization is sought. This is a calculated and systematic approach by a minority of our population that use marijuana and/or stand to gain monetarily from marijuana production.

    As police professionals, our opposition on marijuana is not concern over enforcement as most every agency has not been arresting young adults or casual users for a joint of marijuana for years, but an urgent call for attention to the harm that marijuana has caused in our society and its impact on everyone’s quality of life.

    One ounce of marijuana equates to 100 rolled joints while four ounces fills a large purse, which both far exceed anyone’s definition of a personal or small use amount. Furthermore, many arrests for marijuana in our communities also involve large amounts of packaged marijuana for sale and/or deadly weapons and/or other drugs such as meth, cocaine, and heroin.

    To that end, the Texas Police Chiefs are recommending the following to our lawmakers. Do not expand the use of medical marijuana unless validated, peer reviewed medical research shows a proven medical benefit and that it can be prescribed by a medical profession for a condition that cannot be treated with an existing legal medication. Prohibit the practices at the county level that supersede state law by unilaterally refusing to prosecute less than four ounces of marijuana. Police officer discretion is currently effective for providing procedural justice in terms of each circumstance being evaluated on its unique merits. Create a Class C misdemeanor charge for small amounts of marijuana IE less than one ounce to facilitate the proper level of non-criminalized accountability and treatment opportunity for personal use amounts. And finally, resist the billion dollar pro-marijuana industry’s agenda progressively desensitizing the public to this now very addictive and damaging drug and commit to a continued and thorough review of the data from legalized states to ensure that Texas makes the right decision for all Texans’ quality of life.”

    – Chief Steve Dye – Grand Prairie Police Department

    It is clear that we still have much work to do during this session to get this legislation to the finish line.

    Please support our efforts at the Capitol!

    Please stay tuned for more updates and actions as we progress through this session. Together we will be able to change these laws and help the people of Texas!

    Regards,

    Jax Finkel

    Executive Director, Texas NORML

     

    This was originally posted on Texas NORML’s website HERE

  • by NORML March 15, 2019

    Minor marijuana possession offenders will no longer be criminally prosecuted in Hennepin County, Minnesota, according to a new policy announced Thursday by County Attorney Mike Freeman. An estimated 1.2 million people live in the County, which includes the city of Minneapolis.

    Commenting on the new policy, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The Hennepin County Attorney is to be commended for taking this proactive stance. Branding individuals — many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers — as lifelong criminals, and in some cases felons, for minor marijuana possession offenses results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, professional licensing, and student aid, and serves no legitimate societal purpose. This change is a recognition that marijuana criminalization is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter.”

    Under the policy, prosecutors will not criminally charge anyone for marijuana offenses involving the possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis. Rather, defendants will be ordered to complete a diversion program or partake in community service. Under state law, marijuana possession offenses involving over 42.5 grams are classified as felony offenses – punishable by up to a five-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.

    Under special circumstances, such as if the defendant possessed a firearm or is a habitual offender, prosecutors may still file criminal charges.

    Freeman said the policy change was necessary because he believes that the state law is overly punitive and produces racial disparities in incarceration rates. “My job is to determine if people are charged and how to spend my resources,” Freeman said. “Spending resources on these cases is just wrong.”

    The County Attorney for Ramsey County (population 500,000), which includes the city of St. Paul, enacted a similar policy earlier this year.

    Similar actions have been taken in recent months by prosecutors in Baltimore, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Norfolk, among other metropolitan areas.

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 13, 2019

    In news that bodes well for the future of cannabis legalization in the state of New York, both chambers of the state legislature have included legalization language in their annual budget proposals.

    Both budget proposals also address the expedited expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions, implementing social equity programs in the state’s growing marijuana industry, and diverting tax money earned through the legal cannabis industry to benefit communities that have borne the brunt of the most brutal aspects of marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs in New York.

    Though Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal does not allow for the personal cultivation of marijuana plants, the NY General Assembly’s budget proposal does promote home cultivation upon the legalization of adult-use and retail sale of cannabis in the state. If home cultivation is included in final legislation and is signed into law by the governor, New York would help reinvigorate legislative support for the practice, which has waned considerably in other east coast states that are exploring legalizing cannabis for adult-use.

    The legal allowance of home cultivation in private residences is a core tenet of NORML’s Attributes of Adult Access Regulations. Read about home cultivation and our core tenets here.

    Though it remains to be seen if the Empire State will legalize cannabis for adult-use in 2019, we cannot let up in our fight for the personal freedoms of New Yorkers. As always, we need your help to make sensible marijuana reform a reality in New York.

    Click here to send a message to your state lawmakers in support of cannabis legalization in New York.

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