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LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • 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.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 1, 2019

    The American Psychological Association (APA) is urging US Attorney General William Barr to review more than two-dozen pending applications for federal marijuana grow licenses. In a letter dated Wednesday, February 27, the association urged the Justice Department to “act immediately” on 26 applications pending before federal officials – applications which were initially submitted to the agency over two years ago.

    Currently, the sole federally licensed producer of cannabis for clinical research is the University of Mississippi. The University has held the exclusive license for more than four decades.

    In August 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Administration announced in the US Federal Register that the agency was “adopting a new policy that is designed to increase the number of entities registered under the Controlled Substances Act to grow (manufacture) marijuana to supply legitimate researchers in the United States.” The agency said that the policy change was necessary because the existing system provided “no clear legal pathway for commercial enterprises to produce marijuana for product development.”

    Last year, however, former DEA director Robert Patterson testified to Congress that the agency believed that approving additional applicants would likely violate international anti-drug treaties. Patterson said that DEA could not move forward granting any new applications until the Justice Department clarified the issue.

    In its letter to the newly appointed Attorney General, APA CEO Arthur C. Evans urged the Department “to take immediate action on the existing pool of cannabis grower applications so that the United States scientific community can continue to expand the study of both the harmful and potential therapeutic effects of cannabis and its derivatives. … Without access to an expanded range of cannabis products engineered under FDA-approved Good Manufacturing Practices, scientific research cannot hope to keep pace with the ever expanding recreational and medicinal cannabis marketplace.” The APA represents nearly 120,000 researchers and clinicians.

    Also on Wednesday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) asked US Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb whether he believed that it is possible for a US-based company to bring a marijuana plant-derived drug to market in light of the existing federal prohibitions on licensing. The Commissioner answered equivocally, stating “It depends.” He later acknowledged that these restrictions have led many “companies [to] go overseas to conduct research with foreign-grown product that is more easily sourced for the purposes of clinical trials.”

    The longstanding federal prohibition on privately licensed cannabis producers exists despite a 2007 ruling by the DEA’s own administrative law judge striking down the ban as not “in the public interest.” Although that ruling ordered DEA to lift the ban, the agency failed to do so.

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

    Delaware prosecutors will no longer be encouraged to pursue criminal charges against those who possess marijuana for personal use, according to guidelines issued by the state’s new Attorney General, Kathleen Jennings.

    In a memorandum issued this week, Jennings callas for sweeping changes to help prioritize resources toward the prosecution of violent criminal offenders and away from non-violent defendants. These changes include encouraging prosecutors and “police agencies to expand the use of civil citations [for] marijuana possession in lieu of criminal arrest.”

    News radio station WHHY reports that the decriminalization policy will apply to possession cases involving up to 175 grams of cannabis.

    Under state law, the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis is a civil violation. By contrast, offenses involving the possession of marijuana in greater amounts (between one ounce and six ounces) are classified as criminal misdemeanors – punishable by up to three months in jail and a criminal record.

    The Attorney General’s actions to cease criminally prosecuting minor marijuana possession offenses are similar to those recently taken by municipal law enforcement officials in other states, including Baltimore, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.

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