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LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • by NORML October 9, 2019

    marijuana plantThe enactment of adult-use marijuana legalization laws is not associated with any significant increase in cannabis-related activity in neighboring states and counties, according to a federally funded report published by the nonprofit Justice Research and Statistics Association and first reported by MarijuanaMoment.net.

    The study, entitled “Measuring the Criminal Justice System Impacts of Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Using State Data,” assessed the impact of adult-use regulation schemes on criminal justice resources in both legalization states and neighboring non-legalization states.

    Authors wrote: “The goal of this project was to analyze quantitative and qualitative data in eleven targeted states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) to address three research questions: One: What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on criminal justice resources in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon?; Two: What are the impacts on criminal justice resources in states that border the states (Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, and Kansas) that have legalized marijuana?; and Three: What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on drug trafficking through northern and southwest border states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington)?”

    They determined: “Analyses of the available data suggests that: One: Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana resulted in fewer marijuana related arrests and court cases; Two: Legalizing marijuana did not have a noticeable impact on indicators in states that bordered those that legalized; and Three: There were no noticeable indications of an increase in arrests related to transportation or trafficking offenses in states along the northern or southern borders.”

    Commenting on the report’s findings, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “This federally funded report is further evidence that legalizing and regulating marijuana works largely as intended. It reduces arrests, and it does not lead to increased youth use or a rise in serious crime, and with these latest findings it is clear that these policies are not adversely impacting bordering states. It is time to let science and facts dictate public policy and end prohibition nationwide.”

    A disclaimer accompanying the report acknowledges: “While the report was carried out … using funding from the National Institute of Justice, … this resource has not been published by the US Department of Justice. This resource is being made publicly available through the Office of Justice Programs’ National Criminal Justice Reference Service. … Any analysis, conclusions, or opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or policies of the Bureau of Justice Statistics or the US Department of Justice.”

    NORML’s Altieri said it was “unsurprising” that federal agencies would leave the report unpublished, stating that officials have seldom promoted findings that undermine federal anti-marijuana policy.

    The full text of the report is available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 8, 2019

    The enactment of statewide legislation permitting adult cannabis possession and sales is not associated with any significant or long-term uptick in criminal activity, according to data published in the journal Justice Quarterly.

    Investigators affiliated with the Department of Justice and Criminology at Washington State University assessed trends in monthly average crime rates in Colorado and Washington following legalization compared to various control states. Researchers specifically examined trends in violent crime, property crime, aggravated assault, auto theft, burglary, larceny, and robbery rates.

    They reported, “[M]arijuana legalization and sales have had minimal to no effect on major crimes in Colorado or Washington. We observed no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational cannabis laws or the initiation of retail sales on violent or property crime rates in these states.”

    Consistent with the results of prior studies, the authors concluded, “[T]he results related to serious crime are quite clear: the legalization of marijuana has not resulted in a significant upward trend in crime rates. … Our results from Colorado and Washington suggest that legalization has not had major detrimental effects on public safety.”

    Full text of the study, “The cannabis effect on crime: Time-series analysis of crime in Colorado and Washington State,” appears online here. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, ‘Marijuana Regulation and Crime Rates.’

  • by NORML October 1, 2019

    The total number of persons arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws rose for the third consecutive year, according to data released by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 663,367 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2018. That total is more than 21 percent higher than the total number of persons arrested for the commission of violent crimes (521,103). Of those arrested for marijuana crimes, some 90 percent (608,776) were arrested for marijuana possession offenses only.

    “Police across America make a marijuana-related arrest every 48 seconds,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “At a time when the overwhelming majority of Americans want cannabis to be legal and regulated, it is an outrage that many police departments across the country continue to waste tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources on arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens for simple marijuana possession.”

    The year-over-year increase in marijuana arrests comes at the same time that several states, including California, have legalized the adult use of cannabis — leading to a significant decline in marijuana-related arrests in those jurisdictions. It also marks the reversal of a trend of declining arrests that began following the year 2007, when police made a record 872,721 total marijuana-related arrests in the United States.

    Marijuana-related arrests were least likely to occur in western states — most of which have legalized the substance — but were especially prevalent in the northeast, where they constituted 53 percent of all drug arrests.

    Tables for the FBI’s 2018 Uniform Crime Report are available online here.

    US Annual Marijuana Arrests

  • by Stephen M. Komie, NORML Legal Committee September 23, 2019

    On June 25, 2019, Governor JB Pritzker signed into law a revision of the Illinois Cannabis Control Act, 720 ILCS 550.1 et seq. Commencing January 1, 2020, Illinois residents will be authorized to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis for usage as they desire.  Non-residents do not have the same exception from the criminal penalties. Non-residents are limited to 15 grams. Between now and January 1, 2020 the law remains in effect prohibiting possession of marijuana except for persons who have Illinois Medical Marijuana Cards.  

    Illinois has an estimated 770,000 marijuana related criminal records which are now eligible for clemency by Governor Pritzker. Prior to January 1, 2020 expungements remain in effect for persons who received court supervision, or were not convicted, or had their case dismissed after a motion to suppress, or the prosecution declined to proceed.  Those expungements remain available in the normal manner.

    Executive clemency is not an expungement.  Executive clemency is the power of the governor to exonerate or forgive persons who have committed crimes. Persons who have had arrests for 30 grams or less will have the Illinois State Police and local police agencies examine their arrests over a 6-month period after January 1, 2020.  The police agencies will have 6 months to find those records. For all who were convicted of 30 grams or less, the state and local police are required to send those records within 6 months to the Governor’s Prisoner Review Board.  The law charges the Prisoner Review Board with the obligation to review each case for eligibility for clemency. The criteria to be employed is 1) is it the same person as reported arrested; 2) is the record a correct record; and 3) there must be an absence of any violent offense involved with the arrest.  Once cleared by the Prisoner Review Board, the Prisoner Review Board will make a recommendation to Governor Pritzker.  

    It is expected that Governor Pritzker is most likely to issue hundreds of thousands of pardons during the remainder of his four-year term in office. The Governor has announced that it will be a very streamlined process. This, of course, remains to be seen. After a pardon is issued, Attorney General of Illinois Kwame Raoul, acting on behalf of the Prisoner Review Board, will appear before a circuit judge to seek expungement for the cases where clemency is granted by the Governor.  It is expected that hundreds of thousands of persons will be relieved of their criminal record which prevented them from receiving government benefits such as housing and welfare.  

    For people who were arrested with 30 to 500 grams the expungement process remains in effect. Except for the first-time offenders, those persons may request the court to vacate their conviction and expunge the records. 

    This reform is unprecedented in Illinois law and will be a first.  The arresting police agency can object to the request to vacate the conviction and expunge the record. The law directs the court to consider the defendant’s age at the time of the offense, the current age of the defendant, and any adverse consequences which would accompany denial of the expungement.  

    As with all developments in the law, every person’s case is different and requires the advice of a skilled attorney who is knowledgeable in the area of criminal law and expungement. I would urge all members of NORML who have criminal records for zero to 30 grams and 30 grams to 500 grams to consult with your local member of the NORML Legal Committee to determine your eligibility for clemency and/or expungement.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 16, 2019

    Federal agents seized fewer total marijuana plants in 2018, but made more arrests for cannabis-related offenses, according to annual data compiled by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

    According to figures published in the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the agency and its law enforcement partners confiscated an estimated 2.82 million marijuana plants nationwide in 2018. This total represents a 17 percent decline from the agency’s 2017 totals and a 66 percent decline since 2016.

    Driving much of the year-over-year decline was a nearly 40 percent reduction in the seizure of outdoor plants in California, which fell from 2.24 million in 2017 to 1.4 million in 2018. Adult-use retail sales of cannabis began in California in 2018.

    However, while the total number of DEA-seized plants fell in 2018, seizures of indoor cannabis plants nearly doubled – rising from 304,000 plants in 2017 to just under 600,000 in 2018. The agency also reported 5,632 marijuana-related arrests in 2018, a 20 percent increase over 2017 figures. The agency reported over $52 million in confiscated assets in 2018, more than twice what the agency reported in 2017.

    Jurisdictions reporting the greatest number of total plant seizures in 2018 were California (1.8 million marijuana plants seized), Kentucky (418,000), Washington (112,000), Mississippi (70,000), and West Virginia (68,000).

    Additional data sets from the 2018 report are online here.

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