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  • by NORML June 15, 2018

    Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice and former Dean of the St. Louis University Law School, Michael A. Wolff, will speak in support of the New Approach Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative at a marijuana law reform conference which will take place at the St. Charles Opera House, 311 N. Main Street, in St. Charles this Saturday, June 16. Judge Wolff is a professor emeritus of law at St. Louis University and a highly respected legal scholar.

    Preceding his remarks at 4:00 p.m., there will be a full day of fascinating speakers. Mr. Paul Armentano, national Deputy Director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) will speak at 3:00 p.m. Mr. Armentano is one of the nation’s most knowledgeable and articulate experts on the science of medical marijuana. He will speak about how the legalization of medical marijuana in 29 other states has dramatically reduced opioid overdose and provided relief from suffering to thousands of Americans.

    At 2:00 p.m., the leader of the St. Louis NAACP, Mr. Adolphus Pruitt, will speak, followed by Mr. Tom Mundell at 2:20 p.m. Mr. Mundell is the former commander of the Missouri Association of Veterans’ Organizations (MAVO). He is a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran.

    At 2:40 p.m., Mr. Jeff Mizanskey will speak. Jeff was sentenced to serve life without possibility of parole for minor marijuana offenses. He has no other criminal convictions. After serving more than 21 years in prison, his sentence was commuted by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon following a nationwide campaign urging the Governor to do so.

    At 1:00 p.m., a panel of health experts and patients will discuss how medical marijuana is helpful to people with a wide variety of injuries and illnesses. At 11:30 a.m., St. Louis Alderperson Megan Green will speak about her efforts to reform local marijuana laws through the St. Louis Board of Alderpeople and through the initiative process. Earlier speakers will review the status of the New Approach Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative campaign and other state, national and local marijuana law reform efforts.

    For more information, contact Dan Viets via email at danviets@gmail.com.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 25, 2018

    A Florida Circuit Court judge ruled today that a legislatively enacted ban on the smoking of medical cannabis in private by qualified patients is unconstitutional.

    Lawmakers in 2017 passed Senate Bill 8A — which sought to amend provisions in Amendment 2, a voter initiated constitutional amendment permitting the use and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. Specifically, SB 8A prohibited the possession of marijuana “in a form for smoking” and barred the use of herbal cannabis except in instances where it is contained “in a sealed tamper-proof receptacle for vaping.” Seventy-one percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 2 in November 2016.

    Backers of Amendment 2, including the group Florida for Care and longtime medical activist Cathy Jordan, challenged the ‘no smoking’ ban — arguing that lawmakers improperly sought to overrule the will of the electorate. Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers today ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

    “Section 381.986, Florida Statutes (2017) unconstitutionally restricts rights that are protected in the Constitution, and so the statutory prohibition against the use of smokeable marijuana permitted by [a] qualifying patient is declared invalid and unenforceable,” the judge ruled. “Qualifying patients have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for [the] treatment of their debilitating medical condition as recommended by their certified physicians, including the use of smokable marijuana in private places.”

    NORML has long argued against regulations that limit or restrict patients’ access to whole plant herbal cannabis. Many patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms do not benefit from cannabis-infused pills, tinctures, or edibles because they possess delayed onset compared to inhaled cannabis and are far more variable in their effects.

    “This ruling is a victory for Florida voters and, in particular, Florida’s patient community,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “These legislatively enacted restrictions arbitrarily sought to limit patients’ choices in a manner that violated the spirit of the law, and cynically sought to deny patients the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has long proven to be relatively safe and effective.”

    The Court’s opinion in the case: People United for Medical Marijuana et al v. Florida department of Health et al., appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 5, 2018

    Minor marijuana possession arrests have plunged in the city of New Orleans following the adoption of a municipal ordinance one year ago that called for fining rather than arresting low-level offenders.

    According to data made available last week, just one percent of encounters between police and someone accused of possessing marijuana resulted in an arrest between June 2016 and May 2017. In prior years, over 70 percent of such encounters resulted in an arrest. In those cases, some 75 percent of those arrested were African Americans.

    Under Louisiana state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are punishable by a term of incarceration of up to eight years, depending on whether the person convicted is a repeat offender.

    In March of last year, members of the New Orleans city council voted 7 to 0 in favor of legislation permitting police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders (defined as those who possess 14 grams or less), including repeat offenders. First-time violators are subject to a $40 fine while subsequent offenders may face fines of up to $100. In recent years, nearly 60 municipalities in states where cannabis remains criminalized have enacted local ordinances either partially or fully decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

    According to a study published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the enactment of recent statewide decriminalization laws has similarly resulted in a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests while having no adverse impact on youth use patterns.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 15, 2018

    State laws reducing minor marijuana possession offenses from criminal to civil violations (aka decriminalization) are associated with dramatic reductions in drug-related arrests, and are not linked to any uptick in youth cannabis use, according to data published by researchers at Washington University and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Investigators examined the associations between cannabis decriminalization and both arrests and youth cannabis use in five states that passed decriminalization measures between the years 2008 and 2014: Massachusetts (decriminalized in 2008), Connecticut (2011), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2013), and Maryland (2014). Data on cannabis use were obtained from state Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) surveys; arrest data were obtained from federal crime statistics.

    Authors reported: “Decriminalization of cannabis in five states between the years 2009 and 2014 was associated with large and immediate decreases in drug-related arrests for both youth and adults. … The sharp drop in arrest rates suggests that implementation of these policies likely changed police behavior as intended.”

    They further reported: “Decriminalization was not associated with increased cannabis use either in aggregate or in any of the five states analyzed separately, nor did we see any delayed effects in a lag analysis, which allowed for the possibility of a two-year (one period) delay in policy impact. In fact, the lag analysis suggested a potential protective effect of decriminalization.” In two of the five states assessed, Rhode Island and Vermont, researchers determined that the prevalence of youth cannabis use declined following the enactment of decriminalization.

    Investigators concluded: “[I]mplementation of cannabis decriminalization likely leads to a large decrease in the number of arrests among youth (as well as adults) and we see no evidence of increases in youth cannabis use. On the contrary, cannabis use rates declined after decriminalization, though further study is needed to determine if these associations are causal. These findings are consistent with the interpretation that decriminalization policies likely succeed with respect to their intended effects and that their short-term unintended consequences are minimal.”

    Thirteen states currently impose either partial or full decriminalization. Nine additional states have subsequently moved to fully legalize the use of marijuana by adults.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis decriminalization: A study of recent policy change in five states,” is available online here. Additional fact-sheets regarding the societal impacts of decriminalization policies are available from the NORML website here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 28, 2018

    Cannabis PenaltiesNew York City police are continuing to disproportionately arrest African Americans and Latinos for minor marijuana possession violations, despite ongoing pledges from Mayor Bill de Blasio to halt the practice.

    In 2017, city police made an estimated 17,500 arrests for marijuana possession in the 5th degree — a class B misdemeanor. Consistent with past years, 86 percent percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic.

    Since the de Blasio administration took office in 2014, city police have made over 75,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests; 86 percent of arrestees were either Black or Latino.

    Under state law, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a non-arrestable offense, except instances where the police contend that the substance was either being burned or was in public view.

    During his mayoral campaign, de Blasio said that the city’s elevated marijuana arrest totals “demonstrate clear racial bias” and promised to “direct the NYPD to stop these misguided prosecutions.”

    Despite consuming cannabis at rates comparable to whites, recent analyses of marijuana arrest data from multiple states find that African Americans are consistently arrested for marijuana possession offenses at at least three times the rate of Caucasians.

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