Illinois Seizure Bill Becomes Law

Gov. Pat Quinn

On Sunday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that will add seizure conditions to Illinois’ medical cannabis program for both adults and minors. The new law also allows parents to seek permission for minors to access medical marijuana for other qualifying conditions. Special thanks are owed to bill sponsors Sen. Iris Martinez and Rep. Lou Lang, and the many parents and advocates who tirelessly worked to make the bill a reality for seriously ill patients.

In other news, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules gave its final approval last week for regulations the three state agencies will use to oversee the program. A preliminary version of these rules can be found here, with the official version to be published soon. This important step finally allows the program to move forward. News outlets are currently reporting that patients may be able to sign up as early as September, although it is not yet clear when dispensaries and cultivation centers will be operational.

The rules are far from perfect. The Illinois program is by far the most expensive in the nation for cultivators, with a non-refundable application fee of $25,000, and a first-year license of $200,000. That means the Department of Agriculture will receive a windfall of $4.4 million for issuing just 22 cultivation center licenses during the first year of the program, not including application fees. Unfortunately, the enormous tab will surely be passed along to patients.

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U.S. Sentencing Commission Votes to make New Federal Drug Guidelines Retroactive

The U.S. Sentencing Commission decided unanimously to make new sentencing guidelines fully retroactive for federal drug offenders, a government press release said today. There are now no limitations on sentence reductions for drug offenses. Now, 46,000 federal drug offenders will be able to file a motion in court to have their sentence reduced by an average of 2 years. This will only apply for those sentenced before November 1, 2014. Congress has until that date to disapprove the amendment.

Should Congress allow the guideline reductions to stand, the courts would be able to start hearing the appeals. Important to note is that, while the appeals will begin in November of 2014, releases will not begin until November 1st of 2015. Judge Patti B. Saris, the chair of the Commission, said, “The delay will help to protect public safety by enabling appropriate consideration of individual petitions by judges, ensuring effective supervision of offenders upon release, and allowing for effective reentry plans.” This amendment marks a victory for MPP and Families Against Mandatory Minimums, both longtime supporters of sentencing reform.


Rand Corporation to Consult on Marijuana Study in Vermont

Governor Peter Shumlin

Beginning this week, the Rand Corporation will send representatives to Vermont to work with the state’s Secretary of Administration on a study of the effects of taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol, the Manchester Journal reports.This research was mandated by an amendment to a bill that made several improvements to Vermont’s medical marijuana law. Vermont will be funding the initial part of the study, paying Rand $20,000, with up to $100,000 in private donations coming from the non-profit organization GiveWell. Rand Corporation is a non-partisan organization with no official position on marijuana legalization.

Governor Peter Shumlin, Commissioner Keith Flynn of the Department of Safety, and other top officials have expressed interest in learning more about how marijuana regulation would impact Vermont. State Senator David Zuckerman, who sponsored a marijuana regulation bill this year, said he was enthusiastic about the study process: “I think the study will help with legislators and the public who inherently think it’s a good idea but want evidence they can hold up to show people.” Matt Simon, MPP’s New England political director, said, “The narrative from Colorado has been ‘so far, so good.’ The sky clearly hasn’t fallen.” The report is due to be completed by January and lawmakers hope that it will lead to an informed debate on marijuana policy in the coming legislative session.

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Hundreds of Low-Level Marijuana Offenses Could Be Thrown Out in Brooklyn

The Brooklyn District Attorney, Kenneth Thompson, has assembled a team that is reviewing hundreds of low-level marijuana offenses that the department could decline to prosecute, DNAinfo reports.Last week, Thompson laid out his plan to cease prosecution of minor marijuana arrests. The team, comprised of prosecutors from the Early Case Assessment Bureau, is currently examining a number of these cases on a case-by-case basis to determine if individuals in question merit spending time and money to prosecute. This practice will continue in Brooklyn from this point forward. Thompson hopes that Brooklyn will become an example for the nation. He said, “We have not found any other DA in the country where marijuana is illegal who’s willing to take a different approach like [Brooklyn's]. We think it’s important.”

Thompson went on to say that he is not worried about the New York Police Department’s vow to continue making arrests for low-level marijuana offenses, as he says the DA’s office and the NYPD “don’t have identical interests.” He continued, “We’re not asking the NYPD to do anything differently. If they find someone who’s committed an offense, they have the right to arrest that person. What we’re saying is, once the person has been arrested and we get notified, then we have an obligation to look at the facts of each case and to determine whether we should spend resources on prosecuting that case.” Thompson said that the new policy is the culmination of his vow to keep young people out of the criminal justice system.


House Approves Amendment to Help Marijuana Businesses

The House of Representatives approved an amendment Wednesday that will facilitate marijuana businesses in working with banking institutions, International Business Times reports.The Heck Amendment, named after its sponsor Rep. Danny Heck (D-WA), was approved by a vote of 231-192. The amendment effectively blocks the SEC and Treasury Department from penalizing banks who lend money to legitimate marijuana businesses in areas where they can legally do business. The Heck Amendment was supported by both parties and represents growing bipartisan support of marijuana businesses, especially after the recent vote by Congress to defund of the DEA’s ability to interfere with medical marijuana patients and businesses that are in compliance with state law. If the Heck Amendment is implemented, it will be a major victory in the effort to allow legitimate businesses to control the marijuana market.

In the past, many financial institutions have shied away from assisting marijuana businesses for fear that the federal government will go after them for it, forcing most to operate on a cash-only system. Because of this, they are required to transport thousands of dollars physically, making them targets for robberies and other crimes. Wednesday’s vote is the first step towards allowing legitimate marijuana businesses to utilize alternative forms of payment, such as credit cards and bank accounts, like all other businesses.


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Marijuana Decriminalization Takes Effect In Nation’s Capital

As of midnight Wednesday, D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law is officially in effect. The new law — approved by the D.C. Council, signed by Mayor Gray,

Mayor Vincent Gray

and submitted to Congress for a 60-day review — replaces misdemeanor criminal charges for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil violation, costing the offender $25. Now D.C. has the third-least punitive marijuana laws in the country, behind Colorado and Washington State.

It is important to note that this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted. Public use is still illegal as well. Please see our summary of this new law for more information.

Thank you so much to all the individuals and organizations that took part in reforming the previously outdated law. Further reform is still needed, however. If you are a District resident, please contact your council members and urge them to treat marijuana like alcohol.


House Votes to Allow Marijuana-Related Banking

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/legal-pot/house-votes-allow-marijuana-related-banking-n157846

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The post House Votes to Allow Marijuana-Related Banking appeared first on Tennessee NORML.


NOBLE President Takes Marijuana Laws to Task

Chief John Dixon III

The president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) expressed on Tuesday that he believes marijuana laws are total failures, reports mlive.com. John Dixon III is a police chief from Petersburg, VA and spoke at the annual NOBLE conference, saying that law enforcement is too concerned with arresting people for minor marijuana offenses that can irreparably harm those who are charged. He said, “We, as law-enforcement professionals, we need to really take a look at how we can decriminalize marijuana, especially user amounts. We are locking people up for a dime bag, for a joint. They’re put in the criminal-justice system which pretty much ruins the rest of their lives.” Dixon went on to discuss how he believes that medical professionals should be in charge of dealing with drug use and addiction, commenting, “Why do I have to lock you up for that? What benefit am I giving you, then? We have to get out of the business. That should be the focus of the medical field.”

The ACLU and others have noted that marijuana laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities across the country, despite similar use rates across racial demographics.

Dixon is far from the only law enforcement officer expressing his displeasure with prohibition. Major Neil Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), attended the seminar on Tuesday and insisted that law enforcement officers push to decriminalize marijuana by giving voice to the problems marijuana laws pose as seen by those who deal with them in the field every day.

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