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Marijuana Industry News December 13, 2013

Uruguay flag

Uruguay Becomes First Nation to Legalize Marijuana…

The story has been developing for a long time but now it looks official. Uruguay will become the first nation to legalize recreational marijuana.  Uruguay, like many other countries in Central and South America, is attempting to rectify the growing problems related to failed marijuana policy, including the brutal cartel violence.  This week, Uruguay Senators voted 16-13 to legalize and regulate marijuana.  The idea has been championed by Uruguay President, Jose Mujica.  His wife, Senator Lucía Topolansky told Reuters “We begin a new experience in April. It involves a big cultural change that focuses on public health and the fight against drug trafficking.”  Residents, 18 and over, will be able to purchase up to 40 grams per month so long as they are properly registered.

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New York State Lawmakers Considering a Legal Marijuana Industry…

The marijuana conversation in New York has been front and center over the course of the past year in New York.  Unfortunately, most of the focus has been on “Stop and Frisk”, the NYPD’s ruthless strategy to work around a decriminalization law passed in the 1970s.  New York allows possession of up to 25g to be considered a civil citation, punishable by a ticket.  However, the law does not allow for the cannabis to be in plain sight in order to prevent public consumption.  The NYPD tells individuals to empty their pockets.  Refusing to do so is illegal while following the officer’s instructions puts the marijuana in plain sight, where the charges will escalate.  NY State Senator Liz Krueger wishes to put an end to the unjust practices that overwhelmingly target minority residents.  She recently introduced a bill that would create a legal recreational marijuana market similar to Colorado and Washington, complete with state oversight and tax revenues.  She recently said publicly that “There is marijuana usage and there has been forever and we have to stop wasting lives and wasting police power and our courts.”  It is not clear yet if the bill will have enough votes or support from Governor Cuomo to pass.

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Poll Shows California Support for Recreational Marijuana Law is Increasing…

While California residents have been pioneers in medical marijuana, having passed Proposition 215 (California Compassionate Use Act) in 1996, support for legalizing recreational use has taken far longer to grow.  A majority of residents, even up to a few years ago actually were against legalization.  Recently those numbers have been much more evenly split.  The newest polling on the issue shows a majority of California residents now outright support legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana.  A Field Poll found that 55% of California residents support legalizing.  Residents may get their chance to do more than answer survey questions as serious efforts are underway to bring the issue to the ballot for residents to vote on next year. Mark A.R. Kleiman is a Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.  He is considered an expert on  drug policy and recently said “Debating about whether to legalize now is pointless, because we’re going to.  The smart debate is about how we’ll do it.”


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Marijuana Industry News March 15, 2013

the UN

International Leaders Want U.S. to Go After Legal Pot in Colorado and Washington…

Even as it is clear a vast majority of Americans wish to see marijuana laws reformed, the Federal government has resisted.  One of the most complex situations for federal authorities is permitting legalized marijuana while abiding by international treaties.  In 1961, the U.S. took part in the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.  Officially we are expected to uphold our part as a party of this agreement.  However, the United States has not exactly been weighed down by the past burdens of international treaty.  Raymond Yans, president of the International Narcotics Control Board, recently said that federal law (where marijuana is still illegal, despite state laws on the contrary) was “good, but insufficient.”  The momentum has clearly shifted and now fewer politicians in the United States seems inclined to come on to national airwaves and voice support for the continued and failed War on Drugs.  Whether or not it is correct on the part of the American people, we typically do not respond well to the U.N. lecturing us.  If Raymond Yans decides to come to America and give a speech on how he feels a 50 year old treaty is more important than suffering patients, or individual liberties, it should make for excellent television.


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Mass. Attorney General Dismantles Ban on Dispensaries…

Due to a successful ballot initiative by residents, Massachusetts is one of the newest states to approve the use of medical marijuana.  Of course, controversy soon followed.  Even before any dispensaries have opened, local municipalities have enacted bans.  However, outright bans have been ruled illegal by the attorney general.   A spokesperson for the Massachusetts attorney general’s office said “The act’s legislative purpose could not be served if a municipality could prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality could do so, presumably all could do so.”  However, local municipalities will have considerable power in overseeing dispensaries.  They will be able to set out guidelines as to where dispensaries can be located, such as requiring they be a certain distance from schools, parks etc.  This represents a major victory for patients as other states have adopted medical marijuana legislation, only outlaw dispensaries.  This leaves the program in limbo.  Most patients cannot be depended on to cultivate their own effective and safe medicine without the help of dispensaries.


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Governor Andrew Cuomo Includes Marijuana in NY State Budget Discussions…

Last year, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to shift his hard line view on marijuana reform.  The second generation New York governor ran his 2010 campaign with a seemingly inflexible view on marijuana.  However, clarifying New York’s decriminalization law from the 1970s has been gaining momentum, especially in New York City.  While possession of less than 25g is supposed to yield a civil citation (ticket), a loophole has allowed police to slap harsher charges.  However, if marijuana is in plain view, then the offense is escalated to a misdemeanor charge.  A tactic known as “Stop and Frisk”, easily allows police to capitalize on the loophole.  Officers will tell someone to take marijuana out of their pocket, police can then arrest the individual for having it in “plain sight”, even as they were following the instructions of the officer.  The tactic tends to disproportionately target young Hispanic and African Americans even as white teens smoke marijuana in higher numbers, and represent more of the general New York population.  Governor Andrew Cuomo was initially mocked for proposing a solution to “Stop and Frisk”.  He has argued that “plain sight” and concealed possession should both result in a civil citation charge.  The proposal has gained popularity as communities have grown weary from seeing their teens jailed, and having criminal charges following them for the rest of their lives.  Brooklyn Democrat, Karim Camara, echoed the growing sentiment and told reporters  “We’re not only punishing the individual; we’re punishing society.” Mr. Camara cited how difficult it is for teens with a criminal record to get into college.  Additionally, measures that would save the state money (especially post Sandy) are getting their time in the limelight.  As New York state enters into bitter budget negotiations, Governor Cuomo appears to be holding at least a semi hard line on reforming marijuana law.  It is not yet clear how this will play out politically and if this will force state republicans to accept the change in marijuana law.


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Governor Cuomo Tells NY Lawmakers They Can Get a Raise if They Fix Marijuana Laws and Minimum Wage

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New York has been a very busy place lately in terms of politics.  Intense preparations were underway for days leading up to this week’s historic presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney at Long Island’s Hofstra University.  Conspicuously absent from the conversation were many issues including the war on drugs and poverty.

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has been tackling some of the issues that were have been missing from the presidential bickering.  New York State lawmakers have been salivating for a raise (their last came in 1999) but the Governor told them a raise is out of the question until the working class is taken care of first.  Mr. Cuomo is has been seeking a raise to New York’s minimum wage, and has tied lawmakers salaries to getting the bill done.  Specifically the Governor said “I would not even consider, even consider a pay raise unless the people’s business was being done in a thorough, responsible way.”

The Governor has submitted a complex proposal that also shows New Yorkers he has not forgotten about his vow from the spring to enact marijuana reform.  Several months ago Governor Cuomo was mocked by lawmakers and critics who have not moved beyond the 80 year old talking points against marijuana.  However he was also applauded by those who appreciated his plan to save the state money and to fix New York’s “stop and frisk” program, which is almost exclusively carried out in NYC.  The tactics by police have been criticized by many, including neighborhood advocates who are upset that police almost always target Blacks and Hispanics in the random searches.  “Stop and Frisk” has made national headlines as it considered by many to be against the spirit of New York’s marijuana laws.  Possession of 25 grams of marijuana or less was decriminalized in the 1970s in New York.  Possession under 25 grams is supposed to result in a civil citation ticket, however police have found a way around this.  Marijuana in “open view”, even if less than 25g, can be considered a misdemeanor and carry jail time.  Often, police demand that individuals empty their pockets, and once they do officers make arrests and claim the marijuana was out in the open.

Lawmakers in NY have been slow to take up the issue.  Even as many politicians admit that “Stop and Frisk” goes against the intentions of the state’s marijuana laws, it has been rare to hear comment on the issue.  However, we are in the political season and we are glad to see the Governor engaging in the issues that Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama neglected.  There will be some more shrewd political moves to come, but none may be as interesting as what Governor Cuomo has done.  Like dangling a carrot in front of a mule, the Governor has effectively tied lawmakers salaries to future of workers and marijuana law in New York.  For the first time we expect Albany legislators to start their shift on the issue.

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Albany Bickering Stalls Governor’s Marijuana Reform Plan


New York City is often viewed as the center for progressive politics.  However, New York State is much more balanced politically.  When a state oversees a city on the level of New York, lawmakers often bicker as they try to represent their own constituencies.

Concerned New York City residents are finding this out the hard way.   New York has desperately needed a change in it’s “Stop and Frisk” policy.  Though possession of less than 25g of cannabis was decriminalized in New York during the 1970s it must not be used or held in public view.  “Stop and Frisk” offers a loophole for police to demand that individuals empty their pockets, leaving the cannabis in plain site.  Families are left to deal with the impact of an unnecessary arrest that could follow their child around for the rest of their lives.  As we have mentioned previously, the “Stop and Frisk” law seems to unfairly target young Black and Hispanics.  New York City residents have lobbied for years to change the controversial practice but have not succeeded.

In a move that made headlines nationally, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo attempted to change a failed policy that is costing the state money and incarcerating its youth.  While many members of the media pursued the easy story and poked fun at the governor, many were pleased to see what appears to be an evolving view for the governor.  The reform will be delayed at best and even perhaps discarded.  Some Albany Republicans lashed out against the plan in the usual silly and predictable over the top fashion.  Dean Skelos claimed he was worried about a law that allowed people to “walk around with ten joints in each ear”.  However, many who represent law enforcement welcomed a plan to get rid of the low level marijuana arrests.  NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out in support of the plan (though he has defended “Stop and Frisk” previously).  Additionally, NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly also wanted to see a change in the law.  There will not be enough time during the current legislative session to bring the issue back up.

This is not unusual for Albany lawmakers.  Albany reflects the diversity of New York State, complete with lawmakers who are from opposite sides of the aisle and are not always willing to work together.  Analysts believe that Republicans are still stinging from a defeat on same sex marriage as New York became one of the few states to recognize the unions. It appears that NY Republicans are ignoring one of their key voting blocks (law enforcement officials) and are attempting to appease a base that is upset with same sex marriage and cares little for New York’s incarcerated youth.

Of course political revenge is not going to satisfy New York City residents who are tired of witnessing dysfunction among Albany politicians .  Efforts to eliminate “Stop and Frisk” will continue and lawmakers from both parties are going to have to consider the fact that they may have pursued political posturing instead of the pleas of residents.

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Protests in New York City Held in Support of Marijuana Reform amid Giant St. Patrick’s Celebration

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Over the weekend New York City upheld one of its most famous and long standing traditions.  Over 100,000 people dressed in green were in attendance for the 2012 St. Patrick’s Day Parade where the consumption of corn beef and alcohol are commonplace.

Another celebration of green took place during the parade as well.  Members of the New York State chapter of NORML made their way through the raucous crowd and to City Hall.  This protest now marks the 3rd annual protest on New York’s City Hall.  Holding the protest during the most recognized binge drinking holiday was not by accident.  Doug Greene, the Legislative Director of Empire State NORML told CBS 880 news at the protest that “We’re reminding New York City that there is a safer alternative to pools of vomit in the streets.”  He also went on to say “There were over 50,000 arrests last year for low-level marijuana possession, which is a waste of scarce city resources.”

New York City is known for setting trends in fashion, finance, cuisine, and social movements.  However, it still is known as an unfriendly destination for cannabis patients and advocates.  As Doug Greene mentioned, there was still a very amount of low level possession arrests last year.  What is more troubling is this still occurred in the face of a direct memo from NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who released a memo trying to curb the low level convictions.  Although the numbers did decline toward the latter part of 2011, convictions were still alarmingly high.

Although New York State decriminalized marijuana possession over 30 years ago, the New York City police have been overly aggressive in issuing misdemeanor arrests for public use and/or possession.  One former NYC police officer joined the protest at City Hall and reflected on her time as a police officer.  Joanne Naughton said ” I retired as a lieutenant from the NYPD… What I did decades ago wasn’t any good, didn’t do any good. It was a waste of time.” While activists may have more work ahead, there is a bill in New York State’s legislature that could legalize medical marijuana.  New trends can seemingly come out of nowhere and as the famous Don Henley song suggests, situations in New York can change in a minute.

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