Category Archives: Marijuana

Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions

Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions

The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that residents there convicted of marijuana possession before recreational weed was legalized may be eligible to have those decisions overturned.
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As of January 1, 2014, adults from Colorado are legally allowed to buy up to one ounce of marijuana under the state Constitution’s recently passed Amendment 64. But with upwards of 9,000 marijuana possession cases being prosecuted each year before then, a huge chunk of the state’s population is now left wondering how the newly enacted law impacts previously decided court rulings.

Earlier this month on March 13, the three judges of the state’s appeals panel said that part of an earlier decision in a case against a Colorado woman sentenced in 2011 for marijuana possession should be vacated.

In making their decision, the appellate court wrote that there could be post-conviction relief if “there has been significant change in the law.”

“Amendment 64, by decriminalizing the personal use or possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, meets the statutory requirement for ‘a significant change in the law’ and eliminates and thus mitigates the penalties for persons convicted of engaging in such conduct,” the judges opined.

A spokesperson for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has since told NPR that the office will likely appeal the court’s latest ruling, but if it stands then it will set the stage for a substantial number of residents to have their convictions reversed.

This month’s ruling doesn’t affect everyone, though. The appeals court weighed in particularly on the case of Brandi Jessica Russell, a Colorado woman who was sentenced in August 2011, to serve two concurrent four-year terms of supervised probation, 192 hours of community service and a suspended sentence of 90 days in jail after being convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana, marijuana concentrate and methamphetamine.

Attorneys for Russell filed an appeal shortly after, but it wasn’t heard by the court system until after Amendment 64 went into effect on December 10, 2012. Since then lawmakers have allowed for the first legal, recreational marijuana dispensaries in the United States to operate across Colorado, and the state is expected to reap millions of dollars in taxes from those sales by the end of the year. And because Russell’s case was still up in the air at that point, the appeals court said her conviction should be tossed.

“Defendant contends that Amendment 64 should be applied retroactively and that her convictions for possession of marijuana concentrate and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana should be vacated. We agree,” the court wrote.

Brian Emeson, an attorney for Russell, told the Denver Post that “It’s a decision that certainly represents the will of the citizens of this state.”

Brian Vicente, a pro-marijuana activist who helped write Amendment 64, told the Associated Press that the ruling was a “huge victory” that could affect hundreds of people who were sentenced to jail terms for petty marijuana offenses in recent years and sought appeal.

Critics of the decision fear that, if not fought, it could open the door for citizens to challenge other convictions unrelated to the drug.

“Well-established retroactivity law in Colorado indicates that statutory changes are prospective only unless the General Assembly or the voters clearly indicted an intent to require such retroactive application,” he said in a statement earlier this month.

Source: RT

4 Police Tricks to Nab You For Pot and How You Can Beat Them

4 Police Tricks to Nab You For Pot and How You Can Beat Them 1024x682 4 Police Tricks to Nab You For Pot and How You Can Beat Them

According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests account for over half of all drug arrests–and 88% of those charges are simply for possession.

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Because of decades-old grant programs, local precincts are showered with money from the federal government if they keep their arrest numbers high. Police have a built-in financial incentive to focus their arrests on low-level drug offenders to fatten their arrest statistics, especially because these are some of the easiest arrests to make. This is a major reason why marijuana arrest rates have gone up in recent years, and why they make up the majority of all drug arrests nationally.

If you’re a cannabis aficionado who chooses to indulge in the herb, you are a walking dollar sign to the police. Your arrest can directly lead to more bullets, armor, assault rifles and other toys, and may even be used to justify higher cop wages. You’re more useful to them imprisoned than free, and they will try their hardest to manipulate you into giving them a reason for arrest. They can even make false threats to trick you into waiving your rights.

What follows are the four most common ways police deceive people into incriminating themselves for marijuana possession. Heed these warnings and remember the advice so you can avoid giving the cops a reason to arrest you.

Although our laws are meant to protect everyone equally, some police treat people differently based on a number of factors, particularly race. The ACLU reported last summer that blacks are almost four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. Other activist groups have found that law enforcement officers kill one black American roughly every 28 hours. Should you choose to invoke any of the rights detailed below, you must do so while remaining hyper-aware of how you are perceived by police based on your race, and then proceed with caution.

1. Giving officers “reasonable suspicion” by talking too much. A cop has no right to detain you without reasonable suspicion. “Reasonable suspicion” is a murky standard that isn’t as definitive as hard evidence, but requires more than a hunch, as Flex Your Rights explains:

A combination of particular facts, even if each is individually insignificant, can form the basis of reasonable suspicion. For example, police may have reasonable suspicion to detain someone who fits a description of a criminal suspect, a suspect who drops a suspicious object after seeing police, or a suspect in a high crime area who runs after seeing police.

If a cop simply stops and pummels you with questions, he has no right to force you to stick around and answer. In fact, if you’re carrying a bit of green on you, your best bet for avoiding trouble is to use your constitutional right to silence. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say you just bought an eighth of deliciously fresh green shimmering with sticky trichomes. You’re walking to a friend’s house for some communal smoking when suddenly a young police officer stops you to ask some questions—just the standard inquiries: Who are you, where are you going, where are you coming from, etc.

You think, “Shit! I’m screwed! But maybe if I’m really nice, he/she will let me go.”

You decide to blab away in an overly polite tone under the delusion that he/she isn’t aware of your charm offensive. You notice your tactic isn’t working, and out of nervousness you begin stammering and giving inconsistent answers—which is a cause for reasonable suspicion. The cop then decides to search you, finding your weed and brandishing it in the open, which gives him/her the right to arrest you for having pot in “public view.” You’re cuffed, shunted off to jail and stuck with a petty possession charge.

To avoid this sour experience, Flex Your Rights recommends that if an officer stops you, you should always ask from the very start, “Officer, are you detaining me or am I free to go?” If the officer says you can go, you can continue on your way. If he gives a vague answer or continues to ask questions, continue repeating the magic words until he relents.

“If the officer says something like, ‘You’re not being detained. I just want to talk to you,’ then you are free to end the conversation and leave immediately, [without] wait[ing] for the officer to kindly dismiss you,” says Steve Silverman, executive director of Flex Your Rights.

If an officer tells you that you are being detained, that means you’re under arrest, in which case you should definitely inform him that you are choosing to stay silent; perhaps you can say something like, “I’m going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer.” Because you can be damned sure that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Also, DO NOT run away or trash-talk the cop. These are always causes for reasonable suspicion. Do your best to stay cool.

2. Consenting to a body search.Often, the police won’t inform you of your right not to consent to a search. Sometimes people will consent to a search even when they’re holding weed, either because they don’t know they can say no or because they’re worried about the officer’s reaction.

“The most powerful trick police use to make marijuana arrests on the street is to ask citizens to empty their pockets. Of course, this ‘ask’ generally sounds like a command when police shout, ‘What’s in your pockets? What do you got?’ Silverman of Flex Your Rights says. He also says the vast majority of people stopped will comply with a search regardless of what they have on them out of intimidation or confusion.

“Unless police feel a hard item during a pat-down that could be a weapon, they are not legally allowed to reach into your pockets,” he add.

4 Police Tricks to Nab You For Pot and How You Can Beat Them 1 4 Police Tricks to Nab You For Pot and How You Can Beat Them

Your right to refuse a search is expressly noted in the Fourth Amendment, which guards against “unreasonable searches and seizures” by the state. As with refusing to answer a nosy officer’s questions, you are legally within your rights to say no to a physical search unless the officer has a warrant.

“If the police say they have a search warrant, ask to see it. If they don’t, say ‘I do not consent to this search,’” advises the New York City Civil Liberties Union website. An officer may still illegally search you even if you say no, but at least you’ll protect your rights if you have to go to court.

3. Consenting to a vehicle search.This one follows the same legal guidelines of refusing a body search: unless the officer has a warrant, you do not need to give him permission to search your car. Calmly inform him that you are aware of your rights and that he cannot search your vehicle.

However, an officer can still order you out of your car if he wishes to do so, in which case you should comply. Once you are out of the vehicle, the officer may threaten you with false consequences if you continue to refuse a search.

“Beware that police can legally lie to you, so never let false threats or promises trick you into waving your rights,” says Judge William Murphy, a civil liberties advocate.

Once again, if the cop has no warrant or reasonable suspicion to search your vehicle, say the magic words: “Officer, are you detaining me or am I free to go?” Theoretically, he would then either give you a traffic citation and leave or just let you go on your way. However, experience has shown that officers sometimes become aggressive or even violent when a person exercises their rights. All you can really do in that situation is keep calm and continue to shield yourself from judicial damnation by asserting your lawfully guaranteed rights.

4. Letting the police enter your home.Without a warrant, you never have to open your door for police. No matter how hard they bang or how many times they smash their pointer against your doorbell, you can leave them out in the cold. Just say no.

Someone should have told that to former UNC basketball star Will Graves before he willfully allowed police to enter his coach’s home last December, which the athlete was renting while he completed his studies. When the cops came snooping at his door on a tip from a meter reader at a utility company, Graves allowed the cops to enter (probably out of fear), and for his courteousness he was cited (fortunately not arrested) for being in possession of a couple of blunts, a grinder and a handful of pot seeds.

Regardless of how unnatural or frightening (exhilarating?) it feels, always say no to a cop who is trying to get into your home without a warrant. You wouldn’t let a stranger in, and that’s exactly what a cop is.

Caveat: One way cops can claim to have “reasonable suspicion” to search your body, car or home is to say they smell marijuana. This is a difficult assertion to guard against since it’s your word against theirs. More than a few people have gone down after a search because a cop claimed to catch a whiff of weed. The “smell” provision overwhelmingly favors the police in most drug cases.

Here’s what Flex Your Rights says about the matter:

“If police say they smell marijuana…[a]ll you can really do is say, ‘Officer, I have nothing to hide, but I don’t consent to any searches.’ If they search you anyway and something is found, you’ll need an attorney to help you fight the charges. Unfortunately, police sometimes use tricks like this to circumvent your constitutional rights and there’s no perfect way to handle the situation. Of course, they are most likely to do this if they are suspicious of you for some reason, so do your best to stay calm.”

Source: Alternet

Colorado’s legal pot market far exceeds tax expectations

Colorado’s legal pot market far exceeds tax expectations Colorado’s legal pot market far exceeds tax expectations

Recreational pot sales were always expected to give Colorado some sort of economic boost, but the latest budget proposal by state Governor John Hickenlooper suggests the returns are going to be even higher than originally estimated.
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Released on Wednesday, the proposal expects the marijuana market in Colorado to bring the state around $98 million in taxes off of $610 million in sales, significantly more than the $70 million projected back when voters first voted to legalize recreational pot.

Since pot use became legal on January 1, Colorado has levied a 12.9 percent sales tax on all transactions, with medical marijuana taxed at 2.9 percent.

According to the Associated Press, Hickenlooper’s budget proposes spending the incoming cash on substance abuse programs and youth marijuana prevention. Specifically, $45.5 million would be set aside for youth prevention purposes, $40.4 million for substance abuse treatment, and $12.4 million for public health. Additional proposals were made for campaigns that spread the word regarding marijuana’s health risks.

“We view our top priority as creating an environment where negative impacts on children from marijuana legalization are avoided completely,” Hickenlooper wrote in a letter to legislative budget writers, the AP noted.

On top of the sales tax, though, Colorado has also implemented a 15 percent excise tax on the drug. The state intends to spend the earnings from this tax on school construction, and Hickenlooper expects to reach the $40 million level originally projected.

Pot sales have been strong in Colorado ever since shops began selling the drug, which is moving at even higher prices than predicted. As RT reported in January, sales exceeded $5 million in the month’s first week, and the state is even attracting visitors from other states interested in experiencing “pot tours.”

Meanwhile, the only other state that’s legalized recreational marijuana has also released its own projections regarding tax proceeds. As reported by the Yakima Herald, Washington is expected to rake in $190 million in pot taxes over a four-year period beginning in 2015. As in Colorado, those numbers are subject to revision once consumers can actually get their hands on the product.

“Voters and state lawmakers around the country are watching how this system unfolds in Colorado, and the prospect of generating significant revenue while eliminating the underground marijuana market is increasingly appealing,” Mason Tvert, of the Marijuana Policy Project advocacy group, told the AP.

While other states continue to forge their own path on pot – Alaska will vote on legalization this August, as may Oregon and Washington, DC – 18 congressional members recently petitioned the White House in an attempt to reclassify marijuana or simply remove it from the illegal substances list. President Barack Obama had previously ruled out unilateral action on the matter, though these members believe it’s within his power to have the Justice Department take action.

 

Source: RT

US eases rules for banks to do business with licensed pot shops

US eases rules for banks todo business with licensed pot shops US eases rules for banks to do business with licensed pot shops

The Obama administration released on Friday new rules that aim to ease relationships between banks and legal marijuana shops. Banks have been reluctant to allow pot businesses to open accounts given the contradictions between federal and state laws.
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The new guidelines created by the US Department of Justice and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) signal to banks they can evade the federal government’s wrath as long as the marijuana businesses they are transacting with are following state law and have filed the proper paperwork.

“The Department shares the concerns of public officials and law enforcement about the public safety risks associated with businesses that handle significant amounts of cash,” Justice Dept. spokeswoman Allison Price said in a statement. “These guidelines, together with the Treasury Department’s guidance to financial institutions, are intended to increase the availability of financial services for marijuana businesses — that are licensed and regulated — while at the same time preserving and enhancing important law enforcement tools.”

Though several states have legalized medical marijuana, it wasn’t until Colorado and Washington state passed laws in the last year allowing broader sales of pot that pushed the need for new banking rules. High-profile burglaries of shops in Colorado – the first and only state that has permitted retail outlets to legally sell marijuana to adults for recreational purpose – have occurred in the last month. The shops are targeted based on their necessity to carry cash on hand, given the lack of assurance on the part of banks and credit unions that doing business with marijuana outlets wouldn’t conjure the ire of federal law enforcement.

“There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective,” US Attorney General Eric Holder said on Jan. 23 during a speech at the University of Virginia.

Friday’s announcement is intended to open up banking services – accepting deposits, offering payroll checks, easing the acceptance of credit cards – for pot shops licensed with a state to sell either medicinal or recreational marijuana.

“Now that some states have elected to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade, FinCEN seeks to move from the shadows the historically covert financial operations of marijuana businesses,” FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery said in a statement. FinCen’s mission is mostly concerned with anti-money laundering laws and keeping banks from serving as fronts for criminal groups.

Yet, according to Politico, the memos issued Friday are sparse in solid details, likely because the Obama administration, in working with states that have legalized pot, has been accused of ignoring the illegality of marijuana use on the federal level.

Nevertheless, the directive tells prosecutors in states where marijuana is legal that they should focus on eight areas of law enforcement pertaining to pot businesses, including drug sales to minors, using a business as a front to sell other illegal drugs or working with drug gangs or cartels.

Banks must verify with their state whether a marijuana business is licensed. Banks also must follow the businesses closely and report suspicious activity to federal authorities in order to stay clear of violating anti-money laundering laws, FinCen said. The federal agency said banks must be aware of whether the stores are making more money than expected from selling marijuana.

The Justice Dept. and FinCen said the new rules do not grant any activity immunity from prosecution, again highlighting the delicate nature of marijuana legalization for federal agencies.

The guidelines are mostly aimed at smaller banks rather than large national banks, which are unlikely to associate with pot outlets anytime soon.

“Through our outreach we were led to believe that there would be perhaps some banks that would be willing to offer these services and probably some of the smaller, medium banks rather than some of the largest ones in this country,” a senior FinCEN official said.

Despite the new directive, banks and their lobbying groups are working on a bill in Congress that would ensure further protection from running afoul of anti-money laundering laws.

Source: RT

Alaska to vote on pot legislation this August

marijuana 1 Alaska to vote on pot legislation this August
Marijuana advocates in Alaska have obtained more than enough signatures to ensure voters there will have the opportunity this year to weigh-in on a measure that could legalize recreational marijuana, state officials admitted this week.
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As of Tuesday, a petition that would let residents of the forty-ninth state vote to make pot legal for adults surpassed a 30,169 signature threshold, all but clearing the way for the issue to appear in ballot booths during elections there on August 19.

“The initiative has met the state requirement for signatures,” Gail Fenumiai, the director of the Alaska’s Division of Elections, told Reuters. “It’s a matter now of officially getting the certification documents signed by the lieutenant governor.”

If that measure succeeds, then Alaska will join Colorado and Washington to become the third state in America that has outright bypassed a long-standing federal pot prohibition.

Nationwide, United States law currently considers marijuana a Schedule I narcotic on par with heroin and ecstasy. Voters in the states of Washington and Colorado elected in 2012 to ignore federal legislation, however, and instead work towards ways to implement legal, recreational weed for adults over the age of 21.

The latest effort out of Alaska involves advocating for a bill modeled after the Colorado law currently in place, and if approved would let residents possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana and grow up to six plants, as well as pave the way for creation of a system to tax and regulate sales of the drug.

Recreational marijuana sales in Colorado surpassed $1 million in just one day when weed became legal there on January 1 of this year, and state officials expect to reap upwards of 70-times that in tax revenue alone by the end of December. If the effort in Alaska succeeds, then the state will impose a $50-per-ounce tax on legally sold marijuana and mandate that officials begin striving to implement rules for regulating the sale of marijuana in licensed stores within nine months of enactment.

Alaska is currently one of 20 states in the US that has rules in place for medicinal marijuana, but a win for pot proponents in August would mean yet another victory for a growing, nationwide movement to legalize and decriminalize marijuana for all adults, and not just those with a doctor’s note.

“It appears voters will have the opportunity in August to replace the failed policies of marijuana prohibition with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol in Alaska,” Taylor Bickford, a spokesperson for a campaign favoring the state weed bill, told the Alaska Dispatch this week.

Currently, state law allows for officials to jail anyone found in possession of marijuana outside of the privacy of their own home for up to 90 days, as well as subject them to a $2,000 fine. The bill currently being discussed there would not make it legal for residents to roam the streets consuming cannabis, but residents with modest amounts of marijuana on their person wouldn’t be forced to pay heavy fines or worry about incarceration.

Kevin Sabet, a co-founder of the anti-legalization Project Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told Reuters this week that his group has yet officially come out swinging against the pro-pot campaign.

“There is no formal opposition in Alaska just yet, but SAM has been approached by Alaskan activists who don’t want to see the safety problems and burdensome government regulation that would come with legalization,” Sabet said.

In the meantime, though, even the administration of US President Barack Obama has openly admittedrecently that weed is not as dangerous as government officials once insisted.

“I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” Pres. Obama told reporters at the New Yorker for an interview published last month. “[W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing,” he said.

Then on the floor of Congress just this week, Obama’s deputy drug czar, Michael Botticelli, told the House of Representatives Oversight Committee that he couldn’t dispute the fact that alcohol abuse isn’t comparable with any similar issues involving marijuana.

“Voters are quickly coming to realize that marijuana is not remotely as harmful as they were once led to believe,” Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, added to USA Today this week. “If voters take an objective look at the evidence, they will likely arrive at the conclusion that marijuana prohibition has been just as wasteful and problematic as alcohol prohibition.”

A decade ago, a poll among Alaskans conducted by Ivan Moore Research found that only 38 percent of residents across the state favored decriminalization. That number jumped to 43 percent in 2010, the Anchorage Daily News reported this week, and a survey conducted last year by Public Policy Polling in conjunction with the Marijuana Policy Project determined that a majority of Alaskans — 54 percent — would favor a change in state law.

“There has been phenomenal change,” Ivan Moore, a pollster and political consultant from the forty-ninth state, told the paper this week.

Back in the lower 48, the city council of Washington, DC moved forward as well this week with an effort to decriminalize marijuana in the nation’s capital. Lawmakers voted 11-1 on a bill that, if approved, would eliminate jail time for Washingtonians caught with small amounts of weed.

Source: RT

Phillip Morris Introduces Marlboro Marijuana Cigarettes

marijuana cigarettes 300x177 Phillip Morris Introduces Marlboro Marijuana Cigarettes

Phillip Morris, the world’s biggest cigarette producer, announced today that they will join the marijuana legalization bandwagon and start producing marijuana cigarettes. Marketed under the brand “Marlboro M”, the cigarettes will be made available for sale through marijuana-licensed outlets in the state of Colorado, and the state of Washington when it becomes commercially legal there later this year.
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Serafin Norcik, Phillip Morris’ Sr. Vice President for Marketing said in an interview that the company has been high on the idea of marketing cannabis, and has been monitoring the market for some time. It was only when the recent legalization initiatives — winning in Colorado and Washington — that they finally made the decision to take a leap of faith.

Norcik added that they have begun contacting former drug lords in Mexico and Paraguay, currently the largest marijuana-producing countries in the world, for the possibility of setting up a distribution ring across the North and South American continents, to streamline the supply lines.

Since only tobacco products are currently banned in advertisements and promotions in the United States, Phillip Morris also has set aside a huge $15 billion advertising budget just to promote the new “Marlboro M” and are now negotiating with major networks and publishers, to start marketing the product to consumers in the beginning of 2015.

Norcik also revealed that a big initial push is planned around January next year, and have acquired most of the ad airtime for Superbowl XLIX. However, since marijuana will be legal only in Colorado and Washington during the 2015 Superbowl, all the ads will be blacked out in all other States and will only show a static “M” logo with smoke blowing in the background, for the duration of the ad.

Phillip Morris shares hit an all-time high on the marijuana news and shot up to $998.00 from $83.03 just a few hours after the announcement went public.