Tag Archives: Drugs

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.
Continue reading «Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions»

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

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.
Continue reading «Colorado’s legal pot market far exceeds tax expectations»

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.
Continue reading «US eases rules for banks to do business with licensed pot shops»

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.
Continue reading «Alaska to vote on pot legislation this August»

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

Industry powers with access to TPP plans lavish money on Congress

RT TPP 1 Industry powers with access to TPP plans lavish money on Congress

Operatives of top global corporations, which spend great amounts of cash to lobby Congress, are also part of a small group in the US outside the Obama administration that can access working plans on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Continue reading «Industry powers with access to TPP plans lavish money on Congress»

According to data analyzed by government transparency advocate MapLight, current members of Congress received around US$24 million in the last ten years from organizations represented on an exclusive industry board, created and staffed by Congress. This board has inside access – such as not even granted to members of Congress, much less the public – to the highly-secretive negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which promises to give powerful industry players more clout over global trade rights.

The United States is currently in negotiations with 11 other Pacific Rim nations on the lucrative trade pact known as theTrans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which aims to liberalize trade among the signees. Among the contentious issues in the TPP is that the agreement stipulates new powers for multinationals that would allow them to challenge country laws in privately run international courts. Washington has endorsed such powers in previous trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but conditions in the TPP could grant multinational more powers to challenge a wider range of laws. Under NAFTA several companies including Dow Chemicals and Exxon Mobil have sought to overrule regulations on fracking, oil drilling, and drug patents.

“The United States, as in previous rounds, has shown no flexibility on its proposal, being one of the most significant barriers to closing the chapter,” said a memo from one of the participating countries obtained by the Huffington Post.

Ultimately, the pact would give corporate entities much more influence over commerce, elevating“individual foreign firms to equal status with sovereign nations,” consumer rights advocate Public Citizen says on its website.

Thus far in the multi-year negotiations of TPP, a small cadre of people have had open access to the working documents involved in the various sections of the trade pact. On the contrary, members of the US Congress, for example, must visit the offices of the United States Trade Representative to review the provisions. They are not allowed to bring anyone with them, nor can they make copies of any documents pertaining to the working agreement.

Yet aside from those in the Obama administration, only members of the United States Trade Representative’s advisory system, including the 18-member Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (ITAC-15), can freely access TPP negotiation documents on intellectual property.

Members of the ITAC-15 include representatives from companies like GE, Cisco Systems, Yahoo, Verizon, AT&T, and Johnson & Johnson, and entities such as the Recording Industry Association of America, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The ITAC-15 does not include public advocacy organizations, academics or any non-industry experts.

The industry trade advisory system was created and staffed by members of Congress. In fact, the ITAC-15 is made up of several top political spenders that have offered millions of dollars to influential Congress members in recent years, data organized by MapLight shows.

MapLight found that – from Jan. 1, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2012 – the 18 organizations that have representatives on the ITAC-15 gave almost $24 million to current members of Congress in that time period via political action committees, among other avenues that are legally required to be disclosed.

AT&T has given over $8 million to current members of Congress, more than any other ITAC-15 entities.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner has been given $433,350 from ITAC-15 organizations, more than any other individual in Congress.

Congressional Democrats have gotten $11.4 million from the organizations, while Republicans have received $12.6 million.

A handful of Congress members sponsoring legislation that would give the Obama administrationmore power over the congressional process of approving TPP – barring amendments to the pact, for example – have received a total of $758,295 from the ITAC-15 groups. These members include: Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus ($140,601), Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch ($178,850), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp ($216,250), House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Chairman Devin Nunes ($86,000), and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions ($136,594).

Meanwhile, a new report released this week showed that US corporations spent $185 million in 2012 alone via nonprofit groups that are not legally required to divulge either their sources of funding or how they spend that money.

“Ranking among the biggest donors are energy giant Exelon Corp., health insurer WellPoint Inc. and technology titan Microsoft Corp.,” the Center for Public Integrity said in its findings.

“The millions of dollars in corporate expenditures highlighted by the Center for Public Integrity’s research flowed to more than 1,000 politically active nonprofits, from major trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to pro-business alliances such as the Fix the Debt Coalition.”

 

Source: RT