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The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to the must-pass Senate version of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, if signed into law, would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from spending money to enforce a prohibition on V.A. doctors filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal.
“This is a historic moment,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). “Passage of the amendment was the right thing to do for our veterans.
“We should not be preventing access to medicine that can help our wounded warriors deal with serious conditions, such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries,” Blumenauer said. “Today’s passage coupled with the narrow defeat of my amendment to the MilCon-VA appropriations bill in the House signals there is real movement and bipartisan support in reforming outdated federal marijuana policies. We are now in a good position to be able to advocate for inclusion of this policy in a final appropriations bill.”
Sanders, an independent Senator from Vermont, indicated an openness to legalization during an online question and answer session on Reddit.com.
“I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana [when I was mayor],” Sanders said. “Our police had more important things to do.”
Sanders, who describes himself as a socialist, is running for the Democratic nomination for President. He said he supports decriminalizing cannabis in Vermont, and is watching the situation in Colorado “very closely.”
The Illinois Senate on Thursday approved a bill 37-19 to remove criminal penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana. The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives in April, will now be sent to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.
HB 218, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin) and in the House by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), makes possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana a civil law violation punishable by a $125 fine. Individuals will no longer face time in jail, and the civil offense will be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record.
“Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for individuals who commit serious crimes,” Rep. Cassidy said. “The possibility of jail time should not even be on the table when it comes to simple marijuana possession. Criminalizing people for marijuana possession is not a good use of our state’s limited law enforcement resources.”
“We hope Gov. Rauner will sign this important and broadly supported legislation,” said Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “This is a sensible alternative to Illinois’s needlessly complicated and draconian marijuana possession laws.”
Lawmakers in Louisiana on Wednesday took a major step forward when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to reform the state’s harsh marijuana possession law. If passed, Louisiana would join the growing number of states that have recently reduced penalties for small amounts of marijuana.
“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Louisiana’s overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step.”
The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last 20 years and is nearly five times higher than Iran’s, 13 times higher than China’s and 20 times higher than Germany’s.
One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the War On Drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.
Portland police and a U.S. postal inspector had no legal authority to intercept a package headed to a Portland home just because they suspected it contained contraband and a police dog later alerted to it, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling will likely put an end to the long-standing practice of having a postal inspector and two cops pull aside and examine express mail packages at Portland International Airport’s postal cargo center without obtaining search warrants, reports Aimee Green at The Oregonian.
It’s the first time an Oregon appeals court has ruled on this issue, according to Stephen Houze, the Portland defense attorney representing defendant Max Barnthouse. Barnthouse, then 26, was arrested in April 2012 after cops pulled a package from mail that had been headed to his home.
The cops claimed because the package was addressed to a pseudonym, had a handwritten rather than a typed address, had an incorrect zip code, and the postage was paid with cash or debit card rather than from an established business account, that was enough for them to remove Barnthouse’s package from the mail about 6 a.m. at set it aside for narcotics detection dog Nikko to sniff. The dog signaled on the package.
During the campaign leading up to the passage of marijuana legalization Initiative 502 in Washington state in 2012, many activists — this writer included — expressed grave concerns about the effect of 502’s unscientific, arbitrary per-se cutoff point of 5 nanograms per milliliter as a “bright line” beyond which motorists are considered too high to drive. On Tuesday, a Vancouver, Washington marijuana user got a six-month jail sentence, followed by five years of probation, in a case that illustrates exactly why we were worried.
You see, the new definition of stoned driving established by I-502 has nothing to do with impairment, unlike the old law. Before, law enforcement had to prove actual impairment if they wanted to convict motorists of driving under the influence of marijuana, but now, all they need is a test showing marijuana metabolites above 5 ng/ml in the driver’s blood. Impairment doesn’t even matter anymore in a “driving under the influence” case; we’ve passed through the looking glass.
Scotty Rowles was driving his 1995 Ford pickup around 6 p.m. on December 17, 2012, when pedestrian Donald Collins stepped from the median into the street directly in front of him, reports Jacob Sullum at Reason.com. “Investigators said Collins was close to two different lit and controlled intersections, but stepped out in the middle of traffic to try and cross the road,” reported KPTV.
It seemed obvious that Collins’ death was not Rowles’ fault. But a cop smelled marijuana on Rowles, who admitted he’d had “a little bowl” a couple of hours earlier. He was charged with vehicular homicide.
Officers, working with underage investigative aides, checked 22 businesses for sales of marijuana to minors. The first checks represent an 82 percent no-sales-to-minors compliance rate.
The four businesses will be cited for selling marijuana to minors. The individuals who sold the marijuana will be referred to their respective prosecuting attorney’s office for potential criminal prosecution.
The WSLCB and local authorities regularly conduct compliance checks of area businesses licensed to sell alcohol. The checks, conducted May 15-18 in Skagit, Snohomish, Kitsap, Pierce and Cowlitz Counties, were the first marijuana compliance checks.
Toke Signals Must Read of the Week
Cannabis journalist Steve Elliott on Saturday was banned by Facebook from posting, Liking or commenting for 30 days — for posting the link to a mainstream news story that had been shared by 1,400 other users of the social media site.
“I’d been banned twice before merely for reporting marijuana prices, which has been my job now since 2009,” said Elliott, who has done cannabis reporting for the SF Weekly, Seattle Weekly, Northwest Leaf, Hemp News, Toke Signals, Toke of the Town, and DOPE Magazine.
“I thought I’d discovered where the ‘bright line’ was, because the first two times, actual prices were in my Facebook post,” Elliott said. “But that doesn’t apply this time, because all I posted was a link to the mainstream news story, noting that I’d gotten banned from Facebook for reporting the same thing in the past.”
The journalist expressed hope that Facebook might someday use actual human judgment on banning decisions, rather than the mindless algorithm they apparently use at present.
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