Ten of 13 members of the D.C. Council and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) have endorsed a plan to make small-time marijuana possession a civil rather than a criminal offense. That means recreational cannabis users wouldn’t face arrest, charges or jail time — any of which can destroy their lives — as long as they aren’t caught with more than an ounce of the drug. Instead, they would have to pay a fine, perhaps as low as $25. (The mayor also wants criminal penalties to remain for anyone caught using it in public.)
Much of the debate over the idea has focused on an American Civil Liberties Union report that suggests that the District and many other jurisdictions enforce their anti-marijuana laws unfairly, disproportionately arresting African American suspects. On these pages, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier pushed back, insisting that factors such as a geographic concentration of tips about marijuana users, not biased policing, are responsible for the city’s arres. . . . . READ MORE
Bowing to changing times and admittedly limited prosecutorial resources, the Justice Department announced last week that it would not seek to block state laws legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use. The declaration represented a major reversal from the department’s previous position that marijuana is a dangerous drug that the government is obligated to go after under federal law regardless of what state legislatures do. The policy shift unveiled Thursday inevitably will change the conversation about marijuana use in America, and it’s likely to have important legal and social consequences as well going forward, not all of them predictable. But it was nevertheless the right decision.
Eighteen states, including Maryland, and the District of Columbia now have laws decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot for medicinal purposes.
Two more, Colorado and Washington, recently legalized the drug for recreational use as well. Despite the fact that federal law has not changed, the Justice Department clearly saw the handwriting on the wall. Henceforth, marijua. . . . . READ MORE
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, meeting in Winnipeg this week, wants officers to have the ability to ticket people found with 30 grams of marijuana or less.
Kentville, N.S., police Chief Mark Mander, chair of the association’s drug-abuse committee, said Tuesday officers currently have only two choices: turn a blind eye or lay down the law.
Mander said officers could “either to caution the offender or lay formal charges resulting in [a] lengthy, difficult process, which results in a criminal charge if proven, a criminal conviction, and a criminal record.”
Mander said ticketing the offender would be far less onerous and expensive.
However, federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay said there are no plans in the works to legalize or decriminalize marijuana. Though McKay had no follow up on the chiefs’ recommendation, he said he appreciates their input.
“We don’t support legalization or decriminalization,” Mander said.
“Clearly there are circumstances where a formal charge for simple pos. . . . . READ MORE
Marijuana advocates in the District have a few friends on the D.C. Council. D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) unveiled a bill Wednesday morning that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to WUSA9.
Under the bill, anyone caught with less than one ounce of marijuana would face a civil penalty of a $100 fine. Under current law, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense; first-time offenders face up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
At a press conference, Wells said that the purpose of decriminalization is to save youths caught with marijuana from losing employment opportunities in the future.
“Once you have a marijuana charge on your record, you cannot participate in certainly the construction boom that is happening all over the city, and it works to stigmatize people … and it disadvantages them from jobs,” Wells said, according to The Washington Post.
A report by the American Civil Liberties Union in June found that D.C. leads the nation in marijuana possession arrests per capita, with a rate more than three times higher than the national average. The ACLU also found that nationally . . . . . READ MORE
Black Americans were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, even though the two groups used the drug at similar rates, according to new federal data.
This disparity had grown steadily from a decade before, and in some states, including Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, blacks were around eight times as likely to be arrested. During the same period, public attitudes toward marijuana softened and a number of states decriminalized its use. But about half of all drug arrests in 2011 were on marijuana-related charges, roughly the same portion as in 2010.
Advocates for the legalization of marijuana have criticized the Obama administration for having vocally opposed state legalization efforts and for taking a more aggressive approach than the Bush administration in closing medical marijuana dispensaries and prosecuting their owners in some states, especially Montana and California.
The new data, however, offers a more nuanced picture of marijuana enforcement on the state level. Drawn from police records from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the report is the most comprehensi. . . . . READ MORE
A comprehensive report on drug policy in the Americas released Friday by a consortium of nations suggests that the legalization of marijuana, but not other illicit drugs, be considered among a range of ideas to reassess how the drug war is carried out.
The report, released by the Organization of American States walked a careful line in not recommending any single approach to the drug problem and encouraging “flexibility.”
Prompted by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia at the Summit of the Americas last year to answer growing dissatisfaction and calls for new strategies in the drug war, the report’s 400 pages mainly summarize and distill previous research and debate on the subject.
But the fact that it gave weight to exploring legalizing or de-penalizing marijuana was seized on by advocates of more liberal drug use laws as a landmark and a potential catalyst for less restrictive laws in a number of countries.
“This takes the debate to a whole other level,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates more liberal drug use laws. “It effectively breaks the. . . . . READ MORE
Like many of her peers, Zoe Helene, 48, smoked marijuana in her early 20s but gave it up as her career in the digital world took off in the 1990s. Today the multidisciplinary artist and environmental activist lives in Amherst, Mass., and is building a global network of trailblazers called Cosmic Sister. Since she married an ethnobotanist in 2007, she has returned to using cannabis occasionally — “as a tool for evolving and expanding my psyche.”
Helene is among a group of women that Marie Claire magazine has dubbed “Stiletto Stoners — card-carrying, type-A workaholics who just happen to prefer kicking back with a blunt instead of a bottle.” She’s also one of a growing legion of boomers who are returning to marijuana now that the stigma and judgment (and laws) surrounding its use are becoming more lax.
Massachusetts, which decriminalized pot in 2008, became the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana, last year. In the 2012 presidential election, which New York Times columnist Timothy Egan called America’s “cannabis spring,” Colorado and Washington voters legalized recreational use, launching weed into the national spotlight and spawning. . . . . READ MORE
The move sets up the New England state to be the 17th in the United States to remove criminal penalties for having small amounts of pot. It does not go as far as Colorado and Washington, which in November became the first states to legalize possession, cultivation and use of marijuana by adults for recreational use.
Vermont’s House of Representatives on Monday gave final approval to a proposal to remove criminal penalties for adult possession of up to one ounce (28.3 grams) of marijuana and instead penalize with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket. Persons under age 21 caught with pot would be required to undergo substance abuse screening.
The House’s action upheld changes to the bill last week by Vermont’s Senate, including a provision that decriminalized possession of up to five grams of hashish, a potent pot derivative.<. . . . . READ MORE
Following ballot measures last November, producing and selling marijuana are now legal in both Colorado and Washington state. Several other U.S. states have decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, or allowed its medical usage. The latter is also the case in Canada.
The financial consequences of a complete and general legalization across the continent would certainly be huge.
Over the past couple of decades, billions of dollars have been spent fighting this unwinnable war, which has fuelled corruption, organized crime, and violence. Thousands of people are killed in drug fights every year in Mexico. In Canada and the U.S., it has justified growing government intrusion in commercial and private life, from the money-laundering bureaucracies to civil forfeiture laws.
Despite this, recreational use of drugs is as popular as ever.
The simple economic fact is that when there is a demand, a supply will be forthcoming — legally or illegally. We should therefore reconcile ourselves with what economists call “consumer sovereignty,” that is, let people consume what they want, and let’s prosecute only real crimes. . . . . READ MORE