Releaf Magazine
15Jun/160

Wanna work with weed? Here’s insider info on pot jobs

Insiders share their stories from the 'fastest-growing industry in America'; marijuana isn’t included in mainstream jobs reports, but another report says pot outsold Girl Scout cookies in 2015

By Brooke Edwards Staggs, The Orange County Register
workers

Some have messy buns and sleeve tattoos. Some have salon cuts and $2,000 suits.

Some are joining blue-collar unions, getting health benefits as they grow and sell a plant they’ve long loved. Some say they never touch it, but they’re standing guard outside shops and fiercely lobbying legislators in Sacramento to ensure that others can.

As public support and legalization of cannabis spreads, those who’ve quietly worked in California’s medical marijuana industry are slowly emerging from the shadows. And professionals who never would have considered joining the industry a couple of years ago are leaving behind traditional careers in law, real estate and finance as they flock to what they see as the next big boom.

“The fastest-growing industry in America is marijuana, period,” said Jake Bhattacharya, who recently quit his information technology job to open a cannabis testing lab in Upland.

With medical marijuana legal in 25 states and recreational use allowed in four, pot outsold Girl Scout Cookies in 2015, according to a report from Marijuana Business Daily, a 5-year-old news website covering the industry.

Pot retail sales are expected to hit $4 billion this year, and Marijuana Business Daily is projecting that number could nearly triple by 2020.

The actual size of the industry may already be much larger, too, since California hasn’t tracked its massive medical marijuana market in the 20 years since it’s been legal. And it could skyrocket if voters here and a handful of other states approve recreational use Nov. 8.

The lack of reliable data coupled with the “niche” aspect of the industry is why cannabis — and the connected marijuana jobs — isn’t included in mainstream economic and jobs reports, according to Christopher Thornberg, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at UC Riverside.

“It’s still too fly-by-night,” Thornberg said.

California’s Employment Development Department doesn’t track the diverse daisy chain of cannabis jobs either. And several recruitment firms said they don’t deal with the industry.

Job seekers and employers instead turn to Craigslist or specialized sites. There’s a recent post on WeedHire.com for a $75,000-a-year account manager at GFarmaLabs, which makes marijuana products in Anaheim, and one on 420careers.com for growers and trimmers at Buds & Roses dispensary in Los Angeles.

Working in the industry isn’t without complications.

It remains illegal at the federal level, which limits access to financial services and causes lingering concerns over raids by federal authorities.

California’s market is also emerging from two decades of nearly nonexistent regulation and intense battles with local governments who were less than welcoming to “potrepreneurs.” That legacy means newly licensed shops often still rely on growers and manufacturers in the gray market, and they struggle to survive alongside unlicensed operators who aren’t paying the same hefty taxes.

Then there’s the glaring disapproval that comes from shrinking (per the polls) but vocal pockets of the public. Fear of backlash from conservative family members or future business associates kept a number of cannabis workers from speaking on the record for this story.

“Let’s face it, of course there is a stigma,” said Juliet Murphy, a career coach who runs Juliet Murphy Career Development in Tustin.

Murphy expects that it would raise eyebrows for more traditional employers to see a weed industry job on someone’s résumé. However, Murphy sees it as less of an issue going forward as the industry becomes more mainstream and as millennials continue to transform the workforce.

“There are still a lot of kinks that are being worked out. But I think this presents an opportunity for a lot of jobs, provided that people do it right,” Murphy said. “I think in the next 5 to 10 years, it’s going to be huge.”

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13Jun/160

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

While marijuana laws have become lax in recent years, a "Marijuana DUI" can still get you in a lot of trouble.

criminaldefenselawyer.com by Monica Steiner, Contributing Author

ftp2

The often tragic consequences and harsh legal penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are well publicized. What many people don’t realize is that it is also illegal and punishable in all 50 states to drive under the influence of marijuana (or a combination of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs).

Laws defining what it means to be “under the influence” of marijuana vary by state, as do applicable punishments.

Any amount = under the influence. In some states, any amount of marijuana in the driver’s system will conclusively establish that the driver was under the influence.
Above the threshold = under the influence. In other states a driver who is above a certain blood or urine concentration level will be considered under the influence.
The defendant’s behavior or actions= under the influence. A minority of states require the prosecutor to prove that the driver was under the influence, by pointing to his behavior or driving, regardless of the amount of marijuana in the driver’s system.

States also differ in their definitions of "driving." For example, in many states, a DUI charge can result from merely sitting in a stationary car while under the influence. Whether this definition of “driving” applies to you depends on the law of the state where you live, and is discussed further below.
What it Means to be "Under the Influence"

In most states, being “under the influence” means that the driver is incapable of driving safely due to the effects of drug or alcohol use.

As you are probably aware, when it comes to alcohol, a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent of the driver's blood, by volume, will conclusively establish that the driver is under the influence (if the level is less, the prosecutor can still point to the driver's actions to prove that he was under the influence). In some states, the blood alcohol level threshold is even lower if the driver is a minor.

When marijuana is involved, however, states have different approaches to establishing that the driver was under the influence, as shown below.
Per se laws

In states with so-called “per se” DUI laws, any amount of marijuana in the driver’s system at the time of the offense will conclusively establish impairment. In these states, a prosecutor will not need to present any further evidence (such as behavior consistent with being under the influence or unsafe driving) in order to establish that the driver was under the influence.

State per se laws often include marijuana metabolites—compounds left over when the body metabolizes (or processes) marijuana—which can remain in a person’s body for days, weeks, or longer after marijuana use. While metabolites indicate that the person ingested marijuana at some point in the past, they do not indicate how long ago, or necessarily point to current impairment. Even so, state per se laws that include metabolites accept their presence as conclusive evidence of impairment for the purposes of a DUI charge.
Blood or urine marijuana concentration levels

As they do with blood alcohol thresholds, some states consider a level of marijuana (or marijuana metabolites) in the driver’s blood or urine—usually in nanograms/ liter—as conclusive proof of impairment. As with per se laws, the prosecutor will not need to prove that the driver’s senses were impaired—no need for field sobriety test results, or testimony about the driver’s speech, balance, or poor driving.

In these states, having a concentration level that’s lower than the threshold does not necessarily mean that the driver was not under the influence, however. The prosecutor may still point to the driver’s actions and behavior (such as his driving) to show that the driver was under the influence.
The driver’s behavior or driving

In the minority of states, the prosecutor must always establish that the driver was behaving in a way that showed that he was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the arrest—regardless of (even relatively high) marijuana blood or urine concentration levels. Prosecutors can do this by showing that the driver had impaired balance or speech, or that he was driving erratically—even that he smelled of marijuana.

People are sometimes surprised to learn that the prosecution need not show actual unsafe driving to prove that the driver was under the influence. Merely being under the influence and driving will suffice. For example, suppose you are involved in an accident that you did not cause—your driving was just fine. But the police officer who comes to the accident scene smells marijuana in your car, observes your reddened eyes and tell-tale behavior, and sees half-smoked joints in the ash tray. This may be enough evidence to charge you with driving while under the influence, even though your driving was not unsafe.
Driving as a Medical Marijuana Patient

Eighteen states have made it legal to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, as long as the patient follows the law with respect to amounts, registration, and so on. But no state has gone so far as to say it’s okay to drive after using medical marijuana, even when the patient has scrupulously followed the rules. This can be especially problematic for medical marijuana patients in states that employ per se laws, because as explained, metabolites may remain in the body for some time after use, arguably with no effect on the person's driving.

Medical marijuana patients should know how their state approaches the issue of being “under the influence,” as explained above. For more information on this topic, see Medical Marijuana and Driving.
What Constitutes "Driving"?

Most state DUI statutes consider someone to be a driver within the meaning of the DUI law when he is “in actual physical control” of the vehicle at the time of arrest. This definition is broader than our common idea of “driving” or “operating” a vehicle. The policy goal behind this broad-reaching definition is to keep people from doing a wide range of vehicle-related activities while under the influence, thus increasing safety for other motorists, pedestrians, and property along roadways.

Because of this expansive definition, most state statutes do not limit DUI charges to people who are operating moving vehicles. Being “in actual physical control” of the vehicle can include being in control of a parked car, if the judge believes that the defendant intended to begin driving, or even that the defendant had already driven the vehicle before being found by the arresting officer.

If a DUI can include more than simply driving, what constitutes “actual physical control” of a vehicle? Judges tend to consider a combination of factors, including whether:

the vehicle was on or off
the vehicle was moving or stationary
the vehicle was operable
the keys were in or out of the ignition (and whether the defendant even had access to the keys)
the driver was awake or asleep (was the defendant perhaps “sleeping it off” in a parked vehicle?)
there was any gas in the tank
the vehicle’s gears were engaged, and
the defendant was in the driver’s seat.

Whether you were in “actual physical control” comes down to the judge’s consideration of the specific facts surrounding your case.
Marijuana DUI Penalties

The most common punishments for DUI offenses are a fine, jail (or prison) time, or both. Many states will also impose some length of license suspension or require the use of an ignition interlock device, so that the defendant’s vehicle will not start without a clean breathalyzer sample. Specific penalties for DUI convictions vary by state, though all states impose some combination of the following to punish DUI convictions:

fines
jail (or prison) time
community service
probation
victim impact program participation
home confinement (also known as house arrest)
ignition interlock device use
license suspension
vehicle impoundment or forfeiture, and
drug and alcohol abuse programs.

Within each state, the severity of the applicable penalties in each case usually depends on whether the offense was a first or subsequent violation, and aggravating factors may increase applicable penalties (see below).
Aggravating factors

The following circumstances will increase the penalties that would normally apply to a DUI conviction. These include (but are not limited to):

second and subsequent offenses
a minor in the vehicle at time of offense (sometimes referred to as “child endangerment”)
a minor as the defendant
DUI while driving on a suspended license
DUI while driving a school bus
causing a traffic accident, property damage, bodily injury, or death, and
driving with particularly elevated alcohol or drug content levels

Sentence ranges and mandatory minimum sentences

Although many state statutes list maximum fines, jail time, and license suspension periods, unless the law requires minimum fines, jail time, and suspension, the judge usually has discretion to sentence for periods up to the various maximums. This means that a defendant can theoretically end up with no, or very low, jail time and penalties.

Defendants who have prior DUI convictions probably can’t count on a mild sentence due to the absence of a mandatory minimum sentence in the statute, however. In all states, penalties increase for second and subsequent offenses, and in most states, that means mandatory minimum penalties for these subsequent violations. However, often there’s a “wash out” provision—a rule that effectively makes a prior DUI of a certain age go away for purposes of enhancing subsequent sentences. For example, a mandatory minimum may apply to a current conviction only if the prior conviction was incurred less than five, seven, or ten years ago. When a prior has washed out, the subsequent offense is treated as a first offense for punishment purposes.

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13Jun/160

use your nose for anything else…..

Should the Odor of Cannabis Constitute Probable Cause in Florida?
by The Law Office of John Guidry II

ftp

Oh the times, they are a changin’

Every time I walk into the Orange County Courthouse, I see some guy asking me to sign a petition to “put medical marijuana on Florida’s Ballot”. Somehow, whenever I’m dressed in my work uniform (suit, tie, and briefcase, don’t forget the briefcase), the petition signing hawks leave me alone. It may be that too many “suits” turn out to be jerks, so they just don’t bother. I understand that, and agree. But, if I had the time, I would chat up the “medical marijuana sign holder” and tell him that medical marijuana is perfectly legal in the State of Florida. It has been for almost a year now.

Most people don’t realize this. Medical marijuana is legal in Florida. I’ll keep saying it until everyone takes down the signs asking that we make it legal. It’s legal. Governor Rick Scott signed the law back in 2014, and it took effect on January 1, 2015. The law is found in Florida Statute 381.986, entitled “Compassionate use of low-THC cannabis”.

Now, the question for today may sound like another episode of Inside Baseball, and for that, I’m slightly sorry. It is the effect this law has on probable cause that should concern we citizens. Law enforcement may not search your person, home, or vehicle without a warrant so long as they have “probable cause”. Nine times out of ten, probable cause involves some officer telling his buddy “You smell weed? Yea, I smell weed too, let’s search this place”. Five times out of ten, this odor is detected after a citizen denies the officer permission to search. Up until January 1, 2015, probable cause based upon the smell of weed made a bit of sense, as marijuana was illegal in any form up until that point.

For years now, we defense attorneys have tolerated fabricated odor of cannabis searches that never reveal cannabis. It sounds funny, but some officers have searched a vehicle based upon the odor of cannabis–only to find no marijuana. Shocking, I know. The only drugs found on these “odor of cannabis searches” were cocaine or heroin or oxycodone—none of which smell like weed. Not surprisingly, most prosecutors buy into this odor of cannabis excuse. Even judges buy into it, reasoning that, “well, I guess the defendant had recently smoked weed, that’s probably what the officer smelled, so I’m going to find probable cause for the search based upon the officer’s detection of the odor of cannabis”. Sure, there are several logical objections to such reasoning, if you can find a judge interested in logic (there are plenty). For example, the odor of burnt cannabis is only evidence of a completed crime (the weed is now consumed by fire, duh), so the odor is not evidence that someone is currently committing the crime of possession of cannabis. Furthermore, in cases where a search is conducted based upon the odor—but no weed is recovered–the officer’s nose obviously isn’t accurate enough to detect the presence of cannabis. So, what business does the court have relying on such an inaccurate nose to find probable cause? We have K9’s who, we all can agree, are far better at detecting the scent of drugs than humans—yet several courts have suppressed evidence when it can be shown that the particular K9 utilized is not accurate enough to form probable cause (yes, the police must keep records of their K9’s “accuracy”, a story for another day). Why should a human be treated any different than a K9?

Well, I’m a little bit off track, as usual. We’re talking about searches. We’re talking about the government’s right to obtain a search warrant of your underwear drawer because they smell cannabis outside your home. We’re talking about a speeding ticket that turns into a 4 hour ordeal in which the panels of your dashboard have been broken loose because some cop smelled weed when you rolled down your window (should have rolled down those windows the minute you saw the flashing lights, I’m just saying).

Prior to January 1, 2015, Florida courts have routinely held that the smell of cannabis indicates criminal activity. As we said before, any form of cannabis was illegal. But now, the possession of cannabis is no longer illegal. Now, cannabis possession is legal if possessed under Florida Statute 381.986. Now, the odor of this legal substance should no longer constitute probable cause to search anything.

How Florida’s cannabis statute will impact the determination of probable cause remains to be seen, but several states have had medical marijuana for a while now, so we can gain some wisdom from their decisions. For example, in Arizona, their appellate court addressed “the effect of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) on determinations of probable cause. That Act renders possession, cultivation, and use of marijuana lawful under some circumstances. Accordingly, those circumstances—not the mere possession itself—now determine whether such activity is criminal or permitted under state law. For this reason, and for the reasons state below, we hold that the scent of marijuana, standing alone, is insufficient evidence of criminal activity to supply probable cause for a search warrant.” State v. Sisco, 359 P.3d 1 (2015).

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6May/160

WERE ALMOST HALFWAY THERE!!!

philly

Medical marijuana legalized in Pa.

By Julia Terruso, Staff Writer philly.com
HARRISBURG - Hundreds of cheering families, legislators and patients watched Gov. Wolf sign a medical marijuana bill into law Sunday afternoon, many hopeful at last for relief from debilitating pain, seizures and other medical conditions.

Allie Delp watched from her mother's lap, purple sunglasses strapped around her wide blue eyes to protect them from the light. Large crowds are tough for Allie. The 4-year-old suffers from Dravet syndrome, a severe seizure disorder, and most days she stays in the dimly lit, cool comforts of her home to avoid triggers. Today was too important not to make the drive from Ford City, said Allie's mother, Amanda Delp.

"It feels like a dream. It really does," Delp said. "If you would have asked me four years ago if I would be advocating for medical marijuana, I would have told you it's just people wanting to get high. It took my daughter for me to open my eyes and realize it can save people."

A row away from Allie, Robert Billhime Jr., 45, sat with his girlfriend and 6-week-old napping son, Aspen. Multiple back surgeries left Billhime addicted to painkillers three years ago. He lost his job, his home. Addiction nearly cost him his life, he said. "If it wasn't for the cannabis I wouldn't be here. I won't go back. I won't be an addict," he said wiping a tear from his eye and looking down at his son.

Billhime called the day a huge step in the right direction but said discrimination and misunderstanding persist. "It's still not going to change the bigotry already in the legal system. If you're a cannabis user, legal or not, you're prejudged simply because you refuse to be an addict."

Billhime said he almost lost custody of his children because the family court judge ordered he take a drug test while he was using cannabis for back pain. He had supervised visitations for six months.

In the packed rotunda Sunday there were hundreds of stories like these. People trying to make it through their pain, determined, loving parents doing whatever they could - and then some for their kids. Wearing green for cannabis - and purple, for epilepsy awareness - they erupted in cheers as Wolf signed the bill into law.

Wolf thanked the advocates, particularly the mothers who brought their kids to rally at the Capitol to give a face to the people the legalization would benefit.

"When you have people who represent a cause as eloquently and in as heartfelt a way as the advocates for this has done, it shows we can get something done that means something," Wolf said. "We're not responding to a special interest here; we're not responding to someone who makes campaign contributions - we're responding to people who are telling us there is a real human need here in Pennsylvania."

There was much congratulating among legislators for bipartisan work on the bill.

"We won!" Sen. Mike Folmer (R., Lebanon), who rallied Republicans, said to a roar as he took the podium. "This is your day!"

Democratic Sen. Daylin Leach, who represents parts of Delaware and Montgomery Counties, recalled introducing a medical marijuana bill in 2010 and failing to find a single cosigner. "The pain of illness touches us all eventually and so we all united to defeat [pain] . . . We worked together, we studied, we begged, we cajoled and we argued - and we convinced our fellow legislators to join us."

The law allows people suffering from 17 specified conditions - including cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and seizures - to access medical marijuana in pill, oil, or ointment form at dispensaries statewide.

The Department of Health is expected to oversee what will become a new industry in Pennsylvania, with dozens of dispensaries, hundreds of workers and potentially thousands of patients. Patients would use identification cards, after receiving a doctor's prescription, to access marijuana from one of 150 dispensaries statewide. All dispensaries would be licensed by the state and face intense regulation.

Getting the system up and running could take more than 18 months before a patient can actually access medical marijuana. A provision in the bill allows families with children under 18 to obtain medical marijuana from other states where it is legal without fear of prosecution.

Temporary regulations are also expected to be written to permit adults access if they can demonstrate they suffer from one of the 17 conditions listed in the legislation.

Delp hopes to use that provision to get Allie cannabis oil in the near future. Her daughter has as many as 80 seizures a month, she said. One in five children with Dravet doesn't live to adulthood, Delp said. Many are mentally challenged and require care the rest of their lives.

"Cannabis not only gives us hope to help control the seizures, but there are children in legal states where it's been shown to help their cognition," Delp said. "Maybe she'll be able to catch up, lead a normal life."

Allie is an active tomboy (she did barefoot laps around the rotunda before the bill-signing got under way). She doesn't know to avoid triggers for the seizures that threaten her life.

"She loves riding her four-wheeler, chasing her sisters around, just being a kid," Delp said. "This - it won't solve everything - but it gives us hope, and we need hope."

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7Sep/150

Poll: 61 Percent Of Americans Want Marijuana Legalization, Smashing Previous Records

Section Grower Morgan Blenk inspects a marijuana plant clone before planting it at Tweed Marijuana Inc in Smith's Falls, Ontario. REUTERS/Blair Gable

A new poll has found that 61 percent of American voters agree with legalizing recreational marijuana, shattering previous records. The poll was released by the Benenson Strategy Group (BSG), while the old record of 58 percent supporting was done by Gallup in 2013.

Republicans still haven’t crossed the halfway point. According to the BSG survey, 48 percent agree with legalization, while 52 percent still oppose. A slightly wider gap exists for conservatives, with 45 percent supporting legalization and 55 percent opposing.

A total of 72 percent of voters think that jail time for marijuana possession doesn’t make sense. Instead, these voters believe that the punishment should be reduced down to as low as $25 dollars and as high as $100 dollars. Although Republicans are traditionally opposed to marijuana legalization, this is a measure they’re friendlier towards, as 68 percent agree with the proposal. Of conservatives, 63 percent agree with reduced penalties.

BSG relied on a sample size of 1,032 registered voters to create a nationally representative survey. The survey was conducted from Feb. 26 to 27. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 points, meaning that results could actually be as high as 64.5 or 57.5. The latter, 57.5, is is 0.5 lower than that previous peak results recorded by the Gallup poll in 2013.

Republican voters have previously been blamed for legalization failing to pass in Florida. Amendment 2 needed 60 percent of the vote to pass, and exit polling established that Republicans and conservatives stopped the measure in its tracks.

In Florida, exactly 60 percent of Republicans opposed legalization, and 63 percent of conservatives also opposed the measure. Voters over the age of 65 also opposed Amendment 2, with 62 percent voting “no,” and only 38 percent voting in support.

In early March, the General Social Survey, an authoritative study of public opinion, determined that 52 percent of American support marijuana legalization– up 9 points since 2012. (RELATED: Survey: Majority Of Americans Support Legal Marijuana)

The General Social Survey confirmed previously results from a Pew survey in October 2014, which found essentially the same rate of support, at 52 percent.

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VIA The DC

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2Sep/150

11 States Most Likely to Legalize Marijuana Next

With a majority of Americans in favor of marijuana legalization, it seems to be only time before the herb is legal in every state. Currently only four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) and D.C. have legalized recreational pot for adults—but according to financial blog 24/7 Wall St., 11 more states might not be far behind.

The blog's predictions are based on two criteria: states where medical marijuana is legal and states where possession of small amounts of weed is not punishable by jail.

Other considerations included the number of marijuana-related arrests per 100,000 residents, the estimated proportion of residents who used marijuana in the past year and public opinion polls.

According to USA Today, most of the states on the list also have a high number of marijuana users, with nine surpassing the nationwide rate.

See the list below:

1. Massachusetts

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $100
Marijuana Related Arrests in 2012: 2,596
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 39
Minimum Penalty Classification : Civil Offense

2. Nevada

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $600
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 8,524
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 309
Minimum Penalty Classification: Misdemeanor

3. California

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $100
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 21,256
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 56
Minimum Penalty Classification: Infraction

4. New York

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $100
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 112,974
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 577
Minimum Penalty Classification: Not Classified

5. Vermont

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $200
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 926
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 148
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Violation

6. Minnesota

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $200
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 12,051
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 224
Minimum Penalty Classification: Misdemeanor

7. Connecticut

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $150
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 3,747
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 104
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Penalty

8. Maryland

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $100
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 22,042
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 375
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Offense

9. Rhode Island

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $150
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 2,320
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 221
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Violation

10. Maine

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $600
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 3,202
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 241
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Violation

11. Delaware

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $575
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 2,912
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 318
Minimum Penalty Classification: Misdemeanor

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VIA High Times

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8Jun/150

Texas House Panel Approves Full Legalization Of Marijuana In ‘Unprecedented’ Move

(Photo credit: PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP/Getty Images)

by Benjamin Fearnow

Austin, Texas (CBS HOUSTON) — A proposal which would make Texas the fifth state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use was approved in a bipartisan House panel vote – with the bill’s author citing his Christian values as cause for his support.

Being hailed as a historic victory and a surprise to Lone Star state lawmakers, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would make it legal to buy and sell marijuana in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. The panel’s three Democrats were joined by two Republicans to give House Bill 2165 a “decisive 5-2 victory.”
The panel’s move in support of recreational marijuana legalization comes two days after their 4-2 vote in favor of a bill to decriminalize marijuana – the first such proposal to make it out of a Texas legislative committee.

And although the bill is not expected to survive the full path to becoming a law in this legislative session, Texas anti-drug law advocates are labeling the move as historic.

“Marijuana policy reform continues to make unprecedented progress this session,” Phillip Martin of the liberal group Progress Texas tweeted after the vote.

Authored by Republican David Simpson of Longview, House Bill 2165 is listed as “an Act relating to repealing marihuana offenses.” The bill seeks to have those convicted of a first-time “state jail felony” to have their sentence suspended and instead be placed “on community supervision,” along with providing probationary protections to students and minors. The bill passed its final vote after tweaking language to ensure it would remain illegal for minors to consume marijuana without parental supervision.

The deeply conservative, Tea Party-backed Simpson explained in an op-ed last month that his belief in God, distrust of government and criticism of the “War on Drugs” led him to sponsor the marijuana legalization bill.

“As a Christian, I recognize the innate goodness of everything God made and humanity’s charge to be stewards of the same,” wrote Simpson. “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.”

Simpson was joined by fellow Republican Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi in support of House Bill 2165. Committee chairman Abel Herrero of Robstown was joined by fellow Democratic lawmakers Joe Moody of El Paso and Terry Canales of Edinburg in favor of marijuana legalization.

Republicans Matt Shaheen and Jeff Leach, both of Plano, voted no on the bill.

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VIA CBS Houston

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17May/150

Advocates rally for medical marijuana legalization in Lancaster

By Debbie Truong

LANCASTER — Dozens of people gathered in Penn Square Saturday afternoon, donning shirts, pins and necklaces, and toting signs indicating their support for the legalization of medical marijuana and industrial hemp.

They were part of the Lancaster Hemp Freedom Rally, the kick-off to a statewide tour that will also include stops in Reading, York and Harrisburg, among others.

Saturday's rally, organized by the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, took place four days after medical marijuana legalization passed the state Senate by a 40-7 vote. The bill is now being considered by the House Health Committee headed by Matt Baker, R-Tioga County, who said he has no plans to take up any medical marijuana bill, the Associated Press reported.

Les Stark, executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, said the rally in Lancaster was important for demonstrating public support at the end of a pivotal week in the push to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Dozens Gather For Lancaster Hemp Freedom Rally
Luke Shultz, 53, said he's been dogged with chronic lower back pain for much of his adult life. Shultz said he'd prefer to use medical cannabis rather than opiates and other pain medications for relief.
"We want to push Matt Baker and the health committee and the rest of the House of Representatives to push through Senate Bill 3," he said.

Ultimately, Stark said the organization would like to see a legal, taxed and regulated cannabis industry in Pennsylvania that mirrors those in Colorado and Washington.

Mary Lynn Sergent, of Shrewsbury, said she has a family history of arthritis and had a hip replacement last year. She's allergic to opiates, so medical marijuana would be a key alternative to helping provide relief.

"I will be in the population that will benefit and desperately need medical marijuna to relieve pain as I age," Sergent said. "Things like oxycontin aren't going to work for me."

Deb Guy, executive director of the Lancaster subchapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was in her twenties when she said she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and degenerative joint disease.

She tried a host of pharmaceutical drugs, sometimes up to 40 painkillers a day of "anything mixed from oxy to morphine to Vicodin" but nothing helped.

She gained weight, topping out at 230 pounds. She wasn't healthy and faced "some pretty bad health scares." She said she stopped using the pharmaceutical drugs and started using cannabis.

"It changed my life. I am now much healthier, much thinner," she said. "And, I'm functional. I don't have an issue with getting out of my bed every morning."

Bills have also been introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate to create a pilot program to research the cultivation of industrial hemp. The federal farm bill passed in 2014 allowed states to create programs for cultivating industrial hemp, which was banned for decades because of its association with marijuana.

Industrial hemp can be used for textiles, food and fuel, among other things.

"It's an excellent opportunity for our farmers, for our economy, for creating jobs in manufacturing," Stark said.

By early Saturday afternoon, a few advocates stood at the edge of Penn Square, waving signs as traffic streamed through the thoroughfare. Some drivers honked and signaled their support with cheers or a thumbs up.

Under a nearby gazebo, a musician crooned the lyrics to Tom Petty's You Don't Know How it Feels.

I'll take you on a moonlight ride /

There's someone I used to see /

But she don't give a damn for me /

But let me get to the point, let's roll another joint ...

- VIA PennLive

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7May/150

Texas House panel approves full legalization of marijuana

As Texas debates the decriminalization of marijuana, keep clicking to see states that have legalized pot.

 

AUSTIN — In a surprise move that supporters hailed as a historic victory, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved legislation Wednesdaythat would make it legal to buy and sell marijuana in the state.

Two Republicans joined with the panel's three Democrats in support, giving House Bill 2165 a decisive 5-2 victory.

The proposal, which would make Texas the fifth state in America to OK pot for recreational purposes, has virtually no chance of clearing any other hurdles on the path to becoming law in this year's legislative session.

Still, advocates described the committee vote as a big step toward future success.

"Marijuana policy reform continues to make unprecedented progress this session," Phillip Martin of the liberal group Progress Texas tweeted just after the vote.

The move came just two days after the same panel voted 4-2 in favor of a bill to decriminalize marijuana, marking the first time such a proposal had made it out of a Texas legislative committee.

House Bill 2165, while more of a dramatic change, did even better Wednesday, drawing support from Republicans David Simpson of Longview and Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi. Committee chairman Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, vice chair Joe Moody, D-El Paso and member Terry Canales, D-Edinburg also voted in support.

Herrero said he had some reservations with the bill but would support it in the hopes it could be improved.

Simpson, a deeply conservative member supported by the tea party, sponsored the bill. In an opinion piece published last month, he explained that, "I don't believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix."

Plano Republicans Matt Shaheen and Jeff Leach voted no.

The final vote came after the committee tweaked the bill to make clear that marijuana would still be illegal to consume for minors, except with parental supervision.

It will next go to the committee that controls the state House floor calendar.

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VIA My My Sanantonio

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20Apr/150

Americans’ Support For Marijuana Legalization Reaches All-Time High In CBS Poll

A majority of Americans support the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to a new poll from CBS News -- and it's the highest percentage in support since the news organization began asking the question in 1979.

Just in time for 4/20, the annual marijuana holiday, CBS News released a poll showing 53 percent of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization.

Although that's the highest amount of support for marijuana legalization CBS has ever polled, it isn't the highest level of support ever found. And because survey methods can vary, it's useful to look at a number of national polls to get a fuller picture of the issue.

CBS's poll echoes trends similar to those multiple recent surveys have found.

Just last week, Pew Research Center found the identical amount of support as CBS. In 2013, Gallup found 58 percent of Americans supported legalizing marijuana -- a 10-point surge from the year prior -- but in 2014, the organization found a sharp drop in that support, to 51 percent. A report released last month by the Democratic-affiliated Benenson Strategy Group and SKDKnickerbocker found 61 percent of Americans in favor of legalization -- some of the highest support for marijuana legalization to date. Earlier this year, General Social Survey, widely regarded as the most authoritative source when it comes to researching public opinion, found 52 percent of Americans in support of legalization.

Support for legalization is highest among younger, more left-leaning Americans, according to CBS, and while a majority of men favor legalization, women remain split on the issue.

By a large margin, Americans also believe that marijuana is safer than alcohol -- 51 percent of those surveyed said alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, while only 12 percent believe marijuana is the more high-risk drug. Americans' attitudes on the dangers of marijuana, exaggerated during the "Reefer Madness" era of drug policy, have largely declined in recent decades. A survey released last month by NBC News/The Wall Street Journal found that Americans believe that even sugar is more harmful than cannabis.

While not harmless, marijuana is dramatically less dangerous than other recreational drugs and may be, in fact, the least dangerous among the most commonly used recreational drugs, according to a study published this year in Scientific Reports.

To date, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and four states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational use. Still, the federal government continues to ban the plant, classifying it as one of the "most dangerous"drugs alongside heroin and LSD.

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VIA Huffington Post

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