Releaf Magazine

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


VIA High Times

Post to Twitter


Is New York Too Corrupt for Medical Marijuana?

New York’s recently signed medical marijuana law mandates that the state Department of Health decide who gets to grow and sell prescription cannabis, but a co-sponsor of the legislation warns there’s a “99 percent” chance the licensing process will be corrupt unless qualifying growers are selected at random.

Under the Compassionate Care Act, set to go into effect within 18 months, the DOH will approve five growers, which may open up to four dispensaries each. Assemblyman Steve Katz (R-Yorktown), who co-sponsored the legislation in the Assembly, tells Newsweek: “There is a 99 percent chance that the selection process for these five dispensaries will be corrupted if the process is not done as a lottery.”

Katz warned of the possibility for corruption on Thursday, where he spoke at The National Cannabis Industry Association and Ideal 420 Cultivation Soil’s ”first-ever educational luncheon” in New York City.

As marijuana-minded entrepreneurs feasted on hollandaise-drizzled New York Strip at a tony New American bistro in midtown, Katz spoke of the need for an impartial selection process. According to Katz, who had voted against medical marijuana in 2012 but started publicly supporting it after being arrested in March 2013 on possession charges, the “only way it can be done” is for qualifying applicants to receive “a little round ball w/ a number on be chosen on a given day by a very respected person in the state, who’s going to pick out five numbers and those are going to be the winners, period. No exceptions.”

In conversation with Newsweek and during his speech, Katz said a culture of corruption throughout state government strengthened his case for impartial selection. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he pointed out, is under federal investigation for shutting down the Moreland Commission, which is charged with investigating corruption.

“Corruption obviously comes from the top in this state,” Katz also said to Newsweek. The governor’s office did not reply to Newsweek’s request for comment. The Department of Health did not immediately comment.

Asked whether corruption could be a problem, New York State Senator and Senate bill sponsor Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) told Newsweek that “Apparently Steven thinks so,” but that “it wasn’t an issue that occurred to me, quite frankly.”

Savino said she is concerned that the legislation is too narrow in scope and that an industry comprised of five license holders -- and a maximum of 20 dispensaries -- is “completely insufficient for a state this size.”

“The governor likes to say all the time ‘New York is ready for business.’ The question is, is it really open for this business if you’re already a marijuana grower and you look at the restrictions that could be placed on the New York market -- do you want to invest here?”


Via Newsweek

Post to Twitter


New York State Is Set to Loosen Marijuana Laws

By  and 

ALBANY — Joining a growing group of states that have loosened restrictions on marijuana, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York plans this week to announce an executive action that would allow limited use of the drug by those with serious illnesses, state officials say.

The shift by Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who had long resisted legalizing medical marijuana, comes as other states are taking increasingly liberal positions on it — most notably Colorado, where thousands have flocked to buy the drug for recreational use since it became legal on Jan. 1.

Mr. Cuomo’s plan will be far more restrictive than the laws in Colorado or California, where medical marijuana is available to people with conditions as mild as backaches. It will allow just 20 hospitals across the state to prescribe marijuana to patients with cancer, glaucoma or other diseases that meet standards to be set by the New York State Department of Health.

While Mr. Cuomo’s measure falls well short of full legalization, it nonetheless moves New York, long one of the nation’s most punitive states for those caught using or dealing drugs, a significant step closer to policies being embraced by marijuana advocates and lawmakers elsewhere.

New York hopes to have the infrastructure in place this year to begin dispensing medical marijuana, although it is too soon to say when it will actually be available to patients.

Mr. Cuomo’s shift comes at an interesting political juncture. In neighboring New Jersey, led by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican whose presidential prospects are talked about even more often than Mr. Cuomo’s, medical marijuana was approved by his predecessor, Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, but was put into effect only after Mr. Christie set rules limiting its strength, banning home delivery, and requiring patients to show they have exhausted conventional treatments. The first of six planned dispensaries has already opened.

Meanwhile, New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, had quickly seemed to overshadow Mr. Cuomo as the state’s leading progressive politician.

For Mr. Cuomo, who has often found common ground with Republicans on fiscal issues, the sudden shift on marijuana — which he is expected to announce on Wednesday in his annual State of the State address — was the latest of several instances in which he has embarked on a major social policy effort sure to bolster his popularity with a large portion of his political base.

In 2011, he successfully championed the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. And a year ago, in the aftermath of the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Cuomo pushed through legislation giving New York some of the nation’s toughest gun-control laws, including a strict ban on assault weapons. He also has pushed, unsuccessfully so far, to strengthen abortion rights in state law.

The governor’s action also comes as advocates for changing drug laws have stepped up criticism of New York City’s stringent enforcement of marijuana laws, which resulted in nearly 450,000 misdemeanor charges from 2002 to 2012, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates more liberal drug laws.

During that period, medical marijuana became increasingly widespread outside New York, with some 20 states and the District of Columbia now allowing its use.

Mr. Cuomo voiced support for changing drug laws as recently as the 2013 legislative session, when he backed an initiative to decriminalize so-called open view possession of 15 grams or less. And though he said he remained opposed to medical marijuana, he indicated as late as April that he was keeping an open mind.

His shift, according to a person briefed on the governor’s views but not authorized to speak on the record, was rooted in his belief that the program he has drawn up can help those in need, while limiting the potential for abuse. Mr. Cuomo is also up for election this year, and polls have shown overwhelming support for medical marijuana in New York: 82 percent of New York voters approved of the idea in a survey by Siena College last May.

Still, Mr. Cuomo’s plan is sure to turn heads in Albany, the state’s capital. Medical marijuana bills have passed the State Assembly four times — most recently in 2013 — only to stall in the Senate, where a group of breakaway Democrats shares leadership with Republicans, who have traditionally been lukewarm on the issue.

Mr. Cuomo has decided to bypass the Legislature altogether.

In taking the matter into his own hands, the governor is relying on a provision in the public health law known as the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program. It allows for the use of controlled substances for “cancer patients, glaucoma patients, and patients afflicted with other diseases as such diseases are approved by the commissioner.

Mr. Olivieri was a New York City councilman and state assemblyman who died in 1980 at age 39. Suffering from a brain tumor, he used marijuana to overcome some of the discomfort of chemotherapy, and until his death lobbied for state legislation to legalize its medical use.

The provision, while unfamiliar to most people, had been hiding in plain sight since 1980.

But with Mr. Cuomo still publicly opposed to medical marijuana, state lawmakers had been pressing ahead with new legislation that would go beyond the Olivieri statute.

Richard N. Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat who leads the assembly’s health committee, has held two public hearings on medical marijuana in recent weeks, hoping to build support for a bill under which health care professionals licensed to prescribe controlled substances could certify patient need.

Mr. Gottfried said the state’s historical recalcitrance on marijuana was surprising.

“New York is progressive on a great many issues, but not everything,” he said.

Mr. Gottfried said he wanted a tightly regulated and licensed market, with eligible patients limited to those with “severe, life-threatening or debilitating conditions,” not the broader range of ailments — backaches and anxiety, for instance — that pass muster in places like California, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996.

“What we are looking at bears no resemblance to the California system,” Mr. Gottfried said.

While he was aware of the Olivieri statute, he believed it had not been implemented because it would have required “an elaborate administrative approval process,” which he said could be overly burdensome on patients.

Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, praised Mr. Cuomo’s decision as “a bold and innovative way of breaking the logjam” in Albany, though it may not be the final word on medical marijuana.

Mr. Cuomo “remains committed to developing the best medical marijuana law in the country,” Mr. Nadelmann said. “And that’s going to require legislative action.”

The administration has much work to do before its program is operational: For starters, it must select the participating hospitals, which officials said would be chosen to assure “regional diversity” and according to how extensively they treat patients with or research pertinent illnesses like cancer or glaucoma.

Another hurdle: State and federal laws prohibit growing marijuana, even for medical uses, though the Obama administration has tolerated it. So New York will have to find an alternative supply of cannabis. The likely sources could include the federal government or law enforcement agencies, officials said.



Post to Twitter


New York, Old Views

A Patient's Plea for Medical Marijuana in New York

Jamin Sewell

New-York-politicians-fire-up-marijuana-debateEarlier this month, the New York State Assembly passed medical marijuana for the fourth time. Although this is good news, many New Yorkers living with debilitating illnesses, like myself, have learned to not get our hopes up. Unlike the 18 other states and the District of Columbia that have medical marijuana programs, New York does not provide compassionate medical care to its residents. It is completely unfair to allow people to suffer unnecessarily when there is a natural treatment which could potentially ease their pain.

The bill currently pending in Albany is one of the strictest and most tightly regulated medical marijuana bills in the country. It would allow patients living with an illness which their health care provider believes medical marijuana to be beneficial to access 2.5 ounces to alleviate their symptoms.

Research has shown marijuana to have a palliative and therapeutic effect in treating the symptoms from illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, Cancer, and multiple sclerosis (MS). As someone living with MS, I have a special interest in health care practitioners being allowed to recommend medical marijuana here in New York.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 34 years old; some of my symptoms include tingling, numbness, neuropathic pain, and fatigue. I have tried many of the prescribed pharmaceutical treatments, but none of them have had much of an impact, especially on the neuropathic pain.

I learned from my neurologist that my immune system was attacking something called myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. The nerve fibers themselves are damaged. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a variety of symptoms.

As an attorney and leader in my community, I will not break the law. The risk of losing my license to practice law and the negative attention it would bring to my family is too much.

I want to continue serving my community as long as I am physically able to do so. I am convinced that using medical marijuana will enable me to continue to be productive and improve my quality of life.

New York should join the 18 states and the District of Columbia that believe health care is between a provider and patient, not the government. No one should face jail time for trying to cope with serious illness. With the passing of medical marijuana in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey, I urge New York to do what is right, support compassionate medical care for its residents and pass bill A. 6357(Gottfried)/S.4406 (Savino).

Jamin Sewell is an attorney who works for the Advance Group, a political consulting firm. He is admitted to practice law in New York and lives in the Bronx.

Post to Twitter