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Missouri Marijuana, Hemp Bills Filed

Members of the Missouri legislature have introduced three different marijuana law reform bills this month -- one to decriminalize possession; one to expunge misdemeanor offenses, including possession, from the record after five years; and one to legalize industrial hemp.

Rep. Rory Ellinger (D-University City) and two cosponsors introduced the decriminalization bill, House Bill 512, at a press conference earlier this month. The bill would make the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana or paraphernalia punishable only by a fine, but it would still be a criminal offense -- a misdemeanor -- instead of a civil infraction. The bill would also encourage judges to use "suspended imposition of sentence," under which the person is not convicted and, if he successfully completes a probationary period, there is no longer any public record of the matter.

Perhaps decriminalization is not quite the right word."Depenalization" would be more correct.

"Every year, nearly 20,000 Missourians are put in chains and then relegated to second-class citizenship by a criminal record for the possession of small amounts of marijuana," said John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, who addressed the press conference. "This policy costs Missouri taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year, but does nothing to decrease marijuana use or eliminate the harms associated with the black market. There are no other proposals before our legislators that can do so much good so easily."

At the same press conference, Rep. Ellinger also introduced the expungement bill, House Bill 511. Under current Missouri law, only a very few specified offenses can be expunged. This bill would allow expungement for all misdemeanor offenses, including marijuana and paraphernalia offenses, except for violent or sex offenses.

"Although these measures may seem like long shots, one year ago, no one would have predicted that the Republican majority in both houses would reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine or reduce the term of probation in most felony drug cases by one half, especially during an election year," said Dan Viets, a veteran attorney with Show-Me Cannabis Regulation. "Those reforms passed with bipartisan support, and these bills can too. That means we will do everything we can to make it happen in 2013."

And this week, Sen. Jason Holsman (D-South Kansas City) introduced an industrial hemp bill, Senate Bill 358. It would exempt industrial hemp -- defined as containing less than 1% THC -- from the state's controlled substances act and allow anyone not convicted of a drug-related crime to grow it. An identical bill was introduced in the House last year, but didn't move.

After the snow melts in Missouri, legislators will be getting back to work. It would be nice if the Show Me State could show the rest of us the way forward.

Jefferson City, MO
United States

Irony Alert: Anti-Marijuana Newspaper Runs Ads for Pot Paraphernalia

Christian Science Monitor has a bit of a reputation for launching rabid attacks against the marijuana legalization movement, so you can imagine my surprise to find them advertising the high-end Volcano Vaporization System™ right next to an anti-legalization editorial.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/CSMvaporizer.jpg

What fun. Thanks to the targeted marketing geniuses at Google, Christian Science Monitor can collect revenue by promoting sleek vaporizers to the marijuana enthusiasts who stop by to laugh at the pathetic anti-pot propaganda they're constantly publishing.

Now to be fair, it's very possible that they never even had a clue this was happening. If you let them, Google will sell stuff in your sidebar that relates to the subject of the article on the page, and your site gets a cut according to the number of clicks. We do the same thing here at StoptheDrugWar.org, and we've occasionally noticed some really sleazy anti-drug propaganda and other questionable crap popping up in our ad space from time to time. We can reject specific ads, but it's not an easy thing to monitor 24/7, and frankly I think it's hilarious when I write an editorial trashing the idiotic drug policy ideas of some prohibitionist politician, only to have an ad for his presidential campaign pop up on the side of the page. It's like these people are paying me to make fun of them.

So when it comes to Christian Science Monitor running ads for awesome high-tech pot paraphernalia, the point isn't that they're being willfully hypocritical. Rather, it just looks really stupid. It's amusing, and perhaps even significant, that Google's algorithm recognizes pot products as they best thing to sell to the people reading these articles. Here you have these anti-pot fanatics running redundant anti-drug editorials in a desperate attempt to dial back the forward momentum of the legalization movement, and one inch away you see Google asking, "Would anyone like to buy a badass vaporizer?"

It says an awful lot about the economics of marijuana that Christian Science Monitor can't even promote prohibition without inadvertently becoming part of the pot economy.

Western Australia Toughens Marijuana Laws

Marching boldly backward into the 20th Century, the Liberal-National state government in Western Australia announced Sunday that it will put into place more repressive marijuana laws as of August 1. Western Australia had effectively decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of pot under the previous Labor government, with violators ticketed and fined between $100 and $200.

But Police Minister Rob Johnson said those "relaxed, soft drug laws" would be repealed and replaced by a tougher regime. "What it will mean is that those people caught with cannabis will not simply get a slap on the wrist," he told reporters.

Under the new law, the personal use amount will shrink to 10 grams, and people caught with those small amounts will not be ticketed, but referred to court and will receive a Cannabis Intervention Requirement to attend a mandatory counseling session. People possessing more than 10 grams will face up to two years in prison or a $2,000 fine. Persons possessing more than 100 grams (less than a quarter-pound) will be charged with the Australian equivalent of possession with intent to distribute and could face up to two years in prison or a $20,000 fine.

But wait, there's more: Under Labor, the possession of up to two pot plants was treated as a ticketable offense, while under the new law, violators will face up to two years in prison. The new law also criminalizes pot paraphernalia sales, with fines of up to $10,000 for sales to adults and a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine of up to $24,000 for sales to minors.

The Liberal-National government had complained that under the existing system, 95% of those ticketed chose to pay "the equivalent of a parking ticket" instead of attending educational sessions. "Hardly anybody ever turned up, so it just didn't work," Johnson said, adding that nearly a third of those who chose to be fined never paid up.

The Liberal-National state government has made its fight against illegal drugs a signature issue, and Johnson was in fine form Sunday. Johnson said to expect more drug initiatives in the near future. The rising number of methamphetamine labs in Western Australia is a hot issue, but it was all about marijuana Sunday.

"The amount of toxicity in cannabis is enormous these days and it's very damaging to people's brains," he said. "It can cause schizophrenia and create terrible mental health problems. The heady days of growing, rolling and smoking your own that was allowed under the previous Labor government are over," he said. "Under the new scheme, anyone caught will have no option but to attend a one-on-one intensive Cannabis Intervention Session within 28 days of the offense or face prosecution through the courts."

But opposition Labor Party police issues spokeswoman Margaret Quirk told the Sydney Morning Herald the government's move toward more repressive pot policies was misguided and an effort to deflect criticism over harder drugs.

"The only reason the government is making a big fuss of these laws now is it's under increasing pressure in relation to the growing amphetamine problem," she said, adding that drug labs were exploding in the Perth suburbs." The new pot laws were a "nice, symbolic thing for the government to do to show they're tough on drugs" but it was much harder to get on top of the amphetamine problem, she said. "It's all about the smoke and mirrors, it's not about really targeting our laws where they're needed," Quirk said.

Labor wasn't alone in criticizing the new law. The Australian Lawyers Alliance quickly stepped up to rip into it.

"There is nothing novel about this approach," Alliance spokesman for Western Australia Tom Percy told Western Australia Today. "It will take no toll against crime. We're fighting an old war, lost a long time ago. To say you plan to fight drugs by increasing penalties is like going into a nuclear war armed with medieval weapons. It makes no difference and is nothing more than a political stunt. It's hardly a serious act that will have the drug overlords quaking in their boots," he said. "A public campaign will be far more successful than increasing the penalties."

For a few years in the past decade, Western Australia was looked to as an example of how to implement progressive marijuana law reforms. Not any more, at least not until the current state government is replaced.

Perth
Australia

Florida smoke shops sue state over new law restricting pipe sales

Location: 
FL
United States
Smoke shops throughout Florida are hoping a new law that regulates what they can sell will be repealed. The law makes it a misdemeanor for a smoke shop to generate more than 25 percent of its sales from pipes or smoking devices. Thirty businesses have sued to block enforcement of the rules, which took effect in July.
Publication/Source: 
Sun Sentinel (FL)
URL: 
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/fl-smoke-shop-law-20100808,0,6406519.story

Tim Pawlenty is a Drug War Idiot

But don't take my word for it, just look what he did:

Despite near-unanimous support, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has vetoed a bill preventing prosecutors from using bong water to calculate the weight of controlled substances in drug prosecutions — and a lawmaker who helped pass the legislation accused the governor of doing so for political reasons.

The bill was the result of a 4-3 Minnesota Supreme Court decision last year that allowed Rice County prosecutors to charge Sara Ruth Peck, 47, of Faribault, with first-degree drug possession — a charge often reserved for drug dealers — after the water in a glass pipe tested positive for traces of methamphetamine.

If Pawlenty is condoning this nonsense for political reasons, he needs to go on the internet or something. This guy is a rumored republican presidential candidate for 2012, but he apparently missed the memo that mind-blowing acts of reefer madness aren't exactly selling out stadiums these days.

Perhaps this bong controversy is too nuanced to screw him, but his veto of a medical marijuana bill that would only have protected dying patients is another story. Note to Gary Johnson: if you find yourself in a debate with Tim Pawlenty, ask him why he wants to arrest terminal AIDS patients for using pot brownies to stimulate their appetite.

And while you're at it, ask him if he thinks Michael Phelps should have been charged as a drug trafficker for the weight of the water in that bong he smoked.

Paraphernalia: Florida Legislature Passes Bill Banning Bong Sales

In a move aimed directly at marijuana smokers and the vendors who supply them with their pipes and bongs, the Florida legislature has passed a bill that will make it illegal to sell drug paraphernalia in most head shops. The bong bill, HB 187, passed the Senate earlier and was approved unanimously in a House floor vote on Wednesday. It now awaits signature by Gov. Charlie Christ.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/bong2.jpg
Under the bill, only shops where the sale of tobacco products and accessories constitute 75% of income or shops where the sale of pipes and bongs constitutes less than 25% of income will be allowed to sell a long list of smoking devices. These include pipes of any material, water pipes, carburetion tubes and devices, chamber pipes, carburetor pipes, electric pipes, air-driven pipes, chillums, bongs, and ice pipes or chillers.

Violation of the law would be a misdemeanor. Offenders could face up to a year in jail. If signed by the governor, the law would go into effect on July 1.

Head shop owners tried to organize to fight back, even creating a web site, Kill Bill 187, in a vain bid to block the bill. Jay Work, the owner of Grateful J's Grateful Deadhead Shop in Margate and a second shop in Boca Raton, led the fight.

"Shop owners, small-business owners are being thrown under the bus here," he told the Broward Palm Beach New Times. "They're saying that if I sell a $4,000 piece of art at my store, that I have to sell $12,000 worth of cigarettes. I'm not sure who that helps," Work says. "They're saying basically you can sell this stuff -- we're just going to make it really hard."

While drug paraphernalia is already illegal in Florida, pipes that could be used to smoke tobacco are legal to make, own, buy, and sell. They only become paraphernalia if they are used to do something illegal. But this bill attempts to circumvent the law with its restrictions on sales, Work said.

"The pipe itself is just a pipe," Work says. "The pipes I sell are harmless unless you take the pipe outside and beat someone over the head with it."

"I've been fighting the pipe industry for the longest, because it is all a part of the drug trade and the criminal enterprise that we know exists and destroys neighborhoods, families and order in our society," said sponsor Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-Tampa Bay) earlier this month. "When was the last time you stopped at a red light and saw someone smoking a hit of tobacco out of one of these one-shooters or water pipes?" he told NBC Miami.

Rouson, a self-described former crackhead, has gone after paraphernalia in the past, too. Last year, he proposed a bill that would have imposed an extra sales tax on smoking paraphernalia to pay for DARE programs that were facing cuts.

"Florida has a conscience and an awareness that marijuana and the smoking and ingesting of it is not healthy for an individual, nor is it healthy for public safety and the order in society," Rouson added.

Banning Pot Didn't Work, So Let's Try Banning Bongs

Even as record numbers of Americans begin recognizing the profound stupidity of our marijuana laws, Florida legislators are still thrashing around in panicked desperation:

A bill passed Wednesday will make it illegal in Florida to sell the drug paraphernalia in most head shops.

The so-called "Bong Bill" passed by the Senate and then overwhelmingly passed 115-0 in the House now heads to Gov. Crist for final approval.

The bill prohibits the sale of the items by businesses that don't make at least 75 percent of their money from tobacco sales or make over 25 percent from sale of the prohibited items. [NBC]

So the Florida legislature's idea of fighting the drug war is to tell retailers they have to sell more tobacco. And the vote was unanimous, of course.

Prosecution: No More Crack Pipe Felonies for Houston

Beginning January 1, prosecutors in Harris County, Texas, will no longer file felony drug charges against people found with less than one one-hundredth of a gram of illegal drugs. Currently in Houston, people caught with trace amounts of drug or holding crack pipes with drug traces are routinely charged with felonies.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/crackpipe.jpg
crack pipe
But under a new policy promulgated by Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, police are instructed to instead issue Class C misdemeanor tickets to people caught in possession of crack pipes or trace amounts of drugs. That means arrestees will face only a $500 fine, not the up to two years in state jail mandated by the felony charge.

The cops are not happy. "It ties the hands of the officers who are making crack pipe cases against burglars and thieves," said Gary Blankinship, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union. "A crack pipe is not used for anything but smoking crack by a crack head. Crack heads, by and large, are also thieves and burglars. They're out there committing crimes," he told the Houston Chronicle.

But Lykos told the Chronicle there were good reasons to change the policy. Less than one-hundredth of a gram of a drug is not enough for more than one drug test, and defense attorneys often want to run their own tests, she said.

The policy change also "gives us more of an ability to focus on the violent offenses and the complex offenses," she added. "When you have finite resources, you have to make decisions, and this decision is a plus all around."

Last year, Harris County prosecutors filed 46,000 felony cases, with 13,713, or nearly 30%, for possession of less than a gram of controlled substances. It is difficult to say how many of those would not have been charged as felonies under the new policy because most were charged only as possession of less than a gram.

While police are grumbling, defense attorneys are beaming. "It's a smart move and it's an efficient move and it lets us get down to the business of handling criminal cases of a more serious magnitude," Nicole Deborde, president-elect of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, told the Chronicle.

Prosecution: No More Crack Pipe Felonies for Houston

Prosecution: No More Crack Pipe Felonies for Houston Beginning January 1, prosecutors in Harris County, Texas, will no longer file felony drug charges against people found with less than one one-hundreth of a gram of illegal drugs. Currently in Houston, people caught with trace amounts of drug or holding crack pipes with drug traces are routinely charged with felonies. But under a new policy promulgated by Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, police are instructed to instead issue Class C misdemeanor tickets to people caught in possession of crack pipes or trace amounts of drugs. That means arrestees will face only a $500 fine, not the up to two years in state jail mandated by the felony charge. The cops are not happy. “It ties the hands of the officers who are making crack pipe cases against burglars and thieves,” said Gary Blankinship, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union. “A crack pipe is not used for anything but smoking crack by a crack head. Crack heads, by and large, are also thieves and burglars. They're out there committing crimes,” he told the Houston Chronicle. But Lykos told the Chronicle there were good reasons to change the policy. Less than one-hundreth of a gram of a drug is not enough for more than one drug test, and defense attorneys often want to run their own tests, she said. The policy change also “gives us more of an ability to focus on the violent offenses and the complex offenses,” she added. “When you have finite resources, you have to make decisions, and this decision is a plus all around.” Last year, Harris County prosecutors filed 46,000 felony cases, with 13,713, or nearly 30%, for possession of less than a gram of controlled substances. It is difficult to say how many of those would not have been charged as felonies under the new policy because most were charged only as possession of less than a gram. While police are grumbling, defense attorneys are beaming. “It's a smart move and it's an efficient move and it lets us get down to the business of handling criminal cases of a more serious magnitude,” Nicole Deborde, president-elect of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, told the Chronicle.
Location: 
Houston, TX
United States

Tommy Chong's Prosecutor Says He Should Have Gotten More Jail Time

Mary Beth Buchanan, easily the nastiest federal prosecutor in the nation, has finally resigned her post. Yet, even as lovers of justice across the country celebrate her long-overdue departure (and pray she won't run for elected office), Buchanan has managed to turn our stomachs for what will hopefully be the last time:

On her last day in office, Buchanan says her only regret during her tenure was accepting a plea from Tommy Chong. [KDKA.com]

Such pure arrogance is really something to behold. Every legal textbook in the country should display her picture beside the term "malicious prosecution," as the railroading of Tommy Chong is a mere footnote within a career defined by gratuitous excesses.

Of course, Tommy was amused to hear that Buchanan still holds a grudge against him. The feeling is mutual:

"I'm honored to be Mary Beth's only regret. Now does she regret going after me? Or does she regret that I never got enough time? I tend to think she wishes she'd never heard my name. I have become her legacy. Mary Beth Loose Cannon is now looking for a job. She blew her last job busting me. Karma is so sweet! She's looking for a work while Cheech and I start our second multi-million dollar tour thanks to the publicity she created for us! Thank you Mary Beth - may you find peace and happiness in your search for your soul." [CelebStoner

I dunno, Tommy. You might wanna keep the floodlights on at night, just in case. If we know one thing about Mary Beth Buchanan, it’s that she never ever stops. She could be lurking in your bushes at this very moment, drunk with fury and looking to finish what she started.

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