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Mass Legalizes Marijuana; Maine Still Too Close to Call

New England has become the first region of the country outside the West to embrace marijuana legalization, with voters in Massachusetts approving an initiative Tuesday, while as of early Friday morning, a similar measure in Maine was still too close to call.

At this juncture in the vote count, with 84% of the vote counted, Maine's Question 1 initiative was winning with 51% of the vote, while Massachusetts' Question 4 initiative has won with 53% of the vote. The Associated Press called the Massachusetts victory late Tuesday night

The Maine initiative allows people 21 and over to possess and transport up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana, along with associated paraphernalia. They may also "gift" up to 2 ½ ounces to other adults. Individuals may also grow up to six flowering plants and 12 immature ones at their residences and keep the fruits of their harvest, which could be considerably more than 2 ½ ounces. They can also purchase up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana at a time at licensed marijuana retail stores.

If it squeaks through, the Maine initiative will create a thoroughly regulated and licensed system of marijuana cultivation, production, processing, and retail sales, with a 10% tax on retail sales. Tax revenues beyond program costs will go to the state's general fund.

Cities and towns will have the right to regulate and even prohibit marijuana businesses, and the initiative offers no protection against employer drug testing.

The Massachusetts initiative allows people 21 and over to possess an ounce in public and up to 10 ounces at home, as well as the fruits of their harvest of up to six plants. It also legalizes the possession of pot paraphernalia.

And it creates a commission similar to an Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to oversee and regulate licensed marijuana cultivation, production, testing, and retail facilities. Retail marijuana sales will be subject to the sales tax of 6.25% and an excise tax of 3.75%, or a 10% tax. Cities and counties could add another 2%.

They can also regulate marijuana businesses, or opt out altogether. The initiative offers no protection against employer drug testing. 

Legalization initiatives also won in California and Nevada Tuesday. A legalization initiative in Arizona appeared to be losing early Friday morning. 

Massachusetts Legalizes It, Arkansas Okays Medical Marijuana

The Associated Press has called Massachusetts, saying Question 4 will win. It's currently at 54% with 77% of the vote counted. 

And Arkansas media sources have reported that the Question 6 medical marijuana initiative will pass. It's currently leading 53% to 47%, with 81% of the vote counted. 

California Legalizes Marijuana!!!

California voters approved the Prop 64 marijuana legalization initiative Tuesday, more than tripling the number of Americans who live in weed-legal states. Although four other states had legalized marijuana before this year's election, legalization in the nation's most populous state will provide momentum for nationwide legalization like never before.

"This is the most important moment in the history of the marijuana legalization movement," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "California is the sixth-largest economy in the world and is hugely culturally influential. Most importantly, this vote will dramatically accelerate the end of federal marijuana prohibition."

Only 13% of the votes had been counted by 8:30 p.m PST, but the measure never trailed and the trend is clear. As of now, Prop 64 is cruising toward victory with 55% of the vote. The Associated Press called the race at 8:13 p.m., less than a quarter-hour after the polls closed.  

The victory in California, along with other marijuana victories Tuesday, will greatly increase the pressure on Congress to consider repealing pot prohibition, Angell said.

"California alone has just added 53 more U.S. House members to the list of federal lawmakers who represent places where marijuana is legal. Last year we came only nine votes shy of winning an amendment to stop federal interference with state marijuana laws. Do the math," he said.

"With California’s huge vote and other results tonight, our movement is in perfect position to increase our already strong momentum," Angell continued. "Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana laws. And in an interview last week, President Obama said federal marijuana prohibition would be ‘untenable’ if California legalized marijuana. He was right, and it’s time for Congress to get to work passing legislation to get the DEA out of the way of full and effective implementation of these state laws."

Under Prop 64, people 21 and over can possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six plants at home and keep the harvest. The new law also creates a system of state-regulated and –licensed marijuana cultivation, processing, manufacturing, testing, transporting, and retail licenses, and includes provisions designed to protect small ma-and-pa cultivators—the people who made California the marijuana mecca it is today. The new law also sets a 15% excise tax on retail marijuana sales.

State-regulated marijuana commerce won't go into effect until January 1, 2018, but the personal possession and cultivation provisions go into effect now. Forty million people just got legal weed.

Twenty years after California opened up the contemporary marijuana revolution with the passage of the Prop 215 medical marijuana initiative in 1996, the Golden State is now prepared to take legal marijuana to a whole new level. 

CA
United States

AP: California Legalizes Marijuana!

Prop 64 is only leading 51% to 49% with 4% of the vote counted, but AP says it's a done deal. 

Florida Votes in Medical Marijuana!

Florida voters easily passed a constitutional amendment to approve the use of medical marijuana Tuesday. A number of Southern states, including Florida, have in recent years passed limited, CBD-only medical marijuana laws, but passage of Amendment 2 means the South has its first full-blown medical marijuana law.

Coming soon to Florida. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
With returns 90% complete at 8 p.m. on election night, Amendment 2 was winning with 71% of the vote. Under Florida law, constitutional amendments not need a simple majority but 60% of the vote.

The second time was the charm for attorney John Morgan and United for Care, which led the charge for Amendment 2. Their first effort in 2014 came up just short, winning 57.6% of the vote, a solid majority, but enough votes to overcome the 60% hurdle. The 2014 effort also had to fight headwinds generated by a "no" campaign financed to the tune of $5 million, primarily thanks to prohibitionist zealot and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Amendment 2 overcame that electoral hurdle and another multi-million dollar "no" campaign, again with significant contributions from Adelson, as well as Florida arch-prohibitionist Mel Sembler. It also benefited from strong presidential election year turnout and two more years of attitudinal shifts toward tolerance of marijuana in general and medical marijuana in particular.

Under the measure, patients with "debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician" will be able to buy weed legally through state-regulated dispensaries. But they won't be able to grow their own. 

Chronicle AM: Obama Says Federal Pot Prohibition "Not Tenable" After Tuesday, More... (11/07/16)

Marijuana Policy 

President Obama Says Federal Pot Prohibition in Question After Tuesday's Vote. Appearing on the Bill Maher Show Friday night, President Obama said federal marijuana prohibition will not "be tenable" if more states vote to legalize the weed on Tuesday. "The good news is is that after this referenda, to some degree it’s gonna call the question, because if in fact it passed in all these states, you now have about a fifth of the country that’s operating under one set of laws, and four-fifths in another," Obama said. "The Justice Department, DEA, FBI, for them to try to straddle and figure out how they’re supposed to enforce laws in some places and not in others — they’re gonna guard against transporting these drugs across state lines, but you’ve got the entire Pacific corridor where this is legal — that is not gonna be tenable," he said.

 

Maine Legalizers Have Huge Cash Advantage. Supporters of the Question 1 marijuana legalization initiative have raised more than $2.4 million dollars, according to campaign finance reports, while opponents have raised only $201,000. Most of the pro-legalization money has come from the New Approach PAC, the instrument of the heirs of late Progressive Insurance founder and drug reform philanthropist Peter Lewis, while 99% of the anti-legalization money has come courtesy of Project SAM's Kevin Sabet, who now heads the newly formed non-profit Alliance for Healthy Marijuana Policy.

Las Vegas Casino Magnate Sheldon Adelson Again Kicks in Against Nevada Pot Initiative. The Sands Corporation head honcho and prolific funder of anti-drug reform efforts has given more than $1.35 million to the campaign trying to defeat the Question 2 marijuana legalization initiative in recent weeks, according to campaign finance reports. That's on top of $2 million he gave opponents in September. In fact, Adelson is virtually a one-man opposition campaign, having provided 97.4% of all reported opposition campaign contributions. Proponents of Question 2 have raised only $1.2 million.

Medical Marijuana

New Report Calls Marijuana a "Promising Option" for Dealing With Opioid Addiction. A new report from the National Cannabis Industry Association finds that increasing legal access to marijuana can be a potent weapon in the fight against opioid addiction. The report findssignificant progress in reducing addiction and overdose deaths in states that have legalized it.

New Mexico Panel Votes to Allow Medical Marijuana for "Opiate Use Disorder." A state advisory board that makes recommendations to the Health Department on New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program voted 5-1 Friday in favor of adding "opiate use disorder" to the list of conditions that qualify. Now, it's up to incoming Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher to accept or deny the recommendation. Such a move could add thousands of new patients to the state's rapidly expanding medical marijuana program.

Asset Forfeiture

Montana Supreme Court Affirms Right to Jury Trial in Civil Forfeiture Cases. In a ruling last week, the state high court upheld and strengthened a 2015 law that reformed asset forfeiture procedures. The ruling came in the case of a man whose land was seized after police found 300 marijuana plants on it. The man was convicted of federal drug charges, but not prosecuted by the state. Even though he faced no state charges, the state seized his land. He requested a jury trial, but was denied in lower court, and a judge turned the property over to the state. But the Supreme Court said the 2015 law supplanted older law on which the trial judge based his decision.

Law Enforcement

Even As Arrests Drop, California Racial Disparities Persist. A new report from the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris finds that arrest rates for all racial groups have dropped in the past decade, but blacks were still much more likely than whites to be arrested on felony charges. When it comes to drugs, black men were six times as likely as whites to be arrested, and black women were nearly three times as likely to be arrested as whites. Latinos, on the other hand, were arrested for drugs at roughly the same rate as whites. 

Chronicle AM: New MA Poll Has Pot Init Winning Handily, Ghana Moves Toward Drug Decrim, More... (11/4/16)

It's just about all pot legalization and medical marijuana initiatives today--oh, and Ghana is moving toward drug decriminalization.

It's looking like legal buds are coming to Boston. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy 

Another New National Poll Has a Solid Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute finds that 63% of Americans 18 and over favor freeing the weed. Only three years ago, the survey had support for legalization at only 45%. The poll is in line with other recent national opinion polls that show solid majorities for marijuana legalization.

Former DEA Heads Ask California Governor to Take Stand Against Legalization. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has yet to take a position on the Prop 64 legalization initiative, and now five former DEA heads are urging him to come out against it. They cited alleged problems with drugged driving and use by teens in Colorado. "Let us at least see if these negative trends continue before taking this plunge," the letter said. "This means that Californians, many of whom will listen to you, should vote against Prop 64. Is it wise social policy to adopt a measure that will substantially increase the numbers of marijuana users, including our youth? The letter was signed by former DEA administrators Robert C. Bonner, Jack Lawn, Karen Tandy, Peter Bensinger and Michele Leonhart.

New Massachusetts Poll Has Legalization With Wide Lead. A new poll from the Western New England University Polling Institute has the Question 4 legalization initiative winning handily with 61% of the vote. Only 34% were opposed. The "yes" vote is up nine points from the group's previous poll at the end of September. The measure had a whopping 81% support among voters under age 40.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Reinstate Initiative; One Still Remains on the Ballot. The state's high court Thursday denied a petition for a rehearing on its decision to disqualify Issue 7. Another medical marijuana initiative, Issue 6, remains on the ballot.

North Dakota Initiative Campaign Gets Last Minute Cash. North Dakota for Compassionate Care, the group behind the Measure 5 medical marijuana initiative has received an unexpected last-minute donation of $15,000 from Drug Policy Action, the lobbying and campaign arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. The group will use the money for a final advertising push to get their message out to voters ahead of next week's elections.

International

Ghana Moving Toward Drug Decriminalization. The country is moving to decriminalize drug use as a means of better managing addiction, Deputy Interior Minister James Agalga said Thursday. Under a bill moving through parliament, users would receive clinical care and treatment instead of prosecution and incarceration. "Those who are addicted and under normal circumstances ought to be treated as patients who need care in the hospital," he explained. 

Chronicle AM: CA's Prop 64 Glides Toward Victory, AR MedMJ Init Has Voters Evenly Divided, More... (11/3/6)

It's all marijuana news today: the news from California is good on a couple of fronts, so is the news from the Pentagon and the District of Columbia. 

Will we see these in Arkansas next year? (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy 

US Military May Ease Up on Marijuana Use By Recruits. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday that the Pentagon is undertaking a wide-ranging review of recruiting standards and practices to ensure they are not "unnecessarily restrictive," including a review of rules governing past marijuana use by recruits. Under current policy, a potential recruit can be rejected for testing positive for pot or admitting past habitual marijuana use.

Latest California Poll Has Legalization Initiative Winning Comfortably. In line with all other recent polls, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll has the Prop 64 initiative winning with 58% of the vote. Support was strongest among voters under 30, 74% of whom said they were voting for the initiative. "The electorate has gotten younger and more demographically diverse," said Dan Schnur, director of the poll, reflecting on differences with 2010, when a legalization initiative lost by six points. "The change over the last six years has been more cultural than political. Society feels differently about marijuana legalization now than it did then."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Poll Shows Tight Race for Medical Marijuana Initiative. A new University of Arkansas poll shows voters evenly split on the Issue 6 medical marijuana initiative. The poll of likely voters has 49% in favor, with 47% opposed. The poll was conducted before a competing initiative, Issue 7, was disqualified from the ballot by the Supreme Court. Support was similar for Issue 7, with 48% in favor and 45% opposed. Issue 7 will remain on the ballot, but votes for and against it will not be counted.

DC Council Okays Letting Out-of-State Patients Purchase Medical Marijuana. The council has approved a measure to let medical marijuana users from other states use their registration cards to purchase their medicine in the District. The vote was unanimous.

Feds Give Up on Trying to Shut Down Flagship Berkeley Dispensary. The Justice Department has given up on its efforts to shut down the Berkeley Patients Group. The three-year effort came to an end Monday, when federal prosecutors in San Francisco filed a motion to dismiss their civil forfeiture case against the dispensary. City officials had supported the dispensary in its battle with then-US Attorney Melinda Haag. The move is the latest sign the federal government is winding down efforts to go after marijuana businesses in states where they are legal. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Texas DA partied a little to hearty, cops in New York and California get nailed for dirty dealing, and more. Let's get to it:

In Litchfield, Minnesota, a former Meeker County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty October 14 to stealing drugs from a secured prescription drug drop-off box and toys that had been collected to give to children. Travis Hal Sebring, 34, entered guilty pleas to a felony charge of fifth-degree possession of drugs, a felony charge of theft, and a gross misdemeanor charge of theft. He had been arrested in January after he was caught pilfering the goodies on a surveillance camera. A search of his residence turned up more than a hundred prescription medications, toys, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. 

In New York City, a former NYPD officer was convicted Monday of delivering about 88 pounds of cocaine to drug dealers in the Bronx between 2010 and 2014. Merlin Alston, 33, was convicted of drug conspiracy and weapons charges and is looking at a mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentence. He will be sentenced February 2.

In Fresno, California, a former Bakersfield police detective was sentenced last Monday to five years in federal prison for conspiring with another cop to steal drugs and marijuana during "drug busts" and sell them to third parties for a profit. Patrick Mara, 36, admitted stealing at least 20 pound of methamphetamine that should have been booked into evidence. Mara's partner in crime, Damacio Diaz, got five years earlier last month.

In Longview, Texas, a former Gregg County DA was sentenced last Friday to 10 years' probation after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. Former DA Rob Foster, 71, was arrested in February 2015 when police found him spinning the wheels of his truck on an icy median and he exited the vehicle holding a glass of scotch. A search of the vehicle then came up with several grams of cocaine and a gun. He was granted deferred adjudication, meaning that if he successfully completes his probation, his record will be cleared. Foster said he was suffering from addiction issues.

Medical Marijuana Update

Due to a truncated work week, we have a truncated medical marijuana update this week. The Arkansas Supreme Court is playing a key role in initiatives there, and Ohio announces proposed cultivation rules, complete with very high fees. 

Arkansas

Last Friday, the state Supreme Court disqualified one initiative, leaving one remaining. Responding to a late legal challenge, the state Supreme Court last week disqualified one of the two medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot—even though the ballots had already been printing and early voting had begun. Issue 7, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, was disqualified; Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, remains on the ballot. State officials said votes already cast for Issue 7 will not be counted.

On Monday, backers of Issue 7 asked the Surpreme Court to reinstate it. Backers of the Issue 7 medical marijuana initiative are seeking recourse from the state's highest court after that same court last week disqualified it days after early voting began in the state. In a ruling last week, the high court said the campaign had violating state laws regarding reporting and registration of paid canvassers and threw out 12,000 signatures that had been approved by state election officials. But the Issue 7 campaign argues that a 2013 law imposing restrictions on paid canvassers is unfair to smaller groups. The state Supreme Court rarely grants petitions for a rehearing. A competing initiative, Issue 6, remains on the ballot. 

Ohio

On Tuesday, Ohio medical marijuana growers found they would face steep license fees. Under draft rules promulgated by the state Department of Commerce, medical marijuana cultivation licenses would be capped at 18 and would cost a pretty penny. Twelve "Level I" licenses for grows of up to 15,000 square feet will require a $20,000 application fee and a $180,000 license fee, while six "Level II" licenses for grows of up to 1,600 square feet will require a $2,000 application fee and an $18,000 license fee.  The Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee reviewed the plan Tuesday morning, and the full rules were scheduled to be posted to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program website for public comment by Wednesday. 

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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