State Lawmakers Reveal New Medical Marijuana Bill in Augusta, Georgia

Georgia state lawmakers revealed what the state’s new medical marijuana bill will look like after last year’s proposed bill failed.

Medical marijuana cultivation centers and immunity from prosecution for the families of patients who legally obtain it from other states and bring it back to Georgia are two elements of the new medical marijuana bill that state lawmakers will debate in January.

Rep. Allen Peake

State Rep. Allen Peake, the bill sponsor, said that Georgia’s lawmakers have learned a lot over the past year and hope to pass a better bill this year that would allow private entities to grow medical marijuana in the state.

Peake also said that the medical marijuana grown in Georgia would contain very low THC so that patients would not be able to get high from it.

“If what we’re going to do is legalize a product that is so low in THC that there’s no way to get high off of it, why not provide it as an alternative for other diagnoses — cancer, glaucoma, ALS?” Peake stated.

However, low or no THC medical marijuana laws leave most patients behind. While THC does cause the “high” associated with the substance, patients use medical marijuana for relief, not for euphoria. It has also been shown to have many medical qualities itself.

Georgia’s medical marijuana legislation should not be so restrictive as to leave behind patients who could benefit from access to a variety of medical marijuana strains with different chemical compositions.

UN Official Criticizes U.S. for Breaking the Marijuana Laws That it’s Forced the World to Live By

Marijuana is now legal for adult use in Colorado and Washington and will be joined by Alaska and Oregon, in addition to Washington, D.C. — but it turns out that the four states and nation’s capital are all breaking international law.

Yury Fedotov

According to the executive director of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov:

“I don’t see how (the new laws) can be compatible with existing convention.”

Apparently, he has a point; by allowing legal marijuana sales within its borders, the U.S. is technically in violation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The major UN convention, which was signed by the U.S., prohibits countries from creating regulated markets for the cultivation, sale, purchase, distribution, and possession of marijuana.

Historically, the U.S. has pressured other countries in the convention to adopt measures that enforced American-style prohibition, which has led some to criticize the federal government for being hypocritical by allowing implementation of state marijuana regulations to proceed.

According to Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“The United States has largely dictated international drug laws for decades, and now that it’s becoming clear that Americans will no longer stand with these failed drug policies, we see other countries moving ahead as well.”

“Fedotov’s statements may make it awkward for the federal government, but they won’t stop the momentum toward ending marijuana prohibition.”

The Initiative Petition to Make Marijuana Legal in Nevada Makes Its Deadline

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, an initiative petition that would make the adult use of marijuana legal in Nevada could come to fruition if signatures presented to county offices are valid.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Nevada have “unloaded much more than the 101,667 registered voter signatures needed to qualify the petition,” said Joe Brezny, spokesman for the coalition.

The deadline to submit signatures for the petition was Wednesday. In Clark County alone, more than 145,000 signatures were submitted.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Nevada is now working to present signatures to county offices in rural Nevada and Washoe.

If county officials deem the signatures valid, the Nevada State Legislature could possibly pass the initiative as early as the spring. Approval would take a two-thirds vote in both chambers, due to the petition’s tax component. The petition would also need the signature of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to become law. Rejection within the Nevada State Legislature, however, would set it up for a popular vote in 2016.

New York City Mayor and Police Chief Announce New Marijuana Policy; Reform Advocates Say It Is Not Enough

Photo of Bill Bratton and Bill de Blasio by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The New York Police Department will stop arresting people for the possession of small amounts of marijuana and instead issue civil citations, city officials stated Monday, citing both a severe racial disparity in the law’s implementation and the burden of arrests on the criminal justice system as reasons for the change.

With the implementation of this new policy, citizens who are stopped by the police with small amounts of marijuana will receive civil summonses, similar to parking tickets, instead of permanent arrest records that limit opportunities later in life.

“Now there will be fewer unnecessary, low-level marijuana arrests,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ran on a campaign last year emphasizing police reform. “That energy goes into fighting more serious crime.”

Bill Bratton, the NYPD Police Commissioner, said he hopes narcotics officers will start going after big transactions or more dangerous drugs – not small amounts of marijuana.

“I want those narcotics buy-and-busts focusing on significant sales of marijuana, or the emerging problem drug we’re having, heroin,” Bratton told reporters on Monday.

Marijuana policy reform advocates regard the new policy move as a good step in the right direction, though they believe much more needs to be done before New York City’s marijuana laws can be considered fair.

“These laws have been used as a means of targeting and harassing people of color,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project.

Moreover, Yeung said that despite the reforms, New Yorkers who purchase marijuana still have to face the dangers associated with an illegal transaction, unlike in states where the substance is legal and regulated.

“In places like Washington state and Colorado, and soon in Oregon and Alaska, people are buying it [marijuana] from safe businesses,” Yeung stated. “But in New York City, people are still going to criminal markets where some people might have weapons or are trying to sell harder and more dangerous drugs. All over the United States, people are using marijuana. That is just a fact.”

FBI Reports Approximately 693,000 Arrests for Marijuana Offenses in 2013

An estimated 693,481 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana-related offenses in 2013, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report. More than 87% of those arrests were for simple possession, meaning, on average, one person was arrested for marijuana possession approximately every 51 seconds across the U.S.

However, the 2013 marijuana-related arrest numbers are down from 2012. The Uniform Crime Report from last year showed that 749,842 marijuana arrests were made in 2012.

Marijuana policy reform groups are glad to see that the arrest rates associated with marijuana offenses have fallen since 2012, but continuing to arrest people for the simple possession of marijuana should be seen as unacceptable and a call for further reforms.

According to Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“We’re pleased to see the drop, but arresting even one adult for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol is inexcusable.”

“Law enforcement officials should be spending their time and resources addressing serious crimes, not arresting and prosecuting adults for using marijuana. Every year, these statistics show hundreds of thousands of marijuana-related arrests are taking place and countless violent crimes are going unsolved. We have to wonder how many of those crimes could be solved – or prevented – if police weren’t wasting their time enforcing failed marijuana prohibition laws.”

Marijuana Policy Project