Phillymag.com reported today that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed Jim Kenney’s bill that replaces criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket. The bill is set to go into effect on October 20, 2014.
The initial version of the bill approved by the city council on June 19 makes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine. After negotiations between the mayor and members of the city council, the final version of the bill was amended to include a $100 fine for public consumption, or a nine-hour community service requirement.
“Philadelphia voters and their elected officials are fed up with laws that criminalize people for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol,” said Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “They disproportionately impact communities of color and do nothing to make people safer. We applaud city officials for taking this important step toward a more sensible marijuana policy. It is time for the rest of the state to follow its lead.”
Possession of over 30 grams, as well as distribution irrespective of weight, however, still registers as a criminal offense. A tweet from the city of Philadelphia says you are also still subject to arrest for failing to show proper identification to a police officer if caught with marijuana under the new law.
According to a Drug Policy Alliance press release, just eight short months after the Federal Justice Department and Treasury Department announced new guidelines permitting banks to work with marijuana businesses, credit unions in New Mexico sent letters to nearly half of the state’s licensed medical marijuana producers stating that they will no longer accept their business and will proceed with closing their bank accounts.
The credit unions attest that they are unable to adhere to federal guidelines for servicing the medical marijuana business accounts. This move forces producers to operate on a cash-only payment system or leaves producers struggling to find another financial institution that is willing to accept their business.
“It is disappointing to see that the banking industry in New Mexico is failing to protect medical patients and small businesses in light of the assurances the federal administration has provided and a robust and thriving medical marijuana industry in the state,” said Emily Kaltenbach, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This abrupt move has all of us asking why they are unexpectedly ceasing to do business with the marijuana industry in New Mexico. We would like to know why they are unable to comply with the federal guidelines.”
Ultimately, these legitimate medical marijuana businesses are being denied the same financial services afforded to other industries in every state, despite generating large amounts of tax revenue, particularly in Colorado and Washington. In the meantime, beginning today, all medical marijuana business transactions in New Mexico will be cash-only.
The impending departure of Eric Holder from the attorney general’s office has had many people analyzing his actions regarding the drug war during his tenure at the Department of Justice. Despite being present for some meaningful reforms, many think that Holder could have done so much more. According to Eric Sterling’s critique of Eric Holder’s drug policy record:
“Since Holder’s resignation yesterday, many advocates of drug policy reform are giving Holder high marks for his accomplishments, especially when compared to his recent predecessors. But taken on his own terms, Holder was a weak attorney general, and late to push for what he probably knew in his heart to be the right course of action. He failed to use his very close relationship with the president to improve and rationalize the criminal justice system and US drug policy sufficiently that these reforms would have acquired a permanence and acceptance—and that would have ensured his legacy. Holder’s legacy is more words than deeds.”
Legislation adopted this year to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Maryland will go into effect on Wednesday. Maryland joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia that have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession.
Senate Bill 364 makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program.
According to WSHU.org, New York’s health department is asking permission from the federal government to import out-of-state medical marijuana until its own program is able complete the regulatory process.
The program requires the health department to establish rules and license marijuana production companies. The health department, however, says that it will take until 2016 to get the program started.
Until then, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has requested the Department of Justice to permit importation of medical marijuana from states with existing functional programs.
Although the federal government could potentially grant such a waiver, or simply exercise prosecutorial discretion, patients in the Empire State should not hold their breath.
MPP’s Rachelle Yeung says the federal government has been slow to recognize the medical benefits of marijuana, and that Gov. Cuomo has been equally slow to implement medical marijuana.
“I don’t want to speculate as to his motivations, but as governor of the state of New York, there are ways to expedite the process without asking for special permission from the federal government.”
Furthermore, Yeung relays that it typically takes years for the federal government to allow researchers access to medical marijuana. To avoid this delay, she and other marijuana advocacy groups are urging Cuomo’s administration to accelerate the regulatory and production processes within the state.