U.S. News reports:
Statistics provided to U.S. News by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service show that marijuana package intercepts declined again in fiscal year 2015, the first annual period that wholly encompasses state-regulated recreational marijuana sales in Colorado and Washington state.
Inspectors seized 7,783 marijuana-containing parcels during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, a 2.6 percent drop. The collective weight of the contraband was 34,305 pounds, down 12.7 percent from the previous year.
It’s a second year in a row of such declines. In fiscal year 2014, which featured nine months of Colorado sales and three months of Washington retail operations, intercepted packages fell by 12.2 percent and their collective weight dropped by 12.7 percent.
As the numbers trend downward, pro-legalization policy advocates sense validation for their claims that black-market illegality can be crushed and drug cartels put out of business by treating the drug like alcohol.
"It's clear the system is working as intended," says Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert, a leader of Colorado's 2012 legalization campaign. "What we're seeing is adults are purchasing marijuana, but there haven't been significant efforts to get it to other states through the mail, as some feared. People want to follow the law."
On Tuesday, a group of Pennsylvania lawmakers, patients, and their families gathered at the State Capitol to demand swift action from the legislature in moving a medical marijuana bill that has been stalled for months.
[caption id="attachment_9203" align="alignright" width="250"] Julie Michaels, front left, of Connellsville, and Jessica Hawkins, right, of Pittsburg, look on as Hawkins' son Lucciano, 2, right center, gives a hug to Michaels' daughter Sydney, 5, left center, as supporters gather at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building to promote the legalization of medical cannabis in Harrisburg, Pa. on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. Dawn J. Sagert - York Dispatch[/caption]
The Patriot-News reports:
But the effort, which supporters insist easily has enough votes to pass, now seems caught up in delays and stalling tactics, according to supporters who rallied Tuesday at the state Capitol.
One of the supporters was state Rep. Mike Regan, R-York County, a former federal law enforcement officer who said he represents a highly conservative district, and hasn't received a single call of opposition from a constituent.
"This has got to stop being about politics and it has to start being about people," he said. "I will not stop fighting until this is law."
Regan also noted he spent much of his career arresting drug dealers. He said he is convinced medical marijuana is a safe and valuable medication, and won't become a gateway to illegal drugs and more illegal drug use in Pennsylvania.
A medical marijuana bill introduced by state Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County passed 40-7 in the Senate in May. In the House, leaders in early summer created a group to draft a bill that would pass the Republican-controlled House.
Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf has come out strongly in favor of medical marijuana and has said he will sign a bill.
If you are a Pennsylvania resident and are tired of waiting for the legislature to enact compassionate, effective medical marijuana legislation, please contact your lawmakers and let them know the time to act is now.
Earlier today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that local and state law enforcement would no longer be able to use federal asset forfeiture laws to seize and keep property without evidence of a crime.
According to the Washington Post:
Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.
Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.
The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.
While police can continue to make seizures under their own state laws, the federal program was easy to use and required most of the proceeds from the seizures to go to local and state police departments. Many states require seized proceeds to go into the general fund.
A Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the attorney general’s motivation, said Holder “also believes that the new policy will eliminate any possibility that the adoption process might unintentionally incentivize unnecessary stops and seizures.”
The old policy allowed law enforcement to take and keep people's cash and property on the pretense of things like the scent of marijuana, even if none is found in their possession. Since the proceeds go directly to local police budgets, some argue that this was one of the primary reasons for law enforcement's continued opposition to marijuana policy reform.
On Sunday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that will add seizure conditions to Illinois’ medical cannabis program for both adults and minors. The new law also allows parents to seek permission for minors to access medical marijuana for other qualifying conditions. Special thanks are owed to bill sponsors Sen. Iris Martinez and Rep. Lou Lang, and the many parents and advocates who tirelessly worked to make the bill a reality for seriously ill patients.
In other news, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules gave its final approval last week for regulations the three state agencies will use to oversee the program. A preliminary version of these rules can be found here, with the official version to be published soon. This important step finally allows the program to move forward. News outlets are currently reporting that patients may be able to sign up as early as September, although it is not yet clear when dispensaries and cultivation centers will be operational.
The rules are far from perfect. The Illinois program is by far the most expensive in the nation for cultivators, with a non-refundable application fee of $25,000, and a first-year license of $200,000. That means the Department of Agriculture will receive a windfall of $4.4 million for issuing just 22 cultivation center licenses during the first year of the program, not including application fees. Unfortunately, the enormous tab will surely be passed along to patients.
Even before the first medical marijuana ID card has been issued, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly have voted to expand the state’s medical marijuana law to include more suffering patients. Earlier today, the House voted 98-18 to allow both adults and minors with seizure disorders to qualify for medical cannabis.
Illinois’ medical marijuana law, which was signed into law last August, is one of only three to leave behind seriously ill minors. The House amended SB 2636 to also allow the health department to develop rules allowing other seriously ill minors to qualify. The bill now heads to the Senate for concurrence.
Last week, the Mississippi General Assembly overwhelmingly passed HB 1231, which would legalize certain, very limited medical marijuana extracts for patients suffering from seizure disorders. While this bill is a strong endorsement of the medical benefits of marijuana by the Mississippi legislature, it is extremely limited and does not even create a realistic way for patients to obtain the extracts.
The bill, approved by the House 112-6 and the Senate 49-0, now heads to Gov. Phil Bryant, who is expected to sign it. If enacted, it would apply only to patients suffering from epileptic conditions, leaving the vast majority of patients behind. Furthermore, patients would only be able to use marijuana extracts that contain no more than 0.5% THC and more than 15% CBD.
The bill also only allows three specific medical research centers — the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi, the Department of Pharmacy Services at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at Mississippi State University — to produce or possess the marijuana extracts for research. Given that federal law does not allow medical marijuana, it is extremely unlikely that universities will produce marijuana.
Last Tuesday, all eight members of the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee who were present at the public hearing voted to advance a bill that would add seizure conditions to the list of qualifying medical conditions to the state medical cannabis program. The bill, SB 2636, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez, would allow access to both adults and minors for this serious condition.
Unlike the 19 other states with workable medical marijuana laws, Illinois currently prohibits physicians from recommending the use of medical marijuana for seriously ill patients based on a seizure condition. It’s time for Illinois to stop leaving behind people with seizure conditions and the families that support them. Seizure patients and the parents of children with the condition should have safe access to a medicine that is safer than many pharmaceutical medications.
Shortly after the Florida Supreme Court cleared the way for the medical marijuana ballot initiative to appear on the November ballot, lawmakers in Tallahassee took note and introduced a flurry of legislation to sensibly reform the Sunshine State’s marijuana laws. A bill to allow patients with devastating seizure disorders to use high CBD marijuana was the first to be filed. While this bill is an improvement on the status quo, it will also leave many patients without access to effective medicine.
Thankfully, Sen. Jeff Clemens and Rep. Joe Saunders realize this flaw and have introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation that would finally bring Florida in line with the growing list of compassionate states that treat, rather than jail, patients.
Finally, legislation was introduced yesterday by Rep. Randolph Bracy to end Florida’s prohibition of marijuana, replacing it with a system that regulates and taxes adult sales, similarly to our alcohol laws. This proposal will finally allow Florida to control who is selling marijuana, where, and to whom. It will also allow the state to collect tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue on adult sales, while striking an economic blow to the criminal organizations that currently monopolize the marijuana market.
On Sunday, masked gunmen executed 13 people in a drug rehabilitation center in Tijuana, Mexico, just across the border from San Diego. Authorities now think these grisly murders may have been in retaliation for the massive marijuana bust that occurred there last week.
Whether the victims were actually involved in the seizure of 134 tons of marijuana destined for the U.S. is unknown, but in the end it makes no difference. It is clear that the tactics of marijuana prohibition are ineffective at producing anything besides shattered lives and dead bodies. Yet stories such as this are rarely heard in the debate for marijuana reform here in the U.S., despite the fact that it is our market for illicit substances that gives cartels the power to wage war on each other and the rest of society.
American law enforcement and politicians continue to support laws that cause death and mayhem across Mexico, perhaps because they don’t have to deal with the side effects of their choices in the same manner as their counterparts south of the border. When an entire police force quits on the same day rather than face further attack, there is obviously something wrong. But can you blame them?
The Rand Corporation released a study saying that Californian voters could take a bite out of the immense profits these murderers are making in their state by passing Proposition 19 on Tuesday. Regardless of any disagreement over just how big that bite would be, it is a moral imperative to cut into the cartel coffers in any way possible. Every dollar that is spent in a taxed and regulated marijuana market could contribute to California’s schools and health care, rather than ammo and blood.