Archive for the ‘misdemeanor’ category

Louisiana Legislature Approves Modest Marijuana Policy Reform

May 23rd, 2014

Thursday, the Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly approved HB 681 — modest marijuana policy reform — with a vote of 30-7. The House previously approved the legislation in a near-unanimous vote, 92-1!

HB 681 would make positive, albeit modest, reforms to the way Louisiana treats a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge for someone who is on parole. Currently, acquiring a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge while on parole automatically results in parole revocation. If signed by Gov. Jindal, this legislation will give judges discretion to penalize parolees charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession with administrative sanctions instead of outright revocation.

While this is a small step towards sensible marijuana policies, it is at least a step in the right direction.

 

North Carolina: Will Graves and the Need for Marijuana Policy Reform

December 17th, 2013
North Carolina v Michigan State

Will Graves

Last Friday, news broke that former UNC Tar Heel Will Graves faces misdemeanor charges after police officers found 4.4 grams of marijuana in a house that Mr. Graves rents. Let your lawmakers know that they should not burden responsible adults with criminal convictions for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. If you are a North Carolina resident, please ask them to replace criminal penalties for the possession of a small amount of marijuana with a civil fine.

Mr. Graves just finished his degree. This should be a time of celebration for him and his loved ones. Instead, he must ponder how these charges could affect the rest of his life. While he readily accepts blame for his actions, he shouldn’t be in this situation to begin with. At the very least, simple possession of marijuana shouldn’t result in a criminal conviction that can destroy a person’s ability to pursue their dreams. 

The time is right for North Carolina to take a serious look at its marijuana policies. Draconian penalties have done nothing to prevent use or access but have done a great job of enriching criminal actors and wasting taxpayer dollars. If you live in North Carolina, please take minute to send an email to your state lawmakers asking them to remove criminal penalties for the simple possession of marijuana.

Oregon Governor Signs Marijuana Policy Reforms Into Law

July 2nd, 2013

On Monday, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed into law two bills that make sensible changes to Oregon’s marijuana laws. These new laws, which took effect immediately, reduce the severity of the punishment for certain marijuana crimes.

SB 40 reduces penalties for possession of more than an ounce of marijuana. SB 40 reduces the criminal penalty for possession of more than four ounces of marijuana from a class B felony, which carries up to 10 years in prison, to a class C felony, which has a maximum sentence of five years in prison. It reclassifies possession of one to four ounces of marijuana from a class B felony to a class B misdemeanor — reducing the maximum sentence from 10 years to six months. It also reduces the penalty for unlawful manufacture of marijuana from a class A felony to a class B felony — reducing the maximum prison term from 20 years to 10.

SB 82 eliminates a penalty for possession of under an ounce of marijuana, which is already a civil violation. The bill eliminates a section of law that forced courts to suspend the driving privileges of people found in possession of under an ounce of marijuana unless there were compelling circumstances not to. Please note that absent compelling circumstances, courts must still revoke the driving privileges of an individual found in possession of an ounce or more of marijuana.

Rhode Island: Lawmakers Moving Forward With Marijuana Decriminalization Measures

May 30th, 2012

On Tuesday, separate legislative committees in the Rhode Island House and Senate approved measures to significantly reduce the state’s criminal marijuana possession penalties.

House Bill 7092 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 2253, amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 or older is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. You can read NORML’s testimony in favor of the measures here.

According to a recent statewide poll, commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, 65 percent of Rhode Island’s residents are in favor of decriminalization. In recent years, neighboring Connecticut (in 2011) and Massachusetts (in 2009, via a voter-approved initiative) have enacted similar decriminalization laws.

Rhode Island lawmakers have a long history of supporting medical marijuana law reform legislation. However, yesterday’s vote marks one of the first times in recent memory that lawmakers have taken action to amend the state’s marijuana penalties for non-patients.

The decriminalization measures now await floor votes in their respective chambers. These votes could come as early as this week. Therefore, if you reside in the Ocean State, it is vital that your elected officials hear from you. You can contact your state elected officials directly via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

Similar decriminalization legislation is also pending in New Jersey, where the full Assembly is expected to vote on the measure imminently. Further information on this effort is available here.

Presently, in eight states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Oregon — the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by an adult is defined under the law as a civil, non-criminal offense.

Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense. Alaska law imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults.

In all other states, marijuana possession for personal use remains a criminal offense — punishable by an arrest, potential incarceration, and a criminal record.

2011 New York City Marijuana Arrests Even Higher Than Previous Year

February 2nd, 2012

Last September, after activists brought attention to the fact that New York City is the misdemeanor marijuana arrest capital of the United States despite marijuana being “decriminalized,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly directed the NYPD to respect the rules of “stop and frisk” and not charge those found with marijuana in their possession with a criminal charge unless the marijuana is in plain view or being smoked. New York cops have traditionally gotten around this rule by tricking people being frisked into exposing their marijuana. Research has shown that this ploy is used far more on minorities in New York City, despite higher use rates among whites.

Kelly’s statements were admirable and at first seemed to work. For the first several months, marijuana arrests in the city dropped.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, however, the total number of marijuana arrests for 2011 is actually greater than the previous year!

How could this be? Was there an explosion in marijuana use in New York City in the last year that led to more arrests? Doubtful.

Did some members of the NYPD simply ignore the Commissioner and carry on with their illegal, racist enforcement tactics? Probably.

Let’s see what Commissioner Kelly had to say:

“The numbers are what they are, based on situations officers encounter in the street,” Kelly said at an unrelated press conference Wednesday. “It’s very difficult to quantify whether or not what’s happening [out there\],” he said.

The first sentence does not make a lot of sense and would require a massive increase in the number of people openly using marijuana to explain the arrest numbers.

The second sentence … isn’t even a sentence, much less a statement.

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Snoop Dogg Busted Again

January 9th, 2012

Eminent rapper and marijuana aficionado Snoop Dogg was arrested over the weekend when officers at a Texas checkpoint searched his tour bus and found a few joints. He was issued a citation and released.

Imagine that, Snoop Dogg has a few joints in his tour bus! That means the town of Sierra Blanca, TX should stop what it is doing and investigate immediately!

It should be noted that this is the same town in which Willie Nelson was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2010.

What is it with this particular town busting celebrities who are famous for proudly using marijuana? Could it be as simple as publicity stunts? Perhaps the local law enforcement really, really doesn’t like marijuana users, and they are intent on picking on the most famous of them. It is not a big jump in logic to assume that marijuana might be found on either of their buses, but does that make them priorities? Another thing I wonder about is how many illicit drug shipments get through that same checkpoint while the other officers are searching for anything they can find that will incriminate the entertainers?

This is just one more example of the folly of our governments’ approaches to marijuana. Taxpayers get to see their hard-earned money being spent to investigate and prosecute famous musicians, as well as more than 750,000 less-than-famous marijuana users every year, while serious crimes go undetected and unpunished right under the noses of law enforcement.

Will putting Snoop Dogg in jail make anyone safer? No. The same goes for any non-violent marijuana user. Yet our society continues to allow the arrests of these individuals at nearly record rates. Unfortunately, most of those people do not have millions of dollars, teams of lawyers, or the power of public sentiment on their sides. They are just statistics in a war that has gone on far too long.

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Arkansas Reduced Marijuana Penalties Go Into Effect Today

September 2nd, 2011

If you were worried about going to prison for getting caught with marijuana in Arkansas, you can breathe a little easier today.

Back in March, the Arkansas Legislature, backed by Gov. Mike Beebe, passed a law to reduce the penalties for possession of up to four ounces of marijuana. Starting today, a judge may place a person under probation for a year without formal charge, instead of the regular sentence of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. This option is at the discretion of the judge, so be nice in court, and don’t count on this offer if you have prior convictions.

Still, it represents a huge leap forward. Until now, possession of anything over an ounce got you four to 10 in jail and a $25,000 fine. I’ll take a year of probation and no criminal record over that any day!

And while not being decriminalization, the probation option is pretty close, and the possession limit of four ounces is one of the highest of any decriminalized state in the country.

The law also makes intent to deliver small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor instead of a felony and lessens the penalties and status of subsequent possession violations.

The fact that this is happening in Arkansas of all places is clear evidence that this country as a whole is moving in the right direction. Marijuana reformers in every state should take note and keep working hard with their local and state lawmakers to maintain this momentum. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

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