Delaware House panel approves marijuana legalization bill

DOVER, Del. – (AP) – A bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Delaware has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The legislation, which was released Wednesday by a House committee and now goes to the full House for a vote, regulates and taxes marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.

The bill doesn’t allow people to grow their own marijuana but allows adults over age 21 to legally possess less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

The legislation would create a commission to regulate, license and tax the marijuana industry, allowing licenses for up to 40 retail stores.

Consumers would pay an excise tax of $50 an ounce, while businesses would pay an application fee of $5,000 and a $10,000 licensing fee every two years.

Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal cannabis—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for cannabis sales in 2015.

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Houston police chief sounds off on pot arrests

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland is making national headlines after indicating it may be time for marijuana use to be legalized not only in Texas but across the country.

“We cannot criminalize such a large population of society that engage in casual marijuana use,” the chief said in the radio interview. The topics were wide-ranging — but the chief was largely asked about marijuana use. McClelland made it clear he believes enforcing marijuana laws is wasting time and other valuable resources.

“Taxpayers can’t afford to build jails and prisons to lock up everyone that commits a crime,” said McClelland. “We must put more money into crime prevention, treatment, education, job training.”

The chief also took aim at the decades-long war on drugs, saying mandatory sentencing policies have had a disproportionate impact on young minorities.

“A lot of young men who are minorities in their early 20s have a felony conviction on their resume and now they’re unemployable,” said McClelland. “We wonder why they don’t have jobs, why they’re not contributing to society.”

Many smoke shop managers like John Sroujr are welcoming the chief’s comments, believing they could greatly increase profits if marijuana was ever legalized in Texas.

“You can look to Colorado and it’s plain to see,” said Sroujr. “It’s become a billion dollar industry, a multibillion dollar industry and I believe if we legalize in Texas it’s going to do good things for society.”

The chief didn’t call for outright legalization, but said he and other local leaders plan to soon reveal the results of a pilot program for first-time offenders.

“We’re going to be able to make some good recommendations to our state lawmakers and other elected officials on where we need to go in the state of Texas,” said McClelland.

Although marijuana is legal in several states and more prevalent in the treatment for cancer and other conditions, many doctors said there’s still not enough research on long-term health effects.

VA. state senator proposes marijuana decriminalization law

A Virginia state senator has introduced a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the bill is sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin, a Democrat from Alexandria.

Under the proposal, the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana would be decriminalized. Currently, that’s punishable by a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

“It would decriminalize simple possession of an ounce or less, but not decriminalize it to the extent done recently in Colorado and Washington state,” he said.

Among other things, the bill also would reduce the criminal penalties for distribution and possession with the intent to distribute by creating a presumption that a person who grows no more than six plants would be raising them for personal use.

The bill would also soften some laws concerning marijuana paraphernalia and limit the forfeiture of property from the sale or distribution of 1 pound or more of marijuana. Currently, there is no minimum amount.

Virginia State Police figures show that in 2013, there were more than 24,000 marijuana arrests in the state.
“The criminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana ruins far more lives than it impacts in any kind of positive ways,” Ebbin said.
Edward McCann, policy director for Virginia NORML, which advocates for the legalization of marijuana, said the legislation is supported by the ACLU and the NAACP.

“This is not just a conversation starter; we need to pass this bill,” said Edward McCann, policy director for Virginia NORML, which advocates for the legalization of marijuana.. “We’ve been talking to many of the members. … I think there is general support for the core of the bill, which is removing criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts — even from Republicans.”

Cannabis, not chemo for son with Leukemia says Ottawa father

An Ottawa father says he lost his parental decision-making rights Friday for refusing to allow doctors at CHEO to proceed with chemotherapy treatment for his 18-month-old son’s leukemia.

The man can’t be named because the case is being handled by Children’s Aid.

He claims the hospital hasn’t provided him with enough written evidence of his son’s condition and isn’t receptive to his desire for alternative treatment options — namely cannabis oil.
Initially, he says, both he and his wife were against chemotherapy as an option. However, his wife signed off on the treatment just ahead of his court appearance.

“I told her she was dead to me,” said the 23-year-old, easily overcome with emotion.

“I’m kind of really mad at her, but I understand why she did what she did.”
At the court appearance, the father was given until Sept. 29 to come up with a convincing argument for why the hospital should consider cannabis oil as a treatment option for his son.
Until then, he can stay in contact with his wife — and even visit his son in hospital — he’s just not allowed to have a say in what happens.

“That was the court’s decision. They removed all of my rights, but because my wife was willing to go along with chemotherapy, at the last minute, she’s still allowed to see my kid,” he said.

He has now secured support from Canadian Medical Cannabis Partners, whose executive director Jennifer Collett is helping him with his case.
“Chemo is being forced on the parents and child,” she said Friday.

“This is his fourth day in hospital and the family was informed of the diagnosis and ordered to comply or lose their child.”

Collett said all the parents are asking is for time to make “an educated decision.”

She believes the decision for a child’s medical care should rest with the parents.

The little boy was first admitted to hospital Tuesday.

Test results were ready by Wednesday which confirmed he had leukemia. According to the father, since his wife signed off on the treatment, it has already begun.

The father, convinced cannabis oil will save his son’s life, said he plans to make placards and demonstrate at Parliament Hill.

“My hope is that on the 29th, they’re going to see that this oil is going to save my son’s life and they’re going to let him take it and they’re going to stop the chemo,” he said.
CHEO representatives were unable to be reached for comment by deadline.

Health Canada gives medical marijuana users advice on disposing of leftover stashes

BY JIM BRONSKILL, THE CANADIAN PRESS, JANUARY 13, 2014

OTTAWA – Users of medical marijuana will soon be prohibited from growing their own pot — and the federal government is suggesting they turn to their feline friends for help in properly disposing of leftover stashes.

Health Canada recommends blending marijuana with water and mixing it with cat litter before tossing it into regular household trash.

“The primary option is to break down the materials, mask the odour and dispose of it in the garbage,” department spokesman Sean Upton said in an emailed response to questions.

Health Canada has announced a complete reworking of the medical marijuana system — in part due to concerns about the risk of criminal infiltration.

Under the existing program, to be phased out by April 1, people like Jason Wilcox of Abbotsford, B.C., are issued licences to grow marijuana for their personal use to help ease the symptoms of painful conditions.

Wilcox and thousands of others who cultivate their own pot have until the end of March to render any remaining weed “unfit for use or consumption.”

Under the new system, only licensed producers will grow marijuana for postal distribution to patients whose health-care providers agree it is the appropriate treatment.

More than 30,000 people across the country are authorized to use the drug for medical purposes, and many have licences to produce their own strains of marijuana.

Internal government briefing notes released under the Access to Information Act say that such users in possession of homegrown plants as of April 1 will be violating the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, “which becomes a law enforcement issue.”

The order to destroy leftover pot is “ridiculous” and a “travesty,” said the HIV-positive Wilcox, who is licensed to grow marijuana that helps diminish painful side effects of treatment.

“It just goes to show what the government’s done with this whole program from Day 1,” he said.

“I personally believe my rights are being stepped on.”

Wilcox, 40, said he can grow the pot he needs for under $2 a gram, but faces paying as much as $12 a gram under the new system, which he can’t afford.

He is coy about what he will do after March 31.

“I’m not going to suggest that I’m going to incriminate myself in open media. That would be kind of silly,” he said. “I’m also not going to tell you that I’m going to conform to the law, either. I’m just telling you that I’m in the grey area.”

Wilcox says his current regimen has helped stabilize his health.

“I worry a lot for the patients that are a lot worse off, and the patients that don’t know the politics behind this. They don’t even know they have to destroy their medication. Some of them don’t even understand what’s going on.”

The briefing notes say Health Canada is working with Public Safety Canada and the RCMP on encouraging licence holders to dispose of their self-grown marijuana by the deadline.

Wilcox, who is helping spearhead a legal challenge of the new system, said he and others have received just one government letter outlining the changes.

A May 2012 RCMP intelligence report warned that organized criminal networks were taking advantage of the medical marijuana program to produce the drug and supply it to the illicit market.

Both the Mounties and Public Safety referred questions to Health Canada.

Upton said the new system will ensure medical marijuana “is produced under secure, sanitary and quality-controlled conditions” so as to “better protect the health, security and safety of all Canadians.”

Wilcox resents the notion he is involved in something unsafe or linked to gangsterism.

“I find that to be quite inflammatory.”