Governor Proposes Decriminalizing Marijuana in New York State

For much of the past two decades, New York City had the dubious distinction of being the nation’s capital for low-level marijuana arrests.

Fueled by the data-driven zeal of former Commissioner Bill Bratton—the same “police reformer” Bill Bratton who suggested, in 2016, that marijuana was responsible for most of New York’s violent crime—NYPD officers dutifully collected petty weed busts like baseball cards.

In 2011 alone, NY cops arrested 51,000 people for marijuana offenses, most of them black or Latino people. The reason, police observers noted, was simple: Marijuana busts are easy, marijuana busts fill the stat sheet and marijuana busts fill the courts, filling in turn the public coffers with court costs and fines.

Forget the fact that policing pot smokers cost New York City $75 million in 2010, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. In a way, Bratton’s never-ending quest for arrests was a huge success, Soon, New York state arrested more people per capita for weed than almost anywhere else in the country, racking up more than three times as many busts as Texas.

Madness.

In 2014, current New York City mayor Bill de Blasio put a partial stop to the pot police state by requiring police issue a ticket and a summons for a bust of 25 grams or less rather than making an arrest—but as the Village Voice reported last year, after a cut of nearly 50 percent, arrests started creeping back up again. At this point, it seems only legalization or decriminalization can stop this brutal cycle. For Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the former is a nonstarter—so he’s trying again with decriminalization.

On Wednesday, Cuomo “quietly” slid a decriminalization proposal into the 380-page “State of the State” message delivered to the state legislature, the Journal News reported.

While at the same time declaring that “the illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated,” Cuomo admitted that “recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety.”

Cuomo included no specifics, and he—or someone else in the legislature—will have to follow up the call for decriminalization with a bill, such as the failed effort in 2012 that would have reduced possession of 25 grams or less to a traffic ticket-level violation.

Then, Cuomo was foiled by state lawmakers like Dean Skelos, the Republican Senate majority leader who declared such a law would allow people to walk around with “10 joints in each ear.” That observation earned scorn and abuse from he Daily Show, and Skelos was later convicted of corruption. Unrelated, of course.

In that time, New York state has also launched a limited medical-marijuana program. For now, marijuana in smoked form remains illegal, meaning New York—of all places—is one of the strictest places for weed in America where cannabis is also in some form allowed. Decriminalization will put an end to that confusing state of affairs and could be the best immediate solution to ending the state’s longstanding obsession with putting people in braces for weed.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

Powered by WPeMatico

Still No Homegrown Marijuana in Washington—But That Could Change

Washington state has one of the country’s earliest laws allowing adults 21 and over to use marijuana free of fear, and one of the most restrictive.

Washington was a progenitor of the arbitrary and worthless DUI threshold of 5 ng/ml of THC in a driver’s blood, and for a time, Washington’s Initiative-502 also seriously disrupted the state’s existing marijuana supply chain seriously enough to lead some industry observers to question whether it would work at all.

Under legalization in Washington state, growing marijuana at your home is also a crime, and a very serious one at that—a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Only medical marijuana patients are allowed home grow, and while most marijuana consumers prefer to have someone else do the dirty work anyhow, this is one major benefit—or right, as many would attest—other states enjoy that Washingtonians do not.

At least for now.

New state legislation introduced this week would, if approved, allow all Washington residents aged 21 and over to grow up to six plants, just as residents are currently allowed to do in Colorado, Oregon, California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Alaska and Washington, D.C. (i.e., everywhere else marijuana has been legalized.)

But as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, even the home grow proposal has strict limits: Six plants per person, no more than 12 plants per household are common enough, but Washingtonians would also be limited to no more than 24 ounces of yield. If a plant does well, or if a gardener knows what they’re doing, they have to throw (or give) any “excess” flower away.

Bill sponsor Sherry Appleton represents parts of Bainbridge Island, where there are currently no dispensaries allowed at all. That would give residents an alternative to a scenic ferry ride when seeking out weed, but it doesn’t help them with the most basic gardening supply of all—the seeds.

As Seattle attorney Daniel Shortt told the paper, the proposal is silent on where growers are supposed to acquire their starting material, a rare gap in Washington’s tightly controlled supply chain. Considering how easy it’s been for years to buy seeds from overseas via mail-order or online, and how much easier it’s become now to get seeds domestically, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

Powered by WPeMatico

Radical Rant: Marijuana’s Imminent Trumpocalypse

One week from today, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. He enters the Oval Office with his party in control of the House (241-194) and the Senate (52-48), majorities just five congressmen and two senators short of Congress’s largest Republican majority since the Great Depression, and a vacancy he’ll fill on the Supreme Court to create a 5-4 conservative majority.

Worst of all, he has chosen as his attorney general literally the most hard-line anti-pot senator in America, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a man whose history of racial animosity derailed his appointment as U.S. Attorney in the 1980s. (Imagine: too racist for the 1980s, when “I speak jive“ and “Long Duk Dong were jokes you could get away with in a movie, but just fine for the 2010s.)

Yet, some commentators on marijuana policy think everything will work out just fine.

Some tell us that the marijuana industry is just too big. It’s generating tax revenue and jobs. It’s popular with the people. It’s been 20 years since California’s medical marijuana started; it’s just too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

Sure. And in 1919, there were 1,300 operating breweries in America. They generated a ton of tax revenue—up to 75 percent of New York’s. Saloons were quite popular with the people. Americans had been drinking alcohol on this continent since 1609. And yet, they put that genie back in the bottle for thirteen years, didn’t they?

Some tell us that Donald Trump loves business and money. As the guy who claims he’ll “Make America Great Again,” he’ll want to show growth and productivity gains. He won’t want to shut down an exploding industry.

Sure. But who has more business and money for Trump to love? The $6 billion startup industry headquartered in states that gave 99 votes to Clinton, four to Trump and four to others in the Electoral College? Or their global corporate competitors in the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries worth over $600 billion?

Some tell us that Jeff Sessions as Attorney General will have bigger fish to fry. With the limited resources of the Department of Justice and a mandate to attack immigration violations, Sessions and Trump won’t have the time and resources to go after state-legal marijuana.

Sure. But Sessions and DOJ won’t have to expend much energy at all to drastically alter the marijuana industry. Threatening letters to states, warning of prosecution for officials who license marijuana commerce, don’t take much time and money.

And they don’t need the resources to go after it all. Just a few DEA raids of the largest warehouse grows and storefront shops will put a chill over all of them. Investors thinking of sinking funds into the green rush will start closing their wallets.

Some tell us that the Trump administration won’t waste political capital going after something as popular as marijuana, which now has 60 percent public support for legalization and over 80 percent for medical marijuana.

Sure. Marijuana enjoys widespread support nationally, but Trump’s re-election doesn’t depend on widespread national support. It depends on maintaining his Republican support, and they oppose legalization by 58 percent, with greater opposition in the areas of the South and Midwest that he dominated.

Some tell us not to worry, because Trump said he was 100 percent for medical marijuana and states’ rights for marijuana legalization.

Sure. But Trump also said that there are a lot of problems coming out of Colorado. Also, we tend to think “medical marijuana” means “people can grow cannabis and buy cannabis and use cannabis for their medicine for whatever ailment”, but people like Trump and many Republicans think “medical marijuana” means “OK, you’re on your deathbed with cancer and you’ve tried every other medicine and surgery, so I guess we can let you buy some cannabis tincture at a store.”

Plus, consider that states’ rights work both ways.

Maybe it means California, Oregon and Colorado have the right to legalize marijuana inside their borders. Maybe it means Arizona, Idaho and Kansas have the right to keep it from flowing over theirs. Which side do you think Trump will take—the states that voted for him or the ones that didn’t and won’t in 2020?

Some tell us not to fear Jeff Sessions, because in his confirmation hearings this week, he didn’t commit to a full-scale federal prohibition effort. He gave vague, non-committal answers like his predecessor, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and she didn’t ramp up prosecutions of marijuana states.

Sure. But Loretta Lynch couldn’t ramp up prosecutions because the Rohrabacher Amendment was in place, forbidding DOJ from spending any funds to prosecute state-legal marijuana. That amendment expires in April, and Speaker Ryan has set new rules forbidding budgetary amendments on guns, abortion, LGBT, and marijuana issues, so it can’t be renewed.

Besides, Sessions has been in a job interview this week; of course he’s going to conceal his true nature to avoid losing confirmation votes. A more accurate look at how Sessions may be as Attorney General is found back in April, when he was questioning a witness in a Senate hearing and didn’t have to worry about passing a confirmation hearing:

“This is a huge, huge issue. … [President Obama] thinks it’s a very little problem. But these data show that it is [a huge problem]! … [W]e need a nationwide understanding about the problem. This is very real.”

“Colorado was one of the leading states that started the movement to suggest that marijuana is not dangerous. And we’re going to find it, in my opinion, ripple throughout the entire American citizenry; and we’re going to see more marijuana use, and it’s not going to be good! We’re going to see more other drug use, illegal drug use, also, which is damaging.”

“I mean, we need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s, in fact, a very real danger, you can see the accidents, traffic deaths related to marijuana jump 20 percent.”

“These are the kinds of things we’re going to see throughout the country. You’ll see cocaine and heroin increase more than it would have, I think, had we not talked about it.”

“I see the danger and damage it does, and I think the president needs to speak out. I think one of his great failures—it’s been obvious to me—his lax treatment and comments on marijuana.”

“It’s been obvious; it reverses 20 years, almost, of hostility to drugs, begun really when Nancy Reagan started the ‘Just Say No’ program.”

“And if we go back into this path, we’re going to regret it. And you’ve got to have leadership from the top.”

“I can’t tell you how concerning it is for me emotionally and personally to see the possibility that we would reverse the progress that we’ve made and let it slip away from us!”

“Lives will be impacted, families will be broken up, children will be damaged, because of the difficulties their parents have, and people may be psychologically impacted the rest of their lives with marijuana. And if they go on to more serious drugs, which tends to happen, and deny it if you want to, but it tends to happen, there’ll be even greater causes…”

“[T]his drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it’s not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

“I believe the Department of Justice needs to be clear and the president really needs to reassert some leadership on this. I think it’s really serious.”

Now maybe when President-elect Trump made the offer to Senator Sessions to become Attorney General, he told Sessions not to do anything about the “dangerous drug” marijuana that leads to damaged children and greater hard drug abuse. Maybe when Sessions accepted the offer, he decided this “really serious” “very real” “huge, huge issue” could be ignored and his Department of Justice shouldn’t be the “grown-ups in charge of Washington” sending the message that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Maybe, and I’ll be thrilled to be wrong if the status quo continues, the marijuana industry grows and nobody gets raided or jailed. But I have always believed this isn’t a War on Drugs, this is a war on culture, and the other side of that culture war is in complete control. Like Bill Maher said, don’t piss off your old underground dealer; you may find you need their services again.

Previously in Radical Rant: My First Time

Click here for all of Russ Belville’s columns.

Powered by WPeMatico

Marijuana For Addicts: The Case For Cannabis’s Place in a 12-Step Program

Drugs are commonplace in recovery circles, and are considered indispensable tools for addicts, by the addicts themselves and their counselors alike—provided they are the right drugs.

It’s hard to imagine a 12-step meeting without coffee and cigarettes—nicotine and caffeine the constant companions of many, including people escaping other “harder” intoxicants—and as many recovering alcoholics can attest, replacing the calories from alcohol with sugar is a rite of passage.

As writer Katie MacBridge recently observed in Rolling Stone, recovering addicts achieve sobriety when they abstain from “the recreational use of ‘mood-altering’ substances.” Annoying purists (is there any other kind?) may point to the above paragraph and question why it’s alright for an addict to pepper his or her brain and body with a steady barrage of low-level stimulants, but there’s a much bigger issue at play than denying someone a coffeehouse buzz. 

Like the rest of us, addicts need drugs. As MacBridge points out, addicts with a legitimate need for treatment for an underlying medical condition such as chronic pain or anxiety are left with a hard choice: find a way to bear life while suffering the pain, or try to take something for it and gamble with slipping back into chemical dependency.

The third choice: use non-psychoactive marijuana. This sounds absurdly simple, yet it’s a revolutionary proposition.

Cannabis is almost universally abhorred by recovery specialists, 12-step program sponsors and addiction researchers, who point out that the point of using marijuana is to achieve the high—and when someone is high, decision-making processes are altered and the chance for a return to bad old habits is increased. There’s also the very real fact, uncomfortable for marijuana legalization advocates, that cannabis can be addictive, too. (Just look up your local chapter of Marijuana Anonymous if you’re not convinced.)

In recovery circles, the recent phenomenon of opiate addiction being treated with medical marijuana—a rare glimmer of hope in the darkness of America’s continuing serious problem with heroin and pain pills—is a bug, not a feature.

But one of marijuana’s biggest selling points is cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD, one of the marijuana plant’s many active cannabinoids, is the cannabinoid famously associated with halting otherwise-intractable epilepsy in children, without any high. 

Though the major, wide-ranging review of cannabis’s stance in the medical pantheon released yesterday showed limited evidence for its efficacy in treating afflictions like anxiety and PTSD, many sufferers of those maladies swear by CBD as a tonic—and, when faced with a choice between highly addictive and habit-forming drugs like Xanax or Valium or low-THC, high-CBD cannabis, logic alone suggests weed is the safer and smarter move.

In other words: People recovering from alcohol or drug addiction already take drugs, from a cup of coffee to a smoke to an Advil or a pill for pain, anxiety or depression. If there’s a form of marijuana out there that won’t set them back on the road to self-destruction, why not make it available?

The short answer for now is that we don’t know what will work and what won’t. Decades of prohibition mean there’s much more marijuana around than there is indisputable knowledge as to what it does and how to use it. 

But as Rolling Stone said, even the National Institutes on Drug Abuse is cautiously optimistic about CBD’s benefits. CBD “appears to be a safe drug, with no addictive effects” and signs that it has real medical value, NIDA Director Nora Volkow wrote in 2015.

It may not be long before high-CBD cannabis is just as common at recovery meetings and 12-step programs as that stereotypical coffee pot.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

Powered by WPeMatico

Meet the Stoners Who Have to Go on ‘Treasure Hunts’ for Weed

The rise of the dark web has made it increasingly easy for users to buy illicit drugs, especially weed: Cannabis is the most popular drug on marketplaces like Agora, Evolution and Silk Road 2. 

While purchasing substances on these marketplaces may be easy thanks to user reviews—in Russia, getting your hands on them can turn into quite a difficult process.

Drug-related penalties in the country are harsh, even small possession of marijuana can result in three to 10 years behind bars. And just like the rest of the world, cannabis is widely used, accounting for 70 percent of illicit drugs seized by Russian authorities.  

Law enforcement in the country have ambiguously broad powers to stop and search anyone deemed “suspicious.” So, dealers and their customers try not to meet in person.

The circumstances have given rise to “Treasure Hunts,” reports the Outline. Drugs are the treasure, and sellers are known as “treasure men.” After a purchase has been made, the treasure men will send the GPS coordinates and a photo of where the treasure is hidden.

Sometimes the drugs are ingeniously disguised, like one user who recently found his package of foil that had a small magnet inside of it. 

“Magnet makes a lot of sense, because your order can be attached to anything made of metal around the city,” he explained. 

But other times, there are unexpected obstacles. Treasure hunters described encountering wild animals while searching in forests and digging through snow, ice and broken glass. 

“Cut off the part of the great finger while digging. Don’t hide treasures in broken glass… I have more fingers though, so I’ll continue to shop here!” wrote one reviewer. 

While the practice certainly seems less risky than having a package delivered to your address, it can sometimes result in lost goods.

“Found nothing. Birdhouse wasn’t the best place to hide amphetamine. Hopefully, at least, birdies sped up!” wrote another reviewer.

And if purported YouTube videos of the practice are any indication, treasure hunting can look pretty suspicious—especially if you have trouble finding what you’ve paid for.

Unfortunately for drug users in the country, Russia shows no signs of easing up on the drug war. While the Americas and other parts of Europe are starting to recognize these unhelpful tactics, Russia is one of the most vocal proponents of prohibition on the international stage. 

Looks like treasure hunting is here to stay for a while. 

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

Powered by WPeMatico