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Smell of unburnt marijuana cannot justify search of car

Category: News | Posted on Thu, July, 10th 2014 by THCFinder
smell-of-cannabis-does-not-warrant-a-car-search
The Supreme Judicial Court Wednesday said that because voters decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2008, police officers in Massachusetts can no longer rely on the odor of unburnt marijuana to justify searching a person’s car.
 
In two unanimous rulings, the state’s highest court said they had already decided in 2011 that the odor of smoked marijuana by itself did not provide police with probable cause to stop people on the street or search the vehicles people are riding in.
 
The court said in its 2011 ruling that it would be legally inconsistent to allow police to make warrantless searches after they smell burning marijuana when citizens had decided through a statewide referendum question that law enforcement should “focus their attention elsewhere.’’
 
The court said Wednesday it was now extending the same reasoning to cases where the owner has not yet started smoking it. Marijuana, the court acknowledged, generates a pungent aroma, but an odor by itself does not allow police to determine whether a person has more than an ounce with them. Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is not a crime.
 
“The 2008 initiative decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana under State law, and accordingly removed police authority to arrest individuals for civil violations,’’ Justice Barbara Lenk wrote for the unanimous court.
 
“We have held that the odor of burnt marijuana alone cannot support probable cause to search a vehicle without a warrant ... [now] we hold that such odor [of unburnt marijuana], standing alone, does not provide probable cause to search an automobile.’’
 
The court established the new legal standard in the case of Matthew W. Overmyer, who was arrested in Pittsfield by police investigating a car crash. Responding officers noticed what the SJC called “a very strong odor of unburnt marijuana.’’
 
Police found one bag of marijuana in the glovebox of Overmyer’s car, and a backpack holding even more, leading police to charge him with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
 
The court said police could not use their noses alone to arrest Overmyer, but might have had another legally approved basis for searching his car. They ordered the case back to the district court for more proceedings.
 

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First day of legal marijuana sales in Washington state

Category: News | Posted on Wed, July, 9th 2014 by THCFinder
legal-marijuana-salesSEATTLE (AP) — Surrounded by thousands of packages of marijuana, Seattle's top prosecutor sought some advice: Which one should he buy?
 
A new day, indeed.
 
Twenty months after voters legalized recreational cannabis for adults over 21, Washington state's first few licensed pot shops opened for business Tuesday, catering to hundreds of customers who lined up outside, thrilled to be part of the historic moment.
 
The pot being sold at four stores in Seattle, Bellingham, Prosser and Spokane was regulated, tested for impurities, heavily taxed and in short supply — such short supply that several other shops couldn't open because they had nothing to sell.
 
Pete Holmes, Seattle's elected city attorney and a main backer of the state's recreational marijuana law, said he wanted to be one of the first customers to demonstrate there are alternatives to the nation's failed drug war.
 
"This is a tectonic shift in public policy," he said. "You have to honor it. This is real. This is legal. This is a wonderful place to purchase marijuana where it's out of the shadows."
 
Dressed in a pinstripe suit, Holmes stood inside Seattle's first and, for now, only licensed pot shop, Cannabis City, south of downtown. The shop was sweltering. He fanned himself with a state-produced pamphlet titled "Marijuana Use in Washington State: An Adult Consumer's Guide."
 
Unsure what to buy, he asked the owner of the company that grew it, Nine Point Growth Industries of Bremerton, who recommended OG's Pearl. The strain tested at 21.5 percent THC, marijuana's main psychoactive compound.
 
The shop's 26-year-old twin salesmen, Andrew and Adam Powers, explained its benefits to Holmes: mainly, that the taste is not too "skunky" to turn off the occasional user.
 
Holmes noted it had been quite some time since he smoked pot. He paraphrased a line from the "South Park" cartoon series: "Remember, children, there's a time and place for everything. That place is college."
 
He spent $80 on 4 grams, including $20.57 in taxes.
 
Washington is the second state to allow marijuana sales without a doctor's note. Voters in Colorado also legalized pot in 2012, and sales began there Jan. 1.
 

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Few Think the FDA Will Reclassify Marijuana

Category: News | Posted on Tue, July, 8th 2014 by THCFinder
fda-will-most-likely-not-reclassify-marijuana
Advocates on both sides of the debate over legalizing marijuana are skeptical that the Food and Drug Administration will recommend reclassifying marijuana out of the highest drug schedule and say little would change even if it did.
 
Douglas C. Throckmorton, deputy director for regulatory programs at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, told lawmakers last month that the agency is analyzing whether marijuana should continue to be categorized as a Schedule I substance, spurred by citizen petitions received by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Under the Controlled Substances Act, drugs are classified into five schedules based on their potential for abuse and other criteria, with Schedule I considered to be the most dangerous.
 
But Dan Riffle, former director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said it’s very difficult to obtain marijuana for research because the National Institute on Drug Abuse has a monopoly on the supply. He said he has no doubt the eight-factor analysis being performed by the FDA will yield the same result as those before it.
 
The agency conducted analyses at the DEA’s request in 2001 and 2006 and recommended that marijuana remain in Schedule I, according to Throckmorton’s testimony.
 
Kevin A. Sabet, cofounder of Project SAM, which opposes marijuana legalization, said the FDA is looking at the issue because a legalization advocate is forcing the issue. It’s “fantasyland” to think marijuana will be rescheduled, he said, citing the science on the issue and disputing that obtaining the drug for research is a problem.
 
Even if it was moved to Schedule II, Sabet added, it wouldn’t matter because the penalties are a separate matter.
 
Riffle agreed, calling the idea that marijuana should be rescheduled a “red herring.” Rescheduling wouldn’t do anything because it would still be illegal to possess the drug under federal law, he said.
 
At last month’s hearing, Throckmorton said he couldn’t say when he expects the FDA’s analysis to be complete. The agency makes a recommendation to the Department of Health and Human Services after consulting with NIDA, he noted, and then that recommendation gets sent to the DEA.
 

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Still-Divided Washington Readies for Start of Recreational Marijuana Sales

Category: News | Posted on Mon, July, 7th 2014 by THCFinder
recreational-marijuana-in-waVANCOUVER, Wash. — John Larson, a recently retired high school science and math teacher, hopes to be in the first wave of legal recreational marijuana salespeople opening shop here in Washington State this week.
 
Mr. Larson, 67, who was talked into the venture by his children, said he had never tried marijuana, and, in fact, voted against legalizing it in 2012. But as a business idea — well, that’s different.
 
“If people were dumb enough to vote it in, I’m all for it,” he said over a cup of coffee near his shop here in southern Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore. “There’s a demand, and I have a product.”
 
After nearly two years of anticipation, excitement and dread by still-divided Washington residents, the first licenses for legal sale of recreational marijuana will be issued Monday, state officials said. Sales are to start about 24 hours later.
 
But the rollout is not unfolding as anyone quite expected it to, from the seemingly unlikely businesspeople like Mr. Larson who are leading the charge to the downright odd pattern of where the first shops will open.
 
Seattle, for example, with a population of 652,000 the state’s largest city and perhaps most marijuana-friendly, will have only a single store initially, and a tiny one at that: 620 square feet, called Cannabis City. But Vancouver, about one-fourth Seattle’s size, in a largely conservative county that has tried to slow or stop marijuana businesses with strict land-use rules, could have three shops. Tacoma, also in a county that has tried to block marijuana businesses, may have four.
 
The pattern came down to chance and circumstance, said Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which wrote the regulations and administers the system. With multiple inspections and requirements to meet, “a lot of people weren’t ready,” Mr. Carpenter said.
 
Only about 20 licenses out of 334 authorized by the regulations will be granted in this first wave, Mr. Carpenter said, with many would-be operators slowed by financing troubles, inspection questions or other issues. Mr. Larson, for example, applied for three licenses in three cities, and two were denied, in each case because state inspectors said the boundary line was too close to a licensed day care center.
 
He disagreed, but quickly gave up: “You can’t argue with the state.”
 

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Cops Need Warrants To Search Cell Phones, Supreme Court Rules

Category: News | Posted on Mon, June, 30th 2014 by THCFinder
cops-cell-phone-searchesIn an unusual unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court Wednesday ruled that police in almost all cases must obtain a search warrant before searching cell phones or other mobile devices. The ruling brings the huge amounts of data Americans store on cellphones, smartphones, and other mobile devices under the umbrella of constitutional privacy protections.
 
The decision came in two cases, one involving a drug bust and the other a weapons charge. The two cases were consolidated in the court’s opinion in Riley v. California.
 
In ruling in favor of Americans’ privacy, the high court rejected law enforcement arguments that cell phone searches did not require a warrant under an exception that allows police to search the contents of arrested people’s pockets to ensure that they are not armed or do not destroy evidence. While that may be convenient for law enforcement, the court held, constitutional rights trump convenience.
 
The court was clearly aware that modern hand-held devices contain both the quality and quantity of information deserving protection as much as that afforded to people’s personal property and effects in their homes.
 
“Modern cellphones aren’t a technological convenience,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the unanimous opinion “With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life,’” he wrote.
 
As for law enforcement concerns that the court’s ruling would prove an obstacle to some police investigations, Roberts had a pithy retort: “Privacy comes at a cost,” he wrote.
 
And if police have reason to believe such devices may contain relevant evidence, they have recourse, Roberts wrote.
 
“Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cellphone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.”
 
Of course, that means police must convince a magistrate they have probable cause to seek a search warrant.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union liked what it saw in the decision.
 
“By recognizing that the digital revolution has transformed our expectations of privacy, today’s decision is itself revolutionary and will help to protect the privacy rights of all Americans,” said ACLU legal director Steven R. Shapiro in a Wednesday statement. “We have entered a new world but, as the court today recognized, our old values still apply and limit the government’s ability to rummage through the intimate details of our private lives.”
 

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Colorado Plate Profiling

Category: News | Posted on Fri, June, 27th 2014 by THCFinder
colorado-plate-profiling
Colorado has legalized weed and everybody knows it. Not like they're keeping it a secret, right? While everything seems to be going very well there, things change once one crosses the borders in to other states... More specifically the illegal states, where marijuana use still isn't tolerated. Simply because of the license plate on your car, cops find any excuse to pull Colorado residents over. And for one man who took a trip to Idaho earlier this year, this exact situation arose and became a huge issue of what the man's attorney calls "license plate profiling". First of all, all cops should be aware that just because the car is from Colorado doesn't mean the driver smokes weed... Not everyone in the state is blazing now that the law says it's okay. The police in Idaho weren't thinking that when they pulled over Darien Roseen and not only unlawfully detained him but searched his vehicle for cannabis simply on the fact that Roseen had Colorado plates on his car.
 
The search was conducted over a year ago, January 25th, 2013 when Roseen (age 69) was on his way from his daughter's baby shower in Washington state to his other home located in Pagosa Springs. The lawsuit was filed earlier this year, against the police in Payette County, Idaho. Roseen's attorney said that his client was detained for hours while the cops dug through his Honda Ridgeline for the culprit of an apparent pot smell. Don't forget that at this time, cannabis was still not fully legal in Colorado but just allowed for medical patients. The laws had recently passed in those states but the recreational cannabis wouldn't be available for another year (effective Jan 2014).
 
Roseen was pulling off to use a rest stop around 11:40am off of I-84 when he passed a state trooper parked in the median. The trooper, Justin Klitch, followed Roseen to the parking lot and turned on the flashing lights, parked behind the truck, and walked up to the side of Roseen's truck. When questioned as to the nature of the flashing lights, Klitch reportedly didn't give the man a reason but eventually said that there had been no signal light used when Roseen pulled off in to the rest stop and that he had also hit two curbs when pulling in to the stop. Roseen insisted that he has used the signal and could not distinguish where the curbs were under the snow, not to mention he was distracted when the officer turned on the lights behind him.
 
Klitch refused to believe that Roseen was getting off the highway to use the restroom and instead, insisted that he had been attempting to avoid the state police. Klitch then questioned the driver on why his eyes were glassy and began to accuse him of transporting something "that he should not have in his vehicle". Roseen admitted that he had prescription medication from a doctor but no weed. However, Klitch kept pushing, asking the man "When is the last time you used marijuana?" Again and again, Roseen said that he didn't have any weed and had never even smoked. After being asked three times to search the vehicle, Roseen opened up a few places in the vehicle so he could "get back on the road faster". But the officer continued to say that he smelled the plant and used that as probable cause to search the vehicle, holding Roseen in the back of his cruiser, transporting him to the sheriff's office, and searching the Honda. Once at the station, Roseen was told that he could leave but couldn't have his car because they hadn't finished searching it. He was also given a citation for careless driving. There were at least eight officers that searched the vehicle from top to bottom and guess what? No illegal substances were found.
 
Plate profiling is something that Colorado residents really need to think about before leaving their state. As soon as you cross those borders, you're immediately in trouble if you're transporting marijuana. If you are a Colorado (or Washington) resident, please remember this when venturing out of your state. Do not carry marijuana with you in illegal states if you have certain license plates. Other cases have come forward to the same Boise law firm that handled Roseen's lawsuit, complaining of similar treatment at the hands of officers. Don't think for a second that it couldn't happen to you. Please be safe (and smart) when traveling!

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