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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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Brooklyn To Stop Prosecuting Possession Of Small Amounts Of Marijuana

Category: News | Posted on Thu, July, 10th 2014 by THCFinder
brooklyn-to-stop-prosecuting-small-amounts-of-cannabisBrooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced the implementation of his policy to end the prosecution of most low-level marijuana possession cases. With this bold and smart initiative, DA Thompson is using his discretionary authority as the top law enforcement officer in Brooklyn to refocus limited law enforcement resources on serious public safety issues, address and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and ensure that Brooklyn residents are no longer saddled with lifelong arrest records for simple possession of marijuana. In a statement released by DA Thompson, he noted that he shares responsibility with NYPD to protect public safety, but he has an additional duty “to reform and improve our criminal justice system in Brooklyn.”
 
Advocates applaud Thompson’s efforts to address a broken law that has led to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers being arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Over the last fifteen years, over 600,000 people have been arrested for marijuana possession in New York City – the majority of whom are young men of color, even though young white men use marijuana at higher rates. Last year, there were nearly 30,000 such arrests in New York City alone. Based on first-quarter data obtained from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, NYPD is now on track to make nearly as many marijuana possession arrests in 2014 as it did in 2013, with similarly shocking racial disparities.
 
“We commend DA Thompson for this powerful step toward  restoring fairness and equity in the criminal justice system,” said Gabriel Sayegh, NY State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “In New York, our marijuana policies are clearly broken. Albany has yet to act, which means it’s up to municipal leaders to take action on this issue. Thompson’s smart policy will serve the cause of justice and equity in Brooklyn, and we hope district attorneys across the City and the country – as well as Mayor de Blasio and leaders in Albany – are inspired to take similar action. It’s time to end this failed war on drugs and restore sanity, equity and justice to our drug policies.”
 

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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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