N.J. Assembly to vote to reduce marijuana penalties
TRENTON — The state Assembly today plans to vote on a bill that would reduce penalties for being caught with less than half an ounce of marijuana, making it akin to getting a traffic ticket.
Gov. Chris Christie, however, said on Friday he would veto the bill.
The measure (A1465), which has bipartisan support, would replace criminal penalties with fines for those caught with fewer than 15 grams of marijuana — or enough for more than 30 joints.
Currently, those caught with small amounts of marijuana face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, in addition to a possible driver’s license suspension and hundreds of dollars in court fees.
Under the proposed legislation, a first offense would draw a $150 fine, a second offense a $200 fine, and a third $500. In addition, violators under 21 caught with marijuana or adults busted three times would have to attend a drug education program. Those caught with paraphernalia would face a $100 fine.
Although a bill to decriminalize marijuana was introduced last month in the state Senate, it has not advanced.
Study: Medical Marijuana Does Not Increase Number Of Teens Smoking Pot
WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Teens are still getting high on marijuana, but a group of economists say that medical marijuana is not to blame for the seven-year uptick in pot usage amongst teens.
New research during a 17-year period indicates that there’s no evidence suggesting that medical marijuana can be linked to spikes in hard or soft drug usage among high school students, according to a recent study from three college economics professors. The Institute for the Study of Labor’s “Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use” examined data from the Youth Risky Behavior Survey between 1993 and 2009 – a time period in which 13 states allowed for medical marijuana usage. The data indicated that statistical evidence of the link between teens and medical marijuana usage was lacking, even as marijuana use, as a whole, for teens has increased since 2005.
“There is anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana is finding its way into the hands of teenagers, but there’s no statistical evidence that legalization increases the probability of use,” said Daniel I. Rees, University of Colorado Denver economist and study author, in a statement.
Last month’s study from Rees, along with University of Oregon economics professor Benjamin Hansen and Montana State University economics professor D. Mark Anderson, comes as medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and playgrounds are being targeted by federal officials.
“This result is important given that the federal government has recently intensified its efforts to close medical marijuana dispensaries,” Hansen said in a statement. “In fact, the data often showed a negative relationship between legalization and marijuana use.”
The research also comes at a time when more state legislatures nationwide are weighing whether to introduce bills to allow the practice and consumption of medical marijuana. The federal government, however, continues to contend that prescription pot is a catalyst for encouraging teens to get high. Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
“We are confident that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase when a state legalizes medical marijuana,” Anderson said in a statement.
Top US drug cop can’t tell the difference between marijuana and heroin
Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart, a Bush appointee, was questioned by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) in a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing. Polis asks Leonhart about the relative harms arising from prescription painkillers, marijuana, heroin, and crystal meth. She is incapable of distinguishing between them, and stonewalls on questions regarding whether some substances are more addictive than others. It’s a rather astonishing performance, and an amazing example of politicized science — one of America’s top drug cops can’t bring herself to say what practically every adult knows: marijuana’s harms, whatever they are, are not in the same league as heroin or crystal meth.
“Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?” Polis, who has called for an end to marijuana prohibition, asked.
“I believe all illegal drugs are bad,” Leonhart responded.
“Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?” Polis continued. “Is heroin worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?”
“Again, all drugs,” Leonhart began to say, only to be cut off by Polis.
“Yes, no, or I don’t know?” Polis said. “If you don’t know this, you can look this up. You should know this, as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I’m asking a very straightforward question.”
Leonhart said that heroin was highly addictive, but accused Polis of asking a “subjective” question. After being pressed further, she conceded that heroin was more addictive than marijuana, but added “some people become addicted marijuana and some people become addicted to methamphetamine.”
Uruguay says pot law won’t make it a drug haven
* South American nation plans to legalize marijuana sales
* Government to grow marijuana if law passes Congress
* Sales to foreigners would be banned to avoid drug tourism
By Malena Castaldi and Diego Barboza
MONTEVIDEO, June 24 (Reuters) – Uruguay’s government plans to start growing marijuana soon after a law legalizing sales of the drug passes Congress, but a ban on selling to foreigners will stop the country becoming a drug tourism hot-spot, officials say.
The leftist government announced plans last week to legalize the marijuana market as part of a drive to stop rising crime, arguing that the drug is less harmful than the black market where it currently trades.
The use of cannabis and other drugs is already legal in Uruguay, one of Latin America’s safest countries and a trailblazer on liberal lawmaking. The reform being sent to Congress would legalize and regulate its sale and production.
Meeting the smoking needs of the nation of 3.3 million people will require annual production of about 27 tonnes, the government estimates, and the drug will be cultivated in a plantation of roughly 100 hectares (247 acres).
It is not yet clear whether the drug would be grown by the state or by private contractors under license.
Planting should begin in September if the law passes Congress swiftly as expected – despite some opposition from rightist lawmakers, a government source said.
Harvesting would start six months later, said Julio Calzada, secretary general of the National Drugs Board.
“By regulating the marijuana market in the way we’re proposing, we’re going to undermine the development of trafficking of other drugs,” Calzada told Reuters on Saturday. “Our inclination initially is to have production and regulation under state control.”
The idea of a state-run chain of cannabis outlets has been ruled out and the drug would initially be sold by closely monitored private businesses.
Registered consumers would not be allowed to buy more than 30 grams (about 1 ounce) per month and foreigners would be banned from buying the drug to prevent the small country becoming a hot spot for pot-smoking tourists, Calzada said.
Uruguay is a favorite holiday destination among Argentines and fashionable beach resorts like Punta del Este are also popular with visitors from neighboring Brazil.
“The idea is that it would only be sold to Uruguayans … the Netherlands has had to retrace its steps on that issue after years of difficulties with surrounding countries,” Calzada said.
The famous coffee shops of Amsterdam have been a haven for drug tourism for decades, but new rules are coming into force that will make it harder for foreigners to buy.
Calzada said cannabis would carry a sales tax, the proceeds of which would fund rehabilitation programs for addicts. State-grown marijuana could also be used for medical purposes.
Pro-legalization groups welcomed the proposal by the government of President Jose Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter, but they are calling for it to allow personal cultivation too.
“As far as we’re concerned, legalizing marijuana is an attack on the drugs trade, which is sustained by the policy of prohibition,” said Martin Collazo from the Prolegal group.
Mujica’s allies control both houses of Congress so the law is expected to pass despite opposition resistance.
Rightist lawmaker Ana Lia Pineyrua said she had “enormous doubts” about how the legislation will be implemented.
“I don’t see how we’re going to control this when we’ve failed to control other things,” she said, warning that Uruguay risked riling governments battling drug-related violence in South America such as Colombia, as well as the United States.
U.S. President Barack Obama made clear to Latin American leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena in April that he opposes the legalization of drugs.
(Additional reporting by Felipe Llambias; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Anthony Boadle)
Man high on synthetic ‘spice’ attacks couple, police say
Police arrested a Costa Mesa man Saturday morning after they say he allegedly smoked a synthetic form of marijuana called “spice” and assaulted an elderly couple.
Authorities said Matthew See, 23, was speaking gibberish and hanging out in front of a married couple’s apartment in the 600 block of Baker Street when he allegedly stole the 70-year-old man’s sunglasses and eventually forced his way into the man’s home that he shares with his 69-year-old wife.
See allegedly shoved the man to the ground outside the apartment before forcing his way into their home, police said, where he allegedly assaulted the wife and forbade them from calling 911. He eventually left and that’s when the couple called authorities, police officials said.
See remained in the area and was pointed out by the couple. He was booked on suspicion of robbery, burglary, attempted sexual assault, false imprisonment and public intoxication, police say. See is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
California Mayor Allegedly Took Medical Marijuana Bribes
The mayor of Cudahy, California, and two other city officials were charged with accepting $17,000 in bribes for supporting the opening of a medical marijuana store in the city of 23,800 people southeast of Los Angeles.
After weeks of soliciting and discussing bribes, the three officials met in February with a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant at the El Potrero nightclub in Cudahy, where they accepted a $15,000 cash payment, according to a statement today from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. One of the three accepted a separate $2,000 payment, according to the statement.
The three charged are Mayor David Silva, 61, City Council member Osvaldo Conde, 50, and Angel Perales, 43, who runs the city’s code enforcement division and allegedly brokered the bribe payments. Each of them faces as long as 10 years in prison if convicted.
“The allegations in this case describe a corrosive and freewheeling attitude among certain officials in the city of Cudahy,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. in Los Angeles said in the statement. “The Department of Justice will aggressively investigate and pursue cases like this to ensure that the integrity of good government is protected and preserved.”
Hector Rodriguez, Cudahy’s city manager, said in a phone interview that he hadn’t seen the charges and that the city would cooperate with investigators. Silva and Conde are part- time officials and Perales resigned last week, Rodriguez said.
The city currently has a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and, Rodriguez said, he will propose extending the moratorium for another year.
The city, named after an Irish meatpacker who bought a ranch east of Los Angeles in 1908 and subdivided the land, is 94 percent Latino and the residents have a median income of $29,040, according to an affidavit of the FBI agent investigating the case.
James Bisnow, Silva’s lawyer according to the court’s criminal duty calendar, and Charles Brown, a federal public defender listed as representing Conde, didn’t immediately return calls to their offices seeking comment on the charges. Calls to the office of Carlos Iriarte, a lawyer listed for Perales, weren’t answered.
The cases are U.S. v. Conde, 12-1490M, U.S. v. Perales, 12-1491M, and U.S. v. Silva, 12-1492M, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles.)
To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at email@example.com.