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New Jersey: George Washington Bridge Guard Caught Smoking Pot On The Job

(Photo: New York Daily News)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A security guard at the George Washington Bridge (which spans the Hudson River, between New York and New Jersey) was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly smoking marijuana on the job.

Sami Omar, 26, of North Bergen, New Jersey, is an employee of FJC Security, a private company that contracts with the Port Authority, authority spokesman Steve Coleman said, reports Dan Ivers of NJ.com.

Port Authority Officer Kevin Hart was reportedly conducting regular post inspections at around 2 p.m. when he smelled "a strong odor of marijuana" coming from the book in which Omar was working. When questioned by Hart, Omar replied that "there must have been a skunk nearby," Coleman said. (Nice try, Omar.)

Omar, whose job is to watch for suicide jumpers and terror attacks, allegedly sprayed aerosol inside the booth in an attempt to mask the cannabis smell.

Hart searched the area, finding a half-smoked blunt and a small bag of weed.

Omar was arrested and charged with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and being under the influence of a "controlled dangerous substance."

The Port Authority called Omar's conduct "intolerable" and said it would review its security policies.

New Hampshire: House Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The New Hampshire House on Thursday, for the fourth time in five years, passed a bill which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But Governor Maggie Hassan has said she's not in favor of decriminalization, and the New Hampshire Senate has shot down all three of the recent attempts by the House to pass such a law.

Bill supporters said that marijuana prohibition doesn't have public support and is a financial and regulatory burden on the state, reports Morgan True at The Associated Press. Supporters noted that both alcohol and tobacco have worse health and societal impacts than does cannabis.

"A criminal offense and a criminal record can do much more harm than a small amount of marijuana," said Rep. Joel Winters (D-Nashua) during debate on the House floor.

The House voted 214-115 to pass the decrim bill after Rep. Linda Harriott-Gathright (D-Nashua) lost a floor fight over the issue, reports Dan Tuohy at NashuaPatch. Harriott-Gathright brought the bill to the House on behalf of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which recommended the House kill the bill.

Congresswoman Co-Sponsors Bill To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

There is a truth that must be heard!Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) Co-sponsors Congressional Bill to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

Bill would allow states to set marijuana policies without federal interference

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-District 1) this week joined the effort to end marijuana prohibition and start regulating marijuana like alcohol at the federal level. Rep. Pingree, as well as Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), signed on to co-sponsor H.R. 499, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, on Monday, joining a bipartisan group of supporters in the House. There are currently 14 co-sponsors of the bill.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) on February 5 introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, which would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol at the federal level. It would also remove marijuana from the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and place it in the jurisdiction of a renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms, and Explosives.

Washington: Police Retraining Drug Dogs Not To Sniff For Now-Legal Marijuana

(Photo: The Raw Story)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

One of the happiest readjustments having to be made after Washington state voters approved marijuana legalization measure I-502 last November is underway: the police are retraining drug-sniffing dogs not to sniff for cannabis, because it's now legal for adults to possess up to an ounce in the Evergreen State.

Since the smell of marijuana no longer automatically means a crime has taken place, that changes the constitutional status of a police drug-detecting dog alerting on your property, reports Ian Millhiser at Think Progress.

If a dog is trained to sniff out marijuana and it alerts after sniffing an adult suspect, it no longer necessarily means a crime has taken place, because the dog likely only reacted to the presence of cannabis on the suspect.

So marijuana-sniffing dogs can no longer provide "probable cause" that a suspect is engaged in criminal activity, because the dogs are trained to alert when suspects are doing something that is no longer illegal under state law.

As a result of this dilemma, several police departments in Washington are retraining their drug-detecting dogs. Many law enforcement agencies around the state, including the Seattle Police Department and the Washington State Patrol, will no longer be training their dogs to alert for marijuana.

Michigan: Marijuana Defendant Gets 11 Years For 6 Tons

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

One of nine defendants in a six-ton marijuana bust in Michigan was sentenced on Wednesday to 11 years and three months in federal prison.

Patrick O'Meara was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney in Kalamazoo, reports John Agar at Mlive.com.

O'Mera had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver marijuana in the 12,000-pound marijuana bust from October 2011.

Earlier, Judge Maloney had sentenced Tony Frank Disla-Santiago to 11 years, three months. Angel Luis De Leon-De Jesus got six years, six months; Flavio Ramos got five years, three months; and Anthony Castro-Gonzales was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration had tracked the shipment, which they claimed had a street value of $12 million.

A DEA special agent in Indianapolis told authorities that a semi loaded with marijuana was headed to a specific location in the city of Wyoming, Michigan. Law enforcement were watching the warehouse as the cannabis was unloaded.

According to the federal indictment, the defendants conspired to possess and distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana from 2009 through October 21, 2011.

New Hampshire: House Overwhelmingly Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

There is a truth that must be heard!
By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The New Hampshire House, in an overwhelming show of support for medical marijuana, voted 286-64 on Wednesday to pass a medical marijuana bill with a veto-proof majority. It's the fourth time in six years a MMJ bill has passed the House.

House Bill 573 would allow five dispensaries at which Granite State patients could buy medicinal cannabis, reports The Associated Press. It also would allow patients or their caregivers to grow up to three marijuana plants.

"This overwhelming vote comes as a great relief to patients who have been waiting years to legally follow their doctors' advice," said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Patients should not have to live iun fear of arrest in the 'Live Free Or Die' state, and it's a great relief for them to see such strong, bipartisan support from the House."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), was previously approved 14-1 by the House Committee on Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs. The committee made a number of changes, including a language change from "medical marijuana" to "therapeutic use of cannabis," which was suggested by the New Hampshire Medical Society.

Maine: Drive Launched To Legalize Marijuana In Portland

Photo - Maine: Drive Launched To Legalize Marijuana In PortlandSupporters to highlight the fact that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol, and it is illogical to punish adults for using the safer alternative

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana policy reform advocates will hold a press conference on Thursday, March 21, to announce the start of a citywide signature drive to make marijuana possession legal for adults within the city limits of Portland, Maine.

The petition, filed earlier this month by the Portland Green Party, would make possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana legal under city ordinance. The Portland Green Party will also be coordinating the signature drive for the initiative.

Advocates will announce the details of the petition and highlight the fact that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol, and it is therefore illogical to punish adults for using the safer alternative.

Scheduled to speak at the event are Portland City Councilor Dave Marshall, Zachary Heiden of the ACLU of Maine, Tom MacMillan of the Portland Green Party, and David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

WHAT: News conference to announce kick-off of citywide signature drive to make marijuana possession legal

WHEN: Thursday, March 21, 10 a.m. EST

WHERE: Portland City Hall, State of Maine Room (2nd Floor), 389 Congress St.

WHO: Tom MacMillan, Portland Green Party Chair

Denmark: Copenhagen Wants To Legalize Cannabis; National Government Opposes

Photo - Denmark: Copenhagen Wants To Legalize Cannabis; National Government OpposesBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Danish city of Copenhagen wants to legalize cannabis. But while city officials overwhelmingly support the move, the national government of Denmark may not let them go ahead with the plan.

Last year the Danish national government rejected tentative legalization plans that had been approved on a 39-9 vote by the Copenhagen City Council, reports Fergus O'Sullivan at The Atlantic Cities.

Last week, officials from Seattle, where Washington state voters legalized marijuana last November, were flow in for a conference to help write a policy that stands a better chance of overcoming reluctance from non-metropolitan Danish and neighboring Swedish mayors.

Copenhagen would prefer to keep marijuana sales under state monopoly, controlling prices and importing supplies, possibly even from now-legal Colorado and Washington, though Washington officials have already nervously downplayed that possible plan, citing possible federal law enforcement concerns.

To prevent so-called "pot tourism," only Danish passport holders over the age of 18 would be allowed to buy weed. Cannabis outlets might also restrict sales by demanding proof of residency in Copenhagen.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Campaign Gets Financial Backers

Photo - Florida: Medical Marijuana Campaign Gets Financial BackersBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Two major Democratic fundraisers have said they would provide the money and expertise to get legalization of medical marijuana on the Florida ballot in 2014.

"I'm prepared to keep raising money and writing checks until I get the signatures to put it on the ballot," said attorney John Morgan -- who routinely hosts presidents and national political figures at his home, and is a former fundraiser for President Barack Obama -- late on Tuesday, reports Barbara Liston of Reuters.

Morgan recently signed on as chairman of People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), a grassroots campaign that, until now, was operating on a shoestring budget. He was recruited by Ben Pollara, a lobbyist and fellow Obama campaign fundraiser, who recently became treasurer of PUFMM.

The problem was, PUFMM didn't have the money to wage a high-profile battle and couldn't get enough signatures to get their medical marijuana legalization proposal on the ballot.

"We were just scraping together pennies," said Kim Russell of Orlando, who founded PUFMM four years ago. The group could barely afford to photocopy its own petition, she said.

Now, PUFMM has commissioned a poll and is planning to hire a company to manage the petition drive. "It's a 180-degree turnaround," Russell said.

Maryland: Senate Votes To Decriminalize Small Amounts of Marijuana

(Photo of Candace Junkin, Moms For Marijuana, courtesy of Candace Junkin)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maryland Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would reduce the penalty for up to 10 grams of marijuana from criminal possession to a civil fine. Meanwhile, another bill in the Maryland House goes even farther.

That bill, sponsored by Delegate Curt Anderson, would legalize the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and over, reports Pat Warren at CBS Baltimore. It would remove all penalties for possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, and would allow adults to grow up to three plants.

"Cigarettes are legal," Anderson said. "Alcohol is legal. Both, by far, are more dangerous drugs than marijuana."

Under Anderson's legalization bill, the state would license retail marijuana stores, wholesale facilities, and testing facilities and collect a tax on pot sales.

"We're making out kids criminals," said activist Candace Junkin of Moms For Marijuana, who testified before lawmakers in favor of the bill.

According to Junkin, the legislation is important to Maryland for many reasons.

"The resources we could save in law enforcement and the dismantling of the black market is in the forefront," she told Hemp News on Friday morning. "But most important to this Maryland mom of four and grandmother of three, is our children.

Washington: State's Legal Marijuana Consultant Said In 2010 That Legalization 'Can't Be Done'

There is a truth that must be heard!Massachusetts-Based Think Tank Is Successful Vendor To Provide 'Technical Expertise' As Board Implements Cannabis Legalization

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) has chosen a Massachusetts-based firm , Botec Analysis Corp., led by Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, to be its official marijuana consultant. Ironically, Kleiman, in a 2010 editorial, wrote that state-level legalization "can't be done."

Botec, based in Cambridge, Mass., was chosen to provide technical expertise as the WSLCB implements Initiative 502, the marijuana legalization measured approved by 55.7 percent of the state's voters last November. Dr. Kleiman teaches public policy at UCLA, and is considered an expert in criminal and drug policy, including probation, parole, and incarceration. (More on that corrections-intensive resumé in a moment.)

Botec specializes in crime and drug policy, and will serve as the prime contractor. The fact that both the think tank and Kleiman specialize in "crime" is cause for concern among some marijuana advocates, who long for the day when cannabis will be defined in something other than criminal terms. (Was it too much to ask for this to happen after voters approved legalization?)

Idaho: House Committee Holds Hearing On Anti-Marijuana Resolution

There is a truth that must be heard!It's Reefer Madness Time In Idaho: Measure Would Declare State Should 'Never' Legalize Marijuana 'For Any Purpose'

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Idaho House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning held a hearing on SCR 112, a Senate resolution declaring that it's the "position" of the Idaho Legislature that the state should never legalize marijuana for any purpose.

"Wait," you may be thinking. "I thought representatives, in a democracy, asked the people what they think about issues, not dictate to them how it will be." That's apparently not how it works, at least in Senator Chuck Winder's mind.

"Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States," Winder, a Republican from Boise, told the House State Affairs Committee, reports The Spokesman-Review. "I think what this resolution is trying to do is just to make a statement that Idaho recognizes the problems that marijuana is creating in other states," he said, without defining exactly what kinds of "problems" are supposed to be happening.

"This is just a statement, it doesn't change the law," Winder said. "It's just a statement on behalf of the Legislature of Idaho." So, back to that "Legislature dictating to the people" thing.

Oregon: Legislature Considers Legalizing, Taxing Marijuana

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Oregon lawmakers are looking at a plan to legalize and tax marijuana under House Bill 3371, scheduled for an April 2 public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill would legalize the production, processing and sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products, reports Yuxing Zheng of The Oregonian. Adults 21 and older would be allowed to grow up to six mature marijuana plants and 24 ounces of dried cannabis, the same amounts currently allowed for patients under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.

The Oregon Health Authority would be in charge of licensing marijuana producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers under HB 3371. Meanwhile, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would oversee the taxation of cannabis.

Marijuana producers would be taxed $35 per ounce under the bill. That money would go to a "Cannabis Tax Account," 40 percent of which would go to state schools, with 20 percent each going to Oregon State Police, the general fund, and services for mental health, alcoholism and drugs.

If passed, HB 3371 would take effect on July 1, 2014.

Colorado: Medical Marijuana Training Program Approved

Photo: Cannabis NewsBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill aimed at training dispensary personnel and others who work in medical marijuana businesses was approved on Tuesday by the Colorado Legislature and is headed to Governor John Hickenlooper's desk.

The state Senate voted 23-12 on Tuesday to approve the bill, which creates a "responsible medical marijuana vendor" designation, reports The Associated Press.

The designation, which remains optional rather than mandatory, would allow dispensaries to train their employees regarding the state's medical marijuana rules, and how to spot fake patient ID cards.

The businesses could then get a break if they run afoul of state regulations. A similar designation has already been created for the alcohol industry.

Recreational marijuana stores created by Amendment 64, which are soon to appear, wouldn't be affected by the measure. The Legislature is still working on the rules for those shops, which will be allowed to sell cannabis to any adult 21 or older.

Something similar to a "responsible vendor" designation is likely to come in the recreational marijuana market, as well, according to observers.

The "responsible vendor" measure, backed by the medical marijuana industry, passed the House last month.

(Photo: Cannabis News)

New York: New Report Shows NYPD Spent 1 Million Hours Making Marijuana Arrests

Photo: The L MagazineBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New Report: “One Million Police Hours: Making 440,000 Marijuana Possession Arrests in New York City, 2002-2012”

NYC Has Dubious Distinction of “Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World”; Majority of Those Arrested Are Black and Latino Youth

Report Released As State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus Makes Final Push to Pass Marijuana Reform Proposal This Week

A new report released on Tuesday documents the astonishing number of hours the New York Police Department has spent arresting and processing hundreds of thousands of people for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure. The report finds that NYPD used approximately one million hours of police officer time to make 440,000 marijuana possession arrests over 11 years.

These, of course, are hours that police officers might have otherwise have spent investigating and solving serious crimes.

The report was prepared by Dr. Harry Levine, Professor of Sociology at Queens College and recognized expert on marijuana possession arrests, at the request of members of the New York City Council and the New York State Legislature.

Ohio: Ballot Drive Launched To Legalize Medical Marijuana

Ohio: Ballot Drive Launched To Legalize Medical MarijuanaBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Ohio voters could get the chance to decide on a constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana and create a million new jobs statewide, if the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment gets the necessary signatures.

The signature drive for the amendment, which would allow medicinal use of cannabis and the cultivation of industrial hemp, was launched over the weekend in Lorain County, reports Jessica James at the Northern Ohio Morning Journal.

Ohio Rights Group President John Pardee and his wife Linda, of Amherst, attended an event in Oberlin on Saturday which launched the drive to collect 1,000 signatures required for the approval of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for a full statewide petition.

If approved by the attorney general, the group will need 385,000 signatures of valid voters to get the amendment on the ballot.

"We are for medical marijuana for qualifying residents and veterans in need, but we're also incorporating the permission for farmers to grow industrial hemp," said Pardee. "There are very low levels of THC, the psychoactive drug compound in marijuana, in hemp. But because it's a part of the cannabis genus, it is also prohibited."

Massachusetts: Cannabis Trade Group Advises Prospective Dispensary Owners

Massachusetts: Cannabis Trade Group Advises Prospective Dispensary OwnersBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

It's just two weeks until Massachusetts releases its regulations for medical marijuana, and people interested in getting into the business gathered for a symposium in downtown Boston held by a national cannabis trade association.

Members of the National Cannabis Industry Association educated potential entrepreneurs on Saturday, reports Lynn Jolicoeur at WBUR.

"It's certainly not an easy business to be in," said NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith. "If somebody thinks they're going to get in this and make a bunch of cash and get out without a lot of headaches, then they're wrong and they need to get involved in something else potentially."

"There's something altruistic in nature in being involved in this industry," agreed Ean Seeb, who runs a medical marijuana dispensary in Denver. "And if you're getting involved in it simply for the money, it's probably the wrong reason to be involved."

"You need to be fully aware of the possible repercussions of what could happen as a result of you being involved in the industry," Seeb said. "On the other side, the number one reason to be involved is because, at least for us, we want to be on the right side of history."

Draft regulations governing medical marijuana will be released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at the end of March.

Maryland: Bill Would End Jail Time, Reduce Fine For Small Amounts of Marijuana

Maryland: Bill Would End Jail Time, Reduce Fine For Small Amounts of MarijuanaBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maryland Senate on Monday is scheduled to vote on a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, ending jail time and reducing the fine to a maximum of $100.

The bill, which is expected to pass, will then face review by the House of Delegates, report Kate Havard and Paul Schwartzman of The Washington Post. Under the Senate proposal, people caught with up to 10 grams of cannabis -- just more than a third of an ounce -- would no longer face any jail time.

Under current Maryland law, the punishment is up to 90 days behind bars, with a fine of up to $500.

"We don't want to wrap people up in the criminal jail system for this," said Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County).

Maryland, a Democratic stronghold, has already legalized same-sex marriage and abolished the death penalty. But it has lagged behind states like California, Washington and Colorado on the cannabis issue.

Senate Majority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R-Cecil) said he expected the decrim bill to pass in the Senate with bipartisan support, though he said he would vote no on it.

California: 2,000 Pounds of Marijuana Found on Santa Barbara Beach

Photo: Los Angeles TimesBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An estimated one ton of marijuana was found on Sunday wrapped in plastic bags on Arroyo Quemada Beach in Santa Barbara County, California. Santa Barbara County law enforcement officials claimed the worth of the 2,000 pounds of cannabis as being $4 million.

Sheriff's deputies "located an apparently abandoned 309-foot 'Panga' style boat with two outboard engines and 20+ plus containers on board," the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department said in a news release, reports the Los Angeles Times.

"Sheriff's detectives located a significant amount of evidence that was consistent with marijuana smuggling activities, including trash and debris that was strewn about the beach and nearby coastal access trails," the sheriff's release said. Hemp News was unable to confirm at press time if the "debris" consisted of Doritos bags.

Law enforcement officials are now "testing the drugs and other evidence" found at the scene.

New Hampshire: House To Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization, MMJ This Week

Photo - New Hampshire: House To Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization, MMJ This WeekBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New Hampshire may take a step closer to legalizing medical marijuana this week with the state House scheduled to vote on a proposal that would allow five dispensaries and permit patients or their caregivers to grow up to three plants. Meanwhile, the House is also expected to vote on a cannabis decriminalization bill.

An amended version of the medical marijuana bill, which restricts out-of-state patients from buying or growing pot in New Hampshire and also tightens other language of the original bill, has been overwhelmingly approved by a House committee, reports The Associated Press.

The New Hampshire Legislature has already passed medical marijuana bills two times, but both were vetoed by former Governor John Lynch. A third attempt was killed in the Senate. Governor Maggie Hassan has endorsed the idea of a "tightly regulated" medical marijuana law, but has expressed concerns about this bill's home-grow option.

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