[Editor’s Note: Tennessee elected a conservative Governor in 2018. Still, there is plenty of motivation to legalize medical cannabis for Tennessee citizens.]
Two marijuana decriminalization bills have been introduced by lawmakers in the Tennessee legislature, according to media reports. One would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of pot, while the other would protect holders of medical marijuana identification cards from other states. Both bills were sponsored in the Tennessee Senate by Democratic Sen. Sara Kyle and in the House of Representatives by fellow Democrat Rep. Gloria Johnson.
The first measure, SB256/HB235, would amend state statute to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of cannabis. The second bill, SB260/HB234, would permit holders of medical marijuana program identification cards from other states to possess up to one-half an ounce of cannabis. The bill also removes criminal penalties for medical marijuana cardholders who transfer cannabis to other cardholders.
Johnson told local media that she decided to sponsor the bills, which were written by Kyle, partly due to the personal experience of her father, who had multiple sclerosis.
“I still believe he would have benefited from medical marijuana in treating the tremendous pain he was in,” Johnson said. “And if we have something who can benefit folks visiting family in Tennessee, they shouldn’t be punished for taking their medication.”
Johnson also believes that decriminalizing marijuana is a matter of criminal justice reform and treating simple possession appropriately.
MMJ Bill Also Pending
The bills from Kyle and Johnson come less than three weeks after two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Janice Bowling and Rep. Ron Travis, announced plans to introduce legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in Tennessee.
After introducing the measures, Bowling said in a press release that she believes cannabis can be part of the solution to the nationwide epidemic of opioid overdose deaths.
“I have been in the fight against opioids and pill mills. Opioids have become a tragedy for Tennesseans,” Bowling said. “Our constituents can use a natural and effective option for pain relief that is not controlled or pushed by Big Pharma. When I see medical studies showing that states with medical cannabis programs had an average 23 percent drop in opioid prescription use and overdoses, I see a real option we can use.”
If the bill succeeds, patients with certain qualifying health conditions would be able to obtain a medical marijuana identification card to allow them to legally purchase cannabis. A commission would be created to regulate patient access and license cultivators and retailers. Bowling said the experience of other states was called upon to draft this medical cannabis solution for Tennessee.
“I wanted a new bill that is Tennessee-specific and takes the best of what worked in other states and leaves out what did not. This bill delivers what I wanted,” Bowling added. “The legislature has not yet had that kind of bill to consider. The Bowling-Travis bill creates a fully functioning framework to license growing, producing and dispensing operations.”
All four cannabis bills are now pending before the Tennessee legislature.
Two Marijuana Decriminalization Bills Introduced in Tennessee was posted on High Times.
[Editor’s Note: With Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s support of legal cannabis, Michigan could lead the way and right this wrong.]
A coalition of activists are trying to remove cannabis from the state’s list of controlled substances.
A group of cannabis activists in Michigan has filed a lawsuit against the government to remove marijuana from the state’s list of controlled substances. Despite being legalized for medical purposes in 2008 and the beginning of legal recreational sales last year, cannabis is still listed in the Michigan Public Health Code as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. This classification indicates that a drug has no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse.
Michael Komorn, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said cannabis should not remain as a scheduled drug.
“This is not a controlled substance,” Komorn said. “The idea that someone would be growing an opioid … and bringing it to a pharmacy because they were running low on their meds is the scenario that would have to exist in order for marijuana to remain as a scheduled drug.”
“It’s intellectually dishonest,” Komorn said.
The lawsuit was filed last week in the Michigan Court of Claims against Michigan Board of Pharmacy and its chairwoman Nichole Cover. The suit maintains that with the state acknowledging through legislation the medical efficacy of cannabis, the State Board of Pharmacy should remove the Schedule 1 designation. The suit also claims that Cover should not be serving as both a member of the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board and the chair of the Board of Pharmacy, which does not recognize cannabis as a medicine.
State spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said in a statement that “the Michigan Department of Attorney General is in the process of reviewing and preparing a response to the” lawsuit, according to media reports.
Historic Activist Named As Plaintiff in Lawsuit
The plaintiffs in the legal action are NORML of Michigan, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, Dr. Christian Bogner, a researcher studying the effect of cannabis on autism, medical marijuana patient Josey Scoggin, pharmacist Paul Littler, and poet and activist John Sinclair.
Sinclair has been a cannabis activist in Michigan for more than 50 years. In 1967, his arrest for possessing two joints led to an outcry that resulted in the annual Hash Bash in Ann Arbor. He said at the Cannabis Counsel Office in Detroit on Wednesday that it is time to stop prosecuting people in Michigan for using cannabis.
“For 80 years they’ve been locking people up and taking their possessions and harassing and terrorizing us as citizens because we like to smoke weed,” said Sinclair. “I want to be part of every effort to completely remove the police from our lives regarding marijuana. They’ve got nothing at all to do with marijuana.”
The Michigan Supreme Court overturned Sinclair’s conviction in 1972, writing in its decision that “not only that there is no rational basis for classifying marijuana with the ‘hard narcotics’, but, also, that there is not even a rational basis for treating marijuana as a more dangerous drug than alcohol.”
Advocates Sue Michigan to Remove Cannabis from Controlled Substances List was posted on High Times.
[Editor’s Note: This could be a cannabis landmark case regarding consumer education of cannabis benefits.]
Cannabis advocates who wanted to set up an informational booth at the state fair were met with restrictions that have been deemed unreasonable.
A federal judge has ruled that a New Mexico medical cannabis cultivator’s rights were violated when tight restrictions were imposed on its state fair application. United States District Court Judge James Parker said in a ruling released last week that Expo New Mexico, the venue for the state fair, violated the First Amendment rights of Ultra Health Inc. by placing unreasonable limits on the items the company could display in its booth at the state fair.
“The State Fair’s restrictions … as applied to Ultra Health’s 2017 State Fair application were unreasonable in light of the purpose of the forum and the surrounding circumstances and therefore violated Ultra Health’s First Amendment right to free speech,” Judge Parker stated in his ruling, according to a press release from the company.
Duke Rodriguez, the CEO for Ultra Health, said that that the court’s ruling “is a clear victory for cannabis advocates in New Mexico and across the nation. Judge Parker’s recognition that medical cannabis producers’ free speech should be protected is a first-of-its-kind ruling defending the right to fully educate and inform the public on the benefits of cannabis.”
Ultra Health had applied for a booth at the 2017 New Mexico State Fair in order to share information with the public about the benefits of medical cannabis. The company did not plan to display or sell any cannabis or cannabis products at the fair. In 2016, the company’s booth included a live cannabis plant and the company was told to leave on the first day of the event by state police.
Raina Bingham, the fair’s concessions director, emailed the company and wrote that Ultra Health would not be permitted to have cannabis plants or products in its booth and would be prohibited from displaying any items used to “plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body any type of cannabis or other controlled substance” or images of any of those items, according to a report from the Albuquerque Journal.
The company decided not to participate in the fair and filed a lawsuit against Bingham, Larry Kennedy, the chairman of the New Mexico State Fair Commission, and Dan Mourning, the general manager of Expo New Mexico.
“By the plain language of Ms. Bingham’s statement,” the company wrote in its court filing, “Ultra Health would be precluded from bringing a shovel to its informational booth, and would also be precluded from bringing a picture of a shovel, since a shovel may be used to ‘cultivate’ or ‘plant’ a cannabis plant.”
Parker found that the restrictions were subjective, arbitrary, and overbroad and violated the company’s First Amendment right to free speech. While the judge agreed with the defendants’ right to promote a family-friendly event, it had exercised “unfettered discretion to conclude what constitutes ‘family friendly’ by relying almost entirely on their subjective sensibilities and respective personal opinions.”
“For example, Ms. Bingham approved Cutco Cutlery’s 2017 State Fair applications despite an explicit prohibition on knives,” Parker wrote. “Ms. Bingham testified that even with a prohibition on firearms, the State Fair would allow a hunting and fishing store to display photographs of its merchandise, including shotguns sold in its store.”
The judge found that the state fair is a “limited public forum” and organizers have a right to exercise discretion in the selection of vendors.
“However, they must do so reasonably,” he wrote.
Federal Judge Sides With Cannabis Grower in Free Speech Case was posted on High Times.
[Editor’s Note: Bad luck for this Mayor that a series of random events led the police to their door – at 4:20 nonetheless.]
The police arrived at the Jamaica, Iowa mayor’s home at 4:20 in the afternoon on Wednesday.
The mayor of an Iowa town and her husband were arrested after police discovered 18 marijuana plants growing in their home. LaDonna Kennedy, the mayor of Jamaica, Iowa, and Randy Kennedy were charged with several crimes including manufacturing with intent to deliver no more than 50 kilograms of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, two counts of failure to affix a drug stamp, and keeping a dwelling for possessing or selling a controlled substance.
The Guthrie County Sheriff and deputies had gone to the Kennedys’ residence at about 4:20 pm on Wednesday, according to media reports. The deputies had received information from a neighboring law enforcement agency that the suspect in an attempted murder, Rodney Halterman, may have been at the home. An arrest warrant had been issued for Halterman in Story County after a woman was shot in the chest on Saturday afternoon.
Odor of Pot Leads to Arrests
When the peace officers arrived, they “could all smell the overwhelming odor of raw marijuana coming from the residence while [they] stood outside knocking on the door,” Dep. Kent Gries wrote in a court affidavit. Sheriff Marty Arganbright reported seeing someone come to a window of the house and then shut it. The sheriff and deputies then decided to get a search warrant for the home based on the strong smell of marijuana and the possibility the fugitive may be in the residence. Law enforcement officers surrounded the house while they waited for the warrant to be delivered to the site.
While waiting for the warrant, Randy Kennedy was seen exiting the home and taken into custody. Kennedy asked to return to the house for a jacket and was permitted to do so. Deputy Gries accompanied Kennedy, who admitted that there were “nine plants” growing in the basement of the house. Kennedy was then detained in the back of a police car while the deputies continued to wait for the search warrant. Once the warrant was signed and delivered to the deputies via email, they entered the house to serve the warrant.
“During the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement located eighteen marijuana plants in various states of growth,” Gries wrote. “There were three separate areas in the residence for marijuana growing. A substantial purpose of the residence was for marijuana growing, sorting, packaging.”
The deputies also found various items of drug paraphernalia, an unmarked pill bottle containing 24 tablets identified as the controlled substance Lorazepam, and nine baggies of cannabis.
“A very, very rough estimate of the packaged marijuana would be around 45 ounces,” according to the affidavit.
Halterman, the man the deputies were originally searching for, was not found at the house.
Randy and LaDonna Kennedy were arrested and initially held in lieu of an $18,000 bond, but a magistrate released the couple on their own recognizance on Thursday. Reporters were not able to reach the Kennedys for comment. If convicted, LaDonna Kennedy could be removed from office by a judge or action from the city council.
Iowa Mayor Charged For Growing 18 Marijuana Plants in Her Home was posted on High Times.
[Editor’s Note: Social justice is mandatory as legalization continues across the Country. Not just expungement, but tax revenues must be set aside for grants to support communities that have been disproportionately effected by prohibition. The inequities must be addressed.]
In an op-ed for NBC, Rev. Al Sharpton shared his views on marijuana legalization.
With New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo setting the legalization of recreational cannabis as a goal for his new term, civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for justice, rather than profit, to guide the effort. In an op-ed published by NBC on Friday, Sharpton said that cannabis legalization is a civil rights issue.
“Legalizing marijuana is a civil rights cause that the National Action Network has championed for years because of the potential economic benefit for low-income communities across the country, and thus we commend the governor for taking the lead on this issue,” Sharpton wrote.
On Monday, Cuomo announced that legalizing cannabis would be a priority for his second term in office, which begins next month. Sharpton believes that the benefits of legal cannabis should be shared by the communities hardest hit by the War on Drugs.
“As we prepare to join states like California, Washington, and Oregon in embracing legal use and the economic future that will follow, we cannot forget those haunted by the ghosts of marijuana law’s (hopefully soon) past: People of color and the formerly incarcerated,” he wrote.
Sharpton noted that despite similar rates of cannabis use among races, minorities face legal consequences far more often.
“Data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services shows that 93 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession in New York City from January to March of this year were non-white,” he said. “That’s up compared to all of 2017, when 86 percent of arrests were of people of color.”
The impact of this racial injustice continues long after arrest and punishment. Convictions for marijuana offenses are often used as the basis for the denial of rights and social services.
“For decades, New York’s dark history of racist and classist drug enforcement policies deprived countless black and brown residents across the state of access to education, employment, federal housing and the right to vote, ruining the livelihoods of individuals and families,” Sharpton continued.
Social Equity in Legalization
To address the issue, Sharpton said that “any marijuana legalization bill should create an easy and expedited process to expunge non-violent marijuana convictions from criminal records, expand re-entry programs to people affected by pre-legalization marijuana arrests and give priority for licensure to women and minority-run businesses, as well as nonviolent offenders who had been convicted on past marijuana charges.”
Sharpton hailed the work of We Rise to Legalize, a coalition of social justice advocates working to legalize cannabis in New York State in a framework with provisions for social equity programs.
“When the profits from legal sales do come, ‘We Rise to Legalize’ will work to reinvest profits from pot businesses into minority communities most harmed by the current drug laws and create sustainable jobs in the marijuana industry for those who need them most,” Sharpton said.
He added that while progress on cannabis policy reform has been made, New York could see more benefit with full legalization.
“Some progress has been made over the past 20 years, as the New York City Police Department and district attorneys across New York City have adopted less archaic policies around policing, prosecution, and sentencing for marijuana crimes,” said Sharpton. “A legal adult use program will continue to generate savings for state law enforcement, decreasing police time, court fees and prison and administrative costs.”
Sharpton concluded the editorial by calling for the benefits of cannabis legalization to be shared by all communities.
“As we race towards a bright future of legalized marijuana in New York, we cannot continue to leave the most vulnerable in the dark.”
Rev. Al Sharpton Says Marijuana Legalization Should be About Justice Not Money was posted on High Times.