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  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    More than half of the United States allow marijuana use of some kind after voters in eight states passed legalization laws following the 2016 presidential election. Since then, cannabis advocates in other states have been pushing even harder for marijuana reform, and some states have already hopped on the legalization bandwagon and started considering making changes to weed laws in Texas, Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee.

    Legislators in Texas filed several requests to decriminalize marijuana in the Lone Star state on Nov. 5, the first day of bill filling for the 2017 legislative season, according to reports. When state officials meet in Austin in January, they will consider reducing charges for marijuana possession and replacing them with a civil infraction, resulting in a $250 fine instead of jail time and a criminal record.

    The state does offer medical marijuana for those suffering from intractable epilepsy and other chronic disease after passing the Compassionate Use Act in June 2015. However, those caught using or distributing marijuana without the proper identification can still face charges for carrying even the smallest amounts of weed.

    Currently in Texas, persons found with less than two ounces of marijuana can face a misdemeanor charge and up to 180 days in jail. Perpetrators caught with between two and four ounces of pot may be sentenced to at least a year in jail, while those caught with more than four ounces of marijuana face felony charges and jail sentences between two and 99 years.

    While states were voting to legalize medical and recreational laws on Election Day, decriminalization laws passed in several cities in Ohio. The state voted to reduce charges for marijuana possession, which will allow people caught with less than 200 grams of pot to avoid fines and jail time. Since the 1970s, people caught with more than 100 grams of weed faced misdemeanor charges, $250 fines and 30-days behind bars. Now residents in Bellaire, Logan, Newark and Roseville caught with marijuana will receive a ticketed offense without the chances of jail or a fine.

    Decriminalization laws went into affect in Toledo a year ago, and Columbus is expected to make changes next. The state already has a medical marijuana program, which was inducted back in May. However, the medical laws have yet to actually take effect in the state.

    In Tennessee, penalties in two cities have also been reduced. In October, Memphis adopted new ordinances allowing people to pay a $50 fine or perform community service if they’re caught with small amounts of pot instead of facing charges or jail time. The city’s decriminalization law came just one month after Nashville legislators made the same amendments to marijuana laws.

    Tennessee could potentially continue their reform efforts and vote to legalize medical marijuana in some capacity when the 2017 legislative season starts. State Rep. Marc Gravitt told WDEF-Local 12 news recently that legislators were currently working a bill to legalize medical marijuana with hopes of combating the state’s opioid epidemic.

    Virgina could be up for decriminalizing and potentially legalizing marijuana in 2017, as well. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has said in various interviews that he’d like to make medical marijuana legal for patients in 2017, and in early November, State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment told local news media that he hopes to propose a decriminalization bill by 2018 after having the Virginia Crime Commission conduct a study on the plant and it’s connection to crime within the state.

    By Janice Williams via IBT/Nov. 26, 2016
    Photo: Yuri Cortez, afp
    Newshawk Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. prescriptionperil
    Re: Post-Election, Pro-Marijuana Momentum has Other US States Eyeing Decriminalizatio

    My brother in law, a physician, who voted not to legalize in Mass,. informed me since the growers "set it up" recreational cannabis will be taxed three percent as opposed to Colorado's thirty percent. Despite the tax, legalization in Colorado has raked in tax revenue., which benefits the community through building new schools, etc. etc. I envisioned the situation of cannabis legalization as beneficial to the state as it is in Colorado.

    Other than weakening the Mexican cartels control of the cannabis market by making legal cannabis prices competitive, the Mass. tax situation seems well, half baked. Obviously, people will spend the extra money for convenience and quality as shown by the success of heavily taxed Colorado cannabis.

    I expect the tax to go up in Mass., eventually.
  2. CaptainTripps
    Re: Post-Election, Pro-Marijuana Momentum has Other US States Eyeing Decriminalizatio

    I don't know what the state laws are like in Ohio and Tennessee, but I can tell you about an experience the state of Washington had when Seattle decriminalized marijuana several decades ago.

    The law prior to legalization said that possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana was a misdemeanor. The penalty was up to 90 days in jail. Over 40 grams was a class c felony and the underlying assumption was that more than 40 grams was possession with intent to deliver. The prosecution did not have prove, let alone allege intent to deliver, but that was idea behind the limit. The thinking was that the average consumer purchased by the ounce (approx. 28 gr) and that most would try to repurchase before completely running out so they through in an extra 12 gr. Actually pretty progressive thinking for the early 1970's

    The city of Seattle decriminalized possession for personal use and the penalty was a ticket with a $100 fine. One day there was a case where someone in Seattle was caught with more than the limit, but it was clear it was for personal use. A zealous young defense attorney attempted to get the criminal charges dropped and replaced with the civil penalty. The issue both sides of this were arguing had to do with the amount, not the law itself. However, when the case made its way to the Washington State Supreme Court, they declared that the City of Seattle had no ability to override a law made by the state legislature. The decriminalization law was declared unconstitutional under Washington law. Talk about unintended consequences. :(

    What Seattle later did was pass a non binding initiative stating that simple marijuana possession was the "lowest law enforcement priority" for Seattle Police, right behind jay walking. While non binding, it did send a clear message and arrests dropped sharply. In fact most of the arrests were done by a very small number of officers.

    That being said I know that some other states have allowed cities to decriminalize pot. I just point this out as no one really questioned whether Seattle could decriminalize (although many questioned if it was a good idea) pot. As I said, both sides were surprised by what the Court determined. For the prosecution it was about the amount of pot, not the validity of the law. Also given the fact that this attorney was a pro pot activist, I doubt they would have appealed this case had they had any idea the decrim law itself was at risk. But is does raise an interesting ethics question given an attorneys duty to zealously represent their client.

    Of course everyone seems to be operating under the assumption that Trump will live up to his vague assurances that the marijuana issue will be left up to the states. But that wont really be Trumps choice, it will be his attorney generals. His current pick is no friend to pot, medical or otherwise. But we shall see.

    Here are some things I would like to through out there to anyone thinking of introducing legislation to reform marijuana laws with an eye toward minimizing risk of federal intervention.

    1. Allow users to grow small amounts for personal use. This is vital and sadly one of the problems in Washington's law. Recreational users cannot grow any amount of marijuana legally. The law wants all recreational pot to be purchased in state licensed stores. Taxation was a big part of the legalization movement here and the state wants every dime. Further the state is concerned about diversion of marijuana. They don't want marijuana being sold to children or being exported out of the state. Washington has been lucky in that Idaho (to my knowledge) has not sued to have the stores closed. Colorado has not been so lucky with their neighboring states. I understand where the law is coming from, but if the feds stick their noses in our business, then the only thing we will have is the right of personal possession. Even this could be taken away. When the state first legalized, but had not opened stores yet, some prosecutors in Eastern Washington stated they might still prosecute for simple possession because the marijuana had to have been purchased illegally. Because there was no current way to legally purchase it.

    2. Avoid registries for medical marijuana. In Washington there are two paths you can go by as far a medical marijuana is concerned. Both require a recommendation from a doctor, but if the patient does not register with the state their rights are much more limited. Registered patients have a legal right to possess pot and can grow more plants than a non registered patient. Also non registered patients only have an affirmative defense to a marijuana prosecution, not an unquestioned right. When recreational marijuana became the law, the medical rules were tightened up. It has greater limits on who can prescribe and what it can be prescribed for. Patients are allowed to grow less and possess less. The bottom line is if the feds close the medical stores, patients will have to rely on growing their own. Given the registries could be used to go after patients, I am pretty sure most patients would go unregistered and have to live with fewer plants. Also since it is much harder to get a "green card" now, many patients will have to simply rely on the black market.

    3. Be realistic in what you try to achieve. Keep in mind that reducing something from a felony to a misdemeanor is a big deal. Even though it is rare for a first offender in possession of a very small amount of marijuana to be charged with a felony, there are other areas where users are hit hard with the law. Examples would be when prior possession charges are used to upgrade the current charge to a felony. When someone can be charged with a felony for passing a joint. When possession limits are set ridiculously low like at 5 grams or some other bullshit amount. We need to move to a point where the issue is "is this person a user or a dealer" and away from things like amounts and whether something moved from someone's hand to another's. But perhaps the most important thing that can be done short of legalization or decriminalization is to make growing cannabis for personal use a misdemeanor and not a felony. Because in the long run, what is going to make marijuana enforcement impossible is the fact that it is rather easy to grow. Allowing citizens to grow enough marijuana for personal use without facing felony charges simply makes sense (or perhaps sinse) as it takes money away from the black market criminal element. It is also much cheaper to enforce misdemeanor laws than felonies. It is also more proportionate to the offense. Non dealers should not be treated like dealers.

    It needs to be remembered there are things the feds can do and can't do. They cannot make states do anything, but that can stop states from doing things. They can shut down your stores, but they cant make you go after homegrowers. They can certainly do so themselves, but they don't have the recourses to go after small timers. The important thing going forward is not to assume federal non interference, but rather to build safeguards in the laws, so all is not lost if the feds due decide to enforce federal law. Because marijuana use, possession, sales and cultivation is against federal law.
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