Caribbean Nations Agree To Consider Marijuana Legalization

Caribbean Nations Agree To Consider Marijuana Legalization

The heads of Caribbean nations have agreed to “review marijuana’s current status with a view to reclassification,” noting “human and religious rights” issues stemming from criminalization as well as “the economic benefits to be derived” from legalization.

The move, which was announced by The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization of nations including Bahamas, Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica and others, comes after a committee formed by the group recommended replacing cannabis criminalization with legal regulation.

“The medical and scientific evidence is clear that marijuana has substantial value,” commission Chair Rose-Marie Belle Antoine said. “Thousands of people are being imprisoned especially the most vulnerable and most marginalised in the region.”

The 19 Caribbean heads of state attending the group’s meeting in Jamaica this week “welcomed” the report, according to the official communique released at the conclusion of the gathering on Saturday, which also notes that “the current classification of marijuana as an illicit drug presented a challenge in the conduct of research to fully understand and ascertain the medicinal benefits to be derived.”

“They are recommending the decriminalisation of marijuana. They are recommending that it be deemed a substance that is controlled and managed as alcohol,” CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said of the commission’s report.

The communique issued by the heads of state reads:

“Heads of Government welcomed the Report of the Regional Commission on Marijuana. They noted its findings, conclusions and recommendations in particular with respect to human and religious rights; the social and developmental impact of use among adolescents; the economic benefits to be derived and issues related to its classification.

“They expressed deep appreciation to the Commission’s Chair, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine and the other members of the Commission for their very comprehensive report. The Commissioners, representing a range of disciplines conducted region-wide consultations to inform the Report.

“Heads of Government recognised that the current classification of marijuana as an illicit drug presented a challenge in the conduct of research to fully understand and ascertain the medicinal benefits to be derived.

“They agreed that action should be taken at the national level by the relevant authorities to review marijuana’s current status with a view to reclassification taking into account all international obligations.

“They also expressed concern about the effect of marijuana use on young persons given the conclusive evidence that existed.

“Heads of Government recognised that Member States would need to review the Report in more detail to determine action at the national level in relation to law reform models as proposed by the Commission.

“Heads of Government expressed appreciation to the Foundation to Promote Open Society (FPOS) which provided resources for the work of the Commission.”

“We also agreed that each member state, in accordance with its own circumstances, would determine its own pathway to pursue the law reforms necessary as proposed by the Regional Marijuana Commission,” Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said at a press conference.

The move by Caribbean nations comes just weeks after Canadian lawmakers voted to legalize marijuana. Mexico’s incoming presidential administration is poised to end cannabis prohibition as well.

https://massroots.wpengine.com/news/mexicos-next-president-stands-marijuana/

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Caribbean Nations Agree To Consider Marijuana Legalization

Where Mexico’s Next President Stands On Marijuana

Where Mexico’s Next President Stands On Marijuana

The next president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is open-minded when it comes to drug policy. Though his personal stance on cannabis legalization remains relatively opaque for now, one of his key advisors who is expected to occupy a top cabinet office is all-in on ending prohibition.

López Obrador, the leftist who became president-elect in a landslide victory on Sunday, expressed openness to considering legalizing all drugs in the country during a May debate. But he’s demurred on taking a personal stance on marijuana legalization specifically.

That said, López Obrador’s pick for interior secretary during the transition, Olga Sánchez Cordero‏, is pushing the president-elect to end the prohibition of cannabis. Last month, the former Supreme Court official said that she would “seek the decriminalization of marijuana for recreational use,” according to a translation of an AFP interview. She added that part of her involvement in the new government would be to “propose to Andrés Manuel” ending the prohibition of marijuana cultivation and recreational use. 

And in new comments on Wednesday, Sánchez Cordero cited moves to legalize marijuana elsewhere as a reason that Mexico shouldn’t wait to act.

“Canada already decriminalized, and [marijuana is] decriminalized in several states of the United States. What are we thinking?” she said in the interview with W Radio. “We are going to try to move forward.”

She also said the incoming administration would consider legalizing the growth of opium poppies to be used in the production of pharmaceutical drugs, adding that the incoming administration will “have a consultation on the decriminalization of drugs.”

“The debate between justice, health and drug trade has never been led by the Mexican state,” Sánchez Cordero recently tweeted. “It has only been criminalized and fought with the hardening of sanctions, bringing mourning to thousands of families.”

“The world war on drugs has failed,” she wrote last month in an op-ed for Milenio. “Nothing contributes to peace by legislating on the basis of more criminal punishment and permanent confrontation. Violence is not fought with violence, as López Obrador rightly points out.”

“Criminalizing -in any case- consumption has not been a factor that diminishes the use of narcotics.”

“The illegal obtaining of drugs creates a personal risk for users and only benefits the criminal networks because their economic and belligerent wealth is fostered… It is known that the United States is the main consumer of drugs in the world; and 23 states of 50 that make it up have [legal] cannabis markets for recreational and medicinal use. Uruguay, Switzerland and New Zealand have successfully taken the first step in opting for legalization through a responsible regulatory context, based on medical, sociological, economic and political evidence.”

(At the time of publication, 30 states in the U.S. had effectively legalized marijuana for at least medical or recreational use, and only Uruguay and Canada have ended the prohibition of cannabis for adults, though many countries allow medical cannabis and have instituted progressive drug policy reforms.)

One of the president-elect’s favorite campaign slogans translates to “hugs, not gunfire,” and is meant to reflect López Obrador’s anti-corruption platform, which includes combating illegal drug market violence.

López Obrador has made clear that he’s interested in an alternative approach to the drug war, proposing amnesty for low-level drug offenders—with a focus on farmers caught cultivating opium poppy and marijuana— and arguing that a softer approach to drug enforcement efforts could be more effective than the status quo, which he believes has failed.

“I will achieve peace, that’s my commitment, I will achieve peace and end the war—we are not going to continue with the same strategy that hasn’t brought us positive results,” López Obrador said at a recent rally. “By the middle of my six-year term, there will be no war, and the situation will be completely different.”

In spite of the president-elect’s grandiose promises, however, he’s declined to answer questions from the press about his personal stance on cannabis policy.

The current status of marijuana in Mexico

Over the course of his six years in office, outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s position on cannabis policy evolved demonstrably. Two years after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that a group of activists was allowed to grow marijuana because it determined that prohibiting cannabis consumption was unconstitutional, Peña Nieto signed a decree that legalized medical cannabis nationwide. However, legal medical marijuana products are limited to “cannabis derivatives” that contain less than one percent THC.

The decree also mandated that Mexico’s Ministry of Health implement regulatory policies around cannabis and first develop a research program before the government broadens its marijuana laws.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has advocated for legalization for years.

“How different it feels to be by the side of business community members who are responsible people and decision makers, rather than being by the side of Chapo Guzman or all those criminals that kill and kill and kill,” Fox said last year, referring to the infamous drug cartel leader.

The recreational marijuana market remains illegal under federal law in Mexico. Whether López Obrado will take steps to expand the country’s medical cannabis system or push for full legalization after he takes office on December 1 is yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, a growing number of U.S. states are ending marijuana prohibition, as is Canada.

These States Are Likely To Legalize Marijuana In 2018

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Where Mexico’s Next President Stands On Marijuana

Supreme Court Cites Doctors’ Medical Marijuana Free Speech Rights In Abortion Case

Supreme Court Cites Doctors’ Medical Marijuana Free Speech Rights In Abortion Case

Under a federal circuit court ruling, physicians in the U.S. have generally enjoyed the right to discuss medical marijuana with their patients without fear of being punished by the government. In a ruling on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed those protections.

Sort of.

In a case concerning a California law that requires clinics that treat pregnant women to provide patients with certain notices concerning the availability of abortion services, the court wrote:

“The dangers associated with content-based regulations of speech are also present in the context of professional speech. As with other kinds of speech, regulating the content of professionals’ speech ‘pose[s] the inherent risk that the Government seeks not to advance a legitimate regulatory goal, but to suppress unpopular ideas or information.’ Take medicine, for example. ‘Doctors help patients make deeply personal decisions, and their candor is crucial.’ Throughout history, governments have ‘manipulat[ed] the content of doctor-patient discourse’ to increase state power and suppress minorities:

“‘For example, during the Cultural Revolution, Chinese physicians were dispatched to the countryside to convince peasants to use contraception. In the 1930s, the Soviet government expedited completion of a construction project on the Siberian railroad by ordering doctors to both reject requests for medical leave from work and conceal this government order from their patients. In Nazi Germany, the Third Reich systematically violated the separation between state ideology and medical discourse. German physicians were taught that they owed a higher duty to the ‘health of the Volk’ than to the health of individual patients. Recently, Nicolae Ceausescu’s strategy to increase the Romanian birth rate included prohibitions against giving advice to patients about the use of birth control devices and disseminating information about the use of condoms as a means of preventing the transmission of AIDS.’

“Further, when the government polices the content of professional speech, it can fail to ‘preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail.’ Professionals might have a host of good-faith disagreements, both with each other and with the government, on many topics in their respective fields. Doctors and nurses might disagree about the ethics of assisted suicide or the benefits of medical marijuana; lawyers and marriage counselors might disagree about the prudence of prenuptial agreements or the wisdom of divorce; bankers and accountants might disagree about the amount of money that should be devoted to savings or the benefits of tax reform.”

(Bolded emphasis added and citations omitted.)

While the First Amendment case at hand, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, doesn’t directly concern doctor-recommended medical cannabis, the broad thrust of the ruling does uphold free speech rights for physicians. And one legal expert said that the specific mention of marijuana in the court’s opinion should provide some extra assurance to practitioners who focus on the drug’s medical benefits.

“Given the modern politics of marijuana reform, I was not that worried that the Ninth Circuit’s work in Conant v. Walters would be undermined anytime soon,” wrote Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, who first spotted the cannabis passage in the new ruling. “But it would not be too hard to imagine Attorney General Jeff Sessions or other state or federal officials resistant to marijuana reform trying to heavily regulate how medical professional can talk to patients about marijuana. This new SCOTUS precedent would seem to limit any such possible efforts.”

That earlier case, Conant. v. Walters, stems from the Clinton administration’s threat, following passage of the first successful state medical cannabis laws, to rescind prescribing licenses from physicians who recommended marijuana to patients. Advocates sued and won an injunction from a district court in 2000, which was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit 2002.

While the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling technically only applies to the nine states under its jurisdiction, the federal government never appealed the case to the Supreme Court, likely because it suspected it would lose.

Now, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, the high court has singled out medical marijuana as something that doctors and nurses should be able to disagree with one another about without being punished by the government.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Supreme Court Cites Doctors’ Medical Marijuana Free Speech Rights In Abortion Case

 

Delaware’s Marijuana Legalization Bill Is Still Alive

Delaware’s Marijuana Legalization Bill Is Still Alive

With less than a week until Delaware’s legislative session wraps up for the year, a bill to fully legalize marijuana could still pass.

The bill, H.B. 110, would permit adults over 21 to use, transport and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, as well as five grams of concentrates, for personal use. It wouldn’t allow individuals to grow their own plants, but it would establish a recreational marijuana retail system statewide.

A majority of Delaware voters (61 percent, according to a 2016 University of Delaware poll) support marijuana legalization, but the prospect of the bill’s passage remains uncertain. As currently written, 25 out of 41 representatives would have to approve the legislation—and insiders in the state capitol in Dover tell Marijuana Moment they’re not sure the votes are there.

But while many observers had crossed Delaware off the list of states that could legalize marijuana in 2018 weeks ago, Rep. Helene Keeley (D), the chief sponsor of the bill, added a comprehensive amendment last week that advocates believe gives the proposal a shot to pass before the legislative deadline.

The revised bill would set aside 20 percent of tax revenue collected from retail marijuana sales to fund substance abuse treatment programs, invest in seed-to-sale tracking and bar product packaging that might appeal to children. It would also remove three criminal penalties, which lowered the vote threshold to 60 percent because state law requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass any bill that includes criminal penalties.

The reason that a supermajority of 60 percent of lawmakers would still have to approve the bill even with the amendment is because the legislation still includes “fees and taxes,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at Marijuana Policy Project, said in an action alert email this week.

The revisions were partially responsive to a February report submitted by the Adult Use Cannabis Task Force, which was put together by Keeley in order to “study issues surrounding the possible future legalization of non-medical, adult use cannabis in Delaware.”

“Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D) and I took the discussion and comments received during the Adult Use Cannabis Task Force seriously and we believe this amendment reflects the hard work of the task force members,” Keeley said in a press release. “The Adult Use Cannabis Task Force brought together a variety of stakeholders and has compiled thoughtful and diverse information that would improve House Bill 110.”

“It has been a priority of mine to take our time and carefully study the issues and industries that would be impacted by cannabis regulation. We have the opportunity to create an entirely new industry in Delaware and I am committed to ensuring that cannabis is regulated responsibly and safely.”

Tom Donovan, an attorney who sat on the task force, wrote in a recent editorial for Delaware Online that “Delawareans will know one way or the other by June 30, if their interests are being served by their elected officials.”

“They will know if the 61 percent in favor of legalizing cannabis will be fairly represented when a vote on HB 110 is finally taken. They will know if they have a voice in creating sensible policies, or if politics as usual takes that away from them,” he said.

The bill will effectively die if it fails to pass, or doesn’t come up for a vote, before the June 30 end-of-session deadline.

One official familiar with the legislation told Marijuana Moment that a House vote would take place on Wednesday or Thursday, if at all. If the House does vote to pass the bill, it would then have to be taken up in the state Senate, where its likelihood of passage is unknown, by Saturday.

Should the bill ultimately pass, it could face another challenge: Delaware Gov. John Carney (D).

In February, a spokesperson for Carney told the Associated Press that the governor “does not believe now is the time to move forward with legalization.”

“The governor does not believe that Delaware should be a test case, and should instead continue to monitor implementation in other states.”

Marijuana Moment requested comment on the status of the governor’s position on the issue, but a representative from his office did not respond by the time of publication.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Delaware’s Marijuana Legalization Bill Is Still Alive

Federal Marijuana Cases Drop Sharply, New Report Shows

Federal Marijuana Cases Drop Sharply, New Report Shows

Federal criminal cases focused on marijuana have fallen sharply since states began legalizing cannabis, even though drug crimes continue to consume the bulk of the federal caseload, new data shows.

report from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) released on Tuesday revealed that drug crimes remain the most common type of federal criminal cases, accounting for about 30 percent. The USSC reported that 92 percent of these drug cases involved trafficking.

Federal marijuana cases

Even so, 1,301 federal drug cases “involved a conviction for the simple possession of a drug.”

The report, which does not include information about state criminal prosecutions, showed a downward trend in federal criminal cases overall. That includes drug cases, which dropped about four percent since fiscal year 2016—the fifth year in a row that drug cases have declined. Drug crimes involving cocaine and methamphetamine were up slightly, but those involving marijuana fell sharply.

“The number of marijuana cases [3,854] represents a 25.3 percent decline from the year before. Marijuana cases have declined by 45.8 percent since fiscal year 2013.”

Another interesting decline concerns mandatory minimum sentences. About 44 percent of drug offenders were convicted of crimes that carried a mandatory minimum—the lowest percentage since the USSC began collecting that data in 1993. Marijuana offenders were generally given the shortest sentences, averaging 29 months of imprisonment.

Prison Sentence by Drug Type

But what accounts for the substantial decline in marijuana cases?

Several factors may be at play. Federal marijuana cases have dropped almost 50 percent since 2013—the same year that former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memorandum, colloquially known as the “Cole memo,” to federal prosecutors on marijuana enforcement priorities. The document has generally been interpreted as a message to U.S. attorneys not to prosecute people complying with state cannabis laws.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that memo in January, but he later said it wouldn’t necessarily lead to an increase in federal marijuana cases. The Justice Department doesn’t have the resources to take on “routine cases,” he said.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment that he viewed the trend as a reflection of “shifting federal priorities among both U.S. drug enforcement and border agents” and “may also be attributable to the reality that international drug trafficking organizations in recent years, following the advent of legalization in several U.S. jurisdictions have largely shifted their efforts away from marijuana.”

In other words, more of the market for cannabis is now being supplied by people following new state laws, so there are fewer people for the feds to prosecute in marijuana trafficking cases.

According to a separate 2018 DEA report, federal seizures of indoor and outdoor grown marijuana fell 37 percent from 2016 to 2017.

“As more and more states move toward regulating domestic cannabis, one can presume that the market for imported cannabis will continue to decline and that the U.S. cannabis market will become of even less interest to [drug trafficking organizations],” Armentano said.

It should be noted that federal marijuana cases account for a small fraction of cannabis enforcement in the United States overall, the bulk of which is done on the state and local levels. For example, there were more than 580,000 arrests for marijuana nationwide in 2016.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Federal Marijuana Cases Drop Sharply, New Report Shows

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