UK: Cannabis users will not face fines

UK: Cannabis users will not face fines when the drug is reclassified next week, it was disclosed today. Marijuana will be moved from Class C to Class B on Monday, but delays in Parliament mean police will not be able to issue the fines. Under the new regime, police will issue a warning to anyone caught with cannabis for a first offence. 

UK: Cannabis users will not face fines

A second offence should result in an #80 fine and penalty notice, with a third "strike" leading to arrest. But earlier this week the order to make cannabis use an offence punishable with the penalty notice and fine was withdrawn from Parliament.  It is not due to be debated until Wednesday at the earliest. The Ministry of Justice said the order was dropped when ministers decided to consult on a range of new offences to be punishable with penalty notices. A spokesman said: "Penalty notices for disorder for possession of cannabis will go ahead as soon as possible subject to the agreement of Parliament. "Cannabis is being reclassified from Class C to B on 26 January. 

USA: Dad busted for grow-up after baby son calls 911

USA  -  A baby boy playing with his dad's telephone accidentally called 911, which led police to their house -- and a 500-plant marijuana-growing operation. Police said Tuesday the incident happened at about 11 a.m.  Friday in the 14800 block of Goggs Avenue in White Rock.  When White Rock RCMP officers arrived at the rental house, they found the 11-month-old child fiddling with the phone while his 29-year-old dad sat watching television. 

"He was surprised to see us," Const.  Janelle Canning said.  The 911 call was a hang-up call and police had heard no voices.  The dad, whose name has not been released, protested that he hadn't called 911 and his son didn't know how to use the phone. Nevertheless, police checked the place out because of the amount of condensation on the house's windows and found the pot-growing operation in a locked room. The dad was then arrested and was expected to appear in court in early April on charges of mischief and production of a controlled substance.  

The child, who Canning described as being a "very cute little boy," was picked up by Ministry of Children and Family Development workers and released into his mom's custody. Police are especially concerned when children are living in houses used to grow pot.  In this case, Canning noted, the child had no access to the locked room.  But condensation, which encourages mould growth and the presence of spores in the air, is a health concern.  So is the risk of fire from illegal hydro bypasses, though police didn't find a bypass in this particular case.  There's also the risk of being targeted for a "grow rip," or robbery. 

USA/California: DEA Hits California Dispensary in First Raid of Obama Administration.

USA  -  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided a medical marijuana dispensary in South Lake Tahoe, California, Thursday, marking the first dispensary raid during the brand new Obama administration. On the campaign trail, candidate Obama said repeatedly he would end such raids. 

Neither the DEA nor the Obama administration had commented on the raid by Thursday evening. With the Obama administration mere days in office, many high-ranking Bush officials are still on the job, including acting DEA administrator Michele Leonhart, who has been responsible for numerous federal raids in California. The Obama administration has yet to name a new DEA head or permanent drug czar (head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy), and attorney general nominee Eric Holder is still undergoing congressional vetting. 

"Whether or not this unconscionable raid on a medical marijuana provider is the fault of federal officials from the previous administration, President Obama has an opportunity to change this harmful and outdated policy," said Caren Woodson, director of government affairs for Americans for Safe Access, the leading national medical marijuana advocacy organization. "We are hopeful that these are the last remnants of the Bush regime and that President Obama will quickly develop a more compassionate policy toward our most vulnerable citizens."

During the Bush years, the DEA raided more than a hundred California dispensaries, sometimes merely seizing their medicine and cash, sometimes prosecuting their operators and sending them to federal prison. But the DEA has also gone after a medical marijuana organization in Washington state that supplied starter plants for its members, used a federal grand jury in Oregon to obtain patient records, and even threatened New Mexico officials planning to implement that state's medical marijuana distribution program. "President Obama must rise to the occasion by quickly correcting this problem and by keeping the promise he made to the voters of this country," said Woodson, citing Obama's repeated campaign pledges.

USA/The White House: Obama’s attitude towards cannabis still clouded in silence. 

USA  -  The incoming Obama administration has posted its agenda online at the White House web site While neither drug policy nor criminal justice merited its own category in the Obama agenda, several of the broad categories listed do contain references to drug and crime policy and provide a strong indication of the administration's proclivities. 

But before getting into what the agenda mentions, it's worth noting what the agenda does not mention: marijuana. There is not a word about the nation's most widely used illicit drug or the nearly 900,000 arrests a year generated by marijuana prohibition. Nor, despite Obama campaign pledges, is there a word about medical marijuana or ending the DEA raids on providers in California -- which doesn't necessarily mean he will go back on his word. It could well be that the issue is seen as too marginal to be included in the broad agenda for national change. With the first raid on a medical marijuana clinic during the Obama administration hitting this very week, reformers are anxiously hoping it is only the work of Bush holdovers and not a signal about the future.

USA/California: Landlords of medical cannabis centers threatened with real estate forfeiture.

USA  -  Many Bay area medical cannabis dispensary operators, including Marin's own lyrical Lynette Shaw, rallied in Downtown San Francisco on December 20th in protest of the Drug Enforcement Administration's recent execution of another attack on medical cannabis dispensaries. In an effort to overcome the obstacles raised in the raid tactics the DEA employed in earlier attempts to circumvent a compassionate
community of medical cannabis connoisseurs, the feds have resorted to sending letters to landlords who rent commercial space to medical cannabis providers, first in Southern California back in July and more recently here in the Bay area.

Landlords who own space occupied by medical cannabis dispensaries in Marin, San Francisco, and Alameda counties received letters the second week in December. So far, only one landlord has been tried and convicted In May of 2007, 62 year-old Thomas Grossi Sr. was ordered to forfeit nearly $400,000 and sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. 

When released from prison, Grossi will be required to complete a three-year period of supervised release. Such harsh punishment (in contrast there was a case in this country in which a pedophile was given probation because
the judge deemed him too short to go to prison) can only be construed as a deterrent to any property owner who might think to advance the safe legal (under state law) distribution of medical cannabis. Surely productive law-abiding citizens will not risk their liberty or even their personal assets when threatened with such great risk of loss and trauma.

USA: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Minnesota, One to Come Tuesday in South Dakota.

USA  -  With the number of medical marijuana states growing at the rate of one a year, and with Michigan last November becoming the first state in the Midwest to embrace therapeutic cannabis, two Upper Midwest state legislatures are about to grapple with the issue -- again. A bill was introduced last week in the Minnesota legislature, and one will be introduced next week at the South Dakota statehouse. In Minnesota, the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, SF 97, would allow patients with a physician's approval and who have registered with the state to grow up to 12 plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, or to obtain that same amount from a state-regulated nonprofit. 

To be eligible, an individual must suffer from one of a long list of "debilitating medical conditions," including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, Hepatitis C, and MS. In neighboring South Dakota, Bob Newland of South Dakotans for Safe Access has reported that a medical marijuana bill will be filed next Tuesday by state Rep. Gerald Lange (D-Madison), with a hearing set for the following Monday.

USA: Texas Judges Call for Reducing Drug Possession Penalties. 

USA  -  Two years ago, Houston State District Court Judge Michael McSpadden stood alone when he called on Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to support lowering simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. Last year, he was still alone. But this year, McSpadden is making the same call, and this time, he has the support of 15 more judges.

As the state legislature got underway last week, McSpadden and his colleagues sent a letter to top state officials and Houston's state representatives urging them to change what he called the state's "draconian" drug laws. The judges want to see possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance reduced from a state jail felony to a misdemeanor. "Sixteen of us feel that it's just unfair to be convicted for a residue amount and be labeled a felon, which changes your whole life," McSpadden said. "We're not talking about legalizing it; we're talking about making it a misdemeanor." 

In addition to calling for a downgrading of drug possession charges, McSpadden's letter urged mandating drug treatment for offenders and funding misdemeanor drug courts. He said simple possession drug felonies account for 25% to 30% of Harris County's 22 criminal district court dockets and that Harris County prosecutors routinely charge as felonies offenses that are charged as misdemeanors in other parts of the state, leading to disparate treatment among counties. 

"The 'War on Drugs' isn't working, and we as judges realize it, and the public realizes it," wrote McFadden, along with fellow Republican judge cosigners Debbie Mantooth Stricklin, Jeannine Barr, Vanessa Velasquez, Denise Collins, Marc Carter, Belinda Hill, Joan Campbell and Jim Wallace, and Democratic judge cosigners Ruben Guerrero, Shawna Reagin, Kevin Fine, David Mendoza, Randy Roll, Hazel Jones and Maria Jackson.

The Greenish Warbler

January 26th 2009

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