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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

National News for October 2016 - by Rachel Bunting

Could Maine be the Fifth State for Full Legalization?
Maine: A proposal that will show up on the November 8th ballot in Maine would allow the possession and use of marijuana by adults 21 and older. It would also allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana to be subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance. Maine already decriminalized possession in 2009, so approval of this bill would set up more of a regulation framework. The state will license businesses to sell the product but allow municipalities to decide whether a cannabis business will be allowed in their area. Adults would not be allowed to use the drug in public unless it is used in a licensed social club. They would also be permitted to grow their own plants, however anything sold in stores will be required to be tested to ensure purity and safety. There will be a 10 percent sales tax on all marijuana and marijuana related sales. Voters will get to decide if Maine will be the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana on November 8th.

Marijuana Businesses in North Pole?
Alaska: Alaskan voters in North Pole will be voting on whether or not to allow dispensaries in their town. Proposition 7 would prohibit all marijuana businesses in the area. Councilwoman Elizabeth Holm sponsored the petition hoping to make North Pole “a refuge for people who don’t approve of pot.” She believes the city should be a safe haven for people who do not want to be around that type of lifestyle. The state law approved in 2014 allows municipalities to decide whether they want commercial marijuana in their area. The same idea was discussed in 2015 by The North Pole City Council but was dropped after they decided to allow and tax the businesses. 

Beach Brick
Florida: A passerby stumbled across a package on a beach in St. Lucie near the Nuclear Plant late last month. The 10-in square, 6-in thick package was full of marijuana. According to the Sheriff’s office spokesperson the marijuana looked old and appeared as though it had been placed where it was found as it was not near the water line. Officers checked the rest of the beach and were unable to find any other bundles near the water. The investigation into where the illegal substance came from is ongoing.

Good Crop, Bad Cops
Arizona: One officer has been demoted and three more have resigned after a man accused the three resigning officers of forcing him to eat marijuana to avoid going to jail. Chief Joseph Yahner explained Jeff Farrior was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant for knowing about the conduct of officers Richard Pina, Jason McFadden, and Michael Carnicle and not taking appropriate action. Yahner told WKRN, “Their actions are appalling and unacceptable. This conduct is against everything that we stand for.” Two of the officers that resigned are being investigated by the department and criminally, while the third is only involved in the department inquiry as he is considered a witness. 

     The officer’s had turned off their video cameras while stopping a 19 year old man in a routine stop. One officer asked the man, “Do you want to go home or do you want to go to jail?” The 19 year old, Edgar Castro, told WKRN, “The officer was like either you eat the marijuana or go to jail tonight. I asked him ‘Do I really have to do this, do I really have to do this’ a couple of times.” Castro did not need medical attention but began feeling sick immediately after ingesting the herb. Yahner claims he was planning to fire the officers after hearing of the incident, but that they chose to resign before he had the chance. All three that resigned were new to the department and were probationary employees.

Nashville Decriminalizes
Tennessee: The Metro Council in Nashville approved the first measure allowing lesser penalties for those found in possession of small amounts of marijuana. While supporters are thrilled at this historic step, there are some judges in the city that worry putting possession cases in civil court instead of criminal court could give the offenders fewer options to erase those charges from the public record. The new legislation gives city officers the option to reduce the penalty for a half-ounce to 10 hours of community service or a $50 fine. Aside from the fact that most states have some type of new law on the books regarding marijuana, Councilman Dave Rosenberg, lead sponsor of the bill, points out, “All this bill does is give police the option of not treating someone with a little pot like a hardened criminal. Because when you start treating good members of our society like criminals, they begin acting like criminals. As much as I’d like to think we’re cutting edge on this one, we’re not. We’re catching up.” The proposal must now be signed by Mayor Megan Barry to become law. Barry has told the Tennessean she plans to sign the bill and that it is a positive step forward. Though she does stress that this bill is not a license to sell, possess or use marijuana. 

How Should Medical be Legalized?
Arkansas: Two ideas for medical marijuana and how it should be treated and regulated if legalized in the state are splitting marijuana supporters nearly down the middle. A survey conducted by Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College found 49% of voters in favor of the proposed Medical Marijuana Amendment with 43% against. It also found 36% of people in favor of the Medical Cannabis Act with 53% opposed. The Medical Marijuana Amendment would amend the Arkansas constitution to legalize doctor-certified medical marijuana while limiting the number of dispensaries to 40 total and giving the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division inspection authority over those dispensaries. The Medical Cannabis Act would also legalize physician-certified medical marijuana and limit the number of dispensaries allowed in the state but would allow “hardship certificates” to be given to those who live more than 20 miles from a dispensary so they may grow up to 10 plants for their own medication. It is unclear how the election will turn out as many support both proposals and some oppose both, but the survey did find that women are more likely to support the amendment and men are slightly more supportive of the initiative. 

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