Items tagged with 'marijuana'

Marijuana: Justice, Equity, Reinvestment at Albany Capital Center

drug policy alliance marijuana conference Albany Capital Center logo

A conference called Marijuana: Justice, Equity, Reinvestment will be at the Albany Capital Center December 11 and 12. It's backed by the New York office of the Drug Policy Alliance. Conference blurbage:

Creating a system to tax and regulate marijuana use by adults over the age of 21 is a sound economic investment for the state of New York. In the states with existing regulated markets, previously static economies have experienced a new small business boom coupled with technological advances that benefit a variety of industries. Additionally, legalization presents an opportunity for New York's agrarian community to foster the development of a new crop that is sustainable, resilient, and widely consumed. Similar to the rise of New York's craft wine and beer industries, a regulated marijuana market could also provide opportunities for small businesses in small towns across the state to cultivate a business model that is not reliant on access to large amounts of capital but is instead dependent on local resources as well as their own ingenuity and creativity.
The state of New York is well positioned to make a significant impact on the developmental trajectory of the nascent legal industry in a way that strongly favors diversity and inclusion. The history of marijuana prohibition in New York and lessons learned from other states have produced a wealth of information that can be used to preemptively address potential barriers to progress as the state transitions away from the failed experiment of prohibition.

That link above includes the conference schedule. The lineup includes all sorts of speakers: elected officials, advocates, academics, business owners, doctors.

It's free to attend, but registration is required.

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The Albany County DA's office is going to stop prosecuting people for having small amounts of marijuana

David Soares marijuana public meeting

David Soares at a community meeting about marijuana policy at APL Arbor Hill branch this past summer.

Albany County DA David Soares announced Thursday that his office will no longer be prosecuting people for "simple possession" of marijuana -- cases in which people are found to have less two ounces. The new policy starts December 1, and the DA's office says it will be seeking dismissals "where appropriate for cases currently pending where these are the sole charges."

The new policy does not cover cases in which people are openly using pot in public or in a car, or near children.

Soares held a series of community meetings about changing views toward marijuana earlier this year. And the announcement today's change referenced those meetings. Press release blurbage:

This policy has been developed after conducting a number of public meetings across the county in order to hear from the people we represent. In conjunction with the public meetings, we sought the opinion of residents via our website. The vast majority of our constituents indicated that they wanted to see a shift in the legal status of recreational adult use marijuana and in the enforcement of existing laws. Given the near certain impending changes in the law, and given the sea change in society's views of the issue, it is no longer the best use of our resources to prosecute these low-level marijuana offenses.

Recreational marijuana use is now legal in Vermont. And Massachusetts is in the process of starting recreational marijuana sales.

Here in New York, a Siena poll reported earlier this year that a majority of people favored allowing recreational marijuana. Cynthia Nixon made it a plank in her gubernatorial campaign. And a state Department of Health report released this past summer argued for legalizing recreational pot.

It would not be surprising to see a move toward legalization of recreational marijuana in New York State now that Democrats will control both chambers of the state legislature.

Past convictions
One of the important angles in the shift towards legalizing pot is the thousands of people who have been prosecuted in the past for something that is now being decriminalized or may even soon be legal.

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Scanning that New York State Department of Health report that argues the case for legalizing recreational marijuana

The New York State Department of Health released its report on regulated marijuana Friday -- and it argues for legalizing recreational marijuana. Here's a chunk for the report that largely sums up the argument:

The positive effects of regulating an adult (21 and over) marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts. Harm reduction principles can and should be incorporated into a regulated marijuana program to help ensure consumer and industry safety. Legalizing marijuana could remove research restrictions in NYS, which will enable the State to add to the knowledge of both the benefits and risks. In addition, NYS would be one of the largest regulated marijuana markets. As such, there is potential for substantial tax revenue in NYS, which can be used to help support program initiatives in areas such as public health, education, transportation, research, law enforcement and workforce development. Tax revenues can also support health care and employment. Finally, legalization of marijuana will address an important social justice issue by reducing disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of certain racial and ethnic minority communities.

Whatever the political machinations at work surrounding this report, it is a remarkable document. Pretty much anyone over the age of, say, 20, has grown up with government/law enforcement/schools warning against the dangers of pot. And in this report the state Department of Health essentially says, yeah, pot has some downsides, but they're probably not as bad as they've been made out to be and our society would be better off it we made it legal and kept an eye on it.

Anyway, we read through the report and pulled out handful of highlights -- about potential benefits, opioids, mental health, criminal justice, and tax revenue -- for easy skimming...

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New York's moving closer to marijuana legalization -- thinking about what could that mean for local communities

David Soares marijuana public meeting

David Soares at Wednesday's meeting in Arbor Hill.

It would not be surprising for New York State to legalize recreational marijuana sometime during the next few years.

Massachusetts will start legal sales of recreational pot this July. That same month in Vermont it will become legal to have and grow small amounts of marijuana. Legalization had majority support among respondents to a Siena New York State poll earlier this year. Cynthia Nixon's made it a plank of her gubernatorial campaign. And Andrew Cuomo, who has been against legalization, ordered the state Department of Health to study it.

If/when legalization happens, there will be a lot of things to sort out -- not just details about how pot will be sold and taxed, but also how to deal with the significant ethical and legal issues that rise from legalizing a product that's been the subject of so much law enforcement and crime for decades.

So how do people want that future to play out? And what can be done in the interim?

Those were some of the questions at the heart of a community discussion with Albany County District Attorney David Soares in Albany this week.

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Albany County DA public meetings about marijuana legalization

marijuana cannabis bud closeup CC Ryan BushbyThe political tide appears to shifting toward legalizing recreational use of marijuana, and that's especially true in this part of the country. Massachusetts will start legal sales of recreational marijuana this July. Starting that same month in Vermont, it will be legal to have and grow small amounts of marijuana. And legalizing recreational marijuana had majority support among respondents to a Siena New York State poll earlier this year.

That's a little bit of context for an upcoming series of public meetings the Albany County District Attorney's office is holding about marijuana legalization. Press release blurbage (link added):

These meetings will give residents of Albany County an opportunity to ask questions and discuss public safety concerns about marijuana legalization and the future of marijuana laws and prosecution. In addition to the public meetings, Albany County residents are also invited to take an online survey to share opinions on the topic. ...
Residents of Albany County that are unable to attend the scheduled meetings can still share opinions about marijuana laws by filling out our brief online survey.

The five meetings are at location around the county -- the schedule is below. The first meeting is this Wednesday, June 6, at the Albany Public Library branch on Henry Johnson Boulevard at 6 pm.

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Chuck Schumer is supporting marijuana decriminalization (and thinks legalization in states has worked out pretty well)

Chuck Schumer says he'll be introducing legislation for decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level, which would allow states to decide on the legality of recreational pot use. He talked at some length about the idea with Vice News this week. That's a clip embedded above. (He also talks about a few other topics.)

A clip from the clip about why he's changed his mind on this topic:

Number one, I studied the issue and we've now had some evidence, state of Washington, other states, where it has done lots of good and no harm. Justice Brandeis said let the states be laboratories, now we've had a few states, we've had a few laboratories, the experience's been a success. Let's nationalize it. ...
I've looked at what's happened in the states that have done it. It seems to have worked out pretty well. All the parade of horribles that people said would happen didn't occur. Crime did not spike in any place. There's no evidence that young people are using drugs of any type more. The pathway issue hasn't proven to be true. So it all makes sense, you know. When you get evidence -- act on it.

New York's senior Senator also posted a short explanation of his thinking today, highlighting the disproportionate impact that criminalization of marijuana has had on people of color.

Of course, Democrats don't currently control either house of Congress or the presidency. So the chances of anything coming of this sort of legislation in the near term aren't good. But it's notable that someone in Schumer's position in the political establishment -- he's the Senate minority leader -- has publicly taken this stance.

Public opinion has already shifted in this direction -- 61 percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legalized, according to a Pew Research Center poll. And given the generational breakout for that support -- basically each younger generation has more support -- that overall number is almost certain to continue rising.

New York State
David Howard King recently surveyed the political landscape here in New York for legalization and concluded that the state is headed in that direction. [The Alt]

Siena poll: continued majority support for medical marijuana legalization, not for recreational pot

medical marijuana signSome follow-up to the recent Q Poll that reported a majority of New Yorkers -- 57-39 -- supported legalizing recreational marijuana use: A Siena poll out today reports respondents oppose recreational legalization 53-43.

The results on recreational pot legalization might not be as far apart as they seem. The Q Poll reported a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, and the Siena poll 3.5 points. And differences in the makeup of the samples could lead to different results. They also asked slightly different questions:

Q Poll: "Do you support or oppose allowing adults in New York State to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use?"

Siena: "Looking beyond the issue of medical marijuana, two states - Colorado and Washington - have legalized and regulated marijuana for recreational use. Do you support or oppose passing a similar law in New York to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use?"

As with that Q poll, the Siena poll also reports large majority support for at least some sort of medical marijuana program in the state. This isn't surprising -- polls have reported majorities in favor of medical marijuana for the last few years. (See 2010.)

Related: There was an interesting article in NYT today about the fact that it's apparently unclear how many votes currently constitute a majority in the state Senate (because of vacancies and the current three-coalition makeup of the body) -- and how that could have an effect on potential votes about legalizing medical marijuana.

More bits from the Siena poll...

+ Respondents had a more or less three-bears split on the Common Core standards: too demanding, not demanding enough, just about right.

+ Respondents prefer Andrew Cuomo over "someone else", 54-37.

+ 73 percent of respondents supported allowing local municipalities to set their own minimum wage at rate higher than the state's.

+ On allowing fracking: oppose - 43 percent | support - 38 percent.

photo: Flickr user Caveman 92223

Q Poll: Majority of New Yorkers support medical marijuana and recreational pot legalization

q poll ny marijuana 2014-02 small

Don't squint, man, here's a large-format version. Wait, what if our world is just a large-format interactive illustration on the computer of some higher being? Crazy. ... Hey, you wanna get some pizza...

A few interesting things about the Q Poll out this week that looked at where New Yorkers stand on marijuana legalization:

+ There's across the board support for medical marijuana. The Q Poll reports that 88 percent of respondents said they were in favor of allowing marijuana use for medical purposes. And not a single demographic group registered support below 82 percent.

That a majority support medical marijuana isn't surprising -- New Yorkers have been trending that way for years -- but the strength and breadth of the support is notable.

+ A majority of the Q Poll respondents -- 57 percent -- said they support allowing "small amounts of marijuana for personal use." The only groups of respondents in which a majority opposed: Republicans (55-39 against) and people age 65+ (57-38 against).

+ There appears to be gradient of opinion on pot questions, from young to old. Not that this is really all that surprising, but the younger the person in the Q Poll, the more likely they were to support relaxing rules and attitudes about pot. Example: 83 percent of respondents 18-29 said they supported allowing small amounts of marijuana use for person use. While at the other end of the age spectrum, 65+, just 38 percent said they support legalization.

This age gradient is depicted in the graph above, which includes the numbers from a handful of the survey's questions. (Don't squint -- here's the large format version.)

It'll be interesting to see how results such as this latest Q Poll will play out at the state Capitol. There's been some push for medical marijuana in the legislature over the last few years, and there's now even a bill to legalize and tax pot in a system similar to the one for alcohol.

And Andrew Cuomo? On one hand, medical marijuana -- and even recreational pot legalization -- is growing in popularity. On the other hand, Cuomo probably wants to stick to the moderate Democrat brand he's developed in an attempt to also appeal to moderate Republicans (both here and, you know, other parts of the nation). Cuomo has proposed a limited trial program for medical marijuana, though advocates have criticized it for being too timid. And his admin has called recreational legalization a "non-starter." Is there a point at which public support shifts his position on the issue?

Poll details: "From February 6 - 10, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,488 New York State voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones."

Discussing "The End of Cannabis Prohibition," at Saint Rose

a new leaf book with dropshadowCould be interesting in light of recent news both here in New York and elsewhere: Journalists Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian -- the authors of A New Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition -- will be at Saint Rose for a reading and discussion February 6.

Book blurbage:

In the first book to explore the new landscape of cannabis in the United States, investigative journalists Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian present a deeply researched, insightful story of how recent developments tie into cannabis's complex history and thorny politics. Reporting from nearly every state with a medical cannabis law, Martin and Rashidian enliven their book with in-depth interviews with patients, growers, doctors, entrepreneurs, politicians, activists, and regulators. They present an expert analysis of how recent milestones toward legalization will affect the war on drugs both domestically and internationally. The result is an unprecedented and lucid account of how legalization is manifesting itself in the lives of millions.

The Saint Rose event is at the Center for Communications and Interactive Media (996 Madison Ave) on February 6 at 7:30 pm (a Thursday). It's free and open to the public. The event is part of the Frequency North series.

Oh, and by the way: Alyson Martin is a Saint Rose alumna, from Feura Bush (we hear).

Also coming up in the Frequency North series: Jade Sylvan on January 30, 7:30 pm, at the Events and Athletics Center (420 Western Ave) She's the author of Kissing Oscar Wilde, "a star-crossed novelized memoir about love, death, and identity."

NYCLU: New York has racial disparity in pot arrests

pot budBlack New Yorkers are 4.5 times more likely than white New Yorkers to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to a New York Civil Liberties Union report out this week looking at arrest data. The NYCLU notes this racial disparity exists in arrests even though surveys indicate whites in New York State use pot at higher rates than blacks.

Also out this week, a national report by the ACLU in which New York is tagged as having the highest marijuana arrest rate of any state (though DC's is even higher).

Said NYCLU exec director Donna Lieberman in a press release:

"New Yorkers should be embarrassed that our state leads the nation in marijuana arrests ... The crackdown on low-level marijuana possession needlessly hurts individuals and families - subjecting them to all sorts of collateral consequences like the loss of student financial aid and job opportunities. Governor Cuomo has pledged to clarify the state's marijuana laws to bring justice and common sense to drug enforcement in our state. We urge him to keep that promise."

Andrew Cuomo has proposed making the penalty for public possession of small amounts of pot, currently a misdemeanor, the same as private possession (a citation). He's said leveling the penalties is "about creating fairness and consistency in our laws since there is a blatant inconsistency in the way we deal with small amounts of marijuana possession."

New York State's high rate of pot arrests is driven in large part by New York City, where the issue is in turn driven in large part by the city's "stop and frisk" policies. For example, in New York County (Manhattan), blacks are more than 9 times as likely as whites to get arrested for pot possession, according to the NYCLU's calculations.

But there's a disparity in the Capital Region, too. Here are the "times more likely" figures from the NYCLU for the Cap Region core:

Albany County: 2.44
Rensselaer: 4.75
Saratoga: 4.20
Schenectady: 3.68

Earlier elsewhere:
+ Push for pot, now with lobbying muscle
+ Capital New York: Albany's unlikely marijuana legalization champion sees interest, but no movement yet

photo: Wikipedia user HighinBC (cc)

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