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Cannabis Legalization

Cleveland City Council Oks Decriminalization of Low-Level Marijuana

Jordan Webber

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Low-Level Cannabis Decriminalization

Citizens of Cleveland are set to welcome a new ordinance that may be beneficial to medical marijuana patients after the City Council approved legislation on Monday eliminating penalties over possession of low-level marijuana.

According to reports, the Cleveland City Council had voted 15-2 in favor of a new ordinance that would eliminate penalties, including fines and jail time, for individuals who are to be caught with up to 200 grams or about 7 ounces of marijuana.

Under the legislation, called Ordinance No. 902-2019, individuals who have been previously convicted of marijuana possession would not be required to report the conviction during their pre-employment screening. Moreover, as part of the measure, the conviction will also set to not appear on the individual’s criminal record.

What we’re proposing is zero fines, zero jail time for anyone who has up to 200 grams of marijuana,” explained Councilman Blaine A. Griffin, the sponsor of the ordinance.

Let this be a bold first step in how we look at 21st Century policing,” he added.

Under the existing state law, individuals who are to be caught in possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis will be subjected to a $150 fine, while those with up to 200 grams will face a fine of $250 and up to 30 days of jail time.

To date, while Cleveland won’t be able to outdo the existing state laws, the city has the ability to regulate and implement local penalties for minor misdemeanor and misdemeanor crimes.

Prior to the voting, Mayor Frank George Jackson of Cleveland, along with including Police Chief Calvin Williams and chief City Prosecutor Karrie Howard, expressed their support for the legislation.

The ordinance, effective upon the mayor’s signature, will make Cleveland the latest addition to the ranks of other cities in Ohio that had decriminalized low-level cannabis possession. Among those cities include Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo.

According to Griffin, the new legislation would help end the racial disparity commonly found in the enforcement of cannabis laws.

We have always known that African-Americans are sometimes seven times more likely to be charged with marijuana possession,” the Mayor expressed.

“In addition to good government, this is really trying to create an equitable policy, as well as moving to the 21st century and away from the ’70s, when it comes to marijuana and cannabis use,” he added.

The ordinance comes only a week after the city of Austin in Texas approved a similar legislation that will decriminalize possession of low-level cannabis in the city.

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Cannabis Legalization

ACT Legalizes the Adult-Use of Recreational Cannabis

Stacey Wellington

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Adult-Use of Recreational Cannabis

After months of waiting, residents of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) now have access to legal adult-use cannabis, said SBS News. This legalization came after the ACT Legislative Assembly voted for the then-proposed bill back in September 2019, according to a report by The Guardian.

Last  January 31, 2020, residents of legal age will be able to carry a maximum of 50 grams. This new law will also allow them to grow up to two cannabis plants. Adults will also be able to carry up to 150 grams of “wet” cannabis. As the law legalizes marijuana for private and adult-use only, users are urged to keep the plant away from the public eye and children.

ACT citizens have expressed optimism about this development. One resident was pleased with this development and is hopeful about the benefits of the plant.

‘Opposed to the legalization of Recreational Cannabis in ACT’

This development was frowned upon by the Federal Government, which issued a warning to ACT residents. According to SBS News, the government said that residents “would still be breaking Commonwealth law” when they consume recreational cannabis, despite its legalization in the Australian capital.

During a speech to the National Press Club, Prime Minister Scott Morrison states that “states will make their own decisions according to priorities and complexions of their own government.” However, he emphasized that he “would expect the federal law enforcement agencies to press the law.”

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr noted that this development is progress when it comes to drug reform. Barr said that state law enforcement would be focusing on organized crime and large-scale production of illegal drugs. Moreover, this action seeks to make it clear that the state government does not want to penalize or stigmatize users.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nicole Lee from the National Drug Research Institute is optimistic about this decision. She criticized the stigma created by the war on drugs, saying that this campaign has pegged marijuana issues as a criminal justice matter.

By legalizing the plant, Lee said that cannabis will become a health and human rights issue. She emphasized that the negative effects of long-term excessive use will still persist even without legalization. According to her, legalization will make it easier for users to get the help they need.

In light of this move by the capital, New Zealand is also mulling on the legalization of the plant. It will hold a referendum in September.

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Cannabis Legalization

Proposed Bill in Colorado to Protect Marijuana-User Employees

Jordan Webber

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Colorado Lawmakers Propose Law to Prevent Businesses from Firing Marijuana-Users

Two Colorado lawmakers had proposed to pass a law preventing businesses from firing employees who use cannabis outside of their work hours.

The HB20-1089, which was introduced by Democratic Rep. Jevon Melton of Aurora, prohibits employers “from terminating an employee for the employee’s lawful off-duty activities that are lawful under state law.

If passed, the bill will override a decision made by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2015, which upheld the decision of the company Dish Network in firing its employee, Brandon Coats, after the latter failed a random drug test in 2010.

While Coat’s use of marijuana is considered legal under the state law, the Court ruled that the decision to fire Coat is valid as the state’s “lawful activity” statute is only limited to activities that are legal under both state and federal level. Since marijuana use remains to be illegal at the federal level, this prevents people from recognizing the practice as a lawful activity.

It was just a glaring gap that we have here in the statute, especially when we’re supposed to regulate marijuana like we are with alcohol,” commented Melton. “If someone’s able to drink while they’re at home and on their free time, as long as they’re not coming into work intoxicated, then they’re not penalized with their employment.”

Proposed Bill  – What’s in it?

Under the bill proposed by Melton, “lawful activity” will be defined as those that are legal under the state law. This would make the use of marijuana a lawful activity, thus preventing employers from firing workers that engage in the said activity.

Melton’s bill is currently supported by fellow House Democrat Rep. Jonathan Singer of Longmont, who claimed that terminating workers over their legal marijuana use negatively affects the poor and that the state should “wipe the slate clean” for those who use the drug.

In 2012, voters approved the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use in Colorado. However, despite the amendment, employers can still fire workers who are to be caught using cannabis on or off their work hours.

“We’re really not creating a new law. This law has been on the books when it comes to alcohol and tobacco use; we’re just expanding,” Melton explained. “The way it’s written now, it’s broad enough to cover anything the legislature would legalize in the future. We didn’t want a future legislature to come back and revisit this when they legalize something else.”

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Cannabis Legalization

Raleigh County Welcomes Medical Marijuana, Votes Unanimously

Jordan Webber

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Raleigh County Welcomes Medical Cannabis, Votes Unanimously

Located in West Virginia, Raleigh County has now unanimously approved the coming of medical cannabis in the area. The commission all passed a vote to welcome medical marijuana businesses seeking permits to operate in the state last Tuesday, January 14, 2020. The initiative is filed under the West Virginia Cannabis Law.

The meeting was conducted in a quick and easy manner, all lasting under five minutes. The special meeting also proceeded smoothly as no one opposed the acceptance of the West Virginia Cannabis law.

Present at the special voting metering was Raleigh Commission President, Dave Tolliver, as well as commissioners Linda Epling and Ron Hedrick. The three representatives unanimously voted in favor of the law.

Medical Cannabis in Raleigh County

Despite not being required under the law to enact such formalities, the Metro News of West Virginia reports that the commission deemed the meeting “symbolic… as though it would be best to have this on the agenda, take a formal vote, list it within our minutes, then send a letter to the state to let them know we have done this,” states Jeff Miller, Raleigh County administrator.

Under the new ruling, businesses seeking to open up shop and operate their medical marijuana firm may do so provided the county commission and public health department approves applicants together.

Representing the commission, Miller shares, “What we’re doing is, we’re just authorizing and reaffirming that allowances of these businesses will occur in Raleigh County.”

Miller continues to say that “We will now be recognized by West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources that Raleigh County is a county that has gone on record and allowed these businesses to operate in Raleigh County.”

Apart from providing consumers and patients access to medical marijuana in the area, the initiative is also expected to give rise to numerous employment opportunities and industry growth.

Following the passing of the cannabis law, the locale issued a deadline saying that the application period for interested businesses in gaining an operating permit is until February 18, 2020.

Although the county will now be receiving applications, President Tolliver notes that the application process could be tedious. The commission is still waiting to determine what zone they’ll be falling under prior to fully approving applications.

Approximately $50,000 are required from growers or processors for the permit fee. Meanwhile, revenues from cannabis businesses will be allocated for the Medical Cannabis Program Fund by 55%. 45% will be geared towards law enforcement training and the Fight Substance Abuse Fund.

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