Search Results for: FELONY

Washington: Felony Marijuana Convictions Fall Nearly 90 Percent

WASHINGTON:  The number of cannabis-related felony sentences in Washington fell an estimated 90 percent in the 18-months immediately following the opening of adult use marijuana retail stores, according to an analysis by the Washington Caseload Forecast Council.

Investigators identified only 147 marijuana-related crimes resulting in felony sentences in this period of time, compared to 1,312 felony offenses in the years prior to legalization.

Other jurisdictions have reported similar declines in marijuana-related arrests post-legalization. In California, felony-related marijuana arrests fell 74 percent between 2016 and 2017, following the enactment of adult use legalization.

For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

New Marijuana Law Side Effect: Youth Possession Now A Felony

WASHINGTON: A prosecutor in southeastern Washington has charged three teens with felonies for marijuana possession, saying a new law demands the higher level of offense.

The Lewiston Tribune in Idaho reports three teens ages 14, 15 and 17 have been charged in nearby Asotin County with felonies that could net them up to five years in prison. The offense was previously a misdemeanor with a maximum 90-day jail sentence.

Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols says Senate Bill 5052 contains the new language.

Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center says the tougher penalty was designed to deter minors from trying an adult drug.

EXCLUSIVE: Cannabis Oil Activist Shona Banda, Now Facing Felony Charges, Speaks Out

KANSAS:  In April, Truth in Media published an exclusive interview with Shona Banda, a cannabis oil activist and Crohn’s disease survivor whose home was raided by Garden City, KS police and 11-year-old son was seized by the Kansas Department for Children and Families after her son spoke out about medical marijuana during an anti-drug presentation in school.

Banda’s ordeal became a national issue after her interview with Truth in Media was picked up by Radley Balko at The Washington Post and discussed on a wide range of mainstream media outlets and television talk shows including ABC’s The View. Truth in Media has been covering Banda’s activism since 2014, when she went public in an interview with Ben Swann about how she uses cannabis oil to treat her Crohn’s disease.

Meanwhile, The Garden City Telegram is reporting that Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier announced on Friday that five criminal charges are being filed against Shona Banda pursuant to the April raid by Garden City police. The charges, three of which are felonies, include distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property, endangering a child, unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, and two drug paraphernalia infractions. The Garden City Telegram notes that Banda could be facing anywhere between 138 to 204 months behind bars.


Jury Acquits Medical Marijuana Patient Of Felony Charges

NEVADA: Steven Ficano wept as the clerk read the verdict: not guilty on both counts.

He embraced his lawyers, who had tears in their eyes. A few members of the jury cried, too.

For almost three years Ficano has faced two felony counts, one of which could have sent him to prison for up to 10 years.

With red eyes, the 65-year-old Las Vegas man and his wife hugged and thanked each of the 12 Clark County jurors as they left the courtroom at the conclusion of his four-day trial.

The jurors took about an hour to acquit Ficano on charges of possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to sell.

Prosecutors had argued that Ficano kept far more than he was legally allowed at his northwest valley residence and that he planned to sell the pot.


Fix This: Sharing Marijuana With Your Sweetheart Is Felony Distribution

WASHINGTON:  Say you’re having a real nice night with your sweetheart and decide to delve into a little bit of legal weed. You and your pal are in bed and you light up (joint or bowl or vape or maybe a nibble of an edible) … well, you better not pass your stuff to her/him cuz in Washington state that’s felony distribution.

Possession with the intent to pass the joint/bong/edible to even your legally married significant other is 5 years in jail and $10,000, on top of lawyer fees and disqualification from pretty much all federal programs as well as good luck getting a job.

Well, you say, no one would bust into my bedroom and arrest me!

Yeah (or at least “probably”), and that’s the point.

Having that law on the books in Washington is insulting and worse than nonsense. It’s the kind of law we scoff at and that undermines our respect for the law and police. As lawyers say: It’s not a good thing in theory to have felony laws if you intend for the transgression to happen. You want to legalize the things you want to be legal and not rely non-enforcement of laws in the long term.

Michigan Teacher With Medical Marijuana License Facing Felony Drug Charges

MICHIGAN: A Paw Paw Middle School teacher with a license to grow medical marijuana is now facing felony drug charges because authorities say his crop was too large and he also manufactured hashish.

Two members of Michigan State Police’s Southwest Enforcement Team raided Scot Granke’s Arlington Township property on Aug. 21 after receiving a tip from Granke’s estranged wife, Marlene, according to testimony at a Oct. 14 probable cause hearing seeking a warrant for Granke’s arrest. [Read more…]

Civil Survival Project Sues Washington State and Counties For Unconstitutional Simple Drug Possession Penalties

WASHINGTON:  Civil Survival Project announced today that it is suing Washington State, King County, and Snohomish County on behalf of participants wrongfully convicted of simple narcotics possession under RCW 69.50.4013. As these participants had been convicted under an invalidated and unconstitutional law, Civil Survival is pursuing the cancellation of all legal financial obligations imposed under the statute, as well as return of all funds paid to date by individuals sentenced for simple possession. Representing Civil Survival and its members are the law firms of Outten & Golden LLP and Frank Freed Subit & Thomas LLP, as well as the Public Defender Association.

On February 25, 2021 in State v. Blake, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington struck down RCW 69.50.4013, the state’s strict liability felony drug possession statute, as unconstitutional. Under this statute, thousands of Washingtonians have been unduly penalized for simple possession of drugs. Drug prohibition has historically had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, putting legally innocent individuals under the duress of crippling debt, in addition to incarceration and other adverse consequences.

Civil Survival’s suit begins the process of remediation for the impacts of criminalization of drug possession and repairing harms against those who have been unjustly punished. Fines and fees are only a part of the injury that Civil Survival members and many others have suffered, but restoring these funds and canceling outstanding debt owed from these convictions is an immediate first step.

“I’ve seen first-hand how families were torn apart in the name of a war on drugs and tough-on-crime policies starting with minor offenses like possession,” said Cory Walster, community organizer for Civil Survival. “Rather than receiving help and wrap-around services [after my first drug conviction], we were given punitive punishment and a criminal record. Since the Blake decision, I have seen people in our community break down in tears thinking about all of the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s,’ imagining what they could have been had they not gotten caught up in this system. Although we cannot change the past, now is the time to begin making things right.”

“As a result of the Blake decision, I have seen hope restored to many of those in the Civil Survival community as they think about the freedom that comes with vacating felony drug possession charges,” said Kelly Olson, policy manager for Civil Survival. “We have to stop criminalizing mental health issues and substance use disorders and treat the underlying trauma people are trying to heal from.”

In recent years, King and Snohomish Counties have been leaders in reducing the number of individuals facing prosecution and conviction for simple possession. These counties have instituted alternatives to prosecution and declined to file many drug possession cases in recognition that substance use issues do not belong in the criminal legal system. Their elected prosecutors recently both testified in support of HB 1499, a legislative proposal to decriminalize simple possession of drugs and instead invest in outreach, treatment and recovery supports for people with substance use disorders. Additionally, King County supported that effort with legislative advocacy. These two counties are defendants, not because they are uniquely responsible, but because the entire machinery of the criminal legal system throughout our state has been engaged in imposition of penalties under this invalid law.  We now need a process to rapidly undo that harm, even in the jurisdictions that commendably have recently recognized that we have been on the wrong path for decades.

“The Washington Supreme Court’s Blake decision is a victory for racial justice and the rule of law,” said Adam T. Klein, managing partner for Outten & Golden LLP. “As noted by the Court, the felony drug possession statute ‘has affected thousands upon thousands of lives, and its impact has hit young men of color especially hard.’ This lawsuit is intended to restore the rights of people – and notably a disproportionate number of Black and Latino people – who were convicted of an unconstitutional and unduly harsh statute that included prison time and severe costs and fines.”

Governor Cuomo Announces 30-Day Amendments to Legislation Establishing Comprehensive Adult-Use Cannabis Program in New York

NEW YORK:  Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced 30-day amendments to the Governor’s proposal to establish a comprehensive adult-use cannabis program in New York. Specifically, these amendments will detail how the $100 Million in Social Equity funding will be allocated, enable the use of delivery services, and refine which criminal charges will be enforced as it relates to the improper sale of cannabis to further reduce the impact on communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.

“As we work to reimagine, rebuild and reopen New York, we’re taking every opportunity to address and correct decades of institutional wrongs to build back better than ever before,” Governor Cuomo said. “We know that you cannot overcome a problem without first admitting there is one. Our comprehensive approach to legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provides the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also enables us to directly support the communities most impacted by the war on drugs by creating equity and jobs at every level, in every community in our great state.”

Allocation of $100 Million Cannabis Social Equity Fund

Social and economic equity are the bedrock of Governor Cuomo’s proposal to legalize cannabis for adult-use and as part of that, the Governor’s proposal includes a $100 million dollar fund to help revitalize communities that have been most harmed by the war on drugs.

Through this fund, qualified community-based nonprofit organizations and local governments would apply for funding to support a number of different community revitalization efforts, including, but not limited to:

  • Job placement and skills services,
  • Adult education,
  • Mental health treatment,
  • Substance use disorder treatment,
  • Housing,
  • Financial literacy,
  • Community banking,
  • Nutrition services,
  • Services to address adverse childhood experiences,
  • Afterschool and child care services, system navigation services,
  • Legal services to address barriers to reentry, and
  • Linkages to medical care, women’s health services and other community-based supportive services

The grants from this program may also be used to further support the social and economic equity program.

Under the amended proposal, the Department of State would allocate the funding, through grants administered by Empire State Development Corporation, in collaboration with the departments of Labor and Health, as well as with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, and the offices of Addiction Services and Supports and Children and Family Services. Final allocations and administration of funding would also be contingent upon approval from the Division of the Budget.

Enabling the Use of Delivery Services

The legalization of cannabis is expected to play an important role in helping rebuild New York’s economy following the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, legalization is projected to create more than 60,000 new jobs, and spur $3.5 billion in economic activity while generating an estimated $350 million in tax revenue once fully implemented.

Cannabis legalization also has the potential to have a significant economic benefit on distressed areas in New York, providing employment opportunities for all levels of the workforce. As social and economic equity are the bedrock of Governor Cuomo’s proposal, delivery services offer a low-cost entry point into the industry, particularly in communities which have been especially impacted by the war on drugs.

Recognizing this, the Governor is amending his proposal to allow for the permitting of delivery services as a way to open up access to this new industry even further so more New Yorkers can participate as it grows. As part of this, local governments would have the opportunity to opt out from delivery services occurring within their jurisdiction.

Criminality of Improper Sales

When establishing a new product market as the Governor’s proposal does, there will inevitably be attempts by bad actors to skirt rules and commit fraud for their own financial gain. This makes it critically important to ensure that penalties are carefully calibrated to ensure that all those who wish to participate in this new market, are operating on the same level playing field.

Cannabis, however, adds another complicating factor to this dynamic – years of outdated policies stemming from the War on Drugs have disproportionately impacted communities of color. Already, New York has taken steps to decriminalize cannabis and as this new market is realized, and it’s critical that criminal penalties are thoughtfully assigned, as to ensure that the progress which has already been made, is not inadvertently reversed.

As such, under the Governor’s amended proposal, specific penalties will be reduced as follows:

  • Criminal sale in the third degree (sale to under 21 year old) will be made a class A misdemeanor
  • Criminal sale in the second degree (sale of over 16 ounces or 80 grams of concentrate) will be made a class E felony
  • Criminal sale in the first degree (sale of over 64 ounces or 320 grams of concentrate) will be made a class D felony

The Governor’s proposal builds on years of work to understand and decriminalize cannabis for adult use. In 2018, the Department of Health, under Governor Cuomo’s direction, conducted a multi-agency study which concluded that the positive impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis far outweighed the negatives. It also found that decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color.

In 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to decriminalize the penalties for unlawful possession of marijuana. The legislation also put forth a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions. Later that year, the Governor spearheaded a multi-state summit to discuss paths towards legalization of adult-use cannabis that would ensure public health and safety and coordinate programs regionally to minimize the cross-border movement of cannabis products.

Building on that important work, the Governor’s proposal reflects national standards and emerging best practices to promote responsible use, limiting the sale of cannabis products to adults 21 and over and establishing stringent quality and safety controls including strict regulation of the packaging, labeling, advertising, and testing of all cannabis products. Cannabis regulation also offers the opportunity to invest in research and direct resources to communities that have been most impacted by cannabis prohibition.

Washington: Joint Law Enforcement Operation Finds Illegal Marijuana Operation In Puyallup Home

More than 100 pounds of marijuana, 678 plants, grow equipment and car seized

WASHINGTON:  Officers from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) and the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force (TNT) served a search warrant on a Puyallup residence that was found to be growing marijuana without any type of cannabis production, processing, or retail license. The illegal grow was located in unincorporated Pierce County on the 12000 block of Woodland Avenue East, Puyallup, WA.

Officers identified and seized 687 plants and approximately 100 pounds of marijuana that had been commercially packaged. In addition, officers seized a significant amount of growing equipment and a car associated with the illegal operation.

Officers found pesticides on site that would not be legal to apply to marijuana plants in a licensed operation in Washington State. Illegal electrical and other modifications to the house and outbuildings indicated that the residence was repurposed solely for the illegal production of marijuana.

A Kent resident who was associated with the growing operation was arrested and felony charges for the illegal manufacture and possession of a controlled substance have been recommended.

The Thurston County Drug Task Force and the Liquor and Cannabis Board received multiple complaints regarding the illegal marijuana grow. Neighbors complained that a strong odor of marijuana had been emanating from the house since 2017, after the cash sale of the residence to a person who never resided there. The LCB officers obtained a search warrant for the home which was served in conjunction with the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force.

The LCB educates licensees to reach compliance and enforces Washington’s liquor, cannabis, vape and tobacco laws and regulations. The WSLCB is mandated to ensure that licensees in Washington State follow state laws and regulations. When licensees fail to comply with state law, the Board, under state authority can take action including the issuance of suspensions to ensure public health and safety.