The Massachusetts high court continues to be one of the best in protecting the rights of marijuana users.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the police can't just raid a house suspected of growing marijuana without first checking to find out if the resident is a registered medical marijuana patient.
Will courts in other states follow along?
This week Colorado Supreme Court heard the case of whether an employee can be fired for failing a drug test for a substance that is legal under state law, medical marijuana.
I wrote about the Brandon Coats case previously.
Coats' attorney argued that if an employee can be fired under an employer's "zero tolerance" drug testing policy, then the medical marijuana system is only "for the unemployed.
The state attorney general, arguing for employer rights, claimed that "limiting the off-duty activities statute only to Colorado law could bring 'absurdities' such as someone convicted of a crime like federal tax fraud not being able to be fired."
Which is a ridiculous comparison, since federal tax fraud is not explicitly legal under Colorado law. Medical marijuana is.
The case will likely hinge on the narrow point of the court's interpretation of the Colorado Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which protects "lawful, off-duty activities from being cause for termination."
Does "lawful" mean "lawful under Colorado law" or "lawful" more broadly that would include Federal law?
This is an important case, though it certainly won't be the end of the fight for the civil rights of legal marijuana users.
Possible remedies include: Colorado amending the Lawful Off-Duty Activities statute to be more explicit, or even better, the Federal government removing cannabis from the list of Schedule I Controlled substances, so it's use isn't always explicitly illegal under federal law.
The court's decision may take at least a few weeks to be published.
The case of Shaneen Allen has been getting attention in the libertarian and gun rights communities, but honestly deserves more publicity from everyone who cares about overprosecution, mandatory minimums, and the prison industrial complex.
Via The Watch, Ms. Allen is a lawful handgun owner in Pennsylvania. She was pulled over on a traffic stop in New Jersey, a state with some of the nation's toughest gun laws. She volunteered to the police officer that she had a handgun in her possession, apparently not knowing that possession of a handgun without a licence for that state is a felony in New Jersey.
Allen is a black single mother. She has two kids. She has no prior criminal record. Before her arrest, she worked as a phlebobotomist. After she was robbed two times in the span of about a year, she purchased the gun to protect herself and her family. There is zero evidence that Allen intended to use the gun for any other purpose. Yet Allen was arrested. She spent 40 days in jail before she was released on bail. She’s now facing a felony charge that, if convicted, would bring a three-year mandatory minimum prison term.
Under the law, she really doesn't have much of a defense. But according to her attorney, the prosecutor has the option of allowing her to enter a diversion program for first time offenders of victimless crimes, but has not explained why he is unwilling to do so in this case.
There have been a lot of advocates for reform insisting that President Obama and the Department of Justice take action on marijuana reform, and back up his recent statments that "marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol". The DEA does have the power to move Marijuana out of the list of Schedule I Federally Controlled Substances.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer has said it's very clear that administrative rescheduling is allowed under the law.
Yet, Mark Kleiman, a highly respected expert in drug policy insists that simply Rescheduling is largely meaningless, and the ability to end federal marijuana prohibition requires an act of Congress.
Can an employer fire you for taking a legal medicine on your own time that has no effect on your job performance?
If it is medical marijuana, they can.
Brandon Coats had an exemplary employment record, but was fired by Dish Networks because he failed a drug test for marijuana. He is disabled and confined to a wheelchair as a result of a car accident. He takes medical marijuana to help with his muscle spasms.
Dish Networks has a zero-tolerance drug policy.
The case will be heard by the Colorado Supreme Court this year.
New Hampshire State Senator Andy Sanborn (R-Bedford) responded to a letter from a constituent about marijuana decriminalization by threatening him with a phone call to get his scholarship revoked.
Update: This story got picked up by Boston.com
Attorney General Holder announced a plan to clear the way for legal marijuana businesses to have access to the banking system.
This is a big deal, and is another signal that the administration is willing to accept the reality of state marijuana laws.
But the next big hurdle that MUST be overcome is the (mis)classification of marijuana as Scheduled I Controlled Substance under federal law. This classification is reserved for drugs that are highly addictive and have no accepted medical value.
UPDATE: We may already have movement on this. According to The Hill, Congressmen Earl Blumenauer is already working on this:
Blumenauer said he is gathering signatures from fellow lawmakers on a letter pressing President Obama to pull marijuana from the Schedule 1 list.