NORML Canada: December 2013 Newsletter
Greetings Cannabis Law Reform Community
As 2013 draws to an end and as we embark into the New Year, not only shall we relish the successes of a truly noteworthy year, but also we enter 2014 with the greatest degree of optimism. For as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, and as champagne glasses clink and joyous cries are sounded, January 1st, 2014 will not only mark the dawn of a new year, but it will mark the success and the proliferation of a movement that has worked tirelessly to achieve support and acceptance. Now, all eyes and ears are inescapably drawn toward Colorado and Uruguay. Colorado and Uruguay will bear the torch as the first two places in the world to begin the sale of legal recreational cannabis.
In this month’s newsletter:
Colorado has issued a total of 348 recreational cannabis licences statewide; 136 are designated for retail stores, 178 for cultivation, 31 for the manufacturing of infused edibles and various other goods, and three testing laboratories. At the retail level cannabis will be taxed at a rate of 25%, plus an additional state sales tax of 2.9%; certain communities may choose to add additional tax to the product, making recreational cannabis the most heavily taxed item in the state of Colorado. Given the structure of cannabis production and distribution in Colorado, by which retailers are required to grow 70% of their product, it is quite probable that demand will likely surpass supply and prices will be relatively high; this may be a short-lived effect that will wear thin as retailers and cultivators are given additional time to meet demand. Residents of Colorado are also allowed to cultivate up to six plants at home, which may alleviate retail demand.
On January 1st, citizens of Colorado who are 21 years or older may purchase and possess up to an ounce of cannabis, while those visiting the state (and of the same age) may purchase up to a quarter of an ounce. The city of Denver recently decriminalized cannabis for those between the ages of 18 and 21, and will distribute fines, without jail time, for those caught with one ounce or less; previously the potential jail time for cannabis possession was up to a year. Smoking cannabis will not be permitted in any public facilities and outdoor locations, and is only permitted on private property under the owner’s discretion. Although now legal, towns and counties may choose to disallow recreational cannabis stores in their local jurisdictions; Colorado Springs and Greeley are two such examples.
Motorists must also be aware that DUI’s may be issued to those in excess of 5 nanograms or more of active THC in the blood stream. The 5 nanogram benchmark has been widely debated and contested, as it is generally shown that a recreational user may be in excess of this limit despite not having consumed cannabis in the recent past. This shows the truly experimental nature of what Colorado is doing, and it is likely that many revisions to cannabis laws are to follow in the New Year.
This is an exciting time for the cannabis legalization movement, and 2014 may hold many more successes. With Colorado set to open up shop on January 1st, and Washington not far behind, the world will patiently observe the effects of legalization first hand. Colorado will prove to be an integral step in wider legalization efforts, and will walk bravely and proudly into 2014.
On December 23rd, 2013 Uruguayan President José Mujica signed into law a bill legalizing cannabis, making Uruguay the first country in the world to take this important step. Residents at least 18 years of age can now legally grow up to six plants at their home and reap an annual harvest of 480 grams.
The particulars of the new rules surrounding cannabis and its sale will be finalized by April 9th, 2014. Under the undrafted new rules, licenced, privately-owned pharmacies are expected to be permitted to sell cannabis and consumers will be permitted to buy up to 40 grams a month. It is also anticipated that anyone wishing to buy, grow, or sell will have to register on a national registry.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said the new law is a contravention of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of which Uruguay is a signatory. The Convention lists cannabis as a schedule VI substance (along with heroin), the most severe designation. The INCB, a subsidiary of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, claimed Uruguay refused to receive an INCB delegation in advance of the vote. The INCB has been silent on the actions in Colorado and Washington.
Cannabis legalization bills are now being drafted in Barbados, Belize, Chile, Mexico City, and Trinidad and Tobago.
NORML Canada is proud to announce that commencing January 1st, 2014 Mr. Craig Jones will be taking over as the new NORML Canada Executive Director. Mr. Jones has an MA and a PhD in Political Studies from Queen’s University. He is a longtime student of the failures of prohibition and is widely published. He has taught at universities, and he has appeared before senate committees on these matters. He was the Executive Director for the John Howard Society from 2007 to 2010. Having such a distinguished administrator and scholar as Mr. Craig Jones taking over as Executive Director is an important step forward for NORML Canada.
In a blow to the Harper government’s tough on crime agenda, the Ontario Court of Appeal on November 13th, 2013 in the cases of R. v. Nur  O.J. No. 5120 and R. v. Smickle  O.J. No. 5070 struck down the mandatory minimum penalty of three years in prison for the offence of possession of a loaded firearm as being cruel and unusual punishment contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Harper government, through its use of mandatory minimum sentences, has tried to fill our jails and take away the discretion of sentencing judges to impose fit sentences for a variety of crimes. These decisions set the stage for future challenges to the mandatory minimums concerning cannabis offences.
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