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Colorado Supreme Court Affirms Employers Rights To Fire Medical Marijuana Patients

BrandonCoats[NPR]

Advocates Call for State and Federal Reform Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients and Legal Adult Users of Marijuana

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday affirmed lower court decisions allowing employers to fire employees for marijuana use while off-duty. The decision hinged on the state’s lawful off-duty activities statute.

The Court held that in order for the off-duty conduct to be considered “lawful,” it must be legal under both state and federal law. The unanimous decision was not a surprise to advocates working to reform marijuana law and policy in Colorado.

The case involved Brandon Coats, a 34-year-old quadriplegic, who uses marijuana to help with spasms and seizures due to a debilitating car accident. Coats worked as a customer service representative for Dish Network for three years until he was randomly drug tested and subsequently fired for testing positive for THC.

The highest court in the state has now firmly sided with employers on this issue, giving advocates a clear message that state protections are needed, according to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

The case and many others like it highlight the gray areas and legal fixes needed in Colorado and other states that have reformed their marijuana laws. Given that the substance remains illegal under federal law, any rights bestowed upon civilians by state law fall far short of fully protecting medical marijuana patients and legal adult users of marijuana.

The problem is most apparent in the areas of employment, housing and parental rights.

Colorado: New Report Gives More Good News As Legalization Gains Momentum

ColoradoTheBenefitsSoFar

Report Provides Comprehensive Data on Marijuana Arrests and Charges in Colorado After Legal Regulation for Adult Use

Marijuana Possession Charges Decrease From 30,000+ in 2010 to Less Than 2,000 in 2014

All eyes are on Colorado to gauge the impact of the country’s first-ever state law to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older. Since the first retail marijuana stores opened on January 1, 2014, the state has benefitted from a decrease in traffic fatalities, an increase in tax revenue and economic output from retail marijuana sales, and an increase in jobs, while Denver has experienced a decrease in crime rates.

Now, a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) brings another jolt of good news by providing comprehensive data on marijuana arrests in Colorado before and after the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012. The report compiles and analyzes data from the county judicial districts, as well as various law enforcement agencies via the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

The report’s key findings include:

• Since 2010, marijuana possession charges are down by more than 90 percent, marijuana cultivation charges are down by 96 percent, and marijuana distribution charges are down by 99 percent.

• The number of marijuana possession charges in Colorado courts has decreased by more than 25,000 since 2010 – from 30,428 in 2010 to just 1,922 in 2014.

Colorado: Sensible Asset Forfeiture Proposal Fails In Senate

AssetForfeiture[FreedomWorks]

Advocates Reminded of the Often Undeserved Sway of Law Enforcement

This week an asset forfeiture reform proposal died in Colorado’s Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 006 aimed to join other states and the recent federal effort to curb the intrusive, arguably unconstitutional and financially distorted incentive practice of civil asset forfeiture.

State law provides people due process protections from state authorities seizing their property. However, local and state police often circumvent state law by turning seized assets over to federal authorities who then liquidate those assets and return the proceeds to local law enforcement.

SB 006 would have provided constitutional protections in the case of joint state and federal asset forfeiture proceedings -- requiring a conviction, mandating a pre-trial hearing and only allowing forfeiture proceedings for assets valued over $50,000. The bill attempted to deter frivolous and subjective forfeiture efforts by law enforcement.

The Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU of Colorado, Colorado Criminal Defense Institute, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and many local lawyers, victims and like-minded civilians testified in favor of the bill.

Colorado: Food Safety Training For Marijuana Edibles Makers, Responsible Selling For Budtenders Launched

MaureenMcNamara(CannabisTrainers)

Edibles makers to learn proper hygiene, prevention of food contamination, emergency procedures, and more

“Budtenders” to learn responsible selling practices based on lessons of alcohol industry

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) on Tuesday announced that it will launch the first ServSafe© Food Safety Basics course specifically for cannabis industry professionals. Participants in the course, based on a curriculum developed originally by the National Restaurant Association, will learn about the significance of food-borne illness, proper personal hygiene, time and temperature control, how to prevent cross-contamination, cleaning, sanitizing and emergency procedures, and more.

“The interest in edibles and other infused products keeps growing,” said NCIA deputy director Taylor West. “We know our industry is under a microscope, and we want to make sure cannabis product-makers continue developing the highest quality and safest products possible.”

NCIA also announced a new Sell-SMaRT™ Responsible Cannabis Vendor course that will teach marijuana dispensary employees, or “budtenders,” responsible selling practices, such as how to check ID, educate customers about responsible consumption, and handle tricky situations.

These courses are developed and facilitated by Maureen McNamara, founder of Cannabis Trainers™, an NCIA member business. McNamara has been teaching the ServSafe© course to traditional food industry professionals for the last 18 years, but this will be her first course geared solely for makers of marijuana edibles.

Colorado: Senate Rejects Regressive Bills That Would Have Removed Kids From Parents Suspected of Drug Use

SometimesTheresJusticeSometimesTheresJustUs

Vote Signals Emerging Trend Toward Addressing Drug Use as a Public Health Issue

Bills aimed to amend the Colorado criminal and civil code with an expansive definition of drug endangered children were killed on the Senate floor on Tuesday by a vote of 15-20. The proposals attempted to expand the criminal definition of child abuse to include even attempts at drug use and/or possession.

The Drug Policy Alliance has opposed and organized against the legislation since last year when a similar proposal failed to move forward. The organization spearheaded an opposition coalition that includes the ACLU of CO and National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

“The proposals do little to protect children but will be effective at criminalizing parents, and tearing apart families,” said Art Way, senior Colorado drug policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance. "These bills would have done nothing but provide a way for law enforcement to threaten parental rights and further drug investigations.

"It is clear with this vote that Colorado lawmakers realized these bills would not address any actual concerns about child welfare — and would make it worse," Way said.

According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 82 percent of people who use illegal drugs in the past year did so non-problematically. Opponents feared these bills would create barriers for parents trying to access substance abuse treatment by increasing the stigma and consequences for those struggling with substance misuse or use issues.

U.S.: Rev. Sharpton's National Action Network Convention To Address Failed Drug War

NationalActionNetworkNANNoJusticeNoPeace

President Obama, AG Holder, NY Gov. Cuomo, NYC Mayor DeBlasio and DPA’s Art Way to Speak at National Action Network (NAN) Convention April 9-14

Convention to Address Major Civil Rights Issues, Including the Failed Drug War and Mass Incarceration

President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio will all join Reverend Al Sharpton at his National Action Network’s annual national convention being held April 9-12 in New York, NY.

The conference is being billed as the largest civil rights convening of the year bringing the nation’s top activists, political strategists and leading academia together to create an action plan for a civil rights agenda. Participants will address key policy issues such as jobs, voter ID and immigration; which will be key in this midterm election year.

The conference is also focusing on the failed drug war and mass incarceration. A panel called “Up in Smoke: Banning of Menthol, Legalization of Marijuana & Criminalization of African Americans” will address racial justice and the war on drugs.

"We are at a critical point where momentum to end the drug war and mass incarceration is gaining traction,” said Art Way, Senior Policy Manager, Colorado, of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It's not time to let up, it's time to ramp up."

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