marijuana possession

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New York: NYC Marijuana Possession Arrests Drop Under 17K; First Time Since '96

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67% Drop from 51,000 Arrests in 2011

Still A Tale of Two Cities: Young Black and Latino People Arrested at Higher Rates, Despite Young White People Using Marijuana at Higher Rates

According to data just released by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York City marijuana arrests in 2015 dropped to under 17,000 for the first time since 1996. The 16,590 arrests for low-level marijuana possession in 2015 is a 42 percent decline from the 26,386 in 2014 and a 67 percent drop from the nearly 51,000 arrests in 2011.

“New York is finally starting to shed its embarrassing distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Over the last twenty years, more than 700,000 lives were irrevocably harmed by our draconian marijuana arrest policies. We must repair the harms of marijuana prohibition and end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers.”

In 2015, with the continuous advocacy of community members, advocates, and elected officials – the New York Police Department made 16,590 arrests for low level marijuana possession, down from a high of 26,386 in 2014. This continues a four year trend of declining marijuana possession arrest by the NYPD.

Delaware: House Committee Approves Bill Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

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The Delaware House of Representatives Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday approved a bill 5-4 that would remove criminal penalties and potential jail time for possession of a small amount of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket. The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

HB 39, introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South), would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $575 fine and up to three months in jail.

“This is a modest, commonsense policy change that is long overdue in Delaware,” Rep. Keeley said. “Simply possessing a small amount of marijuana does not warrant jail time and the other serious consequences of a criminal conviction. The punishment should fit the crime, not cause more harm than the crime.”

More than two-thirds of Delaware voters (68 percent) support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession and making it a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $100 with no possibility of jail time, according to a statewide survey conducted in March by Public Policy Polling. Only 26 percent said they were opposed. Full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/DEpoll.

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

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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.

North Carolina: 94-Year-Old Man Arrested On Felony Marijuana Charges

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

From time to time, a particular arrest serves to highlight the absurd nature of cannabis prohibition.

Such an arrest took place on Monday in North Carolina, where a 94-year-old man was charged with felony possession of marijuana, reports Elisabeth Arriero at The Charlotte Observer.

Douglas Floyd Ponischil, 94, was arrested at 6:36 a.m. on Monday by the Mecklenberg County Sheriff's Office, according to arrest records.

Ponischil -- a World War II veteran, according to Hempyreum -- doesn't appear to have much of a criminal history in the state; a background check revealed only minor traffic violations.

Illinois: Chicago Police Used Marijuana To Disappear Young People

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marc Freeman disappeared inside Chicago's Homan Square police warehouse for hours last year, but you wouldn't know that from his arrest report. His time in custody wasn't logged on the books until he appeared at another police station, seven hours after his arrest -- and his case isn't unique.

Chicago Police arrested Freeman at 3:35 p.m. on October 22, 2014, for possession of about two pounds of cannabis, report Spencer Ackerman and Zach Stafford at The Guardian. The police report states that Freeman was "transported to Homan for further processing," but it specifies nothing about his time at the secretive police compound, other than an official arrival time at 4:10 p.m., then a note that he arrived at nearby District 11 lockup at 10:32 p.m.

Freeman was lost to the outside world during the intervening hours, denied any phone calls, attorney visits or records of where he was by the police who held him captive. Shackled inside Homan Square, Freeman was neither booked nor processed at the secretive facility some have compared to the domestic equivalent of a CIA "black site."

Louisiana: Rally In New Orleans To Call For Clemency For Man Serving 13 Years For Marijuana Possession

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Criminal justice stakeholders, New Orleans city Council members, sentencing reform advocates, community activists, concerned citizens, friends and family will gather on Saturday, March 7, to rally support for clemency for Bernard Noble, currently serving 13.3 years for 2.8 grams for marijuana.

Noble, a 48-year old father of seven, was arrested while riding his bike when officers discovered 2.8 grams of marijuana, the equivalent of two to three marijuana cigarettes. Characterizing Noble as “exceptional,” two Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges departed from the mandatory minimal sentence stating “Mr. Noble’s inevitable incarceration will be a greater punishment for his children than for himself,” and Noble’s “particular circumstance is the rare exceptional situation and does not represent the type of individual contemplated by the legislature when assigning sentences.”

Using simple possession convictions from 1991 and 2003, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office charged Noble under the habitual offender law and sought the mandatory minimum sentence despite the trail judges’ disapproval and disagreement with the length of punishment. Trial judges twice departed from sentencing Noble to the state requested mandatory minimum of 13 years and four months and sentenced him to 5 years.

New Hampshire: House Committee Approves Measure Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

NewHampshireDecriminalization

Bill that would replace potential jail time with a civil fine receives bipartisan support in House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Thursday approved a bill 12-3 that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure will now go to the full House for a vote.

“Nobody should face time in jail simply for possessing a small amount of marijuana,” said Matt Simon, Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “We’re glad the committee members agreed, and we hope the rest of their colleagues in the Legislature will, too. This is a commonsense reform that is long overdue.”

HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for third or subsequent offenses. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.

The House passed a nearly identical bill last year by a vote of 215-92, but the Senate refused to consider it.

New York: NYPD Poised To Stop Low-Level Marijuana Possession Arrests

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Individuals Would Instead be Ticketed and Ordered to Court

Advocates Cautiously Optimistic, But Key Questions and Concerns Remain

An article on the front page of Monday's New York Times outlines a plan by the de Blasio Administration to end low-level marijuana possession arrests in New York City. According to the article, those found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released.

This would be a shift from the current arrest practice, wherein police charge people with a misdemeanor – the person is then handcuffed, taken to the precinct and held for hours, fingerprinted and photographed, and eventually released with a court date and a virtually permanent arrest record. Ending arrests for marijuana possession is a constructive step towards reform, yet many questions and concerns about the new proposal remain.

The new proposal comes on the heels of a recently released report by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which analyzed marijuana arrest and income data. It shows that low-income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates arrests for marijuana possession than do white communities of every class bracket.

Maine: South Portland Becomes 2nd East Coast City To Legalize Marijuana

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Similar Measure Receives 45% Support in Lewiston

Stage is set for 2016 statewide initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol

Voters in South Portland, Maine on Tuesday approved a ballot measure by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin, making it the second city on the East Coast to make marijuana legal for adults. A similar measure received 45 percent of the vote in Lewiston.

The South Portland initiative makes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. It will remain illegal for adults to consume or display marijuana in public.

Voters in Portland, Maine's largest city, approved a similar measure last year.

Tuesday's measure expresses support for ending marijuana prohibition at the state level and replacing it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. The Marijuana Policy Project, which backed all three local initiatives in Maine, has filed a committee to support a statewide ballot initiative in 2016.

“We applaud the voters of South Portland for approving a more sensible approach to marijuana," said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which supported the Lewiston and South Portland initiatives. "They saw through the scare tactics and misinformation that have long kept marijuana illegal in this country. They chose facts over fear."

Oregon: Marijuana Regulation Campaign Launches First Ad Blitz TV Spot

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Oregon's Measure 91 campaign to regulate, legalize and tax marijuana officially launched its $2 million plus advertising blitz, debuting a retired law enforcement officer in the TV spot.

The new ad -- which you can see at the bottom of this story -- hit the airwaves Wednesday morning and is running on a wide range of broadcast and cable networks, including the newscasts of KGW, KATU, KOIN, KPTV, KEZI, KVAL and KMTR.

"It's About Time" features Pete Tutmark, a longtime Oregonian who has spent 33 years in law enforcement, including many years as patrol sergeant, sheriff's deputy and the supervisor of a K9 unit. The 57-year-old father of two and grandfather of three lives in Canby, Ore.

"Last year in Oregon, there were 13,000 citations and arrests for marijuana," Tutmark says in the ad. "That takes time, time better spent solving murders, rape cases, finding missing children. The system's broken. Measure 91 regulates marijuana for adults so police have time to fight serious, violent and unsolved crimes."

Tutmark joins high-profile law enforcement leaders in Oregon who have endorsed the Yes on 91 campaign, including retired chief federal prosecutor Kris Olson and retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Bill Riggs.

Maine: Lewiston City Council To Consider Proposal To Make Marijuana Legal For Adults

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The Lewiston City Council on Tuesday night will consider a citizen-initiated measure at its meeting that would make private marijuana possession legal for adults. The council can enact the proposed law or place it on the November 4 ballot.

Citizens for a Safer Maine submitted more than 1,250 signatures to place the measure in front of the council. Just 859 valid signatures of registered city voters were required.

Citizens for a Safer Maine qualified a similar measure for the ballot in South Portland and recently collected the final signatures needed to place one on the ballot in York.

The initiative would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It would remain illegal to consume or display marijuana in public.

The measure also includes a statement in support of regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at the state level.

“Lewiston resources are being wasted arresting responsible adults for using something with far less personal and social costs than alcohol,” said Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) Maine political director David Boyer. “We hope the council will see the sense in using law enforcement resources for serious issues, but if they don’t, the citizens of Lewiston will.”

WHAT: Lewiston City Council hearing on a citizen-initiated measure that would make private marijuana possession legal for adults

WHEN: Tuesday, September 2, 7 p.m. ET

WHERE: Lewiston City Hall, 27 Pine Street, Lewiston, Maine

WHO: Lewiston City Council

U.S.: Share of Arrests For Marijuana Possession Tripled Since 1991

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With thousands of incarcerated nonviolent drug offenders symbolizing the futility of the "War On Drugs," even some of the most ardent supporters of the punitive approach are starting to view the issue of marijuana use through a public health perspective, rather than from a criminal justice point of view.

That shift is evident at the infamous White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the dreaded ONDCP, which for decades has been the command center of the federal War On Drugs, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. The ONDCP now uses words like "balance" as key components of federal drug control strategy.

"Drug addiction is not a moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated," the ONDCP website reads. "Drug policy is a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue."

But unfortunately, law enforcement agencies haven't gotten the message. While the number of arrests for all offenses has declined nationwide since 1991, the share of those arrests related to simple cannabis possession has more than tripled over the same period.

D.C.: What You Need To Know About The New Marijuana Decrim Law

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A far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law took effect on Thursday in the District of Columbia that replaces jail time with a $25 fine for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. However, advocates emphasize that there is still more work to be done in the nation’s capital to reduce severe racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement by D.C. police officers.

The Drug Policy Alliance has published an online resource that explains what the public needs to know about D.C.’s new marijuana decriminalization law.

Here are a few highlighted facts from our new overview of D.C.’s new decriminalization law:

• Under the new law, a person found in possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is issued a notice of violation that imposes a $25 fine for marijuana possession as well as forfeiture of any visible marijuana and any paraphernalia.

• Police officers are prohibited from using the smell of marijuana as rationale for conducting criminal searches. D.C.’s decriminalization law is the first in the country to provide this protection in statute.

• The possession of marijuana remains unlawful in D.C., and possession of marijuana weighing more than one ounce is still a crime in the District.

• Smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana in a public space is still a crime.

D.C.: Far-Reaching Marijuana Decriminalization Law Takes Effect In Nation's Capital

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Persons Caught With Up to One Ounce of Marijuana Will Be Fined $25 by D.C. Police Officers

House Republicans Want to Overturn Law While White House Defends It

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law on Thursday takes effect in the District of Columbia, replacing jail time with a $25 fine for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as the result of a year-long effort in the nation’s capital to reduce severe racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement by D.C. police officers.

The “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014” takes effect despite an ongoing Republican-led effort in Congress to block D.C. officials from implementing the law. It was approved by the D.C. Council 10-1 in April and signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray in March.

“We are hopeful that marijuana decriminalization will reduce excessive racial disparities in the enforcement of D.C.’s marijuana laws,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “While marijuana decriminalization is undeniable progress, the real solution is to join states like Colorado and Washington and legalize marijuana. Thankfully, D.C. voters are going to have that opportunity in November.”

U.S.: Republicans In Congress May Try To Block Washington, DC From Reforming Marijuana Laws

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Congressional Interference Comes After D.C. Lawmakers Decriminalize Marijuana to Ease Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

Republicans may offer an amendment to a federal appropriations bill on Wednesday morning that would prevent the District of Columbia from implementing the marijuana decriminalization law recently passed by the D.C. City Council and signed into law by the mayor in March.

The amendment would prohibit D.C. from spending federal funds or even its locally raised funds to carry out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana.

Advocates quickly decried this possible attempt by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee that would interfere and potentially block efforts by D.C. lawmakers to eliminate racial disparities that have long persisted in the enforcement of D.C.’s marijuana laws. In 2010, 91 percent of all marijuana arrests in D.C. were of African Americans.

“D.C. lawmakers recently decriminalized marijuana possession because the people of the District of Columbia demanded an end to the disproportionate arrest of African Americans for small amounts of marijuana,” said Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Any effort by Congress that would block D.C.’s efforts to reform its marijuana laws denies the people of the Nation’s Capital the democratic right to pursue racial and social justice.”

New York: 80 Marijuana Possession Arrests A Day In First 4 Months of 2014 - More of the Same

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According to the latest numbers from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, in the first four months of 2014, the NYPD under Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton arrested an average of 80 people a day for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

This is virtually the same as the NYPD's average of 78 marijuana possession arrests a day in all of 2013 under Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly.

The most recent data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) shows that marijuana arrest patterns in the first four months of 2014 under de Blasio and Bratton are indistinguishable from those of their predecessors in 2013.

See graphs and this release online at:
http://marijuana-arrests.com/docs/MORE-OF-THE-SAME--NYC-Marijuana-Arrest...

In 2013 blacks and Latinos were 87 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession.
In the first four months of 2014, blacks and Latinos were 86 percent of the people arrested.

In 2013 teenagers between 16 and 20 were 29 percent of the people arrested.
So far in 2014 teens are also 29 percent of arrestees.

In 2013 young people between ages 21 and 25 were 27 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession, exactly the same as in the first third of 2014.

In 2013 people between the ages of 26 and 29 were 12 percent of those arrested.
In the first four months of 2014 they were 13 percent of those arrested.

In 2013, young people between the ages of 16 and 34 comprised 78 percent of all people arrested for simple marijuana possession.

New Hampshire: House Approves Bill to Remove Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession

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Measure with bipartisan support would replace criminal penalties and potential jail time with a civil fine of up to $100 for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana

The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved a bill 215-92 on Wednesday that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The strong bipartisan support for the bill indicates the measure could withstand a veto from Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has expressed disapproval for such legislation despite broad public support. The bill will now go to the Senate, where it will be scheduled for a public hearing.

"This is a big step toward reducing the harms caused by marijuana prohibition," said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is supporting the bill.

"New Hampshire residents are sick and tired of seeing their tax dollars used to criminalize people for using a substance that is safer than alcohol," Simon said. "The Senate and Gov. Hassan should join the House and the majority of state voters in supporting this sensible reform."

D.C.: Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession Expected To Get Final Approval Tuesday

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Eight of 13 D.C. Council members are sponsoring the measure, which would replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a $25 civil fine, similar to a parking ticket

A bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the District of Columbia is expected to receive final approval from the District Council at its meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET.

The measure, sponsored by Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells, is supported by eight of the council's 13 members, as well as D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray. If it is approved in its current form, the penalties for adult marijuana possession in the nation’s capital will be among the lowest in the country.

The bill would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replace them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. It would also remove penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts of marijuana, and it specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession.

Public use of marijuana would remain a criminal offense punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

D.C.: Council Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana, End Marijuana Possession Arrests

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Bill Would Reduce Enormous Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice System

Last-Minute Amendments Weaken Bill; Advocates Warn That “Public Consumption” Provision Will Perpetuate Unfair and Costly Arrests

The D.C. Council on Tuesday took a major step to decriminalizing marijuana in the nation’s capital by voting 11-1 in favor of a bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and treat possession as a civil offense.

The Council takes a final vote on the bill in early March; it is expected to pass and to be signed into law by the mayor. It is viewed by both council members and advocates as a model for other jurisdictions looking to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

“This is a major victory for advancing the cause of racial justice in D.C.,” said Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The war on marijuana is largely a war on people of color and the D.C. Council is saying enough is enough.”

The “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 (Council Bill 20-409)” would eliminate the threat of arrest for possessing marijuana and ensure that people are no longer saddled with life-long convictions that make it difficult to obtain employment and housing. Instead of arresting people the bill would impose a $25 civil fine for possession as well as forfeiture of the marijuana and any paraphernalia used to consume or carry it.

Missouri: State Representative Arrested For Marijuana Possession

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Missouri state Representative Jeremy LaFaver (D-Kansas City), who sponsored a cannabis decriminalization bill in the last session of the Legislature, was arrested on Sunday for possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana and possession of "drug paraphernalia."

LaFaver was pulled over by the Missouri Highway Patrol for failing respond to an earlier charge that he had operated his vehicle with expired license tags, according to an arrest report cited by PoliticMo.

LaFaver, a first-term lawmaker who is chairman of the Missouri House Democratic Victory Committee, was also charged with failure to appear in court in Moniteau County for traffic offenses, according to the Highway Patrol's arrest report website. According to court records, warrants were issued on May 9 for LaFaver on misdemeanor charges of failure to maintain financial responsibility of a vehicle, and failure to register.

LaFaver admitted he was arrested with a pipe and a small amount of pot. "I made a serious mistake, I apologize for it, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my behavior," he said. "I want to stress that I was not operating under the influence.

"I deeply regret the embarrassment I have caused my family and the people of the 25th District by this incident," he said. "I want to assure my constituents that I have received no special considerations, nor do I expect to be treated any differently than any other citizen in my situation."

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