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Hot off the press cannabis, marijuana, cbd and hemp news from around the world on the WeedLife News Network.

Politicians smoking weed to get elected — Is this the cool new trend?

 

Candidates like Thomas McDermott and Gary Chambers will continue to spring up at this crucial junction where cannabis legalization is almost a reality.

Toking in campaigns adverts looks to be the latest political trend among aspiring government officeholders. In the last election cycle, Indiana politicians were all about kissing babies and being seen with children of all races. The latest is exploiting the widespread acceptance of marijuana to gain popularity among registered voters.

Thomas McDermott is a Democrat aspiring to take on the U.S. Senate seat in Indiana. This trend is more popular with the Democrats, as McDermott is the second Senate candidate in this election season to light a blunt or take a hit on camera. McDermott’s latest campaign ad shows him sitting in a circle with a blunt in hand in the presence of some acquaintances.

What’s Cannabis Got to Do With Elections?

Cannabis is growing to be a widely accepted drug in all parts of the country. Recent polls show that most registered voters would love to have federal cannabis reform as soon as possible. Expectedly, this majority will have no choice but to vote for politicians who will most likely fulfill this wish. This is where people like McDermott come in.

McDermott’s team is riding the cannabis legislation wave to clinch a seat in the U.S. Senate in Indiana. In the 70+ second campaign ad, McDermott says that the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana are important features of his campaign.

Early this year, Gary Chambers, a Democrat, rode the cannabis legalization waves and trended for a few days when his campaign video was released. In the video, he could be seen smoking pot. Chambers is currently running for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana.

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Beto O’Rourke says Texas can learn from Oklahoma by expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana

The Sooner State also partners with Native American tribes on casino gambling, which attracts hoards of Texans.

At a packed 903 Brewers in Sherman, Beto O’Rourke was asked how close are Texans to being able to legally gamble.

“I think we’re like 35 miles from that, right?” O’Rourke said as the Sherman brewery crowd broke into laughter on April 21. “It is legal in Oklahoma, so I think it makes a lot of sense for us to think about the fact that we have an extraordinary opportunity to deliver a service or a form of entertainment that many Texans already enjoy in other states.” 

Not more than a horseshoe toss from Oklahoma, Grayson County residents are aware their neighbors to the north have legal casinos through agreements with the state and Native American tribes. They are popular with Texas voters, but mostly illegal in the Lone Star State.

And it’s not just gambling that has some Texans near the border looking to Sooner country with envy.

Though Republican red like Texas, Oklahoma has expanded Medicaid to provide more affordable health insurance for its residents. And this year there’s a referendum before Oklahomans that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

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Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate candidates want to legalize pot, but appetite not as strong in Washington

 

It’s a game of num­bers for Dem­o­crats in Wash­ing­ton who want bold re­form on a num­ber of key boil­er­plate is­sues.

But even if they add one more to their ranks in the 50-50 Senate by way of Penn­syl­va­nia, it still may be un­likely that le­gal­ized mar­i­juana be­comes a re­al­ity on the fed­eral level.

All three of the top Demo­cratic con­tend­ers here — John Fetter­man, Conor Lamb and Mal­colm Ken­yatta — fa­vor some de­gree of mar­i­juana re­form, but if they pull off a win in what’s one of the coun­try’s most im­por­tant races, they’ll face an up­hill climb in the Senate.

HuffPost, check­ing in with nu­mer­ous U.S. sen­a­tors last week, re­ported that it’s not just Re­pub­li­cans who could stall move­ment on le­gal weed in the cham­ber. A num­ber of Dem­o­crats are hes­i­tant, too, ei­ther be­cause they say there are too many un­an­swered ques­tions on the con­se­quences or be­cause they say there are big­ger is­sues on their minds.

None of the three Penn­syl­va­nia Dem­o­crats would in­sist mar­i­juana is the only is­sue on their ra­dar, but it’s one that pro­po­nents say could raise bil­lions in tax rev­e­nue, re­move the re­li­ance on an of­ten-dan­ger­ous black mar­ket and re­lieve ra­cial dis­par­i­ties in en­force­ment — all while align­ing with pub­lic poll­ing.

This so hap­pens to be a race, too, in which the fron­trun­ner, Mr. Fetter­man, has made le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana a sta­ple of his po­lit­i­cal rise.

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US-Russian prisoner swap begs question for Biden: What about Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan?

 

Biden administration officials said they’re “very aware that there are other Americans held in Russia,” and added that Whelan and Griner are “very much in our minds.”

The Biden administration participated in a prisoner swap with Russia last week involving the exchange of a convicted Russian drug smuggler jailed in Connecticut for Trevor Reed a Marine veteran imprisoned in Russia since 2019. Meanwhile, the fate of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner and former marine Paul Whelan remains unclear. (Benzinga)

What is clear is that leaders in Washington and Moscow are still speaking to each other, regardless of the daily sputtering and saber-rattling following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Brittney Griner

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested at the airport in Moscow on Feb. 17 for allegedly possessing cannabis oil in her baggage. 

Like other female athletes who play abroad during the off-season for extra income, Griner had been playing on a Russian team for the past seven years. The huge gender pay gap in professional sports places women at additional risk.

Paul Whelan

Whelan, a former marine arrested in Moscow in 2018, was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 16 years of hard labor and is still being held in Russia.

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Nepal seeks to end marijuana ban after half a century

Washington's global war on drugs, and its accompanying pressure on foreign governments, had prompted the closure of Kathmandu's marijuana dispensaries in 1973.

Nepal's marijuana ban could soon be up in smoke, as lawmakers mull a return to the liberal drug policies that once made the Himalayan republic a popular pit stop on the overland "hippie trail".

Half a century ago, thousands of fun-seeking backpackers from around the world made their way to Kathmandu to buy potent hash strains from government-licensed stores on "Freak Street" -- a lane named for long-haired and unkempt foreign visitors.

Washington's global war on drugs, and its accompanying pressure on foreign governments, prompted the closure of the capital's dispensaries in 1973, along with a cultivation ban that forced farmers to rip up their cannabis plants.

Now, with Western countries easing their own prohibitions on marijuana, the government and legal reform campaigners say it is time to stop criminalising a potent cash crop with centuries-old ties to the country's culture and religious practices.

Corruption and smuggling

"It is not justifiable that a poor country like ours has to treat cannabis as a drug," Nepal's Health Minister Birodh Khatiwada told AFP.

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All eyes on New Jersey as it grapples with letting cops use cannabis

Growing chorus of officials want to ban officers from partaking in weed

During his decade in law enforcement, AJ Jacobs fell into a trap of cracking open a beer after a long, stressful shift in the suburbs of Phoenix.

Jacobs didn’t spend much time with his family — he had the “super cop” mentality to work all the time, he said.

But after 11 years on the force, he sustained a career-ending back injury, and turned to cannabis to alleviate the pain from five herniated discs in his back. He said marijuana also helped him work through PTSD, and he recommends it to police officers.

“I would rather them come home and smoke a joint to decompress and deal with their life and their emotions, as opposed to drinking that handle of Jack Daniels and then suppressing everything,” said Jacobs, now the secretary for Arizona NORML, a nationwide marijuana advocacy group. 

In Arizona, police aren’t allowed to consume marijuana, recreationally or medicinally, so some of Jacobs’ former colleagues can’t partake like he can. Jacobs thinks more states should follow New Jersey’s lead. Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin reminded law enforcement chiefs recently that the New Jersey law allowing for recreational marijuana permits cops to consume it off duty.

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Virginia senators kill governor's amendment to criminalize cannabis possession

The governor’s amendment would have made possession of over 2 ounces of cannabis punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

An amendment to Virginia’s Senate Bill 591, proposed by Gov. Glen Youngkin (R), would have made marijuana possession a more serious matter than it is today. However, Youngkin’s efforts fell flat because lawmakers refused to advance the bill altogether, advocacy group NORML reported. (Benzinga)

SB 591 was re-referred by legislators to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee, but, since the 2022 legislative session already ended, the legislation will not advance any further this year.

The governor’s amendment would have made possession of over 2 ounces of cannabis punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Possession of over 6 ounces of weed would have been punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

“The good news is, Governor Youngkin’s effort to recriminalize personal possession failed,” said JM Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML and NORML's development director.

“The bad news is lawmakers’ inaction today allows for products containing unregulated and potentially unsafe synthetically-derived THC products to continue to proliferate in Virginia,” Pedini added.

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California bill proposes to prohibit employment discrimination against marijuana users

A bill recently introduced in the California Assembly proposes to prohibit discrimination against employees who use cannabis off the job.

The legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) No. 2188, would amend California’s employment antidiscrimination law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and make it an unlawful practice for an employer to discriminate against an adult applicant or employee based upon the “person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace.” AB 2188 would also prevent discrimination against an applicant or employee who fails a drug test detecting “nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in their urine, blood, hair, or bodily fluids.”

The bill would not permit an employee “to be impaired by, or to use cannabis on the job” or affect “the rights or obligations of an employer to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace, as specified in Section 11362.45 of the Health and Safety Code.” 

AB 2188 includes carveouts for the building and construction trades, federal contractors, federal funding recipients, or federal licensees required to maintain drug-free workplaces. Its provisions also exclude occupations that are required by federal or state laws to be tested for controlled substances.

If enacted, AB 2188 would be the first California law providing workplace protection to users of cannabis.

California’s Proposition 215 legalized the medical use of marijuana in 1996. The law did not provide workplace protections for off-duty, off-premises medical marijuana use. In 2008, in Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc., the Supreme Court of California determined that a disabled individual who used medical marijuana was not protected under the FEHA.

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The African countries with cannabis-friendly legislation

If you look at the map showing the legality of cannabis by country, the African continent doesn’t stand out as particularly green. It doesn’t mean, however, that this crop is unknown here or not widely used.

In 2019, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that in West Africa, at least one metric – the past-12-months use – was more than three times higher than in the global population.

Historically, Africa has been the major route for the spread of cannabis from China via India to South America and then to the United States. However, the US which was introduced to the medicinal and recreational use of the substance relatively late (but was among the first to enforce prohibition) now has one of the most liberal cannabis policies in the world – with 18 states allowing adult use of marijuana. Africa, on the other hand, keeps a much stricter stance.

The repeal of prohibition is touted by its advocates as a way to restore social justice and reduce harm but also offers significant economic incentives. A report by Prohibition Partners estimated that the total market for cannabis in Africa could be worth $7.1b by 2023 if only the substance were legalized in every country on the continent.

This largely remains a missed opportunity as most African nations continue with prohibition although many have a bustling black market. In 2018, UNODC identified Ghana as the main trafficking and origin point for cannabis along with a couple of neighboring countries. In other nations, the cultivation of cannabis is also widespread as farmers grow the crop from landrace genetics or imported autoflower seeds.

So far, only South Africa has decriminalized adult use of the substance. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that it is legal to consume cannabis in the privacy of your own home. The sale and purchase remain illegal, but you can ask your physician to prescribe cannabis for any medical condition you might have. If your doctor believes that you can benefit from cannabis, she can write a prescription.

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Virginia: senate kills governor’s recriminalization amendment, bill addressing synthetically derived marijuana products

Republican Gov. Glen Youngkin’s recent attempt to recriminalize activities involving the possession of two ounces of marijuana by adults via the enactment of an amendment to SB 591 has been defeated for the session. That effort failed on Wednesday with lawmakers’ refusal to advance the bill it was added to, SB 591.

Legislators voted to re-refer SB 591 to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee. With the 2022 legislative session having already ended, this vote effectively ends any further discussion on the legislation this year. 

JM Pedini, NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, said, “The good news is, Governor Youngkin’s effort to recriminalize personal possession failed. The bad news is lawmakers’ inaction today allows for products containing unregulated and potentially unsafe synthetically-derived THC products to continue to proliferate in Virginia.”

Pedini added, “With his attempt to create new ways to criminalize Virginians for personal possession of cannabis having failed, Governor Youngkin’s administration should actually serve his constituents by establishing a legal adult-use marijuana market and ensuring that all cannabis products sold in the Commonwealth are accurately labeled and regulated for consumer safety.”

Commenting on the failure to approve the base text that would have regulated currently unregulated synthetically derived THC and novel THC products, JM Pedini added: “Sending SB 591 back to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee is not in the interest of public health or safety. By failing to take legislative action, unregulated products containing synthetically-derived THC will continue to be sold at retail and wholesale outside of the strict regulatory oversight currently required for legally produced cannabis products. Consumers deserve to know what they’re purchasing, and far too often what’s on the label is not what’s in the package when it comes to unregulated products.”

Personal possession and the cultivation of small quantities of cannabis by adults 21 and older is already permitted in Virginia under the 2021 legalization law approved by former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. Senate lawmakers approved separate legislation earlier this year to establish retail cannabis sales, but the bill died in the House after Republican members of the House General Laws Subcommittee rejected the measure.

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Rider professors give thoughts on marijuana legalization in college community

Micah Rasmussen, the director of Rider’s Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics,  has been involved in the New Jersey political landscape since he graduated from Rider in 1992.

The political science professor organizes his classes to be a hub for political conversation with the party lines that often split local politics represented in his classroom. 

Yet in recent years, students in his classroom bipartisanly agreed to the recreational legalization of marijuana, something that went into effect in New Jersey for those 21 and older on April 21. 

“I would say it’s pretty rare to see a student who is opposed to legalization at this point and that’s probably been the case for a long time,” Rasmussen said poignantly. “Students always saw the benefit of legalization and always saw the futility of having [marijuana] criminalized and wanted to have that change.” 

Rasmussen helped grow an annual event called Model Congress more than 30 years ago where high school students come to Rider, pitch different bills and simulate the process of making it a law. 

“When I started running Model Congress, [legalization] was very much a fringe idea, it was very much a student idea, it was very much a pipe dream,” Rasmussen said before clarifying there was no intention of a pun in the quote. “… Year after year, decade after decade, advocates kept chipping away and they won over public opinion.” 

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Biden grants clemency to some with federal cannabis & drug convictions, issues first pardons

President Joe Biden has finally granted clemency to dozens of individuals with non-violent federal drug convictions and commuted the sentences of 75 people who were serving time at home because of the pandemic. He also issued three pardons. (Article Originally Appeared on: Benzinga)

The president's move marks his first clemency action after over a year in the Oval Office.

However, according to an official White House press release, only nine of the clemencies mentioned cannabis. A mass pardon for people serving time over the plant has yet to happen, much to the disappointment of advocates and families of those incarcerated.

"America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation," Biden said in a statement. "Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities."

Biden's move builds on Trump's decision to sign the bipartisan First Step Act into law. Many of the people who were granted relief "would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today," Biden acknowledged.

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Most senators still oppose doing a hugely popular thing: legalizing marijuana

The federal government is strikingly out of step with public opinion on cannabis.

Even though a supermajority of Americans say marijuana should be legal for adults and the House has passed a bill to legalize it, major cannabis reform remains unlikely this year.

Why? Because Republicans and a few Democratic senators don’t want to do it.

“Marijuana? I haven’t even thought about marijuana. Jesus Christ, you smoking?” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) asked HuffPost on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would legalize weed at the federal level, expunge cannabis-related criminal records and set the stage for a nationwide legal marijuana industry. But that bill is almost certainly dead on arrival in the Senate.

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have been trying to build consensus for a Senate version of cannabis reform.

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New York's cannabis regulator defends licenses for those with convictions

 

The initial licenses for cannabis retailers in New York under the coming market will include some applicants who have had connections to cannabis-related convictions and a small business background. 

The provision is meant to offset the historic enforcement of prior drug laws in the state and aid communities affected by the war on drugs. Law enforcement officials, including Albany County District Attorney David Soares, have concerns with how these applicants are vetted, however. 

Soares told Captial Tonight last month he did not want people who were convicted of "so much harm to our fellow citizens." 

But Chris Alexander, the executive director of the state Office of Cannabis Management, said the concern was misguided. 

"There's a miscalculation being made by the DA," he said in an interview on Wednesday. "These are not criminals; these are folks who otherwise would have been law-abiding citizens but for this conviction. And what really have gone on to own, operate, and run successful small businesses around the state. And so really if we want to characterize them, we should characterize them as small business owners, which is what they are."

Alexander is in charge of developing the regulatory structure for cannabis sales and licensing in New York, and has been holding information sessions around the state to answer questions about how the coming cannabis market will impact communities. 

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Woodland Park to all municipal employees: Use of marijuana may lead to termination

The municipality's 120 employees have been notified that if they use marijuana it could lead to their termination, Mayor Keith Kazmark said. 

"Regardless of this change in law, the Borough Council and I want to emphasize that all policies and procedures and rules and regulations applicable to the employees of the Borough of Woodland Park will remain the same," Kazmark said.

Although it does apply to all municipal employees, it is most likely to affect those who work for the police and public works departments, as they are subject to random drug tests, borough officials said.   

"Our police officers are responsible for ensuring our public safety, enforcing laws and serving as our protectors," Kazmark said. 

"Our DPW workers utilize heavy equipment and hold CDL licenses to carry out their duties in maintaining the infrastructure, keeping our town looking beautiful."

Other workers are also entrusted with serving the community, such as those in the building and recreation departments. They, however, are likely to be tested only if there's a suspicion of impairment on the job. 

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Ballot measure for recreational cannabis in Missouri claims 200,000+ signatures

Cannabis advocates in Missouri who want the state to become the next to legalize cannabis for adult use have reached a new milestone in their ballot drive with two weeks to spare.

Legal Missouri 2022, a group petitioning to put recreational cannabis on the ballot, announced that it collected more than 200,000 voter signatures to date as outreach efforts escalate ahead of the May 8 signature submission deadline. 

John Payne, Legal Missouri’s campaign manager, said that the efforts are going well and are getting around 9,000 new signatures per day with the aim to collect even more before the deadline. The ballot initiative has raised $1,433,927.10 in total since its launch in 2021 with the vast majority of funds coming from Missouri cannabis companies. New Approach Advocacy Fund is the largest contributor so far, donating $300,000 in total, with BD Ventures, which owns Flora Farms, New Growth Horizon, and the Proper brand, all donating $215,000 each in total coming in second.

“I think this will help the industry grow and give great opportunities in Missouri in many ways,” Payne said. “1 out of 10 new jobs since 2020 were in the medical [cannabis] industry. There’s gonna be thousands of new jobs through legalization.”

Besides contributions, Legal Missouri 2022 is tightly connected to the state’s cannabis inidstry through personnel. The chief strategist of Legal Missouri is Alan Zagier, a principal of Democratic political consulting firm Tightlight Public Affairs. The president of Tightline is Jack Cardetti, director of communications for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association.

The ballot drive was drafted in 2020 and signatures were collected beginning in October 2021. Payne said that efforts slowed down as the omicron variant of COVID-19 began to surge. 

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Vermont's cannabis growers are ready — but their permits aren't

Vermont's Cannabis Control Board acknowledged on Monday that it will not meet a state mandated deadline of May 1 to issue licenses to small-scale weed growers.

The news comes as a blow to cultivators who are anxiously awaiting state approval so they can raise crops in time to have product available when the market fully opens in October. Some have applied to grow indoors, others outdoors and some a mix of both.

According to data from the board, 83 small growers have submitted applications, but only two are currently under review. Those two are among 25 "social equity applicants" who represent groups disadvantaged by the country's war on drugs and are now designated for priority licensing review — and breaks on fees — by Vermont.

"We've gotten a lot of messages saying, 'Hey, my plants need to be in the ground ASAP,' and we completely understand," Kyle Harris, one of the three board members, said at a meeting on Monday. "That is not lost on us." Harris said some frustrated applicants have called into the office and directed vulgar language at staff, which he called unacceptable.

"I know folks are under a lot of stress and anxiety, have a lot riding on these licenses; we totally get that," he said. "But there's just no room to be rude ... 

I just want to make sure everybody understands that they're working as hard as they possibly can."

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NJ marijuana legalization favors unions for cannabis workers

The potential economic boon from the at-long-last debut of recreational marijuana sales in New Jersey will also pay dividends for labor unions, as the state law governing the budding industry includes a clear path for organizing the new workplaces.

Hugh Giordano, director of organizing for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 360, said the union’s role is similar to what it does in any economic sector – seeking to make sure workers have fair wages, affordable healthcare and retirement plans and a voice on the job.

“Like any other industry, these folks have families, these folks have bills, and they have personal lives that require that having a good career is part of having a good future,” Giordano said. “And we also are making sure that good banners, good employers are the ones that continuously win licenses.”

Except for the smallest marijuana companies, called micro businesses, most applicants for cannabis licenses in New Jersey are required to attest to the state they have labor peace agreements with bona fide labor groups. Those unions must also attest to the same.

Giordano said labor peace agreements create a neutral environment, which he says leads to a partnership between labor and industry.

“There will be no protesting and boycotting, and also on the same extent, there’s no anti-union meetings and threats to workers who want to organize,” Giordano said.

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New Jersey presents thorny question: can police officers get high?

This week, guest writer Elise Young takes a look at the debate being sparked among police forces, lawmakers and local leaders by New Jersey’s recent legalization. 

Legal — except if you make arrests? 

Like any other New Jerseyans enjoying the recreational marijuana sales that started on April 21, police officers are free to use. 

But two mayors are saying no way. The police union is telling members it’s best not to chance it. And Governor Phil Murphy says that if a bill barring off-duty cops from partaking lands on his desk, he would consider it. 

Other state and local governments addressed this issue before sales began, with departments in New York City, Colorado Springs and elsewhere banning their officers’ use in part because the drug remains federally illegal. But New Jersey prohibits discriminating against employees who use marijuana. On April 13, Attorney General Matt Platkin — the state’s top law-enforcement official — sent a memo stating that police departments shouldn’t penalize officers who use marijuana unless an expert finds them to be intoxicated.

While police advocates aren’t telling cops not to use, they’re advising them that it’s a legal gray area. The U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms prohibits gun owners from using marijuana, and many departments require officers to own their weapons, they point out. Also, marijuana’s effects aren’t as easy to measure as liquor’s.

“No one knows what constitutes still under the influence,” Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, with 33,000 members, said in an interview.

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Amsterdam poised to shut down cannabis cafes to tourists

Amsterdam, long a hazy haven for marijuana fans, could be poised to do the unthinkable.

Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema says it is time to close the marijuana coffee shops because they are leading to too much trouble, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported.

Halsema told Amsterdam’s city councillors that the soft drug trade can lead to issues.

“Many of the major problems in the city are fuelled by the cannabis market: from nuisance caused by drug tourism to serious crime and violence. Banning sales to tourists is a necessary intervention… and the first step towards regulation,” Halsema said, according to Dutch News.

According to SchengenVisaInfo.com, research has found that only 66 of the total of 166 licensed coffee shops in the city are needed in order to meet local demand.

Halsema believes a ban would be the best way to make sure the cannabis market stays manageable while experiments with the production of regulated marijuana get underway.

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