Many felons can vote unless they are physically in state prison

By Allison B. Margolin, Attorney at Law

WCL News — Many, many marijuana felons can and should vote. With the next election cycle right around the corner, it is imperative for current and ex-felons to know and exercise their right to vote when the law allows them –which is most of the time . This way voters can choose leaders who will most effectively improve the legal, political and social contexts that led to their convictions.

In California, the Court of Appeals ruled in League of Women Voters of CA v. McPherson, 145 Cal. App 4th 1469 (2006), that felons can vote when they are in county jail or off parole. The Court relied on the CA Constitution Article II, Section IV: “The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole for the conviction

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California Assembly votes to reduce drug possession penalty

By Martin Williams

WCL News — The California Assembly voted September 4, 2013 to let prosecutors charge personal possession of illicit drugs as a misdemeanor rather than a felony case, as circumstances warrant. The bill, SB649 authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), passed with 41 votes and bipartisan support. It cleared the Senate earlier and now heads toward the governor’s desk after concurrence.

Current law provides for up to three years of prison, even for a small amount of drugs intended for personal consumption. The option of filing  misdemeanor charges is expected to help reduce prison and jail overcrowding in California and potentially reduce overall court costs because misdemeanor offenses do not require setting a preliminary hearing, as felony charges do.

A statewide poll conducted by Tulchin Research in 2012 found that an overwhelming majority of Californians support this type of drug sentencing reform, with 75% favoring prevention and

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Washington State liquor board announces cannabis implementation plan

WCL News — The Washington State Liquor Control Board Sept. 4, 2013 announced its final rules to implement the marijuana legalization law adopted by state voters in 2012, I-502. Teams from across the US had competed to be included in the development of the guidelines. People interested in cultivating or dispensing cannabis to adults will have from November 18 to December 18 to apply for a license.

Details of the proposal will be discussed in future postings. Read the 43-page document online.

Timeline for implementation:

September 4, 2013: File Supplemental CR 102 with revised proposed rules

October 9, 2013: Public hearing(s) on proposed rules (details pending)

October 16, 2013: Board adopts or rejects proposed rules (CR 103)

November 16, 2013: Rules take effect

November 18, 2013: Begin accepting applications for producer, processor and retailer licenses (30-day window)

December 1, 2013: Deadline for rules to be complete (as mandated by law)

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Seattle HempFest takes bite out of prohibition

The Emerald City of Seattle is more green than ever since Washington voters passed I-502. Photos by Chris Conrad.

By Chris Conrad

WCL News — Seattle police made peace with the world’s largest “protestival” for cannabis reform, the Seattle Hempfest by passing out 1,000 packs of Doritos to festival goers August 16 to 18, 2013. Each bag contained a greeting and a message to alert people to the new legalization law and the policy of the city’s police department.

This year’s annual event, which draws well over 100,000 attendees to the Emerald City, was the first since voters approved I-502. The initiative, which legalized adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, was controversial at last year’s event because of its tight restrictions, including a ban on cultivation and an arbitrary (and probably much-too-low) per se limit of 0.5 ng/ml of THC in the blood for drivers.

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Patient beats marijuana sales charge in Marysville

Salerno, left, with attorney Levinsohn

By Ron Mullins, The Human Solution

WCL News — A Yuba County CA jury acquitted medical marijuana patient Eric Salerno Aug. 9, 2013, who had been arrested in a Marysville fast food restaurant parking lot April 22, 2011 with $3500, a scale, several pounds of marijuana and another valid patient. Both patients showed their physician recommendations to the police, however, when the other patient cut a deal in exchange for testifying against him, the prosecution moved forward.

Salerno and his wife, Desiree, raise their two young sons Lorenzo and Andreas in the Yuba County foothills. The first judge in his case, Judge James F. Dawson, denied Salerno his medical marijuana defense. Allison Margolin’s law office filed a writ of mandamus to the third district appellate court, which issued a stay of the proceedings and allowed Salerno’s medical defense to be reinstated.

The trial courtroom

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California Dems call on state to stand up, Feds to stand down

By Lanny Zwerdlow,

The Democratic Party Club was named for "Brownie" Mary Rathbun

The California Democratic Party passed two marijuana reform resolutions at its Executive Board meeting in Costa Mesa on July 21, 2013, including a call to end raids against lawful medical marijuana providers. These are official positions of the state party set into a form that will hold sway with Democratic elected officials and candidates and they also add a new level of mainstream approval for medical use and cannabis law reform.

The first resolution calls on President Obama to respect Colorado and Washington voters and not allow any federal interference in the enactment of state marijuana legalization initiatives, to end federal raids on patients and providers in medical use states and to appoint a commission to study national marijuana law reform.

The second calls on the state legislature to enact statewide guidelines for medical marijuana

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Federal court orders California to reduce prison population; DPA calls for release of nonviolent drug offenders

By Lynne Lyman,

A federal US District Court ordered California to take immediate steps June 20, 2013 to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of design capacity, or about 110,000 inmates. After 18 months of reductions, primarily through the Public Safety Realignment Act, the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prison population plateaued at 120,000 before trending up in the past month.

In a sharply worded brief, the panel made it clear that the state’s proposed plan did not comply with its earlier order, and it ordered additional measures, such as expanding good-time credits. If those measures are deemed insufficient by Dec. 31, the Court ordered the state to release inmates identified as low-risk (a list that the CDCR is now required to develop).

A 2012 Tulchin Research poll found that 75% of Californians favor alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenses such as marijuana.

People of color —

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California dispensaries get mixed news from high court

By Jeremy Daw,

Licensed and permitted cannabis dispensaries are legal in California — but local governments can also ban dispensaries — after the state Supreme Court handed down a double-edged ruling May 6, 2013. The City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, Inc. ruling, S198638, held that state law “implicitly permits local regulation of medical marijuana facilities.”

Whereas hundreds of local dispensaries are in compliance with the state’s Medical Marijuana Program (commonly known as SB420), the ruling now gives a green light to the more than 80 municipal governments seeking to use land-use ordinances to block cannabis storefronts from operating.

The case revolved around the decision by the Southern California city of Riverside to ban dispensaries as a prohibited land use and demand that the IEPHWC close its doors. The center fought the injunction in court, where both the trial and appellate judges ruled against

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Two states take different approaches to legalization

Colorado legislates legal cannabis rules, Washington hands task to Alcohol Board

By Jeremy Daw, JD,

Since two states legalized adult cannabis sales and use last November, they have taken different approaches to the voter mandates. Colorado’s Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, an appointed body of experts and bureaucrats, has released its final recommendations for how to treat cannabis businesses in the state’s new legal regime. By contrast, Washington State has outsourced much of its implementation of Initiative 502 to an outside group.

Colorado’s A-64, approved by a 55-45 margin by voters, placed a constitutional imperative on state bureaucrats to regulate so-called “recreational” cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, but many of the specific regulations like tax rates and cultivation restrictions were left unaddressed by the voter-approved ballot initiative. The Task Force’s recommendations, which are preliminary and non-binding, are thus the first proposed rules for many specific situations.

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Randy Givens, San Francisco activist

December 15, 1941 – February 6, 2013

San Francisco, California Randall “Randy” Givens passed away  Feb. 6, 2013 at age 73, following years of poor health. A colorful character in the San Francisco medical marijuana activist scene, he was a pool hustler, a supporter of Prop 215 – California’s 1996 medical use initiative, and a common fixture at the SF Cannabis Buyers’ Club SF-CBC until it was shut down by the state in 1998, long before SB 420 authorized patient collectives.

He was one of five children born and raised in Springfield. He moved to San Mateo, CA in the 1960s but returned to San Francisco in the early 1970s and worked as a custom cabinet maker and woodworker into the 1980s. He sold marquetry artwork as a San Francisco street artist during that time. He was a columnist for several years with “Pool and Billiard” magazine, a national

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Save the Oaksterdam Cannabis Museum

One unusual victim of the federal raids is the world famous Oaksterdam Cannabis Museum, which had been sponsored by Richard Lee. The museum needs to find new sponsors and a new location as soon as possible, to reopen its doors. Can you help? To help or donate, visit or email

Overflow crowd turns out for forum to discuss ‘Next Steps’ for marijuana reform in California

California Norml hosts two conferences By Chris Conrad West Coast Leaf

An overflow crowd came from around the state to Berkeley Jan. 29, 2011 for a California NORML conference to assess ‘Marijuana Reform: Next Steps for California.’ Another conference is set for March 19 in Los Angeles (see

At the Jan. 29 event, State Senator Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano agreed that with Jerry Brown as state governor the prospect of getting meaningful reform passed and signed into law is enhanced. Leno said he is introducing SB129 to protect the jobs of qualified patients who use cannabis medicinally.

Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks and Mendocino Supervisor John McCowen spoke of devising workable solutions at the local level in the face of erratic federal intervention. Surprise guest speaker Ethan Nadelmann of Drug Policy

Alliance pointed to a global debate that Prop 19 initiated in 2010 and the more

Read More: Overflow crowd turns out for forum to discuss ‘Next Steps’ for marijuana reform in California