Posts Tagged ‘florida’

rated colleges for marijunana

By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Culture
Wednesday, August 3, 2011, at 12:20 pm
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smoke out.jpeg
Photo: Little Eddy
A mass exhale of marijuana smoke at the Unibversity of Colorado Boulder campus at 4:20 p.m., April 20, 2010. UC-Boulder came in fourth on the list.

​California and Colorado dominated the The Princeton Review‘s Top 5 colleges for marijuana use this year, with two entries each.

In the rankings — part of the Review’s “The Best 376 Colleges” survey — Colorado College in Colorado Springs ranked as the #1 pot-smoking school in the United States.
The small private school blazed past the competition in the annual rankings, which The Princeton Review released on Monday.
Colorado College has been a “usual suspect” on the marijuana list for the past few years, said Rob Franek, vice president and publisher of the Review.

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Photo: Santa Cruz IMC
A comely reveler at the 4-20 celebration at University of California – Santa Cruz
​Franek said Colorado College, like others on the list, has strong academic standards, reports Brittany Anas of the Boulder Daily Camera.
The Princeton Review surveyed 122,000 students nationwide to come up with the rankings.
“We go directly to whom we think would be experts, and that’s current college students,” Franek said.’
University of Colorado-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard was unimpressed with his school’s #4 showing, saying the rankings are subjective and have no scientific backing.
“The media is way more interested in the rankings than we are,” he sniffed.
pipes-bikes-bongs-ucsc-420.jpeg
Photo: Santa Cruz IMC
University of California at Santa Cruz, April 20, 2010
​ Pacific Northwest favorite Evergreen College, long known as a countercultural haven, just missed the Top 11, coming in at number 11.
The Princeton Review , which a college test prep company with no connection to Princeton University, released the Top 20 standings to garner publicity for its annual guidebook, The Best 376 Colleges: 2012 Edition, which went on sale Monday.
The lists, besides more academically oriented rankings, also include “party school” standings (Ohio University ranked #1) and one called “Got Milk? (beer usage reported low).” Other rankings include “Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, clove-smoking vegetarians,” “class discussions encouraged,” “great college towns” and “most politically active students.”
As for the Bottom 20 Colleges when it comes to marijuana use, it’s no surprise that schools associated with the U.S. military show up near the top of the list, along with places like Mormon stronghold Brigham Young University in Utah and the Catholic school Thomas Aquinas College in California.
Top 20 Colleges: How Widely Used Is Marijuana?
1. Colorado College, Colorado Springs
2. University of California – Santa Cruz
3. University of California – Santa Barbara
4. University of Colorado – Boulder
5. Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
6. Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon
7. Warren Wilson College, Asheville, North Carolina
8. Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida
9. New College of Florida, Sarasota
10. University of Vermont, Burlington
11. The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington
12. New York University, New York City
13. Reed College, Portland, Oregon
14. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
15. Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York
16. Pitzer College, Claremont, California
17. Arizona State University, Tempe
18. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
19. Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York
20. Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa
Bottom 20 Colleges: How Widely Used Is Marijuana?
1. U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
2. U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut
3. Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, California
4. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
5. College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Missouri
6. U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland
7. U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York
8. Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois
9. U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York
10. The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma
11. Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio
12. Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan
13. Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska
14. University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana
15. Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
16. Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama
17. Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport
18. University of Louisiana at Lafayette
19. City University of New York – Baruch College, New York City
20. City University of New York – Queens College, Flushing, New York

Federal Judge Scraps Florida’s Overzealous Drug Law

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evil cop

By Phillip Smith

A federal judge Wednesday ruled that Florida’s drug law was unconstitutional, leaving thousands of criminal cases up in the air. US District Court Judge Mary Scriven of Orlando threw out the Florida Drug Abuse Prevention and Control law on the grounds that it violates due process because it does not require prosecutors to prove a person knew he or she possessed illegal drugs.

In 2002, Florida legislators amended the state’s drug law, eliminating the requirement that prosecutors prove mens rea, or criminal intent, as part of obtaining a conviction. Florida was the only state in the nation to not require mens rea as part of a drug conviction.

“Not surprisingly, Florida stands alone in its express elimination of mens rea as an element of a drug offense,” Scriven wrote in her order. “Other states have rejected such a draconian and unreasonable construction of the law that would criminalize the ‘unknowing’ possession of a controlled substance.”

The ruling came in the case of Mackle Vincent Shelton, 33, who was convicted in 2005 of drug charges in Osceola County. Shelton, who is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence for cocaine delivery and other charges appealed his conviction on the grounds that the jury wasn’t required to prove intent in order to convict him.

Shelton, currently serving 18 years in prison for delivery of cocaine and other charges, filed a case in federal court on the grounds that a jury wasn’t required to consider intent when it decided his case.

In his instructions to the jury in Shelton’s case, the trial judge told jurors that “to prove the crime of delivery of cocaine, the state must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt: that Mackle Vincent Shelton delivered a certain substance; and, that the substance was cocaine.” The state did not have to prove that he knew he was carrying or distributing cocaine or any controlled substance at all.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), which filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, pointed out that without the criminal intent requirement, “a Federal Express delivery person who unknowingly delivers a parcel containing a controlled substance, would be presumed a felon under Florida’s drug law.” Joining the NACDL in filing the brief, which was favorably cited by the court, were the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the ACLU of Florida, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Calvert Institute for Policy Research, and 38 professors of law.

Florida defense attorneys applauded the ruling, saying the impact could be huge. Several told the St. Petersburg Times they intended to file motions seeking dismissal of pending drug cases, citing the judge’s order.

“It has one of the largest potential effects on criminal law in the past decade,” said St. Petersburg lawyer Jeff Brown. “We’re talking hundreds of thousands of drug cases.”

“In declaring the statute unconstitutional on its face, it appears that all drug prosecutions in the state are at risk,” said Tampa defense lawyer Eddie Suarez.

That’s tough, said Tampa attorney James Felman, who represented Shelton. Legislators should not have written an unconstitutional law removing mens rea, he said. “It takes the presumption of innocence and throws it in the garbage can,” Felman said. “I think the legislature must immediately fix the statute,” he said. “This is not a close call. No state has ever done this before. Legally, it’s beyond the pale.”

“This is a victory for the most fundamental notions of fairness and justice in our system – the idea that no one should suffer a conviction unless the state proves criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt,” said NACDL executive director Norman Reimer. “As I previously said about this case, the country has been drifting away from the moral anchor of a clearly defined mens rea requirement in its criminal laws. Laws like these would run it aground.”

Artilcle From StoptheDrugWar.org – Creative Commons Licensing

Marijuana Decrim Headed To The Ballot In Miami Beach

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Graphic: CSMP

​Miami Beach, Florida voters may get a chance to vote on decriminalizing marijuana this fall, making it the first city in South Florida to reduce the penalty for pot to a $100 fine instead of criminal charges.

Sensible Florida (Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy), a group which works to legalize cannabis, said it has collected more than double the number of signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, reports Tim Elfrink at Miami New Times; normally, doubling the required number all-but-ensures that enough valid names are present to qualify.
The group said it will present 9,000 signatures at Miami Beach City Hall on Wednesday, July 13.

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Photo: The Lead Miami Beach
Ford Banister, Sensible Florida: “It’s a great day for the marijuana legalization movement in Florida”
​ “It’s a great day for the marijuana legalization movement in Florida,” said the group’s Chairman Ford Banister. “For the first time, Florida voters will soon decide a marijuana related question.”
Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman, the director and producer of Cocaine Cowboys and Square Grouper – a film about the South Florida marijuana trade in the 1970s and ’80s — has contributed thousands of dollars and publically backed the efforts of Sensible Florida, reports Perry Stein at The Miami Herald.
Spellman said the vote will be a chance for Miami Beach residents to decide if they want to stop pursuing a “failed war on drugs.”
“Is it in the public interest to arrest, detain and process somebody in the system for small amounts of marijuana?” asked Spellman. “Is that what we want cops, prosecutors and investigators to be focusing on?”
Victory Rally Planned for 4:20 Wednesday, July 13, Miami Beach City Hall
If at least 4,300 of the group’s 9,000 signatures are valid, a citywide vote on the issue will take place in November.
The group is staging a victory rally at Miami Beach City Hall at 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We are working to generate a huge crowd for this historic event,” said campaign organizer Eric Stevens of Sensible Florida. “We need to get as many people as possible at the rally.”
“One of our plans is to have planes with banners flying all around Miami Beach to let people know that this is happening,” Stevens said. “Imagine how cool it would be to see a plane flying overhead announcing a marijuana rally at City Hall on Miami Beach as we work to present the voices of thousands of people who signed the petition to change the marijuana laws!”
Florida NORML, People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Sensible Florida Miami Beach, and others have all worked hard for more than a year to make this event happen, activist/Black Tuna Diaries author Robert Platshorn, one of the 1970s marijuana smugglers featured in the film Square Grouper, told Toke of the Town on Monday.
What: Rally to support petition submission to decriminalize marijuana on Miami Beach
When: July 13, 4:20 p.m.
Where: Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Drive (on the corner of 17th Street & Convention Center Drive)

Subway sandwhich worker sells pot to undercovers

Subway sandwich worker sold pot to customers who ordered ‘extra meat’: cops

BY Philip Caulfield
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Sunday, June 5th 2011, 5:15 PM

A Subway sandwich worker in Florida was busted for slipping baggies of weed to customers who ordered 'extra meat' on their subs.

Seth Aenig/AP

A Subway sandwich worker in Florida was busted for slipping baggies of weed to customers who ordered ‘extra meat’ on their subs.

Elizabeth Hunt, 47, sold weed to two undercover cops this month.

St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office

Elizabeth Hunt, 47, sold weed to two undercover cops this month.

A South Florida Subway restaurant worker was busted for slipping bags of marijuana to customers who requested “extra meat” with their sandwiches.

Elizabeth Hunt, 47, was busted on Thursday after she sold dope to an undercover cop who used the code words during two stops at the St. Lucie County sandwich shop this month, police said.

Cops said customers who wanted their subs with a side of green would say the password while ordering and then drop $10 into Hunt’s tip jar.

“The ‘extra meat’ was a baggie of marijuana that Hunt slipped into the sandwich bag,” Sheriff Ken Mascara told Central Florida‘s News 13.

She faces drug selling and possession charges and was being held on $55,000 bond.

With News Wire Services

FBI Busts Miami Cop For Drugs He Stole From Dealer

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Photo: Mail Online

​A Miami police officer was arrested by the FBI on Thursday and charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana he had stolen from a drug dealer last year.

Roberto Asanza, 31, of Miami, a six-year veteran of the force, was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, reports Jay Weaver at the Miami Herald. Asanza, a Marine veteran and 1998 graduate of Coral Park High, was released on a personal surety bond after his first appearance in federal court on Thursday.
Asanza faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. His lawyer — an assistant federal public defender named Kashyap Patel — declined to comment.

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Graphic: Miami Police Department
​ Asanza and other Crime Suppression Unit members arrested a man identified as “L.R.” at an Allapattah, Florida window-tinting shop in early May of last year, and seized numerous bags of cocaine and marijuana, according to an FBI affidavit.
However, those drugs never found their way to the evidence room, reports Kyle Munzenrieder at Miami New Times.
When FBI agents stopped Asanza’s police cruiser a few weeks later, they found 10 bags of cocaine and two of marijuana, which were part of the same drug stash taken from the Allapattah drug dealer, the affidavit said.
Miami police are assisting the FBI in the investigation, which also involves Asanza’s supervisor.
In January 2010, Asanza and another Miami police officer, identified as “R.I.” in the affidavit, recruited a confidential informant to work undercover. R.I. is Raul Iglesias, 38, a Miami police sergeant who was in charge of the Central District’s Crime Suppression Unit before he was suspended with pay following the FBI’s stop of Asanza’s vehicle, according to sources.
Sixteen-year veteran Iglesias has not been charged but is under investigation, sources said.
His lawyer, William Matthewman, claimed Iglesias is an “excellent police officer who has done absolutely nothing wrong. It is unfortunate that his name is being raised in this context.”
The confidential informant tipped off R.I. and Asanza about the dealer who sold drugs at the Allapattah tint shop. On May 5, 2010, Iglesias, Asanza and other CSU members arrested L.R. at the tint shop and seized the drugs.
Around three weeks later, FBI agents interrogated Asanza. He let them search his truck, where they found the drugs. Asanza admitted to the agents that the drugs were taken from the tint shop dealer after his arrest.
In October, Asanza admitted to FBI agents that both he and Iglesias “took custody of the drugs and money” from the tint shop dealer, according to the affidavit. Asanza also admitted that he “paid” the informant numerous times with “one or two bags” of cocaine seized from the dealer.
“Asanza admitted that he knew it was wrong to give drugs to the CI [confidential informant], but that he was trying to build a rapport with the CI,” the affidavit said.
After the dealer’s arrest, the confidential informant said that Iglesias paid him $40 for his services. The informant said he signed a receipt for it, which is department policy.
Asanza then said, “Hook [the CI] up some,” according to the affidavit.
Iglesias then handed the informant $80 — cash found at the tint shop — along with two bags of cocaine, according to the affidavit.

The Top 5 Worst States To Get Busted With Pot

The 5 Worst States to Get Busted With Pot

Even a minor pot bust can be life-altering for people unlucky enough to be arrested in one of these five states.

Police prosecute over 800,000 Americans annually for violating state marijuana laws. The penalties for those busted and convicted vary greatly, ranging from the imposition of small fines to license revocation to potential incarceration. But for the citizens arrested in these five states, the ramifications of even a minor pot bust are likely to be exceptionally severe.

1. Oklahoma. Lawmakers in the Sooner State made headlines this spring when legislators voted 119 to 20 in favor of House Bill 1798, which enhances the state sentencing guidelines for hash manufacturing to a minimum of two years in jail and a maximum penalty of life in prison. (Mary Fallin, the state’s first-ever female governor, signed the measure into law in April; it takes effect on November 1, 2011.) But longtime Oklahoma observers were hardly surprised at lawmakers’ latest “life for pot” plan. After all, state law already allows judges to hand out life sentences for those convicted of cannabis cultivation or for the sale of a single dime-bag.

Patricia Marilyn Spottedcow, 25, learned the truth about Oklahoma’s excessive pot penalties the hard way in February when a judge sentenced the mother of four to 12 years in prison for her role in the sale of $39 worth of herb to an undercover informant. Spottedcow’s sentence sparked national media attention – and public outrage – but neither result has led the judge in the case to reconsider the terms of her confinement.

Similarly harsh sentences for pot are par for the course in the Sooner State. Paraplegic Jimmy Montgomery was sentenced to life in prison – later reduced to 10 years – after being caught with two ounces of medical pot in his wheelchair. After considerable public outcry, Montgomery was eventually granted early release on medical parole – though he later lost a leg from an ulcerated bed sore he developed while in prison. Rheumatoid arthritis patient Will Foster – convicted of marijuana cultivation in 1997 – received a similarly draconian 93-year sentence, later reduced to 20 years on appeal. Foster was eventually paroled and moved to California, where he quickly registered as a legal medi-pot patient. However, in 2009 he was extradited back to Oklahoma to serve additional time behind bars.

Overall, some 13,000 Oklahomans are busted for pot annually. Only 12 other states arrest a greater percentage of their population for weed, and arguably no state sentences those convicted more harshly.

2. Texas. On an annual basis, no state arrests and criminally prosecutes more of its citizens for pot than does Texas. Marijuana arrests comprise over half of all annual arrests in the Lone Star State. It is easy to see why. In 2009, more than 97 percent of all Texas marijuana arrests — over 77,000 people — were for possession only. Those convicted face up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, even upon a first conviction.

Despite Texas’ dubious distinction as the #1 pot prosecuting state in America, police and lawmakers have little interest in exploring alternatives. In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation (HB 2391) into law granting police the option of issuing a summons in lieu of an arrest in minor marijuana possession cases. Yet aside from police in Austin, long considered to be the state’s lone bastion of liberalism, law enforcement have continued to fervently make arrests in even the most trivial of pot cases.

In 2011, Houston Democrat Harold Dutton introduced House Bill 458, which sought to reduce penalties for the adult possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding $500 and no criminal record. Within weeks, over 2,500 Texans contacted their House members in support of the measure. Nonetheless, House lawmakers refused to even consider bringing the measure to a vote.

3. Florida. According to a 2009 state-by-state analysis by researcher and former NORML Director Jon Gettman, no other state routinely punishes minor marijuana more severely than does the Sunshine State. Under Florida law, marijuana possession of 20 grams or less (about two-thirds of an ounce) is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one-year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Marijuana possession over 20 grams, as well as the cultivation of even a single pot plant, are defined by law as felony offenses – punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In recent years, state lawmakers have revisited the state’s marijuana penalties – in each case electing to enhanceFlorida’s already toughest-in-the-nation criminal punishments.

Ironically, despite the Sunshine State’s long history as one of the nation’s stiffest pot prosecutors, law enforcement have steadfastly refused to report their annual marijuana arrest data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Illinois is the only other state that elects to withhold this information from federal statisticians.

4. Louisiana. On May 6 the Associated Press reported on the case of Cornell Hood II, who received a life sentence for possessing two pounds of pot. Hood received the maximum sentence under Louisiana’s habitual drug offender law because he had three prior marijuana convictions, although none of them were significant enough to result in even a single day of jail time.

Multi-decade sentences for repeat pot offenders are hardly a rare occurrence. Under Louisiana law, a second pot possession conviction is classified as a felony offense, punishable by up to five years in prison. Three-time offenders face up to 20 years in prison. According to a 2008 expose published in the New Orleans City Business online, district attorneys are not hesitant to “target small-time marijuana users, sometimes caught with less than a gram of pot, and threaten them with lengthy prison sentences.”

Each year, cops make nearly 19,000 pot busts in the Bayou State – some 91 percent for simple possession – and according to Gettman, only three other states routinely punish minor offenders so severely.

5. Arizona. Forty years ago virtually every state in the nation defined marijuana possession as a felony offense. Today, only one state, Arizona, treats first-time pot possession in such an archaic and punitive manner.

Under Arizona law, even minor marijuana possession offenses may be prosecuted as felony crimes, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $150,000 fine. According to Jon Gettman’s 2009 analysis only Florida consistently treats minor marijuana possession cases more severely.

Annually, some 22,000 Arizonans are busted for pot and 92 percent of those arrested are charged with possession only. Citing the rising costs of these prosecutions at a time of shrinking state budgets, first-term GOP House lawmaker John Fillmore (Apache Junction) recently introduced legislation, HB 2228, to reduce pot possession to a non-criminal petty offense, punishable by no more than a $100 fine. So how did his supposedly “small government, no nanny state” colleagues respond to his proposal? With “a lot of smiles and laughs,” Fillmore told the Phoenix New Times. Predictably, HB 2228 failed to even receive a legislative hearing from his fellow lawmakers.


The 5 Worst States to Get Busted With Pot

The 5 Worst States to Get Busted With Pot

Even a minor pot bust can be life-altering for people unlucky enough to be arrested in one of these five states.
May 13, 2011

Police prosecute over 800,000 Americans annually for violating state marijuana laws. The penalties for those busted and convicted vary greatly, ranging from the imposition of small fines to license revocation to potential incarceration. But for the citizens arrested in these five states, the ramifications of even a minor pot bust are likely to be exceptionally severe.

1. Oklahoma. Lawmakers in the Sooner State made headlines this spring when legislators voted 119 to 20 in favor of House Bill 1798, which enhances the state sentencing guidelines for hash manufacturing to a minimum of two years in jail and a maximum penalty of life in prison. (Mary Fallin, the state’s first-ever female governor, signed the measure into law in April; it takes effect on November 1, 2011.) But longtime Oklahoma observers were hardly surprised at lawmakers’ latest “life for pot” plan. After all, state law already allows judges to hand out life sentences for those convicted of cannabis cultivation or for the sale of a single dime-bag.

Patricia Marilyn Spottedcow, 25, learned the truth about Oklahoma’s excessive pot penalties the hard way in February when a judge sentenced the mother of four to 12 years in prison for her role in the sale of $39 worth of herb to an undercover informant. Spottedcow’s sentence sparked national media attention – and public outrage – but neither result has led the judge in the case to reconsider the terms of her confinement.

Similarly harsh sentences for pot are par for the course in the Sooner State. Paraplegic Jimmy Montgomery was sentenced to life in prison – later reduced to 10 years – after being caught with two ounces of medical pot in his wheelchair. After considerable public outcry, Montgomery was eventually granted early release on medical parole – though he later lost a leg from an ulcerated bed sore he developed while in prison. Rheumatoid arthritis patient Will Foster – convicted of marijuana cultivation in 1997 – received a similarly draconian 93-year sentence, later reduced to 20 years on appeal. Foster was eventually paroled and moved to California, where he quickly registered as a legal medi-pot patient. However, in 2009 he was extradited back to Oklahoma to serve additional time behind bars.

Overall, some 13,000 Oklahomans are busted for pot annually. Only 12 other states arrest a greater percentage of their population for weed, and arguably no state sentences those convicted more harshly.

2. Texas. On an annual basis, no state arrests and criminally prosecutes more of its citizens for pot than does Texas. Marijuana arrests comprise over half of all annual arrests in the Lone Star State. It is easy to see why. In 2009, more than 97 percent of all Texas marijuana arrests — over 77,000 people — were for possession only. Those convicted face up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, even upon a first conviction.

Despite Texas’ dubious distinction as the #1 pot prosecuting state in America, police and lawmakers have little interest in exploring alternatives. In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation (HB 2391) into law granting police the option of issuing a summons in lieu of an arrest in minor marijuana possession cases. Yet aside from police in Austin, long considered to be the state’s lone bastion of liberalism, law enforcement have continued to fervently make arrests in even the most trivial of pot cases.

In 2011, Houston Democrat Harold Dutton introduced House Bill 458, which sought to reduce penalties for the adult possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding $500 and no criminal record. Within weeks, over 2,500 Texans contacted their House members in support of the measure. Nonetheless, House lawmakers refused to even consider bringing the measure to a vote.

3. Florida. According to a 2009 state-by-state analysis by researcher and former NORML Director Jon Gettman, no other state routinely punishes minor marijuana more severely than does the Sunshine State. Under Florida law, marijuana possession of 20 grams or less (about two-thirds of an ounce) is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one-year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Marijuana possession over 20 grams, as well as the cultivation of even a single pot plant, are defined by law as felony offenses – punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In recent years, state lawmakers have revisited the state’s marijuana penalties – in each case electing to enhanceFlorida’s already toughest-in-the-nation criminal punishments.

Ironically, despite the Sunshine State’s long history as one of the nation’s stiffest pot prosecutors, law enforcement have steadfastly refused to report their annual marijuana arrest data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Illinois is the only other state that elects to withhold this information from federal statisticians.

4. Louisiana. On May 6 the Associated Press reported on the case of Cornell Hood II, who received a life sentence for possessing two pounds of pot. Hood received the maximum sentence under Louisiana’s habitual drug offender law because he had three prior marijuana convictions, although none of them were significant enough to result in even a single day of jail time.

Multi-decade sentences for repeat pot offenders are hardly a rare occurrence. Under Louisiana law, a second pot possession conviction is classified as a felony offense, punishable by up to five years in prison. Three-time offenders face up to 20 years in prison. According to a 2008 expose published in the New Orleans City Business online, district attorneys are not hesitant to “target small-time marijuana users, sometimes caught with less than a gram of pot, and threaten them with lengthy prison sentences.”

Each year, cops make nearly 19,000 pot busts in the Bayou State – some 91 percent for simple possession – and according to Gettman, only three other states routinely punish minor offenders so severely.

5. Arizona. Forty years ago virtually every state in the nation defined marijuana possession as a felony offense. Today, only one state, Arizona, treats first-time pot possession in such an archaic and punitive manner.

Under Arizona law, even minor marijuana possession offenses may be prosecuted as felony crimes, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $150,000 fine. According to Jon Gettman’s 2009 analysis only Florida consistently treats minor marijuana possession cases more severely.

Annually, some 22,000 Arizonans are busted for pot and 92 percent of those arrested are charged with possession only. Citing the rising costs of these prosecutions at a time of shrinking state budgets, first-term GOP House lawmaker John Fillmore (Apache Junction) recently introduced legislation, HB 2228, to reduce pot possession to a non-criminal petty offense, punishable by no more than a $100 fine. So how did his supposedly “small government, no nanny state” colleagues respond to his proposal? With “a lot of smiles and laughs,” Fillmore told the Phoenix New Times. Predictably, HB 2228 failed to even receive a legislative hearing from his fellow lawmakers.

For a comprehensive breakdown of state-by-state marijuana penalties, visit NORML’s online map. Jon Gettman’s 2009 analysis, “The Marijuana Policy Almanac: Marijuana Arrests in the United States,” is available online

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