Former NBA Player Iman Shumpert Arrested in Texas for Cannabis Possession

Former NBA athlete Iman Shumpert, known for playing on teams such as the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Brooklyn Nets, and also the Dancing With the Stars Season 30 champion was arrested for cannabis possession last week while traveling.

Shumpert was in possession of 6.2 ounces of cannabis in his luggage on July 30 while going through security at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) on his way to Los Angeles. According to the Associated Press, the DFW Airport Department of Public Safety, this was a “sizeable amount of marijuana.” The police also reported that Shumpert had a Glock magazine with 14 nine-millimeter rounds, but no firearm, in his bag as well, however this is not currently a part of the charge.

The police report stated that Shumpert told officers that he had cannabis in his bag, and “asked if there was any way he could make his flight” so he could arrive on time and pick up one of his daughters.

However, police told him no, and arrested him for felony possession instead.

In Texas, recreational cannabis is illegal and medical cannabis is only permitted under specific circumstances. Currently, possession of more than four ounces (but less than five pounds) of cannabis is a state jail felony. If Shumpert is convicted, the charge could net him up to two years imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

It’s a cautionary tale for anyone planning to travel with cannabis. Many airports in legal states have loosened restrictions for cannabis possession. Earlier this year in Canada, one airport was considering allowing a cannabis dispensary on-site. Airports in Chicago installed cannabis amnesty boxes in 2020 for travelers to drop their cannabis in prior to their flights. In 2018, Los Angeles International Airport changed its policy to allow cannabis possession at the airport—but not on an actual flight.

Earlier this year in January, rapper Vic Mensa was caught with 124 grams of psilocybin capsules, 178 grams of psilocybin gummies, six grams of psilocybin mushrooms, and 41 grams LSD, while at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia after returning from Ghana. He was charged with felony narcotics possession. Despite this, Vic Mensa recently launched his own cannabis brand in Chicago, Illinois called 93 Boyz.

Traveling with cannabis abroad has proven to be dangerous, such as the case of WNBA athlete Brittney Griner, who was detained in Russia in February for possession of vape cartridges. Although she claimed the cannabis was being used for medical purposes, and she holds a medical cannabis card in the U.S., Russian judges concluded on August 4 that she is guilty of her charges and has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison. Reports have shared that the U.S. is in talks with Russian officials for a potential prisoner swap in order bring Griner home. Last week, the Biden administration made an offer to exchange Russian prisoner Viktor Bout for Griner, as well as another American, Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned on espionage charges since 2018.

“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” Griner said after the charge was issued, according to the Associated Press. “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”

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Austin Voters Approve Measure to Decriminalize Pot

Voters in Austin, Texas over the weekend approved a ballot proposition that decriminalized cannabis and prohibited the practice of “no-knock warrants” by police. 

A little more than 85% of voters on Saturday approved Proposition A, according to local television station KXAN, which said that the measure will “formalize a city policy put in place in 2020, when then-police chief Brian Manley announced his officers would no longer cite or arrest those accused of misdemeanor pot offenses.” That change in policy came as a result of a unanimous vote by the Austin City Council at the time, KXAN reported. 

Per local TV station KVUE, the measure does not legalize cannabis in Austin, but “ultimately forbids police officers from ticketing and arresting people on low-level marijuana offenses, like possession of small amounts of weed or related paraphernalia, unless tied to a more severe crime.” Additionally, the city “would also not pay to test substances suspected to be marijuana, which is an important step in substantiating drug charges,” according to the station. 

Under the newly passed ordinance, cops in Austin “will not be allowed to issue citations for most Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession offenses,” according to KVUE.

“In Texas, a Class A misdemeanor is possession of 4 ounces or less but more than 2 ounces. A Class B misdemeanor is possession of 2 ounces or less,” according to the station, which said the ordinance takes effect immediately. 

The ordinance, as written, says that Austin police officers will only be permitted to issue citations or make arrests for such Class A or B misdemeanors if it is part of “the investigation of a felony level narcotics case that has been designated as a high priority investigation by an Austin police commander, assistant chief of police, or chief of police,” or if it is part of an investigation of a violent felony.

The new local ordinance is the result of efforts by a group called Ground Game Texas, which led the campaign to get Proposition A on the Austin ballot this year. 

In January, the Austin City Council approved the ballot proposal for the city’s special election that was held on May 7. 

Ground Game Texas collected more than 33,000 signatures––well above the necessary threshold of 20,000 signatures––from Austin voters in order for the measure to qualify for the special election ballot. 

The group celebrated Saturday’s resounding victory, saying that it serves as evidence that voters in the Lone Star State are ready for cannabis reform.

“This lays down an extremely clear marker for the rest of Texas that one, this is something that’s possible. That a city can decide to end marijuana enforcement,” said Ground Game Texas co-founder Mike Siegel, as quoted by Texas public radio station KUT. “And two, that it’s extremely popular.”

The station reported that Ground Game Texas is currently “working on similar ballot items in other Central Texas cities, including San Marcos and Elgin.”

Medical cannabis is legal in Texas, but recreational pot use for adults is not. 

Last year, Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that expanded the number of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis treatment in the state.

Abbott is up for re-election this year, and there are signs that cannabis legalization could emerge as a major issue in the campaign. The incumbent’s Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, has repeatedly voiced his support for ending the prohibition on pot throughout the race.

“Legalizing marijuana is the right thing to do. We can stop locking Texans up for a substance that’s legal in much of the rest of the country and allow police to focus on violent crime. And it’ll bring in nearly $1 billion a year in new state revenue and taxpayer savings,” O’Rourke said on Twitter in January.

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Virginia Senate Votes Against Governor’s Amendment to Criminalize Possession of Cannabis

The Virginia Senate recently sent Senate Bill 591 to the Rehabilitation and Social Services committee, and will not be considered further now that the 2022 legislative session concluded, as of March 12. A final vote was made on April 27, with a 20-20 vote, and a tie-breaker vote from Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears.

If passed, the bill would have prohibited cannabis edibles “in the shape of a human, animal, vehicle, or fruit,” as well as ban Delta-8 THC products. Additionally, the bill included penalties for anyone who was in possession of more than two ounces of cannabis.

Former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation to legalize cannabis in April 2021, which went into effect starting July 1, 2021. Northam ended his run as governor in January 2022, and was replaced by current Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

SB-591 was introduced by Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. which initially received support, especially in relation to preventing cannabis edibles from being appealing to children. “It was the right thing to do,” supporter Senator Adam Ebbin said about the bill’s original text.

However, ARLnow reported that when the bill was sent to Youngkin’s desk for a signature, he sent it back with numerous amendments that altered the bill’s regulations regarding CBD, Delta-8 THC products and adding penalties for possession over the legal limit. “The governor’s amendments were ill-constructed, poorly thought out, and left lots of loopholes,” Ebbin said. “The original bill was better.”

“The government’s proposed penalties for personal possession of two ounces of marijuana were more punitive than the laws that were in place prior to Virginia’s enactment of decriminalization in 2020,” he added.

Ebbin’s own bill, Senate Bill 391, was also proposed in the 2022 legislative session, and was passed in the Senate but did not pass in the House. His bill opened up regulations for current medical cannabis dispensaries to begin selling recreational cannabis. He’s also the chair of the Cannabis Oversight Commission, which will review both SB-591 and SB-391 for discussion in 2023.

“I’ve learned not to be overly optimistic in this field,” Ebbin said. “This is a product that’s now legal for adults 21 and older. So, it’s in our best interest to make sure this is a tested, regulated product.”

NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, JM Pedini, shared in a statement that he is glad that SB-519 wasn’t passed with its current amendments, but disappointed that Virginia regulation will have to wait another year to be discussed. His statement also suggested that the governor “should actually serve his constituents” with the implementation of strong regulations for the cannabis industry.

“Sending SB-591 back to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee is not in the interest of public health or safety,” Pedini said. “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.”

Youngkin recently took action on medical cannabis in April, and signed legislation that no longer requires medical cannabis patients to register with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy when they are certified by a medical provider.

NORML shared that the state is home to more than 47,000 medical cannabis patients, with an estimated 8,000 waiting to be approved. “These legislative improvements will bring great relief to the thousands of Virginians waiting to access the medical cannabis program,” said Pedini. “We hear from dozens of Virginians each week who are struggling with the registration process and frustrated by the 60-day wait to receive their approval from the Board of Pharmacy.”

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis Grants Slew of Pardons

Colorado Governor Jared Polis rang in 2022 with a pardon party.

Last Thursday, the governor’s office announced that he had “granted three commutations, 15 individual pardons, and signed an executive order granting 1,351 pardons for convictions of possession of two ounces or less of marijuana.”

The move was made possible by legislation that Polis signed in May, which “authorized the Governor to grant pardons to a class of defendants who were convicted of the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana.”

“Adults can legally possess marijuana in Colorado, just as they can beer or wine. It’s unfair that 1,351 additional Coloradans had permanent blemishes on their record that interfered with employment, credit, and gun ownership, but today we have fixed that by pardoning their possession of small amounts of marijuana that occurred during the failed prohibition era,” Polis said in a statement.

Signed into law by Polis on May 20 of last year, the bill increased “the amount of marijuana that adults 21 and older in Colorado can legally possess from one ounce to two ounces,” and built upon the 2012 voter-passed constitutional amendment legalizing recreational cannabis, which gave the governor such authorization.

The governor’s office said in a press release that individuals “who are unsure whether a conviction on their record has been pardoned may fill out a form to request confirmation of a pardon on the Colorado Bureau of Investigations website.”

Colorado has been a trailblazer for the legalization movement in the United States, becoming the first state (along with Washington) to end the prohibition on pot in 2012. Since then, restorative justice measures have become a fixture of new cannabis laws, with previous low-level offenders receiving pardons.

The governor’s office said that the cannabis pardon “applies to state-level convictions of possession for two ounces or less of marijuana, as identified by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI),” and that “individuals who have these convictions did not need to apply for pardons, and the Governor’s Office has not conducted individual assessments of the people who have been pardoned through this process. Individuals convicted of municipal marijuana crimes, or individuals arrested or issued a summons without a conviction, are not included in the pardon.”

The new year will bring some tighter restrictions to Colorado’s medical cannabis laws, however. The Denver Post reported in November that the state’s Department of Revenue “will limit the daily purchase to two ounces of flower and eight grams of concentrate such as wax and shatter for medical marijuana patients,” and that it will drop two grams per day for patients aged 18 to 20.

Per the Denver Post, the Department of Revenue unveiled the rules after “several months of deliberation over how to execute a new state law meant largely to limit young people’s access to and abuse of high-potency THC products.”

The newspaper reported that there are exceptions to the new rules, but they apply “to a patient whose doctor affirms in writing that the patient has a physical or geographic hardship that should allow them to exceed the daily purchase limits, and that the patient has designated a store as the primary place they get their medicine.”

The limits were made possible after lawmakers passed a bill that created a task force to produce new rules.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic state House Representative Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician, who said that she wanted to ensure that young people cannot “get their hands on an incredible amount of products and very concentrated products that they can then give or sell to people their age or younger who don’t yet have access to legal market because they’re not 21.”

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