Immigration Lawyer New York

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Deceptive marketing and lack of care cited in legal action against Golden Living

LANSDALE >> The Attorney General’s office filed a legal action against the company which runs Golden Living Center in Lansdale and 35 other facilities across the state, for failing to provide basic services to residents requiring assistance, it announced in a statement on July 1.

The Golden Living Center in Lansdale is one of 14 subsidiaries of Golden Gate National Senior Care LLC named in the legal action which alleges the company has violated the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law by misrepresenting the level of care provided at its nursing homes and by a “pervasive, chain-wide practice of billing consumers and the Commonwealth for services not provided.”

The legal action alleges that interviews with former employees and family members of its residents revealed Golden Living’s facilities were understaffed and unable meet claims that residents would be kept clean, comfortable, and with access to food and water, according to the statement.

Allegations shared through the statement include leaving incontinent residents in soiled diapers for extended periods of time, not moving residents who were at risk for bedsores every two hours as required, not providing showers or hygiene services required, staff falsifying records to indicate as rendered services that had not been performed and improved staffing for state inspections to provide a positive image not representative of conditions at the facilities.

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“As we allege, these companies profited at the expense of our most vulnerable residents,” Attorney General Kathleen Kane said in the statement, “These facilities promised to provide the care needed by residents and then failed to meet residents’ most basic human needs. That is simply unacceptable.”

Revealed in the court documents were several previous violations found by Department of Health inspectors at the Lansdale Golden Living Center. In a January 2009 instance an inspector witnessed a resident who required eating assistance attempting to eat a pureed meal by licking the bowl and scooping food off the table with her hands without any attempts by staff to help her or provide utensils.

The action named four other citations from the health department at the facility between 2011 and 2014 for residents not receiving grooming, showers, restorative walking services and services to improve or maintain bladder function.

A former employee of the Lansdale center was presented as a confidential witness in the legal action. She was a Certified Nursing Assistant, a position the documents identify as responsible for much of the basic care not identified as skilled nursing such as assistance using the bathroom, eating, grooming, transferring between bed and wheelchair, and changing soiled clothing among other things.

The witness claimed the staffing level was insufficient to allow for the expected level of care for residents. She recalled being responsible for about 15 residents on a typical day, all requiring total care, and having only an hour and a half to get them up and dressed before breakfast.

According to the witness, it was usually not until lunch when all her residents were up and dressed. Other responsibilities such as changing incontinent residents and repositioning patients at risk for bedsores were not done with the frequency they should have been done, resulting in residents waiting hours in urine-soaked diapers or developing sores.

In a July 1 statement, Neil Kurtz M.D. president and CEO of Golden Living called the claims, “baseless and wholly without merit.”

Kurtz claimed the action was the result of an inappropriate relationship between the Attorney General and a Washington D.C.-based firm and also retaliation for its challenging her in a pending lawsuit.

“We plan to vigorously defend the reputation of Golden Living and its employees,” Kurtz said in the statement.

The legal action was filed in Commonwealth court; it seeks an order prohibiting Golden Living from engaging in the allegedly unlawful practices along with restitutions for its customers, the cost of the litigation and a penalty for each violation.

Religious objections vs legal duties

Some county clerks across Texas relied on AG’s opinion to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Most changed their minds when the lawsuits started

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A couple together 35 years applied for their marriage license at the Dallas County Records Building on June 29. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

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DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Obergefell v Hodges, upholding marriage equality nationwide, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion declaring that county employees may refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if issuing those licenses would go against their “deeply held religious beliefs.”

Paxton also warned that, legally, all couples who apply for a marriage license must be accommodated as well. But some county clerks around the state seemed to have misunderstood that qualifier to his opinion.

Early this week, Hood County Clerk Katie Lang posted on the front page of her website, “I will be not be issuing same sex marriage license’s due to my religious convictions.” She said the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision  “fabricated [a] new constitutional right,” also claiming the decision doesn’t “diminish, overrule, or call into question the First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion that formed the first freedom in the Bill of Rights in 1791.”

Lang has since relented, saying that while she would not personally issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the office of Hood County Clerk would.

In Cleburne County, Ark., County Clerk Dana Guffey resigned her position rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She’s been in office 24 years, but because her beliefs conflicted with her being able to fully carry out her job, she’s leaving office.

Texas state Rep. Matt Krause said if there are two or three clerks in an office and all agree, one of them should handle the licenses for same-sex couples. That way everyone is accommodated and no one is violating their personal religious beliefs.

Although Paxton’s ruling is controversial, it may be an accurate reading of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance on religious workplace discrimination, according to Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Ken Upton.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on religion,” the EEOC guidance says. That means an employer does not have to accommodate the religious beliefs of an employee if it would “violat[e] a seniority system; causing a lack of necessary staffing; jeopardiz[e] security or health; or [cost] the employer more than a minimal amount.”

Social and political preferences are not religious beliefs, according to EEOC.

Employment attorney Stacy Cole said employers must make some accommodations for religious beliefs but employees must still do the core, central duties of their jobs. But the attorney added that he’s not comfortable with one employee passing off a same-sex couple to another employee, even in well-staffed offices.

He cited the 2006 case Garcetti v Ceballos, which limited free speech protections for government employees when they are on the job.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion that speech by a public official is only protected if it is engaged in as a private citizen, not if it is expressed as part of the official’s public duties. Cole said he thinks courts will use this decision to require county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“That keeps the court out of marriage and religion,” Cole said, adding that it focuses on the core duties of the county clerk’s job.

ACLU spokeswoman Rebecca Roberts said her organization hasn’t had to file any suits against county clerks in Texas so far, but they’re monitoring what’s going on around the state.

Roberts noted that what she’s seeing is similar to what’s gone on in other states in which marriage equality was law before the Obergefell ruling. After a few weeks of hand wringing, she said, the dust settles.

“When you’re a public official, you have to fulfill your duties,” Roberts said. “Your personal views don’t trump those duties.”

What the ACLU is hearing from most county clerks is that they don’t have the forms yet or their computers aren’t updated. New forms were sent to counties across the state on Monday, Roberts noted, adding, “If people are Stonewalling, we want to know.”

The ACLU hotline number is 888-503-6838.

Omar Narvaez, a community educator for Lambda Legal, said his organization has had “multiple discussions with county clerks” since the Supreme Court handed down its ruling. Some of those had questions; others were waiting for updated forms or computer updates.

But each conversation, Narvarez said, resulted in those clerks beginning to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Narvaez also pointed out not every county uses the same software, so updates that many counties had on Monday hadn’t gotten to some of the smaller, rural counties with different systems as quickly.

While not all counties are complying, Narvaez said, “It’s moved faster than I was expecting.”

He added Lambda Legal has a legal help desk for anyone denied a license or a service that flows from having that license.

One woman that recently moved to Mesquite from Illinois had been refused a driver’s license with her wife’s last name, the name she’s been using for five years. That was last week. This week, the Texas Department of Public Safety Office in Rockwall recognized the marriage license as her official name change document.

Narvaez said his office would be interested in hearing from anyone denied the marriage license, has problems signing a lease as a married couple, getting names onto a child’s birth certificate or is refused an adoption.

Now that marriage is legal, there shouldn’t be problems relating to marital status in any of these transactions, Narvaez said. But if there are, they need to be corrected, he added.

He said he was also interested in judges who were refusing to marry same-sex couples. Prior to the SCOTUS decision, Dallas County Civil District Judge Tonya Parker refused to perform any weddings — including opposite-sex weddings — until this week, because she couldn’t legally perform weddings for all couples.

Judges must treat all couples equally. They can’t marry opposite-sex couples and not same-sex couples.

For more information, Lambda Legal and other organizations created MarriageEqualityFacts.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 3, 2015.

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Despite Legal Woes, Paxton Emerges as Culture Warrior

TX Attorney General Ken Paxton, speaks to media following remarks at event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation regarding impact of the EPA's Clean Power Plan on June 22, 2015

TX Attorney General Ken Paxton, speaks to media following remarks at event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation regarding impact of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan on June 22, 2015

In the six months before Ken Paxton won election as Texas attorney general last fall, he stayed largely out of sight. Under an ethical cloud amid claims of financial fraud, he avoided public events and rarely spoke to reporters, coasting to victory as part of new Republican leadership including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Lacking Patrick’s knack for political theater, and yet to display the lawyerly intellect of Abbott, his predecessor as the state’s top attorney, the 52-year-old former legislator struggled to emerge from their shadows during his first several months in office.

But now, even as his personal legal troubles resurface, Paxton is poised to claim his place in the sun as the state’s top culture warrior. 

Two days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ long-standing same-sex marriage ban, Paxton issued an opinion telling county clerks with religious objections that pro bono lawyers were standing by to help defend them against legal challenges if they denied licenses to same-sex couples.

“Our religious liberties find protection in state and federal constitutions and statutes,” he said. “While they are indisputably our first freedom, we should not let them be our last.”

The missive launched him into the national consciousness, earning comparisons to George Wallace, the former Alabama governor who fought desperately to preserve racial segregation in the 1960s. Blasting Paxton for encouraging state officials to violate the law, a Democratic lawmaker has since asked the U.S. Justice Department to monitor the implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision.

The nonbinding opinion amounted to more of a statement of moral support than legal defiance. But to social conservatives — some beginning to feel abandoned by a governor who has declined their requests to call a special legislative session to address the issue of same-sex marriage — it bolstered the McKinney Republican’s standing as one of the last guardians of religious liberty.

“Texas often tries to bill itself as the most conservative state in the union, which isn’t very often the case actually. We have a reputation that we don’t live up to. But I think that Ken Paxton is living up to it,” said Julie McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, which wields considerable influence in Republican primaries. “I haven’t heard anything from our governor, which is not surprising, but again disappointing.”

Even Patrick, who came to power with the backing of the conservative movement, has not avoided the perception that he failed to do enough as the Senate’s presiding officer to protect traditional marriage this session.

“There’s a lot of other things that should have been passed, that the rest of the Republican leadership caved into the homosexual demands — that would be Abbott and Patrick and [Speaker] Straus,” said Steve Hotze, a Houston doctor who operates the powerful Conservative Republicans of Texas political action committee.

Paxton’s office was “very instrumental” in pushing lawmakers to pass legislation affirming religious officials’ rights to refuse to perform same-sex marriages known as the Pastor Protection Act, said Hotze, whose group distributes mailers and scorecards to a vast network of GOP voters.

“Most people don’t understand, but Ken Paxton does understand the direction of this movement, and he is speaking out,” he said. “Abbott has been AWOL on the issue.”

But just as Paxton appears to be hitting his stride politically, the legal issues that emerged during his campaign have returned, with potentially more damaging implications than before.

Late Wednesday, special prosecutors appointed to investigate his securities dealings announced that they plan to pursue a first-degree felony charge, which under state law applies to amounts exceeding $100,000. Earlier this week, Paxton hired heavyweight Dallas criminal defense lawyer Joe Kendall, a former federal judge, to lead his defense team.

Paxton, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has maintained that the investigation is politically motivated. In a statement Thursday, spokesman Anthony Holm accused the two attorneys prosecuting the attorney general of building their case in the press.

“These attacks on Ken Paxton appear to have become a political hit-job in the media, perhaps having the effect of inappropriately influencing the grand jury,” he said, calling Paxton a “longtime public servant.”

The Texas State Securities Board fined Paxton $1,000 last May, after the then-candidate admitted he had solicited investment clients for a friend and business partner without properly registering with the state.

For a time, it appeared his legal troubles had subsided. Travis County prosecutors declined last year to pursue charges against Paxton, referring the allegations to Collin and Dallas counties. Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk also passed on bringing a case. When Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis, a Paxton friend and business partner, agreed to take it, he asked the Texas Rangers to investigate.

But in April, after Willis stepped aside after accusations of stalling, two Houston attorneys were tapped to replace him. Now, a Collin County grand jury is expected to hear a case against Paxton that appears broader than the one Travis County prosecutors declined to pursue last year.

If the grand jury does hand down an indictment, Paxton could legally remain in office while fighting the charges. And if he faces political pressure to step down, it is unlikely to come from the conservative base that elected him. Last year, he won a bitter three-way Republican primary in a runoff against a well-financed opponent, winning more than 60 percent of the vote even after aggressive attacks on his business background from both of his opponents.

During the campaign, Paxton’s securities dealings weren’t the only focus of critics.  

He also drew scrutiny for his early investments in WatchGuard, a digital technology company founded in 2002 that was able to flourish nationally after a boost from a 2006 Texas Department of Public Safety contract worth $10 million to outfit all state trooper vehicles. Paxton, who was joined by a second lawmaker in the deal, has said he did not know it had contracts with the state at the time. First elected to the Legislature in 2002, Paxton served five terms in the House and one in the Senate.

There was also a second venture involving fellow lawmakers. In 2008, along with three other House members, Paxton bought into a startup technology company that aimed to profit from trades in electricity markets. The four lawmakers later filed a lawsuit saying they had been scammed by an investor involved with the company, a McKinney businessman who claimed to be a part of an expedition that discovered Noah’s Ark.

Based on the questions about Paxton’s ethical compass, former Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, the candidate who came in third in the primary, later endorsed Paxton opponent Dan Branch in the runoff.

But concerns about Paxton’s business matters did not dissuade conservatives in 2014, and don’t seem to have gained traction among them recently.

McCarty said Thursday she was not aware that Paxton could face a felony charge, but said it did not affect her support for him. 

“This is how politics goes. People are always pressing charges and making frivolous suits just to smear someone’s name,” she said. “The general public doesn’t follow it closely enough to know when everything’s been cleared and that it was all trumped up for nothing. Until we have a conclusion, I would definitely side with Paxton and give him the benefit of the doubt because I just know that’s how these games are played.”

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report

Uber Suspends Low-Cost Service in France Amid Legal Pressure

Uber is suspending its low-cost ride-hailing service in France, hoping to defuse an escalating legal dispute and sometimes-violent tensions with traditional French taxi drivers.

The unusual concession comes after the stakes mounted this week in Uber’s standoff with France: Two senior European managers for San Francisco-based company were detained Monday and ordered to stand trial, charged with “deceptive commercial practices.”

It reflects the broader struggle of governments to keep up with fast-moving technology — and how to tax operations like Uber’s and protect workers and consumers. Companies like Uber argue that governments are unfairly protecting entrenched industries instead of adapting to the times.

Uber Technologies Inc. has run into legal problems elsewhere in Europe, as well as in China and India.

The French battle centers around Uber’s low-cost service, in France called UberPop, which links users to drivers without professional taxi or chauffeur licenses. French authorities had ordered it shut down, but Uber refused, pending a legal decision at a top French court.

Uber France chief Thibaud Simphaud said in an interview published Friday in Le Monde that the company changed its mind “in a spirit of bringing peace” with authorities. An Uber spokesman confirmed to The Associated Press that the service is being suspended starting Friday night.

Simphaud and another European manager for San Francisco-based Uber were detained this week and ordered to stand trial Sept. 30. They are accused of six counts including deceptive commercial practices, complicity in instigating an illegal taxi-driving activity, and the illegal stocking of personal information.

Claiming unfair competition, taxi drivers staged a violence-marred strike last week, blocking many roads across France.

Uber’s regular app-based service, which connects registered drivers with riders, continues to function in France. Uber claims to have a total of 400,000 customers a month in France.

'Weed the People' event testing the limits of legal pot






'Weed the People' event testing the limits of legal pot»Play Video

Organizers of “Weed the People” work to set up a warehouse in North Portland for the event, which is expected to attract 2,000 people Friday.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A first of its kind event is testing the limits for what’s legal when it comes to marijuana in Oregon.

“In six months this type of event may not be able to happen,” said organizer Connie Wohn. “So we’re definitely existing in kind of a loophole right now.”

“Weed the People” will give patrons seven grams of cannabis, and all they have to do is pay 40 bucks to get in.

The $40 is to pay for the warehouse that’s being rented in North Portland on Friday.

Selling marijuana is illegal to recreational users.

The farms that are donating the marijuana aren’t getting any money. They were reluctant to participate at first.

“Once I explained that I truly was not a DEA agent on a sting, they were on board,” said Joshua Taylor, an organizer with “Weed the People.”

Because there’s no money going directly or indirectly to the growers supplying the marijuana, Portland police can’t do anything about the event.

“Most of the agencies we talked to were like we have no jurisdiction on that,” said Wohn. “So we will let you proceed with that.”

The event is at the Metal Craft Fabrication plant, but it’s sold out.


Electrolux CEO seeks to rescue GE deal after legal blow


Buying only parts of the GE Appliances business would not make sense, the head of Sweden’s Electrolux (ELUXb.ST) said on Thursday, fighting to salvage a $3.3 billion deal after the United States moved to block it.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to stop the Swedish company from buying General Electric Co’s (GE.N) appliance unit, saying a deal that has underpinned gains in Electrolux shares since it was announced last September would hurt competition.

“I don’t see a scenario where, for either party, it would make much sense to split the baby,” Electrolux Chief Executive Keith McLoughlin said.

He remained confident that the deal could still be completed by the end of the year, even though talks on remedies with the Department of Justice (DOJ) had so far been unsuccessful.

“We are still open to discussions and we hope that they are,” he said in a conference call with analysts and media, but gave no details on what concessions could be made to save the deal or say if it might sell GE assets after it had been finalised.

In its complaint, the Justice Department said the deal would create a duopoly in the supply of major cooking appliances to buyers such as home builders and property managers. Electrolux, GE and rival Whirlpool (WHR.N) had a combined market share of 90 percent in this segment, it said.

“We don’t agree with their numbers and we will show numbers that are different than that,” said McLoughlin, whose company manufactures appliances under brands such as Frigidaire, Kenmore and Tappan.

The deal would be the biggest in the Swedish company’s history and double its annual sales in North America.

Electrolux shares were down 11 percent by 0950 GMT (5:50 a.m. EDT) on concern over whether the deal would go through.

“I would say it has become substantially more difficult. But to estimate the outcome of it in percent – that is hard. But this is a substantial change,” said Erik Penser analyst Johan Dahl.

“The share has gained a lot during the last year on this (deal) being on the cards. So this is tough on them.”

At times sounding exasperated, McLoughlin said the DOJ had failed to grasp how much more competitive his industry had become in recent years with inroads made by Asian rivals.

“I think it was difficult for them to get the nuances of how the business actually works, in general and also of the competitiveness of this industry — I don’t think they got that at all.”

McLoughlin, an American and one of the few foreign CEOs at a Swedish blue chip firm, also poured cold water on a media report last week saying he would step down as its chief to return to the United States.

“To quote Mark Twain: the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” he said.

(Reporting by Sven Nordenstam and Niklas Pollard; additional reporting by Helena Soderpalm; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Keith Weir)

Pot now legal, but limits still apply

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Consumers can’t smoke marijuana in public, and there’s no place yet to buy or sell the drug

REVIEW FILE PHOTO - Adults over the age of 21 can now use marijuana at home or on another private property, but public use is prohibited, including in a vehicle on a public road or right-of-way.Recreational marijuana use is now legal for adults 21 and over, but that doesn’t mean consumers can smoke it in public and they won’t find anywhere to legally buy it until October at the earliest.

“It is legal to have the stuff, but not legal to get the stuff,” says state Rep. Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego). “There’s a joke that’s been going around that it’s an immaculate-conception problem — if you have it, where did it come from?”

Lininger and state Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) are co-chairs of the joint committee that oversees implementation of Measure 91, which voters approved in November. One of the bills that passed through that committee, Senate Bill 460, addresses the supply problem by allowing sales of recreational pot at medical marijuana dispensaries beginning Oct. 1, even to people who don’t have a medical marijuana card.

The bill cleared the state Senate on Tuesday and now moves to the House for consideration.

LININGER“It would give them a very limited opportunity to purchase up to a quarter ounce of marijuana (in the form of) dried plants,” Lininger says. “Not any of the edibles or concentrates.”

In the meantime, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has launched a “What’s Legal Oregon” campaign to make sure no one is hazy about the new rules for personal use and possession. The OLCC says these are the main points to remember:

— Marijuana use and possession is only legal if you are age 21 or older.

— You can only use marijuana at home or on another private property. Public use is prohibited, including in a vehicle on a public road or right-of-way.

— The legal possession limit is up to 8 ounces of usable marijuana at home and up to 1 ounce away from home.

— The limit for recreational marijuana growers is up to four plants, which must not be visible to the public.

— Driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal.

— You can share or give away recreational marijuana to other adults. You cannot sell or buy marijuana in any form until licensed retail shops open, which is expected to occur in 2016. Retail rules are still being made.

— You can’t take marijuana across state lines, even to or from Washington, where it also is legal.

— You are allowed to make and consume edible marijuana products at home, and they may be given or received as gifts for consumption in private places.

Lake Oswego, like many Oregon cities, has addressed the matter on a municipal level. In April, the City Council approved Ordinance 2670, which extended a year-long moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. The ordinance also classified operation of such facilities as “unlawful business activity” — thereby ensuring that no marijuana-based businesses can open within city limits.

Such a measure could open cities to lawsuits in the future. With that in mind, the Legislature passed HB 3400 this week with the aim of strengthening the regulatory environment for recreational and medical marijuana.

Among other things, HB 3400 would allow cities and counties to prohibit marijuana sales in their area — but only if their residents voted against Measure 91 to begin with. (Lake Oswego voters approved the ballot measure in November.) Otherwise, voters would have to approve any attempts to ban pot businesses, and communities that do ban them would not be able to implement a local tax.

On the other hand, HB 2041 would allow a local tax on sales, and that could benefit Lake Oswego if and when the city decides to allow dispensaries. In October, the City Council pre-emptively approved an ordinance establishing a 5 percent tax on the sale of medical marijuana and a 10 percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana. HB 2041 establishes a 17-percent state sales tax and would allow local governments to add an additional 3 percent if their voters approve.

Both House bills cleared the Legislature on Tuesday and now await Gov. Kate Brown’s signature.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions with Measure 91,” Lake Oswego Police Lt. Doug Treat says. “I think as time goes by, Measure 91 will become more defined as to what’s acceptable legally and what’s not.”

But one thing is clearly defined right now, Treat says: Smoking marijuana in public remains illegal and is subject to a $260 fine.

“And you can’t smoke marijuana in a place that can be viewed from a public place,” he says. “So if I’m walking down the street and you’re on your front lawn smoking marijuana, you can’t do that. If you’re in your backyard and your neighbor watches you smoke marijuana (from his private property), that’s not a violation.”

For more information, check out the OLCC’s campaign at http://www.WhatsLegalOregon.com.

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pot now legal in Oregon; local shops reap benefit

When recreational marijuana possession became legal Wednesday in Oregon, Vancouver pot shops reaped the benefits, as Oregonians flocked across the border to get their fix.Vancouver’s six pot shops saw far more foot traffic than usual Wednesday, a trend that has continued all week leading up to the landmark shift in Oregon’s law. And with recreational sales set to be sidelined in Oregon for at least three months or perhaps even more than another year, store owners in Vancouver are bracing for their biggest sales figures yet.Since Washington’s first stores opened nearly a year ago, New Vansterdam has been the highest-grossing store in the state. This week, the Vancouver store already has seen some record-breaking sales figures, said Shon-Lueiss Harris, New Vansterdam’s spokesman.“Monday was the biggest Monday we’ve had, and Tuesday was our biggest Tuesday,” Harris said.A similar picture unfolded at Main Street Marijuana in Uptown Village, as customers packed the sales floor on their way home from work late Wednesday afternoon. Anticipating a flood of foot traffic from Portland, store owner Ramsey Hamide staffed several extra budtenders for the day.“We’re absolutely embracing and excited for Oregon,” Hamide said. “It’s an exciting day to be in the marijuana industry, and to be playing a part in the end of prohibition.”

Since Washington’s sales went live last July, Oregonians have always made up a large portion of the local customer base. Embracing the out-of-state consumers has been huge for Vancouver’s pot shops, and legal possession in Oregon will only help, Hamide said.Main Street posted its best sales month yet leading up to the historic day, Hamide said. The store led the state in sales for March through May. Though June sales figures for each store in the state aren’t available yet, Hamide is confident the trend held true last month and that it will continue through July.

“We continue to see acceleration in our overall revenue, and I think that we’ll see that again in July,” he said.Main Street’s previous monthly sales record from May was about $1.752 million. Sales for June ended up being slightly higher, around $1.76 million, Hamide said.Adding to the excitement was a massive shift in the industry’s tax structure, a change that Hamide believes will lead to a dramatic price drop at Washington pot shops over the next few months. As of Wednesday, growers and processors are no longer charged a 25 percent excise tax on their products, and retailers pay a higher 37 percent tax at the point of sale.After a year in the new industry, growers are learning from their mistakes and making adjustments to packaging, handling and other procedures to save money, he said. Altogether, that and the new tax system will only help the prices fall, Hamide said.“Here in the next month, you’re going to see some definite price reductions,” he said. “It’s really a perfect storm, and I’d say in the next three months we’re going to see prices come down anywhere from 25 to 50 percent.”

Each week, sales activity picks up throughout the industry as the weekend nears, and it consistently peaks on Fridays. Last Friday, the market reached a new pinnacle, selling more than $2.5 million worth of product in a single day, and the expectations couldn’t be higher for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.Monday and Tuesday are typically the slowest days of the week for New Vansterdam, said Harris. For those days, sales tend to finish in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. This week, the store did more than $47,000 in sales on Tuesday and about $42,000 the day before.On a typical Thursday, New Vansterdam serves about 800 customers. As many as 900 to 1,000 typically make their way through the store on Fridays and Saturdays, New Vansterdam’s two best sales days of the week.“Just from seeing the flow today, I would not be surprised if we’re closer to a Thursday kind of number,” Harris said Wednesday afternoon.

That trend was evident for Vancouver’s smaller pot shops, too, as each welcomed many Oregonians for the first time.

“We are pretty busy,” said Morgan Hutchinson, co-owner of High End Market Place. “And seeing lots of new faces from Oregon, people who haven’t bought legal yet.”Oregon’s pot shops aren’t expected to open until late 2016, and the licensing process isn’t set to begin until January. A bill working its way through the Oregon Legislature proposes allowing the state’s first recreational marijuana sales to begin on Oct. 1 at medical dispensaries.It would only be a temporary measure to plug the gap in available marijuana until Oregon’s stores open. For now, though, Vancouver is the closest place where Portlanders can find legal recreational marijuana. Under federal law, it’s still illegal to take pot across state lines, but Portland police have said they will not stop anyone as long as they don’t consume it in public.

Marijuana possession, but not sales, now legal in Oregon

It was just a few years ago that marijuana was illegal everywhere in the United States, without exception. The policy landscape has changed quite a bit since.
Voters in Alaska, Colorado, and the state of Washington, for example, voted to legalize marijuana in recent years, and their state-based experiments have been allowed to proceed because the Obama administration extended its approval.
Meanwhile, a similar – but not identical – change is underway in Oregon, effective today. The Oregonian reported this morning:
, 7/1/15, 1:47 PM ET

You can now smoke pot legally in Oregon

NBC affiliate KGW reports on Oregon’s new marijuana law, which allows Oregonians to possess marijuana for personal use – although selling marijuana remains illegal, for now.

As of today, if you are 21 or older, you can legally possess and grow cannabis in Oregon. That’s right, a pretty historic day.

If you want to mark the day by buying some pot to consume, you’re out of luck. For now, people can only share or give away marijuana and starter plants so you’ll have to hit up a generous friend, though a bill allowing recreational marijuana sales at dispensaries in the fall is making its way through the Oregon Legislature.
Got that? You can possess marijuana (in limited quantities). You can grow marijuana. You can even smoke marijuana. You just can’t buy marijuana.
Oregon does have one exception, however, in the form of pot dispensaries that provide medical marijuana to qualifying patients. For everyone else who wants pot, however, it’s time to either start gardening or turning to generous friends.
Note, these current limits within state law may yet change. The Oregonian’s report noted that state officials are expected to license recreational-marijuana retailers, along the lines of what consumers see in Colorado, Alaska, and Washington.
This change, however, isn’t expected until the second half of 2016. What’s more, federal law remains unchanged, which means if an aggressive pot opponent is elected president, by 2017, each of these state experiments may come to an abrupt end.