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Colorado court: old marijuana convictions can be challenged

DENVER — A Colorado law that allows adults to legally possess and use marijuana may now allow some people found guilty of minor marijuana crimes to challenge their convictions in court, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

The decision by the Colorado Court of Appeals stemmed from a 2010 drug case in which a woman from the mountains west of Denver was convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana and a concentrated form of the drug — both of which are now legal under a 2012 ballot measure approved by Colorado voters. Her lawyers argued that the legal landscape had shifted since she was charged and that her marijuana convictions should thus be thrown out.

The court agreed, saying that the legalization law, known as Amendment 64, could apply retroactively to minor drug offenses if people had already been appealing their convictions when the measure went into effect.

“The fact that a court in Colorado, one of the first two states to do this, came to this conclusion will hopefully have some impact on how courts in other places look at this,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports overhauling drug laws.

Still, the scope of the ruling is likely to be limited. It applies only to small amounts of marijuana that were made legal under Amendment 64, and it does not appear to open the floodgates to allow people to expunge decades-old marijuana convictions.

As more states pursue measures to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, the police, prosecutors and courts are being forced to confront thorny questions about how to handle thousands of arrests and criminal cases in light of the drug’s shifting legal status. Should prosecutors pursue existing marijuana cases once the drug is legalized? Do people convicted of possession still have to pay their fines? Do people have to admit old marijuana convictions as part of a background check?

Shortly after Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, prosecutors in Denver, Boulder,

“There’s certainly a tidal wave changing the attitudes of people,” Emeson said, “Now you’re seeing it in law enforcement and the judiciary.”

—Jack Healy, The New York Times

Disappeared flight draws intense speculation

It is the talk of lunchrooms, chat rooms and, most certainly, television green rooms across the globe: How and why could a modern jumbo jet disappear without a trace?

Along with the predictable UFO theories, the suggestion, presumably facetious, that the television series “Lost” was secretly filming a new season became one of dozens of memes related to Flight 370, some more serious than others, on Twitter.

On chat rooms frequented by pilots and aviation experts, there was more informed discussion of the technical possibilities, such as a sudden decompression or mass electrical failure, and of how a transponder could be shut down. But even the best-informed were arriving at logical impasses.

The one constant, beyond the probability that a terrible tragedy lurked at the end of the story, was the factual void at its center, heightening the frenzy of speculation.

“A main ingredient for rumor generation and transmission is uncertainty,” said Nicholas DiFonzo, a social psychologist at Rochester Institute of Technology and author of “The Watercooler Effect.” But the main reason for the fascination, he added, may be the sheer mystery, which allows everyone to play detective.

Many American newscasters, after saying that “of course it is premature to draw conclusions,” have veered toward hypotheses about terrorism as they host the usual scramble of former Federal Aviation Administration investigators, pilot/authors, security experts and, in this case, oceanographers, who helped, at their best, to establish the outer limits of what remained frustrated guesswork.

CNN brought in Dan Rather, introduced as a newsman with long experience, to say, “I don’t rule out anything.” Robert Ballard, the deep-sea explorer who discovered the hulk of the Titanic, described the relatively shallow waters but strong currents of the Gulf of Thailand and the Strait of Malacca and wondered if the flight had continued into the Indian Ocean.

Fox News was most aggressive with the terror theory. “I’m not afraid of the word terrorism,” Sean Hannity said as he pushed his expert guests to agree that, foul play seemed all but certain. Al-Jazeera America was careful to stress the unknowns as the Malaysian authorities issued yet another contradictory account.

The global interest, the mystery,

—Erik Eckholm, The New York Times

Former senator may seek office again, but in a different state

BOSTON — After a year of mulling his political future, Scott Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts, has told people on Capitol Hill that he intends to open an exploratory committee and run this year for the Senate from New Hampshire, according to people with firsthand knowledge of those discussions.

National Republicans have been urging Brown to get into the race, believing he would pose a formidable challenge to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a freshman Democrat who is seeking re-election, and would help the party in its quest to capture control of the Senate.

Brown has told associates that he intends to announce soon that he is forming an exploratory committee for his candidacy, said people close to him, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for him.

—Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times