Thursday, May 18, 2017

7th annual NCIA lobby days draw in citizen lobbyists to cannabis cause

More than a dozen pending congressional bills sit, waiting for committee hearings and the support of additional sponsors. But while 2017’s federal legislation season sees little hope for a vote in either chamber, that didn’t stop more than 240 citizen lobbyists from storming the offices of friendly and opposed congressional offices, May 15-17, for the 7th annual version of the NCIA Lobby Days.

As they have done for years, constituent business owners shared stories of hardship from onerous, IRS section 280-E rules (creating high business taxes averaging 60 to 70%), experiences of pricey or non-existent access to banking and credit unions, and a continuing push-back against the “anti-science bias” brought by attorney general Jeff Sessions, vilifying the positive patient reports from medical marijuana options. In years past, the “hands-off” attitude of the former Obama administration gave Lobby Day visitors some level of comfort, but the daily whirlwind, Trump administration mini-scandals gave cannabis supporters some break with staffers.

Building on a positive, but fairly powerless, base in both the House and Senate democratic leaders who had been the only cannabis supporters 3 and 4 years back. Co-signers and top cannabis supportive legislators have grown, and most supportive states (counted by NORML’s annual “most supportive” list) include California (9 members), Oregon, Illinois, New York and Colorado.

In March, freshman Congressman Thomas Garrett (R-VA) introduced the same bill brought last year by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), which would remove all marijuana classification from the Controlled Substances Act. Movement in Virginia to add medical, and other Democratic member support by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Garrett’s co-sponsor Rep. Scott W. Taylor (R-VA) has helped push Virginia into a pro-cannabis leadership role, right in the important DC bedroom communities.

“This step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia.” Thomas Garrett

Some NCIA group lobbyists also came back to Senators who’s state’s have — or in 2018 — will have adult-use legal options in their states. Important in any continuing search for support are those Republicans like Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Rep. Matt Gaetz (both south Florida Republicans), Rep. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who have all signaled their independence from the “war on drugs” mantra being re-issued by AG Sessions. Perhaps the greatest Democratic disappointment continues to be the adamant hatred of liberalized marijuana policies from California’s Sen. Diane Feinstein, a critical member of the Senate Judiciary committee.

Other states rising to the defense of moving sane cannabis liberalization are Florida (two new bills from members introduced), New Jersey (where local legislators promised to push for a legislation bill as soon as Gov. Chris Christies‘ regime ends in one year), strong support from Hawaii and popular Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and even support from moderate Republications in Pennsylvania.

In the race to fill Jeff Session’s senate seat in the special election set for later in 2017, many supporters threw their encouragement to current Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who has called for treating marijuana policy as a states’ rights issue. “It’s important to re-visit and re-engage our key supporters, even as we expand the growing number of smart legislators who see the wisdom of backing MJ reforms now,” said a long-time Denver retailer.

At the tail end of Lobby Days, Colorado Senators Corey Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) introduced a new bill to protect any banking interests that open account for cannabis firms. All pending, these are the captions to the federal bills addressing various areas of MJ concern:

Small Business Tax Equity Act (bicameral)
Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act (bicameral)
The Veterans Equal Access Act
Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act
Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017
Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017
LUMMA (Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act)
Compassionate Access Act
States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Act


A lot of petitions to the above mentioned bills can be found here.

Senator Rand Paul on the drug war

From Senator Rand Paul:

The attorney general on Friday made an unfortunate announcement that will impact the lives of millions of Americans: he issued new instructions for prosecutors to charge suspects with the most serious provable offenses, "those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences."

Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated a generation of minorities. Eric Holder, the attorney general under President Obama, issued guidelines to U.S. Attorneys that they should refrain from seeking long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

I agreed with him then and still do. In fact, I'm the author of a bipartisan bill with Senator Leahy to change the law on this matter. Until we pass that bill, though, the discretion on enforcement -- and the lives of many young drug offenders -- lies with the current attorney general.

The attorney general's new guidelines, a reversal of a policy that was working, will accentuate the injustice in our criminal justice system. We should be treating our nation's drug epidemic for what it is -- a public health crisis, not an excuse to send people to prison and turn a mistake into a tragedy.
And make no mistake, the lives of many drug offenders are ruined the day they receive that long sentence the attorney general wants them to have.

If I told you that one out of three African-American males is forbidden by law from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow 50 years ago.

Yet today, a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting, primarily because of the War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected young black males.

The ACLU reports that blacks are four to five times likelier to be convicted for drug possession, although surveys indicate that blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates. The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, but three-fourths of all people in prison for drug offenses are African American or Latino.

Why are the arrest rates so lopsided? Because it is easier to go into urban areas and make arrests than suburban areas. Arrest statistics matter when cities apply for federal grants. It doesn't take much imagination to understand that it's easier to round up, arrest, and convict poor kids than it is to convict rich kids.

The San Jose Mercury News reviewed nearly 700,000 criminal cases that were matched by crime and criminal history of the defendant. Their analysis showed that whites of similar situation were far more successful in the plea bargaining process and "virtually every stage of pretrial negotiation" than their African-American and Latino counterparts.

I know a guy about my age in Kentucky who was arrested and convicted for growing marijuana plants in his apartment closet in college.

Thirty years later, he still can't vote, can't own a gun, and, when he looks for work, he must check the box -- the box that basically says, "I'm a convicted felon, and I guess I'll always be one."
He hasn't been arrested or convicted for 30 years -- but still can't vote or have his Second Amendment rights. Getting a job is nearly impossible for him.

Mandatory sentencing automatically imposes a minimum number of years in prison for specific crimes -- usually related to drugs.

By design, mandatory sentencing laws take discretion away from judges so as to impose harsh sentences, regardless of circumstances. Our prison population, meanwhile, has increased by over 700% since the 1980s, and 90% of them are nonviolent offenders. The costs of our prison system now approach nearly $100 billion a year. It costs too much, in both the impact on people's lives and on our tax dollars.

I want to go the opposite way from the attorney general. That's why I've partnered with Senator Leahy and once again will be reintroducing the Justice Safety Valve Act.

This isn't about legalizing drugs. It is about making the punishment more fitting and not ruining more lives.

The legislation is short and simple. It amends current law to grant judges authority to impose a sentence below a statutory mandatory minimum.

In other words, we are not repealing mandatory minimums on the books -- we are merely allowing a judge to issue a sentence below a mandatory minimum if certain requirements are met.
We need this legislation because while there is an existing safety valve in current law, it is very limited. It has a strict five-part test, and only about 23% of all drug offenders qualified for the safety valve.

The injustice of mandatory minimum sentences is impossible to ignore when you hear the stories of the victims.

John Horner was a 46-year-old father of three when he sold some of his prescription painkillers to a friend.

His friend turned out to be a police informant, and he was charged with dealing drugs. Horner pleaded guilty and was later sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 25 years in jail.
As I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Edward Clay was an 18-year-old and a first-time offender when he was caught with less than 2 ounces of cocaine. He received 10 years in jail from a mandatory minimum sentence.

Weldon Angelos was a 24-year-old who was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling marijuana three times.
Former federal judge Timothy Lewis recalls a case where he had to send a 19-year-old to prison for 10 years for conspiracy. What was the "conspiracy"?

This young man had been in a car where drugs were found. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure one of us might have been in a car in our youth where someone might have had drugs. Before the arrest, according to news reports, this young man was going to be the first in his family to go to college.
Each case should be judged on its own merits. Mandatory minimums prevent this from happening.

Mandatory minimum sentencing has done little to address the very real problem of drug abuse while also doing great damage by destroying so many lives, and most Americans now realize it.

Proposition 47 recently passed in California, and it has spurred a cultural change in the way nonviolent drug offenders are treated, resulting in more than 13,000 fewer prisoners and a savings of $150 million, according to a Stanford Law School study.

Pew Research found that 67% of Americans want drug offenders to get treatment, not prison, and over 60% want an end to mandatory minimum sentences.

I urge the attorney general to reconsider his recent action. But even more importantly, I urge my colleagues to consider bipartisan legislation to fix this problem in the law where it should be handled. Congress can end this injustice, and I look forward to leading this fight for justice.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Nanny State to dictate correct amount of pizza toppings

Nanny State

What’s more fun that a gooey slice of pizza? The answer is simple: a gooey slice of pizza with the perfectly selected, fresh toppings, of course. But the Food and Drug Administration is demanding that restaurant owners post calorie and other nutritional information about their food… and that might have a terrible effect on the pizza industry. The Daily Signal reports:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments” (79 FR 71155) rule is scheduled to take effect on May 5. The 105-page rule implements Obama-era amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), which sets national standards for the marketing and labeling of food products.

The rule will require, among other mandates, that all restaurants and other retail food outlets, such as movie theaters, operating as one brand with at least 20 stores display a calorie count in addition to other nutritional information for all standard menu items on the establishment’s “menus and menu boards.”

Wait just one second. Has the government finally overstepped so much that New Yorkers and Chicagoans will rebel? You just shouldn’t mess with pizza… and restaurant owners are afraid of accidentally breaking the law. “‘Menu’ can refer to any writing that [is] ‘used by a customer to make an order selection at the time the customer is viewing the writing,” said the former executive vice president of Domino’s Pizza, Lynn Liddle.

As anyone who’s gone to a party knows, pizza slices are sometimes radically different sizes, to the calorie counts wouldn’t be reliable. Plus, adding different toppings would also throw off the numbers. “Industry representatives also pointed out that restaurant owners and supervisors can be held criminally liable for FD&C Act violations under the so-called ‘responsible corporate officer doctrine.'”

Yikes. That’s scary stuff and high fines for someone who just wants to sell pizza, not watch their customers’ weight. One Kentucky restaurant owner said, “To face one year in prison for putting too many pepperonis on a pizza? Everybody laughs and smiles, but that’s the reality of the way it’s written now.”

Give me a break! Let Pizza Hut sell pizzas. Let Weight Watchers keep us thin. Not Uncle Sam.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Donald Trump breaks his silence on medical marijuana

President Donald Trump took on the topic of medical marijuana for the first time since he took office in November, and it appears he's kind of in favor of it.

Along with signing the most recent federal funding bill (the one that always brings the threat of a government shut down if it isn't passed), Trump signed an amendment to the bill Friday that stops the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency from using federal funds to arrest people simply for working at a medical marijuana dispensary in a state where it's legal.

Here's Trump's full statement on the amendment:

Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

In the United States, marijuana is illegal in all forms at a federal level, but 29 states have legalized the production, sale, and usage of medical marijuana in some form.

Trump's laissez-faire approach isn't exactly an endorsement of medical marijuana, but it's not an active stance against it.

The amendment doesn't include anything about states that have legalized recreational marijuana in any form.


Trump is planning to effectively kill the office that has traditionally spearheaded the 'War on Drugs'

The Trump administration plans to cut 96% of the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), effectively eliminating the federal agency that has traditionally been used to spearhead the war on drugs, according to multiple media reports.

The White House Office of Management and Budget's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget reduces the funding request for ONDCP from $388 million in 2017 to $24 million, according to a leaked memo first reported by CBS News.

The cuts would eliminate approximately half ONDCP's staff, around 33 employees, as well as "intelligence, research and budget functions at the agency, as well as the Model State Drug Laws and Drug Court grant programs," CBS reported Friday.

"These cuts are frankly heartbreaking and, if carried out, cause us to lose many good people who contribute greatly to ONDCP's mission and core activities," Acting Director Richard Baum wrote in an email to ONDCP staff obtained by CBS.

Baum added that news is "discouraging," but told staff "not to panic" and that "events are unfolding."

In addition, the budget proposes to eliminate multiple grant programs administered by ONDCP, including the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program and the Drug-Free Communities Support program, which the memo called "duplicative of other efforts across the Federal government and supplant State and local responsibilities."

Staff was notified of the budget cuts on Friday. Baum, who was aware of the impending cuts last week, had reportedly been lobbying Jared Kushner, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, to keep the agency's budget intact.

In February, when rumors first began circulating that Trump might cut ONDCP's budget, a coalition of medical and drug policy organizations sent a letter to Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, urging for ONDCP to remain at the center of efforts to fight drug use.

"At a time when drugs now kill more people than firearms or car crashes, it is more important than ever for ONDCP to remain a strong voice in the White House and a visible presence nationally," the letter read.

But some drug policy experts are cautiously optimistic at the agency's elimination.

"Unfortunately, the ONDCP has a history of advancing predominatively counter-productive policies," Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told Business Insider, noting that DPA has supported the "dismantling" of the agency.

Smith noted that elimination of the agency could actually accelerate efforts to treat drug use as a public health, rather than criminal issue, if it means less funding for programs like HIDTA.

But that depends, Smith said, on if the nation's drug policy is in the hands of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has called for cracking down on drug offenders, or someone else.

The ONDCP was first created in 1988 by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act at the height of the crack epidemic and the so-called War on Drugs.

Tom Angell, the founder of pro- marijuana legalization group Marijuana Majority, told Business Insider that it was only during the last years of the Obama Administration, under the direction of then-ONDCP director Michael Botticelli, that the agency made positive efforts towards harm reduction and treatment policies. Traditionally, according to Smith, the agency has been at the forefront of efforts to prosecute and stigmatize drug use.

ONDCP's proposed elimination comes after Trump signed an executive order in March to establish a national commission to address the opioid crisis, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The commission, which was due to receive "administrative support" from ONDCP, was tasked with coming up with strategies to address the crisis.

Many experts said the president's action is "underwhelming."

The reports come one day after Rep. Tom Marino announced that he was withdrawing from consideration for the appointment of ONDCP director, the position more informally known as the Drug Czar, after more than a month of speculation that he would serve. The Pennsylvania Republican was one of Trump’s earliest supporters in Congress.

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.


This is great. The Drug Czar has always argued against marijuana legalization. Against the will of the people but now the people no longer have to fund it. The agency that was working against their interests. Let's contact President Trump and thank him for this decision. The more of us he hears from the better.

Benjamin Netanyahu ponders Germany's situation

When asked about the Muslim situation in Germany where a lot of Germans are being beaten up even murdered by the Muslim refugees they allowed into their country and the fact it is causing major problems for the German government Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with this:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Congressman drills DEA head


Congress won’t give Attorney General Jeff Sessions any money to fight a war on state laws to legalize marijuana—at least not in the new budget bill.

A bipartisan group of House Democrats and Republicans agreed Sunday to $1 trillion in government spending to avoid a shutdown and see them through to the end of September.

But while it also gave $1.5 billion more for border security and $12.5 billion for new military spending, there wasn’t any money for Sessions to go after states that have legalized medical marijuana and or where the recreational use of the drug is legal.

The move quashes potential plans to try to prevent 44 states, plus Washington D.C. and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

The move led pro-legalization advocacy groups and House representatives to urge Congress to amend federal law, removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act at a time when support for legalizing marijuana is at an all-time high.

“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store,” Sessions said March 15, likening its use to heroin.

“I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”

America, he said: “needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”

In 2016 13,000 Americans died of heroin overdoses while a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration fact sheet reports no deaths from the use of marijuana.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Attorney General’s office has been reviewing an Obama-era directive that prevents the federal government from interfering in state level marijuana laws.

Marijuana possession is still a federal offence and Sessions had been considering whether he should enforce the federal U.S. Controlled Substances Act against users of the drug, which is ranks higher than cocaine and methamphetamines.

While Sessions said at a Justice Department press briefing in February that states can “pass the laws they choose,” he reminded them that it remains “a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

Local and state law enforcement have traditionally been relied on to enforce federal law, but in recent instances where city police forces have refused to support Trump’s executive orders on immigration, the federal government has tried to sanction them.

Sessions reportedly told Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s chief of staff last week that he thought Obama’s marijuana directive is “not too far from good policy.”

That means it is time to “ amend federal law in a manner that comports with the available science, public opinion, and with America’s rapidly changing cultural and legal landscape,” said Justin Strekal, Political Director at The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in a statement May 1.

A recent poll by CBS News released April 20 found a 71 percent majority of Americans opposed federal action to stop marijuana sales in states where the drug had been legalized. In all, it found 61 percent of Americans want marijuana to be legalized—a five percentage point increase from the year before and the highest level of support recorded by the poll.

Republicans , known for hardline drug policies, have begun to support legalization too. Last July a poll showed 45 percent of Republicans support legalization measures. Less than a year before the same poll found 50 percent of Republicans opposed them.

“The people have spoken @realDonaldTrump. Don't let Jeff Sessions' draconian views on [marijuana] run roughshod over states,” wrote Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone on Twitter using the “420” code for pot on April 20.

Marijuana, both legal and medicinal, is projected to pull in $7.1 billion in profits in 2016, according to one study. But while the new spending bill gives medical marijuana patients and the businesses that support them “a measure of certainty,” said Oregon House Representative Earl Blumenauer in a statement Monday, the annual challenge of blocking federal action against state marijuana laws “must end.”

“We need permanent protections for state-legal medical marijuana programs, as well as adult-use,” he said.

The best way to achieve this is “removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act,” said Strekal, “so that states possess the flexibility to engage in their own marijuana regulatory policies how best they see fit.”


Monday, May 1, 2017

US Attorney General to Give Pot a Pass?

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper met with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week and left the meeting with the distinct understanding that the recreational marijuana industry will not face the federal crackdown that it had feared.

According to an editorial in the Denver Post, the big takeaway from the meeting is that "the new attorney general is far more focused on other priorities, like securing the border with a wall, than in disrupting our legal cannabis marketplace."

The Department of Justice has been reviewing the Cole Memorandum, an Obama-era document that essentially directed federal law enforcement to keep its nose out of states' legal marijuana industry. According to Hickenlooper's chief of staff, Sessions finds the Cole memo "not too far from good policy."

Marijuana Business Daily published Hickenlooper's comments from an interview on MSNBC:

He is very clear. He is anti-drugs in all forms and he's not going to, in any way, encourage anyone to start a marijuana business to think it's a great idea to do or even safe to do so. That being said, he didn't give me any reason to think that he is going to come down and suddenly try to put everyone out of business.


This is indeed good news. It shows we did make a difference. It shows activism works.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It’s Time For Congressional Action On Marijuana Policy

West Virginia recently became the 30th state to authorize the physician-recommended use of marijuana or marijuana-infused products. An additional fourteen states permit patients to access products containing cannabidiol, a specific chemical compound available in the cannabis plant. And this past January, scholars at the National Academy of Sciences determined that there exists “conclusive evidence” that the herb is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and other diseases. Nonetheless, federal law continues to declare that neither marijuana nor any of its organic constituents possess any “accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” This sort of Flat Earth contention no longer passes the smell test.

That is why it remains exceedingly curious and excruciatingly frustrating that members of Congress steadfastly refuse to amend federal law in a manner that comports with this new reality. Ninety-four percent of US voters now believe that medical cannabis therapy ought to be legal and regulated, according to survey data provided last week by Quinnipiac University, and the overwhelming majority of Americans now reside in jurisdictions that have amended their laws in a manner that recognizes the therapeutic utility of the cannabis plant. It is high time that federal lawmakers do the same, and do so soon.

The failure of Congress to amend federal marijuana laws places the millions of patients who rely on these state-sanctioned programs at legal risk. That is because an existing federal provision protecting these programs could potentially expire later this week. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” In December, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a short term spending package through April 28, 2017, at which time the budget — and the Amendment — will expire unless it is reauthorized by Congress.

In recent years, strong majorities of Congress have voted in favor of keeping this budgetary provision in place and it is vital that they do so again, especially now that the incoming administration has threatened to increase anti-marijuana enforcement efforts in states that have legalized it. Yet Congress can do far more.

Several bipartisan pieces of legislation are pending before the House and Senate that would rectify the existing, and ultimately untenable, conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. Among these, SB 777 | HR 1810 would amend the federal tax code in a manner that acknowledges the legitimacy of state-licensed marijuana businesses, HR 1820 would expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans, and HR 715 would reclassify marijuana and cannabidiol under federal law in a manner that for the first recognizes their therapeutic utility.

In addition, both HR 975, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and HR 1227 provide states with the flexibility and autonomy to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference. More than seven out of ten voters, including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, support allowing states — not the federal government — the power to arbitrate pot policy.

So why are members of Congress dragging their feet? Many reflexively contend that more research is needed before the federal government can act. But this excuse fails to stand up to scrutiny.

Unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy. Moreover, cannabis and its compounds are among some of the more studied biologically active substances of modern times. A search on PubMed using the term ‘marijuana’, yields nearly 25,000 scientific papers referencing the plant and/or its components. This totality of peer-reviewed research is far greater than that which exists for most other controlled substances, particularly pharmaceuticals. For example, a similar search for ‘hydrocodone’ (a commonly prescribed opioid pain medication) yields fewer than 1,000 citations in the peer-reviewed literature, while a search for ‘adderall’ (a prescription amphetamine often provided to young people to treat ADHD) reveals only 201 papers.

While cannabis’ Schedule I classification under federal law makes clinical research far more onerous than it should be, it does not preclude it all together. FDA-approved placebo controlled studies exist assessing the safety and efficacy of cannabis, and a recent literature review identifies an estimated 140 controlled trials involving some 8,000 patient participants. A recent review of several of these trials concludes, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

In short, we know enough about the relative safety and efficacy of cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to allow adults the option to consume it and to allow states the autonomy to regulate it as best they see fit. It is time for members of Congress to acknowledge this reality and to amend federal laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.


Good idea. Let's tell our Represetative and Senators about this. Let's tell Trump about it too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Jeff Sessions: ‘Medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much’

RICHMOND — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly condemned the recreational use of marijuana. On Wednesday he went a step further, casting doubt on medical marijuana use.

“I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much,” he told reporters in Richmond after an event about violent crime. “Dosages can be constructed in a way that might be beneficial, I acknowledge that, but if you smoke marijuana, for example, where you have no idea how much THC you’re getting, it’s probably not a good way to administer a medicinal amount. So forgive me if I’m a bit dubious about that.”

Sessions also cast doubt, as he has before, on the use of marijuana to curb opioid addiction.

Studies have shown that medical marijuana laws and access to medical marijuana dispensaries are associated with fewer opioid deaths and less prescription painkiller abuse.

During his campaign, President Trump said he was “100­ percent” in favor of medical marijuana. White House spokesman Sean Spicer recently confirmed that the president sees a “big difference” between using marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.

“The problem is that you’re seeing now a disagreement between Sessions and the president on the issue of medical marijuana,” said Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s concerning because the administration, the White House themselves, have sort of committed themselves to not going after medical marijuana. Sessions is out casting doubt on that.”

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Smoking is a necessary way to consume medical marijuana, he said, because chronic pain sufferers need the instantaneous relief other forms of the drug cannot provide. The dosage concern doesn’t make sense, he said, because there’s no evidence of fatal marijuana overdoses.

A congressional provision prevents the Justice Department from spending money to interfere with state-level medical marijuana programs. However, that appropriations amendment must be reauthorized this year. Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Collins said the federal government could easily do research into marijuana efficacy, but that opponents of legalization are standing in the way.

“The people complaining that more research needs to be done are the very people in a position to do the research,” he said. “But they’ll never do it, because they know the research will show the positives.”

Independent studies have generally found marijuana to be effective for treating chronic pain, nausea and vomiting in cancer patients, and muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. But the Drug Enforcement Administration, which operates under the Justice Department, maintains that marijuana has no medical value.


How Jeff Sessions wants to bring back the war on drugs

Steven H. Cook

When the Obama administration launched a sweeping policy to reduce harsh prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, rave reviews came from across the political spectrum. Civil rights groups and the Koch brothers praised Obama for his efforts, saying he was making the criminal justice system more humane.

But there was one person who watched these developments with some horror. Steven H. Cook, a former street cop who became a federal prosecutor based in Knoxville, Tenn., saw nothing wrong with how the system worked — not the life sentences for drug charges, not the huge growth of the prison population. And he went everywhere — Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, congressional hearings, public panels — to spread a different gospel.

“The federal criminal justice system simply is not broken. In fact, it’s working exactly as designed,” Cook said at a criminal justice panel at The Washington Post last year.

The Obama administration largely ignored Cook, who was then president of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys. But he won’t be overlooked anymore.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has brought Cook into his inner circle at the Justice Department, appointing him to be one of his top lieutenants to help undo the criminal justice policies of Obama and former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. As Sessions has traveled to different cities to preach his tough-on-crime philosophy, Cook has been at his side.

Sessions has yet to announce specific policy changes, but Cook’s new perch speaks volumes about where the Justice Department is headed.

Law enforcement officials say that Sessions and Cook are preparing a plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime strategy of the 1980s and ’90s from the peak of the drug war, an approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration.

Crime is near historic lows in the United States, but Sessions says that the spike in homicides in several cities, including Chicago, is a harbinger of a “dangerous new trend” in America that requires a tough response.

“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad,” Sessions said to law enforcement officials in a speech in Richmond last month. “It will destroy your life.”

Advocates of criminal justice reform argue that Sessions and Cook are going in the wrong direction — back to a strategy that tore apart families and sent low-level drug offenders, disproportionately minority citizens, to prison for long sentences.

“They are throwing decades of improved techniques and technologies out the window in favor of a failed approach,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).

But Cook, whose views are supported by other federal prosecutors, sees himself as a dedicated assistant U.S. attorney who for years has tried to protect neighborhoods ravaged by crime. He has called FAMM and organizations like it “anti-law enforcement groups.”

The records of Cook and Sessions show that while others have grown eager in recent years to rework the criminal justice system, they have repeatedly fought to keep its toughest edges, including winning a battle in Congress last year to defeat a reform bill.

“If hard-line means that my focus is on protecting communities from violent felons and drug traffickers, then I’m guilty,” Cook said in a recent interview with The Post. “I don’t think that’s hard-line. I think that’s exactly what the American people expect of their Department of Justice.”

When asked for a case that he was proud to work on during his three-decade career as a prosecutor, Cook points to when his office went after a crack ring operating in Chattanooga housing projects between 1989 and 1991.

This was during the height of the crack epidemic and the drug war. After the cocaine overdose of black basketball star Len Bias in 1986, Congress began passing “tough on crime” laws, including mandatory minimum sentences on certain drug and gun offenses. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed one of the toughest-ever crime bills, which included a “three strikes” provision that gave mandatory life sentences for repeat offenders.

Federal prosecutors such as Cook applauded their “new tools” to get criminals off the street.

Cook said last year: “What we did, beginning in 1985, is put these laws to work. We started filling federal prisons with the worst of the worst. And what happened next is exactly what Congress said they wanted to happen — and that is violent crime began in 1991 to turn around. By 2014, we had cut it in half.”

To bring down the Chattanooga drug ring’s leader, Victor Novene, undercover federal agents purchased crack from Novene’s underlings. Prosecutors then threatened them with long prison sentences to “flip” them to give up information about their superiors.

Cook said in March: “We made buys from individuals who were lower in the organization. We used the mandatory minimums to pressure them to cooperate.”

Cook’s office also added gun charges to make sentences even longer, another popular tool among prosecutors seeking the longest possible punishments.

With the mandatory minimum sentences and firearms “enhancements,” Novene received six life sentences. Many of his lieutenants were sentenced to between 16 and 33 years in federal prison.

But sentencing reform advocates say the tough crime policies went too far. The nation began incarcerating people at a higher rate than any other country — jailing 25 percent of the world’s prisoners at a cost of $80 billion a year. The nation’s prison and jail population more than quadrupled from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.2 million in 2015, filled with mostly black men strapped with lengthy prison sentences — 10 or 20 years, sometimes life without parole for a first drug offense.

Obama, the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, launched an ambitious clemency initiative to release certain drug offenders from prison early. And Holder told his prosecutors, in an effort to make punishments more fairly fit the crime, to stop charging low-level nonviolent drug offenders with offenses that imposed severe mandatory sentences. He called his strategy, outlined in an August 2013 report, “Smart on Crime.”

Cook has called it “Soft on Crime” and said the Chattanooga case would have been much more difficult to make, “if possible at all,” in recent years.

“We were discouraged from using mandatory minimums,” Cook said about Holder’s 2013 charging and sentencing memo to prosecutors. “The charging memo handcuffed prosecutors. And it limited when enhancements can be used to increase penalties, an important leverage when you’re dealing with a career offender in getting them to cooperate.”

Cook has also dismissed the idea that there is such a thing as a nonviolent drug offender.

“Drug trafficking is inherently violent. Drug traffickers are dealing in a heavy cash business,” he said on the “O’Reilly Factor” last year. “They can’t resolve disputes in court. They resolve the disputes on the street, and they resolve them through violence.”

Winning on the Hill

Cook and Sessions have also fought the winds of change on Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently tried but failed to pass the first significant bill on criminal justice reform in decades.

The legislation, which had 37 sponsors in the Senate, including Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and 79 members of the House, would have reduced some of the long mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug crimes. It also would have given judges more flexibility in drug sentencing and made retroactive the law that reduced the large disparity between sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

The bill, introduced in 2015, had support from outside groups as diverse as the Koch brothers and the NAACP. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) supported it, as well.

But then people such as Sessions and Cook spoke up. The longtime Republican senator from Alabama became a leading opponent, citing the spike in crime in several cities.

“Violent crime and murders have increased across the country at almost alarming rates in some areas. Drug use and overdoses are occurring and dramatically increasing,” said Sessions, one of five members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted against the legislation. “It is against this backdrop that we are considering a bill . . . to cut prison sentences for drug traffickers and even other violent criminals, including those currently in federal prison.”

Cook testified that it was the “wrong time to weaken the last tools available to federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents.”

After GOP lawmakers became nervous about passing legislation that might seem soft on crime, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Sessions was the main reason that bill didn’t pass,” said Inimai M. Chettiar, the director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “He came in at the last minute and really torpedoed the bipartisan effort.”

Now that he is attorney general, Sessions has signaled a new direction. As his first step, Sessions told his prosecutors in a memo last month to begin using “every tool we have” — language that evoked the strategy from the drug war of loading up charges to lengthen sentences.

And he quickly appointed Cook to be a senior official on the attorney general’s task force on crime reduction and public safety, which was created following a Trump executive order to address what the president has called “American carnage.”

“If there was a flickering candle of hope that remained for sentencing reform, Cook’s appointment was a fire hose,” said Ring, of FAMM. “There simply aren’t enough backhoes to build all the prisons it would take to realize Steve Cook’s vision for America.”

Sessions is also expected to take a harder line on the punishment for using and distributing marijuana, a drug he has long abhorred. His crime task force will review existing marijuana policy, according to a memo he wrote prosecutors last week. Using or distributing marijuana is illegal under federal law, which classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug, the same category as heroin, and considered more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine.

In his effort to resurrect the practices of the drug war, it is still unclear what Sessions will do about the wave of states that have legalized marijuana in recent years. Eight states and the District of Columbia now permit the recreational use of marijuana, and 28 states and the District have legalized the use of medical marijuana.

But his rhetoric against weed seems to get stronger with each speech. In Richmond, he cast doubt on the use of medical marijuana and said it “has been hyped, maybe too much.”

Sessions directs federal prosecutors to target the nation’s most violent offenders]

Sessions’s aides stress that the attorney general does not want to completely upend every aspect of criminal justice policy.

“We are not just sweeping away everything that has come before us.” said Robyn Thiemann, the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy, who is working with Cook and has been at the Justice Department for nearly 20 years. “The attorney general recognizes that there is good work out there.”

Still, Sessions’s remarks on the road reveal his continued fascination with an earlier era of crime fighting.

In the speech in Richmond, he said, “Psychologically, politically, morally, we need to say — as Nancy Reagan said — ‘Just say no.’ ”


Monday, April 17, 2017

How Republicans and Democrats in Congress are joining forces to defeat Sessions’ war on weed

Rep. Carlos Curbelo is a two-term Republican from a South Florida district that was once the epicenter in the country’s war on drugs. But last month Curbelo, one of a new generation of Cuban-Americans in Congress, did something that, not too many years ago, would have been unthinkable. He co-sponsored a bill that is the top priority for the nation’s booming marijuana industry.

Dubbed the Small Business Tax Equity Act, Curbelo’s bill would let legal pot dealers take advantage of the same tax deductions and credits as any other business, a move that industry experts say would slash the effective tax rates for weed dispensaries in half.

“One of my goals in Congress is to ensure the law treats all enterprises with fairness and equity,” he said in a statement explaining his decision to join a liberal Oregon Democrat, Earl Blumenauer, in co-sponsoring the measure.

It didn’t hurt Curbelo that his move won instant plaudits from influential GOP tax reform guru Grover Norquist — a longtime champion of legalized pot — who decries the “arbitrary and punitive” treatment of legal marijuana dealers in the tax code. Nor is it likely to hurt Curbelo back home: Last November, 71 percent of Florida voters approved a medical marijuana measure on the ballot, making the Sunshine State one of the latest in a long line of states that have either legalized pot altogether or allow it to be sold for medicinal purposes.

“Look — it’s increasingly clear people in our country are accepting of marijuana,” Curbelo said in an interview with Yahoo News. “Millions and millions of voters have decided they want marijuana use to be legal for medical purposes or, in some cases, for recreational purposes. For those of us who are small-“c” conservatives who believe in the Tenth Amendment, we should defer to the people of Florida and other states … we shouldn’t get in the way.”

The efforts of Republicans like Curbelo and Norquist are one reason why Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ hopes of reimposing strict enforcement of federal marijuana laws are likely to meet strong bipartisan resistance — and may ultimately go nowhere. Ever since he took over the Justice Department, the 70-year-old Sessions, an unrepentant drug warrior, has made clear his disdain for pot. “I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot,” he told reporters in February shortly after being sworn in.

And now Sessions seems to be doing something about it. He released a memo to the country’s U.S. attorneys unveiling a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety whose mission is to review department policies on charging, sentencing and the current enforcement of marijuana laws.

“Everything is on the table; we’ll be looking at everything,” said a senior department official when asked what the task force’s goals will be when it comes to marijuana enforcement. The official, however, declined to offer any clues to what Sessions specifically has in mind, saying little more than “we may be able to say something more by June.”

To be sure, the sale and even possession of marijuana remains a federal crime, punishable by prison time and hefty fines — even in states that have repealed their own pot prohibitions. But just how far Sessions will be able to go in implementing his anti-pot agenda is far from clear, given the shifting political winds on the issue. Thanks to changing cultural attitudes and the steady march of legalization initiatives at the state level, the pro-pot cause is only gaining momentum, making it increasingly harder for foes like Sessions to slow it down, much less stop it.

It’s not even clear Sessions will get the cooperation of his fellow cabinet members. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, questioned on “Meet the Press” Sunday, said that marijuana is “not a factor” in the country’s drug problems and that “arresting a lot of users” was not the answer.

“It’s absolutely powerful now. This is a political movement,” said Norquist, who is quietly lobbying to get Curbelo’s proposal slipped into the massive tax reform bill that President Trump wants Congress to pass by this summer. “There are now guys in coats and ties making the case — not just guys in tie-dyed T-shirts.”

The strength of that movement was underscored recently after White House press secretary Sean Spicer first suggested that the Trump administration was looking at “greater enforcement” of the marijuana laws. Within days, eight senators — led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — fired off a letter to Sessions urging him to stand down and to stick with the Obama Justice Department policy, embodied in the so-called Cole memo (signed by former deputy attorney general James Cole) that, as a matter of prosecutorial discretion, urged U.S. attorneys to lay off legal pot dealers in states that have set up their own regulatory schemes to supervise them. Even as Sessions was about to sign his new memo earlier this month, four state governors (of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) launched a preemptive strike, sending their own letter to Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin making a similar request. “As governors, we have committed to implementing the will of our citizens,” they wrote.

“What we’ve seen is a lot of pushback from both sides of the aisle,” said Taylor West, communications director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, the major trade group for the country’s pot sellers. “A couple of times now, there have been statements coming out of the administration, from Sessions or Sean Spicer, that seemed ominous for legal marijuana programs. But when follow-up is done and questions are asked, there is not a clear statement of policy changes. The clearest thing to come out of these episodes is the opposition to the idea that they might change the policy.”

So far, eight states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws. All this has led to a thriving, and steadily growing, domestic marijuana industry — meaning a new anti-pot crackdown would cost states tax revenue and jobs. A new study by Arcview, a market research firm, estimates there were $6.7 billion in sales of legal cannabis products in 2016, up 34 percent from the year before. Industry sales are projected to more than triple to $21.5 billion by 2021. The Arcview study notes that “there are only two obvious cases in recent decades” in which industries have experienced that kind of supercharged growth: “cable television in the 1980s … and broadband Internet access in the 2000s.”

The marijuana surge has produced an increasingly potent pro-pot lobby in D.C.: West’s National Cannabis Industry Association, which represents 1,200 legal pot sellers, employs high-profile lobbyists (Hillary Clinton super-bundler Heather Podesta was until recently under contract), has its own political action committee and throws fundraisers at a tony Capitol Hill wine bar where a growing number of members of Congress show up to schmooze and collect campaign checks. When the group recently announced it would be holding its annual “lobby day” this year on May 16, more than 300 members signed up to fly in — more than twice as many as last year — to press the industry’s case on Capitol Hill.

Part of this year’s pot industry “lobby day” agenda will be to play defense against any possible moves by Sessions. In the worst-case scenario, says West, the Justice Department could rescind the Cole memo and direct prosecutors to start “cherry-picking” businesses tied to the legalized pot trade — by suing landlords that lease to them, for example — or even raiding dealers themselves for violations of federal law. But she says her group’s members are not “panicking.” An even bigger part of this year’s agenda will be to play offense: pressing for changes in Treasury Department rules that would, for example, permit federally regulated banks to accept the business of marijuana dispensaries. (Right now, most won’t, out of fear of being accused of accepting income that is illicitly gained under federal law, forcing most dispensaries to do all their business in cash.)

The other top-of-the-agenda item is the Curbelo-Blumenauer tax bill — a big-ticket issue for the legal weed industry. As a result of a 1981 court case involving a convicted cocaine trafficker, businesses involved in selling illegal drugs under the Internal Revenue Service code are barred from taking the same standard deductions — for rent, office equipment, depreciation and the like — that any other business does. The pot industry badly wants that changed — and Norquist and Curbelo have a strategy to help them do it: Push the measure as part of a tax overhaul package, arguing that the current rule is a job-killer that amounts to a “35 percent sales tax” on legal weed. “I do think it’s a candidate for inclusion,” said Curbelo, who conveniently sits on the Ways and Means Committee and is positioned to make it happen. “This legislation is without question consistent with the goal of Ways and Means Republicans of simplifying the tax code and making it more coherent and more fair.” (A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.)

Norquist even allows himself to hope that including the pot measure could bring some Democrats on board for a Trump tax reform bill. It may be far-fetched, but, Jeff Sessions notwithstanding, there are those who believe marijuana might turn out to be one issue on which a divided Washington can come together.


End marijuana prohibition this 4/20

From The National Organization For The Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML):

It’s that time of the year again. Long recognized as the national marijuana holiday, April 20th presents us with an opportunity to make our voices heard:

When Jeff Sessions was nominated Attorney General, NORML worked with all of you to send out a “Thunderclap,” a powerful social media tool that enabled us to reach more than 2 million people with our #JustSayNoToSessions campaign. While we were unable to stop Sessions from being confirmed, he did hear the message loud and clear. Just last week, he said:

When they nominated me for Attorney General, you would have thought the biggest issue in America was when I said, ‘I don’t think America’s going to be a better place if they sell marijuana at every corner grocery store, (People) didn’t like that; I’m surprised they didn’t like that.

Now, with the establishment of the Cannabis Caucus and the introduction of the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, we must make every member of Congress feel the same pressure.

NORML has been in this fight for over 47 years because we believe that responsible adults who choose to consume marijuana should not be be persecuted or stigmatized. Despite our recent victories, the forces of the prohibition-industrial complex remain strong and the government’s marijuana misinformation campaign that has spanned from Reefer Madness to D.A.R.E. is still deeply entrenched. However, just as we have for decades, we will fight on and not be deterred.

We must continue to educate our legislators and neighbors alike. That is why on this 4/20 we are calling upon Americans to contact their members of Congress and say “Enough is Enough” to marijuana prohibition.

Our work is powered by the generous support of thousands throughout the country who share our belief that adults should be able to consume marijuana free of any social stigma or criminal penalties. To ensure we continue to only represent the interests of marijuana consumers, not big money interests, we depend on small grassroots donations from people like you. This year, the average contribution to NORML was just $26.
Keep us going by making a contribution or signing up to be a monthly supporter to receive special updates and offers.

So thank you for all that you have done in the fight so far. Together, we will legalize marijuana nationwide.
The NORML Team

Click here to sign up for the Thunderclap and demand that Congress end marijuana prohibition.

Friday, April 14, 2017

We have his attention

Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed shock at the swift public backlash to his fiery rhetoric on federal marijuana policy and his opposition to legalization.

Speaking on a range of issues at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona Tuesday, Sessions addressed his opposition to further easement of marijuana laws in states across the country. He also expressed confusion over the amount of attention his comments on marijuana during his confirmation hearing received, reports AZ Central.

Sessions, a stanch opponent of legalization, is currently reviewing the Cole Memorandum, a set of guidelines established in 2013 that direct DOJ to focus marijuana enforcement efforts on violent crimes and distribution in states without legalization laws.

“When they nominated me for attorney general, you would have thought the biggest issue in America was when I said, ‘I don’t think America’s going to be a better place if they sell marijuana at every corner grocery store,'” Sessions said Tuesday, according to AZ Central. “(People) didn’t like that; I’m surprised they didn’t like that.”

Sessions also touched on illegal immigration and border protection Tuesday, reiterating his belief that a wall and bolstered enforcement will greatly cut down on the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S.

Sessions claimed in February “there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think, and there’s big money involved.” It is unclear how aggressive the administration will ultimately be on the issue, but officials in states with legalization laws are preparing for the worst.

The governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana, sent a letter to Sessions and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin April 3, imploring them to leave marijuana policy to the states.

The governors say they previously opposed legal weed but argue the policy is boosting revenue and helping reduce the “inequitable incarceration” of minority groups.

Sessions and the Trump administration could cost the marijuana industry hundreds of thousands of jobs if they interfere with state pot laws. A report released in February by New Frontier Data projects that an unimpeded marijuana market will create more than 250,000 jobs by 2020. The booming projections for growth stand in stark contrast to manufacturing jobs, which are expected to crater by more than 800,000 by 2024.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pro-marijuana bills gaining momentum in Congress

Rep. Matt Gaetz calls himself a "constitutional conservative." Joining other Republicans in rolling back environmental regulations wasn't enough for the 34-year-old freshman congressman from a conservative district in Florida. Not long after arriving on Capitol Hill, Gaetz introduced a bill that would get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency altogether.

That bill generated headlines but remains stuck in committee, and now Gaetz is looking to make another splash with a completely different issue: marijuana. Earlier this week, his office tweeted infographics listing different diseases that are treated with medical marijuana and posted another graphic detailing the social costs of marijuana prohibition on Facebook. The posts suggested that Gaetz and Rep. Darren Soto (D), a fellow Floridian, are preparing to introduce legislation that would take marijuana off the federal government's Schedule I list of drugs considered too dangerous to be legal for any purpose, including medicine.

Expanding access to marijuana is certainly not on the GOP's agenda, and has never been a top priority among congressional Democrats either. So, why is a self-described conservative sticking up for medical weed?

For years, even liberal lawmakers told marijuana advocates that while reform may be a good idea, the political will to make it happen did not exist, at least at the federal level. That is all starting to change now that legalization is becoming increasingly popular in the polls and more states are moving ahead with reforms, despite the Trump administration's pledges to crack down on illicit drugs, potentially including marijuana.

Gaetz is expected to propose placing marijuana on the government's Schedule II list, where it would still be considered to have a "high potential for abuse" but also accepted medical uses. Opioids such as fentanyl and morphine are currently categorized as Schedule II drugs. Marijuana is, of course, far less dangerous than morphine. Justin Strekal, the political director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said placing marijuana on Schedule II is timid compared others proposed reforms, but it's an encouraging sign.

"A Republican from Florida directing their office staff to make little memes about medical marijuana [on social media]…that's a good thing to see," Strekal told Truthout.

Will Jeff Sessions Target Legal Weed?

Gaetz, who previously ushered limited medical cannabis measures through the Florida legislature, is not the only lawmaker working on weed policy. Congress recently saw the creation of a bipartisan "Cannabis Caucus" along with a flurry of proposed marijuana reforms, including two bills that would legalize marijuana nationwide. Voters in eight states approved ballot measures legalizing either recreational or medical weed in last November's election, and legislation to decriminalize or legalize marijuana is on the move in cities and states across the country.

These efforts come amid widespread speculation over how Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the outspoken marijuana prohibitionist that President Trump picked to roll out his "law and order" agenda at the Justice Department, will proceed.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and both Sessions and the White House have sent mixed messages about federal marijuana enforcement, raising fears about a possible crackdown in states where the drug is legal for recreational use. On Thursday, Sessions issued a memo asking a new crime reduction task force created by the White House to review federal policies on marijuana enforcement and report back to him by July, providing advocates with a time frame in which to expect further policy moves by the Trump administration.

Under President Obama, the Justice Department adopted a policy that generally prevented federal raids on marijuana businesses that comply with state laws, while continuing to target unlicensed marijuana operations. As a result, the number of federal prison sentences for marijuana violations has dropped dramatically since 2012, according to NORML. Still, 3,000 people -- the overwhelming majority of them people of color -- received federal sentences in 2016 alone.

Sessions has called the Obama-era policy "valid" and may choose not to scrap it, but advocates warn that the attorney general has plenty of leeway to disrupt state-legal markets as long as marijuana remains prohibited at the federal level. The uncertainty has left states with legal marijuana programs anxious. On Monday, the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington sent a letter to the Justice Department asking Sessions to consult with them before making any changes to the policy established under Obama.

States that have legalized weed are now considering so-called "sanctuary" legislation to protect their legitimate marijuana businesses from the Trump administration. Last week, California Rep. Reggie Jones-Sawyer introduced a bill in the state's legislature that would bar state and local agencies from teaming up with federal law enforcement to take action against legitimate marijuana businesses, unless they receive a court order. Medical marijuana has been legal in California for years, and last year voters approved a ballot initiative for recreational use.

"I want to stop law enforcement from impeding on one of the best businesses we can start for the next millennium," Jones-Sawyer told reporters last week.

The Trump administration has indicated that it is not interested in going after medical cannabis, and Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow recreational marijuana businesses to reclassify their products as medical products "due to change in local, state or federal law enforcement policy."

"In the grand scheme of things, I think Sessions is [a] new catalyst for urgency for states and Congress to take action," Strekal said.

Congress Considers a Flurry of Marijuana Bills

In Congress, the legislation currently receiving the most attention is the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, a bill recently introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) that would remove marijuana from drug scheduling entirely and set up a basic federal taxation and regulatory structure, allowing states to establish their own polices free from interference by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The bill is part of a package from the Cannabis Caucus that would shield individual consumers from federal prosecution and remove tax and criminal penalties that have made it difficult for marijuana businesses to access banking and other financial services.

Perhaps the most important legislation for marijuana advocates is a bill and a separate pair of budget amendments that would protect states with legal weed from federal prosecution. The proposals are designed to stop Sessions from targeting states with legal weed, even if Trump's crime task force decides that a crackdown is a good idea.

A budget amendment preventing federal prosecution of state-legal medical marijuana activities passed last year, but another amendment protecting recreational marijuana narrowly failed. Strekal said the recreational measure, which was also introduced by Rep. Polis, has a much better chance this year now that more states have passed legalization measures. However, as a budget rider, it's only good for one year. That leaves Congress with more work to do if legalized states are to be protected from the Trump administration over the course of his term.

"We absolutely expect to see advancement of legislation in Congress, but will it be the end of prohibition in this Congress? Probably not," Strekal said. "But we are cautiously optimistic about a swelling of political will behind this."


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Susan Rice spying scandal misses the point

From Campaign For Liberty:

When it comes to the Susan Rice spying scandal and unmasking the names of Trump staffers “incidentally” picked up in foreign surveillance, the pundits are missing the forest for the trees.

The moment Susan Rice chose to unmask the names of Americans, and likely leak the details of their conversation throughout the Obama administration, it’s clear she had sinister intent.

Some argue what she did wasn't illegal under the dramatically expanded powers Congress unconstitutionally handed intelligence agencies in the name of "fighting terrorism."

But that's exactly the problem!

The real point of this whole ordeal is whether or not the government should have the power to get this information at all.

There’s no denying anymore that the Deep State is being politically weaponized.

And it’s only a matter of time until all of us feel the crunch.

For years, Campaign for Liberty has fought back against the surveillance powers being accumulated under the executive branch.

We warned Congress and the American people that left to their own devices, the Deep State and the administration that oversees it would abuse its authority.

Power corrupts. And the tools the Congress has empowered America’s spy agencies with are simply too powerful to be allowed to continue.

Susan Rice spying on the incoming administration to gain valuable political intelligence ought to be a criminal offense.

That it may not be one at the moment should concern every American. . .

You see if the government is allowed to continue “incidentally” collecting conversations between Americans and foreign citizens, eventually it won’t just be political staffers’ conversations they’re monitoring.

It’ll be yours and mine!

While Section 702 explicitly prohibits intentional targeting of American citizens, the Susan Rice spying scandal shows exactly how the program can be used to catch them “incidentally.”

The NSA regularly intercepts information of innocent Americans without any probable cause or warrant.

In fact, several other instances of abuse exist outside of the Susan Rice spying scandal like,

>>> Employees monitoring communications of their ex-boyfriends and girlfriends -- it occurred so often it was assigned the name, “LOVEINT”;

>>> In one instance, a “programming error” confused the US area code 202 (Washington, D.C.) for the Egyptian country code “20” intercepting a “large number” of calls placed from Washington;

>>> In 2011, the FISA Court (intended to “oversee” the surveillance) ruled that NSA collection of Internet communications violated the 4th Amendment because, even with their “minimization procedures,” the agency was still collecting 56,000 American emails a year.

Section 702 is precisely the type of surveillance used against the colonists that led our Founding Fathers to fight a revolution over!

That’s why this summer, when Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act comes up for reauthorization, you and I must be ready to mobilize on this opportunity.

I’m preparing an all-out assault on the surveillance state, but I need to know you’re with me.

That’s why I’ve prepared a brief Statement of Support for you to sign.

It lets Dr. Paul and I know that you’ll stand with Campaign for Liberty and the members of Congress who lead the fight against renewing Section 702 this summer.

Our efforts in 2015 led to a temporary expiration of the controversial Patriot Act provisions, preventing Congress from further watering down the so-called “USA FREEDOM Act.”

Americans must demand that Congress stop the mass surveillance of innocent Americans’ communications and conduct a full Congressional investigation into the Susan Rice spying scandal.

I’ll be sure to follow-up with more information detailing our plans and how you can help to fight back against illegal spying.

But for now, I hope you’ll sign your Statement of Support and chip in $10 or even $20 to let us know you’re ready for a fight!

In Liberty,

Norm Singleton

P.S. The warrantless surveillance of Americans like that of the Trump staffers by political cronies like Susan Rice must be stopped!

Please sign your Statement of Support and chip in whatever you can afford today to help Campaign for Liberty prepare our all-out assault on the Deep State this summer.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

These ‘Path To Marijuana Reform’ Bills Can Make Cannabis Legal Nationally

Two Oregon Democratic lawmakers on Thursday introduced an aggressive package of bills that aims to protect existing state marijuana laws while at the same time paving the way for the federal regulation of the burgeoning cannabis industry.

Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Earl Blumenauer introduced The Path to Marijuana Reform Act, which permit states to create and regulate their own regulatory policies free from federal interference. The bold legislation also calls for removing cannabis from the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.

“The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana businesses to go to the bank just like any other legal business.” Wyden said. “This three-step approach will spur job growth and boost our economy all while ensuring the industry is being held to a fair standard.”

The three steps Wyden refers to are clearly outlined in the proposal:

Small Business Tax Equity Act

This legislation would repeal the tax penalty that singles out state-legal marijuana businesses and bars them from claiming deductions and tax credits.

Responsibly Addressing The Marijuana Policy Gap Act

This legislation would reduce the gap between Federal and State law by removing federal criminal penalties and civil asset forfeiture for individuals and businesses acting in compliance with state law. It would also reduce barriers for state-legal marijuana businesses by ensuring access to banking, bankruptcy protection, marijuana research, and advertising. It would protect individual marijuana consumers in states that have legalized marijuana, by providing an expungement process for certain marijuana violations, ensuring access to public housing and federal financial aid for higher education, and ensuring that a person cannot be deported or denied entry to the U.S. solely for consuming marijuana in compliance with state law. Finally, it would remove unfair burdens by ensuring veterans have access to state-legal medical marijuana, and protecting Native American tribes from punishment under federal marijuana laws.

Marijuana Revenue And Regulation Act

This legislation would responsibly deschedule, tax, and regulate marijuana. It would impose an excise tax on marijuana products similar to current federal excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco, escalating annually to a top rate equal to 25 percent of the sales price. Marijuana producers, importers, and wholesalers would be required to obtain a permit from the Department of Treasury, and the marijuana industry would be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. Strict rules would prohibit sale or distribution of marijuana in states where it is illegal under state law.

The legislation “is another sign that the growing public support for ending our failed war on cannabis consumers nationwide is continuing to translate into political support amongst federal officials,” said Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, a top marijuana reform group. “With marijuana legalization being supported by 60 percent of all Americans while Congress’ approval rating is in the low teens, ending our country’s disastrous prohibition against marijuana would not just be good policy, but good politics.”

Oregon is one of eight states where adult recreational marijuana is legal. There are 29 states that have medical marijuana programs. More than 60 million Americans over the age of 21 live in states that allow some form of marijuana consumption. And poll after poll consistently shows that about 60 percent of Americans support legalization of cannabis.

“Too many people are trapped between federal and state laws,” Blumenauer said. “It’s not right, and it’s not fair. We need change now – and this bill is the way to do it.”


This is great. Let your Representative and Senators know about these reforms. Let them know you back them and that you want them to back them as well. The more of us they hear from the better.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Trump adviser advises Trump to leave marijuana to the states

Click to watch video

When President Trump was still Candidate Donald J. Trump, he made many remarks regarding honoring States Rights when it came to the individual States to decide on the issue of marijuana.

In the now famous November 23, 2015 GQ video, then Candidate Trump talks about legalized marijuana, and in it he said “Legalized marijuana is always a very difficult question . . . for medicinal purposes, for medical purposes . . . absolutely, its fine”.

Tens of millions of Liberty minded Americans believed him when he said this and took his message to heart, fully expecting him to end the ineffectual and wasteful War on Weed. Americans were not wrong to believe President Trump, as he was also on record a month earlier in the Washington Post, on October 29, 2015, being quoted as saying “”In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.”

These voters were relieved that is, until the position of Attorney General Jeff Sessions reached the public domain. While Jeff Sessions is an excellent jurist and an astute politician, he unfortunately is also an adherent to outmoded thinking on marijuana. As a product of the Religious South, it is natural that AG Sessions would take the dimmest view of marijuana, but there is little room left for debate as to the origin of the marijuana prohibition laws and how they were formulated as a tool to bludgeon both the poor and minorities, the largest consumers of the formerly legal plant. Perhaps Attorney General Sessions has forgotten his Genesis from the Old Testament:

“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” Genesis 1:29

Or perhaps he was never familiar with some of the lessor known quotes of Thomas Jefferson:

“If the people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Jeff Sessions states his position plainly: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana”. This plainly false statement, made in all earnestness, clearly demonstrates how far from the mainstream Sessions is on this topic. Very few Americans would agree with him on this, as evidenced in the wave of legalization that washed over the United States over the past five years. More importantly, sick people use marijuana whose medicinal value is proven yet strangely still denied by the Federal Government.

In many States, the road to medical legalization was hard fought, often with State Constitutional amendments requiring over 60% of the popular vote. The Trump Administration should be mindful that the recreational marijuana measures that passed in several states all passed this same way, with overwhelming popular support. This was clearly the Will of the People. It is not Jeff Sessions place to prosecute his version of morality and President Trump should not allow him to do so.

Just the idea of Sessions re-ignites the marijuana drug war has caused consternation within the fledgling State Legal Marijuana Industry. Investments have floundered, confusion introduced, and little in the way of relief has been forthcoming from the White House. This chaos has opened the door for the Cartels. They were being driven out of shriveling black markets, but are now able to reconstitute their distribution networks, filling the gaps left open by patchwork Federal enforcement and by the industries fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Cracking down on legalized marijuana will starve States out of much needed revenue streams. Colorado is a great success story when looked at from a tax base point of view, and much needed revenue is coming in to fund education and government services. Colorado generated over sixty-six million dollars in tax revenue in 2015 and has increased by double digits’ year over year since. Losing that money will put them deep into the red and cause a burden upon the whole State, as well as throwing thousands of people out of work while destroying a billion-dollar industry.

I urge President Trump to honor his word and keep his promise, irrespective of what his Cabinet members may say. There are so many other ways that law enforcement can be put to good use rather than to persecute harmless farmers and shopkeepers who are abiding by State law.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Audit The Fed heads to the House floor

From Campaign For Liberty:

Your signed petitions, emails, and phone calls are working!

Late yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed my Audit the Fed bill by a voice vote!

Just like I hoped, the massive tidal wave of support you helped generate just as Campaign for Liberty President Norm Singleton testified before the House Committee last week, showed the American people are rallying behind efforts to DRAIN THE SWAMP by auditing the Federal Reserve!

While this is surely good news, our battle isn't over.

Fed apologists are going to ramp up their pressure as this battle heads to the House floor.

The best way to overcome them is to continue to keep up the pressure and generate as many House cosponsors as we possibly can -- as quickly as we can!

So if you haven't already done so, please sign your petition urging your U.S. Representative to cosponsor Audit the Fed right away.

And please also consider contributing generously -- whether that's $250, $100, $50, $25 or even $10 -- to help Campaign for Liberty turn up the heat on the U.S. House.

The good news is, your action is proven to work!

So please -- by all means -- let's keep it up!

In liberty,

Ron Paul

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Make politicians keep their promises

From Campaign For Liberty:

Washington, D.C. is still reeling from the results of last Thursday and Friday when RyanCare -- AKA "ObamaCare-lite" -- was pulled from the House floor due to lack of support and grassroots anger.

Now, all the politicians we heard promise us they were going to repeal ObamaCare seem strangely happy that they didn't get the job done.

Instead of learning the lesson that they must listen to the grassroots patriots who elected them, House Speaker Paul Ryan states, "We're going to be living with ObamaCare for the foreseeable future."

And the White House is openly claiming they want to start wheeling and dealing with Big Government statists like Chuck Schumer (D-NY)! And Schumer has indicated he is eager to deal with the Republicans if that is what it takes to save ObamaCare.

I'm more worried than ever about what's coming next.

That's why I'm counting on you to sign your "NO MORE BETRAYALS" petition to your U.S. Representative and Senators today.

As you'll see, these petitions tell your elected officials in no uncertain terms that you expect them to DELIVER on the promises to repeal ObamaCare that so many made on the campaign trail in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016.

In December of 2015, congressional Republicans passed an ObamaCare repeal bill -- using the reconciliation process -- through both houses of Congress and placed it on President Obama's desk.

President Obama, of course, vetoed that bill.

But it was meant to show the American people how serious Congress was about ending ObamaCare.

At virtually any moment congressional leaders decide to, they can pass this same bill again -- and relegate ObamaCare to the trash-heap of history.

But they won't do it unless you and I force them to act and FAST.

You see, I'm afraid they're perfectly happy that ObamaCare remains on the books today. Too many senators and representatives seem willing to abandon the effort to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with healthcare freedom where you're in charge and the free market is restored.

And the more time that passes, the more likely it is the American people will simply "forget" they've broken their promises.

That's why your continued action is so critical.

First, please sign your "NO MORE BETRAYALS" petition to your U.S. Representative and Senators.

Second, if you possibly can, please agree to your most generous contribution of $250, $100 or $50.

Or, if that's too much, please agree to $25 or even $10.

With your help, Campaign for Liberty is going to keep the heat on Congress for the repeal of ObamaCare we were promised!

But we're counting on your continued support and action.

For liberty,

Ron Paul

P.S. Instead of learning the lesson that they must listen to the grassroots patriots who elected them, House Speaker Paul Ryan states, "We're going to be living with ObamaCare for the foreseeable future."

And the White House is openly claiming they want to start wheeling and dealing with Big Government statists like Chuck Schumer (D-NY)!

That's why I'm counting on you to sign your "NO MORE BETRAYALS" petition to your U.S. Representative and Senators today and agree to your most generous contribution of $250, $100, $50, $25 or even $10 right away!

Tell Congress to protect your internet privacy

From Fight For The Future:

Hi, this is our last chance.

The House of Representatives will vote in a matter of hours on a resolution to gut broadband privacy rules that prevent Internet Service Providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from selling your personal information -- like browsing history and real-time location -- to advertisers without your consent.

Telecom lobbyists have been using their influence to convince lawmakers that this is a partisan issue, but that’s just not true. People from across the political spectrum can agree we don’t want the government or giant corporations monitoring everything we do on the Internet.

Many members of the House Freedom Caucus have taken strong previous stands for American’s right to privacy. They are the most likely to break party ranks on this and help defeat the measure. We need to blast them with tweets and phone calls RIGHT NOW.

Can you help? Click here to retweet our tweet to @FreedomCaucus to tell them to defend our privacy!

Not on Twitter? You can still take action. I’m pasting below the names and phone numbers of each individual member of the caucus. Contact them now!

Here’s a sample script of what you can say if you call:

“Hi, I’m calling to ask REP NAME to protect my Internet privacy and vote against the Congressional Review Act bill coming before the House today to gut the FCC’s broadband privacy rules. Please pass my message along to the Representative. Thank you.”

The vote is coming up in a matter of hours. It’s now or never.

For the Internet,

-Evan at Fight for the Future

Monday, March 27, 2017

Don't let ISP's invade your privacy

From Fight For The Future:

BREAKING: Congress has scheduled a vote TOMORROW to eliminate Internet privacy rules and allow ISPs to sell your data to advertisers without your permission. It already passed the Senate. This is our last chance to stop it.

Just last week, the Senate voted to gut internet privacy rules that prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from selling your sensitive personal information to advertisers without your consent. [1]

The measure passed the Senate by only two votes. It was close, and there was significant public outcry which means we still have a chance to stop it.

Now the bill moves to the House of Representatives, and we just got word that they scheduled a vote on it TOMORROW. [2] They’re trying to ram it through quickly without discussion or debate. We need to stop them.

Call Congress right now. Tell them to vote NO on repealing the FCC broadband privacy rules.

We’ll connect you with your lawmakers and give you a simple script of what you can say. Here’s the number: (415) 360-0555

Can’t call right now? Help us sound the alarm and get out the word about this urgent assault on all of our Internet privacy rights.

Even creepier, they’ll be able to install software on your phone to track you, and inject undetectable “cookies” into your Internet traffic to record everything you’re doing online. [3]

If this bill passes the House, companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T will be able to constantly (and secretly) collect our online activity and sell our browsing history, financial information, and real-time location, and sell it to advertisers without our permission.

We have less than 24 hours to create enough outcry to delay the vote or stop this bill entirely. There’s so much at stake. Will you call right now?

Call this number and we’ll connect you directly to your representatives: (415) 360-0555

We’ll keep you posted. Thanks for all you do,

-Laila and Evan at Fight for the Future

P.S. We just announced we’re going to put up billboards with the names of every member of Congress who votes for this attack on our privacy. Help us put them up in more districts by chipping in!

Or you can email your representative by clicking here.