Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sessions Asks Congress to Roll Back Medical Marijuana Protections

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has penned a letter to Congressional leaders requesting the Department of Justice (DOJ) be financially unshackled – allowing the federal agency use their budget to obstruct, hinder, and prosecute individuals in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Better known as the Rohrabacher–Blumenauer amendment, Session’s May 1 letter to Congressional leaders requested federal lawmakers oppose the provision. And, breaking yet another campaign promise in which candidate Trump pledged “100%” support for states that have legalized medical marijuana, the Trump administration appears to be on board with turning up the legal heat on state-sanctioned medical marijuana businesses.

Sessions noted in the letter: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the department to find particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

The U.S. AG rationalized his archaic request to those in Congress by offering only hyperbolic innuendo, and the occasional bad actor as fact. “Drug traffickers already cultivate and distribute marijuana inside the United States under the guise of state medical marijuana laws.”

Strongly disagreeing with the AG’s philosophy, in 2016 “the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit interpreted this provision broadly to apply both to the Department actions that prevent states from implementing their laws regarding medical marijuana and to Department prosecutions of certain individuals and organizations that operate under those laws.” Concluding that, “the Department may not prosecute violations of the CSA with respect to marijuana unless the court concludes that the individuals or organizations are not in compliance with state medical marijuana law.”

Sessions, in an attempt to explain his infamous “good people don’t smoke marijuana” comment, noted, “My words have been grossly mischaracterized and taken out of context… I was discussing the value of treating people for using dangerous and illegal drugs like marijuana, and the context in which treatment is successful.”

No fan of the growing research that demonstrates marijuana’s medicinal efficacy, Sessions cited the Department of Health and Human Services and the DEA in demonizing the medicinal herb, adding, “Marijuana has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

First reported by Tom Angell on Monday, this leaked letter to Congressional leaders quickly went viral.


Wait a minute.

Rewind to here:

Sessions noted in the letter: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the department to find particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

Sessions is criticizing Congress for ignoring the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 while Sessions himself wants to ignore the Rohrabacher–Blumenauer amendment of 2017. That reeks with hypocrisy. Also it makes the people wary of their government because they see hypocrisy coming from their government.

Congress should tell Sessions to stuff it.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Congress should keep Department of Justice out of states’ marijuana rules

Donald Trump was not elected president to renew crackdowns on marijuana in states that have legalized it for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Last week, it was revealed that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a private letter to congressional leaders dated May 1 asking them to lift the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment, which prevents the Justice Department from meddling with state medical marijuana laws.

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote, citing no evidence linking medical marijuana to the “historic drug epidemic” or violent crime increases.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, first enacted in 2014, is an important barrier to unnecessary federal intrusion in states which have considered and enacted laws permitting, by varying degrees, the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

While marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, Congress should retain the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to protect the right of states to make their own choices.

The majority of states, and the District of Columbia, now have laws on the books permitting marijuana for medicinal purposes. As an April Quinnipiac poll found, 73 percent of Americans oppose federal intervention in states which have legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes. For the Trump administration to intervene now would not only contradict campaign statements by Trump himself favoring states’ rights on marijuana policy, but also needlessly flout the wishes of most Americans.

But clearly a legislative solution is needed beyond simply restricting the ability of the Justice Department to enforce laws against medical marijuana.

One such proposal was reintroduced last week by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Called the CARERS Act, the bill would protect the possession, production and distribution of medical marijuana so long as individuals and businesses are in compliance with state laws permitting such activity. It would also allow Veterans Affairs physicians to prescribe medical marijuana, and remove federal restrictions on cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating chemical in marijuana which can treat problems like epilepsy.

The idea of depriving individuals suffering from ailments like cancer of safe access to medical marijuana is a cruel one that does nothing to make anyone safer.

Another proposal to consider is the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., which would remove marijuana from the confines of the federal Controlled Substances Act, leaving to the states the autonomy to make their own choices, as with alcohol and tobacco. This would permanently resolve the conflict between state and federal law on medical and recreational marijuana.

For now, Congress should retain the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment and work toward shifting greater power over marijuana policy to the states.


Congress should be aware of this so let's tell them. Contact your Congressional Representative and your Senators and tell them all about this.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Marijuana is kicking alcohol's ass

The legal weed market appears to be impacting booze’s bottom line.

Consumer trend data compiled by OutCo and Monocle Research finds that many California twenty-somethings, post-legalization, are switching from beer to pot. Marketers surveyed 2,000 cannabis consumers in seven major California cities. One-third of millennial respondents said that they are choosing cannabis over beer. One out of five acknowledged substituting weed for wine, and 14 percent admitted consuming herb rather than hard alcohol.

Older respondents, including baby boomers, also reported making the switch from booze to pot. According to the survey, 20 percent of Gen Xers and eight percent of boomers similarly acknowledged substituting pot in place of alcohol.

The findings provide further credence to a December 2016 report from the Cowan & Company research firm which determined that beer sales by major distributors – including Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors – have “collectively underperformed” over the past two years in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. In Denver, arguably the epicenter for the marijuana retail sales market, beer sales have fallen nearly seven percent, analysists concluded.

A March 2017 research report by the Cannabiz Consumer Group similarly indicates that cannabis is cutting in on beer’s popularity. Researchers reported that 27 percent drinkers surveyed said that they had either substituted cannabis for beer, or that they would do so in the future if retail weed sales become legal. The company estimated that beer sales could decline by as much as $2 billion if cannabis was legal nationwide.

Questions concerning whether cannabis typically acts as a substitute or as a complement to alcohol remain ongoing. But a 2014 literature review published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism indicates that the weight of the available evidence supports the former theory – particularly among young adults. Authors concluded: “While more research and improved study designs are needed to better identify the extent and impact of cannabis substitution on those affected by AUD (alcohol use disorder), cannabis does appear to be a potential substitute for alcohol. Perhaps more importantly, cannabis is both safer and potentially less addictive than benzodiazepines and other pharmaceuticals that have been evaluated as substitutes for alcohol.”

Survey data from states where medical cannabis has long been legally available frequently report declines in alcohol consumption. For instance, a 2011 patient survey from California reported that those qualified to access medicinal cannabis used alcohol at rates that were “significantly lower” than those of the general public. More recently, a study published this year in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reported that over 40 percent of state-registered medical marijuana patients acknowledged reducing their alcohol intake after initiating cannabis therapy.

Polling data finds that most Americans, and those between the ages 18 to 40 in particular, now believe that cannabis is far less harmful to health than alcohol. Their belief is supported by the relevant science. For example, alcohol possesses a dependence liability that is nearly twice that of cannabis, is a far greater contributor to traffic accidents, and is capable of causing organ failure and even death by overdose. According to a 2011 study comparing the physical, psychological, and social impact of the two substances: “A direct comparison of alcohol and cannabis showed that alcohol was considered to be more than twice as harmful as cannabis to [individual] users, and five times more harmful as cannabis to others (society). … As there are few areas of harm that each drug can produce where cannabis scores more [dangerous to health] than alcohol, we suggest that even if there were no legal impediment to cannabis use, it would be unlikely to be more harmful than alcohol.”

The fact that the legal marijuana market may pose potential challenges for the alcohol beverage industry is hardly going unnoticed. The topic was front and center at the 2016 Beer Industry Summit, according to reports from attendees. And last year, industry players contributed funds against voter-initiated legalization measures in Arizona and Massachusetts. (The Massachusetts initiative passed while the Arizona measure was defeated.)

Yet, given the ubiquitous role alcohol plays in American culture, it is hard to imagine a scenario where the emerging legal marijuana market presents a serious threat to Big Booze any time soon. After all, while federal lawmakers have endorsed Congressional resolutions “commending” US beer sales, they simultaneously refuse to amend federal law to even permit marijuana businesses to have relationships with banks or take standard payroll deductions. In short, as long as booze remains king on Capitol Hill, the cannabis industry will continue be engaged in an uphill battle for both respectability and market share.


Monday, June 19, 2017

The blind leading the blind

The American opiate crisis continues to spiral out of control with no end in sight. And the numbers stagger the mind.

More than half a million Americans died of drug overdoses from 2000 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each day, 91 people in this country will die from an opioid overdose — more than 33,00o a year.
And although the opioid addiction epidemic is global in scale, it is uniquely dire in the United States. We account for 4.4 percent of the global population, and yet we gobble up about 80 percent of the worldwide opioids supply.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. and opioid addiction is driving this epidemic. In 2015, more than 20,000 overdose deaths were reported related to prescription pain relievers, with another 13,ooo overdose deaths related to heroin.

About 80 percent of new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers.
To put the data in perspective, opioid deaths now surpass the peak in death by car crash in 1972, AIDS deaths in 1995 and gun deaths in 1993.

To battle this deadly crisis, President Donald Trump in March created the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Epidemic, an advisory committee designed “to review the state of drug addiction and the opioid epidemic and make recommendations regarding how the Federal Government can best address this crisis.”

On Friday, the task force will hold its first meeting at the White House, to be livestreamed beginning at 12:30 p.m. EST.

Almost immediately after announcing the committee, Trump selected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to lead it. Clearly, solving America’s opioid epidemic will take bipartisan cooperation. This is simply not an issue in which there is much disagreement.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) welcomed the news of the task force. “Drug overdose deaths, the majority of which are from heroin and prescription opioids, are a national crisis,” McCaskill said in a written statement. “We’ll need the help of Governor Christie, President Trump, and others at all levels of government, from any party affiliation, if we’re going to make progress and save lives.”

But many health professionals and cannabis advocates are wary of Trump’s task force. Nearly all the members selected to the committee have spoken out against marijuana legalization — which runs counter to the overwhelming majority of the American people. Christie, an ardent longtime opponent of cannabis regulation, will lead these members:

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, Dr. Bertha Madras of Harvard Medical School and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. All but Cooper have a record of conflating cannabis consumption with opioid addiction. When you add the fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions clearly wants to put the brakes on cannabis reform, you can understand the trepidation of marijuana advocates.

“Governor Christie has zero percent credibility on drug policy,” Eric Altieri, the executive director of NORML, told Forbes last month. “When it comes to cannabis’ relationship to opioids from real-world experience, not bluster and rhetoric, states that have medicinal and recreational cannabis laws on the books see lower rates of overdose, lower rates of use, and lower rates of opioids being prescribed to patients,” Altieri added.

In Forbes’ story titled “Chris Christie Is The Last GOPer Who Should Be Leading Our Opioid Fight,” Altieri slammed the N.J. governor and unsuccessful presidential candidate as a suitable task force chairman:

Christie has spent much of his time as governor (and, as it happens, much of the opioid crisis) fighting the rising tide of calls for cannabis reform in his state. Last week, as part of opioid-themed comments, Christie even called the ever more crucial and commonplace drive to bring regulated adult and medical cannabis use to New Jersey “total stupidity” and “baloney,” and described any tax revenues from the industry as “blood money. …

In response, NORML released an open letter to the governor days later, explaining in simple terms how scientific and social research have repeatedly shown that cannabis offers quite the opposite of “baloney” in the face of opioid addiction. Citing years of evidence-based conclusions, the letter pointed out, “It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco.”

According to a 2106 survey published in The Journal of Pain, patients suffering from chronic pain report a 64 percent decrease in opioid use. They also experience fewer negative side effects and say their quality of life is better than what they experienced under opioids.

A 2o14 study published in JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that opioid overdose deaths were roughly 25 percent lower in states that allowed medical cannabis compared with those that did not.

Even the the National Institute on Drug Abuse disagrees with Christie. According to NIDA:

Some preliminary studies have suggested that medical marijuana legalization might be associated with decreased prescription opioid use and overdose deaths. … Additionally, data suggests that medical marijuana treatment may reduce the opioid dose prescribed for pain patients, and a recent study showed that availability of medical marijuana for Medicare patients reduced prescribing of medications, including opioids, for their pain.

The Christie-led task force meets just days after a firestorm over Sessions’ desire to crack down on states that have medical marijuana programs in place — defying 94 percent of the American public. Sessions, who oversees the DEA, continues to mistakenly conflate the opioid crisis with marijuana consumption.

The members selected to the opioid crisis task force appear to share the views of Christie and Sessions. Here is a brief rundown of each member:

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie
As noted above, Christie is one of the nation’s leading voices in the anti-legalization movement. Last month, he had this to say about legalization: “We are in the midst of the public health crisis on opiates. But people are saying pot’s OK. This is nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything’s OK.” Clearly, his comments run counter to the scientific evidence.

Former R.I. Congressman Patrick Kennedy
Kennedy, a liberal Democrat who has publicly admitted to his past addiction to opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, stimulants and cocaine, is affiliated with Project Sam, an anti-cannabis organization. He crisscrosses the country and appears routinely on cable news programs vilifying cannabis legalization. Earlier this year, Kennedy was interviewed by Yahoo News and made the audacious claim that the medicinal use of marijuana was “a Trojan horse designed to addict people.” Kennedy says that Project Sam’s main focus is “educating the public about the harms of marijuana legalization.”

According to Kennedy, “marijuana destroys the brain and expedites psychosis. It’s just overall a very dangerous drug. In terms of neurobiology, there’s no distinction between the quality and types of drugs that people get addicted to. That’s why they call it a gateway drug. Addiction is addiction is addiction.”

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker
Baker, a Republican, has supported medical marijuana but was a fought vigorously against recreational legalization in Massachusetts in last year’s election. NORML gives the governor an F grade for cannabis policy. During the 2016 campaign for legalization, Baker, a former health insurance executive, said “I’m going to oppose that and I’m going to oppose that vigorously … with a lot of help from a lot of other people in the addiction community.” He has also believes marijuana use is a “significant first step” toward addiction to other drugs. The “gateway theory” has been debunked over and over again. There is no science to support his claim.

Last year, he wrote an opinion piece in the Boston Globe headlined “Mass. should not legalize marijuana” in which he conflated cannabis use to opioid addiction.

Bertha Madras, Harvard Medical School Researcher
Madras is the former Deputy Director of Demand Reduction for the ONDCP and is the one non-politician on the task force. She authored a story in the Washington Post headlined “5 Reasons Why Marijuana is Not Medicine” and has fought against rescheduling marijuana. She has called marijuana legalization “tragic for our country”

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Pat McCrory last November. McCrory was an ardent opponent of marijuana legalization. Cooper, so far, has been mum about his position on cannabis.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bill would expand attorney general’s power in drug war

WASHINGTON — Congress is considering a bill that would expand the federal government’s ability to pursue the war on drugs, granting new power to the attorney general to set federal drug policy.

The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by powerful committee leaders in both chambers of Congress, would allow the attorney general to unilaterally outlaw certain unregulated chemical compounds on a temporary basis.

It would create a special legal category for these drugs, the first time in nearly 50 years that the Controlled Substances Act has been expanded in this way. And it would set penalties, potentially including mandatory minimum sentences, for the manufacture and distribution of these drugs.

‘‘This bill provides federal law enforcement with new tools to ensure those peddling dangerous drugs, which can be lethal, are brought to justice,’’ said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who is sponsoring the Senate version with Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

‘‘It also explicitly exempts simple possession from any penalties, instead targeting those who manufacture and traffic these drugs and opioids,’’ Feinstein said.

The bill, introduced last week, now moves to a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Grassley chairs and where Feinstein is the top-ranking Democrat.

Under current law, all psychoactive substances are placed in one of five ‘‘schedules’’ designating the drugs’ risk of abuse and medical potential. Schedule 1 is the most restrictive, reserved for drugs like LSD, heroin and marijuana. Schedule 5 is the least restrictive category, which includes medications like low-dose codeine cough syrup.

Illicit-drug manufacturers wishing to avoid these designations often make subtle changes to a drug’s chemistry, creating slightly different, and hence legal, substances which produce similar psychoactive effects in users.

‘‘Illegal drug traffickers and importers are able to circumvent the existing scheduling regime by altering a single atom or molecule of a currently controlled substance in a laboratory, thereby creating a substance that is lawful, but often highly dangerous, addictive and even deadly,’’ said Feinstein and Grassley in a fact sheet about the Senate bill.

The law would create a new schedule, Schedule A, for substances that are chemically similar to already-regulated drugs. The attorney general would be able to place new compounds in Schedule A for a period of up to five years. Critics say this amounts to giving the attorney general the power to unilaterally write federal drug policy.

The bill ‘‘gives the attorney general a ton of power in terms of scheduling drugs and pursuing penalties,’’ said Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug policy reform group. ‘‘This is a giant step backwards and really it’s doing the bidding of Jeff Sessions as he tries to escalate the war on drugs.’’

Under current policy, an attorney general may only temporarily schedule a substance for up to two years, and only then after demonstrating the drug’s ‘‘history and current pattern of abuse; the scope, duration and significance of abuse; and what, if any, risk there is to the public health.’’

The new bill extends the temporary scheduling duration to five years for Schedule A substances, and eliminates the requirement for analyzing the drug’s abuse record and its potential risk to public health.


You've got to be shitting me. This bill is bull. Straight up bullshit. Let's contact Our Congressional Representative and Senators and tell them that we are less than thrilled with this bill and we want them to oppose it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sign the Petition to Slash UN Funding

From the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste:

Our politicians continue to pour your tax money into the United Nations.
When will they learn that the American people are sick and tired of throwing billions of dollars into this black hole of waste, fraud, and abuse?!

Please sign the National Petition ordering Congress to slash U.S. funding of this wasteful, bloated, anti-American bureaucracy. Washington needs to hear from you right now.

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste has been battling out-of-control spending and taxes since 1984. But nothing gets on our nerves more than the federal government wasting billions and billions of our tax dollars to prop up the UN.

This den of bureaucrats, crooks, dictators, and thieves doesn't deserve a single penny of your hard-earned money, especially given the recent anti-Israel vote in the UN.

And yet, every year the politicians give in and fork over more and more American tax dollars to an organization that runs programs contrary to the interests of our country.
It's time to change that.

With fiscal conservatives now in control of Congress and the White House, we have an unprecedented opportunity to drastically slash U.S. funding of the bloated and wasteful United Nations.
But we need to make sure Congress' newly elected leadership and President Trump knows that this is a top priority for American taxpayers, which is why I need your signature on this petition right now!
Just click here to sign our National Petition to Congress. If we don't act quickly, Congress is going to send yet another giant check to the UN so that it can continue to bash America and undermine our interests.
Right now, Americans are paying $1.2 BILLION per year in DUES to the UN. We also pay $2.3 BILLION, or 28 percent, of the UN peacekeeping budget. Then there are the "voluntary payments" for special UN programs and funds. In one recent year, we gave the UN a record total of $7.7 BILLION.

America's taxpayers pay 25 percent of all UN expenses! And this is at a time when our own government is still running a deficit of nearly half a trillion dollars! This nonsense must stop. Please sign your Petition now.

Here is what your money is paying for:

•The UN is planning to construct yet another spectacular building in New York at a cost of as much as $2 billion.

•Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has admitted that "perhaps half of the UN workforce does nothing useful."

•Third World dictators routinely fly to UN headquarters in New York to attack our great country and undermine our national interests.

•And UN-funded "peacekeeper" troops have abused the people they are supposed to be protecting and created a deadly and costly cholera epidemic in Haiti!

Congress must slash funding for the UN. American taxpayers should not be paying for this waste and abuse.
Sign your Petition right now. This is really important.

The new leadership in Congress and President Trump need to know that this issue is of the utmost importance for the American people. Especially right now, as our government continues to run massive deficits and the UN is working against our allies in the Middle East. Just click here.

And please, please ask everyone you know to sign this National Petition as well.

If we don't stand up now, Congress will continue funding the UN year after year and wasting our tax dollars supporting our enemies abroad.

That's how things work in Washington. And it's got to stop.

Sign your Petition. Tell Congress to stand up to the wasteful status quo and slash funding for the UN.
Thank you for all of your help.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Jeopardy contestant picks on Barron Trump

Ken Jennings,dumbfuck

Ken Jennings, the longest running Jeopardy contestant, made fun of Barron Trump Wednesday for reportedly thinking Kathy Griffin was actually holding his father’s severed head.

According to a report by TMZ, 11-year-old Barron first saw the photo of Griffin holding Trump’s bloody severed head on television and thought it was actually his father’s head.

Sources told TMZ that Barron cried out for his mother when he saw the image.

Ken Jennings saw this as the perfect opportunity to mock the young boy, tweeting, “Barron Trump saw a very long necktie on a heap of expired deli meat in a dumpster. He thought it was his dad & his little heart is breaking.”

When Twitter users called him out for being insensitive, Jennings doubled down on the distasteful joke and argued that he wasn’t making fun of Barron.

Hopefully Jennings is just looking for attention, as his Twitter bio accurately describes himself as a “fixture of yesteryear.”


Hey Ken do you remember the old days when the jocks would dunk your hear in the toilet or otherwise harass you? We can bring them back into your life and cheer them on as they do their thing to you. Put that in the form of a question: will I like it? No.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ahead to the past

When it comes to criminal justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a man out of time — stuck defiantly in the 1980s, when crime in America was high and politicians scrambled to out-tough one another by passing breathtakingly severe sentencing laws. This mind-set was bad enough when Mr. Sessions was a senator from Alabama working to thwart sentencing reforms in Congress. Now that he is the nation’s top law enforcement officer, he’s trying to drag the country backward with him, even as most states are moving toward more enlightened policies.

On May 12, Mr. Sessions announced a drastic policy ordering federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges against crime suspects in all cases, rescinding an Obama administration directive that focused on reducing punishments for low-level, nonviolent offenders, mostly in drug cases, and steering more law-enforcement resources toward the bigger fish. That approach was working: The federal prison population started to drop for the first time in years, even as crime has remained at historic lows.

Instead of acknowledging these gains, Mr. Sessions has clung to the familiar myth that longer, harsher sentences reduce crime and increase public safety. The evidence shows the opposite: To bring down recidivism, a punishment’s swiftness and certainty matter far more than its length. Longer sentences may even lead to more reoffending.

Mr. Sessions’s outdated ideas have been rebuked across the political spectrum. Eric Holder, the attorney general who issued the Obama-era policy, called the new approach “dumb on crime.” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, pointed out that people of color suffer disproportionately from mandatory-minimum sentences for drug crimes, and said Mr. Sessions’s charging policy “will accentuate the injustice.” A group of 31 current and former state and local prosecutors — not people ordinarily associated with going soft on crime — signed an open letter calling the directive an “unnecessary and unfortunate return” to harmful and discredited practices. Mr. Sessions has taken a sledgehammer to this rare and fragile bipartisanship, at least on the federal level. And while it’s too soon to know how the new policy will affect sentences, prison populations, or recidivism rates, Mr. Sessions’s assertion that the justice system is not harsh enough — however isolated that view — could trickle down and affect justice reform in the states.

Fortunately, states have been moving in the other direction, as budget-conscious lawmakers saw what Mr. Sessions has not — that locking up more people for longer periods is hugely expensive with no real public-safety payoff. The states should continue with their effective, evidence-based approaches, and Congress should find a way at last to pass meaningful sentencing reform. Reducing or eliminating many mandatory minimums would be optimal, but at this point most anything would be an improvement.

A bipartisan group of senators recently reintroduced the Justice Safety Valve Act, which would give judges more flexibility to impose lighter sentences in certain cases. They were achingly close to passing a similar bill last year, until a small clot of senators blocked it. One of those senators was Jeff Sessions.


A tribute to Jeff Sessions

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.