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.


Source

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.’ ”


Source

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.


Source

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.


Source

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."


Source

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
President

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.”


Source

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.


Source

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
Chairman

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.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Vote TODAY: Senate rushing to escalate the drug war

From Drug Policy Alliance:

As soon as this afternoon, the U.S. Senate could vote on a bill that would escalate the drug war by expanding the ability of states to drug test people who file for unemployment insurance. If it passes, it will go to President Trump to be signed into law.

This is our last chance to block it before the vote. Urge your Senators to oppose this harmful legislation.

The vast majority of people who receive unemployment insurance and other public assistance do not use drugs. But more importantly, drug testing programs have been proven again and again to accomplish nothing. They often have faulty results and waste millions of tax dollars.

Instead of following the evidence, Congress is stigmatizing vulnerable people looking for jobs to ramp up the failed drug war.

This is shameful, especially considering that members of Congress rushing to pass this legislation have claimed it will help people who struggle with addiction to opioids and other substances.

Yet most states that have tried these kind of drug testing programs don’t even offer or fund treatment for people who struggle with substance use.

In addition to being ineffective, harmful, and a complete waste of money, mandatory drug testing by states has been deemed illegal and unconstitutional by the courts time and again.

Contact your Senators immediately and tell them to oppose this attempt to escalate the drug war.

And follow-up with a call to your Senators. Find their phone numbers here and you can say:

As a constituent, I am calling to urge my Senator to oppose H.J. Res. 42 which would expand state drug testing of people who file for unemployment insurance. The vast majority of people who receive unemployment insurance and other public assistance do not use drugs. But more importantly, drug testing programs have been proven again and again to accomplish nothing. They often have faulty results, and waste millions of tax dollars. Please oppose H.J. Res. 42. Thank you.

We are doing everything we can to stop this bill from becoming law. But we’re counting on you to help us.

Monday, March 13, 2017

On North Korea II

The annual Foal Eagle military drills between the US and South Korea will include some heavy hitters this year — the Navy SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden, Army Special Forces, and F-35s — South Korea's Joon Gang Daily reports.

South Korean news outlets report that the SEALs, who will join the exercise for the first time, will simulate a "decapitation attack," or a strike to remove North Korea's leadership.

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross later told Business Insider that the US military "does not train for decapitation missions" of any kind.

Yet a decapitation force would fit with a March 1 Wall Street Journal report that the White House is considering military action against the Kim regime.

The SEALs boarded the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and should arrive in South Korea on Wednesday, Joon Gang Daily reports.

South Korea has also made efforts toward a decapitation force, and international calls for action have increased in intensity after North Korea's latest missile test, which simulated a saturation attack to defeat US and allied missile defenses.

“It will send a very strong message to North Korea, which is constantly carrying out military provocations,” a ministry official told Joon Gang Daily.

The Foal Eagle exercise includes 3,600 US troops, in addition to the 28,000 US troops permanently stationed in South Korea. The drills include air, land, and sea operations designed to prepare the joint forces in case of a conflict with North Korea.

This year's exercise also integrates preparation for the deployment of US missile defenses to South Korea.

Additionally, the US's newest combat aircraft, the F-35, will fly in to simulate attacks on North Korea's missile infrastructure, Joon Gang Daily reports. The F-35 will accompany many of the US's highest-end platforms, like F-22s and a nuclear-powered submarine.

"A bigger number of and more diverse US special operation forces will take part in this year's Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises to practice missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North's war command and demolition of its key military facilities," the an unnamed military official told South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.


Source

When I wrote On North Korea I had no idea whom Obama's successor would be. It appears that Trump is not fucking around. It the beginning of this article it stated that SEAL team 6 doesn't train during these exercises. This should be a wake up call to fatboy in North Korea. Trump is not fucking around with fatboy. Trump knows that fatboy is trying to perfect a missile that will reach the western United States. I'm sure fatboy is hoping it's a nuke. Trump is not going to wait until the west coast is destroyed nor does it appear he will tolerate American fatalities. It appears that fatboy and his generals are in bigger trouble than our citizenry is. It doesn't look like fatboy is going to see his 35th birthday.

Tell Congress to pass Audit The Fed

Note: Because of bad weather on the east coast especially Washington DC this meeting has been postponed. We will let you know when the meeting before Congress takes place.

From Campaign For Liberty:

Do you have 5 seconds today to help Audit the Fed?

On Wednesday, I’ll be testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the need to pass H.R. 24, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act.

This is the perfect time for us to flex our muscle and show Congress we mean business when it comes to Fed transparency.

I need your help today: Will you sign your DRAIN THE SWAMP petition urging your representative and senators to cosponsor and seek roll-call votes on Audit the Fed?

Once you've signed, or if you already have, please dig deep with a contribution of $500, $250 or $100 to help Campaign for Liberty ensure we seize the momentum during Wednesday’s hearing.

If that’s simply too much, please consider contributing $50, $25, or even $10.

Time is running out for us to take advantage of this opportunity. The more you can give, the more action we can generate this week.

Dr. Paul and I both truly appreciate whatever you’re able to give.

In Liberty,

Norm Singleton
President


Sign the petition

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Trump sends mixed message on marijuana, but pot industry pushes ahead

DENVER – America’s marijuana industry isn't sure where President Trump and his attorney general stand on marijuana, but it is forging ahead with expansion plans anyway.

Cannabis businesses are hiring new workers, leasing new space and pushing across state borders. And regulators are drafting rules that will give access to legal recreational pot to tens of millions of adults.

The stakes are high: This is a job-generating industry that cannabis data firm New Frontier Data estimates may be worth $2.3 billion in taxes within three years.

“Far from the punchline of a joke, these are real people and real lives,” said Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat who recently co-founded the pro-legalization Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

The nation’s marijuana industry expanded rapidly under President Obama, whose administration laid out Justice Department priorities for targeting drug dealers. In short, the Obama administration said, it would leave companies alone in states where voters approved recreational pot if the states took solid steps to keep marijuana away from kids and profits away from drug cartels.

Medical marijuana is reserved for people who’ve gotten a doctor’s recommendation to use it to alleviate specific symptoms, while states with that permit recreational use allow any adult to buy marijuana.

In states with licensed cannabis stores, it’s easy to forget those businesses sell a plant that remains an illegal Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law. Federal prosecutors, if they chose, could easily arrest tens of thousands of people who have state licenses to grow and sell the drug, or even anyone walking out of a pot shop with a purchase. But they haven’t.

Trump’s administration may take a different tack, but so far, it has delivered conflicting messages.

Last month, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Justice Department would not use federal laws to prosecute medical marijuana users, in part because Congress has already banned it from doing so. But he drew a distinction between medical and recreational use.

“I do believe you'll see greater enforcement” of federal laws against recreational marijuana use, he said. Then, in the same press conference, he suggested the matter wasn’t settled and referred reporters to the Justice Department for comment.

Shortly after, Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a speech seemed to suggest there’d be stricter enforcement in states with recreational marijuana. Members of Congress, including Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., say Sessions has reassured them privately that is not the case.

Cannabis industry roiled by White House comments on enforcement
The whiplash from the shifting positions jostled the market. Marijuana stocks tracked by Viridian Capital Advisors had generally risen steadily all year – up about 25% – until the day Spicer spoke. Then, in the hours after his press conferences, 80% of those marijuana-related stocks dropped. The next day, the first full day of trading following the comments, it got worse: 92% of the stocks dropped, said Viridian, which provides financial and data-analysis to the cannabis industry.

Those stocks are now recovering, said Viridian’s president, Scott Greiper: “I think the industry is very comfortable operating in a harsh, uncertain environment. It’s just what we’re used to.” Viridian tracks the movement of 50 publicly traded cannabis companies that are either worth more than $10,000 each or see trading volume of $20,000 daily.

Decriminalizing marijuana has widespread support.

Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, the District of Columbia and California voters have all approved laws allowing adults to grow and possess small amounts of recreational pot, though not every state has a functioning marketplace. And a Quinnipiac University poll released last month found 71% of Americans would oppose efforts to enforce federal marijuana laws in those eight states. The poll also found that 93% of voters support allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and 59% support making it legal for all purposes.

Congress has prohibited the Justice Department from interfering with states’ medical marijuana programs, but has remained silent about recreational marijuana.

Many marijuana businesses had hoped Trump would at least maintain the Obama-era attitude, if not relax restrictions even further in a nod to states’ rights, job creation, personal liberty. Trump on the campaign trail said he’d respect state laws that permit recreational pot.

Smoke, because you can: Inside a legal marijuana dinner
Troy Dayton, CEO of the ArcView Group, which offers cannabis industry investment services and research, says the pot business also plays into Trump's "America First" policy.

“This would be a really huge missed opportunity if we let other countries get ahead of us in something that is really our ours to lose," Dayton said. "The question is whether we want these to be American jobs, do we want these to be American companies, or do we want Canada and Germany and Columbia take that market share."

Dayton said it's hard to imagine the Trump administration would shut down a widely popular industry: “I have a feeling they get to see the same polls we do.”

Still the broad uncertainty is enough to keep some cannabis businesses cautious. In California, marijuana grower CANNDESCENT has given its products soothing names like "Calm" and "Connect," instead of relying of more typical names like AK-47 or Durban Poison or Day Wrecker.

“We literally changed our product names in order to better educate the public and seem less ominous to government officials,” said CANNDESCENT CEO Adrian Sedlin.

In states with recreational marijuana marketplaces, many front-line marijuana business say they think the country has come too far to ever roll back recreational pot, and regulators in California and Nevada continue drafting the rules necessary to implement their voter-approved cannabis marketplaces. Polis, the congressman from Boulder, said he plans to re-introduce federal legislation to regulate marijuana like alcohol, which would give states the power to create legal marijuana marketplaces if they choose. Previous measures haven't received enough support to pass.

Marijuana business owners say they'll stand tall despite the potential threat to their livelihoods.

“We employ 24 full-time people. It gives us a tremendous sense of pride,” said Amy Andrle of L’Eagle Services, a Denver-based marijuana store specializing in pesticide-free cannabis. “I’m very proud of the work we are doing. This is our small business we are running in this great country.”


Source

You know what to do. Contact the usual suspects in the House,Senate
Yes,even President Trump himself. The more of us they hear from the better.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Trump’s proposed pot crackdown is out of step with voters

Recent comments from the Trump administration indicating a potential federal crackdown in states that regulate the adult us of cannabis is out of step with most voters, including those among the President’s base.

Outside of the Beltway, Americans’ support for enacting regulatory alternatives to cannabis prohibition is uniquely bipartisan. According to the latest national polling by Gallup, six out of 10 Americans believe that the adult use of marijuana “should be made legal.” By party, Gallup pollsters found that legalization was most likely to be favored by Independents and Democrats, but also that support among Republicans had more than doubled over the past decade.

Support among Republicans for legalizing medical marijuana is even higher, with 85 percent of GOP voters endorsing its therapeutic use, according to recent nationwide survey data by Quinnipiac University. But perhaps most strikingly, Quinnipiac pollsters also reported that nearly three-quarters of voters – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.”

Nonetheless, the Trump administration appears to be planning on doing just that. In fact, on the same day that Quinnipiac released its latest survey data, White House press secretary Sean Spicer indicated that the Justice Department was intending to pursue the “greater enforcement” of federal anti-marijuana laws states like Californian that permit its adult use.

Such a move by the federal government would be a stark departure from the position of the prior administration, which largely let these voter-initiated laws move forward unfettered. It also represents an about-face in Trump’s own position, as he previously said that he would not use federal authority to target adult use laws. For instance, while campaigning in Colorado in August, Trump responded to the question “[Do] you think Colorado should be able to do what it’s doing?” by stating, “I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”

And so it should be. According to a 2016 report by the CATO think tank, these adult use regulatory schemes are working largely as voters intended. They are not associated with increased marijuana use among young people, or rising rates of crime or accidents in the workplace. “The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents,” the report’s authors concluded. Further, tax revenue derived from the regulated markets now exceeds initial expectations.

Rather than picking an unnecessary fight with the majority of American voters, the administration should consider embracing common-sense marijuana law reforms. Endorsing bipartisan legislation, HR 975: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act” or HR 1227: The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017,” would be a good place to start. In accordance with the electorate’s wishes, passage of these acts would prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals or businesses that are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

Despite more than 70 years of federal marijuana prohibition, Americans’ consumption of and demand for cannabis is here to stay. It is time for politicians to acknowledge this reality and amend federal marijuana laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status. The Trump administration has the opportunity to take the lead on this issue. It would be an enormous political misstep for them to do otherwise.


Source

Let's tell President Trump about this and ask him to sign the aforementioned bills when they come before him. The more of us he hears from the better.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Scientists say the government’s only pot farm has moldy samples — and no federal testing standards

Sue Sisley, a primary care physician in Scottsdale, Arizona, recalls the moment she picked up the carefully wrapped package fresh from the delivery truck. Nearly two years after Sisley and her colleagues were awarded a grant to study marijuana as a treatment for 76 military veterans suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, her shipment of the drug was finally in hand.

But minutes later, as she opened the packets to weigh the drug – as required by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration – her enthusiasm turned to dismay. It didn’t look like marijuana. Most of it looked like green talcum powder.

“It didn’t resemble cannabis. It didn’t smell like cannabis,” Sisley says. What’s more, laboratory testing found that some of the samples were contaminated with mold, while others didn’t match the chemical potency Sisley had requested for the study.

There’s only one source of marijuana for clinical research in the United States. And “they weren’t able to produce what we were asking for,” Sisley says.

It’s unclear whether mold, lead or discrepancies in potency has been a problem in prior cannabis studies, because until now, it appears that no one looked.

In January — four months and three rounds of testing after that first delivery — Sisley and researchers working with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) were finally able to enroll their first subjects. But the delay and the reasons behind it have raised questions about the reliability of the facility responsible for supplying marijuana to every clinical study in the country.

The marijuana came from a 12-acre farm at the University of Mississippi, run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Since 1968, it has been the only facility licensed by the DEA to produce the plant for clinical research. While eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana — and all but a handful allow at least some medical cannabis — growing the plant in large quantities remains forbidden under federal law. For all practical purposes, that means that any medical study that wants to use marijuana on human subjects must go through the University of Mississippi.

Rick Doblin, MAPS’ director, says this recent episode “shows that NIDA is completely inadequate as a source of marijuana for drug development and research.”

“They’re in no way capable of assuming the rights and responsibilities for handling a drug that we’re hoping to be approved by the FDA as prescription medicine,” he says.

The demand for the facility’s product has surged in the past year, mirroring interest from medical researchers. Through mid-October 2016, the agency says it had fulfilled 39 requests for marijuana, from 10 different researchers. That’s a jump from the 23 requests it filled in 2015, the most recent numbers available, according to an April letter from the DEA to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

It’s unclear whether mold, lead or discrepancies in potency has been a problem in prior cannabis studies, because until now, it appears that no one looked.

NIDA says this is the first time researchers have expressed concern about mold or potency testing. Neither the agency nor the University of Mississippi tests samples for mold before they’re shipped.

Sisley says researchers have taken too much for granted. “There’s no telling how many subjects in past studies were exposed,” she says.

The uncertainty highlights a broader challenge in the growing field of cannabis research: there’s little consensus on what testing is appropriate or on what findings constitute a hazard.
The uncertainty highlights a broader challenge in the growing field of cannabis research: there’s little consensus on what testing is appropriate or on what findings constitute a hazard. Scientists and officials say they would love to have more guidance.

“Our biggest concern is patient safety,” says Mike Van Dyke, chief of toxicology with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is funding the MAPS-sponsored study on PTSD. “The lack of a federal regulatory structure makes it a huge challenge. We don’t have all the information we’d like to have.”

Mixed signals on standards

A researcher in Dr. Sue Sisley’s lab prepares to weigh a sample of marijuana received from the federal facility responsible for growing marijuana for clinical research. Photo courtesy of MAPS.
A researcher in Dr. Sue Sisley’s lab prepares to weigh a sample of marijuana received from the federal facility responsible for growing marijuana for clinical research. Photo courtesy of MAPS.

As part of the original study protocol, the marijuana that Sisley received was tested at an independent laboratory in Colorado, which found a high level of total yeast and mold (TYM) in several samples. The tests also found that the potency of some samples didn’t match what study organizers had ordered, or what it says on the certificate of analysis from the federal supplier.

One sample, billed as having a 13 percent level of THC — the main psychoactive compound in marijuana — had just 8 percent when tested at the independent facility in Colorado. Other samples were off by lesser amounts. Subsequent testing at the University of Illinois-Chicago confirmed the presence of total yeast and mold.

The Chicago tests also found all four samples contained trace amounts of lead, though well below the levels generally considered to be hazardous, at least for adults.

On the state level, testing requirements for recreational and medical marijuana vary widely. Most states require some testing for heavy metals such as lead, but not for pesticide residue. Yeast and mold testing is required in most states where cannabis is sold legally. The failure rate – frequently defined as a total mold and yeast count higher than 10,000 “colony-forming units” per gram (CFU/g) — is not officially tracked in Colorado. But state records show that approximately 7 percent of samples tested last year did not pass “microbial” standards, a category that includes bacterial contamination as well as TYM. Colorado only requires microbial testing for marijuana sold on the recreational market, not for medicinal use.

The Chicago tests found total yeast and mold (TYM) counts in Sisley and team’s samples ranging from 23,000 to 64,000 CFU/g.

NIDA says it suspects the mold problem was introduced on the receiving end, when the Colorado lab accidentally left samples in a refrigerator for two days, instead of keeping them frozen at -10 to -25 degrees Celsius, as called for by handling instructions.

But Rebecca Matthews, who oversees clinical trials for MAPS, says the elevated TYM counts were found in samples that never left the freezer before testing. In the samples that were inadvertently defrosted, TYM counts were even higher, as much as 110,000 CFU/g.

Nevertheless, Sisley and the team ultimately concluded after months of research that it was safe to proceed with the study. They began in January. In an internal memo that outlines their reasons for moving forward, they wrote that there’s no agreement on whether tests for TYM should be required, and no guidance from NIDA or the FDA.

One reason for that is a high TYM count does not always constitute a health risk, says Kevin McKernan, an entrepreneur and geneticist who is looking to improve the quality of testing in the realm of cannabis research. Certain types of fungus, notably a group of species known as aspergillus, can cause a variety of health problems when smoked, especially in people with compromised immune systems. But, many other mold varieties are considered harmless, McKernan says.

Immunocompromised patients were already excluded from Sisley’s MAPS-sponsored study.

NIDA says its own tests show THC levels closer to what was expected – in the 10 to 12 percent range, instead of the 8 percent that MAPS found. It says it’s reviewing MAPS’ results and protocols to try to understand the discrepancy. NIDA also says it tested for heavy metals before shipping the material, and found nothing above acceptable levels.

Tighter control, broader playing field

NIDA is also taking some steps to tighten oversight. In January, it announced a grant to McKernan’s two Massachusetts-based companies, Medicinal Genomics and Courtagen, to develop a DNA-based test that would identify specific types of harmful mold and bacteria in marijuana.

Beyond quality control issues, some critics say the Mississippi farm doesn’t provide researchers with enough options. For example, the potency of marijuana in NIDA’s collection tops out at 13 percent THC. That’s less than half the level in the most potent strains sold in states where the drug is legal and regularly tested.

That means “if you’re trying to do a study where you imitate what patients do in the real world, you can’t,” Sisley says.

“If you’re trying to do a study where you imitate what patients do in the real world, you can’t.” – Dr. Sue Sisley

Van Dyke echoes her concern. “It’s an important issue. The products in Colorado are different from the products produced by NIDA, and there’s untapped demand to study those products that people are really using.”

In an email to NewsHour, the agency says it’s growing new material that will likely contain higher THC levels. NIDA officials insist they’re keeping up with demand, and in 2014, increased its production and diversified the strains of marijuana it grows.

Another criticism stems from NIDA’s practice of achieving higher THC concentrations by mixing different strains together, rather than growing new plants.

In its April 2016 letter, the agency told Warren the Mississippi facility has “approximately 185” batches of cannabis, at varying concentrations of THC and CBD. Different varieties, the letter says, “may be blended to achieve specific cannabinoid concentrations of interest to researchers.”

Critics, including Sisley, say that mixing strains is a lost opportunity. Every cannabis plant contains several hundred unique compounds, which some believe may significantly alter the drug’s effects. If different plants are mixed together, scientists have a harder time tracking those effects.

Many scientists were heartened this summer when the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that it would license additional bulk growers, ending NIDA’s monopoly.

According to the DEA, 16 organizations have submitted the paperwork to launch the application process, which comes with a $3,047 fee. None of those applications have been approved, however, and the agency says there is no set timeline to take action.

The delays in Sisley’s study are energizing those who say the federal government needs to speed things up.

Frustrated by her experience, Sisley is hoping to take a more hands-on approach. One of the DEA applicants is the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), where she is the principal investigator. SRI has submitted a proposal to grow cannabis from tissue culture rather than seedlings, a more sterile method of producing the plant.

She doesn’t mince words about the setback.

“We waited 20 months to get going, and then we got this sub-optimal study drug,” she says. “The longer we allow this monopoly to continue, the more efficacy [of the] research will continue to be thwarted.”


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Don't our elected officials: those in the House and the Senate and President Trump tell us that more research needs to be done. Let's tell them that the samples they have are subpar and because of the contaminants the past studies that showed negative results could be false. The more of us they hear from the better.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

5 lies about marijuana debunked

Marijuana legalization is no longer just a pipe dream; in several states, it’s become a reality. With several states all having passed voter-backed legalization initiatives, residents in three of those states are now free to engage in the purchase and consumption of marijuana and related products from licensed stores and retail locations. It’s a situation that would have been unimaginable just a decade or so ago.

But those political battles weren’t easy to win. There was plenty of pushback from those wishing to keep marijuana illegal, with concerted efforts coming from groups of all kinds. There were strategic messages put into play, warning voters of the potential harm legal pot could do to their communities.

Little, if any of what the doomsayers had to say, however, has come to fruition.

Marijuana legalization: So far, so good If we take a look at what’s happened in Washington and Colorado, and to a lesser extent Oregon (where legalization is a couple of years younger), we see that not much has really changed. These states have not sunken into the sea, or become festering centers of crime and corruption. In fact, they’re doing just fine — and rolling in dough. As it turns out, many of the warnings and concerns pushed by the anti-legalization crowd turned out to be completely wrong.

With many other states looking at ending marijuana prohibition in the near future, it’s important to take a look at which predictions were off the mark. Here are five that, so far, haven’t proven to be true.

1. Crime will increase

Worries that marijuana legalization would lead to higher crime rates have proven to be fruitless. Of course, when you take a crime and suddenly make it a legal action, you’re naturally going to see lower crime rates. But so far, in areas that have legalized marijuana, crime rates have softened up; and we don’t mean those connected to cannabis. The research is still ongoing, but preliminary reports indicate that legalization has freed up law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes. In Colorado, scientists are looking at the correlation (which doesn’t mean causation, remember) between legalization and lower rates of homicide and assault.

2. Teen use rates will skyrocket

There were some serious fears that legalization would more or less give teenagers the green light to engage in marijuana use. Interestingly enough, there has been an opposite trend — teens in legal states have actually been using pot at lower rates. This could always change, however. It’s likely the case that teens who wanted to use marijuana already were, and that legalization did little to change their behaviors. But we’ll have to keep an eye out for changes.

3. Public health will suffer

Another concern among the pro-prohibition crowd was that widespread legalization would lead to significant public health problems. That’s not been the case, at least not that anyone can measure. If anything, more marijuana has led to better outcomes, as cannabis tends to be a much safer alternative to alcohol, tobacco, and hard drugs. Again, this is another area that will require some additional monitoring and research. But at this point, there hasn’t been much evidence to back up public health concerns.

4. The roads will be more dangerous

People driving under the influence was, and still is, a major concern for those opposing legalization. While there likely are plenty of people who drive high (both in legal states, and those where pot is still illegal), no one should get behind the wheel if they’re under the influence. Police are still trying to develop next-level technology to deal with the problem, but if we look at the numbers, it doesn’t appear that the roads are any more dangerous than they were before prohibition was lifted in legal states.

5. Enforcement costs will spike

There were worries that regulating and keeping tabs on budding marijuana industries would actually end up costing taxpayers more than it did to keep the drug illegal. New systems and rules would need to be devised and implemented, and police would need to be retrained for dealing with the new rules. All of that takes money.
But not more than prohibition cost — which has been estimated at up to $20 billion annually. There was even a case that reached the Supreme Court (and was promptly thrown out) that involved two states suing Colorado for increased enforcement costs along the border. But the truth is, law enforcement costs fall when a black market is no longer around to enforce, and this ends up saving the public gobs of money.


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This is very telling. Let's not keep this to ourselves let's share this with our elected officials (House and Senate along with President Trump. The more of us they hear from the better.