Give a Pregnant Mom Marijuana, Be Guilty of Murder?

Opposing abortion alone does not make someone pro-life. That stance is merely “pro-birth,” according to Sister Joan Chittister, a Catholic nun and thus a member of a broad, billion-person-strong social movement—the Catholic Church—which does not look kindly upon abortion. To be pro-life, one must care for someone after they’re born, not just before. 

So. What makes someone so concerned with the welfare of the unborn that they’d like to imprison their mothers for even the slightest taste of cannabis while pregnant—creating a sort of ob-gyn to prison pipeline?

“Fucking crazy” might be one reasonable conclusion. It would also make you a “Wyoming state lawmaker,” such as the cabal in Cheyenne that’s pushing a new package of drug laws.

K2Radio brings us news of the push to criminalize—further, since there are plenty of bad parenting laws on the books—“drug induced infant endangerment.”

The brainchild of Rep. Jim Blackburn, Rep. Mark Jennings, Rep. Jared Olsen, Rep. Nathan Winters and Sen. Ogden Driskill—dudes, all of them, of course—the bill creates stiff penalties for a pregnant mother who uses any illegal drug, and even stiffer penalties for anyone who provides the pregnant mother with said drug.

Nobody would argue using methamphetamine or heroin while pregnant is a good idea. Same thing with alcohol or tobacco. Conveniently, the way this law is written, it would be remarkably easy to punish a mother for even the slightest marijuana use.

To be guilty of “drug-induced infant homicide,” a mother need only give “birth to a viable infant during or after drug use,” after which point “and the infant dies, or drug use contributes to the infant’s death.” That would be a felony punishable by 10 years in prison.

The threshold to be guilty of “drug-induced infant abuse,” which carries a five-year prison term, is even lower: A mother faces that penalty if she uses “an illegal narcotic drug while pregnant and gives birth to a child who tests positive for any amount of that drug” (emphasis ours).

Before you fool yourself into thinking this is reasonable, remember the context.

More mothers than ever before are using cannabis during pregnancy in order to deal with morning sickness. To all the men out there: Imagine being sick, every day, in some cases for most of the day. Then imagine being in a situation where you had to eat in order to deliver nutrition to the thing growing inside you, but being too sick to do so.

It’s still not clear what happens to a child whose mother uses marijuana during pregnancy, though some studies suggest there’s no issue at all.

This comes shortly after the DEA recently specified that cannabidiol, CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, is a Schedule I drug. And finally, since marijuana is fat-soluble and stays in the body for weeks or longer after use, the takeaway is that if this passes, a mother who so much as sniffs cannabis during pregnancy could lose her child and end up in the state pen for a five-spot.

But that’s nothing compared to the individual who delivered the drugs to the expectant mother.

If someone “knowingly” delivers a Schedule I or II controlled substance to a pregnant mother, they risk a prison term of between 10 and 25 years, according to K2Radio.

Methamphetamine is a huge problem in Wyoming, according to the Justice Department… just as drug abuse is an issue anywhere the economy is trash, including poor neighborhoods in big liberal cities. And like everywhere else, heroin use has come roaring back in Wyoming, riding the crest of the tsunami of prescription pills unleashed in America, as a 2015 story in GQ detailed.

You don’t often hear more incarceration and more crime as the solution to these ills—at least not in serious academic or scientific circles. But that’s not the thinking when you’re pro-birth—and pro-prison.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

CONTINUE READING…

Carol Kerr ~ HAPPY PATIENT in Legal Medical Cannabis State!!

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Why I choose cannabis…

November 25, 2010 at 9:21pm

There are millions of people across this great nation suffering from chronic pain and illness who are legally receiving relief via prescription medications. As a patient that suffers with chronic, debilitating pain from a brain malformation, I can attest to the damage long-term use of prescription medications can do to the human mind and body.

Just last year I lost my brother due to an accidental overdose of hydrocodone prior to back surgery. He didn’t just slip off into the night after falling asleep. He died clutching his chest and screaming in pain, and there was nothing anyone could do. Yet, there are still pharmacies conveniently located on nearly every corner across the country dispensing the poison every day.

For the record, I am not a drug addict, nor do not wish to be addicted to ANY substance, however due to the illnesses I have, I must medicate with SOMETHING regularly to achieve any reasonable measure of “quality of life.” And the one prescription medication that provides some relief is full of liver damaging acetaphetamin and isn’t covered by Medicare.

Plus, the doctor told me that though it relieves my headaches, with regular use it “increases” headaches. Ohhh, so I’ll need more addictive pain medication due to the increased headaches it causes, which will damage my liver all that much faster… are you seeing the RIDICULOUS, vicious circle? Not only are the prescription drugs inadequate and expensive, but I’ve suffered through withdrawal on numerous occasions from addictive pain medications, even spending three days in ICU on a respirator from a Fentanyl patch!

Cannabis is an effective, NON-ADDICTIVE medication that helps me.  Yet, when I don’t have cannabis, I don’t get the sweats, have increased blood pressure, vomit, itch, cry, and wig out!!! I just hurt, try not to move any more than I have to, and keep to myself… survival mode. Not a healthy or pleasant way to live.

As a result of prescription medications I have the onset of liver disease. My digestive system is impaired to the point that I literally have no appetite. Without medication I am consumed with pain to the point that my activities of daily living are limited and socialization with others is not an option. Inhaled cannabis quickly sends the cannabinoids directly to the blood stream via your lungs.

Yet, cannabis doesn’t impair one’s ability to function for long periods of time, cause nausea, or shut down the bowels like prescription pain medications. And while smoking may not be the best option for me, it’s the only one available due to prohibition. For the record, I would prefer to ingest cannabis, but it takes a larger quantity of product to produce a sufficient amount.

For over a year the American Medical Association has urged the federal government to reconsider its stance on cannabis, to change the classification from a Class 1 drug. This means the AMA recognizes that cannabis has medicinal qualities that could be beneficial to a patient’s health. The AMA also states that cannabis deserves more research.

A randomized placebo-controlled trial was conducted at San Francisco General Hospital (with) nine doctors and 50 patients involved. Patients suffered from HIV-associated neuropathic pain. “The first cannabis cigarette reduced chronic pain by a median of 72 percent versus 15 percent with placebo. No adverse events reported.” Throughout length of trial “pain was reduced by 34 percent.”

Conclusion: “Smoked cannabis was well tolerated and effectively relieved chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy. The findings are comparable to oral drugs used for chronic neuropathic pain.”

Latest polling shows 65 percent of Americans support medicinal cannabis with doctor supervision. If comparable to pain pills, shouldn’t the doctor be deciding whether cannabis is the better choice for the patient? Patients should not have to fear imprisonment or the horrible side effects of prescription drugs, especially when there are scientific facts that favor the medicinal use of cannabis.

This matter is not about the legalization of “drugs.” We, as patients, do not condone the use of any drug without doctor supervision. This is about compassion and understanding of others suffering, knowing that cannabis helps them regain their lives and get on with living life to the fullest, not needlessly suffering from the pain of illness or the ugly side effects from pain medications.

Fifteen states have passed legislation in favor of medicinal marijuana. We are well on our way to helping people understand that cannabis is not the harmful drug previously demonized by well meaning, but ill informed political figures. SB 1381, the compassionate use of cannabis 3-year pilot program is coming up for a vote in Illinois. This is our chance to free our countrymen and women from the ill side effects of pain medications.

Patients and doctors alike deserve the right to pursue happiness as stated in our Constitution. We must allow patients to choose the best course of action in medical matters without fear of imprisonment. We must take our medicine out of the hands of greedy drug-lords, and allow safe access to good medicine for  sick and suffering patients.

Cannabis has been proven to help people time and time again. New and fascinating facts about the benefits of medicinally using cannabis are being reported every day. And I am living proof that it works!  This is not an issue of morals, but one of science and compassion for the sick and suffering. We aren’t encouraging anyone to use cannabis. We just want our God-given right to pain relief in the manner which helps us best.

As a responsible citizen of IL I am appalled that I am forced to pay outrageous prices for medicine, lining the pockets of black market drug dealers.  When as a sick patient I should be receiving quality medicine, regulated by the government, provided by state governed agencies which would benefit patients, while strengthening our economy and providing legitimate jobs! You know, with the right medicine given on a regular basis, I just may be able to work again.. or at least take care of MYSELF without the assistance of others.

Cannabis relieves the pain, takes my mind off my poor health, gives me an appetite, and helps me to get out enjoy the life I have left without the hangovers and side effects of man-made medications. May the powers that be hear our voices and bring relief to the suffering citizens of Illinois! No patient should be denied safe access to their medication!!

The fact of the matter is, patients who NEED medicinal cannabis have been and will continue to do whatever they have to, to obtain the medicine they need. The prohibition of medicinal cannabis only punishes us further for being sick at a time when we need love and compassion the most.  Don’t wait till you or someone you love is suffering to investigate this issue.

Carol Kerr ~ HAPPY PATIENT in Legal Medical Cannabis State!!

Don’t expect nationwide marijuana legalization under the Trump administration

Washington DC marijuana handout

With the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, the United States got a new president. And with that new president comes a long list of new appointees across various federal agencies and departments. While President Trump’s cabinet selection process has played out publicly, a variety of folks from former president Barack Obama’s administration have quietly stayed on.

One of the most prominent people that’s staying on is the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Chuck Rosenberg, who was appointed by former attorney general Loretta Lynch in May 2015.

And that’s particularly notable, as the DEA is responsible for enforcing drug policy in the United States. Most importantly for most Americans, Rosenberg is in charge of enforcing marijuana illegality in the US — an area where, traditionally, the federal government and individual US states have butted heads.

For instance, California legalized medical marijuana use in 1996; despite legality in California, the drug remained illegal on a federal level, and the US government — through the DEA — policed it as such. California medical dispensaries were raided by the federal government repeatedly, regardless of its legality in the eyes of the State of California.

That relationship dramatically changed in 2013 due to a document known as “The Cole Memo” (written by deputy attorney general James Cole). The document re-focused federal resources away from prosecuting individuals who were operating legally within their own states, and instead focused on containment and prevention.

In so many words, it directed federal agencies to stop clashing with state-level marijuana policy.

And DEA head Chuck Rosenberg has upheld that memo.

“He didn’t have too much of a problem following the administration’s directives on that issue,” Marijuana Policy Project senior communications manager Morgan Fox told Business Insider. “And it says a lot for continuity — things will remain relatively the same at the DEA.” 

Of course, this is all up for change. If Trump’s attorney general appointee, Senator Jeff Sessions, is appointed, he could direct the DEA to take a more hardline stance. And if President Trump himself decides to take a more hardline stance, that would also impact how the DEA operates when it comes to federal marijuana policy. To be clear, neither Sessions nor Trump have indicated as much.

As Fox told Business Insider, “The DEA head acts as the direction of the attorney general who acts at the direction of the president.” That said, both President Trump and Senator Sessions have indicated intentions to keep the status quo: allowing states to legislate and police their own drug laws.

In 2016, alongside Trump winning the presidency, several states enacted laws either outright legalizing recreational marijuana use, cultivation, and distribution/sales or legalized medical use. For the foreseeable future, it looks like the US government will continue to defer to individual states in terms of marijuana policy.

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the first-ever patent for a plant containing significant amounts of THC

Terpenes and Testing Magazine

You know that strain you love? The one that a breeder managed to hone perfectly over the years? We are at a point in the industry where that strain that you love could be locked up by big business. The theft of a clone or tissue, biopiracy, could destroy decades of hard work with no mention of where it came from.

Why? Big business is knocking on the door of the cannabis industry, bringing with them the specter of plant patents.

There have already been a few U.S. patents related to cannabis over the years. The one that caught the attention of everyone in the cannabis business came in the form of U.S. patent 9,095,554, a 145-page utility patent filed in August 2015 by the BioTech Institute in Westlake, California on the breeding, production, processing and use of specialty cannabis.

The document lists dizzying details of the chemical structures of both CBD and THC, their uses, planting and harvesting for cannabis, along with dozens of charts only a scientist could understand. It’s being hailed as the first-ever patent for a plant containing significant amounts of THC.

BioTech has filed the first patent on a broad range of cannabis, with various forms and concentrations of CBD and/or THC, and just about every form of cannabis including extracts and edibles.

It’s a shot across the bow in a multi-billion-dollar industry blissfully unaware—or unaccepting—that the cannabis business is moving into big agriculture territory. Big money attracts big players. Those big players want to own, protect and have recourse to take legal action against any other big company challenging the breeding, growing and selling of their product.

For cannabis business owners, it’s becoming clear that it’s time to circle the wagons and find out what needs to be done to protect the intellectual property represented by their plant and processes. All while carefully eyeing the moves of big agriculture.

It’s time to add patent lawyer fees and filing fees to the list of costs for running a cannabis business.

The hard reality is, for most breeders and growers, it’s already too late. If they’ve sold a strain a year or longer ago, it’s now in the public domain and therefore can’t be patented.

“Patents are not a threat,” says Dale Hunt, a patent attorney working in biotechnology. “In this young industry, patents are viewed that way. They are only a threat if they are in the hands of a big agricultural company. But they are also a shield. A patent can actually be a sword and a shield.”

If Monsanto gets into the cannabis business—an unconfirmed but common fear if federal legalization occurs—they will definitely have patents on the plant. “People need to realize that, ‘OK, if we can’t stop them from getting into it, we can’t stop them from patenting, do we figure out how to engage, how to defend ourselves using the same tools?’” Hunt expressed.

“We have found out that a lot of people are terrified about big agriculture when it comes to patents,” Mowgli Holmes, Co-Founder and CSO for Phylos Bioscience, added. “But even little breeders want to patent too. We thought that patents on cannabis were bad altogether, but once you start talking to breeders, you realize that they want and need protection.” Phylos is an agricultural genomics company based in Portland, Oregon focusing on cannabis studies.

Hunt explained that some in the industry just want it to be a kind of “patent-free” zone. “And that is just not an option.”

There are a couple of ways to patent a new strain. For example, one can be obtained on an individual strain with a simple plant patent, available through the USPTO. This offers a narrow form of protection against a direct copying of that strain. “Plant patents cost about $5,000 to file and might cost $5,000 in lawyer fees,” Holmes shared. “So they are affordable.”

The utility patent, like the one granted to BioTech, is a patent where an applicant persuaded the examiner that the certain combinations of biochemical and genetic properties were new, and provided various strains that have those properties.

“What is important to understand about that utility patent is that it is not limited to any particular strain,” Hunt explained. “It’s limited to only that combination of properties. And that patent is valid only if that combination of properties never really existed before. A big part of the challenge is: Who knows? Where is the prior art? There is a great and unusual vacuum of knowledge of what is really out there. It may well be that what is before the examiner is not new at all.”

That utility patent could, in effect, end the development of other, more diverse strains if they exhibit the same combination of properties as listed in that patent. “Our position now is that utility patents are being granted, and it’s pretty damn clear that those are not good for the industry,” Holmes said. “They are innovation killing, destructive patents. And if the industry wants to survive, they need to fight them.”

Sadly, there are only more patents coming, “I think they already granted the second one for the same group, and I think that they have several others in the pipeline,” Holmes recounted.

To fight cannabis plant patenting, the Open Cannabis Project was created recently to build a prior art database. The database lists the DNA sequence of thousands of strains that are already out in the public domain and, by doing that, making those particular strains unavailable to be patented by any one person or corporation.

Both Hunt and Holmes are working on that project now.

“That is important because it’s the only possible way to fight a patent on a specific plant,” Holmes said. “We need to get a lot of testing labs to donate their testing data, because that chemical data and what chemical compounds are in the plant is what that 2015 utility patent rested on. If we had done that a year earlier—if we provided that prior art data—I don’t think they could have gotten that patent.”

What could happen now? Hunt gives an example of a mom-and-pop breeder that develops a great strain. “As the industry gets bigger and more lucrative, how are they going to protect that strain from someone grabbing it, and propagating it as their strain?” he concluded. “The mindset that patents are bad is not one that will serve people well in this burgeoning industry.”

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Leonard Peltier Denied Clemency by Obama

Image result for leonard peltier 2014

 

The Office of the Pardon Attorney has announced President Obama has denied clemency to imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Peltier is a former member of the American Indian Movement who was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. He has long maintained his innocence.

Amnesty International condemned the decision.

“We are deeply saddened by the news that President Obama will not let Leonard go home,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Despite serious concerns about the fairness of legal proceedings that led to his trial and conviction, Peltier was imprisoned for more than 40 years. He has always maintained his innocence. The families of the FBI agents who were killed during the 1975 confrontation between the FBI and American Indian Movement (AIM) members have a right to justice, but justice will not be served by Peltier’s continued imprisonment.”

Peltier’s attorney Martin Garbus appeared on Democracy Now! today.

“I think it’s fair to say that if he doesn’t get commuted by President Obama, he’ll die in jail. He’s a very sick man,” Garbus said. “So, Obama’s not granting him clemency is like a sentence of death. Trump ain’t going to do it. And he’s very sick, and he’s not going to live past that time. I don’t want to be negative, but that’s the reality. He’s very sick, and he’s been in prison over 40 years, hard years, six years of solitary.”

Garbus was notified of Obama’s decision earlier today. In an email, the Office of the Pardon Attorney wrote: “The application for commutation of sentence of your client, Mr. Leonard Peltier, was carefully considered in this Department and the White House, and the decision was reached that favorable action is not warranted. Your client’s application was therefore denied by the President on January 18, 2017… Under the Constitution, there is no appeal from this decision.”

See our full coverage on Leonard Peltier


CONTINUE READING…

Executive Clemency for Leonard Peltier

U.S. Marijuana Party of Kentucky

This post was taken from Ruth Hopkins on Twitter this afternoon.  It is a copy of a letter sent from the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota requesting Clemency by President Obama before he leaves office.

Please share far and wide and make your own request for Leonard Peltier’s clemency and read about the case at THIS LINK.

leonardpeltierTHANK YOU!

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North Americans Spent $53.3 Billion On Marijuana Last Year, Most Of It Illegally

The industry “just needs to move demand for an already widely-popular product into legal channels,” a new report says.

01/17/2017 06:20 pm ET

Ryan Grenoble Reporter, The Huffington Post

A new report estimates consumers spent $53.3 billion on cannabis in North America last year.

The first-of-its-kind analysis, compiled by ArcView Market Research, spans legal, medical and illegal marijuana markets across both the United States and Canada. At around $46 billion, the illegal market constituted 87 percent of marijuana sales in 2016 (a decrease from 90 percent in 2015), dwarfing both medical and legal sales.

The marijuana investment and research firm provided a 25-page executive summary of its fifth annual State of Legal Marijuana Markets to The Huffington Post Tuesday, ahead of the full report’s release in February.

Arcview projects the legal marijuana market will expand from its current $6.9 billion to $21.6 billion by 2021, as California, Massachusetts and Canada expand their cannabis sales, and medical sales begin in Florida. The $6.9 billion figure is itself a 34 percent increase in just one year from 2015.

Assuming the projections hold, the five-year growth rate for legal marijuana from 2016 to 2021 would fall just short of that seen by broadband internet providers from 2002 through 2007, which expanded at around 29 percent per year, from around $7 billion to north of $25 billion.

Unlike most of the billion-dollar industries that preceded it, marijuana is in a unique position, ArcView argues, because the market doesn’t need to be created from scratch ― it just needs to transition from illicit to legal channels.

“The enormous amount of existing, if illicit, consumer spending sets cannabis apart from most other major consumer-market investment opportunities throughout history,” Arcview Market Research CEO Troy Dayton explained in an emailed statement.

“In contrast to comparable markets with fast growth from zero to tens of billions in recent decades such as organic foods, home video, mobile, or the internet, the cannabis industry doesn’t need to create demand for a new product or innovation ― it just needs to move demand for an already widely-popular product into legal channels.”

In states that have moved to tax and regulate the drug, the black market has decreased rapidly, the report found. Colorado’s black market, for instance, accounts for about one-third of all cannabis sales, with the majority having transitioned to legal marketplaces.

ArcView found the cashflow going to drug dealers and cartels has diminished accordingly, helped in part by the shrinking “illegality premium” for the product once demanded by the black market. 

CONTINUE READING…

a renewed bid by Oklahoma, Nebraska and others to stamp out Colorado’s recreational cannabis sales…

Bid to take down Colorado marijuana laws revived in court

Amid uncertainty about the future of federal enforcement, a renewed bid by Oklahoma, Nebraska and others to stamp out Colorado’s recreational cannabis sales
  • Published: Jan 17, 2017, 5:42 am

By Alicia Wallace, The Cannabist Staff

Federal appeals court judges on Tuesday reviewed the reach of racketeering laws, chewed over case law and opined over olfactory issues in a case that threatens to stamp out Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry.

A three-judge panel for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver took oral arguments in a consolidated case that claims Colorado’s recreational cannabis laws fly in the face of federal controlled substances and racketeering laws.

The states of Nebraska and Oklahoma joined the dispute after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case. The appeals also included a lawsuit from county sheriffs and another from a Pueblo horse ranch. The plaintiffs’ challenges were among several raised in and after 2014, when Colorado’s first-of-its-kind foray into regulated sales of cannabis didn’t sit well with all, especially neighboring states concerned about federally illicit substances spilling over their borders. Those complaints and the Nebraska-Oklahoma suit were eventually struck down.

On Tuesday morning, in a crowded, small, upstairs courtroom at the Byron White U.S. Courthouse in downtown Denver, attorneys and judges reviewed the reach of RICO and other federal acts and the impacts of marijuana cultivation on nearby properties.

“I went into the courtroom thinking that this was a slam dunk,” Matthew W. Buck, an attorney representing a half-dozen marijuana businesses named in the suits, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “And I came out of it thinking that it would be more of a toss-up.”

Buck said his confidence about the outcome waned after judges appeared to align with plaintiffs’ arguments that the wafting smell of federally illegal marijuana from the Pueblo cultivation facility to neighboring properties such as the horse ranch damaged property values. The impact of the greenhouse construction on sight lines from the property also was cited.

“(If this case were remanded to district court), it would effectively open the floodgates for every single dispensary and every single cultivation facility to be sued under federal court for RICO,” Buck said.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, oft-used in the implication of crime families and fraudulent financiers, also allows for private individuals to sue “racketeers” who allegedly damaged a business or property — in this case, property values. With RICO at the heart of its complaint, the entity backing the Pueblo County horse ranch also argued that the federal prohibition of marijuana overrides state law.

“Colorado is authorizing violation of the (U.S. Controlled Substances Act) through this licensing regime,” Brian W. Barnes, an attorney for plaintiff Safe Streets Alliance, told the judges Tuesday. Safe Streets, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-drug and anti-crime organization, took up the cause of the southern Colorado horse ranchers.


Get caught up on Colorado’s pot lawsuits

In-depth analysis: Who exactly is behind the lawsuits over Colorado’s legal marijuana? Primarily out-of-state interests with deep pockets

Pot pesticides lawsuit tossed: Denver judge says consumers who sued weren’t actually harmed from smoking pot they say was treated with pesticides

Fewer targets: Federal judge removes the governor and other state and Pueblo County officials as defendants in a high-profile marijuana racketeering lawsuit based in southern Colorado

Nebraska-Oklahoma lawsuit: Previous articles about the landmark lawsuit filed by neighboring states over Colorado’s marijuana legalization

More on the RICO suits: Colorado residents suing to halt recreational marijuana sales

RICO suits: Coverage of cases trying to halt Colorado’s recreational marijuana sales by using a federal law against organized crime

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Asked by Judge Harris J. Hartz as to whether a change in enforcement policy on the federal level, perhaps from a new U.S. attorney general, would solve his concerns, Barnes said he would welcome such a change but added it would be a “bank-shot” enforcement action against a third party and would not get at the heart of the state laws that stand in opposition to federal laws.

Hartz later questioned Barnes on the need for more enforcement beyond the mechanisms already in place through federal law or actions such as the 2013 Cole Memo that set guidelines for federal prosecutors in states with legalized marijuana. State laws regulating the sale of marijuana, Hartz noted, could in effect be a means of enforcement.

“How do you decide where to draw the line of authorizing and limiting pot and encouraging it?” Hartz asked.

Matthew Grove, assistant attorney general for the state of Colorado, said his state’s regulations are not preempted by federal law.

A decision from the 10th Circuit panel could take months, case attorneys and legal experts say.

In that time, the current landscape of the U.S. marijuana industry could see a drastic shift. More states may finalize or decide to pursue legalization measures, and a new presidential administration may shake up the “hands-off” status quo in enforcement.

“When the Obama administration did not push back (on legal states), this litigation was sort of the last chance for people opposed to this,” said Sam Kamin, a professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. “Now they can move back to the policy realm and attempt to do so through federal law enforcement.”

If the appeals court judges shoot down the appeal, Kamin said he believes a push to the U.S. Supreme Court would be unlikely.

“That likely will be the end of these legal challenges for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The states’ anti-legalization effort stretches back to December 2014, nearly one year into Colorado recreational marijuana sales.

The states argued that they had to shell out more money because of a spike in marijuana arrests, vehicle impoundments, drug seizures and prisoner transfers.

“This contraband has been heavily trafficked into our state,” Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said at the time, according to a report in the Omaha World-Herald. “While Colorado reaps millions from the production and sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost.”

In the months that followed, Colorado’s marijuana laws were the target of several other suits, including disputes by county sheriffs, Pueblo County horse ranchers and a hotel owner in the mountain town of Frisco.

The cases involving the Pueblo horse ranchers and the county sheriffs advanced to appelate court; the suit by the hotel owner was dismissed after a settlement.

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Marijuana reforms flood state legislatures

By Reid Wilson – 01/13/17

Marijuana reforms flood state legislatures

Legislators in more than a dozen states have introduced measures to loosen laws restricting access to or criminalizing marijuana, a rush of legislative activity that supporters hope reflects a newfound willingness by public officials to embrace a trend toward legalization.

The gamut covered by measures introduced in the early days of legislative sessions underscores the patchwork approach to marijuana by states across the country — and the possibility that the different ways states treat marijuana could come to a head at the federal Justice Department, where President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general is a staunch opponent of legal pot.

Some states are taking early steps toward decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. In his State of the State address this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he will push legislation to remove criminal penalties for non-violent offenders caught with marijuana. 

“The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety,” Cuomo’s office wrote to legislators. “The unnecessary arrest of these individuals can have devastating economic and social effects on their lives.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said during his campaign he would support decriminalizing marijuana. Legislation has passed the Republican-led state House in recent years, though it died when Sununu’s predecessor, now-Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), said she did not support the move.

Several states are considering allowing marijuana for medical use. Twenty-eight states already have widespread medical marijuana schemes, and this year legislators in Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah have introduced bills to create their own versions. Republicans in control of state legislatures in most of those states are behind the push.

Legislators in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, New Mexico and New Jersey will consider recently introduced measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use. 

There is little consensus on just how to approach legalization: Three different bills have been introduced in Connecticut’s legislature. Two have been introduced in New Mexico, and three measures to allow medical pot have been filed in Missouri.

In 2016, voters in four states — Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California — joined Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado in passing ballot measures legalizing pot for recreational purposes. Those efforts, marijuana reform advocates say, have lifted the stigma legislators might have felt.

“Now that voters in a growing number of states have proven that this is a mainstream issue, many more lawmakers feel emboldened to champion marijuana reform, whereas historically this issue was often looked at as a marginalized or third-rail issue,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority.

Just because measures get introduced does not mean they will advance. In many cases, Angell said, it is governors — Democrats and Republicans alike — who stand in the way.

Though Democrats control the Connecticut legislature, Gov. Dan Malloy (D) has made clear he is no supporter of legalized pot. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has not said he would veto a legalization bill, though he is far less friendly to the idea than his predecessor, Democrat Peter Shumlin.

In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has called decriminalizing marijuana a “horrible, horrible idea.” Democratic legislators are considering a plan to put legal marijuana to voters, by proposing an amendment to the state constitution. If New Jersey legislators advance a legalization law, they would run into an almost certain veto from Gov. Chris Christie (R).

While 14 state legislatures have legalized marijuana for medical use, no state legislature has passed a measure legalizing pot for recreational use.

“Every year, we’ve seen legalizers throw everything at the wall to see what might stick,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “I’m not surprised by any means. I don’t think there’s much appetite to legalize through the legislature.”

Sabet conceded that efforts to stop legalization movements in Vermont and Rhode Island may be difficult. He said decriminalization measures can be smart and effective, if they include provisions boosting funding for treatment and prevention, but he warned that decriminalization bills can be a first step toward looser rules.

“The kind of decriminalization that legalization folks want is a stepping stone,” Sabet said. “Their prize is certainly full legalization. I don’t think they’re going to stop at decriminalization.”

In Washington, the incoming Trump administration has sent signals that encourage, and worry, both supporters and opponents of looser pot rules. The Obama Justice Department issued a memorandum to U.S. attorneys downplaying the importance of prosecuting crimes relating to marijuana in states where it is legal.

Trump’s nominee to head the next Justice Department, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), has been sharply critical of states that have legalized marijuana. In his confirmation hearings this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said current guidelines, known as the Cole memo, are “truly valuable.”

Marijuana industry advocates seized on those comments in hopes of locking Sessions into maintaining the status quo.

“The current federal policy, as outlined by the Cole memo, has respected carefully designed state regulatory programs while maintaining the Justice Department’s commitment to pursuing criminals and prosecuting bad actors,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Congress in recent years has passed a rider to appropriations bills that has blocked the Justice Department from taking action against states where pot is legal. But that could change, now that Republicans control the House, Senate and White House.

CONTINUE READING…

We must defend the victory at Standing Rock

We must defend the victory at Standing Rock

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Indigenous water protectors last month secured a major win for Standing Rock. Your actions helped. The Army Corps of Engineers was convinced to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline and conduct an Environmental Impact Statement review.
We need to stand with Standing Rock to ensure that the environmental review won’t be stopped by President-elect Trump.
Progress on the pipeline review is stalled. Although it’s been over a month, the Army Corps of Engineers hasn’t started the review yet. This review is a crucial step in ensuring that the government hears the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s concerns about the pipeline. If the review doesn’t start before President-elect Trump takes office, it could be easier for him to scrap it and ram through completion of the pipeline.
We can’t leave the Dakota Access Pipeline in Trump’s hands: call the Army Corps comment line right now and ask them to start the Environmental Impact Statement review immediately, before January 20th.
President-elect Trump has vowed to fast track the construction of pipelines within his first 100 days in office. We can’t let him ignore the serious human rights issues at play with the Dakota Access Pipeline.
I’ve been to Standing Rock and have spoken with the communities whose land, water and cultural sites are at stake. I’m worried for what might happen under a Trump Administration and what this might mean for the lives of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others that could be affected.
Make the call to the Army Corps right now. It’s easy, quick and can make a real impact. We’ll give you the number and a script for what to say.
The U.S. government must acknowledge that Indigenous people have the right to be involved in decisions that could impact their human rights.
Thank you for taking action.
Sincerely,
Zeke
Zeke Johnson
Individuals at Risk Program
Amnesty International USA

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Amnesty International USA