DOJ’s Mysterious Marijuana Subcommittee

Submitted by Marijuana News on Wed, 06/07/2017 – 08:45

Few details have emerged about a potentially influential review.

Led by an outspoken legalization opponent, Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department is reviewing federal marijuana policy, with significant changes possible soon. Almost nothing about the review process is publicly known and key players in the policy debate have not been contacted.

The outcome of the review could devastate a multibillion-dollar industry and countermand the will of voters in eight states if the Obama administration’s permissive stance on non-medical sales is reversed.

What is known: The review is being conducted by a subcommittee of a larger crime-reduction task force that will issue recommendations by July 27. The subcommittee was announced in April alongside other subcommittees reviewing charging and sentencing.

The task force is co-chaired by Steve Cook, an assistant U.S. attorney in Tennessee who like Sessions advocates harsh criminal penalties and a traditional view of drug prohibition. The other co-chair is Robyn Thiemann, a longtime department official who works as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy.

The marijuana subcommittee is led by Michael Murray, counsel to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, U.S. News has learned.

After graduating from Yale Law School in 2009, Murray ricocheted between law firms and public-sector jobs. He served less than a year as an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia in 2013 before clerking for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, according to his LinkedIn page. He worked at the Jones Day law firm before joining the Trump Justice Department.

Murray could not be reached for comment and Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior declined to comment on the “deliberative processes within the department“ when asked to discuss Murray’s role.

The department declined to identify other members of the subcommittee, the scope of its policy review or name outside groups that are being consulted.

The lack of information provided and the seemingly secretive nature of the review has proponents of a more lenient marijuana policy concerned.

“It’s difficult to ascertain any clear information about the subcommittee and how they’re working,” says Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group representing marijuana businesses.

West says the group is focused on building relationships with members of Congress and points to overwhelming public support for respecting state marijuana laws — 73 percent, according to an April survey by Quinnipiac University.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a large advocacy group that has led many of the successful state legalization campaigns, also says it is not in touch with the subcommittee.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., a leading marijuana reform advocate, requested to meet with Sessions about the issue but was refused, says Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs.

“Without knowing much about the approach the subcommittee is taking, it’s hard to say whether we’d expect them to reach out,” West says. “So far, [Sessions’] comments have not indicated a lot of willingness to work together toward common ground.”

It’s unclear if agencies under the Justice Department’s umbrella, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, are contributing to the subcommittee.

DEA acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg told U.S. News on Tuesday that he is not personally involved in the review, and that he didn’t know if any of his subordinates are. A DEA spokesman was not immediately able to provide additional information.


Vermont would join eight states and the nation's capital in allowing recreational pot use. State cannabis laws vary significantly and many are in the process of implementation.

Eight states have laws authorizing regulated recreational marijuana sales. More than half allow medical marijuana. (STEVEN NELSON FOR USN&WR)


Marijuana possession for any reason outside limited research remains a federal crime. Most state medical programs are protected from federal enforcement by a congressional spending restriction. Recreational programs are protected only by the 2013 Cole Memothat allowed states to regulate sales so long as certain enforcement triggers aren’t tripped, such as diversion to other states, distribution to minors, public health consequences and involvement of criminal groups.

State-legal cannabis businesses hit $6.7 billion in estimated sales last year. Cannabis companies are believed to employ more than 100,000 workers and they collect hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal taxes.

Listening to diverse points of view on marijuana policy is significant because the effects of regulated sales are debated, and data can be spliced to support a point of view.

For example, multiple federal and statesurveys indicate that teen use of marijuana has not increased since 2012, when the states legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older. But use rates have fluctuated for years, so comparing current use to a particularly low-use year further in the past can offer a different impression about trends.

Diversion to other states is also debated. A law enforcement task force called Rocky Mountain HIDTA claimed that intercepts of marijuana mail out of Colorado increased following legalization, sourcing the information to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. But a USPIS spokesperson told U.S. News state-specific records did not exist. Though state-specific records are not available, national parcel intercepts did increase in 2016 after two years of declines. Two states sued Colorado unsuccessfully claiming spillover.

Mexican drug cartels, meanwhile, have been caught smuggling significantly lessmarijuana across the southern border. And it’s unclear if local increases in drugged driving arrests and marijuana hospital admissions are primarily the result of legalization policies or improved awareness and reporting.

In April, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Sessions told him the Cole Memo was “not too far from good policy.” But the attorney general has repeatedly made clear his personal objection to marijuana use and legalization.

In March Sessions scoffed at marijuana’s medical potential and evidence showing legal access associated with less opioid abuse. The prepared copy of a March speech called marijuana use a “life-wrecking dependency” that’s “only slightly less awful” than heroin addiction. In May Sessions said there was “too much legalization talk and not enough prevention talk.” Last year, he famously declared that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

President Donald Trump said during the presidential campaign that he does not personally support marijuana legalization, but favors state autonomy. Recent national polls show roughly 60 percent of Americans believe marijuana use should be legal.

CONTINUE READING…

Loretta Lynch’s hard-line stance on marijuana is making Colorado sweat

Attorney general nominee veers from Obama’s no-big-deal rhetoric

 

Attorney General nominee breaks with President Obama's no-big-deal on marijuana.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

By Valerie Richardson – The Washington Times – Sunday, February 1, 2015

DENVER — Nobody in the Colorado marijuana industry is panicking, but those involved are sweating a little over the hard line taken by Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s pick to be the next attorney general, on legalization during this week’s Senate confirmation hearing.

“Quite a few of my members were expressing concern and nervousness,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Colorado Marijuana Industry Group. “But I’m not sure we could have expected much more than we just heard. Even the president, who came out saying that marijuana is no more dangerous as alcohol, is also on the record as being against legalization.”

States that have legalized or are considering legalizing recreational marijuana use butted heads continually with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who refused to relax stricter federal laws against pot use. Judging from this week’s performance, the fight won’t end when Mr. Holder leaves.

A federal prosecutor in New York, Ms. Lynch told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary she disagreed with the president’s no-big-deal take on pot, saying, “I certainly don’t hold that view and don’t agree with that view of marijuana as a substance.”

“I think the president was speaking from his personal experience and personal opinion, neither of which I’m able to share,” Ms. Lynch said. “But I can tell you that not only do I not support the legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support the legalization. Nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general.”

Her stance buoyed legalization foes such as Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who said in a statement, “We are breathing a sigh of relief.”

“For her to come out so adamantly against legalization is extremely encouraging,” said Mr. Sabet, a former official in the White House drug czar’s office. “It will give our efforts a shot in the arm.”

Marijuana advocates downplayed her responses, pointing out that she was testifying before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee and that its chairman, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, opposes recent state moves to legalize recreational marijuana.

In fact, the day before Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Grassley took to the Senate floor to condemn the Obama administration’s decision to allow states that have legalized recreational pot for adults to proceed within certain parameters with regulated retail markets. Federal laws banning pot, he said, should trump state statutes.

Colorado and Washington launched retail marijuana markets last year, while voters in Alaska and Oregon passed ballot measures in November allowing recreational pot use and sales for adults 21 and over. The District of Columbia has approved adult pot use but not sales.

Mason Tvert, who led the successful 2012 ballot campaign in Colorado, argued that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and cracked, “Fortunately, [Ms. Lynch] has been nominated for attorney general, not surgeon general.”

“We can only hope she was telling some lawmakers what they need to hear in order to get through the confirmation process,” Mr. Tvert said in an email. “It would be shocking if she is actually unaware that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol.”

The Department of Justice issued a guidance in 2013 that essentially allows states to proceed with adult marijuana use and sales while warning that prosecutors would still enforce eight priorities, including keeping marijuana away from children and avoiding pot diversion to other states.

Tom Angell, who heads Marijuana Majority, said in an email that Ms. Lynch also appeared to indicate that she would follow the Justice Department guidance.

“While it’d be ideal to have an attorney general who agrees with the majority of Americans that it is time to end marijuana prohibition, we really don’t need federal officials to personally support legalization,” Mr. Angell. “We only need them to respect the will of voters who have implemented legalization in their own states.”

Story Continues →

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/1/loretta-lynchs-stance-on-pot-may-be-problematic-fo/#ixzz3Qc8CBoXS
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Colorado attorney general backs firing of medical-marijuana patient

By John Ingold
The Denver Post

The state attorney general’s office says Coloradans do not have a right to use marijuana off-the-job, siding with a satellite television company in its firing of a medical-marijuana patient.

In a brief filed with the state Supreme Court last month, the Colorado attorney general’s office argues that giving workers a right to use marijuana off-duty “would have a profound and detrimental impact on employers in the state.”

“Contrary to popular perception, Colorado has not simply legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes,” state attorneys write in the brief. “Instead, its citizens have adopted narrowly drawn constitutional amendments that decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.”

The Colorado Court of Appeals — the state’s second-highest court — last year upheld Dish Network’s firing of a quadriplegic medical-marijuana patient for a positive drug test. Though there is no allegation that Brandon Coats was stoned at work, the company said it has a zero-tolerance policy on marijuana.

Coats say his off-the-job marijuana use should be protected by Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which prevents companies from firing employees for doing things outside of work — like smoking cigarettes — that are legal. Dish Network argues that marijuana use can’t be considered lawful while cannabis remains illegal federally.

In its brief supporting Dish Network, the state attorney general’s office says zero-tolerance policies ensure that employees are able to perform their jobs competently. Requiring employers to prove that workers are stoned on the job before they can be fired would require companies to conduct “intrusive investigations into the personal life of an employee.”

“Simply put, zero tolerance policies provide businesses with an efficient means of avoiding difficult employment decisions and even litigation,” the attorney general’s brief states.

Coats’ case is the first time Colorado’s highest court has taken up questions about the scope of marijuana legalization in the state, and it has drawn at least six outside groups filing briefs in support of either Coats or Dish.

The Colorado Mining Association, the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association and the Colorado Civil Justice League — which claims an allegiance with several businesses and groups including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce — have filed briefs on behalf of Dish. The Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association and the Patient and Caregivers Rights Litigation Project have filed briefs supporting Coats.

The Supreme Court has not yet announced when it will hear the case.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, [email protected] or twitter.com/john_ingold

Read more: Colorado attorney general backs firing of medical-marijuana patient – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25897526/colorado-attorney-general-backs-firing-medical-marijuana-patient#ixzz33hxw3Xnp
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Humboldt: Sheriff’s office seizes nearly a ton of dried marijuana, cash and weapons; 17 arrested

 

The Times-Standardwillitsnews.com

Posted: 10/12/2012 12:57:19 PM PDT

marijuana

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office seized a total of 718 marijuana plants at an estimated value of $4,000,000 after serving a search warrant on the 2000 block of Sunset Ridge Road in Blocksburg Thursday morning. (The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office)

The following is a list provided by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office of those arrested and booked into the Humboldt County jail Thursday morning on suspicion of cultivation and possession for sale of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit a felony:

Elber Dejesus Ivonnet, male, 53, North Bergen, NJ, bailed

Geyler Melo-Pueyol, male, 22, Miami, FL, in custody, $75,000 bail

Richardo Mateos-Perez, male, 22,, from Homestead, FL, in custody, $75,000 bail

Fernando Olvera, male, 39, Santa Rosa, CA, bailed

Luis Manuel Sosa-Vega, male, 47, Santiago, Cuba, in custody, $75,000 bail

Jose Pulido, male, 42, Los Reva, Mexico, in custody, $75,000 bail, ICE hold

Hildegarde Safont-Arias, male, 42, Hialeah, FL, in custody, $75,000 bail

Disney Bolanos-Chacon, male, 41, Charlotte, N. C., in custody, $75,000 bail

Jonines Ibonnet, male, 42, Oakland, CA, bailed

Terrence Henderson, male, 43, Eureka, CA, in custody $75,000.00 bail

Pauline Ionie Barnes, female, 44, Green Island, Jamica, released on O.R.

Arlettis Rodriguez-Alverez, female, 22, Hileah, FL, released on O.R.

Dayana Isabel Padron, female, 19, Blocksburg, CA, released on O.R.

Elizabeth Enamorado De Padron, female, 40, Santiago, Cuba, released on O.R.

Hyacinth Hypatiae English, female, 48, Bridgeville, CA, released on O.R.

Idalmis Leyva Ivonnet, female, 62, Charlotte, N.C., released on O.R.

Michael Lewis Iverson Jr., 35, from Eureka, California was also arrested at the marijuana growing site, however he was only arrested on an outstanding probation violation warrant with a bail of $30,000.


posted 12:15 PM

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

On 10-11-2012, at approximately 9:30 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office assisted by the Eureka Police Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Humboldt County Drug Task Force served a Humboldt County Superior Court Search Warrant on the 2000 block of Sunset Ridge Road, Blocksburg.

Upon serving the search warrant, deputies located and detained 17 suspects. As deputies arrived and announced their presence one of the suspects, identified as Johines Ibonnet, attempted to jump out the back window of the residence and broke his ankle. He was transported to a local hospital and treated for his injury prior to being booked into jail.

Upon searching the 45-acre parcel deputies found a very large, sophisticated marijuana growing and processing operation. The operation consisted of marijuana plants being grown in two large greenhouses estimated to be between 60 feet by 100 feet, along with marijuana plants being grown out in the open and inside the residence.

The residence and greenhouses were powered by two commercial sized 25 KW generators. The growing marijuana plants ranged in size from 6 feet to 8 feet tall and were budding.

Deputies estimated the growing plants to have at least one to two pounds of marijuana bud being produced on each plant. There were a total of 718 growing marijuana plants located and seized on the property. Inside a large drying shed, estimated to be approximately 60 feet by 40 feet, deputies located and seized approximately 900 lbs. of drying marijuana bud. Inside the residence deputies located two commercial marijuana trimming machines being used to trim the dried marijuana bud from the plants.

Deputies also located approximately 132 pounds of dried marijuana bud along with numerous drying racks and 261 sealed bags of marijuana bud ready to sell, estimated to weigh approximately one pound or more each, along with packaging material, scales, a Norinco AK-47 assault rifle with several loaded high capacity magazines, a money counter and approximately $9,500.00 cash.

A total of approximately 1,293 pounds of dried marijuana bud was located. Dried marijuana bud is being sold for approximately $2,000 a pound. The estimated value of the dried marijuana bud seized is $2,586,000.00 whole sale.

If the live marijuana plants had been harvested they would had yielded conservatively an additional 718 pounds of dried marijuana bud estimated to be $1,436,000.00 wholesale. The value of the marijuana seized is estimated to be at least $4 million dollars in just marijuana bud, not including the leaves.

Several of the suspects admitted to investigating officers they were hired to work at the marijuana grow as laborers.

Anyone with information for the Sheriffs Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

CONTINUE READING….

Eric Holder Urged To Oppose Marijuana Ballots By Ex-DEA Heads

Eric Holder Marijuana

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Nine former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration urged Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday to take a stand against possible legalization of recreational marijuana in three western states, saying silence would convey acceptance.

The former officials said in a letter sent on Friday that legalization would pose a direct conflict with federal law, indicating there would be a clash between the states and the federal government on the issue.
Voters in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon are due to decide in November whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use and to regulate and tax its sale.
“To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives,” they said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters. A spokeswoman for Holder declined to comment on the letter.

The letter is similar to one they sent Holder in 2010 urging him to oppose a recreational pot legalization ballot measure in California. It was defeated with 53.5 percent of voters rejecting it.
Holder opposed the California measure before the vote, warning that U.S. officials would enforce federal laws against marijuana in California despite any state legalization.
Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser on marijuana issues to President Barack Obama’s administration, said he would not be surprised if Holder took that same position again.
“Essentially, a state vote in favor of legalization is a moot point since federal laws would be, in (Holder’s) own words (from 2010), ‘vigorously enforced,'” Sabet said. “I can’t imagine a scenario where the Feds would sit back and do nothing.”

Obama administration officials have until now said little about the upcoming ballot measures, although the federal government has cracked down on medical cannabis dispensaries in several states by raiding them and threatening legal action.

PUBLIC SUPPORT
In recent years polls have shown growing national support for decriminalizing marijuana. In May, an Angus Reid survey showed 52 percent of those polled expressed support for legalizing pot. The poll of 1,017 respondents had a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Gallup saw support hit 50 percent last year, the highest number the organization had ever measured on the question.
In the swing state of Colorado, the marijuana measure with its potential to bring out young voters is seen as potentially influencing votes for president. Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling said earlier this year that marijuana “could be a difference maker” in the state.

The nine signatories to Friday’s letter included John Bartels, who ran the DEA from 1973 to 1975, and Karen Tandy, who was in charge from 2003 to 2007.
Tom Constantine, who was in charge of the DEA from 1994 to 1999 and also signed the letter, said the former administrators hoped it would send a message to voters and alter the public debate.
He said the letter had been sent so “voters would know in all fairness that no matter what they vote on in Colorado or wherever it is, that federal law still prevails.”
In response to a 2011 petition to legalize and regulate marijuana, Obama administration drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said at that time that federal officials were concerned about the drug because it was “associated with addiction, respiratory disease and cognitive impairment.”

Legalization advocates say the decades-old drug war in the United States has failed, and they compare laws against marijuana to the prohibition of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. They argue that society would be better served if marijuana could be taxed and regulated.

While no U.S. state allows recreational use of marijuana, 17 states and the District of Columbia permit its use in medicine.

“Anyone who is objective at all knows that current marijuana policy in this country is a complete disaster, with massive arrests, wasted resources, and violence in the U.S. and especially in Mexico,” said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action, which has poured money into legalization campaigns.

(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)

CONTINUE READING…

From the Whitehouse: “Why we can’t pardon Marc Emery”…(received 11/18/2011)

The White House

Why We Can’t Comment on Marc Emery

Thank you for signing the petition “Pardon Marc Emery.” We appreciate your participation in the We the People platform on WhiteHouse.gov.

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the President the authority to grant “Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States.” For more than 100 years, Presidents have relied on the Department of Justice and its Office of the Pardon Attorney for assistance in the exercise of this power. Requests for executive clemency for federal offenses should be directed to the Pardon Attorney, who conducts a review and investigation, and prepares the Department’s recommendation to the President. Additional information and application forms are available on the Pardon Attorney’s website.

The President takes his constitutional power to grant clemency very seriously, and recommendations from the Department of Justice are carefully considered before decisions are made. The White House does not comment, however, on individual pardon applications. In accordance with this policy and the We the People Terms of Participation–which explain that the White House may sometimes choose not to respond to petitions addressing certain matters—the White House declines to comment on the specific case addressed in this petition.

Check out this response on We the People.

Stay Connected

Stay connected to the White House by signing up for periodic email updates from President Obama and other senior administration officials.

RE: Marc Emery

Uploaded by mrwhateverfor on Dec 20, 2011

On July 29, 2005, Canadian police, acting on a request from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), simultaneously raided the BC Marijuana Party Bookstore and Headquarters in Vancouver and arrested Emery for extradition to the United States outside a local storefront in the community of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia where he was attending a HempFest.

American authorities charged Emery and co-defendants Gregory Keith Williams, 50, of Vancouver, BC and Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek, 34, of Vancouver, BC with “‘Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana”, “Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana Seeds” and “Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering”. Even though all the alleged offenses occurred in Canada, Canadian police did not lay any charges.

The day of Emery’s arrest, American DEA Administrator Karen Tandy admitted reasons behind the arrest were politically motivated by releasing the following statement, which praised blows dealt to the legalization movement: Today’s DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group — is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement. His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today. Emery and his organization had been designated as one of the Attorney General’s most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets — one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.

Emery was freed on a $50,000 bail and prepared to fight extradition in the courts.

Emery and his two associates, all charged in the United States with drug and money laundering offences, each faced a minimum 10-year sentence and the possibility of life imprisonment if convicted there.

On January 14, 2008, Emery had agreed to a tentative plea-bargain with U.S. authorities. The terms of the agreement were a 5-year prison term to be served in both Canadian and U.S. prisons. In return, he demanded the charges against his friends Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams be dropped.

(An appeal court judge ruled on March 7, 2008 in a similar case that a one-month jail sentence and probation constituted an adequate sentence for the crime of marijuana seed selling in Canada. This could possibly have been used to Emery’s advantage in his fight against extradition.

On March 27, 2008 the plea-bargain deal collapsed because of the refusal of the Canadian Conservative government to approve its side of the arrangement.

In late 2008, an extradition hearing was scheduled for June, 2009. However, before those hearings Emery agreed to plead guilty to one charge of drug distribution and accept a five-year sentence in the USA.

On September 21, 2009, Emery entered his guilty plea, and on September 28, he was incarcerated in a British Columbia prison awaiting extradition to a US federal prison to serve the five year sentence. There is a 30 day appeal period before extradition.

Emery was granted bail on November 18, after seven weeks in the pre-trial centre, to await the Justice Minister’s decision on the extradition order.

While Emery was imprisoned, his supporters held a permanent vigil outside the prison with tents and banners for 45 days, ending when Emery was released on bail.

On September 10, 2010, Emery was sentenced to 5 years in prison minus time served.

Until April 2011 Emery was held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the D. Ray James Correctional Institution in Folkston, Georgia.

On April 20, 2011, Emery was transferred to Yazoo City Prison in Mississippi.

Marijuana and the campaign for attorney general

A couple of issues involving marijuana have arisen in the Democratic primary campaign for Oregon attorney general, and I shall attempt to sort them out here. Some background:

— Oregon was the first state to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. The 1973 Legislature made possession of less than one ounce punishable as an infraction with a maximum fine of $100. (It’s now a maximum of $1,000.)

— The 1997 Legislature passed a bill to recriminalize simple possession as a misdemeanor. But opponents collected enough signatures to force a statewide election on the measure — which automatically put it on hold — and voters rejected it in November 1998 by a 2 to 1 majority (66.5 percent against the 1997 law).

— Also in the same 1998 election, voters approved a separate ballot initiative to authorize medicinal use of marijuana for specified conditions, with a doctor’s permission. (The majority here was 54.6 percent.) California was the first state to do so in 1996. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have such laws; Maryland allows it only as a legal defense, and is not among the 16. Federal law, however, makes no such provision.

— Law enforcement types favored the tougher possession law and opposed the medical-marijuana initiative, but lost on both. The medical-marijuana law has been amended a couple of times by the Legislature, but only after a consensus product was negotiated. Oregon does not allow its sale, unlike California, but patients registered with the state can designate registered caregivers to supply it. Persona limits are 24 ounces and 24 plants (6 mature and 18 immature). Doctors must grant permission, but they do not write “prescriptions.”

Back to the election, which has two candidates in the Democratic primary for the office being vacated by Democrat John Kroger. There is no Republican, and whoever wins the Democratic primary is the odds-on favorite for the Nov. 6 general election, even if there are minor-party candidates on that ballot. The contenders are Dwight Holton, former interim U.S. attorney for Oregon, who has spent 15 years as a federal prosecutor in New York and Portland, and Ellen Rosenblum, also a former federal prosecutor (not at the same time as Holton), a Multnomah County judge and Oregon Court of Appeals judge.

A political committee called Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement has weighed in against Holton and for Rosenblum, based on a past statement by Holton that the 1998 medical-marijuana law was a “train wreck,” a letter by him to landlords housing offices assisting medical-marijuana patients, and federal raids last fall (while he was the interim U.S. attorney) on state-sanctioned marijuana grow sites.

(The state law is not a legal shield against federal action.)

Here’s a statement from Robert Wolfe, director of Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement:

(start of Wolfe statement)

“Ellen Rosenblum will support Oregon’s voter-approved medical marijuana program, and says personal marijuana use is the lowest priority for law enforcement. That’s common sense.

“Dwight Holton has called our voter-approved law a ‘train wreck’ and is campaigning on his plan to gut it. Holton is openly disrespectful of Oregon voters, and hostile to medical-marijuana patients and providers. He would be a disaster as attorney general.

“Most voters agree that marijuana law enforcement should be a low priority. Holton used prosecutorial resources to go after state-approved medical marijuana providers. That’s wasteful and unnecessary. That’s just part of why Dwight’s not right for attorney general.

“Judge Ellen Rosenblum brings years of Oregon experience as a prosecutor and a judge, and she supports this key law that Oregonians overwhelmingly support. The choice is clear for supporters of our medical marijuana program or voter-approved initiatives in general.”

(end of Wolfe statement)

The group organized pickets outside the Governor Hotel in Portland, where Holton and Rosenblum appeared Friday at the Portland City Club. (Full disclosure: I had planned to go, but I had some computer problems at the office that delayed my work.)

Now for Holton’s responses, which were furnished by his campaign at my request:

(start of Holton’s furnished material)

On support for Medical Marijuana Act: I will enforce Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act as attorney general. The voters passed it for a very compassionate reason and it will be my job to uphold the law.

On problems with OMMA: The law should be about meeting the needs of patients — that was voters’ intent when they passed it. I’ve heard two things: One, advocates say that people who need it can’t get it.  And two, law enforcement says that it’s ending up on the black market. If you care about the law, then you also need to protect its integrity.  It should not be used as back-door legalization.  It is on this point that Ellen and I differ.

On Ellen’s comment on her Web site that that “marijuana enforcement will be a low priority”: Ellen says she will make marijuana enforcement a low priority.  She is making a campaign promise not to enforce Oregon’s marijuana laws and that is appalling — especially when you’re running to be attorney general, the state’s top law enforcement officer.

So the choice before voters is someone who will uphold Oregon law – or someone who makes campaign promises not to enforce the law in order to get votes. I don’t believe the AG gets to make unilateral decisions about which laws to enforce and not enforce. The voters and the legislature expect you to uphold all state laws.

(end of Holton’s furnished material)

I should note, as I have in previous coverage, that the district attorneys in Oregon’s 36 counties — not the attorney general — initiate most criminal prosecutions. The Department of Justice, which is led by the attorney general, does have responsibility to assist district attorneys and defend appeals of criminal convictions in trial courts.

See also separate post on Holton’s criticism of Wolfe on a related matter.

— Peter Wong

CONTINUE READING…

Marc Emery’s U.S. prosecutor urges pot legalization

John McKay once prosecuted B.C.’s ‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery
CBC News Posted: Apr 18, 2012 12:12 PM PT

Former U.S. Attorney John McKay joined marijuana legalization activist Jodie Emery in Vancouver on Wednesday.

The former U.S. district attorney who prosecuted B.C. marijuana activist Marc Emery in a cross-border sting is calling for the legalization and taxation of pot in Canada and the U.S.

John McKay, a former U.S. attorney for the western district of Washington State, was joined by Emery’s wife Jodie and former B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant at a lecture in Vancouver on Wednesday.

McKay said he did not regret prosecuting Emery because he broke U.S. law, but he believes the war on pot has been a complete and total failure. He said the laws keeping pot illegal no longer serve any purpose, but allow gangs and cartels to generate billions in profits.

"I want to say this just as clearly and as forthrightly as I can, marijuana prohibition, criminal prohibition of marijuana is a complete failure," McKay said.

McKay said marijuana, like alcohol, should be produced and sold to adults by the government, and that would generate at least half a billion dollars in revenue annually in Washington State alone.

More importantly, he said, ending prohibition would end the violent reign of gangs and drug cartels who are profiting from the situation. He said any prohibition in society requires broad support from the population, and that isn’t the case with marijuana.

The appearance was organized by Stop the Violence BC, a coalition of high-profile academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts, which is working to reduce crime and public health problems stemming from the prohibition on marijuana.

The group includes several former B.C. attorneys general, several former Vancouver mayors, a former B.C. premier and a former RCMP superintendent for the province.

McKay, a Republican, was a U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2007, when he resigned or was fired along with eight other U.S attorneys by President Bush.

He is now a professor in the faculty of law at Seattle University and an avid supporter of the Washington State ballot initiative for the November election to implement a regulated, taxed market for marijuana.

Marc Emery remains in prison in the U.S., serving a five-year sentence for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana through his mail-order cannabis seed business.