Tag Archives: california

The Justice Department said the operation represented one of the largest-ever residential forfeiture efforts in U.S. criminal history.

Justice Department seizes over 100 homes in crackdown on marijuana operation

Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. law enforcement agencies seized over 100 homes in the Sacramento, California-area this week in what the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday said was part of a sweeping crackdown on a criminal marijuana growing operation funded by China-based criminal groups.

In a two-day sweep that started on Tuesday, the Justice Department said hundreds of federal agents and local police executed search warrants at about 74 homes and two business offices believed to be used for marijuana-growing operations.

At the same time, the Justice Department filed civil forfeiture actions against 100 homes, a legal action allowing the government to confiscate assets if there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made cracking down on illegal drugs one of his priorities since taking over the helm of the Justice Department last year.

Sessions, who has made no secret of his disdain for marijuana, in January ended an Obama-era policy that called on prosecutors not to prioritize bringing federal marijuana cases in states where it is legal.

The policy change came shortly after California formally launched the world’s largest regulated market for recreational pot.

The operation announced on Wednesday, however, relates to underground illegal marijuana-growing operations, and not those following California’s stringent regulatory and licensing regime.

Federal law enforcement officials said in a statement that the criminal organization targeted through the home seizures used foreign funds to purchase the homes in order to use them for growing marijuana.

Down payments on the properties were financed by wire transfers from the province of Fujian, China, and the pot that was grown in the homes was later distributed outside California to other parts of the United States, the statement said.

The Justice Department said the operation represented one of the largest-ever residential forfeiture efforts in U.S. criminal history.

In addition to seizing the homes, the government also seized 61,050 marijuana plants, more than 440 pounds (200 kg) of processed marijuana and 15 firearms.

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Labor unions see organizing California marijuana workers as a way to grow

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Unions have caught a whiff of a rare opportunity to organize a whole new set of workers as recreational marijuana becomes legal in California.

The United Farm Workers, Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers are looking to unionize the tens of thousands of potential workers involved in the legal weed game, from planters to rollers to sellers. The move could provide a boost to organized labor’s lagging membership — if infighting doesn’t get in the way.

The United Farm Workers, co-founded by iconic labor leader Cesar Chavez, says that organizing an industry rooted in agriculture is a natural fit, and that growers could label their products with the union’s logo as a marketing strategy.

“If you’re a cannabis worker, the UFW wants to talk with you,” national Vice President Armando Elenes said.

But United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents grocery store employees, meat packers and retail workers, registered its intent to organize cannabis workers across the country.

“We would hope they respect our jurisdiction,” UFCW spokesman Jeff Ferro said.

Teamsters organizer Kristin Heidelbach said there’s no need for unions to battle each other. There will be plenty of workers needing representation as small cannabis businesses run by “happy stoner” types give way to large pharmaceutical corporations, she said.

The green rush that begins in 2018 is an opportunity for unions to regain influence that began declining in the late 1950s, said David Zonderman, a professor of labor history at North Carolina State University. But discord between unions could upend it, as could resistance from cannabis business leaders.

California's top marijuana regulator talks about what to expect Jan. 1, when legal pot market opens

“Are they going to be new age and cool with it,” Zonderman said, “or like other businesspeople, say, ‘Heck, no. We’re going to fight them tooth and nail’?”

Last year, California voters approved sales of recreational marijuana to those 21 and older at licensed shops beginning Jan. 1.

Cannabis in California already is a $22-billion industry, including medical marijuana and a black market that accounts for most of that total, according to UC Davis agriculture economist Philip Martin. Medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, when California was the first state to approve such a law.

Labor leaders estimate recreational pot in California could employ at least 100,000 workers from the north coast to the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Joaquin Valley, harvesting and trimming the plants, extracting ingredients to put in liquids and edibles, and driving it to stores and front doors.

Pot workers have organized in other states, but California should be especially friendly territory for unions, said Jamie Schau, a senior analyst with Brightfield Group, which does marketing analysis on the marijuana industry.

The state has one of the nation’s highest minimum wages and the largest number of unionized workers across industries. Its laws also tend to favor employees.

At least some workers say they’re open to unionizing.

“I’m always down to listen to what could be a good deal for me and my family,” said Thomas Grier, 44, standing behind the counter at Canna Can Help Inc., a dispensary in the Central Valley community of Goshen.

The dispensary — with $7 million in yearly sales — sells medical marijuana.

Called a “bud tender,” Grier recently waited on a steady flow of regular customers walking through the door to pick out their favorite strains.

He said that so far, no unions have contacted him. Grier gets along with his boss and said he doesn’t want to pay union dues for help ironing out workplace disputes. But he hasn’t discounted the possibility of joining.

After recently entering the marijuana industry, Los Angeles resident Richard Rodriguez said one sticky traffic stop three months ago converted him into a “hard core” Teamster. He’d never been in a union until this year.

Rodriguez said an officer pulled him over while he was delivering a legal shipment of pot. He was accused of following too closely behind a semi-truck and was detained for 12 hours, he said.

A union lawyer stepped in, and Rodriguez said he was released without being arrested or given a ticket.

“Most companies can’t or are unwilling to do that,” he said, “because employees are easily replaced.”

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Marijuana activist since 1960s facing California pot charges

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press

December 20, 2017 08:50 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif.

A marijuana activist whose advocacy dates to the 1960s counterculture has been arrested in California toting 22 pounds of illegal marijuana, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Irvin Dana Beal, 70, of New York, was arrested Saturday in far Northern California after prosecutors said his rental car was spotted weaving across the road and driving 20 miles below the speed limit. James Statzer, 51, of Michigan, also was arrested.

The arrest occurred along a well-traveled highway in California’s famed Emerald Triangle area, known for its high-grade pot. A police dog smelled marijuana during the stop and 22 pounds of the drug was found.

Both men pleaded not guilty to charges of possessing drugs for sale and felony transportation charges and were being held in lieu of $75,000 bail.

Beal has been promoting marijuana’s medical benefits for decades. His activism dates to the 1960s heyday of Abbie Hoffman and the Youth International Party, known as the Yippies.

Recreational sales of marijuana become legal in California on Jan. 1, and medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1996. But it’s still illegal to transport large quantities of the drug or to take it out of state.

It’s not uncommon for traffickers to think they can now transport pot risk-free, said Deputy District Attorney Colleen Murray, who is prosecuting the case.

“People are like, ‘It’s legal.’ So often they’re very open with officers, ‘Oh hey, I have 100 pounds,'” she said. “That’s not the way it works.”

Defense attorney Tom Ballanco said it’s not clear if his two clients thought they were acting legally.

Friends were raising money for Beal’s bail, Ballanco said, concerned that he is a heart attack survivor and has other illnesses. Beal isn’t a flight risk and looks forward to fighting the charges, Ballanco said.

“The nature of his life, really, is one of activism. He’s not the type of person who’s going to flee from this,” Ballanco said. “He’s certainly a very colorful figure. I’m happy to be representing him and his co-defendant.”

For law enforcement, these were routine arrests in an area where traffickers typically tote hundreds if not thousands of pounds of famed Emerald Triangle pot to East Coast states.

“People can buy it here for maybe $800 or $1,000 a pound,” Murray said. “Once they get back there … they’re going to get maybe $3,000 to $4,000 a pound for it. That’s a nice profit.”

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Facebook Posts Indicate That Once Again, Dana Beal Has Been Arrested

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and outdoor

John Penley

Dana Beal [seen here speaking at the DNC protests in Philly] has just been arrested again for transporting a load of marijuana in Weaverville, California.

   SOURCE

Wayward Bill

Bummer. A fellow Yippie and friend.
Dana Beal BUSTED IN NORTHERN CALIF
BUSTED YESTERDAY IN TRINITY COUNTY, CALIFORNIA….
HE IS LOCATED AT :
TRINITY COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
101 MEMORIAL DRIVE
P.O. BOX 1228
WEAVERVILLE, CA 96093

TRINITY COUNTY JAIL FACILITY
101 MEMORIAL DRIVE
P.O. BOX 1119
WEAVERVILLE, CA 96093

(530) 623-2611
Fax: (530) 623-8180

Follow Aron Kay ‘s wall for details and updates.

Updates will follow…

“…We need support in dealing with transnational criminal organizations and dealing with human trafficking – not in going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana,”

marijuana

Kamala Harris to Trump: Leave grandma’s marijuana alone

By Sean Cockerham

scockerham@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON

Sen. Kamala Harris of California used the year’s first big 2020 presidential spotlight Tuesday to rail against Trump administration drug policies and call for easing laws governing marijuana.

“Let me tell you what California needs, Jeff Sessions. We need support in dealing with transnational criminal organizations and dealing with human trafficking – not in going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana,” she said, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Tuesday’s Ideas Conference, put on by the influential liberal think tank Center for American Progress, was a widely watched testing ground for a Democratic Party that is desperately in search of new leadership. More than 100 reporters signed up to cover the event, with hundreds of spectators in the audience at a ballroom in the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown.

Harris’ address comes as the freshman senator broadens her profile, including in recent days an extended appearance on CNN’s “The Lead” and the commencement address at Howard University, her alma mater. Harris was among the most anticipated Democratic up-and-comers in an Ideas Conference lineup that also included oft-mentioned potential presidential candidates such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Harris insists she’s not thinking about a run for president but progressive leaders at the Ideas Conference were closely watching her with 2020 in mind.

Michele Jawando, vice president for legal progress at the Center for American Progress, was struck by Harris’ decision to focus on Sessions’ criminal justice policies – an issue that’s been lost amid the fire hose of news about Trump’s Russia controversies.

“(Harris) is without question someone we’re going to continue to talk about,” she said.

Harris focused on Sessions’ new dictate that federal prosecutors pursue the toughest criminal penalties possible – including mandatory minimum sentences – for drugs and other crimes. Sessions is threatening to pursue federal marijuana prosecutions even in states like California that voted to legalized pot.

“While I don’t believe in legalizing all drugs – as a career prosecutor I just don’t – we need to do the smart thing, the right thing, and finally decriminalize marijuana,” Harris said, in one of the strongest pro-pot statements that she has made in her political career.

Harris called Sessions’ push for maximum sentences a revival of a failed war on drugs in which Latinos and African-Americans were disproportionately incarcerated and the nation’s drug issues only got worse.

“Instead of going after violent crime, drug cartels, and major traffickers, we’re worried about the neighborhood street-level dealer,” she said. “Instead of addressing the core issue of addiction and getting folks into treatment, we’re going to overcrowd and build more prisons.”

Harris told the progressive crowd that the issue offers an opening for them to ally with conservatives. Republicans including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky oppose harsh sentencing such as mandatory minimum terms as a useless destroyer of lives. And opioid addiction is devastating red and blue states alike.

The Ideas Conference had Californians at the forefront of the Democratic Party’s search for leadership. California Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters were featured and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, a potential candidate for governor of California, made an appearance.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, also a possible candidate for governor next year, gave the opening address.

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Marijuana may be legal in California, but it could get you deported

Immigrant rights activists and attorneys are reminding immigrants of potential consequences of using marijuana at a time when President Donald Trump is ramping up deportation efforts.

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By Alejandra Molina | amolina@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise

PUBLISHED: April 14, 2017 at 7:07 pm | UPDATED: April 14, 2017 at 10:31 pm

It’s legal in California, but marijuana possession and use is still a federal offense that could cause serious problems for immigrants in the Golden State.

“It is still a federal offense,” said Inland-based attorney Russell Jauregui. “Federal law controls immigration and thus people will still face severe immigration consequences for marijuana conviction/use.”

Undocumented immigrants can be deported for marijuana consumption in certain circumstances and may risk not being admitted back into the United States if they leave.

Immigrant rights activists and attorneys are reminding immigrants of potential consequences at a time when President Donald Trump is ramping up deportation efforts. The White House has said that any immigrant living in the U.S. illegally who has been charged or convicted of any crime, or even suspected of committing a crime, is now an enforcement priority.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, declined to say how the agency deals with immigrants accused or convicted of marijuana crimes in states where it’s legal.

Instead, she reiterated the Department of Homeland Security’s focus on targeting all “removable aliens” who have committed crimes, beginning with those who have been convicted of a criminal offense.

While those who pose a threat to public safety will continue to be a focus, the department will not exempt classes or categories of unauthorized immigrants from potential enforcement, she said.

“All those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States,” Kice said.

That’s why immigrants need to be aware of consequences surrounding marijuana use, advocates said.

“It could happen that people think that now that it’s legalized, that it would be completely safe, but obviously in this era of increasing concern of criminalization, and the fact that the federal government has said it wants to crack down on marijuana on the federal level, we’re really just trying to help inform and be proactive with immigrants of these concerns,” said Angie Junck, a supervising attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a San Francisco-based national nonprofit agency.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February said that federal officials would try to adopt “reasonable policies” for enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws. Sessions has said he believes violence surrounds sales and use of the drug.

California is home to more than 10 million immigrants, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Nearly half of all of the state’s immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens and another 26 percent have some sort of legal status, including green cards and visas. It’s estimated that about a quarter of California’s immigrants are undocumented.

In a state where the immigrant population is so vast, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in January 2017 issued a flier that spells out what non-U.S. citizens should and should not do when it comes to marijuana.

It advises non-U.S. citizens not to use marijuana until they are citizens, and not to work in marijuana shops. On top of that, it cautions undocumented immigrants not to leave the house carrying marijuana, a medical marijuana card, paraphernalia, or other accessories such as marijuana T-shirts or stickers. Additionally, they should never have photos, text messages or anything else connecting them to marijuana on their phone or social media accounts.

Most importantly, it advises non-citizen immigrants to never admit to any immigration or border official that they have ever have used or possessed marijuana.

What it boils down to, Junck said, is that immigration law is federal and marijuana use remains a federal offense, as well as grounds for deportation.

Marijuana is still listed as an illegal drug in the Controlled Substance Act and the Immigration and Naturalization Act deems drug trafficking an “aggravated felony,” a type of crime that has been a deportation priority.

Lawful permanent residents can be deported for any drug offense, with the sole exception of a conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

And, undocumented immigrants with a drug conviction can face a lifetime bar from ever gaining legal status. The only exception is a single conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, and by showing extreme hardship to certain family members such as a spouse or children.

However, certain provisions under immigration law don’t always require a conviction in order for a person to be considered for deportation.

“Immigrants need to know that they can still face some consequences if they admit marijuana use to an immigration official,” Junck said.

“The biggest concern is admission to an immigration official,” she said.

Immigration officials can stop and ask people whatever they want; it’s just a question of whether the person decides to respond, Junck said. For example, when coming in from customs at the airport, officials can refer someone to what Junck referred to as secondary inspection.

“They may ask questions and those questions can vary from, ‘What’s your immigration status?’ to ‘Have you committed crimes for which you’ve never been arrested?’” Junck said. “Or maybe there’s a basic question that can be like, ‘Have you ever used marijuana?’”

Immigrant rights activists say the implications of admitting marijuana use are not widely known.

“There is a stigma about marijuana use in Latino immigrant communities and we need to erase that stigma if we are going to talk honestly about the legal repercussions of its use for non-citizens,” said Luis Nolasco, an immigrant rights organizer in the Inland Empire. “This is particularly for the older generation of undocumented parents who may have youth that engages in marijuana use.”

For now, it’s mostly unclear how federal authorities are going to address this legal situation. And in states where marijuana is legal, it’s a topic of serious concern for immigration attorneys and their clients.

“Under the Obama administration, I think it was treated more like a wait-and- see where we’re just going to kind of let this evolve,” said David Kolko, an immigration attorney in Colorado, where marijuana is legal.

“Under the Trump administration, I think people need to be even more cautious because there’s been certainly an impression that enforcement is going to be dealt with more aggressively and if they choose to use this marijuana issue as one enforcement tool, I think many immigrants … could be very vulnerable in terms of being able to stay in this country or move forward on their immigration cases,” Kolko said.

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California lawmakers want to block police from helping federal drug agents take action against marijuana license holders

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Patrick McGreevy

With federal authorities hinting at a possible crackdown on state-licensed marijuana dealers, a group of California lawmakers wants to block local police and sheriff’s departments from assisting such investigations and arrests unless compelled by a court order.

A bill by six Democratic legislators has drawn strenuous objections from local law enforcement officials, who say it improperly ties their hands, preventing them from cooperating with federal drug agents.

“It really is quite offensive,” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Assn., who said he objected to lawmakers “wanting to direct law enforcement how they want us to work.”

But proponents say the measure is needed to assure marijuana growers and sellers that applying for state licenses will not make them more vulnerable to arrest and prosecution under federal law, which designates cannabis as an illegal drug.

“Prohibiting our state and local law enforcement agencies from expending resources to assist federal intrusion of California-compliant cannabis activity reinforces … the will of our state’s voters who overwhelmingly supported Proposition 64,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), the lead author of the new bill.

The act of resistance is similar to legislation that would prevent California law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration officials in the deportation of people in the country illegally. Senate Bill 54 would address that concern and make California a so-called sanctuary state for immigrants, while Jones-Sawyer’s legislation would similarly make the state a sanctuary for the marijuana industry.

The immigration and marijuana issues have been given new focus by the administration of President Trump, who state officials fear is breaking from the policy of former President Obama, who took a more hands-off approach to both issues.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has indicated in public comments that he thinks marijuana is a danger to society. Last month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer caused a stir when he said, “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement” of laws against the sale and use of recreational marijuana.

In November, California voters approved Proposition 64, which legalized the growing and sale of marijuana for recreational use. State agencies plan to begin issuing licenses early next year.

The new legislation would prohibit state and local agencies, unless served with a court order, from using agency money, facilities or personnel to assist a federal agency to “investigate, detain, report, or arrest” any person for actions that are authorized by state law. California authorities would also be unable to respond to requests by federal agencies for the personal information of anyone issued state licenses.

The measure has angered some local law enforcement officials — including Youngblood, who sees it as improperly meddling in law enforcement decisions in the same manner lawmakers are proposing with immigration law.

“This is ridiculous that this looks like a solution to somebody,” he said.

The sheriff said his agency frequently works with federal drug agents in task forces targeting illegal marijuana grows in forested areas of the county. He said he doesn’t want to be prevented from working with federal authorities, even if the state starts licensing pot farms.

“[Growing and selling marijuana] is still a federal felony and we are still in the United States of America, and the state of California cannot take over the United States,” Youngblood said, predicting that “at some point the federal government is going to have to step in and say, ‘You can’t do that.’ ”

The legislation has garnered initial support from marijuana industry leaders, including Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Assn.

“The election of Mr. Trump as president, and subsequent confirmation of Mr. Sessions as attorney general, has been perceived by many of our members to have increased the risk of doing business,” Allen said. “Businesses will need to feel confident that the state will protect them from the federal government.”

Current protocol and law obligates local law enforcement to cooperate with federal drug agents, he said.

“It is very hard for federal agents to go into a rural county and kick down a bunch of doors and arrest a bunch of people without the local sheriff being a part of it.” Allen said. “It’s dangerous, actually. This is about giving them legal standing to actively not participate.”

Updates from Sacramento »

Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), a coauthor of the measure, said the legislation is needed because of a threat that the Trump administration might withhold federal funds from states that do not cooperate with federal authorities, although that threat has so far been limited to immigration enforcement.

“As this administration has threatened to defund California, we should not be expending scarce local and state resources to assist the federal government in ways that run counter to the crystal-clear wishes of California voters,” Bonta said, adding that the measure, Assembly Bill 1578, “will reassure responsible operators” that the state won’t turn them in to federal authorities.

The assemblyman said it is important that the bill also protects the personal information of license holders so that they are willing to share it with state regulators.

“California is committed to not sharing licensee information with the federal government and thereby upholding the will of the voters in creating a safe marketplace for medical and adult use,” Bonta said.

The current policy of the state Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation would be to treat any request for personal information as a formal request under the California Public Records Act. The agency “would determine, based on the information being requested, what is required to be released and what is exempt from disclosure under the law,” said Alex Traverso, a bureau spokesman.

Allen expects California to follow the lead of states such as Colorado, which makes public on a website the names of businesses and addresses of those who are given licenses to grow and sell marijuana.

The Colorado website lists growers and sellers by the names of limited liability corporations and does not list who the individual investors and partners are.

Allen said industry attorneys have advised him that some basic information about license holders will have to be made public.

The bill’s provision on personal information “is good symbolically and well-intentioned,” Allen said, “but we are not relying on anonymity as our pathway forward.”

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Top 6 Marijuana Bills to Follow

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by Nanette Porter on March 11, 2017

 

Lawmakers have been busy introducing a variety of marijuana bills since the election. While there is no guarantee that any of these bills will actually become laws, a perusal of the bills introduced offers useful insight into how the decisions made regarding cannabis might affect our lives more immediately than the slow churn of Washington, D.C.

In the current political climate, it more important than ever to spend some time getting familiar with these bills. Please click on the links to get more information about each proposed bill. We strongly encourage you to get in touch with your elected representatives to express your views and opinions.

Below are six (6) cannabis-related bills that are worth following closely:

H.R. 975 – Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment has been law since 2014 and prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to prosecute individuals who are acting in compliance with a State’s laws. Unfortunately, it was passed and signed into law as part of an omnibus spending package, and to remain legally binding it must be included in the end-of-year spending package for FY2017. The spending restriction is temporary and Congress must act to keep it in place.

California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has sponsored H.R.975 to limit federal power on marijuana. Rohrabacher is a Republican and professed Trump-guy, but feels the government has become too involved in States’ rights and asset seizures, and believes this is the best way to proceed.

The Rohrabacher-Farr provision comes up for renewal on April 28, and rather than trying to convince the new administration to renew, he says he hopes this paves the way for them to leave it up to the States. If passed by Congress, it will then move to the Senate, and hopefully on to the President’s desk for signature to become law.

H.R. 1227 – Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017

Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett introduced legislation aimed at federally decriminalizing marijuana. H.R. 1227 asks that marijuana be removed from the federal controlled substances list, in essence putting it in the same arena as alcohol and tobacco.

“Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.” – Congressman Garrett

Garrett claims “this step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth…something that is long overdue. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.”

H.R. 331 – States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act

Sponsored by California Rep Barbara Lee, H.R.331 seeks an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so as to prevent civil asset forfeiture for property owners due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.

H.R. 714 – Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marihuana Act (LUMMA)

Virginia Rep H Morgan Griffith introduced H.R. 714 to provide for the legitimate use of medicinal marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States by moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act.

The bill also includes a provision that, in a State in which marijuana may be prescribed by a physician for medical use under applicable State law, no provision of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) or the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act shall interfere with such State laws. (This provision is also included in H.R. 715.)

At present, no U.S. healthcare professional can legally prescribe cannabis. Several states have laws on the books that were passed many, many years ago in expectation that federal law would change; but until then, doctors even in these states are legally prohibited from prescribing it. Doing so, would expose medical practitioners to prosecution and loss of his/her license.

H.R. 715 – Compassionate Access Act

Also sponsored by Griffith is H.R. 715. This bill asks for “the rescheduling of marihuana (to any schedule other than I), the medicinal use of marihuana in accordance with State law and the exclusion of cannabidiol from the definition of marihuana, and for other purposes,” and that cannabidiol (CBD), derived from the plant or synthetically formulated and containing not greater than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis, be excluded from the definition of “marihuana.”

The bill also calls for control over access to research into the potential medicinal uses of cannabis be turned over to an agency of the executive branch that is not focused on researching for the addictive properties of substances, and empower the new agency to ensure adequate supply of the plant is available for research. It further asks that research performed in a scientifically sound manner, and in accordance with the laws in a State where marijuana or CBD is legal for medical purposes, but does not use marijuana from federally approved sources, may be considered for purposes of rescheduling.

California AB 1578

California lawmakers quickly got to work and proposed AB 1758, aiming to have California declared as a “sanctuary state” from federal enforcement. If passed and signed into law, state or local agencies would be prevented from taking enforcement action without a court order signed by a judge, including using agency resources to assist a federal agency to “investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California and from transferring an individual to federal law enforcement authorities for purposes of marijuana enforcement.”

AB 1758 is pending referral and may be heard in committee on March 21.

30+ bills have been introduced in California since voters approved Proposition 64 in November. Most of these have been submitted to help clean-up the administration and the complex and inconsistencies that exist between the medical and recreational systems.

Support for marijuana legalization is at an all-time high

Cannabis has long-established medical uses as an effective treatment for ailments that include HIV/AIDS, inflammatory and auto-immune diseases, gastro-intestinal disorders, PTSD, chronic pain, and many others.

According to a Qunnipiac poll released February 23, 2017, U.S. voters say, 59 – 36 percent, that marijuana should be legal in the U.S.; and voters support, by a whopping 96 – 6 percent, legalizing cannabis for medical purposes if prescribed by a doctor; and an overwhelming 71 -23 percent believe the government should not enforce federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized it.

Twenty-eight (28) states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam, either through ballot measure or legislative action, have approved the use of medical marijuana when recommended by a physician. An additional seventeen (17) states have approved use of low THC, high CBD products for medical reasons in some situations.

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“You can’t put the genie back into the bottle”

 

 

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(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Patrick McGreevyPatrick McGreevyContact Reporter

Warned of a possible federal crackdown on marijuana, California elected officials and cannabis industry leaders said Friday they were preparing for a potential showdown in the courts and Congress to protect the legalization measure approved by state voters in November.

The flashpoint that set off a scramble in California was a news conference Thursday at which White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the administration had no plans to continue the Obama administration’s permissive approach in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” he said, adding that the administration would continue to allow states to regulate the sale of marijuana for medical use.

The latest development could force California officials and marijuana industry leaders into an unusual alliance against the federal government, with billions of dollars in profits for businesses and taxes for state coffers at stake.

The state agency responsible for drafting regulations said Friday it was going ahead with its plans to start issuing licenses to growers and sellers in January.

“Until we see any sort of formal plan from the federal government, it’s full speed ahead for us,” said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.

In Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) plans to introduce legislation that could blunt Spicer’s threat by preventing the Department of Justice from enforcing federal laws against the recreational use of marijuana in states that have legalized it, a spokesman said Friday.

And industry officials warn that any federal crackdown in California and other states will result in many growers and sellers continuing to operate, but on the black market.

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra says he is ready to safeguard the rights approved by 57% of voters in Proposition 64, which allows California adults to possess, transport and buy up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.

“I took an oath to enforce the laws that California has passed,” Becerra said in a statement Thursday after Spicer’s comments. “If there is action from the federal government on this subject, I will respond in an appropriate way to protect the interests of California.”

State lawmakers also say California should do what it can to preserve Proposition 64.

“We will support and honor the laws that California voters have democratically enacted,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), an author of legislation creating the licensing system for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Becerra would likely be joined in any defense of the state’s marijuana policy by attorneys general in other parts of the country. Recreational use has also been legalized in Washington state, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, home to a combined 68 million Americans.

Washington Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, who has worked with Becerra on opposing President Trump’s travel ban, said he and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last week asked for a meeting with U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to discuss how the recreational marijuana use system is working in their state.

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading supporter of Proposition 64, took a similar approach, sending a letter Friday to Trump urging him not to carry through with threats to launch a federal enforcement effort.

“I urge you and your administration to work in partnership with California and the other … states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in a way that will let us enforce our state laws that protect the public and our children, while targeting the bad actors,” the Democrat wrote.

If the Justice Department starts arresting licensed marijuana sellers, the multibillion-dollar industry would join forces with the states that issue permits to challenge the action in court, said Amy Margolis, an attorney whose law firm has more than 200 clients in the marijuana industry, including businesses in California.

“This industry is so mature and it’s so far along that I have no doubt that if the Department of Justice started true enforcement actions against cannabis businesses, that they would go to court,” Margolis said. “I see joint actions between the states and the industry hoping to prevent those type of actions.”

Margolis would argue that it is a states’ rights issue.

“The argument would be that this is a situation where the states have the right to regulate and tax an industry the way they want,” she said, adding that states are gaining tax revenue to pay for government programs.

Although federal law does not outline a medicinal use for marijuana, Trump administration officials have made public statements indicating they recognize that such a benefit exists, which could help the industry in a potential court case, Margolis said.

However, the states may find their hands tied legally if they try to keep federal agents from raiding and shutting down marijuana growing and sales operations, according to Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law.

“I imagine that California will mount a legal challenge to any crackdown on recreational marijuana,” Winkler said. “Yet there is not much California can do. Federal law is supreme over conflicting state law. Federal agents are entitled to enforce federal law anywhere in the country, including California.”

He said there are limits to federal power, but the courts have held that the federal government does have the authority to enforce federal drug laws.

Aaron Herzberg, an attorney for the industry, agreed that the state would face a tough fight. He cited the 2005 case Gonzales vs. Raich, in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress may criminalize the production and use of homegrown marijuana even if states approve its use for medical purposes.

“Let’s face it: If the federal government wants to shut down recreational marijuana, they could quite easily accomplish it using federal law enforcement and taxation tools,” Herzberg said.

Others say one basis for legal action would be an argument that enforcing laws against marijuana would damage states that have put regulations in place and are depending on hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to pay for government programs.

States are too far down the path of regulating, licensing and taxing those who are making big investments in the sanctioned marijuana industry to pull the rug out now, said Richard Miadich, an attorney who co-wrote Proposition 64.

“Given the strict regulatory structure set forth in Proposition 64, that medical and adult-use regulations are being developed in concert, and that public opinion is squarely on the side of states’ rights on this issue, I think it is impractical for the federal government to reverse course now,” he said. “Not to mention the potential for great harm to individual states.”

Supporters of Proposition 64 say there is also a potential political solution.

In recent years, Rohrabacher and former Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) won congressional approval of a rider to the federal budget that prohibited federal funds from being used to prosecute medical marijuana businesses that are in compliance with state laws.

Rohrabacher plans to introduce legislation that would expand the protection to businesses that comply with state laws allowing the growing and sale of marijuana for recreational use, according to spokesman Ken Grubbs.

The congressman is planning the legislation “because recreational use is an issue of individual freedom and should be dealt with legally according to the principle of federalism, a bedrock conservative belief,” Grubbs said.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) is also “reviewing options to counteract whatever the Trump administration’s plans” are for state marijuana laws, said senior advisor Jack d’Annibale.

Another option, though a long shot, would be for Congress to attempt to change the federal Controlled Substances Act to decriminalize the use of marijuana nationally.

Herzberg said reinstituting federal raids would be “a major setback for the industry.”

But the state could still go ahead with a licensing system for medical marijuana growing and sales in spite of a federal crackdown on recreational use, according to Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Assn.

“A vast majority of California growers and cannabis business owners would choose to participate only in the medical marketplace if given the option, and some would choose to avoid licensure entirely if they were unable to distinguish themselves from adult-use businesses,” Allen said.

Because Spicer did not provide details on what an enforcement effort might look like, many in the industry hope it will focus on the illegal exporting of marijuana to other states, leaving alone state-licensed firms that grow and sell pot.

“The biggest crackdown we may see is on the increase of cannabis being illegally exported out of recreational states,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn.

State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said any change in federal enforcement policy on states that have legalized recreational use would be misguided.

“You can’t put the genie back into the bottle — marijuana regulation and enforcement can’t and shouldn’t go backwards,” he said.

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How The ‘Cannabis Catch-22’ Keeps Marijuana Classified As A Harmful Drug

 

Marijuana grows in the home of two medical marijuana patients in Medford, Ore.

America has a long and storied history with marijuana. Once grown by American colonists to make hemp rope, by 1970, it was classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Possession of it was — and is — a federal crime, despite the fact that in recent years 25 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

Author John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, traces the history of America’s laws and attitudes toward cannabis in his new book, Marijuana: A Short History. He tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies that the recent shift in public policy is, in part, a recognition of the drug’s medicinal value, which became apparent in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

“People were saying, ‘If I smoke this and I get the munchies, maybe it will help people dying of AIDS who are so nauseated that they can’t eat and they’re dealing with clinical anorexia as a result of that,’ ” Hudak explains.

The grass-roots movement turned political, and in 1996, California became the first state to pass a medical marijuana ballot initiative. Other states followed, though the impetus for the movement grew beyond the medicinal.

“One significant argument in favor of adult use marijuana that not many people talk about is a simple one, and that is some people just like to get high,” Hudak says. “I think in this policy debate, oftentimes seeing marijuana as a recreational product, it is frowned upon to discuss it, but it’s a reality. People enjoy it like people enjoy wine or people enjoy a good steak.”


Interview Highlights

On Harry Anslinger, who played a pivotal role in the effort to criminalize marijuana

Harry Anslinger was the nation’s first real drug czar. He came from the Bureau of Prohibition and was put in charge of a variety of federal government agencies that changed names over the course of time, but were effectively the precursors for the Drug Enforcement [Administration].

He was essentially the J. Edgar Hoover of drugs in the United States. He had the same types of tactics that Hoover had — that was being very aggressive with Congress, going into the media to try to advance his political and policy interests. He had, by all accounts, details and histories of members of Congress and senators that they did not want to become public, and he was a one-man force in expanding drug prohibition in the United States. He did this for a variety of drugs, but he had a special place in his heart for marijuana.

On how marijuana use was made into a racial issue

Anslinger brought to it this real racialized aspect. I mean, he was an absolute avowed racist, and when you look at the letters he wrote to different civic organizations or op-eds that he published, or even congressional testimony, it is riddled with racist language and racist claims about the use of marijuana really being only in Mexican communities in the Southwest, and then eventually it transitioned to be a product that was used by the individuals who were around jazz music, which of course was code language for the African-American community.

And so proceeded this racialized history, and [Anslinger] … claimed that marijuana would turn people into psychopaths, murderers, rapists — it would make women promiscuous, particularly promiscuous around men of color, and this was seen as something that was brought into communities by people of color in order to make the most vulnerable in society behave in ways that would appall society.

On government efforts to suppress studies that showed that marijuana was not as addictive or dangerous as had been claimed

In the 1970s President Nixon commissioned the former governor of Pennsylvania, Ray Shafer, who was a good friend, a fellow Republican, a good friend of Nixon’s, to commission this report about this evil drug infecting society, and Shafer came up, again, with the same answers — it wasn’t as addicting, that there were reasons to try to think about this drug in different ways than the federal government was thinking about it, that it wasn’t causing violent crime.

Shafer was actually called into the Oval Office and read off by the president for this draft report, and [Nixon] said to Shafer, “You cannot publish this.” And Shafer stood his ground. He said, “I’m publishing it.” And Nixon trashed that.

It was just this extended period of president after president asking for answers, not getting the answers that he liked, and then throwing the report away.

On what led to policy change for use of marijuana

This really began in the Castro District of San Francisco in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The AIDS epidemic was … ravaging this community, and it was one that individuals, I think, looked at this product that was largely being used recreationally and understood that it helped with pain relief.

So you had a few individuals — Dennis Peron is one; a woman named Brownie Mary who was an orderly at a hospital in San Francisco who would bake brownies laced with marijuana and deliver them to AIDS patients each day. This community popped up around delivering medical cannabis for those who are dying.

And it wasn’t only people dying of AIDS, it was people who had a variety of ailments — and that grass-roots, underground, even though it was pretty much in the daylight for some time, movement transitioned into a political one, and in 1996 California became the first state to pass a medical marijuana ballot initiative.

On arguments in favor of legalization

We have 750,000 arrests in a year that have to do with marijuana. And so in communities of color that criminal justice argument is a tremendous one. For libertarians you talk about personal liberty and privacy and property rights, and that is an important issue for them. For conservatives or liberals who are interested in balancing the budget, talking about all of the law enforcement dollars that are spent on the prosecution and investigation of marijuana crimes in a year, that’s budget savings, as well as revenue in the door on the tax side.

For others, it is about product safety, understanding that a regulatory system is going to be able to test the product and you’ll know exactly as a consumer what you’re getting, whereas on the black market you don’t know that.

On the federal government’s decision this past summer to continue the Schedule 1 classification of marijuana

One of the reasons for the maintenance of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance was that the medical community is not convinced of its medical value. There are plenty of doctors who believe that there is medical value to marijuana, they’re willing to recommend it to patients, but the threshold required to demonstrate medical value for the medical community as a whole is much higher than it is for the reform community.

There is this cannabis Catch-22 and it is, as a Schedule 1 drug, it is very difficult to do research on the plant. There are only certain researchers who will get the certification and licensure necessary to handle the drug. Then, of course, you need the funding to study it. You need approval from university institutional review boards, and the burdens that exist to do the type of research on a Schedule 1 drug are tremendous. But that research is what will inform the medical community as to its medical use, and so what you need and what you can do are entirely prevented by this federal government policy.

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