Tag Archives: DOJ

Federal Appeals Court Sidesteps Major Marijuana Ruling

The Associated Press / May 17, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court has sidestepped making a ruling on whether U.S. prison officials can hold people who were convicted of marijuana offences that were legal under state medical marijuana laws.

In a decision Wednesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals focused instead on a narrower issue.

The court was considering a legal challenge by prisoner Matthew Davies, who was convicted of federal marijuana charges. Davies said he ran medical marijuana dispensaries that complied with California law.

He argued that the Bureau of Prisons could not hold him because of a federal regulation that restricted interference by U.S. officials in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

The 9th Circuit avoided the issue, ruling instead that Davies’ plea agreement did not allow his legal challenge. Davies’ attorney, Cody Harris, said he is analyzing the ruling.

Leafly News has obtained the court’s full ruling and uploaded it to Scribd:

LINK

 

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AG Sessions paves way for stricter sentencing in criminal cases

By Laura Jarrett, CNN

Updated 7:54 AM ET, Fri May 12, 2017

(CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a new directive for federal prosecutors across the country: charge suspects with the most serious offense you can prove.

Friday’s announcement follows a line of several other significant departures from Obama-era domestic policies at the Justice Department, but this decision crystalized Sessions’ position in the criminal justice realm.

In a brief one-and-a-half-page memo, Sessions outlined his new instructions for charging decisions in federal cases, saying that his new first principle is “that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense.”

    “The most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences,” Sessions later adds.

    While the federal sentencing guidelines are advisory — and take into account everything from a defendant’s criminal history to cooperation with authorities — some judges have felt handcuffed by mandatory minimums, which provide a statutory sentencing minimum of months below which the judge cannot depart.

    The move was harshly criticized by the New York University School of Law Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute focused on democracy and justice.

    “The Trump administration is returning to archaic and deeply-flawed policies,” Inimai Chettiar, the center’s justice program director, said Friday. “Sessions is leaving little to no room for prosecutors to use their judgment and determine what criminal charges best fit the crime.”

    “That approach is what led to this mess of mass incarceration,” she added. “It exploded the prison population, didn’t help public safety, and cost taxpayers billions in enforcement and incarceration costs.”

    Sessions also formally withdrew a signature part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s “Smart on Crime” initiative, which sought to target the most serious crimes and reduce the number of defendants charged with non-violent drug offenses that would otherwise trigger mandatory minimum sentences.

    “We must ensure that our most severe mandatory minimum penalties are reserved for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers,” Holder wrote in a 2013 memo. “In some cases, mandatory minimum and recidivist enhancements statutes have resulted in unduly harsh sentences and perceived or actual disparities that do not reflect our Principles of Federal Prosecution.”

    As a result, during the Obama era, federal prosecutors were instructed not to charge someone for a drug crime that would trigger a mandatory minimum sentence if certain specific factors were met: (a) the relevant conduct didn’t involve death, violence, a threat of violence or possession of a weapon; (b) the defendant wasn’t an organizer, leader or manager of others within a criminal organization; (c) there were no ties to large-scale drug trafficking operations; and (d) the defendant didn’t have a “significant” criminal history (i.e., prior convictions).

    All of those charging factors are now gone under Sessions’ reign and not surprising, as he has previously telegraphed his desire to prosecute more federal cases generally.

    The effects of Friday’s decision are likely to be felt most immediately in the narcotics context where federal mandatory minimums established by Congress can be harsh for even first-time offenders because the sentences are dictated based on drug type and quantity.

    CNN’s Eugene Scott contributed to this report.

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    DoJ Task Force Moves to Review Federal Cannabis Policy

    In a DoJ memo, AG Jeff Sessions called for a subcommittee on marijuana and an email shows the DEA inquiring about Colorado cases.

    By Aaron G. Biros

    In a memo sent throughout the Department of Justice on April 5th, attorney general Jeff Sessions outlines the establishment of the Department’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. That task force, largely focused on violent crime, is supposed to find ways that federal prosecutors can more effectively reduce illegal immigration, violent crimes and gun violence.

    The task force is made up of subcommittees, according to the memo, and one of them is focused on reviewing federal cannabis policy. “Task Force subcommittees will also undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with Administration goals and priorities,” the memo reads. “Another subcommittee will explore our use of asset forfeiture and make recommendations on any improvements needed to legal authorities, policies, and training to most effectively attack the financial infrastructure of criminal organizations.” Those existing policies that Sessions refers to in the memo could very well be the 2013 Cole Memorandum, an Obama administration decree that essentially set up a framework for states with legal cannabis laws to avoid federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act.

    In the past, Sessions has said he thinks the Cole Memo is valid, but remains skeptical of medical cannabis. In the last several months, comments made by Sessions and White House press secretary Sean Spicer have sparked outrage and growing fears among stakeholders in the cannabis industry, including major business players and state lawmakers. As a general feeling of uncertainty surrounding federal cannabis policy grows, many are looking for a safe haven, which could mean looking to markets outside of the U.S., like Canada, for example.

    Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
    Photo: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

    Washington State’s former Attorney General Rob McKenna, Washington State’s former Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Moran, and Maryland’s former Chief Deputy Attorney General Kay Winfree recently went on the record identifying the BioTrack THC traceability system as fully compliant with the Cole Memo. “The key to meeting the requirements of the Cole Memorandum is ‘both the existence of a strong and effective state regulatory system, and an operation’s compliance with that system’,” says the former attorney general and chief deputy attorneys general in a press release. “As described above, Washington State has a robust, comprehensive regulatory scheme that controls the entire marijuana supply chain.

    The email sent to Colorado prosecutor Michael Melito

    The flagship component of this regulatory scheme is the WSLCB’s seed to sale inventory system, the BioTrackTHC Traceability System.” Those commendations from a former attorney general could provide some solace to business operating with the seed-to-sale traceability software.

    Still though, worries in the industry are fueled by speculation and a general lack of clarity from the Trump Administration and the Department of Justice. In an email obtained by an open records request and first reported by the International Business Times, a DEA supervisor asked a Colorado prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office about a number of cannabis-related prosecutions. The DEA supervisor asked for the state docket numbers of a handful of cases, including one involving cannabis being shipped out of state, according to The Denver Post. “Some of our intel people are trying to track down info regarding some of DEA’s better marijuana investigations for the new administration,” reads the email. “Hopefully it will lead to some positive changes.” So far, only speculations have emerged pertaining to its significance or lack thereof and what this could possibly mean for the future of federal cannabis policy.

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    “He told me he would have some respect for states’ right on these things,”

    “He told me he would have some respect for states’ right on these things,” Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), told Politico. “And so I’ll be very unhappy if the federal government decides to go into Colorado and Washington and all of these places. And that’s not [what] my interpretation of my conversation with him was. That this wasn’t his intention.”

     

    Elizabeth Warren demands Jeff Sessions respect state marijuana law

    Posted 1:57 PM, March 4, 2017, by Tribune Media Wire

    By Ese Olumhense

    States need ‘immediate assurance’ from Sessions and Department of Justice

    A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday, urging their former colleague not to undo a 2013 policy permitting states to set their own recreational marijuana regulations.

    Led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the push is a response to recent mixed messages from the Trump administration on whether it will enforce federal law which still bars recreational marijuana use, or leave the decision to implement the federal policy to the states.

    Sessions, speaking to the National Association of Attorneys General on Tuesday, had said he was “dubious about marijuana.” Less than a week before, at a White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer cautioned that “greater enforcement” of the federal statute could come and later likened recreational pot use to the opioid addiction crisis happening across the country.

    For some senators, however, the possibility of “greater enforcement” signals an intrusion into states’ rights in a way that is concerning.

    “It is essential that states that have implemented any type of practical, effective marijuana policy receive immediate assurance from the [Department of Justice] that it will respect the ability of states to enforce thoughtful, sensible drug policies in ways that do not threaten the public’s health and safety,” the group wrote.

    Though legal in some states, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug

    Eight states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Twenty-eight states in total have comprehensive medical marijuana laws, and 17 have limited use or limited criminal defense laws for marijuana that is used for a medicinal purpose.

    Federal law, however, still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, one with “no currently accepted medical use.” As recently as August, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) refused to change that designation — meaning the federal government is still armed with the authority to arrest, charge, and prosecute pot growers, buyers, or sellers in states where marijuana is legal.

    Sessions has been a fierce opponent of marijuana for any use and his confirmation prompted fears that the DOJ would follow the example set by former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who served under George W. Bush, and target dispensaries in places where recreational pot use is legal.

    Sessions did little to quell those fears on Tuesday, slamming the argument made by pot proponents that marijuana has medical benefits.

    “Give me a break,” Sessions said, referring to a Washington Post article on marijuana as a treatment for opiate addiction. “This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there, just almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana, or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong, but at this point in time you and I have a responsibility to use our best judgment.”

    Senators’ concerns of overreach may be overblown

    Though the senators’ letter was celebrated by some constituents on social media, the concern may be overblown.

    Politico reported Thursday that behind closed doors prior to his confirmation Sessions assured some GOP senators that Department of Justice will not be implementing “greater enforcement” measures for recreational marijuana. The attorney general’s previous comments had bothered some conservative officials, who felt that a decision to crack down on legal pot would be an unwelcome overreach.

    “He told me he would have some respect for states’ right on these things,” Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), told Politico. “And so I’ll be very unhappy if the federal government decides to go into Colorado and Washington and all of these places. And that’s not [what] my interpretation of my conversation with him was. That this wasn’t his intention.”

    Upending the Obama-era legal pot directive would not only be unpopular with some senators, but unfavorable to the majority of Americans. It would also be difficult, as the DEA only has about 4,600 employees, which would likely need to coordinate big, costly operations in states in which law enforcement has no laws against marijuana to enforce. A federal crackdown in the courts might also eliminate many of the regulations and oversight set by states which permit the use of marijuana.

    On the flip side, making marijuana legal for recreational use nationwide would generate millions in tax revenue, advocates claim, and allow for more oversight into a growing industry. Just one year after becoming the first state to allow the purchase and sale of marijuana, Colorado raked in $53 million in revenue

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    Democrats Call For Attorney General Sessions To Resign

    Image result for SESSIONS RESIGN

    March 2, 20175:08 AM ET

    Heard on Morning Edition

    Democratic leaders want Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign after news reports that he met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. twice last year.

    STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions is defending his meetings with a Russian diplomat The Washington Post reports Sessions met twice with Russia’s ambassador during the presidential campaign and did not disclose it.

    RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

    Now some Democrats want the attorney general to resign or at least keep away from the FBI investigation he’s overseeing into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.

    INSKEEP: Here’s what we know. Sessions was a senator at the time of the reported meetings, and he was also advising presidential candidate Donald Trump.

    MARTIN: The Post found Sessions met twice with Russia’s ambassador, including once in September, the height of the campaign. After the election, at his Senate confirmation hearing to become attorney general, Sessions said he didn’t know of any Trump campaign meetings with Russia.

    (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

    JEFF SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t have – not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.

    INSKEEP: Sessions was answering Senator Al Franken, who now says if The Post report is true, Sessions must recuse himself from any decisions about the Russia probe. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the same last night on CNN.

    (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

    LINDSEY GRAHAM: If there is something there and it goes up the chain of investigation, it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make this decision about Trump. So they may be not – there may be nothing there, but if there is something there that the FBI believes is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor.

    MARTIN: Attorney General Sessions and other officials do not appear to explicitly deny meeting Russia’s ambassador. They do suggest the meetings were not relevant to the election. In a statement last night, Jeff Sessions said he has, quote, “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is all about. It is false.”

    Subscribe to the NPR Politics Podcast

    CONTINUE READING AND TO AUDIO!

    Gun rights and marijuana laws

    As more states expand their marijuana use laws, a new issue is beginning to pop up that impacts gun owners.

    On a federal firearms background check form, Section 11 E, which was revised on January 16, asks if a person is an unlawful user of marijuana, or any other depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or other controlled substance.

    Underneath that, in bold letters, it clarifies that the use of marijuana remains unlawful under federal law, regardless if the state you live in allows it.

    Heather Fazio with the Marijuana Policy Project says that provision is a problem.

    “It’s unreasonable to deprive legal marijuana users in states that have allowed access for medicinal purposes,” Fazio explained. “It’s unreasonable to restrict them to access to their second amendment right.”

    But despite legal challenges, the provision has remained.

    As recently as last August, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban, preventing any user of marijuana from purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer.

    Fazio points to marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug as a key issue in changing the debate.

    “We have alcohol and opiates for example that are legal and are far more dangerous in impairing than cannabis is,” Fazio said.

    A recent response by President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer has drawn the ire of marijuana advocates.

    “When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people to- there is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana,” Spicer said.

    This is where these issues — gun rights and marijuana vs. opioid use — intersect.

    Back to Section 11 E, the form uses the terminology: “unlawful user.”

    In essence, a person can legally be prescribed – and use – opioids and still purchase a gun from a licensed dealer.

    But if a person is prescribed medical marijuana in a state that legally allows for it — they cannot.

    Fazio does not believe any state’s medical laws are in jeopardy, adding Trump’s desire to strengthen states’ rights.

    There is a rider in the 2014 appropriations bill that stated the Department of Justice would not be funded to go after users of legally prescribed medical marijuana.

    While Spicer acknowledged the President’s understanding of medical marijuana benefits, he added there will be greater federal enforcement of recreational marijuana laws. 

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    Whitehouse Press Release– I have a question on medical marijuana…

     

    marijuana

    February 23, 2017

     

    A LINK TO THE ENTIRE PRESS BRIEFING HERE

    I have a question on medical marijuana.  Our state voters passed a medical marijuana amendment in November.  Now we’re in conflict with federal law, as many other states are.  The Obama administration kind of chose not to strictly enforce those federal marijuana laws.  My question to you is:  With Jeff Sessions over at the Department of Justice as AG, what’s going to be the Trump administration’s position on marijuana legalization where it’s in a state-federal conflict like this?

    MR. SPICER:  Thanks, Roby.  There’s two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.  

    I think medical marijuana, I’ve said before that the President understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them.  And that’s one that Congress, through a rider in 2011 — looking for a little help — I think put in an appropriations bill saying the Department of Justice wouldn’t be funded to go after those folks.  

    There is a big difference between that and recreational marijuana.  And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people.  There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of the medical — when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.  

    So I think there’s a big difference between medical marijuana, which states have a — the states where it’s allowed, in accordance with the appropriations rider, have set forth a process to administer and regulate that usage, versus recreational marijuana.  That’s a very, very different subject.

    Shannon.

    Q    What does that mean in terms of policy?  A follow-up, Sean.  What does that mean in terms of policy?

    MR. SPICER:  Shannon.  Glenn, this isn’t a TV program.  We’re going to —

    Q    What is the Justice Department going to do?

    MR. SPICER:  Okay, you don’t get to just yell out questions.  We’re going to raise our hands like big boys and girls.

    Q    Why don’t you answer the question, though?

    MR. SPICER:  Because it’s not your job to just yell out questions.  

    Shannon, please go.

    Q    Okay.  Well, first, on the manufacturing summit, was the AFL-CIO invited?  And then, yeah, I did want to follow up on this medical marijuana question.  So is the federal government then going to take some sort of action around this recreational marijuana in some of these states?

    MR. SPICER:  Well, I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it.  Because again, there’s a big difference between the medical use which Congress has, through an appropriations rider in 2014, made very clear what their intent was in terms of how the Department of Justice would handle that issue.  That’s very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice I think will be further looking into. 

    I’m sorry, Shannon, what was the first part?

    Q    Was the AFL-CIO invited to the manufacturing meeting today with the CFOs?  Because they are part of this manufacturing —

    MR. SPICER:  Right.  I think this was just focused on people who actually — they were not, I don’t believe, part of this one.  As you know, that we’ve had union representation at other meetings.  I think this was specifically for people who are hiring people and the impediments that they’re having to create additional jobs, hire more people.  And obviously, while the President values their opinion — and that’s why they’ve been involved in some of the past — this was specifically a manufacturing — people who hire people, who manufacture, who grow the economy, who grow jobs.  And that is a vastly different situation.

    SOURCE

    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…

    Marijuana backers worry over AG Sessions

    Marijuana backers worry over AG Sessions

    Supporters of liberalizing marijuana laws worry their relationship with the federal government is about to get a lot more contentious as members of the incoming Donald Trump administration signal they will take a harder line on drug policy.

    During the Obama administration, Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch agreed not to enforce some drug laws in states where marijuana is legal. That is likely to change under Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), President-elect Trump’s nominee to become attorney general.

    Sessions is considered one of the staunchest pot opponents in the Senate, a hard-line conservative who once remarked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK” until he learned members smoked marijuana. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year, Sessions said he wanted to send a message that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

    “Sessions doesn’t appear to have a very enlightened view about the war on drugs, so that’s somewhat discouraging,” said Pete Holmes, Seattle’s city attorney and one of the driving forces behind Washington’s decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

    “When you hear the kind of knee-jerk biases expressed by a guy who will be the nation’s top law enforcement official, it’s scary.”

    Supporters of liberalizing marijuana laws have scored big wins in recent years, as voters in both red and blue states have loosened marijuana laws. After November’s elections, more than half of states will allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and eight states will allow marijuana for recreational purposes. 

    The legal marijuana industry is becoming a billion-dollar boon for businesses and investors and a reliable new source of revenue for cash-poor cities and states. Earlier this month, voters in Massachusetts, Maine, California and Nevada joined Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia in legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

    But marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and pro-pot advocates have maintained an uneasy truce with the Justice Department under President Obama.

    As attorney general, Sessions has a host of options for changing the federal government’s posture toward marijuana.

    He could follow precedent set by Holder and Lynch and let states chart their own path, or, on the other extreme, he could tell governors that any state that issues a license to permit marijuana sales would stand in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. 

    Sessions could revisit the Cole memo, the August 2013 memorandum written to federal prosecutors by then-deputy Attorney General James Cole that lays out the Justice Department’s priorities in prosecuting drug cases. The Cole memo allowed prosecutors to skip cases in states that institute regulatory and enforcement systems to oversee marijuana sales.

    To legal pot opponents, the Cole memo — and other steps the Obama Justice Department has taken — is an abdication of responsibility to implement federal law.

    “We want to see federal law enforced. I think a clear letter asking states to stand down until Congress changes the law makes the most sense, and I think governors in these states would gladly oblige,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization.

    The debate over marijuana legalization is a proxy, however imperfect, for the larger question of states’ rights.

    Legal marijuana backers say they hope Sessions and Trump let the states experiment as the founders intended.

    Sessions co-sponsored a bill introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) last year that would have allowed states to challenge proposed federal rules under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves rights for the states. That gives some legal marijuana backers at least a glimmer of hope that the incoming administration won’t crack the whip.

    “Voters in 28 states have chosen programs that shift cannabis from the criminal market to highly regulated, tax-paying businesses. Sen. Sessions has long advocated for state sovereignty, and we look forward to working with him to ensure that states’ rights and voter choices on cannabis are respected,” said Aaron Smith, who heads the National Cannabis Industry Association in Denver. 

    But opponents of marijuana liberalization say they see their own encouraging signs that the tide toward legalization may be turning.

    “We’ve all wondered whether the Trump presidency would be ‘states rights’ or ‘law and order’ when it comes to drugs,” Sabet wrote in an email. “The Sessions pick makes many of us think it may be the latter.”

    Even with Sessions overseeing the Justice Department, legal marijuana proponents are likely to continue pursuing liberalization through ballot measures and state legislatures. 

    Marijuana legalization measures are already circulating in Ohio, Texas, Mississippi and Missouri. Legislatures in states like New Jersey, Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island are likely to take up marijuana legalization bills in upcoming legislative sessions.

    CONTINUE READING…

    The DEA could resume sending medical marijuana patients and caregivers to prison at the end of this month — unless you act right now.

    The DEA could resume sending medical marijuana patients and caregivers to prison at the end of this month — unless you act right now.

    You probably already know that for the past two years our movement has succeeded in passing Congressional amendments preventing the Justice Department from interfering with state medical cannabis laws.

    But those provisions are set to expire on September 30 — just 24 days from now.

    Please take one minute and send a message to your representative and senators urging them to extend federal protections for medical marijuana patients and providers.

    Last month, a federal court sided with us — and against the DEA — in deciding that the amendment does what it says: The Department of Justice can’t spend any money to prosecute people for activity that’s in compliance with state medical cannabis laws.

    But the court issued our movement and the patients who benefit from our work a dire warning:

    “DOJ is currently prohibited from spending funds…for prosecutions of those who complied with state law. But Congress could appropriate funds for such prosecutions tomorrow.

    The annual funding bill that contains the medical marijuana provision is set to expire at the end of this month, and we need to make sure Congress includes language protecting people who rely on medical marijuana in next year’s bill, too.

    It just takes one minute to type in your contact info and send the prewritten letter we’ve drafted for you.

    Medical marijuana patients are counting on you. Will you step up and ask your legislators to do the right thing?

    Take Action

    Thanks for all that you do.

    Sincerely,

    Tom Angell
    Founder and Chairman
    Marijuana Majority

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