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Trump’s DOJ gears up for crackdown on marijuana

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By Lydia Wheeler – 07/23/17 07:30 AM EDT

The Trump administration is readying for a crackdown on marijuana users under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

President Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Sessions, is expected to release a report next week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the plant. 

Sessions sent a memo in April updating the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Department of Justice Department (DOJ) component heads on the work of the task force, which he said would be accomplished through various subcommittees. In the memo, Sessions said he has asked for initial recommendations no later than July 27.

“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,” he wrote. 

Criminal justice reform advocates fear Sessions’s memo signals stricter enforcement is ahead.

“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. 

“We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that’s true or recommending action be taken based on that being true.”

Sessions sent a letter in May asking congressional leaders to do away with an amendment to the DOJ budget prohibiting the agency from using federal funds to prevent states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” said the letter from Sessions, first obtained by Massroots.com and verified by The Washington Post.

As for the task force, Sessions said another subcommittee would “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.”

On Wednesday, Sessions reportedly re-established a controversial criminal asset seizure program ahead of the committee’s recommendations.

Local law enforcement leaders say a crackdown appears to be next, though they argue there’s no need for it.

“From a practitioner’s point of view, marijuana is not a drug that doesn’t have some danger to it, but it’s not the drug that’s driving violent crime in America,” said Ronal Serpas, the former superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department and co-chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration.

“That’s not the drug with which we see so much death and destruction on the streets of America. Crack and powdered cocaine, heroin and opioids is where we’re seeing people die on street corners fighting over territory or control.”

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and another 21 states allow the use of medical marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, but marijuana use is still illegal under federal law.

If Sessions ignites a fight over states’ rights, Chettiar wonders whether it will spur Republicans into a showdown with the Trump administration on criminal justice reform.   

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who publicly criticized Sessions for reversing Obama-era guidelines on criminal charges and sentencing in May, said he’s not in favor of the DOJ interfering with state policies regarding marijuana. 

“I will oppose anybody from the administration or otherwise that wants to interfere with state policy,” he told The Hill this week.

Paul is part of a bipartisan group of Senators pushing legislation to allow patients to continue accessing medical marijuana in states where it is legal without fear of federal prosecution.

Legislation introduced last month by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Paul introduced — known as the The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act — would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies.

According to Politifact, Trump pledged to leave marijuana legalization up to the states while on the campaign trail. But last month he reportedly pushed back against the congressional ban on the DOJ interfering with state medical marijuana laws in a signing statement, asserting that he isn’t legally bound to the limits imposed by Congress.

The DOJ’s likely move on marijuana comes amid rising tensions between Trump and Sessions.

Trump in an interview with The New York Times publicly dressed down Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, calling that decision “very unfair” to him.

Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone argued this week that Trump has been disappointed in Sessions.

“The president initially bonded with Sessions because he saw him as a tough guy,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.

“Now he’s saying: ‘Where’s my tough guy? Why doesn’t he have my back?’ There’s a lack of aggressiveness with Sessions, unless it involves chasing people for smoking pot.”

In an interview with The Hill, Booker called Sessions “one of the greatest threats to the safety of our local communities in America.”

“If you try to start prosecuting marijuana … you create more violence and more danger as well as greater government cost,” he said. “These policies that he’s doing ultimately go to the core of the safety of our communities.”

Though Sessions appears to be an obstacle for lawmakers and advocates who want sentencing reform, Booker said he’s not “insurmountable.”

“If we can overcome Strom Thurmond’s filibuster against the civil rights bill, we can overcome a U.S. Attorney General who is out of step with history and out of step with his party,” he said. 

But Sessions isn’t alone in his views on pot. Though he said he believes in the need for sentencing reform, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed to agree this week that there needs to be stricter enforcement.

“I believe marijuana probably needs to be cracked down on, but we’ll see when he sends it over,” Graham said of the task force report.

Tags Kirsten Gillibrand Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Jeff Sessions Al Franken Rand Paul Mike Lee

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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.

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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.

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