Tag Archives: Federal

VA says it won’t study medical marijuana’s effect on veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will not conduct research into whether medical marijuana could help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, as veterans groups are pushing for the use of the drug as an alternative to opioids and anti-depressants.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said VA’s ability to research medical marijuana is hampered by the fact that the drug is illegal federally. Shulkin’s letter came in response to an inquiry by 10 Democrats on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The letter asks Shulkin to commit the VA to investigating whether medical marijuana can help veterans suffering from PTSD and chronic pain and identify barriers to doing so.

“VA is committed to researching and developing effective ways to help Veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain conditions,” Shulkin wrote in a response to the members of Congress. “However, federal law restricts VA’s ability to conduct research involving medical marijuana, or to refer veterans to such projects.”

The response comes as at least 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, have legalized the use of medical marijuana in some form. Veterans groups, including the American Legion, have been pushing for the drug to be studied and used to help ease the effects of PTSD, chronic pain and other disorders.

“What America’s veterans need prioritized right now is for cannabis to be treated as a health policy issue,” said Nick Etten, founder and executive director of the Veterans Cannabis Project. “We’re desperate for solutions for the conditions we’re dealing with.”

According to a 2017 VA review, about 15 percent of veterans treated at outpatient PTSD clinics reported using marijuana in the previous six months. According to an American Legion phone survey released in November, 22 percent of veteran household respondents said they used cannabis to treat a medical condition. Ninety-two percent of veteran households surveyed for the Legion said they support researching whether marijuana can effectively treat mental and physical conditions and 82 percent said they want to have medical cannabis as a legal treatment option.

Last month the Veterans Health Administration urged patients to discuss medical marijuana use with their doctors. The shift will allow doctors and patients to determine what, if any, effect marijuana use might have on treatment plans. Veterans were earlier concerned that admitting to marijuana use could jeopardize their benefits. But VA physicians still cannot refer patients to state medical marijuana programs because of the federal prohibition.

[ VA Clears The Air On Talking To Patients About Marijuana Use ]

John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution, said even though marijuana is illegal federally, research on the drug is not prohibited.

“Obviously it is federally illegal, but there are no restrictions on doing scientific research on it. Universities do this all the time and there’s a process to go through,” he said, noting that the National Institute on Drug Abuse funds cannabis research. “It’s really a cop out for the VA to say, ‘oh, we’re not doing work on this because of federal law’ when actually federal law allows them to do that.”

Shulkin’s response was “disappointing and unacceptable,” Walz, the House committee’s ranking member, said in a statement.

“VA’s response not only failed to answer our simple question, but they made a disheartening attempt to mislead me, my colleagues and the veteran community in the process” by stating that the VA is restricted from conducting marijuana research. Walz, a veteran, said he plans to send another letter to Shulkin asking for further clarification.

A spokesman for Shulkin pointed to the secretary’s past comments on medical marijuana. Shulkin said in May, “My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful. And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able … to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”

Shulkin said VA is offering a suite of alternative treatments for patients with PTSD, including yoga, meditation, acupuncture and hypnosis. The letter also said VA has a program to reduce the amount of opioids prescribed to patients with chronic pain; since 2013, Shulkin wrote, 33 percent fewer patients were receiving opioids.

There has not been much research into marijuana for medical purposes, in large part because of regulatory hurdles and the fact that marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug along with substances including heroin. Until 2016, only researchers at the University of Mississippi were allowed to grow marijuana for scientific use; the DEA relaxed the rules and let other institutions apply to do so, though none have yet been approved.

President Trump said during the campaign that he supports making medical marijuana available to the very sick. His attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is a staunch opponent of marijuana. Sessions this month made it easier for prosecutors to enforce federal law in states that legalized marijuana. Eight states and the District allow the recreational use of marijuana.

Shulkin cited a VA analysis of existing research, which found “insufficient evidence” that medical marijuana helps patients with chronic pain or PTSD and could increase harm in some areas, including car crashes. A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that reviewed studies on the health effects of marijuana and associated products found they can provide a “significant reduction in pain symptoms” for chronic-pain patients. But many say there has been a paucity of research.

“There has been no meaningful clinical research conducted on PTSD and brain injuries,” Etten said.

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Congress saves medical marijuana patients from pot crackdown — for now

Jonathan Bach, Statesman Journal Published 11:59 a.m. PT Dec. 22, 2017

Federal protections for medical marijuana patients are safe for now thanks to an emergency resolution passed by Congress Thursday.

Protections offered under the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment will need to make it into a final congressional spending package to extend past Jan. 19.

That’s the expiration date of Thursday’s continuing resolution, a temporary measure that keeps the government running while federal lawmakers hash out the details of their 2018 fiscal-year spending plan. President Trump signed the emergency resolution Friday.

While weed remains federally illegal, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment stops the Justice Department from cracking down on patients where state law permits medical marijuana use. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has condemned use of the drug.

More: Seeking pot for pain, Oregon patient feels shortages

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, said, “Patients around the country who rely on medical marijuana for treatment — and the businesses that serve them — now have some measure of certainty. Our fight, however, continues to maintain these important protections in the next funding bill passed by Congress.”

Jered DeCamp, who co-owns marijuana retailer Herbal Remedies in South Salem, was happy to hear the news. In addition to being an owner, he’s a medical marijuana patient and grower.

“It’s nice to know they’re protecting us,” DeCamp said, though he wished the provisions extended past January.

Congressional lawmakers passed a similar continuing resolution Dec. 7 to keep the government open through Friday.

The newest extension comes after U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, announced he would cosponsor a bill to decriminalize marijuana across the nation. Passage of the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 would make the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment obsolete.

More: Sen. Ron Wyden cosponsors bill to legalize marijuana across U.S.

The amendment is named for U.S. Reps. Blumenauer and Dana Rohrabacher, R-California.

Reach staff reporter Jonathan Bach by email at jbach@statesmanjournal.com or by phone at 503-399-6714.

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“At a certain point, you have to realize this is against the law…”

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Lawyers Handling Marijuana Business Operate in Hazy Legal Zone

By Brian Melley | December 12, 2017

Just as entrepreneurs getting into the retail pot industry need a good lawyer, some of those lawyers might be wise to consult an attorney of their own.

Lawyers in the burgeoning business are entering a legal gray zone where the drug is permitted for some purpose in most states but illegal under federal law – in the same controlled substances category as heroin. Missteps could lead to prosecution for conspiracy, money laundering or aiding and abetting drug dealers.

“Any lawyer that goes into this should be aware that a literal reading of federal law permits such a prosecution,”

said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver marijuana policy law professor, whose research five years ago found lawyers more susceptible to being disbarred than criminally charged for cannabis-related work. “It probably makes sense for a lawyer to at least talk to a legal ethicist or get an opinion from a legal ethicist.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his opposition to legal weed last week and a congressional amendment prohibiting federal prosecutors from targeting medical marijuana is due to expire at the end of the year.

Sessions has not said if he will reverse a longstanding Justice Department policy not to interfere with purveyors complying with state laws but to focus prosecutions on trafficking, sales to minors, cartels and gangs in the business, violence or gun use in cultivation or distribution, and pot grown on public land.

Despite a few instances of lawyers being prosecuted in federal and state court – including a pending San Diego County case – more attorneys are jumping into cannabis law. Legal needs range from financing to permits, real estate, water law, intellectual property, contracts and banking.

With California allowing recreational pot retail sales Jan. 1, interested investors are reaching out to attorneys like Mitch Kulick to find out how to safely finance the potentially lucrative industry.

Kulick, a New York lawyer who offers his expertise in many states, recently gave his typical scare spiel to a real estate magnate about the possible legal consequences, and said he could only help mitigate risk so much.

“At a certain point, you have to realize this is against the law. There’s no insurance policy to take away the risk,” Kulick said he told the man. “If I was already a billionaire, I might not be taking the risk.”

Kulick, who once worked as a lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission and a major international firm, had to do a similar risk analysis and soul searching before deciding to commit to the higher cause, so to speak.

There has been a tipping point for many lawyers setting up boutique pot law firms and jumping from old-school law firms as demand for their services trumps fear of legal repercussions and the stoner stigma fades as more states legalize marijuana use.

Attorney Chris Davis, who grew up in Berkeley around friends and family who use the drug, found people operating in the shadows who wanted to go legit when he returned to California from New York two years ago.

“So many people were asking how to go legal and how to worry less,” said Davis, executive director of the National Cannabis Bar Association, which has about 300 members in the U.S. and Canada and is growing rapidly. “It became impossible to turn people away.”

Lawyers specializing in the business see themselves at the frontier. That leaves a fascinating opportunity to shape laws and regulations and the daunting prospect of the unknown.

“Lawyers like things to be settled,” Davis said. “It’s hard to get a lawyer to give you a yes or no answer. In the cannabis industry, there really is no yes or no answer.”

Some state bar associations have given lawyers cover to counsel marijuana clients within the bounds of state law. Others say federal law keeps the area off-limits because ethical rules prevent them from helping clients commit crimes.

Attorney Larry Donahue had several medical marijuana clients at his firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, until the state bar issued a January 2016 opinion that said lawyers could be exposed to ethics charges for such work. Donahue had to terminate four or five clients.

“It was a very chilling opinion,” he said. “It basically scared the hell out of us.”

While prosecutions of attorneys are rare, a case in San Diego has gotten the attention of many lawyers, mainly because of aggressive tactics employed by the district attorney.

Attorney Jessica McElfresh was charged with several felonies alleging she helped a client hide evidence of marijuana manufacturing.

The case might have received less notice if prosecutors didn’t unsuccessfully try to get around the sacrosanct lawyer-client privilege and seek communications with all her marijuana clients.

McElfresh, who vehemently denies the charges, said she knew specializing in pot law carried risks, but she couldn’t foresee “in a million years” police raiding her house. She and her boyfriend and mother were escorted into her backyard, where she was handcuffed barefoot in her pajamas during the search.

She said she didn’t take the risks some lawyers do by sitting on the boards of a client’s company, owning a share in a business or introducing clients to one another.

“I am one of the most conservative and boring people you would ever meet in cannabis law,” she said. “The only way I could have been more careful would have been not to engage in this area of law at all.”

A new district attorney took office after McElfresh was charged and allowed five co-defendants facing similar charges to plead guilty last month to misdemeanors and get probation.

The San Diego district attorney’s office wouldn’t comment, but in a statement cited the recreational pot law passed by voters last year and the new administration’s “changing focus” as part of the reason for the plea deals. It’s not clear if that change will affect McElfresh’s pending case.

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DeKalb father sues AG Jeff Sessions over marijuana

Christopher Hopper, WXIA 11:45 PM. EDT July 27, 2017

A DeKalb County father is suing the federal government, namely Attorney General Jeff Sessions over marijuana.

Sebastien Cotte, Stone Mountain, is named in a federal lawsuit filed Monday, July 24 in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan challenging the Controlled Substances Act.

Cotte has a 6-year-old son Jagger who suffers from a terminal neurological disorder called Leigh’s Disease.

Cotte has been giving Jagger cannabis oil for nearly three years and believes it has extended his life.

“Usually 95 percent of them do not make it past 4-years-old,” said Sebastien Cotte, suing the federal government.

In September Jagger will turn seven.

Around the time most kids die from this chronic disease, Cotte moved his family to Colorado and Jagger started cannabis oil.

He no longer takes oxycontin or morphine.

“It’s been game changing for him it’s one of the main reasons he’s still alive today,” he said.

Cotte said marijuana’s medical benefits are keeping Jagger alive, and that’s why he’s a plaintiff in this lawsuit.

Browser does not support iframes.

It’s 90 pages long and is against Attorney General Jeff Session and the federal government for classifying marijuana in a category with heroin and LSD, highly addictive drugs with no accepted medical use.

Cocaine and methamphetamine are Schedule II drugs and are considered less addictive and dangerous compared to marijuana.

Cotte said that Schedule I status is what’s keeping Georgian’s who can legally use cannabis oil from being able to buy marijuana grown here.

“To be able to get it here in Georgia, get a safe legal tested product here in which we could get if cannabis wasn’t a Schedule I substance, that would be life changing for Jagger and thousands,” he said. “You know we have over 2,000 people on the registry right now.”

There are several plaintiffs in the lawsuit in addition to the Cotte’s including a former NFL player and a combat veteran with PTSD.

PDF DOCUMENT OF LAWSUIT HERE

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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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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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Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis have introduced legislation in the House and Senate — The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act —

Marijuana Treated Like Alcohol? Legislation Filed In Senate and House

by NORML March 30, 2017

Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis have introduced legislation in the House and Senate — The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act — to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. In addition to removing marijuana from the United States Controlled Substances Act, this legislation also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matter concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

Email your members of Congress now and urge them to support this effort.

“The first time introduction of this particular piece of legislation in the US Senate is another sign that the growing public support for ending our failed war on cannabis consumers nationwide is continuing to translate into political support amongst federal officials,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “With marijuana legalization being supported by 60% of all Americans while Congress’ approval rating is in the low teens, ending our country’s disastrous prohibition against marijuana would not just be good policy, but good politics.”

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for qualified patients, while eight states now regulate the production and sale of marijuana to all adults. An estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters support these policy changes. According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy. 

“If we are truly going to move our nation towards sensible marijuana policies, the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act is paramount. Annually, 600,000 Americans are arrested for nothing more than the possession of small amounts of marijuana and now is the time for Congress to once and for all end put an end to the national embarrassment that is cannabis prohibition,” said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. “Passing this legislation would end the current conflict between state and federal laws and allow the states to implement more sensible and humane marijuana policies, free from the threat of federal incursion.”

These statewide regulatory schemes are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

“The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana businesses to go to the bank just like any other legal business.” Senator Ron Wyden said. “This three-step approach will spur job growth and boost our economy all while ensuring the industry is being held to a fair standard.”

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)

“Colorado has proven that allowing responsible adults to legally purchase marijuana, gives money to classrooms, not cartels; creates jobs, not addicts; and boosts our economy, not our prison population,” Representative Jared Polis said. “Now, more than ever, it is time we end the federal prohibition on marijuana and remove barriers for states’ that have chosen to legalize marijuana.  This budding industry can’t afford to be stifled by the Trump administration and its mixed-messages about marijuana.  The cannabis industry, states’, and citizens deserve leadership when it comes to marijuana.”

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

“As more states follow Oregon’s leadership in legalizing and regulating marijuana, too many people are trapped between federal and state laws,” Representative Earl Blumenauer said. “It’s not right, and it’s not fair. We need change now – and this bill is the way to do it.”

The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

By contrast, regulating the adult use of marijuana stimulates economic growth, saves lives, and has the support of the majority of the majority of Americans. 

Send a message to your members of Congress urging them to support the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act

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https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/(4)%20Marijuana%20Revenue%20and%20Regulation%20Act%20Summary.pdf

https://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/mrra.pdf

Federal Marijuana Sentences Plummet: Report

 

Cannabis Penalties

by Paul Armentano,

NORML Deputy Director

March 23, 2017

The number of federal offenders sentenced for violating marijuana laws has fallen significantly since 2012, according to data provided by the United States Sentencing Commission.

Just over 3,000 federal defendants were sentenced for marijuana violations in 2016, according to the Commission. That total is roughly half of the number of federal defendants that were sentenced in 2012. The total has fallen year-to-year since that time.

The 2016 total is nearly equal to the number of federal defendants sentenced for violating powder cocaine laws, and less than the number of federal defendants sentenced for heroin. Some 96 percent of federal marijuana defendants were sentenced for trafficking, with an average sentence of 28 months in prison.

Of those sentenced, 77 percent were Hispanic, 11 percent were Caucasian, and eight percent were African American. Fifty-six percent were categorized as non-US citizens.

In 2015, over 5,600 federal defendants were sentenced for violating marijuana laws, a total equal to some 25 percent of all federal drug sentences.

Click here to email your lawmakers on various pieces of legislation related to marijuana reform.

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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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Nevada bill would allow medical marijuana users to carry guns

Jenny Kane , jkane@rgj.com Published 4:09 p.m. PT March 20, 2017

Nevada lawmakers are trying to address everything from marijuana users’ gun rights to the danger that edible marijuana products pose to children.

On Monday, a wide array of marijuana-focused bills were introduced to both members of the Nevada Senate and the Assembly to help regulate the drug that’s now legal for recreational use in Nevada (and has been legal for medicinal use since 2000).

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, introduced a bill, SB 351, which would allow medical marijuana users to possess a firearm and a conceal and carry permit. Sheriffs currently are required to deny an application for a permit to carry a concealed firearm or revoke an existing permit if someone is a medical marijuana card holder.

Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, co-sponsored a separate bill, SB 344, with Sen. Patricia Farley, Nonpartisan-Las Vegas, that revises the standards for the labeling and packaging of marijuana for medical use.

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The proposed legislation establishes limits on how much medicinal marijuana may be sold in a single package and prohibits candy-like marijuana products that appeal to children. The bill also would prevent edible marijuana products that look like cookies or brownies to be sealed in see-through packaging, or any kind of packaging that children might be attracted to.

Segerblom introduced a separate, 147-page bill, SB 329, that would allow for medical marijuana research and hemp research. The same bill would add post traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that could qualify a patient for medicinal marijuana consumption.

Under Segerblom’s bill, non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries could accept donations of marijuana, and all medical marijuana establishments would have to install video security which law enforcement could remotely access in real time.

He also is proposing a bill, SB 321, that would allow American Indian tribes in Nevada to make agreements with the Governor that would allow the tribes to follow state law as related to both medical and recreational marijuana.

Segerblom and Farley also introduced a bill, SB 236, that would allow money raised from medical marijuana establishment applications to be spent not only on government costs and schools. Segerblom and Farley believe that the money should also be spent on programs used to educate people about the safe usage of marijuana.

Segerblom and Farley’s bill also suggests prohibiting counties and incorporated cities from imposing requirements upon marijuana establishments that are not zoning related. The bill also would limit the license tax that a county or city could impose upon a marijuana establishment.

Assemblywoman Brittney Miller also introduced a bill to the Assembly on Monday that would vacate the sentences of offenders who were convicted of possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana before legalization was effective Jan. 1. Assemblyman William McCurdy II introduced a similar bill last week to the Assembly’s Committee on Corrections, Parole and Probation.

The legalized marijuana industry is growing more than

The legalized marijuana industry is growing more than pot. Analysts say it could create over a quarter of a million jobs while other industries decline. (Photo: USA TODAY video still)

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