Tag Archives: hemp

Bipartisan bill offered in House to protect marijuana users in legal weed states

Bipartisan bill offered in House to protect marijuana users in legal weed states

By Lydia Wheeler – 02/15/18 05:19 PM EST

A bipartisan bill was offered in the House on Thursday seeking to circumvent attempts by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to encourage stricter enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where the drug is legal.

Reps. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced the “Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act,” which would mirror a Obama-era memo that relaxed enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where the drug is legal. Sessions rescinded the memo last month.

The lawmakers say their legislation would protect people from being prosecuted for legal medical and recreational marijuana use.

“To date, eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, and twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the American population, have enacted legislation to permit the use of cannabis,” Correa said in a statement.

“Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the ‘Cole Memo’ created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws,” he said.

In rescinding the 2013 directive from then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Sessions did not explicitly call for action, but the move opens the door for federal prosecutors to begin pursuing cases against both businesses that sell weed and residents who use it.

The memo had prioritized other prosecutions ahead of marijuana use offenses.

In a statement, Gaetz called the former memo good policy but bad governance because it was not passed through an act of Congress.

“We are a nation of laws, not department-wide memos. We should not tell prosecutors to ‘pick and choose’ what laws to uphold,” he said. “When federal law conflicts with state laws and the will of the American people, it’s time to change the laws.”

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U.S. judge weighs challenge to federal marijuana prohibition

Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday urged a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to overturn the United States’ longstanding prohibition of marijuana, the latest court battle over federal policy under President Donald Trump’s administration.

The argument, before U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan, came about a month after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he would abandon a policy of former President Barack Obama that had left regulation of the drug largely up to states.

Several states including, California, Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and 29 states allow some medical use.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in July, include the parents of two children who use marijuana to treat illness, and former New York Jets player Marvin Washington, who works with a company that develops marijuana-based products.

They claim that the federal ban on marijuana violates the U.S. Constitution. Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a “Schedule I” drug, meaning that it is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no medical use. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin and LSD.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Dolinger, arguing for the government, said federal law did not allow the plaintiffs to challenge the marijuana ban in court. Instead, he said, they must bring a petition through the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“The agency process is exhaustive,” he said.

Michael Hiller, lawyer for the plaintiffs, countered that the process was “futile,” and that there was no “rational basis” for marijuana to remain on Schedule I.

One of the children in the lawsuit, Alexis Bortell, successfully treats seizures using the drug, while another, Jagger Cotte, has used it to alleviate pain associated with a neurological condition called Leigh’s Disease, Hiller said.

“I represent people who need cannabis to live,” he said.

Hellerstein expressed sympathy for the plaintiffs during the hearing.

“How could anyone say that your clients’ lives have not been saved by marijuana?” he asked at one point.

However, the judge said he was not sure whether he had the authority to reschedule the drug. He also dismissed Heller’s argument that the prohibition was motivated by political concerns and racism when it was passed.

“The law is the law,” the judge said. “I‘m sworn to enforce the law.”

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Trump Administration Battles Sick Kids on Access to Legal Pot

By Erik Larson February 14, 2018, 3:56 PM CST

In a New York courtroom packed with cannabis supporters, the Trump administration urged a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit that aims to pave the way for legal marijuana across the country.

The case was brought on behalf of two sick children, a former National Football League player who says athletes deserve a better way to treat head trauma than addictive opioids and the Cannabis Cultural Association. The suit, filed in July 2017, seeks a ruling that marijuana was unconstitutionally labeled alongside heroin and LSD as a so-called Schedule I drug — the harshest of five government ratings — when Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act in 1970.

In court on Wednesday, Justice Department attorney Samuel Hilliard Dolinger said the plaintiffs didn’t follow legal requirements before suing, beginning with a petition to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“The right thing is to defer to the agency,” said U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, an 84-year-old who was nominated by former President Bill Clinton, who famously admitted to experimenting with pot while claiming he “didn’t inhale.”

Cannabis legalization has gained momentum in states, even with an unfriendly face in the U.S. Attorney General’s office. Nine states and Washington, D.C., allow adults to use the plant as they wish. More than one in five people can legally eat, drink, smoke or vape, according to state regulations. Twenty additional states have legalized pot for medicinal use.

Trump Interrupts Marijuana’s Path From Taboo to Legit: QuickTake

Hellerstein said he would issue a ruling later, and it was far from clear which way he was leaning. The judge, who had the courtroom erupting in laughter on more than a few occasions during the hearing, was skeptical of the government’s claim that there’s no medical benefit to marijuana.

“Your clients are living proof of the medical effectiveness of marijuana,” Hellerstein said to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Michael Hiller.

The legal cannabis industry is predicted to reach $50 billion in sales by 2026, up from $6 billion in 2016, according to investment bank Cowen & Co. Still, the industry is rife with risk. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded in January the Obama-era policies that ushered in legalization in many states.

The lawsuit has some star power with plaintiff Marvin Washington, who played for the New York Jets. He joined the case because the Controlled Substance Act made him ineligible for grants under the Federal Minority Business Enterprise program, which he planned to use for his medicinal cannabis business.

The suit also highlighted the human toll of the federal government’s war on marijuana with young plaintiffs whose lives have been saved or improved by cannabis, including 11-year-old Alexis Bortell of Colorado and seven-year old Jagger Cotte of Georgia.

Bortell’s epileptic seizures were brought under control by cannabis after her family moved from Texas to Colorado so she could legally use it in that state, according to the suit. Cotte, who suffers from Leigh’s Disease, was able to treat excruciating pain with medicinal marijuana and prolong his life by two years beyond his maximum prognosis, according to the suit.

The complaint notes that American presidents from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama have smoked pot. It also claims the Nixon administration was motivated by ulterior motives when it pushed for the Controlled Substance Act.

Cannabis was criminalized “not to control the spread of a dangerous drug, but rather to suppress the rights and interests of those whom the Nixon Administration wrongly regarded as hostile to the interests of the U.S. — African Americans and protesters of the Vietnam War,” the suit says.

At the hearing, Hellerstein said that argument wasn’t going to work with him.

The decision “will not depend on what may have been in the mind of Richard Nixon at the time,” Hellerstein said.

— With assistance by Jennifer Kaplan

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Court hears challenge to federal marijuana laws

Trial begins for advocates suing Sessions and the DEA over …

Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks to the National Sheriffs’ Association

Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks to the National Sheriffs’ Association

Washington, DC

~

Monday, February 12, 2018

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Jonathan, for that kind introduction.  It’s good to see you again.  I also want to recognize Greg Champagne of St. Charles, Louisiana.
Before I say anything else, I have to acknowledge, with great sadness, that we lost two police officers this weekend.  Officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering of Westerville, Ohio were shot to death around noontime Saturday.  Between them they had nearly 40 years of law enforcement service.  I want to join with President Trump in offering my condolences to their families at this difficult time.
It is an honor to be with you this morning.  The National Sheriffs’ Association is one of the biggest law enforcement groups in America—with more than 20,000 members and 75 years of history.
I want to thank you for what you do.  I’ve heard about how you’ve trained more than 1,000 law officers in using narcan—an overdose reversal drug.  You’ve donated thousands of narcan kits across 21 different states.  I’m told that you’ve already reversed hundreds of overdoses. 
I’m pleased to see that my home state of Alabama is well-represented here. We have 14 Alabama sheriffs with us this morning, as well as the long time Executive Director of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, Bobby Timmons.  Thank you all for keeping Alabama safe.
On behalf of President Trump, I am here to say thank you to everyone here for your service to this country.
I know that many of you have met with the President.  You know that he is a strong supporter of law enforcement.
This is an administration that listens to you and that understands this community.  We understand the risks you take and the tools you need to be effective.
I know that sometimes in the past, you haven’t had the support that you deserve.  You’ve had politicians tie your hands with ineffective policies or fail to understand the challenges your deputies face and fail to respect the impact of their work and service.
Let me say this loud and clear: President Trump and I are proud to stand with all of you.
The most important thing that any government does is keep its citizens safe.  The first civil right is the right to be safe.
Too often, politics gets in the way of that mission.
Right now, we’re trying to confirm a number of important component heads at the Department of Justice.  That includes a new head of our Criminal Division, our Civil Rights Division, and our National Security Division.  These are critically important components—and outstanding nominees.  Our nominee to lead the National Security Division was approved unanimously in committee.  But because of one senator’s concerns over unrelated political issues—like legalizing marijuana—we can’t even get a vote.
I’m Attorney General of the United States.  I don’t have the authority to say that something is legal when it is illegal—even if I wanted to.  I cannot and will not pretend that a duly enacted law of this country—like the federal ban on marijuana—does not exist.  Marijuana is illegal in the United States—even in Colorado, California, and everywhere else in America.
 
We need our nominees confirmed.  Safety and security are just too important.
Those of gathered here know that protecting the safety and security of the American people is the mission we share.
President Trump understands that law enforcement officers are not the problem—they’re the solution.
I know firsthand the important work that each of you do.  I was a federal prosecutor for 14 years, and during that time, I was blessed to partner every day with federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to protect people’s rights.  We might have been a small U.S. Attorney’s office in Mobile, Alabama, but we worked closely with our Sheriffs and took tons of drugs off our streets, dismantled domestic and international fraud schemes, and we prosecuted civil rights offenders to the fullest extent possible.  There is nothing I am more proud of that noble work.
I know that each of you has that same kind of satisfaction as your serve your people.
You are the thin blue line that stands between law-abiding people and criminals – between sanctity and lawlessness.  You protect our families, our communities, and secure our country from drugs and violence.  The people of this country appreciate what you do.  Last summer, Gallup released their annual poll, which showed that overall confidence in the law enforcement rose significantly last year.  That is a testament to the work you do every day.
I’m not sure if you all saw this, but there was a survey recently that showed that more and more of our young people want to go into law enforcement.  According to the survey, it used to be the number 10 dream job for kids under 12.  Now it’s number three overall—and for boys it’s number one.  Athletes dropped while more and more want to wear the badge.
That tells me that we’re doing something right. I have been hearing law enforcement leaders express grave concerns about recruitment, maybe we have turned the corner.
It was largely because of officers like you that crime went down in this country for 20 years. It was a long and historic crime decline, murder rates declined by one half and teen use of drugs declined by half.
But over the past two or three years, the country and some leaders lost their focus that led to progress and our work became more difficult. The result: The violent crime rate went up by nearly seven percent from 2014 to 2016.  Robberies went up.  Assaults went up nearly 10 percent.  Rape went up by nearly 11 percent.  Murder shot up by more than 20 percent.  Meanwhile we have suffered the deadliest drug crisis in American history.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that violent crime and drug abuse rose at the same time. I was just reading one of our Department-funded studies that found that nearly a quarter of the increase in homicides is the result of the increase in drug-related homicides.
And that should be no surprise: drug trafficking is an inherently violent business.  If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t file a lawsuit in court.  You collect it by the barrel of a gun.

But as we all know, violent crime statistics and drug overdose rates are not numbers—we’re talking about moms, dads, daughters, spouses, friends, and neighbors.
We will not stand by and watch violence and addiction rise.  Plain and simple, we will not allow the progress made by our women and men in blue over the past two decades to simply slip through our fingers.  We will not cede one community, one block, or one street corner to violent thugs or poison peddlers. We will protect the poor as well as the rich.
As Attorney General, I am committed to combatting violent crime and supporting your work.  I have made it one of our top priorities.
The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump sent me a simple, straightforward executive order: reduce crime in America.  Not preside over ever-increasing crime rates.  Reduce crime in America.
At the Department of Justice, we embrace that goal.  And you and I know from experience that it can be done.
Some people don’t think it’s possible, but crime rates aren’t like the tides.  Strong law enforcement and prosecutions can bring them down.
It is our goal to bring down violent crime, homicides, opioid prescriptions, and overdose deaths.  These are the explicit goals we’ve established.
And over the past year, we have taken action to reach these goals.  In 2017, the Department of Justice brought cases against the greatest number of violent criminals in a quarter of a century.  We charged the most federal firearm prosecutions in a decade.  We also arrested and charged hundreds of people suspected of contributing to the ongoing opioid crisis.
We secured the convictions of nearly 500 human traffickers and 1,200 gang members, and worked with our international allies to arrest or charge more than 4,000 MS-13 members.
MS-13 didn’t like that, by the way.
  The Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division recently testified before Congress that the MS-13 gang leaders back in El Salvador have taken notice of these efforts.  They know that hundreds of their members are now behind bars.  So now they’re trying to send younger and more violent gang members to the United States to replenish their depleted ranks.  But they will not succeed.
That’s one more reason that we are no longer allowing so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions to nullify federal immigration law if they want to receive our law enforcement grants.
It’s not that we want to de-fund these cities and states.  We want them to rethink their policies and start to cooperate with federal law enforcement. I cannot send funds to jurisdictions who won’t meet minimum standards of partnership.
I know that this issue is important to this organization, and I want to thank you for the work that you have done.
I was in Florida last week to discuss our ongoing opioid crisis, and I had the chance to meet with a number of Florida sheriffs.
In working with the National Sheriffs Association, seventeen Florida sheriffs have worked out an agreement with ICE to help them take criminal aliens out of the Sunshine State.  Aliens held by these sheriffs are held under color of federal authority—and that protects these sheriffs from being sued just for doing their jobs.
I want to encourage more of these agreements across America.
By definition, removing criminal aliens from our communities makes us safer. And I want you to consider joining the very effective 287(g) program.
We are already starting to see positive signs of the Trump administration’s approach to crime.  In the first six months of last year, the increase in the murder rate slowed significantly and violent crime actually went down.  Publicly available data for the rest of the year suggest we may see further progress.
These are major accomplishments that benefit the American people.  And we could not have realized them without you—without a strong partnership between our federal team and our state and local law enforcement personnel.
Based on my experience meeting with officers like you, I believe that morale is already up among our law enforcement community. I can feel the difference.  And we have good reason to be encouraged.
Any loss of life is one too many, but it is encouraging that the number of officers killed in the line of duty declined last year and reached its second lowest level in more than half a century.  That’s something that we all should celebrate and be thankful for.
At the Department of Justice we appreciate the service of every single federal agent.  But we are well aware that 85 percent of law enforcement is state, local, and tribal.  Yours are the deputies that have the critical street-level intelligence regarding the criminal element.  Federal officers have the unique capability to follow a case across state borders and even across national borders.  We can reach defendants all over the world.
We want to be a force-multiplier for you.  Our work is most effective when experienced state and local investigators are paired with the resources and expertise of the 15 percent that are our federal law enforcement.
That’s why we have reinstated our equitable sharing program at the Department of Justice.  Civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed.  It weakens the criminals and the cartels.  Civil asset forfeiture takes the material support of the criminals and makes it the material support of law enforcement. In departments across this country, funds that were once used to take lives are now being used to save lives. And there is nothing wrong with adoptive forfeitures. There can be no federal adoption if the forfeiture is not called for under federal law. In many cases, adoptive forfeitures represent great partnerships between federal and state law enforcement.
Criminals should not be permitted to profit from their crimes.
Sheriff Eavenson has been a long-time advocate for this approach, and we’re grateful for his valued advice.

Helping law enforcement do their jobs, helping the police get better, and celebrating the noble, honorable, and challenging work of our law enforcement communities will always be a top priority of President Trump and this Department of Justice. Indeed, his first executive order to us on my first day was to back the men and women in uniform.
Together we can do this.  We can bring down crime and give every American peace of mind.
I want to close by reiterating my deep appreciation and profound thanks to all the women and men of law enforcement – federal, state, local, and tribal.  I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected Sheriff has been seen as the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and amenable to the people. The Sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage.
The work that you do – that you have dedicated your lives to – is essential.  I believe it.  The Department of Justice believes it.  And President Trump believes it.
You can be certain about this: we have your back and you have our thanks.

Speaker:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Component(s):

Office of the Attorney General

Updated February 12, 2018

SOURCE LINK

PETITION: Demand President Trump Stop the Criminalization of Kratom!

Kratom Warriors:

As many of you know, we just announced that nine noted scientists, working with the American Kratom Association (AKA), authored a letter to President Trump’s White House Opioid Crisis Team Leader Kellyanne Conway and Acting DEA Administrator Robert W. Patterson.

This letter amplified the voice of the scientific community – now it’s time for President Trump and Ms. Conway to hear YOUR voice with this petition.

In their letter, the scientists called out the FDA directly for their use of “bad science” when determining the safety profile of kratom.

And that’s why you and I must demand they disregard the FDA’s latest disinformation campaign against kratom.

Please take a few moments and sign the petition to demand the President and Ms. Conway help protect the freedom of consumers to make their own choices about their health and well-being and to stop the criminalization of kratom.

There are organizations across the United States and within the Federal Government working day and night to criminalize kratom.

They don’t care about the truth, the science, or the disastrous impacts banning kratom would have on millions of Americans.

We MUST come together as a kratom community RIGHT NOW to say with one unified voice – STOP THE ATTACK ON KRATOM!

Below is the text of the petition being sent to President Trump and Ms. Conway:

———————————————————————————————————

PETITION TO PRESIDENT TRUMP AND KELLYANNE CONWAY

We the undersigned ask for your immediate action to protect the freedom of consumers to make their own health care decisions, and stop the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from their broad regulatory overreach and the criminalization of millions of Americans who use kratom. 

Kratom is a safe herbal supplement that is used by Americans to manage their health and well-being. Many have found kratom to be an effective alternative pain management therapy to dangerously addictive and deadly opioids. Leading scientists have concluded that banning kratom will create an unsafe kratom black market, and force kratom users who manage acute or chronic pain to deadly opioids and will lead to increased opioid deaths in America.

Mr. President, we ask that you direct the FDA and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) to research how kratom can best be used as both an alternative pain management therapy, and as a potential step-down from opioid addiction; and direct the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to return the proposed scheduling recommendation for kratom to the FDA and NIDA for those additional studies — and leave those Americans who use kratom for their personal health and well-being alone!

————————————————————————————————————————

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION TO PRESIDENT TRUMP AND MS. CONWAY – LET’S SEND A CLEAR MESSAGE THAT KRATOM SHOULD BE PROTECTED!

Once you sign this petition, please forward this email to friends, family and even neighbors. Even if they are not a kratom consumer, please try to get their help in supporting this petition.

It is only because of your continued support that we are able to keep fighting to protect kratom. Thank you for your immediate action today.

Dave Herman

American Kratom Association

#IAMKRATOM

#teamAKA

Maine becomes first state to protect marijuana use outside of work

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Author

Valerie Bolden-Barrett

Published

Feb. 1, 2018

Dive Brief:
  • Beginning today, employers in Maine are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their marijuana or marijuana byproduct use outside of work, attorneys at Littler Mendelson report. Maine’s Labor Department also removed the drug from the list of substances for which employers may test applicants.
  • The law prohibits employers from disciplining or refusing to hire workers age 21 or older based on their off-site marijuana use. Employers are still free to prohibit its use and possession in the workplace and can discipline employees who are under the influence of marijuana in the workplace. According to Littler, a spokesperson for the state labor department says that a positive test result won’t be enough to prove that an employee was under the influence.
  • Littler says Maine’s law doesn’t affect compliance with federally mandated testing for marijuana, like that required by U.S. Department of Transportation regulations.
Dive Insight:

Some other states, like California, have legalized recreational marijuana use, but until now, none prevented employers from enforcing anti-drug policies or refusing to hire candidates who test positive for the drug. With the recent influx of employee-friendly state and local laws, however, employers may see other states and cities adopt laws similar to Maine’s.

And while the Maine law’s provisions certainly raise some compliance and enforcement questions, employers remain free to prohibit drug use at work. HR managers at affected employers, however, may want to update their organization’s handbook or other drug policies to reflect the changes.

Recommended Reading:

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Judge dismisses 13 tickets against NJ Weedman

By Olivia Rizzo  For NJ.com

A Trenton Municipal Court judge this week dismissed 13 tickets citing late night violations at NJ Weedman’s Joint, the now-closed Trenton restaurant owned by Ed “NJ Weedman” Forchion.

In February 2016, Trenton police continually shut down the restaurant and accompanying “cannabis church,” the Liberty Bell Temple, citing a city ordinance that requires some establishments to close down at 11 p.m.

But Forchion, who has been jailed for almost a year, has always argued that the tickets were “bogus” and did not apply to his businesses because they are in a designated commercial zone.

Trenton Municipal Court Judge Gregory Williams agreed that Forchion’s businesses were not considered a residential building, and dropped 13 of the 22 police lodged against Forchion or his business.

“I feel vindicated,” Forchion said in a phone interview from jail with NJ Advance Media. “It’s not often I have a judge completely on my side.”

Judge denies NJ Weedman's latest quest for freedom

Judge denies NJ Weedman’s latest quest for freedom

Ed Forchion has been locked up on pre-trial detention since March of last year

The marijuana advocate believes that the municipal tickets were the catalyst that led to the raid on his restaurant and his subsequent arrest, which later led to witness tampering charges – the case for which he remains jailed.

The remaining nine tickets, for various other violations, will be discussed in a municipal court hearing in March, Forchion said.

Forchion was found not guilty on one count of witness tampering, but faced a hung jury on the second count, in November 2017. His retrial is pending.

Olivia Rizzo may be reached at orizzo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find NJ.com on Facebook

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When marijuana was legal in Michigan: 22 days in 1972

Ryan A. Huey, for the Lansing State Journal Published 7:30 a.m. ET Feb. 8, 2018

THIS IS FOR ONE TIME USE ONLY. 636536056957904088-John-Sinclair-w-John-Rosevear-1967.jpg

John Sinclair, “Michigan’s hippie king,” walked out of Jackson’s State Prison of Southern Michigan on Dec. 13, 1971 after serving two-and-a-half years of what might have been a 10-year prison sentence for marijuana possession.

Surrounded by a cheering crowd, a television reporter quizzed Sinclair as he embraced family and friends outside of the prison gate.

“After all of the trouble you’ve gone through Mr. Sinclair, how do you feel about marijuana? Do you still feel…”

“I wanna smoke some joints, man!” Sinclair interrupted.

Standing well over 6 feet tall with a mane of curly dark hair, Sinclair was a minor celebrity in Michigan’s counterculture: the manager for the Detroit rock band MC5 and the gregarious chairman of the White Panther Party, a revolutionary organization named in solidarity with the Black Panther Party.

He proclaimed that marijuana was safe, the government was oppressive and young people were going to take over the country.

The press characterized him as “colorful and quotable.” Police labeled him a threat to public safety.

The Michigan Supreme Court found him convincing. 

The court fight that followed Sinclair’s arrest for marijuana possession in 1967 — and the “Free John Now!” publicity campaign launched by artist and activist Leni Sinclair, who was John’s wife at the time — briefly overturned Michigan’s marijuana laws and gave hope to Michigan’s more optimistic marijuana enthusiasts that legalization was within reach.

“We were such utopianists,” Leni Sinclair recalls.                        

Leni Sinclair in 1971.

Leni Sinclair in 1971. (Photo: Leni Sinclair)

The Sinclairs helped to launch the Michigan Marijuana Initiative in 1972, the state’s first serious effort at marijuana legalization.             

It failed, of course. Legal marijuana was a hard sell to a public that largely believed smoking reefer was immoral and dangerous. A 1969 national survey indicated that 84% of Americans thought marijuana should be illegal. By 1972, things hadn’t changed drastically.

But 2018 is different.

In November, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted around 360,000 petition signatures to legalize the consumption, production and distribution of recreational marijuana in Michigan. It is all but assured that the ballot proposal will reach the 250,588 valid signatures necessary to make it on the November ballot.

With nearly 60% of Michiganders in favor of legalization, it’s also expected to become law.

More: Nearly 50 marijuana dispensaries may be forced to close

More: How to get a medical marijuana card

Which might sound like vindication for Leni and John Sinclair. They don’t see it that way.

Both say smoking marijuana in the 1960s was an affirmation of a fiercely do-it-yourself lifestyle and a form of protest against a national culture that sanctioned discrimination, demanded commitment to American militarism and protected individual liberty only within the bounds of consumer capitalism, Christianity and the nuclear family.

“They are subverting the whole marijuana culture that we created, which was based on sharing, noninterference with others, high-mindedness, and spirituality,” said John Sinclair, from his upstairs apartment office in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.

At 76 years of age, he is still heavily involved in marijuana legalization efforts. He and Leni have been divorced since 1988.

“At first I thought it was a good thing” to legalize marijuana, said Leni Sinclair, who has been arrested five times on marijuana-related charges over her 77-year life.

“In retrospect,” she said, when medical marijuana was legalized, “it destroyed the whole distribution system” that consisted mostly of friends getting together to share weed and hang out.

They agree nonetheless that legalization is long overdue. 

Photographer and political activist Leni Sinclair,

Photographer and political activist Leni Sinclair, of Detroit, who is best known for her remarkable portraits and performance images of Detroit music royalty, from the MC5 to Bob Seger, as well as some of the world’s most important jazz musicians including John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, photographed in 2016. (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press)

“People are just ready for it,” said Jeffrey Hank, the Lansing attorney who founded MI Legalize, a grassroots organization that almost succeeded in getting an initiative on the ballot in 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana.

The failure of the 2016 initiative inspired Hank’s organization to found the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, up their fundraising efforts and professionalize their campaign.

The Coalition is a diverse collection of activists, farmers and investors from both large companies and small businesses such as Lansing’s Wholesale Hydroponics.

Its three largest donors have been the retail tobacco chain Smokers Outlet, the national lobbying group the Marijuana Policy Project and MI Legalize.

And its efforts are aimed squarely at the political mainstream. The initiative includes a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales that would be divided between schools and road repairs and the municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.

More: Why you’ll hear more about Lansing region’s marijuana industry

Its campaign has focused on the failure of efforts to prohibit marijuana use —  one ad shows a Prohibition-era photo of men pouring a beer barrel into a storm sewer beside the caption “Insanity: Doing the same thing and expecting a different result” — and on “unnecessary” arrests.

“You never get everything you want when you try to get something of this nature done,” said Hank.

“You really have to appease people’s political opinions to have any chance at it.”

Josh Covert is an attorney who works almost exclusively with clients facing marijuana-related legal problems, or involved in the business of marijuana. Nick King and Laura Trabka/Lansing State Journal

Marijuana in Michigan

In the 1950s, Michigan implemented some of the harshest penalties for marijuana in the country.

Legislators worried publicly that “dope peddlers” and “bad associates” — which their listeners would have understood as code for black and working class — were manipulating white youth to smoke marijuana.

A 1952 bill made the punishment for narcotics possession anything between probation and 10 years in prison, and the law treated marijuana as a narcotic. A second offense could mean 20 years behind bars. A conviction for selling carried a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison with no parole.

In practice, these laws intensified the aggressive policing aimed at Michigan’s expanding black neighborhoods.

By 1956, the Detroit Narcotics Bureau estimated that 89% of people arrested for narcotics were black, though they were only 20% of the city’s population. The conviction rate was a staggering 90%.

When white and college educated John Sinclair was first arrested for “sales and possession” of marijuana in October of 1964, he got a slap on the wrist.

Detroit Free Press archives
John Sinclair at 27 outside

Detroit Free Press archives John Sinclair at 27 outside the Oakland County Courthouse in April 1969. (Photo: Tom Venaleck, Detroit Free Press)

The judge dropped the sales charge, put him on two months’ probation and fined him $250.

Still on probation, Sinclair started a Detroit chapter of LEMAR (which stood for “Legalize Marijuana”), the first group dedicated to legalization in the U.S.

John and Leni Sinclair had recently helped found a beatnik-inspired artist collective called the Detroit Artists’ Workshop. Their commune became a home base for artists, musicians, activists, and entrepreneurs.

The Detroit Police assigned an undercover agent to infiltrate the commune to keep tabs on Sinclair and the anti-Vietnam War activists who lived in the same building, which led to Sinclair’s second arrest.

He pleaded guilty to marijuana possession and, this time, was sentenced to six months in the Detroit House of Corrections.

Detroit’s Red Squad, a special police unit that investigated suspected communists, started compiling a detailed file on Sinclair for “possible narcotics and subversive activity.”

Sinclair’s third arrest came under the auspices of a drug raid targeting narcotics traffic near Wayne State University’s campus. A month prior, he had given two joints to undercover police who had taken jobs at the commune in order to build a case against Sinclair.

“They weren’t interested in marijuana,” Sinclair told the Detroit Free Press a couple days after the January 24, 1967 raid, “[t]hey’re just against our way of life.”

“They couldn’t arrest people in America for saying things against the government,” Leni Sinclair said, “so they used the marijuana laws.”

John vowed to appeal his conviction by challenging the legality of the state marijuana laws.

Two years later, Judge Robert J. Colombo of the Detroit Recorder’s Court sentenced John Sinclair to nine-and-a-half to 10 years in prison.

He also denied bond, which would have allowed Sinclair to stay out of prison during the appeal process, a move usually reserved for the most dangerous offenders.

“The law means nothing to him and to his like,” Colombo said.

Members of the White Panther Party and others on the steps of the Capitol in Lansing in 1971.

Members of the White Panther Party and others on the steps of the Capitol in Lansing in 1971. (Photo: Leni Sinclair)

Leni was “stunned.” She began urging voters to write members of Congress, participate in demonstrations and join her petition drive to change the marijuana laws.

The commune printed and sold t-shirts, posters, bumper stickers, and buttons that read “Free John Now!”

The strategy, she said, was “to get him out by any legal means possible.”

Though they did step outside the law to make their point.

Leni and a few friends rolled a pile of joints and mailed two apiece to every member of the state legislature, Gov. William Milliken and Wayne State University President William Keast with a note explaining that they were now in possession of narcotics and subject to a ten-year prison sentence.

Ann Arbor was a strong base of support for their efforts. So was East Lansing.

Students at Michigan State University swayed Republican Senator, Philip O. Pittenger, who represented East Lansing, to vote for a more lenient drug bill.

The East Lansing City Council passed a resolution recommending Sinclair’s release from prison and the same for all Michiganders imprisoned for marijuana crimes.

George Griffiths, a Democratic City Council member at the time and later, mayor of East Lansing, saw marijuana as “nothing more or less than alcohol.”

“I have my wine or scotch and soda,” said Griffiths, now 88, “but if somebody wants to smoke their marijuana, that’s OK by me.”

The “Free John Now!” campaign culminated in the “John Sinclair Freedom Rally” on December 10, 1971, headlined by John Lennon.

Lennon and Yoko Ono took the stage around three in the morning with a dobro guitar and an impromptu band. They closed their short set with a song written especially for the occasion.

“It ain’t fair, John Sinclair, in the stir for breathing air,” Lennon sang.

Three days later, John was free.

His case convinced the Michigan Supreme Court that marijuana and heroin were not equally dangerous, though state law had treated them that way, misclassifying cannabis as a narcotic and imposing long sentences for possession and sales.

The Court released Sinclair from prison and, three months later, declared the state’s marijuana laws unconstitutional.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono play the "John Sinclair Freedom Rally" in Ann Arbor in 1971.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono play the “John Sinclair Freedom Rally” in Ann Arbor in 1971. (Photo: Leni Sinclair)

There were no new marijuana laws in place, and so, in March of 1972, marijuana was effectively legalized in Michigan for about three weeks.

To celebrate, several Ann Arborites half-jokingly advertised a “hash festival” to take place on the University of Michigan’s Diag the day the new marijuana law was to go into effect — April Fool’s Day.

Hundreds of people showed up on the snowy Saturday to puff joints in public, the origin of what would become Hash Bash. No one was arrested. A few days later, the court ordered the release of 128 people in Michigan jails for marijuana offenses.

Pressured by young people, Congress had passed a constitutional amendment in 1971 to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, the same age at which Americans became eligible for the draft.

Hoping to capitalize on the momentum, the Sinclairs devoted their energies to registering young voters.

Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck, both 22, won seats on Ann Arbor’s City Council in 1972 and immediately introduced an ordinance that would downgrade possession, use and sale of marijuana to a $5 civil infraction within Ann Arbor.

It passed, making Ann Arbor the first city in the United States to implement a “traffic-ticket” marijuana ordinance and earning it the nickname, the “Midwest’s dope capital.”

East Lansing quickly became the second.

The Sinclairs began working furiously on a Michigan Marijuana Initiative that mirrored an ongoing campaign they had worked on in California. It called for “free, legal, backyard marijuana” through an amendment to the Michigan constitution.

The blueprint they settled on was “don’t do anything but legalize it,” Leni Sinclair said.

Their hands-off approach would “keep the distribution network that already existed all over the country,” she continued, where people mostly bought “an ounce and shared it with their friends.”

Those networks weren’t run by large criminal enterprises, she said. “Everybody that was in that kind of business was helping their family put food on the table.” They “would just be legal and pay taxes.”

They had two months to collect 265,000 signatures to put the proposal on the November 1972 ballot.

They collected roughly 125,000, less than half of what they needed. Only around 40,000 of those were considered valid.

The End of Marijuana Prohibition?

Participants smoke during the annual Hash Bash at the

Participants smoke during the annual Hash Bash at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor in 2015. (Photo: Nicole Hester/Associated Press)

In 1973, Ann Arbor’s newest state representative, the shaggy-haired Perry Bullard, invited his colleagues in Congress to attend the city’s 2nd Annual Hash Bash, where Bullard smoked a joint in full view of the media.

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said.

His constituency, he would say later, “wants an outspoken advocate.”

Former Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero didn’t smoke a joint for the cameras and said he “got almost no contact buzz” when he spoke Hash Bash in 2015 to promote “sane, sustainable, enforceable policy” regarding marijuana.

Bernero said he hoped to combat “misinformation” about marijuana, which he equated with the “reefer madness” propaganda of the 1930s.

“It’s still a Schedule I drug for God’s sake,” he said, referring to marijuana’s classification under Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which is reserved for the most dangerous drugs. “It’s unbelievable to me that that’s still the case.”

Bernero supports “normalization and legalization” of marijuana, noting that it’s “less fatal and less problematic in many respects than alcohol,” and he sees its potential to bolster both local economies and hard-pressed municipal budgets.

“I think that it can be a real boon to the economy,” said Bernero, who hopes that it will remain an “indigenous industry.”

Lowell, of MI Legalize, said the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol ballot proposal alleviates “the need for law enforcement to be concerned with adults with small amounts of cannabis.”

“That goes a long way for me as an activist.”

John Sinclair doesn’t trust the police to let go that easily. He anticipates that the “law enforcement bureaucracy” will swell to monitor the legal marijuana industry from “seed to sale.”

Timothy Locke shares those concerns.

Locke is the treasurer of Abrogate Michigan, which is running a separate petition campaign to legalize recreational marijuana but without an excise tax. The organization is pursuing a constitutional amendment, which is not expected to make it onto the ballot.

In other states that have treated marijuana like alcohol, the excise tax “has not slowed down the arrests” and has actually “emboldened the black market because if people can find a cheaper product, they will,” he said.

A rally-goer almost gets it right during the 30th annual

A rally-goer almost gets it right during the 30th annual Hash Bash rally to legalize marijuana held on the University of Michigan Diag in Ann Arbor on Saturday, April 7, 2001. Supporters tried and failed to get a marijuana legalization measure on the 2000 ballot. (Photo: Lon Horwedel, Copyright 2000 The Lansing State Journal;No)

Which Lowell concedes is a possibility.

Inside his organization, “there’s definitely a lot of discussion about that very thing,” he said. “It’s plausible.”

For most, these concerns are offset by the benefits of funding Michigan’s public schools and road repairs through the excise tax on legal weed.

Jeffrey Hank touts the model of marijuana licensing in the ballot proposal as the most small-business-friendly of any state.

The “microbusiness” licensing process — akin to that of microbreweries — will allow small business owners and entrepreneurs to get a fair share of the market, not to mention giving them protection under the law.

However, licensing fees for the smallest dispensaries still exceed $10,000 and a “no felons” clause limits access to the market.

As a result, the black and working-class communities most victimized under marijuana prohibition could be largely excluded from the legal marijuana industry.

Leni Sinclair hopes that whoever does end up profiting from legalized marijuana will “pay some reparations to the people who have suffered the most.”

She wonders “how much would it have cost the state of Michigan to house all these prisoners for 20 to life if we hadn’t changed the law?

“How many millions or billions of dollars,” she asks, has “John Sinclair saved the state of Michigan?”

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"We are very optimistic that the case is going to come out the way it should, which is that the Controlled Substances Act is going to be found unconstitutional,"

AlexisInThePatchesOfHopeGardenBeforeGroundBreaking

Jeff Sessions’s War on Pot Goes to Court, Attorney General Will Fight 12-Year-Old With Epilepsy

By Kate Sheridan On 1/18/18 at 7:59 AM

Updated | A 12-year-old suing the federal government may have a whiff of adorableness. But for Alexis Bortell, who filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions last fall, it’s a choice she had to make to save her life. Alexis has epilepsy, and Sessions has made it his mission to make it impossible for her to access the only drug that has kept her seizures at bay: cannabis.

A Scream of Terror

Alexis doesn’t remember her first seizure. But her father, Dean Bortell, does.

“We were literally folding clothes, and Alexis was sleeping on the couch,” Bortell told Newsweek. “All of a sudden, I heard her make this shriek—I mean, it was a scream of terror,” he said. “I look over, and Alexis is stiff as a board, on her back, spasming.”

At first, Bortell suspected his daughter had a brain-eating amoeba on account of headlines about them that summer and took her to the hospital. Within hours, it became clear something else was wrong. Alexis was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2013.

Three years ago, Alexis began taking medical marijuana, and her seizures disappeared. But that treatment option is threatened by an aggressive federal crackdown on medicinal cannabis led by Sessions, who is also the acting director of the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

Her day in court—February 14, at a New York City federal courthouse—is fast approaching. Alexis won’t be there in person, but her lawyer, Michael Hiller, thinks the ruling will go their way.

“We are very optimistic that the case is going to come out the way it should, which is that the Controlled Substances Act is going to be found unconstitutional,” Hiller said. Several other plaintiffs—a former professional football player, a veteran and another child—are also included.

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Sen. Cory Booker was LIVE!

cory booker live

Cory Booker was live.


I’m excited to join Representatives Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna right now for a live press call announcing the House introduction of the #MarijuanaJusticeAct—a bill that I introduced in the Senate late last year.

The Marijuana Justice Act aims to end the federal prohibition on of marijuana in the United States by legalizing marijuana at the federal level, and incentivizing states to legalize it at the state level if they disproportionately arrest or incarcerate poor people or people of color. For decades, the failed War on Drugs has locked up millions of nonviolent drug offenders—especially for marijuana-related offenses—at an incredible cost of lost human potential, torn apart families and communities, and taxpayer dollars. The effects of the drug war have had a disproportionately devastating impact on Americans of color and the poor. Our bill aims to right some of the wrongs of our failed War on Drugs—particularly especially for those communities most hardest-hit by these failed policies—and do the right thing for public safety while reducing our overflowing prison population.

SOURCE LINK

VIEW THE LIVE VIDEO!

https://www.facebook.com/corybooker/videos/10157597581027228/