Tag Archives: New Hampshire

Lexology Report: Congress temporarily de-funds US-DOJ medical marijuana prosecution but does not legalize medical marijuana

  • Littler Mendelson
  • Dale L. Deitchler

     

    • USA
    • December 30 2014

     

    Dale L. Deitchler Author page »

    In a few short paragraphs within the 1,603-page congressional spending bill signed into law on December 16, 2014, Congress prohibited the U.S. Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute users, growers and distributors of medical marijuana in states that have enacted medical marijuana statutes.  The full text of the de-funding rider barring the DOJ from the use of funds to “prevent. . . implementation” of state and local laws legalizing medical marijuana states:

    Sec. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

    Sec. 539. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (“Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    Several U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld prosecution of medical marijuana growers and users under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).  Nevertheless, the Obama Administration, as a matter of policy, has directed the DOJ to take a relaxed approach to prosecution and the DOJ has done so, except for use that impacts the DOJ’s “enforcement priorities” (e.g., preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels).  This new de-funding measure now codifies that policy approach as law.  (Notably, the rider does not affect IRS or Treasury Department actions relating to payment of taxes by marijuana suppliers and online banking).

    The legislation, however, does not legalize medical marijuana.  Rather, the federal ban on marijuana continues – i.e., both medical and recreational marijuana continue to be illegal under CSA Schedule I.  And, though de-funding may affect enforcement of criminal laws in states with medical marijuana statutes, it has no effect in states that have not legalized marijuana, nor does it express any limitations on employer action on the basis of a positive marijuana test result administered under a workplace drug testing policy.  Finally, the rider expires on September 30, 2015, and may or may not be renewed heading into the heart of the presidential election campaign in the fall of 2015.  For all of these reasons, though significant in reflecting current legislators’ thinking at the national level regarding CSA enforcement, the mere enactment of the spending bill with this provision does not warrant adjustment to drug testing policies of employers choosing to continue to treat confirmed positive marijuana test results as positive even when the result was caused by medicinal use that is lawful under state or local law.

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    Federal Spending Bill Blocks Funding For Medical Marijuana Raids, Legalization In D.C.

    The proposed congressional budget released Tuesday night prevents the Department of Justice from using funds to undermine state laws regarding medical marijuana.

    posted on Dec. 9, 2014, at 9:20 p.m.

    Michelle Broder Van Dyke BuzzFeed News Reporter

     

    The House budget passed Tuesday night prevents the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to interfere with state laws that legalize medical marijuana.

    The amendment was introduced by California Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, and Sam Farr, a Democrat, and was approved by the House of Representatives in May. It implies that DEA raids on medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal will stop.

    The budget Senate proposal — which must still go back to the House for a full vote before it lands on President Obama’s desk — would keep all but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operating normally through the end of the fiscal year in 2015.

    The compromise bill was approved with Republicans agreeing to put off a fight with Obama over his immigration policies until February, when funding for the DHS is slated to run out, the Associated Press reported.

    The bill’s Section 538, which addresses medical marijuana, reads:

    None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

    The bill also includes a section that protects industrial hemp cultivation.

    None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (”Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

    Marijuana advocates were pleased with the bill.

    Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, said in statement to BuzzFeed News: “Congressional leaders seem to have finally gotten the message that a supermajority of Americans wants states to be able to implement sensible marijuana reforms without federal interference.”

    Angell also urged the Obama administration to use this opportunity to “reschedule marijuana immediately.” Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it’s a dangerous narcotic with no accepted medical use. Heroin and LSD are also classified Schedule I, while cocaine and methamphetamine are Schedule II, a lower ranking.

    Advocates say reclassifying the drug would allow for state and federal laws to be in sync, and conserve law enforcement resources. It would also ease access to research of the drug and tension between banks and marijuana retailers.

    Erik Altieri, communication director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also released a statement that said: “By restricting these agencies in this manner, the nearly two dozen states that implemented medical marijuana programs can hopefully breathe easier knowing federal money won’t be spent to interfere with their progress. We hope this leads to further reforms at the federal level further enshrining this sentiment into law.”

    The bill also effectively blocks the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington, D.C., but preserves its decriminalization law.

    Voters in Washington, D.C., overwhelmingly passed a recreational marijuana referendum on the November ballot, which is now effectively blocked. The District passed a decriminalization bill in April that will remain intact.

    The proposed bill’s appropriations section, which allocates millions in funds to the district, states:

    “None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.”

    Unlike most states, Washington, D.C., doesn’t take in any local revenue that it can spend and receives all of its funding from the federal government, so the ban on using funds for legalization effectively blocks the referendum voters recently passed.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said of the rider: “I’m opposed to what the House is trying to do.”

    “If they put it in there, it’s going to be hard to take it out over here,” he added.

    Marijuana advocates in Washington D.C. and those who advocate for the district’s autonomy were not pleased. D.C. Cannabis Campaign, which sponsored the ballot measure to legalize weed, tweeted the following:

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    Ending Marijuana Prohibition in 2013

    Rob Kampia

    Executive director, Marijuana Policy Project

     

    Unless people have been hiding under a rock this past couple months, they know that more than 55 percent of voters in Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana on November 6. As a result, many people have grand expectations of how we’re going to get closer to ending marijuana prohibition in the U.S. this year.

    Here is what I think we can reasonably accomplish by the end of 2013:

    1. Decriminalize Marijuana in Vermont: Gov. Pete Shumlin (D), a strong supporter of decriminalizing marijuana, partially campaigned on the issue and easily won re-election on November 6 with 58% of the vote. The Vermont Llegislature is poised to pass the bill he wants, so this legislation could become law by this summer.

    2. Legalize Medical Marijuana in New Hampshire: Incoming Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is a strong supporter of medical marijuana, so we expect her to sign a medical marijuana bill similar to those vetoed by former Gov. John Lynch (D) in 2009 and 2012.

    3. Build Support for Legalization in the Rhode Island Legislature:
    We successfully legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized marijuana possession in Rhode Island in 2009 and 2012, respectively. There is now considerable momentum to tax and regulate (T&R) marijuana like alcohol, so we need to ensure that Rhode Island’s state legislature becomes the first to do so.

    4. Increase Support for Legalization in California, Maine, and Oregon: There will be a sincere effort to pass T&R bills through the legislatures in these three states. Should they fall short, MPP and its allies will pursue statewide ballot initiatives in November 2016, at which time all three will be expected to pass.

    5. Build Our Base of Support Online: People have said that the Internet is marijuana legalization’s best friend, and this could not have been more evident than it was last year. Campaigns mobilized their supporters, organizations raised funds, and the public was able to follow the progress in real time. Prohibitionists, who have depended on the government for its largess for years, are now at a disadvantage. Private citizens simply do not want to donate to them, and most information about marijuana is now reaching the public without being run through their filter.

    6. Continue the Steady Drumbeat in the Media:
    National and local media outlets are covering the marijuana issue more than ever before. Communicating to voters through news coverage is the most cost-efficient way to increase public support for ending marijuana prohibition, so we need to keep the issue in the spotlight.

    7. Build Support for Medical Marijuana in Congress: There are already approximately 185 members of the U.S. House who want to stop the U.S. Justice Department from spending taxpayer money on raiding medical marijuana businesses in the 18 states (and DC) where medical marijuana is legal. We want to reach 218 votes on this amendment, thereby ensuring the amendment’s transfer to the U.S. Senate for an up-or-down vote.

    8. Build Support for Ending Marijuana Prohibition in Congress: Last year, the first-ever bill to end the federal government’s prohibition of marijuana attracted 21 sponsors. Our goal is to expand the number of sponsors to more than two-dozen during the 2013-2014 election season.

    Looking outside our borders, we’re also seeing progress in Colombia, Uruguay, and Chile, which have all been steadily moving away from marijuana prohibition. Although this is good news, most members of the U.S. Congress do not care much about what South American countries think on marijuana policy, so we should temper the wonderful developments south of the U.S. border with limited expectations of what will happen in our nation’s capital.

    Ultimately, the U.S. is the primary exporter of prohibition around the world. If we can solve the problem here, the rest of the world will have far more freedom to conduct their own experiments with regulating marijuana.

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