Tag Archives: rand paul

Paul vows to return to Capitol Hill on Sunday to block bill, end NSA spying

Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul says he’ll try to block last-ditch efforts Sunday to renew NSA and other anti-terrorist and surveillance programs.

“I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” Paul, also a 2016 presidential candidate, said Saturday. “I am ready and willing to start the debate on how we fight terrorism without giving up our liberty.”

The Libertarian-minded Paul led a filibuster-like effort over the Memorial Day weekend that helped block legislation to extend federal surveillance efforts but suggested upon leaving the Senate chambers that he might reconsider.

“It depends,” he said. “Sometimes things change as deadlines approach.”

Barring a last-minute deal in Congress, three post-Sept. 11 surveillance laws used against spies and terrorists will expire when Sunday turns into Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called back the upper chamber for a rare Sunday session to decide on whether to accept a House-passed bill that extends the programs. Congress would then send the measure to President Obama to sign before midnight.

The House’s USA Freedom Act passed overwhelmingly in the Republican-controlled chamber but fell three votes short of the 60 needed to proceed in the Senate. And efforts in the upper chamber to extend the current law also have failed.

Much of the debate has focuses on the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ telephone calling records, authorized under one of the expiring provisions, Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Independent evaluations have cast doubt on that program’s importance, and even law enforcement officials say in private that losing this ability would not carry severe consequences.

Yet the fight over those records has jeopardized other surveillance programs that have broad, bipartisan support and could fall victim to congressional gridlock.

The FBI uses Section 215 to collect other business records tied to specific terrorism investigations.

A separate section in the post-9/11 Patriot Act allows the FBI to eavesdrop, via wiretaps, on suspected terrorists or spies who discard phones to dodge surveillance. A third provision, targeting "lone wolf" attackers, has never been used and thus may not be missed if it lapses.

If the Freedom Act becomes law, the business-records provision and the roving-wiretap authority would return immediately. The NSA would resume collecting American telephone records for a six-month period while shifting to a system of searching phone company records case by case.

If no agreement is reached, all the provisions will expire.

A third possibility is a temporary extension of current law while lawmakers work out a deal, but House members have expressed opposition.

“I have fought for several years now to end the illegal spying of the NSA on ordinary Americans,” Paul also said in a statement released Saturday. “Let me be clear: I acknowledge the need for a robust intelligence agency and for a vigilant national security. I believe we must fight terrorism. …  But we do not need to give up who we are to defeat them.”

Failure to pass the legislation would mean new barriers for the government in domestic, national-security investigations, at a time when intelligence officials say the threat at home is growing.

Government and law enforcement officials, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have said in recent days that letting the wiretap and business records provisions expire would undercut the FBI’s ability to investigate terrorism and espionage.

Lynch said it would mean "a serious lapse in our ability to protect the American people." Clapper said in a statement Friday that prompt passage by the Senate of the House bill "is the best way to minimize any possible disruption of our ability to protect the American people."

And President Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to accuse opponents of hijacking the debate for political reasons. "Terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL aren’t suddenly going to stop plotting against us at midnight tomorrow, and we shouldn’t surrender the tools that help keep us safe," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

Civil liberties activists say the pre-Sept. 11 law gives the FBI enough authority to do its job. To bolster their case, they cite a newly released and heavily blacked out report by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog that examined the FBI’s use up to 2009 of business record collection under Section 215.

"The government has numerous other tools, including administrative and grand jury subpoenas, which would enable it to gather necessary information," in terrorism investigations, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.

Section 215 allows the FBI to serve a secret order requiring a business to hand over records relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation. The FBI uses the authority "fewer than 200 times a year," Director James Comey said last week.

The inspector general’s report said it was used in "investigations of groups comprised of unknown members and to obtain information in bulk concerning persons who are not the subjects of or associated with an authorized FBI investigation."

But from 2007 to 2009, the report said, none of that material had cracked a specific terrorism case.

The report analyzed several cases, but most of the details are blacked out. In some cases, the FBI agent pronounced the 215 authority "useful" or "effective," but the context and detail were censored.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Exclusive — Sen. Rand Paul Visits Secret Room To Read Obamatrade, Calls For Public Release Of Deal Text

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

93%

an opponent of the secretive Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track the Pacific Rim trade deal Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—went inside the secret room inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning to read the TPP text and told Breitbart News exclusively afterwards that he believes President Barack Obama should make it public now.

The deal’s text is kept in a room behind double doors that each have signs: “No Public Or Media Beyond This Point.”

“It’s done like you’re going in to read a classified briefing though it’s not actually ‘classified.’ It’s called ‘confidential,’” Paul said in an interview with Breitbart News outside the room after reading it. Paul and his legal staff spent about 45 minutes in the room reading the deal’s text.

“I think the staff signed an agreement [which didn’t include a non-disclosure]—they signed in, it’s  a normal procedure,” he explained. “But I wasn’t required to sign in.”

When asked for some of the details that are inside the TPP agreement, Paul said he’s not allowed to tell us that. But he did say the secret trade deal that his Kentucky colleague, Senate Majority Leader

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

54%

, wants to rush through the Senate is about 800 pages long. He added he plans to seek additional information from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office—including a briefing from them—and suspects that the text he read isn’t even the final version of the deal.

“I think I am not supposed to reveal the details of it, but I can tell you it was about 800 pages long,” Paul said.

I think while we’ve gotten at least some headway in understanding what’s in it, I think it raises more questions that will require more research to fully understand what’s in it. We’re going to pursue that with someone from the U.S. Trade Representative—we’re going to pursue more information from them. Some of the questions are whether we’re seeing the final agreement or this is in the interim agreement before the final agreement. That’s a question we still have. I have a feeling that what we’re seeing is a work product, not a final.

Paul said he thinks the “secretive” process hurts the “cause” of TPA and TPP advocates, and is calling on the Obama administration to publicly release the deal’s details before future votes on the matter in the U.S. Senate.

“The thing is is that I think it actually hurts their cause by making it so secretive—while I can’t discuss the details of what was in there because of them calling it secret, I didn’t see anything that I didn’t think couldn’t be made public with a problem,” Paul said. “If so, I’m missing something because we read through 800 pages of it and we didn’t see anything that I couldn’t conclude couldn’t be made public.”

Paul said he thinks the secretive process makes it look like the government has “something to hide” and that he thinks if Obama opened up the process it’d make it easier for several Senators—and the American people—to truly understand what it is they’re voting on.

“I think it would make a difference for some folks, myself included, if they were to make it less secret because they think that really to vote on things that there’s a suspicion among the American public that if someone is making something secret they’ve got something to hide—particularly from the government’s point of view—so I’d like to see the process opened up,” Paul said.

Paul, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, stands alongside most of the rest of the field in opposition to Obamatrade. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina compared the secretive process to Obamacare’s passage in the early days of this president’s administration. Dr. Ben Carson also called for more transparency, as did Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is concerned with the deal’s impacts on American workers.

On the other side, Sens.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

81%

and

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

96%

are in favor of the deal—even though it’s unclear if either has, like Paul now has, visited the secret room to read the text. Both could. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry are also in favor of the deal, but wouldn’t be allowed through the doors to read it.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

80%

, the emerging conservative kingmaker and the leading intellectual conservative in Congress, has made an identical call to what Paul has for more transparency from the Obama administration.

Sessions, in a “critical alert” his office issued publicly and to other members on Capitol Hill before the recently-failed votes to begin debate on TPA fast track authority, listed out five “questions the White House will not answer.”

The questions the White House is refusing to be transparent about, Sessions noted, are: “Will it increase or reduce the trade deficit, and by how much? Will it increase or reduce employment and wages, and by how much? Will you make the “living agreement” section public and explain fully its implications? Will China be added to the TPP? Will you pledge not to issue any executive actions, or enter into any future agreements, impacting the flow of foreign workers into the United States?”

Read More Stories About:

Big Government, 2016 Presidential Race, Rand Paul, Jeff Sessions, 2016 presidential campaign, Trans Pacific Partnership, Trade Promotion Authority, Obamatrade

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/05/13/exclusive-sen-rand-paul-visits-secret-room-to-read-obamatrade-calls-for-public-release-of-deal-text/

Paul begins Patriot Act filibuster

Presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor Wednesday, in what the Kentucky Republican’s staff is calling a long-anticipated filibuster of extending the Patriot Act.

"I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged," the Kentucky Republican said from the Senate floor. "The bulk collection of all Americans phone records all of the time is a direct violation of the fourth amendment."

Separately, Paul tweeted that he had taken to the Senate floor "to begin a filibuster of the Patriot Act renewal."

Paul suggested that the agency’s phone collection program could be the "tip of the iceberg" of the government’s surveillance practices. He said Americans must "decide as a country whether we value our Bill of Rights … or if we are willing to give that up so we feel safer."

The Kentucky Republican also slammed President Obama for not shutting down the NSA’s program in the wake of the a court ruling that determined the program is illegal.
"Where is the executive?" Paul asked. "How come the press gives him a free pass?

The Senate is currently debating "fast-track" trade legislation, with a procedural vote expected Thursday, so Paul is actually blocking his Senate colleagues from offering, debating and voting on amendments to that bill — something Democrats were quick to highlight.

Still, Paul appears poised to deliver a long speech from the floor that could tie up the Senate for hours.

Paul has made his opposition to NSA surveillance one of the cornerstones of his presidential campaign, and has pledged that he would end the "unconstitutional" program on his first day in the White House.

As he began Wednesday’s speech, Paul’s campaign blasted out an email on the NSA speech to supporters, seeking to build momentum.

"I will not rest. I will not back down. I will not yield one inch in this fight so long as my legs can stand," Paul wrote in the email.

The note to supporters included a link to Paul’s campaign website where supporters could "join the filibuster" by filing out their name, email and zip code.

Paul has used the Seante floor to his advantage before, famously staging a 13-hour filibuster of CIA nominee John Brennan in 2013. On Wednesday, Paul suggested that without his speech, there wouldn’t be a real debate in Congress on the Patriot Act.

"We are mired in a debate over trade. There’s another debate over the highway bill and the word is, we won’t actually get any time to debate if we’re going to abridge the Fourth Amendment," he said.

Senators are facing a looming deadline for action on the Patriot Act, with key provisions set to expire June 1.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged a vote on the USA Freedom Act, which would end the NSA’s collection of bulk phone records. Under the bill, the agency would have to ask private companies for a narrow set of phone records tied to a particular case. The NSA would also no longer hold the phone records in a government database.

Still, it’s not clear whether the USA Freedom Act can garner the needed 60 votes in the Senate.
McConnell and other top Republicans oppose the USA Freedom Act and are pushing to pass a "clean" extension of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, which the NSA uses to justify its phone records program.

If both bills fail, the Senate could be forced to pass a short-term extension of the spy powers — though it’s unclear whether a stopgap measure could pass muster with the House, which passed the USA Freedom Act last week in a resounding vote.

— This story was updated at 2:42 p.m.

Tags: Rand Paul, National security, Mass surveillance, Filibuster, National Security Agency, Patriot Act

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Historic Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Momentum

A comprehensive bill introduced in the House of Representatives Tuesday aims to deal a significant blow to the federal government’s long-running war on medical marijuana.

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, introduced by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), is a House companion bill to identical Senate legislation from Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced earlier this month. Each bill seeks to drastically reduce the federal government’s ability to crack down on state-legal medical marijuana programs and aims to encourage more research into the plant.

The historic Senate version of the bill has also gained traction with two new sponsors since its introduction: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

“The science has been in for a long time, and keeping marijuana on Schedule I — with heroin and LSD — is ludicrous," Cohen said in a statement Tuesday. "I am pleased to join with Congressman Don Young in introducing this important bill to bring the federal government in line with the science and the American people, respect states’ rights, remove the threat of federal prosecution in states with medical marijuana, and help our citizens access the treatments they need.”

Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group, told The Huffington Post that the House version of the bill was introduced because "momentum is so strong" for the bipartisan CARERS Act.

"This has become one of the few issues Democrats and Republicans can agree on," Piper told HuffPost in an email. "The tide is quickly turning against marijuana prohibition, and the war on drugs in general; it’s only a question of when, not if, reform will happen."

The bill calls for six major policy changes. Here’s what it aims to accomplish:

Allow patients, doctors and businesses to participate in their states’ medical marijuana programs without fear of being prosecuted by the federal government.

Under this legislation, the Controlled Substances Act would be amended so that states could set their own medical marijuana policies. It would clarify much of the legal ambiguity that currently exists between federal guidance, congressional intent and state laws on medical marijuana — not by forcing states to legalize medical marijuana, but by protecting the states that choose to do so.

The sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana all remain illegal under federal law. The states that have legalized the drug in some form or another have only been able to do so because of federal guidance urging prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations.

To date, 23 states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana and 12 others have legalized the limited use of low-THC marijuana for medical purposes. All such state laws, and the people who act in compliance with them, would be protected by this bill.

Reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous substance, moving it from Schedule I to Schedule II.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. has five categories for drugs and drug ingredients. Schedule I is reserved for substances that the Drug Enforcement Administration considers to have no medical value and the highest potential for abuse. Marijuana has been classified as Schedule I for decades, alongside substances like heroin and LSD.

This legislation would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug — a category for less dangerous drugs that have an accepted medical use. Rescheduling marijuana wouldn’t make the drug legal under federal law, but such a move would essentially mark the federal government’s first-ever acknowledgement that the plant has any medical benefits.

Give veterans easier access to medical marijuana.

Currently, doctors who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs are prohibited from helping patients acquire medical marijuana, even in states where it is legal.

This legislation would lift that ban and would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients suffering from certain conditions, where permitted by state law.

Nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a 2012 VA report. Some research has suggested that marijuana may help with PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression. A recent study found that PTSD symptoms in patients who used cannabis were reduced by an average of 75 percent.

Eliminate barriers to marijuana research.

Getting the federal government to sign off on a marijuana study is exceedingly difficult — but two of the most prohibitive federal barriers to marijuana research would be lifted under this new legislation.

Currently, all marijuana research must go through a Public Health Service review, a process established in 1999 by the federal government after a 1998 Institute of Medicine report called for more scientific research into the medical value of marijuana. No other Schedule I substance is subject to this process. That extra step would be removed entirely under the CARERS Act.

Secondly, federal authorities have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the substance. The DEA has also been accused of not acting quickly enough when petitioned to reschedule marijuana and of obstructing research into the drug.

Currently, the federal government is the only institution authorized to grow research-grade cannabis. The CARERS Act would allow for no fewer than three additional licensed growers, a move that would end the federal monopoly on marijuana research and potentially hasten the discovery of new medical applications for the plant.

Remove low-THC strains of marijuana from the controlled substances list.

The strength of a strain of marijuana is generally measured by its percentage of THC, the plant’s main psychoactive ingredient. There are multiple strains of marijuana that have little to no THC, but high levels of CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound that has medical value but does not produce the "high" sensation associated with THC.

While nearly two dozen states have broad medical marijuana laws that allow for the cultivation, production and distribution of medical marijuana, another 12 states only make provisions for low-THC strains, and those only under certain circumstances. Because those states generally don’t allow for the regulated sale or cultivation of marijuana, patients are forced to seek out the plant on the black market, or from another state with more relaxed laws that allow out-of-state patients to purchase medical marijuana. Even so, transporting marijuana across state lines remains illegal, leaving patients in a bind.

The CARERS Act would remove marijuana with less than 0.3 percent THC from the CSA’s schedules altogether, allowing states to import low-THC/high-CBD strains for patients who need it.

Open up banking for marijuana businesses.

The legislation would expand banking access for medical marijuana businesses, enabling them to function more or less like traditional businesses.

Legal marijuana is already a billion-dollar industry. But because of banks’ fears of being implicated as money launderers, marijuana-related businesses are often forced to be cash-only, putting retailers’ safety at risk and creating problems with taxes and employee payroll. Despite Treasury Department guidance that supporters hoped would ease interactions, most banks are still extremely wary of working with marijuana businesses since the plant remains illegal under federal law.

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When States Dare to Decide on Medical Marijuana

Three senators want to stop federal law enforcement from interfering with legal pot.

Conor Friedersdorf Mar 10 2015, 8:30 AM ET

 

 

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, but the drug remains illegal under federal law. Imagine a retired grandmother who is suffering terribly with a serious illness. Her doctor believes that marijuana might help. Her neighbors don’t mind if she fills a pot prescription: They overwhelmingly voted to give her that right. Sure enough, the woman finds that smoking weed lessens her suffering. Should the federal government be empowered to arrest her for consuming it?

Many in Congress think so. And while federal agents are unlikely to intervene in this sort of case because the optics would be so awful, the law allows for it.

But Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, and his Democratic colleagues, Senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, hope a legislative majority will endorse a less-callous approach. Tuesday, they are introducing a bipartisan bill that would "allow patients, doctors and businesses in states that have already passed medical-marijuana laws to participate in those programs without fear of federal prosecution."

Exaggerated notions of the harmfulness of marijuana cannot survive in a society where cancer patients consume it.

The bill is expected to divide Republicans. Senator Paul, his colleague Ted Cruz, and Governor Rick Perry, among others, have some regard for the 10th Amendment, which states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." They also believe that states can act as laboratories of democracy: People in different regions can live under a system of their liking while acting as a model for other Americans as they weigh the best approach.

Other Republicans want the federal government to override the will of the people in various states. They argue that many people who get medical marijuana cards don’t really need the drug—it’s hardly unique among prescription medications in that sense—and they fear that the availability of medical marijuana will lead to full legalization, as it has in states including Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. They’re right to think so. Exaggerated notions of the harmfulness of marijuana cannot survive in a society where cancer patients consume it. And as exaggerated worries fade, support for prohibition plummets.

That isn’t because marijuana is harmless. Regular use is bad for one’s health. Some users become psychologically addicted. Long-term use carries unknown risks. There are prohibitionists who have a very clear understanding of the drug’s costs and benefits, and continue to staunchly oppose legalization of any kind. But most people who see the costs and benefits of marijuana clearly conclude that preventing other Americans from smoking it at the point of a gun is deeply immoral. Most people are unwilling to send SWAT teams into family homes, lock humans in cages, and enrich drug cartels all in the hopes that a War on Drugs that has failed for decades will improbably turn out to be successful in the end.

Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, an advocacy group, sees this latest bill as evidence that popular opinion is influencing politicians. "The fact that two young Democrats with likely long political futures have teamed up with a probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate shows how medical marijuana is a nonpartisan, noncontroversial issue that draws support from across the spectrum," he wrote.

Roughly half of Americans now favor outright legalization of recreational marijuana. The day isn’t far off when public opinion will have shifted enough to bring about a bill to that effect at the national level. That various states are experimenting with medicinal and recreational marijuana leaves us better prepared for that moment. Enabling those experiments is a step in a responsible direction.

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Rand Paul calls out Jeb Bush on marijuana

By Katie Brinn

Sen. Rand Paul slammed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for hypocrisy on marijuana in an interview Wednesday with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. Responding to

recent revelations that Gov. Bush smoked pot during his teen years at Phillips Academy, Paul pointed out the flaws in Bush’s opposition to medical marijuana in his home state.


Sen. Paul, who has hinted about his own wild college days, was quick to clarify that he did not fault Bush for having “made mistakes growing up.” Instead, he took issue with Bush’s inconsistent views on the drug. “If you’ve got MS in Florida, Jeb Bush voted to put you in jail if you go down to a local store or a local drugstore and get medical marijuana … and yet he was doing it for recreational purposes.”
To Paul, it was Bush’s privileged upbringing that spared him the harsh penalties many Floridians still face when they entangle with marijuana. “It was a different standard for him,” the presidential hopeful explained, “because he was from a wealthy family, going to a very wealthy school, and he got off scot-free.”

Related video:

Pot Push in D.C. May Spur Congress to Weigh Legalizing

By Michael C. Bender – Nov 1, 2013 10:10 AM CT

A proposal backed by most District of Columbia council members to decriminalize small amounts of pot may spur federal lawmakers to consider marijuana regulation for the first time since two states legalized recreational sales.

Congress has the power to block legislation approved by the Washington council. U.S. lawmakers can also stop local initiatives in the nation’s capital through the federal budget, which authorizes the city’s spending, as they did to stall the use of medical marijuana there for a decade.

 Marijuana Push in D.C. Invites Congress to Consider Legalization Medbox CEO Bruce Bedrick on Medical Marijuana

Alliance, say the effects of pot are less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, the U.S. government maintains that marijuana can lead to serious mental-health issues. Photographer: Andrew Hetherington/Redux

Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) — Bruce Bedrick, chief executive officer of Medbox Inc., talks about the outlook for the medical marijuana market and prospects for legalization of the drug in the U.S. Bedrick speaks with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop.” (Source: Bloomberg)

The push to loosen local pot penalties, which few expect Congress to block, would set up what supporters say is the next step: legalizing recreational use. Growing support for legal pot and the billions in tax revenue and prison savings the change may bring has convinced some that Congress will ease laws.

“This is where you’re going to see federal movement coming in the next year or two,” said Erik Altieri, a spokesman for the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which was founded in 1970.

Groups such as Norml and the DC Cannabis Campaign are considering a ballot initiative next year to legalize pot sales in the district. If approved, it would force Congress to consider an issue the federal government has mostly left to states. The hands-off approach has created a patchwork of laws ranging from Missouri, where possession of 35 grams, about 1.25 ounces, can mean seven years in prison, to Colorado and Washington state, which legalized recreational sales last year.

Gaining Support

In Oregon, activists submitted a statewide ballot proposal last week that would legalize possession of as much as eight ounces of pot, while proponents are gathering signatures for measures in Alaska and Florida. Three Maine lawmakers from Portland today endorsed a question on the city’s Nov. 5 election ballot to decriminalize possession of 2.5 ounces or less.

For the first time, a majority of Americans now favor legalization, according to a Gallup Poll last week showing that support has increased 10 percentage points in one year.

Seventy-six percent of doctors worldwide favor using pot for medicinal purposes, according to a May poll published by the New England Journal of Medicine. Forty-eight percent of U.S. adults reported using it, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Federal Opposition

While advocates, including the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance, say the effects of pot are less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, the U.S. government maintains that marijuana can lead to serious mental-health issues.

“Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety,” said an April report from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior and drugged drivers.”

Sale or possession of marijuana accounted for 48 percent of the 1.55 million drug arrests in the U.S. in 2012, Federal Bureau of Investigation data show. While drug busts have dropped, those for marijuana have risen by 18 percent since 2001, according a June report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Racial Gap

At the same time, racial disparities have increased, according to the report. In the U.S., pot use among whites and blacks is about the same, yet blacks are arrested for possession almost four times as often. In Washington, blacks accounted for 91 percent of marijuana arrests in 2010, even though they account for about half of the population of 632,000.

“We’re saving thousands of black boys and a few girls from having a criminal record for small amounts of marijuana, and that’s important because most employers won’t consider you if they see an arrest record,” said council member Marion Barry, referring to the proposal.

Barry is no stranger to drug laws. He was sentenced to six months in prison in 1990 for possession of crack cocaine while he was mayor. He said that experience hasn’t informed his support for the pot proposal.

Barry wouldn’t say whether he supported legalization. Asked whether that was the next step in D.C., he said, “Yes.”

Big Business

Estimates on a potential national marijuana market vary from $10 billion to $120 billion a year, with $35 billion to $45 billion being likely, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Tax collections from such sales could reach as much as $20 billion, according to a March report by Brad Barker, a Bloomberg Industries analyst, who cited projections by the Cato Institute, a nonprofit research group, and the Congressional Research Service.

When voters in Washington and Colorado legalized pot a year ago, they forced the federal government’s hand. In an Aug. 29 memo, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the Justice Department wouldn’t intervene in the states’ pot regulations, so long as they prevented out-of-state distribution, access to minors, impaired driving and kept revenue from going to gangs and cartels.

In Congress, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in an Aug. 26 statement that “these state laws should be respected.”

The Tea Party movement that helped restore Republican control in the House in 2010 included a wave of libertarian lawmakers who are more receptive to loosening marijuana regulation.

A House bill from California Republican Dana Rohrabacher to give state marijuana laws priority over the U.S. Controlled Substances Act has 20 co-sponsors, ranging from Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva, among the most liberal members of Congress, to Justin Amash of Michigan and Steve Stockman of Texas, both Republicans aligned with the Tea Party movement.

Kentucky Grass

A triumvirate of Kentucky Republicans is backing proposals to allow farming of hemp, which U.S. law classifies the same as marijuana even though it has a non-intoxicating amount of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant.

In the Senate, the measure has support from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016. A third Kentucky lawmaker, Representative Thomas Massie, has 48 co-sponsors for the same bill in the House.

“We’re seeing Congress move this way,” Norml’s Altieri said. “It’s hard to see them really rolling back.”

Rohrabacher said he doesn’t expect his bill to pass until the Republican Party nominates a presidential candidate who supports marijuana legislation. The limited-government Tea Party movement increases the chances, he said.

“It all depends on whether or not, with this Tea Party group, we end up with a Republican that has courage enough to be more libertarian on the marijuana issue,” Rohrabacher said.

Parking Ticket

The District of Columbia proposal to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana has support from 10 of 12 local lawmakers and may get final approval in January, said council member Tommy Wells, who is sponsoring the measure.

Wells’s plan would mean fines of $100 for small amounts of pot, instead of a maximum six months in prison. Wells said in an interview that he’ll probably change his bill at a December hearing to reduce the fine to $25 — the same as the punishment for parking at an expired meter.

Sixteen states have decriminalized first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to Norml.

Mayor’s Support

Once it passes the council and gets a signature from Mayor Vincent Gray, who supports it, Congress has 60 days to object with a disapproval resolution. Congress hasn’t used that method since 1991, when lawmakers overturned a proposal to exceed a 110-foot height limit for downtown buildings.

When voters in the nation’s capital were among the first in the U.S. to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1998, Congress prevented the district from spending money on the program for a decade with a budget rider.

There are now three dispensaries and three cultivation centers in the district, said Najma Roberts, a D.C. health department spokeswoman.

Both Wells and council member David Grosso said they’d back legalization in Washington, a question that two-thirds of district votes said they’d support, according to an April poll by Public Policy Polling. Neither Wells nor Grosso would venture a guess as to how Congress might respond.

“That fight would have national repercussions,” Rohrabacher said.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Michael C. Bender in Washington at mbender10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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Rand Paul: Marijuana users lose IQ points and lack motivation

By Eric W. Dolan / Monday, June 17, 2013 22:18 EDT

Rand Paul screenshot

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said Monday he did not support the legalization of marijuana, though he did support some form of decriminalization.

“What I think is that if your kid or one of his friends goes out and gets caught with marijuana, sticking them in prison is a big mistake,” he told Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution. “So I don’t really believe in prison sentences for these minor non-violent drug offenses, but I’m not willing to go all the way to say it is a good idea either. I think people who use marijuana all the time lose IQ points, I think they lose their drive to show up for work.”

Paul, however, added that he believed individual states should be allowed to decide whether they wanted to legalize marijuana or not.

Much to the chagrin of his libertarian supporters, Paul has said he doesn’t support drug legalization. Despite Paul’s lack of support for legalization, many drug policy reformers view him as an ally because of his support for legislation to scale back the war on drugs.

During the Hoover Institution interview, Paul also said he supported overturning the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. He said abortion as well as same-sex marriage should be issues for the states to decide.

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Rand Paul: Relax Marijuana Penalties, Allow States To Determine Pot Policy

 

 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) continued to field questions this week about a possible entrance into the 2016 Republican presidential mix, reinforcing his views that legal penalties for marijuana offenses should be reduced and that states should be responsible for crafting their own laws regarding the plant.

In an interview with ABC, Paul said that while he did not personally support marijuana being legalized, or even used, for that matter, he did believe that punishments surrounding it were overly harsh.

"I think for example we should tell young people, ‘I’m not in favor of you smoking pot, but if you get caught smoking pot, I don’t want to put you in jail for 20 years,’" Paul said.

The senator went on to argue that states such as Washington and Colorado, which both voted to legalize and tax marijuana earlier this month, should be permitted to have their moves stand, despite running contrary to federal laws determining the drug to be an illegal substance.

"States should be allowed to make a lot of these decisions," Paul said. "I want things to be decided more at a local basis, with more compassion. I think it would make us as Republicans different."

He made similar comments in an earlier interview with Politico, saying that he planned to reach across the aisle to Senate Democrats in hopes of addressing his concerns with marijuana sentencing legislatively.

Both Paul and his father, retiring Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), have been outspoken proponents of states’ rights and compassion when it comes to marijuana laws. They’ve also both been avid supporters of legalizing the production of industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive relative of marijuana that has been caught up in the wider net of drug laws.

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