Tag Archives: Trump Administration

Marijuana may be legal in California, but it could get you deported

Immigrant rights activists and attorneys are reminding immigrants of potential consequences of using marijuana at a time when President Donald Trump is ramping up deportation efforts.

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By Alejandra Molina | amolina@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise

PUBLISHED: April 14, 2017 at 7:07 pm | UPDATED: April 14, 2017 at 10:31 pm

It’s legal in California, but marijuana possession and use is still a federal offense that could cause serious problems for immigrants in the Golden State.

“It is still a federal offense,” said Inland-based attorney Russell Jauregui. “Federal law controls immigration and thus people will still face severe immigration consequences for marijuana conviction/use.”

Undocumented immigrants can be deported for marijuana consumption in certain circumstances and may risk not being admitted back into the United States if they leave.

Immigrant rights activists and attorneys are reminding immigrants of potential consequences at a time when President Donald Trump is ramping up deportation efforts. The White House has said that any immigrant living in the U.S. illegally who has been charged or convicted of any crime, or even suspected of committing a crime, is now an enforcement priority.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, declined to say how the agency deals with immigrants accused or convicted of marijuana crimes in states where it’s legal.

Instead, she reiterated the Department of Homeland Security’s focus on targeting all “removable aliens” who have committed crimes, beginning with those who have been convicted of a criminal offense.

While those who pose a threat to public safety will continue to be a focus, the department will not exempt classes or categories of unauthorized immigrants from potential enforcement, she said.

“All those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States,” Kice said.

That’s why immigrants need to be aware of consequences surrounding marijuana use, advocates said.

“It could happen that people think that now that it’s legalized, that it would be completely safe, but obviously in this era of increasing concern of criminalization, and the fact that the federal government has said it wants to crack down on marijuana on the federal level, we’re really just trying to help inform and be proactive with immigrants of these concerns,” said Angie Junck, a supervising attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a San Francisco-based national nonprofit agency.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February said that federal officials would try to adopt “reasonable policies” for enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws. Sessions has said he believes violence surrounds sales and use of the drug.

California is home to more than 10 million immigrants, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Nearly half of all of the state’s immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens and another 26 percent have some sort of legal status, including green cards and visas. It’s estimated that about a quarter of California’s immigrants are undocumented.

In a state where the immigrant population is so vast, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in January 2017 issued a flier that spells out what non-U.S. citizens should and should not do when it comes to marijuana.

It advises non-U.S. citizens not to use marijuana until they are citizens, and not to work in marijuana shops. On top of that, it cautions undocumented immigrants not to leave the house carrying marijuana, a medical marijuana card, paraphernalia, or other accessories such as marijuana T-shirts or stickers. Additionally, they should never have photos, text messages or anything else connecting them to marijuana on their phone or social media accounts.

Most importantly, it advises non-citizen immigrants to never admit to any immigration or border official that they have ever have used or possessed marijuana.

What it boils down to, Junck said, is that immigration law is federal and marijuana use remains a federal offense, as well as grounds for deportation.

Marijuana is still listed as an illegal drug in the Controlled Substance Act and the Immigration and Naturalization Act deems drug trafficking an “aggravated felony,” a type of crime that has been a deportation priority.

Lawful permanent residents can be deported for any drug offense, with the sole exception of a conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

And, undocumented immigrants with a drug conviction can face a lifetime bar from ever gaining legal status. The only exception is a single conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, and by showing extreme hardship to certain family members such as a spouse or children.

However, certain provisions under immigration law don’t always require a conviction in order for a person to be considered for deportation.

“Immigrants need to know that they can still face some consequences if they admit marijuana use to an immigration official,” Junck said.

“The biggest concern is admission to an immigration official,” she said.

Immigration officials can stop and ask people whatever they want; it’s just a question of whether the person decides to respond, Junck said. For example, when coming in from customs at the airport, officials can refer someone to what Junck referred to as secondary inspection.

“They may ask questions and those questions can vary from, ‘What’s your immigration status?’ to ‘Have you committed crimes for which you’ve never been arrested?’” Junck said. “Or maybe there’s a basic question that can be like, ‘Have you ever used marijuana?’”

Immigrant rights activists say the implications of admitting marijuana use are not widely known.

“There is a stigma about marijuana use in Latino immigrant communities and we need to erase that stigma if we are going to talk honestly about the legal repercussions of its use for non-citizens,” said Luis Nolasco, an immigrant rights organizer in the Inland Empire. “This is particularly for the older generation of undocumented parents who may have youth that engages in marijuana use.”

For now, it’s mostly unclear how federal authorities are going to address this legal situation. And in states where marijuana is legal, it’s a topic of serious concern for immigration attorneys and their clients.

“Under the Obama administration, I think it was treated more like a wait-and- see where we’re just going to kind of let this evolve,” said David Kolko, an immigration attorney in Colorado, where marijuana is legal.

“Under the Trump administration, I think people need to be even more cautious because there’s been certainly an impression that enforcement is going to be dealt with more aggressively and if they choose to use this marijuana issue as one enforcement tool, I think many immigrants … could be very vulnerable in terms of being able to stay in this country or move forward on their immigration cases,” Kolko said.

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DoJ Task Force Moves to Review Federal Cannabis Policy

In a DoJ memo, AG Jeff Sessions called for a subcommittee on marijuana and an email shows the DEA inquiring about Colorado cases.

By Aaron G. Biros

In a memo sent throughout the Department of Justice on April 5th, attorney general Jeff Sessions outlines the establishment of the Department’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. That task force, largely focused on violent crime, is supposed to find ways that federal prosecutors can more effectively reduce illegal immigration, violent crimes and gun violence.

The task force is made up of subcommittees, according to the memo, and one of them is focused on reviewing federal cannabis policy. “Task Force subcommittees will also undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with Administration goals and priorities,” the memo reads. “Another subcommittee will explore our use of asset forfeiture and make recommendations on any improvements needed to legal authorities, policies, and training to most effectively attack the financial infrastructure of criminal organizations.” Those existing policies that Sessions refers to in the memo could very well be the 2013 Cole Memorandum, an Obama administration decree that essentially set up a framework for states with legal cannabis laws to avoid federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act.

In the past, Sessions has said he thinks the Cole Memo is valid, but remains skeptical of medical cannabis. In the last several months, comments made by Sessions and White House press secretary Sean Spicer have sparked outrage and growing fears among stakeholders in the cannabis industry, including major business players and state lawmakers. As a general feeling of uncertainty surrounding federal cannabis policy grows, many are looking for a safe haven, which could mean looking to markets outside of the U.S., like Canada, for example.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Photo: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Washington State’s former Attorney General Rob McKenna, Washington State’s former Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Moran, and Maryland’s former Chief Deputy Attorney General Kay Winfree recently went on the record identifying the BioTrack THC traceability system as fully compliant with the Cole Memo. “The key to meeting the requirements of the Cole Memorandum is ‘both the existence of a strong and effective state regulatory system, and an operation’s compliance with that system’,” says the former attorney general and chief deputy attorneys general in a press release. “As described above, Washington State has a robust, comprehensive regulatory scheme that controls the entire marijuana supply chain.

The email sent to Colorado prosecutor Michael Melito

The flagship component of this regulatory scheme is the WSLCB’s seed to sale inventory system, the BioTrackTHC Traceability System.” Those commendations from a former attorney general could provide some solace to business operating with the seed-to-sale traceability software.

Still though, worries in the industry are fueled by speculation and a general lack of clarity from the Trump Administration and the Department of Justice. In an email obtained by an open records request and first reported by the International Business Times, a DEA supervisor asked a Colorado prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office about a number of cannabis-related prosecutions. The DEA supervisor asked for the state docket numbers of a handful of cases, including one involving cannabis being shipped out of state, according to The Denver Post. “Some of our intel people are trying to track down info regarding some of DEA’s better marijuana investigations for the new administration,” reads the email. “Hopefully it will lead to some positive changes.” So far, only speculations have emerged pertaining to its significance or lack thereof and what this could possibly mean for the future of federal cannabis policy.

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I can only believe you are obviously ill informed in several areas and by now you are figuring out that the rabbit hole or snake pit is much deeper and darker than even you had believed…

 
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Mary Thomas-Spears

2 hrs ·

Dear #PresidentTrump

I can only believe you are obviously ill informed in several areas and by now you are figuring out that the rabbit hole or snake pit is much deeper and darker than even you had believed… When it comes to the pure evil that seems to have a hold on nearly everyone and everything.

As it appears to be swallowing you too! At this point!

Which bothers me because I thought you had more heart and wisdom than your displaying and maybe it is some of your actions…

Or the Lack of Action or thought before action in some areas, or looking at all the perspectives in others… If not the same areas… When it comes to your keeping promises.

For those of us who had some faith that you would… Because of some previous good experience we had with you…

I believe you are missing or overlooking some important issues and/or perspectives in your so-called solutions that you might should take the time to reconsider or consider.

Like you can’t get rid of Cartels in Government by replacing it with a new one that’s hand picked!!!!

So disappointed that I thought you meant to do your best to keep that promise…

I knew you might be ignorant in some ares, yet, I believed you would take some time to educate yourself on all the perspectives too!

Seems I was wrong and like I have had to admit that fact one too many times.

Like when I had to admit that Legalize was in fact Legal Lies!

Seems that be what you be telling!!!

 

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FMaryL.Thomas.Spears%2Fposts%2F1735883230057900&width=500&show_text=true&appId=99219627966&height=246

 

If you know how to Repeal Obama Care (which I supported as it is currently unconstitutional as it is mandated) and you really want to fix some things in big pharma and “return power to the people” than Please protect and return our earth, air, water, gardens, stop breaking Native Treaties and Repeal Marijuana Prohibition instead of telling even more Legal Lies!!! As it = Marijuana aka Cannabis Sativa L aka Hemp is a food first!!!!!!!!!!!!! Prohibition leads to Malnutrition which leads to Disease, War and Genocide!!!

Just because we were established as a Penal = Prison Colony of the Crown = Great Britain.

As it was incorporated through D.C. the “District of” and/or the “Contract of Incorporation or Corporate Merger” aka “The U.S. Constitution”

Doesn’t mean our children have to go out like that or that they should be consumed by those who conned, framed and laid in wait for them to do so.

And then there is KARMA and/or physics like perpetual motion you know ?

Please See www.constitutionalcannabis.com Thank You!!!!!!!

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Democrats Call For Attorney General Sessions To Resign

Image result for SESSIONS RESIGN

March 2, 20175:08 AM ET

Heard on Morning Edition

Democratic leaders want Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign after news reports that he met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. twice last year.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is defending his meetings with a Russian diplomat The Washington Post reports Sessions met twice with Russia’s ambassador during the presidential campaign and did not disclose it.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now some Democrats want the attorney general to resign or at least keep away from the FBI investigation he’s overseeing into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.

INSKEEP: Here’s what we know. Sessions was a senator at the time of the reported meetings, and he was also advising presidential candidate Donald Trump.

MARTIN: The Post found Sessions met twice with Russia’s ambassador, including once in September, the height of the campaign. After the election, at his Senate confirmation hearing to become attorney general, Sessions said he didn’t know of any Trump campaign meetings with Russia.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFF SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t have – not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.

INSKEEP: Sessions was answering Senator Al Franken, who now says if The Post report is true, Sessions must recuse himself from any decisions about the Russia probe. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the same last night on CNN.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDSEY GRAHAM: If there is something there and it goes up the chain of investigation, it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make this decision about Trump. So they may be not – there may be nothing there, but if there is something there that the FBI believes is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor.

MARTIN: Attorney General Sessions and other officials do not appear to explicitly deny meeting Russia’s ambassador. They do suggest the meetings were not relevant to the election. In a statement last night, Jeff Sessions said he has, quote, “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is all about. It is false.”

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“You can’t put the genie back into the bottle”

 

 

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(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Patrick McGreevyPatrick McGreevyContact Reporter

Warned of a possible federal crackdown on marijuana, California elected officials and cannabis industry leaders said Friday they were preparing for a potential showdown in the courts and Congress to protect the legalization measure approved by state voters in November.

The flashpoint that set off a scramble in California was a news conference Thursday at which White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the administration had no plans to continue the Obama administration’s permissive approach in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” he said, adding that the administration would continue to allow states to regulate the sale of marijuana for medical use.

The latest development could force California officials and marijuana industry leaders into an unusual alliance against the federal government, with billions of dollars in profits for businesses and taxes for state coffers at stake.

The state agency responsible for drafting regulations said Friday it was going ahead with its plans to start issuing licenses to growers and sellers in January.

“Until we see any sort of formal plan from the federal government, it’s full speed ahead for us,” said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.

In Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) plans to introduce legislation that could blunt Spicer’s threat by preventing the Department of Justice from enforcing federal laws against the recreational use of marijuana in states that have legalized it, a spokesman said Friday.

And industry officials warn that any federal crackdown in California and other states will result in many growers and sellers continuing to operate, but on the black market.

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra says he is ready to safeguard the rights approved by 57% of voters in Proposition 64, which allows California adults to possess, transport and buy up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.

“I took an oath to enforce the laws that California has passed,” Becerra said in a statement Thursday after Spicer’s comments. “If there is action from the federal government on this subject, I will respond in an appropriate way to protect the interests of California.”

State lawmakers also say California should do what it can to preserve Proposition 64.

“We will support and honor the laws that California voters have democratically enacted,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), an author of legislation creating the licensing system for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Becerra would likely be joined in any defense of the state’s marijuana policy by attorneys general in other parts of the country. Recreational use has also been legalized in Washington state, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, home to a combined 68 million Americans.

Washington Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, who has worked with Becerra on opposing President Trump’s travel ban, said he and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last week asked for a meeting with U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to discuss how the recreational marijuana use system is working in their state.

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading supporter of Proposition 64, took a similar approach, sending a letter Friday to Trump urging him not to carry through with threats to launch a federal enforcement effort.

“I urge you and your administration to work in partnership with California and the other … states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in a way that will let us enforce our state laws that protect the public and our children, while targeting the bad actors,” the Democrat wrote.

If the Justice Department starts arresting licensed marijuana sellers, the multibillion-dollar industry would join forces with the states that issue permits to challenge the action in court, said Amy Margolis, an attorney whose law firm has more than 200 clients in the marijuana industry, including businesses in California.

“This industry is so mature and it’s so far along that I have no doubt that if the Department of Justice started true enforcement actions against cannabis businesses, that they would go to court,” Margolis said. “I see joint actions between the states and the industry hoping to prevent those type of actions.”

Margolis would argue that it is a states’ rights issue.

“The argument would be that this is a situation where the states have the right to regulate and tax an industry the way they want,” she said, adding that states are gaining tax revenue to pay for government programs.

Although federal law does not outline a medicinal use for marijuana, Trump administration officials have made public statements indicating they recognize that such a benefit exists, which could help the industry in a potential court case, Margolis said.

However, the states may find their hands tied legally if they try to keep federal agents from raiding and shutting down marijuana growing and sales operations, according to Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law.

“I imagine that California will mount a legal challenge to any crackdown on recreational marijuana,” Winkler said. “Yet there is not much California can do. Federal law is supreme over conflicting state law. Federal agents are entitled to enforce federal law anywhere in the country, including California.”

He said there are limits to federal power, but the courts have held that the federal government does have the authority to enforce federal drug laws.

Aaron Herzberg, an attorney for the industry, agreed that the state would face a tough fight. He cited the 2005 case Gonzales vs. Raich, in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress may criminalize the production and use of homegrown marijuana even if states approve its use for medical purposes.

“Let’s face it: If the federal government wants to shut down recreational marijuana, they could quite easily accomplish it using federal law enforcement and taxation tools,” Herzberg said.

Others say one basis for legal action would be an argument that enforcing laws against marijuana would damage states that have put regulations in place and are depending on hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to pay for government programs.

States are too far down the path of regulating, licensing and taxing those who are making big investments in the sanctioned marijuana industry to pull the rug out now, said Richard Miadich, an attorney who co-wrote Proposition 64.

“Given the strict regulatory structure set forth in Proposition 64, that medical and adult-use regulations are being developed in concert, and that public opinion is squarely on the side of states’ rights on this issue, I think it is impractical for the federal government to reverse course now,” he said. “Not to mention the potential for great harm to individual states.”

Supporters of Proposition 64 say there is also a potential political solution.

In recent years, Rohrabacher and former Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) won congressional approval of a rider to the federal budget that prohibited federal funds from being used to prosecute medical marijuana businesses that are in compliance with state laws.

Rohrabacher plans to introduce legislation that would expand the protection to businesses that comply with state laws allowing the growing and sale of marijuana for recreational use, according to spokesman Ken Grubbs.

The congressman is planning the legislation “because recreational use is an issue of individual freedom and should be dealt with legally according to the principle of federalism, a bedrock conservative belief,” Grubbs said.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) is also “reviewing options to counteract whatever the Trump administration’s plans” are for state marijuana laws, said senior advisor Jack d’Annibale.

Another option, though a long shot, would be for Congress to attempt to change the federal Controlled Substances Act to decriminalize the use of marijuana nationally.

Herzberg said reinstituting federal raids would be “a major setback for the industry.”

But the state could still go ahead with a licensing system for medical marijuana growing and sales in spite of a federal crackdown on recreational use, according to Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Assn.

“A vast majority of California growers and cannabis business owners would choose to participate only in the medical marketplace if given the option, and some would choose to avoid licensure entirely if they were unable to distinguish themselves from adult-use businesses,” Allen said.

Because Spicer did not provide details on what an enforcement effort might look like, many in the industry hope it will focus on the illegal exporting of marijuana to other states, leaving alone state-licensed firms that grow and sell pot.

“The biggest crackdown we may see is on the increase of cannabis being illegally exported out of recreational states,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn.

State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said any change in federal enforcement policy on states that have legalized recreational use would be misguided.

“You can’t put the genie back into the bottle — marijuana regulation and enforcement can’t and shouldn’t go backwards,” he said.

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Tuesday February 7, the US Army Corps gave notice of intent to grant the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline

Rise With Standing Rock and Indigenous Resistance

Yesterday, Tuesday February 7, the US Army Corps gave notice of intent to grant the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Mni Sose (Missouri River). 

They are skipping the Environmental Impact Study ordered in December, and skipping the congressional notification period required by law to push through a destructive, exploitative and illegal pipeline. We knew these attacks on frontline communities were coming and now more than ever we must #GrowTheResistance and take bold action. We stand united with Indigenous Peoples and water protectors.

It Takes Roots (a formation of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, the Climate Justice Alliance and the Right To The City Alliance) is calling for all our member groups and communities to rise up TODAY FEBRUARY 8th in solidarity with the Indigenous Coalition at Standing Rock’s worldwide call for emergency actions “to disrupt business as usual and unleash a global intersectional resistance to fossil fuels and fascism.  Connect with other struggles.  Think long-term movement building.  We are in this for the long haul.” 
Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said
“Donald Trump will not build his Dakota Access Pipeline without a fight. The granting of an easement, without any environmental review or tribal consultation, is not the end of this fight — it is the new beginning. Expect mass resistance far beyond what Trump has seen so far.
“The granting of this easement goes against protocol, it goes against legal process, it disregards more than 100,000 comments already submitted as part of the not-yet-completed environmental review process — all for the sake of Donald Trump’s billionaire big oil cronies. And, it goes against the treaty rights of the entire Seven Councils Fires of the Sioux Nations.”
Check out the call below and take action!

WORLDWIDE CALL TO ACTION FEB. 8

We are calling for emergency actions all over the world. PLEASE, THIS IS OUR LAST STAND.
Please visit everydayofaction.org to find or register an action wherever you are. Check out our world action map  to join the mass distributed actions TODAY, February 8th. 

ACTION PLANNING TIPS

We encourage groups across the globe to connect our prayers for the water with other fights against fascism and the domination of people and Mother Earth (deportations, muslim ban, attacks on labor, deregulation of wall street, other fossil fuel projects, censorship of the press and academia, etc).
Choose the target that is most strategic for building long-term collaborative resistance in your local area.  Potential targets may include:  city halls, federal buildings, army corps offices, ICE detention centers, banks profiting off DAPL, sheriff’s offices that have come to Standing Rock, labor union offices, sites of workplace struggle, etc.
MESSAGING – please amplify and use the messaging put out here by

  • Rise with Standing Rock….against violations of sovereignty, crimes against Mother Earth, fascism, violation of law, etc.
  • Continue to elevate what’s happening on the ground in ND — demonstrate that this is something serious that resonates to all peoples in the face of Trump administration tyranny. Follow: @IENEarth on twitter and facebook.
  • Support Tribes’ request for TRO (Temporary Restraining Order)/injunction!
  • Resist Trump’s direct attack against indigenous communities with his executive orders re: DAPL & KXL. Indigenous communities are not backing down.
  • Police violence seems inevitable and mass casualties are very likely. The only way to keep people safe is to do the Environmental Impact Study.  If not, any blood spilled is on Trump’s hands and the hands of the Corps.   

Please enable images

The Indigenous Environmental Network  |  PO Box 485  |  Bemidji, MN 56619  | http://www.ienearth.org/

Jeff Sessions confirmed to be the next attorney general

By Ashley Killough, Tom LoBianco and Ted Barrett, CNN

Updated 10:25 PM ET, Wed February 8, 2017

Washington (CNN)The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama as the next attorney general, surviving a vocal push by Democrats to derail his nomination.

The 52-47 vote was mostly along party lines, though one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin, joined the Republicans to back their Alabama colleague.

Who voted for and against Sessions

    The final vote for Sessions — one of Trump’s closest advisers and his earliest supporter in the Senate — came after 30 hours of debate from Democrats and a stunning fight between liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Republicans which ended in her being forced to sit down after she was accused of impugning Sessions.

    Sessions said he would resign from his office 11:59 p.m. Wednesday and the White House is scheduled to swear him in Thursday morning.

    “It was a special night,” Sessions told reporters on Capitol Hill after his confirmation. “I appreciate the friendship from my colleagues — even those who, many of them who didn’t feel able to vote for me. They were cordial, and so we continue to have good relations and will continue to do the best I can.”

    The fight over Sessions nomination spurred some of the most jarring, and at times personal attacks, rooted in allegations that Sessions was a racist — claims the Alabama senator and his supporters have fiercely denied. Even early in the nomination process, one of Sessions’ colleagues, Cory Booker, became the first sitting senator to testify against another sitting senator during his confirmation hearing.

    Shortly before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to sing the praises of Sessions, after Democrats spent hours criticizing him.

    “He’s just a likable guy, one of the most humble and most considerate people you’ll ever meet,” McConnell said. “He’s a true Southern gentleman.”

    While some left-leaning groups issued statements promising to stand up and continue raising awareness about their disagreements with Sessions, Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe questioned how effective they could be in trying to keep up the fight.

    “What are they going to do? He’s the attorney general. Where does the fight start? Where’s the ammunition?” He said to reporters.

    In the debate Tuesday evening, after Republicans already blocked a Senate filibuster, Warren reignited that debate by reading from a 1986 letter Coretta Scott King sent opposing Sessions for a federal judgeship.

    “‘Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts,'” Warren read from King’s letter. McConnell accused Warren of impugning Sessions on the Senate floor — a violation of Senate rules — and after a series of procedural votes, she was forced to sit down and stop debating.

    Warren’s censure and subsequent reaction continued to largely overshadow the Sessions fight in the hours before his vote, but the Massachusetts Democrat told CNN’s Manu Raju said Sessions, whom she served with in the chamber, is just the latest example of a poor Cabinet choice.

    “We may not have the votes to stop him,” she said, “but we sure as hell need to make it clear to the Republicans and to the American people exactly who Donald Trump is putting in charge of our government.”

    Sessions was ultimately blocked from a federal judgeship and carried that battle scar into Wednesday’s final confirmation battle.

    Democrats not done yet on nominees

    Democrats are expected to repeat the same 30-hour debate plan for Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price and could easily drag the fight over Treasury pick Steven Mnuchin into the weekend.

    Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was confirmed, 51-50, in a battle that sparked impassioned protests and the flooding of Senate switchboards by angry Democrats and liberal activists.

    The tactics have yet to work in actually defeating any of Trump’s Cabinet picks, but they have fired up a base of Democratic and liberal activists irate over a series of Trump actions, not least of which was picking a Republican mega-donor in DeVos to run the Department of Education.

    “When you get millions of calls and demonstrations and a nominee is exposed for being who they are, it’s going to have a profound and positive effect, even if she gains office. So we’re very happy with the results and we’re going to continue them,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

    But Republicans have chafed at what they call “historic obstruction” and have argued that Trump needs his team in place.

    “This is the slowest time for a new Cabinet to be up and running since George Washington. This level of obstruction at the beginning of an administration is really record-setting in a very unfortunate way. It’s really time for our friends on the other side to get over the election, let this administration get up and get running,” McConnell said Tuesday.

    The only nominee who appears to be in any trouble at this point is Labor secretary pick Andrew Puzder, who is embroiled in controversy following news that he hired an undocumented worker to clean his house and was forced to pay back taxes. A series of Republicans on the Senate panel tasked with vetting him declined to say Tuesday whether they still supported Puzder.

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    ‘The Dakota Access pipeline is becoming a litmus test for all banks involved’

    With the Trump administration making clear its intent to push forward the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) regardless of widespread opposition, campaigners are ramping up their call for the project’s financial backers to pull their support.

    “If money rules the day then we will bring compassion to our capital by divesting.”
    —Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota People’s Law Project

    A coalition of groups supporting the defunding campaign announced Friday that more than 700,000 people have signed onto petitions demanding DAPL-financing banks divest from the project. That number “includes individuals who collectively report having over $2.3 billion invested in these banks through checking, mortgage, and credit card accounts, which they are ready to divest if the banks continue financing DAPL,” according to a statement from organizers. Already, the divestment effort has led to the removal of $55 million and counting from more than a dozen banks.

    Reporting on how the #DeFundDAPL movement is spreading across Indigenous nations on Thursday, Frances Madeson wrote for Yes! Magazine:

    “Many people are, rightfully, afraid that [President Donald Trump’s] executive support now means that the pipelines are full steam ahead,” said Melanie Yazzie, co-founder of The Red Nation, an activist coalition dedicated to the liberation of Native people from capitalism and colonialism. She views divestment as obstruction—the good kind—something akin to water protectors locking down on construction equipment and as a continuation of the widespread resistance that has united under the cry of #NoDAPL.

    “The investors and financiers will not move forward if the projects are deemed financially unfavorable,” Yazzie said. “We must continue to deny settlers their desired profits, profits they reap from colonizing our non-human relatives—the land and water.”

    That is the hope of a growing cohort of tribal leaders, activists, researchers, and strategists who have come to see divestment, which is catching on all across Indian Country, as a winning tactic in a wider strategy of non-cooperation.

    “Indigenous peoples across the Americas, from Standing Rock to the Amazon, have for years been standing up against the destructive, racist practices of the fossil fuel industry,” Leila Salazar López, executive director of Amazon Watch, said Friday. “The number of people withdrawing their money from the banks supporting the Dakota Access pipeline is a clear signal to those banks that destructive fossil fuel projects are a bad financial, social, and environmental investment.”

    The 17 banks directly funding the construction of the DAPL are: Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, BayernLB, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Crédit Agricole, DNB ASA, ICBC, ING, Intesa Sanpaolo, Mizuho Bank, Natixis, SMBC, Société Générale, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo.

    Protests at branch locations took place all week around the country and the world.

    And there’s evidence that the campaign is having an effect.

    International finance tracking organization BankTrack reported Thursday that Dutch bank ABN AMRO—which has not directly contributed to DAPL construction but had provided a total of $45 million in credit to parent company Energy Transfer Equity (ETE)—announced it would end its financing for ETE if the pipeline is pursued without the consent of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, or if further violence is used against protesters.

    “The Dakota Access pipeline is becoming a litmus test for all banks involved on how they let environmental, social, and human impacts weigh in when considering finance for a particular project,” said BankTrack direcor Johan Frijns.

    In separate but related news, Seattle’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee this week voted to divest $3 billion from Wells Fargo over its support for DAPL. A final vote from the full council is coming Monday.

    “It’s inspiring to see the power of global currency being leveraged in the frontline movement at Standing Rock,” added Chase Iron Eyes, lead attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project, who was arrested protesting the pipeline just this week.

    “Separate fights—defending clean drinking water, upholding constitutional freedoms, creating a new energy economy—are becoming one as people recognize and respond to the problem of banks using their money to finance human rights violations and brutality,” he said. “If money rules the day then we will bring compassion to our capital by divesting.”

    The Standing Rock Sioux and its allies are also planning a Native Nations March on Washington for Friday, March 10.

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    Where does Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch stand on marijuana law?

    Dylan Stableford

    Senior Editor

    Yahoo NewsFebruary 1, 2017

    President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, is a native of Colorado, the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. So where does Gorsuch stand on the pot issue?

    It’s not entirely clear.

    Gorsuch, a conservative federal judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, has not voiced his views on legal weed — at least not publicly.

    But the 49-year-old, who lives with his family in the cannabis-friendly college town of Boulder and teaches at the University of Colorado Law School, has offered a written opinion in several marijuana-related cases.

    In 2010 (U.S. v. Daniel and Mary Quaintance), Gorsuch ruled against a couple who tried to argue that federal marijuana distribution offenses should be dismissed on religious grounds because he found the defendants to be insincere:

    Daniel and Mary Quaintance responded to their indictment for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana with a motion to dismiss. They didn’t deny their involvement with the drug, but countered that they are the founding members of the Church of Cognizance, which teaches that marijuana is a deity and sacrament. As a result, they submitted, any prosecution of them is precluded by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), which forbids the federal government from substantially burdening sincere religious exercises absent a countervailing compelling governmental interest.

    After taking extensive evidence, the district court denied the motion to dismiss. It held, as a matter of law, that the Quaintances’ professed beliefs are not religious but secular. In addition and in any event, the district court found, as a matter of fact, that the Quaintances don’t sincerely hold the religious beliefs they claim to hold, but instead seek to use the cover of religion to pursue secular drug trafficking activities.

    In 2013 (Family of Ryan Wilson v. City of Lafayette and Taser International), Gorsuch held that a Colorado police officer’s fatal Taser use on a man who was fleeing a marijuana arrest was justified:

    Illegal processing and manufacturing of marijuana may not be inherently violent crimes but … they were felonies under Colorado law at the time of the incident. And Officer Harris testified, without rebuttal, that he had been trained that people who grow marijuana illegally tend to be armed and ready to use force to protect themselves and their unlawful investments.

    And in 2015 (Feinberg et al. v. IRS), Gorsuch ruled against the owners of a Colorado dispensary who had refused to turn over data to the Internal Revenue Service because they feared they would be incriminating themselves, since marijuana remains illegal under federal law:

    This case owes its genesis to the mixed messages the federal government is sending these days about the distribution of marijuana. The Feinbergs and Ms. McDonald run Total Health Concepts, or THC, a not-so-subtly-named Colorado marijuana dispensary. They run the business with the blessing of state authorities but in defiance of federal criminal law. Even so, officials at the Department of Justice have now twice instructed field prosecutors that they should generally decline to enforce Congress’s statutory command when states like Colorado license operations like THC. At the same time and just across 10th Street in Washington, D.C., officials at the IRS refuse to recognize business expense deductions claimed by companies like THC on the ground that their conduct violates federal criminal drug laws. So it is that today prosecutors will almost always overlook federal marijuana distribution crimes in Colorado but the tax man never will.

    “Yes, the Fifth Amendment normally shields individuals from having to admit to criminal activity,” Gorsuch explained. “But, the IRS argued, because DOJ’s memoranda generally instruct federal prosecutors not to prosecute cases like this one, the petitioners should be forced to divulge the requested information anyway. So it is the government simultaneously urged the court to take seriously its claim that the petitioners are violating federal criminal law and to discount the possibility that it would enforce federal criminal law.”

    Outside of those cases, there isn’t much on Gorsuch’s pot stance to go on. However, one of Gorsuch’s former students told a website called the Joint Blog that he once asked the Colorado jurist whether he supports legalization of marijuana.

    Gorsuch reportedly responded by saying that he “at the very least” supports states’ rights in regulating marijuana. Cannabis, like heroin and LSD, is currently a Schedule I drug under federal policy, “defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

    The cannabis industry remains cautiously optimistic Gorsuch will allow states to continue their march toward marijuana legalization. (Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: AP)

    The cannabis industry remains cautiously optimistic that Neil Gorsuch, if he is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, will allow states to continue their march toward marijuana legalization. (Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: AP)

    If the account is true, that would put Gorsuch more or less in line with the man who nominated him.

    At a campaign event in October 2015, Trump said he thinks legalization of pot should be “a state issue, state-by-state.”

    In an interview with Fox News that year, Trump said he supports medical marijuana “100 percent.”

    Which is why marijuana industry leaders are cautiously optimistic about the prospects of cannabusiness growth in the Trump era.

    “For the most part, experts all think we will see a continuation of some form of the status quo,” Chris Walsh, editor of Marijuana Business Daily, told Yahoo Finance last month. “Maybe there will be some efforts to crack down here and there, but the consensus is that a widespread crackdown will be difficult.”

    “If Trump’s going to attack the marijuana industry — like the recreational side, or the new states that legalized — it’s going to be very difficult for him to do that,” Walsh added. “He’s going to have a very hard time unwinding all the time and money and effort that states have put into these programs.”

    The same goes for Gorsuch.

    “We believe that a conservative legal philosophy should be consistent with respect for federalism and state sovereignty,” Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “Voters in 28 states have chosen to establish legal, regulated cannabis programs in their states, and state lawmakers and regulators have implemented those programs. Trampling on those state initiatives would be the kind of federal overreach that conservative judicial leaders typically speak out against.”

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    Don’t expect nationwide marijuana legalization under the Trump administration

    Washington DC marijuana handout

    With the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, the United States got a new president. And with that new president comes a long list of new appointees across various federal agencies and departments. While President Trump’s cabinet selection process has played out publicly, a variety of folks from former president Barack Obama’s administration have quietly stayed on.

    One of the most prominent people that’s staying on is the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Chuck Rosenberg, who was appointed by former attorney general Loretta Lynch in May 2015.

    And that’s particularly notable, as the DEA is responsible for enforcing drug policy in the United States. Most importantly for most Americans, Rosenberg is in charge of enforcing marijuana illegality in the US — an area where, traditionally, the federal government and individual US states have butted heads.

    For instance, California legalized medical marijuana use in 1996; despite legality in California, the drug remained illegal on a federal level, and the US government — through the DEA — policed it as such. California medical dispensaries were raided by the federal government repeatedly, regardless of its legality in the eyes of the State of California.

    That relationship dramatically changed in 2013 due to a document known as “The Cole Memo” (written by deputy attorney general James Cole). The document re-focused federal resources away from prosecuting individuals who were operating legally within their own states, and instead focused on containment and prevention.

    In so many words, it directed federal agencies to stop clashing with state-level marijuana policy.

    And DEA head Chuck Rosenberg has upheld that memo.

    “He didn’t have too much of a problem following the administration’s directives on that issue,” Marijuana Policy Project senior communications manager Morgan Fox told Business Insider. “And it says a lot for continuity — things will remain relatively the same at the DEA.” 

    Of course, this is all up for change. If Trump’s attorney general appointee, Senator Jeff Sessions, is appointed, he could direct the DEA to take a more hardline stance. And if President Trump himself decides to take a more hardline stance, that would also impact how the DEA operates when it comes to federal marijuana policy. To be clear, neither Sessions nor Trump have indicated as much.

    As Fox told Business Insider, “The DEA head acts as the direction of the attorney general who acts at the direction of the president.” That said, both President Trump and Senator Sessions have indicated intentions to keep the status quo: allowing states to legislate and police their own drug laws.

    In 2016, alongside Trump winning the presidency, several states enacted laws either outright legalizing recreational marijuana use, cultivation, and distribution/sales or legalized medical use. For the foreseeable future, it looks like the US government will continue to defer to individual states in terms of marijuana policy.

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