Washington State Responds To Attorney General Sessions’ Veiled Threats

Jeff_Sessions_(29299022521)As first reported by Tom Angell of MassRoots.com, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson responded to a July 24 letter from US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in which Sessions’ made multiple allegations all based on a single misleading 2016 report.

One would say, they didn’t pull any punches:

“Your letter, citing the March 2016 Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NW HIDTA) report on marijuana in Washington, makes a number of allegations that are outdated, incorrect, or based on incomplete information.”

 

Cutting right to the heart of the matter, i.e. facts, the Washington state leaders again articulated their desire to educate the (seemingly willing) ignorant Sessions.

“We have twice requested an in-person meeting with you because we believe it will lead to better understanding than exchanging letters. If we can engage in a more direct dialogue, we might avoid this sort of miscommunication and make progress on the issues that are important to both of us. We therefore reiterate our request to meet with you, followed by further appropriate meetings between state and DOJ officials.”

 

One of the most basic functions of government is to simply provide consistency and certainty in law enforcement. So after repeated efforts by the state’s leadership to receive clarification, basic facets of the Department of Justice’s approach are still unknown. In yet another attempt for guidance, the Governor and state Attorney General requested information on:

  • Whether DOJ intends to follow recommendations from its Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety—in particular, its reported recommendation to continue previous federal policy on state legalization of marijuana.
  • Whether President Trump’s previous statements of support for medical marijuana, and leaving recreational marijuana legalization to the states, represent the policy of the federal government.
  • Whether DOJ will support reasonable federal policies allowing financial institutions to provide service to licensed marijuana businesses, in order to avoid the public safety risks and transparency problems associated with all-cash businesses.
  • How state-regulated marijuana should be treated by the federal government following the President’s declaration that the opioid crisis constitutes a national emergency, and whether the federal government will support objective, independent research into the effects of marijuana law reform on opioid use and abuse.
  • Whether the federal government will help protect public health by supporting agricultural research on the safety of pesticides used in marijuana cultivation.
  • Whether the federal government will support research into expedited roadside DUI testing methods for law enforcement, as alternatives to blood draws.

 

How Attorney General Sessions will respond, only time will tell.

You can click HERE to send a message to your Representative to urge their support for The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, bipartisan legislation to prevent the Department of Justice from enforcing federal prohibition in states that have chosen to legalize medical or adult-use marijuana.

You can view the full letter from Governor Inslee and AG Ferguson below:

Washington Officials Respond to Sessions Marijuana Letter by tomangell on Scribd

Missouri: Marijuana Medicalization Effort Reaches Signature Milestone

namlogoblueProponents of a Missouri voter initiative effort to legalize and regulate the therapeutic use and distribution of cannabis statewide have gathered over 50,000 signatures over the past several weeks. Advocates must collect a total of 160,000 signatures by May 6, 2018 in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 electoral ballot.

The initiative permits patients, at the discretion of a physician, to cultivate limited quantities of marijuana or to obtain cannabis and cannabis-infused products from licensed facilities.

The group behind the effort, New Approach Missouri, includes members of both national NORML as well as its state and local affiliates. To date, the signature gathering effort has largely consisted of volunteers.

Proponents sought to place a similar effort on the 2016 ballot. That effort failed after the courts upheld the decision of St. Louis-area election authorities to reject some 2,000 signatures in the state’s second Congressional district.

Marijuana law reform advocates are also presently gathering signatures for voter-initiated efforts in Michigan and Utah. A statewide initiative legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Oklahoma has already qualified for the 2018 electoral ballot.

Michigan: Legalization Coalition Effort Reaches Signature Milestone

legalization_pollProponents of Michigan voter initiative effort to legalize and regulate the personal use and retail sale of cannabis statewide has gathered over 100,000 signatures in the past six weeks. Advocates must collect a total of 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters by mid-November in order to qualify the measurethe Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act — for the 2018 electoral ballot.

The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.

The coalition behind the effort, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, is partnership between the Marijuana Policy Project, the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, Michigan NORML, MI Legalize, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and lawyers from the State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section.

Proponents sought to place a similar measure on the Michigan ballot in 2016. That effort was ultimately turned back when lawmakers imposed and the courts upheld new rules limiting the time frame during which signatures could be collected.

Marijuana law reform advocates are also presently gathering signatures for voter-initiated efforts in Missouri and Utah. A statewide initiative legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Oklahoma has already qualified for the 2018 electoral ballot.

Review Identifies 140 Controlled Clinical Trials Related to Cannabis

Marijuana researchScientists have conducted over 140 controlled clinical trials since 1975 assessing the safety and efficacy of whole-plant cannabis or specific cannabinoids, according to a new literature review published in the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences.

A pair of German researchers identified 140 clinical trials involving an estimated 8,000 participants. Of these, the largest body of literature focused on the use of cannabis or cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic or neuropathic pain. Authors identified 35 controlled studies, involving 2,046 subjects, assessing the use of marijuana or cannabinoids in pain management. In January, the National Academy of Sciences acknowledged that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain.

Cannabinoids have also been well studied as anti-emetic agents and as appetite stimulants. Researchers identified 43 trials evaluating marijuana or its components for these purposes, involving total 2,498 patients. They also identified an additional 14 trials examining the role of cannabis or cannabis-derived extracts in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Researchers also identified several additional trials evaluating the use of cannabis or cannabinoids for Crohn’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, epilepsy, and various other indications.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that new drugs typically gain FDA approval on the basis of one or two pivotal clinical trials.

Full text of the study, “Medicinal uses of marijuana and cannabinoids,” appears online here.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott Vetoes Marijuana Legalization

Cannabis PenaltiesRepublican Gov. Phil Scott today rejected legislation, Senate Bill 22, that sought to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for the adult use and possession of marijuana. The Governor said that he did not support the legislation as written, but remains open to working with lawmakers over the summer on ways to amend the state’s cannabis policies.

Representatives from the Vermont Association of Police Chiefs, the Vermont Medical Society, and the Vermont American Academy of Pediatrics were among those groups opposing S. 22.

“It is disappointing that Gov. Scott would not only defy the will of state legislators, but also the will of the majority of Vermont voters who support ending criminal penalties for those adults who consume cannabis responsibly,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Minor marijuana possession offenders should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it. Rather than looking to the future, Gov. Scott seems intent on repeating the failures of the past.”

Senate Bill 22 would have amended state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to two mature plants (and up to four immature plants) would have no longer been subject to penalty, beginning July 1, 2018. It also established a nine member commission to make recommendations to the legislature regarding how best to regulate the adult use marijuana market.

State lawmakers approved the measure earlier this month. It was the first time that a legislative body ever approved legislation eliminating criminal and civil penalties for adults who possess or grow marijuana for non-medical purposes.

House lawmakers in 2016 rejected similar legislation. That measure had been supported by former Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Study: Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrest Rates Increasing

Cannabis PenaltiesAfrican Americans in Virginia are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at more than three times the rates of whites and this disparity is rising, according to an analysis of statewide arrest data by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Capital News Service.

Researchers reviewed 160,000 state and local arrest records from the years 2010 through 2016. They found that blacks were 2.9 times as likely as whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana in 2010, but 3.2 times as likely to be arrested by 2016.

In some counties and towns, such as in Hanover County and in Arlington, Virginia, the black arrest rate was six to eight times that of whites.

The findings are similar to those of a 2015 report, which determined that the number of African Americans arrested in Virginia for marijuana possession offenses increased 106 percent between the years 2003 and 2014. That study concluded that blacks account for nearly half of all marijuana possession arrests, but comprise only 20 percent of the state population.

A separate analysis of Maryland arrest data determined that African Americans accounted for 58 percent of all marijuana possession arrested despite comprising only 30 percent of the state’s population.

A 016 analysis of California arrest figures concluded that police arrested blacks for marijuana offenses at three and half times the rate of whites. A prior statewide assessment reported that police in 25 of California’s major cities arrested blacks for marijuana possession violations at rates four to twelve times that of caucasians. Similar disparities have been repeatedly reported in other major cities, including New York and Chicago.

A 2013 American Civil Liberties Union study found that nationwide blacks are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though both ethnicities consume the substance at approximately similar rates.

Washington: Support For Marijuana Policy Reform Surges Post-Legalization

legalization_pollPublic support for marijuana legalization has surged in Washington state in the years following the enactment of legislation permitting the commercial production and retail sale of the plant, according to survey data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Fifty-five percent of voters approved the voter-initiated measure in 2012.

Investigators with the Public Health Institute in California assessed survey data from a geographically representative sample of those ages 18 and older. Survey data was collected every six months between January 2014 and April 2016 in order to assess support trends over time.

Authors reported that respondents’ support for legalization increased from 64 percent to 78 percent over this time period. Public support grew among those in every age group.

National polls similarly show an increase in public support for marijuana legalization following the enactment of such laws in various states.

016,” appears online here.

Study: Medical Marijuana Legalization Linked To Lower Medicaid Costs

pills_v_potPatients use fewer prescription drugs in states where access to medical cannabis is legally regulated, according to data published in the journal Health Affairs.

Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the association between medical cannabis regulations and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries between the years 2007 and 2014.

Researchers reported, “[T]he use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied.” They added, “If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion.”

The findings are similar to those previously published by the team which reported that medical cannabis access was associated with significantly reduced spending by patients on Medicare Part D approved prescription drugs.

Separate studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, migraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.

An abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws may be associated with a decline in the number of prescriptions for medicaid enrollees,” appears here.

Wisconsin City Removes Fines for Marijuana Possession and Consumption

Following a national trend, members of the Monona City Council passed an ordinance that removed all municipal fines for the private possession and consumption of marijuana. Under the new ordinance, adults 21-years and older will no longer be subjected to a fine for possessing marijuana in public or in private spaces. Marijuana use in a private residence would also be exempt from a fine, but a $200 fine will still be given to those caught smoking in public.

243428_10150183848971408_290803_oThis came as no surprise to Nate Petreman, executive director of Madison NORML. For almost two years, Mr. Petreman along with several members of Madison NORML worked to build a broad coalition of active community members who attended countless meetings and provided testimony in support of the measure.

“Private use and possession and possession in public are no longer local offenses in Monona, WI. The new ordinance in Monona only prohibits public use. We were denied at the city last year, in part due to the Police Chief advocating on city time, and came just shy of the necessary signatures to trigger a vote on direct legislation in summer 2016,” said Petreman. “To succeed in our recent efforts, nearly 20 people attended each meeting along the way, many who were residents. These efforts resulted in the best known local ordinance statewide.”

On the state level, lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would provide qualified patients with legal access to medical marijuana and establish a statewide medical marijuana program.

Read more here about the statewide effort by clicking here. 

 

Canada: Trudeau Administration Seeking Marijuana Legalization By July 2018

flag_of_canadaThe Trudeau administration is anticipated to introduce legislation in early April to regulate the use, production, and sale of marijuana. In 2015, the Liberal Party pledged to “legalize and regulate” marijuana if Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister.

The forthcoming legislation will likely be modeled after recommendations issued by a federal task force in 2016. Members of the task force called on Parliament to permit those over 18 to possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana, and further recommended lawmakers regulate and tax the commercial cannabis market.

The pending legalization legislation is expected to be introduced the week of April 10, CBC News has reported. Proponents of the measure are seeking to achieve its implementation by July 1, 2018.

Until that time, however, Canadian police are continuing to enforce marijuana prohibition. In recent weeks, police in several Canadian cities – including Toronto and Vancouver – carried out raids of various storefront dispensaries, including those operated by longtime activists Marc and Jodie Emery.

Federal Marijuana Sentences Plummet: Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What Would A Federal Marijuana Crackdown Look Like?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Photo by Gage Skidmore

Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Ever since the 2016 election, marijuana legalization supporters have been wondering if President Trump will crack down on state-approved recreational and/or medical marijuana programs. The Heritage Foundation believes it knows the answer.

According to the conservative think tank, there are actions the government can take without needing to pass any new legislation or expend much political capital, such as reaffirming the federal government’s position as supporting marijuana’s illegality under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and reasserting support for the international treaties that require countries to enforce marijuana prohibition. These actions would make headlines, send a chill across the industry (particularly in states that have yet to formally launch their legal marijuana markets) and make clear the direction the White House has decided to go when dealing with legal marijuana businesses.

The Washington, D.C.-based group calls for rescinding the Obama Administration’s Cole memo, which gives leeway to the states to implement legalization and replace it with a memo that makes it clear that the DOJ “fully expects states to not permit commercialized marijuana production and sale.” With this memo in place, the DOJ could then select a number of marijuana businesses for prosecution of a violation of state and/or federal law, which would create “a real threat of prosecution.”

The right-wing policy shop recommends overturning previous guidance from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which opened the door to very limited banking for a handful of businesses in the marijuana industry. This would scare off the already minuscule number of financial institutions working, or considering working, with marijuana-related businesses. Using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the government could target investors.

With all of this in mind, the only option we truly have to ensure our victories are upheld and that we move forward with nationwide legalization is to change federal law. Amendments such as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer stem the bleeding a bit, but require a new political fight every year. Congress needs to pass The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which would prevent the federal government from interfering in state-approved adult use or medical programs. Even better, Congress should remove marijuana from the CSA entirely.

If you want to see the cannabis revolution continue, call your members of Congress today and tell them to support federal marijuana law reform. For more information on pending legislation and to easily email your elected officials, visit norml.org/act.

Colorado: Support Marijuana Membership Clubs!

Denver NORML

This past Tuesday, Denver NORML hosted a very successful Lobby Day at the Colorado State Capitol. Our Board of Directors, along with several members and volunteers, visited every Senate office where they distributed a fact sheet that highlighted the merits of SB17-184: The Private Marijuana Clubs Open And Public Use Bill, and why NORML supports it. We also had the opportunity to hear from several supporters of the bill including Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, Representative Jonathan Singer, and Representative Dan Pabon.

Since early 2016, Denver NORML has been on the front lines fighting for the social consumption of marijuana and will continue to lead the fight until our dream becomes a reality, but we need your support. With the passage of SB17-184: The Private Marijuana Clubs Open And Public Use Bill out of the Senate, we have an unprecedented opportunity to create access to safe, legal spaces for social marijuana consumption in Colorado, but the fight isn’t over. We are heading back to the Capitol on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at 9am to lobby every member of the House and also to ask Governor Hickenlooper to not veto SB-184.

We are a 100% grassroots, volunteer-led organization that depends on the generosity of individuals and businesses to provide financial support for our efforts. While we gladly donate our time, there are ongoing costs associated with these efforts including all of the general expenses that pertain to a day at the Capitol including, but not limited to: transportation, parking, and printing of educational materials. If you or your organization would like to help by providing services or funds, please contact us at denverisnorml@gmail.com and one of our board members will follow up with you. We also have annual sponsorship programs and can provide you with information on how to become a yearly sponsor of our organization.

Click here to make a contribution to Denver NORML and support ongoing action.

We are making history again in Colorado, but we urgently need our community allies help to ensure we are able to reach out to all of our Colorado General Assembly members as well as Governor Hickenlooper, who had indicated he may not sign the bill in its current form.

If you’re interested in joining us, please fill out this form: NORML Lobby Day. If you can’t join us in person, please consider using NORML’s online Action Center to send an email to your legislators urging their support of SB-184.

COLORADO RESIDENTS: TAKE ACTION: SUPPORT MARIJUANA MEMBERSHIP CLUBS!

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Polling: Voters Support Marijuana Law Reform By Record Numbers

Record numbers of voters support regulating the marijuana market and oppose federal efforts to interfere or undermine state laws permitting the plant’s use or sale, according to nationwide polling data released today by Quinnipiac University.

Ninety-three percent of voters — including 96 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans — support “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes,” the highest total ever reported in a national poll. Among those respondents older than 65 years of age, 92 percent endorsed legalizing medical marijuana.

Fifty-nine percent of voters similarly support making the adult use of marijuana legal in the United States. That total is in line with recent polling data compiled by Gallup in 2016 which reported that 60 percent of US adults support legalization — a historic high. Respondents who identified as Democrats (72 percent) were most likely to support legalization. Fifty-eight percent of Independents also expressed support, but only 35 percent of Republicans did so. Among the various age groups polled, only those over the age of 65 failed to express majority support for legalization.

Finally, 71 percent of respondents say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” This percentage is the highest level of support ever reported with regard to limiting the federal government from interfering in statesmarijuana policies.

The rising support may provide a boost for pending federal legislation, HR 975: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which prevents the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana. You can urge your members of Congress to support this act by clicking here.

The Quinnipiac University poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

NORML Chapters Organize State Lobby Days for Marijuana Law Reforms

chapter_spotlightOn the heels of the 2016 election – where four states voted to approve adult-use marijuana initiatives, and four more voted to approve medical marijuana initiativesNORML Chapters across the country are lobbying their state legislators for additional reforms. In the coming weeks, NORML Chapters around the country, such as California NORML, Connecticut NORML, Wyoming NORML, and Virginia NORML, will be focusing their time and energy in support of dozens of statewide reform bills seeking to amend various aspects of their state’s marijuana policies.

To help increase the likelihood of success for these volunteer-led lobbying efforts, NORML has created a citizen lobby guide. This comprehensive booklet will assist activists in planning and execution of a successful lobby day. It also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire so that marijuana activists, regardless of the state they’re located in, will be fully prepared to meet with state lawmakers to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and to most effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.

Citizen Lobby Guide: http://norml.org/pdf_files/NORML_CitizenLobbyGuide.pdf

In addition to offering support through NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide, we have created more than 30 action alerts targeting state lawmakers across the country urging their support for marijuana legislation being considered in their state. Simply click on the link below and enter your information to join the fight!

take_actionTake Action: http://norml.org/act

We hope that with these tools, along with the direct support of NORML staff, marijuana activists will have the resources needed to effectively lobby state lawmakers in support of marijuana law reforms.

 

Here’s a list of scheduled NORML Chapter Lobby Days below:

  • Virginia NORML – Jan 30
  • Arizona NORML – Feb 2
  • Texas NORML – Feb 8
  • Houston NORML – Feb 8
  • DFW NORML – Feb 8
  • Waco NORML – Feb 8
  • New Mexico – Feb 21
  • Missouri NORML – Feb 28
  • Kansas City NORML – Feb 28
  • Greater St. Louis NORML – Feb 28
  • Mid-Missouri NORML – Feb 28
  • Springfield NORML – Feb 28
  • University of Missouri NORML – Feb 28
  • North Carolina NORML – Mar 1
  • Charlotte NORML – Mar 1
  • Denver NORML – Mar 7
  • Colorado NORML – Mar 7
  • Monterey County NORML – Mar 7
  • NORML Women of Washington – Mar 7
  • Washington NORML – Mar 7
  • Portland NORML – Mar 7
  • Michigan NORML – March 30
  • Illinois NORML – May 17

To get involved or to find out more information about a lobby day in your state, please email: KevinM@NORML.org.

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