Deputy AG: Marijuana is federally illegal and has no medical use

Cannabis PenaltiesDeputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was questioned about federal marijuana policy during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today and his responses were disconcerting to say the least.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) asked Rosenstein about the current tension between state and federal marijuana laws.

“We do have a conflict between federal law and the law in some states. It’s a difficult issue for parents like me, who have to provide guidance to our kids… I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science,” said Rosenstein, “And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug. It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I. And therefore we have this conflict.”

He further elaborated on the Trump Administration’s view of the Cole Memo, which was issued by President Obama’s Deputy Attorney General James Cole, which lays out guidelines for marijuana businesses operating in medical and legal states if they wish to avoid federal interference.

“Jim Cole tried to deal with it in that memorandum and at the moment that memorandum is still in effect. Maybe there will be changes to it in the future but we’re still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana,” stated Rosenstein, “So I can assure you that is going to be a high priority for me as the U.S. Attorneys come on board to talk about how to deal with that challenge in the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, whether it be for recreational or medical use…”

He also said that the Department of Justice is “responsible for enforcing the law. It’s illegal, and that is the federal policy with regards to marijuana.”

After testifying in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he also appeared before its House counterpart.

Representative Kilmer (D-WA) further questioned the Deputy Attorney General on the Cole Memo and the Department of Justice’s pending review of it, asking for an update on Attorney General Jeff Sessions view on it.

Rosenstein responded: “I do not have an update. I can tell you, it’s a very complicated issue for us. Under federal law as passed by the Congress, and given the science concerning marijuana, it’s a Schedule I controlled substance. That’s a decision I’ve talked with (DEA) Administrator Rosenberg about. Some states have taken a different approach and legalized or decriminalized marijuana for medical use and in some cases recreational use…The question of whether it’s legal under federal law is resolved because Congress has passed a law — it’s illegal. Scientists have found that there’s no accepted medical use for it. Cole made an effort to examine the issue and find a way forward for the department where we could continue with our obligation to enforce federal law and minimize the intrusion on states that were attempting to follow a different path.”

Despite these critiques, Rosenstein stated any revisions are likely to happen further down the road.

“For the moment the Cole memo remains our policy. There may be an opportunity to review it in the future, but at the moment I’m not aware of any proposal to change it. But I think we’re all going to have to deal with it in the future.”

You can watch the exchange on CSPAN by clicking HERE

Send a message to your member of Congress to support legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition by clicking HERE. 

So We Have Attorney General Sessions – What’s Next For Marijuana?

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Despite historic opposition, members of the United States Senate voted 52 to 47 last week to approve the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for US Attorney General.

NORML thanks the tens of thousands of you who responded to our action alerts opposing this nomination and the thousands more who took time to make phone calls. While we are disappointed with this outcome, we are pleased that several members of Congress cited the senator’s opposition to marijuana policy reform as an impetus for rejecting his appointment.

We’ve previously told you why Jeff Sessions is the wrong man for the job, but today it is time to move forward, not backward.

So now what?

Well, during his testimony before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, Sen. Sessions said that it is not the responsibility of the Attorney General to pick and choose which federal laws to enforce. “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act,” he said. “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”

He’s right. It is time we demand Congress to change the rules once and for all.

arrestedJust hours prior to Sessions’ confirmation vote, US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, introduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent 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.

HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’

Passage of this Act would halt US Attorney General Jeff Sessions or any other federal official from prosecuting individuals and businesses for violating the Controlled Substances Act in the 29 states that permit either the medical or adult use and distribution of marijuana. According to national polling, 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

take_actionClick here to send your member of Congress a message urging them to support HR 975.

With the appointment of Sen. Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, passage of this Act is necessary to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference.

There will be a number of bills in the coming months that will build upon the progress that the movement to legalize marijuana will support. As we always have, NORML will keep you informed and provide you the tools needed to connect with your elected officials.

 

Please take action today to urge your federal lawmakers to support HR 975, the ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and when you have finished, please also take a moment to make a generous and much appreciated donation to NORML here so that we can continue to make progress in our federal and statewide efforts.

With NORML members throughout the country organizing lobby days and taking action over the coming days and weeks, the fight for cannabis freedom will continue with renewed energy.

NORML has resisted marijuana prohibition for 47 years – We’re not going to stop now; in fact, we’re just getting started. Are you in?

Senate Judiciary Advances the Nomination of Marijuana Prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to be the Attorney General

sessfb2Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the confirmation of Jeff Sessions to be the next US Attorney General on a party line vote of 11 to 9.

There a numerous groups in the criminal justice advocacy space, ranging from the NAACP to the ACLU who are opposed Senator Sessions becoming the nation’s top law enforcement officer for various reasons, ranging from his positions on voting rights, capital punishment, and sentencing reform.

Sessions has a storied history of supporting marijuana prohibition, as NORML has well documented. This includes previously declaring that “good people do not smoke marijuana” and  supporting legislation that would have allowed defendants to receive the death penalty if they had received multiple convictions for marijuana distribution.

His confirmation by the full Senate is not certainty, but should the chamber vote along party lines as the committee has, Sessions will likely be confirmed.

Click here to email your Senators TODAY.

The work of NORML to protect the fragile progress that states have made on marijuana policies will be more crucial than ever and we will continue to stand up for marijuana consumers. We still have time to make our concerns about Senator Sessions known and ask our Senators to further question him on the topic when he appears for questioning on the Senate floor.

Whether he gets confirmed or not, it is imperative that we raise our voices loud at this crucial time. Our Senators need to know that not only do we have concerns over Sessions’ record on this issue, but are willing to stand up for our shared beliefs and defend our marijuana reform victories.

Take one minute and email your Senators NOW.

BREAKING: Attorney General Vote Delayed

jeff-sessions-f (1)Today, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee requested a delay on the vote to advance Jeff Sessions to the full Senate for confirmation to become the next Attorney General.

The delay comes at the request of California Senator Diane Feinstein, who justified the delay for the American public to learn more about Senator Sessions’ background and cited Saturday’s Women’s March as justification.

While this in no way means that Sessions will not merely be advanced and approved next week, it does buy us time to make our voices heard in regards to his stance on marijuana policy. One more week of the federal government not arresting responsible consumers in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana. One more week for us to reach out to the Senate to apply more scrutiny to Sessions.

Email your Senators now to make sure that marijuana is front and center.

For weeks we have been calling upon NORML members to contact their Senators to oppose the Sessions if he would not clearly declare that he would not use federal resources to prosecute marijuana consumers.

To date Senator Sessions has made no such clarification.

Tens of thousands of people have participated by emailing their home state Senators – and we need to keep the pressure up.

Join us and thousands of other regular Americans who are voicing their anger about the continued prohibition of marijuana and engage in your democracy- email your Senators now.

#TakeAction – Call the Judiciary Committee Today to Protect Marijuana Progress

On January 10th and 11th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the nomination of Jeff Sessions to become the next Attorney General. Over the course of these two days, marijuana reformers and citizens alike from around the country will be calling members of the committee to have them ask a simple question: Does Sen. Sessions intend to respect the will of the voters in the majority of US states that have enacted to pursue alternative marijuana policies?

The stakes are high.

Senator Sessions is a militant opponent of any efforts to reform marijuana policy who once notoriously remarked that the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” He is a staunch proponent of the long-discredited ‘gateway theory,’ and has called on federal officials to return to the ‘Just Say No’ rhetoric of the 1980s. In fact, he was one of only 16 US Senators to receive a failing grade from NORML in our 2016 Congressional Report Card because of statements like these:

“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”

“[Marijuana] cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Please take a few minutes and call the following offices using this simple script. All in it should only take less than 10 minutes to call either the DC or home offices of these members and you will make an outsized impact on the future of marijuana policy in America.

“Hello, my name _______ and I am calling regarding the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. Senator Sessions views on marijuana are completely out of step with those of the majority of the American public. They also conflict with the stated views of President-Elect Trump, who said on the campaign trail that questions regarding marijuana policy are best left up to the states, not the federal government.  For these reasons, I urge you to ask Sen. Sessions whether he intends to respect the will of the voters in the majority of US states that have enacted to pursue alternative marijuana policies. If his answers are unsatisfactory, I urge you to reject his nomination.”

Committee Chairman
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
DC Office (202) 224-3744
Des Moines Office (515) 288-1145

Ranking Member
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
DC Office (202) 224-3841
San Diego Office  (619) 231-9712

Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
DC Office (202) 224-5251
Salt Lake City Office (801) 524-4380

Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
DC Office (202) 224-5972
Florence Office (843) 669-1505

John Cornyn (R-TX)
DC Office0 (202) 224-2934
Dallas Office (972) 239-1310

Mike Lee (R-UT)
DC Office (202) 224-5444
Salt Lake City Office (801) 524-5933

Ted Cruz (R-T)
DC Office (202) 224-5922
Austin Office (512) 916-5834

Ben Sasse (R-NE)
DC Office (202) 224-4224
Omaha Office (402) 550-8040

Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
DC Office (202) 224-4521
Phoenix Office (602) 840-1891

Mike Crapo (R-ID)
DC Office (202) 224-6142
Boise Office (208) 334-1776

Thom Tillis (R-NC)
DC Office (202) 224-6342
Charlotte Office (704) 509-9087

John Kennedy (R-LA)
DC Office (202) 224-4623
Baton Rouge (225) 930-9033

Senator Mazie Hirono (D – HI)
DC Office – (202) 224-6361
Honolulu Office – (808) 522-8970

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D – CT)
DC Office – (202) 224-2823
Hartford Office – (860) 258-6940

Senator Christopher A. Coons (D – DE)
DC Office – (202) 224-5042
Wilmington Office – (302) 573-6345

Senator Al Franken (D – MN)
DC Office – (202) 224-5641
Saint Paul Office – (651) 221-1016

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D – MN)
DC Office – 202-224-3244
Minneapolis Office – 612-727-5220

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D – RI)
DC Office – (202) 224-2921
Providence Office – (401) 453-5294

Senator Dick Durbin (D – IL)
DC Office – 202.224.2152
Chicago Office – 312.353.4952

Senator Patrick Leahy (D – VT)
DC Office – (202) 224-4242
Burlington Office – (802) 863-2525

 

Hearing Set for Jeff Sessions Attorney General Nomination

Cannabis PenaltiesIt’s official, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has set January 10-11, 2017 for the confirmation hearing of noted marijuana law reform opponent Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to become the next Attorney General.

Already it appears that Sen. Grassley will try to keep the hearings as short as possible and restrict the number of witnesses who testify. From the Judiciary Committee press release:

“The hearings for the four most recent Attorneys General lasted one to two days each. At each of those hearings, three to nine outside witnesses testified.”

It’s clear the hope is to rush the process as much as possible in order to obtain a successful confirmation given Sessions’ failed history of earning the approval of the Judiciary Committee for a previous judicial appointment in the 1980’s.

In 1986, Sessions was appointed by the Reagan Administration to serve as a federal judge, yet his confirmation was voted down 8-10 in the Republican controlled committee, with two Republicans joining the Democrats in opposition over claims of racial prejudice, including off handed remarks about supporting the Ku Klux Klan until he discovered that they smoke marijuana. At the time, Sessions was just the second judicial federal appointee denied confirmation in 50 years.

The implications for marijuana policies at the state level could be dire. As recently as April of this year, during a Senate hearing, Sessions proclaimed that “good people do not use marijuana.” How a potential Attorney General Sessions would treat the 29 states that have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana is still unclear and could prove devastating to the decades of hard-fought progress that we have made on behalf of responsible marijuana users.

TAKE ACTION: Email your Senators and tell them to not approve Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General

Senator Leahy: After Spending Billions on the War on Drugs…Well, We’ve Lost

The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the most senior member of the Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) again spoke out against the War on Drugs today during a briefing on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s upcoming agenda.

“The fact that so many people, especially young people, go to prison for a relatively minor thing, a drug offense. And then you ask, why can’t they get jobs afterward? Why do they have problems from then on?

I think we have spent tens of billions, hundreds of billions of dollars on the so-called War on Drugs. Well, we’ve lost.” – Sen. Leahy

Senator Leahy also addressed the disproportionate toll marijuana prohibition takes on people of color:

“There are too many people, too many young people, too many minorities, too many from the inner city who are serving time in jail for people who might have done the same thing but have the money to stay out and are not there.” – Sen. Leahy

It seems time does bring wisdom and other members of Congress should take notice and follow the lead of one of their most experience legislators. The time for sensible marijuana policy has come and this reaffirmation of support from an elected official, in such a position of influence as Senator Leahy, is clear proof the winds of reform are blowing strongly in our favor.

The full remarks are available from C-SPAN here. You can also read further media coverage here.

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