How New Blood In Washington, DC Could Impact The Marijuana Industry

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Comings and goings by two top federal officials this week could have big repercussions for the burgeoning marijuana industry.

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Loretta Lynch as U.S. Attorney General, five months after her nomination by President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, the Justice Department said Tuesday that Michele Leonhart will step down from her role as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration next month.

Leonhart, who is leaving amid a scandal over DEA agents engaging in sex parties with prostitutes supplied by drug cartels, is known to be a steadfast opponent of marijuana legalization who once refused to say whether or not she believed marijuana to be safer than crack cocaine or heroin. While Leonhart’s successor is unknown, her departure on its own is likely to be cheered by the emerging cannabis industry and proponents for the drug’s widespread legalization.

Meanwhile, Lynch, who will succeed Eric Holder as head of the Justice Department and the nation’s top law enforcement officer, is known to be politically liberal. But she is not expected to be as open-minded as Holder when it comes to marijuana legalization.

 

State Department Official Calls For ‘Flexibility’ On Drug Control Treaties

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  A high-ranking State Department official called for “flexible” interpretations of international drug control treaties at the United Nations in New York City last week, citing marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington.

Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield’s Oct. 9 remarks were the third time this year he has made such a call. And the high-profile venue underscores the pressure that state legalization efforts have put on the U.S. to allow other countries to amend strict, decades-old international drug control treaties.

Brownfield said one pillar of the new U.S. approach on drug policy is to “accept flexible interpretation” of U.N. drug treaties.

“How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?” said Brownfield.

Between Brownfield’s remarks last week and two similar speeches in March, the official U.S. diplomatic stance is clearly shifting toward the position that the drug control treaties don’t need to be interpreted strictly.

“To now have the United States government emerging as a defender and even champion of flexibility in interpreting the conventions, that represents a major step forward,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

For decades the U.S. sought to impose stern prohibitionist policies not just on itself but on any country daring to take a new tack on drugs. The U.S. backed a harsh 1988 U.N. treaty, poured billions into counter-narcotics operations in Latin America and Asia, and opposed even modest efforts like decriminalizing the traditional consumption of the coca leaf in Bolivia. As recently as March 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala rebuked President Otto Perez Molina for proposing drug legalization.

 

 

Holder’s Spokane Visit Doesn’t Dim Prosecutors’ Zeal In Pot Case

WASHINGTON:  Attorney General Eric Holder swooped into Spokane, Washington, without public notice Friday to visit with federal prosecutors, but his trip didn’t immediately benefit a group of indicted medical marijuana patients nicknamed the Kettle Falls Five.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, based in Spokane, is not backing down in its multiple-felony case against four family members and a friend who tended a rural marijuana garden for what they say was personal medical use.

The case, easily the highest-profile prosecution involving medical marijuana this year, is nearing trial as federal lawmakers consider cutting the purse strings for such enforcement.

Prosecutors argued Monday during a conference call with federal Judge Fred Van Sickle and defense attorneys that the defendants should not be allowed to tell jurors the marijuana was for medical use.

Eric Holder Would Be ‘Glad To Work With Congress’ To Reschedule Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Obama administration would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to take marijuana off the list of what the federal government considers the most dangerous drugs, Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday.

“We’d be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled, as I said there is a great degree of expertise that exists in Congress,” Holder said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. “It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.” [Read more…]

Debate: Is The Legalization Of Marijuana Inevitable?

First, 20 states and the District of Columbia passed laws legalizing marijuana for medical use. Then in 2012, voters in Washington state and Colorado approved measures legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana for non-medical use, with state oversight. Now at least a half-dozen states from Alaska to Maine are considering following suit.

Marijuana still remains a federally controlled substance, but Attorney General Eric Holder in January said the U.S. Justice Department would soon issue regulations to let state-sanctioned marijuana businesses have access to banking and credit.

Can full legalization be far behind? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, try to wrap their heads around the question.

New Pot Banking Guidelines Moot In California?

CALIFORNIA: Thanks to some recent direction from the Obama administration, banks are now allowed to do business with folks who make their living in the legal marijuana trade. But, maybe not in California.

In response to a growing uneasiness with the cannabis cash conundrum, spurred at least in part by the introduction of legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued new guidelines to financial institutions that it appears will allow them to knowingly accept deposits of pot proceeds. [Read more…]

Don't Blame Eric Holder For Confusing Pot Policies

By Mark Kleiman

WASHINGTON:  Federal law makes it a crime to grow, sell or possess cannabis. New state laws in Colorado and Washington state permit those activities, and officials there are issuing licenses to local companies to commit what remain federal felonies.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in August that it would give a low priority to enforcement efforts against state-licensed growers and sellers in states with “strong and vigorous” regulations, except where they involve other activities such as violence or interstate sales. [Read more…]

Don't Blame Eric Holder For Confusing Pot Policies

By Mark Kleiman

WASHINGTON:  Federal law makes it a crime to grow, sell or possess cannabis. New state laws in Colorado and Washington state permit those activities, and officials there are issuing licenses to local companies to commit what remain federal felonies.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in August that it would give a low priority to enforcement efforts against state-licensed growers and sellers in states with “strong and vigorous” regulations, except where they involve other activities such as violence or interstate sales. [Read more…]

Legal Marijuana Businesses Should Have Access to Banks, Holder Says

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday that lawful marijuana businesses should have access to the American banking system and that the government would soon offer rules to help them gain it. The rules are not expected to give banks a green light to accept deposits and provide other services, but would tell prosecutors not to prioritize cases involving legal marijuana businesses that use banks.

“You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system,” Mr. Holder said at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. “There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective.” [Read more…]

Legal Marijuana Businesses Should Have Access to Banks, Holder Says

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday that lawful marijuana businesses should have access to the American banking system and that the government would soon offer rules to help them gain it. The rules are not expected to give banks a green light to accept deposits and provide other services, but would tell prosecutors not to prioritize cases involving legal marijuana businesses that use banks.

“You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system,” Mr. Holder said at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. “There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective.” [Read more…]