On Marijuana Policy, Congress Needs to Pick Up Where It Left Off

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DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Now that Congress has returned from its August recess, it’s time for members to debate and vote on the annual budget that will fund the federal government from October of this year through September of next year. And various marijuana amendments will be a part of these discussions.

Much has been made of the way same-sex marriage moved rapidly from unthinkable to inevitable to achieving the ultimate victory. But there’s another issue following a similar trajectory — marijuana legalization. As with marriage reform, the bulk of the action with marijuana legalization has been at the state level, with most members of Congress hesitant to express support until public opinion moves well past the tipping point. This is starting to change.

Until last year, neither chamber of Congress had ever passed any measure in support of reforming federal marijuana laws. That changed in May 2014 when the House, with 219 votes, passed a budget restriction that was intended to block the enforcement of federal marijuana laws for people and businesses acting in compliance with state laws that permit medical marijuana. That measure, sponsored by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), became law when it was included in the so-called “CRomnibus” in December 2014.

DEA Chief Dials Back Drug War Bluster After Talk With Holder

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart and her boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, appear locked in a bureaucratic staring match over the Obama administration’s attempt to reform the way the federal government approaches criminal justice and punishment.

For Holder and for President Barack Obama, sentencing reform has become a critical, second-term legacy item, as they aim to bend the arc of incarceration policy away from a federal system well practiced at imprisoning drug offenders for as long as possible. But those efforts are colliding with institutional resistance from law enforcement officials with a single-minded focus and, perhaps, turf to defend.

The high-level shift toward easing punishment for drug offenders, backed by public opinion, raises the question of whether any DEA chief who could win the support of rank and file agents would be willing to carry out White House reforms. So far, Leonhart appears uninterested, at best.

Advocates On Each Side Of Pot Debate Pressure Obama To Take Stand

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: With more than half of all federal prisoners serving time on drug charges, the Obama administration says it’s time to free more low-level drug offenders.

“This is where you can help,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole told the New York State Bar Association last week, urging lawyers to assist prisoners in creating “well-prepared petitions” to apply for executive clemency. [Read more…]

Advocates On Each Side Of Pot Debate Pressure Obama To Take Stand

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: With more than half of all federal prisoners serving time on drug charges, the Obama administration says it’s time to free more low-level drug offenders.

“This is where you can help,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole told the New York State Bar Association last week, urging lawyers to assist prisoners in creating “well-prepared petitions” to apply for executive clemency. [Read more…]

Nullification Everywhere

WASHINGTON: Washington and Colorado are getting lots of love on the left for legalizing recreational marijuana use. The states are especially looking like winners now that the Obama administration has announced that as long as they set up a “tightly regulated market” for pot sales, it won’t send DEA agents and prosecutors after the newly emboldened sellers and growers who are setting up shop. [Read more…]

Medical Marijuana Patients Need Protection NOT Policy Rhetoric. Will Congress Step Up?

CALIFORNIA: Last Thursday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a long-awaited memo laying out the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy on state marijuana laws. At my office at Americans for Safe Access, we were all experiencing a kind of déjà-vu as the emails started flooding in. However, our excitement began to diminish as we read through the details. [Read more…]

Marijuana Ruling Could Signal End of Prohibition on Pot

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: It’s legal to light up in Colorado and Washington, and soon smoking pot could be legalized across the country following a decision Thursday by the federal government. [Read more…]

Marijuana Advocates Cheer Obama Administration Stand

CALIFORNIA: Marijuana advocates in California and elsewhere cheered the Obama administration’s announcement Thursday that it would not interfere with new laws in Colorado and Washington state permitting recreational use of cannabis. [Read more…]

Marijuana Advocates Cheer Obama Administration Stand

CALIFORNIA: Marijuana advocates in California and elsewhere cheered the Obama administration’s announcement Thursday that it would not interfere with new laws in Colorado and Washington state permitting recreational use of cannabis. [Read more…]