Nominee For US Attorney General Will Not Take Action Against State-Sanctioned Marijuana Industry

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Trump administration’s nominee for US Attorney General, William Barr, during Senate testimony on Tuesday affirmed that he would not use the power of the Justice Department to target marijuana-related activity in jurisdictions where the plant is legally regulated.

In response to a question posed by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Barr said, “My approach … would not be to upset the settled expectations and the reliant interests that have arisen as a result of the Cole memorandum.” The 2013 Cole memo, which was rescinded by former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, directed prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

Although Barr said that he personally opposed the increasing divide between state and federal marijuana laws, he acknowledged that he will not “go after companies that have relied on the Cole memorandum.”

“It is encouraging that William Barr pledged not to enforce federal marijuana prohibition against the majority of US states that have reformed their laws. With this commitment, Congress has a clear mandate to take action and end the underlying policy of federal criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.

William Barr is awaiting confirmation by the the Senate Judiciary Committee.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

NORML Responds: White House Threatens To Crack Down On Legal Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana. “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, and added that the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.”

The Department of Justice is lead by Jeff Sessions, a renowned ardent marijuana prohibitionist.

“If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana they will be taking billions of dollars away from state sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels. This action will lead to swift backlash from the 71% of Americans that think marijuana policy should be dictated by the states and is a foolish and reckless direction to take our country. Sad.” said Erik Altieri, Executive Director of NORML.

The Press Secretary’s comments are similar to those made by Sen. Sessions during his vetting process when he made clear that any use of marijuana remains against federal law and that “it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”

“Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions both hold views that are out of step with mainstream America and they are in conflict with the laws regarding marijuana in over half of the states in this country,” said Justin Strekal, Political Director of NORML. “The fact that President Trump would allow his Attorney General to pursue a path that is so politically unpopular and contrary to will of numerous states is absurd.”

Ultimately, patients and others in legal jurisdictions will only truly be safe from federal prosecution when and if members of Congress elect to amend federal marijuana laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status. Congressional passage of HR 975, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ which NORML supports and/or re-authorization of the Rohrabacher-Farr (now to be introduced as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer) amendment would be steps in the right direction to protect patients and others in legal states from undue federal interference.

If federal politicians were truly listening to the will of the electorate, they would move forward to enact these changes, which are strongly in line with voters’ sentiments. According to national polling data released today, 71 percent of voters — including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.”

In short, undermining voters’ wishes and state laws in this regard not only defies common sense, it is also bad politics — particularly for an administration that is defining itself as populist in nature.

For more information, please contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at justin@norml.org

Bridging The Gap Between Dispensaries And Banks

OREGON: In the first week of recreational pot sales, Oregon dispensaries raked in $11 million.

But the multi-million dollar question remains: Where should people in the industry be putting their money?

Because marijuana is illegal federally, most banks won’t take the money.

“We’ve been repeatedly turned down because our company is cannabis based,” said Dan of.

Last year the Justice Department gave the go-ahead to banks to do business with the industry. But many feel there’s still too much risk, leaving business owners to keep the cash in their shops or homes, and opening them up to criminals.

 

DelBene Introduces Bill to Protect State Enforcement of Marijuana Laws

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) this week introduced the State Marijuana And Regulatory Tolerance (SMART) Enforcement Act to protect medical patients, recreational users and businesses in states that have legalized marijuana from being prosecuted now or retroactively in the future.

“My bill will fix the conflict between state and federal law by giving the U.S. Attorney General authority to waive the Controlled Substances Act for states that are effectively regulating marijuana themselves, such as Washington,” DelBene said. “It also resolves the banking issues that currently force dispensaries to operate on an unsafe, all-cash basis. These waivers will ensure people in states that have different laws than the federal government on marijuana are protected from prosecution, provided they meet certain requirements, as more and more states work to regulate marijuana in their own borders.”

Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., have legalized some form of marijuana. Of those, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana, while others have approved medical use of marijuana. And more are expected to vote on legalization in 2016. Yet, marijuana possession or use for any purpose is still prohibited under the federal Controlled Substances Act, leaving every participant in the state markets — including cancer patients — at risk of prosecution. Washington’s First District has more than a dozen state-licensed marijuana dispensaries.

States are currently unable to regulate as effectively as possible because they are hamstrung by federal preemption problems. The SMART Enforcement Act would fix this issue, while adhering to current U.S. Department of Justice guidance on marijuana enforcement and recognizing the shared role states have traditionally played in policing marijuana offenses. It authorizes a waiver from the Controlled Substances Act for states that implement robust regulatory regimes to address key federal priorities such as preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, violence or use of firearms in cultivation and distribution of marijuana, and drugged driving. Additionally, this legislation would sunset all waivers after three years, allowing continued oversight and reevaluation of the success of this approach by Congress.

“According to a recent Pew poll, an estimated 60 percent of Americans agree that the government should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow use. The SMART Enforcement Act acknowledges this voter sentiment while also ensuring states are operating in a safe and responsible manner,” said Paul Armentano, NORML’s Deputy Director. “Public sentiment and common sense are driving necessary and long overdue changes in state-level marijuana policies; America’s longstanding federalist principles demand that we permit these changes to evolve free from federal interference.”

Raid On Tribal Marijuana Farms Underscores Uncertainty Over Pot Laws

CALIFORNIA: Native American tribes’ efforts to cash in on California’s “green rush” by launching large-scale marijuana growing operations appear to have been premature and ill-advised if recent law enforcement raids on tribal lands are any indication.

Pot raids conducted on the Pinoleville Pomo Nation’s Rancheria north of Ukiah this week and on the Pit River and Alturas tribes’ properties in Modoc County in July serve as reminders that such endeavors remain mired in a morass of laws that continue to make cannabis cultivation a risky business.

“It’s a cautionary tale,” said Anthony Broadman, an attorney with Galanda Broadman, a Seattle-based, Native American-owned law firm that represents tribes.

“It’s too bad to see people going in without really understanding the rules,” said Dale Gieringer, of California NORML, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Ohio Says Not So Fast On Marijuana Reform Vote

OHIO: Local advocates for marijuana liberalization were celebrating Wednesday, the day after their campaign to pass a local ordinance received the endorsement of the Toledo voting public.

But their euphoria is tempered by realization that parts of the so-called “Sensible Marihuana Ordinance” conflict with state law and may not be enforceable.

“I’m on cloud nine,” said Mary Smith, president of the northwest Ohio chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “This is going to take a minute for this to all get worked out. Don’t do crazy things. The plant is still illegal.”

Did This Federal Study Just Imply That Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol?

Not many issues can fully harness the attention of the American public at the moment, but marijuana might just be one of them.

In just two decades the United States has gone from having zero states in which marijuana was legal for medical purposes and recreational use, to 23 states (as well as Washington, D.C.) passing legislation for medical marijuana and four states (plus Washington, D.C.) enacting laws to allow the drug to be sold for adult recreational use. This is truly remarkable considering that the federal government and the Drug Enforcement Administration still hold marijuana to be a Schedule 1 drug. By definition, Schedule 1 drugs have no medically defined benefit and are considered illicit.

This bifurcation between the federal government and 23 states — and even between jurisdictions within states that have legalized marijuana across the board, such as Colorado — have made for a dicey clash between supporters and opponents of marijuana’s expansion.

The New Clash Over Cannabis

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Obama administration and many congressional Republicans have been loath to go anywhere near the experiment with marijuana legalization in Colorado and other states. But pressure is mounting on Washington to take a stand on pot, and perhaps soon.

In a lawsuit filed last month with the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma argue that Colorado’s marijuana initiative is spilling over into their neighboring, more conservative states. Marijuana arrests and prosecutions are up over the past year, they say, straining law enforcement budgets as more overtime is paid to handle the uptick in activity. And drugged driving is a growing problem, they contend.

But the neighbor states are also taking aim at a federal government that seems highly reluctant to tackle the issue. And with several more states considering legalizing recreational marijuana, the Justice Department and Congress may be forced to clarify what’s OK or not when it comes to marijuana, experts say.

“It’s gone from a slow burn to a hot, cauldron bubble,” Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, said of tensions over cannabis policy.

Bid To Expand Medical Marijuana Business Faces Federal Hurdles

COLORADO:  Behind a tall curtain of corn that hides their real cash crop from prying eyes, the Stanley family is undertaking an audacious effort to expand their medical marijuana business to a national market.

For years, the five Stanley brothers, who sell a nonintoxicating strain of cannabis that has gained national attention as a treatment for epilepsy, have grown medical marijuana in greenhouses, under tight state and federal regulations. But this year, they are not only growing marijuana outdoors by the acre, they also plan to ship an oil extracted from their plants to other states.

The plan would seem to defy a federal prohibition on the sale of marijuana products across state lines. But the Stanleys have justified it with a simple semantic swap: They now call their crop industrial hemp, based on its low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot.

Rand Paul Proposes Measure To Shield State Medical Marijuana Laws From Feds

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday filed an amendment in the Senate that would protect states that implement medical marijuana laws, as well as patients and physicians in those states, from federal prosecution.

Paul’s Amendment 3630, filed Thursday morning to Sen. John Walsh’s (D-Mont.) jobs bill being heard on the Senate floor, allows states to “enact and implement laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use” without fear of federal prosecution. There are 33 states that have enacted laws protecting some form medical marijuana.

The amendment also prohibits prosecution of patients and physicians in those states for violating federal laws against the drug.

“What we’re trying to do is look at the law and allow states that have changed their laws and have allowed medical marijuana to do so, for doctors to be able to prescribe and for people to be able to get those prescriptions without being worried about the federal government coming in and arresting them,” Brian Darling, Paul’s communications director, told The Huffington Post.