What Have We Been Smoking?

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  In March, a bill was introduced in the Senate which, if passed, would legalize state medical marijuana programs at the federal level, and take marijuana off the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Schedule I drug list. Schedule I is reserved for drugs so dangerous that neither cocaine nor “meth” makes the list. The new law would move marijuana down a level of severity to join those substances, which the DEA classifies as having “less abuse potential than Schedule I drugs” like pot. Lest this sound like an arcane matter of federal drug classifications, let us be clear: Drug crime is the leading path into the federal prison system, and Americans put more people in federal prison for crimes related to marijuana than any other drug.

There are state laws on the books that specify prison sentences of five years for the possession of an ounce of marijuana. In Florida, the growing of 25 marijuana plants constitutes a second-degree felony. This is insane. To lock a man or a woman in a cell for anything to do with this plant ought to be something out of a dystopian novel. Yet we’ve gotten used to it, and on a grand scale. From 1980 to 2008 the U.S. prison population more than quadrupled, to 2.3 million. With about 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States of America today is home to almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. This makes us the world leader in incarceration, in raw numbers, and second only to the Republic of Seychelles, population 90,024, when it comes to the rate at which we lock up our people. The so-called “war on drugs” has played a major part in this unprecedented shift: there are about 10 times as many people in our prisons today for drug offenses as there were in 1980.

Still, we should take comfort in the fact that these are mostly violent criminals and hardened drug kingpins, right? Not so. About half the inmates in the federal prison system are there for nonviolent drug crime – up from 16 percent in 1970 – and the leading drug involved is marijuana. Of course, none of this seems to have made marijuana remotely difficult to procure for those who want it. If once our federal prisons might have functioned to keep violent criminals off the streets, today they serve chiefly to lock away economic offenders, disproportionately members of ethnic minorities historically excluded from the mainstream economy. After drug offenses, the next most prevalent way to become an inmate in the federal prison system is through undocumented immigration, that other nonviolent “crime” I discuss in these pages.

Despite Federal Law, Colorado Pot Shops Are Accepting Credit Cards

COLORADO:  While the cannabis industry has been touted as a “cash-only” enterprise since medical marijuana was first legalized in California nearly 20 years ago, recent reports indicate that the recreational sector has become fed up with handling massive stacks of cash and have since established a clever method for accepting credit cards payments.

Colorado pot shops have struggled for the larger part of the past year to adhere to federal statutes in an attempt to avoid provoking the DEA from sending in a team to shut them down. Part of this challenge has been conducting legal pot sales, which generate about $14 million per month, without the use of financial institutions.

Even though former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder devised a set of rules in 2014 that would supposedly allow banks to work with marijuana businesses without the risk of prosecution, there have not been many willing to take a chance on these threatening endeavors because no changes to federal policy have been set in stone. Marijuana remains listed a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which has prevented retail pot shops and banks from getting into bed together. It seems that no one is interested in being sent to prison for money laundering.

 

A Sensible Bill On Medical Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Three senators, two Democrats and a Republican, introduced a bill on Tuesday that would allow patients to use marijuana for medical purposes in states where it is legal, without fear of federal prosecution for violating narcotics laws.

The bill makes a number of important changes to federal marijuana policies — and it deserves to be passed by Congress and enacted into law. Though this legislation would not repeal the broad and destructive federal ban on marijuana, it is a big step in the right direction.

The most important change would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which is intended for drugs, like heroin, that have no accepted medical use in the United States, and place it instead in Schedule II, the classification for drugs that have a legitimate medical use but also have a “high potential for abuse.”

The Schedule I classification made no sense because there is a medical consensus that patients with AIDS, cancer, epilepsy and serious degenerative conditions can benefit from marijuana. And millions of patients have used marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss, insomnia and seizures associated with various illnesses.

Marijuana Legalization: The White House Fights Back

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  One by one, states are taking matters into their own hands and legalizing marijuana in one form or another. For some, it is for medicinal purposes, commonly called “medical marijuana”. For others, they simply go the route of either “decriminalizing” marijuana — which means reducing possession from a felony to a misdemeanor — or legalizing it entirely.

Just because a state decides to not arrest people in possession of marijuana, doesn’t mean the federal government is going to sit back and allow it. Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug.

This puts marijuana on the same list as heroin, meth, angel dust, and many other very powerful drugs. And it means that the Drug enforcement Agency has a mandate to go after anyone in possession of it.

The White House uses the argument that alcohol cost is higher than revenue, yet alcohol is legal. Cost/revenue comparison alone is no reason to deny individuals the freedom to make a personal choice about their bodies. We tried that once. The cost of Prohibition was far too high.

 

 

Va. Rep. Griffith Introduces Federal ‘Legitimate Use Of Medicinal Marijuana Act’

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith this week introduced a bill in Congress that would remove the federal obstacle to prescribing and possessing medical marijuana in states where that is legal, such as Virginia. He said he knows this will be a long hard fight, “but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Griffith’s bill is titled the “Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act,” and is only four pages. It moves marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, in a grouping with not only cocaine and methamphetamine but Ritalin and Adderall, drugs prescribed legally for children. Removing marijuana from Schedule I takes it out of the “no currently accepted medical use” category and allows research to be conducted more easily, and would allow doctors to prescribe it in states where medical marijuana is legal to possess, such as Virginia.

Virginia does not allow the sale of medical marijuana, but it has had a law on the books since 1979 permitting its prescription and possession for medical purposes. When Griffith was a state delegate, he said he was the only Republican to oppose an effortto erase that law from Virginia’s statutes, an effort which was unsuccessful. Even in states such as Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, doctors may not prescribe it because of federal law restricting prescription authority. Instead, doctors “recommend” it.

U.S. Coast Guard Warns Mariners About Recreational Marijuana Use

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Mariners thinking that a little recreational use of marijuana is just fine, could see their credentials go up in smoke.

With states such as Washington and Colorado legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the U.S. Coast Guard has issued a notice warning mariners, marine employers, Medical Reviewing Officers and the public that a ban remains in place for the use of marijuana by those serving in safety-sensitive positions in the maritime transportation industry. [Read more…]

U.S. Coast Guard Warns Mariners About Recreational Marijuana Use

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Mariners thinking that a little recreational use of marijuana is just fine, could see their credentials go up in smoke.

With states such as Washington and Colorado legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the U.S. Coast Guard has issued a notice warning mariners, marine employers, Medical Reviewing Officers and the public that a ban remains in place for the use of marijuana by those serving in safety-sensitive positions in the maritime transportation industry. [Read more…]