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The public really, really, really opposes current federal marijuana law

A new poll — from an anti-marijuana group — shows US politicians lag far behind the public’s views on marijuana.

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The overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to current federal marijuana law.

That’s the big takeaway from a new poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy and released by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the country’s most prominent anti-legalization group.

The poll took a unique approach to a legalization survey. Instead of asking people if they support legalization and giving them a binary yes-or-no choice, it asked 1,000 registered voters about several options for federal marijuana policy: keeping current policy (which prohibits possessing and using cannabis for any purpose), legalizing “physician-supervised medical use,” decriminalizing pot by removing criminal penalties for use and allowing medical use but prohibiting sales, and legalizing the commercial production, use, and sale of marijuana for recreational use.

Only 16 percent of Americans favored keeping the current policy. About 29 percent backed only medical legalization, 5 percent backed decriminalization, and 49 percent backed full legalization. The remaining 1 percent were not sure.

Even among Republicans, who tend to be more conservative on drug policy issues, current federal marijuana law fared poorly: Only 25 percent of Republican voters supported keeping the policy as is, 36 percent backed medical marijuana, 2 percent backed decriminalization, and 36 percent backed full legalization. The majority of Republican voters were for some form of legalization — medical or recreational.

SAM said in a statement that the poll shows the country is evenly split on legalization. The group has often argued that other legalization polls, by posing the issue in a binary yes-or-no style, miss some of the potential nuances in marijuana policy and public opinion.

It’s true that this more nuanced poll finds lower levels of support of legalization than, for example, Gallup or the Pew Research Center, whose most recent surveys found 64 percent and 61 percent support for full legalization, respectively.

 

Read the full article HERE

Dwight Evans first Pa. congress member to cosponsor Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

by Chris Goldstein

When it comes to legalizing marijuana U.S Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) is “one thousand percent on board,” he told me by phone on Thursday afternoon.

Evans officially signed on to HR 1227 Wednesday, a bill that would remove cannabis and hemp from federal drug scheduling completely.

“This is what the people want in the state,” said Evans.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act is sponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a rising Democrat from Hawaii, and Rep. Tom Garrett, a more libertarian-styled Republican from Virginia.

Evans said the recent announcement from the Department of Justice on cannabis enforcement helped move him to co-sponsor the reform bill. “I feel like the Attorney General [Jeff Sessions] is going in the wrong direction. To me, he is playing petty politics because of the Obama administration and this is inconsistent with what people in the states want.”

Pennsylvania has legalized non-smoked forms of medical cannabis, has a thriving industrial hemp program and its large cities — such as Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh —  are decriminalizing possession.

“First, I think I have different view because I served in the state legislature and I voted for the medical marijuana bill,” Evans explained, “Second, I have long believed [marijuana] should be decriminalized because that is what Mayor Jim Kenney did in the city of Philadelphia, particularity because we were targeting African American males [for arrests]. Last, I think that the whole aspect of moving in the direction of recreational marijuana is something that we should do because there are many opportunities in that.”

HR 1227 currently has 22 cosponsors and Evans is the first member of Congress from the tri-state area to join the bill.

 

Read the full article HERE

Is this the year state legislatures lead the charge to pass recreational marijuana laws?

By Omar Sacirbey

While not likely to be as historic as the legalization wave of 2016, this is expected to be a watershed year for the cannabis industry.

For the first time, from all indications, state legislatures are poised to pass recreational marijuana legalization laws, with the East Coast being the most fertile ground for such efforts.

Vermont appears to be leading the charge after state lawmakers Wednesday approved legislation permitting citizens to possess and home grow marijuana. Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he will sign the legislation.

So far, the recreational cannabis laws that exist in eight states and Washington DC have been enacted by voters.

But some state legislatures are poised to lead the way, apparently brushing off the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rip up Obama-era protections for states with legal marijuana industries.

If those efforts are successful, it could provide the impetus for other states to follow.

“This would be a major development for the cannabis industry,” said Michael Bronstein, a marijuana industry advocate who’s involved in efforts to legalize recreational MJ in New Jersey, one of several states where lawmakers are working on adult-use bills.

“It would show lawmakers across the country that they can pass adult-use laws and the sky won’t fall,” he added.

“In fact, it would show that they are in lockstep with public sentiment, which overwhelmingly favors adult-use legalization.”

 

Read the full article HERE.

Who will DOJ target with new marijuana posture?

by Chris Goldstein

State employees tasked with regulating cannabis are just criminal conspirators in vast enterprises involving federally illegal drugs. That sounds absurd, but it’s technically true.

 Now,  U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has changed the position of the Department of Justice regarding state marijuana legalization laws. By rescinding several memos that served as policy directives for federal prosecutors the existential legal possibilities of the past could come into sharper focus.

So, what happens next? To get a forecast on the upcoming weed storm, it’s important to understand why Sessions and his associates care about the Obama-era position at all.

 In 2011 the first Cole memo was released in answer to N.J. Gov. Chris Christie stubbornly peppering the DOJ for “clarification” on medical marijuana (and I got the scoop for my blog).

A former U.S. Attorney in the early 2000s who was appointed by President George W. Bush for being a champion GOP fundraiser, Gov. Christie used his legal expertise to play the weed conflict like a Texas Hold’em champ. At the time, Christie bluffed about being wracked with worry that DEA agents could swoop in to arrest his N.J. Department of Health workers.

The “concerned about state employees” was a common angle used by some prohibitionist Republicans to vote against or even veto compassionate use laws. That’s what led David Ogden and James Cole – two Deputy U.S. Attorneys General under Eric Holder — to write the three memos between 2009 and 2013 addressing the idea of federal authorities trying to, physically, get in the way.

The Ogden and Cole memos crafted a clear diplomatic policy on marijuana between the federal government and the States, almost along the lines of an international agreement. It was refined and summarized as “non-interference.”

That was enough cover for state legislatures to pass safe access laws and state employees to implement full legalization ballot initiatives. The cash-flush marijuana industry crawled under the umbrella too, even if uninvited.

But, President Obama and his administration failed to make a permanent policy. By the time Donald Trump came into office federal marijuana laws hadn’t actually changed one millimeter.

Non-interference is also at the core of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, a federal budget rider that eliminates funding from any DOJ action that could interrupt state marijuana laws. In place since 2014, Rohrabacher-Blumenauer is set to expire on January 19 and Sessions has already asked Congress not to renew it.

In removing all these perceived barriers, the Trump administration is grooming a position from which to actively meddle. Speculation has focused on possible enforcement against those permitted to grow or sell the plant, but that seems unlikely.

On Jan. 4, 2018, the day Sessions rescinded the memos, David Freed, a US Attorney in Pennsylvania (and a Republican) immediately reassured the public that he won’t be shutting down any of Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis facilities that are just sprouting seeds.

Freed’s sentiment was echoed across the country, and without the support of federal prosecutors, the DOJ is very limited indeed. A cornered Sessions may be forced to go further out on a legal limb, turning the old drug warriors’ concerns about health employees into a direct threat.

Chris Christie has also repeatedly used the phrase “blood money” to describe Colorado’s prolific cannabis tax revenue.  If the federal government begins to seriously view those taxes as illegal gains then perhaps Sessions’ other favorite and highly dubious criminal justice tactic will come into play: civil asset forfeiture.

Thankfully, the new DOJ posture towards America’s favorite flower brought instant condemnation from the public and all levels of elected officials, in both parties.

Cory Booker of New Jersey went to the floor of U.S. Senate to express the strong core of social justice that is driving the nation away from prohibition:

“The unequal application of marijuana laws has created a system where an outcome is more dependent on race and class than dependent on guilt or innocence.”

Senator Bob Casey was inspired to make his first major statement on cannabis policy, ever, while Gov. Tom Wolf showed his well-practiced resolve to the Trump administration. A cadre of state politicians in the region also chimed in. It was a moment of political maturity for marijuana legalization.

 

Read the full article HERE

Shrinking Supply For Growing Demand: Philly Down To 3 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia has lost one of its medical marijuana dispensaries and three others that were supposed to be operating by now have postponed their openings. Medical marijuana won’t be available in the city until at least March.

Terra Vida had obtained a permit for a location in Mt. Airy, but founder Chris Visco says, after a zoning fight with city council members, she’s relocating to Chester County.

“We searched throughout the entire city, everywhere we could think of looking,” Visco said. “There was a location on City Line Avenue that we thought would be great, but there was no way to have any private access to our space for delivery of product.”

Visco says between the state rule that deliveries have to be made out of public view, and a city ordinance restricting locations near day care providers, there’s nowhere left in the city to put a dispensary.

Terra Vida’s departure leaves three providers. One is being sued so its future is up in the air. The other two, Integrative Wellness on Frankford Avenue and Holistic Pharma on Krewstown Road, got extensions for opening, as did the other 52 dispensaries statewide. Holistic founder Keith Morgan says growers are only now getting started.

Read the full article HERE