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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

Trump administration to end policies that let legal marijuana flourish

by Sam Wood & Justine McDaniel

The Trump Administration is rescinding the Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will instead let federal prosecutors decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law in states where it is legal, according to a memo obtained Thursday by Politico.

The move adds to the confusion about whether it’s OK to grow, buy, or use marijuana in states where pot is legal since the long-standing federal law prohibits it.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), described the action as “unjust, backwards” and “wrong.”

“Jeff Sessions’ determination to revive the failed War on Drugs knows no bounds.” Booker said. “History has shown that our deeply broken drug laws disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color and cost us billions annually in enforcement, incarceration, and wasted human potential, without making us any safer. This unjust, backwards decision is wrong for America, and will prove to be on the wrong side of history.”

Session’s memo comes days after pot shops opened in California, launching what is expected to become the world’s largest market for legal recreational marijuana and, as polls show, a solid majority of Americans believe the drug should be legal.

New Jersey and Delaware have had medical marijuana programs for several years. Pennsylvania is set to make medicinal cannabis available in the coming months for patients suffering from any one of 17 serious health conditions. It was unclear Thursday morning how Session’s move will impact the state programs.

While Sessions has been carrying out an agenda that follows Trump’s top priorities on such issues as immigration and opioids, the changes to pot policy reflect his own concerns. Trump previously has stated decisions about marijuana should be left to the states, but the president is known to change his mind on a whim.

Reaction in the Philadelphia region to the Sessions announcement was swift.

“Will Sessions single-handedly crush a $7.2 billion industry spanning 30 states, generating millions in taxes, and providing tens of thousands of jobs?” said Steve Schain, an attorney with the Hoban Law Group, a national firm with dozens of marijuana business clients.

Lindy Snider, a cannabis-industry investor who is prominent in Libertarian circles, said rescinding the Obama-era policy “makes absolutely no sense.”

“I’m so angry about it,” Snider said. “The government is supposed to operate at the will of the governed. That’s just part of the American Constitution. This should not be about Jeff Session’s opinions. Over 50 percent of Americans say legalize this. He better have a damn good plan.”

Read the full article HERE

17 US House Representatives Support Regulating Cannabis Like Alcohol

BY 

US House Representatives from 10 different states are now on board with legalizing cannabis on the federal level with the same regulations as alcoholic beverages.

The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act is supported by 16 Democrats and one Republican Representative — Rep. Rohrabacher, Dana [R-CA-48], bringing the total up to 17 representatives.

Another possible supporter is the Florida GOP Congressmen Matt Gaetz, who is pushing the federal government to make it easier for researchers to study cannabis.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Pennsylvania just handed out its first 100 licenses to doctors who intend on prescribing medical marijuana.

A couple weeks ago, Pennsylvania also approved its first medical marijuana grower as well, so it seems that the Keystone state is on a very weed friendly track.

 

Read more HERE

 

You’re Fired? Wrinkle In PA’s Medical Marijuana Law Raises Concern About Drug Testing

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council, last week, voted to hold hearings on a new wrinkle in the medical marijuana law. Their concern is whether patients can be fired for using it, even if it’s prescribed by a doctor.

The law eliminates criminal prosecution for using medical marijuana but doesn’t address other obstacles to use. Councilwoman Cherelle Parker says that raises a question.

“What will happen to employees that are medical marijuana patients but who’s employers do drug testing?”

She hopes the hearings will bring clarity to the issue and maybe develop possible adjustments to suggest to the state legislature. Otherwise, she says, it’s likely to end up in court. That is precisely where the issue has landed in a couple of the other states that approved medical marijuana. In those cases, courts have held medical marijuana users are not covered by disability protections and employers can dismiss them if using it for any reason violates company policy.

Read the full article HERE.

Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment extended until December

By John Schroyer

A key federal law protecting the medical marijuana industry from interference by the U.S. Department of Justice has been extended until Dec. 8 under the provisions of an emergency aid package approved Friday by Congress, Marijuana Business Daily has learned.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment – which has had to be renewed annually by Congress and was formerly known as Rohrabacher-Farr – was set to expire Sept. 30.

However, it will now remain in place for at least several more months. The amendment prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana programs, or from prosecuting MMJ businesses compliant with state law.

“That’s right … extended through Dec. 8,” a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, one of the sponsors of the amendment, wrote to Marijuana Business Daily in an email.

The amendment’s future was thrown into doubt this week when the House Rules Committee blocked the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment – along with several other cannabis amendments – from receiving floor votes.

But an emergency aid package for victims of Hurricane Harvey also extended the current federal budget, meaning that the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment has received at least a stay of execution.

President Donald Trump signed the package into law Friday.

Amendment’s third reprieve

This is the third time the amendment has remained in place by default because Congress has kicked the can down the road on the federal budget: It survived two previous expiration dates in April and May, also without being voted on apart from the entire federal budget.

That, however, means the amendment’s future is still in doubt, said Massachusetts-based cannabis attorney Bob Carp.

“I do think it’s a coin flip. It’s only a three-month extension,” Carp said. “It makes me a bit uneasy.”

In the face of such federal uncertainty, and with a U.S. attorney general who is openly anti-marijuana, the marijuana industry must “start circling the wagons,” Carp added.

 

Read the full article HERE .

Wolf: Don’t let feds target medical marijuana

Governor backs amendment preventing DOJ action

By Roger DuPuis

Gov. Tom Wolf has raised concerns about the future of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program as Congress fights over funding U.S. Justice Department efforts to thwart such initiatives.

Republican congressional leaders on Wednesday appeared headed to block a vote by the full House on an amendment denying the Justice Department funding to crack down on the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use despite federal laws outlawing the drug.

Wolf urged lawmakers to support the amendment by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), that would prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent states from implementing medical marijuana laws.

It was not immediately clear how federal opposition might affect Pennsylvania’s program — or how quickly — and a Wolf spokesman could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

There are those, meanwhile, who feel legalization in Pennsylvania should go even further.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has been advocating for the legalization of recreational marijuana, a step he believes could raise $200 million for the cash-strapped state.

DePasquale reiterated that call in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed Thursday morning.

Wolf said disrupting medical marijuana programs would cause suffering for patients.

“Twenty-nine states have passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana and there is broad support among the medical community of its benefits,” said Wolf, who signed Pennsylvania’s program into law in 2016. It is expected to go into operation next year.

“Unfortunately, the Trump administration seems intent on impeding those suffering, including children and veterans, from getting the relief that is available to them,” Wolf said.

The U.S. government disagrees.

Read more HERE.

Congressmen question DOJ’s decision to halt cannabis research

A group of congressmen from states with legal medical or recreational marijuana programs sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions challenging the Department of Justice’s move to stop researching cannabis.

According to the Denver Post, Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colorado; Matt Gaetz, R-Florida; Dana Rohrabacher, R-California; and Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, cited a Washington Post report that the Justice Department halted plans that would have allowed more marijuana research.

The letter – first obtained by Tom Angell of MassRoots – also cited a Scientific American report that more than two dozen entities have completed marijuana research applications but none have been approved.

According to the Denver Post, the lawmakers wrote:

“It is worrisome to think that the Department of Justice, the cornerstone of American civil society, would limit new and potentially groundbreaking research simply because it does not want to follow a rule.

“We write to inquire whether the allegations raised … are true, and, if so, to understand the Department of Justice’s rationale in refusing to process these applications.”

The lawmakers also requested that the DOJ restart the cannabis research application process because “it is in keeping with President Trump’s campaign promises, and the best interests of the American people.”

 

Read the full article HERE.