Rohrabacher-Blumenauer

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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

 

Congressional Cannabis Caucus Chairs Reiterate Need for Permanent Medical Marijuana Protections

U.S. Representatives Dana Rohrabacher and Earl Blumenauer want the feds to keep their hands off state-approved legal weed forever, and not just until the end of this year.

House Republicans have tried their hardest to dismantle the federal medical marijuana protections known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, blocking a vote from and putting forth their best effort to remove it from the 2018 fiscal budget. And while a heap of hurricane-fueled disaster relief funding has kept the provision on the books until the second week of December, 2017, the short-term plan means Jeff Sessions and the DEA could still be raiding pot shops from Boulder to Boston by New Years.

In an effort to prevent that potentially grim future, U.S. Representatives Dana Rohrabacher and Earl Blumenauer, the co-chairs of the recently formed Congressional Cannabis Caucus, issued a press release calling for continued protection for the state-approved businesses and customers.

While the media and politicians on both sides of the aisle may still be reeling from the shock of the president’s first bipartisan agreement, the Cannabis Caucus hasn’t lost focus of its mission.

“While this action provides a measure of certainty for the millions of medical marijuana patients and the clinics and business that support them, much more needs to be done.” The press release reads. “More than 95 percent of Americans now have state-legal access to some form of medical marijuana. The American people have spoken, and Congress needs to hear them. Ultimately, we need permanent protections for state-legal medical marijuana programs, as well as adult-use. Prohibition is a failed policy resulting in nothing more than wasted resources and lives.”

Funding for the 2018 fiscal year remains unsolidified, so there is still hope for the Rohrabacher-Farr protections to be extended. After the House GOP’s initial attempt at blocking the amendment, though, it certainly appears that the Cannabis Caucus has their work cut out for them.

Read more 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 .