JUST IN: Sessions Evades Firm Answer on State Marijuana Laws, Leaves Door Open for Federal EnforcementJanuary 10, 2017
During his confirmation for the position of Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions failed to give a straight answer with regard to how the Justice Department should respond to states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.
The Alabama Senator was questioned by both Sens. Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) with respect to whether the principles of federalism ought to apply to state marijuana laws.
Senator Leahy: “Would you use our federal resources to investigate and prosecute sick people using marijuana in accordance with state law even though it might violate federal law?”
Senator Sessions: “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy, but absolutely it is a problem of resources for the federal government. The Department of Justice under Lynch and Holder set forth some policies that they thought were appropriate to define what cases should be prosecuted in states that have legalized, at least in some fashion marijuana, some parts of marijuana.”
Senator Leahy: “Do you agree with those guidelines?”
Senator Sessions: “I think some of them are truly valuable in evaluating cases, but fundamentally the criticism I think that is legitimate is that they may not have been followed. Using good judgment on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine I know it wont be an easy decision but i will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”
Senator Leahy: “The reason I mention this, is because you have some very strong views, you even mandated the death penalty for second offense on drug trafficking, including marijuana, even though mandatory death penalties are of course unconstitutional.”
Senator Sessions: “Well I’m not sure under what circumstances i said that, but I don’t think…”
Senator Leahy: “Would you say it‘s not your view today?”
Senator Sessions: “(laughs) It is not my view today.”
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) followed up with questions regarding how marijuana policy factors into federalism and asked if the way the Obama Administration has handled marijuana laws created any issues with separation of powers and states rights. Sessions replied that, “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule, it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”
So, after finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday. If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states. If Sessions wants to be an Attorney General for ALL Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention.
Clearly, the battle is just beginning to protect state legalization and medical marijuana laws. Can you contribute today to help us keep up our federal political actions and advance our efforts for state-level law reform?
Now that 29 states have legalized medical marijuana, eight have legalized adult-use, and several others are considering legislation to legalize either adult-use or medical marijuana during the 2017 legislative session, it’s obvious that the end of marijuana prohibition is near. But that doesn’t mean the ongoing conflict between local, state and federal laws has become any less confusing.
Unfortunately for Ted Hicks and Ryan Mears, two marijuana farmers from Sacramento, California, this confusion lead to a military style raid and both men being charged with illegally cultivating marijuana, a misdemeanor, and conspiracy for planning “to commit sales of marijuana,” a felony.
“I told my 2-year-old son to stay upstairs,” said Mears, 35. “When I opened the security door, there were 15 cops with assault rifles drawn, pointed, with their fingers on the trigger, in vests, ski masks. They grabbed me and pulled me out front, put me in handcuffs. There were 20 to 30 officers. My son walked downstairs and my wife had to grab him. They had guns pulled on them. It was real painful.”
Regardless of spending several months working with local regulators to establish what they thought was the legal framework for their business, Big Red Farms, and being considered “shinning stars” for their diligence related to local licensing, Hicks and Mears found themselves at the business end of automatic weapons. A clear sign that they had become victims of the patchwork of marijuana laws adopted by local and state officials across California prior to the passage of Proposition 64.
If found guilty, both men could face up to one year in jail, and pay thousands of dollars in fines and court costs.
GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin have a track record of opposing efforts to reform marijuana laws in the Badger State, but a recent comment from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has some marijuana advocates hopeful for progress during the 2017 legislative session.
“If you get a prescription to use an opiate or you get a prescription to use marijuana, to me I think that’s the same thing,” Vos said, a surprising position after years of GOP opposition to legalizing any form of marijuana. “I would be open to that.”
Of course this came as a surprise to many, especially after Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Governor Scott Walker have both repeatedly stated that they will continue to oppose any effort to advance the issue in the state of Wisconsin. Regardless of the lack of support from GOP leadership, Sen. Van Wanggaard is expected to sponsor legislation that would make it legal to possess cannibidiol (CBD) – the marijuana extract known for treating seizures associated with epilepsy – during the upcoming legislative session.
Officials in the Village of Oswego, Illinois recently passed an ordinance that allows local law enforcement to issue tickets and fines to anyone found with small amounts of marijuana or certain drug paraphernalia. For example, if a person is in possession of drug paraphernalia and is convicted of possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana, the charge for the paraphernalia is now considered a civil law violation, punishable by a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum fine of $200.
Marijuana-related offenses became civil violations after the Illinois state legislature voted to amended the Cannabis Control Act in 2016, but it is up to local governments to amend their local marijuana laws to reflect the change at the state level.
“Oswego’s fines will begin at $100 for the first offense and $150 and $250 for second and third offenses. There is a maximum $750 penalty for repeat violators,” said Oswego Police Chief Jeff Burgner.
The City of Yorkville adopted a similar ordinance in October.
Read more here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/aurora-beacon-news/news/ct-abn-oswego-marijuana-st-0105-20170104-story.html
Beginning Tuesday, January 10, members of the US Senate will begin confirmation hearings on the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for the position of US Attorney General — the top law enforcement officer in the land.
As a US Senator, Sessions has been among the most outspoken anti-marijuana opponents in Congress, and he was one of only 16 US Senators to receive a failing grade from NORML in our 2016 Congressional Report Card.
Senator Sessions has a long and consistent record of opposing any efforts to reform marijuana policy. He once notoriously remarked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” More recently, he condemned the Obama administration’s ‘hands off’ policy with regard to state marijuana laws, stating, “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”
Fast-forward to today: Senator Sessions is on the cusp of becoming the top law enforcement officer in the United States. That is, unless your members of the US Senate hear a loud and clear message from you!
If confirmed by the US Senate to be US Attorney General, Sen. Sessions will possess the power to roll back decades of hard-fought gains. He will have the authority to challenge the medical marijuana programs that now operate in 29 states and the adult use legalization laws that have been approved in eight states. Senator Sessions views on marijuana are out of step with those of the majority of the American public and also with those of President-Elect Trump, who has said that questions regarding marijuana policy are best left up to the states, not the federal government. In short, the appointment of Sen. Sessions would be a step backwards at a time when the American public is demanding we push marijuana legalization forward. He is the wrong man for the job, and he represents a clear and present danger to the marijuana law reform movement.
Please take action today to assure that he is vetted properly. At a minimum, Sen. Sessions must be asked whether he intends to respect the will of the voters in the majority of US states that have enacted to pursue alternative marijuana policies. If he is not willing to act on the behest of the majority of Americans and to respect the laws of the majority of US states, then he does not deserve the support of the cannabis reform community.