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.
It’s official, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has set January 10-11, 2017 for the confirmation hearing of noted marijuana law reform opponent Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to become the next Attorney General.
Already it appears that Sen. Grassley will try to keep the hearings as short as possible and restrict the number of witnesses who testify. From the Judiciary Committee press release:
“The hearings for the four most recent Attorneys General lasted one to two days each. At each of those hearings, three to nine outside witnesses testified.”
It’s clear the hope is to rush the process as much as possible in order to obtain a successful confirmation given Sessions’ failed history of earning the approval of the Judiciary Committee for a previous judicial appointment in the 1980’s.
In 1986, Sessions was appointed by the Reagan Administration to serve as a federal judge, yet his confirmation was voted down 8-10 in the Republican controlled committee, with two Republicans joining the Democrats in opposition over claims of racial prejudice, including off handed remarks about supporting the Ku Klux Klan until he discovered that they smoke marijuana. At the time, Sessions was just the second judicial federal appointee denied confirmation in 50 years.
The implications for marijuana policies at the state level could be dire. As recently as April of this year, during a Senate hearing, Sessions proclaimed that “good people do not use marijuana.” How a potential Attorney General Sessions would treat the 29 states that have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana is still unclear and could prove devastating to the decades of hard-fought progress that we have made on behalf of responsible marijuana users.
Over the last several weeks, we have received dozens of calls from journalists with the same question: “What does NORML think that President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jefferson Sessions will do in regards to marijuana once in office?”
However, the best public indicators we have to go on give mixed messages. Additionally, in nearly all of the articles that NORML has been quoted in about Trump and Sessions, not one indicates that the writer had even attempted to contact the presidential transition team or Sen. Sessions.
So we’ve released our own request for clarification and we need you to join us in demanding answers as to how the federal government is going to respect the will of the voters in states that have ended prohibition.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to take a federalist approach to marijuana stating:
“In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state… Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
Yet his nomination of Sen. Sessions sends a very different signal. Just this past April, he stated that “Good people do not smoke marijuana” in the questioning of current Attorney General Loretta Lynch. His legislative track record and public comments show no intentions of ending marijuana prohibition or respecting the millions of responsible cannabis consumers throughout the country. If Senator Sessions’ personal beliefs were allowed to dictate the policies of the Justice Department, we could be in for a rough four years.
With 8 states now having legalized the adult use of marijuana and over half the country having medical marijuana programs, the American people deserve to know what President-Elect Trump’s policy towards these states will be.
Going forward we must be vigilant to protect the progress we have made, keep fighting to protect the rights of responsible adults, and end finally end the prohibition of marijuana nationwide.
We have some dire news to share. This morning, President-Elect Trump announced his pick for Attorney General and it couldn’t be much worse for the marijuana law reform movement and our recent legalization victories.
Trump’s pick, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is a militant prohibitionist. We could go into great detail how Senator Sessions has been an outspoken opponent against reform, but in this case his rhetoric is so off the wall…we’ll let his past statements speak for themselves:
“You have to have leadership from Washington. You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana … you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”
“It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
“Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to [marijuana] and it is not harmless.”
His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
Senator Sessions is clearly out in the deep end when it comes to issues of marijuana policy and he stands diametrically opposed to the majority of Americans who favor the legalization and regulation of marijuana. This could foreshadow some very bad things for the eight states that have legalized marijuana for adult use and in the 29 states with with medical marijuana programs. With the authority the position of Attorney General provides, Sessions could immediately get to work attempting to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, dismantling a legal industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, and begin conducting massive raids on existing medical and recreational retail stores.
We must be ready to fight back. We must be ready to mobilize in defense of all of our hard fought victories. We already have our opponents calling for a recount in Maine and prohibitionists in Massachusetts working to gut core provisions like home cultivation from their state’s initiative. With an assist from a newly minted prohibitionist Attorney General, things might get worse before they get better.
Help us send a message to President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions that the American people won’t stand for intervention into state marijuana programs and we want to move towards descheduling at the federal level and legalization in all 50 states.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 643,122 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2015. Of those arrested, 574,641 (89 percent of all marijuana-related arrests) were charged with marijuana possession only, not cultivation or trafficking.
The annual arrest total represents more than a 25 percent decline since 2007, when police arrested a record 872,721 Americans for violating marijuana laws.
Since 2012, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the adult use and possession of personal quantities of cannabis, leading to a dramatic decline in marijuana-related arrests in those jurisdictions.
As in previous years, marijuana possession arrests were least likely to occur in the western region of the United States, where possessing the plant has largely been either legalized or decriminalized.
According to 2016 nationwide survey data compiled by the Associated Press, some six out of ten Americans now say that the adult use of marijuana should be legally regulated.