Despite historic opposition, members of the United States Senate voted 52 to 47 last week to approve the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for US Attorney General.
NORML thanks the tens of thousands of you who responded to our action alerts opposing this nomination and the thousands more who took time to make phone calls. While we are disappointed with this outcome, we are pleased that several members of Congress cited the senator’s opposition to marijuana policy reform as an impetus for rejecting his appointment.
We’ve previously told you why Jeff Sessions is the wrong man for the job, but today it is time to move forward, not backward.
So now what?
Well, during his testimony before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, Sen. Sessions said that it is not the responsibility of the Attorney General to pick and choose which federal laws to enforce. “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act,” he said. “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.”
Just hours prior to Sessions’ confirmation vote, US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, introduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.
HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’
Passage of this Act would halt US Attorney General Jeff Sessions or any other federal official from prosecuting individuals and businesses for violating the Controlled Substances Act in the 29 states that permit either the medical or adult use and distribution of marijuana. According to national polling, 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.
With the appointment of Sen. Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, passage of this Act is necessary to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference.
There will be a number of bills in the coming months that will build upon the progress that the movement to legalize marijuana will support. As we always have, NORML will keep you informed and provide you the tools needed to connect with your elected officials.
Please take action today to urge your federal lawmakers to support HR 975, the ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and when you have finished, please also take a moment to make a generous and much appreciated donation to NORML here so that we can continue to make progress in our federal and statewide efforts.
With NORML members throughout the country organizing lobby days and taking action over the coming days and weeks, the fight for cannabis freedom will continue with renewed energy.
NORML has resisted marijuana prohibition for 47 years – We’re not going to stop now; in fact, we’re just getting started. Are you in?
What happens next in regards to marijuana policy is unclear. We can engage in speculation as much as we’d like, but ultimately theorizing on whether or not Sessions will leverage the resources of the Department of Justice to enforce the federal prohibition of marijuana will be discovered soon enough.
For now, we must reflect on the achievements that we have made as a movement which now must be protected and continue to pursue further progress, be it at the state or federal level.
Currently, states that have implemented medical marijuana programs are technically protected from the Department of Justice under the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, however that is set to expire on April 27th unless renewed as a part of the appropriations process.
Jeff Sessions’ history in regards to marijuana policy, including making statements like “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.” and “[Marijuana] 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” are a serious reason for concern and highlight the need to remain vigilant.
During his confirmation process, marijuana legalization supporters with NORML made thousands of phone calls and sent tens of thousands of emails regarding Sessions plans for marijuana policy. While we lost the battle, we continue to win the war.
Our Senators, now more than ever, know this is an issue at the forefront of the minds of American voters and that we are willing and able to mobilize for it. In fact, four Senators referenced Sessions’ position on marijuana as a reason to oppose his nomination during an all night “talk-a-thon” to delay todays vote.
We will never stop fighting for further reforms at the state level and needed federal policy changes. With NORML members throughout the country organizing lobby days and taking direct action, the fight for cannabis freedom will continue with renewed energy.
NORML has resisted marijuana prohibition for 47 years – We’re not going to stop now.
Please consider signing up to be a monthly contributor to ensure that we have the resources we need to stand up to Jeff Sessions and to fight back against our nation’s failed war on marijuana consumers.
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.