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LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • by NORML February 1, 2018

    Cannabis PenaltiesSan Francisco city officials announced plans yesterday to begin reviewing and automatically expunging thousands of past marijuana possession convictions.

    The District Attorney’s office says that it will review, dismiss, and seal an estimated 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975. The office also intends to review and resentence many past felony convictions.

    Provisions in the state’s 2016 voter-approved marijuana law allow those with past marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement. However, because this process that is often time consuming and can cost hundreds of dollars in legal fees, San Francisco’s D.A. George Gascón says that his office will instead “wipe out convictions en masse.”

    Commenting on the policy change, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement, “This example, one of many across our state, underscores the true promise of Proposition 64 – providing new hope and opportunities to Californians, primarily people of color, whose lives were long ago derailed by a costly, broken and racially discriminatory system of marijuana criminalization.”

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano concurred, telling reporters: “The stigma associated with a marijuana arrest and criminal conviction is lifelong, and can directly lead to numerous lost opportunities later in life. The San Francisco District Attorney’s office is to be commended for proactively rectifying this situation — one that has disproportionately burdened far too many young people and people of color. Let’s hope other jurisdictions follow San Francisco’s lead in righting the wrongs of cannabis criminalization.”

    Perhaps even more importantly, legislation now pending in the California Assembly, AB 1793, seeks to expand this automatic expungement process statewide. If you reside in California, please click here to use NORML’s Action Alert to urge your lawmakers to support this critical legislative effort.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 20, 2018

    Not much.

    Temporary medical cannabis patient protections that have been imposed by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment have now expired with the rest of government spending.

    The amendment, which has been in place since 2014, maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Without these protections, medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries exist with a greater threat than normal of federal enforcement of national prohibition, yet the certainty that these protections would be honored have been in doubt throughout the entire Trump administration.

    When President Trump signed the first Continuing Resolution in 2017, he issued a signing statement regarding the amendment:

    “Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

    Essentially stating that his administration believes they can ignore these protections if they do not view them to be Constitutional.

    Under this mentality, Attorney General Jeff Sessions could have moved in to shut down medical marijuana facilities at any point. Should Sessions crackdown, we are confident that we would win a court challenge, given previous rulings on this very question. However, it would be a reactive exercise after an enforcement action, and during that process, the patients who relied on a supply chain to get them their medication would not have a lawful means to do so.

    So now, if the government reopens under another CR, then the protections will go back into place and we will be right back where we were in an uneasy détente. The threat of Sessions on one side and medical patients in a state-lawful system trying to alleviate their suffering.

    Further, Congressional leadership must reauthorize this language as part of the forthcoming budget in order for the provisions to stay in effect in any new spending deal. Last July, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) offered identical language before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved it. However, House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) has refused to allow House members to vote on similar language. The provision will now be considered by House and Senate leadership when the two chambers’ appropriations bills are reconciled, should Congress ever set a FY18 budget, of which we are already three and a half months in.

    Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and tell them to retain these protections.

  • by NORML January 19, 2018

    Attorney General and Anti-Marijuana Crusader Jeff Sessions

    Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) held a bipartisan special order on Wednesday, January 17th to address the implications surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the Cole Memo. Simply put, a special order is a practice in Congress where a member is able to speak on any topic they wish after the House of Representatives has been adjourned for the day.

    Rep. Gaetz was joined by Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Lou Correa (D-CA), and Mark Sanford (R-SC) to articulate the case on behalf of the beneficiaries of the Cole Memo. The memo was originally drafted by former U.S. Attorney General James Cole in 2013 and was issued to attorneys in states where medical or recreational marijuana was legal. The memo stipulates that as long as the states follow certain rules – i.e. the prevention of distributing marijuana to minors – the states are able to regulate marijuana with very little federal interference.

    The Cole Memo signaled a shift away from the use of federal funds to regulate marijuana, giving states a more laissez-faire, states rights approach to cannabis. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and is listed as a schedule one drug signaling to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse, both of which any follower of published research would know to not be true.

    In light of the increasing acceptance and legalization of both medical and adult use marijuana, AG Sessions’ decision puts the nascent cannabis industry in an increased state of anxiety and threatens medical marijuana users’ access to cannabis.

    Gaetz spoke on behalf of his constituents benefiting from medical marijuana and gave the floor to Curbelo, Correa, and Sanford who all unanimously pointed to the overwhelming advantages of the Cole Memo. The representatives remarked on Sessions’ decision as a move backwards for marijuana policy and medical marijuana recipients.

    Sessions defended his decision as a “return to the rule of law,” but the removal of the Cole Memo could result in increased profits for criminal enterprises in the illegal marijuana trade. Curbelo went so far as to say that the Attorney General “has actually done a great favor to those who operate outside the law and is punishing those who are actually trying to control this substance.”

    Sessions’ unprecedented move threatens the cannabis industry, legalization, and recipients of medical marijuana. The special order demonstrates a bilateral effort amongst Congress to preserve the rights and autonomy of states to regulate cannabis.

    Has your member of Congress spoken out yet? Click here to send them a message right now.

    Too often we don’t thank those who speak up on our behalf, so please also take the next step and call to thank the Representatives for taking to the floor of the House on behalf of protecting our progress by using this easy and short script:

    “Thank you for standing up and speaking on behalf of the states’ rights to regulate marijuana on January 17th.

    It’s encouraging to see your office take a leadership role in this debate and I encourage the Representative to continue to do so by co-sponsoring HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act to protect the rights of the people and state legislatures that have reformed their cannabis laws.”

    Below are the phone numbers of the Representatives who spoke up on the floor during the special order:

    Matt Gaetz (R, FL-01), 202-225-4136

    Carlos Curbelo (R, FL-26), 202-225-2778

    Lou Correa (D, CA-46), 202-225-2965

    Mark Sanford (R, SC-01), 202-225-3176

  • by NORML January 18, 2018

    Rep. Ted Lieu

    Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-CA) and Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) have reintroduced HR 4816: The Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act.

    The measure restricts civil asset forfeiture funds from being used for the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication / Suppression Program. The bill would prohibit the transfer of property that would be used for cannabis eradication from a federal or state/local agency and ensures precious federal resources are not wasted on marijuana eradication.

    With the Justice Department having rescinded Obama-era directives limiting the federal government’s involvement in marijuana states, and with the future of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment uncertain, it is essential that elected officials address this measure and halt officials from taking civil actions against state-compliant operators who have never even been convicted of a crime.

    Now that one in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized, it’s more important than ever to defang the DEA.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative to encourage them to support this bill.

    Upon introduction, Rep. Lieu said:

    “The Federal Government has a responsibility to spend taxpayer money wisely. Instead, AG Jeff Sessions would rather waste federal dollars by attacking marijuana, which has been legalized either for medical or recreational use in the majority of states in the U.S. The DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program is a waste of time and money and runs contrary to the will of the people.”

    Upon introduction, Rep. Amash said:

    Civil asset forfeiture is an unconstitutional practice whereby the government takes people’s property without due process. The DEA’s use of proceeds acquired through civil asset forfeiture to expand marijuana enforcement—a state-level issue—makes the already unacceptable practice even worse. I’m pleased to introduce the Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act along with Rep. Lieu to end this program.

    Rep. Lieu additionally included a message from NORML Political Director Justin Strekal in his announcement of the bill:

    “Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. With eight states and the District of Columbia now having legalized its personal use and 30 states having legalized medical marijuana, it is time that the DEA cease interfering with state-legal programs and stop wasting taxpayer dollars that would be better directed at going after the pill-mills contributing to the nations opioid crisis.”

  • by NORML January 4, 2018

    Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 7.32.58 PMAttorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Department of Justice’s hands-off policy towards state-legal marijuana.

    CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND URGE THEM TO STAND UP TO JEFF SESSIONS AND FOR THE RIGHTS OF PATIENTS AND RESPONSIBLE CANNABIS CONSUMERS.

    “By rescinding the Cole Memo, Jeff Sessions is acting on his warped desire to return America to the failed beliefs of the ‘Just Say No’ and Reefer Madness eras. This action flies in the face of sensible public policy and broad public opinion. The American people overwhelmingly support the legalization of marijuana and oppose federal intervention in state marijuana laws by an even wider margin. This move by the Attorney General will prove not just to be a disaster from a policy perspective, but from a political one. The American people will not just sit idly by while he upends all the progress that has been made in dialing back the mass incarceration fueled by marijuana arrests and destabilizes an industry that is now responsible for over 150,000 jobs. Ending our disgraceful war on marijuana is the will of the people and the Trump Administration can expect severe backlash for opposing it,” said Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director.

    The Cole Memo, a Justice Department memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 to US attorneys in all 50 states, directs prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

    During a Q and A with reporters in Richmond, VA in March of 2017, Jeff Sessions said, “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,”

    Additionally in 2017, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo. “Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

    Currently, medical marijuana protections are still in effect, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    “At a time when the majority of states now are regulating marijuana use in some form, and when nearly two-thirds of voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or moral perspective for Attorney General Sessions to take this step” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “It is time that members of Congress take action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and to end the needless criminalization of marijuana — a policy failure that encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.”

    “If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels,” Strekal concluded.

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