Speaking today before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, Deputy Attorney General James Cole reaffirmed that the Justice Department is unlikely to challenge statewide marijuana legalization efforts, provided that these efforts impose “robust regulations” which discourage sales to minors and seek to prevent the diversion of cannabis to states that have not yet legalized its use.
“We will not … seek to preempt state ballot initiatives,” Cole told members of the Committee, adding that state “decriminalization [laws] can co-exist with federal [drug] laws.”
In an August 29 Department of Justice memorandum, Deputy Attorney General Cole previously directed the US Attorneys in all 50 states not to interfere with the implementation of state marijuana regulations, unless such activities specifically undermined eight explicit federal law enforcement priorities.
In response to a question from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cole also stated that federal prosecutors should utilize similar discretion and not interfere with the activities of state-compliant cannabis dispensaries, as long as their actions “are not violating any of the eight federal enforcement priorities” outlined here. Rhode Island is one of six states, as well as Washington, DC, that presently licenses the production and distribution of medical cannabis. Six additional states are expected to enact similar licensing regulations in the coming months.
Several Senators and witnesses questioned whether the Justice Department would consider amending federal financial regulations which presently inhibit state-compliant cannabis businesses from taking standardized tax deductions and partnering with conventional financial institutions. Deputy Attorney General Cole responded that such proposed changes in law were arguably the responsibility of Congressional lawmakers, not the Justice Department.
Commenting on the hearing, NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri said, “For the first time in modern history, members of the US Congress and the Justice Department were not discussing furthering cannabis prohibition, but instead were testifying to the merits of cannabis legalization and regulation.”
Today’s hearings marked the first time that members of Congress have explicitly weighed in on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws since voters in Colorado and Washington elected to legalize the retail production and sale of the plant this past November. The hearing was called for by Senate Judiciary Chairmen Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who acknowledged that the federal government “must have a smarter approach to marijuana policy.” Witnesses at today’s hearing also included King County, Washington Sheriff John Urquhart — a vocal supporter of the state’s new legalization law — and Jack Finlaw, Chief Legal Council for the Colorado Governor’s Office.
Archived video of today’s US Senate Judiciary hearing is online here.
DEA seizures of indoor and outdoor cannabis crops declined dramatically from 2011 to 2012 and are now at their lowest reported levels in nearly a decade, according to statistics released online by the federal anti-drug agency.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2012 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the total number of cannabis plants eradicated nationwide fell 42 percent between 2011 and 2012. This continues a trend, as DEA crop seizures previously fell 35 percent nationwide from 2010 to 2011.
In 2010, the DEA eliminated some 10.3 million cultivated pot plants. (This figure excludes the inclusion of feral hemp plants, tens of millions of which are also typically seized and destroyed by DEA agents annually, but are no longer categorized in their reporting.) By 2011, this total had dipped to 6.7 million. For 2012, the most recent year for which DEA data is available, the total fell to 3.9 million — the lowest annual tally in nearly a decade.
The declining national figures are largely a result of reduced plant seizures in California. Coinciding largely with the downsizing of, and then ultimately the disbanding of, the state’s nearly 30-year-old Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program, DEA-assisted marijuana seizures in the Golden State have fallen 73 percent since 2010 — from a near-record 7.4 million cultivated pot plants eradicated in 2010 to approximately 2 million in 2012. DEA-assisted cannabis eradication efforts have remained largely unchanged in other leading grow states during this same period.
The DEA’s 2012 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report is available online here.
Marijuana prohibition has taken yet another innocent life. In January 2013, two- year-old Alexandra Hill was taken from her home in Round Rock, Texas because her parents had admitted to smoking pot after their child had gone to bed. As a result, she was placed with an abusive foster mother, who subsequently beat her to death.
According to her father, Joshua Hill, who spoke with KVUE, a local ABC affiliate, “She would come to visitation with bruises on her, and mold and mildew in her bag. It got to a point where [he] actually told CPS that they would have to have [him] arrested because [he] wouldn’t let her go back.” A few days later, the Hill family got a call informing them that their daughter was in a coma, and they needed to get to the hospital right away. Two days after that, Alex was taken off life support. Up until she was snatched from her family in January, the 2 year old had never been sick or gone to the hospital.
“When a parent who responsibly consumes marijuana after hours is seen as neglectful in comparison to a parent who responsibly enjoys a glass of wine, then the system isn’t just broken, it’s deadly,” said Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach at NORML. Little Alex’s fate was sealed the minute the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) determined that such behavior qualifies as “neglectful supervision,” and put her with a foster mother who had not been given a proper background check.
This is just one more tragic casualty of marijuana prohibition. However, the practice of child snatching by CPS from marijuana-using parents is by no means unique to this story. Current policy gives state agencies the right to legally kidnap minors and infants from their loving parents’ home (simply for the fact that they are cannabis consumers), and place them in an unknown, possibly dangerous or truly neglectful environment. Hundreds of similar CPS cases pop up around the country every year. Only when the government changes its view, and policies on marijuana can we truly protect the rights and integrity of good parents who responsibly consume cannabis after hours and out of their child’s view. It’s time for CPS, the state of Texas and the federal government to step up, take responsibility for all of the damage they have caused, and commit to ending this disastrous and fatal policy.
Over the last year or so I’ve read about and on occasion met with the newly minted ‘cannabis CEOs’ in America (men and women who’re at the vanguard of creating a sustainable cannabis industry in America post prohibition). Most of them talk in couched terms regarding what they ‘hope’ to see happen with a legal cannabis market in the US or issue over-the-top and breathless press releases that seek to attract investor attention.
However, Vice Magazine has produced a very fascinating and revealing short documentary featuring a real life cannabis industry CEO who walks the walk when it comes to not only taking substantive legal chances to further his businesses, but one who lives his life as-a-always-interested-stakeholder in the future of humans being able to access high quality cannabis products.
Having met Amsterdam’s Arjan Roskom of the famed Green House coffeeshops and seed company on a number of occasions previously, I was hardly surprised when Vice contacted me to review their documentary that Arjan was featured and had provided them an insider’s view of what it is like to be a genuine cannabis industry maverick.
The Vice documentary focuses on Arjan and his lead cultivator traveling to the deep jungles of Colombia to re-locate three famed sativa strains of cannabis historically cultivated in this region of South America.
Cannabis kudos to Vice and Arjan!
In what can only be described as a horrible tragedy for college student Daniel Chong–as well as for the American taxpayer–the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration has agreed to pay $4.1 million dollars to Mr. Chong for falsely imprisoning him after an April 20, 2012 party, and worse, literally forgetting about him in a holding cell for five days where Mr. Chong drank his own urine to survive, and cut himself to leave a dying message to his mother.
To date no DEA field agents or local managers have been held responsible for this gross error (ironically, only the taxpayer is left being the responsible party in this legal nightmare).
This kind of abuseful and money-wasting government nitwittery is another prime example of why cannabis prohibition must end in America post haste.
San Diego Union Tribune article about the settlement, and previous news coverage, is below:
By Jeff McDonald1:08 a.m.July 30, 2013
Daniel Chong, the self-confessed pot smoker who was caught up in a drug sweep last year and nearly died after federal agents inadvertently abandoned him in a holding cell for five days without food or water, is now a millionaire.
Attorney Eugene Iredale announced Tuesday he reached a $4.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, without even filing a lawsuit.
The harrowing experience for Chong, 25, an engineering student, began on a Friday night in 2012, when he admittedly went to some friends’ house in University City to celebrate April 20, a special date for marijuana users.
Chong didn’t know it at the time, but the home had been under surveillance by a federal narcotics task force.
Drug agents executed a search warrant early in the morning of April 21, Among other things, they found 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana and several weapons in the residence, according to court papers.
The agents also found Chong sleeping on a couch in the front room and transported him and six others to the San Diego field office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for follow-up interviews.
Chong said he answered all of the agents’ questions and they agreed to send him home without criminal charges.
But instead he was returned to a temporary holding cell, where he spent the next four days without food or water. He has said he became delirious, drank his own urine, ate the broken shards of his glasses and used the glass to cut the message “sorry mom” in his own forearm.
He said he kicked the door and screamed for help but agents never came to his assistance. DEA agents admitted later they “accidentally” left Chong in the cell and took the unusual step of apologizing publicly to the UCSD student.
DEA officials declined to comment about the case Monday.
Findings of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Justice have not been released.