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Jeff Sessions

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 25, 2018

    On Wednesday, January 24th, fifty-four members of Congress representing both political parties sent a letter to President Trump denouncing the recent rescinding of the Cole Memo by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Led by Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Senate side and Representative Jared Polis in the House, the signers stated:

    “These new policies have helped eliminate the black market sale of marijuana and allowed law enforcement to focus on real threats to public health and safety. This action by the Department of Justice has the potential to unravel efforts to build sensible drug policies that encourage economic development as we finally move away from antiquated practices that have hurt disadvantaged communities.”

    The Cole Memo was 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.

    The signers further pointed out the during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump declared that “we should leave (marijuana) up to the states.” You can read the full letter by clicking here.

    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.

    It is great to see leaders like Senator Warren and Representatives Polis, Blumenauer, and others step up to demand 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.”

    Should the Trump administration go 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.

    Send a message to your elected officials to speak out against AG Sessions. 

  • 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 Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 15, 2018

    As tensions between AG Sessions and federal lawmakers continues to grow, proponents of marijuana legalization are finding new allies in state legislatures around the country. Despite the recent move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo, a 2013 DOJ memorandum that allowed state sanctioned marijuana business to thrive despite the quagmire between state and federal laws, lawmakers in several states are advancing marijuana reform legislation.

    Reject AG Sessions’ Efforts to Revert to the Failed Criminal Policies of the ‘Just Say No’ Era.

    Within hours of the rollout of the DOJ’s new policy, lawmakers in Vermont passed a depenalization bill out of the House and Senate with overwhelming support and it’s now headed to Governor’s office. With Governor Scott already promising to sign the measure into law, it’s safe to say that Vermont will surely be the newest thorn in the side of an already agitated Sessions. As if the news from Vermont isn’t frustrating enough for the Attorney General, House lawmakers in New Hampshire also passed legislation that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and up. And Thursday, members of the New York State Assembly heard hours of testimony in support of adult use regulation.

    In addition to the advancement of marijuana law reform legislation in Vermont and New Hampshire, a number of other states such as Kentucky, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri and New Mexico will also be debating several marijuana-related bills during their 2018 legislative sessions. To support these legislative efforts, members of Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML, Springfield NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML will be meeting with their state representatives to encourage support for marijuana reform legislation

    With the help of NORML chapters, 2018 could prove to be a very successful year for marijuana law reform efforts.

    Virginia NORML

    Taking a more conservative approach than lawmakers in Vermont and New Hampshire, lawmakers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are considering both medical marijuana and decriminalization bills this session. While there hasn’t been any notable criticisms of the DOJ’s new policy from the state legislature, Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) recently introduced HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act which would gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML had this to say about the current political climate.

    “Attorney General Sessions isn’t stopping Virginia from moving forward in the 2018 legislative session with both medical cannabis expansion and decriminalization. We have strong, bipartisan representatives working on marijuana policy in Congress, Reps. Beyer, Garrett, Griffith and Taylor, and the same holds true in our State House. Republicans and Democrats are united on advancing these common sense reforms demanded by the overwhelming majority of Virginians.”

    Las Vegas NORML

    In Nevada, where state lawmakers approved a measure to fast track rules and regulations for the state’s adult-use marijuana program in 2017, the news of the DOJ’s new policy prompted partisan reactions from Carson City. While Republican lawmakers refrained from publicly criticizing AG Sessions, Democratic Senator Tick Segerblom wasted no time. Speaking to a group of legalization advocates at a rally outside of a marijuana dispensary In Las Vegas, Senator Segerblom had this to say:

    “Contact your legislators in Washington DC and tell them to tell Trump to back off until we get this thing resolved. This is a great industry for Nevada. The people have spoken…this is a state’s rights issue.”

    After hearing the news about the shift in federal policy, Chris Thompson, executive director of Las Vegas NORML quickly shifted his focus from state-level lobbying efforts to mobilizing pro-marijuana advocates and scheduling meetings with Congressional leaders.

    “It’s definitely a precarious situation right now, but thankfully Las Vegas NORML is working with our representatives at the state and federal level to prevent Sessions from trampling over states’ rights and prosecuting legal cannabis,” said Thompson.

    With virtually no federal lawmakers expressing support the Sessions’ reversal, as reported by Politico, and state lawmakers seemingly unphased by this shift in the administration’s tone, it appears that AG Sessions severely underestimated the political juggernaut the issue of marijuana legalization has become.

    For more information about a NORML’s 2018 lobbying efforts, email Chapters@NORML.org or visit http://norml.org/about/chapter-calendar for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings. If you’re unable to attend a NORML lobby day in your state, please take a few minutes to contact your representatives using NORML’s Action center http://norml.org/act

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 12, 2018

    Representative Barbara Lee

    Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK today filed a resolution, HR 4779, known as The RE.F.E.R. Act, prohibiting the federal government from taking punitive action against those operating in states where the use and distribution of marijuana is legal.

    NORML is pleased to have worked with Rep. Lee’s office in drafting the language of HR 4779, which “protects individuals in states that have laws which permit the use of cannabis” for either medical or recreational purposes. Specifically, HR 4779 bars federal funding for any efforts that seek to “detain, prosecute, sentence, or initiate civil proceedings against an individual, business or property that is involved in the cultivation, distribution, possession, dispensation, or the use of cannabis in accordance with the law or regulation of the state or unit of local government in which the individual is located.”

    “The federal government should respect the will of the voters in states that have voted to decriminalize cannabis. It’s time to stop wasting taxpayer money on the failed War on Drugs,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “I’m proud to introduce the REFER Act, which would prevent the Attorney General and others in the Trump Administration from stifling the budding cannabis industry. If the federal government chooses to interfere in these state matters, it’s up to Congress to prevent this harmful overreach.”

    It also prohibits the federal government from taking any punitive action against a financial institution “solely because the institution provides financial services to an entity” that is involved in state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities.

    Take action today to tell Congress to support HR 4779!

    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 pivotal that you urge your elected officials to act on HR 4779.

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