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Department of Justice

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate April 5, 2016

    marijuana_gavelMembers of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, lead by Senate Judiciary Chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) gathered this morning for a hearing titled, “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?”

    Invited participants at today’s hearing included an advisory board member for a national anti-marijuana organization and the Nebraska Attorney General who sought to overturn Colorado’s marijuana regulation laws by filing a lawsuit with the Supreme Court. Clearly, Senator Grassley and co-chair, Senator Feinstein (D-CA) did not gather lawmakers to discuss how to move marijuana policy reform forward, but backwards.

    Senator Grassley’s hearing appeared, by and large, to be an effort to try and shame the Department of Justice into taking action to overturn the regulatory laws of states that are presently regulating marijuana production and sale. The panelists presented a laundry list of purported dangers that they claimed to be the result of changes in marijuana laws, such as supposed spikes in teenage use and traffic collisions.

    There was, however, one highlight for marijuana reformers during today’s hearing. When witness Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of California, Sacramento, California was asked by Sen. Grassley as to why the Department of Justice isn’t challenging adult use marijuana state laws, he responded: “The decision to intervene would not be solely based on data. If we took out regulation of the market and just left decriminalization, it may leave a more chaotic system than it is now.”

    By contrast, arguably the hearing’s lowlight came from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who spoke longingly of about the decade of ‘Just Say No’ and claimed, “[G]ood people don’t smoke marijuana.”

    The hearing’s tone, while predictable, is nonetheless disappointing. That is because the CARERS Act, bipartisan legislation to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections, is pending before the US Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Grassley. To date, the senator has pledged not to hear the bill, despite the fact that medical marijuana legalization is supported by 80 percent of his own constituents and an estimated 78 percent of voters nationwide.

    If you live in Iowa, you can contact Senator Grassley and urge him to hold hearings on the CARERS Act here. If you don’t live in Iowa, you can urge your own elected officials to support the CARERS Act here.

    To view an archived video of today’s Congressional hearing, please visit: http://www.drugcaucus.senate.gov/hearings.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director December 12, 2014

    In a completely unexpected move by the Obama Administration, the US Department of Justice released a memo on October 28 indicating to Native American tribes that they can engage in cannabis commerce–cultivation, processing and retail sales–as long as they comport with the existing eight rules put forward in a previous August 2013 Obama Administration memo allowing states the autonomy to develop cannabis-based businesses in states where voters have passed binding ballot initiatives or elected policymakers have passed reform legislation.

    • Distribution of marijuana to minors
    • Revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels
    • Diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it remains illegal
    • State-authorized marijuana activity being used as a cover for trafficking other illegal drugs or activity
    • Violence or the use of firearms as part of cultivation and distribution of marijuana
    • Drugged driving or the exacerbation of other negative health consequences associated with marijuana use
    • Growing marijuana on public lands
    • Marijuana possession or use on federal property

    It's NORML to smoke pot

    US News writes that “there are 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow marijuana for medical or recreational use, such as Oklahoma, Utah and the Dakotas. Others are located near major East Coast cities and far from legal pot stores in the West.

    “The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” U.S. attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues, told the Times.

    In a statement, the Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys will review tribal marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the right to enforce federal law.

    “Each U.S. attorney will assess the threats and circumstances in his or her district, and consult closely with tribal partners and the Justice Department when significant issues or enforcement decisions arise in this area,” the statement says. 

    Read the DOJ memo allowing Native American tribes to regulate cannabis-related businesses here.

    A detailed map of Native American tribes is found here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director January 28, 2013

    Huffington Post reporters Ryan Grimm and Ryan Reilly publish one of the most comprehensive and insightful pieces to date on the current friction between state and federal laws regarding cannabis in America, and conclude that federal prosecutors at the regional level—not elected policymakers or department leaders in Washington—are largely creating an ad hoc enforcement policy from state-to-state.

     

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director November 30, 2011

    The governors of Rhode Island and Washington have both signed a petition asking the Obama Administration to re-schedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II, effectively ending the federal government’s total prohibition on medical patients having lawful and controlled access to organic cannabis products.

    “The situation has become untenable for our states and others. The solution lies with the federal government.”

    Both Governors Lincoln Chafee and Christine Gregoire of Rhode Island and Washington respectively were, ironically, two state governors who chose to heed to the warnings issued by the federal government in a Department of Justice memo (known as the ‘Cole memo‘) and not move forward with otherwise popular medical cannabis law reforms in their states. 

    However, no more! These two governors’ action today is a very important turning point in the history of cannabis law reform in America.

    Contrastingly, the governors of Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico and the city council of D.C. all largely ignored the federal government and moved forward with their states’ respective medical cannabis programs.

    NORML began the entire legal and political debate about ‘medical marijuana’ in 1972 when it launched a 24-year re-scheduling effort, that is still laboring on all these years.

    Therefore to finally witness governors so frustrated with the absurdly mis-scheduled cannabis plant as being dangerous, addictive and possessing no medical utility (wrongly grouped with heroin and LSD) that they are reaching out to the president to fix this clear injustice and warping of science is a clear demonstration that the friction between the federal government’s recalcitrance on accepting medical cannabis (or for that matter ending Cannabis Prohibition in total) and state politicians who can no longer justify towing the fed’s ridiculous ban on physician-prescribed cannabis to sick, dying and sense-threatened medical patients is coming to a dramatic conclusion in a government showdown, one that may bode well for the larger Cannabis Prohibition reforms needed, festering just below the surface of the public’s mass acceptance of medical access to cannabis.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 7, 2011

    “This is not an idle threat. … What we’re trying to do is send a message as broadly as possible. … We are serious about enforcing federal law. … We are not just talking about it, but we are doing something about it. … Prosecuting marijuana cases is a higher priority now.”
    –statements of the US Attorneys for the four federal districts in California

    We’ve seen this coming for some time, but today the gloves officially came off. No more memos filled with false promises; no more phony pledges to respect states rights, no more giggles. Like a caged animal backed into a corner, the federal government is snarling and spitting back. It has no other way to defend its morally bankrupt policy except through a show of strength and intimidation.

    California’s Top Federal Law Enforcement Officials Announce Enforcement Actions Against State’s Widespread and Illegal Marijuana Industry

    via the US Department of Justice, Eastern District of California

    SACRAMENTO, Calif.: October 7, 2011 – The four California-based United States Attorneys today announced coordinated enforcement actions targeting the illegal operations of the commercial marijuana industry in California.

    The statewide enforcement effort is aimed at curtailing the large, for-profit marijuana industry that has developed since the passage of California’s Proposition 215 in 1996.

    … While the four United States Attorneys have tailored enforcement actions to the specific problems in their own districts, the statewide enforcement efforts fall into three main categories:

    · Civil forfeiture lawsuits against properties involved in drug trafficking activity, which includes, in some cases, marijuana sales in violation of local ordinances;

    · Letters of warning to the owners and lienholders of properties where illegal marijuana sales are taking place; and

    · Criminal cases targeting commercial marijuana activities, including arrests over the past two weeks in cases filed in federal courts in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno.

    The enforcement actions being announced today are the result of the four United States Attorneys working with federal law enforcement partners and local officials across California to combat commercial marijuana activities that are having the most significant impacts in communities.

    “The actions taken today in California by our U.S. Attorneys and their law enforcement partners are consistent with the Department’s commitment to enforcing existing federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), in all states,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

    … Laura E. Duffy, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, commented: “The California marijuana industry is not about providing medicine to the sick. It’s a pervasive for-profit industry that violates federal law. In addition to damaging our environment, this industry is creating significant negative consequences, in California and throughout the nation. As the number one marijuana producing state in the country, California is exporting not just marijuana but all the serious repercussions that come with it, including significant public safety issues and perhaps irreparable harm to our youth.”

    Melinda Haag, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, said: “Marijuana stores operating in proximity to schools, parks, and other areas where children are present send the wrong message to those in our society who are the most impressionable. In addition, the huge profits generated by these stores, and the value of their inventory, present a danger that the stores will become a magnet for crime, which jeopardizes the safety of nearby children. Although our initial efforts in the Northern District focus on only certain marijuana stores, we will almost certainly be taking action against others. None are immune from action by the federal government.

    Dozens of letters have been sent over the past few days to the owners and lienholders of properties where commercial marijuana stores and grows are located. In the Southern and Eastern Districts, the owners of buildings where marijuana stores operate have received letters warning that they risk losing their property and money derived from renting the space used for marijuana sales. In the Central District, … prosecutors have sent letters to property owners in selected cities where officials have requested federal assistance, and they plan to continue their enforcement actions in other cities as well. In the Northern District, owners and lienholders of marijuana stores operating near schools and other locations where children congregate have been warned that their operations are subject to enhanced penalties and that real property involved in the operations is subject to seizure and forfeiture to the United States.

    … The statewide coordinated enforcement actions were announced this morning at a press conference in Sacramento.

    It has been apparent for some time now that the Obama Administration is escalating its efforts to both crack down on existing above ground, medical cannabis operations in states like California, as well as to thwart the establishments of similar operations in additional states.

    So why these stepped up efforts now? The answer ought to be self-evident. The intention of these and other recent, well-publicized threats by the Obama administration is to stifle the development of a viable legal cannabis distribution industry, even in states that have enacted legislation to allow for such an industry.

    During today’s conference, all four US Attorneys affirmed that their intent is not to target individual, state-compliant medical cannabis consumers per se, but to emphasize that the Department of Justice is opposed to the regulated commerce of medical cannabis. That’s because once this industry has legitimized itself to the public and local lawmakers in California, Colorado, and elsewhere, then voters will become accustomed to safe, secure, well-run businesses that deliver consistent, reliable, tested cannabis products. They’ll appreciate the way well-regulated medical dispensaries revitalize sagging economies, provide jobs, and contribute taxes to budget-starved localities. They’ll realize all the years of scaremongering by the government about what would happen if marijuana were legal, even for sick people, was nothing but hysterical propaganda. And the voting public will eventually ask: ‘Why we don’t just legalize cannabis for everyone in a similarly responsible manner?’

    And that is a question this administration has consistently indicated that the President is unable or unwilling to answer.

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