JUST IN: Sessions Evades Firm Answer on State Marijuana Laws, Leaves Door Open for Federal EnforcementJanuary 10, 2017
During his confirmation for the position of Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions failed to give a straight answer with regard to how the Justice Department should respond to states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.
The Alabama Senator was questioned by both Sens. Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) with respect to whether the principles of federalism ought to apply to state marijuana laws.
Senator Leahy: “Would you use our federal resources to investigate and prosecute sick people using marijuana in accordance with state law even though it might violate federal law?”
Senator Sessions: “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy, but absolutely it is a problem of resources for the federal government. The Department of Justice under Lynch and Holder set forth some policies that they thought were appropriate to define what cases should be prosecuted in states that have legalized, at least in some fashion marijuana, some parts of marijuana.”
Senator Leahy: “Do you agree with those guidelines?”
Senator Sessions: “I think some of them are truly valuable in evaluating cases, but fundamentally the criticism I think that is legitimate is that they may not have been followed. Using good judgment on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine I know it wont be an easy decision but i will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”
Senator Leahy: “The reason I mention this, is because you have some very strong views, you even mandated the death penalty for second offense on drug trafficking, including marijuana, even though mandatory death penalties are of course unconstitutional.”
Senator Sessions: “Well I’m not sure under what circumstances i said that, but I don’t think…”
Senator Leahy: “Would you say it‘s not your view today?”
Senator Sessions: “(laughs) It is not my view today.”
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) followed up with questions regarding how marijuana policy factors into federalism and asked if the way the Obama Administration has handled marijuana laws created any issues with separation of powers and states rights. Sessions replied that, “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act. 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.”
So, after finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday. If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states. If Sessions wants to be an Attorney General for ALL Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention.
Clearly, the battle is just beginning to protect state legalization and medical marijuana laws. Can you contribute today to help us keep up our federal political actions and advance our efforts for state-level law reform?
Senate lawmakers are only days away from deciding whether Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions will become the next Attorney General — the top law enforcement officer in the land.
Senator Sessions is a militant opponent of any efforts to reform marijuana policy who once notoriously remarked that the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” He is a staunch proponent of the long-discredited ‘gateway theory,’ and has called on federal officials to return to the ‘Just Say No’ rhetoric of the 1980s. In fact, he was one of only 16 US Senators to receive a failing grade from NORML in our 2016 Congressional Report Card because of statements like these:
“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.”
“[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.”
Senator Sessions’ views are out of step with mainstream America and they are in conflict with the laws of over half of the states. We must demand that Senators ask this nominee whether he intends to respect the will of the voters in these states, and whether he truly believes that no “good people” have ever smoked pot.
If confirmed by the US Senate, Sen. Sessions will possess the power to roll back decades of hard-fought gains. He will have the authority to challenge the medical marijuana programs that now operate in 29 states and the adult use legalization laws that have been approved in eight states.
Call your Congressional Switchboard and ask to be patched through to your home state Senators at (202) 224-3121 to tell them to have Sessions clarify his intentions or be defeated.
If you don’t know who your Senators are you can click HERE to find out.
Use this script:
“Hello, my name ______. I am a constituent and I am calling regarding the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. Senator Sessions views on marijuana are completely out of step with those of the majority of the American public. They also conflict with the stated views of President-Elect Trump, who said on the campaign trail that questions regarding marijuana policy are best left up to the states, not the federal government. For these reasons, I urge you to ask Sen. Sessions whether he intends to respect the will of the voters in the majority of US states that have enacted to pursue alternative marijuana policies. If his answers are unsatisfactory, I urge you to reject his nomination.”
You can also email your Senators by clicking here.
We have some dire news to share. This morning, President-Elect Trump announced his pick for Attorney General and it couldn’t be much worse for the marijuana law reform movement and our recent legalization victories.
Trump’s pick, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is a militant prohibitionist. We could go into great detail how Senator Sessions has been an outspoken opponent against reform, but in this case his rhetoric is so off the wall…we’ll let his past statements speak for themselves:
“You have to have leadership from Washington. You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana … you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”
“It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it 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.”
“Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to [marijuana] and it is not harmless.”
His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
Senator Sessions is clearly out in the deep end when it comes to issues of marijuana policy and he stands diametrically opposed to the majority of Americans who favor the legalization and regulation of marijuana. This could foreshadow some very bad things for the eight states that have legalized marijuana for adult use and in the 29 states with with medical marijuana programs. With the authority the position of Attorney General provides, Sessions could immediately get to work attempting to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, dismantling a legal industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, and begin conducting massive raids on existing medical and recreational retail stores.
We must be ready to fight back. We must be ready to mobilize in defense of all of our hard fought victories. We already have our opponents calling for a recount in Maine and prohibitionists in Massachusetts working to gut core provisions like home cultivation from their state’s initiative. With an assist from a newly minted prohibitionist Attorney General, things might get worse before they get better.
Help us send a message to President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions that the American people won’t stand for intervention into state marijuana programs and we want to move towards descheduling at the federal level and legalization in all 50 states.
Members of Congress this week heard testimony on the state of marijuana research, and leading members of the U.S. Senate introduced legislation to potentially reclassify CBD. A medical marijuana initiative in Montana qualified for the November ballot and Governors in three states signed marijuana related bills into law. Keep reading below to get this week’s latest marijuana news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.
On Wednesday, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a hearing titled, “Researching Marijuana’s Potential Medical Benefits and Risks”. Testimony was provided by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who are co-sponsors of the CARERS Act, as well as by officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While several witnesses were asked by the committee whether or not they expected the DEA to reschedule cannabis, none provided a direct answer. An archive of the hearing is available online here.
Today, US Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Leahy (D-VT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced legislation, the “Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.” The Act requires the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be reclassified under the Controlled Substances Act and would expand research on the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and other marijuana components. You can voice your support for this measure, as well as other pending federal legislation, by clicking here.
Hawaii: On Tuesday, Governor David Ige signed legislation, House Bill 2707, to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.
The measure expands the pool of practitioners who may legally recommend cannabis therapy to include advanced nurse practitioners. Separate provisions in the bill remove the prohibition on Sunday dispensary sales and on the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia by qualified patients. Other language in the bill permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing, but maintains existing prohibitions banning individual patients from engaging in inter-island travel with their medicine.
Full text of the bill is available here.
Missouri: Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation into law today making it easier for those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.
The legislative measure expands the number of offenses eligible for expungement from roughly a half dozen to more than 100 non-violent and non-sexual crimes. It also allows people to expunge their records sooner, shortening the waiting period to three years for misdemeanors and to seven years following a felony offense. However, the law does not take effect until January 1, 2018.
Missouri’s NORML coordinator Dan Viets said, “This law will allow many thousands of people who have a marijuana conviction on their public records to escape the lifelong disabilities such a conviction has caused in the past.”
For more information, contact Missouri NORML here.
Montana: On Wednesday, a statewide initiative to expand and restore the state’s medical marijuana program qualified for the November ballot. The initiative is seeking to reverse several amendments to the program that were initially passed by lawmakers in 2011.
If approved by voters, I-182 allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a “debilitating medical condition” for which a physician may certify medical marijuana, among other changes. You can read the initiative language here.
Pennsylvania: On Monday, legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp” was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.
This measures allows state-approved applicants to research and cultivate industrial hemp as part of an authorized pilot program. This proposal is compliant with Section 7606 of the omnibus federal farm bill, authorizing states to sponsor hemp cultivation pilot programs absent federal reclassification of the plant. More than two dozen states have enacted similar legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. #TakeAction
Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo signed legislation, House Bill 7142, this week to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers previously overwhelmingly approved the measure. Full text of the bill is available here. The new law went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.
This has been an exceptionally busy week at the state and federal level for marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get the latest news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.
A bipartisan coalition of House and Senate lawmakers have proposed legislation, the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016, to expedite clinical investigations into the safety and efficacy of cannabis. Passage of the measures — House Bill 5549 and Senate Bill 3077 — would expedite federal reviews of clinical protocols involving cannabis, provide greater access to scientists who wish to study the drug, and mandate an FDA review of the relevant science. #TakeAction
Arkansas: Representatives of the group Arkansas for Compassionate Care turned in over 100,000 signatures from registered voters this week in hopes of qualifying the 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act for the November ballot. The proposed initiative establishes a statewide program for the licensed production, analytic testing, and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Under the program, patients diagnosed by a physician with one of over 50 qualifying conditions – including ADHD, intractable pain, migraine, or post-traumatic stress – may obtain cannabis from one of up to 38 licensed non-profit care centers. Qualified patients who do not have a center operating in their vicinity will be permitted to cultivate their own medicine at home.
In 2012, 51 percent of voters narrowly rejected a similar statewide initiative, known as Measure 5. However, recent polling shows that support has increased dramatically since then, with 84 percent of registered Arkansas voters agreeing that “adults should be legally allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes.”
For more information on the campaign, please visit Arkansans for Compassionate Care.
California: Both the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the California Democratic Party have publicly endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The initiative, which is expected to appear on the November ballot, permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possession and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes.
Delaware: House lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation, SB 181, to permit designated caregivers to possess and administer non-smoked medical marijuana formulations (e.g. oils/extracts) to qualifying patients “in a school bus and on the grounds or property of the preschool, or primary or secondary school in which a minor qualifying patient is enrolled.” Senate lawmakers previously approved the bill on June 9th.
Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, is expected to sign the legislation into law. The measure will take effect upon the Governor’s signature. To date, two other states — Colorado and New Jersey — impose similar legislation.
Florida: Elected officials of yet another Florida county have voted to provide local law enforcement with the option to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana possession offenders. Osceola County commissioners passed the ordinance on Tuesday. The new ordinance is similar to those recently passed in Orlando, Tampa, Volusia County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, West Palm Beach, Key West, Hallandale, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade county.
New Jersey: Legislation to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions eligible for medical marijuana is moving forward through state legislature.
Members of the Assembly approved the legislation in a 56 to 13 vote on June 16th. On the same day, members of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved an identical measure, Senate Bill 2345, in a 6 to 3 vote. Thirteen states already allow PTSD patients to access medical marijuana including Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
The measure now awaits a vote by the full Senate. #TakeAction
New York: Legislation has been approved to facilitate the processing and sale of hemp and locally produced hemp products. The measures, A 9310 and S 6960, expand upon New York’s existing hemp research program to permit for the sale, distribution, transportation and processing of industrial hemp and products derived from such hemp. Under existing law, licensed farmers are only permitted to engage in the cultivation of hemp for research purposes as part of an academic program.
Both chambers have approved the legislation so now it awaits a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo.#TakeAction
Rhode Island: House and Senate lawmakers approved House Bill 7142, legislation to permit post-traumatic stress patients to be eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers overwhelmingly approved the measure. It now heads to the desk of Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo.#TakeAction
House and Senate lawmakers also approved legislation to create the “Hemp Growth Act “. This measure will classify hemp as an agricultural product that may be legally produced, possessed, and commercially distributed. The Department of Business Regulation will be responsible for establishing rules and regulations for the licensing and regulation of hemp growers and processors. The Department is also authorized to certify any higher educational institution in Rhode Island to grow or handle or assist in growing or handling industrial hemp for the purpose of agricultural or academic research. The legislation now awaits action from Governor Gina Raimondo. If signed, the law will take effect January 1, 2017.#TakeAction