Earlier this week, the Drug Enforcement Administration ordered that 250 pounds of hemp seed be seized at Louisville Airport in Kentucky. The seeds were being imported by the Kentucky government from Italy to plant at state universities in their hemp pilot program. Kentucky legalized industrial hemp in 2013 and the federal government approved legislation this year that allowed states to engage in limited hemp cultivation.
When the DEA refused to return the seeds under reasonable conditions, the Kentucky Agriculture Department filed suit against the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Attorney General Eric Holder.
On Friday, there was a preliminary hearing regarding the lawsuit. During the hearing, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II stated that the DEA must explicitly state what would need to be done for those participating in the pilot program to have the seeds returned. Federal officials responded that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture must fill out a narcotics license in addition to providing memorandum of agreement with the departments of universities planning to cultivate the crop.
In an interview discussing the hearing with the Huffington Post, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer stated, “It sounds like a victory, but I’m not going to declare victory until those seeds go in the ground. It was very positive today. But we’ve felt pretty good throughout this entire process over the last several weeks, and the DEA would come back and change again. I’m not celebrating. It will be a victory when I have those seeds in hand.”
Elected officials across the state have voiced their support for the hemp program and decried the actions of federal officials. US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated, “It is an outrage that DEA is using finite taxpayer dollars to impound legal industrial hemp seeds.”
According to the Congressional Resource Service, the US is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop. However, in February, members of Congress for the first time approved language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill allowing for the cultivation of industrial hemp in agricultural pilot programs in states that already permit the growth and cultivation of the plant.
The next court hearing is expected to occur on Wednesday, May 21. NORML will keep you updated as the situation evolves.
In the coming days, members of the House of Representatives are expected to debate and vote on budget appropriation legislation for the Department of Justice. Representatives Rohrabacher and Farr will be introducing an amendment to this measure to prevent any of the department’s funding from being used to interfere with medical marijuana programs in states that have approved them.
Twenty-one states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — as well as the District of Columbia have enacted laws protecting medical marijuana patients from state prosecution. Yet in all of these states, patients and providers still face the risk of federal sanction — even when their actions are fully compliant with state law.
It is time that we allowed our unique federalist system to work the way it was intended. Patients, providers, and their state representatives should have the authority to enact laws permitting the medical use of cannabis — free from federal interference.
Please write your members of Congress today and tell them to stop using taxpayer dollars to target and prosecute state-authorized medical marijuana patients and providers. For your convenience, a prewritten letter will be e-mailed to your member of Congress.
“NORML PAC is pleased to announce our endorsement of Wes Neuman for Congress in Florida’s 7th district. Florida needs new, bold leadership and we believe Wes will be a great champion for the cause of marijuana law reform in Washington, DC,” said NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “A vote for Wes Neuman is a vote to end our failed federal prohibition and to begin to move our country towards new, sensible marijuana policies. NORML PAC is delighted to support him in this campaign.”
“Current federal marijuana policies waste taxpayer dollars. It is unacceptable to continue allowing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair laws to squander billions of dollars and ruin thousands of lives,” stated Wes Neuman, “That’s why, as a Member of Congress, I will advance policies to fully legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana, which will reduce government spending and increase tax revenues. Legalizing marijuana will more efficiently allocate and save $17.4 billion annually. In Florida, that’s as much as $440 million per year, which is nearly 100% of what the Florida Department of Education allocated for Student Financial Aid for 2013-2014. This is an easy policy decision.”
You can view an interactive map of the 7th district here and see if Wes will be on your ballot in the upcoming election.
A new report released this week by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project reveals that marijuana arrests have actually increased in New York City under the new leadership of Mayor De Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton.
In March 2014, the NYPD performed more marijuana possession arrests than in any month in the last six months under the Bloomberg administration. In fact, March 2014 saw more arrests than in 10 of the 12 months in 2013 under the previous administration. The total number of arrests for first quarter of 2014 are higher than both the third and fourth quarters of 2013.
These arrests also continue the disturbing trend of disproportionately falling on individuals of color. In Brooklyn, in predominately white Park Slope, police made just 7 marijuana possession arrests in the first three months of 2014. In Carroll Gardens and Red Hook they made 12 marijuana arrests in that same time frame. More affluent neighborhoods saw even fewer arrests. In Manhattan, Police only made two marijuana possession arrests in the Tribeca/Wall Street area, one arrest in the Upper East Side, and four arrests in the Upper West Side. The story is quite different in predominately black or latino neighborhoods, where the police made significantly more arrests. In Bedford-Stuyvesant 111 individuals were arrested, 130 in Crown Heights, and 438 in East New York from January to March of this year.
Despite similar use rates across racial groups, 86% of those arrested in the first quarter of 2014 were blacks and Latinos.
Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College, City University of New York, and co-director of Marijuana Arrest Research Project said:
“At 28,000 arrests a year, New York still makes more marijuana possession arrests than any city in the world. Yet the simple possession of marijuana has not been a crime in New York State since 1978. Isn’t it time for these unfair, biased, damaging, often illegal arrests to just stop, now?”
NORML PAC has endorsed Neda Bolourian in her campaign to represent District 2 on the Montgomery County Council in Maryland.
“NORML PAC believes that Neda will bring a fresh perspective and new leadership to the Montgomery County Council,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Her strong support for legalizing marijuana and reforming Maryland’s marijuana laws makes her a great champion for the cause. Her smart approach to these issues will help Montgomery County more effectively allocate its criminal justice and law enforcement resources away from arresting marijuana consumers and focus them more on violent crime.”
“Prohibition didn’t work in the early 20th century and it’s clear it isn’t working now. The only path forward is to promote realistic drug policies,” Neda Bolourian said, “We need full legalization and nothing less. I’m thrilled to bring the movement for drug reform to Montgomery County.”
You can read Neda’s public statement in favor of marijuana legalization on her campaign Facebook page here. To learn more about the campaign, check out their website, Facebook, and Twitter. The Democratic Primary for Maryland is scheduled for June 24th, you can consult this map of Montgomery County’s District 2 and see if Neda will be appearing on your ballot.