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LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • by NORML January 4, 2018

    Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 7.32.58 PMAttorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Department of Justice’s hands-off policy towards state-legal marijuana.

    CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND URGE THEM TO STAND UP TO JEFF SESSIONS AND FOR THE RIGHTS OF PATIENTS AND RESPONSIBLE CANNABIS CONSUMERS.

    “By rescinding the Cole Memo, Jeff Sessions is acting on his warped desire to return America to the failed beliefs of the ‘Just Say No’ and Reefer Madness eras. This action flies in the face of sensible public policy and broad public opinion. The American people overwhelmingly support the legalization of marijuana and oppose federal intervention in state marijuana laws by an even wider margin. This move by the Attorney General will prove not just to be a disaster from a policy perspective, but from a political one. The American people will not just sit idly by while he upends all the progress that has been made in dialing back the mass incarceration fueled by marijuana arrests and destabilizes an industry that is now responsible for over 150,000 jobs. Ending our disgraceful war on marijuana is the will of the people and the Trump Administration can expect severe backlash for opposing it,” said Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director.

    The Cole Memo, 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.

    During a Q and A with reporters in Richmond, VA in March of 2017, Jeff Sessions said, “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,”

    Additionally in 2017, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo. “Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

    Currently, medical marijuana protections are still in effect, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, 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.”

    “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” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “It is time that members of Congress take 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.”

    “If the Trump administration goes 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,” Strekal concluded.

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML December 21, 2017

    18402697_1258339267617410_3397086841457512968_nBackground

    In June of 2016 members of Peachtree NORML began a practice of visiting official law enforcement Facebook pages when marijuana bust “brag” posts were put up. We began expressing our opinions on those posts. Those opinions were often deleted from these official pages and the citizens making them were blocked from commenting. These actions are an abridgment of a citizen’s First Amendment Right to criticize a governmental official or entity. Sheriff Joey Terrell of Habersham County, Georgia was one of the officials who deleted dissenting comments. We decided to contact the ACLU, and they decided to take up our case for us.

    The ACLU sent a letter to Sheriff Terrell, demanding that he cease the practice of deleting dissenting comments and restore commenting capabilities to those persons who had been blocked from the page. Initially, Hunt & Taylor Law Group replied to the letter, stating the following:

    Mr. Young:

    We are the county attorneys for Habersham County, Georgia. While we technically do not represent the Sheriff as he is an elected official and we are retained to represent the Board of Commissioners and various county departments that are not headed by elected officials, we do, on occasion, respond to requests from those elected officials of the County who seek advice. In that regard, the Sheriff shared with us your letter regarding his FaceBook page. He was concerned that it was his personal FaceBook account and contained information that he wanted to share about the Sheriff’s office. I explained to him that as the elected sheriff of Habersham County, he was the “face” of the department – even on his personal FaceBook page. He understands now that he cannot censor comments even on his account. He has advised me that he will make changes to his account and no longer receive any kind of comments but rather use it as an “announcement page”. I personally know very little about FaceBook and do not know exactly how that will be accomplished. My understanding is that his account will no longer be interactive as he is concerned about responses that will not be appropriate – such as bad language. He will now only post news items.

    Donnie Hunt
    County Attorney
    Habersham County, Georgia

     

    I personally felt Sheriff Terrell was taking the coward’s way out but to his credit, so far, he has acquiesced to our demands, restored the ability to comment to those who were blocked, and is still allowing comment. His post concerning the matter has a bit of a “whine” to it, though, and I’ll let you the reader determine if the Sheriff’s “personal” page is really personal, since it is riddled with the trappings of his Office.

    Oaths

    Elected officials in Georgia are required to swear several Oaths before taking office. Among them is an Oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. They don’t get to pick and choose which parts of it they will uphold. They are answerable to US, and we need to hold their feet to the fire when they abridge our rights.

    I hope this sends a clear message to ALL elected officials in Georgia regarding deleting dissenting comments from their Facebook pages. If it doesn’t, and they persist, we’re prepared to take this to the Federal Courts.

    Thank Yous

    I want to thank Sean Young, ACLU GA’s Legal Director, Fallon Traylor (who was the Policy Advocate when this all got started), and Chris Bruce, the Policy Counsel, who pointed me in the right direction to make this happen.

    I also want to thank all the members of Peachtree NORML who took screenshots and shared them with me. Without them, this couldn’t have happened. Thank you for standing up!!

    Much respect for all of you.

    Tom McCain is an Air Force Veteran, retired law enforcement officer, former Chief Deputy of Johnson County, and the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML. You can find out more at http://www.peachtreenorml.org/ and follow their work on Facebook and Twitter. Peachtree NORML is supported by grassroots contributions and your support means a lot – consider making a donation now

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 15, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesAfrican Americans in the city of Buffalo (population 257,000) are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana possession offenses, according to an analysis of arrest data by the advocacy group Partnership for the Public Good.

    Researchers evaluated marijuana arrest data for Erie County, New York for the years 2012 to 2016. Countywide, blacks comprised 71 percent of all low-level marijuana offenders, despite comprising only 13.5 percent of the population. In the city of Buffalo, 86 percent of those arrested for minor marijuana possession violations were either African American (80 percent) or Hispanic (six percent). Blacks and Hispanic represent fewer than 50 percent of the city’s population.

    “[T]he disparities in the number of marijuana possession arrests cannot be explained by a higher use among black or Hispanic people,” authors concluded. “Legalizing marijuana would reduce low-level drug arrests by ten percent, and help reduce racial disparities in overall arrest numbers.”

    Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.

    Full text of the report, “Advancing Racial Equity and Public Health: Smarter Marijuana Laws in Western New York,” appears online here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 14, 2017

    Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 7.32.58 PMDuring a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted his Department of Justice would be required to abide by budget amendments that restrict their use of funding to go after state-legal medical marijuana programs.

    Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) grilled Sessions on a number of his Reefer Madness talking points including his comments stating marijuana consumers are not “good people” and if he believed that he would be bound by budget amendments, like Rohrabacher-Blumenauer and McClintock-Polis, that ban him from using DOJ funds to target state marijuana laws. Sessions agreed.

    This explains why he was vigorously lobbying Republican members of the House to oppose these amendments earlier this year. We know full well that Jeff Sessions despises marijuana and is a die-hard drug warrior from the Just Say No era. While these restrictions remain in place, he cannot pursue his lifelong dream of returning us to old, failed drug war policies.

    Unfortunately, these budget amendments need to be renewed on an annual basis, and so far they have not been for 2018. If these protections go away, there is no guarantee that the Department of Justice won’t begin to implement federal prohibition laws in states that have moved in a more common sense direction on marijuana policy.

    The good news is: YOU CAN HELP STOP SESSIONS IN HIS TRACKS.

    CLICK HERE TO SEND AN URGENT EMAIL TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO URGE THEM TO PROTECT STATE MARIJUANA LAWS NOW!

    The best defense is a good offense and we need to make our voices heard loudly and clearly now, before it is too late. Take a minute today to stand up for respecting state marijuana laws and tell Sessions we won’t accept any attempts to crack down on these important programs. Send a message NOW.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 26, 2017

    Jeff_Sessions_(29299022521)In an interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his position against marijuana, his commitment to enforcing its prohibition, and expressed an openness to use RICO suits against businesses that handle the plant.

    Earlier this year, Cully Stimson of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank that has a tremendous amount of influence within the leadership of the Republican Party, penned an 11-point plan advising the Justice Department on how to crack down on the states, businesses, patients, and consumers of marijuana. So far, Sessions has followed the first 4 points and the 9th is the implementation of RICO suits.

    Just because the Justice Department has yet to make overt policy changes or action in the first 9 months of the administration, it certainly does not mean that it is not coming. You can see it in the words of the Sessions himself. We have already seen them issue new guidelines to rev up charges against those suspected of drug-related crimes, pursue maximum sentences for those charges, and an escalation in the department’s ability to utilize civil asset forfeiture to deprive those charged of their possessions.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative and demand a descheduling of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act to end federal prohibition. 

    Below is the transcript of the exchange (emphasis added):

    HH: I hope they’re looking. It’s becoming a little bit chilling how big they are. Let me turn to marijuana, Mr. Attorney General. A lot of states are just simply breaking the law. And a lot of money is being made and banked. One RICO prosecution of one producer and the banks that service them would shut this all down. Is such a prosecution going to happen?JS: I don’t know that one prosecution would be quite as effective as that, but we, I do not believe that we should, I do not believe there’s any argument, because a state legalized marijuana that the federal law against marijuana is no longer in existence. I do believe that the federal laws clearly are in effect in all 50 states. And we will do our best to enforce the laws as we’re required to do so.

    HH: But one prosecution that invokes a supremacy clause against one large dope manufacturing concern, and follows the money as it normally would in any drug operation and seizes it, would shut, would chill all of this. But I haven’t seen on in nine months, yet. Is one coming?

    JS: Really analyze all those cases, and I can’t comment on the existence of an investigation at this time, Hugh, you know that, so, but I hear you. You’re making a suggestion. I hear it.

    HH: I’m lobbying.

    JS: (laughing) You’re lobbying.

     

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