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Jeff Sessions

  • 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.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 5, 2018

    Jeff_Sessions_(29299022521)

    Following yesterday’s announcement by the DOJ that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had rescinded the Cole Memo, an Obama-era memorandum issued by Attorney General James Cole in 2013, federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle quickly denounced the decision.

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

    In addition to taking to the floor of the Senate to express his frustrations, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) continued to vent on Twitter. He had this to say:

    “This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.”

    Sharing some of the same frustrations as her counterpart in the Senate, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) shared the following in a email to supporters:

    “Sessions’ actions to protect the bottom lines of the for-profit private prison industry, and Big Pharma whose opioids and drugs flourish in part due to the marijuana prohibition, while trampling on states’ rights and turning everyday Americans into criminals, is the latest injustice that the Attorney General has suffered on the American people.”

    Being the cosponsor of pending legislation, that if passed by Congress would stop AG Sessions in his tracks, Representative Gabbard also took a minute to encourage support for her bill, HR 1227:

    “I am calling on every member of Congress to take up the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act to remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances.”

    With prominent Democrats and Republicans promising a fight and threatening to derail DOJ nominations, and thousands of calls and emails from activists asking lawmakers to reject Mr. Sessions’ misguided plan, it appears that political courage comes in many forms.

    To join the fight, take a few minutes to contact your representative and encourage their support for HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-bill-introduced-to-end-federal-marijuana-prohibition and email Chapters@NORML.org for a list of upcoming meetings and lobby days.

  • 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 Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director November 29, 2017

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) addresses NORML members in September, 2017

    Today, sixty-six members of Congress representing both Republicans and Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Ryan, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi, and Leader Schumer urging them to maintain the federal protections for the 46 states that have implemented some form of medical cannabis programs throughout the country.

    This comes on the same day the Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press conference to discuss America’s opioid epidemic and made disparaging comments about marijuana.

    “We’re working on that very hard right now,” Sessions said on Wednesday. “We had meetings yesterday and talked about it at some length. It’s my view that the use of marijuana is detrimental and we should not give encouragement in any way to it. And it represents a federal violation which is in the law and is subject to being enforced, and our priorities will have to be focused on all the things and challenges that we face.”

    From Rep. Rohrabacher’s press release:

    Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) spearheaded a letter, signed by 64 other members of the House of Representatives, urging House and Senate leadership to ensure the inclusion of medical marijuana protections in any appropriations bill that funds the government beyond December 8, 2017. The provision, previously known as “Rohrabacher-Farr,” and now “Rohrabacher-Blumenauer,” bars the Department of Justice from using appropriated funds to prosecute individuals who are acting in compliance with their state’s medical marijuana laws. The provision was first signed into law in December 2014 as part of a larger spending package, and has been in force ever since.

    Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) speaking a NORML Conference

    Reps Rohrabacher and Blumenauer are both co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

    In September, President Donald Trump reached an agreement with Congressional leadership to enact a three-month continuing resolution that maintains present federal spending levels and priorities through December 8, 2017, which included the amendment that was passed in the previous session of Congress.

    Congressional leadership must reauthorize this language as part of the forthcoming budget in order for the provisions to stay in effect. In 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.

    It is imperative that the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment remain the law of the land and AG Sessions not be given the green-light to enact a crackdown. Click here to send a message to your federal lawmakers and urge them to speak out about the need to protect the 2 million registered medical marijuana patients throughout the country.

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