Sen. Murray, Sen. Cantwell, and five U.S. Reps. emphasize the need to address the serious banking issue plaguing legitimate businesses
By Steve Elliott
In a June 17 letter, seven members of the Washington Congressional delegation urged U.S. Attorney Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to “respect the will of the voters” and honor Colorado and Washington’s right to tax and regulate marijuana sales to adults.
Seven months after the historic passage of Initiative 502 in Washington and Amendment 64 in Colorado, the Department of Justice has yet to indicate its intentions regarding the laws; the letter cites the expense already incurred by both states in implementation and the lost potential for economic advancement as two compelling reasons the delegation desires a statement be made without further delay.
Recreational marijuana sales in Washington are expected to begin in early 2014 unless DOJ does something to stop that from happening.
"We urge DOJ to expeditiously announce a course of action that will respect the will of these voters, and to work cooperatively with our states during the implementation of these laws," the lawmakers wrote.
By Steve Elliott
Attorney General Eric Holder encountered an unhappy crowd of dozens of pro-marijuana protesters at the University of California Berkeley's campus on Saturday when he visited to address the graduating law school class.
During Holder's visit to campus, an airplane circled above Berkeley's Greek Theater for more than two hours, pulling a banner reading "Holder: End Rx Cannabis War #Peace4Patients," reports Carly Schwartz at The Huffington Post. As the Attorney General's limo turned toward the graduation ceremony, demonstrators were waving signs reading "Fight Crime, Not Cannabis."
"There's no doubt we got the A.G.'s attention," said California NORML President Dale Gieringer. "He can't come to Berkeley and not be reminded of his department's bad faith with respect to marijuana."
Holder and the Obama Administration have been harshly criticized for the stepped-up federal crackdown on the medical marijuana industry in California and other states which allow the medicinal use of cannabis.
Though medical marijuana was legalized by California's voters through Proposition 215, a 1996 ballot initiative, cannabis remains illegal for any purpose under federal law.
By Steve Elliott
Law enforcement's eradication of marijuana plants has plunged by more than 60 percent in the last few years, from a record high of more than 20 million plants in 2009 and 2010 to fewer than 4 million plants in 2012, according to newly released federal statistics.
The number of cannabis plants eradicated dropped to 6,735,511 in 2011 and 3,933,950 in 2012, far less than goal of 9 million plants that the Drug Enforcement Administration had hoped to destroy, report Ryan J. Reilly and Matt Sledge at The Huffington Post.
Red-faced DEA officials blamed the steep decline in part on California, claiming in the agency's 2014 budget proposal that the Golden State's financial troubles resulted in "the decreased availability of local law enforcement personnel to assist in eradication efforts."
The DEA also claimed that "drug trafficking organizations" are shifting their cultivation efforts from public lands to private grow areas, and that those who do still grow in parks and on other public land tend to locate in "vast mountainous regions, which are more difficult for law enforcement to detect and reach."
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana legalization on Tuesday got its first hearing in the Oregon Legislature when the House Judiciary conducted a brief hearing on House Bill 3371, which would license producers, processors and sellers of cannabis.
Under HB 3371, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would have the authority to tax marijuana, but unlike Washington state's Initiative 502, home cultivation would still be permitted, reports Peter Wong of the Salem Statesman Journal.
"Marijuana legalization is coming to Oregon sooner rather than later," said activist Anthony Johnson of New Approach Oregon. "It makes sense to regulate marijuana like alcohol and for the Legislature to take the lead on the issue and make sure sensible regulations are in place."
A survey conducted last week by DHM Research of Portland showed that support for legalization is around the 50 percent mark in Oregon. "It sends a signal to where the voters' attitudes are heading," said John Horvick of DHM.
Predictably, the Oregon State Sheriffs Association is stuck in the past, and opposes legalization, preferring to keep the broad powers over otherwise law-abiding citizens given to law enforcement by the marijuana laws.
States' moves reflect 'new era' of acceptance
By William M. Welch and Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — James Gray once saw himself as a drug warrior, a former federal prosecutor and county judge who sent people to prison for dealing pot and other drug offenses. Gradually, though, he became convinced that the ban on marijuana was making it more accessible to young people, not less.
"I ask kids all the time, and they'll tell you it is easier to get marijuana than a six-pack of beer because that is controlled by the government," he said, noting that drug dealers don't ask for IDs or honor minimum age requirements.
So Gray — who spent two decades as a superior court judge in Orange County, Calif., and once ran for Congress as a Republican — switched sides in the war on drugs, becoming an advocate for legalizing marijuana.
"Let's face reality," he says. "Taxing and regulating marijuana will make it less available to children than it is today."
Green is their signature color. Medicinal marijuana gardeners throughout the state of Oregon enjoyed a plentiful harvest last fall, and look to 2010 as a year of growth, and change.
By Bonnie King, Salem-News
(SALEM, Ore.) - “After living through arrests in the past for growing marijuana, to be able to do it legally, it’s almost entirely stress-free compared to when it was illegal. So to be able to help the people that need this - it warms our hearts,” said Paul Stanford, Executive Director of The Hemp & Cannabis Foundation. The fear of breaking the law has stopped most people for seven decades from considering marijuana, or cannabis, to treat their ailments. That is no longer the rule of the day, as this medical marijuana garden clearly proves.
By Sam Pearson, State Hornet
When a student was caught smoking marijuana in the Tahoe National Forest, he might once have faced charges despite having a medical marijuana card. Instead, in this particular case, prosecutors dropped the charges because of recent changes in drug policy, said Roseville-based defense attorney Toni Carbone.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Oct. 20 the federal government would stop prosecuting medical marijuana users in states that had passed medical marijuana laws, such as California and 12 other states, including Nevada and Oregon.
Carbone has already seen the effects of this change. Her client received no penalty even though park rangers ticketed him for having 1.2 grams of marijuana on federal land, where state medical marijuana laws do not apply.
California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, creating a program that allowed people to obtain doctors' recommendations to use marijuana and obtain it from dispensaries throughout the state.
State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill that would legalize and tax marijuana in California and held a hearing Oct. 28 at the state Capitol as part of the Public Safety Committee, which he chairs. It was the first-ever legislative hearing held on marijuana legalization.
By Carrie Johnson, Washington Post Staff Writer
The Obama administration delivered new guidance on medical marijuana to federal prosecutors Monday, signaling a broad policy shift that will mean fewer crackdowns against dispensaries and the people who use them.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. instructed government lawyers that in 14 states where medical marijuana use is legal, federal prosecutors should focus only on cases involving higher level drug traffickers or people who use the state laws as a cover story.
By Rick Bayer, MD
US Attorney General Eric Holder recently signaled federal changes in medical marijuana policy. Holder said, “The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law”; but the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will still target anyone who tries to “use medical marijuana laws as a shield” for other illegal activity. “Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that’s inconsistent with federal and state law.”
“... federal and state law ...”
Many have been waiting for a statement regarding President Obama’s drug policy toward medical marijuana, since Candidate Obama repeatedly promised changes in federal policy toward medical marijuana states. Now, in Attorney General Holder’s statement, they have it. Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union drug law project, said Mr. Holder’s remarks create reasonable balance between conflicting state and federal law while finally ending the policy war over medical marijuana.
By Jeremy Jojola, Eyewitness News 4; Charlie Pabst, KOB.com
The federal government has said it intends to honor state laws legalizing medical marijuana, but organizations in the state’s marijuana program are still worried about federal raids.
Attorney General Eric Holder, the head of the country’s Justice Department, answered questions Friday about whether local growers have to worry about the feds.
New Mexico is one of 13 states where medical marijuana is legal. One state-approved grower is on the verge of dispensing the drug to Albuquerque patients, despite the fact that it’s illegal under federal law.
For two years, New Mexicans with a prescription to smoke have been doing so with fears that the federal government may knock on their door.
In California, even under the Obama administration, DEA agents raided some medical marijuana shops.
One New Mexico man, one of the first legally allowed to use medical marijuana, was arrested by a federal task force but never charged.
One Oregon activist said that "patients can live free from a certain level of fear that they've been living with for years"
By Megan Crepeau, The Oregonian Staff
Oregon's medical marijuana activists are buzzing over U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's statement this week that the federal government would no longer raid or prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal.
"I'm just thrilled," said Paul Stanford, president of the Portland-based Hemp and Cannabis Foundation. "It means that patients can live free from a certain level of fear that they've been living with for years."
Holder said at a news conference Wednesday the new administration's policies will be consistent with statements President Barack Obama has made supporting the states' rights to make decisions about legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.
"What he said during the campaign is now American policy," Holder said in response to a question about DEA raids on dispensaries in California in January.
Marijuana is banned under federal law, but 14 states,, including Oregon, have passed laws approving it for regulated medical use. Obama made clear during his campaign that he would not prosecute medical marijuana users in states where medicinal cannabis is legal.
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is sending strong signals that President Obama - who as a candidate said states should be allowed to make their own rules on medical marijuana - will end raids on pot dispensaries in California.
Asked at a Washington news conference Wednesday about Drug Enforcement Administration raids in California since Obama took office last month, Holder said the administration has changed its policy.
"What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing here in law enforcement," he said. "What he said during the campaign is now American policy."
Bill Piper, national affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a marijuana advocacy group, said the statement is encouraging.
"I think it definitely signals that Obama is moving in a new direction, that it means what he said on the campaign trail that marijuana should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue," he said.
Piper said Obama has also indicated he will drop the federal government's long-standing opposition to health officials' needle-exchange programs for drug users.
(WASHINGTON D.C.) - Speaking at a press conference on Feb. 25 with DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that ending federal medical marijuana raids "is now American policy."
"What the President said during the campaign...is consistent with what we will be doing here in law enforcement" - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
Don Duncan, California Director of Americans for Safe Access, says the Attorney General’s comments are the latest sign of a sea change in federal policy prompted by a groundswell of grassroots pressure by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and our allies.
"They came as a response to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids carried out by Bush Administration holdovers in California in January and February," Duncan said.
President Obama indicated he would end the DEA raids during his presidential campaign, a position reiterated by the White House following DEA raids in raids which took placeon February 4.
By Ryan Grim, HuffPost Reporting From DC
A bipartisan group of sixteen members of Congress sent a letter Thursday to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to allow the University of Massachusetts to grow its own marijuana for medical research.
Marijuana used for research, and that distributed to patients in a closed federal program, is currently grown exclusively by the University of Mississippi. Patients who have smoked it and researchers who have tried to work with it say it's total swag (very low quality).
For eight years, UMASS Professor Lyle Craker has been fighting with the Drug Enforcement Administration to get a license to cultivate his own medical pot.
In February 2007 Craker looked to have won, when DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner ruled that his request was "in the public interest" and called on the agency to license him.
In a last-minute Bush Administration order, however, the DEA reversed Bittner's ruling and refused Craker the license, citing evidence that hadn't been presented during the initial hearing.
The letter from members of Congress encourages Holder "swiftly to amend or withdraw"
the decision and allow Craker to rebut the new DEA evidence.
Forty-five members of the House, along with Massachusetts Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, as well as the Lymphoma Foundation of America, the National Association for Public Health Policy, and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation have all written the DEA in support of Craker's efforts.