By Steve Elliott
Del Marsh, president pro tem of the Alabama Senate, on Friday said he would like to see the chamber at least debate the merits of a medical marijuana bill, one day after Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jabo Waggoner -- a gatekeeper through which bills make it to the floor -- said the bill was "bad legislation" for which Alabama was "not ready."
"I would like to get it to the floor for debate," said Marsh (R-Anniston), reports Bryan Lyman at the Montgomery Advertiser. "There's some good debate to be had on it. There are issues out there I think need to be discussed."
Marsh admitted that chances of passing the medical marijuana bill are low in the heavily Republican Alabama Senate, but he said he believed there are valid arguments to be made for medical marijuana.
"You have a lot of people many times who are prescribed prescription drugs that lead to addiction," Marsh said. "The argument is medical marijuana prevents that issue. My point is I think it should be open for debate."
Marsh suggested that the bill could make it the floor if there was "a gentleman's agreement not to take action except for discussion."
By Steve Elliott
Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Friday signed into law regulations which essentially eliminate medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, along with the medicinal cannabis system as it's been known there since voters approved it back in 1998.
Purportedly an "overhaul" measure to subject medicinal cannabis to the licensing, testing, inspection, and tax requirements of the recreational side, the bill's actual intent and effect is to get rid of the pesky medical marijuana community, which has consistently outperformed the recreational I-502 cannabis outlets with better product and lower prices.
Patients who have for years enjoyed the ability to visit medical marijuana dispensaries where the employees themselves were also facing medical challenges, and had bothered to inform themselves about medicinal applications of cannabis, will now be forced into the recreational market, where the focus isn't on medicine and in fact where I-502 store employees are forbidden by law from even mentioning the medical applications of marijuana.
Plant counts for patients, in one fell swoop, are being reduced from 15 to 6. Dried marijuana limits are similarly being slashed from 24 ounces to 3 ounces per patient. Ironically, the 15 plants/24 ounces limits were themselves compromises reached a few years ago when the best scientific studies available showed more appropriate limits would be 71 ounces and 99 plants.
By Steve Elliott
The Illinois House on Thursday approved a decriminalization measure under which possession of small amounts of marijuana would result in a fine instead of arrest.
Minor cannabis possession would go from a crime with up to a year in jail and fines of up to $2,500 to become more like a traffic ticket, with no court time and a fine maxing out at $125, reports Jessie Hellmann at the Chicago Tribune.
House Bill 218 would apply to people caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana, just over half an ounce.
The legislation would create a uniform penalty throughout the state, and eliminate the option for police to arrest people carrying small amounts of cannabis, according to sponsor Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago).
"We currently have a patchwork of local ordinances where there is the possibility of getting a ticket but not a given that you'll get a ticket, so it's an open question where you go whether you're going to get arrested or get a ticket," Rep. Cassidy said.
"That creates a system whereby it depends on where you live, and what you look like, and unfortunately more often than not, it is folks who are black and brown who are being arrested, who are being pulled off the streets, pulled away from their jobs and their families and put into our jails and prisons," she said.
By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana may have been passed by an Alabama Senate committee this week, but a powerful politician quickly blocked the way for further progress, declaring the state is "not ready" for such legislation. The full membership of the Senate won't even get the chance to debate the bill unless he changes his mind.
Sen. Jabo Waggoner, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, displayed the arrogance of power in disregarding both the Senate Judiciary Committee, which on Wednesday approved the bill on a 4-3 vote, and popular opinion in the state.
"It is bad legislation," Waggoner said, ignoring both the scientific evidence of marijuana's medical effectiveness and the wishes of his own constituents. "We don't need that in Alabama."
A whopping 97 percent of more than 1,300 respondents to an online poll said the state should allow medicinal cannabis. More than a decade ago, back in 2004, 75 percent of respondents said medical marijuana should be legal in the Heart of Dixie, according to a Mobile Register/University of South Alabama survey.
Waggoner, a relic of the 20th Century and career politician who has served in the Alabama Legislature for 49 years, said he didn't think anything would change his mind about the medical marijuana bill this year.
By Steve Elliott
Prospective candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination continued their baffling verbal assault on cannabis this week, as Florida Senator Marco Rubio joined Chris Christie in pledging a federal crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana.
Asked by radio host Hugh Hewitt if he would "enforce the federal drug laws and shut down the marijuana trade," Rubio answered: "I think, well, I think we need to enforce our federal laws. Now do states have a right to do what they want? They don’t agree with it, but they have their rights. But they don’t have a right to write federal policy as well…
"I don’t believe we should be in the business of legalizing additional intoxicants in this country for the primary reason that when you legalize something, what you’re sending a message to young people is it can’t be that bad, because if it was that bad, it wouldn’t be legal," said Rubio, revealing his distressingly murky thought process around the subject.
"In addition to enforcing the rest of the Controlled Substances Act, U.S. Attorneys are still pursuing marijuana cases in Colorado and Washington, just not in a way that shuts down the state-legal industry," said Jacob Sullum at Reason. "Rubio apparently opposes that policy of prosecutorial forbearance."
The U.S. Senate on Thursday afternoon confirmed the nomination of Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General in a 56-43 vote. The results of the vote have been highly anticipated, as significant partisan bickering had stalled her appointment for months.
Lynch is the first African-American woman to hold the office of Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement position and head of the Department of Justice. Her statements made in the Senatorial confirmation hearing indicate she intends to follow Holder’s legacy of prioritizing civil rights.
Criminal justice experts hope this means she will continue and expand the drug policy reforms enacted by her predecessor.
“Loretta Lynch will hopefully continue the more positive aspects of Eric Holder’s legacy,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a criminal justice group opposed to the Drug War. “We hope she continues to restore sanity and dignity to the profession of policing by de-escalating the War On Drugs and allowing states to proceed with marijuana legalization.”
By Steve Elliott
A bill which would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in the Keystone State unanimously passed a Pennsylvania Senate committee on Tuesday.
The bill, which would allow cannabis use for those with qualifying medical conditions, will likely face two more hurdles in early May, reports Tim Marcin at the International Business Times.
A bipartisan committee passed Senate Bill 3, proposed by Democratic Sen. Daylin Leach and Republican Sen. Mike Folmer, on a 10-0 vote, moving it on to the Senate Appropriations Committee, reports Tony Romeo at KYW Newsradio.
If it passes through that committee, the bill would move to the Senate floor, both of which should happen in early May, according to Sen. Leach.
SB 3 easily made it through the state Senate in 2014, passing with a 47-3 vote, but stalled after the House didn't take it up. Lawmakers in support of legalizing medical marijuana said they are more optimistic this time.
Folmer said he hopes the bill can reach the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf before lawmakers take their summer recess. That likely means convincing House members to get on board before the scheduled time off this summer.
"I know I'm being optimistic," Sen. Folmer said. "I get that ... I believe there are good people over there."
Tues., Apr. 28: Symposium highlighted by ‘fireside chat’ with Grover Norquist and Rep. Earl Blumenauer
Wed., Apr. 29: Morning press conference kicks off fifth annual fly-in lobby days for the legal marijuana industry
Cannabis industry leaders from across the country will travel next week to Washington, D.C., for the National Cannabis Industry Association’s fifth annual Lobby Days. Roughly 100 cannabis business professionals will take part in policy discussions and citizen lobby meetings to advocate for fair treatment of the legal marijuana industry.
The events will begin with a policy symposium on Tuesday, April 28, highlighted by a “fireside chat” between Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist.
On Wednesday, April 29, NCIA leaders, business owners, and members of Congress will hold a 9 am press conference at the House Triangle to kick off two days of meetings across the Hill between cannabis industry leaders and congressional staffs.
Tuesday, April 28
NCIA Policy Symposium, 9 am - 6 pm
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm - Fireside Chat with Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Grover Norquist
20 F Street NW Conference Center
Additional speakers include industry leaders and policy experts. Click here to see the full agenda.
Wednesday, April 29
Press Conference and Lobby Days
By Steve Elliott
The group ResponsibleOhio claims it is more than halfway towards its goal of getting marijuana legalization on the state ballot. But advocates trying to put a rival initiative on the November 5 ballot have accused founders of the well-financed ResponsibleOhio of sabotaging its smaller, weaker competitor last year before launching its own effort.
"We have over 160,000 signatures," said Ian James of ResponsibleOhio, reports Elizabeth Faugl at ABC 6. "By the end of this week, we'll have over 200,000. We are shooting for over 700,000 signatures."
But in an April 14 complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission, Ohio Rights Group said the people who went on to create ResponsibleOnhio infiltrated the ORG to get information and talk potential donors out of making contributions, reports Anne Saker at the Cincinnati Enquirer. The complaint accuses Ian James and David Bruno of promising help to ORG then using the knowledge gained to form their own group.
According to the complaint, Bruno used his childhood friendship with ORG Executive Director John Pardee to gain knowledge, and Bruno was taking consultant's fees from ORG while planning ResponsibleOhio.
Under the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, producing, distributing, and consuming marijuana in compliance with state marijuana laws would no longer be a violation of federal marijuana laws
U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and five Republican co-sponsors on Tuesday introduced legislation in Congress that would modify the federal Controlled Substances Act so that anyone acting in compliance with a state marijuana law would be immune from federal prosecution.
The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015 would apply to all marijuana-related activities, medical and non-medical, in the states in which they are authorized.
Republican co-sponsors of the re-introduced 2015 bill include Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Tom McClintock, and Don Young (R-AK). Democratic co-sponsors include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Dina Titus (D-NV), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Mark Pocan (D-WI).
Four states have adopted laws regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Twenty-three states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of Guam have adopted laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Two out of three Americans (67 percent) think Congress should pass a bill to make states that tightly regulate marijuana a safe haven from federal marijuana laws, according to a report released in January by Third Way, a centrist think tank.
New DEA Leadership Clears Way For Rescheduling and Other Needed Reforms
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday announced that Michele Leonhart, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is resigning. Leonhart has been criticized by medical cannabis advocates as well as members of Congress for her unwillingness to adhere to the Obama Administration's stated policies on medical cannabis.
Under Leonhart, the DEA led increased raids against medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivators in defiance of guidance from the Department of Justice steering them away from cases that targeted state-legal medical cannabis patients.
The legacy of Leonhart includes opposing sentencing guidelines reforms embraced by the Obama Administration and other law enforcement agencies, working to maintain cannabis’ Schedule I status, and claiming that rising Drug War violence in Mexico was a sign of success.
During a notable Congressional oversight hearing in 2012, Leonhart refused to state if she thought crack or heroin were more dangerous than cannabis. When President Obama stated in a 2014 New York Times interview that he felt cannabis was no more dangerous than alcohol, Leonhart defiantly spoke out against the President.
Californians for Sensible Reform (CSR), a new political organization founded by Weedmaps entrepreneur Justin Hartfield in support of common-sense fixes to California's marijuana laws, on Monday announced the formation of a new general-purpose ballot measure committee ("Californians for Sensible Reform") and a candidate political action committee ("Californians for Sensible Reform PAC").
In addition, the group announced the first $1 million contribution from Weedmaps Media, LLC, to the new ballot-measure committee -- dedicated to supporting politically-viable, consensus-supported ballot measures in 2016 -- pledged additional support for political candidates with pro-decriminalization voting records, and called on other members of this rapidly maturing industry to make similar commitments.
"Decriminalization of adult marijuana use in California is bigger than any business -- it's a generational cause and an economic imperative," said Justin Hartfield, founder of CSR and CEO/Founder of Weedmaps Media, LLC. "And, as California's Attorney General has indicated, there's 'certain inevitability about it' -- especially since California is now falling behind other states."
Resignation Comes as DEA at Center of Series of Scandals in its Effort to Continue Failed War on Drugs
After Decades of Mass Incarceration, Racial Disparities, and Failed Drug Policies, DEA Finally Facing Scrutiny
By Steve Elliott
A senior White House official has said that the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele Leonhart, is expected to soon resign. The news comes as no surprise to drug policy reformers who say her opposition to reform made her out of step with the Obama Administration.
“Following the official resignation of Ms. Leonhart as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, I encourage the President to use this as an opportunity to fill this important role with someone who understands the outdated federal approach to marijuana isn’t working," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon. "The American public has moved on. Most now feel marijuana should be legalized.
"Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the adult use of marijuana, and more than two-thirds of Americans live in a state that has legalized some form of medical marijuana," Congressman Blumenauer said. "The President himself has said we have bigger fish to fry than going after state-legal marijuana users. I would urge him to put in place a DEA Administrator who will reflect his Administration’s position and can be a partner in creating a more workable system of marijuana laws.”
With Bipartisan Support in U.S. Congress and Buoyed By New Mexico’s First-of-Its-Kind Law That Ends Civil Forfeiture, Momentum Accelerates for Reform
The Drug Policy Alliance on Tuesday launched Above the Law: An Investigation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses in California, a multi-year, comprehensive look at asset forfeiture abuses in California that reveals the troubling extent to which law enforcement agencies have violated state and federal law.
Civil asset forfeiture law allows the government to seize and keep cash, cars, real estate, and any other property – even from citizens never charged with or convicted of a crime. Because these assets often go straight into the coffers of the enforcement agency, these laws have led to a perversion of police priorities, such as increasing personnel on the forfeiture unit while reducing the number of officers on patrol and in investigation units.
While civil asset forfeiture was originally conceived as an effective way to target and drain resources away from powerful criminal organizations, Above the Law discloses how these strategies and programs have now become a relied-upon source of funding for law enforcement agencies all across the state.
A conservative Republican Utah state senator has a “420” message for America: “It’s time to legalize medical cannabis.” In an exclusive video interview released Monday morning, Utah State Senator Mark Madsen discussed his own personal use of medical cannabis and advocates for national reform.
“We need to work from the principles of freedom and compassion and let the policy grow from there,” Sen. Madsen said. “I believe we should allow individuals and their physicians to make their own decisions on whether medical cannabis is an augmentation or an alternative to other traditional medical treatments. Government has no legitimate place in that process.”
In 2007, Madsen was nearly killed by an accidental overdose of fentanyl when a patch his doctor prescribed accidentally tore and released a fatal dose of the opiate.
Madsen was the sponsor of recent legislation in the state, S.B. 259, which would have legalized the cultivation, production, sale and possession of whole-plant medical cannabis for a range of conditions. The bill was narrowly defeated by one flipped vote in the Senate in March.
Shortly before introducing S.B. 259, Madsen travelled to Colorado to try medical cannabis, which he said provided great relief for his chronic back pain. In 2007, Madsen says he was inspired by the families lobbying for legislation passed in 2014 legalizing high-CBD medical cannabis extracts for epileptic patients.