President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentences of 22 federal inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. This follows the commutation of eight federal inmates convicted of drug offenses by President Obama in December of 2014.
According to White House counsel Neil Eggleston, “Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."
"While today’s announcement represents important progress, there’s more work ahead," Eggleston said. "The Administration will continue to work to review thoroughly all petitions for clemency."
Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder made a number of forceful public statements against mass incarceration in the U.S., promising significant rollback of mandatory minimum and harsh sentencing guidelines. The Obama Administration also promised improvements in the commutation process.
Yet, despite his Administration's declared support of substantive criminal justice reform, until now Obama has used his power to grant clemency less frequently than nearly all other U.S. Presidents.
By Steve Elliott
Turning a new law originally intended as a tool of intolerance against gays around, the First Church of Cannabis Inc. has been approved by Indiana's secretary of state after the state's "religious freedom" legislation came into effect last week.
Church founder Bill Levin said he filed the paperwork in direct response to Gov. Mike Pence's signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law last Thursday, reports Sarah Pulliam Bailey of The Washington Post. Secretary of State Connie Lawson approved the church as a religious corporation with the stated intent "to start a church based on love and understanding with compassion for all."
Cannabis is listed as a sacrament in the church's doctrine, according to Levin, who set he was setting up a church hierarchy. Levin wrote out the new "Diety Dozen," a list of suggestions for better living comparable to the 10 Commandments.
The church will grow hemp, he said, though it will not buy or sell marijuana.
"If someone is smoking in our church, God bless them," Levin said. "This is a church to show a proper way of life, a loving way to live life. We are called 'Cannataerians.'"
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday vetoed SB 1445, a bill that would have required law enforcement agencies to conceal police officers’ identities for months following their involvement in violent or deadly incidents.
“Governor Ducey has lived up to his promise to hear the concerns of the community regarding SB 1445, and we want to both thank the Governor and praise him for his openness in directly accepting public feedback concerning this misguided and harmful piece of legislation," said ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler. "We also want to thank the members of the Gov. Ducey’s staff who, last week, graciously accepted the ACLU’s letter opposing SB 1445, signed by more than three-dozen community leaders and local, statewide and national organizations, along with a petition calling for the veto of SB 1445 signed by over 2,500 concerned Arizonans and others from around the country."
“We are grateful that Gov. Ducey considered the dangerous ramifications of this bill, for both law enforcement and the public," Soler said. "This proposal would have taken Arizona in the wrong direction, by exacerbating distrust between communities and the public safety officers responsible for protecting them, while at the same time eroding the transparency that is critical to our democracy."
By Steve Elliott
Parolees in Maryland who use or possess small amounts of marijuana would no longer be violation of their sentences under a bill narrowly approved by the Maryland House of Delegates last week.
The bill, which squeaked by on a 10-vote margin, comes a year after Maryland voted to decriminalize the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana. It heads to the Senate for consideration, report Ovetta Wiggins and Jenna Johnson at The Washington Post.
Proponents say it's important for the rules of probation and parole to mirror criminal law, and not to penalize people for offenses that are no longer criminal. Opponents of the bill claimed it would undermine aspects of the criminal justice system intended to keep former inmates on a "positive path," which apparently to these morons means encouraging them to drink rather than the safer alternative of using cannabis.
Possession of small amounts of cannabis isn't a violent offense, said Del. Jay Walker, one of dozens of benighted Democrats who voted against the bill, but drug possession is related to the "drug culture -- the most violent culture we have."
But Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the legislation, said the bill is "an attempt to keep nonviolent offenders out of the system."
"The spirit is to include all offenses that have been moved from criminal to civil," Moon said.
By Steve Elliott
One Portland medical marijuana dispensary filed a $400,000 lawsuit this month against the owners of another dispensary, claiming the second business lied on a state registration application to steal the first business's patients.
Two medical marijuana dispensaries cannot be within 1,000 feet of each other, under Oregon law, and that's why the Portland Medical Cannabis Club is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian.
The Cannabis Club is just steps away from its soon-to-open competitor, 420 Dank. When 420 Dank opens, possibly as early as next month, the dispensaries will be in the 4600 and 4700 block of Southwest Beaver-Hillsdale Highway in Portland.
"They aren't trying to take anyone's business," claimed 420 Dank's lawyer, Brad Andersen. "It just happens to be in a prime location."
A little more than a year ago, the state began requiring all medical marijuana dispensaries to register, starting at 8:30 a.m. on March 3, 2014, via a state website. Dispensary owners flooded the site, and that's when this dispute began.
By Steve Elliott
Thousands of people gathered on Thursday for the District of Columbia's first-ever legal marijuana seed sharing event, with a second giveaway is planned for Saturday.
With D.C. police officers looking on, city residents lined up and then walked away from a bar and restaurant carrying baggies containing marijuana seeds, report Aaron C. Davbis and Perry Stein at The Washington Post.
The seed attendees were taking advantage of Initiative 71, a ballot measure approved last fall by voters which legalized marijuana possession. The line for the marijuana "seed share" snaked around the building, including people of many ages and ethnic backgrounds.
"The RSVP list when we closed it today was at 2,000," said Adam Eidinger, chair of the DC Cannabis Campaign, who welcomed those who came to share and receive seeds at Libertine, a bar on 18th Street NW, reports Michelle Basch at WTOP.
"I hope that from the seeds that we plant this week, (that) this fall ... we have a great crop, and people are really generous in sharing, and we actually bring the price of underground marijuana down," Eidinger said. "Home growth is what 70 percent of voters approved."
By Steve Elliott
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a medical marijuana bill into law on Friday in a ceremony on the Capitol steps.
The bill cleared its final legislative hurdle on Thursday when the Georgia House voted 160-1 to approve a Senate compromise that only slightly tweaked the original House version by state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), reports Bill Hendrick at the Associated Press.
After an emotional debate which had lasted, all told, for two years, House Speaker David Ralston hugged Janea Cox, 33, mother of 5-year-old Haleigh Cox, who has intractable epilepsy and is one of the half-a-million Georgians Peake said should benefit from the new law.
"Some days make it all worthwhile," Ralston said.
Peake's bill had already passed the House by a huge margin. It originally called for people with nine medical conditions to be eligible for treatment with cannabis oil that has only minimal amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which producers marijuana's characterisic "high."
By Steve Elliott
Tom Burns, who directed marijuana programs for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, was fired on Thursday.
Burns saw implementation of the state's medical marijuana dispensary program, and had led efforts to establish a recreational cannabis market in the state after voters approved legalization last fall, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. Burns confirmed his dismissal in an interview with The Oregonian Thursday afternoon.
Declining to comment any further, Burns directed questions to Steven Marks, executive director of the OLCC; Marks couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Rob Patridge, chairman of the liquor control commission, declined to comment on Burns' firing, characterizing it as a "personel matter."
The position's duties will be taken on by Will Higlin, the OLCC's director of licensing, until a permanent replacement is named.
The agency announced that Burns' firing will not affect the timeline for drafting recreational marijuana industry rules and regulations.
State Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), co-chair of the House-Senate committee on implementing recreational marijuana legalization, said she was shocked and disappointed by the news of Burns' firing.
"I don't know how we're going to get through this without him," Burdick said. "He's the most knowledgeable person on marijuana policy in the state. It's a real shock. It's going to be a real loss to the legislative effort."
By Steve Elliott
Kentucky Baptists may have won a major legislative victory by helping to defeat a measure in the General Assembly that would have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, but they managed to give themselves a public relations black eye in the process, showing themselves to both be out of touch with modern medical research, and severely lacking in compassion, as well.
Almost as distressing as the fact that they were able to stop this compassionate legislation in its tracks is the fact that these heaven-dazed idiots were proud of themselves for doing it.
Legislators finished the 2015 session early Wednesday morning without passing a bill which would have made cannabis available for medical purposes.
Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood, who apparently was determined to flaunt his ignorance in front of large numbers of people, had called on lawmakers to reject the proposal, claiming Kentucky shouldn't follow the lead of other states that have done the same.
The KBC is Kentucky's largest religious organization, and as such has a powerful voice in the state, where 1 million of the state's 4.4 million residents self identify as Southern Baptists. Those demographics -- which correlate strongly with conservative political positions -- filter into the Legislature, where almost half the Senate and a third of the House identify themselves as Baptists.
Dozens of Texas mothers from all across the state with seriously ill children came together in the state capitol to call for passage of legislation that will help reduce their children’s suffering
A new statewide network of Texas moms and caregivers came together on Thursday in the Committee Hearing Room to lobby in support of legislation addressing access to medical marijuana.
Twenty-three states, one U.S. territory (Guam) and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing the use of marijuana for qualifying patients under state law. Rep. Marisa Márquez (D-El Paso) the House sponsor of Texas’ first ever comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, HB 3785, said “as a state that leads the nation in innovative medical research, Texas needs to take a scientific and reasoned approach to the known benefits of medical marijuana.”
Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) who introduced a companion bill in the Senate believes that “these mothers are doing what any parent would be doing -- advocating for safe medicine and relief for their suffering children. We have to stop criminalizing being a mother and help them gain access to effective treatment."
Two additional bills have also been filed in the Legislature this session, one specific to sufferers of epilepsy and another that would give medical marijuana patients an affirmative defense in court should they be arrested on charges of marijuana possession. The mothers will be lobbying in support of a solution to the endless suffering their children endure.
By Steve Elliott
Some may see medical marijuana as a long shot in Texas, but don't tell that to nine-year-old Alexis Bortell. Alexis plans to be the poster girl who gets medicinal cannabis legalized in the Lone Star State.
"I think it should be legal in Texas because every child should have a normal life," Alexis said, reports Robert Wheeler at NewsFix.
For most of her life, Alexis has had to deal with daily epileptic seizures. Her parents were advised by a specialist and doctors that medicinal cannabis might help. But getting ahold of it was another matter in Texas.
"We've always said if Alexis' health or life was in danger we would leave," said her father, Dean Bortell. After one particularly bad seizure last month, the Bortells reluctantly decided to move to Colorado, where Alexis now has access to the medicine she needs.
The Team Alexis Facebook page shows an amazing transformation. "Since the first dose, she has not had a single symptom or seizure and we're on day 22 now," Dean said.
Alexis' dad said the family hasn't stopped trying to get medical marijuana legalized in Texas. This session, the Texas Legislature has an unprecedented 11 marijuana bills.
Alexis and her family said they would love to come home to Texas, but can't do that without the passage of the House medical marijuana bill they support.
Bill Follows Historic Introduction of the CARERS Act by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Support for Letting States Set Their Own Marijuana Policies Without Federal Interference Growing Rapidly in Congress
By Steve Elliott
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) have introduced the House companion to a groundbreaking bill legalizing marijuana for medical use that was introduced in the Senate two weeks ago by Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York). Senators Dean Heller (R-Nevada) and Barbara Boxer (D-California) co-sponsored the bill soon after.
“Reforming our nation’s failed drug policies is one of the few issues Democrats and Republicans can agree on,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The tide is quickly turning against marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs in general.”
Petition with more than 2,400 signatures demanding veto to be delivered to Gov. Ducey
Community groups will be rallying outside Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s office Tuesday afternoon to speak out against SB 1445, a proposal that would require law enforcement agencies to conceal police officers’ identities for months following their involvement in violent or deadly incidents.
During the rally, a petition with more than 2,400 signatures will be delivered to Gov. Ducey’s office demanding he veto this legislation if it reaches his desk.
This bill is unnecessary, takes discretion away from local officials, promotes mistrust of the police and threatens Arizona’s proud tradition of open government, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. Furthermore, police officers’ extraordinary powers are much more likely to be abused when their use is concealed from the public.
WHAT: Speakers will encourage Gov. Ducey to veto this dangerous legislation if it reaches his desk and address the harm this law would inflict on communities of color, people with mental illness and their families, immigrants, and LGBT people, among others. A representative of the family of Michelle Cusseaux, who was killed by a Phoenix Police officer last summer, and representatives of the community group Justice for Rumain Brisbon, who was fatally shot by a Phoenix Police officer in December, are scheduled to speak.
Scientists, patients, doctors, advocates, lawyers, policymakers unite to further advance public health policy reforms
Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), will hold its third annual national Unity Conference, "Wellness is Winning," in Washington, D.C. on March 27-31, 2015.
The conference will highlight medical and legal experts, policymakers, and a wide array of workshops and panels focusing on scientific research, strategic planning, and skills building. On Tuesday, March 31, ASA will host a press conference at 11 a.m., followed by a lobby day with hundreds of patient advocates.
What: Third Annual National Unity Conference, "Wellness is Winning"
When: March 27-31, 2015, including a press conference at 11 a.m. on March 31
Where: Loews Madison Hotel, 1177 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C.; press conference will be on the Capitol grounds
Media is invited to attend the conference at no charge; participants are encouraged to register in advance.
"Patients and advocates are excited to be gathering this year after an historic victory in Congress, which paved the way for a very promising bill in the U.S. Senate," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "Hundreds of patients and advocates will gather in the nation's capitol next week with a unified goal to urge Congress to adopt sensible federal medical marijuana policy reform."
Measure backed by diverse committee of Maine citizens — including state and local officials, businesspeople, and clergy — would establish a legal market for licensed businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older
A statewide ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol will be filed Tuesday with the Maine Secretary of State.
The leader of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, David Boyer of Falmouth, will submit the language along with the signatures of five registered Maine voters who support the measure, as required by state law. The five signers will be State Rep. Diane Russell of Portland; local farmer and former Republican State Rep. Aaron Libby of Waterboro; Androscoggin County Commissioner and Lewiston School Board Member Matt Roy; Rev. Deane Perkins of Belfast; and Sherry DaBiere, a York-based real estate agent and grandmother.
“I am supporting this initiative because it will make Maine a safer place for my children and my grandchildren,” DaBiere said. “Marijuana should be regulated and controlled so that we know who is selling it, what they’re selling, and where it’s being sold.
"I do not want future generations to be exposed to the same failed prohibition laws that I had to grow up with," DaBiere said. "It’s time to end the reefer madness.”