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NYC Prosecutors Pledge to Dismiss 700,000 Minor Warrants

Four of New York City’s district attorneys say they will file motions in coming weeks to toss out 700,000 old warrants issued for low-level offenses like drinking in public and riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, reports the New York Law Journal. Prosecutors in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan will move to dismiss warrants that are 10 years old or older that stem from NYPD summonses. The mass clearance will dismiss a significant portion of the city’s roughly 1.5 million outstanding warrants.

When warrants aren’t cleared, those who have them are subject to automatic arrest for years and decades to come, even if they come in contact with police because they were involved in a minor traffic accident or while reporting a crime. Bronx DA Darcel Clark said the motions for clearance should not be viewed as mass amnesty. “We’re not telling everyone it’s OK to get a summons and not show up,” Clark said. But she said many of the cases are unprosecutable because of legal sufficiency issues.

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If We Step Up the Drug War, You’ll Be a Victim

What word best describes the War on Drugs? Inane? Lunacy? Indecent? Harmful? Thuggery?

The right answer is All of the Above. Politicians have ruined lives and wasted money in a futile campaign to stop people from recreational drug use.

It may be true that people who use drugs are being stupid. Or even immoral. But the key thing to understand is that it’s a victimless crime.

Actually, that’s not true, there are victims. They’re called taxpayers, who have to finance the government’s drug war. And there are secondary victims thanks to bad laws (dealing with asset forfeiture and money laundering) that only exist because of the drug war.

Speaking of which, here’s another horror story from the drug war:

A report by the Justice Department Inspector General released Wednesday found that the DEA’s gargantuan amount of cash seizures often didn’t relate to any ongoing criminal investigations, and 82 percent of seizures it reviewed ended up being settled administratively—that is, without any judicial review—raising civil liberties concerns … the Inspector General reports the DEA seized $4.15 billion in cash since 2007, accounting for 80 percent of all Justice Department cash seizures.

Here’s the jaw-dropping part of the story:

… $3.2 billion of those seizures were never connected to any criminal charges.

In other words, the government took people’s money even if they weren’t charged with a crime, much less convicted of a crime.

Drug users also can be victims. Heck, sometimes people are victims even if they’re not users, as we see from this great moment in the drug war:

“They thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County,” Ross LeBeau said. “This was the bust of the year for them.” A traffic stop in early December led to the discovery of almost half a pound of what deputies believed to be methamphetamine. The deputies arrested LeBeau and sent out a press release, including a mug shot, describing the bust. According to authorities, the arrest was due to deputies finding a sock filled with what they believed to be methamphetamine … After the arrest, LeBeau was fingerprinted and booked into a jail where he spent three days before being released. The problem came after two field tests, performed by deputies, came back positive for meth. Later a third test was conducted by the county’s forensic lab which revealed that the kitty litter was not a controlled substance. The case was later dismissed.

And more bad things like this are probably going to happen because the Justice Department now wants a more punitive approach to victimless crimes.

C.J. Ciaramella of Reason reports on the grim details:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek the toughest charges and maximum possible sentences available, reversing an Obama-era policy that sought to avoid mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level drug crimes … the overall message is clear: Federal prosecutors have the green light to go hard after any and all drug offenses … The shift marks the first significant return by the Trump administration to the drug war policies that the Obama administration tried to moderate. In 2013, former Attorney General Eric Holder ordered federal prosecutors to avoid charging certain low-level offenders with drug charges that triggered long mandatory sentences. The federal prison population dropped for the first time in three decades in 2014, and has continued to fall since.

Some Republicans are unhappy about this return to draconian policies:

“Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said in a statement. “Attorney General Sessions’ new policy will accentuate that injustice … Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), although he did not directly criticize Sessions, wrote in a tweet Friday morning that “to be tough on crime we have to be smart on crime. That is why criminal justice reform is a conservative issue.”

For what it’s worth, Sessions isn’t the only one who deserves blame:

While it’s easy to point the finger at Sessions … Congress ultimately passed the laws the Justice Department is tasked with enforcing. Lawmakers in Congress had a golden window of opportunity over the past three years to revise federal sentencing laws—with bipartisan winds at their back and a friendly administration in White House—and failed miserably.

And there is a tiny bit of good news:

… the Office of National Drug Control Policy … Trump plans to reduce the agency’s budget by 95 percent … there are plenty of actual harm reduction advocates who would be happy to see the agency close up shop.

Though don’t get too excited:

… you know what federal agency with drug policy ramifications is not dormant? The Justice Department … In the grand scheme of the drug war, who might occupy the ONDCP’s bully pulpit matters less than the army Sessions is building.

So don’t hold your breath waiting for better policy.

Here’s another reason why the war on pot is so absurd. As reported by the Daily Caller, people without access to marijuana are more likely to get in trouble with opioids:

Opioids continue to claim 91 lives a day across the U.S., but new research shows medical marijuana programs are drastically cutting down on rates of painkiller abuse. Research from the Journal of the American Medical Association is adding to a growing body of evidence showing states with medical marijuana programs have lower rates of opioid related overdoses. Patients who are offered pot as an alternative treatment for chronic conditions are increasingly shifting off their prescription opioids entirely, reports WLBZ. The researchers found states with medical marijuana programs in 2014 had an opioid overdose rate roughly 25 percent lower than the national average.

Last but not least, an article in Reason explains how greedy politicians are undermining the otherwise successful pot legalization in Colorado:

Colorado … voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, transforming the popular stuff from a prohibited vice to a substance that could be produced, bought and sold without the hassle of hiding dealings from the authorities and the fear of arrest for voluntary transactions. Yet the marijuana black market is still going strong over four years later, with many sellers and customers willing to take a chance on legal consequences rather than make a risk-free deal … the driving force behind the black market … is taxes so sky high and regulations so burdensome that they make legal pot uncompetitive. “An ounce of pot on the black market can cost as little as 180 dollars,” according to PBS correspondent Rick Karr. “At the store Andy Williams owns, you have to pay around 240 dollars for an ounce. That’s partly because the price includes a 15 percent excise tax, a 10 percent marijuana tax, the state sales tax, and Denver’s marijuana sales tax.” Colorado also piles on expensive regulatory requirements to get a license.

This is not a surprise.

I wrote back in 2015 that the tax burden was excessive.

Indeed, I even wondered if legalization in Colorado was a good thing if the net result was a big pile of tax revenue that could be used to expand government.

The libertarian part of me says Colorado made the right decision, though the fiscal economist part of me definitely sees a downside.

And that downside may become an even bigger downer:

Governor John Hickenlooper wants to increase the marijuana sales tax from 10 percent to 12 percent. “It seems kind of odd that at the same time they’re trying to do something about the black and gray markets they’re going to ratchet up the taxes and drive more people to the black and gray markets,” state Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) commented.

P.S. I wonder if Senator Steadman realizes he just embraced the Laffer Curve?

P.P.S. It’s worth noting that voices as diverse as John Stossel, Mona Charen, Gary Johnson, Pat Robertson, Cory Booker, John McCain, and Richard Branson all agree that it’s time to rethink marijuana prohibition.

Daniel J. Mitchell


Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

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Georgia Lawmaker Gives Away Cannabis Oil on the Edge of the Law

Georgia State representative Allen Peake has been fighting for medical marijuana in his state for some time now, being instrumental in a recent expansion of Georgia’s cannabis oil law that made it through the state House and Senate.

The Associated Press recently sat down with Rep. Peake to talk about medical marijuana and his efforts to get cannabis oil to patients in Georgia who need it. Even though there are patients who are qualified for the medicine in the state, they have no way of accessing it.

So every month a box arrives from Colorado at Rep. Peake’s office, full of cannabis oil. Peake then distributes that oil to patients. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to be able to help get the product to these families, these citizens who have debilitating illnesses,” Peake told AP.

Peake gives away the oil, as selling it would be illegal in Georgia. The process that gets it to his office is a federal felony, but Peake maintains that he doesn’t inquire about that part. “Quite frankly, I don’t know how the product gets here,” Peake said.

When boxes arrive Peake makes donations to a foundation in Colorado that supports the research of medical marijuana, to the tune of about $100,000 a year (Peake is independently wealthy due to his ownership of more than 100 franchise restaurants). In this way, Peake stays (barely) within Georgia law.

He is also scrupulous when it comes to who gets the oil; patients must be among the roughly 1,300 that are registered with the state and are legally allowed to receive the oil. With the spotlight on his activities, Peake has to be careful. But he says it is worth it to be able to help sick people all over Georgia.

Rep. Peake even procured a medical marijuana card from the Georgia Department of Public Health to show to people as he promotes the state’s program. And even though he is not a qualified patient, “a card is a card, enabling Peake to legally possess the cannabis at his office,” according to AP.

From Peake the oil goes into an informal distribution network of patients and caregivers, people like Shannon Cloud, whose daughter suffers from the rare seizure disorder Dravet’s Syndrome. “It shouldn’t be this way,” she said to AP. “You shouldn’t be meeting at a gas station or a Target parking lot to get medicine to somebody. You should be going to the place where it is produced and tested to get it dispensed to you in a regulated manner, but this is what we’re forced to do.”

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Sessions’ Dream of Resurrecting Reefer Madness Foiled by Congress

If ever one feels the need to dole out criticisms, Congress is reliably low-hanging fruit. But just as a broken clock is right twice a day, once in a blue moon Congress does something that is not a complete affront to liberty.

Having Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General in the era of Trump has had civil liberty advocates on edge from the get-go. As one of the last remaining champions of marijuana prohibition, Sessions would erase all progress made toward decriminalization over the last several years—if given the chance.

Luckily, Congress has taken precautionary measures to ensure that the Trump appointee cannot get his regulatory claws on medical marijuana legislation passed by 29 states.

Congress is drawing a line in the sand on the issue of marijuana legalization. Saved by the Amendment 

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was included in the newly revealed Congressional budget, would block any federal impediment on state laws that legalize the use of medical marijuana by barring any federal dollars from being spent on enforcing national drug laws.

Slipped into the budget bill that would keep the government sufficiently funded until September, the text of the amendment clarifies that states that have legalized medical marijuana  are safe from federal intrusion, specifying:

“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana

Nothing about this amendment is particularly out of the ordinary since medical marijuana has been subtly protected in budget bills since 2014. However, this year’s inclusion represents more than a symbolic gesture, given Attorney General Sessions’ outdated views on marijuana legalization.

Sessions had the audacity to call pot “slightly” less terrible than heroine. In a rare turn of events Congress, the governing body known for having little to no respect for American civil liberties is drawing a line in the sand on the issue of marijuana legalization, at least for medical purposes.

Sessions’ track record on the issue has done little to assure opponents of the drug war that states will continue to make strides towards allowing patients to seek and use marijuana for medical purposes.

Reefer Madness

As recently as February, Sessions made comments expressing his dissatisfaction with states exerting their sovereign right to make laws in the best interests of their constituents. Clarifying his stance he stated:

“States, they can pass the laws they choose, I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

Demonstrating just how out of touch he is on the issue and denying medical research to the contrary Sessions also had the audacity to call pot “slightly” less terrible than heroine.

As more states have legalized pot, opiate use is down nationwide. While this statement would be outlandishly false regardless, to make say such things while an opiate epidemic is plaguing the country is not only ignorant, it’s especially dangerous considering Sessions’ powerful position when it comes to enforcing federal drug laws.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

In fact, as more states have legalized marijuana, opiate usage is down nationwide. But apparently, Sessions does not see this as a positive development even though heroine is estimated to have been the cause of over 13,000 deaths in America in 2016.

Fortunately, this move represents Congress’ reluctance to roll back any victories seen on the marijuana legalization front, at least medically-speaking, which, albeit small, is a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, this amendment only protects medical marijuana laws, meaning Sessions could potentially make a power grab and go after the eight states that have legalized pot on a recreational level, nine including the nation’s capital, although doing so would be wildly unpopular and out of line with an American public that now largely skews in favor of marijuana legalization.

While Sessions is surely the personification of the uneducated reefer madness era, he has yet to act on the issue aside from veiled threats that rhetorically resurrect an archaic sentiment.

Brittany Hunter


Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at FEE. Brittany studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies.

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The Racist Roots of Marijuana Prohibition

The history of marijuana (or cannabis/THC) stems back over 10,000 years and is widely recognized as one of the most useful plants on the planet. Yet it was made illegal in the United States in the early 20th century due to political and economic factors.

History of The Drug

Let’s get one thing clear: marijuana was not made illegal because it caused “insanity, criminality, and death” as was claimed by Harry J. Anslinger. It was made illegal in an attempt to control Mexican immigration into the United States and to help boost the profits of large pharmaceutical companies.

Humans have been using the plant for almost 10,000 years to make necessary items such as clothing and pottery. But the first direct reference to a cannabis product as a “psychoactive agent” dates back to 2737 BC in the writings of the Chinese emperor Shen Nung.

Southern states feared the plant so much, it was called the “marijuana menace.”

The focus was on its healing powers, primarily how it healed diseases such as malaria and even “absent-mindlessness.” The plant was used recreationally by Indians and Muslims as well.

Marijuana in America

The drug was introduced into America by the Spanish in 1545, where it became a major commercial force and was grown alongside tobacco. Farmers mostly grew hemp instead of cannabis (a form of the plant that is very low in THC), and by 1890 it had replaced cotton as the major cash crop in southern states.

Hemp continued to flourish in the States until the 1910s when Mexicans began popularizing the recreational use of cannabis.

At the time, cannabis was not primarily used for its psychoactive effects. However, and quite frankly, many “white” Americans did not like the fact that Mexicans were smoking the plant, and they soon demonized the drug.

Around 1910, the Mexican Revolution was starting to boil over, and many Mexicans immigrated to the U.S. to escape the conflict. This Mexican population had its own uses for cannabis, and they referred to it as “marihuana.” Not only did they use it for medicinal purposes, but they smoked it recreationally – a new concept for white Americans. U.S. politicians quickly jumped on the opportunity to label cannabis “marihuana” in order to give it a bad rep by making it sound more authentically Mexican at a time of extreme prejudice.

It worked. Southern states became worried about the dangers this drug would bring, and newspapers began calling Mexican cannabis use a “marijuana menace.”

During the 1920s, many anti-marijuana campaigns were conducted to raise awareness about the many harmful effects the drug caused. These campaigns included radical claims stating that marijuana turned users into killers and drug addicts. They were all obviously fake, made up in an attempt to get rid of Mexican immigrants.

“A widow and her four children have been driven insane by eating the Marihuana plant, according to doctors, who say that there is no hope of saving the children’s lives and that the mother will be insane for the rest of her life,” read a New York Times story from 1927. It was clear the newspapers and tabloids were building a campaign against the plant, and much of it has been said to be based on racist ideologies against Mexican immigrants.

The “war against marijuana” arguably began in 1930, where a new division in the Treasury Department was established — the Federal Bureau of Narcotics — and Harry J. Anslinger was named director. This, if anything, marked the beginning of the all-out war against marijuana.

Anslinger realized that opiates and cocaine would not be enough to build his new agency, so he turned towards marijuana and worked relentlessly to make it illegal on a federal level. Some anti-marijuana quotes from Anslinger’s agency read:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”

“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”

“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”

“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”

Yes, every single one of these claims is outrageous, but the strategy worked.

(Harry Anslinger got some additional help from William Randolph Hearst, owner of a huge chain of newspapers. Hearst had lots of reasons to help. First, he hated Mexicans. Second, he had invested heavily in the timber industry to support his newspaper chain and didn’t want to see the development of hemp paper in competition. Third, he had lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa and blamed Mexicans. Fourth, telling lurid lies about Mexicans [and the devil marijuana weed causing violence] sold newspapers, making him rich.)

The war on marijuana intensified in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed.

The two were then supported by the Dupont chemical company and various pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw cannabis. Pharmaceutical companies were on board with the idea because they could not standardize cannabis dosages, and people could grow it themselves. They knew how versatile the plant was in treating a wide range of medical conditions and that meant a potentially massive loss of profits.

So, these U.S. economic and political powerhouses teamed up to form a great little act called The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

This act testified to the many harmful effects of marijuana and was obviously opposed by many. But it was ultimately the committee chairman who got this act passed in congress. 

The chairman decided that

“high school boys and girls buy the destructive weed without knowledge of its capacity of harm, and conscienceless dealers sell it with impunity. This is a national problem, and it must have national attention. The fatal marihuana cigarette must be recognized as a deadly drug, and American children must be protected against it.”

And there you have it: 1937 marks the year where marijuana became illegal in the United States of America.

Epilogue 

A man by the name of Harry Anslinger became the director of the newly established department — the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Anslinger teamed up with William Randolph Hearst (a newspaper company owner) and some big-time pharmaceutical companies, and together they launched an anti-marijuana campaign to profit off of manufactured medicine and deport thousands of Mexicans.

Marijuana was not made illegal because of its negative health impacts. It was these men who manipulated the public into believing the herb was deadly, and their impacts are still felt even today.

The war against marijuana intensified in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed.
The future for marijuana is looking very bright.

During this time, marijuana, heroin, and LSD were listed as “schedule 1” drugs (having the highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use). Obviously, this goes against thousands of years of human knowledge where it was widely known that cannabis was one of the most beneficial herbs on the face of the planet.

Congress has repeatedly decided to ignore history to the benefit of big pharmaceutical companies, which bring in billions of dollars annually from selling cheaply manufactured medicine.

The “zero tolerance” climate of the Reagan and Bush years resulted in the passage of stricter laws, mandatory minimum sentencing for possession of marijuana, and heightened vigilance against smuggling at the southern borders. The “war on drugs” brought with it a shift from reliance on imported supplies to domestic cultivation.

It wasn’t until 1996 when California legalized marijuana for medical use. Alaska, Oregon, and Washington eventually followed suit. However, it has taken well over a decade for marijuana to reach recreational legalization in these states. 

With all this being said, the future for marijuana is looking very bright. Marijuana advocates believe there is a chance for at least 11 more states to legalize recreational marijuana in the near future, which would be a huge leap forward in the grand scheme of things.

It has taken far too long to break the stigma attached to marijuana. Yes, like any drug, it can be abused. But to ignore its obvious health benefits in order to maintain large scale pharmaceutical operations and a monopoly on the health industry is ludicrous. 


David McDonald

David McDonald is a 20-year-old student at the University Of Guelph.

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More DEA Hypocrisy: Anti-Legalization Pharmaceutical Company Gets Schedule II Clearance for its Synthetic THC Drug

Last week, the pharmaceutical giant Insys Therapeutics scored a major victory when it was announced that their new synthetic THC drug – Syndros – was approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration for placement on Schedule II of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

According to Dr. Santosh Vetticaden, Ph.D., M.D., Interim CEO, and Chief Medical Officer at the company, “Insys is looking forward to bringing this new drug product to chemotherapy patients to help alleviate their nausea and vomiting and AIDS patients with anorexia associated weight loss, respectively.”

The irony of a synthetic version of cannabis – a Schedule I, “no known medical value” substance – being placed on Schedule II so it can help the very patients that cannabis itself has been helping for years is made even richer when you realize that just last fall Insys gave $500,000 to opponents of Proposition 205, a measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana in Arizona.

But it gets better. Insys is the maker of Fentanyl, an opioid painkiller that has been linked to a rising number of overdose deaths around the country. Cannabis, of course, has never been linked to a single overdose death in 5,000 years of use.

Insys admitted in a 2007 SEC disclosure filing that legal natural cannabis would be a problem for them. “If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected,” they said.

Pardon my French, but no s***.

And if fighting against people being able to legally use a product that is far safer than yours as medicine didn’t tell you enough about the ethics of those who run Insys, how about this?

The company is currently under investigation for illegally marketing Fentanyl, an opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin, which has been linked to the death of Prince last year.

In December, several executives at the company were arrested and the CEO was forced to step down after they were charged with using speakers fees to entice doctors to prescribe Subsys, a medication for cancer patients that contains Fentanyl.

Just a few years ago, the notion that big pharmaceutical companies were conspiring with powerful people in our government for the purposes of keeping cannabis illegal was considered to be a wild conspiracy theory. Now, it is out in the open and blatant.

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Tennessee Passes on Chance to OK Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana won’t be legal in Tennessee anytime soon after a House Representative’s bill, which aimed to legalize cannabis use for people suffering from certain conditions such as cancer, HIV and epilepsy, failed to get Senate support. The bill, HB0495, was considered dead for the year after the state’s House Health Committee rejected the measure following… Continue reading Tennessee Passes on Chance to OK Medical Marijuana

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Republicans Reach Out to Sessions in Support of Cannabis

Attorney General Jeff Sessions put recreational cannabis states on edge with his recent comments on the Schedule 1 substance, spurring Republican lawmakers to come to the defense of states’ rights in a big way.

Colorado State Attorney General extends an invitation to Sessions to head out West, to show him what an adult-use state really looks like.

In a recent morning meeting with Sessions, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says she offered him an insider’s look at how a successful recreational cannabis industry is currently operating.

Coffman, a Republican, told The Denver Post, “I thought it was important to come to the states that have legalized marijuana, particularly Colorado since we have the longest history, and to see what we have done.”

Colorado boasts the oldest recreational cannabis industry, and the highest sales. State revenue and tax division data reveal that Colorado sold a billion dollars’ worth of the plant in the first ten months of 2016 alone.

Coffman was in Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General.

“They indicated an interest in doing that,” she said.

The invite comes days after the newly confirmed Attorney General had the following to say about cannabis to reporters, at the Department of Justice:

“I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” he said. “States they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

His words have most of the cannabis industry worried, but Senators like Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) say they have been assured that Sessions’ will leave it up to the states.

“He told me he would have some respect for states’ right on these things,” says Sen. Paul, “And so I’ll be very unhappy if the federal government decides to go into Colorado and Washington and all of these places. And that’s not the [what] my interpretation of my conversation with him was. That this wasn’t his intention,” reports Politico.

As far as Sen. Gardner is concerned, following the comments from the Trump cabinet, “Nothing at this point has changed.”

Gardner adds, “He was talking about if there’s cartels involved in illegal operations, they’re going to crack down on that,” reports Politico. “That’s what everybody’s saying. I still haven’t heard Jeff Sessions say that there’s a big policy change coming. We obviously want to make sure we’re clear on what they’ve said.”

Alaska’s Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski, remains cautiously optimistic. She says, “It’s probably a little premature to try to predict what may or may not be coming out of the administration on this, so I think we just need to sit back and see.”

Senators Murkowski and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) just submitted a letter to Attorney General Sessions, in which they ask the Trump administration to uphold the Cole memo to allow state-legal cannabis programs, as did Obama.

The letter reads, “We respectfully request that you uphold the DOJ’s existing policy regarding states that have implemented strong and effective regulations for recreational marijuana use.”

By Chloe Sommers for The Marijuana Times

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DC MARIJUANA GROUP HAS 5,500 JOINTS READY FOR DONALD TRUMP

Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday is guaranteed to be a memorable affair for reasons beyond the historic moment of America welcoming its first reality-TV, Twitter-feuding, sexual assault-boasting president.

Forget, for a second at least, the cheap jokes about the musical acts pulled from the hotel-by-the-airport convention circuit in order to perform before the #MAGA set at the celebrity-shunned inauguration, or the very real, very ominous army of immigration authorities waiting to descend on America’s workplaces as soon as Trump gives the word.

There’s going to be five thousand marijuana joints in the crowd, and unless the incoming administration signals a clear truce on cannabis before Friday morning, a cadre of Washington, D.C. activists have vowed to light them up just as Trump’s first big speech gets going.

Marijuana advocates with DCMJ, the organization responsible for D.C.’s successful marijuana legalization push, have spent the past few weeks rolling thousands and thousands of joints and waiting—waiting for Donald Trump, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, Russian intelligence or anyone else close to the president to suggest what the incoming administration’s intentions on marijuana are going to be.

Will they do the conservative thing, and let the states legalizing recreational cannabis, giving sick people access to medical marijuana and leaving those states alone to do their thing, like Barack Obama has done? While there are certainly other priorities—such as ensuring the world doesn’t fall into a state of chaos, as seems increasingly likely—Trump and his people have barely said a word.

And during his Senate confirmation hearing, Sessions explicitly reserved his right to ramp up the drug war on the country’s multibillion-dollar cannabis industry.

The silence has led to weeks of intense speculation, much of it not very reassuring, and now, DCMJ promises, it’ll culminate in a cloud of marijuana smoke rising above the steps of the U.S. Capitol as Trump is talking.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t heard anything from the incoming administration about cannabis reform,” DCMJ wrote in an e-mail newsletter issued Thursday afternoon, “so the Inaugural #Trump420 is still happening.”

TIME magazine caught up with DCMJ co-founder Nikolas Schiller, who says that the joints are rolled, they will be passed out and at “exactly 4 minutes and 20 seconds into Trump’s speech,” they will be fired up.

He insists that the event isn’t an anti-Trump protest, per se—after all, marijuana proved vastly popular in red states like Florida, where 70 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana—so much as it is for “anyone who supports cannabis reform.”

Presumably, that includes people in Trump’s inner circle other than Jeff Sessions, and maybe even a fair number of the #MAGA and alt-right crew. Surely Pepe the frog smokes weed? The world will find out tomorrow morning.

The 5,500 joints will be available for pick-up to anyone over 21 beginning at 8 a.m. at Dupont Circle in the district. Participants are encouraged to walk over to the National Mall and have their lighters and matches ready once Trump takes the oath.

Although marijuana possession and use is legal in D.C., it’s not legal on federal property—which includes the Mall. But this is no time to be worried about obeying the letter of the law.

“The act of nonviolent civil disobedience is to break a law that they wish to change,” Schiller told TIME. “The smell can go around and people can know ‘oh those people are demonstrating the importance of cannabis legalization.’”

DCMJ’s act of protest is one of many scheduled for Inauguration Weekend, including national women’s marches on Saturday.

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Georgia Medical Marijuana Supporters see opening, obstacles to state expansion

Seven states passed marijuana initiatives on Nov. 8, which ordinarily would have injected new life into the push to expand Georgia’s tiny medical cannabis program.

But those advocates must now wonder whether the incoming Trump administration will quash their enthusiasm. While the president-elect himself has said marijuana policy should be left up to the states, his nominee for attorney general, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has been a fierce critic of the drug, which remains federally classified as a harmful and illegal substance.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, the driving force behind the 2015 creation of Georgia’s limited marijuana operation, said he will ask lawmakers in 2017 to at the very least expand the number of conditions that qualify for the state’s program. His “home run” scenario is for his legislative colleagues and Gov. Nathan Deal to agree to a narrowly tailored in-state program to grow and cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Peake said more than 1,000 Georgians are now registered to legally possess cannabis oil to treat one of eight conditions that qualify for the program. The positives of the program far outweigh any negative, he said.

“The sky has not fallen,” Peake said. “We’ve not seen a significant uptick of people driving while intoxicated with medical cannabis oil. It hasn’t become a public health hazard.”

It’s not just the governor who opposes expanding the program. Many prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have, too. The Faith and Freedom Coalition, a Duluth-based group that advocates for social conservative causes, has made blocking expansion of the program a top goal for the coming legislative session.

In 2015, the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the original bill that created the state’s current medical marijuana law, calling it the “camel’s nose in the tent” toward full legalization. Many states that now allow recreational use of the drug first legalized it for medicinal purposes.

Frank Rotondo, the executive director of the police chiefs’ organization, said his board will wait to see any new legislation before taking a position. But, he said, their past concerns remain unchanged. For example, states have yet to find safe, accurate and efficient ways to test whether a motorist is under the influence of marijuana, he said.

“From a law enforcement perspective, it’s a public safety issue,” Rotondo said.

For patients already in the state program, the largest impediment, however, remains where to get the oil. While Deal and the General Assembly agreed to allow Georgians to legally possess the oil, they did not agree to allow it to be produced here.

So families and patients on the state’s medical marijuana registry must buy it and have it delivered, or they can travel to other states to buy it and risk arrest while transporting it home. Peake said he’s not aware of any Georgian who has been arrested for doing so. The oil that is available via mail is less potent than what Georgia law allows and what many patients need.

Blaine Cloud, a leading advocate for expanding Georgia’s program and the father of a child on the registry, said many families are turning to a third, more dangerous way to get the oil: cooking it themselves.

Cloud, in a letter to lawmakers, said some Georgians are buying marijuana illegally and turning it into cannabis oil in their own kitchens.

“We knew some people would have to resort to this,” he said, “but more people are doing it than we initially thought.”

Cloud vowed to return to the state Capitol in January when lawmakers convene to fight “to get actual access to the medicine we’re allowed to possess.”

Peake said he hopes to convince Deal that enough states have adopted medical marijuana laws that the risk is worth it, something he’s been unable to do the past two years.

“The issue is coming across the country,” Peake said, noting that 28 states and the District of Columbia now allow the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. “Access and cultivation in the state is coming to Georgia.”

The question, he said, is whether Deal wants to tackle it or let the next governor, elected in 2018, address it.

Jen Talaber Ryan, Deal’s communications director, said the office does not comment on pending legislation.

JJ McKay, the publisher of The Fresh Toast, a news and lifestyle website with a focus on cannabis, said 60 percent of Americans now live in a state where a form of marijuana is legal.

“Look at the people it helps,” McKay said. “Opioids is a raging national problem. Marijuana, if done correctly with the right supervision, is a better alternative and less harsh on both the system and the person.”

McKay does not believe, meanwhile, that Sessions, if he’s confirmed as attorney general, will necessarily be an impediment to expansion of marijuana laws in the states.

“Jeff Sessions is anti-marijuana,” McKay said. “But Jeff Sessions is anti many things. He has a full plate, and you’re walking into a system where it would be very difficult to overturn things in 28 states.”

Legal marijuana is a $7.1 billion industry that produces hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for states, McKay said. Florida, which voted for a medical marijuana program in November that includes the in-state cultivation Peake wants, is expected to see a $1 billion tax benefit, McKay said.

Plus, he said, President-elect Donald Trump has said marijuana policy should be left to the states.

“Will Sessions make it harder? Maybe,” McKay said. “Will he be able to overturn it? Doubtful.”


By Aaron Gould Sheinin – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution