Tags Posts tagged with "Attorney General"

Attorney General

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is certainly riled up to challenge state marijuana laws. Sadly for him, Congress just extinguished his chances.

The recent 1,665-page spending bill has a requirement that restricts the Department of Justice from using any of its finances to hinder state laws linked to medical marijuana. The department cannot “prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana,” Section 537 of the bill reads.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill—the Consolidated Appropriations Act, H.R. 244 (PDF)—passed the Senate back on May 4, with a 79-to-18 vote. The White House has indicated that Trump will sign it, which will keep the government operating until September.

The section that ties the hands of the Department of Justice on medical marijuana enforcement isn’t anything new. It has been around since back in 2015. But it received little fanfare amid the Obama era, which took a mild position on enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have some form of legalized marijuana program.

All that changed when Jeff Sessions obtained control of the Department of Justice. Sessions has frequently stated he is against marijuana legalization and indicated that he would abandon Obama’s lax enforcement position.

For example, back in an April 2016 Congressional Hearing, Sessions announced that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” When Sessions was asked about enforcement this February at a press conference, he said:

“I am definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana. But 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.”

With Section 537, Sessions can still make an effort to fight the recreational use of marijuana in the eight states that have passed such laws. However, without funding, Sessions’ has little ability to fight the medical marijuana laws in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

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In a recent memo sent to the United States attorneys, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said a task force within the Justice Department will evaluate marijuana policy as part of a larger review of crime reduction and public safety. The Department’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety will “identify ways in which the federal government can more effectively combat illegal immigration and violent crime, such as gun crime, drug trafficking, and gang violence,” according to the memo issued Wednesday.

Sessions wrote that subcommittees of the larger task force will “undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with Administration goals and priorities.” In the memo, Sessions indicated that he has asked for recommendations by July 27. He has also directed the task force to hold a “National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety” within the next 120 days.

Since taking on the role of Attorney General in January, Sessions has included marijuana in his speeches about cracking down on illegal drugs, saying, “experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think.” He has also been reluctant to draw a distinction between medical and recreational marijuana, noting he is “dubious” of medical marijuana. If the Justice Department is reviewing existing policies, that would presumably include the 2013 Cole memorandum.

Sessions has previously said that the Cole memorandum set up policies “about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid. I may have some different ideas myself in addition to that.” In an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt on March 9, Sessions reiterated that “marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws. So yes, we will enforce law in an appropriate way nationwide.” He did temper that statement with the warning that, “it’s not possible for the federal government, of course, to take over everything the local police used to do in a state that’s legalized it.”

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On Election Day, residents of California made their vote to become the world’s biggest legal marijuana market, along with seven more states who also voted yes on recreational or medical pot. Originally, President-elect Donald Trump’s shocking victory didn’t seem to pose an immediate threat to the legal pot industry; Trump isn’t popular in the cannabis world, but he’s not seen as a committed prohibitionist either.

At a post-election industry conference in Vegas, the largest controversy involved a nearly naked model covered in cold cuts. That outlook changed after Trump picked Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, as his nominee for attorney general. While many conservatives have relaxed their outlook on both marijuana and criminal penalties for drug offenses, Sessions evidently has not.

“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington saying marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized,” he said at a hearing in April.

“It is, in fact, a very real danger.” To liberals, the Sessions nomination is, as the New York Times editorialized, “An insult to justice.” Sessions had been rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 due to concerns that he’s a racist.

His nomination in 2016 to the far more powerful position of attorney general raised an immediate outcry from, among others, those concerned with the treatment of undocumented immigrants, the rights of LGBTQ and Muslim Americans, and supporters of criminal justice reform and police accountability. The legal marijuana industry, which is anticipated to top $6 billion in sales this year, also has reason to fear Sessions, but its response has been much more muted.

The National Cannabis Industry Association, the industry’s largest lobby, released a statement saying that it looked forward to working with Attorney General Sessions. They think it’s safer to weather his tenure at the Justice Department than to fight it.

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Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III will be the next Attorney General of the United States. Sessions is an Alabama senator. He has previously been criticized due to racial comments he has made. Republicans on a Senate committee stopped his nomination for federal judge in 1986 following comments he made (after former colleagues testified) such as: using the n-word, agreeing with someone who said a white lawyer who represents black defendants is a “race traitor” and addressing African-American lawyers as “boy.” Sessions also stated he considers the Voting Rights Act “an intrusive piece of legislation.”

His most repulsive comment was a “joke” saying he thinks the Ku Klux Klan is “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.” Sessions is not enthusiastic about weed. Recently, at a Senate hearing this year; he said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” adding:

“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington saying marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger. You can see the accidents, traffic deaths related to marijuana. And you’ll see cocaine and heroin increase more than it would have, I think.”

It has been proven to be false that marijuana is a “gateway drug.” Research results have also cast doubt on the traffic death claim. (When “age and alcohol are factored in,” The Washington Post reports, “THC didn’t appear to play huge role in deadly car accidents.”) Sessions’ negativity towards cannabis goes way back to the Reagan era. “I think one of [Obama's] great failures, it’s obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana. It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started ‘Just Say No.’”

If Sessions gives the federal government orders to crack-down on users and dispensaries in legal-weed states, it would be in direct conflict with the “states’ rights” philosophy that supposedly governs modern conservatism. That is; however, what led him to refer to a federal law that defended the voting rights of African-American citizens in his state as “intrusive.”

It is quite obvious that the Drug War and race have some correlation. African-American defendants’ sentences are 20 percent longer than their white counterparts. As per the ACLU, African-Americans are more likely to be subject to two-strike and three-strike laws. This is horrible for nonviolent drug offenders (and disproportionate): A study from 2013 found over 3,000 people are currently in prison for life due to nonviolent drug crimes; of which sixty-five percent are black. In Louisiana (next to Sessions’ Alabama), ninety one percent of the prisoners serving life for nonviolent offenses were black.

It is no surprise Sessions is strongly against marijuana. The concern is whether or not Trump will allow him to do some damage. Trump stated during his campaign that marijuana policy was best left to the states. We will soon see if his administration will put their money where their mouth is.

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Loretta Lynch who is the U.S. Attorney General will be speaking to a group of high school students in the great state of Kentucky sometime this week, to educate students that marijuana is most certainly not a gateway drug, a prominent challenge to the most popular debate used by opponents of legalization.

On a speaking tour as part of President Obama’s Prescription Opioid Epidemic Awareness Week, the attorney general stated that prescription drug abuse, not to be confused with cannabis use, is the most important factor leading to hard drugs like heroin.

“In so many cases, it isn’t trafficking rings that introduce a person to opioids,” she said. “It’s the household medicine cabinet. Something you can have prescribed to you in good faith by a doctor. That’s the source.”

Lynch disputed that marijuana’s position in America’s talk about drug abuse and addiction has been overstated.

“It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids—it is true that if you tend to experiment with a lot of things in life, you may be inclined to experiment with drugs, as well. But it’s not like we’re seeing that marijuana as a specific gateway,” stated Lynch, who visited numerous places in Kentucky as part of some 250 activities planned for this awareness-raising week.

Kentucky is one of the states most severely impacted by the heroin and opioid epidemic in recent years, with drug overdose deaths rising to 1000 a year, according to a statement from the Office of Drug Control Policy. Heroin and opioid overdoses in the America account for 62 percent of all drug fatalities. In states with the highest rates of fatal overdoses, opioids reflect a disproportionately large piece.

This disturbing increase in overdose deaths, which shot up 137 percent between 2000 and 2014, makes this week’s awareness campaign all the more significant. The Obama administration is seeking $1.1 billion in new funding to fight opioid abuse and for treatment and care of addicts.

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Doug Peterson, Nebraska Attorney General, encouraged the people of Nebraska to completely oppose the legalization of recreational cannabis because of concerns for the health of the youth as well as the wellbeing of the entire population. Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, which is right next to Nebraska, along with three other states, Peterson stated on Tuesday. that there is no doubt that this is not the last we have seen of marijuana commercialization. He believes that the country will be attempting to follow exactly what Colorado has done.

“What would it look like if we just gave in on this battle? That’s concerning to me,’’ said Peterson. “The industry will make billions of dollars, they will do it on the backs of our young people, and we will have to deal with the consequences.’’

Peter yielded these statements during a meeting of law enforcement and public safety officials on Tuesday. Speakers at the Nebraska Drugged Driving Summit announced that driving while impaired has become more and more of a concern. This is the result of less strict marijuana laws as well as more people using legal prescription drugs. Also, almost two dozen other states have approved of medical marijuana to treat pain along with sundry other illnesses.

According to Rose White, of AAA Nebraska, the meeting was set up to spread awareness of the growing part drugs and alcohol play in motor vehicle collisions. The summit had also mentioned newer methods to deal with drivers under the influence. A majority of the meeting was dedicated to concerns with Colorado legalizing recreational marijuana.

During a panel discussion, Peterson stated that he is certain that Colorado’s marijuana laws will have negative externalities for Nebraska. Law enforcement officials are seeing higher rates of marijuana within the state coming from Colorado. This includes edibles infused with the drug. Peterson stated that marijuana in Colorado is much stronger than typical types seen in Nebraska, “creating all kinds of impairment issues.’’

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The birth of a new industry can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Having the ability to make new rules that would help change, define and drive a new business can be great and rewarding work. It could also be a bad thing though because how does one start a new marijuana business entirely from scratch in a brand new economy? Furthermore, how does one start a marijuana business in a country where it is misunderstood and still considered illegal at the federal level?

More and more states are beginning to support full legalization of cannabis and there are calls to make standards for businesses that are working in the marijuana industry; that is a fact. Not only are people calling for these standards, but it is vital. Marijuana rules and regulations are needed not only to keep the marijuana industry safe but also the consumers as well. In July, attorney generals, public officials, state representatives and business owners gathered in Hawaii to begin drafting a marijuana industry “Code of Responsible Practices.”

The code was set on making standards, protocols and to help give oversight to new and developed cannabis businesses. Here is the best action that the marijuana industry can take that would likely be effective for all marijuana businesses. The first step would be to elect a governing body. With a board made up of farmers, marijuana entrepreneurs, consumers, lawyers, and activists, all the needs of the marijuana industry would be met.

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It is now a well-known fact that the federal government still deems marijuana in all forms. It is also known that select states have legalized marijuana recreationally and medically. This has led to various issues between feds and states over the last couple of years. In order to try to resolve this issue, The Obama Administration has issued some limited policy changes that have yielded less issues in states that have legalized the plant.

Despite this, there are still many more issues that need to be touched upon. Even so, things could be much worse. The Obama Administration at least has been open to legalization by the states given that issues are mitigated. One member of the cabinet, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, made this clear a week ago when she was interviewed by NBC. Here is a section from article that activist Tom Angell posted on Marijuana.com:

“The nation’s top cop thinks states should be allowed to legalize marijuana, but believes the federal government has a role to play in keeping cannabis away from kids and stopping interstate trafficking in the drug.

‘I think states have to make those decisions on their own. They listen to their citizens and they take actions,’ said Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Thursday. ‘What we have said and what we continue to say is that states have to also have a system designed to, number one, mitigate violence associated with their marijuana industries. And number two, and perhaps most importantly, keep young people, children away from the products.’”

This statement definitely simplifies the position of the Obama Administration when it comes to marijuana. There is definitely much that may be done on the federal government’s support of marijuana prohibition in states that have the criteria mentioned by the AG. For instance, Oregon fits the criteria but the federal government still spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to get rid of marijuana. What the Obama Administration needs to do next is to do something that will last longer. There are fears that the next president will change laws quickly and up to this point, it has been very possible.

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