Tags Posts tagged with "Department of Justice"

Department of Justice

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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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The medical marijuana community was left feeling much stronger this past month after a federal court determined that the Department of Justice must adhere to the regulations designated with the passing of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment-a budget restriction that restricts the use of federal money for the prosecution of marijuana shops and patients that legally comply with state law.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was passed back in 2014 and renewed in 2015, was created as a form of protection for the medical marijuana industry by blocking the use of federal money for raids and prosecutions of medical marijuana users.

The Justice Department used its own loose interpretation of the rider to further its reign of terror, implying that it only prohibited the department from “Impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,” however did nothing to stop them from bullying the medical marijuana community.

After a lot of commotion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit finally took a stand to offer some clarity on the matter, saying, “At a minimum, prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws.” However, Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, who wrote the decision on behalf of the three-judge panel, was quick to highlight that the Department of Justice and its associates over at the DEA could one day resume the dropping of the gavel on medical marijuana businesses and patients the second Congress makes the choice to no longer support Rohrabacher-Farr.

“Congress could restore funding tomorrow, a year from now, or four years from now, and the government could then prosecute individuals who committed offenses while the government lacked funding,” O’Scannlain wrote.

An email sent to HIGH TIMES by the Marijuana Majority suggest that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which is tucked inside a federal spending bill, is set to run out on September 30.

This should be making the medical marijuana community a little worried, especially considering that no one knows for sure whether Congress will renew the rider for inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2017 federal spending plan.

That’s because of Republican leadership, the same federal gatekeepers responsible for preventing a number of marijuana-related amendments earlier this year has seemingly started to strong-arm the amendment process, allowing “Only certain approved amendments” to advance to the floor-a situation that could easily destroy the current medical marijuana defense system. However, nothing extreme is expected to take place in the next few months, it is possible that the medical marijuana community could once again find itself with a target painted on its back.

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The United States Department of Justice is not allowed to spend money to prosecute federal cannabis cases if the defendants abide by state guidelines that allow marijuana’s sale for medicinal purposes, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The ruling, which comes from the Ninth United States Circuit Court of Appeals, arrives as voters in nine other states are going to think about legalizing the recreational use of cannabis this November.

At the moment, twenty-five U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana despite the fact that the drug is still illegal under federal law. Regardless, Congress in 2014 passed a budget rule which stops the Department of Justice from using federal funds to get in the way of state laws regarding marijuana. Because of this rule, defendants in ten cases in California and Washington refuted that their federal charges should be dropped. The 9th Circuit in San Francisco, which covers nine Western states, decided on Tuesday that the Department of Justice is not allowed to spend money so long as those defendants “strictly complied” with all state laws.

The appeals court sent the cases back to lower courts to decide whether or not the defendants had followed state law. A Justice Department spokesman was not able to be reached for comment. In November, California and eight other states are going to think about whether to allow cannabis for recreational use. Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, as well as the District of Columbia, already allow it. The unanimous 9th Circuit ruling on Tuesday was given by a panel of three judges, two of which are Republican appointees who have a tendency towards pro-law enforcement. Nevertheless, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote that medical cannabis sellers should not feel as though they are free from federal law.

“Congress could restore funding tomorrow, a year from now, or four years from now,” he stated, “and the government could then prosecute individuals who committed offenses while the government lacked funding.”

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A United States Senate panel had a meeting on Tuesday to look into the Obama administration’s reaction to cannabis legalization in an increasing number of states.

“In 2013, the Department of Justice decided to all but abandon the enforcement of federal law relating to the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana in states that were in the process of becoming the only jurisdictions in the world to legalize and regulate all these activities for recreational use,” chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), stated.

That was the steady subject all through the greater part of the hearing. A board stacked with for the most part hostile to legalization witnesses voiced a copious amount of protests with what they see as President Obama’s turning a blind eye to violate the federal government’s drug laws. The first to speak out was Benjamin Wagner, a United States lawyer from California who drove a crackdown against state-lawful medical cannabis dispensaries amid the first term of the Obama organization.

Be that as it may while Wagner has been seen by legalization advocates as a prohibitionist warrior set on closing down medical cannabis organizations, at the meeting he greatly extent argued for the Justice Department’s present arrangement of generally respecting state cannabis policies.

“The federal government and the states traditionally have worked as partners in the field of drug enforcement,” he added. “Changes in state laws relating to marijuana enforcement have affected this environment in some states, but the Department continues to work with its state and local partners to address the major threats posed by drug trafficking, including marijuana cultivation and distribution, and to ensure that our efforts are mutually supportive.”

In addition, Wagner said that the Department of Justice would come up with a publicly available “repository providing data concerning the effects of state marijuana legalization.”

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Although the federal government suggest that it had “ended the war against medical marijuana,” back in 2104 with passing of an omnibus spending bill, the true understanding of this three-legged amendment has been hanging on for dear life in a cesspool of skewed outlook and dreadful translation, ever since it was signed into law by President Obama.

After period of many raids on marijuana shops all across the country, the U.S. Department of Justice came forward with a statement in the Los Angeles Times suggesting that as far as they were concerned, the federal rider only restricts them from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,” yet in no shape or form does it protect marijuana shops and patients from the every so often shakedown.

Yet, after Congressmen Farr and Rohrabacher delivered a letter to then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking for him “bring your Department back into compliance with federal law by ceasing marijuana prosecutions and forfeiture actions against those acting in accordance with state medical marijuana laws,” their request was left in a state of impotency.

However, the two federal lawmakers have not stopped banging on the front door of the White House in search for results, most recently petitioning the Justice Department for an internal investigation into the reason why federal prosecutors still impose their power against the medical cannabis community.

“We request that you immediately investigate the Department’s expenditure of funds to continue prosecuting these cases, which we believe are in direct violation of the prohibition on such expenditures established by Rohrabacher-Farr,” reads a letter sent to Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Rohrabacher and Farr’s call for an examination into the DOJ’s misguided work ethics comes one month prior to the annual spending bill is set to expire. The two debate that the April report in the LA Times, in which Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, practically stated that only officials in medical cannabis states were defended from being chastised by the hand of the federal government, is a tiring interpretation that has lead to madness.

“Mr. Rodenbush’s interpretation is clearly a stretch,” the letter reads. “The implementation of state law is carried out by individuals and businesses as the state authorizes them to do. For DOJ to argue otherwise is a tortuous twisting of the text … and common sense.”

The congressmen continue by debating that, “any official of the Department who interprets” the scope of this amendment any other way “is doing so knowingly and willfully, without regard for the facts.”

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In downtown Washington, D.C., the Department of Justice ensures that marijuana businesses are free to run their legal operation, while right across the street, the IRS tells those enterprises they are an illegal drug trafficking business that do meet the requirements to receive benefits other corporate entities enjoy.
So which side is right? Currently, it is both. Both stances present commercial challenges for pot businesses, holding major consequences for patients, individuals, shareholders, courts, law enforcement, accountants as wells others.
This past week, one obstacle the issue of tax deductions for cannabis enterprises had its moment in court.
In Olive v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue (CIR), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit analyzed whether a medical marijuana business in California Vapor Room Herbal Center in San Francisco could proceed making deductions for business expenses under U.S. tax law.
The Ninth Circuit upheld the Tax Court decision. The appeals court pointed out a few reasons and made them very clear why Vapor Room Herbal Center was not able to deduct company expenses.
1. The Controlled Substance Act is clear: Cannabis is identified as a controlled substance illegal to be sold, use and distributed.
2. The second reason as to why centers on the purpose of the business in question. The Ninth Circuit and various appeals courts have provided leeway to cannabis-related businesses when those enterprises were made up of more than one generating activities. arriving at this decision, however, the Ninth Circuit discovered that “that the only income-generating activity in which the Vapor Room engaged was its sale of medical marijuana”. The main reason why sales as the profit generating activity of the business precluded it from some of the discretion other courts have given with an understanding to business expenses.
This result was looked at as a setback for the marijuana industry for whom the 280E problem is a crucial situation from which they actively try to obtain money from Congress for relief.

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