Tags Posts tagged with "Jeff Sessions"

Jeff Sessions

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions has demanded Congress to let a policy be terminated that defends states that have legalized marijuana from federal interference when it comes up for renewal later this year. In a letter sent to congressional leaders, last month Sessions reaffirmed the Justice Department’s “opposition” to the protective measure.

The protective policy that Sessions seek to terminate is the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment—a provision attached to an omnibus spending bill that prevents the Justice Department from using federal funds to enforce prohibition in states that have legalized medical marijuana. The rider doesn’t change the legal status of cannabis under federal law, but marijuana reform advocates viewed its passage as a step in the right direction nonetheless.

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

Former Deputy Attorney General James Cole listed eight circumstances that warrant federal intervention in legal states in a 2013 document known as the Cole memo. If there’s evidence that legal marijuana sales are being diverted to a criminal organization, that cannabis is being trafficked across state lines, or that legal products are being sold to minors, for example, the Justice Department can use federal funds to prosecutors offenders, in spite of the protective rider.

In March, Sessions said that he “might have some different ideas” to add to the Cole memo, but that he considered “much of” the document “valid.” That endorsement gave some legalization advocates a sense of relief after months of uncertainty about how President Trump’s administration would approach state marijuana laws. But the emergence of his letter to Congress has raised new questions about the fate of legalized marijuana under Trump.

It remains to be seen whether Congress will abide by Sessions request, though. The rider has enjoyed bipartisan support for three years and Americans on both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly oppose to federal intervention in legal marijuana states

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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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Congress is repeating history by yet again blocking the Justice Department from spending any money that interferes with state medical marijuana laws.

In their recently revealed budget bill, lawmakers included a section, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, that allows states to carry on with crafting their own medical marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention. The bill, which funds the government through the end of September, is expected to pass this week.

Here’s the full text of the marijuana provision:

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.

It’s not uncommon to find this tucked into a budget bill; legislators have been renewing the medical marijuana provision in every consecutive budget since it initially passed back in 2014. However what it reveals is that Congress is not interested in stepping up federal oversight of state marijuana laws under the Trump administration, even as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions implies that he wants to crackdown on marijuana laws.

He issued an ominous warning back in February to states with legalized marijuana. “States, they can pass the laws they choose,” Sessions said at a Justice Department press briefing.

“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.”

He has also said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that cannabis is only “slightly less awful” than heroin. Last year, heroin was responsible for nearly 13,000 fatalities. Still, top this day no one has ever died from overdosing in marijuana.

Jeffrey Zucker, president of the cannabis business strategy firm Green Lion Partners, praised lawmakers for sticking with the status quo.

“Medical cannabis patients in the U.S. can rest easy knowing they won’t have to return to the black market to acquire their medicine,” Zucker stated. “Operators can relax a bit knowing their hard work isn’t for naught and their employees’ jobs are safe.”

In theory, Sessions could still take action against states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Eight states and the District of Columbia have laws like this, and they are not shielded by the language in the budget bill.

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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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Federal law enforcement officials and Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department were investigating pending marijuana-related court cases in Colorado while the Attorney General was reminding America of how much he dislikes the idea of legalizing marijuana.

This recent news came from IBT’s David Sirota, who obtained an email exchange between one of Sessions’ people and Colorado officials. The one-page email is brief and is only an information request, but it is one of the first concrete signs of federal interest in state-level marijuana under the Trump era. Which means it is guaranteed to make marijuana industry types worried about a job-killing federal crackdown a little more nervous.

Through email, a Denver-based DEA agent asked a Colorado state prosecutor, “Are you able to provide me the state docket numbers for the following cases? Some of our intel people are trying to track down info regarding some of DEA’s better marijuana investigations for the new administration. Hopefully it will lead to some positive changes.”

As IBT noted, the exchange came about two weeks after White House press secretary Sean Spicer first raised the specter of “greater enforcement” around legal marijuana on February 23. The next several weeks were full of public sabre-rattling from Sessions, who sought counsel from the attorney general of nearby Oklahoma before comparing marijuana unfavorably to heroin.

The cases referenced by the DEA are ongoing prosecutions. These are situations in which the state of Colorado, where marijuana is legal, has identified illegal activity pertaining to marijuana. We don’t know what cases the DEA agent is asking about (Sirota and IBT do not say), but we suspect it stems from one of the many multi-agency raids from last year.

The DEA was a partner agency on at least a few of them, but all of them targeted illegal farming and interstate marijuana trafficking. Twenty more sites were raided by DEA agents working with local law enforcement in mid-March, 10 days after the email, but a DEA spokesman told the AP at the time that those raids were in the works for “months” and did not have anything to do with a Trump-era directive

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Cannabis shops and manufacturers have increasing concerns that the Trump Administration will enforce federal laws that restrict farming and selling the drug. This will reverse the president’s stance during his campaign and potentially overturn what has become a $7 billion industry. The worry was provoked by comments from White House spokesman Sean Spicer recently that the government would most likely boost its enforcement of drug laws.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that he is “dubious” about the benefits of marijuana. He said, “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. 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. And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize.”

The comments have sparked worry with Chuck Smith, co-founder of Dixie Brands, a Denver-based company that manufactures topicals and edibles infused with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. He founded the company in 2010 and now employs more than 100 people across Arizona, Colorado, California, and Nevada. Smith stated, “My concern right now for both the company and industry is just uncertainty. It’s hard to build an industry or a company when you don’t have clarity.”

The administration’s statements affected shares of Innovative Industrial Properties, which invests in cannabis-growing facilities and is one of the few publicly traded cannabis companies. Its stock price plummeted on the day of Spicer’s press conference and are down more than 13% since then. However, two other marijuana stocks, GW Pharmaceuticals and Cara Therapeutics, seem to have not been affected by the news.

Eight states now allow the use of cannabis recreationally, while more than two dozen states have legalized it for medical purposes. Twenty-one states have decriminalized cannabis. A recent Quinnipiac Poll found 71% of voters think the government should not restrict federal drug laws in states where marijuana is legal. Increasing acceptance has led to an jump in the market for cannabis in North America, with sales rising 34% to nearly $7 billion in 2016, according to Arcview Market Research. By 2021, the industry is likely to climb close to $22 billion.

Companies like Dixie Brands are charging that hike. The privately held company would not disclose current numbers, but in 2014 it was valued at $40 million. Smith said, “It’s hard for us to kind of go backwards. President Trump said he was going to allow this to be a state’s rights issue. We took him at his word.” Trump has sent mixed messages on cannabis. In the 1990s, he called for legalizing all drugs. On the campaign trail, he reiterated his support for medical cannabis and his deference to states to pass their own laws regulating the drug.

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“Wait did I read that correctly?” you’re probably asking yourself, right? Mr. Sessions has seemingly been the thorn in the side of the legal marijuana movement and he’s been a topic of great debate for days now. But there may be some shining light ahead to put a bit more ease to those looking at this industry and in their favor. Yes, worries about this “great shift” in federal enforcement in states where recreational legalization has been granted may be able to breathe a little easier right now.

There’s been an immense amount of angst and paranoia with regard to what some have understood as a government crackdown on recreational use. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has had private discussions with a few Republican senators saying that he doesn’t plan to stray away from the Obama-placed policy of granting states the ability to enact their own marijuana laws for their residents.

Sessions has been a strong force to be reckoned with after he ordered a review of the “hands-off” policy that President Barack Obama previously had. But apparently Mr. Sessions has had a bit of a change of heart and in private conversations, has assured senators before he was confirmed that he didn’t have too much consideration about drastically changing the enforcement laws; even though he’s not a fan of the drug’s use.

Here are a few quotes from these informed senators:

“Nothing at this point has changed,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)

“He told me he would have some respect for states’ right on these things. 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.”

-Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky)

“We respectfully request that you uphold DOJ’s existing policy regarding states that have implemented strong and effective regulations for recreational use. It is critical that states continue to implement these laws.”

-Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) & Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

“Do they really respect states’ rights? Then you should respect all of them, not just pick and choose the ones that you want to support or not. Many states have gone not only the path of Nevada of recreational marijuana but medical marijuana. How can you pick or choose one or another?”

-Sen Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada)

A group of bipartisan senators also had submitted a letter on Thursday that pushed for Sessions to keep the Obama-era policy intact in order to let states decide on how to implement recreational marijuana laws. Sen. Warren and Sen. Murkowski lead the effort; both of who are from states who’s already put legalized marijuana laws in place.

To date, 8 states and Washington, D.C. have laws in place that legalize marijuana for recreational use. Most senators who signed on the letter are from those states with Murkowski being the only Republican. The others include:

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon
Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington
Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts
Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado

The concern isn’t just among senators from those states but is an issue among many conservatives who are nervous about the GOP being selective about allowing the rights of states to supersede federal law.

“We’re concerned about some of the language that we’re hearing. And I think that conservatives who are for states’ rights ought to believe in states’ rights. I’m going to continue to advocate that the states should be left alone,” Paul said.

Sen. Gardner was even more direct with the opinion on Sessions’ comments, “He was talking about if there’s cartels involved in illegal operations, they’re going to crack down on that. That’s what everybody’s saying. I still haven’t heard Jeff Sessions say that. We obviously want to make sure we’re clear on what they’ve said.”

Despite the shake-up that Sessions almost single-handedly ignited with his comments about “not being a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” or how despite him being open to states passing laws that they choose, he made it a point to 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,” senators like Murkowski seem unshaken. In fact Murkowski said that she wasn’t alarmed and is simply monitoring the DOJ closely, “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.”

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Did Christmas come early for the cannabis industry?

Jeff Sessions lied under oath and should be forced to step down from the position of United States Attorney General…

Today, the Justice Department said that Sessions had two conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign.

This type of contact should not only require him to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian interference in the election.

Mislead Everyone at his Confirmation Hearing

During his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions did not disclose these communications when he was asked. Instead, he said he had not communicated with the Russians

At the confirmation hearing, Senator Al Franken asked Sessions about the allegations of contact between Russia and Trump aides during the 2016 election.

Sessions told Senator Franken that he was unaware of any contact.

In January, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Judiciary Committee Democrat, asked Sessions in a written questionnaire whether he had been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day.

Sessions said no.

Interacted with Russia’s Ambassador Weeks Prior to the Election

The Justice Department’s view of this matter is different.

Sessions had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors while serving as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee during the last year. He had two separate interactions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during this time.

One of the visits was in September, less than two months before the election.

Lying Under Oath

Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Sessions of lying under oath and demanded that he resign.

Sessions issued the following statement last night:

“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

This guy is clearly lying…

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice last year with the top Russian diplomat in Washington whose interactions with President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn led to Flynn’s firing, according to the Justice Department.

Sessions did not mention either meeting during his confirmation hearings when he said he knew of no contacts between Trump surrogates and Russians. A Justice official said Sessions didn’t mislead senators during his confirmation.

The revelation prompted key Democrats to call for Sessions’ resignation, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Sessions should “clarify his testimony and recuse himself.” House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, in an interview with MSNBC, also said Sessions should recuse himself for “the trust of the American people.”

The attorney general strongly pushed back against the reports, saying he never discussed campaign-related issues with anyone from Russia.

“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” he said in a statement. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

Asked by NBC News Thursday morning if he would recuse himself in investigating any potential ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, Sessions said he would do so “whenever it’s appropriate.”

Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, according to current and former senior US government officials.
Russian officials dispute this characterization.

Sessions met with Kislyak twice, in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention, and in September in his office when Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Services committee. Sessions was an early Trump backer and regular surrogate for him as a candidate.

The Washington Post first reported on Sessions’ meetings with the official.

Leading Democratic lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, called for Sessions to resign after the news broke, with Pelosi characterizing his comments in his confirmation as “apparent perjury.”

Kislyak’s potential proximity to Russian spying is one reason why Flynn’s interactions with him, and Flynn’s failure to disclose what he discussed with Kislyak, raised concerns among intelligence officials. In his confirmation hearing to become attorney general, Sessions was asked about Russia and he responded at the time that he

“did not have communications with the Russians.”

Sessions’ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said there was nothing “misleading about his answer” to Congress because the Alabama Republican “was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.”

“Last year, the Senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassadors,” Isgur Flores said in the statement.

A Justice Department official confirmed the meetings, but said Sessions met with the ambassadors “in his capacity as a senator on the Armed Serviced Committee.”

A White House official said: “This is the latest attack against the Trump Administration by partisan Democrats. (Attorney) General Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony.”

In reaction to the report, Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, also called for Sessions’ resignation.

“There is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission” to investigate potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Cummings said. “It is inconceivable that even after Michael Flynn was fired for concealing his conversations with the Russians that Attorney General Sessions would keep his own conversations for several weeks.”

Cummings called Sessions’ claim during his confirmation hearing that he did not have communications with the Russians “demonstrably false.”
Minnesota Democrat Sen. Al Franken, who asked Sessions about Russia at the confirmation hearing, said if the reports of Sessions’ contacts with Kislyak were true, then Sessions’ response was “at best misleading.”

“It’s clearer than ever now that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately,” Franken said.

News of Sessions’ contacts with Kislyak came as the New York Times reported Wednesday evening that officials under former President Barack Obama had sent information throughout government about potential Russian contact with Trump’s associates and interference in the 2016 election. The officials did so, the Times reported, in order to preserve the information after Obama left office.

 

Authored by: Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Eli Watkins, CNN

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Last week’s comments from Press Secretary Sean Spice about recreational cannabis raised eyebrows but they are nothing compared to what United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions said yesterday.

Sessions met with reports and said that experts told him about violence in the cannabis industry. These experts also said the potency levels are unhealthy. Sessions also implied that state-level legalization was leading to increased youth consumption.

Alternative Facts Distort the Truth

From Conway to Sessions, it is very tough to believe what you hear from the White House anymore. The number of alternative facts being reported from the White House is disheartening and yesterday’s comments by Sessions is a perfect example of it.

The Attorney General did not discuss the type of violence being reported by his experts, the government is the one of the main culprits responsible for any increase in violence (high cash business since these companies cannot use banks). The legalization of cannabis would lead to a significant decrease in violence since the only connection between the violence and cannabis is the one that exists on the black market. A regulated market would solve this problem very quickly.

Although we do acknowledge the fact that cannabis is more potent than it was 20-30 years ago, there is not any evidence in support of Sessions’ claim about higher potency being unhealthy.

When it comes to cannabis usage, specifically among youths, studies looking at consumption trends in legal states have found the opposite to be true from what Sessions reported. The lack of a spike in youth consumption in Colorado is the main reason why the governor, John Hickenlooper is getting close to fully supporting recreational marijuana.

Hickenlooper said, “We didn’t see a spike in teenage use. If anything, it’s come down in the last year. And we’re getting anecdotal reports of less drug dealers.”

Show Your Support Today

Sessions said, “I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana. 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.”

Based off Sessions comments, the United States cannabis industry is facing an imminent attack by the Federal government and support is needed now more than ever.

Change will only occur when there is enough support to drown out the naysayers. Reach out to your state’s governor. Contact your state representatives and senators as well as local officials and anyone who will file a complaint on your behalf.

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