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President

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One of the decisions President Donald Trump will have to make is whether to move forward with the federal government’s hands off policy on cannabis, which has allowed the sale of the substance in 27 states. President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, has signaled that the new administration could end the practice of allowing states to legalize marijuana. Sessions stated, “It’s not so much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws as effectively as we’re able.”

Paul Callan and Danny Cevallos, from CNN, were asked for their views on the subject.

1. Cannabis is illegal under federal law. It’s a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Does the President have an obligation to enforce the law as written until the law is repealed?
Danny Cevallos: Yes. As a criminal defense attorney you might think I’d be anti-enforcement instead of pro-enforcement. But there’s no question that the President and the Attorney General are charged with enforcing the law. Arbitrary or selective enforcement of existing law is itself an abuse of power. The Equal Protection Clause already prohibits the “selective enforcement” of a law based on standards like race or religion. The broad discretion of the executive branch or a prosecutor to charge identical defendants with different crimes creates a real threat of unequal, and unconstitutional, treatment. If you want to legalize marijuana, the solution for the federal government is not to be willfully blind to existing federal law. That sends a bad message. The solution is to be proactive: get rid of the outdated federal law.

Paul Callan: No. Sure, Danny is correct that the President and the Attorney General are supposed to enforce the laws as written, but there is also an important concept called prosecutorial discretion. The government has limited resources and can choose to focus on terrorists, kidnappers, murderers and big-time white collar criminals rather than pot smokers listening to Daft Punk’s latest rendition of “Human After All.” The statute books are filled with laws that are not being enforced because they are obsolete and legislators haven’t gotten around to repealing them. There are an abundance of such laws listed in numerous internet sites. But more serious examples are closer at hand. For example, in 2013 the Justice Department issued a memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole outlining a limited enforcement policy of only prosecuting federal marijuana criminal violations in cases of violence, interstate smuggling, distribution to minors and in matters of adverse impact on public health. Attorney General nominee Sessions would be wise to follow the Obama approach here, and President Trump should understand that there are a lot of electoral votes in those weed-legal states. And as for my friend Danny Cevallos; it is time for him to face reality and, as they say in Colorado, “chill.”

2. President Obama has excused thousands of drug offenders serving substantial amounts of time in prison for the sale and possession marijuana. Should President Trump continue with the Obama pardon policy given the number of states which have now legalized the drug?

Callan: Yes. President Trump would be wise to follow the example of his predecessor by making use of the pardon and commutation power, with care and discretion. The prisons are filled with inmates who have been sentenced to lengthy prison sentences for drug-related crimes. Many have gotten old in prison and no longer pose a threat to society. Many were unjustly convicted. We have seen a massive increase in costly, wrongful conviction lawsuits throughout the nation. Members of America’s minority communities have been aggrieved by what they perceive as the mass incarceration of their young men due to unjust drug laws that are no longer relevant in modern America. The pardons and commutations should be carefully monitored to make sure violent criminals are not slipping through the cracks but President Trump should follow President Obama’s example in continuing this policy.

Cevallos: No. Does anyone else think it’s a huge waste of resources for President Obama to pardon federal drug offenders instead of getting rid of the federal law that made many of them federal drug offenders in the first place? Think of the resources frittered away: existing federal law is what causes investigations, arrests, trials, appeals, and incarceration. Then, ultimately the same branch of government that spent all that time and money convicting the person grants a pardon or commutation, effectively canceling out all those resources spent getting the conviction. Wouldn’t it be a lot less expensive to get rid of the federal law that led to the expensive investigation, arrest, trial, appeal, and incarceration in the first place? President Obama’s pardon policy for drug offenders is a good thing, but it’s largely cosmetic, and it only conceals the bruises that the federal government itself continues to inflict upon the citizenry. Paul Callan wants to paint himself as a freedom fighter here, and he’s right that the pardon power is good for freeing those for acts no longer considered crimes. But true freedom isn’t pardoning the crime after the person has been incarcerated. It’s getting rid of the crime itself.

3. Republicans have commonly supported the doctrine of federalism. Should President Trump’s Republican Administration allow the states to experiment with cannabis legalization under the doctrine of federalism?
Cevallos: No. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it: “it is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” I agree completely with that general sentiment. But marijuana is different. States legalizing pot is “experimenting” with something that is flat-out illegal under federal law. When the threat of federal prosecution hangs over a marijuana shop owner or user, states cannot truly serve as laboratories. It’s hard to experiment when banks, investors, insurance companies, and even attorneys are reluctant to provide necessary services, for fear of federal criminal penalties or professional discipline. Paul Callan may cheer states for their open flouting of federal law, but would he represent a shop owner if he thought the bar association’s disciplinary committee would come after him? Heck no. He’s as afraid of the ethics board as I am. And so are plenty of other lawyers, who fear potential disciplinary action for counseling a client to engage in the business of violating federal law. Everyone loves the idea of civil disobedience, until it’s their turn to actually get hit with the fire hose or the police truncheon.
Callan: Yes. There is a lot of truth in a statement often heard in conservative gatherings: “The states created the federal government and not the other way around.” The Constitution was drafted by founding fathers deeply sensitive to the concept of a limited federal government with a vibrant democracy flourishing at the local level. Nowhere is the leadership of the states more clearly demonstrated than in the approval of recreational and medical marijuana in 27 states at last count. This state laboratory creates a superb opportunity to test different approaches to legalization rather than rely on the alleged wisdom of Cevallos’ elite pals in DC, many of whom have just been unceremoniously kicked out of office in the tumultuous election of 2016. Local authorities will ensure that rather than a “one size fits all” federal approach, the best state ideas will be imitated and implemented by other states. And as for the Cevallos claim that lawyers will never represent weed store owners for fear of an ethics prosecution, the Colorado Supreme Court has just given the weed lawyers the green light to represent marijuana businesses. Perhaps Danny Cevallos should consider opening a Denver office.

4. Should cannabis be legalized because taxing it will lead to a rich source of government revenue?
Cevallos: No. Don’t get me wrong. I think ending federal marijuana prohibition is a good idea. I also hope that taxing the drug will be a good source of revenue for states and the federal government. Paul Callan knows that this is a popular argument. But when you think about it, taxing vices hasn’t always been the cure for all ills. Gambling has been legal and taxed for years in places like Atlantic City, where it is the town’s primary industry. Has anyone strolled down that town’s main drag lately? It’s hardly a monument to American prosperity. Speaking of gambling, how about the lottery? State-sponsored gambling is heavily taxed and supposedly goes to help senior citizens and schools. But, would Paul Callan honestly say that the net effect of the lottery on society has been a good one? Hopefully marijuana taxation will be different. Early reports are positive: marijuana generates a lot of tax revenue in the legalized states. But there’s good reason to remain skeptical.
Callan: Yes, Danny raises a legitimate point that taxing vices often fails to raise the large amounts of revenue promised. Things like the lottery seem to generate more money for state bureaucracies than for education. Although Atlantic City looks grim, the gambling vice tax is thriving in Las Vegas, Indian Reservations around the country and even in Bethlehem, PA in Danny’s home state. The lesson is that you must carefully pick the vice you seek to tax. Given the track record to date marijuana seems a winner on the tax revenue side. In Colorado and Oregon, recreational use has spawned a $7.1 billion tax-generating industry. And for vice comparison purposes, the taxing of alcohol has proven to be quite lucrative to the states. Alcohol taxes yielded over $9 billion in revenues in 2015 with projections of $10.18 billion by 2021. As a drug which is arguably far less dangerous, marijuana is likely to generate an even greater revenue stream. The states are finding it difficult to overlook such a revenue stream given the thriving underground economy where only illegal producers and dealers enjoy the profit. If Mr. Trump really does want to lower corporate and personal income taxes, legalized, taxed marijuana may be of assistance in achieving that goal.

5. Many argue that cannabis is no more dangerous than alcohol, yet it’s illegal under the laws of many states and the federal government. Is it fair to treat the substances differently under law?

Callan: No. Wisely, Cevallos will not even fight me on this one. Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol and there is a great hypocrisy in permitting legal sales of the older generation’s vice, alcohol, while locking up younger Americans who partake of the far less dangerous marijuana. Of course it must be conceded that the drug is not without serious risks, particularly for those with a propensity toward drug abuse. This is yet another reason to allow experimentation on a state level to see how legalization works out in the real world. As for the Cevallos argument that a teetotaling POTUS will resist legalization, there are more than a few reasons to suggest otherwise. He has previously indicated support for medical marijuana stating: “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state. Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen, right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.” Washington Post, October 29, 2015 And let’s face it, most liberals and progressives would have to be under the influence of drugs to support him, so there may be new Trump supporters if legalization succeeds. Though, let’s hope the new president maintains his teetotaling ways as heaven help us all if POTUS starts smoking “Trump Weed” before preparing his next 3 a.m. tweet.
Cevallos: No. Paul Callan has me here. Prohibiting marijuana and allowing alcohol makes zero sense. But then again, nothing about vice crimes is “fair” or even “logical.” In fact, alcohol is much more dangerous than marijuana. Not only is it bad for your body, it’s a major contributor to accidents, and violence. But the real question is: could Mr. Callan convince Mr. President? Our new POTUS is a self-described teetotaler, a nondrinker and non-drug user. And he’s not the kind who stopped drinking because he used to have a problem, who hit a Bukowski-like bottom and turned his life around in AA. Trump is the kind who says he has never had a sip of alcohol in his life. Those people are intense. They usually like order and control. It’s easy to imagine Trump might be intolerant of vices like marijuana. Then again, he’s been socially liberal in many ways too. It’s hard to predict where his administration will come down on the marijuana industry.

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If the American people are concerned with Republican Senator Jeff Sessions’ approach to implementing federal cannabis laws, he says Congress should adjust them. Sessions, who President-elect Donald Trump has chosen to become U.S. attorney general, answered questions on cannabis among other issues during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Sessions did not offer a clear stance on what cannabis enforcement would look like under his justice department. Sessions stated, “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, but absolutely it’s a problem of resources for the federal government. Good judgement on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine, which won’t be an easy decision, but I will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”

Even though 28 states have made medical cannabis legal and eight states have passed recreational laws, the federal law still classifies marijuana as an illegal substance. The drug is classified as a Schedule I drug along with heroin. In the past, Sessions has made it clear he is against the legalization of marijuana. He said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” However, in a Trump presidency, he would be asked to follow the Trump agenda and not his own. This gives the cannabis industry hope.

Almost 60% of Americans support the legalization of cannabis in the United States. The seven states that voted to legalize medical or recreational use are looking to take steps toward legalization. “It’s not so much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our jobs and enforce laws effectively as we’re able. The U.S. Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state, and the distribution, an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule,” Sessions said during his hearing.

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The Farm, a pot shop in Boulder, Colorado is staffed with cannabis advocates, known as “bud-tenders.” The shop is booming, to the benefit of all Boulder’s residents. The city’s sales tax on recreational marijuana is almost 23% and high demand for warehouse space from cannabis farmers points to a boom. Colorado is expected to have collected almost $135 million from marijuana taxes last year. Following its example, recreational marijuana will be legal in seven states and Washington, DC. Another 24 states allow cannabis to be used for medicinal purposes.

Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, any pot shop is, in effect, a US attorney-general’s impulse away from closure. Senator Jeff Sessions, whom Trump has nominated to be attorney-general, has a different view. He said, “We need grown-ups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” He also stated, “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Trump has taken conflicting positions on the issue. When Trump was campaigning, he said whether marijuana should be legal was a matter for individual states to decide. But he also called Colorado’s cannabis regime “a real problem.” Vice-president-elect Mike Pence has presided over one of America’s toughest anti-cannabis administrations.

Marijuana advocates are worried. Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s director of marijuana a coordination said, “There’s very good reason to be concerned. This could become an enforcement priority.” A spokesman for The Farm, Adam Dickey, agreed. “It’s a little scary, we are very concerned, though we’re not in full-on panic mode yet,” Dickey stated. It’s difficult to envision Senator Sessions carrying out the clampdown he wants. Almost 60% of Americans say they are in favor of legalizing pot. That represents a swelling consensus in favor of legalization. There is no reason to expect that increasingly casual attitude to go into reverse. Legalizing marijuana looks largely successful.

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On May 16th, President Obama officially approved the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act, which expanded the global reach of United States drug enforcement. The law makes it illegal to make drugs anywhere internationally if the producers “intend, know, or have probable cause to believe” are going to be trafficked into the United States. Critics say that the language is too broad and might hurt those who currently grow marijuana, coca leaf, or even opium.
Here is what co-sponsor Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a press release: “Drug traffickers and criminal organizations in other countries consistently find new ways to circumvent our laws, and the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act gives the federal government the tools it needs to aggressively pursue and prosecute those outside the United States who traffic illegal—often deadly—drugs. This new legal authority is critical as we work to address the opioid epidemic. For example, drug kingpins from countries like Colombia and Peru often use Mexican trafficking organizations as mules to bring illegal narcotics into the United States. Now, the Justice Department will be able to take legal action against these kingpins. This bill also allows penalties to be imposed on individuals from other countries who bring chemicals into the United States knowing they will be used to make illegal drugs like meth and heroin. These changes will help law enforcement keep illegal narcotics out of the United States.”
The approval of the law actually gained more press coverage in South American than the United States. Colombian media presented the issue has a huge issue for all the coca growers in the country. This would cause a huge uproar in the country. There is not much pardoning for guerrilla warfare which is concerning the leaders. The FARC has made it evident that if the leaders are negatively affected, they are not going to comply.

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On Tuesday, May 10th, presidential election results in the Philippines and the pompous and crime-stopping Rodrigo Duterte seems to be the new president. It is not official as of right now, but Mar Roxas, the opposition, has already accepted the loss. At the moment, Duterte is the mayor of Davao City, which has received a ton of “death-squad terror” in the last few years.

The paramilitary groups are putting together a reaction to crime and drug systems on the island, but environmentalists and leaders of the lower class have likewise been focused on. Duterte has been named as a driving force of the paramilitaries and positively gets straight to the point regarding his bigoted position on drug use.

“All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you,” Duterte said to a very supportive audience while rallying around the country. “I have no patience, I have no middle ground, either you kill me or I will kill you idiots.”

The new president has won some telling handles, including “Duterte Harry” (a reference to Clint Eastwood’s character, Dirty Harry), “The Punisher,” and the “Trump of the Philippines”— this last one a reference to his propensity to attack women in order to make an audience laugh. But his assault jokes are thrown in a great deal more evil light given his evident connections to real human rights abominations.

Duterte has spoken on whether he really commands the paramilitaries. Be that as it may, in an interview with a nearby TV station last year, he straightforwardly conceded his connection to the famous Davao Death Squad (DDS).

“They say I am the death squad? True, that is true,” Duterte announced.

The DDS is professedly in charge of the slaughtering of more than 1,000 suspected offenders in the city since Duterte got to be mayor in 1988.

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A group composed of both Republicans and Democrats from the United States Senate and House is pleading President Obama to help get rid of issues standing in the way of scientific research on cannabis’s medical benefits.

“As states have attempted to expand access to medical treatments for their citizens, the federal government has a responsibility to act in a manner that allows patients to benefit from research on those treatments,” the group of Senators and House members wrote to President Obama last week. “Until we have comprehensive scientific research on the medical risks and benefits of cannabis and its derivatives, we will continue to debate this issue on the basis of outdated ideology instead of modern science.”

To start with, they need the president to guarantee that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is right now measuring whether to reclassify cannabis under federal law, settles on the choice with a reasonable and straightforward approach. Cannabis is as of now under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the most prohibitive classification, which should be held for drugs with no medicinal worth. While heroin and LSD are additionally in Schedule I, cocaine is characterized in Schedule II, a less troublesome assignment. A developing number of researchers say that renaming could make research less strenuous.

“Given previous issues with transparency in the scheduling process, we request that public hearings also be held to allow researchers, doctors and patients an opportunity to inform this decision in an open, transparent manner,” they added.

“The current federal policy that cannabis has no accepted medical value is clearly inaccurate,” Mike Liszewski fromAmericans for Safe Access, said. “If the DEA refuses to hold public hearings and they ultimately decide to maintain their current position, they will severely undermine the public’s trust. This is not just about medical cannabis, the integrity of the Controlled Substances Act is at stake.”

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President Barack Obama drove down the jail sentences of 61 medication guilty parties on Wednesday including more than a third serving life sentences, attempting to give new vitality to calls for updating the U.S. criminal justice system. The majority of the detainees are serving time for pot ownership, intent to distribute or related wrongdoings. Most are peaceful wrongdoers, despite the fact that a couple was additionally accused of gun violations. Obama’s recompense shortens their sentences, with a large portion of the prisoners set to be discharged on July 28.

Obama, in a letter to the prisoners accepting compensations, said the presidential power to grant commutations and pardons “embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws.”

In an offer to further highlight the issue, Obama wanted to meet on Wednesday with individuals whose sentences were beforehand driven under Obama or Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The White House said the previous prisoners would share their encounters about the difficulties of re-entering society after detainment. The most recent tranche of recompenses brings the amount of prisoners whose sentences Obama has driven – more than the previous six presidents joined, the White House said – to 248. The pace of recompenses and the rarer utilization of exonerations are likely to grow by the end of Obama’s administration nears.

“Throughout the remainder of his time in office, the president is committed to continuing to issue more grants of clemency as well as to strengthening rehabilitation programs,” Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel, wrote.

He also stated that clemency is a the last option that can help specific people, but does not help the general need for a “more fair and just” system and “fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies.”

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In April, Raymond Schwab and his wife Amelia wanted to move their family to Colorado. Schwab is a Gulf War veteran suffering from chronic pain as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since his horrible discharge. Schwab would like to relocate so that he could be given medical cannabis, the only effecting medicine for his conditions.

In addition, Schwab is a Veterans Administration (VA) employee. Schwab was able to keep his job and move to Denver, so everything was going well. The problem was that the Schwab family was moving from Kansas, a state where cannabis is illegal for medical and recreational use. As a result, when a family member reported Schwab’s cannabis to officials, five of their children was taken away.

Since then, Raymond and Amelia have only seen their children just a few times. As their lives remain in a constant purgatory, a judge from Kansas decided that the Schwabs can only have their children back after demonstration sobriety for four months straight. This does not seem like a very hard task but for Schwab, he fears his mental health will become worse as time progresses.

“They’re basically using my kids as a pawn to take away freedoms I fought for,” said Schwab. “I don’t think what we’re doing is illegal, immoral, or wrong.”

Cases such as this are not unheard of. Medical cannabis is legally allowed in some way to almost fifty percent of states. Also, studies show that medical cannabis is a good medicine for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, epilepsy, nausea during cancer treatment, sharp pains, and more. Veterans such as Schwab have been speaking out against the prohibition of medical marijuana and VA hospitals in New Mexico, and Maine has just started distributing marijuana. However, at the federal level, the drug is still a Schedule I drug with other drugs such as heroin, LSD, ecstasy, Quaaludes, and peyote.

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An ex-federal judge who sentenced a Utah music producer to fifty-five years in jail for having guns while selling cannabis in the black market pleaded that the president would commute the sentence on Tuesday, the most recent appeal in a case perceived to be the epitome of the issue with minimum sentencing laws. Law professor Paul Cassell stated in a clemency petition letter that he was extremely concerned by the extreme sentenced he needed to give to Weldon Angelos in 2004, a father of two. According to Cassell, the decision was “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.” This is the primary reason the professor retired his position after just half a decade. There are people who have kidnapped, molested, and even murdered who have gotten less of a sentence than Angelos, Cassell states.

“When the sentence for actual violence inflicted on a victim is dwarfed by a sentence for carrying guns to several drug deals, the implicit message to victims is that their pain and suffering counts for less than some abstract ‘war on drugs,’,” Cassell wrote.

Angelos would probably not have to face a sentence such as that one in these times, Cassell added. President Barack Obama has been fighting incredibly hard to either reduce or get rid of extreme minimum sentences for minor offenses. Angelos was the founder of Extravagant Records in Utah, making hip-hop and rap music. He had no criminal record prior to being convicted of selling $350 worth of cannabis to a police informant thrice. According to prosecutors, he was in a gang who had a gun during two of the transaction, but he never used to showed it. Angelos said that he did neither had a weapon nor was in a gang, however, police seized multiple guns while looking through his apartment. In federal court, he was found guilty of sixteen cases of drug selling, weapon owning as well as money laundering.

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President Barack Obama’s stride for a fairer justice system is actually sending him to prison.
As a segment of a weeklong focus on unfairness in the criminal justice system, Obama was to meet separately Thursday with police officials and nonviolent drug offenders who are serving time at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution.

He will be the first sitting president to view the inside of a federal correctional institution, the White House stated. The presidential motorcade mod past gates topped with layers of razor wire as it entered the sprawling prison complex.

The plan is usually to hold people with criminal histories a good distance away from the president, not to put a president in their midst. Yet, as much as it may supercede logic, the controlled environment of a prison is better than many of the public venues where presidents show their faces, stated Danny Spriggs, a former deputy director of the U.S. Secret Service, which provides the security for the president.

Who comes and goes from a prison is only limited and past history are known from background checks “It’s better that he goes there than out in the general public,” said Spriggs, now vice president of global security for The Associated Press.

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