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Number of posts: 27,034
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since no one cross-posted this here from LN or GD - posting here to archive in the Drug Policy Forum.
The United States Department of Justice announced Thursday that for the time being it will cease pursuing actions against Colorado and Washington over discrepancies in state and federal marijuana policies. The department also issued a memo to U.S. Attorneys with new guidelines for the pursuit of marijuana cases. According to CBS News, Attorney General Eric Holder telephoned Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) around noon on Thursday to inform them that the federal government intends to allow the states to continue with their decriminalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use.
...“This also has major implications for the 20 states that allow medical marijuana,” Reiman (policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance) explained. “The Department of Justice has also directed U.S. Attorneys not to interfere with states that have medical marijuana. Instead the department is going to concentrate on diversion to minors, trafficking, marijuana being used as a front for other activities or diversion into states where it is not allowed.”
When asked what this could mean in terms of dispensaries that have been targeted by the federal government and are currently embroiled in legal action, Reiman said, “What it should mean is that dispensaries in California that are operating within the the confines of state law and their local law should not be subject to federal interference.”
...One hurdle to national decriminalization of marijuana is the fact that the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, classified marijuana in 1972 as a Schedule I narcotic. A Schedule I drug is considered to have no medical use, to have a high potential for abuse and to be too dangerous to be used even under medical supervision.
Posted by RainDog | Thu Aug 29, 2013, 05:28 PM (3 replies)
posting here to archive for drug policy - with a hat tip/link to bigtree's thread - http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=3536348
this thread is a different link, same subject...
Sept. 10th, 2013, Leahy will convene a hearing to examie conflicts between state and federal mj laws and the Senator has invited AG Holder and Deputy AG Cole to testify.
It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal. I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.
From the reason link -
I trust that Leahy will go beyond the question of marijuana consumption to address production and distribution, which are the real issues as far as federal meddling goes. UCLA drug policy expert Mark Kleiman, who has advised the Washington State Liquor Control Board on marijuana regulation, argues that the administration also should go beyond "guidance about enforcement" by formalizing an agreement that the feds will refrain from interfering in exchange for state help with controlling interstate smuggling of newly legal marijuana. (Stuart Taylor made a similar proposal in a Brookings Institution paper published last April.)
In a new Journal of Drug Policy Analysis article, Kleiman notes that the Controlled Substances Act says the attorney general "shall cooperate with local, State, and Federal agencies concerning traffic in controlled substances and in suppressing the abuse of controlled substances." Toward that end, "he is authorized to…notwithstanding any other provision of law, enter into contractual agreements with State and local law enforcement agencies to provide for cooperative enforcement and regulatory activities." Such a contract, Kleiman says, would provide more assurance of federal forbearance than simple inaction. Alternatively, he says, Congress could authorize the attorney general to issue "waivers" exempting state-legal marijuana producers and sellers from federal prosecution as long as certain conditions aimed at minimizing diversion are met.
Here is Kleiman's response to those who argue that the Justice Department has a duty to vigorously enforce marijuana prohibition even in states that have opted out:
To the immediate objection that the Executive Branch—charged by the Constitution with the "faithful execution" of the laws—has no authority to acquiescein the violation of some of those laws, there is an equally immediate rejoinder; those laws are now being violated and will continue to be violated, in ways the Executive is practically powerless to prevent in any case and still more powerless without the active engagement of state and local enforcement agencies. If "the abuse of controlled substances" can be more effectively suppressed with cooperative agreements than without them, then the mandate to cooperate for the purposes of the Act might be best carried out by explicitly agreeing not to do what the federal government cannot in fact do with or without such an agreement.
more at the link... and, just to note, this article notes Kleiman views Holder's 10 month non-response as a sign the administration may be open to review of federal policy.
Posted by RainDog | Mon Aug 26, 2013, 11:21 PM (9 replies)
"I would be very happy to see him leave," Polis told The Coloradoan in an interview published Wednesday.
Polis also requested that recreational cannabis stores in states that have made cannabis legal should be dealt with under terms of the Ogden Memo.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., wants Attorney General Eric Holder to confirm that the federal approach to state-licensed recreational marijuana stores, set to open next year in Colorado and Washington state, will be similar to the Justice Department's approach to medical marijuana dispensaries.
"Stores are opening next year," Polis told U.S News. "We would like to have the clarification from the attorney general to make it clear that the Ogden memo also applies" to recreational marijuana stores.
The Ogden memo is a 2009 document written by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that says it wouldn't be an "efficient use" of federal resources to go after medical marijuana patients. It also said the Justice Department would primarily target dispensaries that commit other infractions, such as selling hard drugs, using guns or breaking state marijuana regulations.
Polis says the Justice Department has misled the states into believing a policy announcement was imminent for the past eight months.
Posted by RainDog | Wed Aug 21, 2013, 04:52 PM (6 replies)
The National Institute on Drug Abuse released an eyebrow-raising statement to PolitiFact on Monday, denying that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol.
"Claiming that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol cannot be substantiated since each possess their own unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual," wrote the institute. NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, funds government-backed scientific research and has a stated mission "to lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction."
The statement was in response to a declaration by the pro-pot policy group Marijuana Policy Project that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol –- a claim that was the centerpiece of a controversial pro-marijuana commercial aired during a NASCAR race last month.
PolitiFact took the claim to task, comparing marijuana-related deaths to alcohol-related deaths and toxicity levels of the two substances.
PolitiFact had this to say:
An ad from the Marijuana Policy Project claims marijuana is "less toxic" than alcohol.
Our job as fact-checkers in this case is not to decide whether marijuana is good or harmful. We're focused on whether the drug in its natural form is "less toxic" than alcohol.
In that regard, science and statistics present a strong case:
Deaths or even trips to the hospital are much more likely due to alcohol;
Scientists could not find any documented deaths from smoking marijuana;
A study found the safety ratio for marijuana (the number of doses to cause death) is much greater than compared to alcohol. Put another way, marijuana is 100 times less toxic than alcohol.
Overall, we rate this claim Mostly True.
So, once again, the NIDA lies to the American people about cannabis. This isn't the first time.
If your agency had to lie to support policy, maybe your agency shouldn't get funding for that policy.
By continuing current policy and supporting it by lies, it would also be true that the NIDA is more toxic than marijuana.
Posted by RainDog | Wed Aug 21, 2013, 01:41 PM (66 replies)
Even as Americans' support for legalizing marijuana has doubled, and more than 20 states have loosened marijuana restrictions in various ways, Gallup finds relatively little increase throughout the past three decades in the percentage of U.S. adults who say they have tried marijuana. Thirty-eight percent of Americans admit to having tried marijuana, compared with 34% in 1999 and 33% in 1985.
Before Americans' self-reported experimentation with marijuana leveled off in the 1980s, it surged in the 1970s, rising from 4% in 1969 to 12% in 1973 and 24% in 1977.
Gallup's trend by age reveals that widespread experimentation with marijuana first occurred among adults aged 18 to 29 between 1969 and 1973, rising from 8% to 35%. It then continued to mount, reaching 56% by 1977, and remained at that level in 1985. Since then, however, marijuana use among young adults has progressively declined. At the same time, as the bulge of young adults who tried marijuana in the 1970s ages and replaces older Americans who never tried it, the rate of all Americans who have ever tried the drug has increased slightly.
There are relatively minor differences in marijuana use by race -- between whites and nonwhites -- and by education. There are no income-related differences among those who say they have tried marijuana, but lower-income Americans are the most likely to say they currently use it. This is consistent with the higher percentage of young adults who say they smoke it, given young adults report relatively lower household income figures.
Posted by RainDog | Fri Aug 9, 2013, 06:29 PM (0 replies)
Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the Appropriations Committee, blocked release of $95 million dollars in funding for the Merida Initiative, citing the lack of a clear strategy on the part of the U.S. State Department and the Mexican government.
The decision is a long-overdue recognition that the drug war in Mexico has been a bloody fiasco. The Merida Initiative, a Bush-era plan to attack cartels in Mexico and reduce trafficking of prohibited drugs to the U.S. market, began in 2008. Congress has appropriated $1.9 billion dollars from the federal budget for the program over the past five years, most aimed at bolstering Mexican security forces. Since the drug war was launched and armed forces deployed to fight the cartels, the homicide rate in Mexico soared 150%, between 2006 and 2012.
Last August the State Department asked the committee to obligate some $229 million assigned to the Merida Initiative in the 2012 budget. At first, Leahy decided to hold up the entire amount, after receiving a two-and-a-half page explanation from the State Department that he felt failed toadequately describe spending and objectives.
In April, the committee released $134 million,but held up the rest pending more information from State and the Mexican government on how the money would be spent, what the goals were and how the programs and resources would help achieve those goals.
Posted by RainDog | Fri Aug 9, 2013, 06:16 PM (10 replies)
It's been over 40 years since President Nixon declared war on drugs and more than a quarter-century since Congress first enacted mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, leading to a ballooning U.S. prison population. We, the land of the free and the home of the brave, have become the world's biggest jailer. In the light of Uruguay and New Zealand's recent efforts toward relaxing their drug laws, the time seems right for the United States to do some reform of its own. Specifically, the United States should reform its mandatory minimum sentencing policies for non-violent drug offenders.
The policy arguments are well known and indisputable: these laws disproportionately impact minorities, overcrowd our prison system, hamstring our judges, don't deter crime, and are a waste of money. These arguments have been around for decades. What makes this time different — because in Washington, policy is often trumped by politics — is the surprising amount of bipartisan consensus around this issue. Republican and Democrats both agree: now is the time to reform our drug sentencing laws.
Right now there are two bills in the Congress that would go a long way toward reforming our drug sentencing laws. Last week, Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would allow judges more of the leeway that they have asked for to sentence criminals below the mandatory minimum sentence. The bill would also lower the mandatory minimum sentences for various drug crimes. The Justice Safety Valve Act, sponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and by Congressmen Robert Scott (D-Va.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), would go even further, eliminating mandatory sentences for some non-drug crimes. Either bill would be a positive step towards creating more-just sentencing laws by returning discretion to judges.
Support for reform has been building for some time. One precedent to look at is the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity in minimum sentences between powder cocaine and crack cocaine from 100-1 down to 18-1. That bill was supported by several influential House Republicans such as James Sensenbrenner (Wisc.), Paul Ryan (Wisc.), former Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), and even Todd Akin (formerly R-Mo.). That act proved that not only can drug reform be bipartisan, it can also attract strong conservative support.
Holder is on board with reforms, as Recursion posted here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023431740
Attorney General Eric Holder is rumored to be proposing major reforms to drug sentencing in the coming weeks, and if a Wednesday interview with NPR is any indication, the changes could signal a pivot from the aggressive policies embraced by the Justice Department.
"I think there are too many people in jail for too long, and for not necessarily good reasons," Holder said in the interview, turning from the department's highly criticized crackdown on drug law enforcement. As NPR noted, almost half of the people in federal prison are serving time for drug charges.
"The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old," he continued. "There have been a lot of unintended consequences. There's been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color."
Holder hinted in the interview that the changes could include better prioritization of federal law enforcement and shortened sentences for minor drug offenses. According to NPR, Holder could announce his proposal as early as next week in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco.
Even with federal-level sentencing changes, states may also set penalties. No doubt the federal sentencing changes will help, but if you're in Louisiana, for instance, you can still be sent to prison for 20 years for a third conviction for simple possession of marijuana. And that was after they modified existing law to make it more lenient.
Posted by RainDog | Fri Aug 9, 2013, 12:06 AM (0 replies)
Gupta apologized on CNN for his former opposition to ending the prohibition of marijuana, stating the DEA has "no scientific basis" for the claim that marijuana has no medical value.
Thank you, Mr. Gupta, for using your position to bring sanity to this issue in the U.S.
Posted by RainDog | Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:19 AM (132 replies)
Harborside, located in Oakland, has a client base of approx. 100,000 cannabis users (this is why they were targeted and the owner, Steve DeAngelo, faces trial.) The City of Oakland has sued the Justice Dept.'s Eric Holder to block the closure of Harborside. They have teamed with the University of the City of London to conduct the largest and most comprehensive patient survey of cannabinoid profiles.
The survey project is part of an HHC effort in alliance with the University of the City of London and the drug policy research group the Beckley Foundation, to compile a database based on the survey results that will let medical cannabis users look up which strains of cannabis are most commonly preferred to treat particular ailments.
HHC and its partners plan to key the questionnaire answers to the results of the extensive tests HHC has already done to categorize the various types of cannabis that come through their facility. The cannabis study project is still in its early data collection phase, but the hope is that the eventual result will be an easily accessible categorization of each strain of cannabis, and its customer preference status in treating each particular health problem.
...HHC’s survey takes into account not only the strain of cannabis each patient is using and evaluating, but also the particular batch of cannabis and the unique cannabinoid profile.
In theory, he says, over the course of two, three, four years of implementing questionnaire responses, the resulting database will allow the user to ask things like: “What did the largest number of multiple sclerosis patients prefer? Which strain did they prefer least? What’s the chemical difference—what’s the difference in cannabinoid profile between those two different strains of cannabis? So that we can start developing an actual, objective way of at least identifying cannabinoid profile with symptoms.”
This is great research.
It's also an example of activists and educators working together to create a knowledge base, in spite of some who would choose to censor such information.
Posted by RainDog | Sun Aug 4, 2013, 11:50 PM (0 replies)
The shop, located on N. Capitol Street, NW just north of New York Avenue, is only 2.5 miles from the White House and the rest of the city center. Patients with certain qualifying conditions including cancer, glaucoma, muscle spasms and HIV/AIDS will be able to purchase cannabis at the shop.
The shop represents a battle that has been long and drawn out in our nation's capitol. Voters approved medical cannabis in 1998, but the U.S. Congress (which has to approve changes to D.C. law) prevented that from happening for nearly 11 years. In 2009 the city began the process of registering and licensing patients but it's been a lengthy four years to get dispensaries off the ground as many lawmakers feared federal intervention (and federal jail time) for implementing the will of the voters.
Unfortunately, Washington D.C. does not allow for reciprocity with other state medical marijuana programs. So medical cannabis patients from any of the 50 state surrounding the city are still sadly considered criminals.
The opening is sure to get more publicity over the next few weeks, which might actually get politicians to pay attention to the fact that medical cannabis is almost literally at their doorsteps.
So, Congress - tell me how you can (finally) fund the District of Columbia's medical marijuana law yet refuse to address the error in national law and policy that continues to claim marijuana has no medical value and is, thus, a Schedule I substance.
It seems the Controlled Substances Act has been altered by Congress by this legislative action. At this point, Congress simply needs to remove cannabis from the CSA entirely and remove it from control of the DEA and put it under the control of the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Marijuana (the last bit is part of Democrat Jared Polis' legislation.)
Since 72% of American voters do not want to waste money on enforcing marijuana prohibition - across political divisions - I have to ask - who is Congress serving by its refusal to address this issue?
They certainly aren't serving their constituents.
Posted by RainDog | Sat Aug 3, 2013, 06:53 PM (6 replies)