1st federal inmate to die of coronavirus wrote heartbreaking letter to judge

Patrick Jones “spent the last 12 years contesting a sentence that ultimately killed him,” one of his former lawyers said.

thief-on-the-cross-large

April 5, 2020, 7:35 AM CDT

By Rich Schapiro

In the months before the coronavirus infiltrated the U.S., a 49-year-old inmate began drafting a letter inside the walls of a federal prison in Louisiana.

The man, Patrick Jones, had been locked up for nearly 13 years on a nonviolent drug charge. He hadn’t seen his youngest son, then 16, since the boy was a toddler.

“I feel that my conviction and sentence was also a punishment that my child has had to endure also and there are no words for how remorseful I am,” Jones wrote to U.S. District Judge Alan Albright in a letter dated Oct. 15, 2019. “Years of ‘I am sorry’ don’t seem to justify the absence of a father or the chance of having purpose in life by raising my child.”

Patrick Jones contracted coronavirus at a low-security prison in Oakdale, La.Courtesy of the Jones Family

Jones had been arrested in 2007 after cops found 19 grams of crack and 21 grams of powder cocaine inside the apartment he shared with his wife in Temple, Texas. His wife testified against him and was spared a prison sentence.

Jones wasn’t so fortunate. He was ultimately ordered to spend 27 years behind bars, in part because he lived within 1,000 feet of a junior college and already had a long rap sheet, mostly burglaries that he committed when he was a teenager living on the streets.

He was now writing the judge in the hope of receiving a sentence reduction through the newly-signed First Step Act, which offered relief to some inmates convicted of nonviolent drug crimes.

“My child having his own experience of raising his own child would validate my life experience and give meaning to my existence in this world, because 83582-180 has no meaning,” he wrote, referring to his federal inmate number.

“It is just a number to be forgotten in time. But Mr. Patrick Estell Jones is a very good person. Caring, hard working, free and clean of drugs and a lot smarter now, with a balanced outlook on life.”

The judge denied the request on Feb. 26, 2020. Twenty two days later, Patrick Estell Jones was dead, the first federal inmate to die of the coronavirus.

He had contracted COVID-19 at the low-security prison in Oakdale, La., a penitentiary now dealing with the deadliest outbreak of any of the 122 federal facilities.

“He spent the last 12 years contesting a sentence that ultimately killed him,” said Alison Looman, a New York-based attorney who had represented Jones in an earlier unsuccessful bid for clemency. “Ironically, it seems it is his death that might finally bring his case some attention.”

The U.S. has seen a movement in the past several years to reduce the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders, but criminal justice reform advocates say Jones’s case illustrates the limits of that effort.

“You see everything that is wrong with our sentencing system in this case,” said Kevin Ring, president of the criminal justice advocacy group FAMM.

Ring ticked off the series of factors that led to Jones’s lengthy prison term: a questionable accounting of the amount of drugs he was selling, his apartment’s proximity to a junior college, his decision to go to trial rather than take a plea and a criminal record that was largely made up of teenage offenses.

“He was no choir boy but his life had meaning,” Ring said. “I feel like his life was taken from him when he was sentenced and then he was killed in prison, and both of those things should trouble us.”

Jones’s death also focused attention on the beleaguered prison in southern Louisiana. A total of five Oakdale prisoners have died from COVID-19, officials said, and so many have come down with presumed cases that officials had temporarily stopped testing them for it.

At least 18 inmates and four staffers have tested positive, according to the Bureau of Prisons, but prison union leaders say the numbers are significantly higher.

“You’re just afraid all the time,” said an Oakdale corrections officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak to the media. “You’re afraid of catching it and bringing it home to your family. You’re afraid of spreading it in the community.”

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on jails and prisons across the country. Earlier this week, the federal Bureau of Prisons announced that it was locking down all inmates in their cells or quarters, with limited exceptions, for 14 days, but new cases keep popping up.

“There’s a feeling of terror not knowing when this is going to end,” the Oakdale staffer said.

Jones arrived at the prison in April 2017. It would be the last stop in a hardscrabble life that began in Temple, Texas.

His childhood was marked by tumult. Jones was initially raised by his great grandmother but he spent much of his pre-teen years at a group home for children and shuffling between relatives and friends, according to his clemency petition and a government court filing quoting an interview with him. He was on and off the streets during his teenage years, the clemency petition says.

His first run-in with the law came when he was 17, court filings say. Jones was arrested twice in the span of two months on theft and burglary charges. He was charged as an adult and ultimately spent two years in prison.

Jones was released in August 1991 but he didn’t stay out of trouble. He was arrested in May 1992 after he sold cocaine to an undercover officer, according to court records. Jones pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

He was released on parole in 2000 and eventually settled in an apartment in Temple, a few blocks from the local community college. Temple police officers showed up at his home in January 2007 looking for a woman on an outstanding warrant, court records say.

After discovering crack and powder cocaine inside the residence, they arrested Jones and his wife of two months, Sharon, court documents say.

The woman targeted by police wasn’t at the apartment but she was later taken into custody. The woman, Frances Whitlock, told police she sold crack cocaine for the Joneses, averaging about five to ten deliveries a day and sometimes made as many as 30, court documents say.

Sharon Jones agreed to testify against her husband. At his trial, she testified that they had been selling the drugs for about two months. She said they would sell a half ounce of crack every other day, earning about $1,000 every day, court documents say.

The jury found Patrick Jones guilty of possession with intent to distribute at least 5 grams of crack cocaine. His wife received a term of three years’ probation after the government recommended a reduced sentence citing her cooperation, court filings say.

At his sentencing, Jones was held accountable for 425 grams of crack – 22 times the amount that was in his apartment – based on the testimony from his wife that they sold a half ounce every other day from Thanksgiving 2006 until the day of their arrest in January 2007.

The government also used several other factors to enhance Jones’s sentencing guidelines: his apartment’s proximity to Temple College, his role as an “organizer” of criminal activity for enlisting Whitlock to deliver the drugs, his decision to fight the charges at trial and his offenses when he was 17 and 21.

In the case of his previous arrests, the government treated each charge as a separate sentence, which had the effect of further driving up his sentencing guidelines.

Jones was sentenced to the minimum term under the guidelines, but it was still 30 years. His sentence was later reduced to 27 years after the U.S. Sentencing Commission amended the crack guidelines to reduce the disparity between powder and crack cocaine.

Jones’s younger sister recalled being stunned by the severity of his sentence. “My brother made some bad decisions in life but that doesn’t make him a bad person,” Debra Canady told NBC News.

In the years after his sentencing, she remained in close touch with her brother who wrote frequently, she said, asking for updates on the youngest of his three sons, Kyrell.

Jones filed a bid for clemency in Oct. 2016 pointing to court rulings and changes in sentencing guidelines that would have directly impacted his case. Jones’s lawyers argued that if he were sentenced then he likely would have received a term at least 10 years less than the one he had received.

“With good time credit,” the petition said, “Mr. Jones would have already served his entire sentence.”

The petition noted that he had no history of violence or ties to gangs, had spent his childhood “with no permanent home,” and that he was a model inmate who worked his way up to head baker–”a profession he hopes to pursue upon his release.”

In January 2017, his lawyers received word from the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney: the petition was denied.

Looman recalled that when she delivered the news to Jones, he immediately expressed concern about her and wondered aloud if she might lose her job as a result.

“It is a telling example of what a kind and compassionate person Patrick is,” Looman later wrote to his judge.

The First Step Act signed by President Donald Trump in December 2018 offered Jones a glimmer of hope.

In his motion for a sentence reduction under the law, Jones’s lawyers said shaving off years of his prison term would “support the mandate from Congress and President Trump to reduce unnecessarily lengthy sentences for defendants like Mr. Jones.”

Prosecutors took a starkly different position, emphasizing his previous convictions and his “leadership role” in his “‘crack’ distribution enterprise.”

“Jones was not a small time crack dealer whose sentence far outweighed the scope of his criminal activity,” prosecutors said in court papers.

The judge, in a ruling filed in February, sided with the government.

“Jones is a career offender with multiple prior offenses and a history of recidivating each time he is placed on parole,” Albright said in his order.

“Though the bulk of Jones’s offenses were committed at age 17, Jones displayed his continuing criminal tendencies by committing offenses each time he was released from custody.”

Albright couldn’t be reached for comment.

Looman didn’t handle Jones’s effort to get relief through the First Step Act, but she kept in touch with him via the federal prison email system.

“Happy New Year to you and may this year bring great things your way,” Jones wrote to her this past New Year’s Eve.

On Feb. 27, the day after the judge’s ruling, Jones sent her a message that made it clear he had yet to get the news.

“I’ve just been awaiting to hear something good for a change as far as legal issues go,” Jones wrote. “…But I have not got anymore info to what may be coming forth It’s been a lot of movement around here lately I hope I’m in the making for that kind of release also.”

The following month, Jones and Looman exchanged messages that referenced the coronavirus. The deadly illness was sweeping across the U.S. and there were escalating concerns of outbreaks inside detention facilities.

“I am doing well as fare (sic) as coronavirus goes and staying safe and healthy,” Jones wrote on March 14, five days before he would complain to Oakdale staffers about a persistent cough, according to federal prison officials.

He went on to say in his message to Looman that he found out the judge ruled against him, which was news even to Looman, and he revealed why it took him so long to get word: his lawyer had left the public defender’s office two months earlier.

“I talked to the head person and he said it was on him that I was not contacted and that he was going to get his people on top of the appeal,” Jones wrote. “…Anyway, enough about my problems. Are you likening (sic) the work from home thing?”

Looman replied a few days later.

She never heard back.

Rich Schapiro

Rich Schapiro is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

CONTINUE READING AND TO VIDEO….

"Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19,"

Rand Paul becomes first known senator to test positive for coronavirus

Paul tweeted that he “is feeling fine and is in quarantine.”

Image: Rand Paul

March 22, 2020, 12:51 PM CDT

By Allan Smith

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Sunday became the first known senator to test positive for COVID-19.

“Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19,” Paul’s account tweeted. “He is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.”

“He expects to be back in the Senate after his quarantine period ends and will continue to work for the people of Kentucky at this difficult time,” the thread continued. “Ten days ago, our D.C. office began operating remotely, hence virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Rand Paul.”

Paul is the third member of Congress to announce a positive test for coronavirus, following Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah. Several Republican lawmakers also self-quarantined earlier this month after learned they had interacted with someone who tested positive for the virus at the Conservative Political Action Conference. President Donald Trump, who attended CPAC and also interacted with multiple people at his Florida resort who later found out they were infected, tested negative for the virus.

In an interview with NBC News, Diaz-Balart said Saturday he is feeling better after a week but said the initial symptoms hit him “like a ton of bricks.” McAdams, meanwhile, told NBC’s “Today” last week that the symptoms “felt like I had a belt around my chest, and so I couldn’t breathe deeply.”

Paul, a libertarian, forced a delay on the Senate’s first coronavirus aid bill by pushing a doomed amendment. He later voted against it.

Paul suffered lung damage as a result of having his ribs broken during an altercation with a neighbor in 2017. Last year, he had part of his lungs removed in surgery.

CONTINUE READING…

Fans remember Lennon as an icon, but those working for the FBI may recall the musician’s reputation a bit differently.

Here’s Why The FBI Used To Study All Of John Lennon’s Lyrics

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For many, the face of John Lennon is directly associated with the peace and love that circulated during the hippie movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Music fans will remember him as one of the most iconic members of The Beatles, founding the group and a songwriting career that has yet to be rivaled. However, those who were working for the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover may recall the musician’s reputation a bit differently.

In March of 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were on a European mission to be married. After a failed attempt in the U.K and another unfortunate technicality in Parisian nuptial law, the couple finally found a beautiful location at The Pillar of Hercules in Gibraltar.

Just five days after exchanging vows, John and Yoko set out on a honeymoon that would catch the attention of the entire world. Starting off in Amsterdam, the two embarked on a 7-day bed-in for peace, where they invited the press into their honeymoon suite 12 hours a day to witness their protest. According to the newlyweds, they were staying in bed to ‘protest war’ and growing their hair out to ‘preach world peace.’

From Amsterdam, they continued on to Vienna for a press conference where Lennon and Ono both appeared on stage in a white bag as a silent protest, followed by a quick stop in the Bahamas and eventually settling down for another week in Montreal.

‘Give Peace A Chance’

While staying at The Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, John and Yoko invited reporters in again (along with notable visitors like civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory and poet Allen Ginsberg). During this stay, they also recorded ‘Give Peace a Chance’ under the Plastic Ono Band project, which featured backup vocals provided by a group that included LSD advocate Timothy Leary and the musical comedian, Tommy Smothers.

The song became more than just a rambling chant of hippies and was eventually regarded as a highly controversial anti-war song in the eyes of the Nixon administration. Particularly, after nearly half a million people sang along to it in D.C., during the Vietnam Moratorium Day in November of 1969.

In the time after ‘Give Peace A Chance,’ John and his new bride dedicated efforts to sending out acorns “for peace” to world leaders and purchasing full-page advertisements and billboards reading, “WAR IS OVER! IF YOU WANT IT.”

By the time John Lennon moved to the United States in 1971, the White House and the Hoover-headed FBI had already deemed him a threat to the conservative agenda. He and Yoko Ono were making waves worldwide, inspiring young people all over to question authority. Upon arrival in New York City on a visa, John started to associate himself with radical anti-war activists, and the FBI then put Lennon under surveillance.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service tried to deport him numerous times, especially following Senator Strom Thurmond’s memo to the Nixon White House, in which he warned that John Lennon would use rock music and politics in an effort to organize young people to vote against Nixon in 1972.

It’s important to note that the 1972 election was the first time Americans 18 years of age or older were permitted to vote, prior to that the voting age was 21. And while Nixon resented Lennon’s preaching of left-leaning politics to younger Americans, the FBI became more and more aware of the impact any dramatic deportation may have on young voter turnout and retaliation.

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Historian Jon Weiner fought for almost 20 years to gain access to FBI files on Lennon and confirmed in an NPR interview that the agenda against Lennon and his naturalization process was an ongoing effort encouraged by President Nixon. Weiner’s book, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, is revered as one of the most in-depth analyses of the relationship between John Lennon and the United States government and depicts just how absurd their investigations were.

The FBI started its obsession with Lennon after taking note of his lyrics and remarks on stage during a performance at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally in Michigan in 1969 (an event held to protest the 10-year prison sentence assigned to a poet for 2 marijuana joints).

From that point on, the continued surveillance mounted up a plethora of trivial observations that were classified for fear that their release would pose a “threat to national security.” Though it’s hard to comprehend why the lyrics to his track ‘John Sinclair’ needed to be locked up, considering they appeared on the sleeve of his album.

Numerous other examples of abuse of power appear in some 300 pages uncovered by Jon Weiner, including plans to convict Lennon on narcotic charges in Miami to make him more immediately deportable and a wanted poster that featured a Lennon look-alike.

In 1972, as his immigration battle continued, John Lennon decided to withdraw from the plans to demonstrate against Nixon and the mission to get youths registered to vote. According to Weiner, “in the ensuing three-year legal battle he lost his artistic vision and energy, his relationship with Yoko disintegrated, and he gave up his radical politics. In this period Lennon became a defeated activist, an artist in decline, an aging superstar.” J. Edgar Hoover died in May of 1972, taking some of the heat off the former Beatle, but he did not receive his green card until after Watergate when Gerald Ford took office.

Ultimately, the FBI succeeded in neutralizing Lennon and deterring him from impacting Nixon’s reelection, but not from inspiring millions of people around the world.

CONTINUE READING…

WE ARE ANTI-PROHIBITIONIST’S

The part that bothers me the most about the #Warondrugs situation is that the ‘legalization’ trail should never had been taken, and neither should the ‘medical marijuana’ trail until AFTER the #PROHIBITION was repealed.

(#REPEALPROHIBITION) At that point, the plant #plantsrights would have been restored and then, and ONLY then, the Pharma could’ve made use of this plant as well in order to rid the pharmacopoeia of some very dangerous drugs and I’m not talking about JUST “narcotics”….

Although they as well would be considerably reduced in use – by the people themselves when their lawful access to Cannabis was restored. No need for DEA intervention…The “drug problem” would essentially take care of itself over a period of time. And much fewer people would have lost their lives to #Heroin overdose and other #street drugs as well in the war on “Narcotics” , #war on narcotics which we have seen exasperated in the past couple years when people were blatantly refused medication they had been on for a long length of time without any thought to “First do no harm”..

#Firstdonoharm. …It’s just another #war on patients who used #Marijuana for the most part.. .They just didn’t give a damn about the #patientsrights … Its all #commerce to them…Plain and simple. As well, upon the total #REPEAL PROHIBITION being accomplished, immediately those medications containing #Cannabis Sativa that were available BEFORE the #Prohibition could have immediately been returned to the pharmacy for sale to patients which would additionally have helped everyone: Patients, Growers, Pharmaceuticals, recreational users, those who just want #HEMP for food use and/or industrial use.

It is a severe clusterfu*k when you have people being denied use of medications they have used for periods of time or years for legitimate illnesses to be cut off from those medications as #punishment for the use of #Marijuana while at the same time Marijuana is being “#LEGALIZED across the Country and even the #World …. In effect, it is a #Culling …. I am an #Anti-prohibitionist !!!

VOTE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDSUPON IT, BECAUSE IT DOES!!!!!!!

(MO)”Bill” If passed, it would allow employers to drug test their employees randomly and grant them the clearance to fire them if they fail.

Missouri bill seeks to allow employers to test for medical marijuana

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ST. LOUIS – Whether it’s medical or reactional marijuana, both are proving to be a hot topic in many states across the United States.

In Illinois, since legalizing the drug for both uses at the start of 2020, the state rang in an eye-opening $40 million in just the first month.

And in Missouri, the initial steps of setting up shops for medical marijuana are just now being put into place.

“The good thing is that we do have [medical marijuana] in Missouri,” said Gary Easter, a marijuana advocate with The Green Man Group. “So we have to look at that as a positive and keep fighting the good fight.”

While strides are moving forward, there’s new legislation on medical marijuana that’s raising some eyebrows in Jefferson City.

It’s called Senate Bill 610 and its sponsored by Republican Senator David Sater from southwest Missouri.

If passed, it would allow employers to drug test their employees randomly and grant them the clearance to fire them if they fail.

“I feel like this bill is continue to stigma that has been placed on marijuana and medical marijuana users,” said Abrahama Keys, the executive director of NORML, a support group that lobbies for the legalization of marijuana on all fronts.

She assures the senator’s bill is nothing more than a distraction on Missouri’s progression of marijuana legalization.

“When you make legislation like this, you’re almost criminalizing people who are medical marijuana users,” Keys said. “We don’t have anything that tests for, say, sleeping drugs; sleeping drugs can impair you on the job. However, there’s no test in place or legislature in place.”

Though she doesn’t agree with the bill, Keys says she welcomes all dialogue.

“I believe when things like this come in the light, it’s important to view everybody’s opinions,” Keys said.

“It’s baby steps,” Easter said. “Just baby step before getting to the ultimate picture which is legalization across the board.”

At present, the bill is in the Small Business and Industry Committee, where it failed to gather enough votes last year.

CONTINUE READING AND TO VIDEO!

Be Careful When You Ask For “MORE”…

(Next, it could/will be your vegetables…)

Congress Plans to Vote on Federal Cannabis Legalization This Week

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would de-schedule cannabis and create a government agency tasked with righting the wrongs of prohibition.

BRUCE CAIN

2.17.2020

It does take Cannabis off the Controlled Substances Act which is a good thing.

What we never seem to hear from our representatives or within this MORE Bill is an explicit acknowledgement of the inalienable right for adults to grow: no tax, regulation or gov’t/globalist control. And nowhere in this bill does it do that.

I’m an old Perennial Hippie who has been fighting for the right to grow for many decades. And over those decades I have had the honor of knowing many great activists: Jack Herer, Timothy Leary, Gatewood Galbraith, Dennis Peron and hundreds of others.

Well before the establishment of the UN the Rockefeller’s and Rothschild’s have been diametrically opposed to Cannabis. The UN, which is really a front for these two dynasties, is still against an individual’s right to grow.

To me it symbolizes the chasm between the two major ideologies: individualism Vs collectivism. It also symbolizes the chasm between self sufficiency Vs dependency. What is really at the heart of these dynasties is power: the aspiration to control everything and everybody.

This idea of self sufficiency is the idealized goal of our founders and is the real primary reason that I spent over 30 years of my life advocating the inalienable right to grow your own. Today the biggest threat to individual self sufficiency is the UN and their fait accompli to usher us into the 4th Industrial Revolution through 5G infrastructure: Smart Cities, Smart Grids, Smart Meters etc.

Cannabis growers need to understand that — once this infrastructure is in place — they can easily take away your right to grow and make you entirely dependent on spending $15/gram at the dispensary. Smart Meters will detect your indoor grows. Drones, coupled with infrared scanners and AI, can ferret out your outdoor garden.

Cannabis legalization was always a symptom of a much larger evil: global collectivists such as the Rockefeller’s, the Rothschild’s and the globalist United Nations façade which they created. Sadly the war on Cannabis is not over: it has really just begun. They want to control Cannabis just as they want to control You and I. They are responsible for the Federal Reserve (that has been robbing us blind since 1913), they are responsible for nearly every war since 1900 and they look at us as either “useful idiots” (AOC, proponents of the New Green Deal: Agenda21 by another name) and “useless eaters.” And the funny thing about all of this is that we are not taught this through the public education system. The fact is they control that as well. Perhaps THIS is the time to stand up against these demonic forces? Because once the 5G infrastructure is “up and running” we may well remain slaves forever. And as slaves you will eventually not be able to grow your own. They have never changed their view on that one.

https://www.congress.gov/…/116th-congr…/house-bill/3884/text

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3884/all-actions?overview=closed&KWICView=false

KENTUCKY CANNABIS RALLY AT THE ROTUNDA IN FRANKFORT!

The people of Kentucky, all groups, all BILLS for Cannabis whether it be “Medical” or “Adult Use”, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent, are requested to join us in Frankfort Kentucky on March 11, 2020 to show our support for the effort in our State!

Please plan to be there!

RotundaRally3.11.20

LOCATED AT CAPITOL ROTUNDA

700 CAPITOL AVE

FRANKFORT, KY  40601

https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/19rs/hb136.html

AN ACT relating to medicinal marijuana and making an appropriation therefor.

https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20rs/hb148.html

AN ACT relating to the regulation of cannabis and making an appropriation therefor.

https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20rs/hb236.html

AN ACT relating to hemp and declaring an emergency.

https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20rs/hb221.html

AN ACT relating to marijuana possession.

https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20rs/hb102.html

AN ACT relating to employment-related drug screens.

RELATED GROUPS/PAGES ON FACEBOOK!

MY RIGHT TO DECIDE

https://www.facebook.com/MYRIGHTTODECIDE/

KY4MM

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ky4mm/?ref=br_rs

KENTUCKY 411 UNCENSORED

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2091597957797912/

KENTUCKY MARIJUANA PARTY

https://www.facebook.com/USMjPartyKY/?ref=br_rs

FREE THE WEED KENTUCKY

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1428715180676475/?ref=br_rs

Trump Says He Can Ignore Medical Marijuana Protections Passed By Congress

President Trump Signs VA Accountability Act

December 21, 2019

Tom Angell

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

In a statement attached to a large-scale funding bill he signed into law on Friday, President Trump said in effect that he reserves the right to ignore a congressionally approved provision that seeks to protect state medical marijuana laws from federal interference.

Division B, section 531 of the Act provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds made available under this Act to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories,” Trump wrote in a signing statement. “My Administration will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.”

Although the vague language doesn’t directly say he plans to ignore Congress’s will to block Justice Department prosecution of medical cannabis patients and providers, presidents typically use signing statements such as this one to flag provisions of laws they are enacting which they believe could impede on their executive authorities. By calling out the medical marijuana rider, Trump is making clear that his administration believes it can broadly enforce federal drug laws against people complying with state medical marijuana laws even though Congress told him not to.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that a crackdown is on the way.

The administration hasn’t carried out any major enforcement activities against state-legal marijuana businesses since taking office, in accordance with Trump’s campaign pledges that he would respect the right of states to enact their own cannabis laws without federal interference. That also goes for recreational policies and businesses that aren’t even covered under the congressionally adopted rider, which has been part of federal law since 2014.

It is the third time Trump has said in a signing statement that his administration doesn’t necessarily have to abide by the medical marijuana provision. He included similar language when signing off on annual appropriations bills last year and in 2017, though he did not do so in 2018.

In August, the president reiterated his support for letting states legalize cannabis without federal interference.

“It’s a very big subject and right now we are allowing states to make that decision,” Trump said. “A lot of states are making that decision, but we’re allowing states to make that decision.”

Last year, when asked about separate pending congressional legislation that would more broadly exempt state-legal marijuana activity from the federal Controlled Substances Act, he said he “really” supports the bill.

Given the president’s consistently voiced support for respecting state cannabis laws, it’s not clear why he has gone out of his way to reserve his right to ignore the medical marijuana rider on a near-annual basis.

Among the handful of other provisions Trump singled out in his new signing statement are ones dealing with the closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, restrictions on diplomatic activities and the dissemination of information that may be protected by executive privilege.

The Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill that Trump signed into law on Friday does not contain a broader rider seeking to shield all state marijuana laws—including those that allow recreational use and sales—that had been approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year. It, along with another provision that would have protected banks that serve state-legal cannabis businesses from federal punishment, was dropped from the final legislation in bicameral negotiations with the Senate.

Congressional leaders did include several cannabis-related provisions in a report attached to the legislation, though, such as language directing the Food and Drug Administration to formulate a policy of enforcement discretion for CBD products and requiring the National Institute on Drug Abuse to compile a report on the barriers that the Schedule I status of drugs including marijuana places in front of scientific research.

CONTINUE READING…

RELATED:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-by-the-president-33/?utm_source=link&utm_medium=header

https://kentuckymarijuanaparty.com/2014/01/02/on-legalization-when-the-u-n-comes-a-marching-along-we-will-all-be-singing-a-brand-new-song/

https://kentuckymarijuanaparty.com/2014/10/15/lets-talk-about-corporate-cannabis/

https://kentuckymarijuanaparty.com/2015/05/08/and-all-the-green-fields-will-runneth-red-with-blood/

https://kentuckymarijuanaparty.com/2015/07/09/conflicting-federal-laws-beg-to-differ-on-marijuana-enforcement/

https://kentuckymarijuanaparty.com/2015/10/26/rights-and-freedoms-may-in-no-case-be-exercised-contrary-to-purposes-and-principles-of-the-united-nations-how-the-united-nations-is-stealing-our-unalienable-rights-to-grow/