DOJ’s Mysterious Marijuana Subcommittee

Submitted by Marijuana News on Wed, 06/07/2017 – 08:45

Few details have emerged about a potentially influential review.

Led by an outspoken legalization opponent, Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department is reviewing federal marijuana policy, with significant changes possible soon. Almost nothing about the review process is publicly known and key players in the policy debate have not been contacted.

The outcome of the review could devastate a multibillion-dollar industry and countermand the will of voters in eight states if the Obama administration’s permissive stance on non-medical sales is reversed.

What is known: The review is being conducted by a subcommittee of a larger crime-reduction task force that will issue recommendations by July 27. The subcommittee was announced in April alongside other subcommittees reviewing charging and sentencing.

The task force is co-chaired by Steve Cook, an assistant U.S. attorney in Tennessee who like Sessions advocates harsh criminal penalties and a traditional view of drug prohibition. The other co-chair is Robyn Thiemann, a longtime department official who works as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy.

The marijuana subcommittee is led by Michael Murray, counsel to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, U.S. News has learned.

After graduating from Yale Law School in 2009, Murray ricocheted between law firms and public-sector jobs. He served less than a year as an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia in 2013 before clerking for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, according to his LinkedIn page. He worked at the Jones Day law firm before joining the Trump Justice Department.

Murray could not be reached for comment and Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior declined to comment on the “deliberative processes within the department“ when asked to discuss Murray’s role.

The department declined to identify other members of the subcommittee, the scope of its policy review or name outside groups that are being consulted.

The lack of information provided and the seemingly secretive nature of the review has proponents of a more lenient marijuana policy concerned.

“It’s difficult to ascertain any clear information about the subcommittee and how they’re working,” says Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group representing marijuana businesses.

West says the group is focused on building relationships with members of Congress and points to overwhelming public support for respecting state marijuana laws — 73 percent, according to an April survey by Quinnipiac University.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a large advocacy group that has led many of the successful state legalization campaigns, also says it is not in touch with the subcommittee.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., a leading marijuana reform advocate, requested to meet with Sessions about the issue but was refused, says Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs.

“Without knowing much about the approach the subcommittee is taking, it’s hard to say whether we’d expect them to reach out,” West says. “So far, [Sessions’] comments have not indicated a lot of willingness to work together toward common ground.”

It’s unclear if agencies under the Justice Department’s umbrella, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, are contributing to the subcommittee.

DEA acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg told U.S. News on Tuesday that he is not personally involved in the review, and that he didn’t know if any of his subordinates are. A DEA spokesman was not immediately able to provide additional information.


Vermont would join eight states and the nation's capital in allowing recreational pot use. State cannabis laws vary significantly and many are in the process of implementation.

Eight states have laws authorizing regulated recreational marijuana sales. More than half allow medical marijuana. (STEVEN NELSON FOR USN&WR)


Marijuana possession for any reason outside limited research remains a federal crime. Most state medical programs are protected from federal enforcement by a congressional spending restriction. Recreational programs are protected only by the 2013 Cole Memothat allowed states to regulate sales so long as certain enforcement triggers aren’t tripped, such as diversion to other states, distribution to minors, public health consequences and involvement of criminal groups.

State-legal cannabis businesses hit $6.7 billion in estimated sales last year. Cannabis companies are believed to employ more than 100,000 workers and they collect hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal taxes.

Listening to diverse points of view on marijuana policy is significant because the effects of regulated sales are debated, and data can be spliced to support a point of view.

For example, multiple federal and statesurveys indicate that teen use of marijuana has not increased since 2012, when the states legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older. But use rates have fluctuated for years, so comparing current use to a particularly low-use year further in the past can offer a different impression about trends.

Diversion to other states is also debated. A law enforcement task force called Rocky Mountain HIDTA claimed that intercepts of marijuana mail out of Colorado increased following legalization, sourcing the information to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. But a USPIS spokesperson told U.S. News stat
e-specific records did not exist. Though state-specific records are not available, national parcel intercepts did increase in 2016 after two years of declines. Two states sued Colorado unsuccessfully claiming spillover.

Mexican drug cartels, meanwhile, have been caught smuggling significantly lessmarijuana across the southern border. And it’s unclear if local increases in drugged driving arrests and marijuana hospital admissions are primarily the result of legalization policies or improved awareness and reporting.

In April, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Sessions told him the Cole Memo was “not too far from good policy.” But the attorney general has repeatedly made clear his personal objection to marijuana use and legalization.

In March Sessions scoffed at marijuana’s medical potential and evidence showing legal access associated with less opioid abuse. The prepared copy of a March speech called marijuana use a “life-wrecking dependency” that’s “only slightly less awful” than heroin addiction. In May Sessions said there was “too much legalization talk and not enough prevention talk.” Last year, he famously declared that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

President Donald Trump said during the presidential campaign that he does not personally support marijuana legalization, but favors state autonomy. Recent national polls show roughly 60 percent of Americans believe marijuana use should be legal.

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Loretta Lynch’s hard-line stance on marijuana is making Colorado sweat

Attorney general nominee veers from Obama’s no-big-deal rhetoric

 

Attorney General nominee breaks with President Obama's no-big-deal on marijuana.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

By Valerie Richardson – The Washington Times – Sunday, February 1, 2015

DENVER — Nobody in the Colorado marijuana industry is panicking, but those involved are sweating a little over the hard line taken by Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s pick to be the next attorney general, on legalization during this week’s Senate confirmation hearing.

“Quite a few of my members were expressing concern and nervousness,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Colorado Marijuana Industry Group. “But I’m not sure we could have expected much more than we just heard. Even the president, who came out saying that marijuana is no more dangerous as alcohol, is also on the record as being against legalization.”

States that have legalized or are considering legalizing recreational marijuana use butted heads continually with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who refused to relax stricter federal laws against pot use. Judging from this week’s performance, the fight won’t end when Mr. Holder leaves.

A federal prosecutor in New York, Ms. Lynch told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary she disagreed with the president’s no-big-deal take on pot, saying, “I certainly don’t hold that view and don’t agree with that view of marijuana as a substance.”

“I think the president was speaking from his personal experience and personal opinion, neither of which I’m able to share,” Ms. Lynch said. “But I can tell you that not only do I not support the legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support the legalization. Nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general.”

Her stance buoyed legalization foes such as Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who said in a statement, “We are breathing a sigh of relief.”

“For her to come out so adamantly against legalization is extremely encouraging,” said Mr. Sabet, a former official in the White House drug czar’s office. “It will give our efforts a shot in the arm.”

Marijuana advocates downplayed her responses, pointing out that she was testifying before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee and that its chairman, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, opposes recent state moves to legalize recreational marijuana.

In fact, the day before Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Grassley took to the Senate floor to condemn the Obama administration’s decision to allow states that have legalized recreational pot for adults to proceed within certain parameters with regulated retail markets. Federal laws banning pot, he said, should trump state statutes.

Colorado and Washington launched retail marijuana markets last year, while voters in Alaska and Oregon passed ballot measures in November allowing recreational pot use and sales for adults 21 and over. The District of Columbia has approved adult pot use but not sales.

Mason Tvert, who led the successful 2012 ballot campaign in Colorado, argued that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and cracked, “Fortunately, [Ms. Lynch] has been nominated for attorney general, not surgeon general.”

“We can only hope she was telling some lawmakers what they need to hear in order to get through the confirmation process,” Mr. Tvert said in an email. “It would be shocking if she is actually unaware that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol.”

The Department of Justice issued a guidance in 2013 that essentially allows states to proceed with adult marijuana use and sales while warning that prosecutors would still enforce eight priorities, including keeping marijuana away from children and avoiding pot diversion to other states.

Tom Angell, who heads Marijuana Majority, said in an email that Ms. Lynch also appeared to indicate that she would follow the Justice Department guidance.

“While it’d be ideal to have an attorney general who agrees with the majority of Americans that it is time to end marijuana prohibition, we really don’t need federal officials to personally support legalization,” Mr. Angell. “We only need them to respect the will of voters who have implemented legalization in their own states.”

Story Continues →

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/1/loretta-lynchs-stance-on-pot-may-be-problematic-fo/#ixzz3Qc8CBoXS
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Eric Holder Signals Support For Marijuana Reform Just As He’s Heading Out The Door

Matt Ferner Become a fan Matt.Ferner@huffingtonpost.com

 

mmj3

 

Just as Attorney General Eric Holder prepares to step down from his post, he appears more open than ever to the argument for rescheduling marijuana as a less dangerous, more beneficial drug.

"I think it’s certainly a question we need to ask ourselves, whether or not marijuana is as serious of a drug as heroin," Holder said in an interview with Yahoo global news anchor Katie Couric, released on Thursday. "Especially given what we’ve seen recently with regard to heroin — the progression of people from using opioids to heroin use, the spread and the destruction that heroin has perpetrated all around our country. And to see by contrast, what the impact is of marijuana use. Now it can be destructive if used in certain ways, but the question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that we need to ask ourselves and use science as the basis for making that determination."

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, have a "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use."

Yet science clearly indicates otherwise about marijuana. A growing body of research has demonstrated its medical potential. Purified forms of cannabis can be effective at attacking some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use has also been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. Legalization for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates and fewer pain pill overdoses.

The Schedule I classification hinders federal funding for further research into the benefits of cannabis. Columnist Jacob Sullum recently wrote in Forbes that moving marijuana to Schedule III or below could make it easier for university researchers to look into the drug’s full potential.

While marijuana use would still be illegal under federal law, recategorizing it could also remove some of the financial burdens that state-licensed marijuana businesses currently face.

A provision of the federal tax code prohibits any business that "consists of trafficking in controlled substances," which include Schedule I and II drugs, from making tax deductions. Because of this, pot shops cannot deduct traditional business expenses like advertising costs, employee payroll, rent and health insurance from their combined federal and state taxes. Dispensary owners face effective tax rates of 50 to 60 percent — and in some states, those rates soar to 80 percent or higher. The tax rule would no longer apply to pot businesses if marijuana were moved to Schedule III or lower.

To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, while Colorado and Washington remain the only two states to have legalized it for recreational use.

On whether he thinks marijuana should be decriminalized at the federal level, Holder told Couric, "That’s for Congress to decide."

"I think we’ve taken a look at the experiments that are going on in Colorado and Washington, and we’re going to see what happens there, and that’ll help inform us as to what we want to do on the federal level," Holder added.

"For you, the jury is still out?" Couric asked.

"Yeah," Holder said, "it is."

Holder’s statements to Couric on the potential rescheduling of marijuana appear to follow a continuing evolution of his views on the drug. Under the Obama administration, the DEA and several U.S. attorneys have raided hundreds of marijuana dispensaries that were compliant with local laws in states like California and Colorado. But it was Holder who announced in 2013 that the Department of Justice would allow Colorado and Washington to implement their new laws legalizing and regulating the possession, use and sale of marijuana.

More recently, Holder said that the Obama administration would be "more than glad" to work with Congress to re-examine how cannabis is scheduled. He even said in April that he’s "cautiously optimistic" about how the historic changes in Colorado and Washington were working out.

"It’s refreshing to hear these remarks from the attorney general, especially since the science couldn’t be any clearer that marijuana doesn’t meet the criteria for being classified as a Schedule I substance," said Tom Angell, chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority, after the Couric interview. "Numerous studies confirm marijuana’s medical value, and if the administration is serious about taking an objective look at this issue, rescheduling is very achievable by the time this president leaves office. They can do this administratively without any further action from Congress."

Neill Franklin, a retired police officer turned executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, also praised Holder’s comments. He said he hoped the attorney general’s successor "will recognize the war on drugs for what it is: the single biggest problem afflicting our criminal justice system and the central civil rights issue of our time."

CONTINUE TO STORY AND VIDEO…

Colorado attorney general backs firing of medical-marijuana patient

By John Ingold
The Denver Post

The state attorney general’s office says Coloradans do not have a right to use marijuana off-the-job, siding with a satellite television company in its firing of a medical-marijuana patient.

In a brief filed with the state Supreme Court last month, the Colorado attorney general’s office argues that giving workers a right to use marijuana off-duty "would have a profound and detrimental impact on employers in the state."

"Contrary to popular perception, Colorado has not simply legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes," state attorneys write in the brief. "Instead, its citizens have adopted narrowly drawn constitutional amendments that decriminalize small amounts of marijuana."

The Colorado Court of Appeals — the state’s second-highest court — last year upheld Dish Network’s firing of a quadriplegic medical-marijuana patient for a positive drug test. Though there is no allegation that Brandon Coats was stoned at work, the company said it has a zero-tolerance policy on marijuana.

Coats say his off-the-job marijuana use should be protected by Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which prevents companies from firing employees for doing things outside of work — like smoking cigarettes — that are legal. Dish Network argues that marijuana use can’t be considered lawful while cannabis remains illegal federally.

In its brief supporting Dish Network, the state attorney general’s office says zero-tolerance policies ensure that employees are able to perform their jobs competently. Requiring employers to prove that workers are stoned on the job before they can be fired would require companies to conduct "intrusive investigations into the personal life of an employee."

"Simply put, zero tolerance policies provide businesses with an efficient means of avoiding difficult employment decisions and even litigation," the attorney general’s brief states.

Coats’ case is the first time Colorado’s highest court has taken up questions about the scope of marijuana legalization in the state, and it has drawn at least six outside groups filing briefs in support of either Coats or Dish.

The Colorado Mining Association, the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association and the Colorado Civil Justice League — which claims an allegiance with several businesses and groups including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce — have filed briefs on behalf of Dish. The Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association and the Patient and Caregivers Rights Litigation Project have filed briefs supporting Coats.

The Supreme Court has not yet announced when it will hear the case.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, jingold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/john_ingold

Read more: Colorado attorney general backs firing of medical-marijuana patient – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25897526/colorado-attorney-general-backs-firing-medical-marijuana-patient#ixzz33hxw3Xnp
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Colorado attorney general backs firing of medical-marijuana patient

By John Ingold
The Denver Post

The state attorney general’s office says Coloradans do not have a right to use marijuana off-the-job, siding with a satellite television company in its firing of a medical-marijuana patient.

In a brief filed with the state Supreme Court last month, the Colorado attorney general’s office argues that giving workers a right to use marijuana off-duty “would have a profound and detrimental impact on employers in the state.”

“Contrary to popular perception, Colorado has not simply legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes,” state attorneys write in the brief. “Instead, its citizens have adopted narrowly drawn constitutional amendments that decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.”

The Colorado Court of Appeals — the state’s second-highest court — last year upheld Dish Network’s firing of a quadriplegic medical-marijuana patient for a positive drug test. Though there is no allegation that Brandon Coats was stoned at work, the company said it has a zero-tolerance policy on marijuana.

Coats say his off-the-job marijuana use should be protected by Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which prevents companies from firing employees for doing things outside of work — like smoking cigarettes — that are legal. Dish Network argues that marijuana use can’t be considered lawful while cannabis remains illegal federally.

In its brief supporting Dish Network, the state attorney general’s office says zero-tolerance policies ensure that employees are able to perform their jobs competently. Requiring employers to prove that workers are stoned on the job before they can be fired would require companies to conduct “intrusive investigations into the personal life of an employee.”

“Simply put, zero tolerance policies provide businesses with an efficient means of avoiding difficult employment decisions and even litigation,” the attorney general’s brief states.

Coats’ case is the first time Colorado’s highest court has taken up questions about the scope of marijuana legalization in the state, and it has drawn at least six outside groups filing briefs in support of either Coats or Dish.

The Colorado Mining Association, the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association and the Colorado Civil Justice League — which claims an allegiance with several businesses and groups including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce — have filed briefs on behalf of Dish. The Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association and the Patient and Caregivers Rights Litigation Project have filed briefs supporting Coats.

The Supreme Court has not yet announced when it will hear the case.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, jingold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/john_ingold

Read more: Colorado attorney general backs firing of medical-marijuana patient – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25897526/colorado-attorney-general-backs-firing-medical-marijuana-patient#ixzz33hxw3Xnp
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NCADP Online Conference Video

NCADP Online Conference Video

 

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is excited to present this live online conference exploring how communities can be safer without the death penalty. The conference will be broadcast over the web and will be approximately one hour in length. View the conference right here, on this page!

This will be a video conference with presenters live in California, Maryland and Massachusetts. We need your help to advertise this event.

Join us for a fascinating discussion addressing the question, “does the death penalty actually keep us safer?” with Charles Ogletree, Harvard University and founder of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Ron McAndrew, former warden of Florida State Prison who conducted that state’s final electrocutions, Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person exonerated from death row using DNA evidence, and Jerry Givens, former corrections officer from Virginia who put 62 men to death during his 17 years as an executioner.

Send us your questions in advance by tweeting them to #abolition2012.

THE VIDEO IS AVAILABLE TO VIEW AT THIS LINK….

 

Humboldt: Sheriff’s office seizes nearly a ton of dried marijuana, cash and weapons; 17 arrested

 

The Times-Standardwillitsnews.com

Posted: 10/12/2012 12:57:19 PM PDT

marijuana

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office seized a total of 718 marijuana plants at an estimated value of $4,000,000 after serving a search warrant on the 2000 block of Sunset Ridge Road in Blocksburg Thursday morning. (The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office)

The following is a list provided by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office of those arrested and booked into the Humboldt County jail Thursday morning on suspicion of cultivation and possession for sale of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit a felony:

Elber Dejesus Ivonnet, male, 53, North Bergen, NJ, bailed

Geyler Melo-Pueyol, male, 22, Miami, FL, in custody, $75,000 bail

Richardo Mateos-Perez, male, 22,, from Homestead, FL, in custody, $75,000 bail

Fernando Olvera, male, 39, Santa Rosa, CA, bailed

Luis Manuel Sosa-Vega, male, 47, Santiago, Cuba, in custody, $75,000 bail

Jose Pulido, male, 42, Los Reva, Mexico, in custody, $75,000 bail, ICE hold

Hildegarde Safont-Arias, male, 42, Hialeah, FL, in custody, $75,000 bail

Disney Bolanos-Chacon, male, 41, Charlotte, N. C., in custody, $75,000 bail

Jonines Ibonnet, male, 42, Oakland, CA, bailed

Terrence Henderson, male, 43, Eureka, CA, in custody $75,000.00 bail

Pauline Ionie Barnes, female, 44, Green Island, Jamica, released on O.R.

Arlettis Rodriguez-Alverez, female, 22, Hileah, FL, released on O.R.

Dayana Isabel Padron, female, 19, Blocksburg, CA, released on O.R.

Elizabeth Enamorado De Padron, female, 40, Santiago, Cuba, released on O.R.

Hyacinth Hypatiae English, female, 48, Bridgeville, CA, released on O.R.

Idalmis Leyva Ivonnet, female, 62, Charlotte, N.C., released on O.R.

Michael Lewis Iverson Jr., 35, from Eureka, California was also arrested at the marijuana growing site, however he was only arrested on an outstanding probation violation warrant with a bail of $30,000.


posted 12:15 PM

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

On 10-11-2012, at approximately 9:30 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office assisted by the Eureka Police Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Humboldt County Drug Task Force served a Humboldt County Superior Court Search Warrant on the 2000 block of Sunset Ridge Road, Blocksburg.

Upon serving the search warrant, deputies located and detained 17 suspects. As deputies arrived and announced their presence one of the suspects, identified as Johines Ibonnet, attempted to jump out the back window of the residence and broke his ankle. He was transported to a local hospital and treated for his injury prior to being booked into jail.

Upon searching the 45-acre parcel deputies found a very large, sophisticated marijuana growing and processing operation. The operation consisted of marijuana plants being grown in two large greenhouses estimated to be between 60 feet by 100 feet, along with marijuana plants being grown out in the open and inside the residence.

The residence and greenhouses were powered by two commercial sized 25 KW generators. The growing marijuana plants ranged in size from 6 feet to 8 feet tall and were budding.

Deputies estimated the growing plants to have at least one to two pounds of marijuana bud being produced on each plant. There were a total of 718 growing marijuana plants located and seized on the property. Inside a large drying shed, estimated to be approximately 60 feet by 40 feet, deputies located and seized approximately 900 lbs. of drying marijuana bud. Inside the residence deputies located two commercial marijuana trimming machines being used to trim the dried marijuana bud from the plants.

Deputies also located approximately 132 pounds of dried marijuana bud along with numerous drying racks and 261 sealed bags of marijuana bud ready to sell, estimated to weigh approximately one pound or more each, along with packaging material, scales, a Norinco AK-47 assault rifle with several loaded high capacity magazines, a money counter and approximately $9,500.00 cash.

A total of approximately 1,293 pounds of dried marijuana bud was located. Dried marijuana bud is being sold for approximately $2,000 a pound. The estimated value of the dried marijuana bud seized is $2,586,000.00 whole sale.

If the live marijuana plants had been harvested they would had yielded conservatively an additional 718 pounds of dried marijuana bud estimated to be $1,436,000.00 wholesale. The value of the marijuana seized is estimated to be at least $4 million dollars in just marijuana bud, not including the leaves.

Several of the suspects admitted to investigating officers they were hired to work at the marijuana grow as laborers.

Anyone with information for the Sheriffs Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

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