Pro-Legalization Does Not Equate With Pro-Use

By TED SCHAFT

First, pro-legalization does not equate with pro-use.  It’s a matter of responsibility, personal freedom and no victims.

Right now the state of Vermont is in the middle of an experiment concerning mostly unregulated marijuana use and it doesn’t even know it.  It became legal July 1 to possess an ounce and grow some plants.  After listening to VPR about the upcoming legislative agenda concerning new marijuana laws, I was surprised that no caller or panelist mentioned this.  It is a foregone conclusion that the state will create a new bureaucracy to deal with the supposed increase in use and abuse.  So this begs the question “What has happened in the last six months concerning marijuana?”  It seems to me the answer is ……nothing.  There has been no evidence of an uptick in use, abuse or the other predictions of marijuana smoke pouring out of high school windows (the smoke pouring out is vapor) and cars flying off the roads and into other cars willy-nilly.

It is nearly impossible to get the facts.  The Office of National Drug Control Policy is statutorily mandated to oppose legalization by any means necessary.  Any report issued by the ONDCP will cherry pick or slant the facts to support its mandate.  The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area has the same predisposition that legalization is a bad idea and has highlighted problems while suppressing any of the benefits of legalization.  The propaganda wars started when the police announced all drug seeking dogs would have to be euthanized because they couldn’t be untrained.

The hope is that the state will delay any action to create a new $20+million bureaucracy to regulate marijuana or set up a market place, whose expense can’t be covered by taxes.  Let the experiment continue for at least another year.  There is no need to find another solution in search of a problem at this time.

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Marijuana backers worry over AG Sessions

Marijuana backers worry over AG Sessions

Supporters of liberalizing marijuana laws worry their relationship with the federal government is about to get a lot more contentious as members of the incoming Donald Trump administration signal they will take a harder line on drug policy.

During the Obama administration, Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch agreed not to enforce some drug laws in states where marijuana is legal. That is likely to change under Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), President-elect Trump’s nominee to become attorney general.

Sessions is considered one of the staunchest pot opponents in the Senate, a hard-line conservative who once remarked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK” until he learned members smoked marijuana. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year, Sessions said he wanted to send a message that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

“Sessions doesn’t appear to have a very enlightened view about the war on drugs, so that’s somewhat discouraging,” said Pete Holmes, Seattle’s city attorney and one of the driving forces behind Washington’s decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

“When you hear the kind of knee-jerk biases expressed by a guy who will be the nation’s top law enforcement official, it’s scary.”

Supporters of liberalizing marijuana laws have scored big wins in recent years, as voters in both red and blue states have loosened marijuana laws. After November’s elections, more than half of states will allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and eight states will allow marijuana for recreational purposes. 

The legal marijuana industry is becoming a billion-dollar boon for businesses and investors and a reliable new source of revenue for cash-poor cities and states. Earlier this month, voters in Massachusetts, Maine, California and Nevada joined Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia in legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

But marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and pro-pot advocates have maintained an uneasy truce with the Justice Department under President Obama.

As attorney general, Sessions has a host of options for changing the federal government’s posture toward marijuana.

He could follow precedent set by Holder and Lynch and let states chart their own path, or, on the other extreme, he could tell governors that any state that issues a license to permit marijuana sales would stand in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. 

Sessions could revisit the Cole memo, the August 2013 memorandum written to federal prosecutors by then-deputy Attorney General James Cole that lays out the Justice Department’s priorities in prosecuting drug cases. The Cole memo allowed prosecutors to skip cases in states that institute regulatory and enforcement systems to oversee marijuana sales.

To legal pot opponents, the Cole memo — and other steps the Obama Justice Department has taken — is an abdication of responsibility to implement federal law.

“We want to see federal law enforced. I think a clear letter asking states to stand down until Congress changes the law makes the most sense, and I think governors in these states would gladly oblige,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization.

The debate over marijuana legalization is a proxy, however imperfect, for the larger question of states’ rights.

Legal marijuana backers say they hope Sessions and Trump let the states experiment as the founders intended.

Sessions co-sponsored a bill introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) last year that would have allowed states to challenge proposed federal rules under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves rights for the states. That gives some legal marijuana backers at least a glimmer of hope that the incoming administration won’t crack the whip.

“Voters in 28 states have chosen programs that shift cannabis from the criminal market to highly regulated, tax-paying businesses. Sen. Sessions has long advocated for state sovereignty, and we look forward to working with him to ensure that states’ rights and voter choices on cannabis are respected,” said Aaron Smith, who heads the National Cannabis Industry Association in Denver. 

But opponents of marijuana liberalization say they see their own encouraging signs that the tide toward legalization may be turning.

“We’ve all wondered whether the Trump presidency would be ‘states rights’ or ‘law and order’ when it comes to drugs,” Sabet wrote in an email. “The Sessions pick makes many of us think it may be the latter.”

Even with Sessions overseeing the Justice Department, legal marijuana proponents are likely to continue pursuing liberalization through ballot measures and state legislatures. 

Marijuana legalization measures are already circulating in Ohio, Texas, Mississippi and Missouri. Legislatures in states like New Jersey, Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island are likely to take up marijuana legalization bills in upcoming legislative sessions.

CONTINUE READING…

Marijuana backers worry over AG Sessions

Marijuana backers worry over AG Sessions

Supporters of liberalizing marijuana laws worry their relationship with the federal government is about to get a lot more contentious as members of the incoming Donald Trump administration signal they will take a harder line on drug policy.

During the Obama administration, Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch agreed not to enforce some drug laws in states where marijuana is legal. That is likely to change under Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), President-elect Trump’s nominee to become attorney general.

Sessions is considered one of the staunchest pot opponents in the Senate, a hard-line conservative who once remarked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK” until he learned members smoked marijuana. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year, Sessions said he wanted to send a message that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

“Sessions doesn’t appear to have a very enlightened view about the war on drugs, so that’s somewhat discouraging,” said Pete Holmes, Seattle’s city attorney and one of the driving forces behind Washington’s decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

“When you hear the kind of knee-jerk biases expressed by a guy who will be the nation’s top law enforcement official, it’s scary.”

Supporters of liberalizing marijuana laws have scored big wins in recent years, as voters in both red and blue states have loosened marijuana laws. After November’s elections, more than half of states will allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and eight states will allow marijuana for recreational purposes. 

The legal marijuana industry is becoming a billion-dollar boon for businesses and investors and a reliable new source of revenue for cash-poor cities and states. Earlier this month, voters in Massachusetts, Maine, California and Nevada joined Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia in legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

But marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and pro-pot advocates have maintained an uneasy truce with the Justice Department under President Obama.

As attorney general, Sessions has a host of options for changing the federal government’s posture toward marijuana.

He could follow precedent set by Holder and Lynch and let states chart their own path, or, on the other extreme, he could tell governors that any state that issues a license to permit marijuana sales would stand in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. 

Sessions could revisit the Cole memo, the August 2013 memorandum written to federal prosecutors by then-deputy Attorney General James Cole that lays out the Justice Department’s priorities in prosecuting drug cases. The Cole memo allowed prosecutors to skip cases in states that institute regulatory and enforcement systems to oversee marijuana sales.

To legal pot opponents, the Cole memo — and other steps the Obama Justice Department has taken — is an abdication of responsibility to implement federal law.

“We want to see federal law enforced. I think a clear letter asking states to stand down until Congress changes the law makes the most sense, and I think governors in these states would gladly oblige,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization.

The debate over marijuana legalization is a proxy, however imperfect, for the larger question of states’ rights.

Legal marijuana backers say they hope Sessions and Trump let the states experiment as the founders intended.

Sessions co-sponsored a bill introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) last year that would have allowed states to challenge proposed federal rules under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves rights for the states. That gives some legal marijuana backers at least a glimmer of hope that the incoming administration won’t crack the whip.

“Voters in 28 states have chosen programs that shift cannabis from the criminal market to highly regulated, tax-paying businesses. Sen. Sessions has long advocated for state sovereignty, and we look forward to working with him to ensure that states’ rights and voter choices on cannabis are respected,” said Aaron Smith, who heads the National Cannabis Industry Association in Denver. 

But opponents of marijuana liberalization say they see their own encouraging signs that the tide toward legalization may be turning.

“We’ve all wondered whether the Trump presidency would be ‘states rights’ or ‘law and order’ when it comes to drugs,” Sabet wrote in an email. “The Sessions pick makes many of us think it may be the latter.”

Even with Sessions overseeing the Justice Department, legal marijuana proponents are likely to continue pursuing liberalization through ballot measures and state legislatures. 

Marijuana legalization measures are already circulating in Ohio, Texas, Mississippi and Missouri. Legislatures in states like New Jersey, Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island are likely to take up marijuana legalization bills in upcoming legislative sessions.

CONTINUE READING…

Massachusetts Committee Considers Restrictions on Asset Forfeiture Program

B

BOSTON (Nov. 5, 2015) – A bill under consideration in the Massachusetts Senate would reform asset forfeiture laws to prohibit the state from taking property without a criminal conviction in most cases.

Introduced in April by Sen. Salvatore DiDomenico (D-Middlesex) along with a bipartisan group of cosponsors, Senate Bill 797 (S797) was given a hearing in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary last month with a decision yet to be made on the legislation.

If passed, S797 would reform the practice of civil asset forfeiture under state law by only allowing forfeitures of property by government officials to be completed after “proving to the court the existence of probable cause to institute the action.”

S797 would also remove certain financial incentives facilitating civil asset forfeitures within the state. Asset forfeitures would be prohibited from being a “source of revenue to meet the operating needs of [any police or sheriff’s] department.” This would stop law enforcement from using the disposition of seized assets as a reliable source of revenue.

FEDERAL LOOPHOLE

As currently drafted, S797 leaves a loophole open that could make the proposed state reforms generally ineffective.

The bill needs to include amendment language to stop state and local law enforcement from turning cases over to the federal government, thereby circumventing any restrictions placed on asset forfeiture at the state level.

This very scenario plays out frequently in states with strong asset forfeiture laws like California. Police simply avoid state-only restrictions on asset forfeiture by turning cases involving seized assets over to the feds. In return, state and local agencies get up to 80 percent of the proceeds from forfeited assets back through the Federal Equitable Sharing Program.

Simple language can close this loophole.

“A law enforcement agency or prosecuting authority may not directly or indirectly transfer seized property to any federal law enforcement authority or other federal agency unless the value of the seized property exceeds $50,000, excluding the potential value of the sale of contraband.”

As the Tenth Amendment Center previously reported, the federal government has inserted itself into the California’s asset forfeiture debate. The feds clearly want the policy to continue.

Why?

We can only guess. But perhaps the feds recognize paying state and local police agencies directly in cash for handling their enforcement would reveal their weakness. After all, the federal government would find it nearly impossible to prosecute its unconstitutional “War on Drugs” without state and local assistance. Asset forfeiture “equitable sharing” provides a pipeline the feds use to incentivize state and local police to serve as de facto arms of the federal government by funneling billions of dollars into their budgets.

NOT MAKING THE GRADE

If amended, S797 would make it more difficult for what the Institute for Justice referred to as ‘Policing for Profit’ and its corrupting influence on public officials to proliferate. The think-tank gave the state of Massachusetts a “D” grade on their comprehensive Asset Forfeiture Report released in 2010.

“The government tends to go after folks who can’t defend themselves adequately,” Dan Alban, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, said in a Watchdog.org report. “Such defense is usually costly and there are few who specialize in it. Furthermore, forfeiture often involves cash that a business needs to operate, which provides an incentive for a fast settlement just to stay in business.”

If amended, S797 would be a much-needed step in the right direction toward reforming civil asset forfeiture in the Bay State.

The bill must be approved by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary before Mar. 2016 to receive a vote in the full Senate.  CONTINUE READING…

Category Archives: Asset Forfeiture

International forfeiture

Massachusetts Committee Considers Restrictions on Asset Forfeiture Program

B

BOSTON (Nov. 5, 2015) – A bill under consideration in the Massachusetts Senate would reform asset forfeiture laws to prohibit the state from taking property without a criminal conviction in most cases.

Introduced in April by Sen. Salvatore DiDomenico (D-Middlesex) along with a bipartisan group of cosponsors, Senate Bill 797 (S797) was given a hearing in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary last month with a decision yet to be made on the legislation.

If passed, S797 would reform the practice of civil asset forfeiture under state law by only allowing forfeitures of property by government officials to be completed after “proving to the court the existence of probable cause to institute the action.”

S797 would also remove certain financial incentives facilitating civil asset forfeitures within the state. Asset forfeitures would be prohibited from being a “source of revenue to meet the operating needs of [any police or sheriff’s] department.” This would stop law enforcement from using the disposition of seized assets as a reliable source of revenue.

FEDERAL LOOPHOLE

As currently drafted, S797 leaves a loophole open that could make the proposed state reforms generally ineffective.

The bill needs to include amendment language to stop state and local law enforcement from turning cases over to the federal government, thereby circumventing any restrictions placed on asset forfeiture at the state level.

This very scenario plays out frequently in states with strong asset forfeiture laws like California. Police simply avoid state-only restrictions on asset forfeiture by turning cases involving seized assets over to the feds. In return, state and local agencies get up to 80 percent of the proceeds from forfeited assets back through the Federal Equitable Sharing Program.

Simple language can close this loophole.

“A law enforcement agency or prosecuting authority may not directly or indirectly transfer seized property to any federal law enforcement authority or other federal agency unless the value of the seized property exceeds $50,000, excluding the potential value of the sale of contraband.”

As the Tenth Amendment Center previously reported, the federal government has inserted itself into the California’s asset forfeiture debate. The feds clearly want the policy to continue.

Why?

We can only guess. But perhaps the feds recognize paying state and local police agencies directly in cash for handling their enforcement would reveal their weakness. After all, the federal government would find it nearly impossible to prosecute its unconstitutional “War on Drugs” without state and local assistance. Asset forfeiture “equitable sharing” provides a pipeline the feds use to incentivize state and local police to serve as de facto arms of the federal government by funneling billions of dollars into their budgets.

NOT MAKING THE GRADE

If amended, S797 would make it more difficult for what the Institute for Justice referred to as ‘Policing for Profit’ and its corrupting influence on public officials to proliferate. The think-tank gave the state of Massachusetts a “D” grade on their comprehensive Asset Forfeiture Report released in 2010.

“The government tends to go after folks who can’t defend themselves adequately,” Dan Alban, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, said in a Watchdog.org report. “Such defense is usually costly and there are few who specialize in it. Furthermore, forfeiture often involves cash that a business needs to operate, which provides an incentive for a fast settlement just to stay in business.”

If amended, S797 would be a much-needed step in the right direction toward reforming civil asset forfeiture in the Bay State.

The bill must be approved by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary before Mar. 2016 to receive a vote in the full Senate.  CONTINUE READING…

Category Archives: Asset Forfeiture

International forfeiture

Marijuana Reform Activists Push for Change with DEA Head

 

 

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.

 

And the resignation of Chief of Administration Michele Leonhart offers the chance for change

Marijuana legalization advocates are excited about the departure of Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, whom they long considered an obstruction in their goal of reforming the nation’s drug laws.

“We are happy to see her go,” says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “She’s a career drug warrior at a time when we’ve decided the ‘War on Drugs’ is an abject failure.”

Leonhart has been at the DEA for 35 years and served as the top dog since 2007. Though the recent scandal involving agents soliciting sex from prostitutes is what will likely most clearly tarnish her reputation, her position on drug policy has led marijuana reform activists to call for her resignation, says says Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Franklin, a veteran of the Maryland state police, calls her position on marijuana reform “archaic.”

Leonhart has been a major hurdle in the effort to reconsider marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which could pave the way for more research into the health benefits of the drug. In 2011, the agency again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the agency spent about $100 million in 2012 alone on enforcement regarding medical marijuana laws.

More

Vancouver’s 4/20 Marijuana Smoke Fest Sees 64 Taken to HospitalWillie Nelson to Launch His Own Brand of MarijuanaJurors Shown Video of Tsarnaev Flipping Off Camera NBC NewsReagan Shooter Hinckley Has Girlfriend, Brother Says NBC NewsElian Gonzalez Sparked a Cuba-U.S Firestorm 15 Years Ago NBC News

“Leonhart opposed medical marijuana, she opposed sentencing reform, she opposed pretty much everything that Obama was doing and for that matter everything Congress was doing,” says Bill Piper, the director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Drug Policy Alliance is one of several drug and marijuana policy organizations that have previously called for Leonhart’s removal. Following a speech in which Leonhart was critical of Obama’s assertion that smoking marijuana was no more harmful that drinking alcohol, the Marijuana Policy Project and over 47,000 citizens called for her to resign. A Drug Policy Alliance petition called for her removal following revelations that the DEA had been tracking citizens’ phone calls for decades. Organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws have also called for her resignation.

Though who will be filling in for Leonhart isn’t yet clear, activists say her replacement should be more supportive of ongoing reform initiatives, including reducing mass incarceration and taking the health impact of drugs into consideration when formulating policy. What’s more, Piper says, her removal could lead the Obama administration to reschedule marijuana before the President leaves office.

“This offers a good opportunity for marijuana reform to move forward quicker than it has been moving,” Piper says.

More than that, though, it could signal and even steeper change to policy regarding the enforcement of drug laws. As more states consider legalizing marijuana in some form—23 states have legalized medical use and four have given the green light to toking up recreationally. Six additional states could consider legalization during the 2016 election. As the nation’s stance on that shifts, so too should its approach to drug enforcement, advocates say.

“Within the next 10 years, I see massive drug policy reform and therefore really an end to the DEA,” Franklin says. The new leader, he says, should approach the role as if he or she is “dismantling a decommissioned battleship and selling the pieces for scrap metal.”

“For most part, the DEA exists because they’re enforcing prohibition,” he adds. “I believe we’re moving away from prohibition and more toward health.”

CONTINUE READING…

Marijuana Reform Activists Push for Change with DEA Head

 

 

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.

 

And the resignation of Chief of Administration Michele Leonhart offers the chance for change

Marijuana legalization advocates are excited about the departure of Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, whom they long considered an obstruction in their goal of reforming the nation’s drug laws.

“We are happy to see her go,” says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “She’s a career drug warrior at a time when we’ve decided the ‘War on Drugs’ is an abject failure.”

Leonhart has been at the DEA for 35 years and served as the top dog since 2007. Though the recent scandal involving agents soliciting sex from prostitutes is what will likely most clearly tarnish her reputation, her position on drug policy has led marijuana reform activists to call for her resignation, says says Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Franklin, a veteran of the Maryland state police, calls her position on marijuana reform “archaic.”

Leonhart has been a major hurdle in the effort to reconsider marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which could pave the way for more research into the health benefits of the drug. In 2011, the agency again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the agency spent about $100 million in 2012 alone on enforcement regarding medical marijuana laws.

More

Vancouver’s 4/20 Marijuana Smoke Fest Sees 64 Taken to HospitalWillie Nelson to Launch His Own Brand of MarijuanaJurors Shown Video of Tsarnaev Flipping Off Camera NBC NewsReagan Shooter Hinckley Has Girlfriend, Brother Says NBC NewsElian Gonzalez Sparked a Cuba-U.S Firestorm 15 Years Ago NBC News

“Leonhart opposed medical marijuana, she opposed sentencing reform, she opposed pretty much everything that Obama was doing and for that matter everything Congress was doing,” says Bill Piper, the director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Drug Policy Alliance is one of several drug and marijuana policy organizations that have previously called for Leonhart’s removal. Following a speech in which Leonhart was critical of Obama’s assertion that smoking marijuana was no more harmful that drinking alcohol, the Marijuana Policy Project and over 47,000 citizens called for her to resign. A Drug Policy Alliance petition called for her removal following revelations that the DEA had been tracking citizens’ phone calls for decades. Organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws have also called for her resignation.

Though who will be filling in for Leonhart isn’t yet clear, activists say her replacement should be more supportive of ongoing reform initiatives, including reducing mass incarceration and taking the health impact of drugs into consideration when formulating policy. What’s more, Piper says, her removal could lead the Obama administration to reschedule marijuana before the President leaves office.

“This offers a good opportunity for marijuana reform to move forward quicker than it has been moving,” Piper says.

More than that, though, it could signal and even steeper change to policy regarding the enforcement of drug laws. As more states consider legalizing marijuana in some form—23 states have legalized medical use and four have given the green light to toking up recreationally. Six additional states could consider legalization during the 2016 election. As the nation’s stance on that shifts, so too should its approach to drug enforcement, advocates say.

“Within the next 10 years, I see massive drug policy reform and therefore really an end to the DEA,” Franklin says. The new leader, he says, should approach the role as if he or she is “dismantling a decommissioned battleship and selling the pieces for scrap metal.”

“For most part, the DEA exists because they’re enforcing prohibition,” he adds. “I believe we’re moving away from prohibition and more toward health.”

CONTINUE READING…