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U.S.: Senators And Congressmen Who Support Marijuana Legalization

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) this week released its 2016 congressional scorecard on marijuana policy. Twenty U.S. representatives and two senators received an 'A' grade, indicating that "this member has publicly declared his/her support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults," according to NORML.

But NORML goes on to point out that Congress lags far behind the public when it comes to support for marijuana reform. Four states plus D.C. have already legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and this fall voters in five more will decide whether to legalize recreatiional weed.

"It is apparent that voters' views regarding marijuana policy have evolved significantly over the past decades," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, in an email. "Yet, the positions of their federally elected officials have not progressed in a similar manner."

Of the 22 congressmen supporting full marijuana legalization only one, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R.-Calif.) is a Republican. Conversely, among the 32 most vocal opponents of marijuana reform only one, Sen. Tom Carper (D.-Del.) is a Democrat.

Here is the list of representatives and senators who support marijuana legalization:

Mike Honda (D.-Calif.)
Jared Huffman (D.-Calif.)
Barbara Lee (D.-Calif.)
Ted Lieu (D.-Calif.)

U.S.: 11 Lawmakers Urge Congress To Include Medical Marijuana In Funding Bill

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U.S. Senator Steve Daines, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and nine members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday urged Congressional leadership to include a provision in the final funding bill sent to the president that protects veterans’ ability to discuss the use of medical marijuana with VA physicians in states where it is legal.

Although the provision passed both chambers of Congress, it was removed in the conferenced appropriations for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act Conference Report failed to include Senators Daines and Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) and Earl Blumenauer’s (D-OR) amendments that would allow for parity between VA and non-VA facilities in 26 states which have medical marijuana programs. The amendment does not change current laws preventing the possession or dispensing of marijuana on VA property, but simply allows veterans to discuss all options that are legally available in their state with their VA doctor.

U.S.: NCIA Calls On Congress To Restore Commonsense Marijuana Proposals To Bills

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Despite bipartisan, majority support in both the House and Senate, the GOP "leadership" has blocked a fix to the dangerous banking crisis, and also stripped a provision allowing V.A. doctors to discuss medical marijuana with patients.

Recent actions by Congressional leadership have derailed two commonsense, majority-favored marijuana policy reform proposals that had been expected to pass through the appropriations process. The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) on Friday called on members of Congress to work to restore those provisions as the budget negotiation process continues.

"Bipartisan majorities in the House and the Senate have supported the commonsense, compassionate ideas that law-abiding cannabis businesses shouldn't be forced into dangerous all-cash operations, and that veterans who have put themselves in harm's way for our country should be able to learn about how medical marijuana could help them deal with the physical and psychological aftermath of their sacrifices," said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith.

U.S.: Marijuana's Biggest Adversary On Capitol Hill Sponsoring Bill To Research Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Two of Congress's lawmakers with opposing views on marijuana are teaming up with others to introduce an overhaul of federal marijuana policy that would make it much easier for scientists to conduct research into medical marijuana.

One of them, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), is Congress's most vocal opponent of marijuana. He's remembered for single-handedly leading a provision that blocked marijuana shops in the District of Columbia in 2014.

Harris is working with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Or.), who Rolling Stone recently called Congress's "top legal pot advocate", to introduce the overhaul this week.

Harris said in an interview that the bipartisan Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016 would "cut through the red tape" that presently makes it extremely difficult for researchers to obtain and use marijuana in clinical trials.

Currently, federal law only allows one facility in Mississippi to produce marijuana used for research. "Because of this monopoly, research-grade drugs that meet researchers’ specifications often take years to acquire, if they are produced at all," Brookings Institution researchers wrote last year.

U.S.: Senate To Hold Homeland Security Hearing On Alternatives To Drug War

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The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs will hold an unprecedented roundtable hearing on Wednesday morning, June 15, 2016, entitled "America's Insatiable Demand for Drugs: Examining Alternative Approaches." The hearing comes at a time where the country is struggling to tackle the opioid epidemic, and policy makers are in search of innovative solutions that avoid the mistakes of the War On Drugs.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), will lay out his vision for ending the war on drugs and forging ahead with new policies based on science, health and human rights. In his written testimony, Nadelmann affirms that "A new approach is needed, one that reduces both the harm caused by drugs and the harm caused by current drug control policies."

“I’ve waited a very long time to be invited by Congress to testify on these issues,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “I think it’s a positive sign that political leaders, not just in the states but even on Capitol Hill, now recognize both the failure of the drug war and the need to think outside the box in addressing our country’s drug problems.”

U.S.: House Removes Restrictions Preventing Veterans Access To Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed an amendment to the FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill led by Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon to make it easier for qualified veterans to access state-legal medical marijuana.

The amendment had bipartisan support and was co-sponsored by Representatives Joe Heck (R-NV), Sam Farr (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Jared Polis (D-CO). It passed by 233-189.

“One of the greatest tragedies of our time is our failure to adequately deal with the needs of our veterans returning home with wounds both visible and unseen," Representative Blumenauer said. "Giving them access to medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option to deal with chronic pain, PTSD, and other conditions is critical at a time when our veterans are dying with a suicide rate 50 percent higher than civilians and opiate overdoses at nearly double the national average.

U.S.: Members of Congress To Join Cannabis Business Leaders Thursday and Friday

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Members of Congress on Thursday will join cannabis industry leaders from across the country for a press conference to kick off National Cannabis Industry Association's sixth annual Lobby Days. More than 100 cannabis business professionals will travel to Washington, D.C., to take part in policy discussions and citizen lobby meetings to advocate for fair treatment of the legal cannabis industry.

On May 12, NCIA leaders, business owners, and members of Congress including Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Denny Heck (D-WA), and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), will hold an 11:30am press conference at the House Triangle to kick off two days of meetings across the Hill between cannabis industry leaders and congressional staffs.

Top priorities for these business owners are a solution to the banking crisis, which prevents many legitimate cannabis businesses from accessing basic financial services, and reform to Section 280E of the federal tax code, which forces cannabis business to pay double or triple the effective federal tax rates of any other industry.

NCIA members will also advocate for the descheduling of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which would give states the authority to make their own decisions about how to handle cannabis legality, much as they currently do with alcohol.

U.S.: Ruling Could Limit Federal Marijuana Prosecutions

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A federal appeals court is expected soon to rule on the scope of the law that could point the way to ending or overturning at least six federal marijuana prosecutions and convictions.

People who are fighting federal marijuana charges say that a recent act of Congress should have stopped the U.S. Department of Justice from prosecuting them, because their activities were legally allowed in their states. Cannabis is still illegal under federal law for any purpose.

"It's been the hardest thing I've ever hard to deal with in my life when you see the government coming down on you for simply trying to be healthy," said Rolland Gregg, who along with his family has fought federal marijuana charges, reports the Associated Press. Gregg said the cannabis plants found on his property in Kirkland, Washington were for medicinal use and in compliance with state law.

D.C.: Leaders On Capitol Hill For National Cannabis Industry Association's Lobby Days

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Cannabis industry leaders from across the country next week will travel to Washington, D.C., for the National Cannabis Industry Association's sixth annual Lobby Days. More than 100 cannabis business professionals will take part in policy discussions and citizen lobby meetings to advocate for fair treatment of the legal cannabis industry.

On Thursday, May 12, NCIA leaders, business owners, and members of Congress will hold an 11:30am press conference at the House Triangle to kick off two days of meetings across the Hill between cannabis industry leaders and congressional staffs.

Top priorities for these business owners are a solution to the banking crisis, which prevents many legitimate cannabis businesses from accessing basic financial services, and reform to Section 280E of the federal tax code, which forces cannabis business to pay double or triple the effective federal tax rates of any other industry.

NCIA members will also advocate for the de-scheduling of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which would give states the authority to make their own decisions about how to handle cannabis legality, much as they currently do with alcohol.

California: Adult Use of Marijuana Act Endorsed by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

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Longtime GOP congressman U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) on Tuesday announced his support for the statewide ballot measure known as the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

He is the second California Congressman to endorse the measure in as many weeks. U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) announced his support last Monday.

"Rohrabacher is a 13-term Congressman who is a powerful voice for libertarian values," the AUMA campaign announced in a prepared statement. He is the co-author of the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Farr amendment which has been passed as part of the Federal Budget and prevents the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana patients or distributors who are in compliance with the laws of their state.

“As a Republican who believes in individual freedom, limited government and states' rights, I believe that it's time for California to lead the nation and create a safe, legal system for the responsible adult use of marijuana,” said Rohrabacher.

“I endorse the Adult Use of Marijuana Act for the November 2016 ballot,” the Congressman continued. “It is a necessary reform which will end the failed system of marijuana prohibition in our state, provide California law enforcement the resources it needs to redouble its focus on serious crimes while providing a policy blueprint for other states to follow.”

Global: Blumenauer Says UN Drug Policy Should Be More Just and Compassionate

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U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) this week joined leaders from around the world in New York at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. Rep. Blumenauer attended the opening day’s events as a Congressional observer.

“There is no better time than now for world leaders to gather to reevaluate international drug policy," Blumenauer said. "The War on Drugs has failed. Instead of escalating the horrific violence of this war, we need a more just and compassionate approach that focuses on public health and harm reduction, rather than punishing drug users.

“I was encouraged to hear a number of countries leading the charge for a different approach, in particular from those countries that have changed or are considering changing their policies surrounding the treatment of marijuana," Blumenauer said. "It was also very promising to hear Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, representing a nation that has experienced horrific violence as a result of the War on Drugs, announce his support for legalizing medical marijuana in Mexico and a call to change a paradigm of prohibitionism that has not yielded results.

D.C.: Friday Marks One Year Anniversary of Marijuana Legalization In Nation's Capitol

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Marijuana Arrests Down 85% After First Year

Congress Continues to Prevent District from Taxing and Regulating Marijuana

This Friday marks the one year anniversary of the implementation of marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia. In the 2014 election, District voters overwhelmingly passed Ballot Initiative 71 with 70 percent support, legalizing the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allowing individuals to grow up to six plants in their home.

Overall, marijuana arrests decreased by 85 percent from 2014 to 2015. Marijuana possession arrests fell from 1,840 in 2014 to just 32 in 2015.

“The decrease in marijuana arrests is an enormous victory for District residents, who have resoundingly rejected the criminalization of marijuana,” said Bill Piper, senior director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Marijuana law enforcement has particularly damaged communities of color in the District, who have borne the brunt of prohibition.

"We hope that law enforcement continues to responsibly enforce the new law and completely eliminates any racial disparity in arrests,” Piper said.

U.S.: Congressman Blumenauer Says Medical Marijuana Could Solve Opioid Epidemic

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U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) on the House floor Wednesday, addressed the serious opioid abuse epidemic across America, highlighting medical marijuana as an alternative to highly addictive prescription opioids in treating chronic pain.

In his remarks, Congressman Blumenauer called for further reforms to our medical marijuana laws, including making sure our Veterans – who are frequently prescribed opioids – are able to discuss medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option with their Veterans Administration providers in states where it is legal.

Rep. Blumenauer on Feb. 3 reintroduced H.R. 667, the Veterans Equal Access Act, to address this and will once again offer it as an amendment during consideration of the FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill this year.

“Last night, ‘Frontline’ on PBS had a compelling documentary on the opioid and heroin epidemic," Rep. Blumenauer said. "We’re now seeing politicians diving in – governors across the country sounding the alarm. It’s being featured by presidential candidates of both parties.

U.S.: First-Ever Bail Reform Legislation Introduced In Congress

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Bill Would Ban States from Receiving Federal Law Enforcement Dollars If They Use Money Bail

DPA: Far Too Many People Behind Bars Simply Because They Can’t Afford Bail; 60% of People in U.S. Jails Have Not Been Convicted of Any Crime

A group of Congressmen led by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) on Wednesday introduced the No More Money Bail Act of 2016. The bill would reform the country’s bail system by denying states access to Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) funds until they end the use of monetary payment as a condition for pretrial release.

Byrne JAG is one of the main federal law enforcement grant programs, directing hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state law enforcement agencies. The bill would also prohibit the use of money bail at the federal level.

“Too many individuals are currently held without trial simply because they cannot afford bail,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Many of them are charged with drug offenses, therefore the nexus between the drug war and money bail is clear.”

Currently, around 60 percent of individuals in jail in the U.S. are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of any crime. Such a system contradicts the ethos of “innocent until proven guilty,” and has an adverse impact on low-income families and communities of color.

Utah: State Senate May Ask Congress To Reclassify Marijuana As Schedule II

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Utah Senate could soon urge Congress to change the classification of marijuana, currently considered Schedule I under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, to Schedule II, which could open the door for more medicinal cannabis research.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 11, sponsored by Sen. Brian Shiozawa (R-Salt Lake), would require the approval of the full Utah Legislature and Governor Gary Hebert, reports Jeremy Harris at KUTV.

Marijuana's current classification as Schedule I means that the U.S. federal government considers cannabis to be as dangerous as heroin and has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." Both cocaine and methamphetamine, incredibly, are considered Schedule II, thus less dangerous than marijuana, by the feds.

Shiozawa's resolution would urge Congress to reclassify marijuana to Schedule II. The downside to classifying cannabis as Schedule II, rather than de-scheduling it altogether, is that a Schedule II classification would effectively put marijuana under the tight control of Big Pharma.

"It's kind of gotten to be a mess because of inactivity on the executive branch and Congress," Shiozawa said. "This is an issue that frankly, we should have dealt with years ago."

The text of Shiozawa's resolution points out that the federal government has already indicated it won't prosecute patients who abide by their state's medical marijuana laws.

D.C.: Council Reverses Opposition To Regulated Spaces To Consume Marijuana

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Council Creates Taskforce to Explore Creation of Designated Spaces for Marijuana Use

The Council of the District of Columbia on Tuesday voted to halt consideration of legislation that would permanently ban adult consumption of marijuana outside the home, and instead moved forward with the creation of a task force to explore the establishment of regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana in the District.

"The will of District voters was upheld today by the Council, which voted unanimously to move forward on establishing regulated places where adults can consume marijuana," said Kaitlyn Boecker with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “One year ago this Council voted unanimously to ban such spaces, stripping residents of their rights under Initiative 71, but today Councilmembers righted that wrong and voted for reform,” said Boecker.

Initiative 71, which was overwhelmingly approved by District voters in 2014, legalized the possession of up to two ounces marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allowed individuals to grow up to six plants in their home. The implementation of Ballot Initiative 71 in the District has resulted in an unprecedented drop in arrests for possession of marijuana.

D.C. laws prevented the ballot initiative from addressing the taxation and sale of marijuana, which requires action by the D.C. Council. However more than a year ago, Congress blocked D.C. lawmakers from using locally raised public funds to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

U.S.: Obama Says Marijuana Reform Is Not On His Agenda For 2016

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

It seems that cannabis activists who had hoped for a big shift in federal marijuana policies from the Obama Administration in its last year are likely to be disappointed.

White House press secretary John Earnest on Friday said any progress on cannabis law reform would have to come from Congress, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. President Obama had, a day earlier, said marijuana reform isn't on his list of end-of-term priorities, according to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee).

Cohen said he'd asked the President whether he wanted to reschedule marijuana; the federal government considers cannabis a Schedule I substance, the most dangerous category, under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a "high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence."

Many lawmakers want to move pot to Schedule II, which would acknowledge the plant's medicinal potential, but would also effectively hand over control of it to Big Pharma, since prescriptions would be required.

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wants to DE-schedule marijuana, which means removing it from the federal list of controlled substances altogether.

D.C.: Residents Strongly Support Moving Forward With Marijuana Legalization

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Findings Come on the Cusp of Initiative 71 Implementation Anniversary and Amid Heated Council Debate on Prohibiting Social Consumption of Marijuana

Majority Oppose Congressional Interference with DC Law, View Marijuana Reform as a Statehood Issue, Believe Mayor Bowser Should Move to Tax & Regulate Marijuana, Support Regulated Venues for Social Consumption

A substantial majority of District of Columbia residents believe Mayor Muriel Bowser should move forward with taxation and regulation of marijuana despite Congressional prohibition, according to a survey conducted over the weekend by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Drug Policy Alliance, DC Vote, DC Working Families and the Washington City Paper.

Sixty-six percent of respondents believe the Mayor should pursue a legal method (such as use of reserve funds) to implement taxation and regulation of marijuana in the District. In light of Congressional interference attempting to prevent such regulation, 63 percent of residents view marijuana legalization as a statehood issue for the District.

A majority of respondents also recognized that limiting consumption of marijuana to the home is problematic for many residents (especially renters who could face eviction) and 61 percent would support the creation of regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana.

Colorado: Cannabis Industry Responds To Dismissal Of Marijuana Credit Union Lawsuit Against Federal Reserve

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NCIA executive director:
"This ruling sends a message loud and clear - Congress must act."

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Fourth Corner Credit Union against the Federal Reserve in hopes of providing banking services to the legal cannabis industry.

In his ruling, Judge R. Brooke Jackson said Congress must provide the answer, stating, "I regard the [cannabis banking] situation as untenable and hope that it will soon be addressed and resolved by Congress."

Fourth Corner is a credit union chartered by the State of Colorado and designed to serve legitimate cannabis businesses, but the Federal Reserve had denied its request for a master account, which would have allowed them to provide checking services to its members.

"This ruling sends a message loud and clear - Congress must act," said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). "There's no shortcut, there's no band-aid, there's no work-around to fix this industry-wide.

"Forcing cannabis businesses to operate without banking access is a crisis, affecting public safety, law-abiding businesses, and the state officials in charge of regulating them," Smith said. "It's time for Congress to do its job and fix the problem."

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 95 People

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Clemencies Come As Congress Looks More Likely Than Ever To Pass Sentencing Reform

Drug Policy Alliance: The President Is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the sentences of 95 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 45 people in July, 22 people in March, and 8 people in December of 2014. All of those who received commutations on Friday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued 170 commutations, the vast majority to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

Two marijuana lifers were among those whose sentences were commuted by the President on Friday.

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