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U.S.: Congress Calls On President Obama To Use His Authority To Reclassify Marijuana


Letter signed by 18 federal legislators says marijuana's current status "makes no sense"

Eighteen Members of Congress joined together Wednesday in calling on President Obama to use his authority to reclassify marijuana from its current position as a dangerous drug, alongside heroin and LSD, with no medical value. A letter sent by federal legislators says that marijuana's current status "makes no sense," and requests that President Obama "instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way." The Congressional letter comes just days after Obama told The New Yorker magazine that marijuana was less dangerous than alcohol.

Although marijuana was sold as an over-the-counter medicine until the 1930s, produced by the likes of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 classified marijuana as a Schedule I substance. Ignoring White House-appointed commissions, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) judges, and reports, all calling for marijuana's reclassification, the federal government has refused to recognize the medical science and popular will in order to maintain marijuana's current status.

Colorado: Farmers Search In Vain For Legal Hemp Seed


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

One entrepreneur is warning that few Colorado farmers will plant hemp this spring if a federal ban on shipping hemp seeds across state lines and national borders isn't changed soon.

Hundreds of Colorado farmers have contacted her in recent months asking where to get hemp seeds for the coming season, said Barbara Filippone, whose Glenwood Springs-based company, EnvironTextiles, imports and sells hemp and other natural fibers, reports Nelson Harvey at the Aspen Daily News.

"I have a notebook with contacts for at least 100 interested farmers, and three to five more calling me every day," Filippone said.

Filippone said she recently heard from an eastern Colorado farmer who got a mysterious shoebox full of seeds in the mail from someone called "The Hemp Stork" who didn't list a return address. The farmer planted some of the seeds, Filippone said, before realizing it was illegal to ship hemp.

"He was terrified," Filipone said, adding that the seeds probably came from a hemp activist "who was not considering things like federal regulations, federal subsidies or crop insurance."

Sourcing hemp seeds from inside the state is next to impossible, since only one Colorado farmer, Ryan Loflin of Springfield, harvested a major hemp crop last year. Under federal law, which regards hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance just like marijuana, shipping unsterilized hemp seeds in from other states or countries is illegal.

U.S.: Medical Marijuana Advocates Say President Obama Has Authority Over Classification


Obama Administration and Congress can each reclassify marijuana for medical use

Medical marijuana advocates are telling President Obama he has the power to reclassify marijuana after he said on Friday that it is up to Congress. In an exclusive CNN interview, President Barack Obama responded to a question about the federal government's classification of marijuana by saying that, "what is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress."

"President Obama just told the nation during his State of the Union address that because Congress has been unable to act, he would take executive action where he could on behalf of helping the American people," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "The president has the authority to reclassify marijuana and could exercise that authority at any time."

In addition to Congress, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Attorney General have the authority to reschedule marijuana. Congress in 1970 classified marijuana as a Schedule I substance, meaning it is considered a dangerous drug with a high potential for abuse and has no accepted medical value.

Since then, scientists have discovered the plant has unique therapeutic potential to safely treat a remarkably broad range of serious medical conditions, from multiple sclerosis to cancer.

Mexico City Considering Marijuana Decriminalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Mexico's capitol, Mexico City, is the most liberal and secular part of that mostly Catholic nation. In 2007, the city government legalized abortion; in 2010 gay marriage was allowed; and next month the city's lawmakers are about to rethink policies on marijuana possession.

Other Mexican states, including Morelos, Veracruz, and Oaxaca could follow Mexico City's lead, reports Karl Baker at The Christian Science Monitor, presenting a challenge to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has opposed marijuana legalization as he continues the country's war against drug smugglers.

The proposal will be submitted to the Mexico City legislative assembly in two weeks, according to the office of the bill's sponsor. It would legalize up to 40 grams of cannabis, assigning it a "zero priority" legal status. The law would instruct police not to take action if they witness cannabis use.

Analyst Carlos Zamudio Angles with the Collective for an Integral Drug Policy, a Mexico City think tank favoring decriminalization, said police corruption makes the decrim law necessary. The think tank said in a June 2013 report that two out of three cannabis users had reported bribing police in order to avoid being arrested.

U.S.: Farm Bill Passes House With Hemp Research Intact


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Farm Bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday morning by a vote of 251 to 166, including the hemp provision. "This is a big first step towards allowing American farmers to once again grow industrial hemp," according to

The hemp provision was originally introduced as an amendment to the Farm Bill by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), all three of whom represent states which have legalized industrial hemp. The provision allows universities and state agriculture departments to grow hemp for academic or agricultural research purposes, but applies only to states where industrial hemp farming has already been legalized under state law.

"By including language easing restrictions on industrial hemp in states where it is legal, Congress sends an important message that we are ready to examine hemp in a more appropriate way," Rep. Blumenauer said on Monday.

"Vote Hemp was pleased with the bipartisan support for the amendment and worked with key Republican and Democratic offices in both the House and Senate to ensure the amendment was included in the conference report, which passed the House on Thursday. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reportedly worked to keep and strengthen the hemp provision in the Farm Bill.

U.S.: Advocates Call On Obama To Fire DEA Head Who Criticized Him For Saying Marijuana Is No More Harmful Than Alcohol


National petition calls on the president to replace DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart with someone who will uphold his mandate that administration decisions be guided by science instead of ideology and politics

The nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is calling on President Barack Obama to fire the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele Leonhart, and replace her with someone who will uphold his mandate that administration decisions be guided by science instead of ideology and politics.

In a speech to the Major Counties Sheriffs Association last week, Leonhart criticized the President for acknowledging the fact that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol in terms of its impact on the consumer.

During a 2012 House oversight hearing, Leonhart refused to answer questions from U.S. Rep. Jared Polis about whether heroin and crack cocaine are more harmful than marijuana. Under her watch, the DEA has also obstructed attempts to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act — a classification reserved for the most dangerous drugs, which includes heroin.

U.S.: President Obama Says Marijuana Is No More Dangerous Than Alcohol


President Calls New Laws Legalizing Marijuana in Colorado and Washington ‘Important’

In an interview with the New Yorker published on Sunday, President Barack Obama spoke about his past drug use, said marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol, talked about racial disparities in marijuana arrests and said the new laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington are ‘important’.

In the interview, conducted by David Remnick of the New Yorker, Obama discussed cannabis and the War On Drugs.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol," Obama told Remnick.

The president expressed concern about disparities in arrests for marijuana possession. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” Obama said, adding that individual users shouldn’t be locked up “for long stretches of jail time.”

In the interview, Obama said he believes these new laws are "important."

“It's important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished,” said Obama.

President Obama’s interview is generating national news and is being applauded by drug policy reform advocates.

U.S.: Freaked-Out DEA Chief Gets Choked Up, Admits Marijuana Legalization 'Scares Us'


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Drug Enforcement Administration's chief of operations on Wednesday gave some freaked-out, emotional testimony at a Senate hearing, admitting that marijuana legalization "scares us."

"I have to say this ... going down the path to legalization in this country is reckless and irresponsible," said James L. Capra, reports Eric W. Dolan at The Raw Story. "I'm talking about the long-term impact of legalization in the United States. It scares us."

"Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again," Capra lied. (Cannabis legalization hasn't "been tried" anywhere since the Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs in 1961).

"The idea somehow ... that this is somehow good for us as a nation, that this is good for the next generation coming up is wrong," Capra sputtered. "It's a bad thing, and this body will get its door knocked on 10 years from now and say, 'How did we get where we got?' "

Capra said that when he attended an international "drug control" conference in Moscow, foreign officials wanted to know why the U.S. was scaling back its war on weed.

"Almost everyone looked at us and said: Why are you doing this, you're pointing a finger at us as a source state," Capra claimed. "I have no answer for them," he intoned dramatically. "I don't have an answer for them."

New York: Gov. Cuomo Proposes Unworkable Medical Marijuana Program


Marijuana Policy Project urges Gov. Cuomo and state legislators to adopt pending legislation that would actually allow people with serious illnesses to access medical marijuana

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday during his State of the State address that he will be issuing an executive order to initiate the establishment of a medical marijuana program in New York. The proposal will likely be unworkable because it is expected to rely on federal agencies’ cooperation and/or hospitals violating federal law, according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the nation's largest marijuana policy organization.

"We're pleased to learn Gov. Cuomo is among the 77 percent of Americans who recognize the legitimate medical benefits of marijuana," said MPP Director of State Policies Karen O'Keefe. "Unfortunately, his plan will not allow New Yorkers to access or use medical marijuana anytime soon."

"Twenty states and our nation's capital have enacted laws that protect patients from arrest and provide them with a legal means of acquiring their medicine," O'Keefe said. "If the governor and legislators agree that medical marijuana can help people battle serious illnesses, they can and should adopt a system that will actually allow them to use it."

Oregon: Portland DEA Agent Leaves Job To Enter Washington Marijuana Industry


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Portland, Oregon Drug Enforcement Administration agent has quit his job to join a Seattle company involved in the marijuana industry. Ten-year DEA veteran Patrick Moen left the agency for Privateer Holdings last month.

Moen, 36, admits some of his former DEA colleagues are less than enthusiastic about the career change, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. The ex-drug agent will now be tracking cannabis-related investment opportunities for investors.

"It wasn't an easy decision," Moen said. "It's not one I took lightly. I talked with friends, family and coworkers. I sought out opinions.

"When it comes down to it, this is an incredible opportunity for me professionally and personally," Moen said. Moen is the second Oregon DEA agent to take a position within the marijuana industry. Paul Schmidt, who was the highest-ranking DEA agent in Oregon until 2010, now works as a medical marijuana business consultant.

Moen was an agent who "understood the mission" of federal law enforcement against illegal drugs, said John Deits, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Oregon who oversaw federal drug prosecutions in the state until his recent retirement.

"I think it was surprising to me that Pat would want to do what he is doing," Deits said. "I think it was surprising to a lot of people within his own agency. Buyt obviously they are the ones that know a lot about the laws and a lot about marijuana."

New York: Officer of the Month Fired After Being Caught Growing Marijuana At Home


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A policeman in Buffalo, New York who recently was awarded Officer of the Month honors has been fired after he was caught growing 82 marijuana plants at his home.

James Hamilton was arraigned on Thursday on charges of operating a cannabis-growing operation at his home after a six-month investigation led to his dismissal from the Buffalo Police Department, reports Phil Fairbanks at The Buffalo News. Hamilton had been a cop for less than a year.

"Like any organization, you have bad apples," claimed Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda on Thursday.

Rookie cop Hamilton, 29, recent Officer of the Month, now faces multiple drug and weapons charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch claimed 82 marijuana plants and 4 pounds of marijuana were found in Hamilton's basement. Police also seized a 12-gauge shotgun.

Hamilton was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, who entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. "My client is innocent," said defense lawyer Matthew Borowski. "And he intends to fight these charges."

Colorado: Federal Agents and Denver Cops Raiding Medical Marijuana Facilities


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service agents, along with officers of the Denver Police Department, on Thursday morning are conducting raids at multiple medical marijuana facilities in the Denver, Colorado area.

A statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver confirmed the ongoing raids, reports Michael Roberts at Westword. "Our sources tell us it's likely to continue throughout the day and involvers a notable number of targets," Roberts wrote.

A statement from Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Walsh, gives few details about the raids. Early reports filtering in placed the number of raided operations between 20 and 40.

"The Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, the Denver Police Department and state and local law enforcement are today executing lawfully obtained search warrants and seizure warrants," reads Dorschner's statement.

The raided locations included "a couple" in Boulder County, according to a law enforcement source, reports Mitchell Byars at the Boulder Daily Camera.

Ohio: Marijuana Eradication Program Costs Taxpayers $500,000 A Year


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Ohio's Marijuana Eradication Program pulled 20,747 cannabis plants from fields in 2013, down from a record high of 84,660 plants in 2010. Law enforcement officials claimed the drop is due to a combination of increased enforcement and indoor growing.

Predictably, Scott Duff, supervisor at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations, claimed the $500,000 boondoggle is "having an impact," reports Jim Otte at WHIO.

"Now it is in small patches spread out," Duff said.

Most of the $500K per year goes to pay for the helicopter and pilot. The money comes from a federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) grant.

There were only 27 arrests statewide for marijuana cultivation in Ohio last year, according to DEA figures. Law enforcement authorities claim it is almost impossible to identify who planted the marijuana.

Meigs County, Ohio had the most plants removed of any county statewide, with 1,642.

Cannabis advocates call the eradication program a waste of money.

Law enforcement would be better off focusing on hard drugs and prescription drug abuse, according to Tonya Davis of the NORML Women's Alliance.

(Photo: WHIO)

California: 100 Pounds of Marijuana Wrapped as Birthday Gifts Seized at LAX


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana wrapped as birthday presents didn't make it past Transportation Security Administration screeners on Wednesday in Los Angeles. One hundred pounds of cannabis, wrapped in birthday paper inside four pieces of checked luggage, was turned over to law enforcement by the TSA.

The bags were discovered in Terminal 1 at about 5:15 Wednesday morning, reports LAist. They were headed for Atlanta on an AirTran Airways flight, according to TSA spokesman Nico Melendez.

"The bags were going through the screening process," Melendez told Brian Summers of the LA Daily News. "There was some sort of alarm, and we had to open the bag.

"We found these big packages of what turned out to be marijuana wrapped up to look like a birthday gift," Melendez said.

Law enforcement claimed the marijuana was worth $300,000.

The suspects had gotten the hell out of there in the meantime, according to Melendez. They didn't board their flight to Atlanta, and the TSA agents saw nothing of them.

"TSA was unable to give a description of the suspect," Los Angeles World Airports police Sgt. Karla Ortiz said. "Without a description, it is really hard to track them down."

Officials will likely be reviewing surveillance video of the AirTran counter.

A task force made of of DEA agents, LAPD officers and LAX police is now working the case.

U.S.: Senate Hearing on Synthetic Drugs Offers Failed Drug War Policies of the Past


DPA: Knee-Jerk Prohibition of New Drugs Out-of-Step With Momentum for Sentencing and Drug Policy Reform

New Zealand Now Implementing Regulatory System to Control New Drugs; Offers Glimpse of Pragmatic Post-Prohibition Model for Drug Control

The U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control on Wednesday will hear testimony from the Drug Enforcement Administration and other government witnesses concerning the control of “K2,” “bath salts” and other synthetic drugs. Although Congress banned more than two dozen synthetic drugs in 2012, dozens of new synthetic drugs are being made available for sale across the country.

Wednesday's Senate hearing will be co-chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who recently introduced legislation in the Senate with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) that would broaden the prohibition on synthetic drugs.

“Senators Feinstein and Schumer should know from decades of enforcing punitive drug sentencing laws that banning more synthetic drugs won’t impact demand and it certainly won’t address the fact that this drug market will remain accessible to anyone who wants in,” said Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs.

U.S.: Historic Senate Hearing on Marijuana Legalization Tuesday


Majority of Americans Now Support Legalizing and Regulating Marijuana like Alcohol

Senator John McCain: “I Respect the Will of the People”

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, September 10, will hold the first-ever Senate hearing on the issue of marijuana legalization and the tension between state and federal marijuana laws.

Colorado and Washington last November became the first political jurisdictions in the world to approve the legal regulation of marijuana. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have also approved the medical use of marijuana.

The witnesses at Tuesday's hearing will include Jack Finlaw, chief legal counsel to Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper, and the Honorable John Urquhart, Sheriff of King County in Seattle, an outspoken proponent of marijuana law reform.

Witnesses are expected to testify regarding the unnecessary challenges placed on regulators and law enforcers by lack of access to banking services and the resulting cash-based business structure.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET in the Hart Senate Office Building, Room 216.

On August 29, the Department of Justice issued a directive to federal prosecutors instructing them not to interfere with state marijuana laws – as long as a number of stipulations are adhered to, such as preventing distribution to minors.

U.S.: 25 Years Ago, DEA's Own Judge Ruled Cannabis Should Be Reclassified Under Federal Law


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Twenty-five years ago today, on September 6, 1988, an administrative ruling determined that marijuana has accepted medicinal uses, and for that reason it ought to be reclassified under federal law.

Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, in the ruling, determined: "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care."

"It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record," Judge Young continued in the ruling, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling."

"The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II [of the federal Controlled Substances Act]."

U.S.: Groups Call on Congress to Hold Hearings on the DEA


Sign-On Letter Highlights Numerous Recent DEA Scandals: Secret Use of NSA and CIA Surveillance Records, Unfettered Access to Citizens’ Phone Records, and Many More

Signatories Call on Congress to Hold the DEA Accountable for Systematic, Illegal Practices

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than 120 groups from across the political spectrum and around the globe, including the ACLU, Witness for Peace, Drug Policy Alliance, and the International Drug Policy Consortium (a global network of 106 NGOs) sent a letter to Congress on Thursday, calling on key legislators from the House and Senate Judiciary and Oversight Committees to hold hearings on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“For too long Congress has given the DEA a free pass,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Our hope is that Congress does its job and provides oversight because this agency has a deeply troubling track record of unregulated and out of control behavior. The DEA must be reined in and held accountable.”

The catalyst for the letter is a series of investigative articles from early August and September by Reuters and The New York Times. The Reuters articles outline how the DEA has used certain CIA and NSA programs to pursue drug convictions in the United States. The revelations have added to the current controversy surrounding NSA programs.

New York: Man Who Grew 186 Marijuana Plants In Parents' Basement Faces Federal Prison


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Cicero, New York man is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in December after federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents last year found 186 marijuana plants in his parents' basement and 32 more at a second property. Scott Burger, 38, faces at least 33 months in prison for the 218 plants.

DEA agents found what they estimated to be $500,000 worth of marijuana plants during the raid, reports Jeff Stein at Burger has since pleaded guilty to "manufacturing a controlled substance," a felony.

Burger said he started growing cannabis because commenters on the Internet said it was difficult, but he believed it was easy. "I said that it couldn't be too hard ... I'm an ambitious guy," Burger said. "I just thought it'd be interesting."

Burger said he moved back into his parents' basement a few years ago, coming back from from Las Vegas to help his mother, who has rheumatoid arthritis and a crooked back. He hopes the judge will take into account his role as his mother's "primary caregiver" when deciding his sentence; he said he's responsible for getting her up in the morning and helping her do laundry, when he's not working as an auto mechanic.

(Photo of Scott Burger in his parents' basement: Jeff Stein/

U.S.: DEA Phone Call Surveillance Database Bigger Than NSA's


Did Anybody Ever Really Believe They'd Only Spy On Terrorists?

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The United States federal government has access to a massive database containing 25 years of AT&T phone call data, as part of a secret program in which telephone company employees work beside federal and local law enforcement agents to track the phone calls of "suspected drug dealers."

The revelations completely confirm the biggest fears of civil libertarians and drug policy reformers in the United States: that the government uses large-scale surveillance programs for drug law enforcement, rather than for national security (which, of course, was the original excuse for the wholesale, warrantless spying on American citizens).

As first reported by Scott Shane and Colin Moynihan of The New York Times, the operation, known as the Hemisphere Project, has been ongoing for at least six years. It has access to every single call coming through any AT&T switchboard since 1987, reports Richard Esposito at NBC News.

The vast database grows by billions of calls every day, and is even larger than the controversial database maintained by the National Security Administration (NSA), which only goes back five years.

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