federal government

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U.S.: House Judiciary Committee Unanimously Approves Law Helping Fight Asset Forfeiture

AssetForfeiture[FreedomWorks]

Legislation Eases Burden of Contesting a Government Forfeiture and Raises Government’s Burden to Keep Property

Advocates Caution that the Bill Will Not End Policing-for-Profit

The U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary on Wednesday unanimously approved asset forfeiture reform legislation.

Known as the DUE PROCESS Act (H.R. 5283) and sponsored by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI), Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) and others, the bill makes important procedural reforms that will help give property owners fighting a federal civil asset forfeiture action greater leverage to contest a government seizure and increases the federal government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings.

The DUE PROCESS Act, however, currently does not address the “policing for profit” incentive issue.

U.S.: Marijuana Industry Takes A Step Forward With DOJ

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The cannabis industry had a major victory last week, without even appearing in court. The U.S. Department of Justice, after four years, dropped the case to shut down Harborside Health Center in Oakland, California, which is currently the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the United States.

Robert MacCoun, a law professor and drug-policy expert at Stanford University, in an interview with SF Gate perfectly explained how this market is changing: "The framework is moving from the war on drugs to tricky issues of regulation, taxation and who is going to be in control of this major new industry," he said.

The reason for the softer approach is in part economical. According to a report by Marijuana Business Daily, the entire marijuana industry, including tourism, which is an impact of legalization, is projected to provide $44 billion to the economy by 2020.

Legal marijuana sales in the U.S. alone spiked to $5.4 billion in 2015, up from $4.6 billion in 2014. Sales are projected to hit $7.1 billion in 2016.

California: Congresswoman Lee Applauds Federal Decision To End Case Against Harborside

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee on Tuesday praised the U.S. Attorney’s decision to drop its case against Harborside Health Center dispensary.

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Attorney is a victory for healthcare access," Congresswoman Lee said. "For decades, Harborside has helped ensure members of our community can access their medicine. It’s past time for the federal government to stop standing between these patients and their medicine.

"I am proud to have played a part in today’s victory by actively encouraging the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to end this unnecessary asset forfeiture case that would restrict my constituents’ access to their prescribed medicines," Rep. Lee said. "While today’s action is a victory for Harborside, other dispensaries, including one in my district, face harassment from the federal government for their state-legal businesses.

"As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to use my position to rein in this federal government overreach," Rep. Lee said. "I will keep working to open banking services to the industry and expand access to medical cannabis for veterans.

U.S.: Watch The Brookings Debate - Should Feds Remove Marijuana From Schedule I?

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In case you haven’t noticed, America is in the midst of a marijuana revolution. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, and others may soon follow.

Under federal law, however, marijuana remains classified as a highly dangerous Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, drugs in this category are deemed to have “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use,” two definitions that are argued about passionately by advocates on both sides of the issue.

Despite the federal government’s unwavering stance, states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use allow cannabis and its derivatives to be used to treat cancer patients and those suffering from other serious ailments. With federal and state law at odds, however, many patients, doctors and small businesses have been caught in a policy gridlock that severely impacts their daily lives.

What are the potential pros and cons and costs and benefits of the federal government reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug? And how should the federal government respond to states passing laws at odds with its own?

U.S.: Senate To Hold Sham Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Tuesday

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Reform Advocates Denounce Hearing as One-Sided “Prohibitionist Party”

Senator Grassley Stacks the Deck with Known Anti-Legalization Zealots and Ignores Benefits of Legalization, Such as Massive Drop in Marijuana Arrests and Prohibition-Related Violence, as well as New Tax Revenue

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will hold a hearing in the Caucus on International Narcotics Control titled “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?” The hearing is ostensibly a response to a recent GAO report that criticized DOJ for a lack of oversight of states that have legalized marijuana. However, the hearing is likely to be nothing more than a prohibitionist party.

Alabama: Democratic Senate Nominee Favors Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

While the pace of cannabis law reform may sometimes seem far too slow, we are making major progress. One way that I know this, is by watching my home state of Alabama, the "Heart of Dixie," rightly considered one of the most conservative states in the union.

You may be asking, "Progress? What progress?" Well, for the first time in history, as far as we've been able to determine, the 2016 Democratic nominee for United States Senator from Alabama favors marijuana legalization.

"Current marijuana policy in Alabama, and across America, lacks reason, intelligence and sanity," said Democratic Senate nominee Ron Crumpton, a native of Wilsonville, Alabama. "It creates criminal enterprises, puts our children in unnecessary danger and clogs our courts and prisons with people who would be considered normal productive members of society, but because they choose to use marijuana as opposed to alcohol, they are considered criminal."

It is mighty refreshing to see a major party nominee for Senator with such an enlightened viewpoint -- and doubly so, since Crumpton is from the Deep South.

"The prohibition of marijuana promotes violence, costs millions of dollars in law enforcement/corrections, and violates the constitutional rights of Americans," Crumpton said. "Using marijuana does not present a viable danger to anyone. Therefore, denying the use of marijuana, or arresting someone for the use of marijuana is not only a violation of our personal rights and liberties… it is asinine."

U.S.: New Report Shows DEA Failed To Process Drug Evidence Properly

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz on Thursday released a new report on the federal Drug Enforcement Administration which exposes the DEA's failure to comply with rules for tracking, recording, and processing seized drug evidence.

"Unknown quantities of drugs are being left vulnerable to theft because, among other issues, evidence is not being processed in a timely manner, or in some cases, at all," media relations associate Mikayla Hellwich of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) told Hemp News Friday afternoon.

Nearly 70 percent of drug seizures examined by the Inspector General were placed in "temporary storage" for more than the maximum allowed three days, according to the IG's office, reports Eric Katz at Government Executive. During that period, the drug "exhibits" aren't entered into the tracking system.

Additionally, according to the IG's report, the DEA isn't properly tracking the third-party shipping vendors when they are required to send seized drugs for laboratory testing.

"We believe that the longer a shipment is in transit or missing, the higher the likelihood that theft or tampering of the drug exhibit can occur," the report reads.

U.S.: Sen. Elizabeth Warren Urges Investigating Marijuana As Alternative To Pain Pills

ElizabethWarren[ElizabethWarrenWiki]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) this week asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research how marijuana might help curb the opioid epidemic in America.

The U.S. is the largest consumer of prescription painkillers in the world, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Even though Americans are just 5 percent of the global population, they gobble 75 percent of the planet's opioid medications.

Warren asked the CDC to conduct studies about alternatives to pain relief drugs, such as marijuana, reports Jackie Salo at International Business Times

In a letter sent Monday to CDC head Dr. Thomas Friedan, Warren urged the agency to finalize its guidance to doctors on prescribing oxycodone, fentanyl, and other pharmaceutical opioid painkillers, reports Alan Pyke at Think Progress.

In the letter, Warren mentioned the struggle her constituents in Massachusetts have faced with painkiller abuse. She said there were almost 1,100 confirmed cases of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2014, which was a 65 percent increase from 2012.

U.S.: DOJ Will Continue To Be Prohibited From Interfering In State Medical Marijuana Laws

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Justice Department will continue to be prohibited from interfering in state medical marijuana laws under the new federal spending bill unveiled late Tuesday night.

The compromise legislation includes a provision that is intended to prevent the department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. It stems from an amendment sponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) that was first approved in the House of Representatives in May 2014 and included in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 signed by President Obama last December.

“The renewal of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment suggests most members of Congress are ready to end the federal government’s war on medical marijuana,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “There’s a growing sentiment that the Justice Department should not be using taxpayer dollars to arrest and prosecute people who are following their states’ medical marijuana laws.”

U.S.: Rep. Blumenauer Calls On Obama To Fire DEA Head For Medical Marijuana Comments

EarlBlumenauerPointsUp[AssociatedPress]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the Democratic Congressman from Oregon who's been such a friend to cannabis law reform, on Monday made another powerful statement, calling on President Obama to fire DEA head Chuck Rosenberg for calling medical marijuana "a joke."

Blumenauer made the "Decisionmaker Response" on a Change.org petition.

"There’s a revolution taking place across America to reform and modernize our marijuana laws, and no change is more profound than the treatment of medical marijuana," Congressman Blumenauer wrote. "The reforms taking place are the result of the grassroots nature of this movement – including efforts by hundreds of thousands of people like you who signed this petition.

"Over the last 20 years – despite the misguided federal prohibition of marijuana – we‘ve seen overwhelming evidence of the benefits of medical marijuana," Rep. Blumenauer wrote. "The success of marijuana in offering relief for patients dealing with symptoms associated with chemotherapy, glaucoma, PTSD, chronic pain, and more has led 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam to change their laws and fully legalize medical marijuana. An additional 17 states have approved more limited programs. Well over one million people now use medical marijuana in accordance with their state’s law.

Oregon: Congressman Earl Blumenauer Calls For End To Failed Marijuana Prohibition

EarlBlumenauerPointsUp[AssociatedPress]

As Oregon’s Emerging Marijuana Industry Visits Capitol Hill, Rep. Blumenauer Calls for Federal Government to Get Out of the Way

As representatives from the Oregon Cannabis Association visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) on the House floor called for an end to the federal government’s failed approach of marijuana prohibition.

“Mr. Speaker, advocates from the new emerging marijuana industry in Oregon are descending on Capitol Hill at a very critical time for this fledgling industry," Congressman Blumenauer said. "They have a report about the implementation of Oregon’s Ballot Measure 91, overwhelming approved by voters last year to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana at the state level.

“Possession became legal July 1st," Blumenauer said. "Retail sales were authorized in existing dispensaries on the 1st of October to significant interest around the state. The first week saw an estimated $11 million in sales. They are working hard to implement the spirit and the letter of the measure, working closely with the Oregon legislature to refine it – learning from the experiences of states like Washington and Colorado that have already legalized adult use.

“Theirs is a positive story of economic opportunity, product development, tax revenues, more freedom for individuals, and eliminating the racial disparities in the enforcement of a failed policy of prohibition that comes down heavily against young men of color – especially African Americans," Rep. Blumenauer said.

Washington: Suquamish Tribe Signs Retail Marijuana Compact With State

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) and the Suquamish Tribe on Tuesday signed what's being called the nation’s first state-tribal marijuana compact. The compact governs the production, processing, purchase and sale of marijuana on the Tribe’s land in Kitsap County.

The retail store will be located on Highway 305 next to Longhouse Texaco in Suquamish, Washington, and is expected to be open by November, the Tribe's communcation office reported, according to the North Kitsap Herald.

The 10-year agreement was made possible by legislation (HB 2000) enacted during the 2015 legislative session, according to the LCB. The signed compact moves next to Gov. Jay Inslee for approval.

“We believe that working closely with the Suquamish Tribe we can ensure a well-regulated marijuana market that protects the health and safety of Washington State citizens,” said Board Chair Jane Rushford. “This agreement is an excellent model for future compacts.”

The State recognizes the Suquamish Tribe as a sovereign nation and negotiated the agreement in lieu of licensure by the Board. Per the enacting legislation, a tribal tax equivalent to the state excise tax will be applied to sales to non-tribal customers on Suquamish tribal lands.

U.S.: DEA Chief Says Marijuana Is Dangerous, Should Stay In Schedule I

ChuckRosenbergDEAHead[CharlesDharapak-AP]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New federal Drug Enforcement Administration head Chuck Rosenberg in a TV interview last week called marijuana "dangerous" and added, "If we come up with a medical use for it, that would be wonderful. But we haven't."

The woefully misinformed DEA administrator also said that federal drug agents in the field won't be discouraged from working on big marijuana cases, despite directives from the Obama Administration to not waste resources pursuing state-compliant providers, reports James Rosen at Fox News.

"I've been very clear to my agents in charge," Rosenberg said. "If you have a big marijuana case, if that in your jurisdiction is one of your biggest problems, then bring it." That, of course, leaves the door open for pot-hating federal prosecutors to continue their war on marijuana, same as it ever was.

Fox News asked Rosenberg about the continued inclusion of cannabis in Schedule I, the federal government's harshest and most dangerous category of narcotics. "Marijuana is dangerous," Rosenberg replied.

"It's certainly not as dangerous as other Schedule I controlled substances; it's not as dangerous as heroin, clearly, but it's still dangerous," Rosenberg claimed. "It's not good for you. I wouldn't want my children smoking it. I wouldn't recommend that anyone do it. So I frankly don't see a reason to remove it."

South Carolina: Voters Want Next President To Respect State Marijuana Laws

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Voters in Three Early 2016 Primary States Want to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

New polling data has revealed that voters in the early presidential primary state of South Carolina overwhelmingly support ending federal prosecutions of people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.

Among respondents, 65 percent agree that "states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference." Just 16 percent think that "the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws."

The survey, commissioned by Marijuana Majority, is a follow-up to other recent polls from the organization that showed supermajority support for respecting local marijuana laws in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are also key early presidential primary states.

"Regardless of whether they personally support legalization, voters in these early primary states strongly support scaling back the war on marijuana so that local laws can be enacted without federal harassment," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "The Obama administration has made some helpful accommodations to let states start to move forward, but overarching federal prohibition laws still stand in the way of full and effective implementation.

"Presidential contenders in both parties would do well to make marijuana law reform a prominent issue in their campaigns, and they'd be better off doing it before other candidates realize just how much of a winning issue this is with voters," Angell said.

U.S.: State Legislatures Demand Federal Govt. Allow States To Set Marijuana Policies

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The National Conference of State Legislatures on Thursday passed a resolution demanding that federal laws "be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies."

For a resolution to pass, it must be supported by a majority of participating legislators in each of 75 percent of the states represented at the conference's general business meeting.

The preamble to the resolution, introduced by New Hampshire State Rep. Renny Cushing, notes that “states are increasingly serving as laboratories for democracy by adopting a variety of policies regarding marijuana and hemp,” and it highlights the fact that “the federal government cannot force a state to criminalize cultivating, possessing, or distributing marijuana or hemp — whether for medical, recreational, industrial, or other uses — because doing so would constitute unconstitutional commandeering.”

The resolution states:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference and urges the administration not to undermine state marijuana and hemp policies.

U.S.: New DEA Leader Admits Marijuana 'Probably' Not As Bad As Heroin

ChuckRosenbergDEA[KamenkoPajic-UPI]

Head of the Drug Enforcement Administration Says 'I'm Not An Expert'

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

It's progress -- of a sort.

The new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration admitted on Tuesday that heroin "probably" is more dangerous than marijuana, an admission his predecessor, the embattled Michele Leonhart, would not make, reports Steven Nelson at U.S. News.

Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said federal DEA agents aren't prioritizing marijuana enforcement, but he's not ordered them off it.

"If you want me to say that marijuana's not dangerous, I'm not going to say that because I think it is," Rosenberg claimed. "Do I think it's as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I'm not an expert."

"Let me say it this way," he added. "I'd rather be in a car accident going 30 miles an hour than 60 miles an hour, but I'd prefer not to be in an accident at all."

Rosenberg's predecessor, Leonhart, claimed comparisons of marijuana to crack cocaine or heroin would be "subjective" and claimed cannabis is an "insidious" drug.

"This is not a matter of opinion," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "It's far less harmful than heroin and it's encouraging that the DEA is finally willing to recognize that."

U.S.: Rep. Blumenauer Announces Bill To Provide Expungement of Certain Marijuana Offenses

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Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) on Monday announced plans to introduce legislation reinforcing steps taken by Oregon to legalize and provide a clean start for certain marijuana offenses.

The Clean Slate for Marijuana Offenses Act of 2015, to be introduced on Tuesday, creates a pathway for the following two groups of federal marijuana offenders to expunge – or clear the criminal record of – their marijuana offense: those who were federally charged for activity that was state legal at the time; and those whose offense was the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.

“The penalties of failed prohibition policies should stop ruining people’s lives," Rep. Blumenauer said. "The Clean Slate for Marijuana Offenses Act of 2015 follows Oregon’s lead to provide a pathway for expunging certain federal marijuana crimes.”

“People who were caught up in the federal criminal justice system for a marijuana offense that was legal under state law at the time should not carry around a drug record," Blumenauer said. "I support legalizing marijuana at the federal level to put a stop to any state-federal conflicts once and for all, but it is also important that we create pathways for expungement for those who should never have been charged in the first place.”

California: Federal Agents Raid Tribal Marijuana Farm, Seize 12,000 Plants

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Dreams of a new era of federal tolerance of cannabis cultivation on Native American tribal lands took a big hit Wednesday as law enforcement officers from at least four agencies raided land occupied by two tribes in California, seizing at least 12,000 plants and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana.

"Other than contraband marijuana and items of evidentiary value, no tribal property was seized and no federal charges are pending," claimed U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner of the Eastern District of California, which includes Modoc County, where the raids occurred, reports Denny Walsh at The Sacramento Bee.

Warrants signed on Tuesday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn K. Delaney gave federal agents the authority to search "two large-scale marijuana cultivation facilities located on federally recognized tribal lands at the Alturas Indian Rancheria and the XL Ranch in Modoc County." The county is in the northeast corner of California, with Oregon directly to the north and Nevada directly to the east.

California: Advocates To Hand-Deliver Medical Marijuana Petition To Sen. Feinstein

DianneFeinsteinSenatorCalifornia[SFChronicle]

Over 10,000 Signatories Tell Feinstein to Stop Opposing Medical Marijuana

Petition Follows Feinstein's Recent Vote Against Protecting Californian Residents from Federal Interference in Medical Marijuana Laws

A group of California-based advocates on Tuesday will hand-deliver a medical marijuana petition to the San Francisco office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Feinstein has been a leading opponent of cannabis reform, and recently spoke out against an amendment that would protect state medical marijuana programs from federal interference.

The amendment passed the Senate Appropriations Committee 21-9, with Feinstein as the only Democrat to oppose the measure, joining eight Republicans who voted in support.

California locals are fed up with Feinstein's well-documented opposition to medical marijuana, according to Amanda Reiman, manager, Marijuana Law and Policy, with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

"California has allowed access to medical marijuana for 20 years and the vast majority of Californians support this," Reiman said. "It is disappointing that Senator Feinstein continues to be a lone voice of opposition from California when it comes to supporting medical marijuana patients."

U.S.: Senate Panel Votes To Prevent DEA Interference In State Medical Marijuana Laws

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In yet another huge victory for marijuana reform, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an amendment to prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. The vote was 20 - 10.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) to the Senate version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

It mirrors the amendment sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that was approved 242-186 last week in the House of Representatives. Passage of identical amendments in the House and Senate typically indicates it will be included in the final spending bill Congress sends to President Obama.

The House also approved amendments to protect state industrial hemp laws and to reduce the DEA’s budget by shifting money away from marijuana eradication and toward better uses.

"We very narrowly lost a vote that would have stopped DoJ from interfering with all state marijuana laws, not just those that are limited to medical marijuana," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.

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