Obama

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U.S.: President Obama Commutes Sentences of 42 More Individuals For Drugs

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Drug Policy Alliance: President Must Do More Before His Term Ends and Congress Needs to Act Now

President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the sentences of 42 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 58 people in May 2016 and 61 individuals on March 30, 2016. To date, Obama has granted clemency to 348 individuals.

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.

"It’s great to see the President step up the number of commutations he grants, but he should do so many more before his term ends," said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "The greatest relief for people behind bars will happen when Congress passes legislation.

"Right now there is legislation in the House and Senate to reduce mandatory minimums that would a significant impact on the prison population," Collins said. "Senator Mitch McConnell needs to bring the bill up for a vote now."

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.

U.S.: Emergency National Mobilization April 2 To Reschedule Cannabis

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Citizens, Activists and Leaders Rally and Roll Up to the White House with 51 foot “Joint” on Saturday, April 2 at 2 p.m.

Mass Consumption of Cannabis to Occur at 4:20 p.m.

On Saturday, April 2 at 2 p.m., DCMJ — the organization that played a critical role in passing Ballot Initiative 71, which legalized marijuana in our nation’s capital — along with leaders, activists, advocacy groups and citizens will gather along Pennsylvania Avenue directly north of the White House to demand that President Obama use his authority to reschedule cannabis now.

Why on April 2? According to the organizers, the Obama Administration has been a big ZERO on cannabis reform, so DCMJ is rescheduling and actively removing the “ZERO” from “4/20.”

DCMJ has officially requested that President Obama reclassify cannabis as a less harmful substance multiple times since he has taken office in January 2009. However, no action has been taken to reschedule cannabis to date.

Meanwhile, the placement of cannabis in the same category as drugs like heroin — which kills thousands of Americans each each year — remains not only irresponsible, unjust and unfitting, but also makes a continued mockery of the Controlled Substances Act.

U.S.: Civil Rights, Health, Faith, Justice Groups Call On Obama To End Global Drug War

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More than 225 civil rights, health, faith-based and other organizations sent a letter to President Obama Thursday calling on him to use an upcoming United Nations high-level session on global drug policies to push for a fundamental change in course away from criminalization.

The groups, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, AIDS United, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and #cut50, say that the current US position for the session "takes a short-term approach, stopping short of the crucial reforms called for by UN agencies and US allies, while failing to address new realities."

They want bolder stances from the administration in areas like human rights, public health and development, and for the US to promote initial steps the UN can take toward reforming international drug conventions to reflect moves in the US and elsewhere toward marijuana legalization.

"We believe a stronger US stance on these issues would leave a legacy in global drug policy that is better aligned to the direction you've steered domestic policy," the groups wrote.

The letter was submitted as the UN prepares for its highest level session on drug policy since 1998 – the "UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem," or UNGASS, scheduled for April 19-21 at UN headquarters in New York. US diplomats and drug and crime officials have played a central role in negotiations over the UNGASS Outcome Document, an official product of the meeting that will impact policy.

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.: 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.

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.

U.S.: Congress Adopts Significant Drug Policy Reforms In New Spending Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Congress on Friday morning passed a must-pass spending bill that includes language that stops the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice from spending money to block the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The amendment was passed last year on a temporary basis and had to be renewed this year.

“The renewal of this amendment should bring relief for medical marijuana patients and business owners,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “For decades Congress has been responsible for passing disastrous drug laws. It’s encouraging to see them starting to roll back the war on drugs by allowing states to set their own medical marijuana policies.”

“Patients who benefit from medical marijuana should not be treated like dangerous criminals, and the businesses that support them need to be protected from the old drug war mentality that still runs deep within the DEA,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of criminal justice professionals working to end the Drug War. “It’s very encouraging to see such widespread support for protecting state’s rights and the rights of patients.”

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

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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.

U.S.: Medical Marijuana Patients Deliver Petition Demanding DEA Head's Firing

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100,000+ Petition Signers Outraged That Obama Administration Official Called Medical Cannabis a "Joke"

A group of medical marijuana patients and their supporters on Friday delivered more than 100,000 petition signatures demanding the resignation or firing of the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after he called the medical use of cannabis a "joke."

The petition -- http://change.org/nojoke -- has more than double the amount of signatures garnered by an earlier petition that helped lead to the ouster of the previous DEA head, who also opposed medical marijuana. The current petition was started just two weeks ago.

“There is no doubt in my mind that my son Jagger is still alive today because of medical cannabis," said Sebastien Cotte, who participated in the petition delivery. "Cannabis has tremendously decreased the pain and seizures caused by his mitochondrial disease, while improving his quality of life. For our family, that’s no joke.”

Numerous scientific studies show that marijuana is beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of serious conditions like cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and many others.

"My mom uses medical marijuana to deal with the severe pain caused by multiple sclerosis,” said Tom Angell, founder and chairman of Marijuana Majority, the organization that started the petition. “This issue is not a laughing matter for her and millions of other people who have seen the benefits of cannabis for themselves."

U.S.: Criminal Justice Bill Reducing Mandatory Minimums Clears Senate Judiciary Committee

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Bipartisan Bill Reduces Mandatory Minimums, Increases Early Release and Returns Some Discretion to Judges

Legislation Heads for the Senate Floor Amid Public Demands to End the Drug War and Mass Incarceration

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 15 to 5 to advance the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The bill, introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and sponsored by 10 other Senators, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), expand reentry programming and early release, and make many of the sentencing reductions retroactive.

“This vote today is a huge step toward ending the failed policies of the war on drugs,” said Michael Collins, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “To see Republicans and Democrats join hands to pass this bill gives me great hope we’ll have legislation on the President’s desk very soon.”

The vote comes the day after an esteemed group of 130 law enforcement leaders called on Congress to reduce incarceration. The group will meet with President Obama on Thursday at the White House. The President also began a criminal justice tour on Wednesday, visiting West Virginia and highlighting alternatives to arrest and incarceration.

New York: Art Show 'Escaping Time' Showcases Art From American Prisons

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New Art Show Escaping Time Showcases the Therapeutic Power of Art for America's Inmates

Governor’s Island Show Opens August 1st, Runs Through September 27

This August, experience a different view of a life behind bars with Escaping Time: Art From U.S. Prisons, a unique show of artwork created by inmates. Curated by Anastasia Voron, director of exhibitions at Wallplay, the show is a production of the Safe Streets Arts Foundation, which aims to rehabilitate men and women in prison through the use of art.

On view from August 1 through September 27 on Governors Island, the show includes more than 200 pieces collected from prisons across the country and on view for the first time, including works from renowned painter Anthony Papa and display-only pieces attributed to Charles Manson.

Each piece for purchase includes an accompanying handwritten letter from the artist. The groundbreaking art show highlights the therapeutic properties of art, and calls attention to the struggle many prisoners face when attempting to reintegrate into society after their release. The show aims to help the prisoners by building their credibility as artists, giving them a platform on which to build a new career.

California: Convicted Medical Marijuana Seller Gets Congressional Allies In Legal Appeal

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former medical marijuana dispensary owner Charles Lynch has for years waged a legal battle against federal prosecutors who want to send him to prison. Last week, he finally got help from some unexpected and influential allies: U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and Sam Farr (D-Carmel).

Reps. Rohrabacher and Farr filed a strongly worded brief with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals accusing prosecutors of flouting federal law as they go after Lynch, reports Joel Rubin at The Los Angeles Times. The Congressmen called on the court to end the case against Lynch.

Rohrabacher and Farr were late last year the authors of an amendment to federal law meant to prevent the Justice Department from interfering in states where medical marijuana is legal. The amendment, receiving unusually broad bipartisan support in December, was written into a government spending bill.

The amendment prevents the Justice Department from using federal funds in a way that hinders states "from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

It was assumed federal prosecutors would have no choice but to abandon cases such as the one against Lynch. But Justice Department officials have persisted in their war on marijuana. In general, they've argued the spending ban forbids them from interfering with officials carrying out state law, but doesn't stop them from going after sellers.

U.S.: Drug Policy Alliance Mocks Scandal-Ridden DEA With "Help Wanted" Ad

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Ad is Part of Campaign to Influence Obama’s Next DEA Pick, End Agency’s Opposition to Marijuana Law Reform, and Ultimately Reform or Abolish the Agency

As States Legalize Marijuana and Tide Turns Against the Failed Drug War, DEA Increasingly Scrutinized

The Drug Policy Alliance has placed a mock “Help Wanted” ad in Roll Call seeking a new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to “prolong the failed war on drugs.” Primary areas of job responsibility include “Mass Incarceration,” “Police State Tactics,” “Obstruction of Science,” “Subverting Democracy” and “Undermining Human Rights.”

The ad comes in the wake of numerous DEA scandals and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart’s recent announcement she will resign sometime in May.

“Drug prohibition, like alcohol Prohibition, breeds crime, corruption, and violence – and creates a situation where law enforcement officers must risk their lives in a fight that can’t be won,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It’s time to reform not just the DEA but broader U.S. and global drug policy.

"The optimal drug policy would reduce the role of criminalization and the criminal justice system in drug control to the greatest extent possible, while protecting public safety and health,” Nadelmann said.

U.S.: House Oversight Committee Says 'No Confidence' In DEA Administrator Leonhart

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DEA Chief Tied to Numerous Scandals and Has Long Record of Incompetence

Bipartisan Agreement That President Obama Must Fire DEA Chief

Members of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday issued a statement of “No Confidence” in Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart. The unprecedented move by a group of more than 20 bipartisan lawmakers comes a day after her shambolic performance in Congress during a hearing focused on DEA agents who paid for sex workers and sex parties using taxpayer dollars.

Leonhart was widely panned and her answers deemed inadequate during testimony on her agency’s handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

“This ought to be the final nail in the Leonhart coffin,” said Bill Piper, director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “I cannot see how President Obama and AG Holder allow her to continue in her role. It’s hard to think of a more incompetent and out of touch federal official than the current DEA chief.”

U.S.: President Obama Says Pressure Will Increase To Change Marijuana Laws

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President Obama has said that as more states move away from the criminalization of marijuana, pressure will increase on Congress to change federal pot laws.

"We may be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side," Obama said. "At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”

The comments come from an interview the President taped last week with VICE’s Shane Smith. The video is at https://news.vice.com/video/president-barack-obama-speaks-with-vice-news .

Even with the positive prediction about the future of federal policy, the President also seemed taken aback by Smith saying that marijuana was the #1 most suggested topic from VICE readers and that if Obama led the way toward legalization, it would be the biggest part of his legacy for young people.

“It shouldn’t be young people’s biggest priority,” Obama said. "Let’s put it in perspective. Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana."

“The President is right that as voters force more and more changes to state marijuana laws, national policymakers will have no choice but to catch up," Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told Hemp News Monday afternoon. "But he should think again about how important this issue is.

Washington: Kettle Falls 5 Defendant Moves For Dismissal In Federal Medical Marijuana Case

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Larry Harvey argues that new Congressional measure should prevent the DOJ from prosecuting his family

A motion to dismiss has been filed in a widely watched federal medical marijuana case involving a family from rural northeastern Washington State. Larry Harvey, 71, of the Kettle Falls Five, has moved for dismissal of his case or an order preventing further prosecution. The motion relies on the recently enacted Congressional measure that bans funding for medical marijuana enforcement by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"Prosecuting persons who may be operating in compliance with state medical marijuana laws prevents states from implementing their own laws," reads the brief written by Harvey's attorney, Robert Fischer. Harvey's motion argues that state law is undermined by discouraging lawful patients from accessing medical marijuana because of the threat of federal prosecution.

Harvey also argues that "federal prosecutions take away Washington's authority to determine for itself whether someone is in compliance with its laws or not."

Harvey's motion to dismiss comes just a month after President Obama signed the so-called "Cromnibus" spending bill, which included Section 538, an historic rider that prohibits DOJ funds from being spent to block implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Advocates argue that federal prosecutions like that of the Kettle Falls Five run contrary to the spirit and letter of the law now in effect.

U.S.: 43 Cities To Hold Protests Demanding Obama, Congress End Mexico Drug War Funding

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In the Wake of the Human Rights Crisis Exposed by Disappearance of the 43 Students in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico, Latino and other Communities Participating in Dec. 3 National Mobilization for Peace in Mexico Will Begin Process of Holding US Elected Officials Accountable on Mexico Aid

More than 43 U.S. cities will participate on Wednesday, December 3, in an unprecedented national mobilization to demand an end to the deadly “Plan Mexico,” a multibillion-dollar program to aid Mexico’s corrupt and notoriously violent security forces, ostensibly in the name of fighting the so-called War On Drugs.

In the wake of the extreme human rights crisis in Mexico that was exposed by the recent disappearance of the 43 students in the state of Guerrero, thousands of people from across the United States will march in front of federal buildings in their respective cities and other locations (at various times: for a full list of participating cities, locations, and times go to www.USTired2.com/cities ) to call on the Obama Administration and Congress to stop US funneling billions of tax dollars of military aid, training and coordination to Mexico’s military and police forces, which are widely known to be perpetrating massive human rights violations, including the September kidnapping of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in the state of Guerrero, Mexico.

U.S.: Melissa Etheridge Talks Marijuana In New Larry King Interview

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Music icon Melissa Etheridge sits down with Larry King on the Emmy nominated series “Larry King Now” to talk about the ‘panic’ in her industry, President Obama's job performance, legalizing marijuana and her new self-released album.

As a cancer survivor, Etheridge explained how medical marijuana got her through it and why cannabis should be legal across the board. “I think it could help our society incredibly,” she said. (You can view the interview clip below.)

Of her duet with Queen Latifah, “It was so much fun, any genre anything just come knock on my door I’ll sing with you, I love playing in other people’s sandboxes,” Etheridge said.

The Oscar winner talked about why 'coming out' in 2014 isn't always an easy decision, “It’s still very ingrained into our society that men and women is correct.” Melissa also discussed why the country has come around so fast on the issue of gay marriage and rates the president’s slow action on gay marriage rights, “It can’t be easy to be President, it can’t be easy… but as a President I think he’s doing ok...Politics is just about this side and that side and where you’re going to land and you got to wait till public opinion gets up there.”

She wrapped up her interview by answering social media questions from some of her biggest fans, including any parenting advice she has and if she wants to be a grandmother.

U.S.: Banks Offering Financial Services To Marijuana Businesses

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A top federal official on Tuesday said that 105 banks and credit unions are now doing business with legal marijuana merchants, and suggested that revised federal rules giving financial institutions the green light to provide services to cannabis businesses are starting to work.

The financial institutions in question cover about one-third of the United States, and have reported relationships with marijuana-related businesses, the top U.S. anti-money laundering official said, reports Jeffrey Sparshott at The Wall Street Journal.

The Obama Administration in February gave the go-ahead to the banking industry to offer financing and accounts to marijuana distributors who are legally conducting their business according to state laws, reports Danielle Douglas of The Washington Post.

"From our perspective the guidance is having the intended effect," said Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. "It is facilitating access to financial services, while ensuring that this activity is transparent and the funds are going into regulated financial institutions."

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