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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."

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 58 People In Federal Prison For Drugs

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

President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of 58 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 61 individuals on March 30, 2016, 95 people in December of 2015, 45 people in July, 22 people in March 2015, and 8 people in December of 2014.

All of those who received commutations on Thursday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, and many were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine.

Five of the individuals whose sentences were commuted on Thursday were imprisoned at least in part due to at least one marijuana charge.

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.

"The President is using his constitutional power, but he can only do so much," said Michael Collins, deputy director at Drug Policy Alliance's office of national affairs. "There is legislation in the Senate that would reduce mandatory minimums and have a greater impact on the prison population, and Leader McConnell needs to bring the bill up for a vote."

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.: 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.: President Obama Declares Full Support For Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama will state his full support for medical marijuana in a CNN special to be aired on Sunday.

The TV special, "Weed 3," features CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon who changed his mind and began supporting medicinal cannabis after reviewing the evidence, reports Jonah Bennett at The Daily Caller.

The third installment of "Weed" has Dr. Gupta delving into the politics of medical marijuana research, including an interview with President Obama. In addition to supporting medicinal cannabis, the President advocates for alternative models of drug abuse treatment which don't involve imprisonment.

The President had previously predicted that more states will legalize recreational cannabis, and has confirmed that although marijuana is still illegal under federal law, the feds won't interfere as states implement legalization.

Gupta and Obama briefly discussed the recent bill on the Senate floor introduced by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. The bill would reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law. Gupta asked if Obama supports Booker's bill.

U.S.: President Obama Commutes Drug Sentences For 22 People

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentences of 22 federal inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. This follows the commutation of eight federal inmates convicted of drug offenses by President Obama in December of 2014.

According to White House counsel Neil Eggleston, “Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

"While today’s announcement represents important progress, there’s more work ahead," Eggleston said. "The Administration will continue to work to review thoroughly all petitions for clemency."

Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder made a number of forceful public statements against mass incarceration in the U.S., promising significant rollback of mandatory minimum and harsh sentencing guidelines. The Obama Administration also promised improvements in the commutation process.

Yet, despite his Administration's declared support of substantive criminal justice reform, until now Obama has used his power to grant clemency less frequently than nearly all other U.S. Presidents.

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.

U.S.: Bill Clinton Says 'I Never Denied Smoking Pot'

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former President Bill Clinton in a TV interview on Tuesday said he "never denied" smoking marijuana.

"I didn't say I was holier than thou; I said I tried," Clinton told Fusion TV's Jorge Ramos. "I never denied that I used marijuana."

Ramos had asked if Clinton were running now if he would answer questions about his cannabis use differently, reports Eliana Dockterman at Time. The former President claimed his original answer, which he gave during his 1992 campaign, had been twisted by the media.

Clinton's infamous claim was that he "didn't inhale" when he tried pot during his Rhodes scholar years.

"When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and didn't like it," he said in 1992. "I didn't inhale, and I didn't try it again."

"I told the truth," Clinton says now. "I thought it was funny. And the only journalist who was there said I told the truth."

"The drug issue should be decided by people in each country, based on what they think is right," Clinton said when Ramos asked him about marijuana legalization. "We have a process in America for doing it that's being revisited state by state.

"And Latin America is free to do the same thing," Clinton said. "It's obvious that attitudes are changing and opening up."

(Photo of President Clinton and Jorge Ramos: Fusion TV)

Global: Guatemalan President Calls for Global Drug Policy Reform in UN Speech

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President Pérez Molina Praises Voters of Colorado and Washington for Legalizing Marijuana and President Obama for Allowing Them to Proceed

Commends President Mujica of Uruguay for Marijuana Legalization Proposal; Says That U.N. Should Allow Countries to “Experiment with New Models”

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina on Thursday spoke out forcefully against the failures of drug prohibition and urged countries to experiment with new drug control models while speaking at the United Nations General Assembly.

Pérez Molina praised the voters of Colorado and Washington for legalizing marijuana, President Obama for allowing the laws to proceed, and President José Mujica of Uruguay for his marijuana legalization proposal.

Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states –- and the first political jurisdictions in the world -– to legalize the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adults last November. Uruguay is likely to join them soon; the country’s House passed a marijuana legalization bill in July and its Senate is expected to follow suit in October.

Last month, the White House announced that the federal government will not interfere with state marijuana laws, as long as a number of stipulations are adhered to, such as preventing distribution to minors.

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