u.s. senate

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U.S.: Senate Members To Investigate Barriers To Researching Marijuana Extract CBD

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The U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control will hold a hearing Wednesday morning on cannabidiol (CBD), a component of marijuana being used in the treatment of seizure disorders and other medical conditions, and federal obstacles to studying its efficacy.

The hearing, “Cannabidiol: Barriers to Research and Potential Medical Benefits” will be led by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who have long been opponents of efforts to reform federal marijuana laws.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have been invited to participate. They are sponsors of the CARERS Act, bipartisan legislation that would resolve the tension between state and federal marijuana laws.

The hearing is expected to focus on the use of CBD in the treatment of seizure disorders rather than whole-plant medical marijuana and the many other medical conditions for which doctors frequently recommend it. It is also expected to focus on federally regulated distribution channels rather than state-regulated medical marijuana providers.

WHAT: Hearing on CBD research and efficacy

WHEN: Wednesday, June 24, 9:30 a.m. ET

WHERE: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226, Washington, D.C.

WHO: Dr. John Brad Ingram, child neurologist, University of Mississippi
Dr. Tom Minahan, emergency physician and parent of child with seizure disorder
Joseph Rannazzisi, deputy assistant administrator, Office of Diversion Control, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Dr. Kevin Sabet, anti-marijuana activist, Project SAM

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.

U.S.: Senate Panel OKs Medical Marijuana For Veterans

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 18-12 to approve an amendment to increase military veterans' access to medical marijuana.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to the must-pass Senate version of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, if signed into law, would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from spending money to enforce a prohibition on V.A. doctors filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal.

“This is a historic moment," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). "Passage of the amendment was the right thing to do for our veterans.

"We should not be preventing access to medicine that can help our wounded warriors deal with serious conditions, such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries,” Blumenauer said. “Today’s passage coupled with the narrow defeat of my amendment to the MilCon-VA appropriations bill in the House signals there is real movement and bipartisan support in reforming outdated federal marijuana policies. We are now in a good position to be able to advocate for inclusion of this policy in a final appropriations bill.”

U.S.: Senate Confirms Loretta Lynch For Attorney General

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The U.S. Senate on Thursday afternoon confirmed the nomination of Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General in a 56-43 vote. The results of the vote have been highly anticipated, as significant partisan bickering had stalled her appointment for months.

Lynch is the first African-American woman to hold the office of Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement position and head of the Department of Justice. Her statements made in the Senatorial confirmation hearing indicate she intends to follow Holder’s legacy of prioritizing civil rights.

Criminal justice experts hope this means she will continue and expand the drug policy reforms enacted by her predecessor.

“Loretta Lynch will hopefully continue the more positive aspects of Eric Holder’s legacy,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a criminal justice group opposed to the Drug War. “We hope she continues to restore sanity and dignity to the profession of policing by de-escalating the War On Drugs and allowing states to proceed with marijuana legalization.”

Florida: Debbie Wasserman Schultz Senate Bid Strongly Opposed By The Cannabis Community

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Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s interest in running for U.S. Senate has encountered strong resistance from a traditional ally of her party: medical marijuana activists.

Because of her bad congressional votes and her ham-fisted criticisms of a Florida medical marijuana initiative last year, four political groups that advocate prescription cannabis and drug decriminalization vowed to campaign against Wasserman Schultz if she were to seek a Senate seat in 2016, reports Marc Caputo at Politico. (<-- The entire piece, at that link, is really worth reading.)

“She’s voted repeatedly to send terminally ill patients to prison. And we’re certainly going to make sure Floridians know that — not to mince words,” said Bill Piper, national affairs director with the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

“This issue is evolving very quickly, and hopefully she will evolve,” Piper said. “But if she doesn’t, you can expect medical marijuana patients and supporters to dog her on the campaign trail.”

Wasserman Schultz’s office declined to comment.

U.S.: Bipartisan Legislation Introduced In Congress To Crack Down On Drug War Asset Forfeiture

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FAIR Act Would Eliminate Department of Justice Program that Enables State and Local Police to Keep Proceeds of Property Seized from Citizens

Momentum Builds in Congress for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Days after Attorney General Holder Issues Policy Limiting Police Participation in Controversial Department of Justice Program

Bipartisan legislation was introduced on Monday in both houses of Congress that would roll back changes made in the 1980s by Congress to federal civil asset forfeiture laws largely intended to incentivize law enforcement to pursue civil asset forfeitures as part of the rapid escalation of the War On Drugs.

In the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act. In the House, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced an identical version of Sen. Paul’s FAIR Act.

“It’s encouraging to see strong bipartisan support in Congress for rolling back policies that have perpetuated the failed war on drugs and eroded the public’s trust in law enforcement,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Congress has an opportunity to end the perverse incentives that federal laws give police to take innocent people’s property and run.”

U.S.: Senate Joins House In Ending Federal-State Conflict Over Medical Marijuana

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"Now that we are in a 'ceasefire,' patients are ready to work with Congress on comprehensive medical marijuana legislation."
~Steph Sherer, executive director, Americans for Safe Access (ASA)

Advocates say restriction on enforcement will end federal prosecutions, asset forfeiture litigation, and imprisonment of patients

With Saturday night's U.S. Senate vote, both houses of Congress have now approved an omnibus spending bill, which includes a measure prohibiting the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

Patient advocates argue, with concurrence from law enforcement, that this historic measure, if signed into law by President Obama as expected, will dramatically impact DOJ enforcement, including ending federal medical marijuana raids, arrests, criminal prosecutions, and civil asset forfeiture lawsuits, as well as providing prisoners with a way to petition for their release.

U.S.: Patients Applaud Congressional Restriction On Federal Medical Marijuana Enforcement

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Historic measure in Omnibus Budget Bill is similar to House amendment passed earlier this year aimed at ending DOJ/DEA interference

The House and Senate Appropriations leadership has hammered out a budget bill that includes an historic amendment to curb federal Department of Justice (DOJ) enforcement in medical marijuana states. The measure, which was originally passed by the House in May with an unprecedented 219-189 vote, aims to prohibit the DOJ from spending taxpayer money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

"This is great news for medical marijuana patients all across the country," said Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), one of the co-authors of the House measure. "This amendment protects patients while the federal government catches up with the views of the American people.

"Patients will have access to the care legal in their state without fear of federal prosecution," Rep. Farr said. "And our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on fighting actual crimes and not wasted going after patients."

"We applaud this Congress for doing the right thing by protecting the rights of patients, and ending a years-long attack on the medical marijuana community," said Mike Liszewski, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy organization that has been championing the measure for years. "By approving this measure, Congress is siding with the vast majority of Americans who are calling for a change in how we enforce our federal marijuana laws."

Washington: Trial Postponed, New Judge Assigned In Kettle Falls 5 Federal Marijuana Case

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U.S. Senate expected to take up measure restricting Justice Department funding for such prosecutions later this week

A new judge assigned to hear the widely watched federal medical marijuana case of the Kettle Falls Five has continued the federal trial scheduled to begin today in Spokane, Washington. Senior Judge Fred Van Sickle has been replaced by Judge Thomas O. Rice, who set a new trial date of February 23, 2015.

The change in trial date comes as the U.S. Senate plans to consider a measure later this week that would prohibit Department of Justice (DOJ) funds from being spent on medical marijuana enforcement in states where it's legal. Advocates say that federal prosecutions like the Kettle Falls Five, as well as pending asset forfeiture cases in California, would be impacted by the passage of such a measure.

After the House made its historic 219-189 vote in May to curb DOJ funding for medical marijuana enforcement, U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) filed a similar budget amendment in the Senate. The bipartisan amendment filed in June is expected to be voted on in a House-Senate conference committee as early as Wednesday.

U.S.: Senators Ask White House To Clarify Federal Marijuana Laws

Senators-PattyMurray,MariaCantwell,MarkUdall,MikeBennet(OmakChronicle)

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Senate delegations from Colorado and Washington are seeking clarification from the Obama Administration on the regulations which will impact the legal marijuana trade in those two states.

Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall of Colorado and Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington on Monday wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Attorney General Eric Holder, calling for "a clear, consistent and uniform interpretation and application" of federal marijuana laws in relation to their home states, reports Jonathan Topaz at Politico. The letter warns about the current uncertainty surrounding federal cannabis laws.

"We believe the federal government should support Colorado and Washington state's effort to establish a successful regulatory framework in a way that achieves greater certainty for local officials, citizens, and business owners" in the marijuana industry, the senators wrote.

The uncertainty regarding the implementation of federal cannabis laws "may undermine our states' ability to regulate the industry adequately," the senators said.

All four Democrats said they look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to ensure lawful and successful implementation of marijuana legalization in their states.

U.S.: Rand Paul Files Measure To Protect Medical Marijuana States From Feds

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) on Thursday filed an amendment to Senate Bill 2569, the "Bring Jobs Home Act," that would explicitly allow states to pass medical marijuana laws despite the federal Controlled Substances Act. The amendment would also bar prosecutions of patients and doctors involved in medical marijuana when they are in compliance with state laws.

Amendment 3630 allows states to "enact and implement laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use" without federal prosecution," reports Phillip Smith at StoptheDrugWar.org.

The amendment then lists 33 states and the District of Columbia that have medical marijuana laws at variance with the federal Controlled Substances Act, including 10 states that allow only for the use of CBD oil (cannabidiol), which, unlike THC, isn't psychoactive, reports Matt Ferner at the Huffington Post.

"What we're trying to do is look at the law and allow states that have changed their laws and have allowed medical marijuana to do so, for doctors to be able to prescribe and for people to be able to get those prescriptions without being worried about the federal government coming in and arresting them," said Brian Darling, Sen. Paul's communications director.

U.S.: Senate To Vote On House-Approved Amendment To Protect Medical Marijuana States

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The Senate is expected to vote — possibly as soon as Thursday night or Friday — on a measure that is intended to shield medical marijuana patients and providers from enforcement of federal laws in states where medical marijuana is legal.

The amendment to S. 2347, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, to be offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), is intended to prohibit the Department of Justice, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from spending funds to raid and arrest state-licensed medical marijuana patients and providers. It will be the first time the amendment has been offered in the Senate.

The House medical marijuana amendment was offered by six Republicans and six Democrats: Reps. Rohrabacher (R-CA), Farr (D-CA), Young (R-AK), Blumenauer (D-OR), McClintock (R-CA), Cohen (D-TN), Broun (R-GA), Polis (D-CO), Stockman (R-TX), Lee (D-CA), Amash (R-MI) and Titus (D-NV). 170 Democrats and 49 Republicans voted for the amendment. It was approved on May 30 by a vote of 219-189.

“Poll after poll shows 70 to 80 percent of Americans support medical marijuana," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Even among conservatives, most oppose enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal for some purpose.

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

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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.: Senator Leahy Schedules Federal Marijuana Hearing, Calls For Respect For State Laws

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Attorney General Holder Invited to Hearing Scheduled for September 10

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Senator Patrick Leahy (D–VT) on Monday invited Attorney General Eric Holder to a September 10 hearing to clarify the federal response to states that have passed marijuana laws in conflict with federal policy.

"It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal," Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Monday, reports US News.

"I believe that these state laws should be respected," Leahy said. "At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government."

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington last year became the first places in the world to legalize and regulate marijuana for personal use.

Holder has been saying that an announcement clarifying the federal response to these new state laws would be coming “soon” since last year. In the meantime, the federal government has continued to crack down on medical marijuana providers, leaving states and local communities unsure how best to proceed.

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