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U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 46; Will Push For Criminal Justice Reform

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Obama to Address Mass Incarceration at NAACP Convention Tuesday and Become First President to Visit a Prison on Thursday

"I believe at its heart, America is a land of second chances." ~ President Barack Obama

Drug Policy Alliance: We Can’t End Mass Incarceration Until We End Drug War

President Barack Obama on Monday commuted the sentences of 46 people incarcerated in federal prison. This follows the commutation of eight people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses in December of 2014, and 22 in March 2015. Fourteen of the people who received commutations on Monday were serving life in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued nearly 90 commutations, the vast majority of them 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.

"We can’t end mass incarceration until we end the drug war. The President's actions today are welcome, but we need much more action," said Michael Collins, policy manager at DPA's office of national affairs. "The public overwhelmingly supports ending the drug war and letting states decide their own drug policies. It's long past time to rectify the US's embarrassing record on mass incarceration."

U.S.: Congress Votes To End DEA's Bulk Data Collection Program, Reduce Budget, Shift Funding

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Votes Come in Wake of Recent Forced Resignation of DEA Head and Growing Public Pressure to End Drug War and Mass Incarceration

Legislators Tuesday night voted by a simple voice vote to end the DEA’s controversial bulk data collection programs, as part of the U.S. House of Representatives' consideration of the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. The House also passed three amendments that cut $23 million from the DEA’s budget, and shifted it to fighting child abuse, processing rape test kits, reducing the deficit, and paying for body cameras on police officers to reduce law enforcement abuses.

Representatives debated four amendments to prohibit the DEA and Justice Department from undermining state marijuana laws -- and those votes will happen on Wednesday.

“Congress dealt a major blow to the DEA by ending their invasive and offensive bulk data collection programs and by cutting their budget," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The more the DEA ignores commonsense drug policy, the more they will see their agency’s power and budget come under deeper scrutiny.”

Three amendments cutting the DEA’s budget passed by voice vote:

• Rep. Ted Liew's (D-CA) amendment shifted $9 million from the DEA’s failed Cannabis Reduction and Eradication program to the VAWA Consolidated Youth Oriented Program ($4 million), Victims of Child Abuse Act ($3 million), and deficit reduction ($2 million).

Georgia: Medical Marijuana Bill Signed By Governor

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a medical marijuana bill into law on Friday in a ceremony on the Capitol steps.

The bill cleared its final legislative hurdle on Thursday when the Georgia House voted 160-1 to approve a Senate compromise that only slightly tweaked the original House version by state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), reports Bill Hendrick at the Associated Press.

After an emotional debate which had lasted, all told, for two years, House Speaker David Ralston hugged Janea Cox, 33, mother of 5-year-old Haleigh Cox, who has intractable epilepsy and is one of the half-a-million Georgians Peake said should benefit from the new law.

"Some days make it all worthwhile," Ralston said.

Peake's bill had already passed the House by a huge margin. It originally called for people with nine medical conditions to be eligible for treatment with cannabis oil that has only minimal amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which producers marijuana's characterisic "high."

Oregon: Lawmakers 'Move To Curb Black Market,' Blame Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In what's starting to look uncomfortably like a replay of how legalization played out in next door neighbor Washington state, Oregon lawmakers are moving to put new strict limits on medical marijuana growers after voters approved recreational legalization last November.

Legislators want to shift large medical growers to the strictly regulated recreational cannabis market Oregon plans to develop, reports Jeff Mapes at The Oregonian.

"We have to show we're doing everything we can to close off the black market," claimed Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland). "It's no secret that medical marijuana [from Oregon] is appearing all over the U.S. in the illegal market."

It's amazing how quickly both the Washington and Oregon medical marijuana communities -- both of which have existed with no major problems for almost 17 years now, since voters in both states approved medical marijuana in 1998 -- became a "problem" due to their "unregulated" nature after recreational legalization was approved.

Rob Patridge, chairman of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, actually claimed that as much as 75 percent of the medical marijuana in the state winds up going to the black market. Patridge offered no evidence for his wild claims.

He said he hoped the "growing legislative consensus" on how to regulate medical growers will produce "a model system for the U.S." showing how to curtail illegal sales.

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