Valentines Day week 2018 saw a tremendous amount of activity when it came to addressing our nations failed policy of marijuana prohibition. From new federal legislation being introduced to two federal lawsuits having hearings, plus a number of members of Congress, old allies and new stepping up to demand the Trump Administration continue to allow the states that have reformed their laws be respected by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Rick “Not Pro-Pot But Pro-Civil Liberties” Steves Went To Washington: Bestselling guidebook author and travel host Rick Steves held two briefings to address marijuana prohibition to a gathering of members of Congress and their staff. Inspired by Europe’s pragmatic approach to drug policy, with success measured by harm reduction rather than incarceration, Steves said that he is motivated to speak in favor of legalization because of its impact on civil liberties.
“ There are so many reasons to end the prohibition on marijuana. Whether you’re concerned about the well-being of children, fairness for minority communities, redirecting money away from criminals and into state’s coffers, stemming the horrific bloodshed in Mexico, or civil liberties; it is clearly time for a new approach,” said Rick Steves. You can read more about his day at Capitol Hill here.
New Legislation: Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) has introduced the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act which would codify the protections that were outlined in the now-rescinded Cole Memo.
Upon the introduction, Rep. Correa said, “To date, eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, and twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the American population, have enacted legislation to permit the use of cannabis. Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the “Cole Memo” created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws.
In my state of California, voters want legal cannabis. It boosts our economy and is a strong medical tool. By 2020, revenues from cannabis sales taxes could reach $1 billion annually for California. This bill will protect California and other states from federal overreach and ensure the will of the American voter is respected.”
Essentially, the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, 149,000 workers, and the millions of patients and consumers who are dependent on the normalization of lawful marijuana markets. The most essential component in creating a stable business environment to meet consumer demand is certainty and that is what states would have with Reps. Correa’s legislation to protect state-lawful programs from militant marijuana prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Lawsuit Against Attorney General Jeff Sessions: On February 14th, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments on the motion to dismiss Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Schedule I classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The federal government argued to have the case dismissed. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York reserved the decision.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case are Michael Hiller and Lauren Rudick of Hiller, PC, and include NORML Legal Committee member Joseph Bondy and Empire State NORML Director David Holland.
HIA Against The DEA: A case brought forward by the Hemp Industries Association against the DEA regarding the classification of CBD had a hearing on Thursday. You can read more about that effort here.
Banking On Mnuchin: Congressman and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus Earl Blumenauer pressed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on the need for certainty for the banks that are currently providing services for legal, state-regulated marijuana businesses. You can watch the video
Letter To Senate Appropriators: This week, a bipartisan group of 18 Senators signed a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the powerful Appropriations Committee to demand that in the process of directing funding for the Department of Justice, the lawmakers should restrict the DoJ from being able to interfere with lawful state-regulated programs.
The senators wrote that rescinding years of guidance has created “disruption, confusion, and uncertainty throughout the country. Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed. This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations – all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”
“It is our hope that the fiscal year 2018 appropriations will alleviate the turbulence the Attorney General’s abrupt decision has caused and that the appropriations will help preserve the strong regulatory frameworks the states have created,” the senators continued. “Doing so will provide the opportunity to pursue federal legislation that both protects the legitimate federal interests at stake and respects the will of the states – both those that have liberalized their marijuana laws and those that have not.”
New Justice Supporter: This week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York added her name as a cosponsor to The Marijuana Justice Act, making her the 3rd member of the Senate to be on the bill. Specifically S. 1689 and HR 4815 would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.
Additionally, Senator Cory Booker added the language of the Marijuana Justice Act as an amendment to the criminal justice bill that is moving, however, that effort was unsuccessful.
DoJ Nominees Move Forward: Senator Gardner has backed down from his threat to the Department of Justice to block Senate-confirmable nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the longstanding guidance memos including the 2013 Cole Memo.