Presidential contender Bernie Sanders announced his support for ending federal marijuana prohibition at a town hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, Wednesday night. He will announce a bill that would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances, end federal marijuana prohibition, and let states set their own policies without federal interference.
[image:1 align:right]"Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have a criminal record as a result of marijuana use," Sanders said in prepared remarks for the event. "That's wrong. That has got to change."
No other presidential candidate in either party has gone as far as the independent Vermont senator. Democrat Martin O'Malley has called for placing marijuana in Schedule II, but Sanders wants it descheduled. Hillary Clinton has yet to stake out a position on federal marijuana reform, saying she wants to see how legalization is working in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington first.
The Sanders plan would not make marijuana legal in the states, but would remove the specter of federal interference for those states that choose to change their pot laws. His plan would also let marijuana businesses in legal states use financial services and take tax deductions currently unavailable to them under federal law.
Sanders is in line with national public opinion on the issue. Support for legalization has consistently polled at 50% or greater in recent years, and a Gallup poll this month had support at its highest level ever, 58%, tied with the poll's 2013 finding.
"Clearly Bernie Sanders has looked at the polls showing voter support for marijuana legalization," said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Marijuana reform was already moving forward in Congress but we expect this bill to give reform efforts a big boost."
Look for Sanders' bill to be filed as early as tomorrow.
(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
Of course there is a challenge to California's new medical marijuana law, New York takes another step on the path to medical marijuana, North Dakota petitioners will have to go back to the drawing board, and more.
Last Wednesday, a collective operator filed suit over the state's new medical marijuana law. Collective operator David Armstrong has filed a lawsuit claiming the state's new medical marijuana law violates the state constitution because it amends a voter initiative, the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (Prop 215). Armstrong's attorney, Nicholas Emmanuel, said that although the full effect of the law signed this month is not clear, his client wanted to "get a jump on things."
Last Thursday,the state Supreme Court set a December hearing date for the medical marijuana initiative. The court said it will hear oral arguments on whether language for a medical marijuana initiative complies with state requirements on December 8. The initiative is sponsored by People United for Medical Marijuana, the same group behind last year's failed initiative. (It actually won a majority of the vote, but because it was a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% to pass). The group said it has already turned in nearly half the 683,000 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for the 2016 ballot.
Last Thursday, the state unveiled a new medical marijuana training course for doctors. The state Health Department this week rolled out an online medical marijuana training course for physicians who wish to prescribe it. Doctors who want to register to prescribe medical marijuana must first complete the four-hour course. The state aims to have medical marijuana available for patients by next January.
On Tuesday, medical marijuana initiative language was rejected. Secretary of State Al Jaeger (R) Tuesday rejected an initiative from the North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana, saying it had errors. Jaeger directed committee members to a petition drafting tool on state government web pages so they can get it right next time.
On Tuesday, calls came for signatures on a Change.org petition for the Kettle Falls Five. Prosecuted as marijuana traffickers for growing medical marijuana for their own use in a state where marijuana is legal, three of the Kettle Falls Five were sentenced earlier this month to federal prison. The petition here seeks "immediate orders of commutation and remission of jail time and fines for Rolland Gregg, his wife Michelle Gregg, and his mother Rhonda Firestack-Harvey. We seek complete pardons of their convictions so that they are no longer considered felons. Allow them to return to being the productive members of society they were, before this ordeal began." Click on the link to add your signature.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]
Chronicle AM: VA Pot Arrests Up, Especially for Blacks; VT Organized Opposition Emerges, More (10/28/15)
Initiative proponents in Arkansas and North Dakota have to go back to the drawing board, Vermont legalization opponents get organized, Virginia pot arrests increase, especially for blacks, and more.
[image:1 align:left]Marijuana Policy
Arkansas Legalization Initiative Language Rejected. State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has rejected a marijuana legalization initiative, citing spelling errors and "ambiguities in the text." The proposal, from Marry Berry of Summit, must now be resubmitted with fixed language.
New York Legislators Call for Marijuana Legalization. At a forum in Buffalo today, two state legislators, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) and Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), called for marijuana legalization. They are supporting the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act, Senate Bill 1747.
Vermont Anti-Legalization Group Organizes. There is now organized opposition to marijuana legalization in the Green Mountain State. Opponents have formed a state affiliate of the national anti-legalization group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The group is hoping to block legislative efforts to legalize it, warning that it could result in a "public health crisis." Click on the link for more details.
Virginia Marijuana Arrests Increasing, Especially in Black Communities. A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance finds that marijuana arrests have increased by 57% over the past decade, but have more than doubled for black Virginians. Click on the link for much more.
California Collective Operator Sues Over New State Medical Marijuana Law. Collective operator David Armstrong has filed a lawsuit claiming the state's new medical marijuana law violates the state constitution because it amends a voter initiative, the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (Prop 215). Armstrong's attorney, Nicholas Emmanuel, said that although the full effect of the law signed this month is not clear, his client wanted to "get a jump on things."
North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Language Rejected. Secretary of State Al Jaeger (R) Tuesday rejected an initiative from the North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana, saying it had errors. Jaeger directed committee members to a petition drafting tool on state government web pages so they can get it right next time.
Virginia Legislature Again Ponders Asset Forfeiture Reform. The legislature's Virginia Crime Commission met Tuesday to take a second look at passing asset forfeiture reform. A bill that would have ended civil asset forfeiture failed in the state Senate earlier this year. Any decisions on introducing bills on this issue have been held off until at least the next meeting in December.
Chronicle AM: One Week to OH Vote, DEA Raids Menominee Hemp Grow, Iranians for Legalization???, More (10/27/15)
Menominee tribal officials are scratching their heads after the DEA cut down their hemp crop, Ohio votes on legalization in one week, some new federal sentencing statistics are out, the Iranians may be thinking about legalizing marijuana and/or opium, and more.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]DEA Raids Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin, Cuts Down Hemp Plants. DEA agents swarmed the reservation last Friday and cut down 30,000 cannabis plants. The tribe says they were hemp plants; the DEA claims they were marijuana plants. Hemp has very low levels of THC, but it is not clear that the DEA actually tested THC levels. In any case, under a Justice Department policy announced last fall, tribes are supposed to be able to grow marijuana on tribal lands, provided they don't fall afoul of Justice Department concerns about out-of-jurisdiction trafficking, dealing to children, organized crime activities and the like.
Both Michigan Legalization Campaigns Have Money in the Bank. According to quarterly financial reports filed Monday, the state's two different marijuana legalization efforts are both pulling in cash, but still have a long way to go on signature gathering. MI Legalize has raised $308,000 and spent $249,000 so far as it seeks to gather some 252,523 valid voter signatures by December. The Michigan Cannabis Coalition has raised $351,000 and spent $284,000. The coalition has temporarily halted signature-gathering, even though it says it is roughly 50,000 signatures short, saying the move is a "strategic decision" and petitioning will soon resume. The coalition effort has until January to turn in signatures. MI Legalize would allow taxed and regulated marijuana sales with a 10% retail sales tax; the coalition effort also legalize, but would rely on the state legislature to set taxes and set licensing requirements.
Ohio Votes on Marijuana Legalization in One Week. The ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative is too close to call a week out from election day. The initiative would legalize marijuana, but only allow 10 commercial marijuana grows allotted to campaign backers. Polls in the past week have shown the race in a dead heat. Stay tuned.
Change.org Petition for the Kettle Falls Five. Prosecuted as marijuana traffickers for growing medical marijuana for their own use in a state where marijuana is legal, three of the Kettle Falls Five were sentenced earlier this month to federal prison. The petition here seeks "immediate orders of commutation and remission of jail time and fines for Rolland Gregg, his wife Michelle Gregg, and his mother Rhonda Firestack-Harvey. We seek complete pardons of their convictions so that they are no longer considered felons. Allow them to return to being the productive members of society they were, before this ordeal began." Click on the link to add your signature.
More Than Half of Federal Drug Prisoners Are Doing Time for Cocaine. A new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that, as of 2012, 54% of federal drug war prisoners were sentenced for cocaine offenses. Then came meth at 24%, marijuana at 12%, and heroin at 6%. The vast majority (88%) of crack offenders were black, while more than half (54%) of powder cocaine offenders were Hispanic. More than half (59%) of marijuana offenders were Hispanic. Among meth offenders, it was 48% white and 45% Hispanic. One-quarter (24%) of all drug offenders were not US citizens. Click on the link to read the report.
Could Iran Be the Next Country to Legalize Marijuana or Opium? A prominent Iranian official has suggested as much. Saeed Sefatian, who made the remarks, is head of the working group for drug demand reduction in the country's Expediency Council, which is largely influential in the country's drug policies. Click on the link for more.