attorney general

Ohio: Medical Marijuana Certified For Ballot; Supporters Prepare To Gather Signatures

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The Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday certified an initiative that would establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program in Ohio. Ohioans for Medical Marijuana must now collect 305,591 valid signatures of Ohio voters by early July to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

The five-member board reviews proposed ballot measures to ensure they represent only one issue.

Last week, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine confirmed the group submitted at least 1,000 valid signatures of Ohio voters and determined their initiative summary “is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law.”

The summary and full text of the initiative are available online at https://www.ohioansformmj.org/initiative.

“We plan to mobilize a large group of volunteers, and we’ll be enlisting the help of paid petitioners to meet the state’s sizeable signature requirement in the short amount of time we have,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is supporting the initiative.

“A lot of our volunteers are family members of patients or patients themselves, so they’re incredibly motivated," Tvert said. "The initiative process isn’t easy, but it pales in comparison to undergoing chemotherapy or witnessing your child have seizures on a daily basis.”

Ohio: Medical Marijuana Initiative Certified By Attorney General; Advances to Secretary of State

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The measure proposed by Ohioans for Medical Marijuana would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to legally access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday notified Ohioans for Medical Marijuana that he has certified the summary of the group’s proposed ballot initiative to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program and submitted it to the Ohio Secretary of State.

The attorney general confirmed the group submitted at least 1,000 valid signatures of Ohio voters and determined their initiative summary “is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law.”

The summary and full text of the initiative are available online at https://www.ohioansformmj.org/initiative.

The Ohio Ballot Board will now have 10 days to review the measure and confirm it complies with Ohio initiative laws. Initiative backers will then need to collect an additional 305,591 valid signatures of Ohio voters by early July in order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

“We’re pleased with the attorney general’s determination and appreciate his guidance during this process,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is supporting the initiative. “Ohio is one step closer to adopting a sensible medical marijuana law that ensures seriously ill people have safe and legal access to their medicine. We’re looking forward to hearing back from the secretary of state and getting our petition drive started as soon as possible.”

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Massachusetts: Attorney General Asks Voters To 'Wait' On Legalizing Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is asking state voters to "wait" to legalize marijuana.

Voters could be faced with a ballot question in November to legalize cannabis for recreational adult use. Atty. Gen. Healey is asking residents to vote no, reports Ashley Afonso at WWLP.

"Not now, not at this time," Healey said. "We're in the midst of his opioid crisis." (Evidently, the Attorney General doesn't know that cannabis is an exit drug out of opiate addiction.)

"I think it's really important that we talk about the public health aspects which haven't really been talked about," Healey said. "Legalizing recreational marijuana I think is a really bad idea for many reasons, but to me most important is the health and well-being of young people."

Massachusetts already has legalized medicinal cannabis, and has decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce for adults. The new measure would legalize recreational weed for adults 21 and older. It would also add taxes on cannabis sales and a commission that would oversee the regulation of the industry.

The Massachusetts Hospital Association wrong-headedly opposes legalization, claiming "safety concerns" including "greater youth accessibility." What they don't seem to realize is that black market dealers don't ask for ID, and legal marijuana stores do.

Ohio: Ohioans For Medical Marijuana Submit Initiative Petition To State Attorney General

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Backers of a proposed 2016 ballot measure to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program in Ohio submitted their initiative petition to the Ohio Attorney General on Thursday with more than 2,000 signatures.

The office has 10 days to examine the official summary of the initiative and confirm the petition contains at least 1,000 valid signatures of Ohio voters. The petition will then be sent to the Ohio Ballot Board, which will have 10 days to review the measure and confirm it complies with Ohio initiative laws.

Initiative backers will then need to collect an additional 305,591 valid signatures of Ohio voters by early July in order to qualify for the November ballot.

Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, a campaign committee formed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), posted the full initiative text, the official initiative summary, and a Q&A with MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia on its website earlier this week at https://www.ohioansformmj.org/initiative.

“This initiative was drafted to ensure seriously ill Ohioans have safe and legal access to medical marijuana if their doctors believe it will alleviate their pain and suffering,” said MPP communications director Mason Tvert. “The one benefit of not already having a medical marijuana law is that we were able to incorporate the best practices and lessons learned from the 23 states that do have one.”

In summary, the initiative would:

Ohio: Group Releases Specifics of New Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana could be on the November's ballot in Ohio if 305,291 signatures of registered voters are collected.

The plan, which could provide medicinal cannabis to an estimated 215,000 Ohioans with qualifying medical conditions by 2018, is backed by the D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which has been successful with ballot initiatives in other states, reports Alan Johnson at The Columbus Dispatch.

A year after Ohioans overwhelmingly rejected a for-profit plan to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, the MPP is counting on the differences in the plans to mean success this time. ResponsibleOhio's plan would have handed over control of commercial cannabis cultivation in the state to a dozen wealthy investors who backed the campaign.

MPP will be working locally through a group called Ohioans for Medical Marijuana.

“The Ohio initiative is similar to the medical-marijuana laws in 23 states and the District of Columbia,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the MPP, reports Meghan Matthews at WBNS-10TV. “The Ohio initiative will allow patients with a list of medical problems to use, possess, and grow their own medical marijuana if they have the approval of their physicians.”

U.S.: Former Attorney General Eric Holder Says Reschedule Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former Attorney General Eric Holder -- who once had the power to unilaterally begin the process of rescheduling marijuana, but didn't use it -- now says he agrees that cannabis should be reclassified under federal law.

"I certainly think it ought to be rescheduled," Holder said in a newly published interview with PBS. "You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate."

“It’s nice to have Holder’s support for this sensible policy change, but it would have been a lot better if he’d exercised the power to get marijuana rescheduling done while he was still in office," Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told Hemp News on Wednesday morning. "We know that Holder and President Obama are good friends, so I hope the former attorney general encourages his former boss and his successor Loretta Lynch to follow through during these final months of the administration and get the job done.

"There’s absolutely no reason marijuana should be in Schedule I, and it would be absurd to keep passing the buck to Congress when federal law clearly gives the administration the power to act," Holder said.

Vermont: Coalition To Regulate Marijuana To Launch TV Ad Campaign

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Campaign Features State’s Former Top Law Enforcement Official

A new television ad featuring Vermont’s former top law enforcement official speaking out in support of regulating marijuana will begin airing statewide on Tuesday, just as lawmakers are taking a close look at the issue.

The ad — viewable online at https://youtu.be/Fk45yWMjtRc — will appear on WCAX, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC through Sunday.

In the ad, titled “Time to End Prohibition (Again)”, former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney draws a comparison between current marijuana prohibition laws and the failed policy of alcohol prohibition.

“We all know that prohibition was a disaster,” Cheney says as images from the era of alcohol prohibition appear on the screen. “It forced alcohol into the underground market, where it was controlled by criminals, and consumers did not know what they were getting. It made us a nation of hypocrites and lawbreakers.

“Marijuana prohibition has caused a lot of the same problems,” according to Cheney. “That’s why most Vermonters agree it’s time for a more sensible approach,” he says, referencing a September Castleton Polling Institute poll that found 56 percent of Vermonters support — and only 34 percent oppose — legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use.

The ad ends with Cheney urging viewers to contact their state senators and telling them, “It’s time to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana in Vermont.”

Ohio: Toledo Marijuana Decrim Law Now In Effect

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The parts of Toledo, Ohio's new marijuana decriminalization law which abolish jail and fines for possessing pot is now being honored, even though the recently adopted "Sensible Marihuana Ordinance" remains in limbo in a legal contest between the city and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Twenty-one people have been charged with marijuana possession in Toledo Municipal Court since voters approved the ordinance on September 15, reports Tom Troy at The Blade.

Among those cases, only one defendant, 18-year-old Mariah Smith, has been convicted. She pleaded no contest and was "sentenced" to no fine and no jail time.

In the other cases, the defendants are still waiting for trail or authorities reduced the charge to disorderly conduct.

Atty. Gen. DeWine and others filed suit to block sections of the law that attempt to rewrite Ohio state felony law regarding marijuana.

By a 70 to 30 percent vote, Toledo residents in September approved the citizen initiative that wrote a new ordinance into the Toledo Municipal Code which decriminalizes marijuana and hashish possession. Fewer than 10 percent of registered city voters turned out for the election.

The new city ordinance reduces all the penalties, no matter the quantity, to zero dollars in fines and zero time in jail.

Vermont: Former Attorney General Throws Support Behind Marijuana Legalization

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Former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney, a Republican, will throw his support behind the effort to end marijuana prohibition in 2016 and appear in online ads set to launch Tuesday that highlight the benefits of regulating marijuana.

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana (VCRM) will hold a news conference Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET in the Cedar Creek Room of the Vermont State House to formally announce Cheney’s endorsement, display one of the ads, and express support for the vision Gov. Peter Shumlin laid out last week during his state of the state address.

On Thursday, Gov. Shumlin said Vermont “[has] the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right” in 2016, and he promised state lawmakers he will work with them to “craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably.”

The coalition’s first ads of the session feature Cheney and highlight the benefits of replacing prohibition with a system in which marijuana is legal for adults and regulated similarly to alcohol. Cheney served as Vermont attorney general from 1973 to 1975. Previously, he served as an assistant attorney general and was elected Washington County states attorney. He has held a variety of other civic positions and is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

California: Leaders Call For DOJ To Halt Enforcement Against Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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California Representatives, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13) and Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA48) and Sam Farr (D-CA20) on Tuesday urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch to reconsider enforcement actions against California’s medical cannabis dispensaries following comprehensive, stringent and enforceable industry regulations recently signed into law.

“We are concerned that the Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to threaten individuals and businesses acting within the scope of states law on the medicinal use of marijuana despite formal guidance on exercising prosecutorial discretion and recent changes to federal law. It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward dispensaries,” wrote the Members of Congress.

The full text of the letter is available here.

In closing, the Members wrote, “the will of the both voters at the ballot box and in state legislatures across the country should be respected.”

Maryland: Attorney General Says Counties Can't Ban Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

For some odd reason, Republican Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh is on a mission to prevent medical marijuana patients from having safe access to their medicine -- despite the fact that it's now legal in Maryland.

Schuh this week vowed to press forward with an effort to prohibit medical marijuana facilities in the county despite a letter from the Maryland Attorney General's Office stating that counties cannot ban operations allowed by state law, reports Rema Rahman at The Baltimore Sun.

The bill backed by Schuh would prohibit not only dispensaries but even individual patients from growing, processing or dispensing medical marijuana in all zoning classifications.

The advice was issued on Tuesday by the Attorney General's Office in response to a Democratic Baltimore County state senator who slammed Schuh's plan to ban safe access.

The nonbinding legal advice, signed by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe, says state law allows counties to decide where medical marijuana may be grown, processed and dispensed, but does not permit local jurisdictions to outright ban facilities "unless a situation unique to that county makes one or more types of facilities inappropriate."

U.S. Rep. Blumenauer Calls On DOJ To Reclassify Marijuana Under Controlled Substances Act

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U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) on Thursday welcomed Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg’s acknowledgement that “heroin is clearly more dangerous than marijuana,” and called on the Department of Justice to reclassify or de-schedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Representative Blumenauer wrote:

“We are in the midst of a revolution to reform and modernize marijuana policy in the United States. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult use. Additionally, well over one million patients across the country now use medical marijuana at the recommendation of their physician to treat conditions ranging from seizures, glaucoma, anxiety, chronic pain and nausea. The federal government is woefully behind.

“I fully support and agree with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg’s statement on August 5, 2015, that ‘heroin is clearly more dangerous than marijuana.’ This statement is backed by decades of scientific evidence, and rapidly growing public support recognizing that marijuana has been treated as a highly dangerous substance for far too long.

Massachusetts: Ballot Initiative Filed To Legalize Marijuana

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A statewide ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Massachusetts was filed on Wednesday with the office of state Attorney General Maura Healy. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) is behind the measure.

“Next year, voters will have the opportunity to end the failed policy of prohibition and replace it with a more sensible system,” said CRMLA director Will Luzier, a former assistant attorney general who previously served as executive director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. “Marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol, and our laws should reflect that.”

In summary, the proposed initiative would:

· allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes, similar to home-brewing;

· Create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail outlets, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, which will be overseen by a commission similar to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC);

· Provide local governments with the authority to regulate and limit the number of marijuana establishments in their city or town; and

Ohio: Attorney General Looking At Drafting His Own Medical Marijuana Proposal

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Things are getting crazy in Ohio. One recreational marijuana legalization proposal, which appears headed for the ballot, would hand over control of all growing in the state to just 10 companies. And now Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has said he has staff looking into a medical marijuana proposal which they'd draft themselves.

The proposal would be "very limited" and "tightly controlled," DeWine told Alan Johnson at The Columbus Dispatch. A Republican who opposes recreational cannabis legalization, DeWine wouldn't commit to saying he supports legalizing medical marijuana.

But the Attorney General did grant that there are people who definitely could use it; he said he's having his staff work up a proposal before consulting with state lawmakers.

Staffers are reviewing medical marijuana systems in other states to see if it's possible to set up rules that can't be exploited by recreational pot users, DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said on Friday, reports Jeremy Pelzer of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Specifically, Tierney said staffers are investigating methods of administration such as ointments or pills, which don't involve smoking.

Tierney said it's still "far too early" to say if or when DeWine will take such a step. The Attorney General still has "grave concerns" about full marijuana legalization, according to Tierney.

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.”

U.S.: Smackdown! Congressmen Tell Justice Department To Halt Medical Marijuana Prosecutions

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In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) refuted the Justice Department’s recent interpretation of a spending provision intended to protect state medical marijuana laws and confirmed that any criminal or civil action against medical marijuana providers is a violation of federal law. The full letter is available at http://www.mpp.org/DOJletter.

The letter comes in response to statements made last week by a Justice Department spokesman to The Los Angeles Times. In the article, the spokesman said the Justice Department can still prosecute medical marijuana cases, notwithstanding the spending restriction adopted by Congress. The full article is available at http://mppne.ws/1a6F6bb.

In the letter, the Congressmen call the Justice Department’s interpretation “emphatically wrong” and ask Holder to “bring [the] Department back into compliance with federal law” by halting prosecutions and asset forfeiture actions in states with medical marijuana laws.

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.: Attorney General Eric Holder Ends Incentive For Law Enforcement To Seize Property

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Property Seizures by Local and State Police Often Conducted Under Pretext that Property Is Connected to Illegal Drugs

Advocates Applaud Holder for New Policy, Urge Congress to Make Reforms Permanent

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday issued an order establishing a new policy prohibiting federal agencies from accepting civil asset forfeiture assets seized by state and local law enforcement agencies unless the owner is convicted of a crime. The U.S. Treasury Department, which has its own forfeiture program, is issuing a similar policy.

The new policy will greatly restrict the ability of state and local police forces to use fedeal law to seize goods without charging an individual with a crime. Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which authorities seize property alleged to have been involved in a crime, charge the property directly, since goods do not have the same constitutional protections as their owners, and then keep most of the proceeds for departmental use.

The Department of Justice becomes involved after a state or local law enforcement agency seizes property pursuant to state law and requests that a federal agency take the seized asset and forfeit it under federal law.

U.S.: President Obama To Commute Sentences For 8 In Drug Cases

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President Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Deputy Attorney General James Cole released a statement saying that the eight individuals "were sentenced under outdated and unfair laws," and "their punishments did not fit their crime."

Half of the eight whose sentences were commuted had been sentenced to life imprisonment, reports NPR.

The step could lead to a vast expansion of presidential clemency during Obama's last two years in office, reports Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press.

The eight new commutations include Barbara Scrivner, who was sentenced to 30 years in 1995, when she was 27 years old, for a minor rule in her husband's methamphetamine ring. The President ordered Scrivner's sentence to expire on June 12, while the others will expire April 15.

The President commuted the sentences of at least four people who were serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, reports the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

California: Attorney General Kamala Harris Says Legal Marijuana Is Inevitable

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Legalized marijuana is inevitable, California Attorney General Kamala Harris admitted this week, and she has no "moral opposition" to that happening and is "not opposed" it, she said.

This comes as something of a surprise, since Harris won reelection in California last month by beating the pro-marijuana Republican candidate, Ron Gold, reports RT.com. But while Harris said pot legalization has a "certain inevitability," she didn't actually endorse it.

Harris, the consummately cautious politician, hedged her bets by claiming she had "concerns" over the law enforcement implications of legalization.

"I am not opposed to the legalization of marijuana,” Harris told Buzzfeed News in an interview. “I'm the top cop, and so I have to look at it from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective.

"I think we are fortunate to have Colorado and Washington be in front of us on this and figuring out the details of what it looks like when it’s legalized,” Harris said. “We're watching it happen right before our eyes in Colorado and Washington.

"I don't think it’s gonna take too long to figure this out,” Harris said to Buzzfeed. “I think there's certain inevitability about it."

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