GOP

U.S.: House Republicans Strip Veterans Of Equal Access To Marijuana In Dead Of Night

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"This isn't right for our veterans, or the American people."
~ Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Senator Jeff Merkley

On Wednesday, in the dead of night, as House Democrats held a sit-in for gun safety, House Republicans stripped language that would make it easier for qualified veterans to access state-legal medical marijuana from legislation to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

With no transparency and little opportunity for Members to review, the House passed the legislation shortly after 3 a.m. local time Thursday. The Senate will vote on the legislation next.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) released the following statement:

“Our language ensuring fair treatment for our veterans had broad, bipartisan support and passed both Chambers—it’s outrageous that it was removed. To add insult to injury, the legislation was released in the middle of the night, not even giving Members of the House an opportunity to review the language before voting on it. This isn’t right for our veterans, or the American people. We will keep fighting to make sure our wounded warriors have equal treatment and the ability to consult with their VA medical providers about medical marijuana as a treatment option.”

Nevada: Largest Paper Used To Support Pot Legalization -- Then Adelson Bought It

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Las Vegas Review-Journal supported legalization last year. It opposes it this year. The difference? Pot-hating conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson bought the paper last December.

As recently as last summer, the Review-Journal published an editorial strongly proclaiming that paper's stance "supporting the decriminalizing, regulating and taxing the sale of currently illegal drugs," including marijuana. The paper went on record as supporting an effort to legalize cannabis in the state that will go before voters this November, and just last year called for all presidential candidates to support "removing marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act."

Vermont: Lawmakers Seen Drinking In Hallway Just Before Voting No On Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

When the Vermont House on Tuesday soundly rejected a Senate proposal to legalize marijuana and create a regulated retail market for it -- and even failed to decriminalize possession and cultivation of just two cannabis plants -- their unfortunate lack of political courage didn't shock many political observers.

What was a bit more upsetting, though, was that at least two of the politicians who voted "No" on legalization were seen (and photographed!) drinking alcohol in the hall shortly before the vote, according to multiple sources. Photos tweeted by reporter Neil Goswami depict Rep. Gary Viens (R-Newport) and Rep. Corey Parent (R-St. Albans City) enjoying alcholic beverages at the State House during a 15-minute recess from the marijuana debate.

"Drinking in the State House is cool, according to these people who voted against legal pot," Goswami tweeted.

Both Viens and Parent are widely grinning in the photos, apparently believing themselves to be quite clever in taking a drink in the hall before batting down a bill that would have treated marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Montana: Medical Marijuana Patients Ask Court To Delay Harsh Restrictions

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana patients and their supporters are pushing back against harsh new restrictions on Montana's program -- restrictions so Byzantine, that many providers are closing down rather than try to meet them.

The owners of Montana Advanced Caregivers on Thursday held a barbecue at their location in south Billings. Patients were stocking up on medicinal cannabis because of an uncertain future, co-owner Jason Smith said, reports Matt Hudson at the Billings Gazette.

Smith and his business partner, Rick Abromeit, needed to sell some of their existing stock of marijuana or else risk having an illegal amount once the new law is fully implemented.

The Montana Supreme Court on February 25 upheld provisions of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, a 2011 bill passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature that, for all practical purposes, shut down the program as it had been run in Montana since voters approved medical marijuana back in 2004.

Florida: Poll Shows Strong Support For Asset Forfeiture Reform; Bill Heads To Gov's Desk

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An overwhelming majority of registered Florida voters support civil asset forfeiture reform, according to a new poll released by Drug Policy Action. Eighty-four percent of Florida registered voters, including 86 percent of all Republicans and 81 percent of independents, think police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime.

Sixty-six percent of voters polled, including 65 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats, would be more likely to support a candidate for president who took the position that the government should not be able to take property from a person who has not been convicted of a crime.

“The notion that police officers can take cash or other property from people never charged with any criminal wrongdoing and keeping any profits from the sale of seized property doesn’t sit well with the public,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for Drug Policy Action. “Voters want action on civil asset forfeiture.

"Governor Scott should sign the reform legislation on his desk, and presidential candidates would be wise to address the issue,” Smith said.

The Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed SB 1044, reforming Florida’s “Contraband Forfeiture Act,” sending the legislation to Gov. Scott’s desk for a signature. Last week the Florida Senate passed the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, in a 38–0 vote.

Montana: Supreme Court Upholds Gutting of Medical Marijuana Law

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Montana Supreme Court on Thursday upheld almost all of the GOP-controlled Legislature's 2011 gutting of the state's medical marijuana law.

The high court, in a 6-1 decision, ruled that the restrictions placed on medical marijuana by the Montana Legislature in 2011 are a "rational response" to the rapid growth in medical marijuana patients from 2008 to 2010, reports Mike Dennison at MTN News. Never mind that the stuff actually works, unlike most harsh, toxic Big Pharma products; that just couldn't be why the program was so popular, now could it?

The number of authorized medical marijuana patients in Montana rose from about 1,000 in 2008 to more than 30,000 in 2010. Dispensaries opened around the state, just as was intended by the people when they, in 2004, voted to approve marijuana as medicine.

One part of the 2011 restrictions that was struck down in Thursday's ruling was the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries charging for their products. But the court left intact a provision that said providers can only have three clients.

The ruling upheld a ban on medicinal cannabis advertising, and also upheld the requirement that any physician authorizing more than 25 medical marijuana patients per year must be reported to the Montana Board of Medical Examiners.

U.S.: GOP Candidates Out of Touch On Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

This week's Republican presidential debate in Colorado showed that the GOP candidates are out of touch with the majority of American voters when it comes to marijuana legalization, according to a leading financial advisor.

"Once again, the Republicans don't take the opportunity to speak to an overwhelming percentage of Americans in regards to state rights and legalization of marijuana," said David Dinenberg, CEO and founder of Kind Financial, a financial services firm for the legal cannabis industry. "The party should realize that several 'Red' states have some form of legalization on the 2016 ballots and the voters and consider the candidates' position on marijuana."

Dinenberg has made it no secret that he thinks the public debate should mirror the increasing intensity of the conversation, with more than 63 percent of Americans who believe marijuana should be legal. David would know, as he's well-versed in the political and financial angles of cannabis legalization issues.

"Last night's debate in Colorado revealed quite a bit about who is grounded in facts with a plan for the U.S. economy and who is just in it for a political dance," Dinenberg said. "How far cannabis has come in this country and how sophomoric the candidates can be!"

U.S.: Presidential Candidate Ben Carson Wants To Intensify The War On Drugs

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Presidential candidate Ben Carson, who is seeking the Republican nomination, wouldn't just continue to wage the failed War ON Drugs if elected, like everyone since Nixon. He would ramp up and intensify the futile policy, he said last week in an interview.

Speaking with conservative commentator Glenn Beck, Carson answered "Absolutely," when asked if he'd continue the War On Drugs. "I intensify it," he added.

"Legalize marijuana?" Beck asked. "I disagree with it," Carson replied.

Last year, Carson claimed marijuana is "gateway drug," despite all the science proving the contrary. "It tends to be a starter drug for people who move on to heavier duty drugs -- sometimes legal, sometimes illegal -- and I don't think this is something that we really want for our society," he said.

"You know, we're gradually just removing all the barriers to hedonistic activity and you know, it's just, we're changing so rapidly to a different type of society and nobody is getting a chance to discuss it because, you know, it's taboo," Carson claimed. "It's politically incorrect. You're not supposed to talk about these things."

No, Ben. You're not supposed to cluelessly spout in public and make yourself appear an idiot if you're interested in preserving any dignity.

U.S.: PR Firm Refusing Offers To Work On Christie Campaign Due To Anti-Pot Stance

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Hemp Public Relations on Tuesday announced that they are refusing all multi-million dollar offers to provide their expertise to Governor Chris Christie’s presidential campaign. For good measure, Hemp Public Relations has issued a lifetime ban on Christie for all company events.

“Governor Christie has publicly said as president, he would "crack down" on states that have ended prohibitions on marijuana," said Ryan McCormick, cofounder of Hemp Public Relations. "We feel that anyone who would threaten to subvert the will of the people and claim that their own personal ideology trumps that of the people is an affront to the very foundation of America.

"For this reason, Hemp Public Relations will refuse to work or assist the Christie campaign in any capacity for any amount of money,” McCormick said.

Hemp Public Relations helps individuals and businesses in the marijuana industry to achieve greater visibility in the public eye through the media. The company is founded by Mark Goldman and Ryan McCormick, public relations professionals who are the creators of New York based Goldman McCormick PR (www.goldmanmccormick.com) and Legal PR Team (www.legalprteam.com).

Tennessee: GOP Medical Marijuana Bill: Eat It Or Rub It On, But Don't Smoke It

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Tennessee's weirdly Puritan attitude towards cannabis is being highlighted this week by a medical marijuana bill being drawn up by Republican state lawmakers.

Those drafting the legislation said the measure would allow the cannabis to be eaten or applied externally through topical oil, but not smoked, reports Chris Bundgaard at WKRN.

"It would likely be the most conservative medical marijuana bill in the country, and if passed, the nation's most carefully controlled law," bragged Capitol Hill lobbyist David McMahan, who failed to explain what's so damned attractive about "the most conservative medical marijuana bill" rather than "the medical marijuana bill most helpful to patients." McMahan's lobbying firm has been hired to help guide the bill through the GOP-dominated Tennessee Legislature.

McMahan told News 2 he has been hired by a group called Tenncangrow, which is listed as a Murfreesboro LLC and headed by estate planning lawyer David B. Laroche.

The two GOP bill sponsors, Rep. Ryan Williams of Putnam County and Sen. Steve Dickerson, MD of Nashville, said the bill would be "limited" in scope.

McMahan called it a "carefully controlled measure with a limited delivery method." It really is starting to sound as if these folks believe that the fewer patients helped, the better a medical marijuana bill is.

U.S.: Sen. Ted Cruz Says He Supports States' Rights To Legalize Marijuana

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At least these days, both major political parties in the United States are smart enough to jockey for position on the marijuana issue rather than running away from as they did in the recent past. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Thursday told attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference that he supports states’ rights to legalize and regulate marijuana, notwithstanding federal law.

Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity asked Sen. Cruz whether it was a good or bad idea for Colorado to legalize and regulate marijuana, to which he replied:

“Look I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the laboratories of democracy.’ If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.”

A video of the exchange is available at http://bit.ly/1aqXrAC .

Sen. Cruz is the latest Republican presidential hopeful to take such a position. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) have also said they think the federal government should not interfere in states that legalize marijuana.

“Marijuana policy reform is, at its heart, a conservative issue," said Don Murphy, a former Republican state legislator from Maryland now serving as a federal policies analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "This is a matter of Federalism, the 10th Amendment, and state autonomy, which are core conservative priorities.

D.C.: Congress Still Negotiating District Marijuana Legalization

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Congress May Allow D.C. Legalization Law to Stand, But Block D.C. Council From Taxing and Regulating Marijuana

Opportunity to Restore Communities Most Harmed By War on Drugs in Jeopardy

In a dramatic turn of events, media reports suggest that Congress is still negotiating whether to overturn D.C.’s historic marijuana legalization initiative. Currently, sources are reporting that Congress is considering allowing Initiative 71, approved by 70 percent of District residents, to stand while preventing future action on the District of Columbia’s ability to tax and regulate marijuana.

These reports stand in sharp contrast to a previously reported deal that would have stopped the ballot measure from taking effect.

“It’s outrageous that Congress would even consider overriding the 70 percent of D.C. voters who supported November’s marijuana legalization initiative,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “While we are encouraged by reports that D.C.’s legalization law may survive, Democratic leadership can do much more.

"We are deeply troubled by reports that the final language will prevent the District from taxing and regulating marijuana,” Collins said.

U.S.: Cannabis Industry Calls On Congress To Respect People's Choice For Legalization

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Possible budget deal to block implementation of regulated system in D.C. violates overwhelming will of voters

“This is a move that would manage to be both cynical and stupid, not to mention deeply out of touch.” ~ Aaron Smith, NCIA

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) on Tuesday responded to reports that an upcoming Congressional budget deal may include a provision blocking the creation of regulations for Washington, D.C.’s marijuana legalization initiative, which passed on Election Day with more than 2-1 support from voters.

“D.C. voters overwhelmingly chose to take a smarter and safer approach to marijuana policy by allowing for the creation of a responsible, regulated system for production and sales,” said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith. “Apparently, Congress is not interested in being smart, or safe, or democratic.

“Dictatorially blocking D.C.’s ability to create a regulatory system for already-decriminalized marijuana isn’t just a violation of the voters’ clearly stated will," Smith said. "It would rob the city of the chance to mandate responsible selling practices, monitor for safe products, and benefit from a powerful economic engine.

“This is a move that would manage to be both cynical and stupid, not to mention deeply out of touch with the majority of American voters, who want the federal government to butt out of local marijuana policy choices,” Smith said.

U.S.: Willie Nelson Says Obama 'May Be Happy' About DC Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Obama "may be happy" that D.C. voters legalized marijuana in the nation's capital, according to country music legend and stalwart cannabis supporter Willie Nelson.

Nelson, who performed Thursday night at the White House for veterans, says he once smoked a joint on top of the presidential mansion after an appearance there during President Jimmy Carter's administration, reports Aaron C. Davis at The Washington Post.

The country music icon, a close personal friend of Paul Stanford and the Campaign to Restore and Regulate Hemp (CRRH), has given ringing endorsements to the political initiative work of CRRH.

Nelson said in an interview with CNN that he probably wouldn't bring up the topic of marijuana to Obama on Thursday night, but thinks the President is probably sympathetic to the cause.

"I think I realize how he feels about it and I've read some of his books and things about when he was a kid, how he may have delved into that matter a little bit," Nelson said. "I'm sure he's very understanding of what is going on and he may be happy to see it happening."

Minnesota: Marijuana Policy Project Makes Maximum Contribution To GOP Gubernatorial Candidate

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MPP backing Republican gubernatorial candidate in light of his support for a more compassionate and comprehensive medical marijuana program

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) PAC has contributed $4,000 to the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson. The contribution to the Johnson for Governor Campaign is the maximum allowed under Minnesota law.

Johnson is challenging Gov. Mark Dayton in the Minnesota gubernatorial election following a legislative session in which the governor refused to support a compassionate and comprehensive medical marijuana program championed by patients and approved by the Minnesota Senate. The contribution was made in light of Johnson’s support for the more inclusive legislation. A matching contribution was made to the Senate DFL PAC as well.

The medical marijuana proposal supported by Johnson and a bipartisan Senate coalition would have protected an estimated 30,000 seriously ill Minnesotans, according to a fiscal analysis prepared by the state. Gov. Dayton refused to sign such a bill and insisted on a restrictive program that will only help an estimated 5,000 patients.

The governor’s resistance also resulted in the law prohibiting the use of marijuana in its natural form, requiring patients to use oils or extracts that will be produced by just two manufacturers for the entire state. Some patients have said they will not sign up for the program because whole plant cannabis is the most effective form of treatment for their conditions.

Illinois NORML 'Appalled' That GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Would Delay Medical Marijuana Access

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Illinois NORML) on Tuesday announced they are "appalled" that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner wants to delay the application process for the dispensary and cultivation center licenses of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.

Rauner, a wealthy venture capitalist, on Tuesday called for transparency in the awarding of the licenses, and he wants the Illinois Legislature to pass a new law regarding transparency and bidding in the application process. Medical marijuana patients have already waited for years for the original bill to pass, according to Illinois NORML, "and have now had to wait months for the agencies to adopt rules and regulations that would guarantee a professional program to help ensure that program will eventually be made permanent."

"My message to Pat Quinn is this: Governor, the jig is up," Rauner said on Tuesday. "Stop this rigged process before it moves forward any further. The application process for medical marijuana should not be held in secret where insiders win and taxpayers lose; it should be open and transparent."

Twenty-two licenses will be issued by the Illinois Department of Agriculture for cultivation centers to grow medical cannabis. The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, meanwhile, will issue 60 licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries.

U.S.: GOP Congressmen Criticize Marijuana Legalization; Claim Pot Causes Car Wrecks

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Congressional Republicans on Thursday criticized Colorado and Washington state for legalizing marijuana, claiming pot causes automobile accidents.

Rep. John Mica (R-Florida), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, claimed stronger federal laws against marijuana were needed in light of the wave of states legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational uses, reports Marina Fang at The Huffington Post. Rep. Mica made the remarks during a hearing entitled "Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Operating While Stoned."

Rep. John Fleming (R-Louisiana) couldn't resist joining in, attacking Colorado voters for their recent decision to legalize weed. Fleming pointed to a study by the University of Colorado at Denver purportedly showing an increase in traffic fatalities in the state since voters legalized medical marijuana, implying that further loosing the marijuana laws is dangerous.

Interestingly, Fleming didn't mention another study, by University of Colorado Denver professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University professor D. Mark Anderson, which found that traffic fatalities drop nearly 9 percent in states after the legalize medical marijuana.

D.C.: Far-Reaching Marijuana Decriminalization Law Takes Effect In Nation's Capital

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Persons Caught With Up to One Ounce of Marijuana Will Be Fined $25 by D.C. Police Officers

House Republicans Want to Overturn Law While White House Defends It

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law on Thursday takes effect in the District of Columbia, replacing jail time with a $25 fine for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as the result of a year-long effort in the nation’s capital to reduce severe racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement by D.C. police officers.

The “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014” takes effect despite an ongoing Republican-led effort in Congress to block D.C. officials from implementing the law. It was approved by the D.C. Council 10-1 in April and signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray in March.

“We are hopeful that marijuana decriminalization will reduce excessive racial disparities in the enforcement of D.C.’s marijuana laws,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “While marijuana decriminalization is undeniable progress, the real solution is to join states like Colorado and Washington and legalize marijuana. Thankfully, D.C. voters are going to have that opportunity in November.”

U.S.: Marijuana PTSD Researcher Abruptly Fired From University of Arizona

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A prominent marijuana researcher who only months ago had received rare federal approval to study the effects of cannabis on patients with post traumatic stress disorder has been abruptly fired by the University of Arizona.

Professor Suzanne A. Sisley's dismissal puts her research at risk, and has caused dismay among medical marijuana advocates, reports Evan Halper at The Los Angeles Times.

Dr. Sisley, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, said she was fired after her research created unwanted attention for the university from legislative Republicans who control its funding.

"This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and educaiton I have been providing the public and lawmakers," Sisley said. "I pulled all my evaluations and this is not about my job performance."

University officials refused to explain the non-renewal of Sisley's contract, but claimed their motives weren't political.

"The university has received no political pressure to terminate any employee," claimed University of Arizona spokesman Chris Sigurdson, who noted that university supported a 2013 legislative measure permitting such studies.

Dr. Sisley got letters from university officials on Friday, telling her that she will be terminated from her job on September 26. The letters offered no explanation beyond citing guidelines which permit the university to fire its employees.

U.S.: Christie Says He Wouldn't Treat Marijuana States Well As President

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Friday that states which have legalized marijuana "probably" wouldn't be treated well if he is elected President.

The governor was campaigning with New Hampshire GOP gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein when he was asked by Brinck Slattery, a Republican running for state representative: "I know that you have some ambitions for D.C., perhaps. If you were President, how would you treat states that have legalized marijuana?"

"Probably not well," Christie responded, walking away from the conversation, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. "Not well, but we'll see. We'll have to see what happens." Christie's statement was captured in a video shot by Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

"It's one thing for Governor Christie to say he doesn't like what's happening in Colorado; quite another thing for him to threaten federal interference if he became President," Slattery said.

"Widely and generally speaking, that reflects his philosophy on marijuana, legalization and restrictions for medically based programs," said Michael Drewniak, Christie's press secretary, of the governor's comment.

Twenty-three states have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, with New York being the latest; Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational use as well. Alaska votes on legalization in August.

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