jeff sessions

United States: Cannabis Is Safer Than Opioids, According To Several Studies

Cannabis Vs. Opioids

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

In the midst of an opioid epidemic in the United States, research studies show that using cannabis to treat chronic pain is a safer, less addictive alternative to narcotics.

In 2014, in a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers found that “in states where medical cannabis is legal to manage chronic pain and other conditions, the annual number of deaths from prescription drug overdose is 25 percent lower than in states where cannabis use is illegal. The study was published in the Aug. 25th issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

United States: Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Escalating War On Cannabis

Jeff Sessions - War On Drugs

It's time for smart criminal justice reforms – not regressive, recycled policies

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is spouting reefer madness rhetoric and promoting policies that pragmatic Americans have been working hard to put in the past. With near-consensus that the War on Drugs was a failure on every level, the country is ready to move to smart and commonsense reforms to our criminal justice system.

From state legislatures to the ballot box, the American people want common-sense sentencing policy reform – and the policies AG Sessions has proposed are anything but sensible.

United States: Trump Administration Rhetoric Against Cannabis Includes Mandatory Minimums

Sessions Trump

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

In May, the Trump Administration upped its tough-on-crime rhetoric, which would put in place policies that would take our country back into the dark era of the 1980's. A memo last month from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which directed federal prosecutors to pursue the severest penalties possible for any crime, including drug offenses, sought mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug crimes.

Sessions, recently proclaimed, “We know that drugs and crime go hand-in-hand. Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t file a lawsuit in court. You collect it by the barrel of a gun.”

One of the key architects of Sessions' sentencing memo was Steven Cook, a former federal criminal justice prosecutor.

United States: Brooklyn District Attorney Tells Attorney General Jeff Sessions 'Brooklyn's Decriminalization Is A Success'

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While the Trump administration advocates for a draconian stance on drugs by pushing for harsh criminal penalties, Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez's declaration advocates for a pragmatic approach to the war on drugs.

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a return to federal drug policies of the 1980’s, policies which end in mass incarceration.

In an opinion piece published on Sunday for City and State New York, Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez as was critical of AG Jeff Sessions for his barbaric stance regarding the failed drug war.

U.S.: Willie Nelson Tells U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions To Smoke Some Pot

Willie Nelson 2016

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

On May 17, singer-songwriter Willie Nelson had some advice for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said marijuana is only “slightly less awful” than heroin.

Sessions has also said in the past that "good people don't smoke marijuana." As the nation's top law enforcement officer, he has signaled a broad crackdown against both social and medicinal uses of the drug, which remains illegal federally.

Washington, DC: Congress Reauthorizes Protection For State Medical Marijuana Programs

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

State-sanctioned medical marijuana and industrial hemp programs are safe for now as Congress has approved spending legislation which the President has signed into law that reauthorizes language protecting those programs. But the President issued a signing statement expressing his personal opposition to the measure, saying that those provisions could interfere with his constitutional authority. Signing statements are often issued by presidents, but they do not carry the weight of law.

Section 537 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, states that no federal funds may be appropriated to "prevent any [state] from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." That language is now known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, passed in 2014.

State-sponsored hemp programs were also reauthorized, thanks to a similar amendment.

Both amendments will remain in effect until September 30, 2017; at that time members of Congress will once again need to either reauthorize the language or let the provisions expire.

Forty-six states presently acknowledge the therapeutic use of marijuana and various marijuana-derived products. Thirty states recognize hemp as an industrial crop.

California: Attorney General Becerra Vows To Fight Feds On Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he would “probably be the 1 millionth person in line” to fight Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he tried to crackdown on California's legal marijuana industry in a recent interview with Politico.

“Cannabis is last century’s argument. We’re beyond that,” Becerra said in the interview. “I suspect if you took a real quick poll here, I bet if we took a poll, who has got cannabis, it’d be pretty — you don’t have to raise your hand, but you know what I’m saying.”

The former Democratic Congressman admitted that he had tried it “at a younger time” when asked by reporter David Siders about his own marijuana use.

“So then it was illegal?” Siders asked the Attorney General.

“I also drive over the speed limit periodically, so,” Becerra responded.

The federal budget includes an amendment that prevents the Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana regimes and hemp programs but it does not include language preventing a crackdown on recreational programs. Donald Trump recently included a statement in an omnibus spending bill that could allow him to ignore the amendment.

“I would love to see Jeff Sessions come to California and tell us we’re not going to move forward on cannabis,” Becerra said. “Something tells me that it’s not gonna happen.”

Washington, DC: Attorney General Sessions Orders Return To Harsher Drug Penalties

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo Wednesday to thousands of assistant U.S. attorneys throughout the country and all of the assistant district attorneys in Washington D.C. that will reverse some of the more lenient policies regarding drug convictions. The move could result in a spike of Drug War-era mandatory minimum sentences — even for nonviolent drug offenders.

Sessions orders prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” in the memo.

“We are returning to the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress, plain and simple,” Sessions said during a speech on Friday. “If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way, we will not be willfully blind to your misconduct.”

Sessions is well known for being aggressive on drug crimes. He recently said that marijuana is only "slightly less awful than heroin", and said in 2016 that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

U.S. Trump Reserves Right To Ignore Medical Marijuana Protections

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

President Trump signed his first major piece of legislation last Friday -- a $1 trillion spending bill that prevented a federal government shutdown -- but with his signature he included the reservation that he may ignore medical cannabis protections found in the bill.

“I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” President Trump wrote in his signing statement, according to a Summit Daily report.

Trump's statement has created confusion on how Trump is going to deal with marijuana. In one interview he said, “Legalized marijuana is always a very difficult question. For medicinal purposes and medical purposes, it’s fine.”

But since moving into the White House, he has seemed less open to the idea. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there could be “greater enforcement” of federal cannabis laws.

Attorney general Jeff Sessions spoke out about cannabis in March, saying it is “only slightly less awful” than heroin. He also said that medical marijuana “had been hyped, maybe too much.”

However, Sessions suggested he would protect state’s rights to legalize medical marijuana.

Colorado: Gov. Hickenlooper Meets With AG Sessions, Hopeful Administration Will Maintain Status Quo

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and came away with the feeling that a federal crackdown on states with legalized marijuana is not likely, the Denver Post reports. Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff Doug Friednash indicated that Sessions is more focused on other priorities, such as the proposed border wall, than he is with legal marijuana markets.

Friednash said that Sessions viewed the 2014 Cole memo as “not too far from good policy.” The Cole memo directs the Department of Justice to not interfere in state-sanctioned cannabis programs.

Hickenlooper pointed out to the attorney general that since legalization there has been no rise in teenage cannabis use in the state, and that emergency room visits have steadily decreased as officials have enacted laws to better regulate cannabis-infused edibles.

Colorado lawmakers backed off a plan earlier this month to legalize cannabis social clubs, after Hickenlooper indicated he did not support the plan due to fears that it could attract federal intervention.

U.S.: DHS Chief Kelly Reverses Marijuana Comments

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly reversed comments he recently made on marijuana Tuesday in his first major speech since being sworn in.

Just two days before, in an interview on "Meet the Press", Kelly said that marijuana is not “a factor in the drug war.”

“Yeah, marijuana is not a factor in the drug war,” Kelly told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s Sunday show, saying that meth, heroin and cocaine are the three main drugs that have played a role in the U.S. drug crisis that killed more than 52,000 people in 2015.

But during his speech Tuesday, Kelly vowed that Department of Homeland Security staff would continue to investigate and arrest those involved in illegal trade of the drug and called marijuana “a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs.”

"... Its use and possession is against federal law and until the law is changed by the U.S. Congress we in DHS are sworn to uphold all the laws on the books," he added.

"DHS personnel will continue to investigate marijuana’s illegal pathways along the network into the U.S., its distribution within the homeland, and will arrest those involved in the drug trade according to federal law. [Customs and Border Protection] will continue to search for marijuana at sea, air and land ports of entry and when found take similar appropriate action.

U.S.: New White House Drug Czar Has Quite An Idea Where To Put Nonviolent Drug Users

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) will be President Trump's drug czar, CBS News reports. Marino's congressional voting record shows he is a hard-liner on marijuana issues and he recently said that he'd like to put nonviolent drug offenders in some sort of “hospital-slash-prison.”

Marino will oversee the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a branch of the White House that advises the president on drug policy issues. Whereas the office under President Obama quite publicly retired the phrase “war on drugs,” Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is moving to put criminal justice back at the forefront of drug policy.

Although Marino seems to share that view, his views are unlikely to influence the administration's policy in the same ways Sessions's views do. The drug czar's office has traditionally played a limited role in setting policy. It coordinates drug control strategy and funding across the federal government instead.

In Congress, Marino voted several times against a bipartisan measure to prevent the Justice Department from going after state-legal medical marijuana businesses, a measure which eventually passed.

He voted against a measure to allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients, as well as against a separate measure to loosen federal restrictions on industrial hemp.

Oregon: Lawmakers Pass Bill Banning Marijuana Merchants From Keeping Buyer Information

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Oregon lawmakers approved a bill Monday to ban sellers of marijuana for recreational use from keeping information from their customers to protect buyers from possible penalties under federal law.

Although more than two dozen states have legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use, the drug remains illegal at the federal level.

The bill, passed by the Oregon House of Representatives 53-5, bans merchants who sell recreational marijuana from keeping information for more than 48 hours that they collect from identification, such as a driver license.

The state Senate approved the bill in March. It now goes to the desk of Oregon Governor Kate Brown for her to sign into law.

"I personally am very concerned that we give as much protection to Oregon citizens to ensure that their personal identification information is not somehow compromised," Senator Floyd Prozanski told a committee last month.

Recent comments from members of the Trump administration indicate that federal anti-marijuana laws might be stepped up.

Brown and the governors of Alaska, Colorado and Washington - states where recreational marijuana use has been legalized - sent a letter in early April to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin requesting to work with the administration if they planned to enforce federal marijuana laws.

California: Marijuana 'Sanctuary' State Bill Proposed

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make the state a "sanctuary" for the marijuana industry and the many residents who legally use the plant.

In an effort to avoid a federal crackdown on the Schedule I classified drug, which Attorney General Jeff Sessions has alluded to considering, lawmakers introduced a new bill that would prevent local and state officers from enforcing certain federal marijuana laws on marijuana businesses, cultivators and consumers unless they obtained a court order signed by a judge.

The measure, known as Assembly Bill 1578, would prohibit “using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person [and/or transfer them to federal authorities] for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by a law in the State of California.”

The law would also protect the private information of marijuana businesses and customers, as it would prohibit local and state authorities from sharing personal records and documents regarding cannabis from the federal government.

The bill, introduced in February, was sponsored by Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer along with three other assembly members and two senators.

U.S: Governors From Four Marijuana States Ask Trump Administration To Leave Cannabis Alone

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Governors from the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana want the Trump administration to leave marijuana research alone.

In a letter sent Monday, the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington say that marijuana legalization has expanded their economies.

The governors also say in the letter that legal marijuana can be regulated to protect public safety and that legalization reduces "inequitable incarceration," or people of color being disproportionately jailed for cannabis crimes.

The letter was addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The governors say they opposed legalization at first, but warn that a federal pot crackdown at this point "would divert existing marijuana product into the black market."

U.S.: Roger Stone Calls For Trump To Back Legal Marijuana, Hits Sessions For 'Outmoded Thinking'

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Roger Stone, a long-time enthusiastic surrogate of President Donald Trump, has publicly implored the president to back marijuana legalization. Quoting Thomas Jefferson and The Bible to justify his position, he also blasted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his "outmoded thinking" on cannabis.

Stone published a blog post on Friday calling on Trump to remain true to sentiments he expressed as a presidential candidate, when he said that marijuana legalization should be left to the states. His administration has suggested in recent days that it would err on the side of stricter enforcement of marijuana laws.

Stone said the president should "honor his word and keep his promise, irrespective of what his Cabinet members may say." The Republican added that "there are so many other ways that law enforcement can be put to good use rather than to persecute harmless farmers and shopkeepers who are abiding by state law."

Stone took aim at Sessions on his website, saying the former Alabama Senator was "far from the mainstream" in his opposition to marijuana.

"Perhaps Attorney General Sessions has forgotten his Genesis from the Old Testament," wrote Stone, a veteran political operative who often is seen defending Trump on news shows.

U.S.: Public Support For Marijuana Legalization Surged In 2016

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Public support for marijuana legalization surged in 2016, according to data just released from the General Social Survey.

57 percent of Americans told the survey's pollsters last year that they “think the use of marijuana should be legal,” up from 52 percent in 2014.

The numbers from the General Social Survey agree with other national surveys last year, which found support ranging from the upper 50s to low 60s.

The survey indicates different attitudes toward marijuana legalization, divided mainly by age and political party. Two-thirds of respondents ages 18 to 34 supported legalization in the survey, as well as majorities of those ages 35 to 49 and 50 to 64. But seniors 65 and older stood apart, with only 42 percent supporting legalization.

Support for legalization among Democrats and independents has risen much faster than among Republicans. In 2016, more than 60 percent of the former two groups supported legal marijuana. Among Republicans support stood at only 40 percent.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been outspoken in his criticism of legalization, but the Trump administration has been noncommittal in its approach to marijuana enforcement

Oregon: Two Congressmen Are Introducing Three Bills To Reform U.S. Marijuana Laws

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Two Oregon lawmakers plan to introduce three bills Thursday to reform marijuana laws. The bills could wipe away thousands of cannabis-related criminal convictions and make life easier for those involved in the legal marijuana industry.

Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, both Democrats from Oregon, a state where recreational marijuana is legal, named their joint proposal the "Path to Marijuana Reform".

One bill, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, deals specifically with tax issues related to the marijuana industry. It would change the tax code “to allow businesses operating in compliance with state law to claim deductions and credits associated with the sale of marijuana like any other legal business.” deals specifically with tax issues related to the marijuana industry.

The Marijuana Revenue And Regulation Act would remove cannabis from the list of drugs federally outlawed by the Controlled Substances Act. Currently, weed is listed in the Schedule I category, which is reserved for the most dangerous types of drugs, like heroin, for example.

The Marijuana Policy Gap Act would “exempt any person acting in compliance with state marijuana law from criminal penalties” under the Controlled Substances Act. It would also give certain federal marijuana offenders a clean slate.

Tennessee: Legislature Blocking Cities' Push To Ease Marijuana Punishment

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

As several states and cities seek to ease criminal punishment for marijuana possession, Tennessee's Republican legislature is blocking such efforts in Memphis and Nashville.

Police in those cities could soon be losing their option of issuing a minor citation to individuals found to possess small amounts of marijuana.

Tennessee legislators have agreed to bar cities from issuing civil citations for marijuana possession.

The ban would conform to proposals by the Trump administration to step up federal enforcement of marijuana laws.

"I am definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said recently. "But states, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not."

Memphis and Nashville recently authorized their police officers to issue a civil citation for a $50 fine or community service to someone caught with a half ounce or less of marijuana.

Tennessee law currently imposes a misdemeanor charge for possession punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine for people caught with a half ounce or less.

U.S.: Study Finds Marijuana Could Help Curb The Opioid Epidemic

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A new study shows that U.S. hospitals have not seen an influx of cannabis consumers in states that have legalized medical marijuana as was predicted, but instead have treated far fewer opioid users.

The number of patients admitted for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse decreased on average by 23 percent after states legalized marijuana for medical purposes. The study also showed that hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent on average.

The report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence showed that fears that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to an increase in marijuana-related turned out to be unfounded.

"Instead, medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers," said study author Yuyan Shi, a public health professor at the University of California, San Diego. "This study and a few others provided some evidence regarding the potential positive benefits of legalizing marijuana to reduce opioid use and abuse, but they are still preliminary."

An estimated 60 percent of Americans now live in the 28 states and Washington, D.C. where medical marijuana is now legal under state law.

The opioid epidemic kills 91 Americans per day; sales of prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin have quadrupled since 1999.

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