from the up-in-smoke dept.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions will roll back an Obama-era policy that gave states leeway to allow marijuana for recreational purposes.
Two sources with knowledge of the decision confirmed to The Hill that Sessions will rescind the so-called Cole memo, which ordered U.S. attorneys in states where marijuana has been legalized to deprioritize prosecution of marijuana-related cases.
The Associated Press first reported the decision.
Sessions, a vocal critic of marijuana legalization, has hinted for months that he would move to crack down on the growing cannabis market.
Republican Senator Cory Gardner says he will hold up the confirmation process for DoJ nominees:
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) threatened on Thursday to start holding up the confirmation process for White House Justice Department nominees unless Attorney General Jeff Sessions reverses a decision to roll back a policy allowing legalized recreational use of marijuana in some states.
Gardner said in a series of tweets that Sessions had told him before he was confirmed by the Senate that he would not change an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing marijuana-related offenses in states where the substance had been legalized. Colorado is one of those states.
[...] The Justice Department's reversal of the Cole memo on Thursday came three days after California's new law allowing recreational marijuana use went into effect.
Previously: New Attorney General Claims Legal Weed Drives Violent Crime; Statistics be Damned
4/20: The Third Time's Not the Charm
Jeff Sessions Reboots the Drug War
According to Gallup, American Support for Cannabis Legalization is at an All-Time High
Opioid Commission Drops the Ball, Demonizes Cannabis
Recreational Cannabis Goes on Sale in California
« How Did You Start Programming? | NVIDIA Updates License to Restrict Use of GeForce and Titan GPUs in Data Centers »
Like other politicians and government officials, President Trump's nominee for the position of Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, wants to have it both ways when it comes to encryption:
At his confirmation hearing, Sessions was largely non-committal. But in his written responses to questions posed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, however, he took a much clearer position:
Question: Do you agree with NSA Director Rogers, Secretary of Defense Carter, and other national security experts that strong encryption helps protect this country from cyberattack and is beneficial to the American people's' digital security?
Response: Encryption serves many valuable and important purposes. It is also critical, however, that national security and criminal investigators be able to overcome encryption, under lawful authority, when necessary to the furtherance of national-security and criminal investigations.
Despite Sessions' "on the one hand, on the other" phrasing, this answer is a clear endorsement of backdooring the security we all rely on. It's simply not feasible for encryption to serve what Sessions concedes are its "many valuable and important purposes" and still be "overcome" when the government wants access to plaintext. As we saw last year with Sens. Burr and Feinstein's draft Compliance with Court Orders Act, the only way to give the government this kind of access is to break the Internet and outlaw industry best practices, and even then it would only reach the minority of encryption products made in the USA.
The Center for American Progress reports
On [February 27], days after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters to expect stricter enforcement of federal pot law, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recycled discredited drug war talking points in remarks of his own.
"I believe it's an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we're seeing real violence around that", Sessions said. "Experts are telling me there's more violence around marijuana than one would think and there's big money involved."
In reality, violent crime rates tend to decrease where marijuana is legalized.
Denver saw a 2.2 percent drop in violent crime rates in the year after the first legal recreational cannabis sales in Colorado. Overall property crime dropped by 8.9 percent [PDF] in the same period there, according to figures from the Drug Policy Alliance. In Washington, violent crime rates dropped by 10 percent [PDF] from 2011 to 2014. Voters legalized recreational marijuana there in 2012.
Medical marijuana laws, which have a longer track record for academics than recreational pot legalization, are also associated with stable or falling violent crime rates. In one 2014 study of the 11 states that legalized medical pot from 1990 to 2006, there was no increase in the seven major categories of violent crime and "some evidence of decreasing rates of some types of violent crime, namely homicide and assault."
[...] Elsewhere in his remarks, Sessions unwittingly made the case against treating pot activity like serious crime. "You can't sue somebody for drug debt". he said. "The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that."
Legalizing, regulating, and taxing the sale of marijuana is the surest way to remedying that exact tendency for pot commerce to trigger violent score-settling. Legalization invites pot business into the light, granting cannabusinesses at least partial access to official modes of recourse when they are defrauded.
8 states and the District of Columbia have legalised marijuana for recreational use.
Ever see anyone use cannabis and become more aggressive rather than more mellow?
Note: ThinkProgress redirects all accesses of their pages and will attach tracking numbers. I have made sure that those are not in the URLs.
Since this time last year, Ohio, Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas legalized medical cannabis, Illinois decriminalized it, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis. An attempt to legalize recreational cannabis in Arizona narrowly failed.
29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use, although restrictions vary widely from state to state.
Germany's medical cannabis law was approved in January and came into effect in March. Poland has also legalized medical cannabis, and Georgia's Supreme Court has ruled that imprisonment for possession of small amounts of cannabis is unconstitutional.
🍁 Cannada: Not So Fast 🍁
Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled (archive) legislation (archive) that would make Canada the first major Western country to legalize recreational cannabis (the only country to legalize it to date is Uruguay, although implementation has taken years), dealing a serious blow to the crumbling United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. However, the Liberal Party of Canada intends to wait more than a year to act on its campaign promise, during which time Canadians can still face prosecution for possession of the drug:
True to form, this government has written down a series of talking points, in this case, trying to make it sound like it's cracking down on pot rather than legalizing it. And Justin Trudeau's ministers are sticking to the messaging from party central like a child reciting Dr. Seuss.
Not once in that As It Happens interview did [Justice Minister Jody] Wilson-Raybould explain why the government intends to keep on criminalizing Canadians so unfairly (see the Liberal party's website statement) for another year. Instead, literally every second time she opened her mouth, she re-spouted the line about "strictly regulating and restricting access." Off asked eight questions. Four times, Wilson-Raybould robotically reverted to the same phrase.
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, a parliamentary lifer who mastered the art of repetitive dronetalk sometime back in the last millennium, was out peddling more or less the same line, but with an added warning: Not only will the government continue to criminalize Canadians for what it considers a trifling offence, enforcement will be vigorous. "Existing laws prohibiting possession and use of cannabis remain in place, and they need to be respected," Goodale declared. "This must be an orderly transition. It is not a free-for-all." Why the government cannot simply decide to invoke prosecutorial and police discretion, and cease enforcing the cannabis laws it considers unjust, was not explained. Why that would necessarily be a "free for all" also went unexplained.
The Liberal Party of Canada has taken pains to remind everyone that the Conservative Party will "do everything they can to stop real change and protect a failed status quo". Unfortunately, they did not get the memo that "marijuana" is a term with racist origins.
Make like a tree and legalize it, Cannadia... Cannibinoidia.
President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Backtrack to April 20th, 2016. Bernie Sanders still seemingly had a shot at becoming the President of the United States. Sanders, as well as Hillary Clinton (though begrudgingly), supported decriminalization of cannabis, medical use, and the continuation of states making decisions about recreational use. The #2 Republican candidate Ted Cruz also had a "let the states sort it out" stance.
One contender stood out, and he went on to become the @POTUS to #MAGA. The widely predicted "third term" was prevented, and that outcome may greatly affect a burgeoning semi-legal cannabis industry. One recent casualty are Amsterdam-style "cannabis clubs" (think: brewpubs). Colorado's legislature has backed off on a bill that would have allowed on-site consumption of cannabis at dispensaries due to the uncertain future of federal enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
Trump's position on cannabis has been ill-defined, although he supports medical use and has indicated that states should handle the issue. But the same can't be said of his Attorney General, former Senator Jeff Sessions. Here are some quotes about the drug from Mr. Sessions:
We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger.
I think one of [President Obama's] great failures, it's obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana... It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started 'Just Say No.
You can't have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink... It is different... It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.
Good people don't smoke marijuana.
Cannabis advocates are becoming increasingly paranoid about the federal government's stance towards the states (and a certain District) that have legalized cannabis. And this is following an Obama administration that was criticized for conducting raids in states with legalization. It is too early to tell how the Trump administration will choose to deal with cannabis, but there are signs that harsher policies and greater enforcement could be coming:
On Wednesday, [April 5th,] Jeff Sessions directed Justice Department lawyers to evaluate marijuana enforcement policy and send him recommendations. And some state officials are worried. This week the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington wrote the attorney general. They asked Sessions and the new Treasury secretary to consult with them before making any changes to regulations or enforcement.
At the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer said recently that the president is sympathetic to people who use marijuana for medical reasons. He pointed out that Congress has acted to bar the Justice Department from using federal money to interfere in state medical cannabis programs. But Spicer took a harsh view of recreational marijuana. "When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we need to be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law we need to abide by," Spicer said.
Really, Spicer? Recreational cannabis use shouldn't be encouraged during an opioid addiction crisis? Read on.
Politics nexus unavailable for comment.
The Opioid Crisis Drags On (it's relevant)
Heroin use has become more dangerous as dealers have increasingly added other substances that massively increase potency without affecting the size of a dose significantly. Carfentanil, which is used as an elephant tranquilizer, has led to hundreds of deaths over very short timespans. It is impossible for the average user to predict the potency and potential danger of street heroin. While there have been international responses to these compounds, new chemical analogues are being created all the time:
Chinese labs producing the synthetic opiates play hide-and-seek with authorities. On their websites, they list fake addresses in derelict shopping centers or shuttered factories, and use third-party sales agents to conduct transactions that are hard to trace. The drugs themselves are easy to find with a Google search and to buy with a few mouse clicks. A recent check found more than a dozen Chinese sites advertising fentanyl, carfentanil, and other derivatives, often labeled as "research chemicals," for sale through direct mail shipments to the United States. On one website, carfentanil goes for $361 for 50 grams: tens of thousands of lethal doses.
The cat-and-mouse game extends to chemistry, as the makers tinker with fentanyl itself. Minor modifications like adding an oxygen atom or shifting a methyl group can be enough to create whole new entities that are no longer on the list of sanctioned compounds. Carfentanil itself was, until recently, unregulated in China.
2016 saw the addition of kratom to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in the U.S. Advocates for the tree leaf drug, which was formerly classified as a supplement, believe that its painkiller effects and low risk factors make it a useful replacement for the oft-deadly opioids that millions of Americans are addicted to. Kratom users have treated their pain and opioid withdrawal symptoms using the formerly "legal high". The DEA has refused to acknowledge this application and points out the "skyrocketing" number of calls to the Poison Control Center regarding kratom in recent years. One skeptic of kratom, Dr. Josh Bloom of the American Council on Science and Health, has looked at the same evidence and concluded that the trail of bodies left by substances like fentanyl and the scarce number of deaths (perhaps wrongly) attributed to kratom make it clear that the substance is the better "poison". He also notes that:
The number of calls to poison control centers is not reliable for determining how many poisonings actually occurred. It is a crude approximation at best.
Much like kratom, medical cannabis has been touted as a solution to the opioid crisis. States with legalized medical cannabis have seen a reduction in reported instances of opioid dependence [DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.01.006] [DX] So it is puzzling that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would use opioids as a bludgeon against cannabis legalization while AG Sessions expresses astonishment over the suggestion of using cannabis as a "cure" for the opioid crisis.
Bonus: Here's a video (2m14s) of a woman getting administered Narcan/naloxone. Here's an alternate video (2m39s) in which a man who overdosed on heroin is able to sit up in about a minute after being administered naloxone.
⚚ The Slow March for Science ⚕
While the Drug Enforcement Agency has refused to reclassify cannabis from its current Schedule I status, citing the supposedly rigorous conclusions reached by the Food and Drug Administration, it will allow more than one institution to grow cannabis for research purposes, ending the monopoly held by the University of Mississippi. However, the Schedule I status of cannabis remains an impediment to further research:
[...] DEA's decision not to reschedule marijuana presents a Catch-22. By ruling that there is not enough evidence of "currently accepted medical use"—a key distinction between the highly restrictive Schedule I classification and the less restrictive Schedule II—the administration essentially makes it harder to gather such evidence.
"They're setting a standard that can't be met," says David Bradford, a health economist at the University of Georgia, Athens. "That level of proof is never going to be forthcoming in the current environment because it requires doing a really extensive clinical trial series, and given that a pharmaceutical company can't patent whole plant marijuana, it's in no company's interest to do that."
Schedule I status presents obstacles for clinical researchers because of restrictions on how the drugs must be stored and handled, Bradford says. Perhaps more significant, that listing may evoke skittishness at funding agencies and on the institutional review boards that must sign off on research involving human subjects.
"It doesn't resemble cannabis. It doesn't smell like cannabis," Sisley told PBS NewsHour last week.
Jake Browne, a cannabis critic for the Denver Post's Cannabist marijuana news site, agrees. "That is, flat out, not a usable form of cannabis," he said. Browne should know: He's reviewed dozens of strains professionally and is running a sophisticated marijuana growing competition called the Grow-Off.
"In two decades of smoking weed, I've never seen anything that looks like that," Browne said. "People typically smoke the flower of the plant, but here you can clearly see stems and leaves in there as well, parts that should be discarded. Inhaling that would be like eating an apple, including the seeds inside it and the branch it grew on."
Research on cannabinoids and psychedelics is proceeding, slowly. One study published yesterday (74 years after the first LSD trip) came to an astounding conclusion: Psychedelics can induce a "heightened state of consciousness":
Healthy volunteers who received LSD, ketamine or psilocybin, a compound found in magic mushrooms, were found to have more random brain activity than normal while under the influence, according to a study into the effects of the drugs. The shift in brain activity accompanied a host of peculiar sensations that the participants said ranged from floating and finding inner peace, to distortions in time and a conviction that the self was disintegrating.
[...] What we find is that under each of these psychedelic compounds, this specific measure of global conscious level goes up, so it moves in the other direction. The neural activity becomes more unpredictable," said Anil Seth, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Sussex. "Until now, we've only ever seen decreases compared to the baseline of the normal waking state."
Increased spontaneous MEG signal diversity for psychoactive doses of ketamine, LSD and psilocybin (open, DOI: 10.1038/srep46421) (DX)
♯ Ending on High Notes ♯
And now to scrape the bottom of the barrel:
- Americans Don't Care If Their Parents Know They Smoke Weed, Survey Says
- California Today: At Newspapers, Covering Pot Like Wine (archive)
- Nation's first public needle vending machine for drug users debuts in Las Vegas
- GRiZ Won the Celebrity Weed Game Without Selling Out
- Secret A.T.F. Account Paid for $21,000 Nascar Suite and Las Vegas Trip (archive)
- Legal Marijuana Ends at Airport Security, Even if It's Rarely Stopped (archive)
- Anti-Heroin Video From a Florida Sheriff Appalls Critics but Impresses Constituents (archive)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that he has directed his federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible, including mandatory minimum sentences, in his first step toward a return to the war on drugs of the 1980s and 1990s that resulted in long sentences for many minority defendants and packed U.S. prisons.
[...] In the later years of the Obama administration, a bipartisan consensus emerged on Capitol Hill for sentencing reform legislation, which Sessions opposed and successfully worked to derail.
In a two-page memo to federal prosecutors across the country, Sessions overturned former attorney general Eric H. Holder's sweeping criminal charging policy that instructed his prosecutors to avoid charging certain defendants with offenses that would trigger long mandatory minimum sentences. In its place, Sessions told his more than 5,000 assistant U.S. attorneys to charge defendants with the most serious crimes, carrying the toughest penalties.
64% of Americans now support the legalization of cannabis, an all-time high since Gallup first asked the question in 1969. Also for the first time, a majority of Republicans (51%) support legalization, up from 42% last year:
As efforts to legalize marijuana at the state level continue to yield successes, public opinion, too, has shifted toward greater support. The Department of Justice under the current Republican administration has been perceived as hostile to state-level legalization. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions could find himself out of step with his own party if the current trends continue. Rank-and-file Republicans' views on the issue have evolved just as Democrats' and independents' have, though Republicans remain least likely to support legalizing pot.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, head of the presidential commission on opioids, warned of the dangers of marijuana in a letter to President Donald Trump earlier this month about the panel's findings, saying the current push for marijuana legalization could further fuel the opioid epidemic.
"There is a lack of sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana. This mirrors the lack of data in the 1990s and early 2000s when opioid prescribing multiplied across health care settings and led to the current epidemic of abuse, misuse and addiction," Christie wrote in the letter, which was released with the commission's final report.
"The Commission urges that the same mistake is not made with the uninformed rush to put another drug legally on the market in the midst of an overdose epidemic."
[...] But some experts say the commission's fixation on marijuana was bizarre and troubling, lending credence to outdated views of marijuana as a gateway drug. And these experts want to nip such thinking in the bud.
They emphasized that they support efforts to curb the nation's opioid epidemic, but not the demonization of marijuana in the process.
"I was surprised to see negative language about marijuana in the opioid report," said Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, a professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "Research that examines pain and marijuana shows that marijuana use significantly reduces pain. In addition, the majority of studies examining marijuana and opioids show that marijuana use is associated with less opioid use and less opioid-related deaths."
You had one job.
Study Finds That Legalized Medical Cannabis Led to a Decline in Medicare Prescriptions
New Attorney General Claims Legal Weed Drives Violent Crime; Statistics be Damned
4/20: The Third Time's Not the Charm
Jeff Sessions Reboots the Drug War
President Trump Declares the Opioid Crisis a National Emergency
According to Gallup, American Support for Cannabis Legalization is at an All-Time High
Opioid Crisis Official; Insys Therapeutics Billionaire Founder Charged; Walgreens Stocks Narcan
FDA Blocks More Imports of Kratom, Warns Against Use as a Treatment for Opioid Withdrawal
California will launch the world's largest regulated commercial market for recreational marijuana on Monday, as dozens of newly licensed stores catering to adults who enjoy the drug for its psychoactive effects open for business up and down the state.
It becomes the sixth U.S. state, and by far the most populous, venturing beyond legalized medical marijuana to permit the sale of cannabis products of all types to customers at least 21 years old.
Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Nevada were the first to introduce recreational pot sales on a state-regulated, licensed and taxed basis. Massachusetts and Maine are on track to follow suit later this year.
With California and its 39.5 million residents officially joining the pack, more than one-in-five Americans now live in states where recreational marijuana is legal for purchase, even though cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under U.S. law.
The marijuana market in California alone, which boasts the world's sixth-largest economy, is valued by most experts at several billion dollars annually and is expected to generate at least a $1 billion a year in tax revenue.
- All Politics — and Cannabis Marketing — Are Local (Study: Washington, Colorado Provide Insight for California)
- California preps for pot-infused fare, from wine to tacos
- As California legalizes pot, laws collide at US checkpoints
- Medley of agencies tasked with enforcing California pot laws
- The Failed War on Drugs
- Legal recreational pot in California: What you need to know
- New year brings broad pot legalization to California
- Latest: Confusion for LA dispensaries as legal pot begins
- California pot shops ring in 2018, ring up first legal sales
President Trump has promised Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado that he will support states that choose to legalize cannabis, despite rescinding the Cole Memo earlier in the year. In exchange, Gardner will stop holding up the confirmation of Trump's Department of Justice nominees:
"Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states' rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana," Gardner said in a statement. "Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice's rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado's legal marijuana industry. Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees," Gardner added.
The Washington Post first reported the development, and the White House confirmed on Friday Gardner's statement was accurate.
In January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo, Obama-era guidance designed to discourage prosecutors from targeting states that have legalized marijuana. The move provoked an outcry from marijuana friendly states, including Gardner's Colorado, in which the marijuana industry has flourished since 2000. Angry that Sessions had reneged on his pledge to leave marijuana states alone, Gardner promised to block all DOJ nominations, pending a resolution. Since then, he has held up about 20 Justice nominations, the Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who was "unalterably opposed" to legalization of cannabis back in 2011, has now evolved and is seeing green. Boehner announced that he has joined a board of advisers for Acreage Holdings, a cannabis corporation operating in 11 states. Is it a "watershed moment" for the industry?