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Congress Takes Unprecedented Step Of Ending Federal-State Conflict On Medical Marijuana


congress marijuana sanjay gupta weedNews from over the weekend:

With today’s US Senate vote, both houses of Congress have now approved an omnibus spending bill, which includes a measure prohibiting the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Patient advocates argue, with concurrence from law enforcement, that this historic measure, if signed into law, will dramatically impact DOJ enforcement, including ending federal medical marijuana raids, arrests, criminal prosecutions, and civil asset forfeiture lawsuits, as well as providing prisoners with a way to petition for their release.

“This is truly a long-fought victory for medical marijuana patients who have lived in fear of being caught in the crossfire of conflicting state and federal laws for nearly two decades,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana group that has pursued passage of the measure for years. “But this is also a victory for taxpayers because of the hundreds of millions of dollars saved on unnecessary and harmful enforcement.” According to a report issued last year by ASA, the Obama Administration has spent nearly $80 million annually on medical marijuana enforcement, more than $200,000 per day.

One of the starkest examples of the abusive enforcement practices of the DOJ is the widely-watched case of the Kettle Falls Five, a family of patients who were growing medical marijuana for their own personal use in accordance with Washington State law. The eldest family member, Larry Harvey, 70, traveled on two occasions to Washington, D.C. to lobby for passage of the measure. Harvey, who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and his co-defendants are scheduled to go to trial in February, but attorneys are expected to now file motions to dismiss.

The measure will not only impact the prosecution of the Kettle Falls Five and several other pending federal criminal cases, it will also curtail the enforcement practices of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the notorious federal agency responsible for hundreds of aggressive, paramilitary-style raids over the years. According to advocates, numerous civil asset forfeiture cases being litigated by U.S. Attorneys in California against licensed medical marijuana dispensaries inBerkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco will also be derailed if the measure is signed into law.

For the past three years, US Attorneys have threatened elected officials, property owners, anddispensary operators with legal action in more than half of the states that adopted medical marijuana laws. Threats made by the DOJ against lawmakers have both suspended and completely stopped implementation in at least six medical marijuana states. US Attorneys sent letters threatening criminal prosecution and property seizure to hundreds of landlords in California and Colorado, resulting in the closure of more than 600 lawful medical marijuana businesses.

This marks the seventh time Congress has tried to restrict DOJ enforcement of medical marijuana. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law and, if he does, the DOJ measure will remain in effect for the rest of the fiscal year, until September 30, 2015.

In the meantime, advocates will continue lobbying for a more comprehensive public health policy on medical marijuana, which they say is embodied in HR 689, the “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act.” HR 689 aims to reclassify marijuana for medical use, increase therapeutic research, and restrict DOJ enforcement on a more permanent basis. “Now that we are in a ‘ceasefire,’ patients are ready to work with Congress on comprehensive medical marijuana legislation,” continued Sherer. “Passage of this measure has shown that Congress is ready to roll up its sleeves on this issue, and we’re ready to work together to bring about broader and more lasting change for the millions of Americans who rely on medical marijuana treatments.”

Further information:
Amendment restricting DOJ enforcement in medical marijuana states

Source: Americans for Safe Accessmake a donation


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Johnny Green


  1. Tired of asking questions, I am moving back to Denver, too hard to find quality weed here in Bloomington Indiana, EVEN if they removed the hate laws from the books and gave me a major money through some salaried job, if there is no way i can buy quality hashish here, then why would i waste my life here the way my poor grand parents did, waste of a state this place, unless you are a pill head, or alcoholic, or other things, which i am not

  2. Montana isn’t California, Oregon or Washington. These three have had medical marijuana laws on the books since the late 1990’s. The Court places a very high standard upon those trying to eliminate law having a strong legal precedent. Especially those intended to help sick people.

  3. Medical has been legal in California since 1996, Oregon and Washington since 1998. Whether recreational remains is up for debate. But there is strong precedent bolstering the first three state laws legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

  4. That’s the thing — the President doesn’t need to issue an EO to reschedule. There’s a legal mechanism for the executive branch to do so, described in detail in the CSA. No EO necessary unless the CSA is rewritten to strip the Whitehouse of that power. Claiming that they’re avoiding political “fire” because they do not wish to issue and executive order is just another cheap excuse — more semantic contortionism — to justify why they *can’t* do something. There is no legal mechanism for the actions taken by the immigration EO, which is why an EO was needed to do it. There *is* a legal mechanism to reschedule cannabis.

    I understand the need for optimism, but we have to be realistic, first. The people in the cannabis industry in medical states are now operating under a FALSE pretense — they think they’re safe from the DEA. They must not let their defenses down. This bait-and-switch with DOJ funds is meant to set up cannabis reform for a one-two combo punch. Consider how demoralizing it will be when the DEA launches a dozen concurrent raids on dispensaries and growers *after* the spending bill is law. Activists need to prepare, not drop their guard.

  5. They’re supposedly paid throught he DOJ, but the ONDCP has $70 million in their budget for US Attorneys. I don’t imagine they’ve put aside $70 million to buy those US Attorneys toilet seats. It’s to finance prosecutions for the DEA.

  6. Neither does section 538 keep those states listed from implementing individually tailored plans in order to improve medical marijuana patient access to cannabis in their states. This holds true especially for state veterans suffering severe PTSD symptom’s. This law helps cover medical/ industrial hemp growing states too, until federal re-scheduling can occur. This appears unlikely , at least until late 2016. The President can act on his own using an Executive Order. But given the recent Republican hair on fire response to his immigration reform EO, which prompted the House chamber to sue the Executive in order to try and stop further EO’s from setting federal policy without their input. Again, this was a bill passed primarily with veterans suffering from PTSD symptoms in mind. It also brought unusual bi-partisan support mostly because no Republicans wanted to go home to their home districts (where medical cannabis is legal) and have to explain to their constituents just why they voted to deny veteran’s the medical help they needed obtaining cannabis in order to treat their PTSD symptom’s.That’s not exactly a winning political strategy, even in heavily gerrymandered Republican state districts. We owe a debt of gratitude to these veterans. This bill would never have made it out of committee without their (and their parents) input. I look at this law as being a glass half full, rather than being a glass half empty. Baby steps are steps forward nonetheless.

  7. Question: Where do US Attorneys get their funding?

    There would seem to be little point in raids if the defendants could not be prosecuted.

  8. And the last time he came through on one of his numerous promises regarding this issue was…oh, that’s right, never!

  9. But what of the rights of people like myself, in a state that has hate laws against my right to use a substance that Jesus was supposed to have used to heal the sick, here Bloomington, indiana, i tried calling ewtn, and tho folks hosting the radio show had not heard of the word kaneh-bosm, so that talls alot right there as for why a lot of church folk know nothing about vannabus, it had been removed after the Septuagint, detals can be found here


  10. She must be related to Harry Anslinger
    Dont forget what Montana went through FEdS assisted in shuttling down MM

  11. The Intent of the law is understood ….. As to where money comes from that has no bearing ….. The DEA is to STOP raiding State Legal Grows in the States where legal ….

    As more States ramp up their legal weed more will be added via amendment until the DEA, our fearless President and Congress finally decide to remove from Schedule One Status ….

    With some many new legal grows such as DC and Indian Reservarions now eventually the good old USofA will need to back off Schedule One Status and that is when all heck will break loose and weed will become legal in almost, ALMOST, every State ……

    Look for 2015 to be a watershed year for legal weed!

  12. I remember the ziptie program up north .when the Feds tried to take the money sheriff Allman said “we spent it”

  13. Those are just the contributions to those entities through the ONDCP. I’m sure the DOJ also funds them, but thanks to the miracle of accurate accounting, people are able to argue that *certain* money comes from a *certain* source and is spent in a *certain* way. So the US Attorneys, the DEA, the Prison System, etc etc can all say they’re in compliance with Section 538 because they can prove the funds they spend this FY on cannabis enforcement come from the ONDCP.

  14. Ugh. And look at that budget. The DEA gets four times more than the Federal Prison System or Organized Crime? Five times more than the Criminal Division? Have we lost our minds? Yes.

  15. That is depressing. So, the DOJ probably wasn’t spending much on cannabis prosecutions anyway, and this won’t make any difference?

  16. I’m afraid she won’t. The DEA’s budget comes from the ONDCP, not the DOJ. The only section that restricts the DEA by name is 539, the “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp” section. So at the very least, universities growing and researching hemp won’t need to worry about the DEA shooting up the campus. But for everyone else, the DEA still has the cash to kick down doors.

  17. I appreciate the link to the whole text of the spending bill. I’m sad to say, I finally read the sections in question.

    Section 538 reads as follows.
    “None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Clearly, it restricts the DOJ from spending funds granted by the spending bill on medical cannabis in these states. However, the DEA is not mentioned specifically by name (as it is in Section 539, the Industrial Hemp section). So the DEA is not restricted from spending money on enforcement because the DEA gets its funding through the ONDCP, not the DOJ. The DEA’s budget actually *increased* by $30 million from last year.

    From the ONDCP budget for FY2015:
    Assets Forfeiture Fund – $238,400,000
    Bureau of Prisons – $477,600,000
    Criminal Division – $41,700,000
    Drug Enforcement Administration – $2,384,700,000
    Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Program – $505,000,000
    Office of Justice Programs – $274,600,000
    U.S. Attorneys – $77,000,000
    U.S. Marshals Service – $242,400,000
    Federal Prisoner Detention – $543,000,000

    I regret to inform everyone that both the DEA who enjoys raiding medical cannabis states as well as the US Attorneys who enjoy prosecuting those cases for them are funded through the ONDCP, not the DOJ. In total, $7.7 billion is granted by Congress to the ONDCP specifically meant for Domestic Law Enforcement that is not affected by Section 538 of the spending bill because it doesn’t restrict the ONDCP from spending funds.

    Since nobody realized the DEA isn’t funded by the DOJ, DC Voters were sold out for a cheap ruse.

  18. Michele Leonhart’s head might melt when this is signed by President Obama and becomes law. Hooray!

  19. In short order we will know if the president plans to uphold the republic’s request to have the will of the people heard or if the executive branch is in league with a more sinister group of vultures. His DOJ was the one who issued a statement saying something similar, so to have it on his desk ready to sign should be an easy step for him, right?
    The memo basically states what the feds are going to focus on, none of the aforementioned in the memo mention cracking down on state legalized medical marijuana, or that states rights will be rescinded and federal law still applies regarding medical marijuana.
    Come on Barack, sign this bill if it gets to your desk.

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