Archive for the ‘congress’ category

18 Members of Congress Call on President Obama to Remove Marijuana from Schedule I

February 12th, 2014

Earlier today, 18 members of Congress signed onto a letter that was delivered to President Barack Obama calling for him to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

“We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana. Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws,” the letter reads, “Nearly two-thirds of a million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession. We spend billions every year enforcing marijuana laws, which disproportionately impact minorities. According to the ACLU, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates.”

The letter was signed by Representatives Blumenauer (OR), Cohen (TN), Farr (CA), Grijalva (AZ), Honda (CA), Huffman (CA), Lee (CA), Lofgren (CA), Lowenthal (CA), McGovern (MA), Moran (VA), O’Rourke (TX), Polis (CO), Quigley (IL), Rohrabacher (CA), Schakowsky (IL), Swalwell (CA), and Welch (VT).

“Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana,” the letter continued, “A Schedule I or II classification also means that marijuana businesses in states where adult or medical use are legal cannot deduct business expenses from their taxes or take tax credits due to Section 280E of the federal tax code. We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.”

You can read the full text of the letter here.

Press Release: Eighteen Members of Congress Call on Obama to Reschedule Marijuana

February 12th, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 12, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc415.823.5496

EIGHTEEN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS CALL ON OBAMA TO RESCHEDULE MARIJUANA

Current Scheduling Limits Medical Research, Creates Hurdles to Legitimate Business

Bill to “Unmuzzle Drug Czar” Also Introduced

WASHINGTON, DC–Citing high numbers of arrests, billions of dollars wasted, disproportionate effects on black Americans and the relative safety of marijuana, a group of eighteen Congress members today called on President Obama to “delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.” The move comes in light of Obama’s recent comments to The New Yorker that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and that it was important to allow legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington to proceed.

Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, a classification for drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Because of this classification, most medical research on marijuana is prohibited, it cannot be prescribed in accordance with federal law and it creates a host of tax and business regulation problems for state-legal marijuana businesses trying to comply in good faith with all relevant laws.

“No drug should be listed as Schedule I, which limits potentially life-saving research into both benefits and dangers of a substance and guarantees a violent, illegal market for the product,” said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.) “This is even more true of marijuana right now, when after four decades of failure, states are doing their best to find something that works and federal regulations keep interfering with their doing so.”



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New Bill In Congress Would Make Drug Czar Respect Science

February 12th, 2014
stevecohen-263x300

Rep. Steve Cohen

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced a bill Tuesday that would change federal law so that the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), commonly known as the “drug czar,” is no longer prohibited from studying the legalization of marijuana and no longer required to oppose attempts to legalize marijuana for medical or broader adult use.

Specifically, H.R. 4046, the Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014, would amend the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 to remove the following language from the obligations of the director:

(12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of [the Controlled Substances Act] and.take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that 

(A) is listed in schedule I of section 812 of this title; and

(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;

Rep. Cohen and other members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform slammed the ONDCP during a hearing last week. Rep. Cohen chided the office for failing to address the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s obstruction of research into the medical benefits of marijuana. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) criticized it for relying on marijuana “propaganda.” ONDCP Deputy Director Michael Botticelli drew criticism for refusing to acknowledge that marijuana poses less potential harm to the consumer than heroin or methamphetamine.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign our Change.org petition asking President Obama to reschedule marijuana and share it with your friends.

Congressional Committee Slams Deputy Drug Czar

February 5th, 2014

Members of Congress grilled a representative from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and slammed the office for failing to acknowledge key facts about marijuana. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) chided the drug czar’s office for relying on marijuana “propaganda.” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) criticized the office for failing to address the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s obstruction of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

Michael-Botticcelli

ONDCP Deputy Director Michael Botticelli

During his testimony regarding the Obama administration’s marijuana policy, ONDCP Deputy Director Michael Botticelli refused to acknowledge that marijuana poses less potential harm to the consumer than heroin or methamphetamine.

Some of the highlights of the hearing:

Rep. Blumenauer telling Dir. Botticelli “you’re part of the problem.” …

Rep. Cohen telling Dir. Botticelli to “ask Phillip Seymour Hoffman if marijuana is as dangerous as heroin.” …

Rep. Gerry Connolly pressing the witness on the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.

 

Press Release: House Oversight Committee Holds Hearings on Marijuana

February 4th, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 4, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc415.823.5496

HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARINGS ON MARIJUANA

ONDCP Head Claims Obama Administration Trying to Treat Marijuana Use As Public Health Issue

Rep. Blumenauer Calls ONDCP’s Failure to be Honest About Drug Harms “Part of the Problem”

WASHINGTON, DC–Office of National Drug Control Policy Deputy Director Michael Botticelli testified about the Obama administration’s marijuana policy to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today in a hearing that at times got quite heated. Botticelli defended Obama administration policies Chairman John Mica (R-FL) called “fractured” and “schizophrenic,” saying the administration is dedicated to treating marijuana use as a public health issue rather than a law enforcement matter. That statement was questioned by other Congressmembers who cited the 750,000 arrests and billions of dollars spent by states every year on law enforcement intervention.

The most heated exchange, however, came after Botticelli refused to answer questions about marijuana’s relative safety as compared with cocaine, methamphetamine and tobacco, all of which are less stringently regulated under the Controlled Substances Act than marijuana (nicotine, a legal drug, does not appear on the schedule). Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) commented that despite Botticelli’s talk of educational programs, until he was able to speak about the real harms of drugs rather than spouting inaccurate propaganda, children would not hear the message. He then opined whether a friend who had died of a heroin overdose would still be alive if he had received real education on the dangers of the drug. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) went even further, calling ONDCP’s refusal to realistically discuss drug use “part of the problem.”   

“I don’t think people should smoke marijuana. Every drug–including those you get from your doctor–has real harms. But if you educate people about those harms and how to minimize them, you diminish their impact and ensure that your warnings will be heeded,” commented Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.). “Part of the ridiculous logic of the war on drugs is that even when asked a direct question by members of Congress, the head of the agency tasked with administering our drug policy cannot answer truthfully questions that could save lives.”

The hearing focused largely on the racial disparities engendered by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws, the lifelong impact of marijuana convictions (which, unlike murder and other violent crimes can disqualify a person from receiving some federal student loans as well as other legal entitlements), the failure of the drug war to reduce use, the money wasted on prohibition, misplaced law enforcement priorities, and the right of states to govern themselves.

“It’s time criminal justice professionals stop being motivated by politics and start being motivated to do what is best for the American people,” added Lieutenant Commander Diane Goldstein (Ret.), a LEAP board member.  

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Washington DC Residents Strongly Favor Legalizing Marijuana

January 15th, 2014

Residents of the District of Columbia strongly favor legalizing marijuana consumption for adults, according to the findings of a Washington Post poll, released today

Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they favor “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”

Since 2010, the last time residents were polled on the question, Washingtonians of every age, race and ethnicity — black and white, teenage and elderly — have registered double-digit increases in support for legalization, The Washington Post reported.

Thirty-four percent of respondents said that they opposed legalization. However, among those respondents, nearly half (16 percent) acknowledged support for reducing the criminal penalties for marijuana offenses.

Earlier today, Members of the DC Committee on Public Safety voted unanimously in favor of legislation amending local marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a non-arrestable civil infraction (punishable by a $25 fine for possession and a $100 fine for public consumption). The full City Council is expected to act on the measure within the coming weeks.

Any legislation approved by the DC City Council may be overridden by an act of Congress.

A 2012 report published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland reported that DC possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.

Washington DC Residents Strongly Favor Legalizing Marijuana

January 15th, 2014

Residents of the District of Columbia strongly favor legalizing marijuana consumption for adults, according to the findings of a Washington Post poll, released today

Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they favor “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”

Since 2010, the last time residents were polled on the question, Washingtonians of every age, race and ethnicity — black and white, teenage and elderly — have registered double-digit increases in support for legalization, The Washington Post reported.

Thirty-four percent of respondents said that they opposed legalization. However, among those respondents, nearly half (16 percent) acknowledged support for reducing the criminal penalties for marijuana offenses.

Earlier today, Members of the DC Committee on Public Safety voted unanimously in favor of legislation amending local marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a non-arrestable civil infraction (punishable by a $25 fine for possession and a $100 fine for public consumption). The full City Council is expected to act on the measure within the coming weeks.

Any legislation approved by the DC City Council may be overridden by an act of Congress.

A 2012 report published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland reported that DC possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.

An Elected Official Who Gets It

December 10th, 2013

At a time when so many politicians seem out of touch with the realities of marijuana prohibition, Daylin Leach is a sight for sore eyes.  He is a state senator from Pennsylvania who is running for Congress and he understands the consequences of marijuana prohibition.

Banks Willing to Work With Marijuana Business, But Waiting for Federal Clarification

October 29th, 2013

Reported this week in the Daily Herald:

Community banks and credit unions are ready and willing to provide financial services to entrepreneurs in the state’s new legal pot industry. But they aren’t able to, at least not yet.

Marijuana businesses, even ones that will soon be legally licensed in this state, are considered criminal enterprises under federal law, which makes handling their money a crime in the eyes of the Department of Justice.

Until the agency changes its outlook or Congress changes the law — and efforts are under way to do both — those getting into the pot business can’t open a bank account, secure a line of credit or obtain a loan from a federally insured financial institution in their neighborhood.

Full Article

Fortunately, there is already a bill Congress could act upon to resolve this issue. Earlier this year, Representatives Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) and Denny Heck (WA – 10), along with a bipartisan group of 16 other Republicans and Democrats, introduced legislation that would reform federal banking laws relating to marijuana businesses. HR 2652: The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013 updates federal banking rules to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws and would allow marijuana businesses acting in compliance with state law to access banking services.

Under current federal banking laws, many legal, regulated legitimate marijuana businesses that follow state law are prevented from opening bank accounts and operating as any other businesses would, which could ultimately lead to crime such as robbery and tax evasion in addition to the already onerous burden of setting up a legitimate small business.

Please take a minute of your time today to utilize NORML’s Take Action Center to contact your elected officials and urge them to support this important legislation. You can do so by clicking here.

Banks Willing to Work With Marijuana Business, But Waiting for Federal Clarification

October 29th, 2013

Reported this week in the Daily Herald:

Community banks and credit unions are ready and willing to provide financial services to entrepreneurs in the state’s new legal pot industry. But they aren’t able to, at least not yet.

Marijuana businesses, even ones that will soon be legally licensed in this state, are considered criminal enterprises under federal law, which makes handling their money a crime in the eyes of the Department of Justice.

Until the agency changes its outlook or Congress changes the law — and efforts are under way to do both — those getting into the pot business can’t open a bank account, secure a line of credit or obtain a loan from a federally insured financial institution in their neighborhood.

Full Article

Fortunately, there is already a bill Congress could act upon to resolve this issue. Earlier this year, Representatives Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) and Denny Heck (WA – 10), along with a bipartisan group of 16 other Republicans and Democrats, introduced legislation that would reform federal banking laws relating to marijuana businesses. HR 2652: The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013 updates federal banking rules to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws and would allow marijuana businesses acting in compliance with state law to access banking services.

Under current federal banking laws, many legal, regulated legitimate marijuana businesses that follow state law are prevented from opening bank accounts and operating as any other businesses would, which could ultimately lead to crime such as robbery and tax evasion in addition to the already onerous burden of setting up a legitimate small business.

Please take a minute of your time today to utilize NORML’s Take Action Center to contact your elected officials and urge them to support this important legislation. You can do so by clicking here.