All posts by Dan Riffle

Urge Congress to Pass the Smarter Sentencing Act

The Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410), sponsored by a bipartisan coalition including Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT), would bring real change to destructive mandatory minimum sentences in our criminal justice system. Aside from saving billions of dollars spent on incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders, the bill would give judges more flexibility in sentencing those with minor criminal records.

More specifically, some current mandatory minimum sentences would be cut in half. That means that if this bill passes, we could potentially see 10 and five-year mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana offenses cut to five and 2.5 years, respectively. This would be a huge victory, and we need your help to secure the votes.

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Sen. Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently announced that he wants to bring the Smarter Sentencing Act up for a vote in the Senate this summer. Twenty-four senators have co-sponsored the bill already, but we need to secure 60 votes to pass the bill on the floor. The House companion bill, H.R. 3382, already has a bipartisan coalition consisting of 33 co-sponsors.

Please contact your senators and representative today, and tell them to support the Smarter Sentencing Act this summer!

 

Senate to Vote On Medical Marijuana Amendment

Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul
Cory Booker
Sen. Cory Booker

Last month, we made history by passing an amendment in the U.S. House of Representatives intended to prevent the DEA from spending any money raiding and arresting medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it’s legal. Now, in order to get it to President Obama’s desk, we need to pass it in the Senate.

Please take two minutes to call both of your U.S. Senators and urge them to support the Paul/Booker medical marijuana amendment!

The good news is we will get a vote thanks to two courageous senators who are taking a stand for medical marijuana patients and respecting state laws. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are sponsoring an amendment identical to the one that passed in the House last month. The amendment was filed yesterday and could be voted on at any time.

 

Congress Votes to End War on Medical Marijuana

You read that correctly — Congress just voted to end the federal government’s war on medical marijuana!

During a debate regarding a Justice Department funding bill, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a longtime MPP ally, offered an amendment intended to block DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. It passed by a surprisingly wide margin — 219-189. The amendment will not become law until it is signed by the president, but we’re well on our way.

MPP played a key role in building support for this measure, and we couldn’t have done it without our supporters.

We have had a lot of victories since MPP was founded in 1995, but this is one of the biggest — not just in the organization’s history, but in the history of the marijuana policy reform movement.

Rep. Rohrabacher with MPP's Rob Kampia and Dan Riffle
Rep. Rohrabacher with MPP’s Rob Kampia and Dan Riffle

We worked with Congressman Rohrabacher and former Congressman Maurice Hinchey on this amendment for more than a decade, and our lobbying presence in Congress has never been stronger. This year alone, we met with staffers from more than 100 congressional offices, as well as dozens of members in person.  With this victory, even more doors will be open to us in the future.

 

New Bill In Congress Would Make Drug Czar Respect Science

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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.

Fire Michele Leonhart!

The DEA has gone rogue. First, an agent describes marijuana regulation in Washington and Colorado as “reckless and irresponsible,” contrary to the president’s assertion that it’s “important for it to go forward.” Now, DEA administrator Michele Leonhartalert_sidebar_MicheleLeonhart has criticized President Obama for, accurately, saying marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol to the consumer. In fact, the science says marijuana is dramatically safer than alcohol, for both the consumer and society.

It is unacceptable for our nation’s top drug cop to not understand the relative risks of America’s two most popular recreational drugs. That’s why we have started a Change.org petition calling on President Obama to fire Michele Leonhart and replace her with someone who will base decisions on science and evidence instead of politics and ideology.

This is the same person who once refused to answer the relatively simple question of whether marijuana is less harmful than heroin or crack cocaine. Her repeated refusal to recognize clear scientific evidence undermines the president’s mandate that “science and the scientific process guide decisions of [his] Administration.” She’s got to go.

Please sign our petition and share it with everyone you know!