Vermont Attorney General Predicts Legislature Will Legalize Marijuana 2016


Attorney General Bill Sorrell

While many states will be considering making marijuana legal in 2016, Vermont may be the first to do so through its legislature. MPP’s New England Political Director Matt Simon is so optimistic that he is moving to the state from nearby New Hampshire in order to spend more time working with lawmakers there. Now, the state’s attorney general has predicted that Vermont will make history next year. reports:

[Attorney General Bill] Sorrell said in an interview Tuesday that while he doesn’t have any “insider information,” it’s his belief that the General Assembly will pass, and the governor will sign, legislation to legalize and regulate the recreational use and sale of marijuana during the upcoming legislative session.

While no “prominent Vermonter” has told him that marijuana will be legalized, his reading of the tea leaves (“or the marijuana leaves,” he quipped) is that this is the year for legalization.

“Let me put it this way, I will be surprised if marijuana is not legalized in this next legislative session,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Initiative to Regulate Marijuana in Massachusetts Filed Today


Earlier today, proponents of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts filed an initiative regulate-mass_logo_lgthat would make marijuana legal for adults age 21 and older, and would regulate the cultivation, production, and retail sale of the substance.

You can find a summary of the initiative here.

Once the Massachusetts Attorney General has approved the initiative, proponents must collect the signatures of 64,750 Massachusetts voters over a nine-week period from September to November. The petition would then be transmitted to the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

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Eric Holder Reigns in DEA Chief Michele Leonhart for Undermining Obama’s Position on Marijuana Sentencing


Left, Michelle Leonhart; right, Eric Holder
Left, Michele Leonhart; right, Eric Holder

In recent talks with Attorney General Eric Holder, DEA Chief Michele Leonhart was encouraged to tone down the Drug War propaganda she has been advancing since the Obama administration did not sue the state of Colorado for legalizing marijuana. Since then, she has taken several public stands against the administration’s rhetoric on marijuana legalization and, more recently, lessening the punishment of people who commit federal drug crimes.

According to Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and Ryan Grim, Leonhart was “called in” by Holder for a “one [on] one chat about her recent insubordination.” As a 34-year bureaucrat of the DEA, Leonhart is having a hard time shifting her tone away from the DEA’s aggressive stance against illegal drugs.

Since the talks, Leonhart has said she “supports the Attorney General’s sentencing reform initiative to ensure those sentences are imposed appropriately” through legislation like the Smarter Sentencing Act. This type of legislation would save taxpayers billions of dollars and keep thousands of people out of jail for certain types of nonviolent crimes, like marijuana use, by eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing.

Michele Leonhart’s alignment with the Obama administration’s stance on drug sentencing and marijuana policy creates cautious optimism for change in the prosecution of unnecessary federal arrests.

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New DOJ Charging Policy to be Applied to Pending Cases


Attorney General Eric Holder

In August, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ would avoid prosecuting low-level, non-violent drug offenders with harsh charges that carry mandatory minimums.

Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.

Now, the DOJ has taken another step and announced that the new policy will also apply to persons who have been charged but not yet tried and persons who have been tried but not yet sentenced. The attorney general instructed his prosecutors to re-file charges in these cases so that low-level offenders will not be subjected to disproportionate sentences.

I am pleased to announce today that the department has issued new guidance to apply our updated charging policy not only to new matters, but also to pending cases where the defendant was charged before the policy was issued but is still awaiting adjudication of guilt. 

This announcement comes in the wake of a statement by the DOJ last month that the federal government would allow states to continue with their plans to regulate and tax marijuana without interruption, so long as they meet certain criteria.

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U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearing on ‘Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws’


UPDATE: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will testify at the hearing.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws.” Sen. LeahyLeahy has reportedly invited U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to speak to the committee.

The hearing is scheduled for September 10 at 10 a.m. ET in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

Sen. Leahy has said he believes state laws making marijuana legal for adult or medical use “should be respected.”

MPP’s director of government relations Dan Riffle had this to say:

“Two states have made marijuana legal for adult use and are establishing regulated systems of production and distribution. Twenty states plus our nation’s capital have made it legal for medical use. By failing to recognize the decisions of voters and legislators in those states, current federal law is undermining their ability to implement and enforce those laws.

“Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered, and everyone in Washington knows that. It’s time for Congress to stop ignoring the issue and develop a policy that allows states to adopt the most efficient and effective marijuana laws possible. We need to put the ‘reefer madness’ policies of the 1930s behind us and adopt an evidence-based approach for the 21st century.”

This could be a really big deal. We’ll keep you posted.

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Colo. Attorney General: Treating Marijuana Magazines Like Porn is Unconstitutional


Mason Suthers
MPP’s Mason Tvert debating Attorney General Suthers in 2006

Colorado’s staunchly anti-marijuana attorney general, John Suthers, has declared that a rule created by the legislature to treat marijuana-themed publications like pornography is unconstitutional and said the state will not defend it in court. His determination came after state marijuana regulators concluded that it was not constitutional and should not be enforced.

The Associated Press reports:

The magazine requirement was part of a larger set of laws enacted to state how the newly legal drug should be grown and sold. The behind-the-counter restriction was adopted after parents testified that their children should be protected from exposure to magazines touting the drug,  which remains illegal under federal law.

The resulting law left Colorado in an unusual position — one of only two states to allow recreational use of the drug,  while also the only state to restrict the display of publications about marijuana. The state’s decision to reject the magazine restriction was applauded by marijuana legalization activists.

“The idea that stores can prominently display magazines touting the joys of drinking wine and smoking cigars, yet banish those that discuss a far safer substance to behind the counter, is absolutely absurd,” wrote Mason Tvert,  who campaigned for Colorado’s pot law and now is spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

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Decriminalization Bill Heads to Vermont House Floor


After years of work, a bill that would stop the criminalization of Vermont’s marijuana users is headed to the floor of the Vermont House of Representatives. It could get a vote as early as Friday.

Willam Sorrell VT AG
VT Attorney General William Sorrell

Over the last week, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on both sides of the issue. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, and many others testified in support, and the committee listened. Yesterday, it voted 9-2 in favor of reform.

But the opposition is making their voices heard, too. Yesterday, several police are lobbying against this modest proposal to impose a civil fine — not possible jail time — on possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. It’s vital that lawmakers hear from the 63% of Vermonters who believe police have better things to do than to arrest and book marijuana users.

If you live in Vermont, please write your lawmakers today. Politely ask them to support reducing the penalty imposed on Vermonters who possess a substance that is safer than alcohol. Then, share this message with other sensible Vermonters so that they, too, can speak out for reform.

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Henry Rollins Supports Marijuana Reform


Singer, poet, public speaker, and talk show host Henry Rollins has joined the growing ranks of public figures who support ending marijuana prohibition.

Rollins is not a marijuana user, either. As more and more people realize that marijuana prohibition is a harmful failure, the myth that only potheads want to make it legal is continuing to fade into the hazy realm of reefer madness.

From a column he penned for last week’s LA Weekly: Read the rest of this entry »

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Attorney General Insists Medical Marijuana Not a Priority


At a hearing discussing the controversy surrounding Operation Fast & Furious, which allowed numerous firearms to be transferred to operatives for Mexican drug cartels, the attorney general got some questions on another drug war problem: the crackdown on medical marijuana.

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) asked Attorney General Holder if the Department of Justice intended to leave medical marijuana states alone as was promised in the Ogden Memo in 2009, as well as whether the recent crackdown in California on medical marijuana providers would be extended to other states.

Holder’s response was the same one that has been parroted by the administration again and again: medical marijuana is not an enforcement priority, given the department’s limited resources.

If that is true, what are the U.S. attorneys in California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Michigan doing? It seems as if they’ve been spending a lot of time and effort on a “low priority” lately.

Is Holder lying, or has he let the dogs at DOJ off the leash while he tries to explain why the federal government allowed guns to “walk” into Mexico that were later used to murder U.S. law enforcement agents? Read the rest of this entry »

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Montana Fights Back Against State, Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana Patients


In an act of outright legislative interference, S.B. 423, “repeal in disguise,” promised to regulate but instead flouted voters’ wishes and cruelly and arbitrarily gutted Montana’s medical marijuana program, shuttering most providers and reducing the number of patients. By mid-August, the number of patients had dropped by 10% and only 1% of medical marijuana providers remained in business, leaving patients without access to medicine.

However, Montanans have fought back. First, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association got a judge to temporarily block implementation of part of the law. Even more excitingly, Patients for Reform — Not Repeal successfully collected enough signatures to put a referendum to overturn S.B. 423 on the November 2012 ballot! The Secretary of State confirmed that the referendum had already exceeded the minimum signature requirements, and organizers announced they collected more than 46,000 signatures. Kudos to the petitioners; we will keep you updated!

Sadly, another legislative move overturning the will of the people, H.B. 391, went into effect on Saturday. It is intended to overturn Missoula County’s Initiative 2, which made marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. As a result, local initiatives may not de-prioritize the enforcement of state law. Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, who pushed for the bill, says he will move forward with prosecution of marijuana misdemeanors.

Luckily, many Montanans are very upset by these attempts to overturn the will of the voters, and are lending support to the medical marijuana community. Even the Attorney General Steve Bullock is speaking out, although more so about the ATF announcing that it is illegal for medical marijuana patients to purchase or possess firearms.

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