Congress Passes Spending Bill Continuing Protections for State Medical Marijuana Programs


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The Justice Department will continue to be prohibited from interfering in state medical marijuana laws under the federal spending bill passed Thursday in the Senate. The bill has already passed the House, and President Trump has said he will sign it.

The legislation includes a provision that is intended to prevent the department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

The provision stems from an amendment originally sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), which was first approved by the House in May 2014. It was approved again by a larger margin in June 2015, then included in the continuing appropriations packages that have funded the federal government since October 2016.

Unfortunately, the spending package approved Thursday also includes a provision that prevents the District of Columbia from regulating the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for adult use. It was originally introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) and approved in 2015, after District voters approved a ballot initiative to make possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older.

MPP’s Robert Capecchi released the following statement:

“Congress appears to be growing increasingly comfortable with states adopting their own marijuana policies,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unfortunately, spending prohibitions like these expire at the end of the fiscal year, so there is still a need for a long-term solution.

“The time is right for Congress to adopt permanent legislation that protects individuals from federal enforcement if they are in compliance with state laws,” Capecchi said. “It is difficult to understand what they’re waiting for. The vast majority of U.S. voters oppose the federal government interfering in state marijuana laws, and there is now near-universal support for legalizing medical marijuana.”

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MPP Responds to Reports of New Drug Czar Nominee Tom Marino


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Rep. Tom Marino

The Marijuana Policy Project has issued the statement below in response to reports that Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) will be named the next director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), also known as the “drug czar.”

As a member of Congress, Marino has consistently voted against marijuana policy reform legislation.

MPP’s Robert Capecchi released the following statement in a press release:

“We are disappointed but not at all surprised to hear a marijuana prohibitionist is being selected as the next drug czar. After all, whoever fills the position is required by law to oppose any attempts to legalize the use of marijuana for any purpose.

“Despite a steady stream of anti-marijuana drug czars over the past several decades, 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use and eight states have enacted laws regulating it for adult use. We expect that trend to continue regardless of who the next drug czar is.

“President Trump repeatedly said he believes states should be able to determine their own marijuana policies, and the vast majority of Americans agree. We remain hopeful that the administration will respect state marijuana laws. It is also critical that Congress take action to ease the tension that exists between state and federal marijuana laws.”

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Federal Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Marijuana Policy Legislation


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Legislation was introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday that would end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

Bills filed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, leaving states to determine their own marijuana policies, and impose federal regulations on marijuana businesses in states that choose to regulate marijuana for adult use. Wyden’s bill would also enact a federal excise tax on marijuana products. In the House, the tax is being proposed in a separate bill introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Wyden and Blumenauer also filed marijuana policy “gap” bills that would eliminate many of the collateral consequences associated with federal marijuana convictions without removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

An additional bill filed by Wyden with Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Michael Bennett (D-CO) would reform section 280E of the U.S. Tax Code to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses from their federal taxes. A companion bill was filed in the House by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Blumenauer.

MPP Director of Federal Policies Robert Capecchi issued the following statement in a press release:

“This is commonsense legislation that will eliminate the growing tension between federal and state marijuana laws. Voters and legislatures are rolling back antiquated state marijuana prohibition policies, and it’s time for Congress to step up at the federal level. States are adopting laws designed to improve public safety by replacing the illegal marijuana market with a tightly regulated system of production and sales. The federal government should be working to facilitate that transition, not hinder it. It’s time for Congress to come to grips with the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol, and most Americans think it should be treated that way.

“We commend Sen. Wyden and Reps. Polis and Blumenauer for proposing a sensible path forward. We hope their colleagues will take an objective look at the benefits of replacing prohibition with a system of regulation. There will surely be some members on the fence about this legislation, but consider it unthinkable that we would return to alcohol prohibition. They need to ask themselves why they are still clinging to the prohibition of a less harmful substance.”

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GOP Congressman Introduces ‘Respect State Marijuana Laws Act’


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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday that would resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws and allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act exempts individuals and entities from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act if they are acting in compliance with state marijuana laws. This is the third time Rohrabacher has introduced the bill. Twenty of his colleagues in the House, including seven Republicans, co-sponsored the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, which was introduced in the 114th Congress.

“The call for federal marijuana policy reform is growing louder and louder,” said Don Murphy, MPP director of conservative outreach. “Congress needs to listen to their constituents and to state lawmakers, most of whom agree marijuana policy is an issue best left to the states. This is a bipartisan solution that ought to find support on both sides of the aisle.”

 

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Congress Extends Budget Protecting Medical Marijuana Programs Though April


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State medical marijuana patients can breathe a sigh of relief … for now. Congress just passed a spending bill that will keep the Department of Justice’s budget intact until April 28, 2017.united_states_capitol_-_west_front
This bill temporarily renews a spending provision that protects medical marijuana patients and businesses from being targeted by the DOJ as long as they follow state law.

When Trump’s pick for attorney general, anti-marijuana Senator Jeff Sessions, steps into office, he will not be able to go after lawful medical marijuana patients and entities for several months (if he opts to do so at all).

Since these protections are only temporary, we must push strongly to keep intact the current federal policy that allows states to regulate marijuana without intrusion by the federal government.

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What Does a Trump Presidency Mean for Marijuana Policy?


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On the same night that voters in eight states were approving marijuana policy reform initiatives, Donald Trump was on his way to being elected the next President of the United States. the_white_house_in_washington_dcWhile this divisive election has left some people jubilant and others outraged, many are wondering what a Trump presidency will mean for the future of marijuana policy reform efforts as well as the progress we have made so far.

While it is difficult to tell what will happen in the next administration, MPP is hopeful that the current federal policy of not targeting people and businesses in compliance with state marijuana laws will continue in the next administration. Read the rest of this entry »

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Four States End Marijuana Prohibition


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On Election Day, voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada declared an end to the war on marijuana in their states by approving initiatives to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol for adults. This historic event was by far the biggest victory for drug policy reform to date, and will help pave the way for progress around the country.recreational

There are now eight states where marijuana is legal for adults to possess and where cultivation and retail sales are regulated and taxed. Marijuana possession and cultivation are legal in the District of Columbia, but Congress has prevented the city from regulating the non-medical marijuana industry.

This means that marijuana is legal for 66.5 million Americans, or about 21% of the population.

Unfortunately, a similar initiative in Arizona is trailing while the final votes are being counted, but advocates are already preparing to continue the fight in the legislature and possibly at the ballot in coming years.

Support for ending marijuana prohibition is increasing across the nation, according to recent polls. Marijuana initiatives out-performed a number of successful politicians in some states as well. During President-elect Trump’s campaign, he voiced support for leaving marijuana policy up to the states. Advocates are hopeful that the next administration will support the will of the people and continue the federal policy of non-interference until Congress is able to pass meaningful marijuana policy reform.

 

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Federal Court Ruling Gives Hope to Medical Marijuana Patients and Providers


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In a decision released on August 16, a federal court ruled that the Department of Justice cannot spend funds to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state law.2000px-US-CourtOfAppeals-9thCircuit-Seal.svg

Time Magazine reports:

The ruling comes after a 2014 Congressional law that prohibited the DOJ from interfering in state implementation of marijuana laws. That law led people being prosecuted by the federal government to seek the dismissal of their charges, arguing they were in compliance with state law. On Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, sending their cases back to lower courts to determine if they were in compliance with state laws. Some of the defendants ran Los Angeles based marijuana stores and faced charges for distributing 100 marijuana plants.

Tuesday’s decision by a three-judge panel was unanimous. But in its opinion, the court warned Congress could change its mind and again allow federal funding for prosecution of state-sanctioned marijuana use. “DOJ is currently prohibited from spending funds from specific appropriations acts for prosecutions of those who complied with state law,” the Court wrote. “But Congress could appropriate funds for such prosecutions tomorrow.”

John Hudak at the Brookings Institute agrees that this ruling is a positive development, but warns against celebrating too much. You can read his detailed analysis here.

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Court Ruling Allows D.C. to Pass Marijuana Regulation Bill


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On Friday, the District of Columbia Superior Court upheld the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012, which 82% of D.C. voters approved in spring of 2013. Then, on Tuesday, D.C.’s Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer said they would not appeal.Flag_Map_of_Washington_DC

Now, instead of having to wait for Congress to appropriate funds to D.C., the budget will simply be reviewed in the same way as every other law passed by the D.C. Council. So, the appropriations rider that has blocked the council from making any improvements to D.C.’s marijuana policies will expire on September 30, 2016. This means that the council can move forward to determine how to tax and regulate marijuana and pass a law to do so this fall.

While Congress could still block a tax and regulate bill or a D.C. budget that includes funds for the regulation of marijuana sales, it would have to do so by passing a joint resolution in both houses that would be subject to presidential veto. Thanks to congressional gridlock and President Obama’s support for D.C. choosing its own marijuana policy, this would be much more difficult than simply adding a rider to a lengthy appropriations bill funding the federal government.

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D.C. Voters Want Mayor to Work Around Congressional Ban on Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol


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A survey release this week by Public Policy Polling showed that 66% of voters in the District of Columbia support Mayor Muriel Bowser pursuing legal methods to allow D.C. to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol despite a Congressional ban.Flag_Map_of_Washington_DC

Voters overwhelming approved Initiative 71 in 2014, which made marijuana legal in the nation’s capital, but Congress passed a budget rider that prevents the implementation of regulated commercial cultivation and retail establishments. Provisions related to personal possession and limited home cultivation were unaffected by the law and are currently legal in D.C.

This poll shows that the vast majority of D.C. voters would support the mayor using reserve funds to implement a system to tax and regulate marijuana. This would not only show that D.C. rejects Congressional interference with the will of the voters, but also bring the illicit marijuana market out of the shadows and reap millions in tax revenue.

In addition, 61% of voters are in favor of giving adults a safe and lawful place to consume marijuana outside their homes. Supporters including MPP met with the mayor last week, and she said she was open to working with us and our allies on the D.C. Council to move forward on a compromise that would end the blanket ban on use outside the home, currently set to expire on April 13. This will help restore the rights that D.C. voters supported when they voted yes on Initiative 71.

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