February 16, 2019

Don Fitch, Author at MARIJUANA POLITICS - Page 2 of 6

Don Fitch

Interest in cannabis liberation extends back to the 1960s for Don Fitch. Most of his career has been in high tech and preventive health care, endeavors he continues with Well-Being Skills, focused now on ebook publishing. Don has always followed and contributed to efforts for ending marijuana prohibition. An Oregonian whose vision is endangered by glaucoma, Don has benefited from his state’s 1998 medical cannabis law, and his eyesight is fully preserved. Don has been writing about cannabis and well-being since 2008 in his blog, www.YourBrainOnBliss.com. This site explores the bountiful health benefits stemming from the discovery of the endocannabinoid system and increasingly legal medical cannabis. The impact of these discoveries, and the use of marijuana in prevention and treatment, may be as important to health care as were the microelectronic discoveries Don wrote about in the early ’80s were to our on-going technological revolution. His major goal, still frustrated after decades, is to see cannabis down-scheduled from Schedule I at the federal level. For fun, Don flies paragliders and travels.

Cannabis Entrepreneurs Endangered by Jeff Sessions’ Drug War Reboot

The idiotic reboot of the war on drugs occurring under Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a blow to freedom in America. His new guidelines, calling for the maximum prosecution of drug “crimes,” have already been proven failures. They particularly endanger all levels of cannabis entrepreneurs.

As a senator, Jeff Session last year torpedoed a bi-partisan criminal justice reform bill. Legislators from both sides of the aisle, fatigued from the decades-long, prison-filling, trillion dollar war on some drugs, sought to reform drug laws and sentencing. Alarmed, Sessions and other drug war fanatics like Tom Cotton of Arkansas prevented criminal justice reform from advancing two years ago. Now, as Attorney General, Sessions is unleashing the massive forces at his command to prosecute the drug war to a new level of zealotry.

Drug law reformers saw decades of work erased last week with AG Sessions’ draconian, lock-em-up and throw away the key approach to drug cases. His 93 US prosecutors and their 5,000 assistants federal prosecutors are instructed to seek maximum penalties for drug cases and must answer when showing any leniency.

Any possession of marijuana is illegal federally.  The few researchers able to study cannabis in the USA must keep it locked away in a heavy safe on premises as if it were among the planet’s most dangerous substances. Possession of just a few plants or pounds can is cause for a federal felony indictment; suspicion of sale enables federal minimum prison sentences. Families Against Mandatory Minimums FAMM list mandatory minimums of 5 years for possession over 100 marijuana plants, and 20 years for 1,000 plants.

All cannabis entrepreneurs and all workers in this booming industry in legal states now face new danger from Jeff Sessions’ legions. Law enforcement likes to say that its resources are limited, but the Department of Justice has vast assets, including the DEA and the IRS. The Attorney General is now focusing those assets against marijuana, a target of his keen personal hatred for four decades. He couches his tactics in terms of the opioid epidemic, a plague caused not by illegal drugs, but by pharmaceutical drugs. He cherry picks crime statistics to scare with an increase in some crimes to justify a reboot of the war on drugs, saying that illegal drug use and sales cause violent crime. They do not, but drug prohibition certainly does.

In addition to marijuana being persecuted, Sessions’ new cruel guidelines will snag and punish investigators in psychedelic drug research, an area showing great promise for treatment of PTSD and other psychological problems. Psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA, ayahuasca, even LSD are experiencing a renewal, emerging from 40 years of Schedule I repression. These psychoactive substances are helping people cope with trauma, disease, addiction, even impending death. A new survey found psychoactive mushrooms to be the safest ‘recreational’ drug.  Now, with Jeff Sessions goading his federal prosecutors to maximize prosecution and punishment, entrepreneurs helping to increase the availability of these curative substances by growing and distributing will face, if caught by police, decades in prison.

Soon a whole new set of Americans will experience the cruel wrath of a Department of Justice utterly lacking in justice.

Will Trump Defund the Drug Czar?

In a rare display of drug policy sanity, the Trump administration has recommended a nearly total defunding of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, ONDCP. The proposed 95% reduction in the drug czar’s office would eliminate some of the drug war’s most harmful programs.

The ONDCP must, by charter, oppose legalization of any scheduled drug, including marijuana. The drug czar office must necessarily be dishonest and deceitful on such issues as medical marijuana. The drug czar’s office was the brain child of Joe Biden and stretches back 35 years, to 1982. Now the organization’s budget has bloated up to over a million dollars a day. This increase in spending has paralleled not by any reduction in drug use but by an epidemic of opioid addiction and death.  The Trump cut back would still leave half its staff in place, presumably by cutting some of its major — and malevolent — programs.

In 1990 Congress introduced HIDTA, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. Theses are areas receiving special funding for cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement. The special zones, run by the drug czar, are rife with un-American police practices.

HIDTAs contribute to one of the drug war’s most evil tools, civil asset forfeiture. Originally conceived to seize the profits of drug lords, American police are using it to seize the money and possessions of common citizens. HIDTA training centers train police specifically on how to take cash from the public, even when not even making an arrest. Most of such lucre can be kept by local law enforcement for its own use. In the lucrative San Diego HIDTA, local laws enforcement used their ill-gotten gains for travel, facilities, and training for taking even more money from citizens. Minorities and poorer communities suffered the most; nearly half the asset seizures were inflicted upon those with Hispanic surnames.

HIDTAs are often funded by the nefarious Bryne Grants, special drug war federal expenditures for funding aggressive task forces. Such task forces did huge harm to minority communities, in many cases incarcerating most of the men and many of the women. NY Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote an eloquent account of the damage inflicted by Bryne Grant drug war brutality in an essay entitle Smoke and Horrors. He wrote,

Financing prevention is fine. Financing a race-based arrest epidemic is not.

Byrne Grant programs were being phased out under George W. Bush as “an ineffective use of resources.” Sadly, the programs were brought back in a big way by Barack Obama. He got enormous funding for the programs, two billion dollars, as part of the 2009 stimulus package designed to save the economy. Could any worse use be put to two billion dollars than to fund jack boot drug task forces across the country? Think of what amazing health discoveries two billion dollars of funding for medical cannabis would have achieved.

Michelle Alexander wrote about Bryne Grant evils in The Nation, Obama’s Drug War: The administration is promoting failed law enforcement programs as economic stimulus.

Yet another dishonest ONDCP/HIDTA program deserving to die is the National Marijuana Initiative, another propaganda ploy to keep cannabis illegal.

Many have doubts the drug czar’s office will suffer the 95% defunding proposed by Trump. Things do seem suspicious. Both President Trump and Attorney General Sessions are huge fans of asset forfeiture. Perhaps they plan to move asset forfeiture programs like HIDTA to the Department of Justice? Trump and Sessions have indicated great enthusiasm for promoting a more aggressive drug war; removal of hundreds of millions of dollars from the ONDCP would be tough to make up, although DOJ asset forfeiture income is massive.

Another source of pushback against drug czar cuts is congressional democrats. The ONDCP is primarily a democrat invention, masterminded by Joe Biden, funded profusely by all democratic administrations. Since Trump’s announcement of the cuts, many in congress have spoken up to whine about budget cuts during the current opioid epidemic. Virginia democrat Senator Joe Manchin said “You don’t cut 90 percent of funding out of the greatest epidemic that we’ve ever had.” He did not explain how the opioid crisis developed when ONDCP, DEA, and dozens of other agencies are in full drug war mode. Even Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote Trump pleading that the drug czar office be fully funded, apparently unaware of the huge harms the office has inflicted.

Medical cannabis now appears likely to be the best prevention, treatment, and cure of opioid addiction.  Yet the country’s supposed adviser on drugs, the ONDCP, must by charter oppose medical marijuana or any form of legal marijuana. It must lie. Such a concocted mandate, totally divorced from science and from compassion, should rightly doom the ONDCP drug czar office.

Trump Praises Philippine President Duterte’s Genocidal Drug War

Shockingly, President Trump is applauding and rewarding appalling human rights abuses, especially extrajudicial killings, in the Philippines. That island country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, pictured at left with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, approving oversees an illegal and highly lethal “war on drugs.” He has said, “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts … I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

Wikipedia reports that about 9,000 people have died, around a thousand deaths a month. Duterte is quoted:

“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

Trump claims he believes in the “rule of law.” Duterte’s assertions are both dictatorial and deadly. He expressly gives his police permission to also serve as judge, jury, and executioner. He even financially rewarded extrajudicial killings by police.

Yet Trump is untroubled. Writing in the AP, Jim Gomez quotes Philippine presidential spokesman Ernie Abella:

The discussion that transpired between the presidents was warm, with President Trump expressing his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matter of dangerous drugs.

The discussions were so warm, in fact, President Trump invited President Duterte to the White House, further rewarding the bloody carnage in the streets of the Philippines. Trump’s benign views of Duterte’s radical, unlawful, and deadly drug war are horrifying to those believing in the rule of law and the right to life.

The Blatant Anti-Science of Trump’s Drug War Zealots

On March for Science Day, a protest against right-wing anti-science actions, blatant Department of Justice anti-science is the norm. Attorney General Jeff Sessions set the tone. The former US prosecutor has already produced a list of anti-science sentiments, focused mainly on marijuana, but more general too. Contrary to evidence, the Alabaman AG insists that the country is in the grips of a new crime wave, necessitating, of course, a major new war on crime, especially drugs and specifically marijuana. His favorite tools are asset forfeiture and mandatory minimums. Again, contrary to all evidence, Jeff Sessions claims,

Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think…

Actually, there is remarkably little violence associated with state legal cannabis, rather extraordinary for an industry denied banking services and forced into cash.

The Attorney General’s false attempts to tie legal marijuana with violent crime are seconded by his new hardline lieutenant. An ex-prosecutor (of course) Steven Cook has been spreading the authoritarian doctrine that the militant, zero-tolerance war on drugs that helped fill prisons to overflowing was a good thing. Instead of the world’s highest rate of incarceration being an intolerable blight on the so-called “land of the free,” Cook sees such mass caging as the system working as it should, and has joined Sessions in seeking to revitalize the war on drugs.

Yet another, perhaps the most anti-marijuana, anti-science extremist of the lot is the new nominee for drug czar, former congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania. As a legislator, Marino voted against cannabis at every opportunity. His heart of darkness was revealed on his no vote for CBD for epilepsy treatment. He has advocated that drug users be confined until they can convince their jailers that they are drug-free.

In addition to such wild anti-science cannabigotry, Tom Marino seems disturbingly tied to Big Pharma. Worried by reduced pill consumption in cannabis legal states, pharmaceutical companies are becoming prime opponents of medical marijuana.

At Philly.com, Chris Goldstein of PHILLY420 writes,

To make it all feel extra gross, Marino takes money from pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists. That has no shock value, because almost all high-level politicians in N.J. and Pa. – especially the Congressional delegations – take some form of pharma campaign cash. Thanks to superPACs, we don’t even really know how much. But again, that’s just business as usual around here.

He adds,

The basis for putting people into handcuffs, jails, courts, prisons, and drug treatment facilities over their choice to consume cannabis was never something from science.

How tied is Marino to Big Pharma? Annabelle Bamforth of Mint Press News calls him, Trump’s Drug Czar Pick Is A Pharmaceutical Industry Darling. reports of his actions as a congressman to protect the types of pill mill pharmacies and pharma companies that so much contributed to America’s current opioid epidemic.

Each of these Justice Department extremists, Sessions, Cook, and Marino have endorsed the old propaganda of marijuana being a “gateway drug.” Science has long ago disproved this doctrine, notably in the 1999 Institute of Medicine Study. But in 2010 Time Magazine called the marijuana gateway theory “the myth that will not die.” Now, seven years later, nearly the entire Trump administration again espouses this myth. This is particularly dangerous, even highly lethal, now that it is known that cannabis may well be an important part of the cure for many Americans addicted to opioids, 90 of whom die every day.

Beyond the Justice Department, the same anti-science, anti-cannabis thinking pervades the entire administration. The anti-science notions of Vice-President Mike Pence are truly ridiculous. In addition to perpetuating anti-marijuana nonsense, the vice president believes, against the findings of science, that marijuana is highly dangerous but tobacco cigarettes are safe. In truth, cigarettes still kill nearly 1,200 Americans per day; cannabis kills zero.

The science of medical cannabis is compelling. Dozens of diseases and maladies are prevented, treated, cured, or at least ameliorated with medical marijuana. The US government has done everything in can to prevent such confirming research, so much of it has been done in countries around the planet. This enormous body of research proving the safety and medical usefulness of marijuana is now clear to all but the most close-minded. Unfortunately, it is these anti-science zealots in power who are actively trying to send cannabis back to the dark ages.

Governors Assert Cannabis States Rights

Kate Brown

With the property and freedom of their constituents being threatened by the federal government, the governors of several cannabis-legal states have sent a clear hands-off message to the feds. Cannabis now has some degree of medical legalization in 28 states and is legal for full adult use in eight states and Washington DC.  But Attorney General (and marijuana-hater) Jeff Sessions has indicated that he will be increasing federal enforcement.

Along with the governors of Washington, Alaska, and Colorado, Oregon Governor Kate Brown was clear in her letter to Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Don’t junk the Obama-era Cole memo that allows cannabis possession and business in legal states.

Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences. Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.

The governors also asked for the continued guidance of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). They stated:

Likewise, without the FinCEN guidance, financial institutions will be less willing to provide services to marijuana-related businesses. This would force industry participants to be even more cash reliant, posing safety risks both to the public and to state regulators conducting enforcement activity.

The four western governors noted that now more than 60 percent of Americans live in states with some degree of legalization.

The Cole Memo and FinCEN guidance strike a reasonable balance between allowing the states to enact reasonable regulations and the federal government’s interest in controlling some of the collateral consequences of legalization.

As in other legal states, Oregon’s economy is booming, in no small part to cannabis related jobs and investment. “These are good paying jobs. It’s a pretty diverse business community. Let our people grow these jobs, ” implored Governor Brown. The state’s tax revenue from marijuana sales is substantial and far beyond initial estimates. In an AP interview, Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown elaborated:

This administration very clearly wants to grow the economy and create jobs, and the other piece that they want is to have the states be the laboratories of democracy. There is no better type of laboratory than the initiative process, and voters in Oregon and Washington and California and Alaska and Nevada, and there’s a few other states, have voted to legalize marijuana. On the West coast alone, that’s 49 million people.

In Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has the governor’s back and is ready to go to court to protect Oregonians. So far response by state leaders to the threats posed by the new administration to cannabis users and businesses in legal states has been gratifying.

But a large worry remains: even if Sessions abides totally with the Cole Memo, he could still oversee a brutal war on marijuana by focusing on violation to the memo. As reported recently, the Drug Enforcement Division of the Oregon State Police claims that most of Oregon’s medical marijuana is being diverted, much of it to other states, a key violation of the memo. Quite probably, this sets the stage fierce federal prosecutions of citizens of Oregon and other legal states. Hopefully, new federal legislation, some of it from the Oregon delegation, will help end the war on marijuana.

Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation

An Extraordinary “Path to Marijuana Reform” by Two Oregon Congressmen

Two Oregon congressional democrats, a senator and a representative, show ground-breaking leadership with their “Path to Marijuana Reform.”  Three pieces of excellent legislation showcase the effort by Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer. This proposal has excellent cannabis policy goals. It would:

  • Deschedule Marijuana Completely. No Schedule II, maybe Schedule III, categories that would leave cannabis in the clutches of the DEA. One of the Oregonians’ proposals, the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, would remove cannabis entirely from the Controlled Substance Act, freeing it from most federal control. States would be free to prohibit or legalize with their choices and their votes. As with alcohol and tobacco, marijuana products would be subject to a federal excise tax.
  • Provide Tax Equity. Although descheduling would effectively free cannabis business owners from the ruinous tax restrictions of IRS 280E, The Small Business Tax Equity Act would explicitly change the tax code to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to use normal business deductions. The act has a bi-partisan cosponsor, cannabis freedom fighter Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.
  • Enable Banking Equity. Again, descheduling would remove most of the legal objections bankers have with dealing with cannabis businesses. Even so, banking inequity along with a host of other key cannabis injustices, are addressed by the third piece of legislation, the Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act.
  • Protect Against Asset Forfeiture.  This act will provide protection against Jeff Sessions’ favorite tool, asset forfeiture for state-legal activities.
  • Promotes Medical Cannabis Research. The act removes many of the road blocks that have (so immorally) blocked most medical cannabis research in the USA.

This is the biggest and best cannabis reform ever to be introduced to the US Congress. Bernie Sanders tried to deschedule cannabis in the Senate last term, but got no cosponsors.

For this observer, a favorite provision of the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act “would require that within 60 days of enactment of this Act, the Attorney General remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances under the CSA.” I would enjoy observing Jeff Sessions having to remove marijuana from the CSA.

Oregon is blessed with some of the very finest in congress. Ron Wyden is the powerful Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member. Earl Blumenauer has consistently stood with cannabis law reform and helped create and pass some of the first true national legislation protecting Americans in legal states. Both patriots work for the rights of Oregon voters and the civil and health rights of all Americans.

Photo by Jeff Blume OregonLive

State Police Marijuana Report Targets Oregon For Federal Prosecutions

A new document out of the state police’s drug enforcement division on marijuana seems to invite federal prosecution to Oregon. The report is called A Baseline Evaluation of Cannabis Enforcement Priorities in Oregon, January 2017.  Oregonian/ Oregon Live reporter Noelle Crombie published details and conclusions of the report. The findings of the state police drug cops seem to be written to justify federal prosecutions in Oregon. They will find eager audience in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office, command center the entire US Department of Justice.

The OSP report claimed that Oregon is a major source of marijuana exported to other states. Such alleged distribution would be a clear violation of the Cole Memo, the Obama-era justice department guidance on federal prosecution of marijuana in medically-legal states. As reported by Crombie, the analysis claims Oregon marijuana production exceeds demand:

It found that Oregon has an “expansive geographic footprint” on the black market across the country. A half-dozen counties — Jackson, Multnomah, Josephine, Lane, Deschutes and Washington — “lead the way” in supplying much of what’s shipped out of state, the analysis said.

Some cannabis activists found encouragement in Session’s declaration that parts of the Cole Memo were “valid.” In reality, Jeff Sessions could enshrine the Cole Memo in his office (unlikely) and still wage a ruinous war on in legal state violations of the memo. This would include, specifically, movement of cannabis out of Oregon to other states. Sessions is champing at the bit, telling his prosecutors, before he fired them, to be aggressive. “Happy hunting.”

From the report’s Executive Summary And Purpose:

The focal points of this section are derived from the federal guidance, issued by former
DOJ Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, on –

  • Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states
  • Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity .

The report’s Strategic Findings:

  • Diverted Oregon cannabis has an expansive geographic footprint and has been detected
    outside of the United States.
  • Six Oregon counties are tied to the majority of diversion activity in the state, accounting for 76 percent of diversion seizures by weight and 81 percent of diversion incidents; these counties were also tied to the majority of destinations.
  • Oregon originated cannabis is trafficked to known distribution hubs across the Southeastern, Midwestern, and Northeastern United States. Specifically, the states of Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Florida represent statistically significant destinations.
  • There is a geographic relationship between the state-authorized Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) registrants and dominant diversion counties (originating counties of diversion activity).

Even if these allegations were true, how negative a situation does that actually make? The OSP drug cops claim eager consumers in states receiving Oregon cannabis are somehow harmed by this agricultural product.

In truth, cannabis is a non-toxic, highly medicinal substance. Residents in other states benefit from distribution to them of high quality Oregon marijuana. Medically, cannabis is often superior to pharmaceuticals for a host of conditions. People can get pain relief without the risks of opioids. Again and again, cannabis shows that it can help reduce opioid addiction and death. Like residents of legal states, citizens in these unfortunately still-illegal states can use cannabis to reduce alcohol consumption, making for safer highways. Federal denial of Oregon cannabis to these Americans reduces their freedom to buy safer products and to make their own health choices.

Were the feds truly interested in anti-drug activities for the health of Americans, they would be pulling over tractor-trailers of the cigarettes that kill 1,300 of their countrymen each day, and burning their lethal contents in Kentucky roadside bonfires. The feds would be raiding the opioid factories and the pharmaceutical companies poisoning small rural counties with 100s of millions of opioid doses. They would be fighting enormous numbers of liquor stores plaguing neighborhoods instead of persecuting relatively safe cannabis.

Unfortunately, Attorney General Jeff Session does not see it that way. He, and the massive Department of Justice he leads, are locked and loaded to undertake persecutions and prosecutions of violations of federal marijuana law. This self-serving Oregon State Police document may give him the quick opportunity to bring down a brutal new war on marijuana in this progressive state, wounding Oregon’s cannabis entrepreneurs, crimping the state’s economy, and shrinking its booming employment.


Jeff Sessions: Marijuana is “slightly less awful” than heroin.

Good news for the 30 million Americans who consume cannabis; your Attorney General has declared that your preference is “less awful” than a heroin habit, although “only slightly.” Jeff Session again betrays his medieval marijuana mindset in a speech given to law enforcement.

The Trump administration has already tried to link the country’s opioid epidemic with marijuana. In reality cannabis consumption has nothing to do with America’s addiction to pharmaceutical opioids, fentanyl, and heroin.

Just the opposite. Mounting evidence shows that use of safe, never-lethal cannabis can reduce, even end, use of addictive and often fatal opioids. The attorney general is aware of this fact, but defiant to the truth.

 And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.  Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.

So, Sessions’ definition of “drugs” includes marijuana and heroin, with little difference between them. He does not appear to include the truly addictive and deadly drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Matt Novak reports how Jeff Sessions, Anti-Weed Crusader Was a Shill for Big Tobacco. Regarding alcohol, Sessions was furious when former president Obama conceded that marijuana was less dangerous than alcohol:

I have to tell you, I’m heartbroken to see what the president said just a few days ago. It’s stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension….This is just difficult for me to conceive how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that.

Apparently, Sessions is unaware that alcohol kills tens of thousands of Americans each year while marijuana kills zero.

The attorney general focused on the real drug issue of the day in his law enforcement speech:

Our nation is in the throes of a heroin and opioid epidemic.  Overdose deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014.  According to the CDC, about 140 Americans on average now die from a drug overdose each day.  That means every three weeks, we are losing as many American lives to drug overdoses as we lost in the 9/11 attacks.

What Session’s forgot to mention here is that the epidemic of opioid addiction and high number of deaths are the end result of this country’s half-century, trillion-dollar war on drugs. The heavy-handed, lock-em-up approach the AG seeks to revive and amplify is a failed policy, clear as the inscriptions on thousands of new gravestones across the midwest.

In the meantime we can only dream for the day when we get an attorney general “slightly less awful” than Jeff Sessions.






Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 Gets More Cosponsors

H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, has been introduced and is gaining cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

This bill would end decades of “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious” federal criminalization of cannabis. The legislation was sponsored by Virginia Representative Tom Garrett, a freshman republican in the state’s 5th district. Joining from across the aisle, is Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, an original cosponsor. Another original cosponsor is Scott Taylor, also a freshman republican from Virginia.

The legislation would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act and classify it with alcohol and tobacco, essentially the same as Bernie Sander’s proposed legislation in the last congress. Although cannabis presents none of the dangers of these two deadly substances, this classification is still a good regulatory home for marijuana. Free, free at last from the clutches of the DEA.

Marijuana policies would be managed by states with their own state laws, as should have been done all along. Banking and tax issues (280E) that have hindered cannabis industry would disappear.

New cosponsors have joined up: Congressional Cannabis Caucus members Jared Polis [D-CO2], Earl Blumenauer [D-OR3], Don Young [R-AK0], along with Justin Amash, [R-MI3] are now cosigners.

The bad news is the legislation will likely be blocked by longtime anti-cannabis crusaders Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), and Rep. Greg Walden, who unfortunately head, respectively, the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. These men alone get to make the decision as to whether a bill makes it out of committee and into the full House. Without their consent, the legislation dies in their hands, the probably fate of this sensible bill.

This occurred last congress in the senate where Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley kept the cannabis rescheduling bill, CARERS, from going anywhere, despite its many cosponsors.

It is difficult to see how any cannabis law reform legislation will every make it into even a vote in congress, as long as marijuana dinosaurs like Goodlatte and Grassley control judiciary committees.

An excellent way to send your support for this timely legislation is to sign Oregon activist Russ Belville’s petition, Tell Congress to Let States Decide Their Own Marijuana Policies. The wonderfully worded petition will be sent to Rep. Tom Garrett, who could use your encouragement, and to Goodlatte and Walden, who need your prodding.


Wait, is Germania Holding Cannabis?

It sure looks like Germania, an important icon of Germany, is holding cannabis in this painting by Veit from 1848.  As a concept, Germania is defined in Wikipedia as,

The personification of the German nation or the Germans as a whole, most commonly associated with the Romantic Era and the Revolutions of 1848, though the figure was later used by Imperial Germany.

Germania is also the Roman name for German lands, occupied by Rome for centuries.

In this iconic painting by German Romantic painter Philipp Veit (13 February 1793 – 18 December 1877), Germania as this personification certainly appears to be holding hemp, carrying cannabis. Does she not? Click here for a closer view.

Somewhat disappointingly the Wikipedia entry for Germania omits any mention of cannabis or hemp. However, in his book, Marijuana Medicine, German anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist  Christian Rätsch captioned the Veit painting:

Germania, the personified spirit of the 1848 German Revolution, holds a hemp branch, a symbol of peace and liberation, in her right hand. (German oil painting by Philipp Veit, 1848)

Luckily, if Germania were caught today by the German police carrying cannabis, quite likely it would be legal, as of only January 2017. For in that month, the German parliament took the historical step of legalizing medical cannabis in Germany. If unaffordable, the medical cannabis will be paid by government health insurance. The downside is that use will be limited to a few medical conditions and patients will not be allowed to grow their own cannabis. Look for both these limitations to wane in the coming years.

As reported in BMJ, “Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, known by the acronym BfArM, is creating an agency to oversee the cultivation of marijuana and the subsequent production of cannabis to be used medicinally.”

To be part of Germany’s (and Europe’s) cannabis transformation, join the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) April 10-12 2017 in Berlin.

The End of The Beginning: Trump Persecution of Non-Medical Marijuana Coming Soon

The presidential administration has thrown down the gauntlet. Trump’s extraordinarily marijuana-hating cabinet, especially drug war fossil Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is champing at the bit to persecute marijuana. The recent state legalizations of adult use (aka recreational) may end, and may even be dismantled. In response, new, fortified, strengthened, and broadened medical initiatives will likely be enacted by state voters.

Spicer’s announcement that non-medical marijuana faces increased federal enforcement foretells of idiotically anti-business, pro-big government coercive action.

So far, Trump’s drug war comments and tweets have been alarming. He has praised the Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte’s Philippine drug war, an obscene catastrophe that has seen thousands murdered in state sanctioned killings. Trump has spoken enthusiastically about asset seizure, even threatening the careers of state representatives opposing the hideously un-American practice of big government directly taking citizen’s property and possessions.

Jeff Session’s coming cannabis crackdown is a job-killing anti-business blunder, a direct attack on the booming legal cannabis industry, which is providing good jobs, high employment, bountiful state taxes, and invigorating entrepreneurial energy in adult-use legal states.

One of the most disturbing aspects of Spicer’s marijuana musings was his wildly bogus link to the country’s very real opioid epidemic with cannabis use. This assertion is easily refuted: Big Pharma pill mills, like those that flooded a Wet Virginia country with nearly a billion opioid doses, caused this epidemic. Indeed, medical cannabis may well be the very best way to end addiction and danger from death of opioids. Spicer’s willingness to promote such a malignant marijuana myth may indicate another drug war big lie tactic from the Trump administration.

The new focus on the evil recreational adult-use of cannabis, as opposed to the more tolerable medical use, calls for new state medical initiatives. More on this soon.

Other state actions in medical and adult-use legalized states should include specific non-cooperation between state and local LEO with federal law enforcement. This may be hard to manage, as the feds can directly bribe with their ill-gained asset forfeiture lucre. State legislation narrowing and eliminating civil asset forfeiture should be enacted, though this is doubtful as state legislatures become redder across the country.

Jury nullification on the federal level might well stifle federal prosecutions, especially as the renewed US attack on cannabis so violates public opinion on cannabis freedom. Of course, for ruinous civil asset forfeiture, the government needs no guilty verdict, not even a prosecution, nor even a criminal charge, to confiscate citizen’s real estate and other possessions.

All Americans, but especially those citizens in adult-use (recreational) at least seven legalized states, plus DC,  need be aware of this renewed federal attack on your personal freedom and financial well-being. To sign a petition requesting the president respect state laws, click here.

Big government is coming for you.

Trump’s Cannabis Crazy Cabinet: HHS Secretary Tom Price

Tom Price, Donald Trump’s selection to head the gigantic Health and Human Services Administration, is an anti-marijuana extremist.

It is as if the President is appointing cabinet members based on their anti-marijuana zealotry.

The HHS is a massive federal grouping of health care and related organizations. Decisions in many of these organizations are very important to the status of marijuana, especially medical use, in the USA and around the world. Some of the dozens of components of this federal giant most relevant to marijuana status include:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

Into the leadership of the HHS steps a clear enemy of marijuana, its users, and its legalization, Rep. Tom Price R-GA. During his long career as congressman, Price has had many opportunities to vote against marijuana reform. Among his worst offenses are repeatedly voting against the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendments that (up until next April) have ended enforcement of federal marijuana law in states where cannabis is legal medically. He also voted (three times) to prohibit VA physicians from even discussing medical marijuana for pain and PTSD.

of the Washington Post did a great job of cataloging Price’s problems with cannabis in “Donald Trump adds another marijuana opponent to his Cabinet.” Ingraham wrote,

Kevin Sabet of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group, called the Price pick “encouraging,” saying “HHS plays a big role in drug prevention and I think that what we need is more awareness and prevention around marijuana.”

Sabet is correct about HHS’ huge role in marijuana policy in the USA. Unfortunately, Tom Price will be a key anti-cannabis propagandist as HHS Secretary. His prohibitionist views closely align with those of anti-marijuana crusader and (gasp) Attorney General Jeff Sessions, cannabis-hating Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and all the rest of the radical right Trump cabinet.

Tom Price – Caricature | by DonkeyHotey

Drug War Disciple at DHS

Yet another Trump cabinet position has been filled with an anti-marijuana drug war zealot. The Department of Homeland Security is now headed by 45 year Marine Corp vet, Gen. John Kelly. From the DHS announcement:

Kelly now leads the third largest federal department in the United States that includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the United States Secret Service.

At DHS, President Trump said slowly, clearly, and repeatedly, “The DHS is a Law Enforcement Agency.” To DHS employees, he cajoled, “I’m asking all of you to enforce the laws.” Trump promised massive increases in detention centers near the border and 5,000 new border agents.

Although marijuana enforcement is not the primary role of this law enforcement agency, certainly the DHS will play an increasingly assertive drug war role and crush cannabis at every opportunity. John Kelly, the agency’s new head, has long been a drug war proponent and enemy of all things marijuana.

“Kelly is a big-time drug war zealot,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “As head of Southern Command he demonstrated that he is a true believer in the drug war, and it’s incredibly worrying that he could now head up Homeland Security.”

In that southern command role Kelly lamented that only lack of resources prevented drug war success. Jacob Sullum, examined some of Kelly’s drug war logic in Forbes and Reason.com.John F. Kelly thinks the war on drugs is a failure because we do not spend enough on it.”

Kelly believes and spreads discredited gateway drug nonsense about marijuana and has stated that American legalizations have discouraged Latin neighbors in the war on drugs.

Strangely, if Donald Trump were choosing cabinet members just for their extreme anti-marijuana positions., he would have chosen these very persons who are now taking places at his table. On any consideration of marijuana, Trump cabinet meetings will be an echo chamber of anti-cannabis lies and will spawn vigorous federal attempts to set back state legalization. DHS and all the other agencies will march in step with Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department and again work to make criminals out of American marijuana entrepreneurs and consumers.

Asset Forfeiture In Jeff Sessions’ New War On Marijuana

Next Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears ready, willing and able to plunge into a new federal war on marijuana. Asset forfeiture will very likely be one of the top law enforcement official’s key weapons in his forthcoming assault on state-legal, federally-illegal marijuana, its consumers, and its burgeoning businesses.

Sessions’ views on marijuana are severe. From the viewpoint of cannabis law reformers, he is the worst choice possible for Attorney General. His testimony during confirmation hearing indeed confirmed that he will be enforcing federal marijuana law. He testified:

One obvious concern is that Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state an illegal act. If that is not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change it. It’s not the attorney general’s job to decide which laws to enforce. We should enforce the laws as effectively as we are able.

Regarding the Cole memo, the document that has kept the salivating DEA and US Attorneys on leash during the latter part of the Obama administration, Sessions declared:

A guidance document can be beneficial but a guidance document cannot amend the law. Bureaucrats do not have the ability to rewrite the law to make it say what they’d like it to say. Congress makes the laws, not the executive branch.

For those hoping that President Trump’s more moderate views will blunt Sessions’ desire to crush all things marijuana, the Alabaman’s testimony was discouraging. He directly stated that his own views would prevail at the Justice Department. He also whined about lack of resources being the main impediment to more prosecution (actually persecution) of marijuana, its users, and its entrepreneurs.

By this line of reasoning, if the Justice Department and DEA were given sufficient resources, they could prosecute and jail all cannabis users. Actually, congress has been throwing ever more billions at the DEA and into the war on marijuana over the last 45 years, so any complaints about resources are ludicrous. Besides, Sessions already has all the resources he needs to crush state legalizations and cannabis commerce.

Among the many huge powers Sessions enjoys as Attorney General, he inherits potent weapons against marijuana. As head of the Department of Justice, Sessions has 94 US Attorneys at his beck and call. He was, of course, a US Attorney himself from 1981 until 1993, key years of the Reagan war on drugs hysteria. His favorite targets were drug prosecutions, which he gleefully undertook at twice the rate of other prosecutors. Being a Schedule I Drug, cannabis is among the most federally illegal of all substances, with huge penalties already in place for its mere possession. Session’s marijuana target is perfectly vulnerable to him with harsh laws, penalties, and seizures in place.

Perhaps the most powerful of all Sessions’ weapons against marijuana is asset forfeiture. Sessions’ anticipated great expansion of forfeiture, so at odds with public opinion, was, of course, unchallenged during the hearings. Americans are sharply negative on civil asset forfeiture. Pathetically, the only mention of Sessions’ forfeiture boosterism came not as criticism, but as high praise from, wait for it, The Fraternal Order of the Police. Sessions was praised by the police union head for pushing “equitable sharing” a process that allows police to keep the assets stolen from the people they are supposedly serving.

AG Jeff Sessions a huge fan of asset forfeiture. His eagerness to pilfer funds from his fellow Americans through seizure has been well documented, perhaps best by George Leef in the Forbes Magazine opinion, Sessions Has No Problem With Civil Asset Forfeiture — And That’s A Problem. Civil (as opposed to criminal) asset forfeiture requires no conviction, nor even a criminal charge, of the person whose property is being taken by the government. If, in the judgment of the seizing police agency, the property was used in a crime or is proceeds of a crime it may be seized.

Many states, sickened by the spectacle of the looting of citizen property by the government, have placed limits on civil asset forfeiture. But police task forces have been able to circumvent these state restrictions and work directly with the feds. The Wall Street Journal recently opined:

The all-too-common practice allows law enforcement to take private property without due process and has become a cash cow for state and local police and prosecutors. Under a federal program called “equitable sharing,” local law enforcement can team up with federal authorities to seize property in exchange for 80% of the proceeds.
Assets are often seized—and never returned—without any judicial process or court supervision. Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture doesn’t require a criminal conviction or even charges…. Civil-rights activists have campaigned for years to end forfeiture abuses. But in a 2015 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Sessions defended the practice.

Such seizures no only trespass on state’s rights, they trample property rights, and crush civil rights.

George Leef wrote,

Civil asset forfeiture doesn’t just harm innocent people. It also creates incentives that distort the efforts of police departments away from preventing and solving the worst crimes and toward finding the most lucrative pieces of property to seize.

Asset forfeiture is a weapon of financial mass destruction.  It is a direct threat to the wealth of marijuana entrepreneurs and a clear menace to the future of cannabis commerce. Although Jeff Sessions can now (well, soon) prosecute an effective war on legal marijuana with a few directives to his 94 US Attorneys, vastly escalating civil asset forfeiture would allow the DOJ to grab even greater gravy directly from the citizenry.  Sessions’ DOJ could self -finance a doubled-down war on marijuana with his ill-gotten civil asset forfeiture lucre. By his past actions and his recent statements, civil (and criminal) asset forfeiture will be a key part of Jeff Sessions’ new war on marijuana.

Image: Flickr – DonkeyHotey

Democrat Senator Blames Marijuana, Calls For War On Drugs

Senator Joe Manchin is upset by soaring opioid addiction and death, especially in his state of West Virginia. From his talks with ex-addicts running recovery houses, Manchin informs us at to the roots of the opioid crisis:

“They got started out as a kid smoking occasional, what we call recreational marijuana. From there it led into prescriptions, taking out of their parents or grandparents medicine cabinet and become a cool kid. Then it turned into where they were hooked. Now heroin comes on. Now the fentanyl comes on.”

So, gee, if only the kids had not used marijuana, the whole opioid crisis could have been avoided. Slap on forehead. Never mind the flooding of his state with 433 pain pills per person.

Soaring rates of opioid addiction and death are indeed at crisis levels. Deaths from opioid pills and heroin now exceed automotive and firearms fatalities, nearly 33,000 per year, with nearly half those deaths from prescription opioids, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Think Vicodin and OxyContin. Breakthrough reporting in the Charleston Gazette-Mail by Eric Eyre, showed that “Drug firms poured 780M painkillers into WV amid rise of overdoses.”  That is 3/4 of a billion pills into a small state. During this time, compensation for CEOs of the three largest pharmaceutical companies dumping this torrent of toxins into the state was 450 million dollars. Unsurprisingly, Manchin’s state leads the country in overdose death rate.

The Senator has in mind a cure for the problem, as he outlined on CNN:

“We need to declare a war on illicit drugs.”

Senator Manchin gets many things wrong:

  • Prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies, not “illicit drugs,” drove our current opioid quagmire. People became addicted to prescription pharmaceutical opioids. Many died from overdoses; others began to use the similar — but cheaper — heroin. Especially when mixed with fentanyl, 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, heroin deaths soared.
  • Marijuana, rather than being a contributor to the problem, may well be the basis of the most effective treatment. Cannabis killed zero people in 2016, and may have saved many lives. Opioid use is lower in states with medical marijuana programs.
  • The four-fold explosion in opioid overdose deaths since the start of the George W. Bush administration shows the utter failure of the current, very robust War on Drugs. The price of heroin is a good metric for the effectiveness of the drug war. Unfortunately, this dangerous drug is cheaper and more available than ever. Way to go, DEA

Opioids are highly lethal because they affect and suppress breathing. Overdose deaths nearly always result from cessation of breathing. Combining with other drugs such as benzodiazepines (Valium) and alcohol is particularly dangerous. Over one in five opioid deaths are actually opioid-alcohol fatalities.

As it turns out, Manchin need not look far for culprits poisoning his state and country with opioids. His own daughter, Heather Bresch, is the CEO of pharmaceutical company Mylan, a producer of generic versions of off-patent opioids. If Mylan sounds familiar and vaguely negative, it is probably from the recent news of the wild price increases for the EpiPen. In just a few years the cost of this device for administering one dollar’s worth of drug increased six-fold to six hundred dollars. During this same time, Bresch’s pay increased six-fold to $18 million dollars.

From the standpoint of productive and rational drug policy, the Trump administration’s cabinet is a nightmare. The return of drug war stupidity called for by Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions desperately needs balance and challenge in the US Senate. Unfortunately, in drug war Democrat Joe Manchin we will get no such choice, only an idiotic echo.