Tag: The War on Marijuana

Bernie Sanders to Call for End to Federal Pot Prohibition

Presidential contender Bernie Sanders is set to announce his support for ending federal marijuana prohibition at a town hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, tonight. He will announce a bill that would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances, end federal marijuana prohibition, and let states set their own policies without federal interference.

“Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have a criminal record as a result of marijuana use,” Sanders said in prepared remarks for the event. “That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

No other presidential candidate in either party has gone as far as the independent Vermont senator. Democrat Martin O’Malley has called for placing marijuana on Schedule II, but Sanders wants it descheduled. Hillary Clinton has yet to stake out a position on marijuana reform, saying she wants to see how legalization is working in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington first.

The Sanders plan would not make marijuana legal in the states, but would remove the specter of federal interference for those states that choose to change their pot laws. His plan would also let pot businesses in legal states use financial services and take tax deductions currently unavailable to them under federal law.

Sanders is in line with national public opinion on the issue. Support for legalization has consistently polled at 50% or greater in recent years, and a Gallup poll this month had support at its highest level ever, 58%.

“Clearly Bernie Sanders has looked at the polls showing voter support for marijuana legalization,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Marijuana reform was already moving forward in Congress but we expect this bill to give reform efforts a big boost.”

Look for Sanders’ bill to be filed as early as tomorrow.


This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license from StopTheDrugWar.org and was first published here


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Hemp Advocacy Organization Calls on Obama Administration and DOJ to Intervene in Favor of Menominee Indian Tribe

Hemp Advocacy Organization Calls on Obama Administration and DOJ to Intervene in Favor of Menominee Indian Tribe

WASHINGTON, DC — Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading grassroots hemp advocacy organization working to change state and federal laws to allow commercial hemp farming, has released a statement in response to the undue and wrongful raid of industrial hemp crops on the sovereign land of the Menominee Indian Tribe by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which occurred Friday October 23, 2015.

“The DEA action in this case is egregious, excessive and presents an unjust prejudice against Indian Country and the rights of sovereign tribal nations,” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “The Menominee Indian Tribe cultivated their industrial hemp in accordance with Federal Law, per the legislation put forth in the Farm Bill. This is a step backward, at a time when great progress has otherwise been made toward legalizing and regulating industrial hemp cultivation.”

The affidavit for search and seizure warrant that authorized federal DEA agents to enter the Menominee Indian Reservation revealed a lack of DEA knowledge of hemp cultivation methods, incorrect information regarding means for identifying industrial hemp, and furthermore violated the Menominee Tribe’s sovereign rights per their status as Indian Country.

Specifically, though the Menominee Tribe had previously voluntarily submitted samples of their hemp crop for reliable laboratory testing of THC levels, the crop was destroyed by federal agents after first testing negative in a narcotics field test, and then testing positive on a second narcotics field test. Such tests are not designed to identify industrial hemp vs. “marijuana,” the former of which is federally defined as having less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by dry weight.

Harvested industrial hemp had been hung for drying in a barn–a conventional, standard process that farmers around the country including those in Kentucky and Colorado have utilized for drying their 2015 hemp crops. Despite this being a ubiquitous practice for industrial hemp processing and the fact that the plants were non-toxic and harmless, the affidavit claimed this practice presented a “health and safety concern for the community and individuals associated with the operation.”

As part of Indian Country, the Menominee Indian Reservation is exempt from county and state criminal law of Wisconsin; rather, these tribal lands are subject to federal law. The affidavit erroneously claimed that the industrial hemp crop in question violated Wisconsin law, as the state of Wisconsin has not legalized industrial hemp cultivation; however Wisconsin State law does not govern the Menominee Indian Reservation.

“The outrageous course of action pursued by the DEA in this instance contradicts clear Congressional intent regarding the cultivation of industrial hemp laid out in the Farm Bill and confirmed in the hemp amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill which prohibits DEA from spending money to block implementation of the Farm Bill hemp provision,” continued Eric Steenstra. “Vote Hemp calls on President Obama and the Department of Justice to intervene, such that no further DEA harassment takes place against sovereign tribal nations cultivating industrial hemp.”

To date, twenty-six states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production. These states are able to take immediate advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program provision, Section 7606 of the Farm Bill: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Report: Dramatic Increase in Marijuana Possession Arrests in Virginia, Especially in Black Communities

Report: Dramatic Increase in Marijuana Possession Arrests in Virginia, Especially in Black Communities

Black Virginians Arrested for Marijuana Possession at 3.3 Times the Rate of White Virginians, Despite Equal Rates of Marijuana Use; Virginia Moving in Wrong Direction as U.S. States and Congress Reform Marijuana Laws

A new report has found that marijuana possession arrests in Virginia have increased dramatically over the last ten years, especially in black communities. The report was authored by Shenandoah University professor and researcher Jon Gettman and released today by the Drug Policy Alliance.

“As states around the country pass reforms to scale back the role of criminalization in marijuana policy, Virginia appears to be moving in the wrong direction,” said Lindsey Lawson Battaglia, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance and former Virginia criminal defense attorney.  “This troubling report should encourage Virginia lawmakers to fix the Commonwealth’s broken marijuana policies.”

Using data compiled from the Uniform Crime (UCR) Program and the Virginia State Police, the report found that marijuana possession arrests in Virginia consistently increased from 2003 to 2013, as did the racial disparity in arrest rates.  Federal government data consistently shows that black and white people use marijuana at similar rates.

Adding insult to injury, Virginia’s massive number of marijuana arrests usurp scarce law enforcement, criminal justice and treatment resources at enormous cost to taxpayers.

Earlier this year, Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin introduced a bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of marijuana in Virginia, which received support from the Fairfax County NAACP and the ACLU of Virginia.

“The racial disparity in marijuana arrests in Virginia is deeply troubling, and the barriers that a criminal record brings are particularly worrisome. Studies show marijuana use does not vary significantly between whites and blacks, yet African-Americans are over three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses,” said Senator Adam Ebbin.

The report’s key findings include:

  • In 2013, the ratio of marijuana possession arrests of black residents compared to white residents was 3.3 to 1.  This is an increase from 2003, when it was 2.4 to 1.
  • From 2003 to 2013 marijuana possession arrests in Virginia increased 57% from 13,032 to 22,948. In the three years from 2011 to 2013, marijuana possession arrests increased by 1,987, with black Virginians accounting for 82% (or 1,627) of this increase.
  • During the eleven-year period from 2003 to 2013, arrests of black people in Virginia for marijuana possession more than doubled from 4,991 to 10,293 – a 106% increase. By comparison, arrests of white people increased by 44% during this period.
  • In 2013, over half (54%) of the state’s marijuana possession arrests took place in the counties of Fairfax, Chesterfield and Prince William; and the cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, Roanoke and Lynchburg.  Some of the largest increases in arrests over the most recent three years (2011 to 2013) occurred in Rockbridge (188%), Bedford (166%), Franklin (140%), Manassas City (132%), Emporia City (83%), Arlington (81%), Botetourt (62%), Wythe (57%), and Norfolk City (49%).  Also of note are increases in Danville (31%), Chesapeake (30%), Richmond City (30%) and Virginia Beach City (13%).
  • These trends contradict the original intent of Virginia’s state legislature in enacting the Commonwealth’s current marijuana possession law back in 1979. At that time, the legislature intended to reinvest scarce resources wasted on marijuana possession arrests to more important priorities such as large scale drug trafficking.

The entire report can be read here.

Penalties for marijuana possession under Virginia law are no small matter and can haunt a person for the rest of their life. A marijuana arrest creates a permanent criminal record, easily available to banks, schools, employers, landlords, and licensing and other government agencies.  A person convicted of a marijuana law violation in Virginia can be punished by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $500. A second or subsequent offense is the class 1 misdemeanor which is up to 12 months and/or up to a $2500 fine. For noncitizens, a marijuana arrest can trigger deportation, sometimes with almost no possibility of discretionary relief.

Twenty states have enacted various forms of marijuana decriminalization by reducing or eliminating penalties for minor marijuana offenses. Four states have taken the additional step of legally regulating the sale, cultivation and distribution of marijuana for adults over 21. Additionally, 23 states and D.C. have passed reforms to legalize medical marijuana.

In Virginia and nationally, public support for making marijuana legal has shifted dramatically in the last two decades, with recent polls showing greater than majority support. More than two-thirds believe those caught with marijuana should be fined or not punished at all. A Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released in April 2015 found that a majority of Virginia voters support legalizing marijuana for adults, and a super-majority support allowing medical marijuana in the state.  Virginia voters strongly support allowing the medical use of marijuana, with 86% in favor and only 11% opposed. Support for legalizing recreational marijuana for adults was 54%, with just 41% opposed.

“These antiquated and extremely punitive laws, seemingly in a very targeted fashion, have served to devastate scores of individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches and houses of faith in too many of Virginia’s communities,” said Jesse Frierson, executive director of the Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration.

The Drug Policy Alliance is hosting the International Drug Policy Reform Conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel on November 18-21 in Arlington, Virginia.  This conference brings together thousands of drug policy experts, health care and drug treatment professionals, elected officials, law enforcement, students, and formerly incarcerated people from around the United States and around the world who are working to end the war on drugs. Advocates from across the state of Virginia will convene a meeting at this conference to prepare for Virginia’s next legislative session in 2016.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

DEA Raids Wisconsin Indian Tribe; Destroys Hemp Crop; Claim Tribe was Growing Marijuana

DEA Raids Wisconsin Indian Tribe; Destroys Hemp Crop; Claim Tribe was Growing Marijuana

KESHENA, WI — The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin says federal agents raided their sovereign tribal lands Friday to destroy an industrial hemp crop they were growing in accordance with federal guidelines. Federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, meanwhile, claim the seized crop was actually high-grade marijuana.

The Menominee tribe legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp in May, in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill which created an exception to the Controlled Substance Act to allow for growth, cultivation and the study of industrial hemp through academic research pilot programs.

The Menominee’s hemp crop was always intended to be a legal crop as allowed by the 2014 Farm Bill, tribal leaders said Friday.  The crop was being grown as part of an agreement with the College of the Menominee Nation. Institutions of higher education are allowed to conduct industrial hemp research under the 2014 Farm Bill.

The hemp crop was planted on Menominee tribal lands, where the state of Wisconsin has no jurisdiction over tribal activities.

“I am deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has made the decision to utilize the full force of the DEA to raid our Tribe,” Menominee tribal Chairman Gary Besaw said in a statement issued Friday. “We were attempting to grow industrial hemp for research purposes in accordance with the farm bill. We offered to take any differences in the interpretation of the farm bill to federal court. Instead, the Obama administration sent agents to destroy our crop while allowing recreational marijuana in Colorado. I just wish the President would explain to tribes why we can’t grow industrial hemp like the states, and even more importantly, why we don’t deserve an opportunity to make our argument to a federal judge rather than having our community raided by the DEA?”

Tribal leaders say they were trying to improve their financial situation by researching the potential economic opportunities of industrial hemp.

“What makes the actions taken today even more difficult to understand is that the federal government is very aware of the great unmet needs of Menominee,” said Besaw.  “Menominee County ranks at the bottom of the state in poverty and health statistics. The Tribe is trying to meet these needs by researching the potential economic opportunities of industrial hemp just as Congress intended when passing the Farm Bill.”

Tribal leaders say they have been transparent with the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding their cultivation of industrial hemp, but there has been a “disagreement” between the Menominee tribe and acting U.S. Attorney Greg Haanstad as to whether the hemp crop was in compliance with the 2014 Farm Bill.  Tribal leaders say they “worked tirelessly” to find a solution to disagreements with the US Attorney’s office, including offering to destroy parts of the crop that had been identified as “problematic” and offering to allow a federal judge to decide the disputed issues.

“These offers by the Tribe were rejected in favor of the aggressive unilateral action we saw today,” tribal leaders said in a press release Friday. “In light of the actions by the Department of Justice today, the Tribe now has no choice but to move forward with litigation to settle the question of its ability to grow industrial hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill.”

However, Acting U.S. Attorney Gregory Haanstad told The Associated Press on Friday that he disagrees with the tribe’s characterization that the crop was industrial hemp. Haanstad said agents “executed federal search warrants on a large unlawful marijuana grow operation on tribal land and seized what agents describe as approximately 30,000 marijuana plants weighing a total of several thousand pounds.”

The DEA says the crops seized were not industrial hemp crops being grown by members of the Menominee tribe, but were marijuana plants being grown on tribal land by growers from Colorado. The DEA says that no arrests have been made, and the investigation is ongoing.

The tribe contends that disagreement over their compliance with the Farm Bill alone — including potentially high levels of THC in “problematic” crops — does not justify the actions of the DEA and the Department of Justice.

Department of Justice policy, in the form of the 2014 Cole Memorandum and the 2014 Wilkinson Memorandum, strongly discourage U.S. Attorneys and federal law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal cannabis laws in jurisdictions, including Tribal jurisdictions, that have legalized cannabis as long certain priority factors are not implicated. There are no Cole Factors impacted by the Tribe’s industrial hemp program and, as such, the U.S. Attorney’s Office should not be using scarce federal law enforcement resources in this manner, tribal leaders say.

An attorney for the tribe called the feds’ actions “very troubling.”

“The actions by the federal government here are very troubling,” says tribal attorney Tim Purdon. “Today DEA Agents in eastern Wisconsin are not investigating the distribution of heroin and prescription drugs that are causing an overdose epidemic across the country… Rather, today these Agents are preoccupied with the destruction of an industrial hemp crop that was intended to be planted and harvested legally under the 2014 Farm Bill. The waste of resources is exacerbated by the fact that the Tribe had agreed to act itself to destroy individual strains of the hemp crop that the Tribe and the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed were problematic. This misallocation of federal resources is exactly what the Cole and Wilkinson Memos were designed to prevent.”

Tribal leaders say they will peruse legal action in federal court to resolve the issue.

“The Tribe now has no choice but to move forward with litigation to settle the question of its ability to grow industrial hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill,” tribal leaders say.

Currently, 23 states have taken steps to remove barriers to the production of industrial hemp.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.