Tag: Trump Administration

Colorado to Sessions: Cannabis Industry Working, Can Do Better

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s legal marijuana industry is working — and can work better with federal collaboration, the state’s governor and Republican attorney general told U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a letter Thursday.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman urged Sessions to collaborate with recreational cannabis states on law enforcement and on providing the industry access to the federal banking system.

“We stand ready to work with our federal partners to fortify what we have built.”

The cannabis industry relies on cash because the federal government considers the drug illegal.

They told Sessions, who has floated the idea of a crackdown on marijuana legalization, that Colorado’s first-in-the-nation recreational industry is robust. The state has taken steps to crack down on black market sales, diversion to other states, and youth use, they said.

“Colorado’s system has become a model for other states and nations,” Hickenlooper and Coffman wrote. Voter-approved sales began in 2014.

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Sessions recently sent letters to the governors of Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington — the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana — detailing his concerns with how effective state regulatory efforts are. All have defended their efforts.

Hickenlooper and Coffman addressed several of Sessions’ concerns:

—Diversion: They noted that Colorado has sophisticated seed-to-sale tracking, has capped individual plant cultivation, banned cannabis growing cooperatives and provided $6 million this year for local police actions targeting the black market.

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—Minors: They insisted that several surveys suggest marijuana consumption by youth has not increased since legalization — and that one federal report, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suggests it has declined. Colorado has spent more than $22 million on education, they said.

—Motor vehicle fatalities: Hickenlooper and Coffman reported the number of drivers considered by the state’s highway patrol to be cannabis-impaired dropped by 21 percent over the first six months of 2017, compared to the same period last year.

“We stand ready to work with our federal partners to fortify what we have built,” they wrote.


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.

Oregon Governor and Police Superintendent Slam Sessions’ Memo

Top Oregon officials this week lashed out at US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent attack on the state’s legal cannabis system, saying Sessions’ criticism relied on inaccurate data and drew conclusions that were flat-out wrong.

Sessions has sent memos to state officials in Washington, Colorado, Alaska, and Oregon identifying what his office claims are problems with the states’ legal cannabis systems, which operate in defiance of federal law. But in letters sent this month to Sessions, Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton defended Oregon’s legal cannabis program, saying a police report that Sessions’ memo relied on contained numerous flaws.

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“The Oregon State Police determined that the draft report required significant additional work and revision because the data was inaccurate and heavily extrapolated conclusions were incorrect,” Brown wrote. “It is important to understand that this draft report does not (and frankly does not purport to), reflect ‘on the ground’ reality in Oregon in 2017.”

Earlier this month, state police Superintendent Travis Hampton wrote a letter to Sessions distancing his department from its own report. According to Oregon Live, the agency, which received federal money for an analyst to collect and examine cannabis data, “denounced the draft” when they learned the news organization had obtained a copy of it.

Hampton said that the data Sessions used was “not accurate, not validated and outdated,” Oregon Live reported.

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In his letter to Oregon officials, Sessions wrote that the state was still a major player in the country’s illegal cannabis market, with Oregon-grown cannabis being diverted elsewhere in the US. He also claimed that overall cannabis production in the state far outweighs demand, and he argued that hash oil manufacturing has fueled a rise in home explosions and other serious injuries.

Officials from other legal-cannabis states have also pushed back against Sessions’ claims. In Washington,  which Sessions also claimed has seen numerous explosions related to cannabis extraction, Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson corrected Sessions’ claim that “in 2014 alone, 17 THC extraction labs exploded.”

The Washington officials replied: “In three years of legalization, no licensed extraction business has exploded. The incidents referred to in Sessions’ letter were black or gray market facilities, often using butane in an enclosed space rather than a lab.”

Speaking to the Seattle Times, Ferguson said of Sessions, “Honestly, it’s hard to take him seriously if he relies on such outdated information.”

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Oregon, Gov. Brown wrote to Sessions, has actually seen a number of benefits from the cannabis industry.

“Despite the concerns surrounding legalization of marijuana, there can be no denying that Oregon has benefited from this industry,” she wrote. “Oregon has already realized $60.2 million in revenue and created over 16,000 jobs for Oregonians. Tax revenue from the marijuana industry is used to fund schools, to provide mental health and drug treatment and to assist both state and local law enforcement.”

The governors of Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska wrote to Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in April, warning that altering the Cole memorandum, which restricts federal marijuana law enforcement in states where pot is legal, “would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

Sessions, however, then wrote to congressional leaders, opposing an amendment that prevents the Justice Department from using appropriated funds to interfere with states’ medical marijuana.

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Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who co-wrote the amendment with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, told The Associated Press recently that Congress is becoming more pro-marijuana, and that more legalization will tamp down the black market.

“The more that we go down the path of legalization, regulation and taxation, diversion becomes less and less of a problem,” Blumenauer said.

Brown told Sessions in her letter that Oregon’s medical and recreational marijuana industry has raised over $60.2 million in revenue and created over 16,000 jobs.

She said her staff looks forward to continuing its work with Session’s office and his representative in Oregon “to end black market marijuana operations, and to provide mutual education and support of our legal and regulated marketplace.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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.

Sessions & Trump Pull Off Amazing Feat: Making the DEA Look Reasonable By Comparison

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (left) and President Donald Trump (right). (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has never been known as forward-thinking place when it comes to drug and crime policy, but these days, the hide-bound drug fighting agency is coming off as much more reasonable on drugs than its bosses, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

And as is the case with everyone from Republican elected officials to top corporate executives, the Trump administration’s bad case of crazy is forcing even the DEA to distance itself from some of Trump’s more ill-thought and insidious mouthings.

No, the DEA hasn’t gone soft. It’s still out there doing its best to enforce federal drug prohibition, and just last year it was old school enough to refuse to move pot out of Schedule I, but several recent incidents show a DEA behaving in a more responsible manner than the president or his attorney general:

1. The DEA has been accepting applications from scientists to grow marijuana for research purposes, only to be blocked by the Sessions Justice Department.

For years, researchers have complained that a government monopoly on marijuana grown for research purposes has both stifled useful research and illustrated the DEA’s role in hindering science. Late in the Obama administration, though, the agency relented, saying it would take proposals from researchers to grow their own crops.

But The Washington Post reported last week that DEA had received 25 research proposals since it began accepting applications a year ago, but needed DOJ’s approval to move forward. That approval has not been forthcoming, much like DOJ when queried about it by the Post. DOJ may not have had anything to say, but some insiders did.

“They’re sitting on it. They just will not act on these things,” said one unnamed source described by the Post as a “law enforcement official familiar with the matter.”

Another source described as a “senior DEA official” said that as a result, “the Justice Department has effectively shut down this program to increase research registrations.”

2. The DEA head feels compelled to repudiate Trump’s remarks about roughing up suspects.

The Wall Street Journal obtained an email from acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg to staff members written after President Trump told police officers in Long Island month that they needn’t be too gentle with suspects. Rosenberg rejected the president’s remarks.

Saying he was writing “because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong,” Rosenberg said bluntly that Trump had “condoned police misconduct.”

>Instead of heeding the president, Rosenberg said, DEA agents must “always act honorably” by maintaining “the very highest standards” in the treatment of suspects.

It is a strange state of affairs when an agency many people consider to be the very embodiment of heavy-handed policing has to tell its employees to ignore the president of the United States because he’s being too thuggish.

3. The DEA has to fend off the Trump/Sessions obsession with MS-13.

Trump loves to fulminate against MS-13, the vicious gang whose roots lie in the Salvadoran diaspora during the US-backed civil war of the 1980s, and to use them to conflate the issues of immigration, crime, and drugs. His loyal attorney general has declared war on them. Both insist that breaking MS-13 will be a victory in the war on drugs and are pressuring the DEA to specifically target them.

But, the Post reported, Rosenberg and other DEA officials have told DOJ that the gang “is not one of the biggest players when it comes to distributing and selling narcotics.”

In the DEA view, Mexican cartels are the big problem and MS-13 is simply one of many gangs the cartels use to peddle their wares. DEA administrators have told their underlings to focus on whatever is the biggest threat in their area—not MS-13—because “in many parts of the country, MS-13 simply does not pose a major criminal or drug-dealing threat compared with other groups,” according to unnamed DEA officials.

“The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they could face professional consequences for candidly describing the internal disputes,” the Post noted.

The president and the attorney general are seeking to distort what the DEA sees as its key drug enforcement priorities so Trump can score some cheap demagogic political points, and the DEA is unhappy enough to leak to the press.

We are indeed in a strange place.


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

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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.

Governors of 2 Cannabis States Push Back on Trump Administration

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Governors in at least two states that have legalized recreational marijuana are pushing back against the Trump administration and defending their efforts to regulate the industry.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, a one-time Republican no longer affiliated with a party, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week asking the Department of Justice to maintain the Obama administration’s more hands-off enforcement approach to states that have legalized the drug still banned at the federal level.

“Given the diversity of public sentiment regarding marijuana throughout the country, marijuana regulation is an area where states should take the lead.”

Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General of Alaska

It comes after Sessions sent responses recently to the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, who asked him to allow the legalization experiments to continue in the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana. Sessions detailed concerns he had with how effective state regulatory efforts have been or will be.

Washington state also responded to Sessions this week. Gov. Jay Inslee said the attorney general made claims about the situation in Washington that are “outdated, incorrect, or based on incomplete information.”

“If we can engage in a more direct dialogue, we might avoid this sort of miscommunication and make progress on the issues that are important to both of us,” Inslee and that state’s attorney general wrote to Sessions.

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Since taking office, Sessions has promised to reconsider cannabis policy, providing a level of uncertainty for states that have legalized the drug. A task force assembled by Sessions encouraged continued study of whether to change or rescind the approach taken under former President Barack Obama.

In Alaska, Walker said he shared Sessions’ concerns about the dangers of drug abuse but said state rules for marijuana businesses address federal interests, including public health and safety concerns. The governor said Sessions cited a 2015 state drug report in raising questions about Alaska’s regulations but noted that the first retail shops didn’t open until late last year.

The state is taking “meaningful” steps to curb illegal cannabis use, especially by those who are underage, Walker and state Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth wrote in the letter obtained through a public records request.

In a separate letter, Lindemuth was more pointed.

“Given the diversity of public sentiment regarding marijuana throughout the country, marijuana regulation is an area where states should take the lead,” she wrote.

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Alaska political leaders have long pushed back on issues where they think the federal government is overstepping its bounds. The state’s lone U.S. House member, Republican Rep. Don Young, said he’s never smoked pot but supports states’ rights.

The state voted on it, “and the federal government should stay out of it,” he told the AP last year.

The largest voting bloc in the state is not affiliated with a political party, though President Donald Trump won with just over 50 percent of the vote last fall. Voters in 2014 approved recreational marijuana, with about 53 percent support.


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.

Cannabis States Try to Curb Smuggling, Fend off Administration

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Well before Oregon legalized marijuana, its verdant, wet forests made it an ideal place for growing the drug, which often ended up being funneled out of the state for big money. Now, officials suspect cannabis grown legally in Oregon and other states is also being smuggled out, and the trafficking is putting America’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry at risk.

In response, pot-legal states are trying to clamp down on “diversion” even as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions presses for enforcement of federal laws against marijuana.

Tracking legal cannabis from the fields and greenhouses where it’s grown to the shops where it’s sold under names like Blueberry Kush and Chernobyl is their so far main protective measure.

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown recently signed into law a requirement that state regulators track from seed to store all marijuana grown for sale in Oregon’s legal market. So far, only recreational marijuana has been comprehensively tracked. Tina Kotek, speaker of the Oregon House, said lawmakers wanted to ensure “we’re protecting the new industry that we’re supporting here.”

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“There was a real recognition that things could be changing in D.C.,” she said.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board says it’s replacing its current tracking Nov. 1 with a “highly secure, reliable, scalable and flexible system.”

California voters approved using a tracking system run by Lakeland, Florida-based Franwell for its recreational cannabis market. Sales become legal Jan. 1.

Franwell also tracks marijuana, using bar-code and radio frequency identification labels on packaging and plants, in Colorado, Oregon, Maryland, Alaska and Michigan.

“The tracking system is the most important tool a state has,” said Michael Crabtree, who runs Denver-based Nationwide Compliance Specialists Inc., which helps tax collectors track elusive, cash-heavy industries like the marijuana business.

But the systems aren’t fool-proof. They rely on the users’ honesty, he said.

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“We have seen numerous examples of people ‘forgetting’ to tag plants,” Crabtree said. Colorado’s tracking also doesn’t apply to home-grown plants and many noncommercial marijuana caregivers.

In California, implementing a “fully operational, legal market” could take years, said state Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents the “Emerald Triangle” region that’s estimated to produce 60 percent of America’s marijuana. But he’s confident tracking will help.

“In the first 24 months, we’re going to have a good idea who is in the regulated market and who is in black market,” McGuire said.

Oregon was the first state to decriminalize personal possession, in 1973. It legalized medical marijuana in 1998, and recreational use in 2014.

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Before that, Anthony Taylor hid his large cannabis crop from aerial surveillance under a forest canopy east of Portland, and tended it when there was barely enough light to see.

“In those days, marijuana was REALLY illegal,” said Taylor, now a licensed marijuana processor and lobbyist. “If you got caught growing the amounts we were growing, you were going to go to prison for a number of years.”

Taylor believes it’s easier to grow illegally now because authorities lack the resources to sniff out every operation. And growers who sell outside the state can earn thousands of dollars per pound, he said.

Still, it’s hard to say if cannabis smuggling has gotten worse in Oregon, or how much of the marijuana leaving the state filters out from the legal side.

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Chris Gibson, executive director of the federally funded Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, said the distinction matters less than the fact that marijuana continues to leave Oregon on planes, trains and automobiles, and through the mail.

“None is supposed to leave, so it’s an issue,” Gibson told The Associated Press. “That should be a primary concern to state leadership.”

“Marijuana has left Oregon for decades. What’s different is that now we have better mechanisms to try to control it.”

US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

On a recent morning, Billy Williams, the U.S. attorney in Oregon, sat at his desk in his office overlooking downtown Portland, a draft Oregon State Police report in front of him. Oregon produces between 132 tons (120 metric tons) and 900 tons (816 metric tons) more marijuana than what Oregonians can conceivably consume, the report said, using statistics from the legal industry and estimates of illicit grows. It identified Oregon as an “epicenter of cannabis production” and quoted an academic as saying three to five times the amount of cannabis that’s consumed in Oregon leaves the state.

Sessions himself cited the report in a July 24 letter to Oregon’s governor. In it, Sessions asked Brown to explain how Oregon would address the report’s “serious findings.”

Pete Gendron, a licensed marijuana grower who advised state regulators on compliance and enforcement, said the reports’ numbers are guesswork, and furthermore are outdated because they don’t take into account the marijuana now being sold in Oregon’s legal recreational market.

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A U.S. Justice Department task force recently said the Cole Memorandum , which restricts federal marijuana law enforcement in states where marijuana is legal, should be reevaluated to see if it should be changed.

The governors of Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska — where both medical and recreational marijuana are legal — wrote to Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in April, warning altering the memorandum “would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

But less than a month later, Sessions wrote to congressional leaders criticizing the federal government’s hands-off approach to medical marijuana, and citing a Colorado case in which a medical marijuana licensee shipped cannabis out of state.

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In his letter, Sessions opposed an amendment by Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer and California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher that prevents the Justice Department from interfering with states’ medical marijuana. Congress is weighing renewing the amendment for the next fiscal year.

In a phone interview from Washington, Blumenauer said the attorney general is “out of step” with most members of Congress, who have become more supportive “of ending the failed prohibition on marijuana.”

“Marijuana has left Oregon for decades,” Blumenauer said. “What’s different is that now we have better mechanisms to try to control it.”

Taylor believes cannabis smuggling will continue because of the profit incentive, which will end only if the drug is legalized across America. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, introduced a bill in Congress on Aug. 1 to do just that.


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.

Judge Halts Feds’ Cannabis Case, Citing Rohrabacher-Blumenauer

Still need a reason to care about that obscure federal spending provision known as the Rohrabacher–Blumenauer amendment? Here’s one: The congressional measure, currently set to expire next month, may be the only thing keeping a pair of California cannabis growers out of prison.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against the growers, Anthony Pisarski and Sonny Moore, after raiding their Humboldt County property in 2012. But during the evidentiary process, the two argued that their operation followed California law and thus should be protected from federal prosecution under Rohrabacher–Blumenauer.

A quick refresher: Formerly known as Rohrabacher–Farr, Rohrabacher–Blumenauer is an amendment to a federal appropriations bill that bars the Justice Department from using resources to prosecute state-legal cannabis. In August 2016, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals—which includes cannabis-legal states of California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Arizona, Montana, and Hawaii—ruled that the provision also protects individual businesses that comply with state law.

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“If DOJ wishes to continue these prosecutions,” the court wrote in the 9th Circuit case, US v. McIntosh, “Appellants are entitled to evidentiary hearings to determine whether their conduct was completely authorized by state law.”

Which brings us back to the Humboldt growers. Following an evidentiary hearing, US District Judge Richard Seeborg determined that Pisarski and Moore were indeed compliant with state law. “Their conduct strictly complied with all conditions imposed by California law on the use, distribution, possession and cultivation of marijuana,” Seeborg wrote. Earlier this week, he halted the federal government’s case against the growers, citing McIntosh.

The defense attorney for the pair, Beverly Hills-based Ronald Richards, told the LA Weekly that the decision was unusual—and may help other cannabis entities going forward. “This is the first time in my 23-year career I’ve had a case stopped because of an appropriations rider,” he said. “It opens the door for people not to get scared.

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Tamar Todd, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of legal affairs, told the Weekly that the court’s stay of the case “shows that you can prevail—defendants in federal court could have their prosecutions halted.”

“It’s very encouraging,” she added. “It gives a lot of teeth to Rohrabacher–Farr.”

But while the case is closed for now, the government could seek to reopen it. Judge Seeborg’s stay of the case could be undone if Congress fails to renew Rohrabacher–Blumenauer next month.

US Attorney Jeff Sessions, a strict anti-drug advocate, asked lawmakers in May to end the protection, calling it “unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the [Justice] Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.” But in late July a Senate Committee OK’d the amendment, adopting it as part of an appropriations bill set for discussion next month.

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Crucially, Rohrabacher–Blumenauer in its current form protects only medical cannabis programs—it offers no protection for adult-use cannabis. A nonbinding Justice Department memo issued under the Obama administration says prosecutors won’t interfere with state cannabis systems, but Sessions has said his office is reviewing that guidance.

Sessions also recently sent letters to state officials in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon in what appears to be an effort to show those states’ systems are failing to adequately regulate cannabis markets. Some state officials have since pushed back, accusing the statistics of having been cherry-picked in a deliberate attempt to mislead.

“Honestly it’s hard to take him seriously if he relies on such outdated information,” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson told the Seattle Times.

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One Colorado state senator went further.

“Jeff Sessions needs to keep his reefer madness paranoia in Washington DC and let us handle a decision we’ve made,” Sen. Michael Merrifield told a local ABC affiliate. “I think these numbers are exaggerated or pulled out of somebody’s hat.”


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.

In White House’s Quest to End Opioid Crisis, Where’s Cannabis?

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump announced they would sit down with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for a “major briefing on the Opioid [sic] crisis.” The meeting, held at the president’s private golf course in Bedminster, NJ, came in the wake of a report issued that morning from the National Center for Health Statistics showing that US drug overdose deaths continue to skyrocket.

The opioid problem is real—and growing. The federal government’s report found that overdose fatalities climbed to a record 19.9 per 100,000 people in the third quarter of 2016. More recent data aren’t yet available, but the New York Times projected in June that the number of overdose deaths in 2016 would surpass 60,000—making for the sharpest annual increase ever recorded. Overdose deaths now kill more people per year than guns, car crashes, or HIV ever have.

(New York Times)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom Trump tapped to head his Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, noted last month that “142 Americans are dying every day of a drug overdose.” About six in 10 of those are caused by opioids. A Washington Post analysis found that overdose death rates for people between the  ages of 25 and 44 have risen for nearly every racial and ethnic group across almost all US states.

“To say we have a crisis here is an understatement,” Christe said, describing current overdose fatalities as “the equivalent of the death toll on Sept. 11 every three weeks.” The commission urged the White House to address the problem as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.

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Cannabis has been conspicuously absent from the White House’s discussion of the opioid crisis so far. That’s a bit of a surprise in light of its longtime—and disproven—stigma as a “gateway drug” and Jeff Sessions’ apparent thirst to crack down on state-legal medical and adult-use systems. But it’s even more surprising given the growing body of evidence that cannabis could help abate the opioid epidemic.

Preliminary studies show that cannabis can be an effective treatment for chronic pain. The mere legalization of medical marijuana is associated with fewer opioid prescriptions and decreases in both opioid-related hospitalizations and overdoses. Some states have considered adding opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis, although lawmakers have said there’s still not enough evidence to justify it.

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Trump’s Chris Christie-led panel could have urged further study on the issue. Instead, the commission was entirely silent on cannabis as a method of combatting opioid deaths, ignoring roughly 7,800 public comments that referenced the plant. Pointing to a study that found that legalizing marijuana correlated with a 23% drop in opioid-related hospitalizations or overdoses, MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff asked a member of the commission, former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy, why that was.

“It doesn’t seem to be a logical or sensible solution,” Kennedy replied, calling legal cannabis “the Big Tobacco of our time” and arguing, “I just don’t think adding more gasoline to the fire by adding a new addictive substance.”

“All things are on the table for the president.”

Tom Price, Health and Human Services Secretary

Following Tuesday’s briefing with President Trump, Health and Human Services Secretary Price  was asked at a press conference whether pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids may in fact be the Big Tobacco of our time. “Whether that’s something that’s analogous to that, I don’t know,” he said.

Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president who angered Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey by saying that individuals suffering from drug addiction “need a four-letter word called ‘will,’” was also at the press conference. She emphasized that the White House takes the opioid crisis seriously, calling it a “nonpartisan issue in search of bipartisan support and bipartisan solutions.”

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Price echoed that sentiment, claiming that officials are leaving no stone unturned. The administration is “identifying every single thing that could move us in a better direction,” he said. “All things are on the table for the president.”

All things, apparently, except one.


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.

Senators Urge Trump Administration to Consider Cannabis as Opioid Alternative

As the Trump administration works to tackle the nation’s opioid crisis, a pair of US senators have submitted a number of suggested reforms to the White House—including the use of medical cannabis as an alternative to opioid-based painkillers.

“In 2016, more people in Connecticut died from drug overdoses than from homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined.”

Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal

In correspondence sent to the President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal submitted a number of recommendations, including ideas on how those who are fighting the opioid epidemic can work together more efficiently, and how addiction treatment and prevention programs can be implemented more effectively.

“We write today to submit to you recommendations that we gathered from community leaders from across Connecticut at a recent Opioid Summit,” wrote the senators, who spent much of last week in Connecticut at a summit on the state’s opioid epidemic.

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“As you know, the opioid epidemic is devastating communities across the nation and more must be done to combat this crisis,” they told the commission. “In 2016, more people in Connecticut died from drug overdoses than from homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined.” We urge you to use these comments as you develop the interim and final reports for President Trump.”

In the report, the two Democratic lawmakers identify what they feel are some of best way to curb opioid overdoses. Among the recommendations: “exploring alternatives to opioids for pain management, (i.e. medical marijuana).”

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“The powerful drug fentanyl was involved in the deaths of 483 people—a staggering 544 percent increase since just a couple of years ago,” the senators note. “In 2016, more people in Connecticut died from drug overdoses than from homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined.”

To date, not one recorded fatality has resulted from a cannabis overdose.

Murphy and Blumenthal also sent Gov. Chris Christie a letter to notify him about the recommendations sent to Trump. Here’s the letter in its entirety:

Dear Governor Christie:

We write today to submit to you recommendations that we gathered from community leaders from across Connecticut at a recent Opioid Summit. As you know, the opioid epidemic is devastating communities across the nation and more must be done to combat this crisis. We urge you to use these comments as you develop the interim and final reports for President Trump.

The Opioid Summit we convened brought together local residents, law enforcement, first responders, treatment providers, and community organizations. Participants heard Dr. James Gill, Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner, give a sobering presentation about the state of this crisis in Connecticut. Dr. Gill said that opioids were present in 93 percent of the 917 people who died in 2016 from a drug overdose. The powerful drug fentanyl was involved in the deaths of 483 people – a staggering 544 percent increase since just a couple of years ago. In 2016, more people in Connecticut died from drug overdoses than from homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined. Following Dr. Gill’s presentation, attendees broke into small groups to develop the enclosed recommendations. Your colleague in this effort, Dr. Bertha Madras, closed the Summit with some thoughtful insights on the opioid crisis.

As the administration’s opioid task force continues its work, we want to emphasize and echo comments that you heard during your inaugural meeting in June regarding the role of Medicaid, the federal mental health parity law, and the federal Essential Health Benefits standard. Medicaid is the largest payer for addiction and mental health treatment, and any legislation that cuts billions from it will hurt our efforts to combat this epidemic. Likewise, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and the private insurance coverage gains from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have helped millions of Americans get the care they need. Two experts recently estimated that 2.8 million Americans with a substance use disorder, including about 220,000 with an opioid disorder, would lose some or all of their insurance coverage if the ACA were repealed. We, like most Americans, are opposed to this approach and urge the Trump administration to build on the work of the ACA by making treatment more available to Americans in need.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these recommendations.

Sincerely,

Christopher S. Murphy

Richard Blumenthal


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.

Jeff Sessions’ (Unfounded) Love Letter to DARE

On Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stood before a crowd at DARE America’s 30th International Training Conference in Grapevine, TX, and told the organization how grateful he was for its support of the war on drugs.

“No doubt about it. It helped turn the tide.”

Jeff Sessions, US attorney general

When the anti-drug group was founded in Los Angeles in 1983, the nation’s inner cities were on the precipice of a crack epidemic. “The nation rose to the occasion, and we successfully reversed those trends,” recalled Sessions, who was the US attorney for Georgia at the time.

“DARE became fundamental to our success,” he claimed. “No doubt about it. It helped turn the tide.”

One problem: Contrary to Sessions’ recollections, DARE didn’t work. Not according to the federal government, at least. In 2003, the US Government Accountability Office found “no significant differences in illicit drug use” as the result of the program. Numerous other studies supported that finding, reporting “no significant differences” between DARE students and others.

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That didn’t stop Sessions from singing DARE’s praises on Tuesday—or even offering an endorsement from President Donald J. Trump himself.

“We know it worked before, and we can make it work again,” Sessions told the audience. “I support you, the president supports you, and we are determined to see if we can make a big difference in America today—and I believe that we can.”

Since taking office as Trump’s attorney general, Sessions has pushed hard to restart the drug war, urging tough prosecutions and severe criminal penalties. And although much of his rhetoric has focused on the opioid epidemic and cross-border drug cartels, he’s taken aim at legal cannabis, too.

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In February, he claimed there’s “more violence around marijuana than one would think.” In April, his Justice Department began reviewing cannabis enforcement and the so-called Cole memo, which set an unofficial DOJ policy of respecting state cannabis laws. And in May, he sent a letter to congressional leaders asking them to remove a federal spending provision that prevents prosecutors from interfering with state-legal cannabis.

Over the course of his roughly 20-minute speech Tuesday, Sessions again spoke primarily on the scourge of opioids—both those prescribed by doctors and sold on the street. When he did bring up cannabis, however, he lumped it in with other dangerous drugs.

Substances are “now more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous than ever. Even marijuana THC content is up several times,” he said. “They’re not just dangerous for users. Even being accidentally exposed to just a few grams of fentanyl can kill a police officer or a paramedic.”

The nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic kills nearly 100 Americans each day. Prescription drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.

Sessions is right to draw attention to the tragedy of opioid abuse. (“I’m so pained,” he said. “It hurts me so badly, to see the trends we’re on today.”) But he’s wrong to see cannabis as part of the problem. In fact, there’s good reason to believe legal cannabis has saved more lives than DARE has.

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In 2014, a study found that states with medical marijuana laws saw 25% fewer deaths from opioid overdoses than states without. And early evidence suggests that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound produced by the plant, could actually help treat addiction. A few drug-rehab clinics have started using cannabis to help wean addicts off harder drugs, and some states have even considering adding opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

Moreover, the popular myth that cannabis acts as a so-called gateway drug to harder drug use has largely been disproven. Even Sessions’ predecessor, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, said in September 2016 that “It’s not as though we’re seeing that marijuana is a specific gateway.”

“When we talk about heroin addiction, we usually, as we have mentioned, are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem, and then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin,” she said. “It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids.”

That might be news to Sessions—at least if he’s siding with DARE. When Leafly called the organization in February 2016 asking if it still saw cannabis as a gateway drug, DARE didn’t know. “To be quite honest, I really don’t have an answer,” a spokesperson said.

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So why is the attorney general telling DARE things like, “We need you. We really need DARE”?

Apparently because so many people still remember the program from when they were kids.

“Whenever I ask adults around the age of 30 about prevention programs and what they remember, they remember the DARE program,” Sessions said Tuesday. “They consistently do.”

It’s not entirely clear what that’s supposed to prove. A lot of us remember Australia’s Stoner Sloth, too—as a joke.

I’m 31. I was in a DARE program in elementary school. I even sang a solo in my class’s DARE musical. (I’m pretty sure it was this song.) Now, almost 20 years later, I work for a cannabis publication. I’m all about responsible use, but I’ve long abandoned “just say no.”

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If Sessions is serious about wanting to save lives and improve communities in his role as AG, he’ll need to improve his appreciation for nuance. Public policies based on harm reduction sometimes seem counter-intuitive at first. Treating drug addiction with another drug? At first blush, that’s outlandish. But evidence suggests it might work—if not for everyone, at least as well as a largely defunct anti-drug organization born of drug war dogma.


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.

Will Congress Let Jeff Sessions Shut Down Medical Marijuana?

Jeff Sessions speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

This week, the House Appropriations Committee released its 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which determines the funding levels for numerous federal agencies, including the Department of Justice. Predictably, the bill does not include language — known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment — limiting the Justice Department from taking action against state-sanctioned medical cannabis producers, retailers, or consumers.

Although the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been aggressively lobbying leadership to ignore the provisions. President Trump also issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

Nonetheless, support for the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protection amendment has only grown in recent years. House members initially initially passed the amendment as a budgetary rider in 2014 by a vote of 219 to 189. By the following year, 242 House members voted in support of the language.

Yet even with bipartisan support, the text of this amendment has never been included in “the inline text” or “the base bill” of the CJS Appropriations bill. In every case of its passage, lawmakers have needed to add the language as a separate rider to the legislation and then vote on it on the floor of the House.  

This year is no exception. Our allies in Congress anticipate a similar process to take place this fall and they are confident that we will once again be victorious — despite the best efforts of our opponents.

Reps. Blumenauer and Rohrbacher last night in a statement:

“The policy championed by Representatives Blumenauer and Rohrabacher that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering in the ability of states to implement legal medical marijuana laws (previously known as “Rohrabacher-Farr”) has never been included in the base Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Subcommittee Appropriations bill. Rather, in previous years, Congress has amended the base CJS bill to include these protections.

We are exactly where we thought we would be in the legislative process and look forward to amending the underlying bill once again this year to make sure medical marijuana programs, and the patients who rely on them, are protected. Voters in states across the country have acted to legalize medical marijuana. Congress should not act against the will of the people who elected us.”

Thirty states now permit the doctor-authorized use of medical cannabis by statute, and an additional 16 states include statutory protections for the use of CBD. It is hard to imagine a scenario where a majority of lawmakers from these jurisdictions would vote against the best interests of their constituents, given the broad and bipartisan support that the amendment has received in the past.

It has been and will continue to be in politicians’ best interests to protect this progress and to protect voters’ freedoms from the encroachment of Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department.

Click here to send a message to your member urging them to support the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.

Then click here to tell them to go one step further by urging them to support the newly introduced CARERS Act of 2017 which will codify these protections into law so that we no longer have to have these annual budget fights.

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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.