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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jeff Sessions has been confirmed as the attorney general along party lines, with no Republicans opposing his appointment and only one Democrat in favor. While this understandably makes the cannabis industry a little jittery, thanks to the prospect of the resumption of federal enforcement efforts, there may be some cause for cautious optimism—at least that’s the message put forth in a statement released by the nation’s largest cannabis policy group, the Marijuana Policy Project.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that the Trump administration will refrain from interfering in state marijuana laws,” said the Feb. 9 statement. “When asked about his plans for marijuana enforcement, Attorney General Sessions said he ‘echo(es)’ the position taken by Loretta Lynch during her confirmation hearings. He repeatedly acknowledged the scarcity of enforcement resources, and he said he would ensure they are used as effectively as possible to stop illicit drugs from being trafficked into the country.

“President Trump has consistently said that states should be able to determine their own marijuana laws, and his spokesperson made it clear that the attorney general will be implementing the Trump agenda. We are hopeful that Mr. Sessions will follow the president’s lead and respect states’ rights on marijuana policy.

“A strong and growing majority of Americans think marijuana should be made legal, and an even stronger majority think(s) the federal government should respect state marijuana laws. Eight states have adopted laws that regulate and tax marijuana for adult use, and 28 states now have laws that regulate marijuana for medical use. It would be shocking if the Trump administration attempted to steamroll the citizens and governments in these states to enforce an increasingly unpopular federal policy.”

The MPP’s view seems to be somewhat optimistic. Sessions’ distaste for legalization is well-documented, and when asked about enforcing the federal ban in states that have legalized weed, he’s said it is not his place to choose which laws to enforce, before adding: “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we are able.” Many took this as an indication that federal enforcement could resume in the absence of action by Congress. However, parts of his oral testimony did indicate that a lack of resources might keep federal enforcement of pot laws in check, and he avoided committing to enforcement in states where marijuana is legal.

On the same day as Sessions’ confirmation, Orange County-area Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher reintroduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, H.R. 975. First introduced in April 2013, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act exempts individuals and entities acting in compliance with state marijuana laws from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act. This is the third time Rohrabacher has introduced the bill.

“I happen to believe that the federal government shouldn’t be locking up anyone for making a decision on what he or she should privately consume, whether that person is rich or poor, and we should never be giving people the excuse, especially federal authorities, that they have a right to stop people or intrude into their lives in order to prevent them and prevent others from smoking a weed, consuming something they personally want to consume,” Rohrabacher said during his speech introducing the bill. A solid Trump supporter and devout state’s rights advocate, Rohrabacher added: “My bill would then make sure that federal law is aligned with the states’ (laws), and the people in those states’ desires, so that the residents and businesses wouldn’t have to worry about federal prosecution. For those few states that have thus far maintained a policy of strict prohibition, my bill would change nothing. I think that this is a reasonable compromise that places the primary responsibility of police powers back in the states and the local communities that are most directly affected.”

Not surprisingly, the MPP supports the bill.

“Nine out of 10 Americans now live in states that have rejected federal marijuana prohibition by adopting some sort of marijuana policy reform,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This legislation would ease the tension between state and federal laws to ensure these state-level reforms are successful. It would also help states address the public health and safety priorities shared by state and federal authorities.”

The last time the bill was introduced in 2015, it received neither a hearing nor a vote, so it’s still a big maybe in a GOP-controlled Congress. Therefore, legal-weed proponents have much to fear—and are not taking “maybe” for an answer.

Washington, one of the first states to legalize adult recreational use of cannabis, is leading the resistance against federal interference. State Sen. Reuven Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat, has been involved with shaping Washington state’s cannabis policy since legalization in 2012.

“It is extremely difficult for anyone to pretend we can predict what the Trump administration is going to do,” Carlyle told The News Tribune in Tacoma.

Washington is preparing for the worst with a bill that would prevent local officials from cooperating with the feds in enforcement of marijuana laws that contradict state law. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he would do anything he can to sway White House opinion in favor of at least allowing states to continue down their own paths without federal interference.

“I think it would be a really big mistake for them to pick this fight, and I hope it will not occur,” Inslee said in that aforementioned article in The News Tribune.


Cannabis sprouts in Coachella

Del-Gro, the city of Coachella’s first commercial cannabis-cultivation facility, held a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 9. The facility rents turn-key grow spaces to growers, and will provide cannabis-business support including extract production, financial services, consulting, lab testing and onsite distribution.

“Opening the first cultivation operation in Coachella is an incredible opportunity for us and our partner cultivators”, said Ben Levine, founder and CEO of Del-Gro, in a news release. “We forecast that our operation will ultimately bring in over $100 million in annual revenue for us and the independent growers we work with. But greater than that, we’re thrilled that the residents of Coachella have trusted us to be industry trailblazers in their city.”

All available spaces have been rented, and Del-Gro will be open for business later this year on the property that used to be the home Ajax Auto Wrecking. Del-Gro estimates the facility could produce $3 million in annual tax revenue for the city of Coachella.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

After the November election, 28 states have now legalized marijuana in one way or another. Public opinion has never been stronger in favor of legalization—and this even includes a vast majority of police, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. (More on this in a bit.)

Unfortunately, presumptive Attorney General Jeff Sessions does not agree—and that could pose a serious problem for weed.

Of course, we know Sessions’ views on racial matters have been troubling, at best, over the years. A black assistant U.S. attorney named Thomas Figures once testified that, in addition to calling him “boy” on several occasions, Sessions thought Ku Klux Klan members were “OK, until (he learned) that they smoked marijuana.”

Let that sink in: The probable head of the Department of Justice once said the only problem he has with the KKK is that they smoke weed.

While it’s debatable whether Sessions’ views on race issues have improved over the years, it seems clear that Sessions remains firmly in the anti-marijuana camp.

"I think one obvious concern is that the United States Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state and the distribution of it an illegal act," Sessions said during his confirmation hearings. “If that's something that's not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not much the attorney general's job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we are able."

Seems like a pretty innocuous answer at first … but just what does "enforce laws effectively as we are able" mean? Many are taking this as an indication that he will enforce the federal ban until federal laws say otherwise.

This means the good done by the Cole memo may be in jeopardy. The Cole memo, the key Obama-era concession to state-legalization laws, was authored by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole and issued by the DOJ on Aug. 29, 2013. It set different priorities for federal prosecutors that dictated a hands-off policy on prosecuting federal cannabis laws where local jurisdictions had legalized and regulated the plant. This effectively ended federal raids and interference in state-legal businesses.

In a quixotic quest to enforce an antiquated and wildly unpopular federal ban, and prop up a beloved-but-lost War on Drugs, Attorney General Sessions would have the power—and apparently the will—to reverse the Cole memo. Federal raids could resume, hamstringing a burgeoning industry. This is serious: Small businessmen could be jailed, with jobs lost and millions of dollars taken from municipal and state coffers. Large-scale grows like those approved in Desert Hot Springs, Coachella and soon Palm Springs would be prime targets. Cannabis businesses would again be subject to asset forfeiture (where authorities can seize property tied to a crime). The Drug Enforcement Administration’s insistence on keeping cannabis in the Schedule 1 club (making funds non-FDIC-insurable) has made investors nervous already. Under threat of asset forfeiture, big investors will quickly head north into Canada’s cannabis-loving arms. Cash-strapped cities like Desert Hot Springs would be left wondering what the hell happened.


OK, SO WE’RE A LITTLE CONFLICTED...

Meanwhile, the opinion of law enforcement at-large is now heavily in favor of legalization.

The day after Congress began the process to confirm Jeff “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” Sessions to the position of Top Cop in the U.S. (and yes, he said exactly that last April), the Pew Research Center released the results of a poll indicating that the majority of American police officers are in favor of some form of legalization.

The survey of 7,917 officers from 54 police and sheriff's departments, conducted from May 19 through Aug. 14, 2016, shows the opinion of Jeff Sessions is completely out of touch with that of the cop on the street.

The really astounding number is that 68 percent of police officers are in favor of legalization for at least medicinal use: 37 percent of officers polled support legalization for medicinal use only, while 32 percent are in favor of both recreational and medicinal legalization. While this isn’t quite as favorable toward cannabis as overall public opinion (49 percent for recreational and medicinal, and 32 percent for medicinal only), it’s a huge shift in a positive direction. Only 30 percent of police officers believe the plant should remain illegal, but that’s double the 15 percent of the general public. As with the public, support for legalization is stronger among younger officers.

This support for weed hasn’t stopped police from enforcing marijuana laws: In 2015, police made more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined.

If Sen. Jeff Sessions is indeed confirmed as attorney general of the United States, he could create a disaster that cripples the growth of an industry expected to triple in the next few years, with the new addition of California and other states to the legal market. He is a just-say-no-era anachronism who is completely out of touch with 21st century America.

All we can do at this point is hope Trump is a single-term president, and that four years isn’t enough time to do too much damage to a legalization movement that is finally finding real success and acceptance after so many decades of marginalization.

Tell the Senate to reject Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Find an online petition here.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

The different reactions to marijuana legalization by Coachella Valley’s cities have been varied … to say the least.

Palm Springs has always been forward-thinking where cannabis is concerned, and Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City and Coachella are now wisely looking to cash in on the green rush. Meanwhile, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage are going in the other direction by doing their best to slow access—or ban weed altogether.

Now Indian Wells has enacted the most draconian policies yet in the wake of Proposition 64’s November voter approval.

Indian Wells recently passed an ordinance that requires residents who wish to grow marijuana at home for personal use, as allowed by Prop 64, to register with City Hall for a permit—and pay a $141-per-year fee.

Marijuana activists and legal experts alike are attacking the law as unconstitutional, but that didn’t prevent the City Council from passing the ordinance in a 4-1 vote.

Councilman Ty Peabody abstained. Later, according to The Desert Sun, he commented: “I just don’t believe in marijuana,” citing the continuing federal ban.

(What does that even mean? Has he been under a rock the last couple decades?)

In addition to the yearly fee attached to the permit, Indian Wells residents would be required by law to allow city employees to inspect their homes to determine compliance with state and local laws.

While Prop 64 does allow jurisdictions to enact reasonable regulations on a local level, the Indian Wells’ requirements represent a vast overreach, according to multiple experts on the law. In fact, Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said this may the tightest regulation passed in California to date.

“Proposition 64 states: ‘A city, county, or city and county may enact and enforce reasonable regulations to reasonably regulate’ the indoor cultivation of marijuana by adults,” Armentano told the Independent via e-mail. “However, this proposal clearly stretches the idea of what would be considered ‘reasonable.’ We would not expect adults to register with the city or to submit to inspections of their home if they were brewing their own alcohol, and we should not expect adults to give up their civil liberties and privacy rights to engage in indoor marijuana gardening—activity that is now perfectly legal under state law.”

Dale Gieringer, the director of California NORML, also compared home growers of marijuana to home brewers, and questioned the usefulness of such a law.

“We believe the Indian Wells ordinance violates Prop 64,” he said. “Prop 64 authorizes ‘reasonable’ regulations of personal-use cultivation. Why doesn’t it impose the same regulations on indoor growing of all plants, or on home brewing of beer and wine? This is an obnoxious exercise in over-regulation and an affront to personal privacy. Don’t Indian Wells officials have anything better to do?”

“Unconstitutional” and “crazy” are words used to describe the ordinance by attorney and cannabis law expert Omar Figueroa of Sonoma County. In a conversation with The Desert Sun, he cited the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court Case Leary v. United States, which ruled that “self-incrimination” can’t be required by state or local agencies, due to the Fifth Amendment.

“It’s not a constitutionally enforceable law,” he told The Desert Sun. “It would be foolish of them to enforce it.”

Joy Brown Meredith, the founder and president of Joy of Life Wellness Center, Palm Springs’ sixth licensed dispensary, said she’s happy to be located in a less-restrictive Coachella Valley city.

“I’m glad Palm Springs is more progressive than Indian Wells,” she said. “What is the purpose of the permit and all the identification requirements if not to intimidate people to feel uneasy about growing this amazing plant?”

Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indio and La Quinta have banned dispensaries and cultivation. The city of Coachella allows manufacturing and cultivation in a specific zone of the city, but not dispensaries or delivery.

Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells recently amended their respective bans to include recreational marijuana businesses in the wake of Prop 64.


DEA: CBD and all other cannabis extracts are on Schedule I

Continuing its steady march backward, the Drug Enforcement Administration has lumped all marijuana extracts—including CBD—into marijuana’s Schedule I classification, making every form of the cannabis plant illegal under federal law.

The new code defines extracts as “containing one or more cannabinoids that (have) been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant.”

The DEA says it’s merely a way to keep better track of research and shipments of extracts versus flowers, by assigning extracts their own code. But the new rule states clearly: “For practical purposes, all extracts that contain CBD will also contain at least small amounts of other cannabinoids. … However, if it were possible to produce from the cannabis plant an extract that contained only CBD and no other cannabinoids, such an extract would fall within the new drug code.”

CBD occurs naturally in cannabis, but unlike THC, it doesn’t get the user high. CBD has been successful in the treatment of tumors, epilepsy, chronic pain and many other ailments. To date, CBD has been legalized in 20 states and Washington, D.C., for medicinal use. While these state laws will not be affected by the new code, those laws will now be more specifically in conflict with federal law.

Congress could still act to reschedule CBD and other extracts. The Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act was introduced in the Senate last year to ease research restrictions on CBD, but stalled—despite support from both sides of the aisle.

Currently, the federal government has a laissez-faire stance regarding state cannabis laws; in other words, the feds are letting states call the shots for their citizens. However, considering the anti-pot crusaders prevalent in the incoming Trump administration—including Vice President-elect Mike Pence and attorney general pick Ken “good people don’t smoke marijuana” Sessions—one must wonder how long that attitude will last.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

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