Twenty states plus the District of Columbia now allow sales of medicinal marijuana, allowing pot prescriptions to treat pretty much any malady, from a headache to a hangnail. Colorado and Washington have legalized the drug for recreational use, too.
Yet federal law still prohibits the possession, use and sale of marijuana for any reason. This dichotomy explains why some banks are reluctant to accept the large amounts of cash that pot purveyors generate — even if the cash is legal under state law.
To redress this, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised to issue guidelines to make it easier for marijuana sellers who are operating in accordance with their state laws to use the banking system. Large amounts of cash “just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited,” Holder mused, “is something that would worry me, from a law enforcement perspective.”
The fact is, Holder encouraged those bundles of unbanked cash to be assembled in the first place. Last year, perhaps in a nod to opinion polls showing that a majority of Americans favor marijuana le. . . . . READ MORE
“People cannot buy alcohol I guess now until you’re age… age 21, but young people find ways to get alcohol because adults can have access to it,” Holder said before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I’m not sure that we will see the same thing here given what we have said with regard to our enforcement priorities.”
His comments came as Colorado and Washington state have been implementing new laws allowing recreational pot. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and under questioning, Holder defended the Obama administration’s stance in allowing the states to move forward with their laws while the feds work to make sure the drug doesn’t become available to minors or move across state lines.
“The distribution of marijuana to minors will… will entail a very vigorous federal response,” Holder said.
The Department of Justice is expected to unveil new guidelines that might help banks transact with legal marij. . . . . READ MORE
U.S. treasury and law enforcement agencies will soon issue regulations opening banking services to state-sanctioned marijuana businesses even though cannabis remains classified an illegal narcotic under federal law, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday.
Holder said the new rules would address problems faced by newly licensed recreational pot retailers in Colorado, and medical marijuana dispensaries in other states, in operating on a cash-only basis, without access to banking services or credit.
Proprietors of state-licensed marijuana distributors in Colorado and elsewhere have complained of having to purchase inventory, pay employees and conduct sales entirely in cash, requiring elaborate and expensive security measures and putting them at a high risk of robbery.
It also makes accounting for state sales tax-collection purposes difficult.
“You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places,” Holder told the audience at the University of Virginia. “They want to be able to use the banking system. And so we will be issuing some regulati. . . . . READ MORE
Ten of 13 members of the D.C. Council and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) have endorsed a plan to make small-time marijuana possession a civil rather than a criminal offense. That means recreational cannabis users wouldn’t face arrest, charges or jail time — any of which can destroy their lives — as long as they aren’t caught with more than an ounce of the drug. Instead, they would have to pay a fine, perhaps as low as $25. (The mayor also wants criminal penalties to remain for anyone caught using it in public.)
Much of the debate over the idea has focused on an American Civil Liberties Union report that suggests that the District and many other jurisdictions enforce their anti-marijuana laws unfairly, disproportionately arresting African American suspects. On these pages, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier pushed back, insisting that factors such as a geographic concentration of tips about marijuana users, not biased policing, are responsible for the city’s arres. . . . . READ MORE
The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board’s latest annual report expressed dismay at the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado and urged “the Government of the United States to take necessary measures to ensure full compliance with the international drug control treaties in its entire territory”. This led many media outlets to report that the U.S. had violated the UN drug control treaties to which it is a signatory. U.S. obligations under the treaties, and indeed the broader international future of marijuana legalization, are complex matters. But the essential points can be summarized in a 4-part Q&A.
1. Is the U.S. currently in violation of the UN treaties it signed agreeing to make marijuana illegal? No. The U.S. federal government is a signatory to the treaty, but the States of Washington and Colorado are not. Countries with federated systems of government like the U.S. and Germany can only make international commitments regarding their national-level policies. Constitutionally, U.S. states are simply not required to make marijuana illegal as it is in federal law. Hence, the U.S. made no such commitment on behalf of the 50 states in signing t. . . . . READ MORE
Last month, Holder said certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders — those without ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels — no longer will be charged with offenses that impose severe mandatory minimum sentences.
Holder said he now has broadened the new policy to cover defendants who have not yet been convicted in drug cases that could involve lengthy mandatory prison sentences. The policy also may be applied, at the discretion of prosecutors, to a defendant who has entered a guilty plea, but has not yet been sentenced.
Mandatory minimum prison sentences, a legacy of the government’s war on drugs, limit the discretion of judges to impose shorter prison terms.
Holder says the government should reserve the most severe prison terms for serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers.
“Some federal drug statutes that mandate inflexible sentences — regardless of the individual conduct at issue in a . . . . . READ MORE
During the groundbreaking phone call on Thursday, August 29 in which U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the governors of Colorado and Washington the federal government would not attempt to intercept regulated legal marijuana in their states, he also said the Department of Justice (DOJ) is “actively considering” how to oversee the relationship between banks and marijuana shops.
According to the Huffington Post, Holder told the governors as long as marijuana shops “operate within state laws and don’t violate other federal law enforcement priorities” the DOJ is looking to regulate those interactions as legal.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, released a statement on Thursday calling for a hearing to discuss his proposed bill, Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act (HR 2652). In the statement, he raised concerns over “public safety, crime, and lost tax revenue associated when these legal and regulated businesses are operating in a cash-only system.”
“We need to provi. . . . . READ MORE
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is set to announce Monday that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no ties to gangs or large-scale drug organizations will no longer be charged with offenses that impose severe mandatory sentences.
The new Justice Department policy is part of a comprehensive prison reform package that Holder will reveal in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco, according to senior department officials. He is also expected to introduce a policy to reduce sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates and find alternatives to prison for nonviolent criminals.
Justice Department lawyers have worked for months on the proposals, which Holder wants to make the cornerstone of the rest of his tenure.
“A vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities,” Holder plans to say Monday, according to excerpts of his remarks that were provided to The Washington Post. “However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem rather than alleviate it.”
Hold. . . . . READ MORE
In a major shift in criminal justice policy, the Obama administration will move on Monday to ease overcrowding in federal prisons by ordering prosecutors to omit listing quantities of illegal substances in indictments for low-level drug cases, sidestepping federal laws that impose strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a speech at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco on Monday, is expected to announce the new policy as one of several steps intended to curb soaring taxpayer spending on prisons and help correct what he regards as unfairness in the justice system, according to his prepared remarks.
Saying that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason,” Mr. Holder is planning to justify his policy push in both moral and economic terms.
“Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable,” Mr. Holder’s speech says. “It imposes a significant eco. . . . . READ MORE
This week, the Colorado General Assembly put the finishing touches on legislation aimed at taxing and regulating the commercial distribution of marijuana for recreational use. The process has been haunted by the fear that the federal government will try to quash this momentous experiment in pharmacological tolerance — a fear magnified by the Obama administration’s continuing silence on the subject.
Six months after voters in Colorado and Washington made history by voting to legalize marijuana, Attorney General Eric Holder still has not said how the Justice Department plans to respond. But if the feds are smart, they will not just refrain from interfering, they will work together with state officials to minimize smuggling of newly legal marijuana to jurisdictions that continue to treat it as contraband. A federal crackdown can only make the situation worse — for prohibitionists as well as consumers.
Shutting down state-licensed pot stores probably would not be very hard. A few well-placed letters threatening forfeiture and prosecution would do the trick for all but the bravest cannabis entrepreneurs. But what then?
Under Amendment 64, the Colorado initiative, people 21 or older alre. . . . . READ MORE