WASHINGTON, DC — Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced an amendment to the pending federal immigration bill that would create harsher penalties for anyone growing marijuana on public federal lands.
The amendment has already won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hatch announced in Tuesday statement. The committee is expected to vote on the overall bill later this week.
Under Hatch’s amendment, people caught growing marijuana on federal lands would face aggravated penalties. They would also have to serve their sentences consecutive to, not concurrent with, any other sentences.
“In my home state of Utah, the Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement have seized more than 110,000 marijuana plants this past year,” Hatch said. “These sites are typically far from the eyes of law enforcement, where growers can take the time needed to grow potent marijuana.”
The amendment is only one of several Hatch has introduced to the immigration bill. He. . . . . READ MORE
WASHINGTON, DC — Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) Monday introduced an amendment to the omnibus farm bill to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, the Huffington Post reported. The move picked up momentum the next day, when Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) said he would support, the Huffington Post reported separately.
Vote Hemp, a hemp industry group, has been urging supporters to lobby senators to add and support the amendment. There is an opening on the farm bill this year because it failed to pass last year.
“For me, what’s important is that people see, particularly in our state, there’s someone buying it at Costco in Oregon,” Wyden told the Post. “I adopted what I think is a modest position, which is if you can buy it at a store in Oregon, our farmers ought to be able to make some money growing it.”
Wyden wasn’t alone. The bipartisan amendment is cosponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY).
On Tuesday, Sen. Leahy told members of the farm advocacy group Rural Vermont he would support the amendment, and a Leahy aide confirmed his support to the Post.
“We are optimistic that the hemp amendment to the farm bill will pass and be attached,” Tom Murphy, the national ou. . . . . READ MORE
From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the “drug war” and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.
However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784 percent (as seen in the chart below complied by The Sentencing Project):
This stark rise in private prison populations is partially due to increased contracts granted at the state and federal levels to behemoth prison companies such as Correction Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group. These companies claim – against available data – that they can run corrections facilities at lower costs.
However, whether . . . . . READ MORE
WASHINGTON, DC — Tennessee Representative Steve Cohen took an opportunity Wednesday to grill Attorney General Eric Holder about the ongoing prosecutions of marijuana offenses in the United States, even in states that have liberalized marijuana laws.
During the Wednesday House oversight committee hearing focusing on the recent AP phone log scandal, Rep. Cohen (D-Tennessee) tore into AG Holder, calling marijuana prohibition an “injustice for 40 years” and demanding to know why the Department of Justice is continuing to put people in jail for marijuana:
One of the greatest threats to liberty has been the government taking people’s liberty for things that people are in favor of. The Pew Research Group shows that 52 percent of people do not think marijuana should be illegal. And yet there are people in jail, and your Justice Department is continuing to put people in jail, for sale, and use, on occasion, of marijuana. That’s something the American public has finally caught up with. It was a cultural lag. And it’s been an injustice for 40 years in this country to take people’s liberty for something that was similar to alcohol. You have continued what is allowing the Mexican cartels power, and the power to make money, ruin Mexico, hurt our country by having a Prohibition in the late 20th and 21st century. We saw it didn’t work in this country . . . . . READ MORE
WASHINGTON, DC – The Drug Policy Alliance will formally release An Exit Strategy for the Failed War on Drugs, the group’s first-ever federal legislative guide, Thursday in Washington.
This comprehensive report contains 75 broad and incremental recommendations for legislative reforms related to civil rights, deficit reduction, law enforcement, foreign policy, sentencing and re-entry, effective drug treatment, public health, and drug prevention education.
The guide will be released at a forum on the Hill cosponsored by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), both of whom fought for major drug policy reform at the local level before running for Congress and winning.
“The United States has approximately five percent of the world’s population but twenty-five percent of its prison population, largely resulting from failed policy decisions connected to the war on drugs,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York). “The over-criminalization phenomenon has cost us in lost human capital and economic productivity. I look forward to thoroughly reviewing DPA’s recommendations and working closely together to improve the fairness and humanity of the criminal justice system.”
As a New York Assemblyman, Jeffries was a leader in opposing New York City’s racially discriminatory marijuana arr. . . . . READ MORE
NEW YORK, NY — The Grammy Award-winning comedy duo Cheech and Chong based their 42-year career on counterculture humor with a particular emphasis on marijuana use. But these days Tommy Chong sees the recreational drug as something more than fodder for jokes about stoned hippies.
The 74-year-old comedian thinks legalizing marijuana on a federal level would offer numerous benefits, including a boost to the U.S. economy if it were taxed.
“Look at the situation we’re in now. Sequesters. Cuts. Everything cut across the board. Now, the government is tapped into the biggest cash crop in the world,” Chong said. “There’s little manufacturing cost. You don’t have to do anything except watch it grow and get a couple of hippies to cut it and then put it in a bag.”
His ambitions for marijuana may be outsized, but he notes the potential medical uses that have already inspired some states to legalize the drug. Nearly 20 states have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana, and two of them – Colorado and Washington – have totally legalized it. And at least 12 states have pending legislation to legalize for medical use.
“Hemp itself is going to save the world,” Chong said.
Chong’s comedy partner, Richard “Cheech” Marin, 66, thinks lega. . . . . READ MORE
Dispensaries providing marijuana to doctor-approved patients operate in a number of states, but they are under assault by the federal government. SWAT-style raids by the DEA and finger-wagging press conferences by grim-faced federal prosecutors may garner greater attention, but the assault on medical marijuana providers extends to other branches of the government as well, and moves by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to eliminate dispensaries’ ability to take standard business deduction are another very painful arrow in the federal quiver.
The IRS employs Section 280E, a 1982 addition to the tax code that was a response to a drug dealer’s successful effort to claim his yacht, weapons purchases, and even illicit bribes as business expenses. Under 280E, individuals involved in the illicit sale of controlled substances — including marijuana, even medical marijuana in states where it is legal — cannot claim standard business expenses on their federal taxes.
“The 280E provision which requires certain businesses to pay taxes on their gross income, as opposed to their net income, is aimed at shutting down illicit drug operations, not sta. . . . . READ MORE
MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO — Marijuana reform activists from Missouri were denied vending space during a weekend event at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, citing concerns that a booth promoting marijuana legalization could strain the venue’s relationship with the city and its police force.
Show-Me Cannabis, a Missouri organization that advocates for the reform of marijuana laws in the state, had submitted a vendor application for Pointfest, a multi-stage concert sponsored by local radio station The Point (KPNT 105.7 FM). The same radio station began airing a four-week ad campaign for Show Me Cannabis last week.
The organization had intended to hand out literature, generate interest for upcoming initiative campaigns, and sell t-shirts at the event.
Last week, a representative from the Live Nation-owned venue contacted Show Me Cannabis to inform them that their vendor application had been declined, citing fears that the Maryland Heights Police Department would shut the booth down for “advocating illegal activity.”
In response to the application being denied, Show Me Cannabis’ John Payne contacted the Chief of Police in Maryland Heights, Colonel William Carson, who acknowledged the organization’s First Amendmen. . . . . READ MORE
WASHINGTON, DC — Ten members of the House Judiciary Committee have agreed to form an Over-Criminalization Task Force to review the expansion of the federal criminal code and make recommendations for paring it down. There are roughly 4,500 federal crimes on the law books, with new ones being added at a rate of about 50 a year.
This proposed review of federal criminal laws is the first since the 1980s, when the number of federal crimes on the books was about half what it is now. The task force will conduct hearings and investigate issues around over-criminalization and will have the opportunity to issue reports to the Justice Committee on its findings and policy recommendations.
Task force members include Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Karen Bass (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), George Holding (R-NC), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Jerold Nadler (D-NY), Bobby Scott (D-VA), and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). The group contains both prominent drug law reformers, such as Cohen and Scott, and prominent drug warriors, such as Gohmert and Sensenb. . . . . READ MORE