Cannabis Advancements in Danger Under President-Elect Trump’s Attorney General Nominee Sessions; What You Can Do Today

Marijuana and criminallity

We’ve seen some incredible advancements in medical and adult-use cannabis in the United States this year. As we approach the end of 2016, we can proudly say that over half of U.S. states have now legalized cannabis in some form. This past year Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana approved legalizing medical cannabis and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts—joined Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and D.C. in legalizing adult-use cannabis.

According to Dale Sky Jones the overwhelming support shown by voters this year is a strong message that social justice matters in cannabis policy reform. “As cannabis is legalized across America, citizens are saying ‘no’ to unjust tactics to target growers, close dispensaries and incarcerate more people—largely minorities—consuming or possessing cannabis and saying ‘yes’ to regulated and taxed cannabis to be consumed by adults responsibly,” said Jones.

We also saw other advancements:  Congress approved veteran access to medical cannabis in states where the plant is legal, the DEA changed its policy to expand the number of DEA-registered cannabis manufacturers to foster more research, multiple studies were published regarding the science of cannabis, presidential candidates weren’t afraid to talk about cannabis on the campaign trail, and new research from Pew Research now shows that 57% of U.S. adults agree that cannabis should be made legal compared to only 32% a decade ago.

As much as we’ve seen and cheered for forward progress, advancement is still hard. Congress did indeed approve access of medical cannabis to veterans, but it is ultimately up to a vet’s VA doctor to recommend medical cannabis and not all states have approved PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a common disorder suffered by many veterans) as a condition to be treated with medical cannabis. And, researchers now have access to better grades of cannabis and the DEA is working to recruit universities to open cannabis cultivation facilities (in addition to the University of Mississippi, which has been growing cannabis for the federal government for 46 years), however, the federal application process is lengthy and complicated.

As concerned as we all are about these cannabis setbacks, we have an immediate concern…one that will make all of our current cannabis concerns moot.

Many of us were still celebrating the November 8th ballot wins for cannabis, when just a mere 10 days later news broke that President-Elect Trump wants to appoint Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as the U.S. Attorney General.

Of course, he’s got to be confirmed by Congress yet, but having an “Attorney General Sessions” is a daunting thought. He has been a vocal opponent of legalizing cannabis and has been quoted as saying ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana’ and former colleagues have testified that Sessions thought the Ku Klux Klan was ‘okay until he learned that they smoked marijuana.’

As the Attorney General, Sessions would have the authority to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, dismantle the legal cannabis industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, and begin massive raids on existing medical and adult-use retail stores.

This is just a glimpse of what cannabis could mean under a President Trump administration.

What Can You Do?

Within days of Trump’s announcement DCMJ, the Washington D.C. advocacy group that was instrumental in legalizing cannabis in D.C., took a group of volunteers to Sessions office on Capitol Hill. While they didn’t talk with Senator Sessions directly and the staff members made it clear that they don’t make decisions for the Senator, the group showed up to show their concern. You may not be able to go to Washington, D.C. to protest the confirmation of Sessions, but there are options for you to consider.

Write Your State Senators: Write to your state representatives in the U.S. Senate. They are taxed with confirming all of the president elect’s nominees. The list of U.S. Senators and their contacts will change as of January 3, 2017, which is when the 115th Congress is sworn in. Nominees cannot be confirmed until the new president is sworn in on January 20, 2017. If you know your Senator was re-elected, start writing to him or her now!

Support NORML*: Another option, or an additional option, is to support the efforts of NORML to fight back, to send a message to President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions that the American people won’t stand for intervention into state cannabis programs and we want to  move towards de-scheduling at the federal level and legalization in all 50 states. Contribute Now!

You could also connect with your closest state NORML Chapter to learn about or become involved in preparing an official statement to your State Senators.

As Dale Sky Jones has been known to say, no one said advocating for cannabis would be easy. We must stay the course. Now more than ever.

*NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.

Prop 64 Vote is Six Weeks Away; Do You Have the Facts?

State of California flag mapWhen Proposition 215 (California Compassionate Use Act) was on the ballet in 1996, 56% of Californians voted for it. Under the current regulations an estimated 758,000 patients in the Golden State today are able to obtain medical cannabis to treat a variety of medical conditions and hundreds of legitimate collectives have provided patients with safe, effective and affordable medical cannabis.

For all of the opinions held about how well-worded or effective Prop 215 have been, other states have learned from, and followed California’s lead, to enact medical cannabis laws of their own. Today, half of the states in the U.S. have some form of cannabis legislation in place. Now, 20 years later California is facing a new vote to legalize adult-use marijuana in Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

As the second Tuesday in November approaches—it is about six weeks away—getting a glimpse of the potential outcome has been on the radar of many. A Los Angeles Times poll conducted earlier in September shows 58% of California voters in favor of Prop 64, and a California Counts poll shows 71% of registered voters in favor of legalization in general.  This by no means is a sure thing however, for around this time in 2010, Prop 19 was polling at 56% and still lost at 46.5% the night of the vote.

Prop 64 includes provisions to protect children, safeguard local control, protect public health and safety, and defend California's environment and lose California in 2016 could mean more years of failed policy and families losing one another...yes, even in 2016 in California, children are still taken for marijuana. What do you know about Prop 64? Here’s a breakdown of the main provisions.

Prop 64 is the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) would control, regulate and tax responsible adult use of marijuana. It includes provisions to protect children, safeguard local control, protect public health and safety, and defend California’s environment and water.

It will allow adults age 21+ to possess, transport, purchase, consume and share up to one ounce of cannabis and eight grams of extracts. The sale of adult-use cannabis will only be available at licensed marijuana businesses. Bars, liquor stores and grocery stores will not sell marijuana and consuming marijuana in public will remain illegal.

Individuals would be allowed to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis for personal use; possession on the grounds of schools, daycare centers, or youth centers while children are present will be illegal. Individuals would be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants; growing in an area that is unlocked or visible from a public place will be prohibited.

Designates state agencies to license and regulate the cannabis industry in California. Licensing and regulation would go to the following agencies:

  • Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation – license medical marijuana distributors, transporters, testing facilities, and retailers.
  • Department of Food and Agriculture – license and regulate medical marijuana growers.
  • Department of Public Health – license and regulate producers of edible marijuana products.
  • State Water Resources Control Board – regulate the environmental impacts of marijuana growing on water quality.
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife – regulate environmental impacts of marijuana growing.
  • Department of Pesticide Regulation – regulate pesticide use for growing marijuana.

It will impose a 15% state excise tax on all retail marijuana sales and state cultivation taxes on marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. Annual revenue from cannabis sales is expected to reach over $1 billion annually. Of that tax revenue 60% will go towards youth substance abuse prevention, treatment and education; 20% will go to helping state and local law enforcement, and 20% will go towards environmental restoration, cleanup and enforcement. Further, portions of the tax revenue will go toward research as well as local health departments and nonprofits.

Here’s a closer look at how this breaks down:

  • $450 million or more per year in grants to schools and county health programs, funding treatment programs, helping at-risk youth and more.
  • $150 million or more to the California Highway Patrol to train officers for detecting DUIs and to offer grants to local law enforcement, fire protection or public health programs in regions where cannabis cultivation and sales are allowed.
  • Approximately $150 million annually to help state environmental agencies restore waterways affected by cannabis cultivation and to protect public lands from being used for marijuana activities.
  • $10 million annually for 11 years for public universities in California to evaluate the impact of legalization and recommend policy changes, if needed. Research topics would include public health, public safety, prices, etc.
  • $10 million annually—increasing to $50 million annually be 2022—for grants to local health departments and nonprofits that support addiction treatment, job placement, mental health treatment and other services for communities that have been hard-hit by previous drug policies.
  • $3 million annually for five years to the California Highway Patrol to develop protocols for determining when drivers are impaired.
  • $2 million annually to the University of California San Diego Center for Medical Cannabis Research to study cannabis as medicine.

Exempts medical marijuana from some taxation. Prop 64 is intended to keep medical cannabis affordable for patients. Patients with government-issued ID cards would not pay the state sales tax, but they would pay the new 15% tax proposed under Prop 64, as well as a portion of the cultivation tax and regulatory compliance costs that might be passed along.

Establishes packaging, labeling, advertising, and marketing standards and restrictions for cannabis products, but prohibits marketing and advertising of cannabis directly to minors.

Allows local regulation and taxation of cannabis. Currently, cities across California already tax medical cannabis and Prop 64 will allow local taxes for adult-use cannabis.

Authorizes resentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions. Though California decriminalized marijuana possession in 2010, there are still people serving time for marijuana crimes or who have been hindered by marijuana convictions. Prop 64 would allow individuals to request reduced sentences or ask the courts to have their criminal records changed. People under 18 caught with marijuana would be sentenced to drug education and community service.

Should California pass Prop 64, the state as a whole will do better to refocus precious resources. Businesses in the cannabis industry will grow, better research will be available, and cannabis products should be safer. Prop 64 passage could also move the United States one step closer to federal decriminalization and perhaps even reschedule or de-schedule cannabis from the Schedule I status it currently holds with the federal government; Congress will feel no pressure to do so if Prop 64 fails.

November 8, 2016. Be sure you are registered to vote, mark the date on your calendars and plan a meetup with friends to go to your local polling place.  Tell your friends you are voting yes, and they need to as well, because to lose California in 2016 could mean more years of failed policy and families losing one another…yes, even in 2016 in California, children are still taken for marijuana.

Want to know more?

California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Proposition 64

Marijuana Leglization. Initiative Statute. Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Californians for Responsible Marijuana Reform

Where to Vote in California