Federal criminal cases focused on marijuana have fallen sharply since states began legalizing cannabis, even though drug crimes continue to consume the bulk of the federal caseload, new data shows.
A report from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) released on Tuesday revealed that drug crimes remain the most common type of federal criminal cases, accounting for about 30 percent. The USSC reported that 92 percent of these drug cases involved trafficking.
Even so, 1,301 federal drug cases “involved a conviction for the simple possession of a drug.”
The report, which does not include information about state criminal prosecutions, showed a downward trend in federal criminal cases overall. That includes drug cases, which dropped about four percent since fiscal year 2016—the fifth year in a row that drug cases have declined. Drug crimes involving cocaine and methamphetamine were up slightly, but those involving marijuana fell sharply.
“The number of marijuana cases [3,854] represents a 25.3 percent decline from the year before. Marijuana cases have declined by 45.8 percent since fiscal year 2013.”
Another interesting decline concerns mandatory minimum sentences. About 44 percent of drug offenders were convicted of crimes that carried a mandatory minimum—the lowest percentage since the USSC began collecting that data in 1993. Marijuana offenders were generally given the shortest sentences, averaging 29 months of imprisonment.
But what accounts for the substantial decline in marijuana cases?
Several factors may be at play. Federal marijuana cases have dropped almost 50 percent since 2013—the same year that former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memorandum, colloquially known as the “Cole memo,” to federal prosecutors on marijuana enforcement priorities. The document has generally been interpreted as a message to U.S. attorneys not to prosecute people complying with state cannabis laws.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that memo in January, but he later said it wouldn’t necessarily lead to an increase in federal marijuana cases. The Justice Department doesn’t have the resources to take on “routine cases,” he said.
Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment that he viewed the trend as a reflection of “shifting federal priorities among both U.S. drug enforcement and border agents” and “may also be attributable to the reality that international drug trafficking organizations in recent years, following the advent of legalization in several U.S. jurisdictions have largely shifted their efforts away from marijuana.”
In other words, more of the market for cannabis is now being supplied by people following new state laws, so there are fewer people for the feds to prosecute in marijuana trafficking cases.
According to a separate 2018 DEA report, federal seizures of indoor and outdoor grown marijuana fell 37 percent from 2016 to 2017.
“As more and more states move toward regulating domestic cannabis, one can presume that the market for imported cannabis will continue to decline and that the U.S. cannabis market will become of even less interest to [drug trafficking organizations],” Armentano said.
It should be noted that federal marijuana cases account for a small fraction of cannabis enforcement in the United States overall, the bulk of which is done on the state and local levels. For example, there were more than 580,000 arrests for marijuana nationwide in 2016.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Federal Marijuana Cases Drop Sharply, New Report Shows
The top Democrat in the U.S. House says that doctors should more often suggest medical marijuana and yoga to patients in pain instead of doling out so many prescription opioids.
“Doctors say, ‘Don’t tell us how many pills we can prescribe.’ Well maybe we should,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said at a press conference last week. “Others say there are other ways to relieve stress and relieve pain and that you don’t need opioids in the first place. We are too reliant to transition from them. Marijuana, yoga, all kinds of other things that are homeopathic but are not addictive in this dangerous way.”
Pelosi, who represents San Francisco in Congress, has long been a supporter of medical cannabis.
Her new remarks about marijuana as a safer alternative to opioids were made at an event in support of opioid treatment, prevention and research funding legislation recently filed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
A growing body of research suggests that states with legal marijuana access see reduced opioid overdose rates.
Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called out pharmaceutical companies for opposing marijuana legalization.
“To them it’s competition for chronic pain, and that’s outrageous because we don’t have the crisis in people who take marijuana for chronic pain having overdose issues,” she said. “It’s not the same thing. It’s not as highly addictive as opioids are.”
Over the weekend, Pelosi’s Republican counterpart in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan, told some marijuana jokes in a video message played at the White House Correspondents Association dinner.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Nancy Pelosi Suggests Marijuana And Yoga As Opioid Alternatives
Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is the latest public official to endorse significant marijuana law reforms after leaving office.
“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” he told Bloomberg. “I find myself in that same position.”
Boehner, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), is joining the Board of Advisors of Acreage Holdings, which holds 35 licenses for cannabis businesses across the U.S.
“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner said. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”
In a tweet, Boehner, who did not endorse marijuana law reform while serving as the House’s top official, said he now supports removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, a process known as descheduling.
In a 2011 letter to a constituent, the speaker wrote, “I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug. I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”
But now, Boehner says that he and Weld will advise Acreage on navigating confusing and conflicting federal and state marijuana laws.
“When it comes to an issue like this, that has what I’ll call murky legal issues and political issues, we’re there to provide advice to Acreage in terms of how they work with state and federal governments, how they work with local governments and advice on what states look promising,” he told Bloomberg.
The former top GOP official is critical of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to reverse Obama-era guidance that generally allowed states to implement their own cannabis policies without federal interference.
“When I saw the announcement, I almost chuckled to myself,” Boehner said. “I don’t know why they decided to do this. It could be that the attorney general is trying to force the Congress to act.”
Boehner is not the first high-ranking public official to endorse marijuana law reform after he no longer has the power to do anything about it.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, said that marijuana should be rescheduled shortly after leaving office.
In a press release about their joining Acreage, Boehner and Weld, who was the Libertarian Party’s 2016 vice-presidential nominee, said the following:
“While we come at this issue from different perspectives and track records, we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy. Over the past 20 years a growing number of states have experimented with their right to offer cannabis programs under the protection of the 10th amendment. During that period, those rights have lived somewhat in a state of conflict with federal policy. Also, during this period, the public perception of cannabis has dramatically shifted, with 94% of Americans currently in favor of some type of access, a shift driven by increased awareness of marijuana’s many medical applications.
“We need to look no further than our nation’s 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments. Yet the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend its usage. There are numerous other patient groups in America whose quality of life has been dramatically improved by the state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.
“While the Tenth Amendment has allowed much to occur at the state level, there are still many negative implications of the Federal policy to schedule cannabis as a Class 1 drug: most notably the lack of research, the ambiguity around financial services and the refusal of the VA to offer it as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities.
“We are excited to join the team at Acreage in pursuit of their mission to bring safe, consistent and reliable products to patients and consumers who could benefit. We have full confidence in their management team and believe this is the team that will transform the debate, policy and landscape around this issue.”
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Former GOP House Speaker Backs Marijuana Descheduling, Joins Cannabiz
Federal regulators have given their seal of approval to a strain of organic hemp, currently being grown by a cannabis farm in Longmont, Colorado.
The farm, called CBDRx, obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) a certification to market its goods with the USDA’s organic seal.
“We at CBDRx decided to challenge the norm and request USDA certification for our hemp,”
said Tim Gordon, a research team member of CBDRx. “And through some true passionate efforts we succeeded.”
There still exists a great deal of ambiguity around the endorsement, however. While the development represents a coup for proponents of expanded cannabis sale and distribution, it also presents legal uncertainty: The product being sold is hemp, which is defined as cannabis by federal law.
Yet the Farm Bill passed by Congress in 2014 regards some forms of cannabis — also known as “hemp” — that fall below a certain level of the psychoactive cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as legitimate and recognized crops.
This course of action causes legal friction since the Controlled Substances Act labels “cannabis” —and all of its colloquialisms— illegal. The Farm Act, while acknowledging this discrepancy, gave researchers and state departments the green light to research the product further.
“As long as the industrial hemp is grown according to the Farm Bill, it can be certified organic to the USDA National Organic Program,”
wrote Penelope Zuck, the manager of the USDA’s organic program accreditation.
The Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is raising eyebrows over a pro-legalization billboard the group sponsored in Phoenix. The billboard, appropriately timed and themed to coincide with the annual Waste Management Phoenix Open, reads:
“If beer and golf make for the ‘greatest party on grass’… Why can’t adults enjoy a safer party on grass?”
The Waste Management Phoenix Open, a tournament known for attracting thousands of visitors and hosting lavish parties, has been dubbed “The Greatest and Greenest Party on Grass.”
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona is attempting to institute a Colorado-like system of cannabis legalization. A campaign spokesperson reports that the group is close to gathering the required number of signatures to get the issue on the state’s ballot in November.
“Our message is simple,” said J.P. Holyoak, the campaign chairman.
“Enjoy alcohol responsibly, but adults should be able to choose the safer alternative and enjoy cannabis responsibly as well.”
The billboard, which will remain at Seventh and Lincoln streets in Phoenix until the end of the tournament, has been received with disapproval from many who oppose cannabis legalization.
“Using the laudable and charitable Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament as a springboard to publicize a political campaign to legalize marijuana in Arizona is the opposite of good health, good education and good public policy — and certainly the opposite of good taste,”
wrote Seth Leibsohn, the chair of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, a group that opposes the legalization of cannabis in the state.
Holyoak disagrees, citing a hope that the billboard inspires honest conversation about cannabis and responsible substance consumption.
“There are a lot of stereotypes that go along with marijuana that don’t ring true,”
explained Holyoak. “These stereotypes would be the equivalent of saying that everyone who enjoys a glass of wine was a wino on the streets, drinking out of a paper bag and stumbling around. Most adults who consume marijuana are simply responsible working people, family members, and parents. They’re normal people — so I think it’s absolutely inappropriate to invoke these stereotypes of cannabis consumers when it’s not the reality.”