A powerful congressional subcommittee approved legislation this week that would continue preventing the city of Washington, D.C. from moving to broaden its current marijuana legalization law. The bill would also add a new restriction on the use of funds to support opening safe consumption facilities where people could consume illegal drugs under the supervision of medical professionals.
The provisions, contained in Fiscal Year 2019 funding legislation approved on Thursday by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government continue a long tradition of Republican-controlled Congresses interfering in the ability of officials in the nation’s capital to set local cannabis and drug policies.
The marijuana provision, which continues current law, reads:
SEC. 809. (a) None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.
(b) No funds available for obligation or expenditure by the District of Columbia government under any authority may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.
D.C. voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize low-level marijuana possession and limited homegrow of cannabis plants in 2014. But despite City Council support for building on that measure with a system of legal, taxed and regulated marijuana production and retail sales, the District hasn’t been able to move forward with those plans because of the ongoing congressional prohibition.
Separately, the House subcommittee’s bill, which is expected to go before the full Appropriations Committee next month, would ban the use of federal funds to support safe consumption facilities for illegal drug users.
SEC. 807. None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to distribute any needle or syringe for the purpose of preventing the spread of blood borne pathogens in any location that has been determined by the local public health or local law enforcement authorities to be inappropriate for such distribution, or used for the operation of a supervised drug consumption facility that permits the consumption of any substance listed in Schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) onsite.
The ban on the use of funds for certain needle or syringe exchange programs in the provision has been law for years, but the clause about supervised drug consumption sites is new.
While no such aboveground site yet exists in the U.S., the addition of the new funding prohibition language comes as public health advocates and officials in a number of states across the country are endorsing the idea.
As the New York Times editorial board recently wrote, “Seattle and San Francisco are both on track to open sites, and Philadelphia recently approved the idea as well. Boston, Ithaca and New York City are considering their own facilities.”
Whereas the ban on further marijuana legalization in D.C. applies to both the use of federal funds and those raised locally by the District, the safe consumption site ban only covers federal funds. So D.C. would presumably still be able to use local tax dollars to pay for the facilities.
But the funding issue aside, the mere legality of the proposed sites, which are sometimes called safe injection facilities (SIFs), is itself in question.
Vermont’s U.S. attorney, for example, said in a statement last year that such sites would send the “wrong message to children in Vermont: the government will help you use heroin.” He further wrote:
“Of equal importance, the proposed SIFs would violate several federal criminal laws, including those prohibiting use of narcotics and maintaining a premises for the purpose of narcotics use. It is a crime, not only to use illicit narcotics, but to manage and maintain sites on which such drugs are used and distributed. Thus, exposure to criminal charges would arise for users and SIF workers and overseers. The properties that host SIFs would also be subject to federal forfeiture.”
Advocates, on the other hand, say the facilities save lives by making sure drug consumers can receive medical attention from on-site personnel in the event of overdoses.
A study of a safe injection site operating in Vancouver, Canada found that overdose deaths dropped much more sharply in the neighborhood surrounding the facility as compared to the rest of the city.
A press release from the office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) mentioned the marijuana provision in the new funding bill but was silent on the drug consumption site language.
Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Congressional Republicans Block Marijuana And Drug Policy Reforms In DC
After legislation drafted by America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, became law in 1937, a global wave of prohibition was launched. This included the United Nations, through which several global treaties outlawing marijuana are still in force today.
As an increasing number of states begin legalizing marijuana and even allowing regulated and taxed sales, the United States finds itself in a precarious and highly ironic situation: It is, technically speaking, violating the very international laws and treaties it originally encouraged.
All this may change, however — at least within the United Nations. According to Tom Angell, a prominent marijuana legalization advocate and founder of Marijuana Majority:
The United Nations is kicking off the first comprehensive review of global drug policies in nearly two decades this week, and a broad coalition of organizations is calling on the body to respect countries that legalize marijuana and enact other drug policy reforms.
This coalition, comprised of 100 organizations, is asking the U.N. to appoint a “Committee of Experts” to consider treaty reform. The Jamaican minister of justice, Mark Golding, made this proposal Thursday morning in New York.
The group, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, is hoping to convince the U.N. to update its global drug policies with a sensitivity toward nations that have chosen to end prohibition and instead regulate drugs like cannabis.
“The administration’s call to respect countries’ right to try regulation rather than prohibition is a positive step for drug policy, as are other reforms the US has sought internationally.”
Said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org. He continued,
“It doesn’t make sense to oppose having a discussion within the U.N. about modernizing the treaties.”
In a statement, Borden also explained, “Minister Golding’s call for an Committee of Experts on drug treaty reform is a bold and historic step forward for global drug policy. Defenders of the status quo can no longer paint the idea of regulating and controlling drugs, as opposed to prohibiting them, as against the will of the international community or lacking political support. Now it’s time for governments including that of the US to step up and do all they can to make the global drug policy system more humane and more respectful of human rights.”
The wave of medical and recreational cannabis legalization throughout the world isn’t the only reason for the group’s action. Ending the violence and corruption in Latin America, epitomized by brutal drug cartel terrorism in Mexico, is also a central focus of this effort.
The April execution by firing squad of eight drug smugglers in Indonesia, which prompted international outrage, is a recent and glaring example of the need for international reforms that keep pace with not only global marijuana legalization, but also basic human rights.
A recent petition has surfaced on WhiteHouse.gov calling for the rescheduling of marijuana. Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no medicinal merit.
As a Schedule I Drug, marijuana joins the ranks of Heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. In comparison, cocaine, meth and OxyContin are all labeled as Schedule II drugs with less potential for abuse then Schedule I drugs. With empirical evidence showing that marijuana has efficacy in the treatment of a variety of epileptic conditions, it is shameful that our government believes that the drug has less medical value than cocaine and methamphetamine.
The reclassification of marijuana would likely be dictated by the DEA who have received numerous petitions in the past. As recently as 2011, Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee petitioned to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug.
The petition on WhiteHouse.gov need 100,000 signatures by December 6 in order to provoke an official response from the White House. As of today, the petition has collected just over 600 signatures. With only 25 days left, the petition is in strong need of attention in order to get a reply from the Obama Administration. However, acting Attorney General Eric Holder has said publicly that he would gladly reexamine how the drug is scheduled. Holder said:
“It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.”
The timing is right for the Obama administration to make changes to marijuana’s classification, even though AG Eric Holder is on his way out of office. Marijuana support is at an all-time high in the United States and Washington D.C. just voted to legalize recreational marijuana. When President Obama appoints his new Attorney General, there is a strong chance that he will appoint someone who shares many views with Holder.
What does Congress think? Back in February, 18 congress members wrote a letter to Obama asking him to delist marijuana or “at the very least,” reclassify it to a Schedule II Drug. The newly elected Republican majority may prove to be detrimental to forward progress for the rescheduling, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. The tides of change are sweeping across the nation and whether it happens state-by-state or through federal action, marijuana policy will be changed. If you would like to make a difference you can sign the petition by clicking the banner below.
Photo Credit: Huffington Post
These five female candidates are brave enough to step into the spotlight on a pro-marijuana platform to run for various political offices. As a result, they have earned an endorsement from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), as well as the title of “Top Five Female Pro-Marijuana Political Candidates” from Sabrina Fendrick of National NORML.
1.) Connie Johnson
Connie Johnson, of Oklahoma, has earned the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate this year, and will be on the ballot next month. She currently represents district 48 in the Oklahoma State Senate, a position she has held since 2005. She is officially the first female from Oklahoma to ever be nominated for a U.S. Senate seat. Johnson is leading the Legalize OK movement, a grassroots organization on a mission to “improve the health and well-being of the people of Oklahoma and eliminate the terrors of the War on Marijuana.” Legalize OK has helped over 10,000 residents of Oklahoma register to vote during the campaign.
2.) Rebecca Kaplan
Rebecca Kaplan is running for the office of Mayor of Oakland, CA. She currently holds the position of Oakland City Council member, at large. Kaplan was responsible for finding a solution to the city’s budget deficiency in 2009. She proposed Measure F, which raised taxes on medical marijuana businesses to make up the money. She is also a public supporter of marijuana policy reform. She ran for Mayor of Oakland in 2010, but was not elected. However, this year, according to a poll conducted by the Jobs and Housing Coalition, Kaplan is in the lead with 61 %(±4.9%) of voter support.
3.) Bonnie Watson Coleman
Bonnie Watson Coleman has earned the Democratic Party nomination for the 12th district Congressional seat in New Jersey. She currently holds position as a New Jersey State Assembly woman from the 15th legislative district. If she wins the seat in Congress in November, she will be the first female representing the state of New Jersey, in Congress, in thirty-two years. Her voting history includes voting yes to the development of medical marijuana policy in the state in 2010, as well as in support of decriminalizing personal use marijuana possession in 2012.
4.) Shenna Bellows
Shenna Bellows has earned Maine’s Democratic Party nomination for the United States Senate seat. Bellows is no stranger to serving the people of the United States, as she held the position of Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. Her campaign website states that she was the very first “US Senate candidate this cycle to support marijuana legalization,” and a large part of her political platform is looking at “drug abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.”
5.) Diane Russel-Natera
Diane Russel-Natera currently represents district 120 in the Maine House of Representatives as a Democrat, and has been doing so for six years. She also sits on several committees, and campaigns with the Maine Approach Coalition, an organization supporting the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana for adult use. Three different times since representing the state of Maine, Natera has front lined reform attempts to legalize marijuana in her state.
NORML SMOKE THE VOTE CAMPAIGN: http://norml.org/about/smoke-the-vote
photo credit: jkc916, Facebook