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Gorsuch on Grass: Where Does Trump's Supreme Court Pick Come Down on Marijuana? [FEATURE]

Marijuana (STDW) - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 22:03

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Where does Donald Trump's pick for the Supreme Court come down on weed? The record is pretty sparse.

[image:1 align:left]Neil Gorsuch hasn't made any known public pronouncements about marijuana policy, and despite his tenure on the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, he hasn't ruled in any cases that directly take up the issue.

But he has ruled on some marijuana cases, and he didn't go out of his way to support freeing the weed in them. And there's at least one marijuana-related case he's ruled on that demonstrates a disquieting deference to law enforcement.

In Feinberg et al. v. IRS, Gorsuch ruled against a Colorado dispensary that sought not to report data about its operation to the IRS because marijuana remains illegal under federal law and it feared incriminating itself. But in passing, he offered some commentary on the legal weirdness of state-legal but federally illegal marijuana commerce.

"This case owes its genesis to the mixed messages the federal government is sending these days about the distribution of marijuana. Officials at the Department of Justice have now twice instructed field prosecutors that they should generally decline to enforce Congress's statutory command when states like Colorado license operations like THC. At the same time and just across 10th Street in Washington, D.C., officials at the IRS refuse to recognize business expense deductions claimed by companies like THC on the ground that their conduct violates federal criminal drug laws. So it is that today prosecutors will almost always overlook federal marijuana distribution crimes in Colorado but the tax man never will."

And he marveled at the federal government's contortions as it sought to accommodate commerce in a substance it considers illegal.

"Yes, the Fifth Amendment normally shields individuals from having to admit to criminal activity. But, the IRS argued, because DOJ's memoranda generally instruct federal prosecutors not to prosecute cases like this one the petitioners should be forced to divulge the requested information anyway. So it is the government simultaneously urged the court to take seriously its claim that the petitioners are violating federal criminal law and to discount the possibility that it would enforce federal criminal law."

Gorsuch also pointedly noted the provisional nature of the Obama administration's decision to work with -- instead of against -- the states experimenting with marijuana legalization.

"It's not clear whether informal agency memoranda guiding the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by field prosecutors may lawfully go quite so far in displacing Congress's policy directives as these memoranda seek to do. There's always the possibility, too, that the next... Deputy Attorney General could displace these memoranda at anytime."

This is, of course, something of which the marijuana industry and legalization advocates are painfully aware and explains much of the movement's agonizing over the nomination of pot foe Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). A single signature on a new policy memorandum at the Justice Department could throw the industry into chaos.

As Tom Angell notes at the MassRoots blog, Gorsuch ruled in a 2010 case, US v. Daniel and Mary Quaintance, that a couple charged with federal marijuana distribution offenses couldn't use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense because their claims weren't sincere.

"Numerous pieces of evidence in this case strongly suggest that the [couple's] marijuana dealings were motivated by commercial or secular motives rather than sincere religious conviction... "The record contains additional, overwhelming contrary evidence that the [couple was] running a commercial marijuana business with a religious front."

In other words, if you're trying to run a real marijuana ministry, don't be selling weed.

But it's a 2013 case, Family of Ryan Wilson v. City of Lafeyette and Taser International , that raises disturbing implications that go beyond marijuana policy into the broader realm of police use of force. In that case, Gorsuch held that a police officer's fatal tazing of Wilson, who was fleeing a marijuana arrest, was "reasonable."

"[T]he illegal processing and manufacturing of marijuana may not be inherently violent crimes but, outside the medical marijuana context, they were felonies under Colorado law at the time of the incident... And Officer Harris testified, without rebuttal, that he had been trained that people who grow marijuana illegally tend to be armed and ready to use force to protect themselves and their unlawful investments."

As Angell noted, that ruling in particular had the National Urban League tweeting its concern and calling for close scrutiny of Gorsuch's record within hours of Trump's announcement of his selection.

Overall, Gorsuch hasn't provided a whole lot of hints about how he might rule on cases revolving around the conflict between state and federal marijuana, although he has shown he's aware of it. Any members of the Senate Judiciary Committee representing states where medical or recreational marijuana commerce is legal might want to be asking for some clarification when his confirmation hearings come around.

Categories: Marijuana

CN BC: Weed Store Defied City Tickets

Marijuana (MAP) - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 08:00
Richmond News, 01 Feb 2017 - A store caught by police allegedly selling marijuana and illegal marijuana-related products has been the recipient of numerous City of Richmond bylaw infraction tickets. The Richmond News reported last week how Richmond RCMP executed a search warrant at the at the WeeMedical Wellness Center on Anderson Road, just a few yards from the front door of Richmond City Hall.
Categories: Marijuana

CN ON: Pot Shop Shuttered

Marijuana (MAP) - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 08:00
Ottawa Sun, 01 Feb 2017 - Cops close down Weeds dispensary Ottawa police quietly forced the closure of a downtown marijuana dispensary on Tuesday afternoon. Police drew a security screen across the front window of the Weeds dispensary to prevent passersby from seeing inside, but at least two officers were visible gathering items and packing them into boxes.
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CN ON: Pre-Trial For Pot Doc

Marijuana (MAP) - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 08:00
The Intelligencer, 01 Feb 2017 - Hearings for Rob Kamermans have been scheduled for February Court proceedings are taking another step toward trial this week for a former Coe Hill physician whose certificate to practise medicine was revoked in July.
Categories: Marijuana

CN MB: AFM Outlines Position On Pot Legalization

Marijuana (MAP) - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 08:00
Winnipeg Sun, 01 Feb 2017 - The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba is urging the federal government to use a public health approach matched with strict regulation when legalizing marijuana. "This provides us with a very unique opportunity," said Dr. Sheri Fandrey of the AFM, which released a position statement Tuesday. "This is the first time since Prohibition that a substance which is currently illegal is becoming legal and fortunately the process has enough lead time that we can get ahead of the curve and start to provide some of the resources - educational, outreach, data collection - - prior to the change happening and cannabis being made legal.
Categories: Marijuana

CN BC: Council Hears Support For Marijuana Dispensaries

Marijuana (MAP) - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 08:00
Salmon Arm Observer, 01 Feb 2017 - It wasn't a big crowd and not many people got up to speak, but of those who did, the sentiments were similar - having a marijuana dispensary is okay. Coun. Ken Jamieson ran the Marijuana Retailers/Dispensaries public input session Monday night at Salmon Arm council chambers.
Categories: Marijuana

CN NS: Federal Jail Term Issued

Marijuana (MAP) - Tue, 01/31/2017 - 08:00
Cape Breton Post, 31 Jan 2017 - Former corrections employee sentenced on drug trafficking A Sydney Mines woman was given a two-year federal jail sentence Monday after pleading guilty to drug trafficking at the Cape Breton Correctional Centre.
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Chronicle AM: Ethan Nadelmann Steps Down at DPA, Seattle Approves Safe Injection Sites, More... (1/30/17)

Marijuana (STDW) - Mon, 01/30/2017 - 23:17

The leader of the nation's largest drug reform group steps down, Maine becomes the eighth legal pot state, Seattle approves safe injection sites -- and isn't asking federal approval -- and more.

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Maine Becomes Eighth State to Eliminate Marijuana Possession Penalties. The personal possession and cultivation provisions of the Question 1 legalization initiative went into effect Monday. Adults may now possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants and keep the harvest without any criminal penalty. Marijuana sales won't come until next year.

Maine Governor Signs Bill Delaying Implementation of Legal Marijuana Commerce. Gov. Paul LePage (R) last Friday signed into law LD 88, which delays the onset of retail pot sales for a year. LePage had threatened to veto the bill unless it included $1.6 million to fund the costs of creating rules and regulations and unless it transferred oversight of the industry from the agriculture department to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. The bill did neither of those things, but he signed it anyway.

Maryland Legalization Bill Coming. Lawmakers were set to announce today plans for a pair of bills related to marijuana legalization. One would make it legal for adults and regulate it like alcohol; the other would enact taxes on legal, non-medical marijuana. The state decriminalized pot possession in 2014.

South Dakota Bill Would End "Internal Possession" Charge for Pot. State Rep. David Lust (R-Rapid City) and Sen. Justin Cronin (R-Gettysburg) last week introduced Senate Bill 129, which would no longer make it legal for someone to have marijuana in their system. Under current state law, people who test positive for marijuana can be charged with "unlawful ingestion" or "internal possession," a misdemeanor.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Lawmaker Files Bill to Ignore State Voters' Will Until Federal Law Changes. State Sen. Jason Rapert (R-District 18) last week filed a bill that would delay the voter-approved medical marijuana law until marijuana is legal under federal law. The measure is Senate Bill 238, which has been referred to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor.

Utah Lawmakers Scale Back Medical Marijuana Plans. Legislators said last Friday they were retreating from plans to expand the state's CBD-only medical marijuana law and will instead call for more research. They also said they wanted to see what the Trump administration was going to do before they moved forward with a broader medical marijuana bill.

Drug Policy

Ethan Nadelmann Steps Down as Head of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The time has come for me to step aside as executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance," Nadelmann wrote in a letter last Friday to DPA staff announcing his resignation. "This is just about the toughest decision I've ever made but it feels like the right time for me personally and also for DPA. It's almost twenty-three years since I started The Lindesmith Center and approaching seventeen years since we merged with the Drug Policy Foundation to create DPA. We've grown from little more than an idea into a remarkable advocacy organization that has built, led and defined a new political and cultural movement." Click on the link to read the whole letter.

Maine Governor Wants to Ban Welfare Benefits for Drug Felons. As part of his budget proposal, Gov. Paul LePage is calling for a ban on food stamps and cash assistance for anyone convicted of a drug felony in the past two decades. He also wants to try again to pass a welfare drug test law. Similar efforts by LePage and the Republicans have failed in the past.

Drug Testing

Montana Woman Faces Felony Charge for Trying to Beat Drug Test. A Helena woman on probation who tried to pass off someone else's urine as her own to beat a drug test is now facing a felony charge of tampering with or fabricating evidence. Jessica McNees said she wouldn't have done it if she knew she faced a felony charge.

Indiana Legislator Files Bill to Criminalize Fake Urine. State Rep. Greg Beumer (R-Modoc) has filed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor crime to distribute, market, sell or transport synthetic urine with the intent to defraud an alcohol, drug or urine screening test. The measure is House Bill 1104.

Harm Reduction

Seattle Approves Nation's First Supervised Injection Facilities. The city of Seattle and surrounding King County have approved setting up "Community Health Engagement Locations," better known as supervised injecting sites, for injection drug users in a bid to reduce the associated harms. The city and county are not seeking prior federal approval and acknowledge that the federal government could intervene, but say they are confident it won't. Two such sites will be set up.


Colombian Government and FARC Announce Coca Substitution, Eradication Plans. The government and the leftist rebels of the FARC announced plans eradicate and provide substitute crops for some 125,000 acres of coca plants. President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC leadership agreed on the plan as part of a peace agreement to end a civil war running since 1964. "The goal is to replace approximately 50,000 hectares of illicit crops during the first year of implementation in more than 40 municipalities in the most affected departments," the government and the rebels said in a joint statement.

Colombia Coca Producers March Against Crop Eradication, Substitution Program. Coca producers have taken to the streets to protest against the new program, undertaken jointly by the Colombian government and the FARC. "The areas with coca cultivations are isolated areas, with simple people, good workers," said Edgar Mora, leader of a coca growers' union. "Rural people haven't found an alternative to cultivating coca because if they cultivate other products they'll lose money and they don't find profitability in the legal products the government talks about."

Categories: Marijuana

CN ON: Workplace Ban On Medical Pot Frustrates Worker

Marijuana (MAP) - Mon, 01/30/2017 - 08:00
The Beacon Herald, 30 Jan 2017 - WINDSOR - Joshua Jacquot says his employer won't allow him, during working hours, to take the medication he needs to cope with depression and anxiety because that medication is medical marijuana. It's doctor-prescribed and legal, and according to the 23-year-old assembly line worker, "it seems to be the only thing that works."
Categories: Marijuana

CN BC: Police Raid Downtown Pot Shop

Marijuana (MAP) - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00
Victoria News, 27 Jan 2017 - Victoria police descended upon a downtown pot shop Wednesday morning, conducting a search warrant connected to the discovery of 30 pounds of marijuana on a commercial flight earlier this month. Officers arrived at the Remedy Medicinals Dispensary on Fisgard Street early in the morning and took three people into custody, but they were later released.
Categories: Marijuana

CN BC: Confusion: Marijuana Legal Limbo Frustrating For Everyone

Marijuana (MAP) - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00
Cowichan Valley Citizen, 27 Jan 2017 - The owners of Green Aura, a marijuana dispensary in Chemainus, received another $200 ticket from the Municipality of North Cowichan last week. It's the second ticket from bylaw officers in a matter of weeks for the dispensary, given for not having a business licence, and co-owner Trevor Pewarchuk said he's "frustrated" with the municipality and the failure, so far, by the federal government to legalize marijuana.
Categories: Marijuana

CN BC: Editorial: Lack Of Clarity On Marijuana Unfair All Around

Marijuana (MAP) - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00
Cowichan Valley Citizen, 27 Jan 2017 - It is past time for some clarity and action from the federal government on the legalization of marijuana. The Liberals have promised to take this step, which we think is long overdue, but since they've come into office, they've been dragging their heels on making it happen.
Categories: Marijuana

CN BC: Weemedical Wellness Business Licence Revoked

Marijuana (MAP) - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00
Chilliwack Progress, 27 Jan 2017 - WeeMedical Wellness reps were given one last chance to make their case to city council before it voted unanimously Tuesday to revoke their business licence. Weemedical lawyer Mitch Foster said allegations by an anonymous source that marijuana was being "sold" from the storefront location on Fifth Avenue in Chilliwack were false.
Categories: Marijuana

CN BC: Burkart Spearheads Fentanyl Task Force

Marijuana (MAP) - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00
Nelson Star, 27 Jan 2017 - Nelson Police Chief aims to educate public and those vulnerable to overdose The numbers are terrifying. Nelson Police Chief Paul Burkart has the B.C.Coroners Service annual report sitting on his desk, as well as alarming Interior Health statistics that show fentanyl has come to the Kootenays.
Categories: Marijuana

Chronicle AM: Israel Moves Toward Marijuana Decrim, ND&WY May Lower MJ Penalties, More.. (1/26/17)

Marijuana (STDW) - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 23:15

It's all weed news today, even from the Middle East. State legislatures are taking up marijuana-related bills, and Israel is moving to decriminalize it.

[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy

Maine Legalization "Fix" Bill Passes Legislature. Both the House and the Senate approved LD 88 Wednesday. The bill now goes to the governor's desk. The most significant provision of the bill is a delay on retail operations by three months, into early 2018.

New Mexico Lawmakers Begin Push for Legalization Bills. Democratic lawmakers Wednesday announced a push to win approval of marijuana legalization via House Bill 89 and a yet-to-be-filed Senate companion bill. The bill would regulate marijuana commerce and apply a 15% state sales tax, with localities given the option of adding another 5%. "We create jobs, we create economic activity and we create revenues for the state," said Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) who plans to introduce the Senate version of the bill later this week. "It is one way this state has, and I think one of the most promising ways, to get back on track economically."

North Dakota Bill to Reduce Pot Penalties Filed. State Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) has filed House Bill 1340, which would reduce, but not eliminate, criminal penalties for using or selling marijuana small amounts of marijuana. Under current law, violators face up to three years in prison and a $3,000 fine. Under the bill, that would drop to one year and a $1,000 fine. The bill would make some marijuana-related offenses infractions instead of misdemeanors.

Vermont Push for Legalization Begins. Supporters of marijuana legalization gathered at the state house Wednesday for a press conference to kick off their effort to legalize it there this year. That's the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, including representatives from Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, ACLU-VT, and the Marijuana Policy Project. "Massachusetts, Maine, and six other states have made marijuana legal for adult use," said Matt Simon, New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It makes no sense for Vermont to continue punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. Lawmakers should move swiftly to eliminate penalties for adult possession and limited home cultivation. They can then work to implement a reasonably regulated system that will take marijuana sales out of the illicit market."

Wyoming Bill to Lessen Marijuana Penalties Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators is sponsoring House Bill 157, which would not decriminalize pot possession, but would make the maximum penalty for possession of less than three ounces a $200 fine. Under current law, violators face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Legislators Discuss Adding More Qualifying Conditions. The House Human Services, Health, and Elderly Affairs committee heard testimony on a series of bills that would add chronic pain, opioid addiction, fibromyalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder qualifying conditions to receive medical marijuana. The bills are sponsored by Rep. Joseph Lachance (R-Manchester), a medical marijuana card holder since 2015 who says "cannabis saved my life."


Israel Moves to Decriminalize Marijuana Use. Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced Thursday that he supports the decriminalization of marijuana use after the Justice Ministry called for decriminalization. It's not a done deal yet, though; the new policy will require the cabinet's approval. Erdan was head of a panel that recommended decriminalization, and now he has signed on to its conclusions.

Categories: Marijuana

CN ON: Letter: Pot Dispensaries Will Be Out Of Luck

Marijuana (MAP) - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:00
Hamilton Spectator, 26 Jan 2017 - RE: Seeing through the fog on marijuana (Jan. 24) Excellent article by Howard Elliott on marijuana legalization. It also reinforces my belief that marijuana dispensaries in Ontario will all be outlawed if pot is legalized.
Categories: Marijuana

Canada: A Tale Of Two Cities Policing Pot

Marijuana (MAP) - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:00
Globe and Mail, 26 Jan 2017 - Toronto and Vancouver have taken different approaches to dispensaries selling ahead of legalization David Malmo-Levine has had numerous run-ins with Vancouver police in more than two decades fighting for the legalization of marijuana, the most intense being the time he says he was dragged by handcuffs while attempting to block a raid of a downtown cannabis seed store in the mid-1990s.
Categories: Marijuana

CN ON: Pot Raid Rattles Residents

Marijuana (MAP) - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:00
Packet & Times, 26 Jan 2017 - Two Oro-Medonte men were arrested this week for growing marijuana, despite having a licence to grow Angered over an "unjust" police raid over medicinal marijuana, two Oro-Medonte men feel victimized after being arrested at their home and taken away in handcuffs.
Categories: Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Update

Marijuana (STDW) - Wed, 01/25/2017 - 22:25

The Illinois treasurer asks Trump for clarity on banking for the medical marijuana industry, North Dakota legislators work to ensure workers' compensation won't pay for medical marijuana for injured employees, and more.

[image:1 align:right]Arkansas

On Monday, Athe legislature approved changes to the state's new medical marijuana law. With the state Senate's approval Monday, House Bill 1058 now goes to the governor. It passed the House last week. The bill removes a requirement that doctors declare the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the risk to the patient. It also specifies that patient information submitted to qualify for medical marijuana is "confidential," but would not be considered "medical records" subject to the Health Information Privacy Protection Act.

On Tuesday, the governor signed a pair of medical marijuana "fix" bills. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed into law two bills aimed at modifying the state's new, voter-approved medical marijuana law. House Bill 1026 will extend the deadline for rulemaking from 120 days to 180 days, and House Bill 1058 removes the requirement that doctors certify in writing that the help benefits of marijuana would outweigh the risks to the patient.


On Monday, the state treasurer asked Trump for clarity on banking for the medical marijuana industry. State Treasurer Michael Frerichs sent a letter to President Trump urging him to give clear guidance to the banking industry on marijuana. Frerichs said currently federal law makes it difficult for legal businesses to get loans and restricts customers to cash-only transactions.

North Dakota

On Monday, the House approved a bill preventing workers' comp from paying for medical marijuana. The House overwhelmingly approved House Bill 1156. Passed in response to voters' approval of a medical marijuana initiative in November, the bill prevents the state Workforce Safety and Insurance agency from paying for medical marijuana to treat a workplace injury. Legislators said marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit]

Categories: Marijuana

Chronicle AM: NFL Players Want Less Punitive MJ Approach, Israel MedMJ Research, More... (1/25/17)

Marijuana (STDW) - Wed, 01/25/2017 - 22:01

NFL players want the league to ease up on weed, an Oregon bill seeks to declare a kratom "emergency" and study whether to ban it, the Israelis are funding medical marijuana research, and more.

[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy

NFL Players Association Will Propose Less Punitive Approach to Pot. The NFLPA is working on a proposal to change the league's drug policy to take a softer line on marijuana. The association will take the proposal its board of representatives first, and if the board approves it, on to the league. Currently, players are subject to fines or suspensions for using marijuana, whether recreationally or medicinally.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Governor Signs Medical Marijuana "Fix" Bills. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed into law two bills aimed at modifying the state's new, voter-approved medical marijuana law. House Bill 1026 will extend the deadline for rulemaking from 120 days to 180 days, and House Bill 1058 removes the requirement that doctors certify in writing that the help benefits of marijuana would outweigh the risks to the patient.


Oregon Bill Would Declare Emergency, Study Whether to Ban Kratom. The state Senate Interim Committee on the Judiciary has filed a measure, Senate Bill 518, which would declare a kratom "emergency" in the state and direct the state Board of Pharmacy to conduct a study to see if the plant and its derivatives should be scheduled as a controlled substance under state law. The DEA is currently weighing a similar move on the federal level, but has run into stiff opposition from users and advocates.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Maryland Governor Rolls Out Package to Fight Heroin. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) unveiled a package of proposals to deal with heroin and prescription opioid use in the state. He wants strict limits on doctors' ability to write prescriptions for opioids, stiff penalties for sellers of those drugs, and a new "command center" to coordinate the official response. In other states where such measures have been proposed, doctors have objected loudly to politicians placing legal limits on the care they provide. Democrats in the legislature are working on their own package of measures, but have released no details.

Drug Testing

New York Bill Would Require Drug Testing Children Whose Parents Get Arrested for Drugs. A bill named after an infant who died of a drug overdose would require hair follicle testing of children if their parent or guardian has been arrested on a drug charge. Kayleigh Mae's Law is not yet on the legislative website. Kayleigh Mae Cassell was found to have been given cocaine and heroin by her mother and live-in boyfriend, both of whom have pleaded guilty in her death.


Israel Will Fund Research for Medical Marijuana Crops. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will fund medical marijuana research in what it says is a pioneering step to aid researchers in developing a new generation of medical marijuana products. The ministry and the Health Ministry have allocated $2.1 million US for the project.

Categories: Marijuana
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