Sessions enacts new charging and sentencing policy. Attorney general Jeff Sessions has rescinded some Obama-era policies aimed at encouraging shorter sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Sessions’ new policy directs prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible — a move that “is sure to send more people to prison and for much longer terms.” The Guardian “If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way, we will not be willfully blind to your misconduct,” Sessions said at a speech on Friday. “These are drug dealers, and you drug dealers are going to prison.” While there has been increasing bipartisan support for criminal justice reforms, the attorney general’s new policy “marks the first significant criminal justice effort by the Trump administration to bring back the toughest practices of the drug war.” The Washington Post While advocacy groups called out the move as a return to the War on Drugs, others are pointing out that it has been alive and well under the Obama administration. “You cannot resurrect something that never died. More than 160,000 federal drug arrests under Obama. More than 10 million state arrests,” tweeted one criminal defense attorney. Twitter / @davidminpdx Related: In a speech on Thursday, Sessions continued to draw a link between the illicit drug trade and violence. “People try to suggest otherwise, but those of us in the business know drugs and crime go hand in hand.” Word on the Tree
Senators push back against cuts to the ONDCP. A bipartisan group of 13 senators wrote a letter to budget director Mick Mulvaney advocating against gutting the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. President Trump is reportedly considering cutting its budget by 95 percent. The senators warned that such a cut would “derail the fight against the opioid epidemic, hamper law enforcement efforts, and cost the government money in the long run.” Stat
Legal weed’s biggest enemy. Kevin Sabet, the CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, is America’s most well-known prohibitionist. While he realizes that he’s working against the tide of legalization and the growth of the cannabis industry, he continues with “persistent optimism.” “Even if we lose every state, Vermont and Rhode Island and all of the others, SAM will remain and stay strong as a counterbalance to the industry,” said Sabet, who vows to never give up fighting against cannabis. The Daily Beast
What will Canada do? The country’s Liberal government has 50 days to notify the United Nations that it’s withdrawing from international drug control treaties in order to meet its July 1, 2018 deadline for legalizing recreational marijuana. When asked about the issue on Wednesday, prime minister Justin Trudeau would not say what the government’s plan is. “It’s either that, or we’re going to be in violation of [the treaties]. I’m not sure which way the government wants to go, and I would just like to have a firm answer as to what their plan is,” said NDP justice critic Alistair MacGregor. Global News
Proposed rules for social use in Denver. The city proposed rules for social-use cannabis permits, following a successful ballot initiative last November. Currently, no regulated social-use program exists in the country, although officials in Alaska and Maine are discussing the possibility. Among the draft rules: companies would have to require cannabis consumers to sign a waiver upon entering the business. If the business has a liquor license, they would need to halt any liquor sales while cannabis is being consumed. Supporters of the ballot initiative are hitting back against those proposals. The Denver Post
Drug enforcement in California. A former narcotics officer was convicted of drug smuggling and money laundering. He faces at least 40 years in prison for trafficking more than 200 pounds of cannabis across the country. Los Angeles Times Meanwhile, police in three counties are testing marijuana breathalyzer devices. One highway patrol sergeant said there were too many variables to rely on such a test: “The science is still developing… The mere presence of a drug should not make a person feel like they’re subject to arrest if they’re not impaired.” The Associated Press The state spent $15 million to try to stop prison drug smuggling, to mixed results. “Increasingly creative smugglers turned to tricks like concealing methamphetamine in a bar of soap or heroin under postage stamps.” The Associated Press
New Hampshire decriminalizes cannabis. Well, almost. The Senate approved a decriminalization measure, sending the bill to the governor’s desk. Decriminalization measures have passed the House eight times in the past 10 years, only to be defeated in the Senate. NH 1 Once signed by the governor, New Hampshire will join the rest of New England with decriminalization laws on the books. The Associated Press “I want to thank the legislature for passing common sense marijuana reform. I look forward to signing House Bill 640 into law,” tweeted governor Chris Sununu. Twitter / @GovChrisSununu
Liberal Democrats pledge to legalize cannabis. The British political party has pledged to legalize cannabis and tax and regulate the drug. The effort is “one of the most radical drugs policy manifesto commitments ever made by a British political party.” The party acknowledged that the policy could later be applied to other drugs like MDMA, but that it was focusing on cannabis for the next election. BuzzFeed News Lib Dem Julian Huppert, the party’s Cambridge candidate, said he was “delighted” by the party’s proposal. “For decades, the U.K. has followed a policy on cannabis that is harmful for people’s health. By ensuring that only criminals supply it, more and more harmful forms have been produced.” Volteface
Trouble in Oz for medical marijuana access. The Greens introduced a motion in the Australian Senate that would remove barriers to import medical marijuana for terminally ill patents. While doctors are legally allowed to prescribe it, there is no official supply of the drug. The Senate voted 32 to 32 — the tie automatically defeats the measure. HuffPost Voters are furious with the One Nation party, which voted against the motion. One Nation campaigned on a pro-medical marijuana platform. Many voters expressed feeling betrayed by the party in angry comments on its Facebook page. BuzzFeed News
WTF of the day. A sober woman in Georgia was arrested by a cop who decided that she showed “indicators” of smoking weed. The woman asked the cop if she could take a drug test to prove her innocence, to which he replied, “You’re going to jail, ma’am… I don’t have a magical drug test that I can give you right now.” Four months later, her results from a blood and urine test came back negative and prosecutors dropped the charges. But not before she spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and lost her alcohol server’s permit for work. The officer has arrested at least two other drivers for driving while high, only for them to test negative for drugs. “Why do people have to be held in jail?” asked one former police officer. “It’s a fundamental, core injustice to be punishing someone who turns out to be clearly innocent.” HuffPost
3 Feet No Pressure. This week’s playlist is filled with the unexpected rhythms of footwork. From Chicago and beyond, we bring you sounds from (and inspired by) the street dance that originated in the ’80s. Word on the Tree
Word on the States
- In Vermont, the Senate gave final approval to a medical marijuana expansion bill. The governor “might take weeks” to make a decision on recreational marijuana.
- In Florida, two universities get approval to grow hemp for research. State lawmakers may call a special session for medical marijuana regulations. A look at one defiant state-licensed MMJ business that’s selling smokable flower.
- In Maine, lawmakers are meeting today on how to implement recreational marijuana. Sales growth at MMJ dispensaries have slowed drastically.
- In Colorado, one hospital is seeing an uptick in youth marijuana use.
- In Arizona, a campaign to get recreational legalization on the ballot faces a rift in the pro-cannabis community.
- In Nevada, the Senate approved a DUI bill that would remove urine testing for marijuana impairment.
- In Massachusetts, some cannabis consumers are frustrated with the delay in marijuana regulations.
- In Texas, a marijuana decriminalization bill died in the House.
- In New Jersey, a state panel approved adding several new conditions to the medical marijuana program.
- In yesterday’s newsletter, we included the wrong link for an item about a Delaware House panel approving a recreational legalization bill. Here is the correct link.
Word for Word
“I come at it as a civil rights issue, common sense, science-based, decency issue. It’s not like I’m looking to make money. It’s an issue that gets me going because it pertains to so many other issues in this country. And to me, the history of cannabis in America is kind of the history of America itself… Marijuana gets brown and black and poor people thrown in jail, and when those people are in prison, someone makes a lot of money off of everything from toilet flushes to every meal. And that’s all from the taxpayer. And you can stuff prisons with nonviolent criminals. With legalization, they are finding new ways to put people in jail for marijuana. A lot of teen busts. Don’t think that these states all of a sudden are, ‘Hey we’re gonna be super cool, it’s about time.'” – Former Black Flag singer Henry Rollins, Rolling Stone
“Next time you drag a document across your desktop and put it in a folder, spare a thought for acid. Organizing your files might not seem like a psychedelic experience now, but in 1968, when Douglas Engelbart first demonstrated a futuristic world of windows, hypertext links and video conferencing to a rapt audience in San Francisco, they must have thought they were tripping. Especially because he was summoning this dark magic onto a big screen using a strange rounded controller on the end of a wire, which he called his ‘mouse.’ Like many California tech visionaries of the time, Engelbart was an enthusiastic advocate for the mind-expanding benefits of LSD.” – Oliver Wainwright for The Guardian