Top Congressional Republican Wants To Know If Marijuana Should Be Legal

The recent signing of a medical marijuana bill by GOP Sens. Rand Paul and Dean Heller hasn’t gone unnoticed. Republican Majority Whip Steve Scalise has introduced a poll on his website, asking people to vote on whether marijuana should be legalized on the federal level.

Scalise in the past has voted down marijuana reform legislation, Marijuana.com reports. On May 30, 2014, Scalise voted against an amendment in the House to prevent the Department of Justice from using funds from its budget to crack down on states that have enacted medical marijuana programs. Later, in July, Scalise voted against legislation to prohibit states from penalizing banks that offer financial services to marijuana companies.

Marijuana advocates see the poll as a possible sign that Scalise may be considering switching his position. Poll results as of late have shown that the country is increasingly moving toward pro-marijuana attitudes. The General Social Survey in particular found that 52 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization. Only 42 percent remain opposed. (RELATED: Survey: Majority Of Americans Support Legal Marijuana)

“This is a great sign because we know that whenever voters are asked their position on marijuana laws, the result always comes out to be strongly pro-legalization,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “As more politicians begin to engage with their constituents on this topic, they will see how much public support there is for reform and it’ll be much more likely they’ll feel emboldened to take action to upgrade outdated marijuana prohibition policies.”

However, Scalise’s office made it clear that the poll isn’t any indication that the Majority Whip is changing his position.

“Congressman Scalise is a staunch Conservative who likes to know what his constituents are thinking on issues,” T.J. Tatum, spokesperson for Congressman Steve Scalise, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Scalise is opposed to the legalization of marijuana because, as noted by law enforcement officials, it is a gateway to more dangerous drugs, but he always appreciates learning the views of the people throughout his district.”

Marijuana reform legislation continues to make strides across the country, as 23 states have enacted medical marijuana programs in one form or another, and four other states have legalized marijuana. The recent focus on marijuana reform on both state and federal levels has prompted a flurry of activity. And on Friday, that activity culminated in the introduction of a bill to push through medical marijuana in Texas, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Marisa Márquez.

“Every year, thousands of Texans are diagnosed with cancer, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and other debilitating illnesses,” said Caitlin Dunklee, campaign director of Texans for Medical Freedom, in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The suffering that these patients experience is devastating for them and their families. The bill being filed today would allow patients the freedom to access the medicine that can best alleviate their suffering.”

Lawmakers in Massachusetts, too, have forwarded a bill to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol. Users over 21 years of age would be allowed to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana. The bill is backed by over 12 legislators.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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Sheriffs From Multiple States Sue Colorado Over Marijuana Legalization

On Thursday, a group of sheriffs announced that Colorado is facing yet another suit over its experiment with marijuana legalization.

“Big Marijuana must be feeling the heat, and I’m sure they are lawyering up,” Kevin A. Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in a statement.

This time, the suit’s been filed in federal court by a group of sheriffs in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. They want Colorado’s Amendment 64 to be struck down. Medical marijuana will be left untouched, but if the suit is successful, every single recreational shop in Colorado will have to close. Additionally, the sheriffs want protections for marijuana possession and use removed, distinguishing the suit from past attempts. The Colorado sheriffs claim that Amendment 64 has placed them in a precarious situation: In their day-to-day duties, they’re being forced to choose to violate either the Colorado Constitution or the Constitution of the United States.

Amendment 64 stands directly opposed to the Supremacy Clause in the United States Constitution, the sheriffs argue. Justin Smith, a sheriff from Larimer County in Colorado, wondered about the possibility that the crafters of Amendment 64 understood the legal contradiction but decided to mislead voters and forward it to the public, anyway.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is named as a defendant. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has confirmed that she will battle the lawsuit.

“While a growing majority of Americans supports replacing failed prohibition policies with legalization, there will always be some people who desperately try to cling to what’s familiar,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The people of Colorado and other states have spoken, and now these prohibitionists who lost at the ballot box on Election Day are trying to overturn the will of the voters by making a last-ditch attempt in the courts. They are wrong about marijuana policy and they are on the wrong side of history.”

The action follows on the heels of an earlier lawsuit from neighboring states Nebraska and Oklahoma, and in both cases, the legal argument is almost exactly the same: the Supremacy Clause entails that the federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce, so reserves the right to strike down any policy that contradicts federal drug policy. (RELATED: Nebraska And Oklahoma Join Forces To Strike Down Colorado’s Legal Marijuana)

Safe Streets, an organization in Washington, D.C., joined the fray in late February with a slightly different legal approach, namely by going after marijuana industry leaders under federal racketeering laws. These companies, according to Safe Streets, are the operational equivalent of a “commercial drug conspiracy.” (RELATED: Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Legalization Gone, Sues Colorado And Businesses)

“This is just another case of the Arrest and Prosecution industry teaming up with marijuana prohibition groups to roll back the progress that has been made in Colorado,” Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, told TheDCNF. “Marijuana is legal for adults in Colorado, regulation is working, and it’s time for these law enforcement officials need to get over it.”

“We cannot fathom why these guys would prefer marijuana cultivation and sales go back to being completely uncontrolled in Colorado. If they want to maintain a system of marijuana chaos in their states, that’s their choice. But they shouldn’t be trying to drag Colorado down with them.”

While Sabet argues that the current jail sentence for smoking a joint is too heavy-handed, he opposes the Big Marijuana becoming a new of Big Tobacco.

“This is now the latest in a series of lawsuits against legalization, and we support this action because Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans,” Sabet said. “The legalization of marijuana is not implemented in a vacuum. Dealers and traffickers are openly bragging about how they have been able to smuggle state-sanctioned marijuana out of Colorado.”

But pro-marijuana attorney Adam Scavone argues that these suits are not legally sound.

“It’s another baseless lawsuit, just like the one filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma, that fails Constitutional Law 101,” Scavone told TheDCNF. “Amazingly, the sheriffs and prosecutors recognize and admit in their brief that nothing in federal law requires — or could require — Colorado to march in lockstep with the federal government’s foolish, wasteful, and outdated marijuana policy.”

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

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Would You Use Welfare Money To Buy Pot?

Scared of federal intervention, lawmakers in Colorado are working on a bill to prevent welfare users from accessing cash at ATM machines in marijuana shops.

The policy of restricting access to certain ATMs already holds for liquor stores, casinos and guns ships, The Associated Press reports. Republican state Sen. Vicki Marble is worried that the federal government might aggressively interfere in Colorado if there’s any hint that welfare users are spending their benefits on drugs.

The nascent pot industry has been plagued with rumors that low-income users with electronic benefits cards (EBTs) jumped on the opportunity to load up on marijuana. National Review Online found that over a six-month period ending in January 2014, welfare recipients withdrew $23,608.53 dollars at marijuana dispensaries. How much of that total was spent at marijuana shops is unknown.

The bill, set to be introduced in the state Senate next week, failed to pass last year. Opponents argued that since marijuana shops tend to concentrate in low-income areas, those ATMs provide a valuable and necessary service for people without a bank account. As state Sen. Irene Aguilar stated, “I’m not comfortable limiting that access until I’m certain we’ve done that due diligence to make sure people can access their benefits when they need to.”

Washington state has already gone ahead and prohibited the use of EBTs in marijuana dispensaries as far back as 2012, though only for those under 18 years of age. Now, at the start of 2015, Colorado Democrats have thrown their support behind Marble’s legislation.

“I don’t think a strip club or a liquor store wants to be out of compliance, and neither does a dispensary,” Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon from Denver said. In 2014, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama tried to move a step further by suggesting that Congress set a national standard for EBT use in marijuana shops, but the attempt stalled. (RELATED: After Senator’s Investigation, ‘No Welfare for Weed’ Bill Passes House)

In anticipation of possible trouble, many Colorado dispensaries have already cut off EBT cards from their ATMs. Industry groups have remained mostly agnostic on the issue.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Low Turnout In 2014, High Initiative Count In 2016

Elections have consequences. Ironically, California’s abysmal election turnout this November has teed up a veritable flood of ballot initiatives for 2016. Because the signature threshold for qualifying initiatives is pegged to the number of Californians who cast votes in the previous election, activists with a losing track record are angling for a breakout opportunity just around the political bend.

Only a third of those eligible to cast ballots did so on Nov. 4. “Of those who registered to vote, little better than four in every 10 – about 42 percent – actually voted, either in person or by mail,” according to the California Secretary of State. Even more important, the total votes cast for governor, which determines the numerical hurdle signature-gatherers must clear to get their initiative on the ballot, hit a quarter-century low. The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

“In California, the number of signatures required to qualify a measure for the ballot is a percentage of the total votes cast for governor. Since the 42 percent turnout on Nov. 4 meant only about 7.3 million people bothered to take a side in Gov. Jerry Brown’s landslide win over Republican Neel Kashkari, the bar for qualifying ballot measures in 2016 will be at the lowest level in at least 25 years.

“The change isn’t a tiny one. Since the last governor’s election in 2010, it has taken 504,760 valid signatures to put a standard initiative on the ballot and 807,615 signatures for a constitutional amendment. Once the November election is certified Friday, those numbers will drop to about 366,000 and 586,000, respectively.”

A host of initiative hopefuls has already begun to plan for a big 2016, including public employee unions and taxpayers rights’ groups. But attention will focus most strongly around two high-profile efforts that have failed in the past, but enjoy the support of powerful backers: marijuana legalization and the breakup of California into six smaller states.

Hemp hopes

As Reason magazine observed, advocates of marijuana legalization and regulation have picked up steam in recent years, thanks to voter support. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia all have given pot the green light; emboldened, activists have turned for 2016 to Maine and Massachusetts in the East and Montana, Arizona and California — the biggest prize — in the West.

Along with proposals to fly the California flag at the same height as the U.S. flag, and to require the use of condoms in pornographic video performances, the marijuana legalization initiative has already been publicly proposed, but not yet made official with the Attorney General’s office.

Pot advocates hope to use 2016’s low bar to land on the ballot in a well-publicized but cost-effective way. In 2010, voters rejected a legalization initiative; this year, advocates see themselves catching a nationwide wave in favor of looser drug laws — and capitalizing on recent changes to California criminal law that treat inmates convicted on drug charges more leniently.

Six Californias 2.0

Venture capitalist Tim Draper, meanwhile, hasn’t given up his own hopes for an up or down vote on his Six Californias proposal. That idea, ridiculed in many corners of the press but viewed favorably by those seeking to shake up dysfunctional state governance, didn’t make it onto the ballot last time around. It would break up the state into six new states.

“Draper put about $5 million of his own money into gathering some 1.13 million signatures for ‘Six Californians,’ only to have the California Secretary of State’s office rule that just 752,000 were valid,” the Chronicle reported. “That was not enough to make the 807,000 required this year to make the cut.” In an interview with the Chronicle, Draper chose his words carefully:

“’We’re going for 2016, and we have 750,000 signatures, but they say we have to start all over again,’ he said Tuesday. ‘It’s a kind of Catch 22.’

“Asked if he will re-launch the signature-gathering process in light of the new 2016 lower bar, Draper said, ‘We want Six Californias to happen. We’ll see.’

“’This is a mission critical for the state,’ he said. ‘I live here and so does most of my family,’ and more than ever, he said, ‘we’re saying wait a second: we can make this change.’”

That’s an attitude typical of those who struggle to land initiatives on the statewide ballot. For them all, 2016 offers a once-in-a-generation chance to do so.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com