Congressman Steve Cohen Calls for End of Schedule I for Cannabis

By Don Fitch

Steve Cohen

Congressman Steve Cohen

Steve Cohen, US Congressman from Tennessee, has called out Attorney General Eric Holder to end the ludicrous Schedule I legal status for cannabis. The Tennessee democrat (TN-09) is one of several US congresspersons working against continued marijuana prohibition.
Congressman Cohen is absolutely right when he speaks about the evils of Schedule I status, the most restrictive and punitive, for cannabis and hemp. These negatives include:

• Asset Forfeiture: Schedule I means marijuana “crimes” are among the most serious federal offenses, enabling draconian stealing of personal assets by the government.

• IRS 280E: This rule may cripple most cannabis businesses by disallowing common business deductions because of the illegality (especially Schedule I) of the product.

• Mandatory Minimums: Long prison terms for any “crime” involving cannabis are supported by the pernicious Schedule I tag.

• Medical Marijuana Research: Total control (and nearly total restriction) is granted to the DEA and NIDA, who cling to the “no medical use” definition to disallow medical research.

• Hemp: Imported seeds for the first Kentucky hemp planting were delayed at the border by the DEA last summer, requiring the intervention of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. To survive, the new American hemp industry needs cannabis rescheduling. Continue reading

Bad Day for Medical Liberty: US Supreme Court Denies Cannabis Rescheduling

© freshidea - Fotolia.com

© freshidea – Fotolia.com

Depressingly, the first thing the US Supreme Court did on its first Monday was to deny reconsideration of cannabis scheduling.

By refusing to appeal a lower ruling, the court locks in Schedule I (highly dangerous, no medical value) by allowing the DEA to make that decision. Read the gory details at StopTheDrugWar.org. This come out on the same day that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia admits that he fully believes in the devil. His mindset would better fit Spain during the Inquisition than the USA in the 21st century. Yet we are stuck with his rulings.

There seems little chance now that the draconian Schedule I felonizing of cannabis will change, probably for decades to come. After all, it was just over 25 years that DEA law judge Francis L. Young told the truth about marijuana, including the fact that in no way should it be Schedule I. Yet a quarter century later, it still is. During these 25 years 20 million Americans have been unjustly arrested under these cruel laws.

With Schedule I intact,  the DEA and US Attorneys can continue to  jail Americans for decades along with seizing their property for the benefit of the agencies. States may legalize cannabis for medical or personal use all they want but as long as possession of any marijuana by anybody remains a stiff federal offense, the medical potential of cannabis will be blunted. The DEA and NIDA will still have control over research using cannabis, meaning they can continue to block nearly all medical marijuana research in the USA. This is probably the most cruel result.

It will also stifle and delay hemp production and use the USA.

For no good reason, tens of millions of Americans will have to continue to fear their government.

Who now is going to down-schedule or de-schedule  cannabis out of the hands of the DEA?

  • Certainly not the DEA itself. The felonization of cannabis is worth billions to the agency every year, no way they would consider changing it.

  • Barack Obama is highly unlikely to consider this desperately needed change; his presidency has been marked by increasing attacks on medical marijuana dispensaries and he has rejected any change of scheduling.

  • Even after 2016, it is unlikely the new president would make any change. Hillary Clinton has echoed Obama’s hard line. Joe Biden is one of the worst of the drug war criminals, enthusiastically creating the Drug Czar office and supporting harsh and authoritarian programs and policies his entire career. Although some libertarian republicans support ending drug prohibition and defunding the DEA, most republicans are staunch authoritarians who fully cheer and fund the war on drugs.

  • These leaves its to congress to change the scheduling.  Big hope there, huh?  Even if congress was not dysfunctional,  many congresspersons are former prosecutors, drug-war beneficiaries like Senator Jeff  “I love the DEA” Sessions, of the Judiciary Committee. Powerful house dinosaurs like Texas republican Arlen Smith headed off any reduction of federal persecution of medical cannabis in states where legal.

Future Americans will look back at us an wonder how we could have kept such dishonest and cruel laws so long.

Copyright © Don Fitch, 2013

 

 

After 2012 election,cannabis prohibition teeters in the USA, and across the hemisphere.

“Game changer”, “tipping point”, “beginning of the end”, all the phrases this commenter wanted to use have already been used to describe the effects on cannabis prohibition of the 2012  momentous election.

The decision of Washington and Colorado voters to legalize marijuana in their states may well be a fatal blow to prohibition of cannabis in the USA. In the short time since these citizens of these states decided to end prohibition of cannabis possession, their votes have caused a major upheaval in cannabis and drug prohibition. These events may be among the most important in finally ending the moral wrong of cannabis prohibition.

The post-election realization is that now, for the first time, marijuana legalization is the will of the majority of American voters. This has to press the RESET button of politicians, as they contemplate legalization getting more votes than President Obama in Colorado. Republicans considering their unpopularity with young voters realize that repeal of cannabis prohibition is widely favored by the young.

Post election action on the state level has been impressive and encouraging. State legislators across the country have introduced legislation widening medical exemptions to state marijuana laws. Legislators in Maine and Rhode Island stepped beyond that with legislation to legalize for personal useAnd the states are pressuring the feds! In Colorado, US Representative Jared Polis (D) is clamoring for state exemption of federal cannabis law. Joining him are not just fellow democrats, but republicans too. Colorado politicians who worked against legalization now agree to work to see the will of Colorado voters respected and support Polis’ and Rep. Diana DeGette’s (D-CO)  “Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act.”

Internationally, a host of countries currently saddled with enforcing hard-line US drug policy found hearty justification for their skepticism of the drug war. Check out Colorado, Washington Marijuana Legalization: Latin American Leaders Ask For A Review Of Drug Policies on The Huffington Post.  Mexico in particular questions why it has lost 6o,000 lives and considers legalization. Uruguay is on the verge of legalizing personal use. Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Belize are all questioning the current war on drugs and are looking at legalization as an alternative.

A final gift of the election of 2012 was the just announced defeat of Dan Lungren, House Republican from California and one of the very worst drug war villains. For 3 decades he has  been involved in crafting and enforcing some of the most Stalinistic aspects, such as the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, targeting cannabis devotees with forfeiture and mandatory minimum sentencing. See also, “Why 1984 WAS like 1984.”  Another huge election plus was the defeat of Prohibitionist Allen West (R) Florida!

Still, even with all this political, state and international swing towards ending cannabis prohibition, hugely formidable forces will seek to prevent change. So far in his presidency, Barak Obama has been a huge disappointment on the issue, ignoring all drug war and incarceration issues and allowing zealots in the justice department to attack medical cannabis with all the cruel tools at their disposal. The House and Senate are both rife with prohibitionist dinosaurs like Lamar Smith, Mitch McConnell, Diane Feinstein, and Jeff Sessions. Texas Representative Lamar Smith (R) was able last congress to, by himself, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee  (retch) to block Ron Paul and Barney Frank’s legislation to exempt medical cannabis from federal prosecution. He was the sole decider, the House did not even get to consider. He could probably do the same again this session. And in the house, Congress has lost three of its anti-drug war patriots, Ron Paul (R-Texas), Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

Ardent anti-cannabis foe Michele Leonhart directs much of the current federal assault on medical marijuana from her post at the head of the DEA.  This zealot was given carte blanc to proceed full bore by her nominator President Obama, and unanimous senate confirmation. US Attorneys, eager to expand power and careers are attacking medical marijuana for easy forfeiture and mandatory minimum charges.

A wildcard in this upcoming battle on cannabis prohibition is the current action underway in the US Court of Appeals to strip away its insidious and evil Schedule I status. Much of the cruelty in the war against cannabis has issued from this classification, first implemented by Richard Nixon to “tear the a** out of hippies.” The draconian Schedule I status for cannabis has been a legal cancer draining the USA for 40 years. It has turned America into a vast incarceration gulag, trashed the Bill of Rights, corrupted law enforcement and forever damaged the lives of 20 million citizens burdened with a marijuana arrest. If the court allows anything like a science-based review, then the fiction of the Schedule I classification (dangerous, addictive, no medical use) will be obvious and the plant will be rescheduled.

The next years will be dynamic for cannabis prohibition reform. Hold on to your hats!

 

Drug war idiocy: 40 years of Operation Intercept

Forty years ago today, and 5 years before he resigned in disgrace, President Richard Nixon launched Operation Intercept. The operation, planned in part by future Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, involved the intensification of searches at border crossing points from Mexico. The goals were stopping the smuggling of marijuana into the USA and reducing drug distribution channels in Mexico.

  • Four decades later, a half dozen powerful criminal cartels challenge even the Mexican government. They employ armies of paramilitary hit men and cause great carnage in Mexico. It is estimated that over half the financing of the powerful and violent cartels is from smuggling marijuana into the USA. The removal of this cartel gravy train would be but one of the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition.

In 1968, 80,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana possession, only 10% of last year’s total. In the intervening 40 years, nearly 20 million Americans have been arrested for cannabis “crimes”. America’s prison population has exploded to the world’s most bloated, with 2.3 million prisoners.

Cannabis is misplaced on Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act in good part due to the animosity nursed by Nixon towards the counterculture. He hated hippies. Nixon loathed the anti-war activists who protested his raining down death upon Vietnam.

Kevin Zeese in 2002 covered the events by which Nixon secured Schedule I draconian status in the CSA, despite the Shafer Commission he appointed to study the issue recommending just the opposite. Check out Zeese’s AlterNet article that discloses the content of Nixon’s famous tapes on the issue. Stunningly, Nixon compares the threat from marijuana, to that of “homosexuals, Jews and communists.”

The Shafer commission, after actually investigating marijuana, could not come up with a recommendation matching Nixon’s prejudices. Instead they concluded,

  • “Marihuana’s relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.

The tapes show this science-based conclusion drove Nixon wild with anger. What he desired, in his own words, was a “goddamn strong statement about marijuana … that just tears the ass out of them.” Tragically, Nixon got his way. Marijuana was classified Schedule I, a draconian classification triggering major felony penalties and mandatory minimums. Tens of millions of Americans have had their ass torn from them by these laws and their zealous enforcement.

Cannabis remains Schedule I today, a cruel and wasteful fiction. This artifact of one of America’s worst presidents could be and should be easily reduced (say to Schedule V) by command from President Obama.

Sonia Sotomayor and the Drug War Exemption to the Bill of Rights

During the last 40 years of the drug war, America’s three branches of government have sought and attained what many have called the Drug War Exemption to the Bill of Rights. Seemingly, the executive, legislative and judicial branches fought over themselves to be tough in the War on Drugs, at the expense of the Constitution, especially the Bill Of Rights. The hysteria has, in just one generation, transformed “the land of the free” into the nation imprisoning the most people in cages.

  • To restore America’s constitutional values, the country desperately needs fresh thinking at the Supreme Court. Big government right wingers Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have been joined by new neocons John Roberts and Sam Alito. Their decisions uniformly expand the role of the state, especially the executive, favor prosecution and incarceration while reducing the rights of the accused.

As a former drug war prosecutor, Sonia Sotomayor lacks this needed perspective. No ex-prosecutor should ever become a judge, much less supreme court justice. Prosecutors build their careers in good part on how much prison time is sentenced to those they prosecute. The war on drugs, with its “enhanced” sentencing and mandatory minimums, has been very, very good for the careers of prosecutors. Perhaps only urine tested have benefited more.

  • Proof of Sotomayor’s inability to tackle the festering mandatory minimum sentences congress rushed to impose during the height of the drug war is her support from Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. This ex-US Attorney is tragically perched high in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Interviewed by PBS Frontline for Snitch, Sessions reveils himself to be a rabid drug war hardliner. Like most in his party of small government, he is chiefly concerned in increasing the scope of government through intensive prosecutions and mandatory minimums.

As reported by Sam Stein, in 1997 Jeff Sessions grilled Sotomayor on the occasion of her appointment as United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Of mandatory minimums, she testified to him, “I have no idea how the judges before me ever set a consistent standard by which to sentence individuals. The guidelines do provide that framework in a very helpful way.” Even so, Sessions voted against her appointment. Now he supports her Supreme court appointment. Be afraid, very afraid. Ex-prosecutor current Session’s satisfaction that ex-prosecutor Sotomayor will tow the line on mandatory minimums indicate that no voice of change will be heard on this crucial moral and practical issue.

  • Strict drug war sentencing and imprisonment are among many other evils of the war on drugs. The savaging of the Bill of Rights with drug war exemptions in the areas of personal privacy, search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment and mass incarceration are huge failures of American ideals.

America needs its Constitution back. We need repeal of the Drug War Exemptions to the Bill of Rights. Ex-prosecutor Sonia Sotomayor at the Supreme Court would likely do nothing to help.