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Non-Interference Policy on Marijuana Reversed

January 4, 2018, 1:46 PM HST · Updated January 5, 10:46 AM
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The Department of Justice today issued a memo on federal marijuana enforcement policy announcing “a return to the rule of law and the rescission of previous guidance documents.”  Since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, Congress has generally prohibited the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana.

In the memorandum, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directs all US Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow “well-established principles” when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard denounced Attorney General Sessions’ actions to rescind the Obama-era non-interference policy and is calling on Congress to pass legislation to remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list.

She claims the reversal targets states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana use and is urging the passage of H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

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In a press release statement, Rep. Gabbard said:

“Attorney General Sessions’ reversal of the current non-interference policy that essentially allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference, tramples on states’ rights and is a dangerous escalation of the failed so-called War on Drugs. This overreach by the federal government undermines state governments like Hawaii’s that have legalized medical marijuana and threatens the livelihoods and rights of the people of Hawai‘i and those of the 29 states and Washington DC who have legalized some form of marijuana.

“This decision reinforces our outdated and destructive policies on marijuana that turn everyday Americans into criminals, tear families apart, and waste billions of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for nonviolent marijuana charges. Taxpayer dollars would be better spent tackling the many problems that plague the American people including combating the opioid epidemic, ensuring affordable housing, repairing aging infrastructure, and investing in education, healthcare, veterans’ care, and more.

“By continuing to pour billions of dollars down the drain with our archaic marijuana policies, we stifle our economy, society, and criminal justice system and leave the people of Hawai‘i and millions more devastated – all for a substance that is far less dangerous and harmful than alcohol. Our laws should accurately reflect scientific consensus – not misplaced stigma and outdated myths about marijuana.

“I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would decriminalize marijuana by removing it from the federal controlled substances list, treating it the same as alcohol and tobacco. Our bipartisan legislation will end this unnecessary and costly debate once and for all by federally decriminalizing marijuana and kick-starting long overdue, common sense criminal justice reform.”

In a memo from Sessions, he stated the following:

“It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission.  Therefore, today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all US Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa also issued a statement today after the Trump administration’s decision to roll back four Obama administration policy saying:

“The priorities of this administration continue to mystify me. America is struggling with an opioid epidemic that is killing 91 Americans a day but rather than focus effort and resources on stopping the illegal prescription drug market, the Justice Department is signaling to prosecutors that it is open season on marijuana dispensaries and businesses operating legally in states with established policies and procedures. What a complete waste of time. Hawaiʻi is one of 21 states that permit medical use and we have more than 18,000 patients and issued licenses to eight dispensaries. Times have changed; more than half the population of this country lives in a place where marijuana is legal for recreational or medicinal use. We cannot turn back the clock the way the Attorney General seems to think we can. The state legislature must explore how to regulate and ensure public safety if Hawaiʻi joins the growing movement of states seeking to generate new revenue to pay for essential government services by legalizing marijuana for recreational use. What we cannot do, is throw uncertainty into a growing market space and leave thousands of legal users and patients in limbo. Congress needs to step up and protect states’ rights on this issue.”

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