It’s been a heady week of legal matters for pot, with a leaked letter showing Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants Congress to allow him to go after the medical marijuana industry, the slow march of legal pot regulations in states across the country, and the unfortunate news that Chief Keef was sent back to jail, this time for blunt possession.
Here’s some weed news to get you through this cold, cloudy mid-June weekend in Seattle. Light a joint and read on.
Sessions Asks Congress for Permission to Prosecute Medical Marijuana Patients
Massroots’ Tom Angell had the weed scoop of the week when he published a letter that Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent to Congress asking for the right to investigate the country’s medical marijuana industry. Since 2014, congress has protected medical marijuana programs by passing an amendment to the federal budget that blocks the Department of Justice from spending any money investigating medical marijuana providers or patients. Sessions’ letter, dated May 1, asked Congress to drop that amendment from its funding bill, calling it unwise to block the DOJ from prosecutions while the country is in “the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”
Thankfully Congress ignored Sessions’ request and included the protections, frequently referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, in their latest budget funding resolution.
The Obama Administration tried to argue that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment did not prevent the federal government from prosecuting individuals involved in medical marijuana, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit validated the protections last year, ruling that the DOJ could not go after any state-certified medical marijuana growers, patients or stores. However, federal courts have also ruled that the amendment does not protect recreational weed, like our state’s legal weed system.
Trump Ally Roger Stone Wants the President to Legalize Weed
Roger Stone—the Nixon protégé and Trump confidante who looks like a badly-dressed Bond villain—formed a political organization on Tuesday, United States Cannabis Coalition, that will “lobby the Trump Administration from the top on down to recognize the medicinal value and potential of cannabis.”
Trump’s views on pot have varied erratically over the last two decades; he has called the war on drugs a failure and said during his last presidential campaign that he would respect states’ rights on pot, but he later criticized Colorado’s legalization as having “some big problems” and nominated Sessions, one of the most fervent pot prohibitionists in the country, to be attorney general.
Stone has a rocky relationship with Trump. He supposedly had a hand in convincing Trump to go into politics and worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, but was subsequently fired and publicly criticized by Trump. Stone also has a long history of doing horrible things and may currently be a person of interest in the FBI’s investigation of Russia's hacking of the election.
Fellow pot activists don’t seem turned off by Stone’s past, though. Representatives of NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project told Vice that they were open to working with Stone’s political action committee.
California’s Legalization Law May Include Organic Certification and Homegrows
A bill that would merge California’s existing medical marijuana system and the state’s new recreational pot system is working its way through the California legislature. As it currently stands it would include a provision for the state to certify organic cannabis and allow every person over 21 in the state to grow up to six pot plants at home.
It also includes a pretty cool provision that would allow growers to give pot samples at county fairs. Why would a pot farmer want to give out samples of their product? For the same reason winemakers and craft brewers offer samples—when you’re selling high-quality products, interacting with customers, and showing them why your product is superior is hugely helpful. Our state has extremely strict laws on producers sharing pot: if they want to provide samples, they must buy their own product back at market rates from a retailer before giving it away.
California’s 2018 recreational crop could sell $7 billion in its first year of business, according to the AP.
Massachusetts May Further Delay Recreational Pot Shops
The Massachusetts legislature is slowly plodding through the task of creating the system for regulating recreational growers and retailers after voters legalized recreational pot last November. The original plan was to have the system up and running by early next year. But that date has since been pushed back to July of 2018 and this week saw another legislative setback.
The Massachusetts’ House of Representatives pulled back the legalization bill at the last minute on Wednesday. This time, it was over concerns that the 28 percent tax rate was too high. The legislature has a self-imposed deadline to finish the law by the end of the month, and house leaders say they can still meet that deadline.
New England is on its way to being as weed friendly as the West: Massachusetts and Maine set up recreational pot stores, and Vermont and Rhode Island look to be close behind. Some Rhode Island legislators are trying to legalize pot before Massachusetts opens its first stores, attempting to attract some cross-border shopping. Vermont’s Republican governor vetoed a legalization bill last month but state legislators and the governor say they are now close to a compromise.
Lawmakers from a number of New England states have visited Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board in recent years, trying to learn how our state legalized and regulated pot.
Chief Keef Caught with Four Blunts and an Edible at South Dakota Airport
Chicago-born rapper Chief Keef was arrested at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota airport on Monday after airport security found four blunts and two edibles in his carry-on backpack. Keef, who released his most successful album “Finally Rich” when he was 17, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana possession. Keef had played a charity show in Sioux Falls the night before and was released from jail on Tuesday.
If you’re new to Keef’s music, start with his hook on Kanye West’s “Hold My Liquor,” a quick verse that Lou Reed described as “incredibly poignant” in The Guardian.
Keef told TMZ on Thursday that the problem arose when Keef tried to take the trip’s leftover weed back to L.A. Honestly, who hasn’t been in this position before—the last day of your trip and you have a bigger stash than you can possibly finish? I usually just try to unload leftover pot on the nearest hippy, which looks like a better option than trying to fly with it in your carry-on.
Son Charged with Growing Pot in Mother’s House Fire Death
A Port Orchard man was charged with illegally growing cannabis after authorities allegedly discovered an illegal pot grow and THC extractor while they were investigating a house fire that killed the man’s mother.
Illegal THC extractors—the machines that come in a wide variety of types and make the concentrates that can be dabbed, vaped or used to make edibles—have been linked to deadly explosions in the past. But authorities say the February 6 fire was likely caused by a frayed extension cord, according to the Kitsap Sun.
The Sun reports that Matthew Niklos Parham, 46, admitted to a detective that he was growing the marijuana but then missed his court hearing earlier this month.