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U.S. Territories Could Legalize Marijuana Soon



Marijuana is now legal in nine states, and two U.S. territories could soon join them in ending prohibition.

Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo (R) included “legalizing the use and sale of recreational marijuana” in a list of revenue enhancements he sent to lawmakers for consideration on Monday.

And lawmakers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are holding a series of hearings on a marijuana legalization bill this week. Advocates expect they will decide whether to end cannabis prohibition or refer a ballot question to voters in the coming days.

If one or both of the remote Pacific territories ends cannabis prohibition, it would mark the start of the next phase of the legalization movement, bringing its reach to a new part of the globe.

In Guam, Calvo placed marijuana legalization legislation before lawmakers last year, but later rescinded support for his own plan in light of concerning signals the Trump administration was sending about the issue at the time.

But now, even though U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has since removed earlier protections for state marijuana laws, Calvo appears to have changed his mind again.

His current push for legalization appears to come out of concern that the tax reform plan recently passed by congressional Republicans and signed into law by President Trump could impact the territory’s revenues.

“As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, I Liheslaturan Guåhan, with assistance from the Office of Finance and Budget, shall collaborate with I Maga’lahen Guåhan to determine the feasibility and implementation of the following items,” Calvo wrote in the fiscal realignment plan he sent to lawmakers.

Marijuana legalization is listed along with 15 other proposals, such as increasing alcohol and tobacco taxes, implementing rental car surcharges and adding a sales tax.

“It could be treated like alcohol and tobacco, and it could be taxed,” Calvo said in a radio appearance last week. “I’m one that may not philosophically believe in [legalization], but it’s about providing a stable government and a stable community.”

Guam has been slow to implement a medical cannabis measure approved by voters in 2014.

In CNMI, the Senate Judiciary, Government and Law Committee Committee has held a series of hearings on each of the territory’s major islands about a pending marijuana legalization bill.

As originally introduced, the legislation, if enacted, would refer the question of legalization to voters in the form of a ballot measure. But concerns have been raised about the constitutionality of that approach, and supporters are now considering amending the proposal to enact legalization solely through an act of lawmakers.

A hearing on the island of Saipan scheduled for Tuesday was postponed due to lack of quorum.

“We held the public hearing on Rota last night and the other Senators were not able to make back to Saipan for tonight’s public hearing,” Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R), the legalization bill’s sponsor, said in a Facebook post.

Advocates expect a committee vote to take place soon. If approved there, the legislation will go before the full Senate.

The moves to legalize cannabis in Guam and CNMI, in the face of anti-cannabis policy changes from the Trump administration, are part of a widespread pushback against federal prohibition laws that many see as outdated.

Days after Sessions’s enforcement policy change, for example, Vermont enacted a new marijuana legalization law. And four or more states are expected to vote on cannabis ballot measures later this year.

These States Will Probably Vote On Marijuana In 2018

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GOP & Dems Team Up To Shield State Marijuana Laws From Jeff Sessions



The Justice Department should be blocked from enforcing federal marijuana prohibition in states that have enacted legalization, a bipartisan group of 59 lawmakers wrote in a new letter.

“We are concerned about the Department of Justice enforcing federal marijuana law in a way that blocks implementation of marijuana reform laws in those states that have passed such reforms,” the lawmakers, led by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), wrote to top decisionmakers on the House Appropriations Committee on Friday. “The issue at hand is whether the federal government’s marijuana policy violates the principles of federalism and the Tenth Amendment. Consistent with those principles, we believe that states ought to retain jurisdiction over most criminal justice matters within their borders. This is how the Founders intended our system to function.”

The legislators want congressional leaders to insert a new provision into a funding bill covering the Justice Department’s 2019 budget that would prevent federal prosecutors, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies from spending money to go after people who are in compliance with state marijuana laws.

The language the lawmakers want included in the funding bill reads:

“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used to prevent any of the several states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana on non-Federal lands within their respective jurisdictions.”

Separately on Friday, a group of 62 House Republican and Democrats sent a letter requesting the extension of existing, more limited appropriations protections that shield state medical cannabis laws from Justice Department intervention.

The medical marijuana provision has been part of federal since 2014, and has been extended with bipartisan House and Senate votes several times.

The broader protections to shield all state marijuana laws, including those that allow recreational use, from federal interference came just nine flipped votes short of passage in 2015. The number of states with legalization has more than doubled since then, and lawmakers from places with new laws would be more likely to support it if another vote were held, but House leaders have since blocked floor consideration of cannabis-related measures.

“As I have promised my fellow Coloradans, I will continue to advocate for this simple amendment to be added to the federal budget – shielding Colorado from the Trump administration’s attacks on states that have legalized marijuana,” Polis said in a press release about the new letter. “It would be a temporary, but urgent and necessary fix, as I continue to push for passage of my Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would finally lift the federal prohibition on marijuana.”

In the letter, the lawmakers argue that letting states enact their own cannabis laws is in keeping with constitutional principles laid out by the Founders of the nation.

“Experiences of states that have legalized marijuana, as compared to the experiences of states that have not, constitute the very ‘laboratories’ of social and economic experiments that were described by Chief Justice Louis Brandeis when he wrote about the beauty of the Tenth Amendment,” they said. “Our constitutional framework has afforded the whole nation the chance to allow states to differ on many matters of public policy, including marijuana.”

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Stop Jeff Sessions From Busting Medical Marijuana, Bipartisan Lawmakers Demand



A bipartisan group of 62 members of Congress is asking House leaders to protect state medical marijuana policies and the patients and businesses that rely on them from federal enforcement agents and prosecutors.

“We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws,” the lawmakers, led by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), wrote in a letter sent to the top Republican and Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee on Friday. “We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

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Medical Marijuana Ban A “Disgrace,” Congresswoman Tells Trump Veterans Chief



A congresswoman took a top Trump administration official to task over a policy that blocks military veterans from getting medical marijuana recommendations through the doctors that know them best, calling the federal government’s stance “a shame and disgrace.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs currently prohibits its physicians from filling out medical cannabis recommendations for veterans, even in states where it is legal.

“Coming from California, of course, you know we have a variety of dispensaries which make marijuana available to patients and veterans who use it for PTSD and chronic pain, and it works,” Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) told VA Sec. David Shulkin on Thursday.

“So what’s the problem?” she asked. “What’s the federal statute that blocks the VA from doing this, and not letting physicians simply recommend cannabis to veterans who need it? And it’s proven that it works.”

In a series of public remarks over the course of the past year, Shulkin has repeatedly claimed that overarching federal law blocks VA from recommending or even participating in research on medical marijuana.

But advocates have pointed out that there is no federal statute blocking the VA from changing its own internal policies on medical cannabis recommendations.

During the exchange, Shulkin seemed to be unaware of the distinction between prescribing medical marijuana, which no doctor can do due to its Schedule I status, and simply recommending it, which is how patients get access in the 29 states that allow its legal use.

“Filling out a questionnaire, isn’t that the step towards prescribing?” the secretary asked during the exchange with Lee, which took place at a hearing of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. “My understanding is federal law would not allow the physician to write the prescription, so I have to understand what the questionnaire would be in order to make a recommendation but not write a prescription.”

“Could we show you that questionnaire, Mr. Secretary?” Lee asked. “Because veterans need this, it works, and it’s a shame and disgrace that the VA is preventing this type of treatment that works.”

“Absolutely,” Shulkin replied. “I’d be glad to review that.”

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Shulkin has the unilateral authority to rescind the internal ban and clear the way for VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis to veterans in states where it is legal, but he has repeatedly claimed that federal law — without citing a particular statute — blocks him from doing so.

In recent weeks, a number of prominent veterans advocacy organizations like the American Legion and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have stepped up the push for access to medical cannabis.

Veterans Groups Battle Medical Marijuana Ban On Capitol Hill

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