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Will Sessions’s anti-cannabis move actually help legalization? (Newsletter: Jan 8, 2017)

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Another poll shows majority legalization support; Sessions & Gardner to meet; Lots of state bills filed

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

A Pew poll found that Americans support legalizing marijuana, 61% – 37%.

I put together some thoughts about how U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s anti-marijuana move might actually be good for legalization.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) says he told Sessions in a phone call that he will be blocking all Justice Department nominations over the Trump administration’s marijuana policy change. The two are set to meet this week. The nomination block threat stands to leave several key posts unfilled for the foreseeable future.

/ FEDERAL

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is working with California officials to formulate a response to the Trump administration’s anti-marijuana move.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said Justice Department marijuana changes won’t affect government doctors’ ability to talk with veterans about cannabis.

Montana’s U.S. attorney said he would focus “on identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our citizens and communities.”

Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who authored the Cole memo, spoke about its rescission.

A federal judge scheduled oral arguments in a lawsuit against marijuana’s Schedule I status for February 14.

President Trump said that countries with “harsh” drug policies see “less difficulty,” adding: “We are going to be working on that very, very hard this year, and I think we’re going to make a big dent into the drug problem.” He also tweeted that he spoke with Cabinet and military officials about “the ever increasing Drug and Opioid Problem.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, criticized Sessions’s anti-marijuana move and said that cannabis could become a campaign issue in 2018.

Congresswoman Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who is running against U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), is making marijuana a campaign issue.

Members of Congress from Colorado held a conference call to discuss legislative responses to the Sessions marijuana move. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) sent a letter asking the attorney general to rescind the anti-marijuana guidance, while Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) sent a letter asking President Trump to overrule Sessions on cannabis.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) said the Sessions marijuana move could be an impetus for Congress to end prohibition.

Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) said he supports the Sessions policy change.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) cheered on the Sessions cannabis move, and also seems upset that some Democrats want to include broader state marijuana protections in appropriations legislation.

Congressman Rod Blum (R-IA) says Sessions’s anti-marijuana move inspired him to cosponsor cannabis legislation.

Former Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) is calling on Sessions to resign.

/ STATES

New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy (D) and legislative leaders say they will continue with plans to legalize marijuana despite federal enforcement policy changes.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) is concerned the federal government is sowing “confusion” about marijuana enforcement.

Oklahoma Democratic gubernatorial candidates are backing medical cannabis, but Republican contenders are mostly mum on the issue.

Louisiana is moving ahead to implement its medical cannabis program.

California’s attorney general is considering suing the federal government over marijuana policy. Separately, officials pulled a PSA on drugged driving after critics viewed it as pro-marijuana.

The New Mexico Supreme Court temporarily upheld hemp legislation vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez (R).

Colorado regulators said they will continue to adhere to the principles of the Cole memo even though it is no longer in place. Separately, they are proposing changes to medical cannabis rules.

Missouri’s House speaker says that he’s surprised by momentum behind medical cannabis and that he’d prefer lawmakers pass legislation instead of having voters do it via a ballot initiative.

Indiana’s Republican majority floor leader introduced a resolution calling for a study on medical cannabis.

New York regulators say they will continue the state’s medical cannabis program in light of federal changes. Separately, lawmakers filed a bill to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any condition.

Maine lawmakers will hold a hearing on marijuana legalization implementation legislation on Tuesday.

A Florida representative filed a marijuana decriminalization bill. Another representative introduced legislation setting procedures for medical cannabis use in schools.

A Mississippi representative filed a medical cannabis bill.

A Washington, D.C. councilmember, at the request of the mayor, introduced legislation to allow reciprocity for out-of-state medical cannabis patients.

Washington State regulators identified marijuana products with undisclosed pesticide residues. Separately, the House Committee on Commerce and Gaming will hear a bill to use marijuana tax revenue to fund indigent defense on Monday.

/ LOCAL

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) spoke out against the federal marijuana enforcement change.

San Francisco, California retailers began recreational marijuana sales.

/ ADVOCACY

Trump ally Roger Stone called the Justice Department’s marijuana policy change a “cataclysmic mistake.”

The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators also slammed the Sessions anti-cannabis move.

Purported criminal justice reform group Right on Crime cheered the Sessions decision.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro bashed cannabis consumers but said he supports decriminalization.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A study concluded that “consumption of cannabis reduces vigilance and increases driving errors.”

A study found that medical cannabis “dispensary users do not necessarily reside in the same area in which dispensaries are located and do not necessarily reflect the local population.”

A study concluded that “there are higher proportions of personal communication tweets and Twitter users tweeting about rosin in U.S. states where cannabis is legalized.”

/ OPINION & ANALYSIS

The New York Times editorial board slammed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s marijuana enforcement policy.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board wants Congress to overrule Sessions on cannabis.

Even the Washington Post editorial board, which has long opposed marijuana legalization, criticized the Justice Department action.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board supports Sessions’s anti-marijuana change, but said that it could spur Congress to end prohibition.

The Chicago Tribune editorial board is calling on Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

/ BUSINESS

Corona distributor Constellation Brands, which has marijuana investments, says it is not concerned about a federal crackdown.

Marijuana industry operatives don’t seemed too spooked by Sessions’s anti-marijuana move.

Environmentalists are concerned about the marijuana industry’s energy usage.

/ CULTURE     

Comedian Seth Meyers opened the Golden Globes by saying, “It’s 2018: marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn’t. It’s going to be a good year.”

Trump-supporting Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams said he may turn on the president over the administration’s anti-cannabis move.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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