Sessions Rescinds Obama Pot Policy

Marijuana legalization

SESSIONS DECLARES WAR ON POT

In a stunning, but not unexpected move, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Justice Department’s policy of non-interference with States that have decriminalized and/or legalized marijuana. Cannabis and its derivatives have long been illegal to use, possess and distribute under federal law. Weed is actually still illegal to use, possess and distribute in most states.

However, in the last 20 years several states have decriminalized the possession of pot. A few states have made its medicinal or recreational use and distribution legal under state law. As a result, the Obama administration’s justice department developed a policy of non-interference in these states. In other words, as long as the states managed their pot responsibly, the DEA, FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies would not enforce federal laws prohibiting marijuana. In actual fact, United States Attorney offices around the country essentially quit prosecuting marijuana cases. That may all be changing.

PROSECUTIONS FOR MARIJUANA LOOMING

It is unclear whether Sessions’ decision to rescind the Cole Memos policy guidance means the feds will start enforcing federal laws prohibiting marijuana. The status quo could hold, but Sessions disdain for marijuana is well documented. Your “legal” weed may soon land you in serious federal trouble. Federal drug charges can carry 5, 10, 20 or even lifetime mandatory minimums depending on the type and amount of drug and your criminal history. Most federal drug cases are charged as a conspiracy. A person does not even have to touch the drug to become part of a federal conspiracy case. In short, if you live in or visit a state where pot is “legal” and you choose to smoke or join a pot business, watch your back. The feds may not be far away.

Stowers & Sarcone, PLC

New Iowa Medical Marijuana Legislation

As I wrote recently, it is a crime to possess and use any kind of marijuana products in Iowa. However, in 2014, Iowa’s medical marijuana law took effect. The law allowed patients with severe epilepsy to use medical cannabis oil and cannabis oil only to relieve their symptoms. Section 124D of the Iowa Code that is known as Medical Cannabidiol Act authorizes the Iowa Department of Public Health to approve the issuance of a Cannabidiol Registration Card to a person who has intractable epilepsy or to a primary caregiver of a person who has intractable epilepsy. This includes, for example, parents whose kids suffer from epilepsy. To become a medical marijuana patient in Iowa and to get a card you:

  • Must be a resident of Iowa with a valid Iowa I.D. as proof of residency
  • Obtain a copy of your medical records indicating that you are diagnosed with a qualifying condition
  • Obtain written documentation from a physician licensed in the state of Iowa that that you are a qualifying patient. Be sure to bring your medical records with you to your appointment
  • Apply for and receive a Medical Marijuana Card from the state of Iowa

So, a patient can get a Medical Marijuana Card. But how about the access to prescription cannabis oil for those patients? Now, it is illegal to grow marijuana in Iowa and to extract oil from it. That means that you can get a card but you cannot buy prescription cannabis oil in Iowa. Ironically, it cost the state more than $100,000 to create and issue registration cards to about 50 people. Those people have cards but cannot buy prescription cannabis oil in Iowa. House Representative Peter Cownie said, “We have a law on the books that allows you to possess it, but you can’t get it.” As a result, parents have to travel to Colorado to access the oil. That constitutes a crime because federal law prohibits the transportation of marijuana across state lines.

There is a chance that the situation will change for the better in the future. Recently, the above-mentioned Representative Cownie proposed a bill that would bring cannabis oil production and sales to Iowa. A new bill is supposed to make it legal to grow medical marijuana, make cannabis oil and setup dispensaries in Iowa. If the bill becomes a law, Iowans with Medical Marijuana Cards will get access to prescription marijuana oil.

I am Nick Sarcone, attorney at Stowers and Sarcone. If you have questions about medical marijuana, feel free to reach me at (515) 224-7446.

New Iowa’s Medical Marijuana Legislation

As I wrote recently, it is a crime to possess and use any kind of marijuana products in Iowa. However, in 2014, Iowa’s medical marijuana law took effect. The law allowed patients with severe epilepsy to use medical cannabis oil and cannabis oil only to relieve their symptoms. Section 124D of the Iowa Code that is known as Medical Cannabidiol Act authorizes the Iowa Department of Public Health to approve the issuance of a Cannabidiol Registration Card to a person who has intractable epilepsy or to a primary caregiver of a person who has intractable epilepsy. This includes, for example, parents whose kids suffer from epilepsy. To become a medical marijuana patient in Iowa and to get a card you:

  • Must be a resident of Iowa with a valid Iowa I.D. as proof of residency
  • Obtain a copy of your medical records indicating that you are diagnosed with a qualifying condition
  • Obtain written documentation from a physician licensed in the state of Iowa that that you are a qualifying patient. Be sure to bring your medical records with you to your appointment
  • Apply for and receive a Medical Marijuana Card from the state of Iowa

So, a patient can get a Medical Marijuana Card. But how about the access to prescription cannabis oil for those patients? Now, it is illegal to grow marijuana in Iowa and to extract oil from it. That means that you can get a card but you cannot buy prescription cannabis oil in Iowa. Ironically, it cost the state more than $100,000 to create and issue registration cards to about 50 people. Those people have cards but cannot buy prescription cannabis oil in Iowa. House Representative Peter Cownie said, “We have a law on the books that allows you to possess it, but you can’t get it.” As a result, parents have to travel to Colorado to access the oil. That constitutes a crime because federal law prohibits the transportation of marijuana across state lines.

There is a chance that the situation will change for the better in the future. Recently, the above-mentioned Representative Cownie proposed a bill that would bring cannabis oil production and sales to Iowa. A new bill is supposed to make it legal to grow medical marijuana, make cannabis oil and setup dispensaries in Iowa. If the bill becomes a law, Iowans with Medical Marijuana Cards will get access to prescription marijuana oil.

I am Nick Sarcone, attorney at Stowers and Sarcone. If you have questions about medical marijuana, feel free to reach me at (515) 224-7446.

DEA and Local Police Raid Pot Shops in Denver, Colorado

On October 28, 2013, the Denver Police Department in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office conducted multiple raids on marijuana grow operations in and around the Denver area.  Apparently, and completely unsurprisingly, because merely arresting people is woefully insufficient and yields no tangible benefit to law enforcement, the police are said to have seized cash, cars and marijuana plants in addition to making arrests.  A police raid on a drug manufacturing and distribution operation is a rather mundane news story considering that where most of us live this occurs almost daily.  In Denver, however, raiding a marijuana grow operation happens well, almost never.

In 2012, the citizens of Colorado passed Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution.  Amendment 64 legalized the general possession and sale of marijuana.  So, pot is legal in Denver; sort of.  Pot may be legal in Colorado, but in the United States of America it is illegal.  Although, the Colorado Constitution legalizes marijuana under state law, the citizens of Colorado must obey all state and federal laws.  Federally, pot is still considered a controlled substance which is illegal to manufacture, distribute and possess.  Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper infamously noted this on election night 2012 by issuing a statement to the effect of “federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or goldfish too quickly.” Hickenlooper cheetos and goldfish

The Department of Justice, led by the Attorney General of the United States, has discretion to decide which federal laws it will enforce.   In 2013, the Justice Department distributed a memorandum to its local prosecutors (the U.S. Attorneys) regarding the enforcement of federal drug laws in all states in light of the legalization of marijuana under state law in Colorado and Washington.  That memorandum sets forth the conditions under which the U.S. Attorneys offices should enforce federal drug laws related to the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana.  Those conditions include:

  • Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
  • Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
  • Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana;
  • Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands; and
  • Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

Since the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, the feds have largely permitted the cultivation, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana as regulated by the State of Colorado. However, businesses engaged in the marijuana business that run afoul of the the conditions set forth in the 2013 memorandum are subject to DEA and Department of Justice enforcement of federal drug law.  Such is allegedly the case with the businesses that the police raided yesterday in and around Denver.  As lawyers who routinely handle federal drugs charges, we know they are serious business.  The individuals and businesses who were raided will need very good legal representation as they will face substantial prison time and monetary penalties. This story is a good reminder that while pot may be legal in Colorado, federally it is not legal in the United States of America.