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In an epochal shift likely to change the face of American society forever, the federal Department of Justice on Thursday will tell U.S. Attorneys not to prevent Native American tribes from growing or selling marijuana on their sovereign lands, even in states where cannabis is illegal.
The new memorandum will offer guidance which will be implemented on a case-by-case basis, according to U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon of North Dakota, chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues, reports Timothy M. Phelps at the Los Angeles Times.
Tribes must still follow the eight guidelines or “areas of concern” offered by the federal government after Colorado and Washington voters chose to legalize marijuana in the 2012 elections. The federal guidelines will also apply in Oregon and Alaska, where voters chose to join the ranks of legal states in 2014.
While it is still unknown just how many reservations will take advantage of the new policy, it seems likely that many will, judging by the proliferation of tribal casinos. Many tribes, however, remain opposed to legalizing marijuana on their lands, and federal officials will continue to enforce the law in those areas, if requested.
The final “must pass” federal spending bill that Congress will consider this week, also known as the “cromnibus,”and released by senior appropriators Tuesday night includes an amendment that prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws. The spending bill also includes a bipartisan amendment that prohibits the DEA from blocking implementation of a federal law passed last year by Congress that allows hemp cultivation for academic and agricultural research purposes in states that allow it.
It also contains an amendment blocking marijuana law reform in Washington, D.C., although it is unclear what exactly the amendment blocks.
“For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy,” said Bill Piper, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed.”
Republicans were successful in including language in the “cromnibus” federal spending bill that interferes with the right of Washington, D.C., to set its own marijuana policies. The language, however, was not what they originally wanted because they had to compromise with Democrats.
The D.C. marijuana rider inserted in the bill allows D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law (passed earlier this year) to stand, while prohibiting D.C. from taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol (a D.C. Council committee recently approved tax-and-regulate legislation and it is widely believed that the Council will legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana next year if it can).
Because the language was poorly drafted there has been disagreement over whether or not the spending bill rider would overturn Initiative 71, an initiative approved by 70 percent of D.C. voters in November that legalizes marijuana possession and home cultivation for personal use. Based on statements by members of Congress, including members who were part of the funding bill negotiations, it is clear that the legislative intent of the rider was to allow both decrim and Initiative 71 to stand, while blocking D.C. from carrying out more sweeping reform in the future.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol needed to file 102,000 signatures, but ultimately filed about 200,000.
If passed, the measure would establish marijuana cultivation and distribution businesses as well as legalize adult possession of up to an ounce.
“Nevada joins an ever-growing list of states with marijuana legalization on the 2016 ballot,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a law enforcement group opposed to the War On Drugs.
Most banks still refuse to work with marijuana businesses, because they fear enforcement of federal banking laws, reports Alizeh Siddiqui at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Cannabis, is, of course, illegal at the federal level. Now, a new credit union designed specifically for the legal marijuana industry hopes to offer a solution, reports Trevor Hughes at USA Today.
The Fourth Corner Credit Union plans to open within two weeks in Denver, offering to accept cash deposits and to allow members to make electronic cash transfers for payroll and rent, and to buy supplies.
“We are on the one-yard line,” said attorney Mark Mason, who is advising the credit union’s nine founders.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission can now begin the implementation of recreational marijuana legalization under Measure 91 after the Legislature’s Emergency Board, composed of state House and Senate members, approved funding for staff, legal help and rule-writing.
The board approved a $583,000 loan for the OLCC, reports Anna Staver at the Statesman Journal. The money is coming from the state’s liquor taxes, with the promise that the Commission will pay it back by the end of the 2015-2017 budget cycle using revenue generated by marijuana sales.
The money will allow commissioners to hire four workers: a program manager, two policy analysts and a public affairs staffer, reports The Associated Press. Regulating recreational marijuana in Oregon might eventually require up to 30 employees, according to one state estimate.
The university on Wednesday received FDA letters authorizing two studies, one for children and one for adults, according to UAB spokesman Bob Shepard, reports Kim Chandler at the Associated Press.
Parents of children with severe seizure disorders convinced the Alabama Legislature last year to pass a bill authorizing UAB’s Department of Neurology to perform a study of cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive component of marijuana.