Reefer Madness at Trump’s Justice Department

by on July 25, 2017 · 0 comments

in Culture

The US Department of Justice is preparing to crack down on marijuana use following the release of a report later this week claiming the drug is linked violent crime.

The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, organized by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is expected to recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking pot.

A Sessions memo back in April called for a review of existing policies by July 27 using the following language:

“Task Force subcommittees will also undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with administration goals and priorities,”

News reports on the proposed crackdown spread following the publication of a story in The Hill:

The original rationale for banning pot.

“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime, and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month — and explicitly the last couple of weeks — talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” Inimai Chettiar, Brennan Center’s Justice Program director, told The Hill.

We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that’s true or recommending action be taken based on that being true.”

Another story in The Hill featured strong pushback from Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz:

“This is backward and inhumane,” Schatz tweeted. “I hope every third-party voting progressive remembers this. There’s a real difference between R’s and D’s.”

Schatz said Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reversing eight years of progress toward a “more humane, less expensive, more just system” by focusing on punishing marijuana users with tougher sentences.

Sessions also promised a Task Force subcommittee would “explore our use of asset forfeiture and make recommendations on any improvements needed to legal authorities, policies, and training to most effectively attack the financial infrastructure of criminal organizations.”

The Attorney General re-established a controversial criminal asset seizure program last week ahead of the committee’s recommendations.

There was an immediate and forceful condemnation of this decision from across the political spectrum. Rep. Darrell Issa’s eyebrows reportedly went up.

From the Washington Post:

Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the action “outrageous.”

“We are talking about people who have not been convicted of a crime and are often not given a day in court to reclaim their possessions,” Bennett said. “Civil asset forfeiture is tantamount to policing for profit, generating millions of dollars annually that the agencies get to keep.”

The Attorney General has long been an outspoken opponent of marijuana use, claiming it’s a gateway to illegal drugs and crime.

As a U.S. attorney in Alabama in the 1980s, prosecuting two Ku Klux Klan members charged with murdering two black men, Sessions reportedly joked “I thought they (the defendants) were OK until I found out they smoked pot.” As a Senator, he told a hearing last year “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

President Trump has sent mixed signals on marijuana policy, saying on the campaign trail in 2016 marijuana legalization should be left to the states. Recreational marijuana is legal in eight states and Washington, D.C.

In May, while signing a bill safeguarding medical marijuana, Trump claimed he reserved the right to ignore the amendment and might still pursue legal action against states.

All this chatter about a crackdown on pot is going on while there is rampant speculation about the President replacing Attorney General Sessions.

Trump is reportedly angry about Sessions refusing to step into the investigations concerning Russia. Sessions seems determined to grit it out.

From New York Magazine:

President Trump has been unhappy with Jeff Sessions since March, when the attorney general recused himself from the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference, paving the way for Robert Mueller, Trump’s new bête noire, to take over as special prosecutor.

On Monday morning, Trump expressed his discontent once again, calling out Sessions as “beleaguered” in a tweet, and questioning why he isn’t doing more to investigate – you guessed it – Hillary Clinton.

Axios is reporting former New York Mayor (and professional fear monger) Rudy Giuliani is being considered as Session’s replacement, along with a much higher media presence for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as part of a scheme to mount a public defense of the President.

Nevertheless, the leaks about Giuliani and Gingrich are revealing in four ways:

  • Trump wants to surround himself with enablers and junkyard dogs, as we saw with the selection of the pugilistic Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director.
  • Presidents like the personnel equivalent of comfort food — people with whom they have a long, happy history. Presidents often find they can only really trust people they knew before they took office, since it’s hard to trust new people at the pinnacle of power.
  • Rudy and Newt were both overlooked in the first round of administration picks. By reviving some of his original band members, he’s able to blame other people for his problems.
  • And the West Wing conversations show that Trump originals can always come back. Paging Chris Christie!

Locally, marijuana industry representatives are unhappy with the process underway concerning the establishment of regulations for local cultivation, manufacturing, and testing.

A summary of the proposed regulations posted on July 13 leaves unanswered questions for the handful of businesses already engaged (with tacit city approval) in cultivation and manufacturing.

A story in the Union-Tribune also cites concerns about the rules being unnecessarily strict, with zoning restrictions similar to those applying to dispensaries and a cap limiting the total number of cultivation and manufacturing businesses.

From the UT story:

Industry leaders also expressed frustration that Council President Myrtle Cole has postponed a July 31 hearing on the new regulations to Sept. 11.

The delay was requested by local cannabis consultant Lani Lutar and Mickey Kasparian, head of a new umbrella labor group known as the Working Families Council.

Lutar said the goal of the delay is ensuring new regulations help San Diego maximize tax revenue and the economic boost of marijuana legalization, and that the regulations prioritize working families, the environment and the safety of residents.

Jeff Murphy, the city’s planning director, said the delay jeopardizes the city’s ability to have its regulations in place before new state rules for the marijuana industry — both recreational and medical — are expected to take effect in January.

Wait? Lani Lutar and Mickey Kasparian AND the marijuana biz?

Lutar, for those of you who might think the name sounds familiar, was campaign manager for former San Diego City Council candidate Scott Peters (2003), the only (that I know of) non-Republican to serve as CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and Executive Director of the Equinox Center. She is currently running a PR firm, Responsible Solutions, LLC.

Finally, I’m fairly certain readers have heard of Mickey Kasparian, head of the United Foodservice and Commercial Workers (UFCW Local 135) and the other player in this local pot story.

I’m told the UFCW has ambitions of organizing the marijuana industry in San Diego. They are currently engaged in high-stakes negotiations with CVS and Albertsons. And then there’s the matter of the lawsuits (which now have trial dates) Kasparian faces from former employees alleging workplace and sexual harassment. He’s a busy guy.

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This is from Doug Porter’s column at San Diego Free Press.

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