February 2015

The LawDog’s Marijuana-Land February 2015 update

Hello team,

It has been far too long since I have last posted an update, mostly because we have been singularly focused on remedying federal, state and local laws prohibiting freedom of cannabis-related conduct in ways that have never-ever-ever been seen before in this Nation’s history, so please forgive the long hiatus. As most of you know, I like to tier my discussions of cannabis law by jurisdiction; federal, state, and local.  So I’ll stay true to form here and start with the most exciting update: the Feds.

Federal Happenings:

As you all likely are aware, the case that my colleague Zenia Gilg and I have pending before the Eastern District of California in Sacramento went to an exciting and historic evidentiary hearing last October. I’m not going to lie: it was a major event in canna-history and was nothing short of a post-apocalyptic Good v. Evil battle.  After the hearing, the parties filed perhaps thousands of pages of evidence, and hundreds of pages of briefing.  (Yes, my wrists are still hurting from so much typing!) On February 11, 2015, we had a final oral argument where our esteemed judge took the matter under submission and indicated she will return a verdict within 30 days.

More about that hearing can be found in Time Magazine online here:http://time.com/3706996/marijuana-pot-schedule-one-drug/ and also by one of the best canna-law scholars around today, Jeremy Daw of The Leaf Online here: http://theleafonline.com/c/politics/2015/02/final-arguments-schedule-hearing-decision-expected-march/.

Whether the judge rules for us or against us, the decision is of epic proportions, so I’ll leave it to the real legal scholars such as The Leaf Online to dissect more succinctly.  However, our case appears to be just one of many facets evidencing the failure of the war on marijuana, as every single day I wake up to more news that supports that marijuana’s federal scheduling is utterly nonsensical.  This of course includes U.S. Representative Blumenauer’s (yes, the adorable bow-tie wearing Congressman from Oregon) and Representative Polis’ (of the “interrogated DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart and made her look like an idiot in 2012″ fame) recent introduction of two bills that would remove marijuana from Schedule I and tax it like alcohol.  (You can follow the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act here:  H.R. 1013.)  Although I understand similar bills have been introduced, there is more support today than ever, so these bills are in a truly unique position to actually move forward.

Also, since the last time I blogged, other critical events have occurred that I’ll simply list here to aid your mental digestion:

(1) Congress revoked any and all Department of Justice (DOJ) funds to investigate and prosecute what Congress itself dubbed “medical marijuana” in any State that has approved it.  (Click here.)

(2) Our current U.S. Surgeon General joins Surgeon Generals of the past, such as Jocelyn Elders, in the assessment that cannabis does have some therapeutic application.  (Click here.)

(3) The Federal DOJ has indicated they will lay off of cannabis prosecutions in what they title “Indian Country.”  (Click here.)

(4) Physicians of the Veterans Administration may soon be allowed to recommend medical cannabis to our Nation’s most honored citizens, our war torn veterans.  (Click here.)

So check your local news and/or social media on or about March 11, 2015, as we may have a decision back by then.  I am being asked quite frequently what the ramifications of this case will be on other federal distribution cases that are occurring now around the nation and, while the law says a decision of one trial judge is not binding on another trial judge, one of the federal prosecutors’ numerous below-the-belt strategies here was the repeated reminder to our judge that she would be the one and only judge ever to find an equal protection violation relating to cannabis’ current scheduling.  To be sure, most federal judges fear setting precedent, so a decision in our favor here could mean that other federal judges would gain a strength in consensus, and could cause the wall to quickly tumble around the nation.  Such a fallout would cause Congress to act quickly to reschedule, deschedule, or perhaps (as suggested by the American Medical Association) create a new schedule solely for marijuana.   At this point, we simply do not know which way the judge will rule, nor is it immediately clear what the ramifications will be.  What is clear, however, is that the Schedule I status is nothing short of nonsensical and must be changed so that no more people go to prison for a plant, so today I only ask humbly for your prayers at this very critical time in marijuana history, as there’s nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.

State Happenings:

Okay, now on to my great State of California!!!!  What’s happening here, you say? Well, among other things, my colleague Omar Figueroa and I recently finished drafting a cannabis legalization initiative called The California Artisan Cannabis Initiative.  Although it is nothing short of kick-ass, Omar and I lack the funds necessary to vet the initiative as a viable option for the 2016 ballot, and more importantly, we both strongly feel that a united effort for cannabis legalization in 2016 is absolutely critical for a successful initiative, so we have offered the draft up to the collective consciousness as somewhat of a drawing board for the groups that do have the money and manpower to get the job done.  Excitingly, we are soon meeting with one of these main groups, and I am really hoping they will take on some of the truly visionary pieces we came up with and move those provisions forward into the frighteningly scientific process of readying a piece of proffered legislation to the mainstream voting process, which entails polling, focus groups, statistics, political advisers, etc., etc., ad infinitum.   Another colleague who does amazing work with the state Legislature in Sacramento also asked if he could present a piece of our initiative language to the legislator(s) in the state Capitol who will likely be introducing a bill this year that would regulate the medical cannabis industry in California.

So there are a ton of possibilities for our work to inform the collaborative efforts that are going to regulate and hopefully legalize cannabis in #Cali in the foreseeable future.  It’s huge and we’re excited!

Although the future is bright, we are still seeing many criminal prosecutions of cannabis-related activity in Counties across the state, so please don’t forget that marijuana still occupies a quasi-legal status in California that leaves many open to criminal liability until our state regulatesandlegalizes this plant.  I am faced every single day with individuals who think their conduct is safe because ganja has swiftly gained social acceptability, but it is high time to be cognizant of the difference between that that which is morally wrong (malum in se) and that which is simply illegal (malum prohibitum).  In days of old, cannabis was a drug, and drug use was considered immoral, i.e. inherently wrong.  While times have clearly changed, as drug addiction is now largely viewed as a disease, and use of cannabis in particular is no longer on par with outdated notions of addiction, particularly where used for medical purposes, (see, DSM V, discussed here), marijuana cultivation, possession, transportation, and distribution remains illegal by default in California.  Thus, it is no longer considered morally wrong, while the default position is illegal.  Although certain marijuana-related conduct may be excused in certain situations (like under our medical marijuana protections), those protections are very limited, and its no secret the overarching medical marijuana laws in this state are vague, at best.  (See here and here.)  And considering the increase in butane and supercritical CO2 machine prosecutions, the state government will pervert the intent of the Compassionate Use Act to continue to put humans in cages at all costs until we, the People, rise to say otherwise.

So my advice is to remember to act with righteousness in all your endeavors, and always use “best practices” in any cannabis-related activity.  As we are perhaps the first industry in history to beg for government regulation, it is up to each and every one of us to become leaders in the areas of environmental and social responsibility as our industry moves towards regulation.  If you are not cultivating or distributing with respect for your brethren and for mankind, then you are not working towards the movement, but against it.  #respect #legalizeit #CaliForever #nuffsaid.

Local Happenings:

Now, on to my home territory of Nevada County, the home of the hippie enclave of Grass Valley and, my current hood, Nevada City.  Yes, we are the new cannabis mecca, as our only traffic jams in these rolling hills are caused by trash bags full of marijuana falling out of cars into the freeway, there is a new TV pilot on AMC (of Breaking Bad fame) about the cannabis-infused life one cannot escape in the foothills, and we deal with the conspicuous influx of “trimmigrants” at every summer’s end.

But this is the land that I love and, in that regard, we “local yocals” have been working on huge moves to alter the local landscape, including the formation of a local chapter of the highly-esteemed Emerald Growers’ Association.  The group will be hosting or co-hosting the following events, so please “like” our Facebook page for updates about these events.

March 10, 2015:  CCPR Grass Valley Legalization Roundtable 

March 21, 2015: SYRCL (The South Yuba River Citizens League) cannabis cultivation discussion

April 3, 2015: Nevada County Emerald Growers Association Meet and Greet Party on the Ridge

April 4, 2015: Nevada County Emerald Growers Association Meet and Greet Party in Nevada City at HeartBass.

So there you have it, my update for all ya’ jurisdictions.  Please be safe, be kind and, most importantly, be ready to leave your comfort zone to be present for the 2016 legalization movement in the greatest State in the Union.  The word on the street is that, if California goes legal, the rest of the Nation will soon as well, so don’t forget this is a moment of historic import with national and even global implications.  We will lose in 2016 without the support of our base, i.e. those who historically do not come out of their early November trim camps to vote, but I hereby put you on blast that your support will be REQUIRED for all of mankind and to make history in 1 year, 8 months, 12 days, or 20 1/2 months, or 620 days from today.  I don’t care how you get there, but ya betta’ be there on November 4, 2016.

In my usual fashion, I end this unusually long post with a musical meditation.  I have recently been called again to the lyrical melodies of the great Lucky Dube, whose spirit left this earth too soon.  I’ve blogged about this particular song before a few years back, but that only makes it all the more poignant, as his words have never rung more true. No more prison for plants!  Lucky Dube, “Prisons,” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Z3sVa9SJkI.

Know this! #legalizeit #JahBless #California2016 #Rise