Cannabis Expungement Law Takes Effect in D.C.

The measure that was approved by the Council of the District of Columbia late last year mandates an “automatic sealing for non-dangerous, non-convictions as well as shorten the waiting periods before a person is eligible to seal their record,” and “would also expand the eligibility of who can seal their record.” The bill was signed by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in January, but its enactment was delayed due to an arcane part of lawmaking in our nation’s capital. 

Laws in D.C. are subject to congressional oversight and approval––a stipulation that has prevented the district from implementing legal marijuana sales, despite the fact that voters there legalized cannabis back in 2014.

After Bowser signed the cannabis expungement measure in January, the bill was transmitted to Congress. As NORML explained, all “legislation must undergo a 30-day Congressional review prior to becoming law,” and absent a Congressional intervention, the bill will then become law.

That moment is now––or rather, on March 10, when the law officially took effect.

NORML has more on the new law:

“The Act provides for the automatic review and expungement of any convictions or citations specific to marijuana-related offenses that have subsequently been decriminalized or legalized in the District of Columbia, as well as any ‘records related only to simple possession for any quantity of marijuana in violation of D.C. Code § 48-904.01(d)(1) before February 15, 2015.’ It requires all cannabis-specific expungements to be processed by the courts by January 1, 2025.”

Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, hailed the new law.

“Thousands of DC residents unduly carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that District lawmakers, most Americans, and a growing number of states, no longer consider to be a crime,” Armenato said. “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”

In 2021, it appeared that legal cannabis sales might finally be coming to Washington, D.C.

That’s because Senate Democrats at the time introduced a draft of an appropriations bill that did not include the so-called “Harris Rider,” a budget rider named for Republican Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland that had appeared in every such bill since 2014.

The Harris Rider has precluded Washington, D.C. from engaging in legal commercial marijuana sales. 

At the time, Bowser celebrated the rider’s apparent exclusion from the proposed bill.

“The Senate appropriations bill is a critical step in recognizing that in a democracy, D.C. residents should be governed by D.C. values,” Bowser’s office said at the time. “As we continue on the path to D.C. statehood, I want to thank Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Senator Patrick Leahy, our good friend and Subcommittee Chair, Senator Chris Van Hollen, and, of course, our champion on the Hill, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, for recognizing and advancing the will of D.C. voters. We urge Congress to pass a final spending bill that similarly removes all anti-Home Rule riders, allowing D.C. to spend our local funds as we see fit.”

Activist groups pressured Democrats in Congress to hold firm and ditch the Harris Rider.

“In one hand, Congress continues to make strides in advancing federal marijuana reform grounded in racial justice, while simultaneously being responsible for prohibiting the very jurisdiction that led the country in legalizing marijuana through this lens from being able to regulate it. This conflict and contradiction must end now,” Queen Adesuyi, Senior National Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement last year.

But it was not to be.

The appropriations bill that ultimately emerged last year included the Harris Rider.

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Washington, D.C. Mayor Signs Medical Pot Bill

The recently passed bill, called the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-0113), was sponsored by Chairman Phil Mendelson of the Washington, D.C. Council in February 2021. The Washington, D.C. Council voted unanimously to pass on Dec. 20, 2022, followed by Bowser signing the bill on Jan. 30, just two days before a response was due on Feb. 1.

The bill expands the capital’s medical cannabis program in many ways, including lifting the cap on dispensaries, creating new license types, and codifies emergency measures passed in 2021 and 2022.

Originally the amendment proposed implementing an increased cap on dispensaries, but was later revised to include no maximum number (although the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Board is given the power to establish a cap one year from the passage of the bill in January 2024).

It also authorizes the creation of more cannabis license types, including cannabis delivery services, online sales, educational programs, and areas dedicated to cannabis consumption. “At least half” of all licenses given to currently unlicensed businesses will be given to social equity applicants (defined as those who are D.C. residents with low income, have spent time in prison for cannabis-related charges, or are related to someone who was affected by the War on Drugs).

Medical cannabis was legalized in Washington D.C. in 2010, and an attempt to legalize adult-use cannabis was passed by voters in 2014 through Initiative 71. While it allows possess of up to two ounces of cannabis and home cultivation, it also allows adults to gift up to one ounce of weed to another adult, which created the loophole of gifting (or a way to get around cannabis sale restrictions by selling merch or apparel with a gift of cannabis for free). The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 seeks to target those unlicensed businesses, giving them a path to obtain a legal license.

The act also codifies emergency measures that were implemented for cannabis. This includes the emergency measure that provides support for Washington, D.C. patients with expired cards and help struggling dispensaries as well, which was passed in November 2021. In July 2022, Bowser signed a bill allowing adults to self-certify themselves as medical cannabis patients.

Overall, enforcement action related to these changes won’t be implemented until 315 days have passed since the signing of the bill, which would be later this year in December. It also needs congressional review before officially taking effect.

Also recently in Washington, D.C., Mendelson the Second Chance Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0063) is under congressional review. This would implement automatic expungement through “automatic sealing for non-dangerous, non-convictions as well as shorten the waiting periods before a person is eligible to seal their record. It would also expand the eligibility of who can seal their record.” All expungements would need to be processed before Jan. 1, 2025. If congress doesn’t make a move against the bill, its projected law date is set for March 16, 2023.

Mendelson also recently introduced another bill (B25-0052) on Jan. 19, which aims to legalize adult-use cannabis sales. The proposal includes a “Reparations for Victims of the War on Cannabis Fund,” which would offer anywhere between $5,000 to $80,000 to pay those who were negatively affected by cannabis criminalization. It also includes a “Cannabis Equity and Opportunity Fund,” which would gather up 40% of revenue to go toward loans or grants for applicants affected by criminalization. Additionally, the bill details a plan to reinvest cannabis tax revenue into community services such as mental health treatments and youth development.

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Biden Mentions Freeing Prisoners with Cannabis Convictions in MLK Day Speech

On Jan. 16, President Joe Biden spoke at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast event in Washington D.C., which was hosted by the National Action Network. In his speech, he briefly included a mention of consumers in prison for cannabis convictions. “And one other thing about equal justice. I’m keeping my promise,” he said in his speech. “No one—I’ll say it again—no one should be in federal prison for the mere possession of marijuana. No one.”

“In addition to that, they should be released from prison and completely pardoned and their entire record expunged so that if they have to ask, ‘Have you ever been [convicted]?’ You can honestly say, ‘No.’”

During his speech, he also mentioned his efforts to help release Brittney Griner, the all-star WNBA athlete who was detained and sentenced in Russia for possessing a small amount of cannabis oil. “And we brought Brittney Griner home just in time for Christmas.  And we have more to bring home as well,” he said briefly.

Biden appears committed to his promise to prevent citizens from being convicted and sent to federal prison for cannabis crimes, especially since his initial announcement in October 2022. Previously, Biden signed an infrastructure bill in November 2021, which included improvements for cannabis studies. In December 2022, he signed a bill called the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act which “establishes a new registration process for conducting research on marijuana and for manufacturing marijuana products for research purposes and drug development.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) voted to propose an amendment that would redefine simple cannabis possession in order to help guide judges preceding over cannabis possession cases. The USSC also released a report on Jan. 10 which analyzes data on cannabis possession sentences. During Fiscal Year 2021, 4,405 people received extra points on their criminal history record because of a cannabis possession conviction, and 1,765 entered a “higher criminal history category” because of that conviction. The report also found a decline in the number of people convicted for federal simple possession, from 2,172 in Fiscal Year 2014 to just 145 in Fiscal Year 2021.

The USSC initially estimated in an October 2022 report that 6,577 people could potentially receive pardons.

Biden’s pardon announcement in October has led other state governors to take similar action. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced that he would be exploring statewide weed pardons, and later signing an executive order in November to allow medical cannabis use. More than 1,450 Arizona residents with federal cannabis possession convictions were pardoned on Oct. 25, 2022. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued more than 45,000 pardons in November 2022. “We are a state, and a nation, of second chances. Today, I am taking steps to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession,” Brown said in a statement. “For the estimated 45,000 individuals who are receiving a pardon for prior state convictions of marijuana possession, this action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”

Most recently, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf granted 369 pardons on Jan. 12, which adds to a total of 2,540. “I have taken this process very seriously—reviewing and giving careful thought to each and every one of these 2,540 pardons and the lives they will impact,” Wolf said. “Every single one of the Pennsylvanians who made it through the process truly deserves their second chance, and it’s been my honor to grant it.”

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Afroman Announces 2024 Run for President

Hip-hop artist and cannabis community icon Afroman announced over the weekend that he is running for president of the United States in 2024. Afroman, who became a hero of the weed crowd with his song “Because I Got High” in 2000, announced his bid for the White House on Sunday during a concert performance at the Black River Coliseum in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, according to a report from TMZ. Two days later, he took to social media to spread his message to a broader audience.

“My Fellow Americans, there comes a time in the course of human events when change must be affected,” Afroman wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “That time is now. Americans are suffering, and the status quo is no longer acceptable. Inflation is out of control. The economy is in shambles. The housing market is staggering. Politicians are corrupt. Bad apples are allowed to remain in law enforcement, amongst our noble and brave officers.”

“It is my immense honor and pleasure to formally announce Afroman as an independent candidate for President of the United States of America,” he added.

Afroman, aka Joseph Edgar Foreman, was born in Los Angeles in 1974 and got an early start in the music business by recording songs and selling them to his classmates by the time he was in eighth grade. He released his first album in 1998 before relocating to Mississippi, where he made contacts in the music business who would eventually produce and perform on “Because I Got High.” The song, which detailed how marijuana could interfere with the chores of modern life, became a hit in 2001, the year the track was featured in films including Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Afroman released his latest album, Lemon Pound Cake, in September.

Afroman Pledges To Be ‘Cannabis Commander in Chief’

Referring to himself as the “Cannabis Commander in Chief” and the “Pot Head of State” in his social media post, Afroman promised to make cannabis reform and other issues a priority of his campaign for president.

“Medicinal plants are criminalized, while pharmaceutical companies enrich themselves on chemicals with unknown side effects,” he wrote. “The media sows the seeds of hatred 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. They attempt to divide based on race, religion, gender, sexual preference, and every other category that they can think of.”

In a separate post on Instagram, Afroman outlined eight priorities for his 2024 presidential campaign. First and foremost was decriminalizing cannabis and “other substances with low harm profiles.” He noted that federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, the strictest classification under the nation’s drug laws. He promised change, saying he would deschedule and decriminalize cannabis and launch a public service ad campaign to publicize the benefits of the plant.

Afroman also pledged to make criminal justice reforms, noting that more than 40,000 people are incarcerated for cannabis at any given time, at a cost of more than $1.5 billion per year. He committed to commuting the sentences of all nonviolent federal cannabis prisoners and said he would “work hard to right the wrongs of the past, in all areas where Americans have been failed within the criminal justice system.”

He also called for law enforcement reforms, an end to all foreign aid, and reparations for African Americans. Other priorities of the campaign include tax breaks for professional athletes to encourage celebratory displays, the legalization of prostitution, and the “promotion of unity, peace, and love.”

“We need a candidate that is truly elected by the people, and for the people. We need a man that can step up and lead with a firm hand,” wrote Afroman. “The people are starved for a Commander in Chief, that leads from a place of love and not hate. In these dark times, we need a leader that truly embodies the American dream.”

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Activists To Demonstrate For Cannabis Clemency in D.C.

Hip hop icons Redman and M1 of Dead Prez will join cannabis activists in Washington, D.C. on Monday to protest the Biden administration’s failure to release people imprisoned on federal marijuana convictions. The rally, which is being billed as an act of civil disobedience, will bring together cannabis policy reform groups including Students for Sensible Drug Policy, D.C. Marijuana Justice, the Last Prisoner Project and Maryland Marijuana Justice as members protest in front of the White House on October 24.

Steve DeAngelo, a cannabis policy reform leader and co-founder of the Last Prisoner Project, said that he has helped organize Monday’s demonstration to bring attention to the plight of those imprisoned on nonviolent marijuana charges, often for decades. Activists hope the protest will spur the White House to take action on cannabis clemency before the November general election.

“As the nation heads into the midterms, I am calling for one simple thing— that President Biden keep the promise he made during the last election cycle, to release those people still serving prison sentences for cannabis convictions,” DeAngelo wrote in an email to High Times. “As the White House itself has admitted, the recently announced pardons will not free one single person.”

On October 6, President Joseph Biden announced that he had issued an executive order pardoning all people who have been convicted on federal charges of simple marijuana possession. An analysis of Biden’s executive order conducted by the New York Times estimated that the pardons will apply to about 6,500 people convicted of federal weed possession charges between 1992 and 2021 and thousands more with similar convictions in Washington, D.C. But the action provides no relief for cannabis prisoners currently behind bars, most on marijuana distribution and related charges. 

“At a minimum, if President Biden really wants the support of cannabis voters, as a show of good faith, he should immediately release at least 100 of the 2800 federal prisoners currently serving time on non-violent cannabis charges,” DeAngelo said. “If President Biden refuses to act, I will gather at the White House on October 24 along with hip hop legends M1 and Redman, and hundreds of other cannabis activists, to hold the President’s feet to the fire.”

M1 said, “I decided to participate in this action because of the inaction of this government to step on the right side of his/herstory. My cannabis community deserves freedom and justice. And with my cultural activist comrades, we will keep our finger on the pulse of the People. Free ‘em ALL!”

Biden Administration Exploring Rescheduling Cannabis

Biden’s announcement earlier this month also included a call for governors to take similar action on cannabis clemency at the state level. The president also directed Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to review cannabis’ status as a Schedule 1 drug. Despite the historic nature of Biden’s pardons, activists argue that the president did not go far enough.

“I’m outraged that the President would make an executive action on cannabis but release zero of our incarcerated friends and family,” Kat Ebert, board chair of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said in a statement from the group. “He’s forcing us to raise our voices to be heard in order for the wider public to understand cannabis prisoners are still not free. On October 24th we plan to make it clear to the Democratic leadership that we won’t accept mostly symbolic actions. We demand clemency for all cannabis prisoners.”

DeAngelo is the co-founder of the Last Prisoner Project, a group working to free those imprisoned on cannabis charges. In addition to the activist groups involved, formerly incarcerated individuals and local cannabis freedom fighters will also take part in the protest.

“If President Biden truly wants to repair the harms of our nation’s unjust policy of prohibition, this initial progress must be followed up with bolder action—action that would actually lead to freedom for cannabis prisoners,” said Sarah Gersten, LPP executive director and general counsel.

Monday’s demonstration is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. local time at the gates of the White House, with Redman and M1 slated to appear to join the call for cannabis clemency. The crowd will gather at the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square before engaging in expected civil disobedience nearby, with the goal of drawing attention to the lack of people released from federal prison as a result of Biden’s executive order.

“DCMJ is joining protests to free all cannabis prisoners because we’ve simply waited too long,” said Adam Eidinger, co-founder of D.C. Marijuana Justice, a group that has spearheaded cannabis policy reform efforts in the nation’s capital. “We are excited that students are leading this effort to make tangible gains on freeing cannabis prisoners whose continued confinement is immoral and unjustified.”

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Washington, D.C. Cannabis Company Sues City, Demands Return of $750,000

A Washington, D.C. cannabis company called Mr. Nice Guys DC recently sued the city for seizing more than $750,000 in cash during raids that occurred in 2021.

Mr. Nice Guys DC co-owners Damion West and Gregory Wimsatt seek justice for the money the police seized. “I’m going to be a voice for the people who don’t have a voice,” West told News4. “I’m not going to stand for it. We have done nothing wrong. We’re operating in a gray space that they created, and the only thing we want is our money back.”

“Like, where is the justice? They come in, kick in our door, raid us, you know take our money,” Wimsatt said.

In August 2021, police raided two Mr. Nice Guys DC dispensaries. The lawsuit describes the raid in greater detail, showing how the police took “$67,000 and destroyed two ATMs at the shop while searching the Ninth Street location. A spokesperson for DC’s Metropolitan Police Dept. (MPD) said three people were arrested at the store and charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia chose not to prosecute those who were arrested,” the lawsuit reads.

The case against Mr. Nice Guys DC was dropped, but the co-owners never got their cash back. “Defendant District of Columbia’s D.C. police (MPD) routinely and unlawfully holds cash seized from individuals who have been arrested—many of whom are never charged with a crime—for months or even years past the point where the government might have any continuing legitimate interest in retaining said cash while providing no process to challenge that retention,” the lawsuit states.

“It’s been close to about $800,000 in product and cash. What we specifically asked for in this case was just the cash. That’s not including loss of damages in product. We’ve had other situations where they’ve actually banned us from our location,” Wimsatt explained.

The co-owners’ attorney, Charles Walton, told The Washington Post that the main goal of the lawsuit is to retrieve the seized cash. “D.C. police failed to return the seized money after investigations concluded and related criminal charges were withdrawn or dismissed,” Walton said. “Our goal is to have them produce the information associated with the chain of custody of that money, and to just return it.”

Cannabis dispensaries operate in a gray area in Washington D.C. Adult-use cannabis is legal, as voters approved it back in 2014, and possession, home cultivation, and gifting is allowed. Due to the “Harris rider,” (named in reference to Rep. Andy Harris) a Congressional rider that has been included in the 2014 omnibus bill prevents sales from being legal. To work around this, local dispensaries like Mr. Nice Guys DC sell non-cannabis items and customers receive cannabis as a “gift” with purchase.

In August 2022, Washington, D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration announced that it would be inspecting unlicensed cannabis businesses. By September, the inspections were delayed, creating more uncertainty about the future of these businesses.

Luckily, medical cannabis patients have remained a focus for Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who signed a bill in July to allow patients to self-certify themselves for a cannabis prescription, rather than waiting for a doctor’s recommendation. “We have made it a priority over the years to build a more patient-centric medical marijuana program and this legislation builds on those efforts,” Bowser said. “We know that by bringing more medical marijuana patients into the legal marketplace in a timely manner and doing more to level the playing field for licensed medical marijuana providers, we can protect residents, support local businesses, and provide clarity to the community.”

On October 20, Bowser also signed a bill that allows tourists to self-certify for medical cannabis as well. With this new law, tourists may obtain a 30-day registration to purchase from dispensaries when they visit the nation’s capital.

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Flight Passenger on Mushrooms Causes Chaos Mid-Flight

A man, experienced with psilocybin, used poor decision-making skills to take magic mushrooms on a flight, which caused a full-blown, semi-violent bad trip, leading to his arrest and embarrassment once the effects wore off.

A man flying from Miami to Washington, D.C. on October 4 was arrested after allegedly assaulting passengers and United Airlines flight crew members, high on psilocybin mushrooms, according to Virginia court documents recovered by NBC News.

FBI agents say Chelluy Loghan Sevilla is charged with assault and interfering with flight crew members, Boston Herald reports. Sevilla was aboard United Airlines flight 2116 last Tuesday and began acting erratically.

Before passengers were done boarding the plane, the unruly passenger began “wandering around the plane, running up and down the aisle, clapping loudly near the cockpit, and yelling obscenities,” the court affidavit reads. He was also “getting in other passengers’ faces—staring and smiling at them.”

Then, about one hour into the flight, Sevilla assaulted at least two people. He opened a locked bathroom while it was still being used by a fellow passenger, and broke off a piece of the bathroom door in the process. Only Sevilla knows what was going on inside his head at that point.

At that point, flight attendants were able to convince Sevilla to return to his seat, briefly, but then he laid on the floor, yelling louder. When one flight crew member tried to get him into his seat, he allegedly attacked her.

Sevilla suddenly jumped and attacked her, “grabbing and twisting [her] breast,” the court affidavit reads. He also twisted the arm of a second flight attendant.

Like all flights, a sky marshal was aboard the plane, and subdued and handcuffed Sevilla.

Flight Passenger Bad Behavior

Per Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, airspace is federally regulated, so a crime committed on a plane can be potentially much worse than a crime committed elsewhere. Bad behavior by airline passengers is getting worse, FAA representatives say.

“Law enforcement met United flight 2116 upon arrival in Washington Dulles due to a disruptive customer.” Sevilla was “removed” from the plane as soon as it landed safely and proceeded to the gate, a United Airlines spokesperson told the New York Daily News. “We also followed up with our crew members to make sure they were OK.”

Sevilla later told authorities that he had consumed the psilocybin mushrooms in Miami before boarding his flight. According to reports, the man appeared to be genuinely remorseful for his actions, saying that he had taken psilocybin mushrooms before—but never acted like this.

Sevilla was arrested and taken to an FBI office after the flight landed at Washington Dulles International in Dulles, Virginia.

Sevilla is expected to appear in court again this week. His court-appointed attorney, Shannon Quill, did not speak to the media, citing office policy.

Set and setting are key to an enjoyable psilocybin experience, and boarding a flight is one of the last things you should do, or anything out in public for that matter. In the case of Sevilla, he had experience with shrooms in the past, and never acted violently or erratically before. It’s possible that this particular batch of psilocybin mushrooms was more potent than what he was used to.

Last January, Vic Mensa was also arrested for possession of psilocybin mushrooms, and other psychedelics, at Washington Dulles International Airport. However Mensa did not take the shrooms during the flight.

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Trump Urges ‘Very Quick Trial’ and Death Penalty for Drug Dealers

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday gave a clue to his vision for a potential return to the Oval Office, saying in a Washington, D.C. speech that the nation needs to get tough on crime and sentence drug dealers to the death penalty. Speaking before the conservative nonprofit the America First Policy Institute, Trump said that drug traffickers should face execution after a “very quick trial.”

“The penalties should be very, very severe,” Trump said during his speech on Tuesday, as quoted by The Hill. “If you look at countries throughout the world, the ones that don’t have a drug problem are ones that institute a very quick trial death penalty sentence for drug dealers.”

Trump added that the United States would not face the problems associated with illicit drugs if authorities were tougher on crime. He praised other countries that have quick trials for suspected drug dealers.

“It’s terrible to say, but you take a look at every country in this world that doesn’t have a problem with drugs, they have a very strong death penalty for people that sell drugs,” he said.

“It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But you know what? That’s the ones that don’t have any problem. It doesn’t take 15 years in court. It goes quickly, and you absolutely — you execute a drug dealer, and you’ll save 500 lives,” the former president continued.

At one point in his address, Trump applauded the way Chinese President Xi Jinping handled drug traffickers, recalling a time when Xi told him about “quick trials” for drug criminals in China that he estimated sentenced people in “two hours.”

Trump’s appearance at the America First Policy Institute’s two-day summit marked the first time the former president has spoken publicly in Washington, D.C. since he left office in January 2021. His remarks on harsh punishment for drug dealers came in a speech calling for the nation to get tough on crime and support law enforcement agencies and their officers.

Former President Calls for American Police State

Trump said that the country is becoming unsafe for its citizens, highlighting instances of attacks on everyday Americans in cities including Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia that have been extensively reported by conservative media.

“The dangerously deranged roam our streets with impunity. We are living in such a different country for one primary reason: There is no longer respect for the law and there certainly is no order. Our country is now a cesspool of crime,” said Trump, only 18 months after leaving office at the end of his first term.

Trump advocated for what would be a huge increase in police officers across the country, saying that there should be a police car on every corner. He called for a “no-holds-barred national campaign to dismantle gangs and organized street crime in America.” The former president also called for efforts to defeat violence “and be tough and be nasty and be mean if we have to.”

“We’re living in such a different country for one primary reason: There is no longer respect for the law, and there certainly is no order. Our country is now a cesspool of crime,” Trump said.

“We are a failing nation,” he added, only 18 months after leaving office.

Trump also said that encampments of unsheltered people in cities should be relocated to “large parcels of inexpensive land at the outer reaches of the city.” The former president added that such camps should also have tents staffed with healthcare professionals including medical doctors and psychologists.

To fight back against crime, Trump argued that the president should ignore state authority by deploying the National Guard and “go beyond the governor,” completely ignoring the Republican Party’s often repeated support for states’ rights.

“When governors refuse to protect their people, we need to bring in what is necessary anyway,” Trump said, adding that “the next president needs to send the National Guard to the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago until safety can be restored.”

Trump has a history of supporting draconian tactics to deal with drug traffickers and other criminals. In 2017, he called then-President Rodrigo Duterte of the Phillipines to praise him for his crackdown on drug dealers that led to the killing of an estimated 12,000 people at the hands of police and vigilantes.

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump reportedly said, referring to the country’s rash of extrajudicial deaths. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

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Biden Says He’s ‘Working On’ Bill To Release Cannabis Inmates

President Joe Biden reiterated his belief that no one should be behind bars for using cannabis, saying Sunday that he is working on legislation to help fulfill that campaign promise.

Biden, returning to Washington, D.C. following a four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, made the comments to a gaggle of reporters gathered on the White House lawn.

One reporter asked the president if he intended to honor his “campaign pledge to release all the marijuana inmates in prison.”

“I don’t think there should — I dont think anyone in pri- — anyone should be in prison for the use of marijuana,” Biden said, according to a White House pool report. “We’re working on the Crime Bill now.”

The brief response represented Biden’s most extensive and explicit comments on cannabis reform since his term began last year.

But it was also something Biden has said previously, most notably on the campaign trail in 2020. While he has yet to embrace outright cannabis legalization, Biden has long spoken out against marijuana-related incarceration.

In a memorable interview on “The Breakfast Club” in the spring of 2020, Biden said that it “makes no sense for people to go to jail” for weed and explained why he supports decriminalization but not legalization.

“Because they’re trying to find out whether or not there is any impact on the use of marijuana, not in leading you to other drugs, but what it affects. Does it affect long term development of the brain and we should wait until the studies are done,” Biden said. “I think science matters.”

Comments like that––as well as Biden’s refusal to support an end to the federal prohibition––have frustrated cannabis reform advocates, as well as members of the president’s own party.

In November, three Democratic senators sent a letter to Biden urging him to “pardon all individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses, whether formerly or currently incarcerated.”

“Our country’s cannabis policies must be completely overhauled, but you have the power to act now: you can and should issue a blanket pardon for all non-violent federal cannabis offenses, fulfilling your promises to the American people and transforming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans,” the senators, Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, wrote in the letter.

“As a candidate for President, you argued that, ‘We should decriminalize marijuana,’ and, ‘Everyone [with a marijuana record] should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out,’” they wrote. “The first and simplest step in the process is a blanket pardon. The Constitution grants you the authority to pardon broad classes of Americans to correct widespread injustice, as previous presidents have done.”

In May, Biden commuted 75 individuals who were serving time for nonviolent drug offenses and issued three full pardons.

There is robust support for cannabis legalization among Democrats on Capitol Hill, but that has not yet translated to policy reform.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act in April, a bill that would remove cannabis from the list of federal Controlled Substances Act.

But the bill has since stalled in the Senate, where Democratic leaders have said they intend to produce their cannabis reform bill.

In April, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said that the caucus would release its marijuana legislation at some point before the Congressional recess in August, pledging that the bill would also remove weed from the Controlled Substances Act.

But there are growing indications that the legislation in the Senate will be far more scaled back than what Schumer had promised.

Politico reported last month that Schumer “doesn’t have the votes to pass a sweeping marijuana decriminalization bill — despite repeatedly touting his support for ending federal prohibition,” and that “realization is leading Senate Democrats to look for a compromise on weed.”

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D.C. City Council Rejects Proposal To Penalize ‘Gifting’ Shops

A bill that sought to levy harsh fines on businesses in Washington, D.C. that engage in the practice of “gifting” –– whereby a retailer sells a product or good to customer that is accompanied by a “gift” of cannabis –– failed to advance within the district’s city council on Tuesday.

The emergency legislation would have “created fines of $30,000 for shops caught gifting marijuana to customers and allowed D.C. residents over 21 to purchase medical marijuana without seeing a doctor first and simply self-attesting to their medical need,” according to NBC Washington.

Local television station WTOP reported that the “council voted 8-5 in favor of the bill, but because it was emergency legislation, it needed nine votes to advance.”

The bill was pushed by Phil Mendelson, the chairman of the D.C. Council, who called for an emergency vote on the legislation last week.

Mendelson says that the widespread practice of “gifting” has undermined the district’s medical cannabis establishments, with patients opting to procure weed via illicit means instead of through the regulated channels. As such, the bill would have nixed the requirement to see a doctor prior to buying medical cannabis.

“The medical side are struggling on the brink of existence, while the illegal side has only grown more rapidly,” Mendelson, a Democrat, said, as quoted by the Washington Post.

The Post said that the bill “had alarmed many of the proprietors and patrons of those [gifting] shops, which faced steep civil fines under the proposed legislation that they said could have put them out of business.”

Some owners of those establishments said that the bill would have had a devastating economic impact on the city.

“If the legislation passed today, it would put hundreds if not thousands of people out of work,” said Derek Dawson, a proprietor of one of the gifting shops, as quoted by NBC Washington. “Sixty percent of the people who are involved in the industry are either Black or Hispanic, and so like the people of color have found a way to find social equity in this market,”

As business owners like Dawson see it, the initiative passed by a majority of D.C. voters in 2014 that legalized recreational pot use gave them the right to “gift” weed to customers.

Complicating matters is Congress, which oversees all laws in the nations’ capital. And since 2014, every congressional spending bill has included a provision that has barred Washington, D.C. from commercializing cannabis.

There was hope among cannabis reform advocates that the current Democratic-led Congress would scrap that provision, known as the “Harris Rider,” named for its author Republican Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland.

Those hopes were bolstered in the fall, when Senate Democrats unveiled a draft of an appropriations bill that notably did not include the Harris Rider, a development that was applauded by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

“The Senate appropriations bill is a critical step in recognizing that in a democracy, D.C. residents should be governed by D.C. values,” the mayor’s office said in a statement at the time. “As we continue on the path to D.C. statehood, I want to thank Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Senator Patrick Leahy, our good friend and Subcommittee Chair, Senator Chris Van Hollen, and, of course, our champion on the Hill, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, for recognizing and advancing the will of D.C. voters. We urge Congress to pass a final spending bill that similarly removes all anti-Home Rule riders, allowing D.C. to spend our local funds as we see fit.”

But the optimism fizzled out last month, when Democrats released a new appropriations bill that did include the rider.

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