(Reuters) – Loretta Lynch won Senate approval as U.S. attorney general on Thursday, becoming the first black woman to occupy the post at a time when deadly altercations between white police and unarmed black men are making headlines.
The Senate confirmed Lynch by a vote of 56-43 to end a five-month partisan deadlock over her nomination by President Barack Obama. She had waited for a vote longer than the last seven attorneys general combined.
Congress Passed One-Year Amendment in December Prohibiting Justice Department from Undermining State Medical Marijuana Laws; Members of both Parties Sought to Stop Prosecutions and Let States Set Their Own Medical Marijuana Policies
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) told the Los Angeles Times that a bi-partisan amendment passed by Congress last year prohibiting DOJ from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws doesn’t prevent it from prosecuting people for medical marijuana or seizing their property. The statement comes as the agency continues to target people who are complying with their state medical marijuana law. This insubordination is occurring despite the fact that members of Congress in both parties were clear that their intent with the amendment was to protect medical marijuana patients and providers from federal prosecution and forfeiture.
Property Seizures by Local and State Police Often Conducted Under Pretext that Property Is Connected to Illegal Drugs
WASHINGTON, DC — [On Friday], Attorney General Eric Holder issued an order establishing a new policy prohibiting federal agencies from accepting civil asset forfeiture assets seized by state and local law enforcement agencies unless the owner is convicted of a crime. The U.S. Treasury Department, which has its own forfeiture program, is issuing a similar policy. The Department of Justice becomes involved after a state or local law enforcement agency seizes property pursuant to state law and requests that a federal agency take the seized asset and forfeit it under federal law.
Attorney General Eric Holder is open to rescheduling cannabis, removing it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance which finds it alongside dangerous drugs such as heroin.
“I think it’s certainly a question that we need to ask ourselves — whether or not marijuana is as serious a drug as is heroin,” Holder said in a Yahoo interview with Katie Kouric. “The question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that I think we need to ask ourselves, and use science as the basis for making that determination.”
Holder’s announcement that he’s open to rescheduling cannabis comes at the same time as reports that he will resign as soon as a replacement is found; Eric Holder is one of the original members of President Obama’s Cabinet.
The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) voted unanimously this week to reduce sentences for the majority of federal drug trafficking defendants. The move will effect up to 70% of all federal drug offenses, reducing the sentence by an average of 11 months per case.
Unless Congress votes to stop the amendment, it will go into effect on November 1st. Attorney General Eric Holder recommended that the commission vote in favor of the move.
The Obama administration is willing to work with Congress on rescheduling cannabis, Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday during a House Appropriations Committee hearing.
“We’d be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled, as I said there is a great degree of expertise that exists in Congress,” said Holder. “It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.”
A bipartisan coalition of 18 federal lawmakers sent a letter today to President Obama, urging him to put an end to cannabis prohibition by removing it as a Schedule 1 substance.
“Dear Mr. President: We were encouraged by your recent comments in your interview with David Remnick in the January 27. 2014 issue of the New Yorker, about the shifting public opinion on the legalization of marijuana”, begins the letter. “We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule 1 classification of marijuana.”
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday that lawful marijuana businesses should have access to the American banking system and that the government would soon offer rules to help them gain it. The rules are not expected to give banks a green light to accept deposits and provide other services, but would tell prosecutors not to prioritize cases involving legal marijuana businesses that use banks.
“You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system,” Mr. Holder said at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. “There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the governors of Washington and Colorado in a phone call Thursday that the Department of Justice is “actively considering” ways to explicitly allow, and regulate transactions between banks and cannabis retail outlets in states where they’re legal.
This consideration, which will come as a surprise to many, is in huge contrast to current DEA policy which warns banks against transacting with marijuana businesses.
In a new policy shift which will be officially announced Monday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the United States Justice Department will be scaling back the war on drugs, including ending the use of mandatory minimum charges for nonviolent drug offenders.
Attorney General Holder will announce the changes tomorrow at a speech being given to the American Bar Association in San Francisco; Holder will announce that the he is “mandating that drug offenders with no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels and no history of violence won’t be charged with offenses that impose mandatory minimums”.