Tag Archives: States Rights

Sessions Death Penalty Memo Could Apply to State-Legal Cannabis Growers

Washington, D.C. – When Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo to U.S. attorneys regarding seeking the death penalty for some drug traffickers, which was part of President Trump’s plan to combat the opioid epidemic released weeks ago, many pundits failed to miss the potential implications for legal marijuana growers.

The memo utilizes a little-known federal law that already allows for the death penalty to be used for certain criminal offenses, including specific racketeering activities, the use of a gun that resulted in a death during a drug trafficking crime, murder in advancing a criminal enterprise and dealing in “extremely large” quantities of drugs, according to The Hill.

“I strongly encourage federal prosecutors to use these statutes, when appropriate, to aid in our continuing fight against drug trafficking and the destruction it causes in our nation,” Sessions wrote.

Although Sessions’ memo seems focused largely on opioids, the federal law being referenced contains no such drug-specific limitation on prosecutors’ power. The Denver Post reported that upon following the law’s “meandering route through federal statutes,” the following conclusion will be reached: “that anyone convicted of cultivating more than 60,000 marijuana plants or possessing more than 60,000 kilograms of a substance that contains marijuana could face death as a punishment.”

Despite the law being on the books, the death penalty has never been sought before for those dealing large quantities of drugs, according to a Justice Department official cited by The Hill. The Post reported that in June, there were nearly 1 million marijuana plants under cultivation by Colorado’s state-licensed cannabis businesses.

“Under long established United States Supreme Court precedent it’s unconstitutional to use the death penalty for any offense that does not result in death,” said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, which makes information on death penalty issues available but doesn’t take a position on the death penalty.

Washington Post data reporter Christopher Ingraham noted the potential implications for state-legal marijuana growers in a tweet:

Legal experts noted that while technically possible for the federal government to seek a death penalty against a state-licensed cannabis business, it is unlikely that a legal grower would face a federal death penalty case.

“I think it’s still very theoretical,” said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor who, as harmonic luck would have it, is a specialist in both marijuana law and in the death penalty. “I don’t think anyone thinks the federal government is going to seek the death penalty against a state-licensed business. But what it highlights is this enormous disconnect with federal and state law.”

When asked by the Denver Post about the possibility of executions for marijuana business moguls, Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said, “I really think that’s just bluster.”

And while it may be “bluster,” Kamin cautioned that “what Sessions is reminding us is that losing your life is at least statutorily possible”; AG Sessions is a renowned cannabis prohibitionist.


Maine Legislature Nullifies Federal Hemp Farming Ban

Last year, lawmakers in Maine passed a bill which would authorize hemp farming in the state as soon as the federal government lifts its ban on the practice. However, the US Congress has been slow to respond to America’s rising hemp movement and an amendment to the 2014 farm bill signed by President Obama only allows hemp cultivation for research purposes.

On Monday, Maine officially nullified the federal government’s ban on commercial hemp farming in the state when the Maine Senate voted 27-6 to override Republican Governor Paul LePage’s veto of LD4, a GOP-sponsored bill that removes the requirement that farmers obtain federal approval from last year’s hemp farming legalization bill. The Senate vote follows Friday’s veto override effort by the Maine House of Representatives, which passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 135-6.

Governor LePage said in a May 8 statement defending his decision to veto the bill, “I simply cannot support inadvertently putting Maine’s hard working farmers at risk of violating federal criminal laws, which is the practical effect of this bill.” However, lawmakers in the state House and Senate were able to meet the 2/3 vote threshold necessary to override his veto.

Representative Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea), one of the sponsors of the bill, told the Portland Press Herald, “We have people in this state who are ready to make capital investments – real investments – in this (hemp) industry, capital investments that will create jobs and inject money into this economy. All the pieces are in place with the people behind them, ready to go with the flip of a switch.

Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin wrote, “An amendment to the bill included an ’emergency clause,’ which bypasses the normal 90-day waiting period for a law to take effect. The bill notes that ‘farmers need adequate time to prepare for their upcoming growing seasons,’ and supporters wanted to make sure the process moved forward immediately.

Boldin continued, “Since the emergency clause was enacted, the new law goes into effect immediately. While there are some rules that will need to be created by the Department of Agriculture, the sponsors of LD4 expressly included in the measure that all will be ‘routine technical’ rather than ‘major substantive’ rules, and required the commissioner to issue them… Once this process is completed, it will be up to individuals and businesses in Maine to strike the final blow against federal bans on hemp farming. Should courageous farmers start growing industrial hemp without further authorization from Washington DC, the decades long prohibition will be effectively nullified in practice.

BREAKING: Did The Federal Government Just Legalize Marijuana?


As states continue to nullify federal laws against marijuana and hemp, the federal government has been faced with an important question. It’s been more than 75 years, and marijuana and hemp  still remain illegal. Never mind the total lack of reasoning  behind the federal government’s ban. Is it time to end the law?

Less than 24 hours ago, it all came crashing down. According to the Associated Press, the justice department said that states can allow citizens to use the drug, license people to grow it and allow them to purchase it in stores. As long as the drug is kept away from the black market, children and federal property– It’s a go!

According to Mike Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center:

The genie is out of the bottle and she won’t ever go back in. The feds have lost and they know it. No matter how Holder and the DEA couch their words in an attempt to maintain an illusion of control, state actions continue to effectively nullify these unconstitutional marijuana laws.

When asked if the federal government just essentially legalized marijuana Maharrey responded:

The announcement makes it clear the feds have no will to fight the states on weed. They can call it an “illegal drug” all they want, but if they can’t, or won’t, stop people from using marijuana, their “law” means nothing.

The recent surge in nullification has sent states fighting against the federal government on pot use. It would seem that the federal government just gave up. A major victory for the states- no doubt.