Flanked by more than 150 advocates from around the country, Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer on Monday put forward his legislation allowing states to legalize medical marijuana in an effort to end the confusion surrounding federal pot policy.
Blumenauer’s legislation, which has 13 co-sponsors — including GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California — would create a framework for the FDA to eventually legalize medicinal marijuana. It would also block the feds from interfering in any of the 19 states where medical marijuana is legal.
At a press conference outside the Capitol, Blumenauer didn’t attack the Drug Enforcement Administration for targeting marijuana dispensaries or blame the Justice Department for forcing marijuana businesses to operate in a legal gray zone. Instead, he pitched his legislation as a solution to the confusion surrounding federal marijuana policy.
“Frankly, the people in the federal hierarchy are in an impossible position,” Blumenauer said, adding: “It gets the federal government and the Department of Justice out of this never-never land.”
On the heels of successful referendums legalizing marijuana in both Colorado and Washington state, Blumenauer and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition and set up a scheme to tax the drug.
The activists surrounding Blumenauer had just come from a four-day conference on medical marijuana, and many of them were veterans of campaigns to legalize the treatment in their home states. Some held a sign that wouldn’t be out of place at a tea party rally against the Affordable Care Act — “GET POLITICS OUT OF MY MEDICINE.”
Karen Munkacy, a doctor who helped lead the pro-medical marijuana side of a successful referendum in Massachusetts, said her breast cancer diagnosis forced her to “choose between breaking the law and suffering terribly. And I chose to suffer terribly.”
Scott Murphy, an Iraq War vet, said medical marijuana could help returning soldiers handle post-traumatic stress disorder or physical injuries. Murphy noted 22 veterans killed themselves each day in 2012.
“If medical marijuana could help just one veteran, it would be worthwhile,” he said.
Blumenauer’s bill isn’t likely to pass, but Americans for Safe Access Policy Director Mike Liszewski said bills in four states — New Hampshire, Illinois, New York and Maryland — have a chance of becoming law this year. In New Hampshire, where backers fell just a few votes short of overriding a governor’s veto last year, advocates are “really confident.” The state’s new governor, Democrat Maggie Hassan, supported medical marijuana as a state legislator.
Read more: POLITICO
Obama on the legalization of pot
Which is why we have to raise taxes and enforcement….
More than 21,000 retired federal workers receive lifetime government pensions of $100,000 or more per year, a USA TODAY/Gannett analysis finds.
Of these, nearly 2,000 have federal pensions that pay $125,000 or more annually, and 151 take home $150,000 or more. Six federal retirees get more than $200,000 a year.
Some 1.2 percent of federal retirees collect six-figure pensions. By comparison, 0.1 percent of military retirees collect as much.
The New York State and Local Retirement System pays 0.2 percent of its retirees pensions of $100,000 or more. The New Jersey retirement system pays 0.4 percent of retirees that much. Comparable private figures aren’t available.
The six-figure pensions spread across a broad swath of the federal workforce: doctors, budget analysts, accountants, public relations specialists and human resource managers. Most do not get Social Security benefits.
Retired law enforcement is the most common profession receiving $100,000-plus pensions, including 326 Drug Enforcement Administration agents, 237 IRS investigators and 186 FBI agents.
The Postal Service has 714 retired workers getting six-figure retirements. The Social Security Administration has 444. A retired Smithsonian zoologist has a $162,000 annual lifetime pension.
The six $200,000-plus pensions include a doctor, a dentist and a credit union regulator, plus three retirees whose occupations weren’t listed.
Pensions are a growing federal budget burden, rising twice as fast as inflation over the last decade. Pension payments cost $70 billion last year, plus $13 billion for retiree health care. Taxpayers face a $2 trillion unfunded liability — the amount needed to cover future benefits — for these programs, according to the government’s audited financial statement. (Read: The Truth About the Post Office’s Financial Mess.)
“These people are highly trained, highly skilled and often put their lives on the line in law enforcement,” says Julie Tagen, legislative director of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees. “It’s a very, very small portion of retirees at that ($100,000) level.”
“Government pensions are vastly more generous than those in the private sector,” says economist Veronique de Rugy of the market-oriented Mercatus Center. “It’s no coincidence that if there is a good plan, it’s available to federal employees rather than in the private sector.”
USA TODAY and the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press— both owned by Gannett — analyzed the Civil Service Retirement System database, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. The Office of Personnel Management withheld some information, including names, ages and length of service.
The records cover 1.9 million federal civilian pensions. Congress members were not included, nor were military retirees.
The average federal pension pays $32,824 annually. The average state and local government pension pays $24,373, Census data show. The average military pension is $22,492. ExxonMobil[XOM 88.18 0.18 (+0.2%) ], which has one of the best remaining private pensions, pays an average of $18,250 per retiree, Labor Department filings show.
The federal government has two retirement systems: one for those hired before 1984 and another for those hired after. Under the older system, employees did not participate in Social Security. The older system covers 78 percent of current retirees and accounts for 96 percent of six-figure pensions. All federal retirees receive health benefits.
A month after the Secret Service was rocked by allegations that agents brought prostitutes to a Colombia hotel where they were preparing for a visit by President Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that at least three of its agents are also under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena.
Two of the agents allegedly had encounters with masseuses in the apartment of one of the agents, according to Sen. Susan Collins, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“It’s disturbing that we may be uncovering a troubling culture that spans more than one law enforcement agency,” the Maine Republican said this evening. “In addition to the Secret Service scandal, we now learn that at least two DEA agents apparently entertained female foreign national masseuses in the Cartagena apartment of one of the agents. The evidence uncovered thus far indicates that this likely was not just a one-time incident.”
The revelations that Secret Service personnel had been drinking heavily and cavorting with prostitutes ahead of Obama’s trip to Colombia last month overshadowed the president’s trip to the Summit of the Americas. Twelve members of the military were also investgated for allegedly hiring prostitutes.
Eight of the 12 Secret Service employees implicated in the scandal lost their jobs, another is in the process of losing his security clearances, and three agents were cleared of serious misconduct but still could be disciplined. The military has completed its investigation but no disciplinary action has been carried out.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration was provided information from the Secret Service unrelated to the Cartagena hotel Secret Service incident, which DEA immediately followed up on, making DEA employees available to be interviewed by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General,” a DEA spokesperson said in a statement.
“DEA takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and will take appropriate personnel action, if warranted, upon the conclusion of the OIG investigation.” the statement said.
A spokesman for the OIG said the DEA is cooperating in the investigation, which is being coordinated with the Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, and the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.
The DEA has agents posted in Colombia to work on counter-narcotic and drug interdiction missions with Colombian authorities. According to officials the agents were among those assigned in Colombia, they were not specifically working on the President’s trip.
The revelations about the DEA agents comes ahead of a hearing scheduled on Wednesday with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
How the Drug War Creates Collateral Damage – Elderly Couple’s Small Business Destroyed By DEA Regulations
88-year-old Bob Wallace, and his 85-year-old girlfriend, Marjorie Ottenberg fell in love 35 years ago backpacking to the tops of the highest peaks in the world.
Wallace is a Stanford educated engineer and Ottenberg is a former chemist and decades ago they came up with a water purification product for backpackers like themselves called Polar Pure out of their garage in Saratoga, Calif.
“For an old guy with nothing else to do, this is something that keeps us occupied,” says Wallace.
Today, Wallace and Ottenberg are fighting the Drug Enforcement Administration and state officials to continue to operate their business. Why? The DEA says that drug dealers are using their product to make methamphetamine.
The DEA says meth heads are interested in Polar Pure’s key ingredient, iodine crystals.
In 2007 the DEA reclassified iodine as a controlled substance and named Polar Pure in particular as a product that was of concern to the DEA. The DEA told Wallace and Ottenberg, they could continue to operate their business but they would have to pay a $1,200 regulatory fee, register with the state and feds, report any suspicious activity and keep track of each and ever person who bought a bottle of their product.
Bob says that the overhead alone would be too much to pass onto customers.
“So that’s why I didn’t bother with their rules, because I would be out of business if I followed their regulations,” says Wallace.
The same went for camping stores and online outlets that stocked Polar Pure. Instead of dealing with the new regulations they just dropped the product, effectively killing Wallace and Ottenberg’s business.
“Any time you deal with a government it’s a hassle,” says Ottenberg.
A spokeswoman for the DEA told the San Jose Mercury News that Wallace was “collateral damage.”
“They are being put out of business, they are totally being put out of business,” says Stephen Downing, a former Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief and a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Downing says that that the DEA is the most out of control arm of the federal government today because they are given so much authority with very little oversight.
“Within the controlled substances act, the DEA is given authority chemicals as they come up,” says Downing. “To make it easy for federal enforcement people to so called, do their job and make their quotas and have their show-and-tells, they pass these regulations that impact innocent people.”
Downing also says that the metrics for stopping use and production of methamphetamine don’t make sense.
The Justice Department’s own National Drug Threat Assessment for 2011 said that the availability of methamphetamine was increasing in every region of the country and the rates of abuse were increasing as well.
About 6:47 minutes.
Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Field produced by Zach Weismuller and Sharif Matar.
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Elected officials are demanding answers after Daniel Chong, a 23-year-old UC San Diego student, was left unattended for five days in a Drug Enforcement Administration detention cell.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called on U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. asking for an “immediate and thorough” Department of Justice investigation into the matter.
“After the investigation is completed, I ask that you please provide me with the results and the actions the department will take to make sure those responsible are held accountable and that no one in DEA custody will ever again be forced to endure such treatment,” she wrote.
The DEA apologized Wednesday to Chong, who was accidentally left unattended in a holding cell for five days and reportedly drank his own urine to survive.
San Diego attorney Gene Iredale said his client was “still recovering” from the ordeal. The attorney submitted the initial paperwork needed for a lawsuit Wednesday. The claim seeks $20 million in compensation for the incident.
“He is glad to be alive,” Iredale said of Chong. “He wants to make sure that what happened to him doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
News of the incident came to light when Chong told a San Diego television station he spent nearly a week in the cell without food, water or access to a toilet after an April 21 raid on a house in San Diego.
The DEA, which identified Chong only as “the individual in question,” said he and eight others were swept up during a raid of a suspected Ecstasy distribution operation, where agents found guns, ammunition, 18,000 Ecstasy pills and other drugs.
The nine suspects were taken to a DEA area headquarters, where they were fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed, the agency said. After processing, seven were taken to a county detention facility and one was released.
Chong, the agency said, was “accidentally left in one of the cells.” He told NBC San Diego he kicked the door “many, many times” in a futile attempt to get agents’ attention.
When they finally found Chong, he was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital, where he stayed for five days. Iredale said Chong, who was close to kidney failure and had trouble breathing, spent three of those days in the intensive care unit.
Chong also suffered hallucinations and “thought he was going insane,” Iredale said. Chong told NBC San Diego he tried to kill himself by breaking his glasses and cutting his wrists.
“I didn’t care if I died,” he told the station. “I was completely insane.”
“I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here last week,” Sherman said. “I extend my deepest apologies [to] the young man and want to express that this event is not indicative of the high standards that I hold my employees to.”
The DEA said Chong told agents he had been at the house that was raided “to get high with his friends” and later admitted that he used a white powdery substance found in his cell that tested positive for methamphetamine.
Iredale confirmed Chong had stayed with friends the night of April 20 to “celebrate” the day heralded by many marijuana aficionados “in the typical way — by smoking some pot.”
But the attorney said the meth found in the cell was not his client’s and was there before his arrival.
“The DEA’s protocol was so sloppy that somebody who was a previous prisoner secreted a small amount of meth in a plastic bag inside a blanket,” Iredale said.
The San Diego Union Tribune reported that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wants a congressional investigation.