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Chronicle AM: Obama to Free 93 Drug War Prisoners, Budget Deal Includes Drug Reforms, More (12/18/15)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #914)

The omnibus budget bill approved by Congress today includes several drug policy provisions, the president commutes the sentences of 93 drug war prisoners, Iranian parliamentarians move to end the death penalty for non-violent drug smuggling offenses, and more.

There will be a bit less overcrowding in federal prisons next spring. (
Marijuana Policy

US Postal Service Doubles Down on Marijuana Advertising Mailing Ban. What started as a one-off letter to a small Washington state newspaper has now become official USPS policy nationwide. The agency's general counsel has penned a new letter directing postal carriers across the country to report marijuana ads to law enforcement, and now, Oregon federal representatives are trying to get to the bottom of it. "We are working as a delegation to quickly find the best option to address this agency's intransigence," said Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer in a statement. "We want federal authorities to respect decisions made by law-abiding Oregonians and small business owners in the state. Unfortunately, the outdated federal approach to marijuana as described in the response from the Postal Service undermines and threatens news publications that choose to accept advertising from legal marijuana business in Oregon and other states where voters have also freely decided to legalize marijuana."

Oregon Indian Tribe Votes to Approve Marijuana. Members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs overwhelmingly approved a referendum that would allow for the growing, processing, and selling of marijuana. The referendum passed with 86% of the vote.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Supreme Court Okays Medical Marijuana Initiative Language. The state's high court determined that the initiative is limited to a single subject and its ballot wording informs voters fairly. That means if supporters collect enough valid voter signatures, the measure will appear on the November 2016 ballot.

Congress Passes Budget Bill That Bars DOJ From Interfering in Medical Marijuana States. The omnibus spending bill approved by Congress this morning includes several drug reform provisions, although reformers didn't get everything they wanted. The bill includes language blocking the Justice Department and DEA from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws or hemp research projects and it also lifts a freeze on federal funding for needle exchange programs. But Congress failed to approve amendments to allow banks to provide financial services to marijuana businesses or to allow veterans to have access to medical marijuana, despite the Senate having approved both. And the Congress again included provisions that block Washington, DC, from taxing and regulating marijuana.


Key Hemp Provision Added to the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2016. The budget bill that passed Congress today protects the transportation, processing, and sale of hemp that is from Farm Bill-compliant pilot programs. The provision was added to the bill by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Harm Reduction

Congress Passes Budget Bill That Includes End to Ban on Federal Needle Exchange Funds. The omnibus spending bill approved by Congress this morning lifts a freeze on federal funding for needle exchange programs. The ban had been put in place in the midst of drug war and AIDS hysteria in 1988 and was repealed in 2009, when Democrats controlled both chambers, but reinstated by congressional Republicans after they regained control of the House in 2011.Since then, outbreaks of HIV and Hepatitis C in southwestern Indiana and the impact of rising heroin use in states like Kentucky and West Virginia have weakened Republican opposition to restoring the funding.


Obama Commutes Sentences for Nearly a Hundred Federal Drug Prisoners. President Obama today commuted the federal prison sentences of 95 men and women, all but two of them drug offenders serving draconian sentences. He also issued pardons for two people who have already served their sentences. This single step nearly doubles the number of sentence commutations the president has issued in his seven years in office, bringing the total to 184. While that is a tiny fraction of the hundred thousand drug offenders serving federal time, the number of commutations is more than the previous five presidents combined.


Move to End Death Penalty for Drug Smuggling in Iran. At least 70 members of the Iranian parliament are supporting an effort to end the death penalty in nonviolent drug smuggling cases. The country is most likely the world's leading drugs executioner, with one UN official estimating that it will hang a thousand people for drug crimes this year. Lawmakers are preparing a bill to present to the parliament.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


William Aiken (not verified)

With so much attention being driven by the national security issues, GOP candidates haven't been so critical of the President's efforts to reduce the prison population. When they have articulated their opposition, the media never require these candidates to explain how they would lower the number of prisoners. Chris Christie bloviated that he would enforce federal law as it pertains to marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington without offering any specifics. The fixation on terrorism will at some point ease up to allow other issues to be explored.

While the public has shifted tremendously toward legalization, the media has to been lagging behind this sea change with its lazy coverage. I look for reform-minded media such as the DRCNet to challenge the candidates and push them to provide specific answers. 

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 8:15pm Permalink
Anonymous77 (not verified)

The reason the media has been lagging behind is because they are full of SJWs and authoritarian leftists. They are pro establishment while pretending to be anti establishment in order to look hip among their trendy friends. Marijuana is a libertarian issue, and these goons hate libertarianism. They are more concerned about how sexy a female video game character is (trivial feminist hogwash) than real problems that cause actual harm to people: eg the drug war. One of the main reasons I went from being a liberal to a libertarian.
Sat, 12/19/2015 - 6:36pm Permalink
Melvin (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous77 (not verified)

Welcome to the libertarian club. It appears that the libertarians are the only game left in town that gives a RA about the Constitution or state's rights on this issue. While I am opposed to OBama, on many issues, it does my heart glad that his SG issued the Amicus Brief that urges SCOTUS to deny leave on origional action on the,"Nebraska v. Colorado," case.


As states vote on, both, legal and medical MJ, as polls continue to show increasing support for , medical, legal, and for the FED to but out of state affairs on the MJ issue, then the Fed should be motivated to vote in favor of public opinion. Now we will, finally, find out who is the real conservative on "state's rights" and, "the "Tenth Amendment."

Sun, 12/20/2015 - 4:35am Permalink

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