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Congress quietly ends federal government’s ban on medical marijuana

Tucked deep inside the 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy.

The bill’s passage over the weekend marks the first time Congress has approved nationally significant legislation backed by legalization advocates. It brings almost to a close two decades of tension between the states and Washington over medical use of marijuana.

Under the provision, states where medical pot is legal would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.

The Obama administration has largely followed that rule since last year as a matter of policy. But the measure approved as part of the spending bill, which President Obama plans to sign this week, will codify it as a matter of law.

Pot advocates had lobbied Congress to embrace the administration’s policy, which they warned was vulnerable to revision under a less tolerant future administration.

More important, from the standpoint of activists, Congress’ action marked the emergence of a new alliance in marijuana politics: Republicans are taking a prominent role in backing states’ right to allow use of a drug the federal government still officially classifies as more dangerous than cocaine.

“This is a victory for so many,” said the measure’s coauthor, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa. The measure’s approval, he said, represents “the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana.”

The war on medical marijuana is over. Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana.– Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance

By now, 32 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot or its ingredients to treat ailments, a movement that began in the 1990s. Even back then, some states had been approving broader decriminalization measures for two decades.

The medical marijuana movement has picked up considerable momentum in recent years. The Drug Enforcement Administration, however, continues to place marijuana in the most dangerous category of narcotics, with no accepted medical use.

Congress for years had resisted calls to allow states to chart their own path on pot. The marijuana measure, which forbids the federal government from using any of its resources to impede state medical marijuana laws, was previously rejected half a dozen times. When Washington, D.C., voters approved medical marijuana in 1998, Congress used its authority over the city’s affairs to block the law from taking effect for 11 years.

Even as Congress has shifted ground on medical marijuana, lawmakers remain uneasy about full legalization. A separate amendment to the spending package, tacked on at the behest of anti-marijuana crusader Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), will jeopardize the legalization of recreational pot in Washington, D.C., which voters approved last month.

Marijuana proponents nonetheless said they felt more confident than ever that Congress was drifting toward their point of view.

“The war on medical marijuana is over,” said Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, who called the move historic.

“Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana,” he said. “This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted. … Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up.”

The measure, which Rohrabacher championed with Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat from Carmel, had the support of large numbers of Democrats for years. Enough Republicans joined them this year to put it over the top. When the House first passed the measure earlier this year, 49 Republicans voted aye.

Some Republicans are pivoting off their traditional anti-drug platform at a time when most voters live in states where medical marijuana is legal, in many cases as a result of ballot measures.

Polls show that while Republican voters are far less likely than the broader public to support outright legalization, they favor allowing marijuana for medical use by a commanding majority. Legalization also has great appeal to millennials, a demographic group with which Republicans are aggressively trying to make inroads.

Approval of the pot measure comes after the Obama administration directed federal prosecutors last year to stop enforcing drug laws that contradict state marijuana policies. Since then, federal raids of marijuana merchants and growers who are operating legally in their states have been limited to those accused of other violations, such as money laundering.

Read Full Article – http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-medical-pot-20141216-story.html

 

Smith County plans to sue Volkswagen over faulty emissions

Posted: Nov 27, 2015 3:23 PM PSTUpdated: Nov 27, 2015 3:43 PM PST

Why YouTube is offering legal support for users threatened with takedowns

In a bid to raise awareness about issues of ‘fair use,’ the site will provide legal aid to four users threatened with takedown notices.

When an online video creator receives a notice instructing them to take down a video because it contains copyrighted material — such as a snippet of a TV show or, until recently, even the song “Happy Birthday” — they often have few options but to comply.

Copyright battles can often prove expensive and drag on for years, presenting a challenge for video creators and for video sharing sites, which have often cracked down harshly in a bid to stop the spread of pirated material.

Now, YouTube is offering an alternative, announcing on Thursday that it will begin providing “legal support” to a handful of users so they can fight claims from copyright holders. If the copyright-holder sues, the tech giant will assist users by paying up to $1 million in legal fees.

The site, which is owned by Google, is offering aid to the creators of four videos that it says meet the standard of fair use, an exemption to US copyright law that allows new projects that make use of copyrighted material in a way that goes beyond the copyright holder’s original intent, for example by commenting, parodying, or satirizing it.

The company says the move is intended to correct some of the power balance that can be directed against content creators in the wake of the controversial 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which implemented digital rights management software often used to protect music or downloadable movies from online piracy.

Full Article – http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2015/1122/Why-YouTube-is-offering-legal-support-for-users-threatened-with-takedowns

CNN to Show Sex Assault Film Despite Legal Threat

LOS ANGELES — In the face of threatened legal action from the football star Jameis Winston, CNN did not back away from broadcasting “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about sexual assault on college campuses that has stirred controversy since its January debut at the Sundance Film Festival.

“CNN is proud to provide a platform for a film that has undeniably played a significant role in advancing the national conversation about sexual assault on college campuses,” the network said in a statement. The film was shown on the network at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday.

Mr. Winston, a quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is the focus of a segment in “The Hunting Ground.” While attending Florida State University in 2012, Mr. Winston was accused of sexual assault. He asserted his innocence, did not face criminal rape charges and was cleared of violating Florida State’s student code of conduct. The movie, directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, asserts that Mr. Winston received preferential treatment from officials.

Full Article – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/23/business/cnn-to-show-sex-assault-film-despite-legal-threat.html?_r=0

Chris Odom: ‘Bitcoins are Not Under Legal Law, They’re Under Cryptographic Law’

By Kyle Torpey Nov 19, 2015 1:30 PM EST

Smart contract is a term that gets thrown around quite often in the Bitcoin community, but the reality is not many people truly understand why these types of cryptographic contracts are useful and secure. Smart contracts can come with varying levels of complexity, and one of the most widely-used smart contracts right now is a basic Bitcoin transaction. At the recent Bitcoin Investor Conference in Las Vegas, Stash Co-Founder Chris Odomexplained the key attribute of a smart contract that makes it different from a legal contract.

Smart Contracts Don’t Need a Court of Law

During his remarks on smart contracts, Chris Odom made it clear that the self-executing properties of these sorts of contracts are what separate them from the legal contracts that have been used in the past. He explained:

“The distinguishing factor of a smart contract is that it’s self executing. It executes on its own. You see, most contracts that people make in the legal world are contracts that are designed so that someday they have to be enforced in the court of law; they have to be legally enforced, and so they’re written that way. They’re written based on, you know, ‘We’re going to expect that if we have to enforce this it will be in a court of law, and therefore, all these terms are written based on that assumption.”

Odom also noted that the point of a smart contract is to — at least partially — avoid the legal system in its entirety. He explained that the preferred smart contracts are the ones that automate the enforcement of the contract and do not require the use of a court:

“The last thing you want on a [smart] contract is something saying that it’s enforceable in court. That, ‘Hey, if you use this smart contract, you’re going to end up in court!’ Who wants to sign that? That’s your worst nightmare. When I’m picking a smart contract, I want something that will securely flow the money properly according to its terms and will not land me in court.”

Smart Contracts Automate the Flow of Money

Another key point made by Odom during his presentation is that smart contracts are mostly about automating the flow of money between the parties associated with a particular contract. Instead of having a judge decide the outcome of a contract, a smart contract can automatically trigger a transfer of funds based on a set of parameters defined by computer code. Odom noted:

“A real smart contract is something that automates money flows. It does escrow; it does surety bonds; it does insurance. These are the sorts of things that we’re building with our smart contracts. They automate the money flow. The money goes in here; after so many days, it automatically goes over there, unless a dispute gets triggered, and then maybe an oracle has to come online — or a dispute mediator or arbitrator.”

Smart Contracts Operate Under Cryptographic Law

During his presentation, Chris Odom also told a short story about a lawyer who was recently trying to understand smart contracts and how they work. Odom told the lawyer there is one important statement that should be included in any smart contract:

“Here’s what you want to put in a smart contract. Here’s how you know when you’re writing a smart contract instead of a normal, legal contract. The first thing you put at the top of the contract is ‘This contract will not be enforceable in a court of law.’”

Odom claims the lawyer did not seem to understand the point of a contract that could not be enforced in a court of law, so he went on to describe his point in further detail:

“First of all, courts of law are not able to enforce these [contracts] anyway. Imagine that you’re in court, and there’s a judge, and she says, ‘I have ruled those bitcoins shall be moved to that address.’ But it doesn’t happen. Even though she has robes, a nice chair, and a bailiff with muscles, the bitcoins don’t move. You have to have the private key to move the bitcoins because bitcoins are not under legal law, they’re under cryptographic law. It’s a new form of law that’s coming into existence.”

In short, smart contracts do not require a court or a judge to be enforced. Not only do these types of contracts not operate within the current legal system, but as Odom explained, it is sometimes impossible to enforce the rule of law on what is essentially nothing more than computer code.


Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured on VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, RT’s Keiser Report, and many other media outlets. You can follow@kyletorpey on Twitter.

Full Article – http://insidebitcoins.com/news/chris-odom-bitcoins-are-not-under-legal-law-theyre-under-cryptographic-law/35915