Obama appoints former Ohio governor to UN post

Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 @ 8:13 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 @ 8:13 PM

President Barack Obama nominated former Gov. Ted Strickland to be one of five alternate representatives to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations.

Strickland, who served one term as governor until he lost his bid for re-election in 2010 to Republican John Kasich, would assume a largely ceremonial post. Each nation’s delegation to the UN General Assembly consists of five representatives and five alternates.

The Senate is expected to confirm Strickland’s nomination. Strickland was one of three alternates nominated Tuesday by Obama.

Strickland, 72, had been mentioned for an administration post since leaving the governor’s office. He served three terms as a member of the U.S. House from southeastern Ohio.

Strickland was nominated for the 68th session of the General Assembly which opens next week.

Washington state gears up for battle over legal pot

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 12:37 PM
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 12:37 PM


            Washington state gears up for battle over legal pot

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is ready to defend the will of his state's voters after White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested Thursday that President Donald Trump's administration may crack down on states with legalized marijuana for recreational use.

>> Read more trending stories

In his daily news briefing, Spicer said the Justice Department will step up enforcement of federal law against recreational marijuana.

Ferguson, who also led states in challenging Trump's executive order on immigration, noted in a statement that he and Gov. Jay Inslee, both Democrats, previously were prepared to defend the state's legal marijuana system.

Ferguson and Inslee sent a letter last week to new Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request a meeting on the topic. 

>> Read the full letter

Washington state voters legalized marijuana nearly four years ago.

When it passed, the U.S. Attorney General's Office promised to take a hands-off attitude, as long people in Washington State kept it away from children and kept locally grown marijuana from crossing state lines. Under a new attorney general that could change, as selling it still remains a crime under federal law.

Enforcement would shift away from marijuana policy under the Obama administration, which said in a 2013 memo that it would not intervene in state's marijuana laws as long as they keep the drug from crossing state lines and away from children and drug cartels.

The Justice Department has several options available should it decide to enforce the law, including filing lawsuits on the grounds that state laws regulating pot are unconstitutional because they are pre-empted by federal law.

During a Seattle panel about presidential power in modern politics in early February, criminal law expert and University of Washington professor Trevor Gardner explained that he believes tackling local marijuana laws will be difficult for the federal government.

Here is some of his reasoning:

  • The federal government does not have ability to direct state and local police
  • Of 1.2 million law enforcement agents, only 80,000 are operating at federal level, which means in order for federal government to broadly enforce marijuana prohibition it needs to cooperation of state and local police. The DOJ prosecutes after arrests have been made by state and local police. 
  • In the event Sessions does not have that cooperation, it will be difficult for them to prosecute and enforce the marijuana prohibition broadly in decriminalization states.         

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Twenty-one states have decriminalized marijuana. This means certain small, personal-consumption amounts are a civil or local infraction, not a state crime.

"(Sessions has) taken the Obama administration to task by name and mentioned Obama, attorney generals -- Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder -- as well as FBI director James Comey saying they have all (failed) to enforce federal marijuana prohibition in criminal decriminalization states," Gardner said.

"I do think the federal government, the Department of Justice, and Jeff Sessions are going to be very aggressive about prosecuting marijuana production, distribution, and decriminalization states … This is not going to be an easy task for the government."

Before his confirmation for U.S. attorney general, Sessions openly said during a Senate drug hearing last year that "good people don't smoke marijuana" claiming the drug is dangerous. According to the Washington Post, Sessions' former colleagues testified years ago that he used the N-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were "okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana." Sessions denied the accusations.

Thursday's announcement is the Trump administration's strongest indication to date of a looming crackdown on the drug, even as a solid majority of Americans believe it should be legal.

Spicer said during the news conference on Thursday that Trump "understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them."

But according to Spicer, medical marijuana use is "very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into."

He offered no details about what such enforcement would entail.

Washington's recreational marijuana sales passed the $1.1 billion mark with sales tax revenue reaching $410 million in 2016.

Trump at CPAC: “The era of empty talk is over”

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 11:12 AM
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 11:13 AM

Appearing before an excited gathering of conservatives just outside of Washington, D.C., President Trump celebrated his ascent to the White House, vowing to press ahead with his legislative agenda, and declaring that his 2016 win was a “victory was a victory and a win for conservative values.”

In his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Mr. Trump made the case for multiple items on his agenda – getting rid of the Obama health law, a major military buildup, strong measures on the border with Mexico, tax cuts and more – as he said now, “is the time for action.”

“The era of empty talk is over,” the President said, in a line that could well be part of a speech to a Joint Session of Congress next Tuesday night, February 28.

As the President talked about his goals, he once more bemoaned the state of affairs in the United States.

“I inherited a mess,” Mr. Trump said, rattling off a number of actions that he taken in the first month of his time in office, putting an emphasis on his efforts to reduce the threat of terrorism.

“We are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” the President said to cheers.

The President began his speech by assailing the news media, spending almost eight minutes accusing news organizations of making up sources and making up stories that reflected badly on him.

“They are very smart, very cunning, and very dishonest,” Mr. Trump said of reporters.

“We have to fight it folks,” Mr. Trump said of news stories that he feels are inaccurate, as he zeroed in on reporters who have taken him to task.

Ohio step closer to raising license plate, driver’s license fees

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 3:12 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 3:12 PM

The Ohio House is scheduled to vote on a transportation budget bill Tuesday that includes increases in fees paid for vehicle plates and driver’s licenses.

RELATED: You may pay more for license plates, driver’s license in Ohio

The House Transportation Committee voted in favor of the bill Thursday. Remaining in the bill are two fee increases: deputy registrars who run the state’s approximately 200 Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) offices would charge $1.75 more for transactions; and counties would be allowed to charge an additional $5 for vehicle plates and use the money for transportation-related expenses such as road and bridge repairs.

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The battle over whether Ohio should continue to require a front license plate is also playing out in the transportation budget bill. State Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, pitched a plan to ditch the front plates. That measure got tabled.

As a compromise, lawmakers agreed to make failure to have a front plate a “secondary” offense when the vehicle is parked. That means police or parking enforcement workers would only be allowed to ticket the parked car for some other violation first – such as an expired meter – before also issuing a ticket for failure to display a front plate.

RELATED: Proposed license plate fee increase targets road and bridge improvements

The change would no impact on driving without a front plate. You could still get pulled over just for that violation.

In switch for Trump, White House signals opposition to recreational marijuana use

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 6:58 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 6:58 PM

A day after touting “states’ rights” in moving to lift an Obama Administration directive on transgender bathroom use in public schools, the Trump Administration signaled on Thursday that while it supports the legalization of medical marijuana, it might be ready to clamp down on states that have legalized personal marijuana use.

“I think there’s a big difference between that (medical marijuana) and recreational marijuana,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

“I think when you see something like the opiod addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” as Spicer suggested that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department would be looking at the issue.

“They are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana,” Spicer added.

That explanation from the White House is directly at odds with what President Trump had said on the campaign trail – in early August of 2016, he did an interview with KUSA-TV in Denver, where Mr. Trump made clear he thought the states should be allowed to legalize pot.

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“You think Colorado should be able to do what it’s doing?” reporter Brandon Rittiman asked the GOP nominee about the Colorado law that allows people 21 and over to legally have up to one ounce of marijuana.

“I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person,” Trump said. “I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”

In October of 2015, Trump was asked about marijuana at a rally in Nevada, where he said he was all for medical marijuana, and then addressed recreational use.

“And then I really believe you should leave it up to the states; it should be a state situation,” Trump said.

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Nevada was one of four states to approve recreational marijuana use in the 2016 elections, along with California, Maine and Massachusetts, joining Colorado and Washington State.

It’s unclear how the Justice Department might shake things up in those states, in what would be a U-turn for President Trump on recreational marijuana use.