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Lawmakers clash with DEA officials over reclassifying marijuana

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U.S. lawmakers who support steady relaxation of state laws on marijuana sparred Tuesday with Obama administration officials who continue to label the drug in the same high-danger category as heroin.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s chief deputy said marijuana deserved to remain listed as a “Schedule 1” narcotic — a list which includes severely addictive drugs including LSD and ecstasy — even though he could not identify a single fatal overdose attributable to cannabis last year.

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“Marijuana is the most widely available and commonly abused illicit drug in the United States,” the DEA’s Thomas Harrigan told a House panel in a joint statement with John Walsh, the US attorney in Colorado, which along with Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use this year.

They said abuse among young Americans is on the rise, with marijuana’s more potent production methods and increased trafficking by international drug cartels the growing concerns.

But lawmakers were dumbfounded at a multi-billion-dollar anti-drug strategy from Washington that leads to thousands of incarcerations for acts that have already been decriminalized in 20 states.

“We’ve locked people up. We’re spending billions of dollars, and it’s not working,” House Democrat Earl Blumenauer said.

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Around 750,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges in 2011, outpacing detentions for violent crime, Blumenauer said citing FBI figures.

He and fellow member Steve Cohen said 16,000 people died last year from prescription drug overdoses, and noted how thousands more died from heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine and the legal intoxicant alcohol.

But when asked how many people died from marijuana, the DEA’s Harrigan told the House government oversight panel: “I’m not aware of any.”

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The hearing was held just as Washington DC’s city council ruled to decriminalize marijuana, ranking possession of small amounts of the drug on a similar scale as getting a parking ticket in the nation’s capital.

Several lawmakers have argued that bringing pot sales within the U.S. legal framework would allow authorities to tax and closely monitor the drug.

But Harrigan insisted that “there are no sound scientific, economic or social reasons to change our nation’s marijuana policy.”

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Cohen said U.S. marijuana legislation is so universally decried as wrong that “it breeds disrespect for the law” and the judiciary system as a whole.

“The idea that it’s a schedule 1 drug is ludicrous,” he added.

Subcommittee chairman John Mica noted that distinct conflicts between the federal law and state initiatives like those in Colorado needed to be resolved.

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“We are trying to sort this out,” Mica said, noting that while there has been success in reducing tobacco use rates, “we’re backsliding on marijuana,” with pot use among high school seniors rising by 19 percent since 2008.

Democrat Gerry Connolly, meanwhile, warned that US marijuana policy had racial overtones, citing figures showing blacks were four times more likely than whites to be arrested on marijuana charges.

“This level of disparity is indefensible,” he said.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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‘Anyone who tried to impact outcome of election should spend life in jail’: Lewandowski

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On Tuesday, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Lewandowski's appearance before Congress was significant because Donald Trump reportedly told him to tell Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of Mueller's Russia probe.

Lewandowski was defiant in his opening statement, slamming the investigation as biased and knocking Hillary Clinton. He also declared that any entity that tried to meddle in a U.S. election should be in prison.

He said that he handled as many as a thousand emails. "And unlike Hillary Clinton, I don't think I ever deleted any of those," Lewandowski said. "Many of them were either responded to with one-word answers or floated to other staff for additional follow-up. But throughout it all, and to the best of my recollection, I don't recall ever having any conversations with foreign entities, let alone any who were operating to manipulate the outcome of an election."

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American neo-Nazis now see 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden as a role model: report

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A new report from Vice claims that white supremacist organizations are increasingly viewing Osama Bin Laden, the late mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as a role model whose actions can influence the future of their movement.

The report finds that neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division has recently started using Bin Laden's image in its propaganda while also promoting Islamist extremists' willingness to commit mass murder in the name of their religion as something that should be inspiring to American white nationalists.

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REVEALED: The Saudis have also been pumping cash into Trump’s infamous Scotland golf resort

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It's not just the American military whose members have been spending cash at President Donald Trump's golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland.

Politico reports that "a group of Saudi royals stayed at the resort for about a week at the tail end of extended travel" and that they brought "a party of 25 people and more than a hundred pieces of luggage."

This is not the first time that Saudi officials have plugged money into Trump properties.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold has documented, members of the Saudi government have also helped prop up flagship Trump hotels in New York and Chicago since his election.

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