FAIR Act: Protecting the Cannabis Industry
March 23, 2017
Senator Rand Paul may be a key ally for the cannabis industry as we anxiously await the Trump administration’s official stance on recreational cannabis. Paul’s recently reintroduced FAIR Act, which stands for Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration, seeks to protect property owners from unjust asset forfeiture, restore due process for the accused, and eliminate the incentives for local law enforcement agencies to circumvent state laws.
Under current Federal policy, local law enforcement can turn seized assets over to Federal officials and receive up to 80% of the proceeds. Created in 1985, the Equitable Sharing Program essentially encourages state officials to adhere to Federal policy by providing a direct financial incentive in the form of increased budgets. To further convolute the matter, proceeds from seizures are not subject to Congressional review, they go to the Equitable Sharing Fund, where their disbursement has little transparency. As of 2012, the Equitable Sharing Fund was over 4.3 billion dollars. All of this adds up to local enforcement agencies raiding their way to raises instead of focusing on public safety.
In addition to encouraging raids with increased budgets, the victims of raids rarely see their day in court and experience significant roadblocks when attempting to regain their property. Because current laws permit authorities to take property without formally charging the property owner, judges rarely see the cases and due process is hard to come by. The FAIR Act would place the burden of proof back on the government and restore the principle of “Innocent Until Proven Guilty.”
Most importantly, the FAIR Act removes incentives for local authorities to break from state laws in support of Federal policies, like cannabis. If local law enforcement disagrees with their state’s cannabis laws they have the ability to conduct raids, turn seized assets over to the Feds, and then receive a hefty monetary return for their efforts.
As the industry waits on a formal stance from the White House, actions like these can provide comfort that at least some elected officials believe in the constitution and the rights it affords all citizens.
Previously, Paul had championed the Carers Act, which would have provided greater protections for medical cannabis patients and remove many restrictions faced by researchers.
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