Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: Dems Adopt Marijuana Platform Plank, UN Says Still Plenty of Heroin, More... (6/27/16)

The Democratic Party adopts a marijuana reform plank, scientists complain about marijuana research obstacles, Myanmar moves to reform a punitive drug law, the UN reports plentiful heroin supplies despite a bad harvest in Afghanistan last year, and more.

Poppy production declined last year, but there's still plenty of heroin stockpiled, the UN says. (unodc.org)
Marijuana Policy

Democrats Approve Marijuana Reform -- But Not Outright Legalization -- Platform Plank. The Democratic National Committee panel drafting the party's 2016 platform has approved language supporting marijuana law reform, but failed to approve language calling for removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances act. The approved language is as follows: "We believe that the states should be laboratories for democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African-Americans far outstripping arrests among whites despite similar usage rates."

Scientists Claims US Government Still Limiting Marijuana Research. In a letter published in Science, a group of scientists say the US government is still holding back research into marijuana. "This has created a truly unique and an unnecessary paradox in modern medicine, in which physicians are authorizing treatments to patients, and patients are regularly using medication without a scientific basis of knowledge on patient outcomes, forced rather to rely only on scientifically invalid or anecdotal information," said lead signatories Sarah Stith and Jacob Vigil of the University of New Mexico. The letter comes as the DEA is considering whether to reschedule marijuana.

Maine Legalization Initiative Will Appear on Ballot as Question 1. The initiative from the Maine Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has been designated Question 1 on the November ballot by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. The final wording of the ballot question reads: "Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?"

Massachusetts ACLU Endorses Legalization Initiative. The Bay State chapter of the ACLU has officially endorsed the initiative from the Massachusetts Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The initiative is waiting for a second round of turned-in signatures to be counted before it is officially qualified for the ballot.

Medical Marijuana

US Supreme Court Won't Hear Montana Medical Marijuana Appeal. The nation's high court refused Monday to hear a challenge to a state law that limits medical marijuana providers to selling it to no more than three patients. In refusing to hear the case, the high court let stand a Montana Supreme Court decision upholding most of a state law that effectively overturned a 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana initiative. New restrictions are now set to go into effect on August 31.

Pennsylvania Finishes Drafting Temporary Medical Marijuana Regulations. State health officials announced last Friday that they have completed drafting temporary regs that will allow child patients to use medical marijuana products from outside the state while the state's program is being set up. Applications should be available at the health department's website sometime next month.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

UN Says Still Plenty of Heroin Despite Opium Production Decline. In its World Drug Report 2016, released last Thursday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that global opium production declined by 40% last year because of a poor harvest in Afghanistan, the world's leading producer, but that the harvest there in 2014 was among the largest on record, meaning that last year's decline was "unlikely" to lead to "major shortages" of heroin because traffickers have built up huge stockpiles in past years.

International

Danes Favor Marijuana Legalization, Even as Government Vows Crackdown. A Gallup poll has support for marijuana legalization at 45%, with 41% opposed. The poll comes days after the most recent crackdown on Pusher Street in Copenhagen's hippy enclave of Christiania, and the government says it doesn't care what the survey found. "I do not support legal cannabis and the Gallup figures don't change that," said Health Minister Sophie Lohde. "It's possible that some things would be easier if we let loose but I fear that legal cannabis would result in more people developing a substance abuse problem. And that particularly applies to young people."

Myanmar Government Moves to Reform Punitive Drug Laws. The government will push to delete provisions of the country's drug law that require drug users to register with the authorities on pain of imprisonment if they don't. Colonel Zaw Win Tun of the Myanmar Police Force said the provisions violate the country's human rights obligations under the UN Charter. "The existing law states drug users shall register and if not, they shall be imprisoned. Now we are trying to amend the law and remove the provision [requiring drug users to register]," he said. A bill to change the law was submitted to parliament earlier but has not been acted on. The government said it will now move on the bill.

Colombia, FARC Rebels Sign Ceasefire Agreement. Colombia's 50-year-long civil war is now winding down. Government officials and FARC representatives signed a ceasefire agreement last week in Havana and agreed to work together on coca crop substitution programs. The FARC also agreed to combat cocaine trafficking and the government has promised to engage in massive spending for alternative development. Will either actually happen? Read on.

Chronicle AM: House Blocks MJ Banking, No Prostitutes for DEA, Thai Meth Policy, More... (6/23/16)

House Republicans blocked an effort to open up banking for marijuana businesses, an Oregon worker fired for medical marijuana use wins his job back, DEA agents get new marching orders on hookers, the Thai government grapples with methamphetamine policy, and more.

Patronize a prostitute, lose your DEA badge.
Marijuana Policy

House Turns Back Effort to Give Pot Businesses Access to Banks. The Republican-led House Wednesday voted down an amendment to the FY 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act that would have blocked federal regulators from punishing financial institutions for working with state-legal marijuana businesses. A similar amendment had passed the Senate last week.

Nevada Legalization Effort Has Raised Nearly $300,000 This Year. The Nevada Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has raised $285,000 so far this year, with more than half coming in a two-day period earlier this month when local marijuana companies made significant donations. The campaign's legalization initiative has qualified for the November ballot. Opposition groups made no reports of donations this reporting period.

Oregon Takes in Nearly $15 Million in Pot Taxes So Far This Year. As of May 30, the state Department of Revenue had processed $14.9 million in marijuana tax payments this year, the agency said Wednesday. Medical marijuana dispensaries authorized to sell to any adult 21 or over began collecting the tax in January.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Auditor Bemoans Delays in Processing ID Cards. The state auditor and the attorney general are investigating a backlog of medical marijuana ID card applications as requests for the cards surge. The state has 30 days to issue the issue the cards, but the Department of Health said it is taking 45-50 days, and the auditor's office said it had complaints of wait times of up to 90 days.

Oregon Worker Fired for Medical Marijuana Wins Jobs Back. An arbitrator has ordered Lane County to reinstate a worker it fired because he used medical marijuana to deal with the side effects of cancer treatment and it has ordered the county to give him nearly $22,000 in back pay. Michael Hirsh had been employed as a senior programmer for the county before he was fired in December after two employees reported smelling pot smoke on his clothing.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

New York Governor Signs Heroin Bill Package. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) Wednesday signed into law a package of bills aimed at the state's heroin and prescription opioid problems. The bills, which address prevention, treatment, and insurance coverage, should produce an additional 270 treatment beds and more than 2,000 slots for drug treatment programs. The bills also require insurance companies to wait 14 days before denying coverage to drug users deemed in need of drug treatment, and it limits initial prescriptions for opioids for severe pain to seven days.

Law Enforcement

No Prostitutes for DEA Agents. In the wake of scandalous behavior by DEA agents in Colombia during the 2012 Summit of the Americas, the DEA has instituted a one-strike policy for agents caught patronizing prostitutes. "Solicitation of prostitution on duty or off duty, whether you're in a jurisdiction where it is legal or illegal, first time offense -- removal," DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg told a Senate panel Wednesday.

International

UN Releases Annual Global Drug Report -- 250 Million Adults Used a Drug Last Year. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime has released the World Drug Report 2016, and notes that 5% of the adult population has used at least one drug in the past year. The UN also reported that the number of people classified as suffering from a dependency disorder climbed to more than 29 million, up from 27 million the previous year.

Thailand Won't Legalize Meth, But Will Remove it From List of Dangerous Drugs. Thai Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya has walked back talk about legalizing the amphetamine, but now says the country will work to reform its drug laws by removing meth from its list of hard drugs like heroin and recognizing a distinction between traffickers and users, workers, and addicts.

In Exercise in Futility, Danish Cops Raid Christiania's Pusher Street (Again)

Last Friday, more than a hundred Danish police swept into Copenhagen's hippy enclave of Christiania to attack the hash and weed sellers of the community's infamous Pusher Street. They tore down 37 stalls and arrested 18 people, carrying off nearly 10 kilos of cannabis by the time they were done.

But it was an exercise in futility. Before police had even left the scene, new stalls had been constructed and new drug sales had taken place.

The raid, coming after previous raid after fruitless raid on Pusher Street, has re-ignited the ongoing debate about legalizing cannabis in Denmark, with members of law enforcement and parliament speaking out.

"I personally believe we should legalize the sale of cannabis because this is a fight we cannot win," said senior prosecutor Anne Birgitte Stürup from the Copenhagen Public Prosecutor Office (Statsadvokaten). "We've tried fighting this for so many years and have gotten nowhere. We cannot stop the use of cannabis by outlawing it. It is expensive and is of very little use," she continued.

The debate on cannabis legalization is nothing new. Pusher Street was for decades the center of the city's weed trade as Christiania, a former military base invaded by hippies in 1971, enjoyed existence as an autonomous community within greater Copenhagen. But conservative national governments in recent years have both ended Christiania's special status and regularly attacked Pusher Street, sending the weed trade to street corners around the city.

Copenhagen itself has repeatedly sought a trial program to legalize the trade in the city, with sales handled by public authorities, only to be blocked by the parliament. It's time to move forward with such plans, said former Copenhagen Police Chief Inspector Per Larsen.

"The money is going into the wrong hands today and I think it could be used for something much more positive, for example preventative measures and rehab for those suffering from cannabis psychosis," Larsen said.

Another former public prosecutor, Erik Merlung, agreed it was time to change course and accused members of parliament of "shutting their eyes to reality."

"You make huge raids on Christiania in which all of the stalls are torn down in the afternoon and then up and running again the next morning -- if not in Christiania, then other places in the city," he said, adding that the current prohibitionist strategy is "hopeless."

Even the cops involved didn't seem particularly enthused about their mission, as the video below from the scene makes clear. The video was shot by the Christiania-based documentary group Cadok:

Copenhagen
Denmark

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops get nailed for some big-time rip-offs, cops get nailed for stealing treats from a dispensary, a California cop gets nailed for stealing and dealing meth, and more. Let's get to it:

In Santa Ana, California, three Santa Ana police officers were charged Monday with stealing protein bars and cookies from a medical marijuana dispensary they were raiding -- apparently oblivious to the fact that a surveillance camera was still operating. Officers Brandon Matthew Sontag, Nicole Lynn Quijas, and Jorge Arroya are each charged with one misdemeanor count of petty theft, while Sontag is also charged with vandalism under $400. The vandalism count is for smashing the lens of surveillance cameras, but he missed one.

In Helena, Montana, a state prison guard pleaded guilty last Wednesday to smuggling marijuana and tobacco to inmates. Guard Martin Reap, 25, admitted smuggling between nine and 16 ounces of marijuana, as well as a small amount of synthetic cannabinoids. He admitted making over $6,000 for his efforts. Reap pleaded guilty to one count of bribery after prosecutors agreed to drop drug possession, distribution, and conspiracy charges. He's looking at up to 10 years for the bribery charge.

In Fresno, California, a former Bakersfield police detective pleaded guilty Monday to stealing meth from drug dealers and then reselling the drugs. Patrick Mara copped to a single count of methamphetamine trafficking, joining his former police partner, Damacio Diaz, in copping to their crimes. Although Mara is looking at up to life in prison and faces a mandatory minimum 10 years, he was allowed to remain free on bond pending sentencing in October.

In Arlington, Virginia, a former Loudon County sheriff's deputy was sentenced last Friday to three years in prison for stealing money from the department's asset forfeiture fund. Frank Michael Pearson, 45, had been found guilty of stealing $229,381 from the fund over a three year period. The money came from at least 80 different cases.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, a former Brown County DARE officer was sentenced last Friday to two years in state prison for stealing an estimated $200,000 from the program. Former Deputy Kevin Vanden Huevel collected money for parking at Green Bay Packers home games as part of a DARE fundraiser. He was supposed to put the money in the DARE trust fund, but instead put it in his own pocket. He ripped off DARE for years before being caught.

Medical Marijuana Update

A bipartisan federal effort to open up research on medical marijuana is underway, it looks likely that Arkansas will be voting on medical marijuana in November, a New Jersey PTSD bill advances, and more.

National

On Monday, congressional marijuana reform fans and foes said they were working together on a new research bill. Legalization opponent Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) is joining forces with Congress's "top legal pot advocate," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to file a bill to overhaul federal policies on marijuana research. The bill would make it easier for scientists to conduct research on the medical use of marijuana. It hasn't been filed yet, but is expected this week.

On Wednesday, versions of the research bill were filed in the House and Senate. The bills announced earlier this week have been filed and given bill numbers. The House version, sponsored by Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is HR 5549, while the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is S 3077.

Arkansas

On Monday, a medical marijuana initiative campaign handed in signatures. Supporters of the Arkansans for Compassionate Care medical marijuana initiative handed in more than 110,000 raw signatures to state officials in Little Rock Monday. The initiative only needs some 67,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. If as many as 30% of the signatures are found invalid, organizers would still have enough signatures to qualify.

California

As of Tuesday, a Northern California cannabis oil company was back in business after a misbegotten raid. Sonoma County's Care By Design (CBD) is already back in business after a massive raid including a hundred police officers and DEA agents last week. Business operator Dennis Franklin Hunter was released without charges after initially being held on a $5 million bond. Police raided the business thinking it was using a dangerous and illegal butane extraction process to make cannabis oil, but it was actually using a non-flammable CO2 extraction process. CBD is blaming the botched raid on a disgruntled former employee involved in a competing business.

New Jersey

Last Thursday, the Assembly passed a PTSD bill. The Assembly approved the bill, and a Senate committee approved a similar measure the same day. The bills would allow patients suffering from PTSD to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: MA Init Hands in Signatures, Uruguay's First Legal MJ Harvest, More... (6/22/16)

Marijuana legalization efforts advance in California and Massachusetts, Iowa Democrats blow minds with a platform plank, Michigan's welfare drug testing pilot program scores a big fat zero, and more.

It could be high times in Boston come November. (regulatemass.org)
Marijuana Policy

Gavin Newsom Warns California Pot People That Legalization Isn't a Done Deal. The state's pro-legalization lieutenant governor told attendees at the National Cannabis Industry Association conference in Oakland Tuesday that they need to get involved in passing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) this November. "It's not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "We need your help on the campaign." Newsom added that while tech billionaire Sean Parker is helping, "He's not going to fund the whole thing. If it is defeated, it will set back this movement in California… and nationally for years and years."

Massachusetts Legalization Backers Hand in Final Signatures. The Massachusetts Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Wednesday handed in some 25,000 raw signatures as the campaign moved toward the final step in placing its legalization initiative on the November ballot. The campaign only needs 10,792 valid voter signatures in this second round of signature gathering after the legislature failed to act when the campaign turned in more than 60,000 signatures last year.

Medical Marijuana

Congressional Medical Marijuana Research Bills Filed. The bills announced earlier this week have been filed and given bill numbers. The House version, sponsored by Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is HR 5549, while the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), is S 3077.

Drug Policy

Iowa Democrats' Platform Includes "Legalize All Drugs" Plank. Hawkeye Democrats included the five-word item ("We support legalizing all drugs") as plank No. 293 in their platform, and that's raising eyebrows. But activists involved in the debate said that was shorthand for a policy that aims to treat and mitigate drug addiction instead of criminalizing it. "The brevity of the document doesn't encompass the true meaning,"said Shelly Van Winkle, a registered nurse from Muscatine and newly elected member of the party's state central committee who was active in the platform debate. Another delegate described it as a "divestment strategy in the drug war."

Drug Testing

Michigan Welfare Drug Test Program Generates Zero Positives. The state of Michigan has ordered 303 people seeking welfare benefits to undergo drug testing under a pilot program, and not a single one of them has tested positive for illicit drugs. Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who signed the program into law, declined to comment. Similar programs in other states have produced similar results, although not as dramatic as Michigan's In Tennessee, 65 out of 40,000 applicants tested positive; in Mississippi, two out of 3,656. In Michigan, the people tested were flagged as likely to be using drugs during an initial screening.

International

First Legal Pot Crop Being Harvested in Uruguay. Two companies responsible for marijuana production have begun their first legal harvest, and their product should be hitting the country's pharmacies "soon," said Juan Andres Roballo, head of the National Drug Board, which has oversight over the fledgling industry. By August, Uruguayans should be able to buy weed in five- or 10-gram packets, with the price set at $1.20 per gram.

Chronicle AM: New Orleans "Decrim" in Effect, Philippine Drug Executions Accelerate, More... (6/21/16)

The Big Easy goes easy on marijuana possession, a California medical marijuana business is back in operation after a misbegotten raid, Danish cops raid Christiania to little effect, suspected drug dealers are being killed in the Philippines, and more.

Filipino President Rodrigo "The Punisher" Duterte (theinfluence.org)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Legalization Foes Unveil New Website. Anti-legalization forces operating as Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities have launched a new website aimed at doing in the legalization initiative from the Maine Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. A drop-down menu on the website provides an indication of their approach, with buttons for "Pot Shops on Main Street," "Marijuana Candy," and "Big Marijuana."

New Orleans "Decriminalization" Ordinance Goes Into Effect. A newly passed city ordinance allowing police to cite and fine instead of arrest people caught with small quantities of pot is now in effect in the Big Easy. But not everybody will get a ticket. Those caught with pot in a drug free zone, such as a city park, school, or church will still be charged and jailed.

Medical Marijuana

After Misbegotten Raid, California Medical Marijuana Company Open for Business Again. Sonoma County's Care By Design (CBD) is already back in business after a massive raid including a hundred police officers and DEA agents last week. Business operator Dennis Franklin Hunter was released without charges after initially being held on a $5 million bond. Police raided the business thinking it was using a dangerous and illegal butane extraction process to make cannabis oil, but it was actually using a non-flammable CO2 extraction process. CBD is blaming the botched raid on a disgruntled former employee involved in a competing business.

International

Danish Cops Raid Christiania's Pusher Street, To No Avail. Police last Friday marched into the Copenhagen hippy enclave, tore down 37 marijuana and hash sales stands, and arrested 18 people, but new stands went up and pot sales recommenced before police even left the scene. The raid is sparking new discussion on marijuana legalization, including from a senior prosecutor in the Copenhagen prosecutor's office. I personally believe we should legalize the sale of cannabis because this is a fight we cannot win," Anna Birgitt Sturup said.

Philippines in Drug Dealer Killing Frenzy. Under the new presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, who earned a reputation as a crime fighter and death squad organizer as the long-time mayor of Davao City, killings of alleged drug dealers are surging. Duterte has vowed to eradicate drugs and other crime within six months and even offered to give medals to citizens who kill them. Police reported killing 11 suspected drug dealers over the weekend, saying they resisted arrest, with more than 40 killed since Duterte was elected on May 9.

Chronicle AM: Supremes Open Door to More Lawless Searches, CA Dems Endorse AUMA, More... (6/20/16)

The Supreme Court hands down a pair of rulings supporting law enforcement powers, the California and Arizona marijuana legalization efforts gain powerful endorsements, the feds give up on trying to bust Fedex for shipping prescription pills, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Arizona Congressman Endorses Legalization Initiative. US Congressman Ruben Gallegos (D-Phoenix) announced Monday that he is endorsing the legalization initiative from the Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Forcing sales of this plant into the underground market has resulted in billions of dollars flowing into the hands of drug cartels and other criminals," Rep. Gallegos said. "We will be far better off if we shift the production and sale of marijuana to taxpaying Arizona businesses subject to strict regulations. It will also allow the state to direct law enforcement resources toward reducing violence and other more serious crimes."

California Democratic Party Endorses Legalization Initiative. Meeting in Long Beach over the weekend, the executive committee of the state Democratic Party voted to endorse the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The initiative would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of weed, allow limited personal cultivation, and allow regulated commercial cultivation and sales.

Colorado Health Department Reports No Increase in Youth Use. Marijuana use among high school students in the state has not increased since legalization, the Health Department reported Monday. The report was based on a statewide student survey. It found that 21% of students had reported using marijuana, in line with earlier figures from the state and below the national average of nearly 22%.

Medical Marijuana

Congressional Pot Fans, Foes Work Together on New Research Bill. Legalization opponent Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) is joining forces with Congress's "top legal pot advocate," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to file a bill to overhaul federal policies on marijuana research. The bill would make it easier for scientists to conduct research on the medical use of marijuana. It hasn't been filed yet, but is expected this week.

Arkansas Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. Supporters of the Arkansans for Compassionate Care medical marijuana initiative handed in more than 110,000 raw signatures to state officials in Little Rock Monday. The initiative only needs some 67,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. If as many as 30% of the signatures are found invalid, organizers would still have enough signatures to qualify.

Asset Forfeiture

Oklahoma Governor Delays Using Card Readers to Seize Money. In the wake of a furious outcry over the Highway Patrol's recent use of ERAD card-reading devices to seize money from debit and credit cards, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) last Friday directed the secretary of safety and secure to delay using the the card-readers until the state can develop a clear policy for their use.

Law Enforcement

Supreme Court Opens Door to More Lawless Police Searches. In a pair of decisions released Monday, the US Supreme Court again demonstrated its deference to law enforcement priorities, in one case by expanding an exception to the long-standing ruling requiring that unlawfully gathered evidence be discarded and in another by holding that drug dealers, even those engaged only in street-corner sales, are engaged in interstate commerce.The two decisions expand the ability of local police to skirt the law without effective punishment on the one hand, and allow prosecutors to use the weight of the federal criminal justice system to come down on small-time criminals whose cases would normally be the purview of local authorities on the other. Taken together, the decisions show a high court that once again give great deference to the demands of law enforcement.

Feds Drop Drug Trafficking Case Against Fedex. Federal prosecutors in San Francisco last Friday suddenly moved to drop all criminal charges against the delivery service, which they had accused of knowingly delivering illegal prescription drugs. In court, presiding Judge Charley Breyer said the company was "factually innocent" and that the DEA had failed to provide it with the names of customers who were shipping illegal drugs. "The dismissal is an act, in the court's view, entirely consistent with the government's overarching obligation to seek justice even at the expense of some embarrassment," Breyr said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Supreme Court Opens Door for More Lawless Police Searches [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

In a pair of decisions released Monday, the US Supreme Court again demonstrated its deference to law enforcement priorities, in one case by expanding an exception to the long-standing ruling requiring that unlawfully gathered evidence be discarded and in another by holding that drug dealers, even those engaged only in street-corner sales, are engaged in interstate commerce.

The two decisions expand the ability of local police to skirt the law without effective punishment on the one hand, and allow prosecutors to use the weight of the federal criminal justice system to come down on small-time criminals whose cases would normally be the purview of local authorities on the other. Taken together, the decisions show a high court that once again give great deference to the demands of law enforcement.

In the first case, Utah v. Strieff, the Supreme Court held that evidence obtained from the illegal stop of Strieff should not be thrown out under the exclusionary rule, which requires that illegally seized be suppressed as "fruit of the poisonous tree." The exclusionary rule, which dates back to 1920 and values the rule of law even at the expense of seeing a guilty suspect go free, has long been a bane of judicial conservatives, who have been trying to chip away at it since at least the 1980s.

In Strieff, a Salt Lake City police officer investigating possible drug activity at a residence stopped Strieff without "reasonable cause" after he exited the home. During his encounter with Strieff, the police officer found that he was wanted on a traffic warrant, arrested him, then searched him subsequent to arrest. The police officer found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, then charged him with drug and paraphernalia possession.

Strieff argued to suppress the evidence, arguing that it was derived from an unlawful investigatory stop. He lost at the trial and appeals court levels, but the Utah Supreme Court overturned his conviction, holding that an exception to the exclusionary rule known as the "attenuation doctrine" did not apply. The US Supreme Court disagreed.

The attenuation doctrine holds that unlawfully obtained evidence may be used even if "the fruit of the search is tainted by the initial, unlawful detention…if the taint is dissipated by an intervening circumstance," as the Utah Supreme Court described it. In other words, if police acting in good faith violate the law and don't do it flagrantly, they should be able to use any evidence found as a result of that violation in court.

The Supreme Court divided 5-3 on the case, with Chief Justice Roberts joining justices Alito, Breyer, and Kennedy joined Justice Clarence Thomas in his majority opinion. Thomas held that the police misconduct was not bad enough to warrant suppression of the evidence and, besides, police probably aren't going to abuse their powers to do mass searches.

"[The officer's] purpose was not to conduct a suspicionless fishing expedition but was to gather information about activity inside a house whose occupants were legitimately suspected of dealing drugs," Thomas wrote. "Strieff conflates the standard for an illegal stop with the standard for flagrancy, which requires more than the mere absence of proper cause. Second, it is unlikely that the prevalence of outstanding warrants will lead to dragnet searches by police."

Even if someone is unlawfully detained, evidence obtained from them can be used in court, the high court ruled. (wikimedia.org)
The Supreme Court's liberal minority was not nearly as sanguine. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, with Justice Ginsberg concurring, cut right to the heart of the matter:

"The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer's violation of your Fourth Amendment rights," she wrote in her dissent. "Do not be soothed by the opinion's technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants -- even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent."

In the second case, Taylor v. United States, the high court upheld the ability of federal prosecutors to use federal law to prosecute people who rob drug dealers, even if the dealers are dealing only in locally-grown marijuana with no evidence of interstate sales. That 7-1 decision is in just the latest in a long line of cases upholding the ability of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution's "commerce clause" and to protect it from robbery or extortion under the 1951 Hobbs Act.

It was the "commerce clause" line of cases that led to the 2005 Gonzales v. Raich decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the ability of the federal government to move against marijuana cultivation and sales even in states where it is legal. In that case, the high court ruled that California medical marijuana patient Angel Raich's cultivation of marijuana plants at her home in California for her use in California implicated interstate commerce and was therefore liable to federal jurisdiction.

Even marijuana grown and sold locally implicates the Constitution's commerce clause, the court has ruled. (flickr.com)
In Taylor, Taylor was part of a Virginia gang known as the "Southwest Goonz" who targeted and robbed marijuana growers and dealers. He was charged under the Hobbs Act with two counts of "affecting commerce or attempting to do so through robbery." In his first trial, which resulted in a hung jury, Taylor offered evidence that the dealers targeted only trafficked in locally-grown marijuana. In his second trial, prosecutors convinced the court to exclude that evidence, and Taylor was convicted on both counts. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that conviction, "holding that, given the aggregate effect of drug dealing on interstate commerce, the Government needed only to prove that Taylor robbed or attempted to rob a drug dealer of drugs or drug proceeds to satisfy the commerce element."

In an opinion authored by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court agreed.

"[T]he Government met its burden by introducing evidence that Taylor's gang intentionally targeted drug dealers to obtain drugs and drug proceeds," he wrote. "That evidence included information that the gang members targeted the victims because of their drug dealing activities, as well as explicit statements made during the course of the robberies that revealed their belief that drugs and money were present. Such proof is sufficient to meet the Hobbs Act's commerce element."

Only Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that the whole line of "commerce clause" cases granted too much power to the federal government.

"The Hobbs Act makes it a federal crime to commit a robbery that 'affects' 'commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction," Thomas wrote. "Under the Court's decision today, the Government can obtain a Hobbs Act conviction without proving that the defendant's robbery in fact affected interstate commerce -- or any commerce. The Court's holding creates serious constitutional problems and extends our already expansive, flawed commerce-power precedents. I would construe the Hobbs Act in accordance with constitutional limits and hold that the Act punishes a robbery only when the Government proves that the robbery itself affected interstate commerce."

Two cases, two distinct lines of legal precedent, one outcome: Drug cases continue to provide a basis for the expansion of state law enforcement power.

Washington, DC
United States

Chronicle AM: Times of London Calls for Drug Decrim, Microsoft Enters MJ Business, More... (6/17/16)

Three reports on marijuana policy are released, Microsoft gets in the marijuana business, the Times of London calls for drug decriminalization and hints at legalization, a Thai minister reiterates his call for regulating meth, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Brookings Institution Releases Research Papers on Legalization and Regulation. One paper is "Bootleggers, Baptists, bureaucrats, and bongs: How special interests will shape marijuana legalization," in which Brookings Senior Fellows Philip Wallach and Jonathan Rauch ask: Why did marijuana legalization recently break through in the face of what had long been overwhelming interest-group resistance? How might key social and bureaucratic actors reorganize and reassert themselves, and as legalization ushers in a "new normal" of marijuana-related regulation and lobbying, what kinds of pitfalls and opportunities lie ahead? The second paper is "Worry about bad marijuana -- not Big Marijuana," in which Rauch and Senior Fellow John Hudak examine a concern that many critics and proponents of marijuana legalization share: the potential emergence of Big Marijuana, a corporate lobby akin to Big Tobacco that recklessly pursues profits and wields sufficient clout to shape regulation to its liking. Hudak and Rauch ultimately argue against alarmism, concluding that "policy should concern itself with harmful practices, not with industry structure, and it should begin with a presumption of neutrality on issues of corporate size and market structure."

Transnational Institute Releases Report on Marijuana Regulation and UN Treaties. The report, "Cannabis Regulation and the UN Drug Treaties: Strategies for Reform," which was compiled by a group of experts in the United States, Mexico, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United Kingdom, makes clear that the problem is not that countries are pursuing reforms to legally regulate cannabis, but rather the antiquated drug treaty provisions that explicitly block such reforms. Overcoming that hurdle, the report argues, does not require a global consensus to rewrite the UN drug treaties -- a difficult task under current conditions -- but can be achieved by procedures available to individual countries and groups of countries under international law.

Microsoft Enters the Marijuana Business. The tech giant announced Thursday that is forming a partnership with a marijuana-focused software company called Kind Financial, which provides "seed to sale" services for marijuana growers. The move makes Microsoft the first major tech company to get involved with the growing legal marijuana industry.

Michigan Legalizers Sue Over 180-Window for Signatures. MI Legalize, the group seeking to get its legalization initiative on the November ballot, filed suit Thursday in the state Court of Claims seeking to overturn a new law and an old policy that render invalid any signatures gathered outside of a 180-day window. Michigan officials ruled that the campaign came up short after they rejected signatures from the beginning of the petition drive because they had been gathered outside that window.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Assembly Passes PTSD Bill. The Assembly approved the bill Thursday, and a Senate committee approved a similar measure the same day. The bills would allow patients suffering from PTSD to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

Asset Forfeiture

Delaware Legislature Passes Mild Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 309, which would force the state's Special Law Enforcement Assistance Fund to disclose the specific items and programs its civil asset forfeiture fund paid for. The measure has already passed the House and goes to the desk of Gov. Jack Markell (D). A bill that would have abolished civil forfeiture was filed, but never moved this year.

International

The Times of London Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Hints at Legalization. England's most prestigious newspaper has declared itself in favor of treating drug use and possession as a public health issue rather than a criminal one. In a leading article, "Breaking Good", the paper supported the call earlier this week from the Royal Society for Public Health for drug decriminalization. The newspaper said that although it is "radical advice," it is "sound" and ministers should "give it serious consideration." In an editorial in the same issue, the Times went a step further: "The government should be encouraged to think of decriminalization not as an end in itself but as a first step towards legalizing and regulating drugs as it already regulates alcohol and tobacco."

Thai Minister Defends Call for Legalizing Meth. Facing criticism, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya held firm Friday to his call to regulate instead of prohibit methamphetamine. He said it is impossible to eliminate dangerous drugs, so there should be a proper way to live with them. He added that crackdowns on users and sellers had filled the country's prisons, but not prevented drug use.

One Out of Four US Senators Is a Marijuana Prohibitionist -- Is Yours One of Them?

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Marijuana legalization now consistently scores majorities in national public opinion polls, marijuana is already legal in four states and the District of Columbia and likely to be legal in a handful more, including California, before year's end, and the Obama administration has effectively thrown federal pot prohibition to the wind in the legal (and medical marijuana) states, yet Congress remains to a large degree stuck in the last century when it comes to marijuana policy.

Granted, there are some small signs of progress, some nibbling around the edges of pot prohibition, through bills and spending amendments that seek to stop the feds from interfering in legal and medical marijuana states, but Bernie Sanders' bill to end federal marijuana prohibition doesn't sport even a single cosponsor. When it comes to fixing marijuana policy, Congress is going to have to be dragged crying and screaming into the 21st Century.

One reason is a sizeable contingent of senatorial prohibitionists. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which just released its 2016 Congressional Scorecard, more than a quarter of US senators received a failing grade when it comes to supporting progressive marijuana policy reforms. A failing grade indicates "that this member expresses significant and vocal opposition to marijuana law reform."

The marijuana consumers' lobbying group arrived at the grades based on the member's 2015 voting records on three amendments to appropriations bills: the Daines/Merkley amendment (would have allowed VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana in states where it is legal), the Mikulski amendment (would block the Justice Department from interfering in state medical marijuana programs), and the Merkley amendment (would have blocked the Treasury Department from punishing banks providing services to legal marijuana businesses).

NORML also weighed whether the member has sponsored or cosponsored federal marijuana reform bills, and his or her public statements or testimony. Legislators were assigned letter grades ranging from "A" to "F."

Before going on to NORML's hall of shame, it's worth taking a moment to salute the class valedictorians: Only two senators got "A" grades -- Sanders and Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley, author or co-author of two of the amendments, who also supported the successful 2014 Oregon legalization initiative and has sponsored and cosponsored other progressive marijuana reform bills.

Merkley is the only one of the eight senators representing states where the electorate has already voted to legalize marijuana to earn an "A" grade. The other legalization state senators at least mostly earned "B" grades ("this member has publicly declared his/her support for the ability of a state to move forward with cannabis law reform policies free from federal interference"), demonstrating that they are at least that in tune with their publics.

The good news is that with two senators winning "A" grades, 28 earning a "B," and 28 managing a "C" (supports medical marijuana or decriminalization), there seems to be a senatorial majority in favor of some pot reform legislation, even if not full legalization.

But there is still a sizeable and obstinate anti-marijuana minority, with 20 senators saddled with a "D" grade ("no support for any significant marijuana law reform"), and 26 ingloriously awarded the big "F."

Not surprisingly, 22 of them are Republicans, mostly from that great, L-shaped mass of red states that runs from North Dakota down to Texas and then across the South. But four of them are Democrats.

Without any further ado, here's the list of the Senate's most intransigent and recalcitrant pot prohibitionists (click on the scorecard for the individual particulars):

  • Sen. Jeff Sessions
  • Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)
  • Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)
  • Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
  • Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID)
  • Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
  • Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN)
  • Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
  • Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)
  • Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)
  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)
  • Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
  • Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
  • Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
  • Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
  • Sen. Jon Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Sen. John Barasso (R-WY)

Chronicle AM: UK Public Health Groups Call for Decrim, MPP Endorses Gary Johnson, More... (6/16/16)

Busy, busy: There's movement on marijuana banking, Gary Johnson picks up MPP's endorsement, a leading California cannabis oil producer gets busted, the AMA casts on leery eye on patient pain reports, a congresswoman wants to drug test the rich, British public health groups call for decrim, the Thai government wants to end the war on meth, and more.

Libertarian Gary Johnson has won the endorsement of the Marijuana Policy Project because of his pro-legalization stance.
Marijuana Policy

Senate Committee Approves Measure to Ease Pot Businesses' Access to Financial Services. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 16-14 to approve an amendment that would bar the Treasury Department from punishing banks that do business with state-legal marijuana businesses. The amendment is part of the FY 2017 Financial And General Government Services Appropriations Act, which now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Marijuana Policy Project Endorses Libertarian Gary Johnson for President. MPP has formally endorsed Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson for president, saying he was the obvious choice as the most pro-marijuana legalization candidate on the ballot. The group said its endorsement was based solely on his marijuana policies.

New York Assembly Passes Bill to Seal Records for Misdemeanor Marijuana Convictions. The Assembly has passed Assembly Bill 10092, which will seal the conviction records of people charged with misdemeanor offenses. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the move was in response to New York City police charging people with misdemeanors for possession of marijuana in public. Simple possession is decriminalized in the state.

Medical Marijuana

Leading California Medical Marijuana Oil Maker Busted.Police, including DEA agents, raided five properties associated with a well-known medical marijuana products manufacturer in Northern California's Sonoma County Wednesday morning, detaining at least nine people and arresting one on suspicion of felony drug manufacture for his role in cannabis oil production.The operation raided was Care By Design (CBD Guild), which produces CBD-rich cannabis oils for use in sprays, gels, and cannabis oil cartridges for vaporizers. The company offers products with five different ratios of CBD to THC so "patients can adjust their cannabis medicine to suit their specific conditions and personal preferences." Police accused the operation of using dangerous and illegal butane extraction for their oils, but Care By Design says that is not the case.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

AMA Resolutions Aim to Curb Opioid Abuse, Will Ignore Patients' Pain Reports. At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association (AMA) approved a number of resolutions aimed at curbing the misuse of prescription opioids. One called for removing any barriers to non-opioid pain therapies, one calls for promoting increased access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan), but "the group also voted in favor of efforts to remove pain as a vital sign in professional standards, as well as disconnecting patient satisfaction scores from questions related to the evaluation and management of pain," a move that may not bode well for chronic pain patients.

Asset Forfeiture

Company Now Offers Asset Forfeiture Insurance to Cannabusinesses. CBZ Insurance Services is now offering coverage to protect state-legal marijuana businesses from the threat of seizure and asset forfeiture. The company's "search and confiscation" coverage applies only to entities that are state-legal and are found innocent of any raid-related charges. "A legally operating cannabis business has unique challenges other types of businesses don't have," said CBZ's Jeffrey Rosen. "One challenge is the threat of being shut down at any time by law enforcement. Whether you're a grower, distributor or manufacturer, search and seizure coverage is the best protection for a company's assets."

Drug Testing

Congresswoman Wants to Drug Test the Rich Before Approving Tax Deductions. US Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) has called for requiring wealthy Americans to undergo a drug test before approving their tax deductions. Moore said she will file the bill because she is "sick and tired, and sick and tired of being sick and tired, of the criminalization of poverty," referring to efforts pushed by Republican governors and legislators to impose drug testing requirements on people seeking public benefits. "We're not going to get rid of the federal deficit by cutting poor people off SNAP. But if we are going to drug-test people to reduce the deficit, let's start on the other end of the income spectrum."

International

British Public Health Bodies Call for Drug Decriminalization. Two leading public health bodies say drug use is a health issue, not a criminal one, and have called for drug decriminalization. The Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health said that criminalizing drug use has not deterred people from using drugs, and that those harmed by drug use are harmed again by punishment. "We have taken the view that it is time for endorsing a different approach," said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society. "We have gone to our stakeholders and asked the public and tried to gain some consensus from our community and the public, because that is very important." The society has detailed in its new line in the aptly named report Taking a New Line on Drugs.

Thailand Government Proposes Ending War on Meth and Regulating It Instead. Thai Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya has suggested removing meth from the country's dangerous illicit drug list and putting it in the same category as medicinal drugs, with controls -- not bans -- on distribution, sale, and use of the drug. Current measures to suppress the drug have not worked, he said. Paiboon's comments came in a discussion of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), which met in April. "The world has now surrendered to drugs, and has come to think of how to live with drugs. It is like a man suffering from cancer and having no cure and he has to live a happy life with the cancer," Gen Paiboon said. The government has drawn up a bill that would do that, he said.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org"s lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Leading California Medical Marijuana Oil Maker Busted

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Police, including DEA agents, raided five properties associated with a well-known medical marijuana products manufacturer in Northern California's Sonoma County Wednesday morning, detaining at least nine people and arresting one on suspicion of felony drug manufacture for his role in cannabis oil production.

The Care By Design product line includes these sublingual sprays. (Care By Design)
Although medical marijuana has been legal in the state since voters approved it two decades ago, it was only last year that the legislature moved to bring state-wide regulation to the rapidly growing industry, and that won't actually happen until 2018. In the meantime, medical marijuana businesses are operating in a sphere of unsettled legality where, as California NORML put it in an email alert about the raids, "there's plenty of gray area to generate busts between now and then."

The operation raided was Care By Design (CBD Guild), which produces CBD-rich cannabis oils for use in sprays, gels, and cannabis oil cartridges for vaporizers. The company offers products with five different ratios of CBD to THC so "patients can adjust their cannabis medicine to suit their specific conditions and personal preferences."

CBD (cannabidiol) is more sought after for medicinal purposes; THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabinoid that gets you high.

Santa Rosa Police spokesman Lt. Mike Lazzarini told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat that a hundred Santa Rosa police, Sonoma County sheriff's deputies, and DEA agents raided the operations because they were using illegal and hazardous production methods -- producing the oil with the use of butane, which is a fire and explosion hazard, and which is forbidden under state law.

"From a law enforcement standpoint this is not a legal process when it involves processes that are dangerous," Lazzarini said.

The police spokesman also said that Care By Design's facilities were in violation of Santa Rosa municipal codes and not properly permitted.

Care By Design, which is organized as a non-profit collective under the rubric of the CBD Guild, flatly rejected law enforcement assertions that it was illegally using butane to make the cannabis oil.

"Contrary to initial press reports, none of the Care By Design facilities are involved in the production of hash; nor is butane used in the company's extraction process," it said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Care By Design utilizes a non-volatile supercritical CO2 extraction method, and does not produce any hash, rosin, wax, shatter or similar products that are popular amongst recreational users."

And it was not pleased with the raids, in which police seized equipment, computers, product, payroll, and financial paperwork.

"This law enforcement action is unprecedented, unfortunate, and has the potential to deprive thousands of profoundly sick patients of much needed medicine," said collective spokesman Nick Caston. "We will cooperate fully with law enforcement in an effort to resolve this as quickly as possible, and hope to have our several dozen employees in Sonoma County back to work this week."

Later Wednesday, CBD Guild attorney Joe Rogoway, a veteran Santa Rosa marijuana attorney, reiterated the charge that police were mischaracterizing the business, which he said was above board and operating lawfully.

"They weren't using butane, they use a process that includes CO2 which is a flame retardant; CO2 is what's in fire extinguishers," Rogoway told the Press-Democrat. "It's not criminalized in California law."

The Guild suspects a disgruntled former employee provoked the raids by making false claims to law enforcement, Rogoway said.

Police attempted to play up the criminal element in their description of the man jailed in the sole major arrest during the raids. They described operations manager Dennis Franklin Hunter as a criminal with a history of evading arrest, justifying the $5 million dollar bail on which he is being held.

But what he had been busted for was -- wait for it -- growing marijuana in Humboldt County in 1998. But the feds couldn't find him until 2002, when he was sentenced to 5 ½ years in federal prison. On a second occasion, Hunter was the subject of a manhunt in Arkansas after US Homeland Security asked Little Rock authorities to detain him because they suspected he had drugs on his plane. But he took off after refueling as deputies approached and only later met with authorities.

Caston said Hunter's history was one of being a pioneer in California's marijuana industry.

"They're the folks that have been leading the way, breaking down the stigma, breaking down the misconceptions," he said. "He's really a visionary, along with the other folks in our company, trying to bring practices that are safe. This (law enforcement) action is very surprising."

And while this all gets sorted out, thousands of patients in dispensaries across the state who rely on Care By Design's products will just have to tough it out.

Santa Rosa, CA
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A lying Philly narc gets pretrial diversion after prosecutors admit it's hard to convict a cop, and a trio of sticky-fingered cops gets caught with their hands in various cookie jars. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, a Philadelphia narcotics officer agreed to enter a pretrial diversion program last Tuesday after he admitted perjuring himself during trial testimony. Officer Christopher Hulmes also agreed to leave the force and never try to rejoin it. Prosecutors said they reached the unusual agreement with Hulmes because the recent acquittals of other officers accused of misconduct demonstrated convictions of cops were hard to come by. Hulmes had admitted lying in a drug case in order, he said, to protect a snitch's identify. He was originally charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, and related counts for falsifying paperwork used to justify drug arrests.

In Shelbyville, Kentucky, a Simpsonville police officer was arrested last Tuesday on charges he stole $30,000 worth of guns and drugs from his own department. Terry Putnam is charged with theft, criminal mischief, and official misconduct, and has a trial date set for January.

In Shreveport, Louisiana, a Shreveport police officer was arrested last Tuesday for stealing guns and possessing drugs. Officer Bernice Lefeat, a 6-year-veteran, is charged with possession of Schedule II drugs, possession of a legend drug without a prescription, malfeasance in office, and two counts of theft of a firearm. The arrest came a week after he was placed on unpaid administrative leave following allegations of policy violations.

In New Bern, North Carolina, a former New Bern police officer was arrested last Tuesday for allegedly stealing property from a couple during a drug raid. Bradley Williams, 23, is accused of pocketing mechanical pencils and a piece of jewelry during the April raid. He resigned as a police officer when an investigation into the incident began. He is charged with obstruction of justice and misdemeanor larceny.

Medical Marijuana Update

Ohio becomes the newest medical marijuana state, but you can't smoke it; a pair of contending Arkansas initiatives are coming up on a signature turn-in deadline; DPA identifies problems with New York's medical marijuana program, and more.

Arkansas

As of Wednesday, a pair of medical marijuana initiative campaigns are facing a ticking clock. Two separate medical marijuana initiative campaigns have until July 8 to get enoughvoter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act of 2016 campaign says it has gathered some 70,000 signatures so far. It needs 67,000 valid ones to qualify. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 says it has 40,000 signatures; because it is a constitutional amendment, it needs 85,000 valid signatures to qualify.

Ohio

Last Wednesday, Ohio became the newest medical marijuana state. Gov. John Kasich (R) last Wednesday signed into law a medical marijuana bill that allows use of full plant material, but not in smokeable form. Under the new law, it should take up to two years for Ohioans to see the first medical marijuana dispensaries.

New York

On Tuesday, the Drug Policy Alliance scorched the state's medical marijuana program. In a new report, Assessing New York's Medical Marijuana Program: Problems of Patient Access and Affordability, the Drug Policy Alliance finds severe problems with patient and caregiver access under the program. The report, which relied on patient surveys, finds that more than half of patients and caregivers had not yet found a doctor to certify them and 60% of those had been looking for three to four months for a physicians. Also, more than three-quarters (77%) said they could not afford their medicine. DPA recommends further legislation to improve the program and urges the Health Department to provide more information about the implementation and performance of the program.

Washington

On Tuesday, a lawsuit challenging the state's folding of medical marijuana into the recreational sales system was filed. Seattle attorney and marijuana activist Douglas Hiatt has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to block the July1 implementation of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, arguing that the law's folding of medical marijuana into the recreational marijuana market will cause harm to patients.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: CA ACLU Endorses AUMA, Nadelmann Testifies at Senate Hearing, More... (6/15/16)

Summer is here, and the initiative campaigns are heating up, DPA head Ethan Nadelmann slams drug prohibition at the Capitol, New York legislators announce agreement on a heroin and prescription opioids package, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Arizona Anti-Legalization Group Gets Big Donation From Electric Utility. A group organized to defeat the Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol's legalization initiative has received a $10,000 donation from the state's largest electric utility. Arizona Public Services made the donation to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy because the company is concerned about employment law language in the measure, "especially considering the public safety aspects involved in providing reliable electric service to APS customers. But the initiative's language says "[it] does not affect the ability of employers to enact and enforce workplace policies restricting the consumption of marijuana and marijuana products by employees."

California ACLU Formally Endorses AUMA Legalization Initiative.The ACLU of California Tuesday endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). "The disastrous war on marijuana in California continues to ensnare thousands of people -- particularly young people of color -- in the criminal justice system every year," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, criminal justice and drug policy director with the ACLU of California. "It is time to move from prohibition to regulation. AUMA will establish a controlled and regulated market for adults, significantly reduce the harm done to young people under current marijuana laws, and generate substantial revenue for drug education and for the communities most devastated by the war on drugs."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Initiative Campaigns Face Ticking Clock. Two separate medical marijuana initiative campaigns have until July 8 to get enoughvoter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act of 2016 campaign says it has gathered some 70,000 signatures so far. It needs 67,000 valid ones to qualify. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 says it has 40,000 signatures; because it is a constitutional amendment, it needs 85,000 valid signatures to qualify.

Washington Lawsuit Challenges New State Medical Marijuana Law. Seattle attorney and marijuana activist Douglas Hiatt has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to block the July1 implementation of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, arguing that the law's folding of medical marijuana into the recreational marijuana market will cause harm to patients.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

New York Leaders Reach Agreement on Heroin, Opioids Bill Package. Legislative leaders announced Tuesday they had agreed on a package of bills aimed at growing heroin and prescription opioid use in the state. The bills would mandate insurance coverage for overdose reversal drugs, ease getting insurance coverage for drug treatment, and reduce prescription limits for opioids from 30 days to seven days, among other provisions.

Drug Policy

Ethan Nadelmann Testifies at US Senate Committee Hearing. The Drug Policy Alliance head testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee as part of a round table on drug policy. "The war on drugs in this country and around the world has been a monumental disaster," Nadelmann said. "We developed an addiction. It was an addiction to drug war thinking, drug war ideology, and drug war policies." Nadelmann wasn't alone in criticizing drug prohibition; Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) also criticized it, saying prohibition now fuels drug cartels, just as alcohol prohibiton fueled gangsters.

International

Dutch Justice Minister Rejects Study Calling for Legal Marijuana Production. Justice Minister Ard van der Steur told members of parliament that last week's study finding legalizing pot production would have public health and human rights benefits would have no impact on his government's policies regarding cannabis cafes. The conservative government has moved to restrict them and refused to countenance creating a legal supply system for them.

Chronicle AM: Report Scorches NY MedMJ Program, OH "Bad" Good Samaritan Bill Signed, More... (6/14/16)

The Drug Policy Alliance has some unkind words for New York's medical marijuana program, fentanyl is killing more Kentuckians than last year, Canada won't decriminalize marijuana ahead of legalization, Indonesia prepares a new round of drug executions, and more.

Canada will legalize it, but won't decriminalize it first.
Medical Marijuana

New York's Medical Marijuana Program Pretty Lame, DPA Report Finds. In a new report, Assessing New York's Medical Marijuana Program: Problems of Patient Access and Affordability, the Drug Policy Alliance finds severe problems with patient and caregiver access under the program. The report, which relied on patient surveys, finds that more than half of patients and caregivers had not yet found a doctor to certify them and 60% of those had been looking for three to four months for a physicians. Also, more than three-quarters (77%) said they could not afford their medicine. DPA recommends further legislation to improve the program and urges the Health Department to provide more information about the implementation and performance of the program.

Industrial Hemp

Petition to Deschedule Hemp Launched. A Portland attorney and a Southern Oregon environmentalist have filed a petition asking the DEA to remove industrial hemp from the federal governments list of controlled substances. The petition was filed Monday. The petition asks DEA to declare that a cannabis plant is hemp, not marijuana, it its THC level does not exceed 1%. The Oregon petition is the second hemp petition this month. The Kentucky Hemp Industries Council earlier filed a similar petition.

Heroin and Prescription Opiates

Kentucky Report Sees Fentanyl Deaths More Than Tripling. The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy has issued a 2015 overdose report that finds fentanyl was a factor in 420 fatal overdoses last year, up from 121 in the previous year. Fentanyl is implicated in 34% of all overdose deaths in the state. State officials said it is often consumed unwittingly by users because it is mixed with heroin.

Harm Reduction

Ohio Governor Signs "Bad" 911 Good Samaritan Law. Gov. John Kasich (R) has signed into law House Bill 110, which grants immunity from prosecution to overdose victims and people who seek help for them. But the bill contains a pair of provisions added by the Senate that critics say will discourage people from seeking help. One limits immunity to two occasions and makes it unavailable for people on parole, and the second allows medical professionals to share overdose information with law enforcement.

International

Canada's Liberals Reject NDP Call for Decriminalization Ahead of Legalization. Liberal Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould said Monday the government would not support the New Democrat's proposal to quickly decriminalize marijuana while awaiting the arrival of legalization. Decriminalizing now would "give a green light to dealers and organizations to continue to sell unregulated and unsafe marijuana to Canadians," she said.

Low-THC Marijuana Based Medicines Now Legal in Macedonia. Medicines containing less than 0.2% THC can now be prescribed by doctors and purchased in pharmacies, Macedonia's agency for medicines announced Monday.

Indonesia Set to Execute 16 Drug Offenders After Ramadan. The convicts will be "immediately executed" after next month's Eid holiday, a spokesman for the attorney general's office said Tuesday. The country has not seen an execution since April 2015, but it executed 14 people that year, mostly foreigners, stoking international outrage.

Chronicle AM: OH Becomes Latest MedMJ State, Survey Says Teen Pot Use Down, More... (6/13/16)

Marijuana legalization in the states isn't pushing youth use up, April sets a pot sales record for Colorado, Ohio becomes the newest medical marijuana state, Canada's NDP wants decriminalization now, and more.

Marijuana Policy

National Survey Finds Dip in Teen Marijuana Use, Dispels Anti-Legalization Myth. The results of a federal survey released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control once again casts doubt on the idea that rolling back marijuana prohibition laws will lead to an increase in teen marijuana use. According to the biennial National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 21.7% of U.S. high school students reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, down from 23.4% in 2013 and 26.2% in 1997, the year California implemented the first state medical marijuana law. From 1996-2015, four states and DC adopted laws making marijuana legal for adult use and 23 states adopted laws making marijuana legal for medical use. The 2015 YRBS results are available online here.

Alaska Marijuana Regulators Approve First Licenses. The Marijuana Control Board last Thursday approved the first licenses for legal marijuana cultivation and testing operations. The first retail licenses are expected to be issued later this year.

Colorado Saw a Record Month for Weed Sales in April. According to the state Department of Revenue, April was the biggest month yet for legal weed, with sales of $117.4 million of buds, concentrates, and edibles sold. Of that, $76.6 million was for recreational sales.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio is the Newest Medical Marijuana State, But You Can't Smoke It. Gov. John Kasich (R) last Wednesday signed into law a medical marijuana bill that allows use of full plant material, but not in smokeable form. Under the new law, it should take up to two years for Ohioans to see the first medical marijuana dispensaries.

Asset Forfeiture

Federal Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. Last Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the "Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures Act," or DUE PROCESS Act. The bill would raise the standard of proof from a "preponderance of the evidence" to the much higher "clear and convincing" standard, shift the burden of proof from innocent owners to the government, and guarantee indigent defense for property owners. The bill has not yet been assigned a bill number.

New Jersey Asset Forfeiture Reporting Bill Advances. A bill that would require county prosecutors to produce annual reports on assets seized through civil forfeiture was approved unanimously by a Senate committee last Thursday and awaits a Senate floor vote. The bill would require prosecutors to report the nature of the crime involved and the status of money or property seized.

Drug Testing

Michigan Governor Signs Roadside Drug Testing Pilot Program Bill. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has signed into law a bill that will allow state police to conduct a one-year pilot program to conduct roadside saliva drug testing on suspected drugged drivers. The program will be conducted in five counties by officers who have completed specialized training. The bill has been criticized by some lawmakers, who said the science is lacking when it comes to the impact of marijuana on driving.

International

Canada New Democrats Call for Pot Decriminalization Ahead of Legalization. The New Democrats have introduced a motion calling on the House of Commons to recognize the contradiction in continuing to give people criminal records for something the Liberal government should not be a crime. The motion calls for the immediate decriminalization of marijuana.

Dutch Cities Call Again for Regulated Marijuana Cultivation. In a vote at the meeting of the Association of Dutch Municipalities last week, nearly 90% supported a call on the government to allow experiments with regulated marijuana production. Under Dutch law, coffee shops call sell small amounts of marijuana to consumers, but there is no provision for legally supplying the coffee shops.

Israel Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Pulled… for Now. Member of the Knesset Sharren Haskel (Likud) has pulled her decriminalization bill after Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan agreed to form a special committee to examine marijuana policy. Erdan had opposed Haskel's bill, but the two agreed to form the committee to "examine enforcement policy towards personal use of cannabis without changing the existing social norms about cannabis and general drug use."

Moroccan Party Leaders Calls for Legalization of Hash Cafes. Ilyass El Omari, secretary general of the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) said he supports allowing people in hash-growing regions "to be able to open cafes where they can legally sell cannabis to consumers in reasonable and specific amounts on a weekly basis." The PAM had previously called for decriminalization and regulated cultivation for medical uses, but El Omari is now taking it a step further.

The Outrageous Death of Ollie Lee Brooks

A poor, elderly black man with a heart condition was sitting in his room at a cheap Tulsa, Oklahoma, motel the night of May 28th, using his drug of choice, minding his own business, and not bothering anybody when police arrived at his door. Now he's dead, and his death raises questions not only of law enforcement use of force, but of race, class, and predatory policing.

Ollie Lee Brooks
As the Tulsa World reported, Ollie Lee Brooks, 64, died at the Oklahoma State University Medical Center after a pair of Tulsa police officers tased and pepper spayed him during an arrest attempt at a Super 8 Motel in east Tulsa. Police said he struggled with them when they tried to arrest him after spotting drug paraphernalia "in plain sight" in his motel room.

Brooks becomes the 22nd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

He "immediately resisted arrest by actively fighting officers," the police report said. They then pepper sprayed him, but it didn't "have the desired effect," so one officer then tased Brooks, who "continued to fight," so he tased him again. At one point, Brooks broke free and ran down the stairs, but the officers tackled and cuffed him, then called medics to the scene.

The officers were not wearing body cams, and there is no surveillance video to verify their account.

But there is no reason to doubt their explanation for why they went to his room in the first place: They had gone to the motel "to search the register for guests with outstanding warrants, police spokesman Leland Ashley said."

You read that right: Police in Tulsa are going around to motels and hotels and checking guest lists against their lists of people wanted for warrants. Or at least they're going to some motels and hotels and doing that. Like motels in minority neighborhoods that attract a non-wealthy clientele. There are no reports of police running warrant checks at the Tulsa Hilton Garden Inn or the Tulsa Marriott Courtyard.

This looks to be a race- and class-based predatory policing practice, targeting the poor, who often have arrest warrants not just for alleged crimes but for the crime of being unable to pay fines for past offenses. It has the same sort of stench about it as the now well-known predatory policing in Ferguson, Missouri, that culminated in massive civil unrest after the killing of Michael Brown nearly two years ago.

And a list of outstanding warrants for dangerous felons is one thing, but that's not what the Tulsa police officers were carrying. Instead of keeping society safe from criminals, the officers were essentially acting as bill collectors.

Ollie Lee Brooks was on the list not for being an escaped fugitive or a dangerous criminal, but for an $874 bench warrant in connection with an DUI/open container charge from Okmulgee County in 1991. (It had been a $642 warrant, but a $201 "collections fee" and other fees had been added in 2012.) That DUI/open container charge was never prosecuted, and Brooks had had several run-ins with the law since then (he was last arrested in 1999), yet somehow that warrant was still on the books, was reissued in 2005, and had never been served.

(In a Friday press conference, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said it wasn't the Okmulgee warrant, but a 2015 Tulsa warrant for failure to pay a jaywalking fine. In either case, the point remains that cops acting as bill collectors, went after Brown, and now he's dead.)

The comments section of the initial Tulsa World article contains numerous messages from Tulsans who knew him as a sometimes homeless man who frequented a custard shop and who also picked up occasional work in landscaping and odd jobs. Here's one:

I knew this man as "Richard". He slept behind a dumpster at 61st and Sheridan several years ago when I worked for my parents business, Custard King Frozen Custard. I used to give him free custard and talk to him. I even bought him a pair of shoes and some clothes one time. Actually he's a pretty nice guy! This is very sad news indeed and serves as a warning that police have no hesitation about shocking the hell out of you and killing you. I was told that he had just gotten out of the hospital a few weeks ago with a heart condition. My father talked with him recently. He would occasionally stop by their business. Several years ago, I tried to help this guy out. I am totally shocked because I never knew him as a violent guy. He just frequented our area sometimes. He told us he had a son which he helped with tree work sometimes. He was always very friendly to us.

Another comment:

Ollie used to come to our store and buy a sirloin steak with all the fat on it. We wouldn't see him for awhile and he would just show up. Friendly guy, mannerly, sometimes you could tell he had been drinking and sometimes he appeared to be under the influence but before he got sick he had a tree trimming business and did some landscaping on the side so he wasn't a complete bum. It is sad that this is how he left this Earth and how he will be remembered.

Let's recap here: An elderly black man living on the margins of society manages to scrape enough money together to get a motel room to do his thing in peace, the police run a warrant check on the guests at the motel, they find a trivial warrant, they discover evidence of another criminal offense (drug possession), a struggle ensues, and Ollie Brooks is dead.

Police Chief Jordan said Friday that the two officers involved had been suspended with pay, but had been returned to active duty the day before and had done nothing wrong. But there's something very wrong indeed with a criminal justice system that generates results like this.

And speaking of things being wrong, just a few days ago, AlterNet published "May Was One of the Worst For Drug War Deaths in Recent Memory," which listed seven people killed by police enforcing the drug laws that month. Ollie Lee Brooks wasn't on that list, not because he didn't deserve to be, but because the Tulsa Police didn't bother to publicly announce his death at their hands.

News of his death came only when the Tulsa World ran a story after an affidavit for a search warrant for his room after his death was officially filed last Wednesday. When asked by a reporter whether the department should have notified the media and the public that someone had died after an encounter with police that involved physical force, Jordan said, "In hindsight, after today, yeah, I probably would. Yes, sir."

Brooks' family has retained legal counsel. But he's still dead.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A trio of sticky-fingered cops get in trouble this week, two of them with drug habits. Let's get to it:

In Lawrence, Massachusetts, a Lawrence police officer was arrested last Thursday after threatening an informant who was regularly selling him cocaine, then stealing cocaine from him and warning him to keep their relationship quiet or he would be arrested. Officer John Desantis, 43, now faces one federal count of extortion. Desantis has been on leave since November for a medical issue.

In New Bern, North Carolina, a former New Bern narcotics officer was arrested Monday on charges he stole property from the suspects in a drug investigation. Bradley Williams, 23, is accused of stealing two mechanical pencils and a piece of jewelry from the couple, who were not charged with any offense. He is charged with obstruction of justice.

In Philadelphia, a Philadelphia police officer was arrested Monday for unlawfully taking pills from a drug dealer to help him with his "pill problem" he developed after being injured on the job. Officer Thomas Vitanovitz, 32, faces charges of attempted extortion. He checked into drug rehab after his arrest and said he plans to plead guilty. He's looking at up to 20 years in prison.

Medical Marijuana Update

The California legislature gets down to business, medical marijuana expansion bills become law in Colorado and Vermont, a "poison pill" California initiative fails to make the ballot, and more.

California

Last Wednesday, the Senate approved a medical marijuana sales tax. The Senate Wednesday approved a bill imposing a 15% sales tax on medical marijuana on a 27-9 vote. The measure, Senate bill 987, now goes to the Assembly. Critics have charged it will hurt poor patients, but bill sponsor Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) says he will amend the bill in the Assembly to ensure that low income people don't have to pay the tax.

Also last Wednesday, the Assembly approved medical marijuana research. The Assembly Wednesday approved Assembly Bill 1575, an omnibus medical marijuana bill that includes provisions easing the way for research on the plant's medicinal properties. The bill specifies that it is "not a violation of state law or local ordinance or regulation for a business or research institution with state authorization to engage in the research of medical cannabis used for the medical purposes." The bill now heads for the Senate.

Also last Wednesday, the Assembly approved "cottage" medical marijuana farms. The Assembly Wednesday approved Assembly Bill 2516, which would create a new category of cultivator license for outdoor grows under 2,500 square feet and indoor grows under 500 square feet. "We are trying to ensure small medical cannabis growers on the North Coast can continue to do business as this industry moves forward," said sponsor Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-North Coast). "It is not fair to require the small farmers to adhere to the same standards as larger operations." The bill now heads for the Senate.

On Tuesday, an initiative to create a state medical marijuana monopoly failed to qualify for the ballot. An initiative filed by a leading state anti-medical marijuana activist that would have banned all private cultivation sites and dispensaries has failed to qualify for the ballot. The California Safe and Drug-Free Community Act was filed by Roger Morgan, with the Take Back American campaign, which brandishes a #stoppot hashtag.

Colorado

On Tuesday, the governor signed a medical marijuana in schools bill. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Tuesday signed into law "Jack's Law," which allows for the use of medical marijuana in schools under strict conditions. The measure is House Bill 1373.

Montana

On Monday, a medical marijuana initiative reported having 30,000 raw signatures. Backers of Initiative 182, which seeks to restore the state's medical marijuana program demolished by the legislature in 2011, say they have some 30,000 raw signatures as a June 17 deadline draws near. They need 24,000 valid signatures to qualify. Initiative watchers generally assume as many as 30% of gathered signatures could be invalidated. If that were the case right now in Montana, the initiative would not make the ballot.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday, a bill to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions won a committee vote. A bill that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions advanced out of the Assembly Oversight Committee on a 3-0 vote Wednesday. The measure now heads for an Assembly floor vote. A similar bill was approved by the Assembly last year, but died in Senate committee.

Vermont

On Tuesday, the governor signed a medical marijuana expansion bill. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 14, which will expand the state's medical marijuana system. Shumlin used the occasion to emphasize medical marijuana as an alternative to opioid pain relievers: "At a time when opiate addiction is ravaging our state and drug companies continue to urge our doctors to pass out painkillers like candy, we need to find a more practical solution to pain management. This bill ensures that Vermonters who are suffering will have access to medicine that is high quality, laboratory tested, and most importantly non-addictive," he said.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: Mass MJ Init Sees Court Challenge, Governors Sign MedMJ Bills, More... (6/8/16)

Foes of marijuana legalization are in court today in Boston to try to block a pending initiative, medical marijuana expansion bills become law in Colorado and Vermont, a public summit on new psychoactive substances is coming to New York, and more.

It just got easier to obtain the overdose reversal drug naloxone in Illinois. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Hears Challenge to Legalization Initiative. Opponents of the legalization initiative from the Maine Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol sought to block it Wednesday by arguing that it is fatally flawed because it doesn't explicitly say it would allow the use of marijuana edibles. Attorney John Scheft argued that voters were "significantly misled" when they were told the measure would legalize marijuana because it would legalize "marijuana, hashish, marijuana concentrates, and also food products." The summary language does refer to "marijuana products." But at least one justice expressed skepticism: "Having read your summary I would have no idea that the measure allows the infusion of a hallucinogen into food and drink at all," said Justice Robert Cordry.

Sheldon Adelson Buys Nevada Newspaper; Newspaper Reverses Support for Legalization. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a large contributor to conservative politicians and anti-marijuana efforts, bought the Las Vegas Review Journal last December. The paper had supported marijuana legalization, but no longer after Adelson "and his wife Miriam pressured editorial board members to visit a drug treatment center and reconsider the publication's support for legalization." A legalization initiative from the Nevada Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will be on the ballot in November.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Governor Signs Medical Marijuana in Schools Bill. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Tuesday signed into law "Jack's Law," which allows for the use of medical marijuana in schools under strict conditions. The measure is House Bill 1373.

Vermont Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 14, which will expand the state's medical marijuana system. Shumlin used the occasion to emphasize medical marijuana as an alternative to opioid pain relievers: "At a time when opiate addiction is ravaging our state and drug companies continue to urge our doctors to pass out painkillers like candy, we need to find a more practical solution to pain management. This bill ensures that Vermonters who are suffering will have access to medicine that is high quality, laboratory tested, and most importantly non-addictive," he said.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Illinois Legislature Overrides Veto, Passes Opioid Overdose Access Reversal Drug Bill. Both the House and the Senate have voted to override a partial veto by Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) of House Bill 1, which will allow access to naloxone (Narcan) without a prescription, require private insurers to provide coverage for anti-overdose drugs, and expand drug courts.

New Psychoactive Substances

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on New Psychoactive Substances. The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday held a hearing on new psychoactive substances (NPSs) weighted heavily toward pushing for giving the DEA and the Justice Department greater latitude to prosecute people for selling and distributing NPSs. The hearing devoted little attention to policy approaches that could reduce demand for NPSs or harms associated with their use.

New York City Summit on New Psychoactive Substances Tomorrow and Friday. "New Strategies for New Psychoactive Substances: A Public Health Approach" is going on Thursday and Friday at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Click the link to get more info and to register.

Asset Forfeiture

Delaware House Approves Asset Forfeiture Reform With Big Loophole. The House Tuesday approved House Bill 309, which claims to bring public disclosure to the state's civil asset forfeiture fund. But the bill also allows law enforcement to apply for money from the fund in secret. Law enforcement said the language was necessary to not jeopardize ongoing investigations. The bill is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Chronicle AM: States Failing on Drug Treatment Insurance, MI Initiative Soldiers On, More... (6/7/16)

Michigan legalizers suffered a double blow today but vow to fight on, a California medical marijuana initiative from anti-marijuana activists dies on the vine, a new report says the states need to step up on addiction treatment coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and more.

A new report says the states need to step up on drug treatment insurance under the ACA. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Rick Steves Is Matching Donations to Maine Legalization Initiative. Travel show host and marijuana legalization advocate Rick Steves has announced he will match any donations to the Maine Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The initiative has already qualified for the November ballot, and Steves has $50,000 set aside for matching donations.

Michigan Pot Legalization Initiative Takes Double Blow, But Vows to Fight On. Efforts to let Michiganders vote on legalizing marijuana this year suffered a one-two punch from the state's political establishment today, but organizers are unbowed and are vowing to keep up the fight to get their initiative on the ballot. First, the state election board ruled Tuesday that the initiative was at least 106,000 signatures short of qualifying after throwing out 137,000 signatures that were gathered more than 180 days before the signatures were handed in. Then, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law Senate Bill 776, which limits signature gathering to a strict 180-day window. But Mi Legalize says it is fighting on. "We're alive and well," said MI Legalize spokesman Jeffrey Hank. "We expected this, and in the next few days, we'll be filing a lawsuit. We will continue to run our campaign as we go through litigation." The campaign says it needs financial help, too.

Medical Marijuana

California Initiative to Create State Medical Marijuana Monopoly Fails to Qualify. An initiative filed by a leading state anti-medical marijuana activist that would have banned all private cultivation sites and dispensaries has failed to qualify for the ballot. The California Safe and Drug-Free Community Act was filed by Roger Morgan, with the Take Back American campaign, which brandishes a #stoppot hashtag.

Drug Treatment

Report: States Are Failing to Provide Sufficient Insurance Coverage for Addiction Treatment. A new report from the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse reviewed Essential Health Benefits (EHB) benchmark plans under the Affordable Care Act and called its findings "disheartening." None of the plans provided comprehensive coverage for addiction treatment without harmful treatment limitations, two-thirds of the plans had ACA violations, and nearly one in five didn't comply with parity requirements.

Michigan Marijuana Legalization Initiative Takes Double Blow, But Vows to Fight On

Efforts to let Michiganders vote on legalizing marijuana this year suffered a one-two punch from the state's political establishment today, but organizers are unbowed and are vowing to keep up the fight to get their initiative on the ballot.

MI Legalize organizers handed in petitions last week. Now, they have to fight to get them all counted. (milegalize.com)
The campaign is led by the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, also known as MI Legalize.

First, the state election board ruled Tuesday that the initiative was at least 106,000 signatures short of qualifying after throwing out 137,000 signatures that were gathered more than 180 days before the signatures were handed in. Last week, the campaign handed in more than 345,000 raw signatures. It needed 252,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The campaign hopes to take advantage in ambiguities in the state's initiative and referendum laws that left an opening for getting older signatures validated, but that hope took another hit later on Tuesday when Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law Senate Bill 776, which limits signature gathering to a strict 180-day window.

"Establishing reasonable time limits on when signatures can be collected helps ensure the issues that make the ballot are the ones that matter most to Michiganders," Snyder said in a statement.

The law passed both the House and Senate with only Republican support, and opponents have said the law will impede the ability of the people to have a voice in government and challenge laws passed by the legislature.

MI Legalize said it is considering legal challenges.

"We're alive and well," MI Legalize spokesman Jeffrey Hank told the Chronicle Tuesday afternoon. "We expected this, and in the next few days, we'll be filing a lawsuit. We will continue to run our campaign as we go through litigation."

But the upstart campaign needs some help, Hank said.

"We've raised over $1.1 million without any big national money," he said. "If we win, this would be the second or third largest marijuana market in the county (after California), but we need people to continue to support us financially."

People can make donations through the MI Legalize website.

Lansing, MI
United States

Chronicle AM: Obama Commutes More Drug Sentences, Majority for Legalization in New Poll, More... (6/6/16)

President Obama keeps chipping away at the federal drug prisoner population, Weldon Angelos finally goes free, yet another poll has a national majority for marijuana legalization, the new Filipino president encourages vigilante violence against drug dealers, and more.

President Obama has commuted another 42 drug sentences, including 20 lifers. (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Another National Poll Has Majority Support for Legalization, Near Unanimous Support for Medical Marijuana. A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday has support for marijuana legalization at 54%, with 41% opposed. That's in line with a bevy of polls in the past couple of years showing majority support for legalization. The new Quinnipiac poll also had support for medical marijuana at 89%, with only 9% opposed, and 87% support for allowed Veterans Administration doctors to recommend it to vets with PTSD.

Anti-Legalization Forces Seek Backing of Rightist Casino Billionaire. The anti-reform group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, led by Kevin Sabet, is seeking funding from Nevada casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who contributed millions of dollars to defeat a medical marijuana initiative in Florida in 2014. Adelson is also a major funder of Republican presidential candidates, having spent $15 million supporting Newt Gingrich in 2012.

Massachusetts Supreme Court to Hear Challenges to Legalization Initiative. The high court is set to hear two challenges Wednesday to the legalization initiative from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. One challenge alleges that organizers have misled voters about its ramifications and claims it would allow for the sale of GMO marijuana, while the other challenge says the words "marijuana legalization" in the initiative's title are misleading because it doesn't legalize it for people under 21.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Initiative Coming Up on Signature Deadline. Backers of Initiative 182, which seeks to restore the state's medical marijuana program demolished by the legislature in 2011, say they have some 30,000 raw signatures as a June 17 deadline draws near. They need 24,000 valid signatures to qualify. Initiative watchers generally assume as many as 30% of gathered signatures could be invalidated. If that were the case right now in Montana, the initiative would not make the ballot.

Drug Testing

Michigan Supreme Court to Hear Case of Mother Jailed for Refusing Drug Test in Son's Juvenile Case. The state's high court will hear the case of Kelly Michelle Dorsey, who was jailed for contempt of court in 2012 for refusing to take a drug test in a case involving her minor son, because the son was under the court's jurisdiction, not Dorsey. An appeals court held that forcing mothers to submit to drug tests in such cases was unconstitutional, but upheld a finding a contempt of court for her refusal. Now, the state Supreme Court is set to weigh in.

Sentencing

Obama Commutes Sentences for 42 More Drug Offenders, Including 20 Lifers. President Obama last Friday added another 42 names to the ever growing list of federal drug prisoners whose sentences he has commuted. That brings to 348 the number of commutations Obama has handed out, more than the last seven presidents combined. For a list of names of the newly commuted, go here.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Poster Child Weldon Angelos Freed After 12 Years. The Salt Lake City rap and hip hop label owner and small-time pot dealer was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison because he carried a pistol strapped to his ankle during marijuana deals. Now he is a free man after prosecutors moved to cut his sentence.

New Hampshire GOP Senator Wants to Jack Up Mandatory Minimums for Fentanyl. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is planning to offer an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act this week that would vastly increase mandatory minimums for fentanyl. Currently, it takes 100 grams of a mixture containing fentanyl to garner a five-year mandatory minimum; under Ayotte's proposal, it would only take half a gram. The Drug Policy Alliance and Families Against Mandatory Minimums are among those opposing the move.

International

Israeli Security Minister Opposes Marijuana Decriminalization. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Sunday he opposes such a move because it could increase traffic accidents and police have no way of preventing drugged drivers from getting behind the wheel. He also said that policies were already lax and the decriminalization would amount to legalization. Opposition from Erdan and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has delayed a vote on a decriminalization bill that was supposed to take place Sunday.

Philippines President Encourages People to Kill Drug Dealers. President Rodrigo Duterte used a televised speech Saturday night to encourage citizens to shoot and kill drug dealers who resist arrest. "Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun -- you have my support," adding, "Shoot him and I'll give you a medal." He also threatened to kill drug addicts. Duterte, the former mayor of Davao City, was reputed to have been involved with death squad killings. Apparently some Filipino voters wanted to hear that or didn't mind, since they just elected him president.

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