Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: Federal Marijuana Charges Drop, Toronto Dispensary Raids Cause Ruckus, More... (5/27/16)

Federal marijuana trafficking charges are on the decline, although it's not clear why; Britain's prohibitionist Psychoactive Substances Act has gone into effect, Toronto dispensary raids cause a ruckus, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Federal Marijuana Trafficking Charges Decline in Age of Legalization. According to the latest drug trafficking statistics from the US Sentencing Commission, federal marijuana trafficking offenses have declined dramatically since 2012, the year Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana. "The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease," the commission reported. It's not clear why the decline has occurred since marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts Senate Votes to Waive Medical Marijuana Fees for Veterans. The Senate Tuesday approved a rider to the FY 2017 budget bill that would waive registration fees for veterans for qualify for the state's medical marijuana program. Other patients would still have to pay the $50 registration fee and an annual $50 renewal fee.

International

British Law Banning "Legal Highs" Goes Into Effect. The Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect Tuesday, essentially banning any substance that has an effect on the brain -- even if it doesn't exist yet. The new law is attracting criticism from activists and scientists, who say it is overly broad and could lead to an increase in the use of more harmful substances.

Toronto Police Raid Dozens of Dispensaries. Toronto Drug Squad officers raided up to 43 dispensaries across the city Thursday in a crackdown on the shots, which have proliferated in anticipation of marijuana legalization. Cash and marijuana were seized, and some dispensary employees were temporarily detained, but it's unclear what charges, if any, will be coming.

Toronto Police Chief's Press Conference on Raids Disrupted by Angry Protestors. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders ran into a buzz saw of opposition at his press conference Friday attempting to explain the raids on 43 dispensaries a day earlier. Saunders claimed the raids were done in part because of health concerns, but was interrupted repeatedly by protestors challenging his claims. "These clubs have literally been around for 20 years and literally the medical marijuana has been around for hundreds of years and have literally never killed anybody. So how do you justify that there's a health concern when really it's the most benign substance you can ingest?" one protestor shouted.

Chronicle AM: CA Polls 60% Support Legalization, Federal Forfeiture Reform Advances, More... (5/26/16)

It's looking good for California's marijuana legalization initiative, an Ohio medical marijuana bill heads for the governor's desk, a congressional committee approves federal asset forfeiture reform legislation, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California Support for Legalization at 60%, New Poll Finds. Voters in the Golden State are poised to approve the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) in November, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. The poll had support for legalization at 55% among adults and an even higher 60% among likely voters. Support is up four points from the last PPIC poll in May. "Democrats (69%) and independents (65%) are much more likely than Republicans (45%) to say the use of marijuana should be legal. Two in three adults under age 35 favor legalization, while about half of older adults are in favor. Across racial/ethnic groups, strong majorities of blacks (78%) and whites (65%) favor legalization, while fewer Asians (50%) and Latinos (40%) do so. An overwhelming majority of those who say they have tried marijuana favor legalization (78%), while a solid majority of those who have never tried it are opposed (63%)."

West Virginia Decriminalization Bill Filed. Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) Tuesday filed House Bill 114, which would decriminalize the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana and the growing up of to six plants. The bill includes language about protecting medical marijuana patients, but does not contain language limiting possession and cultivation prerogatives to patients.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Marijuana Bill Awaits Governor's Signature.Both houses of the legislature gave final approval to the measure, House Bill 523, Wednesday. The bill barely cleared the Senate on an 18-15 vote and won final approval from the House on a 67-28 vote. Gov. John Kasich (R) has said he will review the bill when it gets to his desk.

Asset Forfeiture

House Judiciary Committee Approves Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. The committee unanimously approved asset forfeiture reform legislation. Known as the DUE PROCESS Act (H.R. 5283) and sponsored by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI), Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) and others, the bill makes important procedural reforms that will help give property owners fighting a federal civil asset forfeiture action greater leverage to contest a government seizure and increases the federal government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings. The DUE PROCESS Act, however, currently does not address the "policing for profit" incentive issue.

It's Not the Kids Turning on to Weed, It's Grandma and Grandpa

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

The growing acceptance of and access to legal marijuana has some people worried that the youth are going to start using it more frequently, but that's not the demographic where pot has really taken off. Instead, it's senior citizens.

Whether it's wide-open medical marijuana states like California or fully legal states like Colorado, the gray-haired set is increasingly turning to pot, and not just to ease their aches and pains With a half-dozen more states likely to have legalization on the ballot (and win) this year and medical marijuana coming to more, grandma and grandpa are set to become even more interested.

Last week, CBS This Morning reported on the phenomenon of senior marijuana use, and the numbers are striking. Citing data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the program reported that the number of pot users over 55 jumped from 2.8 million in 2013 to 4.3 million in 2014, a 55% increase in a single year.

Correspondent Barry Petersen took viewers inside Oakland's Harborside Health Center, the world's largest medical marijuana dispensary, where the senior demographic was well-represented. His footage shows people in their 50s and 60s describing how marijuana treats what ails them. Watch the video here

"Seniors account for only 14% of the population, but they use more than 30% of all prescription drugs, including some highly addictive pain killers," Petersen reported. "So pot is fast becoming a pill alternative."

One Harborside patient, an 80-year-old woman who uses marijuana to help with mobility got right to the point:

"Every medication has a risk," she said. "I've made my choice."

Meanwhile, what about the kids? New research suggests that visions of legions of stoned teens as the inevitable results of not sending adults to jail for smoking pot are unfounded. Contentions than teen marijuana use would increase have not been proven.

"A survey of more than 216,000 adolescents from all 50 states indicates the number of teens with marijuana-related problems is declining," according to a research report released Tuesday. "Similarly, the rates of marijuana use by young people are falling despite the fact more U.S. states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use and the number of adults using the drug has increased."

The researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis examined survey data from 2002 to 2013 on drug use among young people aged 12 to 17. They found that the number of kids with marijuana-related problems was down 24% at the end of that period and that annual use fell 10% as well.

The declines came alongside reductions in other behavioral problems, including fighting, property crimes, and drug selling. According to the researchers, the two trends are connected, with reductions in problem behavior associated with reductions in problematic marijuana use.

"We were surprised to see substantial declines in marijuana use and abuse," said Richard A. Grucza, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and the study's first author. "We don't know how legalization is affecting young marijuana users, but it could be that many kids with behavioral problems are more likely to get treatment earlier in childhood, making them less likely to turn to pot during adolescence. But whatever is happening with these behavioral issues, it seems to be outweighing any effects of marijuana decriminalization."

We are still in the early years of the great social experiment with marijuana legalization. It's too soon to tell what the long-term impacts will be, but so far, the sky is yet to fall. Despite increased legal access, the kids are still alright, and seniors are finding some surcease for their woes.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Four Texas cops get indicted for cocaine, a former Utah narc has a pill problem, a sticky-fingered former Baltimore cop heads for federal prison, and more. Let's get to it:

In Houston, four current or former law enforcement officers were indicted last Wednesday as part of a broad-ranging cocaine trafficking conspiracy. The four include Border Patrol Agent Daniel Polanco, Edinburg Police Officer Hector Beltran, former Houston police officer Marcos Esteban Carrion, and an as yet unnamed former Houston deputy constable. Another 11 people were also indicted. The four current or former officers all face charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute, as well as varying numbers of charges of possession with intent to distribute. They're all looking at up to life in prison.

In Ogden, Utah, a former Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force member was charged last Wednesday with using an informant to score prescription opioid pills for him. Don Henry Johnson, 29, had already been hit with similar charges in January, but they were expanded after an informant read about the original charges and went to authorities with information about Johnson asking him to get pills for him. Johnson was originally charged with two counts of distribution of a controlled substance; now he has two more. The charges against Johnson, who was a member of the Ogden Police, have resulted in several drug distribution cases he was involved with being dropped.

In Goose Creek, Alaska, a Goose Creek prison guard was arrested Monday after being caught trying to smuggle heroin and marijuana into the jail for an inmate. Guard Adam Jason Spindler went down after the Department of Corrections alerted the FBI that it had received information Spindler was toting dope. Agents watched Spindler interact with a known drug dealer immediately before heading to work at the prison, but were unable to find anything when they searched his vehicle. Another guard then told them Spindler had handed off a package to him that contained marijuana and heroin, and Spindler was then arrested. No word yet on the exact charges.

In Baltimore, a former Baltimore police officer was sentenced last Friday to a year in federal prison for stealing money during a drug raid that was actually a sting operation. Maurice Lamar Jeffers, 47, earlier pleaded guilty to stealing government funds after he was caught conducting an illegal search and stealing $3,000 in cash planted in the room by the FBI, which was recording the whole thing. He was a 12-year veteran of the force.

Medical Marijuana Update

US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) becomes the first member of Congress to admit using medical marijuana, an Ohio medical marijuana bill is moving, and more.

National

On Tuesday,a GOP congressman came out of the closet on his medical marijuana use. Longtime medical marijuana supporter Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has told marijuana reformers lobbying on Capitol Hill that he uses medical marijuana for arthritis pain. "I went to one of those hemp fests in San Bernardino," he explained, adding that a vendor showed him a topical preparation he could rub on his sore shoulder. "And you know what? I tried it about two weeks ago, and it's the first time in a year-and-a-half that I've had a decent night's sleep, because the arthritis pain was gone."

Nebraska

On Sunday, news came that there will be no medical marijuana initiative this year Cornhusker medical marijuana advocates have decided to delay a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot until 2018. They cited the late start this year and the expense involved.

Ohio

On Tuesday, the medical marijuana bill was amended to remove a pharmacist requirement. The Senate has changed House Bill 523 to remove language added by a committee that required dispensaries to be run by a licensed pharmacist. The Senate also expanded the definition of pain to qualify for medical marijuana. Patient advocates cheered both moves. The bill is expected to head for a full floor vote as early as today.

Rhode Island

Last Friday, the Senate approved adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions. The Senate last Friday unanimously approved a bill that will add PTSD to the list of debilitating medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House.

Chronicle AM: CA MJ Taxes Could Generate $1 Billion/Year, CVS Expands Narcan Program, More... (5/25/16)

There's a pot of gold waiting in California, a Republican congressman comes out of the closet on his medical marijuana use, CVS is expanding expanded access to naloxone to seven more states, and more.

CVS is moving to get the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone into the hands of more drug users. (gov.pa.org)
Marijuana Policy

California Legislative Analyst's Office Says Legalization Could Generate $1 Billion a Year in Taxes and Fees. In a report presented to state lawmakers, the Legislative Analyst's Office said the figure was a mid-range estimate. "Our best estimate is that the state and local governments could eventually collect net additional revenues that could range from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually," analyst Aaron Edwards told lawmakers. The analysts cautioned that legalization could also incur some costs, with likely increased marijuana use requiring additional money to be spent on drug treatment.

New Hampshire Legislature Balks at Decriminalization. The Granite State will remain the only one in New England that has not embraced decriminalization. House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a version of Senate Bill 498 that would lower the penalty for possessing small amounts of pot, but still leave it a criminal offense. The bill does lower the fine from $500 to $350, but possession remains a misdemeanor criminal offense. The House had voted twice in favor of decriminalization this year, but the Senate wouldn't go for it.

Medical Marijuana

GOP Congressman Steps Out of the Closet on Medical Marijuana Use. Long-time medical marijuana supporter Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has told marijuana reformers lobbying on Capitol Hill that he uses medical marijuana for arthritis pain. "I went to one of those hemp fests in San Bernardino," he explained, adding that a vendor showed him a topical preparation he could rub on his sore shoulder. "And you know what? I tried it about two weeks ago, and it's the first time in a year-and-a-half that I've had a decent night's sleep, because the arthritis pain was gone."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Senate Bill Would Tax Prescription Opioids to Fund Drug Treatment Facilities. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) Tuesday introduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment (BOAT) Act, which would impose a one-penny fee for each milligram of opioid prescription drugs. That fee would generate $1.5-2 billion annually, Manchin said. The bill has not yet been assigned a number.

Harm Reduction

CVS Health to Expand Naloxone Access to Seven More States. CVS Health, the massive pharmacy chain, announced Wednesday that it will increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) in the states of Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington this summer. CVS has already increased access to naloxone in 23 other states. The CVS program establishes a standing order with a physician in the state, allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone to patients without an individual prescription.

911 "Bad" Samaritan Law Goes to Ohio Governor's Desk. The state Senate Tuesday approved House Bill 110, which was originally designed to save lives, but has been amended to the point where advocates say it will actually make people less likely to seek emergency help for overdoses. The amended bill limits the number of times people can seek overdose help to the first two times they call and it requires medical providers to give patient information to law enforcement. The bill also requires people to get mandatory treatment screening within 30 days or face arrest. Harm reduction advocates are calling on Gov. John Kasich (R) to veto the bill.

Chronicle AM: CA Teamsters Donate to Anti-Legalization Effort, OH MedMJ Bill Moves, More... (5/24/16)

Arizona legalizers are closing in on their needed signatures, California Teamsters kick in some bucks to oppose legalization, the Patagonia clothing company gets behind industrial hemp, and more.

Coming to Ohio soon? (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalizers Have 215,000 Signatures, They Need 150,000 Valid Ones. With two weeks until their July 7 signature gathering deadline, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol says it has gathered 215,000 signatures, just short of its goal of 230,000. If the campaign obtains all 230,000 and has a 25% invalidation rate or less, it qualifies. If it has a 30% invalidation rate, it falls just short. Stay tuned.

California Teamsters Kick In Cash to Anti-Legalization Campaign. Joining police and prison guards in opposing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalization initiative are the California Teamsters. The truck drivers' union has donated $25,000 to the anti-legalization Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies. The Teamsters' concerns appear to be less with legalization itself than with the initiative's vision of legal marijuana distribution. The Teamsters want distribution to follow the alcohol distribution model, which would benefit its membership.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Marijuana Bill Amended to Remove Pharmacist Requirement. The Senate has changed House Bill 523 to remove language added by a committee that required dispensaries to be run by a licensed pharmacist. The Senate also expanded the definition of pain to qualify for medical marijuana. Patient advocates cheered both moves. The bill is expected to head for a full floor vote as early as today.

Industrial Hemp

Patagonia Clothing Company Gets Behind Hemp. The outdoor clothing retailer is getting behind the push to legalize industrial hemp. The California-based company has created a documentary about Kentucky farmer Michael Lewis, who was the first to grow industrial hemp in the US since World War II. The documentary is called "Harvesting Liberty."

International

Former French Anti-Drug Boss Investigated for Drug Smuggling. Francois Thierry, the former head of the anti-drug agency, Octris, is being investigated over allegations that he imported drugs to supply one of his informers and the he ordered the smuggling of several tons of hashish from Morocco. One informant told the newspaper Liberation that French police officers delivered 19 tons of hash to a Spanish villa he occupied on behalf of Thierry. The drugs were supposed to be bait to catch traffickers, but only some were seized while the rest went to a convicted drug dealer who was an informer for Thierry. This allowed Thierry to trumpet drug busts to the press, but also eliminated the informant's competition and allowed him to corner the market in hash.

Chronicle AM: Bratton Blames MJ for Prohibition Violence, Opioid Prescriptions Decline, More... (5/23/16)

Bill Bratton misses the point on prohibition and violence, Nebraskans will have to wait for medical marijuana, Fentanyl is displacing heroin in Vancouver, and more.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York City's Top Cop Blames Marijuana Legalization -- Not Prohibition -- for Black Market Violence. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton Sunday criticized states that have legalized weed because there is violence around the black market in his city, which hasn't legalized weed. "Here in New York, the violence we see associated with drugs, the vast majority of it, is around the issue of marijuana, which is ironic considering the explosion in use of heroin now in the city," Bratton said. "Interestingly enough, here in New York City most of the violence we see -- violence around drug trafficking -- is involving marijuana and I have to scratch my head as we are seeing many states wanting to legalize marijuana, and more liberalization of policies."

Medical Marijuana

No Medical Marijuana Initiative for Nebraska This Year. Cornhusker medical marijuana advocates have decided to delay a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot until 2018. They cited the late start this year and the expense involved.

Rhode Island Senate Approves Adding PTSD to List of Qualifying Conditions. The Senate last Friday unanimously approved a bill that will add PTSD to the list of debilitating medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Opioid Prescriptions are Falling for the First Time in 20 Years. Two reports from health information providers show that opioid prescriptions have declined in recent years. IMS Health reported a 12% decline in opioid prescriptions nationally since 2012, while Symphony Health Solutions reported an 18% drop during those years. IMS said prescriptions have fallen in 49 states, with only South Dakota showing an increase. The figures could have implications not only for overdose and addiction rates, but also for pain patients. "The climate has definitely shifted," said Dr. Daniel B. Carr, the director of Tufts Medical School's program on pain research education and policy. "It is now one of reluctance, fear of consequences and encumbrance with administrative hurdles. A lot of patients who are appropriate candidates for opioids have been caught up in that response."

International

In Vancouver, Heroin Has Been Displaced by Fentanyl. The synthetic opioid has been identified in half of all drug overdoses in the city this year, which is on track to exceed last year's drug overdose toll. Advocates for drug users in the city's Downtown East Side say there's no more heroin on the street after it has been pushed out by the cheaper and more potent Fentanyl. "Traditionally, heroin comes in about four different colors,"said the longtime drug advocate Hugh Lampkin of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, describing a bland palette of beiges, browns and blacks. "Well now you're seeing multiple colors, like colors of the rainbow: green and pink and orange and white... Right away, when you see these colors that's a pretty good indicator that it's fentanyl that you're doing. The people who are controlling the supply, they're passing off what should be heroin as fentanyl because of the close proximity of the high."

Afghans Celebrate Bumper Opium Harvest. Hundreds of laborers from across the Pashtun heartland gathered in Naqil, Uruzgan province, to harvest a bumper crop of opium poppies and celebrate with after-work games in a festival-like atmosphere. "This is the only time of the year to make money," said Afzal Mohammad, who came all the way from Kandahar, standing amid chest-high poppy stalks nearby. "People work here for about 15 days and then are jobless for the rest of the year."

Chronicle AM: MD Gov Signs Forfeiture Bill, AZ Legalization Foes Get Alcohol Money, More... (5/20/16)

Maryland's Republican governor reverses course and signs an asset forfeiture bill, Arizona pot legalization opponents are getting significant alcohol industry funding, Michigan legalizers fight to keep an open time frame for signature gathering, and more.

Maryland becomes the latest state to move to rein in civil asset forfeiture. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Big Booze Donates Big Time to Campaign Against Arizona Legalization Initiative. Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP), the group leading the opposition to the state's legalization initiative, has received a $10,000 donation from the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association (AWSWA) last month, according to campaign finance records. ARDP says it opposes legalization because of concern for children's safety, but hasn't yet said how taking money from the alcohol industry gibes with said concern.

Michigan Legalizers Urge Veto of Bill Limiting Signature Gathering Time Frame. The group working to get a legalization initiative before the voters in November is urging Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to veto a bill that would create a solid 180-day limit for signature gathering. The bill passed the House Wednesday. It's an issue for the legalization campaign because it wants to be able to count some signatures gathered early in its effort, even though they are now more than 180 days old. Under current law, those signatures can still be validated, albeit through a laborious process.

Asset Forfeiture

Maryland Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) Thursday signed into law House Bill 336, which restricts, but does not abolish, civil asset forfeiture. It's something of a reversal for Hogan, who vetoed similar legislation last year.

International

Bulgaria Lawmakers Reject Medical Marijuana. The National Assembly Thursday voted down a measure that would have allowed the use of marijuana, hashish, cannabis oil, and opium and poppy straw for medical purposes.

Chronicle AM: Sanders Endorses CA Init, Congress Moves to Help Vets Get MedMJ, More... (5/19/16)

Marijuana activists prepare to march on the White House, Congress moves on medical marijuana for veterans, Bernie Sanders endorses California's AUMA legalization initiative, and more.

The Democratic contender endorses California's AUMA legalization initiative. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Legalizers, Veterans to Protest at White House Friday. A demonstration headed by the DC Cannabis Campaign and Weed for Warriors is set for the White House Friday after the Obama administration failed to respond to the groups' requests for "higher level consultations" following an initial meeting with White House staffers last month. Organizers are saying the event won't be a smoke-in, but it will come close. "This will be an unpermitted event with mass cannabis consumption and escalated civil disobedience," demonstration promotional materials say.

Bernie Sanders Endorses California's Legalization Initiative. Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalization initiative at a rally in Vallejo Wednesday. "I do not live in California," the Vermont senator told supporters. "But if I lived in California, I would vote 'yes' to legalize marijuana." Sanders has previously supported legalization in general, but hadn't taken a stand on the AUMA.

Illinois House Passes Decriminalization Bill. The House voted Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 2228, which would decriminalize the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana. Offenders would be hit with fines of between $100 and $200. Currently, possession is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

Medical Marijuana

Congress Moves to Allow VA Physicians to Recommend Medical Marijuana to Veterans. The House and Senate on Thursday approved amendments to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that should ease access to medical marijuana for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), serious wounds, and other debilitating conditions. The measure would bar the spending of federal funds to enforce a Veterans Health Administration policy that prohibits VA physicians from recommending medical marijuana, even in states where it is legal. Once the measure becomes law, VA docs would no longer face penalties for discussing medical marijuana with patients or for providing recommendations for patients to participate in state-legal medical marijuana programs.The House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill have to be reconciled by a conference committee and passed again by both chambers. The medical marijuana amendments passed 233-189 in the House and 89-8 in the Senate.

Louisiana Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 271, which expands the state's existing cannabis oil program and expands the number of qualifying conditions. The bill also includes provisions for manufacturing cannabis oil in the state. Under the old law, there was no legal means of obtaining cannabis oil in Louisiana.

DEA Raids Montana's Largest Dispensary. The DEA, assisted by local law enforcement, has raided Montana Buds, the state's largest dispensary. Witnesses reported agents removing items from the dispensary. One woman was seen sitting hand-cuffed in front of the building. Agents had no comment other than to say that "this is now a federal investigation." The state Supreme Court ruled in February that dispensaries were illegal, but that ruling doesn't take effect until August. Earlier this week, state medical marijuana interests asked the US Supreme Court to overturn the state Supreme Court ruling.

Asset Forfeiture

Federal Bill to Reform Civil Asset Forfeiture Introduced. A bipartisan group of legislators Thursday introduced the Due Process Act, which would require that authorities in civil asset forfeiture cases prove there was "a substantial connection" between the property being seized and any criminal activity. Under current federal law, the burden of proof is on the owners of asset to show they are not derived from crime. The bill has not yet been assigned a number.

Harm Reduction

DC Expands Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Access. The DC Department of Health has launched a pilot program to expand access to naloxone (Narcan), the overdose reversal drug. Previously, the drug had only been available at a single location in the city, but under the new plan, the drug will be available at two more locations, and harm reductionists will be handing them out at various other locations.

(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.)

Congress Moves to Allow VA Physicians to Recommend Medical Marijuana to Veterans

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

The House and Senate on Thursday approved amendments to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that should ease access to medical marijuana for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), serious wounds, and other debilitating conditions.

Sponsored in the House by Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Joe Heck (R-NV), and in the Senate by Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the measure would bar the spending of federal funds to enforce a Veterans Health Administration policy that prohibits VA physicians from recommending medical marijuana, even in states where it is legal. Once the measure becomes law, VA docs would no longer face penalties for discussing medical marijuana with patients or for providing recommendations for patients to participate in state-legal medical marijuana programs.

The House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill have to be reconciled by a conference committee and passed again by both chambers. The medical marijuana amendments passed 233-189 in the House and 89-8 in the Senate.

With the ban in place, even in states with medical marijuana laws, veterans must go outside the VA system to get a recommendation or even discuss medical marijuana with their doctors. That VA policy actually expired at the beginning of this year, but would remain in force without congressional action. And Congress has acted.

"Today is a monumental day for us vets," said TJ Thompson, a disabled U.S. Navy Veteran who lives in Virginia. "Congress has recognized our right to heal, allowing us access to medical cannabis within the VA.

Marijuana policy reformers, who have long fought to remove obstacles to veterans' use of medical marijuana, were pleased, too.

"Prohibiting VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana does nothing to help our veterans," said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Current VA policy is preventing physicians from thoroughly monitoring patients' medication decisions and engaging in frank conversations about available treatment options. It dramatically undermines the doctor-patient relationship."

"It's looking like this could finally be the year the federal government stops making veterans jump through costly, time-consuming hoops just to get legal access to medical marijuana," said Tom Angell, head of Marijuana Majority. "Cannabis has shown great promise in helping veterans deal with PTSD and treat chronic pain, and it's an increasingly attractive alternative to opioids. There's absolutely no reason the VA should be preventing its doctors from helping veterans who served our country find relief with medical marijuana."

"We are delighted to lift this outdated, discriminatory policy, which has negatively impacted the lives of so many veterans." said Michael Collins, deputy director for the Drug Policy Alliance's Office of National Affairs. "We need all options on the table to treat veterans, and finally Congress has seen sense and will allow veterans to be on an equal footing to other residents of medical marijuana states."

After today's votes, the two chambers will take up reconciling and differences between the two versions of the appropriations bills before sending them to the president.

Washington, DC
United States

Frustrated Marijuana Legalizers Head for the White House

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

A demonstration headed by the DC Cannabis Campaign and Weed for Warriors is set for the White House Friday after the Obama administration failed to respond to the groups' requests for "higher level consultations" following an initial meeting with White House staffers last month.

Headed by longtime DC political gadfly Adam Eidinger, the DC Cannabis Campaign is the group behind the District's successful 2014 marijuana legalization initiative. The campaign's White House demonstration last month led to that initial meeting and to the campaign's call for further meetings.

Weed for Warriors is a group dedicated to working with the Veterans Administration to ensure that vets "have the freedom to use medical marijuana as a recognized medical alternative to harmful psychiatric drugs."

Organizers are saying the event won't be a smoke-in, but it will come close. "This will be an unpermitted event with mass cannabis consumption and escalated civil disobedience," demonstration promotional materials say.

"Support veterans risking arrest!" the groups say. "They will lead a mass die-in calling for an end to the war on drugs."

The groups are calling on the Obama administration to deschedule -- not reschedule -- marijuana before the president leaves office in January. But they are also clear that the ultimate goal is ending prohibition.

"You should understand our protests are not just for medical research into cannabis, but ending cannabis prohibition once and for all," the DC Cannabis Campaign said in its letter to the White House earlier this month. "You have the opportunity to heal the national wound of unjust cannabis policies that have always targeted minorities, hurt patients and corrupted policing in America for nearly 80 years."

The date, May 20, is no accident. It's the birthday of arch-prohibitionist Harry J. Anslinger, who, as head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for decades in the mid-20th Century, was a founding father of the modern war on drugs. The protestors note that Anslinger built support for pot prohibition by resorting to racist and xenophobic justifications, as Anslinger's own words make clear:

"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others."

"… the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races."

"Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death."

"Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men."

"Marijuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing."

"You smoke a joint and youre likely to kill your brother."

"Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind."

The bigotry and racism behind Anslinger's attack on marijuana have remained embedded in prohibition, with black people being arrested at a rate nearly four times that of whites. And five million people have been arrested on marijuana charges since President Obama has been in office -- nearly 90% of them for simple possession.

"Given the compelling and staggering facts as to why these failed cannabis policies harm Americans, we are sure you can understand why we cannot tolerate your inaction on these important issues any longer," the groups said in their letter to the White House. "We simply cannot stand on the sidelines and watch while everyday more Americans are harmed by what is clearly racist and unconstitutional failed drug policies. This is why we are requesting a formal response regarding the above from your administration before May 20th."

That formal response didn't happen, so Friday's demonstration at the White House is happening.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered Wisconsin cop gets nailed, a truth-challenged Washington state cop gets canned, and more. Let's get to it:

In Vancouver, Washington, a Vancouver police officer was fired last week for lying about an affair he carried on with a woman and for smoking and distributing marijuana. Leonard Gabriel, a 12-year veteran, lied when confronted about the affair, violating departmental policy, smoked cannabis oil, and provided marijuana to at least three people. While pot is legal in Washington state, it remains illegal under federal law. Vancouver police are required to obey all state and federal laws.

In Madison, Wisconsin, a former Madison police officer pleaded guilty Monday to stealing nearly $4,000 in what he thought was a drug bust, but was in reality a sting. Andrew Pullman, 31, went down after authorities got a tip that he might be planning a robbery. An undercover agent posing as an informant then told Pullman she was mad at her boyfriend dealing drugs and there might be money and cocaine in the car. Pullman went for the bait, stole the money, and was arrested. He's looking at up to 10 years in prison when sentenced in August.

In New London, Connecticut, a former Ansonia police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to probation for stealing drugs from the evidence room. Matt Macero, a 15-year veteran, admitted to stealing an Oxycontin pill from the department in one incident and to falsely telling his superiors he had been exposed to cocaine during an investigation and as a result he would test positive. He copped to one count of fourth degree larceny, one count of making a false statement to police, and one count of falsely reporting an incident.

Medical Marijuana Update

In Oklahoma and Ohio, medical marijuana half-measures are being challenged by initiative campaigns, Oakland tries to create some racial equity in the industry, Maryland medical marijuana hits another delay, and more.

California

On Tuesday, Oakland passed an ordinance designed to encourage minority participation in the industry. The city council unanimously approved a medical marijuana ordinance with an "equity program" that would reserve half of the city's new cannabis permits for people who live in a designated high-crime police beat in East Oakland or were imprisoned for marijuana-related crimes in Oakland in the past 10 years. But the plan is coming under fire from industry leaders who say it may actually be counterproductive to encouraging minority participation and could undercut a pot economy expected to boom if and when the state legalizes marijuana.

Louisiana

Last Wednesday, the House passed a CBD cannabis oil expansion bill. The House approved Senate Bill 271, but because it amended it, the bill must now go back to the Senate for a final vote. Last year, legislators legalized CBD cannabis oil, but only for a handful of conditions. This bill expands those conditions to include seizure disorders. No one can currently use CBD cannabis oils because the legislature is still figuring out how to regulate them.

Maryland

On Tuesday, the Medical Cannabis Commission announced continuing delays in implementing the program. The state approved commission, which was created in April 2014 and is charged with establishing the state's medical marijuana program, says patients probably won't have access to medical marijuana until the late summer of 2017.

Missouri

Last Wednesday, the House rejected a medical marijuana bill. The House killed the bill on a 71-85 vote. That leaves an open path for a medical marijuana initiative whose supporters have handed in signatures and are awaiting confirmation that the initiative has qualified for the November ballot.

Montana

Last Thursday, medical marijuana supporters appealed to the US Supreme Court. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association filed a petition with the US Supreme Court seeking to reverse a state Supreme Court decision that guts the state's once-thriving medical marijuana industry. Petitioners argue that the state Supreme Court mistakenly held that marijuana is universally illegal under federal law and point to the Obama administration's decisions to allow states to implement their own marijuana laws.

Oklahoma

Last Friday, the governor signed a CBD cannabis bill into law. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has signed into law a CBD cannabis oil expansion bill. Last year, the state approved the use of the oil, but only for people under 18. This bill removes that age restriction.

Last Saturday, medical marijuana advocates began an initiative signature gathering drive. CBD cannabis oil isn't enough for Oklahomans for Health, which began gathering signatures over the weekend for a full-blown medical marijuana initiative. The group has 90 days to gather 66,000 valid voter signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

Ohio

Last Wednesday, a new poll had overwhelming support for medical marijuana. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for medical marijuana at very high 90%. The poll comes as a restrictive medical marijuana bill is working its way through the legislature and as a medical marijuana initiative is in the signature-gathering phase. The poll also asked about support for legalization, which came in at 52%.

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

Chronicle AM: Shocking Forfeiture Poll, Oakland Racial Balance in MJ Industry Bill, More... (5/18/16)

Organized opposition is trying to emerge in California, legalization in Oregon is creating jobs and payrolls, Oakland attempts to redress racial imbalance in the legal marijuana business but catches some flak, and more.

The New York Senate is focused on addressing heroin and prescription pain pill use. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Dems Tied to Law Enforcement Oppose Legalization Initiative. A pair of state Democratic lawmakers with "deep law enforcement ties" have come out in opposition to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalization initiative. Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), a former Sacramento County sheriff's official who regularly warns against drug liberalization, and Sen. Cathleen Gagliani (D-Stockton), "the Democratic senator most aligned with law enforcement," have joined with Republican colleagues to oppose the measure. The initiative is favored by many Democratic elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Oregon Legalization Creates Jobs, Payrolls. Retail cannabis employees will be paid nearly $46 million this year, and that number is set to increase in the future, according to a new report from local marijuana industry consulting firms. Legalization has also created at least 2,165 jobs, with more to come, the report said.

Medical Marijuana

Oakland Passes Marijuana Ordinance Designed to Encourage Minority Participation. The city council Tuesday unanimously approved a medical marijuana ordinance with an "equity program" that would reserve half of the city's new cannabis permits for people who live in a designated high-crime police beat in East Oakland or were imprisoned for marijuana-related crimes in Oakland in the past 10 years. But the plan is coming under fire from industry leaders who say it may actually be counterproductive to encouraging minority participation and could undercut a pot economy expected to boom if and when the state legalizes marijuana.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

New York State Senate Releases Heroin Report. The GOP-dominated body has released a report on heroin and prescription pain pill use that recommends 48 changes to state law and policy, including increased penalties for the sale and possession of opioids. The report also calls for increased prevention, treatment, and harm reduction measures. The report includes a package of bills that were expected to be passed Tuesday night. Stay tuned.

Asset Forfeiture

Southern California Poll Finds 10% Report Having Cash or Property Seized Without a Conviction. The survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling, looked at Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, and also found that 19%o of respondents said they knew someone who had experienced the same. The poll, sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, comes as a push is underway to get a civil asset forfeiture reform bill, Senate Bill 443, through the Assembly. The bill passed the Senate last year, but was blocked in the Assembly by law enforcement lobbying. It is still alive, though, and hopes are that it can get through the Assembly this year.

Chronicle AM: MD MedMJ Delay, Ohio's Bad "Good Samaritan" Bill, No RI Referendum, More... (5/17/16)

Another New England legislature fails to act on pot legalization, Maryland's long-awaited medical marijuana program is again delayed, Wisconsin's GOP attorney general wants all employers to drug test their workers, and more.

No medical marijuana for Maryland patients for at least another year. (flickr.com)
Marijuana Policy

Chances Fade for Rhode Island Referendum on Pot Policy. For six years, marijuana legalization bills have failed to even get a vote in the legislature. This year is no exception. There has been some talk of a non-binding referendum to plumb public sentiment on the issue, but it now looks like even that is going nowhere. "A referendum on this year's ballot is unlikely," House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello told The Providence Journal in an email Monday. "I am keeping an open mind on the issue and will continue to analyze it over the summer and fall."

Medical Marijuana

Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission Announces Continuing Delays in Implementing Program. The commission, which is charged with establishing the state's medical marijuana program, announced Tuesday yet another delay in getting the program up and running. The state approved medical marijuana more than two years ago, in April 2014, making this one of the slowest roll-outs yet. The commission now says patients probably won't have access to medical marijuana until the late summer of 2017.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Attorney General Wants Every Workplace to Test for Prescription Drugs. Attorney General Brad Schimel (R), championing his Dose of Reality program aimed a prescription opioid use, has called on all employers in the state to institute drug testing programs. "We have 163,000 in Wisconsin abusing opiates in some manner. We need to get them help," Schimel said.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Ohio Legislature Considers 911 "Bad" Samaritan Law That Could Increase Overdose Deaths. As early as Wednesday, the Ohio Senate could consider a bill, House Bill 110, that was originally designed to save lives but has been amended so badly it could do more harm than good. The original bill was modeled after laws in more than 30 states known as 911 Good Samaritan laws that provide people who call 911 to report drug overdose immunity from arrest for drug possession. The Ohio bill, which some are calling a 911 "Bad" Samaritan law, was amended in committee in ways that would make people less likely to call 911; health experts warn people could die as a result. The bill would limit the number of times people could get immunity from prosecution for reporting an overdose and it requires medical providers to give patient information to police.

Law Enforcement

Texas Trucking Company Owner Asks Supreme Court to Hear Case Against DEA. The owner of trucking company whose semi was used without permission by DEA agents in a failed Zetas sting that left the driver dead wants the US Supreme Court to take up his case. Craig Patty, the owner, had filed a $6.4 million lawsuit for damages in the 2011 incident, which led to a wild shoot-out in northwest Houston. A New Orleans-based appeals court throw out his case in March; now, Patty wants it reinstated. A Patty employee working as a DEA informer took the truck to the Mexican border, then drove a load of Zetas marijuana to Houston, where DEA and local police would swoop in and make arrests, but the truck was attacked before the bust could go down.

Chronicle AM: MJ Taxes Could Generate Billions, Canada to Allow Prescription Heroin, More... (5/16/16)

A Tax Foundation study finds that legal pot could generate $28 billion a year in tax revenues, CBD cannabis oil isn't enough for Oklahoma medical marijuana activists, Canada will allow prescription heroin, and more.

DC activists and veterans head for the White House next week to press for end to marijuana prohibition. (Adam Eidinger/Twitter)
Marijuana Policy

Study Finds Legal Marijuana Could Generate Billions a Year in Tax Revenues. A new report from the Tax Foundation estimates that a nationwide "mature marijuana industry" could generate up to $28 billion a year in federal, state, and local tax revenues. That would include $7 billion for the feds, $5.5 billion in business taxes, and $1.5 billion from income and payroll taxes. The report also estimated that a 10% federal surtax could generate $5.3 billion a year.

Veterans, DC Activists to Rally at White House on May 20. Organizers with the Weed For Warriors Project and the DC Cannabis Campaign are planning to rally in front of the White House to call on the Obama administration to end federal marijuana prohibition. The date, May 20, marks the 124th anniversary of the birth of arch-prohibitionist and proto-drug warrior Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for three decades in the mid-20th Century.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Medical Marijuana Supporters Appeal to US Supreme Court. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association last Thursday filed a petition with the US Supreme Court seeking to reverse a state Supreme Court decision that guts the state's once-thriving medical marijuana industry. Petitioners argue that the state Supreme Court mistakenly held that marijuana is universally illegal under federal law and point to the Obama administration's decisions to allow states to implement their own marijuana laws.

Oklahoma Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has signed into law a CBD cannabis oil expansion bill. Last year, the state approved the use of the oil, but only for people under 18. This bill removes that age restriction.

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Advocates Begin Initiative Signature Gathering Campaign. CBD cannabis oil isn't enough for Oklahomans for Health, which began gathering signatures over the weekend for a full-blown medical marijuana initiative. The group has 90 days to gather 66,000 valid voter signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Congress Passes Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. Both houses of Congress have approved the measure, Senate Bill 524 and HR 953, which now goes to President Obama. The bill would expand the availability of naloxone, increase prescription drug monitoring programs, increase jail- and prison-based drug treatment, and bar the Education Department from asking about drug convictions on federal student loan application forms, among other provisions. The bill does not include extra funding to pay for its measures.

Obama Administration Calls on Congress to Fund $1.1 Billion for Opioid Effort. Last Thursday, as Congress was passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, the Obama administration noted that Congress didn't allocate money to pay for it and called on Congress to come up with $1.1 billion in additional spending to do so.

International

Canada to Allow Prescription Heroin. Health Canada announced Friday that it is proposing new regulations to allow access to prescription heroin under its Special Access Program (SAP). That program allows for emergency access to drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional treatments have failed or are unsuitable. "A significant body of scientific evidence supports the medical use of diacetylmorphine, also known as pharmaceutical-grade heroin, for the treatment of chronic, relapsing opioid dependence. Diacetylmorphine is permitted in a number of other jurisdictions, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland, to support a small percentage of patients who have not responded to other treatment options, such as methadone and buprenorphine," the statement said.

Macedonia Will Have Medical Marijuana by Month's End. Health Minister Nikola Todorov said Saturday that medical marijuana products will be in pharmacies across the country by the end of the month. The country had earlier amended its Law on the Control of Drugs and Psychotropic Substances to allow the move.

In Cutting Edge Move, Canada to Allow Prescription Heroin

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

Health Canada announced Friday that it is proposing new regulations to allow access to prescription heroin under its Special Access Program (SAP). That program allows for emergency access to drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional treatments have failed or are unsuitable.

Health Canada clears the way for prescription heroin. (Wikmedia/Creative Commons)
"A significant body of scientific evidence supports the medical use of diacetylmorphine, also known as pharmaceutical-grade heroin, for the treatment of chronic, relapsing opioid dependence. Diacetylmorphine is permitted in a number of other jurisdictions, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland, to support a small percentage of patients who have not responded to other treatment options, such as methadone and buprenorphine," the statement said.

The move is yet another reversal of hardline Conservative drug policies by the Liberal government headed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which was elected last fall. The Trudeau government has pivoted sharply away from Conservative positions in favor of mandatory minimum drug sentences and against marijuana legalization, and now is moving to undo Conservative efforts to block the limited use of prescription heroin.

Canadian scientists had laid the groundwork for prescription with the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI), which first tested "heroin-assisted maintenance" in Vancouver a dozen years ago, and which was followed by the Study to Assess Long-Term Opioid Maintenance Effectiveness (SALOME) between 2005 and 2008. SALOME examined whether giving hard-core heroin users heroin was more effective than giving them methadone.

SALOME showed that the users in the study were more likely to stay in treatment, reduce other illegal drug use, engage in fewer other illegal activities and have better physical and mental health outcomes if given heroin than if given methadone. But when that study ended in 2008, researchers were faced with the ethical dilemma of cutting off the patients whose lives were being improved by prescription heroin.

The doctors began applying for, and receiving, permission under the Special Access Program, and Health Canada approved those applications in 2013. But that infuriated the Conservatives, and then-Health Minister Rona Ambrose introduced new regulations to bar doctors from prescribing "dangerous drugs" such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD.

Former SALOME participants launched a constitutional challenge to the ban and in 2014 won a temporary injunction giving them the right to continue to receive prescription heroin while the case was being decided. Now, with Health Canada's move, the federal government will no longer attempt to block prescription heroin.

That was good news for the Pivot Legal Society, which argued the case for continuing the prescriptions, and for Providence Health Care, in whose Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver's Downtown Lower East Side the heroin was administered.

"Allowing access to diacetylmorphine, or medical heroin, to patients who need it, ensures that life-saving treatments get delivered to vulnerable people suffering from chronic opioid use," the two groups said in a joint statement.

Canada is leading the way on cutting edge responses to heroin addiction in North America. In addition to the groundbreaking NAOMI and SALOME studies, which cannot be replicated in the US under current law and regulations, Canada has also had safe injection sites operating in Vancouver for more than a decade. We still don't have any of those in the US.

Ottawa
Canada

Chronicle AM: ME Poll Has 55% for Legalization, Indonesia Executing More Drug Prisoners, More... (5/13/16)

A new Maine poll has majority support for legalization, Indonesia is about to execute more drug war prisoners, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Maine Poll Has Support for Legalization at 55%. A new Critical Insights tracking poll finds solid majority support for marijuana legalization six months before Maine voters head to the polls to vote on the initiative from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. A question asking whether respondents whether they favored a law allowing marijuana to be "legalized, taxed, and regulated by adults 21 and over" got the 55%, but a second, more generic question, scored even higher at 59%. These poll results are similar to a March poll that had support for legalization at 54%.

International

Indonesia Gears Up to Execute More Than a Dozen Drug War Prisoners. Five nationals and 10 foreigners face imminent execution for drug crimes, according to local media accounts, lawyers, and activists. Last year, Indonesia attracted international condemnation for executing 12 foreigners and two Indonesians for drug crimes, but now the government of President Joko Widodo is doubling down.

Toronto Looks to Crack Down on Pot Shops. Mayor John Tory this week sent a letter to the municipal licensing committee looking for options to regulate the hundreds of pot shops that have opened in the city since the Liberals announced they were moving ahead with plans to legalize marijuana. Only two other Canadian cities, Vancouver and Victoria, both in British Columbia, have moved to regulate the dispensaries. "Left unaddressed, the number of these dispensaries will only increase," Tory wrote. "This proliferation brings with it potential health risks for individuals who patronize dispensaries where the substance for sale is completely unregulated."

Chronicle AM: Millions Would Grow Pot If They Could, Hemp Returns to WV, More... (5/12/16)

Congress acts on opioid and drug trafficking bills, million want to grow pot if it's legal, a CBD cannabis oil bill moves in Louisiana, a medical marijuana bill is killed in Missouri, and more.

Safe injection sites are coming to Ireland. (vch.ca)
Marijuana Policy

Millions of Americans Would Grow Pot at Home If It Were Legal, Survey Finds. A new Harris Poll conducted for Green State Gardener has found that a whopping 44.5 million adult Americans would grow their own at home if it were legal. That's 18% of all adults, up from 10% only last year. "A year or two of research doesn't establish a trend yet, but the jump in these numbers is pretty significant," said industry analyst Bruce Butterfield. "The largest number of adults most likely to grow marijuana themselves is 18 to 34 year olds, followed by baby boomers aged 55-plus." The poll also found that 59% said marijuana should be legal, in line with other recent polls showing consistent, if narrow, majorities for legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Houses Passes CBD Cannabis Oil Expansion Bill. The House approved Senate Bill 271 Wednesday, but because it amended it, the bill must now go back to the Senate for a final vote. Last year, legislators legalized CBD cannabis oil, but only for a handful of conditions. This bill expands those conditions to include seizure disorders. No one can currently use CBD cannabis oils because the legislature is still figuring out how to regulate them.

Missouri House Rejects Medical Marijuana Bill. The House Wednesday killed the bill on a 71-85 vote. That leaves an open path for a medical marijuana initiative whose supporters have handed in signatures and are awaiting confirmation that the initiative has qualified for the November ballot.

Ohio Poll Has Overwhelming Support for Medical Marijuana. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for medical marijuana at very high 90%. The poll comes as a restrictive medical marijuana bill is working its way through the legislature and as a medical marijuana initiative is in the signature-gathering phase. The poll also asked about support for legalization, which came in at 52%.

Industrial Hemp

West Virginia to See First Legal Hemp Crop Since World War II. Scientists with West Virginia University are set to plant hemp next week in Morgantown as part of a research study on phytoremediation (reinvigorating depleted or polluted soils). The second phase of the study will explore hemp's industrial applications.

Drug Policy

House Passes 10-Bill Package Aimed at Opioid Addiction. The House Wednesday approved 10 bills that are part of an 18-bill legislative package designed to fight opioid addiction. One bill would concentrate on best prescribing practices for opioids, another would provide funding for care for babies of mothers addicted to opioids. The rest of the package is due for consideration today or tomorrow.

Congress Passes Transnational Drug Trafficking Act. The act, Senate Bill 32, now heads to the White House for President Obama's signature. The bill would criminalize foreign drug manufacturers if they intend, know, or have probable cause to believe the substance will be illegally imported into the US. It would also increase penalties for trafficking in counterfeit drugs.

International

Irish Government Makes it Official: Safe Injection Sites Are Coming. The government released its Program for Government Tuesday, and the document commits the Fine Gael-led administration to supporting "a health-led rather than a criminal justice approach to drug use, including legislation for injection rooms."

Chronicle AM: Racial Disparities in CO Pot Arrests Persist, NH Decriminalization Moves, More... (5/11/16)

A new poll has good news for Florida's medical marijuana initiative, pot decriminalization is one Senate vote away in New Hampshire, and more. 

Marijuana Policy

Colorado Racial Disparities in Teen Marijuana Arrests Worsen After Legalization.  Teen marijuana arrests actually increased after legalization in Colorado, and so did racial disparities among those arrested, according to a new state report.  White juvenile arrests dropped by 8%, while Latino arrests increased by 29% and black arrests increased by 58%. Among adults, marijuana arrests have decreased by nearly half, but racial disparities among those arrested grew slightly worse. In 2012, black people got busted at a rate almost double that of whites; in 2014, the rate was almost triple.

Florida Poll Has Majority Support for Legalization, Overwhelming Support for Medical Marijuana. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for pot legalization at 56% and support for medical marijuana at 80%. Legalization isn't on the immediate horizon in the Sunshine State, but a medical marijuana initiative will be on the November ballot. A similar initiative was defeated in 2012 with 58% of the vote; it needed 60% to win because it was a constitutional amendment.

New Hampshire House Passes Decriminalization Bill. The House Wednesday voted 289-58 to approve Senate Bill 498, which was amended in committee to include provisions that would decriminalize the possession of up to a quarter ounce of marijuana.  The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval. 

International

Myanmar Opium Farmers Call for End to Eradication Until Alternatives are Found. The 4th Annual Myanmar Opium Farmers' Forum ended Monday with a call for recognition of the struggles of poppy farmers and no crop eradication without alternative development programs in place: "We grow opium because we are poor and do not have other livelihood opportunities to feed our families and send our children to school, as well as for medicinal and traditional uses. We are not involved in the drug trade, we are not criminals, and we are not commercial farmers. Some of us also grow it for traditional and medicinal uses. It is important to differentiate between small-holder farmers like us, and those people who grow opium commercially and/or who invest in it," the farmers said.  "The government should not carry out any force eradication of our opium fields unless and until they have provided access to sustainable crop substitution programmes and alternative livelihoods to our communities. Eradication should especially not take place during the harvest season. By that time we have already invested a lot and also cannot grow another crop anymore that season." Myanmar is the world's second leading producer of opium, behind Afghanistan. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Georgia cop gets nailed for running with the Gangster Disciples, a New Jersey cop gets busted for peddling pot, an Indiana cop gets popped for peddling pills, and more. Let's get to it:

In Atlanta, a former DeKalb County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday as part of a mass indictment of Gangster Disciples gang members. Deputy Vancito Gumbs is accused of tipping off gang members to police activity, including an October raid on a bar he knew a gang member frequented. The 48 people indicted are charged with a variety of offenses including murder, drug trafficking, extortion, and fraud.  Gumbs resigned from the department in October after he was reported to be using drugs.

In Linden, New Jersey, a Linden police sergeant was arrested last Thursday on charges he was peddling pot. Officer William Turbett III, 30, is charged with fourth-degree distribution of marijuana, as well as pot possession.  Turbett had already been suspended without pay for an unrelated matter. He's now looking at up to 18 months in prison.

In York, Pennsylvania, a York County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday on charges he stole drug money from the departmental evidence room. Sgt. Troy Senft is accused of pilfering $760. He is charged with theft, destroying evidence, tampering with evidence, obstruction, and receiving stolen property. He is out on his own recognizance.  The cash was set to be seized, but Senft seized it for himself.

In Indianapolis, a former Anderson police officer pleaded guilty last Wednesday to federal drug possession and distribution charges. Donald Jordan, 52, went down after a confidential informant told police he Jordan had approached him to sell marijuana, then provided him with hydrocodone tablets. That sparked an audit of the department evidence room, where pills and $5,000 in cash turned up missing. He copped to one count of possession with intent to distribute and to distribute Xanax, a Schedule IV controlled substance and one count of distribution and intent to distribute hydrocodone. He's looking at up to 15 years in federal prison. 

Medical Marijuana Update

Missouri looks poised to vote on medical marijuana this fall, Florida looks poised to pass it this fall, an Ohio medical marijuana bill advances, and more.

California

As of Monday, there will be medical marijuana issues on the June ballot in several localities. Two northern California counties and two northern California cities will be voting on medical marijuana-related issues in the June 7 election. In Nevada County, Measure W would prohibit all outdoor marijuana grows and limit indoor grows to 12 plants; in Yuba County, Measure A would allow limited outdoor marijuana cultivation and Measure B would authorize one dispensary for every 20,000 residents; in Sacramento, Measure Y would impose a 5% gross receipts tax on cultivation and manufacturing businesses (requires two-thirds majority); and in Davis, Measure C would allow the city to impose a tax of up to 10% on businesses selling marijuana, although it doesn't currently allow them.

Florida

On Tuesday, a new poll had overwhelming support for medical marijuana and majority support for legalization. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for pot legalization at 56% and support for medical marijuana at 80%. Legalization isn't on the immediate horizon in the Sunshine State, but a medical marijuana initiative will be on the November ballot. A similar initiative was defeated in 2012 with 58% of the vote; it needed 60% to win because it was a constitutional amendment.

Missouri

On Sunday, New Approach Missouri handed in signatures for a medical marijuana initiative. Supporters of the group's medical marijuana initiative handed in some 260,000 raw signatures. They only need 167,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Even if 30% of the signatures are disqualified, campaigners would still have enough to qualify.

Ohio

On Tuesday, the House approved a medical marijuana bill. The House voted 71-26 approve House Bill 523. Patients under a doctor's supervision could use marijuana oils, tinctures, edibles, and vapors, but could not smoke it, nor could they grow their own.  The bill specifies 18 conditions for which medical marijuana could be used and now goes to the Senate.  Meanwhile, activists are working to get a more patient-friendly medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot.

 

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

Obama's Effort to Free Drug War Prisoners Hits Bureaucratic Roadblocks [FEATURE]

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

With the sentence commutations announced last week, President Barack Obama has now cut more than 300 harsh drug war prison sentences, more than the previous six presidents combined. Thousands more could be eligible for commutations, but bureaucratic obstacles inside the Justice Department mean the clock could run out before Obama gets a chance to free them.

Thousands could go free with sentence cuts this year -- if bottlenecks are fixed. (nacdp.org)
As part of the Obama administration's emphasis on criminal justice reform and reducing the federal prison population, then Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Cole called on nonviolent federal drug war prisoners to seek clemency in April 2014.

"In 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing unfair disparities in sentences imposed on people for offenses involving different forms of cocaine, but there are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime -- and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime," said Holder at the time. "This is simply not right."

Holder noted that Obama had granted commutation to eight people serving time for crack offenses the previous December.

"The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety. The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences," Holder said.

The mass clemency program is one of Eric Holder's sentencing reform legacies. (justice.gov)
Under Holder's criteria for clemency, low-level drug offenders who had served at least 10 years, had good conduct in prison, had no significant criminal history or connection to gangs, cartels, or organized crime, and who would probably receive a "substantially lower sentence" if convicted of the same offense today would be eligible for sentence cuts.

Of roughly 100,000 federal drug prisoners -- nearly half the entire federal prison population -- more than 36,000 applied for clemency. Many of them did not meet the criteria, but the Justice Department has reviewed nearly 9,500 that did. Of those, only the 306 have actually been granted clemency; applications are still pending for 9,115 more. (An additional 8,000 pending applications are being handled by a consortium of private attorneys, the Clemency Project.)

Many of those might not make it to Obama's desk before the clock runs out on his term because the Justice Department has stumbled in administering the program. Thousands of prisoners doing harsh drug war sentences could lose their chance for early freedom because Justice didn't get around to hiring enough people to handle the flood of applications it generated.

The situation so infuriated Office of Pardons attorney Deborah Leff, who was hired to oversee the project, that she quit earlier this year. Her resignation letter to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates made it clear why.

Despite her "intense efforts" to do her job, Justice had "not fulfilled its commitment to provide the resources necessary ffor my office to make timely and thoughtful recommendations on clemency to the president," she wrote. "The position in which my office has been placed, asking us to address the petitions of nearly 10,000 individuals with so few attorneys and support staff, means that the requests of thousands of petitioners seeking justice will lie unheard."

It wasn't just that Justice wasn't adequately staffing the pardons office -- it had a total of 10 staff attorneys -- but Yates was overturning the pardon attorneys' recommendations and blocking the office's traditional access to the White House, Leff complained.

"I have been deeply troubled by the decision to deny the Pardon Attorney all access to the Office of the White House Counsel, even to share the reasons for our determinations in the increasing number of cases where you have reversed our recommendations," Leff wrote in her resignation letter to Yates.

US Pardon Attorney Deborah Leff resigned in frustration.
"It is essential that this groundbreaking effort move ahead expeditiously and expand," she wrote, implying that the Justice Department process was stalling justice.

The staffing problems had been apparent early on, which is why the Department turned to the Clemency Project to help out last year. But that effort, which involved some 4,000 attorneys from 30 law schools, 70 large law firms, and more than 500 small firms and solo practitioners doing pro bono work, has also been slow to get rolling.

Now, with the days slipping away and freedom for thousands in the balance, both the Justice Department and the Clemency Project are feeling the heat. White House Counsel Neil Eggleston told the Washington Post last week that many more petitions will be granted in Obama's final months and that the Justice Department has doubled the number of lawyers at the pardon office. And administration officials said that President Obama wants to see more petitions on his desk.

"The President is deeply committed to the clemency initiative. That is evident not only by the historic number of commutations he's granted to date, but by his wholesale approach to revamping the way the government approaches commutations," White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said in a statement.

The Justice Department said it was working hard, too.

"The Justice Department has dedicated the maximum amount of resources allowed by Congress to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, and we have requested additional funds from Congress for each year the initiative has been in place," spokeswoman Emily Pierce said in a statement.

But it may be too little, too late for the thousands of men and women behind bars who could see freedom being waved in front of them only to vanish when the clock runs out, if things don't change quickly.

Washington, DC
United States

Chronicle AM: AAA Slams Per Se Marijuana Drugged Driving Laws, Brit College Hands Out Pill Test Kits, More... (5/10/16)

In a major study, AAA finds no scientific basis for drugged driving laws that assume impairment based on THC levels, Orlando becomes the latest city to downgrade small-time pot possession, the Ohio House approves a medical marijuana bill--but no smoking--an English university begins handing out pill test kits to students, and more.

Pill testing kits distributed by Britain's Newcastle University and its local SSDP chapter. (SSDP Newcastle)
Marijuana Policy

AAA Study: No Scientific Basis for Laws Regulating Marijuana and Driving. A new study from the American Automobile Association's Safety Foundation has found that per se limits (those that base an assumption of impaired driving on a specified level of THC in one's system) are "arbitrary and unsupported by the evidence."  Six states have  per se marijuana impaired driving laws, while nine states have zero tolerance marijuana DUID laws, and the AAA calls for scrapping them. They should be replaced by police officers trained to detect impairment, with a THC test as a back-up, the automobile club said.

Orlando "Decriminalizes" Pot Possession. The city council voted 4-3 Tuesday to adopt a revised measure that makes possession of 20 grams or less of weed a violation of city code. Police officers will have the discretion to issue civil citations instead of arresting violators. The fine is $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second,  and a third offense will generate a mandatory court appearance.  Small-time pot possession remains a misdemeanor under state law.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio House Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The House voted 71-26 Tuesday to approve a medical marijuana bill, House Bill 523. Patients under a doctor's supervision could use marijuana oils, tinctures, edibles, and vapors, but could not smoke it, nor could they grow their own.  The bill specifies 18 conditions for which medical marijuana could be used and now goes to the Senate.  Meanwhile, activists are working to get a more patient-friendly medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot.

Harm Reduction

Maryland Governor Signs Needle Access Expansion Bill. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 97, which will allow thousands of Marylanders to access life-saving needle exchange programs.  The bill passed both chambers with overwhelming support. Maryland ranks 2nd nationally in new per capita HIV infections, and needle exchanges are a proven method of reducing and preventing new infections.

International

British University Handing Out Drug Test Kits to Students. In what as described as a first of its kind harm reduction effort, Newcastle University and the local Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) chapter have joined forces to distribute drug test kits so students can check and see if they drugs they are about to consume are safe or not.  “Although drugs are illegal, statistics suggest lots of young people still use illegal drugs, and that the prevalence of this use is even higher within student communities," said SSDP President Holly Robinson.  “We recognize the safest way to take drugs is not to take drugs but, as some individuals will always choose to take them, we believe it is important to make information and services available to minimise the risks."

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