Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

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.

Chronicle AM: NM Police Defend Reverse Stings on Homeless, Israel Ponders Decrim, More... (6/3/16)

Marijuana legalization remains a hot issue in New England, Albuquerque's police chief defends reverse stings targeting the homeless, the Israeli justice minister ponders decriminalization, and more.

Rhode Islanders want the legislature to vote on legalization. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Retailers Join Opposition to Legalization. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts has come out in opposition to the legalization initiative from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The retailers said their opposition is rooted in concerns about worker safety, absenteeism, and the impact of marijuana on kids and communities.

Rhode Island Advocates Demand Vote on Legalization. Led by Regulate Rhode Island, legalization supporters gathered at the state house Thursday to call on General Assembly leaders to allow a vote on the issue. Two identical bills, House Bill 7752 and Senate Bill 2420, would legalize the drug, but they have not gotten even a committee vote, as has been the case in the legislature every year since 2011. The protestors delivered a petition with more than 1,300 signatures calling on House Speaker Nicholas Mattielo and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed to finally allow votes.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Bill to Add PTSD Wins 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.

Law Enforcement

Albuquerque Police Chief Defends "Reverse Drug Stings" Targeting Homeless. Police Chief Gordon Eden has made a strong defense of his department's controversial "reversal narcotics operations" in which undercover police posed as drug dealers, sold and traded small amounts of crack and meth to homeless people, then arrested them on felony drug charges. The operations improve "quality of life" for area businesses and residents, Chief Eden said, adding that they would continue.

International

Israel Justice Minister Considers Marijuana Decriminalization. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is considering a different legal approach to people caught with small amounts of marijuana. She is considering decriminalizing small-time possession with a fine of "a few hundred shekels," but the policy is yet to be formally announced.

Cartel Battles Heating Up in Mexico's Baja California. A Sinaloa Cartel weakened by the capture and looming extradition of its leader, "El Chapo" Guzman, is facing a violent challenge from the rising Jalisco New Generation Cartel. The number of homicides in Baja California Sur in the 2014-2016 period has nearly doubled that in the 2011-2013 period, and most of the killings are linked to conflicts in the illicit drug trade.

Chronicle AM: MI Legalizers Hand in Signatures, CA Legislature Acts on MedMJ, More... (6/2/16)

Edibles come to Oregon, California legislators move on medical marijuana bills, NYC pot busts are on the increase again, Michigan legalizers hand in lots of signatures, and more.

Medical marijuana-related bills are working their way through the California legislature. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Grassroots Legalization Effort Gives Up the Ghost. The group Arizonans for Mindful Regulation (AZMFR) has halted its signature gathering campaign after acknowledging it has failed to meet its goals. The group had positioned itself as an alternative to the Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona, which has already handed in signatures and awaits confirmation that its initiative has qualified for the November ballot. AZMFR says it is launching "vote no" campaign against the other initiative and will be back with another legalization effort in 2018.

Michigan Legalizers Turn in More Than 300,000 Signatures. Activists with MI Legalize Monday turned in some 345,000 signatures to state officials in a bid to get their legalization initiative on the November ballot. They only need 252,000 valid voter signatures, but some of the signatures handed in may not be counted because they were gathered more than 180 days before the turn in date. The legislature recently passed a bill limiting signature collection to 180 days, but the governor hasn't signed it yet.

Marijuana Edibles Are Now For Sale in Oregon. As of today, it is legal to purchase edibles from marijuana dispensaries. Up until now, edibles had only been available for medical marijuana patients. Under temporary rules established by the Oregon Health Authority, consumers can now purchase one edible containing up to 15 milligrams of THC per day.

New York City Marijuana Possession Arrests Creeping Up Again. Marijuana possession arrests rose by more than a third in the first quarter of 2016, even after the NYPD promised in 2014 that it was going to work to reduce them. Some 4,225 people were popped for pot in the first three months of this year, up from 2,960 during the same period last year. That's still well below the more than 7,000 arrested in the same period in 2014, but the trend is headed in the wrong direction.

Medical Marijuana

California Senate Approves 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.

California Assembly Approves 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.

California Assembly Approves "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.

Drug Testing

Mississippi Welfare Drug Testing Program Screened 12,000, Got 10 Positive Drug Tests. The Mississippi law that requires drug screening for people seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds subjected some 12,000 people to screening, but found only 175 were suspicious enough to require drug testing. Of the 175 who were tested, only 10 tested positive. The figure is less than one-tenth of 1% of the number of people screened.

International

Dutch Study Finds Legalizing Marijuana Production Beneficial for Public Health and Human Rights. A study conducted for Dutch municipalities seeking regulated marijuana production has found that legalizing it would have public health benefits by reducing violent crime, corruption, fires, and quality of life issues in residential areas. Regulating marijuana should be seen as a "positive obligation to protect human rights," the researchers said.

May Was a Bad Month for Drug War Deaths

At least seven people were killed by police doing drug law enforcement last month. Four were armed and two of them engaged in shootouts with police. Two were killed by police after vehicle chases where police claimed they were trying to run them over. One was killed during a physical struggle with police.

Four of the victims were white, two were black, and one was a Pacific Islander. The ethnicity of one -- Eugene Smith -- remains undetermined.

May's drug war killings bring Drug War Chronicle's count of drug law enforcement-related deaths this year to 21. The Chronicle has been tallying such deaths since 2011, and they have occurred at a rate of roughly one a week over that period. The Chronicle's count includes only people (police and civilians) who died as a direct result of drug law enforcement activities, not, for example, people who died in conflicts between drug sellers or people who died because they ingested bad drugs.

In May, drug war deaths occurred at a rate nearly twice the five-year average. The seven killings in May accounted for one-third of the killings tallied so far this year. Let's hope last month was an aberration and not a harbinger of a long, hot summer.

It's worth emphasizing that more than half the people killed last month were carrying firearms, and two of them turned them on police. Attempting to enforce widely-flouted drug prohibition laws in a society as heavily armed as this one is a recipe for violent encounters, as we saw last month. When the war on drugs intersects with the Second Amendment, the bullets fly.

Our count here also includes two deaths in March and one in April that had not yet been added to our tally.

Here are the latest drug war deaths:

On March 14, in Chicago, police investigating "possible narcotics activity" shot and killed Lamar Harris, 29, during a shoot-out in which three officers were also struck and wounded. When the cops approached Harris, he took off running through a dimly lit courtyard in the Homan Square neighborhood before reportedly turning and firing, hitting one officer in the back, one in the foot, and another in the chest. At least one officer returned fire, killing Harris.

On March 22, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a Fredericksburg police officer shot and killed Travis Blair, 33, after he fled the officer's effort to pick him up for missing a court date on a drug possession charge. Officer Christopher Brossmer pulled Blair over, but Blair then drove away, dragging Brossmer with him before fleeing on foot after crashing in a ditch. A foot pursuit ensued, which ended with Brossmer shooting Blair in the leg as the pair struggled on the ground. Blair was hospitalized, but died five hours later. Police made no mention of a weapon being found, but they did find five packets of heroin inside a Marlboro package. Brossmer was later absolved of any criminal liability in the shooting.

On April 30, near Spanish Fork, Utah, a Utah County sheriff's deputy attempting to arrest Mark Daniel Bess on drug-related felony and misdemeanor warrants and a traffic-related warrant shot and killed him after he allegedly charged the officer with a knife. Police said Bess had fled from the deputy, but was found hiding behind a barn at a nearby residence. The deputy said Bess refused repeated commands to drop the knife and get on the ground and instead charged at him. The deputy fired at least two shots when Bess was 10 to 15 feet away, striking him in the head and body. He died at a local hospital hours later. He had been wanted for failure to appear in felony heroin possession case and failure to appear in another case where police caught him preparing to inject on the sidewalk in downtown Salt Lake City.

On May 1, in Alamo, Tennessee, police finishing up a 3 AM drug raid at a private residence shot and killed Army veteran Ronald Branch, 28, when he arrived at the home carrying "multiple handguns." Two Crockett County opened fire on Branch, who was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Police said Branch knew the homeowner, but they didn't know why he went to the house. The homeowner wasn't home, but police arrested another man on drug, drug paraphernalia, and marijuana possession charges. The officers involved were placed on administrative leave pending a review by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

On May 5, in Gretna, Louisiana, police chasing a man who fled from them in a vehicle shot and killed Corey DiGiovanni, 36, who was the target of an ongoing heroin distribution investigation. DiGiovanni spotted narcotics officers outside a residence in Gretna and took off in his pick-up truck, leading police on a high-speed chase through the city. Police said they opened fire on him after he rammed several police cars and accelerated toward officers at an intersection.

On May 9, in St. Martin, Mississippi, police called to a Ramada Inn to investigate "possible drug activity" in a guest room shot and killed Christian Bowman, 23, after he became "aggressively combative" toward a deputy on the scene. One of the two deputies on the scene then shot him in the chest, killing him. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident.

On May 11, in San Diego, police shot and killed Thongsoune Vilaysane, 30, at the end of a car chase that began when officers investigating drug and weapons activity at a Pagel Place residence followed the car he was driving as it left the home. Police learned it had been reported stolen and pursued the driver during a short pursuit before he crashed into a parked car. Police said officers with guns drawn ordered Vilaysane to get out of the car, but he instead put it in reverse, nearly striking two officers, police said. "In defense of their (lives), four officers fired multiple rounds at the driver to stop the threat of the moving vehicle," Homicide Lt. Manny Del Toro explained in a statement. He was hit multiple times and died at the scene. The officers were wearing body cams, and San Diego DA Bonnie Dumanis has announced the videos will be released to the public after her office reviews whether the shooting was legally justified.

On May 19, in Miami, gang unit detectives on a narcotics investigation shot and killed Kentrill Williams, 22, after he allegedly grabbed a gun from his waistband. Williams was shot by Detective George Eugene. He died at a nearby hospital.

On May 24, in Park Forest, Illinois, FBI agents serving a search and arrest warrant on a high-ranking member of the Black P Stone Nation gang found him dead inside the home after a shoot-out that left two agents wounded. Melvin Toran, 50, committed suicide after the shoot-out, the medical examiner said. The raid was part of a federal sweep targeting drug trafficking by members of the Black P Stone Nation.

On May 26, in St. Paul, Minnesota, police doing a drug investigation at a residence shot and killed Eugene Smith, 29, after he allegedly fired at them from a bedroom. Police had been called to the home a week earlier on a drug complaint and had found meth, marijuana, and a rifle. When they returned the following week, they said Smith opened fire on them after they shot and killed a pit bull in the house. Smith died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Reprint: Our October 2000 Interview with Gov. Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson, former two-term governor of New Mexico, has been in the news extensively this week as the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate. We are therefore reprinting this interview which ran in the October 13, 2000 issue of our newsletter, when Johnson was still governor. (The newsletter was called "The Week Online with DRCNet back then, hence "WOL" appearing by the questions instead of "Chronicle."
Gary Johnson

New Mexico Republican Governor Gary Johnson, 47, entered the national spotlight little more than a year ago when he stepped forward to dissent from the bipartisan consensus favoring the war on drugs. In doing so, he has become the highest elected official in the land to call for the outright legalization of marijuana and dramatic harm reduction measures to address hard drug abuse. What began with an Albuquerque reporter overhearing a restaurant conversation on drug policy and Johnson's non-denial of his views soon escalated to state and then national media attention, including an appearance on CBS News' 60 Minutes.

It also led to harsh attacks, from New Mexico political and law enforcement figures, one of whom called him "an idiot" in print, all the way up the drug czar himself, who called Johnson "ignorant and irresponsible" for his stands.

Undeterred by the attacks or by a drop in his popularity at home, Johnson has continued as an effective advocate for reform. He has attended dozens of meetings throughout New Mexico to explain his views, and has been active nationally as well. He broached the topic at the Western Governors' Association meeting in Hawaii this summer and recently spoke at both Shadow Conventions, to loud applause.

Johnson, who aside from drug policy is well within the Republican mainstream, entered politics from the private sector, where he operated a construction company. He was elected governor in 1994 and reelected in 1998, becoming the first governor in New Mexico history to win two consecutive four-year terms. His term expires in January 2002.

Johnson has said that he had tried marijuana and cocaine in the past, but now uses no drugs at all, including alcohol. He is a tri-athlete and a family man.

WOL: Governor, please tell us if this is an accurate summary of your positions. You support the legalization of marijuana. As you've said, we should control it, tax it, regulate it. At one time -- about a year ago -- you made statements indicating you supported the legalization of drugs such as heroin as well, but now you advocate "harm reduction" measures for drugs such as heroin. Most of all, you want to open the discussion. And, you have made it clear that you are not endorsing drug use, that drugs are a "bad choice." Is that a fair summary?

Gov. Johnson: In general, yes. I said we should be legalizing heroin. Heroin is the only drug where a model for controlled use existed, and I was actually referring to the Swiss model. I said we should be looking at a harm reduction strategy and moving from a criminal to a medical model. Indeed, let's not forget that alcohol was once prohibited, and I'm not endorsing alcohol. Quit drinking now! It's an incredible handicap.

WOL: What has caused you to reconsider your position on legalizing heroin?

Gov. Johnson: I haven't really changed it, just sharpened it. I believe in heroin maintenance and other harm reduction measures. But when you talk about legalizing heroin, it takes the focus away from the issues. People freak out, their brain banks power off. To talk in terms of legalizing heroin is not useful.

WOL: You've been up and down in the popularity polls because of your positions on drug policy, but now your numbers have started to come around again. Does your experience lead you to believe that talking about legalization or even talking about talking about decriminalization is still a lethal "third rail" for an American politician?

Gov. Johnson: I am the example, I don't know anyone else talking about this, and I went into this with my eyes open. As for popularity polls, well, those politicians that have high approval ratings, are they necessarily doing anything or do they have the ratings because they're not taking stands? As for the initial dip in my numbers, I saw that coming. Does that detract from my believing this is an issue that should be talked about? No. It needs to be talked about, pot needs to be legalized, and we need to reduce the harm.

I've made it a point to talk to everyone I can in New Mexico, everywhere I can. Interest has been tremendous, there have been too many requests for me to be able to honor them all, and the reaction has been exciting. After a meeting in Farmington, a judge comes up to me and tells me "that's the best argument I've ever heard." And I know this guy; he wouldn't say it if he didn't mean it. Another time, a lady comes up to me and confesses that she and her friends were aghast and embarrassed at my stand and having to defend me. She told me I had no defense, and she said that when she and her friends came to see me, they almost walked out when I started talking about drugs because they were so uneasy with the subject. But after the talk, she told me I had them all thinking about the issue like they never dreamed they would. Not that they necessarily agree with me, but now they are saying it is something that should be talked about.

I went to a conservative town, Roswell, and got a standing ovation after my speech on drug legalization. I know they didn't necessarily agree with me, but there is respect now, people are willing to hear about the issue. Unlike anyplace in the country, people in New Mexico have talked about it. Over the past year, a lot of people have come to understand the issue. Now they're going starting to say, "Wait a minute..." In another two years, it will become possible to see real progress.

WOL: You have said that drug policy reform is fundamentally a federal issue. But is there no room for states to act, for example, to modify their criminal codes or sentencing structures or shift the emphasis from law enforcement to treatment and prevention, to lessen the harms of the war on drugs? Is there nothing you can do in New Mexico?

Gov. Johnson: I've come to recognize that there are a lot of things that can be done at the state level. Here in New Mexico, I set up a drug advisory council with judges, medical people, law enforcement people, and treatment people. They will make their recommendations in December. I've purposefully stayed away from the panel, but I believe there will be a number of specific recommendations that we can address through the legislative process.

I intend to make a real difference on these issues. I'm talking about sentencing reforms, mandatory minimums, treatment over incarceration, medical marijuana, and the legalization of marijuana -- if we can pass the legislation. But I think the advisory council's recommendations may even go beyond that.

I've also sent the panel up to the Western Governors' Association conference in Nebraska. I told them not to be wallflowers. They weren't. There is interest among the governors.

WOL: You've endorsed Gov. Bush for the presidency this year. Can you comment on his and Al Gore's general lack of interest in changing or discussing drug policy? And, given that you have said you will seek no further elective office, why not take a stand on principle on the drug issue and endorse either Ralph Nader or the Libertarians' Harry Browne, both of whom make drug policy reform major parts of their campaign?

Gov. Johnson: Believing that either Bush or Gore will win, I have to ask myself where do I have the most impact on this issue? I can have more of an impact working with Gov. Bush; after all, outside of drug policy we are pretty much in line. Do I not advance the issue further given that I would get a sympathetic ear at a Bush White House?

As for the campaigns, well, they don't want to talk about it.

WOL: What is the most striking or shocking thing you've learned as a result of your foray into drug policy?

Gov. Johnson: Some of the people I have come up against in this, well, if they were king, I would have been strung up or shot or hanged. This virulent reaction has been the most shocking thing. I now have a sense of what the Salem witch hunts were about. And I'm the witch.

WOL: Once you leave office, what will you be doing and do you plan to continue your efforts to put drug policy reform on the political agenda?

Gov. Johnson: I will continue to work on the issue, although at this point I'm not sure just how. My horizon right now is the end of my term two years down the road.

The first thing I'm going to do, though, is climb Mt. Everest.

WOL: Seriously?

Gov. Johnson: Oh, yes. Before I was governor, I started and owned a construction company. I sold it a year ago, so I'm in the enviable position of not having to work. We have to ask ourselves what are our goals in life, and I say it is to be happy. For happiness, the bottom line is freedom. That's what it is about for me: life, liberty, the pursuit of freedom. I've charted my own course, I'll be a free individual.

(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.)

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Illinois detective steals from the dead, a Massachusetts cop extorts his coke-dealing snitch, and more. Let's get to it.

In Rock Falls, Illinois, a Rock Falls police detective was arrested May 20 for stealing cash found on the body of a drug overdose victim. Sgt. Veronica Jaramillo, 43, allegedly took more than $1,700 in cash found with the body that was placed in the department's evidence locker. The mother of the victim told local media she called requesting the money so she could use to pay for her son's funeral, but Jaramillo repeatedly told her the money was in evidence. But police said Jaramillo took the cash and admitted using it to pay bills. She is charged with theft and official misconduct.

In Lawrence, Massachusetts, a Lawrence police officer was arrested last Thursday for threatening an informant from whom he had been buying cocaine for the past year. Officer John DeSantis Jr. allegedly took three bags of cocaine and crack from the informant after showing him his gun and police badge, then sent him text messages warning him to keep quiet. DeSantis has not been on active duty for more than a year because of an illness and was not assigned to any drug investigation. He is being charged with extortion.

In Bakersfield, California, a former Bakersfield police officers pleaded guilty last Thursday to corruption, drug dealing, stealing seized drugs, and tipping off drug dealers. Damacio Diaz, a 17-year veteran of the force, admitted working with an informant while aware the snitch was dealing large amounts of meth, taking bribes from the informant, and providing him with intelligence on police activities. Diaz also admitted seizing 10 pounds of meth, but only turning in one pound and selling the rest through the informant. He is pleading guilty to federal charges of bribery, possession and attempted possession of meth with intent to distribute, and filing a false income tax return.

Medical Marijuana Update

Illinois' medical marijuana program is set to be extended and expanded, the Ohio legislature passes a medical marijuana bill, the Ohio medical marijuana initiative is now dead, and more.

Illinois

Last Friday, the House approved an extension and an expansion of the state's medical marijuana program. The House voted to approve a plan to expand the state's medical marijuana program by adding PTSD and terminal illness to the program's list of qualifying conditions and by extending the program for an additional 2 ½ years. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has now come around and says he supports the bill, which still needs a final Senate vote. The measure is Senate Bill 10.

Massachusetts

Last Tuesday, the Senate voted to waive medical marijuana fees for veterans. The Senate 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.

Ohio

Last Wednesday, the medical marijuana bill was approved by the legislature.Both houses of the legislature gave final approval to the measure, House Bill 523. 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.

Last Saturday, the backers of a medical marijuana initiative called it quits. Faced with a medical marijuana bill approved by the legislature and awaiting the governor's signature, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana announced Saturday that they were ending their campaign to put an initiative on the November ballot. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed effort decided to call it quits because "the reality is that raising funds for medical marijuana policy changes is incredibly difficult, especially given the improvements made to the proposed program by the Ohio General Assembly and the fact that the Governor is expected to sign the bill." The bill passed by the legislature will allow people with about 20 different diseases and conditions to use marijuana, but not to smoke it.

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

Chronicle AM: CA MJ Ticket Race Disparities Persist, Bolivians Protest New US Law, More... (6/1/16)

Two presidential candidates get "A" grades on marijuana policy, racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement persist in Los Angeles even in the age of decriminalization, Bolivians protest a new US drug trafficking law that extends Uncle Sam's reach, and more.

Bolivian coca farmers don't consider themselves drug traffickers. (justice.gov/dea)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Policy Project Updates Guide to Presidential Candidates, Adds Third Parties. MPP has released an updated version of its voters' guide to include Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Both received "A+" grades from the group. Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump got a "C+," while the two remaining contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, received a "B" and an "A," respectively. MPP called this "the most marijuana-friendly field of presidential candidates in history."

In Los Angeles, Racial Disparities in Marijuana Enforcement Persist. A new analysis from the ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance finds that even in the era of decriminalization, blacks in Los Angeles are much more likely to be ticketed for pot possession than whites or Latinos. Although pot use was "similar across racial and ethnic lines," blacks were nearly four times more likely than whites to be ticketed and about 2 ½ times more likely than Latinos to be ticketed.

Maine Legalization Effort Gets Organized Opposition. A new coalition aimed at defeating the state's legalization initiative has formed. The group, Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities, says it represents parents, health experts, clergy, and police. Its spokesman is Scott Gagnon, chair of the Maine affiliate of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the brainchild of leading pot prohibitionist Kevin Sabet.

Law Enforcement

Oklahoma Reserve Deputy Who Mistakenly Killed Drug Suspect Gets Four Years in Prison. Former reserve deputy Robert Bates, who fatally shot unarmed drug suspect Eric Harris in April 2015 after he said he mistakenly drew his handgun instead of his stun gun, was sentenced to four years in state prison Tuesday. The killing raised the veil on favoritism and corner-cutting in the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office and led to an indictment of Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who resigned last November.

International

Bolivians Reject New US Drug Trafficking Law. Political and social leaders, peasants, and coca growers rejected the new US Transnational Drug Trafficking Act, signed into law by President Obama last month. According to the Congressional Research Service, the act criminalizes the manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance "by individuals having reasonable cause to believe that such a substance or chemical will unlawfully be imported into the United States…" On Tuesday, hundreds of people marched through the city of Santa Cruz to protest the law, which they said could target coca growers, and President Evo Morales warned that Bolivia is not a US colony and added that coca is part of the country's cultural patrimony.

(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.)

Book Review: The Newbie's Guide to Cannabis and the Industry

Chris Conrad and Jeremy Daw, The Newbie's Guide to Cannabis and the Industry (2016, Reset.Me Press, 249 pp., $19.95 HB)

Legal marijuana is a big deal and it's only getting bigger. It's already a billion dollar-plus industry in the medical marijuana and legal states, and with California and a handful of other states poised to go legal in November, it's only going to get bigger.

With growing legality comes growing acceptance. Marijuana is insinuating itself deep within popular culture, and more and more people are getting interested. Pot use is on the increase among adults, especially seniors. In fact, it seems to be gaining popularity with just about everybody -- except kids.

Some folks have been pot people for decades. They've been smoking it, growing it, selling it, agitating for its legalization. They have an intimate understanding of the plant and the issues around it. Still, there are many, many more people who are not cannabis aficionados, but are becoming curious about marijuana or the pot business.

Will marijuana ease my aches and pains? If I start smoking pot, won't I get addicted? How do you grow the stuff? Can I make a million bucks growing weed? How do I start a pot business?

Chris Conrad and Jeremy Daw are well-positioned to provide some answers. Conrad has been around cannabis since forever -- he's a certified expert witness on marijuana cultivation, he curated the Amsterdam Hemp Museum back in the 1980s, he formed the Business Alliance for Cannabis Hemp in the 1980s, too, and hes9;s been politically active in California (and national) pot politics the whole time -- and Daw is the up-and-coming publisher of The Leaf Online.

With The Newbie's Guide to Cannabis and the Industry, the pair of pot pros provides a compendium of marijuana-related information sure to be invaluable to interested novices and likely to hold some hidden treasures for even the most grizzled veteran of the weed wars.

The guide begins with a quick but detailed look at cannabis botany before shifting gears from the natural sciences to the social ones with a thumbnail history of pot prohibition and the last half-century's increasingly successful efforts to undo it. Conrad and Daw take up through political developments into this year, noting the spread of medical marijuana, with outright legalization now following in its footsteps.

And they make one critically important point here (and repeatedly in the business sections of the book): Despite how swimmingly legalization may be going in Colorado and Washington and Alaska and Oregon, pot remains illegal under federal law. All it would take is a new administration hostile to marijuana in the White House and a new memo from the Justice Department to bring the entire edifice crashing to the ground.

That's certainly something for would be ganjapreneurs to ponder, but it should also behoove the rest of us to remember that the job of freeing the weed remains unfinished business. As long as federal marijuana prohibition remains on the books, the prospect of a reefer rollback remains. Admittedly, the prospect seems unlikely: We are pretty far down the path of acceptance in the early legalizing states, and any return to harsh federal enforcement could have the paradoxical result of criminalizing or at least freezing state-level taxation and regulation while leaving pot legal, untaxed, and unregulated at the state level. While the federal government could try to block the states from acting to tax or regulate marijuana, if not in court then by going after the businesses, it can't force states to make it illegal again. It could attempt to enforce federal prohibition laws, but it doesn't have enough DEA agents to effectively do that, especially in states with home growing.

Conrad and Daw also delve more deeply into the botany of marijuana, addressing questions that will face consumers -- edibles or smokables? Indica or sativa? High THC or high CBD? -- as well as drilling down into the precise roles played by cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids (oh, my!) in creating marijuana highs, tastes, smells, and colors.

It's worth taking a moment to note the high production values of The Newbie's Guide. The book has an illustrated cover (not dust jacket) and is filled with with hundreds of color photographs of the plant, its users, marijuana production and sales, and more. It's also printed on glossy, high-quality paper stock. This thing isn't going to turn yellow in a few years.

Conrad and Daw devote a large chunk of the book to getting in the pot business or, more accurately, what people need to be thinking about if they're thinking about getting into the pot business. They accurately lay out the obstacles -- legal, political, financial -- awaiting anyone hoping to navigate the nascent industry, and they explore the manifold opportunities within the industry.

As they make clear, there's more to the pot business than growing and selling weed (although they certainly devote ample material to covering those basics) and there are employment and business opportunities far beyond growing, trimming, or budtending. Marijuana is spinning off all sorts of ancillary businesses, from edibles and cannabis oil manufacture to advertising and public relations to paraphernalia production to business services and beyond.

The Newbie's Guide is a most excellent handbook for marijuana consumers and potential consumers. It should also be required reading for anyone who is thinking about making a career in the industry. There is money to be lost as well as money to be made, and Conrad and Daw could well help stop you from throwing good money down a rat hole.

Perhaps as important, they demand that people wanting to get into the business do a thorough self-examination. Just why, exactly, do you want in? What is it you seek? Honest answers to those questions will help people make the right choices for themselves. If you're seriously thinking about using marijuana or getting into the business, you should read this book.

Chronicle AM: CA MJ Driving Bill Killed, OH MedMJ Init Quits, More... (5/31/16)

An effort to create a per se marijuana DUID law in California ran into a brick wall of science, the Ohio effort to put a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot shuts down, a US senator seeks an investigation into Purdue Pharma over its claims on OxyContin's extended effectiveness, and more.

The California Assembly rejects a per se marijuana DUID bill after hearing there is no scientific basis for it. (Wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

California Driving While High Bill Killed. A bill that sought to create a per se marijuana drugged driving level of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood has been killed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The committee killed it and a bill that would have let police use oral swabs to strengthen cases after cannabis industry officials said they were not supported by science.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois Medical Marijuana Program Gets Extension, Expansion. The House Friday voted to approve a plan to expand the state's medical marijuana program by adding PTSD and terminal illness to the program's list of qualifying conditions and by extending the program for an additional 2 ½ years. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has now come around and says he supports the bill, which still needs a final Senate vote. The measure is Senate Bill 10.

Ohio Medical Marijuana Initiative Backers Call It Quits. Faced with a medical marijuana bill approved by the legislature and awaiting the governor's signature, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana announced Saturday that they were ending their campaign to put an initiative on the November ballot. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed effort decided to call it quits because "the reality is that raising funds for medical marijuana policy changes is incredibly difficult, especially given the improvements made to the proposed program by the Ohio General Assembly and the fact that the Governor is expected to sign the bill." The bill passed by the legislature will allow people with about 20 different diseases and conditions to use marijuana, but not to smoke it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

US Senator Calls on Feds to Investigate Purdue Pharma Over OxyContin Time-Effectiveness Claims. A US senator has called for a federal investigation of Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, in the wake of reports that the money-making pain reliever wears off early in many patients, leaving them exposed to pain and increased risk of addiction. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) Friday sent letters to the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission urging them to begin probes of the Connecticut-based drug maker.

New York Overdose Tracking Bill Goes to Governor. The Senate and the Assembly have both approved a bill that requires the state Health Department to track non-fatal drug overdoses in a bid to get a more complete picture of opioid drug use in the state. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

US Senator Calls on Feds to Investigate Purdue Pharma Over OxyContin Time-Effectiveness Claims

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

A US senator has called for a federal investigation of Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, in the wake of reports that the money-making pain reliever wears off early in many patients, leaving them exposed to pain and increased risk of addiction.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) Friday sent letters to the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission urging them to begin probes of the Connecticut-based drug maker.

The move comes in the wake of a Los Angeles Times investigation into Purdue Pharma's claim that OxyContin relieves pain for 12 hours, which was one of the drug's main selling points. But the Times found that the effects often wear off before that, leaving patients cycling between relief and intense pain and suffering from opiate withdrawals before their next scheduled pill.

The Times also found that Purdue knew about the problem since OxyContin first appeared in 1996, but continued to claim that it worked for the full 12 hours in part to protect its revenues. The newspaper reported that when faced with the problem, Purdue instructed doctors to prescribe stronger doses, not more frequent ones. Stronger doses of opioid pain relievers are more likely to be implicated in overdose deaths.

"These are serious allegations," Markey wrote in his letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "They raise questions about ongoing deception by Purdue, harm to the public, continued costs to the United States, and the availability of further judicial recourse against Purdue. If upon investigation these allegations are substantiated, the Department should take legal action" against the drug company.

Purdue has rejected the Times' findings, noting that the FDA had approved OxyContin as a 12-hour drug.

"We promote our medicines only within the parameters approved by FDA and, given FDA has not approved OxyContin for eight-hour use, we do not recommend that dosing to prescribers," the statement said.

That's not good enough for Markey, who represents a state hard-hit by problems with prescription opioids and heroin. More than 1,300 people died from opioid overdoses in the state last year, according to the state Department of Public Health.

In his letter to the FDA and FTC, Markey called Purdue "the leading culprit in the current opioid and heroin overdose epidemic" and accused it of making "false and misleading claims about the longevity of OxyContin's pain-relieving properties."

The FDA and FTC should "investigate these claims and take action to protect patients and consumers from the harm caused by Purdue Pharma's deceptive marketing materials."

Justice, FDA, and FTC all say they are studying Markey's letter.

Washington, DC
United States

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.

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