Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Senate Commitee Clears Way for Medical Marijuana for Veterans [FEATURE]

The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved an amendment that would allow doctors with Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans suffering from PTSD, serious injuries, and other debilitating conditions. The amendment was approved on a vote of 18-12.

The vote marked the first time any Senate body has approved a marijuana reform measure.

The vote came on an amendment to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment was offered by Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and would undo a 2009 directive barring VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana even in states where it is legal.

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program. The Daines/Merkley amendment authorizes VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states.

The House narrowly defeated a similar amendment to its version of the appropriations bill. Now, the two versions of the bill must be reconciled.

Even if the move is killed in conference committee, a legislative version of the amendment is still alive in Congress. That is the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, sponsored by Sens. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

The vote was lauded by drug reform advocates.

"Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor and use it if it's medically necessary," said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "They have served this country valiantly, so the least we can do is allow them to have full and open discussions with their doctors."

"A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers came together and passed broadly supported marijuana policy reform. This is exactly how most Americans want Congress to handle this issue. Hopefully we are reaching a point at which it is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. The pace at which support appears to be growing in the Senate is particularly encouraging," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

VA hospital, Durham, North Carolina.
"Doctors should never be prohibited from helping their patients obtain the best possible medical treatment. Many veterans are finding that medical marijuana is the most effective treatment for PTSD and other service-related medical conditions. Finally, Congress is working to remove barriers to accessing it rather than building them," Riffle continued.

"While we won five votes in a row on the House floor last year, this is the first time we've ever won a vote on a positive marijuana reform measure in the Senate," said Tom Angell, director of Marijuana Majority. "And with polls showing that a growing majority of voters supports ending prohibition, it's safe to say it won't be the last. Elected officials are finally starting to wake up to the fact that endorsing marijuana reform is good politics instead of the dangerous third-rail they've long viewed it as, and that means a lot more victories are on the way soon," he predicted.

Chronicle AM: Bernie Sanders on Marijuana Policy, LA Reform Bill Advances, New DEA Head Nominated, More (5/21/15)

Marijuana continues to dominate the drug policy news, plus public benefits drug testing bills move in Maine and Wisconsin, the NYPD decides not to bust middle-aged dopers, and more.

Bernie Sanders (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Bernie Sanders Mellow on Marijuana. The Vermont senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination hinted at support for marijuana legalization during a Reddit question and answer session Tuesday, although he did not explicitly call for it. "I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana [when I was mayor]," Sanders said. "Our police had more important things to do." He said he supported decriminalization in Vermont and was watching Colorado closely. "Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana and I'm going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done,"Sanders said. "I will have more to say about this issue within the coming months."

Louisiana Marijuana Sentencing Reform Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved a bill that would reduce the state's draconian marijuana possession sentencing. The measure is Senate Bill 241.

Maine Legalization Bills Get Hearing. The Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday heard testimony on a pair of marijuana legalization bills. Sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), LD 1380 and its companion bill in the Senate would craft a regulatory structure for pot commerce and then put it before voters. If the legislature fails to act, the state could see two legalization initiatives next year.

Second Ohio Pot Legalization Initiative Certified for Signature-Gathering. The secretary of state's office has certified a legalization initiative from Better for Ohio, which means the group can now commence trying to gather the 306,000 signatures needed to qualify for this year's November ballot. Another group, ResponsibleOhio, is already in the signature-gathering phase.

No Decriminalization Initiative for Nashville. An effort by TN-NORML to put a marijuana decriminalization on the municipal ballot this year has apparently fallen short. Monday was the deadline day for handing in signatures, and TN-NORML didn't hand any in. Earlier, the group said it had only 4,000 signatures; it needed nearly 7,000 to qualify.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Governor Signs Bill Limiting Medical Marijuana Growers. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Monday signed into law a bill that will limit medical marijuana caregivers to growing no more than 99 plants. The bill is Senate Bill 15-014. The bill also allows parents to have someone other than themselves grow medical marijuana for child patients and allows school districts to consider allowing medical marijuana use on campus.

Drug Policy

Obama Nominates Chuck Rosenberg to Head DEA. FBI senior official and former US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg has been nominated to replace Michelle Leonhart as head of the DEA. For the last 18 months, Rosenberg has served as chief of staff to FBI Director James Comey. He previously served as US Attorney for Southern Texas and US Attorney for Eastern Virginia and has won support from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Public Benefits Drug Testing Bill Advances. A bill that would require applicants for welfare benefits, unemployment benefits, job training programs, and health coverage through the state-sponsored program to be assessed for drug use passed the Senate Budget Committee Wednesday. People whose assessments suggest they may be using drugs would have to take and pass a drug test to win benefits. A provision to include food stamp recipients was stripped out because it would likely be challenged by the federal government. The measure is Assembly Bill 192.

Maine Bill to Drug Test Food Stamp Recipients Gets Hearing. The Health and Human Services Committee heard Monday from the administration of Gov. Paul LePage (R) about its bill that would require people on the food stamp program to take a written screening test to see if they are using drugs. If the assessment suggested they may be using drugs, they would have to submit to a drug test. People who tested positive could keep their benefits as long as they sought and completed drug treatment. The bill would also bar people with drug felonies from getting food stamps.

Law Enforcement

NYPD To Not Bust Middle-Aged Drug Offenders. The NYPD last week issued a memo instructing its narcs not to bust drug offenders over age 40 and instead concentrate on younger dealers. The department considers younger drug suspects to be more dangerous.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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.)

Two Mississippi Cops Killed in Traffic Stop Turned Drug Search

The two Hattiesburg, Mississippi, police officers killed last Saturday died after a traffic stop turned into an attempted search for drugs and other contraband. Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate become the 23rd and 24th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Associated Press, Officer Deen, the department's drug dog handler, stopped a car driven by Joanie Calloway for speeding. Also in Calloway's vehicle were her boyfriend, Marvin Banks, and another passenger, Cornelius Clark.

Officer Deen decided to search the vehicle and called for backup. This is the point the incident turned from a "routine traffic stop" to a drug war incident. (At a Monday eulogy for Deen, his comrades described him as an enthusiastic officer who made "many drug arrests with his dog, Tomi, at his side.")

When Officer Tate arrived, Deen told the trio to get out of the car. At that point, Banks produced a weapon and shot both officers, Deen in the face and Tate in the lower back.

Both officers were wearing bulletproof vests, but the vests did not protect them from either the head shot or the shot to the back. Both died shortly thereafter.

According to USA Today, Banks has a drug-related criminal history, an ongoing drug habit, and mental issues. He was arrested for both the sale of crack cocaine and possession of a stolen firearm in a three-month period in 2010, and possession of marijuana in 2011. In 2013, he was arrested again on crack cocaine sales charges, and last October, he was arrested for trespass at the University of Southern Mississippi. He had already done two stints on prison, and the drug charge was still pending when he was pulled over.

Banks's mother, Mary Smith, told USA Today that he smoked synthetic marijuana on a daily basis and that he had been hearing voices since being attacked and struck over the head with a pipe several years ago.

"You could tell something was wrong with him," she said. "I hate it for these families that he wasn't in his right mind."

Now, Banks is charged with capital murder, Calloway is charged with being an accessory after the fact, and Clark is charged with obstructing justice. Deen will be buried Thursday and Tate's funeral is set for Sunday.

Hattiesburg, MS
United States

Chronicle AM: Million Marijuana Marches, WA April Rec Pot Sales Hit $25 Million, More (5/11/15)

It was a quiet weekend on the drug policy front, except for the Million Marijuana Marches in cities around the world, and all the news was marijuana-related.

It was Million Marijuana March weekend around the world. (Pete Brady/cannabisculture.com)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Parolees and Probationers Can Now Use Medical Marijuana. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Friday signed into law a bill allowing medical marijuana by people under criminal justice system supervision. Now, such people will not be charged with parole or probation violations for using it.

Ohio Politicians Look to Undercut Legalization Initiatives. Faced with as many as three looming marijuana legalization initiatives, some Buckeye State legislators are seeking to take the air out of the movement by pushing more incremental reforms, such as a CBD cannabis oil bill or a legislatively initiated medical marijuana ballot issue. But it remains unclear that even if such a measure should pass, it would reduce the pressure for full-blown legalization.

Washington State Had $25 Million in Recreational Marijuana Last Month. Recreational pot sales were $24.8 million in April, nearly double the January figure of $12.7 million and a dozen times higher than the $2 million in July 2014, the first month of legal marijuana sales. So far this year, pot sales have totaled $119.7 million, with $29.9 in projected retail excise tax revenues.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Appeals Judge's Ruling Blocking Parts of Restrictive Medical Marijuana Law. The attorney general's office last Wednesday appealed rulings by District Judge James Reynolds that blocked provisions of the law prohibiting advertising and the commercial sale of medical marijuana, as well as provisions limiting caregivers to three patients and subjecting doctors who recommend medical marijuana to extra scrutiny. Those provisions have never taken effect because of Reynolds' rulings.

International

Marijuana Legalization Actions Take Place Around the World. Thousands showed up in Rome, thousands more in Prague. Also, Paris and Berlin, and various Brazilian cities, among others.

Victoria, BC, to Regulate Pot Shops Like Vancouver. British Columbia's capital and second largest city is set to follow Vancouver down the path toward regulating -- instead of prohibiting -- marijuana shops. Local police are not opposed, the move could better control who enters the shops, and provisions can be made for nonprofit collectives that have operated for years, city officials said.

The First Stage of Our New Campaign Was Successful

Posted in:

Dear reformer,

UN Headquarters, New York
The first stage of our campaign to reform global drug policy has come to successful fruition. Last week, media outlets including WashingtonPost.com, The Hill, Huffington Post Politics and others covered the release of our statement, which was endorsed by more than 100 organizations including major ones, and more coverage this week is likely. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/un to learn more.

Will help you us today with a donation to support this work? We need contributions from our readers to let us continue to get more groups onto the statement, to continue to promote the ideas that the statement lays out to media, and to take our message to Congress, the White House and the UN.

As a supporter of drug policy reform, I want you to know that it is crucial this work continue uninterrupted. As I noted in our newsletter, Jamaica's Minister of Justice, Mark Golding, made an historic speech at the UN last week in which he called for the UN to begin the process of revising the three UN drug treaties, by appointing a "Committee of Experts" to study how to do it. You can read Golding's speech online here. Revision of the treaties is needed to fully legitimize legalization of marijuana or other drugs in international law. Our statement calls for treaty reform, but also defends moves toward legalization now on the basis of human rights. This is the first time that any government has publicly called for revising the treaties.

Read my prior emails about our campaign here, here, and here for further information.

Thank you for reading this far and considering a donation to fund this project. Contributions to our tax-deductible nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation, and our non-deductible lobbying nonprofit, Drug Reform Coordination Network, both can be used for that need. Please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate to donate by credit card or PayPal, or send your check or money order (made out to one of the two names listed above) to P.O. 9853, Washington, DC 20016. We also accept donations by stock -- the information to give your brokerage is Ameritrade, (800) 669-3900), DTC #0188, and account number 781926492 for tax-deductible gifts to DRCNet Foundation or 864663500 for non-deductible gifts to Drug Reform Coordination Network -- please contact us if you are donating in this way.

If your organization can endorse our statement (linked above), or you would like to consider it but need more information, please let us know by replying to this email or writing to borden@drcnet.org. I would also be happy to speak with potential endorsers or coalition supporters by phone as well.

Thank you for being a part of drug policy reform and for your support of our work. With your help we will succeed -- time, and the truth, are on our side!

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853
Washington, DC 20016
http://stopthedrugwar.org

Colombia Suspends Use of Aerial Herbicide to Kill Coca Crops [FEATURE]

[This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and originally appeared here.]

No more of this. (wikipedia.org)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced today that he is halting the use of the herbicide glyphosate as part of a US-backed effort to destroy coca crops. More than four million acres of land in the country have been sprayed with the Monsanto-manufactured weed killer.

The US has paid for the program as part of its multi-billion dollar, decades-long anti-drug campaign in the country that had been (and might be again) the world's largest coca and cocaine producer. US contractors paid by the State Department do some of the spraying.

Santos acted a little more than a month after the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the herbicide is probably carcinogenic and days after the Colombian Health Ministry, citing the WHO report, recommended that the program be halted.

Critics of the spraying program had complained for years that the herbicide not only killed coca crops, but also injured people, livestock, and other plant life exposed to it. Those claims got some backing last year when Daniel Mejia, chairman of an expert panel advising the Colombian government on its drug strategy, published research showing high rates of skin problems and miscarriages in areas sprayed with glyphosate.

The move comes in the midst of peace talks between the Santos government and the rebels of the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces), who have been in rebellion against the government in Bogota for more than 50 years. The two sides had already agreed that aerial eradication should be used only as a last resort.

It was the strength of the rebels around the turn of the century that was a principal reason for the resort to aerial spraying. Their presence in coca-growing areas, where guerrilla fighters protected the crops, made manual eradication risky. At least 62 manual eradicators -- 48 of them soldiers -- have been killed since 2009 and nearly 400 injured, most of them the victims of guerrilla groups.

Colombian coca cultivation had declined for the previous six years, but jumped 39% last year, according to a US government report that came out last week. The conveniently timed report, which blamed the increase on new cultivation outside areas where aerial eradication was allowed, failed, however, to stop the Colombian government from suspending the program.

Chronicle AM: Fiorina on Drugs, Hawaii Dispensaries, Drugs on the UN Agenda More (5/8/15)

Marijuana reforms pass the Kansas House, a dispensary bill passes the Hawaii legislature, another Ohio legalization initiative is moving, one Republican presidential contender makes some nice noises about drug policy, and more.

GOP presidential contender Carly Fiorina stakes out some progressvie drug policy positions. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Kansas House Passes Marijuana Reform Bill. The House Thursday approved a bill that would decrease penalties for small-time marijuana possession, allow for the sale of CBD cannabis oil, and set up a study for uses of industrial hemp. The measure is House Bill 2049. It now heads to the Senate.

Ohio Legalization Initiative Approved by Attorney General. Attorney General Mike DeWine has approved the ballot summary for the "Legalize Marijuana and Hemp in Ohio" initiative proposed by Better for Ohio. The group is pushing this 2015 initiative as alternative to the controversial one being run by ResponsibleOhio, which would set up a 10-grower monopoly on commercial cultivation. The ResponsibleOhio initiative is already deep into its signature-gathering campaign.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Legislature Approves Dispensaries. Fifteen years after it gave the go-ahead to medical marijuana, the state legislature has gotten around to approving a bill that would allow up to 16 dispensaries statewide by mid-2016. House Bill 321 was approved unanimously in the Senate Thursday and passed the House the same day on a 38-13 vote. Gov. David Ige (D) is expected to sign the bill.

Drug Policy

Carly Fiorina Hints at Support for Drug Decriminalization, Would Leave Legal Marijuana States Alone. GOP presidential contender Carly Fiorina staked out some progressive drug policy ground Thursday in an interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board. "I would not, as president of the United States, enforce federal law in Colorado, where Colorado voters have said they want to legalize marijuana," she said, adding that she didn't personally support legalization. "I do not think they should legalize marijuana," she said. "If you look at a place like Colorado, we've sent the message that pot is just no big deal. And it's just not true." And on drug decriminalization, she had this to say: "I don't think it helps this nation to criminalize drug abuse," she said. "It is not helpful -- to the system, the community, or to a drug abuse victim -- it's not helpful to treat them as hardened criminals and throw them into jail."

International

China Urges UN to "Firmly Oppose" Drug Legalization. At a UN debate in preparation for next year's UNGASS on Drugs, China took a predictably hard line stance on legalization: "In recent years, there have been voices calling for the legalization of narcotic drugs and raising doubts about the three UN Conventions on drug control and other existing international drug control mechanisms," said Wang Min, China's deputy permanent representative at the world body. "This is not conducive to the healthy development of international drug control," he added.

Reformers Take on Drug Prohibition At UN. Not all countries agree with China, and global civil society is also active at the UNGASS on Drugs prep sessions. Click on the link to read Dave Borden's account of what's going on.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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.)

Chronicle AM: TX MJ Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote !); Decrim Advances in DE, IL, More (5/7/15)

Holy Cow! A marijuana legalization bill wins a committee vote in Texas! Also, decrim bills are moving in Delaware and Illinois, welfare drug testing gets shot down by Democrats in Iowa, but advances thanks to Republicans in Wisconsin, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Fourth California Legalization Initiative Filed. Busy, busy. Jason Porter and Lara Marie Collinsworth have filed the 2016 California Bipartisan Decriminalization of Cannabis Act. That's the fourth so far this year, and we're still waiting for the big one to drop. This one would legalize up to five pounds for personal possession and allow a 500 square foot garden. It would also force medical marijuana into a pharmacy system. There is a handy spreadsheet on the various proposals here.

Delaware Decriminalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of pot has passed the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee after its sponsor, Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington), said she would revise to address law enforcement concerns. It now includes language making public pot smoking or smoking in a vehicle a misdemeanor with a maximum $200 fine. The cops still oppose it, though. The bill is House Bill 39.

Illinois Decriminalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. A bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to 15 grams of pot passed the Senate Criminal Law Committee Wednesday. House Bill 218 has already passed the House and now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Texas House Committee Approves Legalization Bill. In a surprise move, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved an outright legalization bill on a 5-2 vote. The bill, House Bill 2165 now awaits a chance at a House floor vote.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois Medical Marijuana Extension Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill to extend the state's long-delayed medical marijuana pilot program is now headed for a final Senate vote. House Bill 3299 passed the House last month. It would extend the program for four years after the first dispensary opens.

Texas Senate Approves CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. The Senate today approved Senate Bill 339, the "Texas Compassionate Use Act," which would allow people with severe epileptic conditions to use CBD cannabis oil. The bill now goes to the House. The House is considering a companion bill, but it has not had a floor vote yet.

New Synthetic Drugs

New Hampshire House Approves Synthetic Drug Bill. The House voted Wednesday to restrict synthetic drugs. The bill, Senate Bill 106, would impose fines on persons who sell synthetic drugs and fines and other penalties on businesses that sold them, but would not penalize personal possession of the substances. The bill has already passed the Senate, but was amended in the House, so it needs to go bac for a final Senate vote.

Texas Senate Approves Synthetic Drug Bill. The Senate Wednesday passed Senate Bill 1582, which would allow the state health department to designate new synthetics as "hazardous controlled substances" until the legislature has time to ban them. The bill now goes to the House.

Asset Forfeiture

Oklahoma Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) today filed Senate Bill 838, the "Personal Asset Protection Act." The bill would require a criminal conviction before asset forfeiture can be undertaken. Although the bill is being filed late in the session, Loveless said it was an important issue and that he would hold an interim study to examine the issue.

Drug Testing

Iowa Welfare Drug Testing Defeated. Senate Democrats stood firm to defeat a welfare drug testing amendment proposed as part of a health and human services budget bill Wednesday. The amendment was defeated on a party-line vote, 26-23. The Senate also rejected an amendment that would have required drug testing for lawmakers.

Wisconsin Welfare Drug Testing Bill Moves. A bill that would require some public benefits recipients to undergo drug testing was approved by the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform Wednesday. The Republican-backed measure is Assembly Bill 192

A Historic Day at the UN

Last month we sent some emails to our list and posted here about our new campaign to take on international drug policy reform, including but not limited to reform of the UN drug treaties. The first stage of this effort has reached a successful culmination. Two days ago we released a sign-on statement endorsed by more than 100 organizations including some major ones, calling for big changes to how the US and UN do business in drug policy, and for the process of reforming the UN drug treaties to be initiated.

UN headquarters, New York
The statement has been covered so far by several major outlets including WashingtonPost.com and HuffPost Politics, and a second statement on the death penalty for nonviolent drug offenses was covered by HuffPost WorldPost, linked from the Huffington Post home page for almost 24 hours. The broad sign-on statement and links to news articles can be found at http://stopthedrugwar.org/un.

Right now at the UN General Assembly in New York, the "High Level Thematic Debate" on drugs that we've written is unfolding -- a live webcast (and probably an archive later) can be accessed here, and The CND Blog is doing live updates throughout the day here. It has already been historic. Jamaica's minister of justice, Mark Golding, called for a Committee of Experts to be appointed by the UN to study how to accomplish treaty reform, the central ask of our statement, and other countries backed this up with calls for moving to regulation and control instead of drug prohibition and the right of countries to do that.

At 1:30, many of us will gather in front of the UN to protest the recent executions by Indonesia of several people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. We are wearing black ribbons. Many countries' speakers today have condemned the death penalty for nonviolent and drug offenses as a violation of the human rights treaties. Notably, many countries have also called for the criminalization of drug users to be ended as well.

Our work is making a difference in this hopeful process of change that is now unfolding, and we need your support to continue it. Would you be willing to make a donation now to help us take at least this first step? Donations to our tax-deductible nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation, and our non-deductible lobbying nonprofit, Drug Reform Coordination Network, both can be put toward this project and support the needs of this campaign. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate to donate by credit card or PayPal, or send your check or money order (made out to one of the two names listed above) to P.O. 9853, Washington, DC 20016.

We can also accept donations of stock; the information to give your brokerage is Ameritrade, (800) 669-3900), DTC #0188, and account number 781926492 for tax-deductible gifts to DRCNet Foundation or 864663500 for non-deductible gifts to Drug Reform Coordination Network -- please contact us if you are donating this way.

We'd also still like to hear from organizations that might like to endorse our sign-on statement or get involved in the campaign in other ways. You can write to us here.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A ring of crooked North Carolina deputies gets popped, so do some Connecticut cops involved in a steroids rings, and so do more jail and prison guards. And more. So it goes. Let's get to it:

In Raleigh, North Carolina, seven former or current Northampton County deputies and three state prison guards were arrested last Thursday on drugs and weapons charges as part of a federal bust that also wrapped up five other people. The group is accused of conspiring to ship large consignments of heroin and cocaine to South Carolina and Maryland. They went down after Halifax County deputies passed on a tip they received about the ring, and the feds then created a sting they called "Operation Rockfish" to ensnare the crooked cops. Click on the link to read the names of those arrested.

In Dallas, a former Grapevine K-9 officer was indicted last Thursday on charges he stole and consumed drugs that were to be used to train his drug dog. Danny Macchio, 49, reported last October that his patrol car had been burglarized and that a gun and training drugs inside the vehicle were missing, but he later confessed to taking and using the drugs. He is now charged with tampering with physical evidence, abuse of official capacity, and misuse of government property.

In New Boston, Texas, three Bowie County jail guards were arrested last Thursday on charges they smuggled drugs, frozen coffee, and even milkshakes to prisoners in the jail. Keyandre Thirdgill, Billy Whitley, and Matthew Newman are all charged with introducing prohibited substances in a correctional facility.

In Huntsville, Alabama, a Madison County jail guard was arrested last Saturday on charges she was sneaking marijuana and other contraband to an inmate. Guard Jacquenette Allen went down after being seen on surveillance video delivering packages of marijuana for sale and cigarettes to an inmate "with whom she was in a relationship." She is charged with second-degree promoting prison contraband and suspended from her job without pay, pending an administrative hearing. She was being held in the jail where she worked on $10,000 bond.

In Newtown, Connecticut, a Newtown Police sergeant and a dispatcher were arrested Monday in "Operation Juice Box," a federal bust of a steroid and oxycodone distribution ring. Sgt. Steven Santucci, 38, and police dispatcher Jason Chikos, 46, were both charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids. They were among eight people arrested in the bust, and are described as buying large quantities of steroids from one of the other arrestees and them reselling them in smaller quantities.

In Wilmington, Delaware, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to 4 ½ years in state prison for smuggling drugs behind the bars. Darryl West, 28, was caught smuggling cell phones and marijuana into the prison. He was convicted of drug dealing, conspiracy, and promoting prison contraband in December.

Medical Marijuana Update

CBD cannabis oil bills become law in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, a similar bill is moving in Texas, Hawaii moves closer to allowing dispensaries, and more.

National

Last Thursday, the House narrowly defeated medical marijuana access for vets. An amendment from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to allow the Veterans Administration help veterans gain access to medical marijuana was defeated Thursday by a vote of 213-210. The amendment was to the spending bill to the Veterans Administration.

California

Last Thursday, the Assembly passed a medical marijuana organ transplant bill. The Assembly approved Assembly Bill 258, filed by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). The bill bars anyone in the organ transplant process from using a patient's use of medical marijuana to deny them a transplant, unless that use is clinically significant to the transplant process. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

On Monday, Clearlake officials said petitioners have gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the "zero tolerance" cultivation ordinance passed by the city council in February. That means the previous ordinance, which allowed for up to six plants, remains in effect. Now, the council will have to decide what to do.

Also on Monday, Huntington Beach strengthened its ban on dispensaries. The city council voted to clarify and toughen the ban, and to do so without the usual 30-day grace period. The vote was 4-3.

Also on Monday, Vallejo filed lawsuits against two dispensary ballot initiatives and is asking the courts to declare them invalid. It is also seeking a court order saying that it is not required to produce a ballot title and summary for the initiatives. The lawsuit claims the initiatives are "facially invalid on both constitutional and statutory grounds."

On Tuesday, the Eureka city council voted to approve two dispensaries within the city. The two dispensaries would be allowed to acquire the product elsewhere. An earlier version of the ordinance would have allowed four dispensaries that grow their own product.

Georgia

Last Thursday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed into law House Bill 1, the "Hailey's Hope Act." The law will allow qualifying patients to use CBD cannabis oils containing less than 5% THC. Click on the link to see the list of qualifying conditions.

Hawaii

Over the weekend, a dispensary bill came back from the dead. Negotiations over the dispensary bill, House Bill 321, collapsed last Friday, but after drama over the weekend, a Senate and House conference committee was set to reconsider the bill Monday. Sixteen of 25 senators had asked for reconsideration after conference committee chair Sen. Josh Green refused to agree to a final version of the bill. Senate President Donna Mercado then threw him off the committee, and Kim and House Speaker Joseph Souki sent out a letter late Friday saying the bill would be reconsidered today. Click on the link for all the juicy details.

On Tuesday, the dispensary bill won a final committee vote. A bill to finally bring dispensaries to the Aloha State has passed its final committee vote and now heads for a final legislative vote. House Bill 321 would allow for eight dispensaries statewide, with each allowed two retail locations and two grow sites.

Illinois

On Monday, an advisory board voted against adding anxiety and diabetes. The board has rejected adding anxiety and diabetes to the list of qualifying conditions and diseases, but is still considering whether to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

On Tuesday, the board expanded the list of qualifying illnesses. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Monday recommended adding PTSD and seven other illnesses and conditions to the list of those for which medical marijuana can be used. The decision isn't final; the Department of Public Health must approve.

Louisiana

Last Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill won a Senate committee vote. Only a year after overwhelmingly rejecting a similar bill, the Senate Health Committee unanimously approved a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 143, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills, Jr. (R-Parks). The bill is set for a Senate floor vote this week. The bill does not allow for smoked marijuana; only marijuana processed into oils.

On Monday, the Senate passed the medical marijuana bill. The Senate approved Senate Bill 143, which would allow people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and cerebral palsy to use the herb. It would create a single grow site and medical marijuana would be distributed through 10 pharmacies. The bill now heads to the House.

Missouri

On Monday, a CBD cannabis oil expansion bill won a committee vote. The bill, SB 386, passed unanimously out of the House Emerging Issues Committee Monday. It now goes to the Select Committee on General Laws.

Oklahoma

Last Thursday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) today signed into law House Bill 2154, also known as Katie and Cayman's Law. It allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil by children suffering from epileptic seizures and sets up a study program.

Rhode Island

On Monday, the state ACLU said it would file a lawsuit over employment rights. The ACLU of Rhode Island says it plans to file a complaint against an employer who refuses to hire medical marijuana patients, even though it is legal in the state. Lawsuits challenging the firing of medical marijuana users have been turned away in California and Michigan.

Tennessee

On Monday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed into law House Bill 1097, which will expand access to CBD cannabis oil.

Texas

On Monday, CBD cannabis oil bills moved in both chambers. Bills that would allow people suffering from epilepsy to use CBD cannabis oil won committee votes in both chambers Monday. Senate Bill 339 passed out of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on an 8-1 vote, while its companion measure, House Bill 892, was approved by the House Public Health Committee, also on an 8-1 vote. A Senate floor vote come could next week.

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

Chronicle AM: AZ AG Lets Officials Flout Election Laws, MT Gov Signs Forfeiture Reform Bill, More (5/6/15)

Lots of marijuana policy at the statehouse today, a Texas CBD cannabis oil bill moves, Montana's governor signs asset forfeiture reform into law, Vermont heads in the opposite direction on asset forfeiture, and more.

The pro-legalization billboard that went up in Providence this week.
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Attorney General Says Elected Officials Can Campaign Against Legalization. Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) says elected officials can engage in "public education campaigns" against looming marijuana legalization initiatives as long as they don't go as far as telling voters not to vote for them. That's an idiosyncratic interpretation of the state's electioneering laws, and the Marijuana Policy Project, which is backing an initiative there, is threatening to sue.

Iowa Senate Approves Marijuana Bill With Multiple Provisions. The Senate voted Tuesday to approve a bill originally designed to go after synthetic drugs, but which was amended to lessen penalties for possession of five grams or less and to reclassify marijuana from Class I to Class 2. The bill, House File 567, already passed the House, but has to go back for members to vote on the changes made in the Senate.

Louisiana Bill to Lessen Marijuana Penalties Moves. A bill that would decrease maximum sentences for repeat marijuana possession offenders was approved by the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee today. House Bill 149, from Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) would make a second offense punishable by only two years in prison instead of five and a third offense punishable by only five years instead of 20. Passage of the bill would move Louisiana's marijuana sentencing from the insanely draconian to the merely harshly draconian. It now heads to the House floor.

Rhode Island House Approves Bill to Bar Disclosure of Minor Marijuana Offenses. With no debate, the House voted 67-1 Tuesday to bar the public disclosure of the names of people who had been busted only once or twice for marijuana possession. The move addressed two conflicting provisions of the state's 2012 decriminalization law, one of which said records would be sealed 18 months after the payment of fines and another of which said they were to stay sealed.

East Lansing, MI, Votes to Legalize Marijuana. Voters there approved a local legalization initiative with 65% of the vote. The initiative legalizes up to an ounce for people 21 and over on private property. It also allows for the transfer of up to an ounce. Marijuana possession remains illegal under state law.

Rhode Island Activists Put Up Billboard. As the legislature contemplates legalization, Regulate Rhode Island has unveiled a billboard aimed at getting solons' attention and showing them legalization could bring jobs and cash to the state.

Medical Marijuana

Texas CBD Cannabis Oil Bills Move. Bills that would allow people suffering from epilepsy to use CBD cannabis oil won committee votes in both chambers Monday. Senate Bill 339 passed out of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on an 8-1 vote, while its companion measure, House Bill 892, was approved by the House Public Health Committee, also on an 8-1 vote. A Senate floor vote come could next week.

Asset Forfeiture

Montana Governor Signs Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Gov. Steve Bullock (D) Tuesday signed into law HB 463, which would require police to win a conviction before undertaking asset forfeiture proceedings. It also raises the bar for seizures, requiring police to show "clear and convincing evidence" that the property was not legally obtained. Civil asset forfeiture reform has also become law this year in New Mexico.

Vermont House Approves Bill Making Asset Forfeiture Easier. Going against the asset forfeiture reform grain, the House Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that makes it easier for prosecutors to seize the assets of those involved in drug crimes. The bill is S.102 and is supported by law enforcement. The bill was set for a third reading today, and if approved, it would go back to the Senate for approval of changes, or the Senate could call for a conference committee.

Drug Testing

California Roadside Drug Testing Bill Killed. A bill that would have let police use a device similar to a breathalyzer to test drivers for the presence of drugs died in the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday. The bill, Assembly Bill 1356, was supported by law enforcement, but opposed by defense attorneys and the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Surprising State That Could Be the Next to Legalize Weed [FEATURE]

[This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.]

It's looking more and more likely that voters in a key battleground state will be voting on marijuana legalization in November, and recent polling suggests it could win. That's this November, not November 2016.

The state is Ohio, where a controversial legalization initiative is already well on the way to qualifying for the ballot, and its backers -- or should we say investors? -- have the cash on hand to make sure it does.

There are marijuana legalization bills pending in any number of states, and early on, there were hopes this would be the year a state legislature would get around to legalizing it. New England states such as Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont looked like the best bets, but it now doesn't seem like it's going to happen.

2016 promises to see a wave of legalization initiatives -- think Arizona, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts, for starters, with Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio also likely to see serious efforts emerge.

But that's next year. The group ResponsibleOhio is well on the way to putting the issue before Buckeye State voters this year. They've already had their proposed constitutional amendment approved for signature gathering and, thanks to paid signature-gatherers, are cruising toward qualifying for the ballot.

To qualify in Ohio, initiatives need 305,000 valid voter signatures; ResponsibleOhio collected 180,000 raw signatures in its first three weeks and still has more than two months to gather the rest. And the campaign is still expanding.

Veteran initiative watchers will tell you campaigns want a cushion of excess signatures to account for ones that are thrown out, maybe 25% to 30% above the requirement at a bare minimum. In Ohio this year, that would be 400-450,000 raw signatures. The campaign says they are aiming for 700,000.

Given the progress so far, and the organization and money behind it (see below), ResponsibleOhio's legalization initiative looks like it will qualify for the ballot.

A New Legalization Model

This is not legalization like we've seen anywhere else. Yes, it allows adults 21 and over to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana and yes, it calls for a system of regulated and taxed marijuana production and sales. And it even has provisions for medical marijuana.

But under ResponsibleOhio's initiative, commercial marijuana production can only take place at 10 sites in the state, and those sites have already been allocated to 10 sets of investors, who have already kicked in $1.7 million for the campaign so far and who are prepared to spend up to $20 million convincing the public to vote for it.

The Big O in his NBA heyday. (wikimedia.org)
The investors include a number of Ohio business interest-real estate developers, venture capital firms, philanthropists, with nary a Cheech or a Chong among them -- but also some home state big names that could sway public opinion. These include NBA legend Oscar "Big O" Robertson, Cincinnati-based fashion designer Nanette Lepore, and former Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns defensive end Frostee Rucker (now with the Arizona Cardinals).

In return for their hoped-for voter-granted monopoly, the investor groups would pay a $100,000 fee and a 15% tax on their gross revenues, as well as other commercial fees. Critics have charged that the plan freezes out all but the initial investor groups, but ResponsibleOhio counters that there will be plenty of commercial opportunities in making and selling marijuana products.

The ResponsibleOhio plan has raised a lot of hackles among movement veterans such as NORML founder Keith Stroup, who voices widely-held worries about the impact of big money in the movement and Ohio activists, some of whom have their own initiative plans, but they may not matter as much as suburban Columbus soccer moms when it comes to election day.

And while this written-in monopoly may seem strange to many, it's not going to seem that strange to Ohio voters. In 2009, they legalized gambling by approving a constitutional amendment that specified sites for four casinos owned by the companies backing the amendment.

Can It Win?

Initiatives need to have money, momentum, and votes to win.

ResponsibleOhio looks to have deep enough pockets to put on a full-scale, multi-million dollar advertising campaign. Estimates are that to win in California next year, legalizers will have to spend $10 million or so in advertising, but ResponsibleOhio is talking about spending up to $20 million in a much smaller media market, and it doesn't have to go begging to donors.

The momentum is there. The entire country is riding a wave of increasing support for marijuana legalization, and Ohio is no exception. A Quinnipiac University poll last month had support at 53% (it also had narrow majorities for legalization in swing states Florida and Pennsylvania), up two points from the same poll a year earlier.

The conventional wisdom is that initiatives should be polling 60% or more at the beginning of the campaign because they are bound to lose some support in the face of organized opposition. But when it comes to marijuana, these hardly seem like conventional times. National polls show an upward trend, and Ohio polls show an upward trend. Whether it can win at the polls in an off-off-year election remains to be seen (the casino initiative did), but it certainly looks like it's going to be on the ballot, and it's got a very good shot on Election Day.

Ohio isn't the West Coast or New England. It's a mid-sized Midwest swing state critical in presidential politics. If Ohio legalizes it this year, the politics of pot is going to get very, very interesting next year.

OH
United States

Chronicle AM: Mexico Drug War Flares Up, Colombia Coca Crops Up, Global Call to UN, More (5/5/15)

Mexico drug war flares, Colombia coca production jumps, a Texas decrim bill is moving, so is a Hawaii dispensary bill and a Louisiana medical marijuana bill. And more.

Coca production is up in Colombia. It could end up as cocaine, like this haul seized by Spanish police.
Marijuana Policy

Texas Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. After failing in a close vote last week, a bill to decriminalize marijuana advanced Monday night. House Bill 507, sponsored by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) passed the House Jurisprudence Committee on a 4-2 vote. It would make possession of up to an ounce a civil infraction with a maximum $250 fine.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Dispensary Bill Wins Final Committee Vote. A bill to finally bring dispensaries to the Aloha State has passed its final committee vote and now heads for a final legislative vote. House Bill 321 would allow for eight dispensaries statewide, with each allowed two retail locations and two grow sites.

Illinois Advisory Board Expands List of Qualifying Illnesses. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Monday recommended adding PTSD and seven other illnesses and conditions to the list of those for which medical marijuana can be used. The decision isn't final; the Department of Public Health must approve.

Louisiana Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Monday approved Senate Bill 143, which would allow people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and cerebral palsy to use the herb. It would create a single grow site and medical marijuana would be distributed through 10 pharmacies. The bill now heads to the House.

Missouri CBD Cannabis Oil Expansion Bill Wins Committee Vote. The bill, SB 386, passed unanimously out of the House Emerging Issues Committee Monday. It now goes to the Select Committee on General Laws.

Tennessee Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) Monday signed into law House Bill 1097, which will expand access to CBD cannabis oil.

Hemp

Missouri Hemp Bill Wins Committee Vote. The bill, HB 830, which would legalize hemp production in the state, passed the Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee on a 6-1 vote. It now heads to the Senate floor.

Drug Policy

Carly Fiorina: "Drug Addiction Shouldn't Be Criminalized." Newly-announced GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina said Monday that the country needs to find a new way to deal with drug addiction. "Drug addiction shouldn't be criminalized," Fiorina said during a conference call with reporters on Monday. "We need to treat it appropriately." She added that "decriminalizing drug addiction and drug use" is good public policy.

Law Enforcement

Gloucester, Massachusetts, Police To Stop Arresting Addicts If They Seek Help. Police in Gloucester say that if drug users come to them and turn in their drugs and/or paraphernalia, they will not be charged with criminal offenses, but will instead be offered treatment in partnership with two local medical centers. "We are poised to make revolutionary changes in the way we treat this disease," Chief Leonard Campanello said. The new policy goes into effect in June.

International

Reform Groups Release Letter Calling on UN to Respect Drug Policy Reforms. More than a hundred human rights, public health and drug and justice reform groups have released an open letter calling on the UN to respect countries' moves to end drug prohibition and to emphasize human rights over harsh law enforcement responses. The move is part of the run-up to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs next year. And check out that website where the letter is. [Disclosure: We organized the letter.]

Coca Production Up Dramatically in Colombia. Coca production jumped 39% last year, according to a new White House report. The report comes as pressure mounts on Colombia to end its US-backed program of aerial herbicide spraying on coca crops after the WHO called glyphosate a carcinogen. The reported increase came after six years of declining or steady production.

Mexican Government Declares War on Jalisco New Generation Cartel. In the wake of a violent week that saw presumed cartel gunmen shoot down a military helicopter, killing six soldiers, along with shootouts, blockades, and vehicle-burnings, the Mexican government says it is going to war against the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which it blames for the violence. "The full force of the Mexican state will be felt in the state of Jalisco," an official vowed Monday. "Satisfactory results will start to be seen very soon."

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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.)

Chronicle AM: Puerto Rico Okays MedMJ, TX Pot Bills Killed, NV Harm Reduction Bill Moves (5/4/15)

The Supreme Court wants to know what the Obama administration thinks about that lawsuit over Colorado's pot law, a Hawaii dispensary bill is back from the dead and being considered today, a Nevada harm reduction bill advances, a federal drug defelonization bill is introduced, and more.

The high court is considering that lawsuit against Colorado. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Supreme Court Asks For Obama Administration Position on Suit Over Colorado Pot Law. The US Supreme Court today asked for the administration's views on the lawsuit filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado's marijuana legalization law. This signals that the high court is taking an interest in the case.

Arkansas Attorney General Rejects Wording of Legalization Initiative. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge last Friday rejected the proposed popular name and ballot title of a proposed legalization initiative. "The Arkansas Industrial Hemp and Medical Cannabis Amendment" did not mention any limits on industrial hemp or medical marijuana use, Rutledge said. Petitioners can submit a revised initiative.

Puerto Rico Governor Signs Executive Order Legalizing Medical Marijuana. Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla Sunday signed an executive order legalizing medical marijuana. The move comes after years of discussion in the US island territory.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Dispensary Bill Back from the Dead. Negotiations over the dispensary bill, House Bill 321, collapsed last Friday, but after drama over the weekend, a Senate and House conference committee is set to reconsider the bill today. Sixteen of 25 senators had asked for reconsideration after conference committee chair Sen. Josh Green refused to agree to a final version of the bill. Senate President Donna Mercado then threw him off the committee, and Kim and House Speaker Joseph Souki sent out a letter late Friday saying the bill would be reconsidered today. Click on the link for all the juicy details.

Illinois Advisory Board Votes Against Adding Anxiety and Diabetes. The board has rejected adding anxiety and diabetes to the list of qualifying conditions and diseases, but is still considering whether to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

ACLU to Sue Over Firing of Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Patient. The ACLU of Rhode Island says it plans to file a complaint against an employer who refuses to hire medical marijuana patients, even though it is legal in the state. Lawsuits challenging the firing of medical marijuana users have been turned away in California and Michigan.

Harm Reduction

Nevada Assembly Approves Bill With 911 Good Samaritan, Opiate Overdose Reversal Drug Provisions. The lower house voted last Friday to approve Senate Bill 459, a harm reduction bill containing both provisions allowing greater access to the opiate overdose reversal drug, naloxone, and provisions that would reduce -- but not remove -- penalties for those who report drug overdoses. The Senate has already approved it, but it needs one last vote there after changes in the Assembly. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) supports the bill.

Sentencing

Federal Drug Defelonization Bill Filed. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has filed HR 2153, which would make certain federal drug offenses misdemeanors and eliminate the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, the House Energy Committee, and the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Puerto Rico Governor Signs Executive Order Legalizing Medical Marijuana

[This story was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.]

Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla Sunday signed an executive order legalizing medical marijuana. The move comes after years of discussion in the US island territory.

La Fortaleza -- the Puerto Rican governor's mansion in San Juan (wikipedia.org)
Under the order, the Puerto Rico Health Department is enabled to authorize the use of marijuana and its derivatives for health reasons. The order directs the secretary of health to produce a report laying out rules and regulations for the new system within 90 days.

"We're taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life," Gov. Garcia said in a statement. "I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope."

The Puerto Rican legislature debated medical marijuana in 2013, but a final vote on that bill was never taken, and the issue was stalled until Garcia Padilla acted. He has the support of many, if not all, legislators.

"It's a step in the right direction. One of the benefits that patients say they receive the most is pain relief," said Jaime Perello, president of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives in remarks reported by the Associated Press.

Not everyone was on board, though.

Garcia Padilla's order leaves the island's drug laws in "judicial limbo," warned opposition legislator Jennifer Gonzalez.

But the Drug Policy Alliance liked what it was seeing.

"Gov. Garcia's executive order is exactly what was needed," said DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann. "It was the right and legal thing to do given both the absence of a ballot initiative process in Puerto Rico and the inability of the legislature to pass needed legislation."

"Gov. Garcia's action is a compassionate move, and demonstrates a regard for scientific evidence," says DPA Americas policy manager Hannah Hetzer. "This will alleviate the unnecessary suffering of thousands of patients in Puerto Rico, while also generating revenue and much-needed employment."

Puerto Rico becomes the second US territory to legalize medical marijuana, after Guam. Some 23 states and the District of Columbia have also legalized it, and the federal government has signaled it is not going to interfere.

It also becomes the second Caribbean entity to legalize it, after Jamaica. In Latin America, it is also legal in Uruguay, which has legalized recreational as well, and medical marijuana crops are being grown in Chile with government approval.

San Juan, PR
United States

Chronicle AM: Reps Call for Better DEA Head, US Afghan Opium Boondoggle, Mexico Violence, More (5/1/15)

The House rejects medical marijuana for vets, Georgia's governor signs a CBD cannabis oil bill, Congressmembers call for a progressive DEA head, the US spent $8.4 billion to wipe out Afghan poppy crops and got squat, there's a new report on prohibition-related violence in Mexico, and more.

The US has spent $8.4 billion to wipe out Afghan poppies, but the crop is bigger than ever. (unodc.org)
Medical Marijuana

House Rejects Medical Marijuana Access for Vets by Three Votes. An amendment from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to allow Veterans Administration doctors to fill out state medical marijuana recommendation forms for veterans was defeated Thursday by a vote of 213-210. The amendment was to the spending bill to the Veterans Administration.

California Assembly Passes Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act. The Assembly approved Assembly Bill 258, filed by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). The bill bars anyone in the organ transplant process from using a patient's use of medical marijuana to deny them a transplant, unless that use is clinically significant to the transplant process. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

Georgia Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) Thursday signed into law House Bill 1, the "Hailey's Hope Act." The law will allow qualifying patients to use CBD cannabis oils containing less than 5% THC. Click on the link to see the list of qualifying conditions.

Drug Policy

Congressmembers Call for a More Progressive DEA Head. Eight members of Congress have sent a letter to the White House urging it to replace disgraced outgoing DEA head Michele Leonhart with someone who will "reflect your administration's policies. Leonhart, they said, "leaves behind a legacy of strident opposition to efforts to reform our nation's drug policy." Click on either link for more.

International

Afghan Opium Production Jumps Despite $8.4 Billion US Effort. The US has dumped $8.4 billion into fighting opium production in Afghanistan since invading and occupying the country in late 2001, but has basically gotten squat for its efforts, according to the latest counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan, and the country is the global leader in illicit opium cultivation and production," the quarterly report concluded.

Italian Army Begins Growing Medical Marijuana. To address a shortage of medical marijuana in the country, the Italian Army has begun growing medical marijuana in a bunker inside a pharmaceutical plant in Florence. "The aim of this operation is to make available to a growing number of patients a medical product which isn't always readily available on the market, at a much better price for the user," Colonel Antonio Medica told Italian website Corriere della Sera. The operation is expected to produce about 220 pounds annually.

Mexico Drug Trafficking Violence Declines, But Still Deadly. An annual report from the University of San Diego's Justice in Mexico project finds that homicides have declined for the third year in a row and that cities such as Acapulco, Chihuahua, and Ciudad Juarez have seen dramatic reductions in violence, but that new areas of concern have emerged, including the states of Morelos and Jalisco. "Violence remains relatively high and the security situation remains problematic in certain parts of the country," said the report, Drug Violence in Mexico.

Mexican Gunmen Shoot Down Military Helicopter in Jalisco, Killing Three Soldiers. A military helicopter trailing carloads of suspected cartel gunmen was hit with gunfire from the convoy today, resulting in a crash landing that left three of the 11 troops on board dead. The attack came as violence roiled the state: More than a dozen trucks and buses were torched in Guadalajara, gunmen clashed with police in the town of Autlan, and five banks were torched in Ciudad Guzman. This is the turf of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which killed 20 police officers in the state in two ambushes in March and April.

Chronicle AM: Federal Pot Banking Bill, OK Okays CBD Oil, IN Needle Exchange Approved, More (4/30/15)

Seventeen congressmembers introduced a federal marijuana banking bill, CBD cannabis oil gets approved in Oklahoma, medical marijuana advances in Louisiana, Indiana approves needle exchange programs, and more.

Facing an HIV outbreak in one county, Indiana has approved statewide needle exchange programs. (wikipedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Marijuana Banking Bill Filed. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and 16 bipartisan cosponsors yesterday introduced the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act (HR 7076), which would allow marijuana businesses to open bank accounts. The bill would provide banks with a "safe harbor" so they can offer accounts to such businesses without fear of federal retaliation.

Rhode Island House Committee Hears Testimony on Legalization Bill. The House Judiciary Committee yesterday heard testimony on House Bill 5777, the marijuana regulation, taxation, and legalization bill from Rep. Thomas Slater. No vote was taken; the bill was held for further study. Click on the title link for more hearing details.

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) today signed into law House Bill 2154, also known as Katie and Cayman's Law. It allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil by children suffering from epileptic seizures and sets up a study program.

Louisiana Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. Only a year after overwhelmingly rejecting a similar bill, the Senate Health Committee Wednesday unanimously approved a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 143, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills, Jr. (R-Parks). The bill is set for a Senate floor vote next week. The bill does not allow for smoked marijuana; only marijuana processed into oils.

New Synthetic Drugs

North Carolina House Votes to Ban New Synthetics. The House voted unanimously today to add more compounds to the state's list of illegal drugs. House Bill 341 adds the NBOMe (N-bomb) compounds to the list. The drugs are described as similar to LSD. The bill now heads before the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

Texas House Approves Bill Giving Cops More Power to Move Against Synthetics. With no debate and on a voice vote, the House Wednesday approved House Bill 1212, which would give law enforcement greater ability to move against synthetic drug manufacturers. A final vote of approval was expected today, and then the bill moves to the Senate. Similar legislation is already moving in that chamber.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Legislature Approves Needle Exchange Programs. Faced with an HIV outbreak in one southwestern county, the legislature last night approved a bill allowing for the establishment of needle exchange programs throughout the state. Gov. Mike Pence (R) says he will sign SEA 461.

International

Canada Supreme Court to Take Up Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing. The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear an appeal of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses in the case of R v. Lloyd. Lloyd was arrested carrying small amounts of heroin, crack, and meth, and was subject to a one-year mandatory minimum sentence, but the Provincial Court found that sentence to be cruel and unusual. The BC Court of Appeal overturned the Provincial Court and increased his sentence. Now, the Supreme Court will decide if the sentence violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Organizational Participation Sought for the UNGASS 2016 Global Civil Society Survey

launch of the Civil Society Task Force, UN Headquarters, NY, December 2014 (idpc.net)
The Harm Reduction Coalition invites organizations to fill out the UNGASS 2016 (UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs) Global Civil Society Survey, designed to provide an initial assessment on community work in the field of drugs, as well as to measure the awareness and level of knowledge and interest in participating actively in the UNGASS 2016 initiative at the regional and global levels. The results will provide an overview of the work of community-based organizations active in the drug field, areas of expertise, key priorities and concerns to be addressed, as well as best practices.

It's important to get a good set of responses from organizations in the US, especially harm reduction and reform groups, as we too infrequently are involved in UN matters. Harm Reduction Coalition has been heavily involved in the formation of the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF) and the New York NGO Committee on Drugs (NYNGOC).

Click here to complete the survey. It should take no longer than 30 minutes. Please submit only one response per organization, and please note that the survey is only for organizations. Completion of the survey will provide the CSTF with invaluable information to that is essential for UNGASS preparation and beyond, so please forward widely.

Survey responses are due by July 31st. Input is confidential and any identifying information is solely for the CSTF's record keeping. (HRC notes that if you get stuck on question 6, check NYNGOC.)

Telephone TownHall Meeting on Drug Education, with Dr. Carl Hart and the Drug Policy Alliance

Protecting Our Children: How Drug Education Is Failing Our Kids and What We Need To Do About It

A Telephone TownHall Meeting Hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance, Thursday, May 14, 1:00-2:00pm EST

Featuring: Dr. Carl Hart, Associated Professor, Columbia University and Research Scientist, New York State Psychiatric Institute, in conversation with asha bandele, Director Advocacy Grants Program, Drug Policy Alliance.

Visit http://bit.ly/DrCarlHart to RSVP. Space is limited. Audience participation is encouraged.

Scholarships Available for 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference

vigil at 2009 conference, Albuquerque
Financial assistance is available for individuals wishing to attend the 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, taking place in the Washington, DC metro area from November 18-21. Visit http://www.reformconference.org/registration/scholarships to apply -- deadline is May 22. Note that the page has separate sections for applicants from the US, and applicants from other countries.

The International Drug Policy Reform Conference is a biennial event that brings together people from around the world who believe that the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. It brings together over 1,000 attendees representing 30 different countries.

This year attendees will have the opportunity to spend three days interacting with people committed to finding alternatives to the war on drugs while participating in sessions given by leading experts from around the world. Don't miss the opportunity to be a part of this event.

Visit http://www.reformconference.org to learn more about the Reform Conference.

California Game Warden Kills Armed Marijuana Grower

A California game warden shot and killed a suspected marijuana grower during a raid early this morning at a federal wildlife refuge near Elk Grove. The as-yet-unidentified man becomes the 22nd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Sacramento Bee, citing law enforcement sources, a team composed of agents from the state Department of Justice Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation team, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife game warden hit a suspected marijuana grow just after sunrise.

Raiders approached the patch from several different angles, and one of the teams confronted the grower, who police said was armed.

"The man was armed and pointed his weapon at the officers," said state Department of Justice spokeswoman Michelle Gregory. "He was told to lower that weapon but did not comply."

"There was a mortal threat to one of the officers by the armed suspect," said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

There's no word on whether any of the law enforcement personnel were wearing body cameras that could verify their accounts. There were apparently no other witnesses.

CA
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More jail guards get greedy, an Oklahoma deputy self-medicates with meth from the evidence room, and a San Jose cop gets popped with a storage locker of pot. Let's get to it.

In Texarkana, Texas, a Bowie county jail guard was arrested last Wednesday after getting caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the jail inside a bag of Cheetos Puffs. The unnamed 19-year-old guard went for a break and was searched upon returning to the jail. He has been charged with possession of prohibited substances inside a correctional facility.

In Wilburton, Oklahoma, a former Latimer County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday for stealing drugs from the evidence room. Bobby Joe Eubanks went down after the sheriff asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to look into missing drug evidence. Eubanks had been in charge of the evidence room before he was fired earlier this year, and the sheriff said he had found drugs in Eubanks' official vehicle while cleaning it. Eubanks admitted to twice stealing meth evidence and said he used it to cope with PTSD from his service in Afghanistan.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a Pulaski County jail deputy was arrested last Thursday after jailers intercepted a call saying contraband would be left in his vehicle in the jail parking lot, then caught him trying to bring it into the jail. Deputy Kyle Guyer, 24, got caught with one package in hand containing money, candy, and tobacco. A second package containing meth and marijuana was recovered from his car. He is charged with using a communication device to facilitate crimes, criminal attempt to furnish prohibited articles that include marijuana and methamphetamines, furnishing prohibited articles, and unauthorized use of another's property.

In San Jose, California, a San Jose police officer was arrested last Friday on felony marijuana charges nearly a year after fellow officers found more than a dozen pounds of weed in a storage locker rented in his name. Son Vu, 44, is now charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and "maintaining an illegal stash location."

In West Chester, Pennsylvania, a Chester County Prison guard was arrested Tuesday on charges he smuggled drugs to inmates. Guard Douglas Keck, 45, now faces three to six years in prison on introducing contraband charges. Oh, he has been fired, too.

Medical Marijuana Update

Bills to fold medical marijuana into the legal marijuana system advance in Oregon and become law in Washington, Florida gears up for another initiative campaign after the legislature fails to act, the Oklahoma legislature passes a CBD cannabis oil bill, and more.

Alabama

Last Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill won a committee vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill on a 4-3 vote. The measure is Senate Bill 326, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro).

California

On Monday, opponents of Yuba County's new cultivation ordinance rallied in Marysville. The ordinance approved last month banned outdoor grows and limited indoor ones to a dozen plants in an accessory building.

On Tuesday, a proposed Vacaville ordinance to ban medical marijuana grows died on a tie vote. The council had unanimously approved a draft ordinance banning grows last November, but relented in the face of opposition from local citizens.

Colorado

On Monday a bill allowing probationers and parolees to use medical marijuana passed the legislature. The bill, House Bill 1267, passed the Senate on a 34-1 vote Monday and has already passed the House.

Florida

On Tuesday, the legislative session ended and the 2016 medical marijuana initiative campaign began. The session ended Tuesday without any action on pending medical marijuana legislation, and the United for Care campaign, which led the defeated 2014 initiative (it got 58% of the vote, but needed 60% because it was a constitutional amendment), immediately announced it was aiming to get back on the ballot next year.

Iowa

On Monday, the House speaker reitereated that he will block a medical marijuana bill. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) has repeated that he will not allow a medical marijuana bill to be considered this year. Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), the sponsor of Senate File 484, had said Monday that the House had a "moral obligation" to consider the bill, which has already passed the Senate. But Paulsen said he didn't understand what Bolkcom meant and that the carefully drawn bill was "virtually a recreational use bill." The session ends May 1.

New York

Last Thursday the state began accepting applications for medical marijuana licenses. The state Department of Health announced that it is accepting applications from entities that want to register to grow or distribute medical marijuana. The state expects to announce the companies selected by July.

On Wednesday, a bill to expedite the state's medical marijuana program was filed. Assemblymen Richard Gottfried (D) and Brian Kolb (R) today filed Assembly Bill 7060, which would direct the state to establish a program to help patients get access to medical marijuana as soon as possible. Gottfried is head of the Assembly Health Committee and Kolb is the Assembly Minority Leader. The bill comes 10 months after Gov. Cuomo signed the state's limited medical marijuana bill into law, but no Empire State patient has yet to receive legal medical marijuana.

Oklahoma

On Monday, a CBD cannabis oil study bill passed the legislature. The bill, House Bill 2154, passed the House 85-5 today for final approval after it had been modified in the Senate. Now, it's up to Gov. Mary Fallin (R) to sign it.

Oregon

On Monday, a bill to regulate medical marijuana advanced. A bill that puts new limits on medical marijuana growers is moving. The measure, an amendment to Senate Bill 844, is expected to be approved a House-Senate marijuana committee tomorrow. It would limit current growers to 96 plants, new growers to 48 plants. It would limit current residential growers to 24 plants and new ones to 12 plants. But it would also bar cities and counties from banning dispensaries and growing and processing operations.

Texas

On Tuesday, a trio of medical marijuana bills got a hearing, but no action. The House Committee on Public Health heard emotional testimony Tuesday night from patients, parents, and veterans seeking access to medical marijuana or CBD cannabis oil. Despite the hours of testimony, the committee took no action on any of the bills. Click on the link to read testimony details.

Washington

Last Friday, the governor signed a bill folding medical marijuana into the legal marijuana system. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) last Friday signed into law Senate Bill 5052, which attempts to regulate the state's previously unregulated medical marijuana system and bring it into harmony with its legal marijuana system. The bill creates a voluntary registry system for patients that would allow them to possess more marijuana than others and face lower taxes. It will also eliminate the "collective gardens" that currently supply thousands of patients, although it will allow "cooperative gardens" for no more than four patients. Some collective gardens will be allowed to continue; they will be given priority in licensing if they have been good citizens.

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

Chronicle AM: Hillary Clinton on Mass Incarceration, Indonesia Drug Executions Reaction, More (4/29/15)

Hillary Clinton calls for drug and sentencing reforms, the Florida 2016 medical marijuana initiative campaign gears up, Jamaica sees its first legal pot plant, Indonesia stands firm in the face of international criticism over drug executions, and more.

In a major speech today, Hillary Clinton called for "an end to the era of mass incarceration." (state.gov)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Legislator Toked Up for 4/20. For the sixth year in a row, activists celebrated 4/20 by toking up in front of the state house. But this year, they were joined by one of their elected representatives, Rep. Kyle Trasker (R-Rockingham), who inhaled for the crowd. No arrests were made. "The message sent by law enforcement and heard loud and clear by protesters was police have more important things to do than harass otherwise law abiding citizens over marijuana possession and public use even when it was clear there were amounts present at the protest that could be charged as a felony," Trasker said. "The New Hampshire senate needs to consider how productive it is to keep an unenforced, indeed nearly unenforceable law on the books with which the public disagrees."

Medical Marijuana

Florida Legislative Session Ends, 2016 Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Begins. The session ended Tuesday without any action on pending medical marijuana legislation, and the United for Care campaign, which led the defeated 2014 initiative (it got 58% of the vote, but needed 60% because it was a constitutional amendment), immediately announced it was aiming to get back on the ballot next year.

New York Bill to Expedite Medical Marijuana Program Filed. Assemblymen Richard Gottfried (D) and Brian Kolb (R) today filed Assembly Bill 7060, which would direct the state to establish a program to help patients get access to medical marijuana as soon as possible. Gottfried is head of the Assembly Health Committee and Kolb is the Assembly Minority Leader. The bill comes 10 months after Gov. Cuomo signed the state's limited medical marijuana bill into law, but no Empire State patient has yet to receive legal medical marijuana.

Texas Medical Marijuana Bills Get Hearing, But No Action. The House Committee on Public Health heard emotional testimony Tuesday night from patients, parents, and veterans seeking access to medical marijuana or CBD cannabis oil. Despite the hours of testimony, the committee took no action on any of the bills. Click on the link to read testimony details.

Drug Policy

Hillary Clinton Calls for "An End to the Era of Mass Incarceration," Alternative Punishments for Drug Offenders. In her first major issue speech since announcing her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton addressed the country's festering race relations and called for "an end to the era of mass incarceration." There is something "profoundly wrong" when 1.5 million black men are "missing" from their communities, she said. "We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance." Among other proposals, she called for alternative punishments for petty drug crimes.

International

Indonesia Defends Drug Executions in Face of International Protests. Indonesia today defended its execution of eight convicted drug smugglers, saying the action was vital to its war on drugs, even as international reaction deepened. "We are fighting a war against horrible drug crimes that threaten our nation's survival," said Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo. Australia, which saw two of its citizens executed, withdrew its ambassador, while Brazil, which saw one citizen executed, expressed "strong regret." France said it would wage a diplomatic battle to save one of its citizens on Indonesia's drug death row. Also, more than two dozen human rights and criminal justice reform groups from around the globe circulated a letter condemning the executions and calling on governments and international bodies to rethink anti-drug assistance to countries with the death penalty. That letter campaign was coordinated by Stopthedrugwar.org and its executive director, David Borden.

First Legal Ganja Planted in Jamaica. The county's justice minister patted a pot seedling into the soil at the University of the West Indies Mona campus Monday, marking the first legal cultivation of marijuana on an island inextricably linked to it in the popular imagination. The plant is being grown for research purposes under the country's Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act of 2015, which allows for cultivation for research, medical, and spiritual purposes. It also decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of the drug.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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.)

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