Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: Federal Sentencing Reform Advances, OH Legalization Init in Dead Heat, More (10/22/15)

It's nail-biting time for marijuana legalizers in Ohio -- and for different reasons in California -- the Obama administration rolls out new measures to deal with heroin and prescription opiates, a federal sentencing reform bill advances, and more.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a sentencing reform bill. (nadcp.org)
Marijuana Policy

Billionaire Philanthropist Sean Parker Circulating California Legalization Initiative Draft. Napster cofounder and early Facebook president Sean Parker has a team of lobbyists and political consultants circulating a draft legalization initiative this week. The move comes as the state's legalization effort is in turmoil, with state activists organized as ReformCA having drafted their own initiative, only to see national reform groups, such as the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project, drift away. Click on the link for all the juicy details.

Another Ohio Poll Has Legalization Initiative in Dead Heat. A second poll this week has found the ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative race "too close to call." A new Bowling Green State University poll has the initiative supported by 44.4% of "likely voters," with 42.9% opposed. Among "definite voters," the measure does a bit better, getting 46% support, with 45% opposed and 9% undecided. Earlier this week, a University of Akron Buckeye poll had voters evenly split at 46%.

Heroin and Prescription Opiates

Obama Announces New Steps to Combat Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse. The administration announced Wednesday that it is moving to increase access to drug treatment and to expand the training of doctors who prescribe opiates in a bid to fight high levels of heroin and prescription opiate use. The plan includes doubling the number of doctors who can prescribe the maintenance drug buprenorphine. The administration has a "sense of urgency that we at the federal level can do more to address this issue," said ONDCP head Michael Botticelli. Click on the link for much more.

Sentencing

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The committee today voted 15-5 to advance the bill, S. 2123, which would reduce mandatory minimum drug sentences, expand the federal "safety valve," expand early release and reentry programming, and make other sentencing reforms retroactive.

International

Capture of Gulf Cartel Leader Sparks Weekend of Violence in Matamoros. The mayor of the Mexican border city just across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville, Texas, has warned residents to exercise caution and stay indoors after the arrest last Friday of a Gulf Cartel leader sparked a weekend of clashes between security forces and cartel gunmen. Prado "El Ciclon 7" Rodriguez, the cartel's Matamoros boss, was captured Friday morning, with traffic blockades and gunfights breaking out that same day and continuing through the weekend.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's a twofer of tarnished badges in Baltimore, and an LAX TSA agent was a bit too helpful for his own good. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, a Baltimore County police officer was arrested last Thursday for growing marijuana. Sarah Campbell, 32, went down after a lengthy investigation by a DEA task force and is charged with manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, and possession of a firearm accessible by minors. She has been released on $15,000 bail. [Ed: Is this corruption? Hypocrisy? Or just a foolish chance for a police officer to take? I'd want to know whether Officer Campbell was in the habit of busting people for drug offenses, and whether there's any evidence that she was doing more than just growing. - DB]

In Los Angeles, a former TSA officer was indicted last Friday for allegedly taking $500 bribes to allow bags full of marijuana to be cleared through screening checkpoints and loaded onto airliners at LAX. Deondre Smith, 33, is accused of doing so on at least nine occasions, with the weed headed to Charlotte, North Carolina. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and bribery of a public official, and is looking at up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer pleaded guilty last Thursday to stealing thousands of dollars during a sting operation in a local hotel room. Officer Maurice Jeffers, who had been accused of theft on four previous occasions, went down after internal affairs investigators set up a sting and then watched as Jeffers pocketed $3,000. He pleaded guilty to one count of theft and is looking at up to 10 years in prison when sentenced in February.

Chronicle AM: Gallup Poll: 58% for Marijuana Legalization, MI Forfeiture Reforms Signed, More (10/21/15)

The trend toward supporting marijuana legalization is becoming ever more apparent, asset forfeiture reforms become law in Michigan, but get attacked by law enforcement in Tennessee, harm reductionists call on the UN to officially release a drug decriminalization document, and more.

Truckers and other labor groups are urging the House to reject hair drug testing. (wikimedia/Veronica538)
Marijuana Policy

New Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at 58%. A new Gallup poll released today has 58% saying marijuana should be legal in the US. That ties the 58% reported by Gallup two years ago after support declined to 51% last year.The 58% figure is the highest ever recorded in a Gallup poll, and is consistent with majority support for marijuana legalization reported in other state and national polls in recent months. Gallup says that figure is likely to continue to increase, thanks both to younger residents being more likely to support legalization and the dying off of older Americans, who are more likely to oppose legalization. Click on the title link for our Chronicle news brief on the poll.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Package. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Tuesday signed into law a seven-bill package aimed at beginning to rein in asset forfeiture abuses in the state. The bills don't end civil asset forfeiture, but increase the burden of proof required to seize and keep confiscated property and require law enforcement agencies to file annual reports documenting their seizure activities.

Tennessee Cops Lobby Against Asset Forfeiture Reform. Law enforcement officials Monday lobbied lawmakers to not adopt asset forfeiture reforms in the Volunteer State. Shelby County Prosecutor Steve Jones, said seizing assets to fund policing activities was "government at its best" and warned that changing the law would result in more crime. He wasn't the only one. Click on the link for more.

Drug Testing

Unions Fight Truck Driver Hair Drug Testing. The AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department is trying to stop a proposal that would allow hair drug testing for truck drivers. The proposal is included in a highway bill that passed the Senate in July. The union has no problem with urine testing, which has been in place since 1991, but says that hair testing is untested. "[Health and Human Services] has not approved hair specimen for use in drug tests, and no HHS-issued technical standards for hair testing exist -- and for good reason. Hair testing is not ready for primetime," the union said. The union argues that hair testing could cause positive test results from environmental exposure -- not just personal drug use.

West Virginia Lawmakers Continue to Ponder Welfare Drug Testing. Even though efforts to push through welfare drug testing have failed in the past, legislators Monday were back at it. At a hearing, state health officials told lawmakers fewer than 220 of 2,700 adults enrolled in the food stamp program were likely to use illegal drugs. The committee will continue to study the issue through the year, members said.

International

International Harm Reduction Conference Delegates Call on UN to Officially Release Leaked Drug Decriminalization Paper. More than 500 delegates at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Kuala Lumpur called on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today to officially release a document proposing drug decriminalization. The paper had been leaked by Sir Richard Branson, prompting UNODC to say the paper was "not a final document." "The overwhelming support from our delegates today for the UNODC's drug decriminalization recommendations should embolden them to show brave leadership on this issue, and publish the document in its current form," said Rick Lines, head of the International Harm Reduction Association, which organized the conference.

New Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at 58%

A new Gallup poll released today has 58% saying marijuana should be legal in the US. That ties the 58% reported by Gallup two years ago after support declined to 51% last year.

The 58% figure is the highest ever recorded in a Gallup poll, and is consistent with majority support for marijuana legalization reported in other state and national polls in recent months. And Gallup says that figure is likely to continue to increase, thanks to both younger residents more likely to support legalization and the dying off of older Americans, who are more likely to oppose legalization.

"Americans' support for legalizing marijuana is the highest Gallup has measured to date, at 58%," the polling firm noted. "Given the patterns of support by age, that percentage should continue to grow in the future. Younger generations of Americans have been increasingly likely to favor legal use of marijuana as they entered adulthood compared with older generations of Americans when they were the same age decades ago. Now, more than seven in 10 of today's young adults support legalization. But Americans today -- particularly those between 35 and 64 -- are more supportive of legal marijuana than members of their same birth cohort were in the past. Now senior citizens are alone among age groups in opposing pot legalization."

The poll had majority support for legalization among every age group except those 65 and older. Support was at 71% among the 18-to-34 group, 64% for the 35-49 group, 58% among the 50-to-64 group, and only 35% among those 65 and older.

Despite public support for legalization and despite legalization already being the law in four states and the nation's capital, marijuana arrests remain near all-time highs. In 2014 there were 700,993 arrests for marijuana in the United States, nearly nine out of ten of them for simple possession. Black and brown people continue to be arrested for pot offenses at a disproportionate rate.

Drug reform activists like what Gallup was selling.

"The latest poll results point to the absurdity and even venality of persisting with harsh prohibitionist policies," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "No other law is enforced so harshly and pervasively yet deemed unnecessary by so many Americans. Spending billions of dollars and arresting 700,000 people annually for violating marijuana laws now represents not just foolish public policy but also an inappropriate and indecent use of police powers. More elected officials need to realize that legalizing marijuana is not just the right thing to do -- it's the politically smart thing to do too."

"It's pretty clear which direction our nation is heading on this issue. The status quo has shifted," said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Marijuana prohibition has been a public policy disaster, and most Americans are ready to put it behind us and move on. The effects of 80-plus years of anti-marijuana propaganda are slowly wearing off. Once people realize that marijuana is actually safer than alcohol, they tend to agree that adults should not be punished just for consuming it. People can see that legalizing and regulating marijuana is going quite well in states like Colorado and Washington. They see the sky hasn't fallen and that regulation works, and they want to take similar steps forward in their states. We will likely see at least a handful of states pass these laws over the next year or so."

"These days it's not especially exciting to see yet another poll showing majority support for legalizing marijuana, but 58 percent is very strong share of the American people calling for change, and elected officials should listen," said Tom Angell, chairman of the increasingly aptly named Marijuana Majority. "The constant stream of surveys showing public support for ending prohibition is why we're seeing an increasing number of national politicians saying that it's time to at least let states implement their own laws without federal interference. And we're also seeing a growing number candidates endorsing legalization outright, which shows how mainstream this issue is now. As more states implement marijuana reforms and those laws continue to work as advertised, we're likely to see even more public support, which should soon spur Congress to formally end the criminalization of cannabis under federal law."

Ohio votes on marijuana in less than two weeks, and legalization initiatives are likely to be on the ballot next year in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. These kinds of polling numbers could encourage people in other states to climb on the bandwagon as well.

Chronicle AM: Canada Election Should Bring MJ Legalization, Ohio Init in Dead Heat, More (10/20/15)

Canada's Liberals have vowed to legalize marijuana, and now they've just won the election; the Ohio pot legalization initiative looks like it will be a squeaker, a federal judge rules in favor of marijuana businesses in legal states, and more.

Marijuana Policy

New Poll Has Ohio Legalization Initiative in Dead Heat. A University of Akron Buckeye poll released today has the ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative at 46%, with 46% opposed and 8% undecided. But the poll also had 53% of respondents saying the initiative is a "bad idea" because it would grant an oligopoly on commercial marijuana growing (to the investors who funded the initiative). On Issue 2, an initiative aimed at invalidating initiatives that grant private inurement including by monopoly or oligopoly, 40% said they were in favor, 27% were opposed, and 32% were undecided. The election is two weeks from today. A Kent State University poll last week had the legalization initiative at 56%. Click on the link for more demographic and methodological information on today's poll.

Medical Marijuana

Brookings Institution Report Says Federal Government Stifles Medical Marijuana Research. Researchers at the think tank called on the federal government to eliminate obstacles to medical marijuana research in a strongly-worded report today. "The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety," the report, authored by John Hudak and Grace Wallack, says. "Statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area." For a start, marijuana should be moved to Schedule II, they said.

California Federal Judge Rules Feds Can't Shut Down Legal Marijuana Businesses. US District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled Monday that the Justice Department is barred from prosecuting marijuana operations that are in compliance with state laws. Breyer cited recent votes in Congress to prohibit such actions. The move came in the case of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which had been ordered closed by a permanent injunction in 2012. Attorneys for the alliance successfully argued that the congressional moves invalidated the injunction, and Breyer agreed. "The plain reading of [Congress's amendment] forbids the Department of Justice from enforcing this injunction against MAMM to the extend that MAMM operates in compliance with California law," Breyer wrote. "To the Court's recollection," Breyer added, "the Government has yet to allege or even suggest that MAMM was at any time operating in violation of state law."

Asset Forfeiture

Former Dallas DA Accused of Misusing Asset Forfeiture Funds. Former Dallas County DA Craig Watkins is accused of spending asset forfeiture money for personal use, according to an audit expected to be released today. The audit shows that Watkins spent the money on everything from cell phone bills to travel expenses to the sponsorship of a football league. Seized funds paid for more than $50,000 worth of cell phone bills, and Watkins spent another $71,000 on public service announcements, other promotional activities, legal fees, and travel.

Drug Testing

West Virginia Senator Expresses Support for Drug-Testing Public Housing Residents. Sen. Joe Manchin (D) told the West Virginia Council of Churches Monday that he supported drug testing public housing residents. He said he got the idea from schoolchildren with addicted parents. Drug testing public housing residents is "something that we have to consider," he said. Courts have previously struck down similar testing programs, viewing them as illegal, warrantless searches.

International

Canada's Liberals Sweep to Victory -- With Marijuana Legalization in Platform. Led by Justin Trudeau, Canada's Liberal Party swept to a strong victory in Monday's elections. The Liberals won 184 seats. They only needed 170 seats to form a majority in the 338-seat lower chamber. The Liberal platform included, among other things, marijuana legalization: "We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana," the platform states. Marijuana prohibition doesn't prevent youth use, causes socially disruptive and expensive arrests, and supports organized crime, the statement adds. "We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code, and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide it to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the new regulatory framework."

Canada's Liberals Sweep to Victory -- With a Legalization Platform

Led by Justin Trudeau, Canada's Liberal Party swept to a strong victory in Monday's elections.

While results were still being tallied Monday night, it looks as if the party has won enough seats to form a majority government by itself. The Liberals won 184 seats in the lower house of parliament. They only need 170 seats to form a majority in the 338-seat lower chamber.

The Liberal platform included, among other things, marijuana legalization:

"We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana," the platform states. Marijuana prohibition doesn't prevent youth use, causes socially disruptive and expensive arrests, and supports organized crime, the statement adds. "We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code, and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide it to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the new regulatory framework."

But don't expect it to happen overnight. The Liberals said they would create a task force with input from experts in public health, substance use, and law enforcement to design a new system of taxed and regulated marijuana sales. Once the task force has done its work, a bill will have to be crafted and then passed in Ottawa.

While marijuana was not the issue in the campaign, it was an issue. The Conservatives, who have resisted liberalizing drug laws throughout their nine-year run in power, attempted drug war-style scare ads, and outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper said marijuana was "infinitely worse than tobacco."

But the Tories' anti-pot stance didn't fare too well in a country that is ready to leave marijuana prohibition behind. In a CBC Vote Compass poll last month, 56% of respondents wanted legalization, another 30% wanted decriminalization, and only 14% wanted the prohibitionist status quo.

Now, the voters should be about to get their wish.

Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority reacted from south of the border:

"While US states led the way by becoming the first places in the world to legalize and regulate marijuana in 2012, it looks like Canada could soon leapfrog ahead of us and become the first country in North America to legalize cannabis nationwide," he said. "If that happens, it's not only good news for Canadians who will be able to purchase marijuana from legal and regulated storefronts instead of being treated like criminals. It's also likely to give reform efforts in the US a bit of a boost -- not that we really needed it, but a little friendly competition is always a good motivator."

Canada

Chronicle AM: UN Decriminalization Drama, Global Undertreatment of Pain Report, More (10/19/15)

A thousand march for marijuana in Dallas, a few dozen in Montgomery; a UNODC document calling for drug decriminalization gets leaked, then yanked; the Global Commission on Drug Policy issues a report on pain, and more.

A Halloween/Reefer Madness-themed billboard rolled out today by Arizona legalization activists.
Marijuana Policy

Dallas March for Marijuana Brings Nearly a Thousand to the Streets. Around a thousand people joined a march calling for marijuana law reform in Texas Saturday. The march was organized by Dallas-Fort Worth NORML. Click on the link for more.

Dozens Turn Out for Alabama Rally for Marijuana Law Reforms. Several dozen people took to the foot of the state capitol last Friday to call for marijuana decriminalization and access to medical marijuana. Efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill have stalled in the legislature.

Medical Marijuana

Seneca Nation Moving Toward Medical Marijuana. The Seneca Nation of Indians is preparing to vote early next month on whether to authorize the National Council to start drafting laws and regulations to govern medical marijuana. The vote would be only a first step toward the tribe getting in the medical marijuana business. The Justice Department opened the door for tribes to get involved in pot operations with a memo last fall.

Kansas Silver Haired Legislature to Renew Push for Medical Marijuana. The Silver Haired Legislature, which advocates for senior citizens, is again calling on the legislature to pass medical marijuana. At a meeting earlier this month in Topeka, the group adopted three proposed bills it will push to see passed in the next term. Click on the link for more details.

International

UN Bid to Urge Drug Decriminalization Foiled. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has withdrawn a document calling on governments to consider "decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal consumption" after at least one country objected. The document was leaked by Sir Richard Branson over the weekend, and when a journalist violated the UNODC's embargo on release of the document, UNODC walked back the report.

Global Commission on Drug Policy Releases Report on Undertreatment of Pain. The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) today released its third thematic report, The Global Crisis of Avoidable Pain: The Negative Impact of Drug Control on Public Health. The report was launched by Commissioners, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, UN Secretary General Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Michel Kazatchkine and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover. The report finds that three-quarters of the world's population has no access to pain-relieving drugs and that "the reasons for this have little to do with issues of cost or scarcity of supplies- and everything to do with the prohibition and repressive stand the world has taken on drugs. States are obsessed by the fear that people will use controlled medicines, such as morphine as drugs, thereby neglecting the important medical uses." Click on the title link to read the report.

WOLA Discussion on Impact of Drug Policy on Human Rights in the Americas Wednesday. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is hosting the discussion in Washington, DC, at lunch time Wednesday. Click on the link for speakers, more information, and to RSVP.

State Department Cuts Some Mexico Drug War Funding Over Human Rights Concerns. The State Department has concluded that Mexico failed to reach some human rights goals in its drug war, triggering the cutoff of millions of dollars of drug war assistance. The move only affects a small portion of overall US drug war aid to Mexico, but does signal growing frustration with alleged abuses by Mexican security forces. Some 15% of aid provided to Mexican security forces is subject to human rights provisions, meaning that Mexico lost $5 million of a total of $148 million in US drug war funding this year. That $5 million was instead diverted to Peru to help finance coca eradication.

Mexico Supreme Court to Take Up Marijuana Legalization Next Week. The high court is set to discuss a legal challenge that could effectively legalize the use and production of marijuana. The challenge comes from a non-profit that filed an injunction against the Mexican health regulatory body COFEPRIS over a 2013 ruling by that body. The hearing is set for October 28.

Norway's Two Largest Cities to Move Toward Giving Free Heroin to Addicts. The cities of Oslo and Bergen are set to begin heroin-assisted treatment pilot programs after the Labor Party won local elections there, but they will have to win approval from the national parliament first. Parliament rejected a 2012 effort to start the programs. Norway has the world's second highest drug overdose rate, after Estonia.

Will Ohio Legalize Marijuana Next Month? [FEATURE]

It's now less than three weeks until Buckeye State voters head to the polls in an off-year election, and they make make Ohio the first Midwestern state to legalize marijuana. A poll this week that asked specifically if respondents supported the initiative on the ballot had 56% saying yes.

They will be voting on Issue 3, a controversial proposal sponsored by ResponsibleOhio that would legalize both medical and recreational marijuana use, cultivation, and distribution. The measure would establish a 10-grower "monopoly" on commercial marijuana production (but not sales) and allow individuals to grow up to four plants for personal use if they pay a $50 license fee and if they keep the plants hidden from public view.

But despite the favorable poll numbers -- even better than the 53% approval of a generic marijuana legalization question in a poll two weeks ago -- victory is by no means a sure thing. It is an off-year election with traditionally low voter turnout among groups likely to be supportive, the effort is opposed by the state's political establishment, and even if it wins, it could be tangled up in court for years because that GOP establishment has placed an initiative on the ballot, Issue 2, specifically designed to invalidate Issue 3. That initiative would bar Issue 3 from taking effect, as a constitutional "monopoly," and would put similar questions on the ballot when other monopoly or oligopoly measures appear in the future.

If both initiatives pass, state officials say Issue 2 will supersede Issue 3, but other legal experts say it's not so clear, especially if the legalization initiative wins more votes than the anti-monopoly initiative, which the new poll suggests it could If both pass, legalization will, at best, be delayed until the mess is sorted out in the courts.

With the exception of NORML, national drug reform groups have kept their distance. The NORML board of directors endorsed Issue 3 last month, but neither the Marijuana Policy Project nor the Drug Policy Alliance, both of which endorse marijuana legalization in general, have made much noise about this initiative.

When it comes to in-state endorsements, ResponsibleOhio looks pretty isolated, with support from the Ohio ACLU, some UFCW locals, and a handful of elected officials, while those taking a stand against the measure include the state Green, Libertarian, and Republican parties, business groups, medical groups, law enforcement groups, children's advocates, and many state political figures, including Republican Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine.

The initiative has also infuriated many Ohio marijuana activists, who see their years of work going up in smoke in the face of well-heeled investors in ResponsibleOhio, who have generally had little to do with marijuana reform, but who know a money-making opportunity when they see one. By buying into the campaign, those investors have secured their positions controlling the ten designated commercial grows.

"We don't support the ResponsibleOhio initiative because we don't believe it achieves the goals of legalization, said Sri Kavuru, president of Ohioans to End Prohibition (OTEP), which is campaigning to get its own initiative on the 2016 ballot. "I testified in favor of the anti-monopoly amendment, and I believe it will pass and get more votes than ResponsibleOhio," he told the Chronicle in August.

The forthrightly named Citizens Against ResponsibleOhio doesn't mind siding with the Republican legislature, either, said the group's leader, Aaron Weaver.

"It is very interesting that all these different parties have come together with the same purpose in mind, to stop the hijacking of our constitution by private interests," Weaver said. "It's very strange indeed, but the collaboration of different groups for a mutually beneficial and moral purpose, I think, is a good thing."

It's also caused a split in Ohio NORML, with the state group throwing out its former leader, Rob Ryan, over his position in support of the initiative.

But the state's largest pro-medical marijuana organization, the Ohio Patients Group, endorsed Issue 3 this week. The group said that, given the lack of a viable alternative and the legislature's refusal to advance the cause, telling its members to vote against the initiative would be doing them a disservice.

"It wasn't a perfect plan, but politics is never the art of the perfect, it's the art of possible," Pardee said.

"Bring Addy Home." Screenshot from Heather Benton's ResponsibleOhio TV ad.
But when you've got money, you don't need that many friends. In a neat political and financial move, ResponsibleOhio and its chairman, Ian James, are using those investor dollars to finance their campaign advertising. The group has spent $3.1 million so far on TV ads, and has millions more where that came from to get them through the election.

The first ad, "Bring Addy Home," which began airing in late August, features Heather Benton, who moved to Colorado in order to obtain medical marijuana to treat her four-year-old daughter's seizures.

"We want to move back to Ohio, but we can't because her medicine is illegal there," says the exiled Benton. "It is time for marijuana reform. It is time to go home."

One of the latest ads takes on the charge from opponents that the initiative would create a monopoly in the state's Constitution. (Voters did something quite similar back in 2009, when they approved a constitutional initiative allowing a strictly limited number of casinos.). This initiative isn't a monopoly, the ad argues.

"Like most states that legalized marijuana, it initially limits the number of growers with strict regulation," a woman says in the ad. "That's a regulated industry without creating a monopoly."

Can ResponsibleOhio pull it off? We won't know until the votes are counted, but if marijuana legalization wins in swing-state Ohio in 2015, that could take the politics of legalization to a whole new level in front of the 2016 general election, where the issue is already likely to be on the ballot in several states -- Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada -- and maybe more.

Chronicle AM: Australia Okays Medical Marijuana, NJ Legalization Rally Tomorrow, More (10/16/15)

There's a legalization rally in Trenton tomorrow, ASA has a new report on the impact of dispensaries, Mexico cartel violence flares at a Pacific port, Australia okays medical marijuana, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Legalization Rally in New Jersey Tomorrow. Hundreds of legalization supporters will gather in Trenton Saturday to call for an end to marijuana prohibition in the Garden State. The rally begins at city hall at 2:00pm, then marches to the state capitol for a 3:00pm rally. The rally is sponsored by the East Coast Cannabis Coalition and a variety of local reform groups.

Medical Marijuana

ASA Releases Report on Impact on Dispensaries on Communities. Americans for Safe Access has released a report, Where Will Patients Obtain Their Medicine?, that shows dispensaries do not bring elevated crime rates or other social ills, but do bring economic opportunity and provide access to medicine for patients. "The research shows that well-regulated dispensaries are responsible neighbors and valued members of the community," said Steph Sherer, ASA's executive director. "They bring jobs and increased economic activity while providing patients suffering from serious illnesses with an essential physician-recommended medicine. Creating equitable rules for medical cannabis access is a win-win scenario for everyone in a community."

New Psychoactive Substances

Federal Crackdown on New Synthetic Drugs Winds Down. A year-long operation by the DEA and other federal agencies aimed at cracking down on makers and sellers of new psychoactive substances ended yesterday. The feds bragged of arresting 151 people in 16 states, as well as seizing more than $15 million in cash and other assets in the operation, code-named Project Synergy.

Asset Forfeiture

Pennsylvania Poll Finds Strong Backing for Asset Forfeiture Reforms. A new poll sponsored by the asset forfeiture reform group Fix Forfeiture found that only one out of four Pennsylvanians had ever heard of asset forfeiture, but once they found out what it was, they didn't like it. Nearly four out of five (79%) said they supported reforms once they understood what asset forfeiture was. "It was really stunning to see how broad the support for reform is," said Jim Hobart, pollster for Public Opinion Strategies. "We don't get this type of bipartisan support on any issue these days." The poll comes as the legislature ponders a reform bill, Senate Bill 869, and its House companion bill, HB 508. The bill will have a hearing next week.

International

Australia to Legalize Medical Marijuana. The federal government has announced it will legalize the cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes, but state governments will be able to opt out. Health Minister Susan Ley said the government wants to provide access to medical marijuana for people suffering from debilitating illnesses. "I have heard stories of patients who have resorted to illegal methods of obtaining cannabis and I have felt for them, because with a terminal condition, the most important thing is quality of life and relief of pain," she said. "And we know that many people are calling out for medicinal cannabis. It is important therefore that we recognize those calls for help, that we put in place what we know will support a safe, legal and sustainable supply of a product."

Mexican Cartels Fight It Out Over Control of Pacific Port. The death toll is rising in Colima state as the Sinaloa Cartel, the Knights Templar, and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel wage a three-sided war for control of the port of Manzanillo. At least 30 people are believed to have been killed in gangland slayings in the state since June, many of them showing signs of torture or, in some cases, dismemberment.

Chronicle AM: Portland Nixes "Green Light District," Afghan Opium Decline, More (10/15/15)

No pot tourism district for Portland, at least for now; New Jersey gets a fifth dispensary, Croatia legalizes medical marijuana, Afghan opium production fell by nearly half last year, and more.

Afghan opium production declined last year, for the first time in years, says UNODC. (unodc.org)
Marijuana Policy

Portland City Council Rejects Marijuana "Green Light District." The city council has rejected a proposal to create a concentration of marijuana businesses in a downtown "Green Light District" as a bid to attract cannabis tourists and to keep shops out of residential areas. The city currently requires a 1,000-foot buffer between pot shops, and the failed move would have lifted that requirement. Mayor Charlie Hales said the measure could be brought up again later.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Gets Fifth Dispensary Today. The state Health Department said Wednesday it had issued its final permit for Breakwater Treatment and Wellness, a dispensary in Cranston. It opened today.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Appeals Court Throws Out Car Seizure for $20 Worth of Weed. The state Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court decision saying that police in Westland were justified in seizing a woman's vehicle after she was busted with a gram of weed while doing pizza deliveries -- but not because the seizure was on outrage on its face. Instead the court held that because the marijuana was an unanticipated tip from a customer, the car should not have been seized because she hadn't used it with the intent of purchasing drugs. Click on the link for more.

International

UNODC Reports Big Drop in Afghan Opium Production. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported Wednesday that Afghan opium production last year declined by nearly half (48%), from 6,400 metric tons to 3,300 metric tons. The decline is the first after years of steady increases in poppy cultivation, and UNODC said it resulted from better cooperation between police and Afghan policymakers, a smaller area under cultivation, and lower yields.

Peru's Air Force Accused of Turning Blind Eye to Cocaine Flights. The Peruvian defense minister announced Wednesday that he would investigate allegations of corruption in the military after the Associated Press reported days earlier that cocaine flights were taking off unimpeded in an "air bridge" to Bolivia that moves a ton of cocaine a day. The air bridge is from the VRAEM -- the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers -- in south-central Peru, now the country's leading coca and cocaine producing area. The Peruvian government in August approved shooting down suspected drug planes.

Croatia Approves Medical Marijuana. The Croatian government has approved the use of medical marijuana for people suffering from multiple sclerosis, cancer, epilepsy, and AIDS. The marijuana will be distributed through pharmaceutical companies, and patients will be limited to 0.75 grams of pure THC per month. Home cultivation will not be allowed.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's jail and prison guards gone bad this week, plus a trio of suburban Cleveland narcs get nailed, and a Customs agent goes to prison for waving a load of marijuana through his port of entry. Let's get to it:

In Elizabethtown, New York, an Essex County jail guard was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly smuggling drugs in to inmates at the county jail. Deputy Jeffrey Wallace is charged with fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, and first-degree promoting prison contraband, all felonies. He also faces a misdemeanor count of official misconduct.

In Cleveland, three former suburban Cleveland narcotics detectives were arrested last Thursday on charges they schemed to steal thousands of dollars from drug dealers. Torris Moore, 42; Antonio Malone, 33; and Eric Jones, 38, all resigned from the East Cleveland Police in the past year, and two of them appear to be cooperating with authorities. Only Moore was actually physically arrested; the other two, the apparent cooperators, were charged by information and will have to appear in court. They are charged with conducting illegal searches and other crimes to rob drug dealers, filing falsified reports, and conspiracy.

In Hagatna, Guam, a former prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to 57 months in prison for smuggling drugs and other contraband into the prison. Eugene Sunega went down when he was searched upon arriving at work one day and prison staff found methamphetamine, a pipe, and other contraband in his belongings. He had pleaded guilty in April to one count of bringing contraband into the prison.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former US Customs and Border Patrol officer was sentenced last Friday to six and a half years in federal prison for letting vehicles loaded with marijuana go through his port of entry post unimpeded. Jose Luis Zavala went down when a van he had cleared was subjected to a second inspection and Customs officers found 3,000 pounds of Mexican marijuana in it. The driver bailed out and ran back to Mexico. He was convicted of allowing drugs to enter the US.

In New York City, a former NYC jail guard was sentenced Tuesday to 41 months in federal prison for smuggling and selling drugs at the Rikers Island prison. Austin Romaine, 33, had been found guilty of smuggling marijuana, tobacco, and other contraband to inmates, with the DEA testifying that he had been paid $11,000 for his efforts. It's not clear what the exact charges were.

Chronicle AM: Dems Debate Drugs, Detroit Regulates Dispensaries, Amsterdam Ecstasy Rules, More (10/14/15)

Democratic contenders briefly touched on marijuana and sentencing policy during last night's debate, Ohio's largest medical marijuana group switches sides to endorse the legalization initiative, Detroit moves to regulate dispensaries, and more.

Amsterdam takes an enlightened approach to Ecstasy use at electronic dance music festivals. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

In Democratic Debate, Sanders Says He Would Probably Vote "Yes" on Nevada Legalization. Sen. Bernie Sanders said "I suspect I would vote yes" when asked his stance on a marijuana legalization initiative in Nevada. Hillary Clinton said she wasn't ready to support legalizing marijuana, but supported medical marijuana. Both candidates also called for criminal justice system reforms and shorter drug sentences, as did the other contenders. Click on the link for more.

Ohio's Largest Medical Marijuana Group Endorses ResponsibleOhio Legalization Initiative. The Ohio Rights Group, the state's largest pro-medical marijuana organization, has shifted from opposing to supporting Issue 3, the controversial ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative. The group said it would never get the funding to pay for its own medical marijuana initiative campaign and that other legalization proposals also lacked the support to make the ballot. ORG President Jack Pardee said that to oppose Issue 3 while there is no available alternative would be a disservice to patients.

Medical Marijuana

Detroit City Council Passes Dispensary Regulations. The city council Tuesday approved regulations to govern the city's booming dispensary business. There are an estimated 150 dispensaries operating in the city. Now, dispensaries will have to get a license or be shut down, and operators will have to undergo a police background check. The regulations also bar drive-through service and bans dispensaries from staying open 24 hours a day.

International

Amsterdam Fends Off Critics, Allows Possession of Five Ecstasy Tabs at EDM Festival. As the city hosts the annual electronic dance music festival Amsterdam Dance Event, attended by over 300,000 music fans, it is allowing festival-goers to possess up to five Ecstasy tablets. The move is a harm reduction measure, with authorities hoping the lenient stance will encourage pill testing and responsible behavior if problems arise. In the rest of the country, you can only possess one Ecstasy tablet without fear of arrest, and conservative politicians have been complaining about Amsterdam's stance, but the city is ignoring them.

Canada NDP Leader Says Party Would Move Toward Marijuana Legalization. New Democratic Party head Tom Mulcair has said that his party would immediately decriminalize pot possession if elected and then move toward legalization. "We are on track to full legalization, but it is more complicated than snapping your fingers. We are not going to have weed being sold at the LCBO tomorrow morning," Mulcair said. That's a slight advance in the NDP position, which had been that it would study the regulation and legalization of marijuana. The NDP's Liberal Party competitors have staked out a full legalization positions, while the governing Conservatives are firmly opposed. The election is later this month.

(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.)

Medical Marijuana Update

Nearly two decades after the passage of Proposition 215, California will finally get comprehensive, statewide medical marijuana regulation, legal dispensaries come a step closer in Michigan, and more.

California

Last Friday, the governor signed a medical marijuana regulation bill package into law. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a package of bills designed to bring comprehensive, statewide regulation to the state's thriving medical marijuana industry. The three-bill package will establish "a long-overdue comprehensive regulatory framework for the production, transportation, and sale of medical marijuana," Brown said in his signing statement. "This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system," said Brown. "This sends a clear and certain signal to our federal counterparts that California is implementing robust controls not only on paper, but in practice." The bills are Assembly Bill 266, Senate Bill 653, and Assembly Bill 243.

Florida

Last Thursday, a Florida legislator filed a medical marijuana bill. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) has filed House Bill 307, which would allow patients to use medical marijuana under the state's "investigational drug" law. Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming) said he would file a companion measure in the Senate.

Massachusetts

Last Friday, medical marijuana sales were climbing as more dispensaries opened. Medical marijuana patients purchased some 1,676 ounces of marijuana in September, up from the 1,488 ounces sold in August. The increase comes as the state's second dispensary opened in Brockton. Click on the link for more details.

Michigan

Last Wednesday, the House approved dispensary and edibles bills. The House voted 95-11 to approve House Bill 4209, which would create a state board to regulate dispensaries, as well as approving bills to allow for the use of edibles and to set up a tax structure. The measures now head to the state Senate.

On Tuesday, the Detroit city council approved dispensary regulations. The city council approved regulations to govern the city's booming dispensary business. There are an estimated 150 dispensaries operating in the city. Now, dispensaries will have to get a license or be shut down, and operators will have to undergo a police background check. The regulations also bar drive-through services and bans staying open 24 hours a day.

Missouri

Last Thursday, medical marijuana initiatives were filed.. Show-Me State activists under the aegis of New Approach Missouri Thursday filed a pair of initiatives aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. The group has about $70,000 in the bank and needs to gather some 160,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

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

Chronicle AM: OH MJ Init Polls 56%, Meth Prohibition Madness, More (10/13/15)

Marijuana Policy

A new poll suggests these guys could actually pull it off.
Ohio Poll Has ResponsibleOhio Legalization Initiative at 56%. A new Kent State University poll that asked respondents directly about whether they would support the ResponsibleOhio Issue 3 initiative found that 56% would vote for it. But to complicate matters, the poll also found that 54% intended to vote for Issue 2, which would make it more difficult to write monopolies into the state constitution and is aimed directly at thwarting the ResponsibleOhio initiative. If both pass, look for a lengthy court fight to ensue. More poll details and methodology at the link.

Texas Poll Has Support for Legalization at 46%. A new Lyceum survey shows a narrow gap between fans and foes of marijuana legalization. Some 50% were opposed, with 46% in favor. But of the half that were opposed, 57% of them would support decriminalization. Between the two numbers, that's about three-quarters of Texans saying they are ready to liberalize the marijuana laws.

Methamphetamine

How the Meth Problem Demonstrates Drug Prohibition's Failure. Radley Balko has a long and incisive piece in the Washington Post dissecting how drug prohibition is about the worst way to deal with methamphetamines. It's well worth the read, but here's the bottom line: "Here's one idea that makes too much sense for anyone to seriously consider: Legalize amphetamines for adults. Divert some of the money currently spent on enforcement toward the treatment of addicts. Save the rest. Watch the black markets dry up, and with them the itinerant crime, toxicity and smuggling. Cold and allergy sufferers get relief. Cops can concentrate on other crimes. Pharmacists can go back to being health-care workers, instead of deputized drug cops. Everybody wins, save of course for those who can't bear the prospect of letting adults make their own choices about what they put into their bodies."

International

British MPs Debate Marijuana Legalization. MP Paul Flynn called marijuana prohibition "a disaster more serious than the prohibition of alcohol in the United States," during Monday's debate on marijuana policy. The debate was the result of a petition signed by more than 220,000 people asking Parliament to take up the issue, and the results are a foregone conclusion given the Conservatives' control of the legislative body. Still, marijuana has now made it to Parliament. Click on the link for more debate details.

Legalizing Marijuana Could Save Britain Hundreds of Millions of Dollars, Leaked Treasury Report Says. Legal weed could increase government revenues by as much as a billion dollars a year, according to a Treasury report leaked over the weekend. The government would gain from taxing marijuana, while creating savings by not having to enforce pot laws. The report was commissioned by the Liberal Democrats when they were junior partners in a coalition government with the Conservatives, and the party would have used it to help shape drug policy had it remained in office. "There are successful cannabis markets emerging in different parts of the world and we should look to learn from those experiences," said Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb.

Chronicle AM: MedMJ Regulation Coming to CA, US Senate Passes Drug War Bill, More (10/12/15)

Legal marijuana moves ahead in Colorado and Washington, medical marijuana will be comprehensively regulated in California, Jerry Brown splits on a pair of immigration drug deportation bills, Mexican opium poppy production is up dramatically, and more.

Finally, a statewide plan for regulating medical marijuana in California (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado's August Sales Topped $100 Million. For the first time, the state's monthly marijuana sales exceeded $100 million in August. Recreational marijuana came in at $59.2 million, while medical marijuana sales added another $41.4 million. That's $100.6 million in overall pot sales. The state collected $13 million in pot taxes that month.

Washington State Accepting New Retail Shop License Applications. As of today, the State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board is accepting and processing new applications for retail marijuana operations. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries will now need to be licensed, and will be prioritized in the licensing process.

Medical Marijuana

California Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill Package. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last Friday signed into law a package of bills designed to bring comprehensive, statewide regulation to the state's thriving medical marijuana industry. The three-bill package will establish "a long-overdue comprehensive regulatory framework for the production, transportation, and sale of medical marijuana," Brown said in his signing statement. "This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system," said Brown. "This sends a clear and certain signal to our federal counterparts that California is implementing robust controls not only on paper, but in practice."

Immigration

California Governor Signs One Bill to Block Immigrant Drug Deportations, But Vetoes Another. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last Friday signed Assembly Bill 1352, which allows resident non-citizens convicted of a drug offense to seek deferred adjudication and, upon completion, withdrawal of a guilty plea to avoid triggering federal deportation proceedings. But he vetoed Assembly Bill 1351, which would have allowed immigrants to avoid pleading guilty to a drug offense in order to enter drug treatment.

Drug Policy

Senate Passes Transnational Drug Trafficking Act. The US Senate last Thursday approved S. 32, the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act. Sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would make it a federal crime to manufacture or distribute drugs anywhere in the world if there is "reasonable cause to believe that such substances or chemicals will be unlawfully imported into the United States or waters within 12 miles of the US coast." The bill now goes to the House.

International

British Lib Dems Set Up Panel on Marijuana Legalization Ahead of Parliamentary Debate Today. As Parliament prepared to debate marijuana legalization today in response to a widely signed citizen petition, the Liberal Democrats announced they were creating an expert panel on the subject. Click on the link for much more.

Chile Will Allow Sale of Medical Marijuana Products in Pharmacies. Chilean Vice Minister of Health Jaime Burrows said last Friday that the country will modify its laws to allow the sale of medical marijuana products in pharmacies. Such sales would be allowed with "the authorization of a specialist, a prescription, and strict controls of stock," he said. A decree enacting the changes is now being reviewed by President Michelle Bachelet.

UN Commission on Human Rights Calls on Mexico to Retire the Army From the Drug War. The UN body said soldiers should retire from the streets and return to their bases because they are not trained to undertake policing work. "This must be propelled by a real sense of urgency," said the commission's Zaid Raad al-Hussein. "This is not something we can afford to wait months for without an end." The Mexican army has come under sustained criticism over human rights abuses in its war on drug trafficking organizations.

DEA Says Mexican Opium Crop Up By 50%. Jack Riley, the acting administrator of the DEA, told a House committee last week that there has been a 50% increase in poppy production in key Mexican opium-producing states this year. He added that most heroin consumed in the US comes from Mexico.

Chronicle AM: NYC Psychedelics Conference This Weekend, PA MJ Poll Shows State Split, More (10/9/15)

A Pennsylvania poll shows the state evenly split on marijuana legalization, Massachusetts medical marijuana sales increase as a new dispensary comes online, the Horizons psychedelics conference is this weekend in New York City, and more.

The annual Horizons conference on psychedelics is this weekend in NYC.
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Poll Shows State Split On Legalization. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for legalization at 47%, with 49% opposed. Given the poll's margin of error, voters are evenly split. There is no such divide when it comes to medical marijuana: 90% of respondents were okay with that. Click on the link for more poll details and methodology.

Wyoming Legislators Prepare Marijuana Reform Bills. Even in the Cowboy State, solons are moving to lighten up on weed. With the legislative session starting in February, bills are already being proposed to decriminalize possession, allow for reciprocity with medical marijuana states (meaning patient travelers from those states could pass through Wyoming without fear of arrest), and allow the use of CBD cannabis oil.

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts Sales Climb as More Dispensaries Open. Medical marijuana patients purchased some 1,676 ounces of marijuana in September, up from the 1,488 ounces sold in August. The increase comes as the state's second dispensary opens in Brockton. Click on the link for more details.

Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative Filed. Show-Me State activists under the aegis of New Approach Missouri Thursday filed a pair of initiatives aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. The group has about $70,000 in the bank and needs to gather some 160,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Psychedelics

Horizons Psychedelics Conference in New York City This Weekend. The ninth annual Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference will be held at the Cooper Union and The New School in New York City on October 10th and 11th. Horizons focuses on state-of-the-art research into the wide range of applications for psychedelics, providing an invaluable forum for experts and interested others to share ideas and insights, and to rethink the future of these unique substances in science, medicine, culture, and history. This year, researchers, scholars, and practitioners from the United States, England and Brazil will present new research and insights in neuroscience, end-of-life anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse/addiction, recreational use, public policy, activism, and more. Click on the link for more details.

Chronicle AM: House Leaders Offer Sentencing Reforms, FL & OH Pot Polls, MI MedMJ Bills Move, More (10/8/15)

The House leadership rolls out a sentencing reform package, new polls show marijuana legalization majorities in Florida and Ohio, the Duke City still can't have decriminalization, and more.

Dispensaries could be coming soon in Michigan. Legislation is moving. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Poll Has Narrow Majority for Legalization, Overwhelming One For Medical Marijuana. A New Quinnipiac University poll has support for marijuana legalization at 51% and support for medical marijuana at 87%. The state has a CBD medical marijuana law, legislators are proposing expanding it, and there is a medical marijuana initiative campaign underway, too. Click on the link for more poll details and methodology.

Massachusetts Legalization Campaign Halfway There on Signature Gathering. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts says it has already collected some 47,000 signatures, half of its goal of 100,000. The initiative needs just under 65,000 valid voter signatures by November 18. No word yet on how the rival Bay State Repeal, which has its own legalization initiative, is doing.

As Initiative Vote Looms, Ohio Poll Has Narrow Majority for Legalization. A new Quinnipiac University poll has generic support for legalization at 53%, just about where it was a year ago. The poll comes as voters there will decide next month on the fate of a controversial legalization initiative from ResponsibleOhio -- Issue 3 on the November ballot. The poll did not specifically ask voters about support for that measure. Click on the title link for more poll results and methodology.

Albuquerque Mayor's Decriminalization Veto Upheld (Again). For the second time in as many years, the Albuquerque city council has passed a decriminalization ordinance, the mayor has vetoed it, and the council has been unable to override the veto. An attempt to override Mayor Richard Berry's (R) latest veto failed Wednesday night on a 5-4 vote along party lines.

Medical Marijuana

As Clock Ticks, Calls on California Governor to Sign Medical Marijuana Bills. Law enforcement and the cannabis industry, as well as cities and counties and state lawmakers, are all calling on Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to sign a package of comprehensive, statewide medical marijuana regulation bills without delay. The bills are Assembly Bill 266, Senate Bill 653, and Assembly Bill 243. Brown has until Sunday to act. If he doesn't the bills will become law without his signature.

Florida Legislator Files Medical Marijuana Bill. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) has filed House Bill 307, which would allow patients to use medical marijuana under the state's "investigational drug" law. Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming) said he would file a companion measure in the Senate.

Michigan House Approves Dispensaries, Edibles Bills. The House Wednesday voted 95-11 to approve House Bill 4209, which would create a state board to regulate dispensaries, as well as approving bills to allow for the use of edibles and to set up a tax structure. The measures now head to the state Senate.

Harm Reduction

Expert Panel Calls for Injection Drug Users to Have Access to Hep C Treatment. An international expert panel convened by the International Network for Hepatitis in Substance Users is recommending that injection drug users be offered drugs to cure the disease, as well offered comprehensive social support and harm reduction services. The recommendations were published this month in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Sentencing

House Leaders Announce Sentencing Reform Deal. House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) Wednesday announced a deal on sentencing reform with his counterpart Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). The bill -- The Sentencing Reform Act -- takes a similar approach to the Senate's Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, announced last week, although this bill contains new problematic provisions. "This is not the legislation we would have drafted, but we are encouraged that we now have bills in the House and Senate that tackle similar issues and that move the ball down the field for sentencing reform," said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We are more optimistic than ever that a bill will land on the President's desk."

Medical Marijuana Update

Illinois' first medical marijuana crop comes in, Washington adopts emergency rules for medical marijuana as it merges with the recreational marijuana system, an Ohio initiative still can't get approved, and more.

California

On Tuesday, San Benito County supervisors backed off from a strong grow ordinance. The supes had previously supported the ordinance to ban outdoor grows, but agreed to back off after hearing from two separate coalitions of counties about recently approved statewide medical marijuana regulation, as well as public speakers. The supes had voted 3-2 to enact the ordinance on September 22.

Illinois

As of last Friday, the state's first medical marijuana crop was coming in. Shine on, harvest moon. The state's medical marijuana cultivation centers spent the weekend harvesting their first legal crop, and some are already preparing their first shipments to patients. The state has had a medical marijuana law in effect since January 2014, but only now is the medicine about to get to patients.

Ohio

On Monday, the Ohio attorney general again rejected a medical marijuana initiative's summary language. For the second time, Attorney General Mike DeWine has rejected the summary language for a proposed medical marijuana initiative from Ohio Medical Cannabis Care LLC. DeWine pointed to six defects in the language. The group can resubmit its language once it has addressed them. Click on the link for details on the defects.

Oklahoma

Last Thursday, signature gathering for a medical marijuana initiative was underway in Ardmore. The Green the Vote medical marijuana initiative campaign was doing signature gathering there. The group has 90 days to gather 130,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Washington

Last Friday, three of the Kettle Falls Five were sentenced to federal prison. The Kettle Falls Five were a family group of medical marijuana patients pursued by federal prosecutors even though both medical and recreational marijuana are legal in Washington. Two were sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison, while a third was sentenced to 33 month. Family patriarch Larry Harvey was also prosecuted, but has died, and a fifth member has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 16 months. The three sentenced last Friday are still free while their convictions are being appealed.

On Tuesday, the state issued emergency medical marijuana rules. The state Health Department has just released emergency rules as the state moves to merge medical marijuana into the recreational pot regulatory system. The rules set standards for packaging "High THC compliant products," testing requirements, safe handling, employee training, and labeling. Click on the rules link for all the details.

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

Chronicle AM: MI Forfeiture Reforms Head to Governor, OH Sues Over Toledo Decrim, More (10/7/15)

Toledo's decriminalization is challenged, Florida officials face heat for delays in implementing the state's CBD medical marijuana law, an Illinois panel approves medical marijuana for pain conditions (but will the governor go for it?), and more.

Ohio's attorney general worries that decriminalization could make Toledo a cartel hot-spot.
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Sues Toledo Over Municipal Decriminalization Ordinance. State Attorney General Mike DeWine, joined by the Lucas County prosecutor and sheriff, have sued the city of Toledo in a bid to overturn its decriminalization ordinance. Toledo voters approved the ordinance last month, becoming the first in the state to enact municipal decriminalization. The lawsuit objects to provisions in the ordinance barring police from reporting marijuana crimes to other agencies, making pot trafficking a "negligible" offense, and decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of other drugs. Toledo could become a cartel capital because of the ordinance, DeWine warned: "Absent legal action, it's not hard to imagine international drug rings making Toledo their regional base for operations," he said.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Lawmakers Grumble Over Slow Pace of CBD Medical Marijuana Implementation. At a hearing in Tallahassee Tuesday, lawmakers grilled Health Department representatives over delays in the program. "I mean, it's been almost two years since this bill was passed," said Rep. Greg Stube (R-Sarasota). "And we still don't have any restitution for these children that are trying to get this drug that the legislature recognizes is something needed for the state of Florida," he complained. The department said it was "mindful" of the need to make progress, but still couldn't say when five initial cultivation licenses would actually be issued.

Illinois Panel Approves Medical Marijuana for Chronic and Other Pain. The state's Medical Cannabis Advisory Board voted Wednesday to approve chronic pain, intractable pain, and chronic post-operative pain. The additions must also be approved by Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), who earlier rejected 11 other suggestions for expanding the list of qualifying conditions. The board is also pondering whether to add autism, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoarthritis, and PTSD.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Legislature Passes Asset Forfeiture Reform Package. The state Senate Wednesday gave final approval to a seven-bill package that will increase civil asset forfeiture reporting requirements and increase the burden of proof for seizures from "a preponderance" of the evidence to "clear and convincing" evidence the seized items were connected to a crime. The package has already passed the House. Some groups, including the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan ACLU, want to see even deeper reforms, including eliminating civil asset forfeiture entirely and requiring a conviction before property can be seized in a criminal proceeding. But this is a start.

Sentencing

Massachusetts Bill Would Block Sending Women to Prison for Drug Treatment. An amendment to a supplemental spending bill would prohibit women from being civilly committed to the Framingham state prison for drug treatment. The bill and its amendments are to be debated tomorrow. It's a move that was recommended by Gov. Charlie Baker's (R) task force on opioid abuse. Baker is looking for $5.8 million in the supplemental budget to pay for women in the prison for drug treatment to be moved to a hospital, most likely Taunton State Hospital.

Chronicle AM: Thousands of Federal Drug Prisoners to Be Freed, Ohio Early Voting, More (10/6/15)

Major sentencing news today; early voting starts today in Ohio (marijuana legalization is on the ballot), a North Carolina hemp bill has gone to the governor, Colombia will still spray a nasty herbicide on coca crops, and more.

Federal prisons will be a little less crowded a month from now. (nadcp.org)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Vetoes Law Criminalizing Hash Oil Explosions. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) Monday vetoed Assembly Bill 849, which would have made it a crime to cause an explosion causing bodily harm. The bill was inspired by a series of butane hash oil lab explosions, but in his veto message, Brown said the conduct is already proscribed and another law on the matter "creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit."

Early Voting Starts Today on Ohio Legalization Initiative. Ohioans can vote for or against Issue 3, the controversial ResponsibleOhio initiative beginning today. Early voters can mail in absentee ballots or visit early-voting locations across the state.

Oregon's Multnomah County (Portland) Issues Report on Legalization. The Multnomah County Health Department has issued a report saying there are drawbacks and benefits from marijuana legalization, but that more research is needed. The report recommends implementing policies to address impaired driving, teen use, and dependence; there should be warnings for pregnant and nursing women, and there should be limits on the potency of pot, as well as on contamination from pesticides and other substances.

Medical Marijuana

Washington State Issues Emergency Medical Marijuana Rules. The state Health Department has just released emergency rules as the state moves to merge medical marijuana into the recreational pot regulatory system. The rules set standards for packaging "High THC compliant products," testing requirements, safe handling, employee training, and labeling. Click on the rules link for all the details.

Hemp

North Carolina Hemp Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. A measure legalizing industrial hemp production has been approved by the state legislature and now heads to the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory (R). The measure is Senate Bill 313. McCrory must veto it to block it; if he fails to act, it is approved.

Heroin and Prescription Opiates

An Overdose an Hour in Chicago Last Week. In the middle of last week, Chicagoans were overdosing on heroin, prescription opiates, or drug combinations at a rate of more than one an hour. Authorities reported responding to 74 overdose calls in 72 hours between last Tuesday and last Friday. ER doctors are suggesting that heroin cut with the powerful opioid fentanyl is behind the outbreak.

Sentencing

Feds to Free 6,000 Drug Prisoners at Month's End, More to Follow. The Justice Department has announced that some 6,000 federal drug war prisoners will get early release from prison between October 30 and November 2. Most will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being freed on supervised release. This is the result of actions by the US Sentencing Commission, which cut sentences for some drug offenders last year and later made the chance retroactive, affecting currently serving inmates. An estimated 46,000 of nearly 100,000 federal drug prisoners should eventually qualify for the program.

International

Colombia Will Continue to Use Glyphosate, Just Won't Aerially Spray It Anymore. Colombian police will continue to use the herbicide glyphosate to eradicate coca plants, even though it won't apply it with aerial sprays, the chief of police said. The National Narcotics Council outlawed aerial spraying earlier this year, after glyphosate was found to contain massive amounts of carcinogens, but eradicators will now spray by hand, Police Chief Rodolfo Palomino said. "We will continue with other forms of manual eradication and land fumigation with glyphosate," said Palomino.

September's Drug War Death Toll Includes Black Teen Armed Only With "Finger Gun"

Four more people died in the drug war last month, including two men shot and killed by police, one armed only with a stapler and the other armed only with a finger. A police officer and another man also died in the drug war, not from gunfire, but from misadventure.

According to Drug War Chronicle, which has been tallying narrowly-defined drug war deaths for the past five years, the September deaths bring this year's toll to 46. The Chronicle only counts deaths directly linked to drug law enforcement activities -- not, for example, drug gang shootouts or overdose deaths.

Keith Harrison McLeod, a black, 19-year-old Baltimore County resident died September 23 after being shot by a police officer who said he made a "finger gun" gesture at him.

According to Baltimore County Police, the killing happened after a pharmacist in suburban Reistertown called police to report that McLeod had tried to use a fake prescription to purchase an opiated cough syrup (promethazine and codeine), popularly known as "purple drank" among its recreational users.

When the cops showed up, McLeod took off running, but then stopped and got into a "confrontation" with a pursuing officer. Police said, and have video surveillance footage to back them up, that McLeod then moved his hand from behind him and pointed his finger at them like a gun: "[The man reached] around to the small of his back and abruptly whipped his hand around and pointed it toward the officer, as if with a weapon."

The white police officer, identified only as Officer Earomirski, then shoots McLeod, who fell to the ground, but continued "reaching into his waistband as if for a weapon," and Officer Earomirski then shoots him twice more. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Northwest Hospital. No actual weapon was recovered.

Keith McLeod, who was unarmed, is dead, Officer Earomirski is on administrative leave, and "police authorities are investigating."

Dominic Fuller, 34, a Haines City, Florida, man was killed by Polk County Sheriff's Office (PCSO) SWAT officers as he pointed a stapler at them two days earlier. It was the end of a wild manhunt.

According to the PSCO, deputies had been called on a report of drug dealing and a suspicious vehicle in Auburndale and encountered Fuller, who was wanted in a neighborhood shooting a week earlier. Fuller took off on foot, and deputies on the scene discovered his car was stolen and contained a handgun.

As police searched for him, Fuller desperately sought transport away from the area, entering a parked camper with a woman inside and demanding she give him a ride, then entering the house where the camper was parked and demanding a ride or a bicycle from that woman. He left when neither would comply. Numerous witnesses said they saw Fuller running through the area, trying car and residential door handles, with one witness saying they heard him yelling "I have a gun!"

He got into one home, only to be spotted by Deputy Carlos Valle, who saw him standing in the doorway, "showing only his left hand and concealing his right hand behind his back. "Fuller refused commands to surrender, went back into the house, and slammed the door, then tried to escape out a side window, but retreated back into the house when another deputy shined his rifle-mounted flashlight on him.

He then opened the front door, ignoring commands to show his hands and to surrender. When Fuller saw another deputy, Gabriel Reveron, hidden near the doorway, he turned toward the deputy and raised his right hand, displaying a black and chrome object. Reveron, "in fear for his life," fired five shots at Fuller, who staggered back inside slammed the door.

The PCSO SWAT team then spent two hours trying to establish contact with Fuller before entering the residence and finding him dead of gunshot wound to the chest. No gun was recovered, but a black and chrome stapler was found near his body.

Fuller, who was out on bond on meth and paraphernalia charges, had a lengthy criminal record including assault, weapons, and various drug charges.

Deputy Reveron is on administrative leave.

Sgt. Eric Meier of the Crawford Police in upstate New York died September 17, not from a criminal's bullet, but from an apparent heart attack as he traipsed through fields and woods while investigating a report of a marijuana grow. Meier, 51, "suffered a medical emergency" in mid-afternoon and died later that afternoon at the Orange Regional Medical Center.

Zachary McDaniels of Richland County, South Carolina, died on September 6, choking to death on a bag of marijuana during a traffic stop. According to the Richland County Sheriff's Office, McDaniels was one of two men who stole a car at local shopping mall and fled on foot when deputies pulled them over. McDaniels was caught, and police said after he was caught, he started having trouble breathing. EMS workers were called to the scene and found a baggie in his airway, but were unable to remove it. He went into cardiac arrest and suffered brain injury and died after his family took him off life support. The autopsy showed he had swallowed four other baggies of weed before the fifth one got stuck.

Chronicle AM: Lynch Reaffirms Obama MJ Stance, Celebs Come Out for Sentencing Reform, More (10/5/15)

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is following the same path on marijuana states as her predecessor, the big California legalization initiative rolls out, Uruguay grants licenses to grow commercial marijuana, there will be no cannabis sales in Berlin (at least for now), and more.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch (justice.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Lynch Reaffirms Obama Administration's Approach to Marijuana States. The new attorney general has made clear she is not going off the reservation when it comes to marijuana policy. Former Attorney General Holder crafted the administration's largely hands-off approach, and Lynch has now said she will follow that path. "I think states have to make these decisions on their own," she said in an interview with NBC. "They listen to their citizens and they take actions. What we have said, and what we continue to say is that states have to also have a system designed to, number one, mitigate violence associated with their marijuana industries. And number two, and perhaps most importantly, keep young people, children away from the products."

ReformCA Rolls Out Its California Legalization Initiative. The California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, also known as ReformCA, has filed a draft marijuana legalization initiative with state officials, the group announced Sunday. The long-anticipated move means the campaign best-placed to bring legalization to the Golden State can finally get underway.The Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016 would allow people 21 and over to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana and it would set up legal marijuana commerce overseen by a pair of new state agencies, the California Cannabis Commission and the Office of Cannabis Regulatory Affairs. Click on the title link to read our feature story.

Oregon Dispensaries Rake in the Bucks from Recreational Sales. Dispensaries, which were allowed to start selling marijuana to any adults October 1, are reporting "gangbuster" business during their opening weekend. One Southeast Portland dispensary reported 600 customers a day, compared to the 30 a day it had been seeing for medical marijuana. A Bend dispensary reported $55,000 in sales on opening day, and a Northeast Portland dispensary was staying open 24-hours-a-day to meet demand.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois' First Medical Marijuana Crop is Coming In. Shine on, harvest moon. The state's medical marijuana cultivation centers spent the weekend harvesting their first legal crop, and some are already preparing their first shipments to patients. The state has had a medical marijuana law in effect since January 2014, but only now is the medicine about to get to patients.

Ohio Attorney General Again Rejects Medical Marijuana Initiative Summary. For the second time, Attorney General Mike DeWine has rejected the summary language for a proposed medical marijuana initiative from Ohio Medical Cannabis Care LLC. DeWine pointed to six defects in the language. The group can resubmit its language once it has addressed them. Click on the link for details on the defects.

Three of Kettle Falls Five Sentenced to Federal Prison. The Kettle Falls Five were a family group of medical marijuana patients pursued by federal prosecutors even though both medical and recreational marijuana are legal in Washington. Last Friday, two were sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison, while a third was sentenced to 33 month. Family patriarch Larry Harvey was also prosecuted, but has died, and a fifth member has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 16 months. The three sentenced last Friday are still free while their convictions are being appealed.

Heroin and Prescription Opiates

Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill Aimed at Opiate Abuse. The measure, Senate Bill 2020, is focused on prevention and intervention to curb opiate use. It has provisions regarding pain management, expanded manufacturer drug take-back programs, and insurance changes to make it easier to get coverage for drug treatment. The bill now goes to the House.

Sentencing

A-List Celebs Get Behind Sentencing Reforms, Prison Population Reductions. Amy Schumer, Steph Curry, Ed Norton, Jesse Williams, Chris Pine, Russell Simmons, and Piper Kerman are among 90+ celebrities calling for reform to our criminal justice system. The stars are joining the campaign led by #cut50, a bipartisan effort to reduce our incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. The celebrity push comes on the heels of a historic deal on criminal justice reform last week. The bill, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), will involve reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal "safety valve" (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and will expand reentry programming and early release. Click on the link for more.

International

No Cannabis Cafes for Berlin. Plans for Germany's first legal marijuana sales businesses have gone up in smoke after federal regulators rejected plans by Berlin's Kreuzberg-Friedrichschain district to allow them. The Federal Institute on Pharmaceuticals put the kibosh on the plan, but this isn't the end of it. Similar moves are afoot in Hamburg, Bremen, Munster, and Dusseldorf, and Kruezberg-Friedrichschain says it isn't giving up, either.

Uruguay Awards Commercial Marijuana Cultivation Permits. Marijuana should be available for sale at pharmacies in about eight months after Uruguay has now selected two companies to grow it for the country's legal market. It will go for about $1.20 per joint.

Sweeping Bipartisan Federal Sentencing Reform Legislation Filed [FEATURE]

A bipartisan group of senators including heavyweights like Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin rolled out comprehensive sentencing reform legislation Thursday. The bill aims at reducing prison sentences for some drug offenders and seeking to curb recidivism by bolstering reentry programs for prisoners. The legislation would, however, also expand mandatory minimum sentences in some for some non-drug offenses.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 is also cosponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

It is arguably the most sweeping legislation to roll back drug war excesses yet, and it represents "small government" conservatives cooperating with liberals and civil rights advocates -- a remarkable step in this era of poisoned partisan relations in Washington. If passed, it would free some currently serving prisoners, as well as cut sentences for future offenders.

The bill narrows the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals, while broadening ways defendants with minimal non-felony criminal histories can avoid triggering mandatory minimum sentences. The bill also reduces certain mandatory minimums, providing judges with greater discretion when determining appropriate sentences, and preserves "cooperation incentives" to aid law enforcement in tracking down kingpins.

In addition to reducing prison terms for some offenders through sentencing reform, qualifying inmates can earn reduced sentences through recidivism reduction programs outlined in the CORRECTIONS Act introduced by Cornyn and Whitehouse. The bill also makes retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act and certain statutory reforms that address inequities in drug sentences.

According to a summary provided by Sen. Grassley's office, the bill:

Reforms and Targets Enhanced Mandatory Minimums for Prior Drug Felons: The bill reduces the enhanced penalties that apply to repeat drug offenders and eliminates the three-strike mandatory life provision, but it allows those enhanced penalties to be applied to offenders with prior convictions for serious violent and serious drug felonies.

Broadens the Existing Safety Valve and Creates a Second Safety Valve: The bill expands the existing safety valve to offenders with more extensive criminal histories but excludes defendants with prior felonies and violent or drug trafficking offenses unless a court finds those prior offenses substantially overstate the defendant's criminal history and danger of recidivism. The bill also creates a second safety valve that gives judges discretion to sentence certain low-level offenders below the 10-year mandatory minimum. But defendants convicted of serious violent and serious drug felonies cannot benefit from these reforms.

Reforms Enhanced Mandatory Minimums and Sentences for Firearm Offenses: The bill expands the reach of the enhanced mandatory minimum for violent firearm offenders to those with prior federal or state firearm offenses but reduces that mandatory minimum to provide courts with greater flexibility in sentencing. The bill also raises the statutory maximum for unlawful possession of firearms but lowers the enhanced mandatory minimum for repeat offenders.

Creates New Mandatory Minimums for Interstate Domestic Violence and Certain Export Control Violations: The bill adds new mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes involving interstate domestic violence and creates a new mandatory minimum for providing weapons and other defense materials to prohibited countries and terrorists.

Applies the Fair Sentencing Act and Certain Sentencing Reforms Retroactively

Provides for Prison Reform based on the Cornyn-Whitehouse CORRECTIONS Act: The bill requires the Department of Justice to conduct risk assessments to classify all federal inmates and to use the results to assign inmates to appropriate recidivism reduction programs, including work and education programs, drug rehabilitation, job training, and faith-based programs. Eligible prisoners who successfully complete these programs can earn early release and may spend the final portion (up to 25 percent) of their remaining sentence in home confinement or a halfway house.

Limits Solitary Confinement for Juveniles in Federal Custody and Improves the Accuracy of Federal Criminal Records

Provides for a Report and Inventory of All Federal Criminal Offenses

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) is a bill cosponsor (wikimedia/Bbsrock)
"This historic reform bill addresses legitimate over-incarceration concerns while targeting violent criminals and masterminds in the drug trade," Grassley said. "This bill is an important component in my ongoing effort as Judiciary Committee chairman to ensure access to justice for both the victims and the accused."

"The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country on earth," said Durbin. "Mandatory minimum sentences were once seen as a strong deterrent. In reality they have too often been unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety. Given tight budgets and overcrowded prison cells, our country must reform these outdated and ineffective laws that have cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. This bipartisan group is committed to getting this done."

"Crafting criminal justice reform in this Congress is like a Rubik's cube, but this group of Republicans and Democrats worked hard to come up with a fair and balanced package that will make a real difference," said Schumer. "This bill would make much needed reforms to sentencing for nonviolent offenders, resulting in a much fairer criminal justice system. I'm hopeful that we can continue moving the ball forward in a bipartisan way to make the reforms our system needs."

"For decades, our broken criminal justice system has held our nation back from realizing its full potential," said Booker. "Today, we take a step forward. Mass incarceration has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, drained our economy, compromised public safety, hurt our children, and disproportionately affected communities of color while devaluing the very idea of justice in America. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a promising, bipartisan step forward to help right this wrong."

Although the bill doesn't move completely away from the resort to mandatory minimums, it is still garnering general support among the civil rights, drug reform, and criminal justice reform communities.

The bill aims to reduce federal prison populations. (nadcp.org)
"The legislation is recognition from leadership in both parties that the war on drugs has failed and that the harsh sentencing laws that appealed to lawmakers in the 80s and 90s have had disastrous consequences -- especially for communities of color," said Michael Collins, Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. "There are things we like about the bill and things we don't, and much more action is needed to tackle mass incarceration, but this is a worthy compromise."

"In an age of intense partisan conflict, it's heartening to see lawmakers across the spectrum working together on restoring justice in this country," said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of criminal justice professionals working to end the drug war. "We could reduce the impact that drug prohibition has on people of color and for so many others who have been victims of unreasonable and ineffective drug prohibition laws. There's still a lot of work to be done, but this is a considerable step in the right direction."

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights was also on board.

"Today marks a unique moment in our history and an important step forward in making long overdue reforms to our justice system," said Wade Henderson, the group's CEO. "This bill represents the most robust bipartisan effort at criminal justice reform in years. "This harmonic convergence of left and right -- of civil rights and small government advocates -- represents a coalition of conscience that can carry this legislation to the White House. We applaud the effort and look forward to working with the cosponsors on this legislation."

Now, the bill has to actually get through Congress. Given the high-powered and bipartisan support in the Senate, prospects look good there, but whether the House will be willing to sign on remains to be seen.

Here Comes the Big One: The ReformCA Marijuana Legalization Initiative [FEATURE]

The California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, also known as ReformCA, has filed a draft marijuana legalization initiative with state officials, the group announced Sunday. The long-anticipated move means the campaign best-placed to bring legalization to the Golden State can finally get underway.

The Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016 would allow people 21 and over to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana and it would set up legal marijuana commerce overseen by a pair of new state agencies, the California Cannabis Commission and the Office of Cannabis Regulatory Affairs.

"We believe this effort has the most statewide input and consensus, and thus the greatest likelihood of succeeding on the 2016 ballot," ReformCA said. "We engaged in extensive discussions with thousands of stakeholders across California, including community leaders, activists, elected officials, city and county employees and locals."

ReformCA also consulted with the California NAACP, the Latino Voters' Leagues, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and medical, health care and environmental groups. It took part in lengthy discussions with the Drafting Advisory Group, which includes state and national activist and industry groups, including the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, the California Cannabis Industry Association, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, the Emerald Growers Association, New Approach, the Harborside Group, and the Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation.

"We've filed our proposed initiative language based on the policy priorities and common sense reforms Californians have been asking for for six years now" and the Manatt, Phelp and Phillips Law Firm has created "an elegant policy document," ReformCA said, adding that it was crafted to comport with the guidelines laid down by pro-legalization Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy and to complement the statewide medical marijuana regulation scheme approved last month by the legislature.

A handful of other legalization initiatives have already been filed, and some are approved for signature gathering, but there isn't much sign that any of them have the bucks or the organization to get the job done. It takes some 365,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 elections, a number that means paid signature gathering at a cost that could run a million dollars or more.

And that's just to get on the ballot. With 38 million residents and some of the country's largest media markets, California is an expensive place to run an initiative advertising campaign -- as in $10 million or $20 million or more.

Let the campaign begin! (reformca.com)
There is money out there, and unlike 2010, when Richard Lee's Proposition 19 came up short, both financially and at the polls, the state's already existing legal (medical) marijuana industry looks to be gearing up to help. Earlier this year, Weedmaps.com contributed $2 million toward the cause, with half going to an initiative campaign committee that will spend it on the initiative it likes best. The other half is going to a PAC that will work to elect pro-legalization candidates. Facebook cofounder Sean Parker, who did support Prop 19, says he will probably invest in a legalization initiative, too.

But if, as expected, both the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project get behind the ReformCA initiative -- they were a teensy bit nervous last week -- that should help open the floodgates and pave the way to getting those signatures and making the ballot.

This is a first draft of the initiative, and the campaign is seeking feedback before filing a final version, but only until midnight Pacific Time this Wednesday. Here's what it will do:

  • Personal Use and Cultivation. Legalizes possession of up to an ounce by people 21 and over and allows for personal cultivation of up to 100 square feet and the possession of "the results of lawfully harvested homegrown cannabis."
  • Unlawful Acts. A $100 fine for minors possessing or sharing not more than an ounce with other minors; a $500 fine for adults providing less than an ounce to minors, for minors who possess more than an ounce but less than a pound, for adults who possess more than an ounce, for public consumption, and for smoking up in a moving vehicle; either a misdemeanor or infraction (prosecutor's choice) for possessing more than a pound, selling more than an ounce but less than a pound, growing marijuana beyond 100 square feet without a license or as a minor; a felony for providing pot to minors under 18, distribution to other states, growing on federal or state protected lands, or engaging in violence.
  • Driving. No measuring metabolites. Instead: "A person shall be deemed to be under the influence of cannabis if, as a result of consuming cannabis, his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle or operate a vessel with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances. This standard shall be the sole standard used in determining driving under the influence allegations."
  • Employment. Does not affect employers' ability to fire employees for marijuana use.
  • Medical Marijuana. With limited exceptions, "does not infringe upon the protections granted under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996," grants business licenses to existing, compliant medical marijuana businesses.
  • Regulated Marijuana Commerce. Establishes the California Cannabis Commission and the Office of Cannabis Regulatory Affairs to regulate and rule-make; envisions licenses for cultivation, nursery, manufacturing, distribution, transportation, retail, and testing enterprises.
  • Local Control. Cities and counties can ban marijuana commerce, including retail outlets, but not delivery services, but only by popular vote -- not by executive or legislative action. This means the default position is "no ban."Localities cannot ban personal cultivation.
  • Taxation. Tax on cultivators of $2 per square foot licensed; production tax paid by first purchaser of $15 an ounce ($5 an ounce for first 500 pounds from small producers); 10% retail sales tax -- half to the state and half to the locality.

Remember this is just the draft, but ReformCA is finally out of the gate. California should join the ranks of the legalization states next year, and the Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016 is the most likely vehicle.

Oakland, CA 95472
United States

Chronicle AM: Late Uncertainty on CA Initiatives, FL Heroin Deaths at Record High, More (10/2/15)

There are signs of dissension around the ReformCA legalization initiative, Oklahoma medical marijuana supporters are searching for signatures, a federal bill to require police to report lethal force incidents is introduced, and more.

Heroin killed a record number of people in Florida last year, but more died of prescription drug overdoses. (NJ State Police)
Marijuana Policy

Last Minute Uncertainties for California's ReformCA Initiative. There are signs the unified front behind the pending ReformCA legalization initiative isn't as unified as was thought. The LA Weekly is reporting that one of its key backers, the Drug Policy Alliance, might go its own way. "We want to have a plan B option that's ready to go in case [another] initiative doesn't represent and uphold the values and principles," said Lynne Lyman, the DPA's California director. "We're most concerned about a case where it doesn't move forward." DPA, NORML, and the Marijuana Policy Project had been listed on the ReformCA website as supporters; now they're not. MPP has confirmed that it asked for its name to be removed. But Dale Gieringer, a spokesman for ReformCA, downplayed the situation. "It's not that chaotic. It will all be clear in a few days. It's about last-minute negotiation."

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Initiative Signature Gathering Goes Forward. The Green the Vote medical marijuana initiative campaign was doing signature gathering in Ardmore Thursday. The group has 90 days to gather 130,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Heroin and Prescription Opiates

Florida Heroin Deaths at All-Time High. Heroin was detected in 447 fatalities last year, according to state medical examiners. That's more than double the 199 people who died with heroin in their bodies in 2013. Fentanyl was also surging; there were 538 deaths of people who had the powerful prescription opioid in their systems, nearly double the 292 from the previous year. While heroin deaths were at record levels, more than twice as many (978) people died with oxycodone in their systems. There were 8,587 fatal drug overdoses reported in Florida last year; many of them included multiple substances.

Drug Policy

New Hampshire GOP Lawmakers Want Online Drug Dealer Registry. Three GOP lawmakers have presented slightly different bills that would create an online drug dealer registry similar to sex offender registries, but advocacy groups said such a move is unfair and unnecessary. "It's a stupid, gratuitous and entirely unnecessary proposal," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. ''It reminds me of the sort of foolish rhetoric and foolish laws that flowed from back at the height of the drug war." Click on the title link for more detail.

Law Enforcement

Federal Bill Requiring Police to Report Use of Lethal Force Filed. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) Thursday filed S. 2112, "a bill to require law enforcement agencies to report the use of lethal force, and for other purposes."

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School