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California Bill Seeks to Name Three Obscure Substances "Date Rape Drugs," Enhance Penalties [FEATURE]

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

Possession of so-called date rape drugs could become a felony under a California bill that marks the first effort to roll back parts of last year's voter-approved Proposition 47. That initiative is an effort to begin to reverse the state's prison-swelling war on drugs by making simple drug possession a misdemeanor.

the "date rape" drug ketamine (wikimedia.org)
The avowed goal of the new legislation -- seeking to prevent date rape -- is indeed laudable, but the politicians behind the move are either misinformed about who uses such drugs and why or they are deliberately misrepresenting the facts.

"Date rape drugs are tools in the hand of predators and they're not a recreational drug," said Rep. Tom Lackey(R-Antelope Valley), a former Highway Patrol sergeant and chief sponsor of Assembly Bill 46. A companion measure has been filed in the Senate.

The bills would break with Prop 47 by treating three specified drugs -- ketamine, Rohypnol, and GHB -- more severely than other drugs. Instead of charging people caught with personal amounts of these substances as misdemeanors, as is the case with cocaine, heroin, meth, and all other drugs, prosecutors would now have the option of charging them with a felony.

"We should not wait for women to be victimized before serious charges are available to prosecutors,” said Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), sponsor of the Senate version. "A person found in possession of these drugs is likely intending to use them to commit a sexual assault -- not for personal use. Law enforcement must be able to charge a person accordingly."

But not only are the legislators misrepresenting the vast majority of the users of these drugs, they are also missing the forest for the trees. If they really wanted to criminalize a drug to prevent date rape, that drug would be alcohol. According to a 2005 Justice Department study, the specified "date rape" drugs were present in only 4.2% of sexual assaults, while other drugs, including alcohol, were present in 61%. (That same study also listed 45 other substances that could be used to impair someone.)

Similarly, a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism implicated alcohol in 50% of all -- sexual assaults.

Experts on the topic tell similar stories.

"Quite honestly, alcohol is the No. 1 date rape drug," said Mike Lyttle, regional supervisor for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Nashville crime lab. "Roofies are very rarely -- if ever -- seen in real life," he told USA Today.

"We really don't know for sure what the actual numbers are," said Dr. Susan R.B. Weiss, associate director for scientific affairs for the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health. "But drugs that are sedating drugs or incapacitating drugs probably are not that common in sexual assault. We really don't know the true prevalence, but we know for sure alcohol is much more common than other drugs."

the most common date rape drug (wikimedia.org)
Still, substances targeted in these bills -- Rohypnol, ketamine, and GHB -- are only used as "date rape drugs" and that justifies their users getting harsher treatment, the legislators said.

But a quick glimpse at the -- Vaults of Erowid -- puts the lie to that claim. Erowid is a web site dedicated to "documenting the complex relationships between humans and psychoactives," and one of its most fascinating sections is its user reports. They consist of write-ups of thousands of experiences with a panoply of mind-melting substances submitted by the users themselves.

Erowid describes ketamine as "a disassociative psychedelic" that can, at higher doses, cause users to "find themselves completely removed from their surroundings and their bodies." People going down the K-hole, as it were, might experience "alternate planes of existence, a sense of movement through a space or landscape, a oneness with everything, past and future revelations, and strange fabrics or textures of all sorts," Erowid reports.

The Erowid Experience Vaults for ketamine has hundreds of user reports -- the good, the bad, and the truly weird -- some from people using Special K in lower doses, sniffing it like coke as a social party drug; many from avid and dedicated psychonauts, those explorers of the chemically-enhanced inner mind who blast themselves into some very strange inner places; even some from people attempting to use it therapeutically, self-medicating with it to address issues like depression, addiction, and anxiety.

Erowid describes GHB as "a sedative used both as a prescription sleep-aid and as a recreational intoxicant. It is known for its ability to induce a short (several hour) coma-like sleep at high doses."

Rohynpol, AKA "roofies" (wikimedia.org)
It's obvious from the description that GHB is used to party with, and the Erowid GHB vault, with more than 200 entries, backs that up. The drug is also described as a sedative, and like any sedative, it could be used to dose someone without her knowledge. On its GHB page, Erowid thoughtfully provided an admonitory primer on substance related sexual assault -- nearly 15 years ago.

Rohypnol ("roofies"), a trade name for flunitrazapam, is a strong sedative and hypnotic prescribed for chronic or intense insomnia, but not in the US. The drug has never been approved by the FDA for use here, and actually seems to have had its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, until it was labeled a date rape drug.

It doesn't seem to be much of one now. That Justice Department study cited above found Rohypnol in only 0.5% of victims of drug-facilitated sexual assaults, and a 2006 British study found only 2% had any sedatives in their urine 12 hours after the assault. Similarly, a 2009 Australian study of 97 patients admitted to hospitals claiming their drinks had been spiked was unable to find a single case where the drinkers had actually been dosed with sedatives. They did find, however, that the mean blood alcohol level of the patients was 0.096%, well above what is legally considered too drunk to drive in the US.

Compared to the other drugs in question, Rohypnol doesn't appear to be of much interest to the Erowid set -- there are only 20-odd user reports in the flunitrazepam vault. They appear to be using for recreational or self-therapeutic reasons, and user report titles such as "My Mind Is A Blank," "Goofy Roofie," and "A Lot I Don't Remember" provide a hint of the experiences.

It seems clear that while ketamine, GHB, and Rohypnol, like many other drugs, including most prominently alcohol, can be used for nefarious purposes, those three substances are only a tiny part of the problem. It seems equally clear that substantial numbers of people who are not date rapists but recreational drug users are using these drugs. If these misinformed bills actually become law, the people who will be hit with harsher penalties are much more likely to be innocent partiers than deviant criminals.

Sacramento, CA
United States

Chronicle AM: CA Poll Has 55% for Legalization, GA MedMJ CBD Bill Passes, DEA Sex Parties, More (3/26/15)

Marijuana and medical marijuana remain hot items at the statehouse, a new report says DEA agents partied with prostitutes paid for by drug traffickers, Indiana's governor okays emergency needle exchanges, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Alaska Marijuana Bill Would Still Treat Pot as Controlled Substance. The state Senate is preparing to vote Friday on the bill to deal with marijuana post-legalization, but it will vote on a version of Senate Bill 30 that keeps marijuana listed as a controlled substance. A Judiciary Committee draft removed marijuana from the list, but the Senate voted as a whole to adopt instead language from the Finance committee that keeps it on the list.

New California Poll Has Support for Legalization at 55%. A new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll has 55% of Californians supporting marijuana legalization. "Support for legalization is at its highest point since PPIC began asking the question in May 2010," the group noted.

California Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy Releases Policy Road Map Today. A group of experts led by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is today unveiling a "progress report" that outlines issues that should be addressed in any legalization initiative going before voters next year. The commission also includes the ACLU, leading academics, law enforcement officials, and activists.

Massachusetts Prosecutors Reject Legalization. State DAs showed little interest in legalizing marijuana at a statehouse hearing Wednesday. "We ought to turn ourselves into Denver, Colorado, where gummy bears are littering the streets that are made of marijuana?" asked Cape and Islands DA Michael O'Keefe in a typical comment from prosecutors. If the legislature doesn't legalize pot this year or next, the state is extremely likely to see one or more initiatives to do so next year.

New Jersey Governor Says Marijuana Tax Revenue is "Blood Money." Gov. Chris Christie (R) used the occasion of the ribbon-cutting event at a drug treatment facility to reiterate his opposition to marijuana legalization. Christie said marijuana is a "gateway drug" and that tax revenues from its sale would amount to "blood money."

ResponsibleOhio Begins Signature Gathering. Signature gathering started Wednesday for the group's marijuana legalization initiative, which is unique and controversial because of its scheme to essentially create a commercial marijuana monopoly with only 10 registered commercial growers. The group needs some 300,000 signatures by July to qualify for this year's ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Federal CBD Bill Filed. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) has filed HR 1635, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude cannabidiol (CDB) and CBD-rich marijuana plants from the definition of marijuana under the act.

Georgia CBD Passes Legislature, Governor Will Sign. The House Wednesday gave final approval to House Bill 1, which would allow patients with eight specified diseases to use CBD cannabis oil. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) said today he will sign the bill.

Hawaii Dispensary Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Public Health and Public Safety committees have approved House Bill 321, which would create dispensaries and production centers in each county in the state. They also amended the bill to speed up the opening of dispensaries, which would now be set for next year.

Iowa Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday approved Senate Study Bill 1243, which would allow patients with a number of specified medical conditions to use medical marijuana -- but not to smoke it.

North Carolina House Committee Kills Medical Marijuana Bill. After an intense hour-long hearing, the House Judiciary Committee voted to kill a medical marijuana bill, House Bill 78. Some supporters of the bill vowed to move to other states, while one Republican foe of the bill, Rep. Dan Arp, complained he was struck in the back by an angry supporter. The man was detained by police, but later released without charges.

Heroin and Opiates

Kentucky Legislature Passes Compromise Heroin Bill. After more than three years of negotiations, the legislature has passed a bill that will allow for needle exchange programs, but also increase sentences for some heroin dealing offenses. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is expected to sign the bill.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Governor Authorizes Limited Needle Exchange Program to Fight HIV Outbreak. Gov. Mike Pence (R) has declared a public health emergency in Scott County, which has seen 79 new HIV cases since December, all tied to needle sharing among drug users. The move allows him to institute a short-term needle exchange program to attempt to slow the outbreak.

Drug Testing

Arkansas Welfare Drug Testing Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor has approved House Bill 1924, which would establish a pilot program to require welfare applicants to undergo screening for drug use and submit to drug tests if deemed "suspicious." The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Law Enforcement

DEA Agents in Colombia Enjoyed "Sex Parties" Paid for By Drug Traffickers. A new report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General finds that foreign drug trafficking organizations paid for "sex parties" attended by DEA agents, including at least one DEA Supervisory Agent. At least seven overseas agents admitting attending parties with prostitutes, and they were hit with penalties of suspensions ranging from two to10 days. The DEA wasn't especially helpful in preparing the report, the OIG noted.

International

New Zealand Prime Minister Rejects Marijuana Decriminalization. Prime Minister John Key said while campaigning Thursday that he did not support marijuana decriminalization. When accused by a listener of wanting to lock people up, he said, "It's not so much that, I just don't agree with drugs." That prompted Northland candidate Maki Herbert to retort that Key was sending mixed messages. "On the one hand he wants cannabis to remain a crime but he denies wanting to lock people in jail for that crime," she said. "Mr. Key should remember that alcohol is also a drug, one which he admits to using regularly."

Chronicle AM: CO Pot Arrests Way Down, GA & ID CBD Bills Move, KY Heroin Bill Stalled, More (3/25/15)

Who could have imagined? Marijuana arrests drop dramatically in Colorado, CBD cannabis oil bills move in Georgia and Idaho, Kentucky heroin bills are stalled, a leading Moroccan political figure calls for cannabis amnesty, and more.

Hashish. Leading Moroccan political figures are calling for amnesty for hash farmers. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

New Report Shows Massive Decrease in Colorado Marijuana Arrests. A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance finds that marijuana possession arrests have declined by more than 90%, cultivation arrests have dropped 96%, and distribution arrests are down 99% since the state approved legalization in 2012. But blacks continue to get charged with marijuana offenses at a rate 2.4 times that of whites, a figure unchanged from pre-legalization days.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Senate Passes CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. The state Senate Tuesday approved House Bill 1, which would allow the use of the oil for eight specified medical conditions. The bill has already passed the House, but because it was amended in the Senate, it has to go back for a final House vote. That was expected to happen today.

Idaho Senate Approves CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. The state Senate voted 22-12 Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 1146, which would allow the use of the oil for children with severe forms of epilepsy. The bill had originally only offered an affirmative defense to prosecution, but was amended in the Senate to go further. The bill now heads to the House.

Heroin and Opiates

Kentucky Heroin Bills Stalled as Legislators Squabble. Legislators are scrambling to salvage legislation to address heroin and opiate use after a compromise effort apparently fell apart over the weekend. The deal had included funding for treatment, a 911 Good Samaritan clause, expanded use of the overdose reversal drug naloxone, and tougher penalties for heroin dealers. But now, it looks like either a watered-down compromise will pass, or nothing at all -- for the second straight year.

Law Enforcement

Arizona Congressional Delegation Files Bills Targeting Cartel Lookouts. Arizona Republican federal legislators have authored a pair of bills that would increase penalties for people acting as lookouts for drug smugglers crossing the US-Mexico border. The bills would impose a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for "unlawfully hindering immigration and border control." Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced HR 1588 in the House, while Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) filed the companion bill, S 847, in the Senate.

International

Leading Moroccan Political Figure Again Calls for Amnesty for Marijuana Growers. The secretary general of one the country's major opposition parties, the Istiqlal Party, has called again for amnesty for pot growers. Morocco is a leading world producer of hash, much of which is destined for European markets. Hamid Chabat said nearly 80,000 growers are out on bail while "corrupt and money launderers enjoy amnesty." He also called for legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, saying it could be exported as well as used for "the health of the people."

Chronicle AM: Second Maine Initiative, Federal Hair Drug Tests for Truckers Bill, More (3/24/15)

And now there are two Maine legalization initiatives, there is no decrim in New Mexico this year, Denver moves to restrict collective grows, truck drivers could face hair drug tests, the DEA's marijuana eradication program is lagging, and more.

The DEA is chopping down millions fewer pot plants these days. (DEA)
Marijuana

Alaska Marijuana Bill Moves. A bill to adjust the state's criminal codes to allow for legal marijuana passed the Senate Finance Committee Monday and now heads for the Senate Rules Committee before going for a floor vote. The bill, Senate Bill 30, creates crimes for possession of amounts greater than allowed for under state law, bans the delivery of marijuana for sale or barter, and bans marijuana commerce in the state's unorganized boroughs (although villages could opt back in). The bill no longer contains a controversial section banning marijuana concentrates after 2017.

Second Maine Legalization Initiative Campaign Gets Underway. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) today unveiled its plan to legalize marijuana in the state next year. The MPP initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce and grow up to six plants, allow for retail sales with a 10% tax in addition to sales taxes, and limit the number of retail outlets until 2019. Another group, Legalize Maine, unveiled its initiative proposal last month. In the meantime, the legislature is considering a legalization bill from Sen. Diane Russell (D-Portland).

New Mexico Decriminalization Bill Dies as Session Ends. A bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana is dead after the session came to an end without the House taking it up. Senate Bill 383 had passed the Senate, but was languishing in the House Judiciary Committee when the session ended last Saturday.

Denver City Council Votes to Restrict Collective Gardens. The council voted Monday night to limit the number of marijuana plants that collectives can grow to 36. There are at least 60 collectives in the city, with some having thousands of plants. Marijuana attorney and advocate Rob Corry said that the ordinance violates Amendment 64 and that he'll sue to get it annulled.

Medical Marijuana

House Version of Federal Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (D-AK) Monday introduced the House version of the CARERS Act filed two weeks ago in the Senate. Both bills would allow states to have medical marijuana without federal interference, reschedule marijuana to Schedule II, allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana, allow interstate commerce in CBD cannabis oils, and ease banking problems for the industry. The House version is HR 1538.

New Synthetic Drugs

Texas Senate Approves Bills Banning New Synthetics. The Senate passed one bill to make new synthetics controlled substances, one bill increasing the penalty for possession of the drugs, and one bill that would subject retailers who sell them to a fine of $25,000 a day. The bills are Senate Bill 172, Senate Bill 173, and Senate Bill 461. All three now go to the House, where they are expected to pass.

Drug Testing

Federal Bill Would Allow Hair Drug Testing of Truck Drivers. A bill filed last week by Rep. Eric Crawford (R-AR) would allow motor carriers to submit hair samples for their drivers' drug tests instead of urine samples. Hair testing can reveal drug use months earlier, while urine testing only catches recent drug use. The bill, HR 1467, is supported by several industry organizations.

Law Enforcement

DEA Marijuana Eradication Slowing Down. The DEA is uprooting and destroying far fewer pot plants than it did just a few years ago. According to DEA records, the agency destroyed 4.3 million pot plants last year and 4.4 million the year before. That's less than half of the 10.4 million eradicated in 2009. The slowdown is being blamed on states reducing their enforcement efforts because of the recession and states prioritizing other, more serious, drug threats.

International

Canada Parliament Passes Bill Aimed at Blocking Safe Injection Sites. Parliament has passed Bill C-2, the "Respect Communities Act," which supporters said would give communities a chance to have input on whether to allow safe injection sites. But opponents of the bill say it will only increase the number of hurdles such life-saving programs must surmount before they can operate. The Conservative government has been a staunch opponent of safe injection sites.

Chronicle AM: NM Legislature Passes Civil Asset Forfeiture Ban, No Jail for Junkies in WA County, More (3/23/15)

A ban on civil asset forfeiture passes the legislature in New Mexico, there was a legalization demo in New Jersey and a medical marijuana rally in Tennessee, a UN agency says the herbicide used to spray Colombian coca crops causes cancer, and more.

Snohomish County, WA, is not jailing heroin addicts for nonviolent, misdemeanor offenses. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana

Massachusetts Attorney General Opposes Legalization. Attorney General Maura Healey said today that while she supported a successful decriminalization initiative a few years ago, she doesn't support legalization. "I supported the effort to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana a few years ago, and I appreciated the motivation behind that move and ultimately, the law," Healey told Boston Herald Radio. "What I oppose though now is full legalization of marijuana." She said her views were informed by discussions with her counterparts in Washington and Colorado, who told her they had not seen a drop in drug trafficking and that people came from out of state to buy marijuana. A legalization bill is pending, and the state could see two different initiative campaigns next year if the legislature fails to act.

New Jersey Legalization Advocates Smoke Out in Trenton. More than a hundred people showed up for the "Spring Smoke Out" rally at the statehouse in Trenton Saturday. Led by veteran Garden State pot activist Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion, the group toked up amid chants of "One, two, three four, smoke, smoke, smoke some more!" and demanded an end to pot prohibition.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill that would allow for the use of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of epilepsy passed the Senate State Affairs Committee last Friday and now heads for a Senate floor vote. The measure is Senate Bill 1106. Another cannabis oil bill that would only allow an affirmative defense, Senate Bill 1146, also awaits a Senate floor vote.

Louisiana Medical Marijuana Bill Pre-Filed. State Rep. Dalton Honore (D-Baton Rouge) has pre-filed a bill that would allow for the use of marijuana for specified medical conditions, including seizure disorders, glaucoma, cancer, and the side effects of cancer treatments. The bill is House Bill 6. Last year, similar legislation failed to get out of committee in the face of opposition from law enforcement. The session begins April 13.

Tennessee Advocates in Smoky Mountain Medical Marijuana Rights Rally. Hundreds of people showed up for the Smoky Mountain Medical Marijuana Rights Rally and march in Johnson City Saturday. The rally comes as the state legislature considers a number of medical marijuana-related bills.

International

Bolivia Lashes Out at US Anti-Drug Report. The Bolivian government rejects the State Department's anti-drug report, released last week, which said the country is not complying with international anti-drug trafficking obligations."The report is unacceptable. The only thing it does is to put more obstacles to the hypocritical call to reestablish bilateral relations. This is the double standard policy that he US has and will always have," Government ministry spokesman Hugo Moldiz said.

Ten Killed in Mexico Cartel Attack on Police. Suspected drug gang members attacked a convoy of Mexico's newly militarized police force, the gendarmerie, in Jalisco state last Thursday, leaving five policemen dead, as well as three gang members, and two bystanders. It was one of the deadliest attacks on police since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012.

UN Agency Links Herbicide Used to Spray Colombian Coca Crops to Cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research arm of the World Health Organization, said last Thursday it had reclassified the herbicide glyphosate as a carcinogen. It cited what it said was convincing research showing that the herbicide creates cancer in lab animals and that it could cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in humans. Under a US-government supported program, Colombia has sprayed more than four million acres of land with the stuff in a bid to destroy coca crops. The Colombian government, however, expressed concern, but didn't say it was ready to stop the spraying. Eliminating cocaine "transcends" other concerns, said Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria.

Chronicle AM: DEA "Cold Consent" Searches, NYC Calls for Pot Legalization, KY Heroin Bills Collide, More (3/20/15)

An Ohio legalization initiative heads for signature-gathering, the NYC city council calls for decrim and legalization, the DEA's "cold consent" searches get critiqued, Kentucky pols can't agree on how to deal with heroin, and more.

A Justice Department OIG report criticizes the DEA's "cold consent" seaches. (justice.gov)
Marijuana

Louisiana Legalization Bill Pre-Filed. State Rep. Dalton Honore (D-Baton Rouge) has pre-filed a marijuana legalization bill. He submitted House Bill 117 yesterday. To go into effect, it would have to both pass the legislature and be approved by the electorate in the November 2016 election. Louisiana has some of the country's harshest marijuana laws.

Ohio Ballot Board Clears ResponsibleOhio Legalization Initiative. Backers of the ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative have cleared the final hurdle before beginning signature-gathering. The state Ballot Board agreed that the proposal amounts to a single constitutional amendment, so it's good to go. Backers will now need to gather more than 300,000 signatures by July to qualify for the ballot. The amendment would allow only 10 growing sites already promised to investors.

NYC City Council Calls for Decriminalizing and Legalizing Marijuana. This week, the New York City Council called for the state to pass legislation to both decriminalize and to tax and regulate marijuana. As part of the Council's State Budget and Legislative Agenda for the 2015-2016 legislative session, the council urged the state legislature to pass two marijuana policy reforms -- the Fairness and Equity Act and the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA). The Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito had previously announced her support for marijuana legalization in November, but this marks the first time that decriminalization and legalization have been part of the Council's official legislative agenda.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved House Bill 1 yesterday. The measure has passed the House and now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Methamphetamine

New York Senate Approves Bill to Increase Meth Penalties. The Senate has passed Senate Bill 1150, which would increase penalties for meth possession and sale. Meth would be treated similarly to heroin and cocaine under the bill. The bill is now in the Assembly Codes Committee as Assembly Bill 5577.

Opiates

Kentucky Legislators Still Can't Agree on Heroin Bills. House and Senate negotiators met yesterday to try to reach a compromise on competing bills that address heroin use in the state, but mainly agreed to disagree. There are differences over increasing penalties for heroin dealers, whether to allow needle exchanges, and on how to protect people who report overdoses. There is now a chance legislators could agree on a compromise that simply omits the sentencing and overdose reporting provisions.

Asset Forfeiture

Sen. Chuck Grassley Investigating Asset Forfeiture Abuses in US Marshals Service. The Iowa Republican sent a letter Wednesday to the agency demanding documents after he received whistleblower allegations that the service's Asset Forfeiture Division had used asset forfeiture monies "to purchase extravagant office decorations such as custom wall paper and window treatments." He is also looking into allegations of favoritism in hiring at the agency.

Law Enforcement

Justice Department Report Criticizes DEA's "Cold Consent" Searches. In a new report, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General details how the DEA's use of "cold consent" searches, where agents confront travelers at airports, bus, and rail stations and "ask" for consent to search them, may be racially profiling passengers and unjustly seizing their money. Click on the title link or read the report for lots more detail.

Reentry and Rehabilitation

Ex-Felon Federal Voting Rights Bills Filed. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) has filed S 772 to secure the federal voting rights of people who have served their time. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has filed a companion bill, HR 1459, in the House.

Sentencing

Smarter Sentencing Act Picks Up More Cosponsors. The Senate version, S 502, now has nine cosponsors, with the latest being Sen. John Isaakson (R-GA). The House version, HR 920, now has 22 cosponsors, with six signing on in the past week. The bills would retroactively apply provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act and would reduce mandatory minimum sentences.

International

Canada Supreme Court Takes Up Medical Marijuana Edibles. The high court is hearing a case where plaintiffs charge that Health Canada violated medical marijuana patients' constitutional rights to life, liberty, and safety by barring any form of marijuana except dried plants. The government has lost at every step of the legal process so far, but continues to argue the case.

Zambia Opposition Party Joins Green Call for Marijuana Legalization. Zambia's second largest opposition party, the United Party for National Development, has joined the Greens in calling for the legalization of marijuana cultivation. "There is nothing wrong with cannabis. Just like you and me 'dear reader' Cannabis Sativa, the plant, was also created by God," wrote party vice-president for political affairs Canisius Banda. "Cannabis is a resource. Cannabis must be decriminalized the world over. Nonetheless, regulation, albeit wise, just as it exists for many other things ought to remain. Just like Zambia boasts of Copper, California boasts of Cannabis, the biggest cash crop, responsible for US$14 billion a year in sales. Zambia would do well, under decriminalized but controlled conditions, to start growing Cannabis, and at least, for now until we are a bit more civilized, only for export to countries that have made it legal."

Chronicle AM: Good New Pot Polls, State Dept. Drug Report Released, UN Iran Drug Aid Criticized, More (3/19/15)

A new national pot poll has good numbers and so does a Vermont poll, a Washington state home grow bill is filed, a Missouri hemp bill moves, the DEA warns on fentanyl, critics pounce on the UNODC over aid to Iran, and more.

UNODC is preparing a new drug aid package for Iran despite the country's resort to the death penalty. (handsoffcain.info)
Marijuana

Benenson Strategy Group Poll Has Support for Legalization at 61% Nationwide. The poll, which has a 3.5 +/- margin of error, also has 72% for decriminalization. A General Social Survey poll, the "gold standard" of polls, last week had support at 52%. Other recent polls have also found support above the 50% mark. In this week's BSG poll, Republicans were practically split, but 59% of GOP voters under age 50 supported legalization.

Massachusetts Initiative Group Warns Legislators on Excessive Taxation. The group Bay State Repeal, which intends to run a legalization initiative campaign next year, has released a statement saying it welcomed legislative efforts to legalize it, but cautioned against excessive taxation and fees. "A major aim of legalization is to limit access to minors by driving out the black market," the group said in its statement. "But inevitably, unlicensed producers will continue to supply consumers at the black market if legal marijuana is more expensive."

Vermont Poll Has Support for Legalization at 54%. A new Castleton Polling Institute survey has a majority for legalization, with 70% of respondents under 45 in favor and 61% of respondents over 65 opposed. The poll comes as the legislature considers a legalization bill, but signs are the bill will not move this year.

Washington State Bill Would Allow Home Grows. Washington is the only legalization state that does not allow home cultivation (except for medical), but a pair of bills introduced today would change that. Senate Bill 6083, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and House Bill 2196, sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake, would let adults 21 and over grow up to six plants and possess up to eight ounces of their harvest.

Medical Marijuana

North Carolinians Rally for New Medical Marijuana Bill in Raleigh. More than a hundred people rallied at the state capitol today in support of House Bill 317, which would allow for medical marijuana use by terminally ill patients. Rep. Kelly Alexander formally introduced it today.

Tennessee GOP Senator Says He Will File Medical Marijuana Bill. State Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) said today he is working on a bill that would allow for medical marijuana. He said he expected to have final details by Monday. A Democratic bill in the House has yet to make it out of committee.

Hemp

Missouri Hemp Bill Heads for House Floor Vote -- Maybe. An industrial hemp bill, H.B. 830 has passed its final House committee hurdle and awaits a House floor vote. But it is unclear whether House Majority Leader Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) will give it time for a debate and a vote.

Opiates

DEA Warns on Fentanyl. Fentanyl is increasingly showing up in heroin, the DEA warned yesterday. The opioid is up to 50 times stronger than heroin, and dealers are using it to increase the potency of their products, but the result can be accidental overdoses. "Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety," said DEA administrator Michele Leonhart.

International

State Department Releases Annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. "The two-volume report offers a comprehensive assessment of the efforts of foreign governments to reduce illicit narcotics production, trafficking and use, in keeping with their international obligations under UN treaties, while also presenting information on governments' efforts to counter money laundering and terrorist financing," State says. Click on the link to read the report.

UNODC Preparing New Iran Aid Deal Despite Drug Executions. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is planning a new five-year financial assistance deal with Iran, one of the world's leading executioners for drug crimes. Iran executed at least 350 drug offenders last year and about two a day so far this year. That has critics very unhappy. "Iran has hanged more than a hundred so-called drug offenders this year, and the UN has responded by praising the efficiency of the Iranian drug police and lining them up a generous five-year funding deal," said Maya Foa, strategic director of the death penalty team for Reprieve, a British advocacy group.

Israeli Marijuana Party Fails to Reach Threshold to Enter Knesset. Aleh Yarok, the Israeli political party pushing for marijuana legalization, failed to gain the 3.25% of the popular vote needed to give it representation in the Knesset. Aleh Yarok garnered only 38,000 votes, or 0.97% of the vote. The party may have lost some votes to Meretz, which appealed to youth voters by also embracing marijuana reforms.

Chronicle AM: MT MMJ Comeback Bill, NJ Edibles A Step Closer, Dark Web Drug Site Goes Dark, More (3/18/15)

There will be a bill to restore the medical marijuana status quo ante in Montana, a Nevada bill would allow it for pets, New Jersey releases guidelines for edibles producers, a North Carolina bill targets pregnant women who use drugs, and more.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Medical Marijuana Bill Coming. State Sen. Robyn Driscoll (D) says she will file a bill this week to allow the sale for profit of medical marijuana, remove limits on the number of patients a caregiver can grow for, allow for advertising, allow for the trade in plants and seedlings, and remove a requirement that doctors who recommend for more than 25 people in a year be reviewed by the Board of Medical Examiners. The provisions would enact parts of a district judge's decision permanently enjoining portions of a harsh 2011 medical marijuana law that undid much of the state's 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana initiative.

Nevada Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana for Pets. State Sen. Tick Segerholm (D-Las Vegas) Wednesday introduced Senate Bill 372, which would allow pet owners to obtain marijuana for their animals upon a veteranarian's certification that it could help. He said he worries that some animals might have adverse reactions, but "you don't know until you try."

New Jersey Releases Standards for Edibles Producers. The Health Department has released regulations for growers who will produce medical marijuana edibles. The guidelines are a first step in a process that is likely to last months before the first edibles are available for sale. Click on the link for more details.

Tennessee CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday approved House Bill 197, which would allow for the use of low-THC cannabis oils by specified patients. The bill now goes to the House Health Committee, the last stop before a House floor vote. Companion legislation is moving through the Senate.

Pregnancy

North Carolina Bill Would Criminalize Drug Use During Pregnancy. State Sens. Brent Jackson (R-Autryville) and Louis Pate (R-Mount Olive) Tuesday filed a bill that would allow officials to charge a woman with assault if she uses drugs while pregnant. The measure is Senate Bill 297. Similar legislation passed in Tennessee in 2013.

International

UN Development Program Highlights Drug War's Costs to the World's Poor. UNDP, the agency charged with coming up with strategies to reduce world poverty, has slammed drug prohibition's disastrous impact on poor countries and their residents. The critique came in UNDP's formal submission to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs, whose preliminaries got underway last week as the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Vienna.

Major Dark Web Drug Sales Web Site Goes Dark. The Evolution web site has vanished from the Dark Web. It halted withdrawals of vendors' bitcoin funds over the weekend, citing technical difficulties, then vanished Tuesday night. Some $12 million in bitcoins may have disappeared in what some are now calling a scam. The pseudonymous operators of the site are now facing threats from people who lost money.

Chronicle AM: Obama on Pot, Welfare Drug Test Bills, Italy Marijuana Legalization Bill, More (3/17/15)

Obama pontificiates on pot policy, Maine tribes consider legal marijuana, North Dakota not only doesn't want medical marijuana but doesn't even want to think about it, welfare drug testing dies in Montana, but stays alive in Arkansas, and more.

The president had a few words to say about marijuana today. (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana

Obama Comments on Marijuana, Policy, and Priorities. In an interview with VICE News on Monday, President Obama said marijuana law reforms at the state level could lead to changes at the federal level, but also said that legalization is not "a panacea" and that it shouldn't be young people's highest priority.

Connecticut Supreme Court Rules Past Marijuana Convictions Can Be Expunged. The court held that since the state decriminalized small-time marijuana possession in 2011, people who had been charged with it prior to that can apply to get their convictions erased. The case is Connecticut v. Menditto.

Maine Tribes Ponder Pot Operations. Three of the state's four Indian tribes are considering marijuana legalization on their lands and whether it could prove an economic boon to their communities. The Passamaquoddys, the Maliseet Houlton Band, and the Micmac Aroostook Band are pondering the issue; the Penobscots say they're not interested.

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota House Kills Medical Marijuana Study Bill. Not only does the legislature not want to approve medical marijuana; it doesn't even want to study it. The House earlier killed a medical marijuana bill and now it has killed a study bill, with opponents claiming it wasn't needed because the House Human Services Committee "couldn't find anything that wasn't already taken care of in the hearing process."

Drug Testing

Arkansas Senate Approves Welfare Drug Testing Bill. The bill would create a two-year pilot program that would screen at least 10% of welfare applicants and recipients, and if the screening results in "a reasonable suspicion" that the person is using drugs, he would be subjected to drug testing. The measure is Senate Bill 600. It now goes to the House.

Montana Senate Committee Kills Welfare Drug Testing Bill. The Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee voted 6-1 to kill a bill that would require welfare applicants to be screened for evidence of drug use and some to be drug tested. The bill was House Bill 200. It had already passed the House.

International

Sixty Italian Lawmakers Sign on To Support Marijuana Legalization Bill. A bill from MP Benedetto Della Vedova to legalize marijuana has won the support of 60 of his fellow legislators. That's a start, but it's only a little over 10% of the 630 members of the Chamber of Deputies.

Chronicle AM: Chicago Cops Still Target Blacks for Pot, VT Ibogaine Bill, TX Med MJ Bill, More (3/16/15)

Chicago is still arresting way more blacks than whites for pot possession, marijuana bills are moving in Missouri, Texas sees full-blown medical marijuana bills filed, an ibogaine bill gets filed in Vermont, MAPS wins DEA approval for an ecstasy study, and more.

Marijuana

Chicago Pot Arrests Continue to Target Blacks. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel says that police statistics show "progress" being made in racial disparities around marijuana arrests (he says roughly the same percentage of whites are being ticketed instead of arrested as blacks), the numbers show that blacks are getting arrested for at a rate 16 times that of whites. More than 8,000 blacks were arrested for pot possession, but only 500 whites were, even though whites are 60% of the city's population. Blacks were busted for pot possession at a rate of 977 per 100,000, while whites were arrested at a rate of 60 per 100,000.

Alaska Regulation Bill Still Pending. Senate Bill 30, which seeks to adjust state criminal laws to recognize the legality of marijuana, is getting messy. The Senate Finance Committee was to finish work on the bill Saturday, but that didn't happen. The committee is split over an amendment that passed Friday on a 4-3 vote. That amendment would ban concentrates, including edibles, after two years. In addition to unhappiness over that measure, advocates say the language of the amendment is so unclear it could even ban marijuana leaves. Stay tuned.

Missouri Marijuana Bills Move. Committees in the legislature advanced four different marijuana bills last week. The House Corrections Committee approved HB 978, which would free Jeff Mizanskey, who is serving life without parole for a non-violent cannabis offense; the House Emerging Issues Committee approved a medical marijuana bill, HB 800, although it added restrictions; the House Economic Development and Business Attraction and Retention Committee approved an industrial hemp bill, HB 830, and the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee approved SB 386, which will expand the ailments for which CBD oil could be recommended, as well as increase the number of cultivators from two to 10 and dispensaries from six to 30.

New Mexico Senate Approves Decriminalization Bill. The Senate voted narrowly Saturday to approve marijuana decriminalization. Senate Bill 383 passed on a vote of 21-20. Under the bill, possession of an ounce of less would be a ticketable offense punishable by a $50 fine. The bill now goes to the House.

Medical Marijuana

Florida's CBD Cannabis Oil Program Delayed Again. For the second time, the Department of Health has posted "final rules" for the program, and now, for the second time, it is being challenged by lawsuits. That pushes back the timeline for getting the program up and running by another 60 to 90 days. It was supposed to be running by January 1.

Idaho Limited CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Moves. The Senate State Affairs Committee has narrowly approved a CBD cannabis oil bill, Senate Bill 1146. It passed on a 5-4 vote after law enforcement objections scuttled an earlier bill. The new bill only allows for an affirmative defense; the old one would have explicitly made it legal for patients and providers to possess the oils.

Texas Medical Marijuana Bills Filed. Rep. Marissa Marquez (D-El Paso) Friday introduced HB 3785, a full-fledged medical marijuana bill, in the House, and Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) filed a companion bill in the Senate. The bills would allow qualifying patients to use and possess small amounts of marijuana and obtain it through regulated dispensaries.

Ibogaine

Vermont Ibogaine Drug Treatment Pilot Program Bill Filed. Reps. Paul Dame (R-Essex Junction) and Rep. Joe Troiano (D-Stannard) have introduced HB 387, which would set up a pilot program to dispense the drug for substance abuse treatment. The bill goes to the House Committee on Human Services.

MDMA

DEA Approves Study of MDMA for Anxiety in Terminal Illnesses. The DEA Friday approved a Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening illnesses. The study will take place in Marin County, California, and will be conducted by Dr. Phil Wolfson.

Harm Reduction

Idaho Legislature Approves Opiate Overdose Reversal Drug Bill. The measure, House Bill 108, passed the House last month and the Senate last Thursday. The bill would allow pharmacists to prescribe naloxone to friends and family members of people at risk of an opiate overdose. It now goes to the governor's desk.

Law Enforcement

SUNY New Paltz Students Protest Honoring Campus Cops for Drug Busts. Students and community activists gathered together Friday to protest a police union award ceremony congratulating campus cops for having the highest percentage of on-campus drug arrests nationwide in 2013. "Don't honor the police for disturbing the peace!" read one sign. Students said they didn't have an on-campus drug problem, but an over-policing problem SUNY New Paltz police arrested 105 people for drugs on campus in 2013.

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