Sentencing

RSS Feed for this category

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

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

Bernie Sanders (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

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

Alabama Per Se Marijuana Drugged Driving Bill Advances. The state Senate last Friday approved Senate Bill 162, which would declare anyone driving with five nanograms of THC per milliliter guilty of drugged driving -- whether he is actually impaired or not.

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

Drug Policy

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

Drug Testing

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

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

Law Enforcement

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

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

Drug Policy

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

International

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

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

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

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

Harm Reduction

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

Sentencing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

New Synthetic Drugs

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

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

Harm Reduction

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

International

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

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

Drug Policy

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

International

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

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

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: Indonesia Executes Eight Drug Smugglers, OR MedMJ Regulation Bill Advances, More (4/28/15)

A Maine legalization initiative is moving, an Iowa medical marijuana bill is not, Indiana prosecutors oppose needle exchanges, Indonesia ignores world opinion to execute eight drug smugglers, and more.

Spraying glyphosate in Colombia. The Health Ministry says it should stop. (wikipedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Legalization Initiative Campaign Getting Underway. State officials signed off today on an initiative petition from Legalize Maine, one of two groups planning a 2016 legalization initiative there. Another group backed by the Marijuana Policy Project is also planning on seeking approval for a petition drive.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill Allowing Probationers, Parolees to Use Medical Marijuana Heads to Governor's Desk. The bill, House Bill 1267, passed the Senate on a 34-1 vote Monday and has already passed the House.

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

Oklahoma CBD Cannabis Oil Study Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. The bill, House Bill 2154, passed the House 85-5 today for final approval after it had been modified in the Senate. Now, it's up to Gov. Mary Fallin (R) to sign it.

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

Harm Reduction

Faced With HIV Epidemic, Indiana Prosecutors Still Say Needle Exchanges are Bad Public Policy. The Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys today told the legislature that needle exchanges are bad public policy because "hard core drug addicts don't care enough to get clean needles" and because such programs "would keep many users out of the criminal justice system," where they could be forced to seek drug treatment. Gov. Mike Pence (R) has instituted an emergency needle exchange program in Scott County, where HIV cases have been popping up on a daily basis, and the legislature is considering whether to allow them statewide.

International

Indonesia Executes Eight Drug Smugglers By Firing Squad. Ignoring international protests, Indonesian authorities today (Wednesday Indonesian time) executed eight convicted drug smugglers at Besi Prison on Nusakambangan Island. Among them were Australian, Brazilian, and Nigerian nationals and one Indonesian citizen. A Filipina woman, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, was spared at the last minute.

Colombia Health Ministry Calls for Suspension of Coca Crop Spraying. The ministry is recommending that the country quit using the herbicide glyphosate to spray coca groups. It cites a recent report from the World Health Organization that reclassified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans." Nearly three million acres of land in the country have been sprayed with the stuff in the past three decades. No word yet on whether President Santos will heed the recommendation.

Chronicle AM: WA MedMJ Regulation Bill Signed, National, MI, RI Pot Polls, More (4/27/15)

A national poll and two state polls have majorities for marijuana legalization, a South Dakota initiative would treat alcohol and tobacco like marijuana, Indonesia appears set to execute three foreign drug offenders, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Fox News Poll Has Majority Support for Legalization Nationwide For First Time. Some 51% of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, according to a new Fox News Poll. This marks the first time a Fox News poll has reported a majority for legalization, but is up just one point from last year's Fox News poll, which had 50% support.

Michigan Poll Has Bare Majority for Legalization. A new Marketing Resource Group poll has support for legalization at 51%, with 45% opposed. The poll comes as several state groups are laying plans for a 2016 legalization initiative.

Ohio Attorney General Rejects Legalization Initiative Summary. Attorney General Mike DeWine last Friday rejected the ballot summary for a proposed 2016 legalization initiative backed by former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl. The initiative is a response to the Responsible Ohio initiative, which would set up a 10-grower monopoly on commercial marijuana growing.

Rhode Island Poll Has 57% for Legalization. A New Public Policy Polling survey has support for legalization at 57%. The poll comes as the legislature considers bills that would legalize or decriminalize the herb.

South Dakota Initiatives Would Regulate Alcohol and Tobacco Like Marijuana. A pair of activists calling themselves Consistent South Dakota have crafted two initiatives that would criminalize the sale of alcohol and tobacco. "The state should not benefit from the transfer of two deadly drugs, while punishing the transfer of benign herbs," the group said. Legislators in Vermont have pulled a similar form of political ju-jitsu by introducing a bill to that effect.

Medical Marijuana

New York Now Accepting Applications for Medical Marijuana Licenses. The state Department of Health announced today that it is accepting applications from entities that want to register to grow or distribute medical marijuana. The state expects to announce the companies selected by July.

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

Synthetic Drugs

Illinois Senate Approves Bill Targeting Synthetic Drugs. The Senate last Friday approved Senate Bill 1129, which attempts to go after synthetic drugs by targeting whole classes of synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants instead of individual formulations. The bill now heads to the House.

International

British Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol Party Issues Manifesto. CISTA is running 32 candidates in the forthcoming elections on a pro-marijuana legalization platform. Its manifesto calls for a regulated marijuana market and a fundamental review of British drug policy.

Indonesia Announces Looming Execution of Three Foreign Drug Offenders. The Indonesian government announced Saturday that it will shortly execute two Australians and a Filipina for drug trafficking offenses. Six other foreigners are also on death row for drug offenses. The pending executions are moving forward despite intense international efforts to get the Indonesian government to reconsider.

Head of Scandal-Plagued DEA to Resign [FEATURE]

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart is expected to resign soon, an unnamed "senior administration official" told CBS News this morning. The embattled DEA head has been under fire for years over her leadership of the scandal-ridden agency, but it was her performance at a Capitol Hill hearing last week that sealed her fate.

[It's now official: Attorney General Holder announced Leonhart's retirement in a statement late this afternoon.]

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart is on her way out the door. (justice.gov/dea)
Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee pronounced themselves agog over recent reports of DEA agents in Colombia partying with prostitutes, sometimes with taxpayer dollars, sometimes paid for by Colombian drug traffickers. Those revelations came in a Justice Department Office of the Inspector General report issued last month.

Members were infuriated by the DEA's handling of the case, in which 10 DEA agents were accused of wrongdoing. Only seven of them were disciplined, and the punishment was extremely light: they were suspended for periods of one to 10 days. Leonhart drew the wrath of committee members when she claimed she was unable to discipline the agents more severely.

"What would it take to get fired at the DEA?" asked Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who said he was "stunned" that no one had been fired in the wake of the revelations. "What the hell do you have to do?"

Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) told Leonhart that as agency head she carried much of the responsibility for what he called "a cultural problem" at the agency stretching back years.

"You get called before this committee and say 'Oh, it's terrible, it's awful,'" Chaffetz said at the conclusion of the hearing. "But you personally have been responsible for this for more than a decade and you didn't do anything about it."

Immediately after last Tuesday's hearing, 22 members of the committee signed a joint statement saying they had "no confidence" in Leonhart's continued leadership.

And now word leaks from the White House that Leonhart is about to become history.

It's been a long time coming. The veteran DEA administrator and her agency have been embroiled in scandal throughout her tenure. And she and the DEA have been increasingly out of step with an administration that has shown an interest in rolling back drug war excesses, from major sentencing reforms to largely (if belatedly) adopting a laissez-faire attitude toward medical marijuana and even marijuana legalization in the states.

  • The Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General currently has six open into numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data to both spy on virtually all Americans and to systematically fabricate evidence, and controversial uses of confidential informants.
  • A series of recent investigations by USA Today found that the DEA has been tracking billions of U.S. phone calls without warrants or even suspicion of wrong-doing, an operation copied by the NSA and other agencies after 9/11. The DEA built the modern surveillance state.
  • DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart herself has been at the center of several scandals, including the House of Death scandal in which the DEA may have turned a blind eye to torture and murder, and the Andrew Chambers scandal, in which the DEA rehired a confidential informant with a history of lying.
  • DEA conflicts with Obama administration policy. Last year, Leonhart publicly rebuked President Obama for admitting that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuana even in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and spoke out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress that the Obama administration is supporting.
  • Last May, The DEA created a political firestorm this week when it seized seeds bound for a Kentucky hemp research program that was approved by Congress. Then Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the incident "an outrage" and the Kentucky Agriculture Department sued the DEA.
  • The DEA's refusal to acknowledge science. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart has on several occasions ignored science and overruled the DEA's own administrative law judges on medical issues relating to marijuana. In a bizarre 2012 debate with members of Congress Leonhart refused repeatedly to acknowledge that marijuana is safer than cocaine and heroin.

Drug reform groups, such as the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), both of which had been calling for Leonhart's head for some time, were elated, but urged the Obama administration to use this as an opportunity not to just put a new face in charge of DEA, but to change the agency's direction.

"Leonhart's DEA reflects an outdated, disastrous approach that President Obama claims he wants to leave behind,” said Bill Piper, DPA director of national affairs. "If she leaves, he has an opportunity to appoint someone who will overhaul the DEA and support drug policy reform. The DEA is a large, expensive, scandal-prone bureaucracy that has failed to reduce drug-related problems. Drug use should be treated as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue; with states legalizing marijuana and adopting other drug policy reforms it is time to ask if the agency is even needed anymore," he said.

"Ms. Leonhart consistently and recklessly undermined President Obama's mandate that public policy be guided by science instead of ideology. Her resignation will allow the president to appoint an administrator who will rely on the facts rather than ignore them," said Dan Riffle, MPP director of federal policies.

"Most Americans, including President Obama, recognize the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Yet, Ms. Leonhart was unwilling to even acknowledge that marijuana poses less potential harm than heroin and methamphetamine," Riffle continued. "While most of the country has been progressing in its views on marijuana policy, Ms. Leonhart has maintained a mindset straight out of the 1930s. Hopefully her resignation will mark the end of the ‘Reefer Madness’ era at the DEA."

Chronicle AM: Obama on MedMJ; Chicago, NYC Drug Policy Reform Moves, CA Legalization Funds Begin to Flow, More (4/20/15)

The president suggests he could get behind congressional medical marijuana efforts, a second California legalization initiative has been filed, Weedmaps puts up $2 million for legalization, two of the nation's largest cities are moving toward drug reform, and more. 

President Obama has some encouraging words about medical marijuana. (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Marijuana Control Board Bill Passes. The state Senate last Saturday approved House Bill 123, which would create a Marijuana Control Board. It had already passed the House, but now needs to go back for a concurrence vote after the Senate made changes in the bill. But House Bill 75, which would allow for municipal regulation got stalled on a tie vote. Senate Majority Leader John Coghill (R-North Pole) has asked that the bill be held for reconsideration, and the Senate will again take it up before the session ends.

Weedmaps Kicks In $2 Million for California Legalization Efforts. The marijuana store locator app company has donated $1 million to Californians for Sensible Reform, a campaign committee that says it will back the strongest legalization initiative next year. And it's matched that with another $1 million to Californians for Sensible Reform PAC, which says it will support marijuana-friendly candidates.

Second California Legalization Initiative Filed. Proponents of an open-source legalization initiative, the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2016 (MCLR), filed the effort with state officials in Sacramento today. The effort is being spearheaded by Americans for Policy Reform, which includes San Jose dispensary operator Dave Hodges and Sebastopol marijuana attorney Omar Figueroa, among others. Figueroa is also one of two proponents for another legalization initiative, the California Craft Cannabis Act, filed last week. More proposed initiatives are expected to follow. The recommended deadline for beginning signature-gathering is in early July. Stay tuned.

Medical Marijuana

Obama Suggests Support for Senate Medical Marijuana Bill. In an interview aired Sunday night on CNN's Weed 3 special with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Gupta asked the president if he would get behind the CARERS Act, which would reschedule marijuana and allow states with medical marijuana laws to proceed without threat of federal punishment. "You know, I think I’d have to take a look at the details," Obama replied, "but I’m on record as saying that not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may  in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I’m also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we’re going to be."

Asset Forfeiture

Wyoming Legislative Committee Studies Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform. Gov. Matt Mead (R) vetoed an asset forfeiture reform bill earlier this year, but the legislature isn't giving up. The Joint Judiciary Committee met in Riverton last week and has directed staff to draft bills for next year's legislative session.

Drug Policy

Chicago Prosecutor Will Stop Prosecuting Simple Drug Possession. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said today she intends to quit prosecuting people arrested for simple drug possession and instead link them to social agencies "for treatment rather than pursuing criminal penalties." Those drug possession felonies accounted for one-quarter of all felonies in the county last year. She also said she is not going to bother to prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, either.

New York City Legislation Would Create New Office of Drug Strategy. A proposal just offered by New York City council members would create the new office to coordinate official, expert, and community responses to drug use. It would enhance evidence-based drug education and public health interventions and simplify access to medical, social, and psychological services to drug users seeking help. The idea is to reduce the morbidity, mortality, crime, and racial disparities in law enforcement created by a one-sided law enforcement approach to the issue.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Governor Signs Bill to Ease Access to Overdose Reversal Drug. Last Friday, Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed into law SEA 406, which allows family members and friends of drug users to obtain the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone. Previously, only health professionals could administer the drug.

International

Two More Big Australian States Announce Medical Marijuana Trials. Victoria and Queensland have now joined New South Wales in a clinical trial for medical marijuana. The three most populous states will hold clinical trials of cannabis oil for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea, severe epilepsy, and in palliative care.

Mexico Captures Top Juarez Cartel Leader. Federal troops last Friday captured Juarez Cartel head Jesus Aguayo in the town of Villa Ahumada in Chihuahua state. Aguayo took over leadership of the organization after authorities captured his predecessor, Vicente Carillo in October. 

Chronicle AM: Pro-Legalization Majority in Pew Poll, DEA Chief on Hot Seat Over Sex Scandals, More (4/15/15)

Another poll has a national majority for legalization, the DEA head gets skewered over taxpayer-funded sex scandals, the Senate Judiciary Committee eyes civil asset forfeiture reform, and much, much more.

Marijuana Policy

New Pew Poll Has Support for Legalization Nationwide at 53%. Advocates for legalization are winning the battle for public opinion, according to this new poll. Not only does it have a majority for legalization, but the poll also finds that while a fifth of respondents (21%) have switched from opposing to favoring legalization, only 7% have gone from supporting to opposing legalization. The poll also had 78% saying federal marijuana laws should not be enforced in states where pot is legal.

Federal Judge Rejects Motion to Reschedule Marijuana. US District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller declined today to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The move came in a marijuana cultivation case where defense attorneys challenged pot's placement on the schedules. Mueller said during a brief hearing that she was initially inclined to grant the motion, but decided "this was not the court and this was not the time." She said it was up to Congress to change the law if it so desires.

Chris Christie Says He Will "Not Permit" Legal Marijuana if Elected. New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, said Tuesday that if elected he would "crack down" on states that have legalized the weed. "I will crack down and not permit it," he said. "States should not be permitted to sell and profit" from legalization, he added, citing "enormous addiction problems."

Alaska House Passes Bill to Create Marijuana Control Board. The House Tuesday approved legislation to create a five-member marijuana control board to regulate the state's looming legal marijuana industry. The board would craft regulations by November, with the first licenses to be issued in May 2016. The measure is House Bill 123.

District of Columbia City Council Approves Two Marijuana Bills. The first bill, B21-0025, bars employers from testing job applicants for marijuana since it is legal in the city. The second bill, B20-0678, increases the number of plants medical marijuana providers can grow from 95 to 1,000.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Bill to Allow Children Access to Medical Marijuana Filed. Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) Tuesday filed the Compassionate Access Act, which would "allow the states to provide appropriate access to patients needing these legitimate, medical treatments under the supervision of their physician," the congressmen said in a statement. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

Hawaii Senate Approves Dispensary Bill. The Senate Tuesday approved a bill that would establish a system of medical dispensaries for the state's 13,000 medical marijuana patients. The measure is House Bill 321. The bill now has to go back to the House for reconciliation.

Iowa Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate voted today to approve Senate File 484, which allows the production and distribution of medical marijuana. The bill would allow for up to a dozen independent dispensaries. It now goes to the House.

Washington Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Overhaul. A bill that seeks to end unregulated medical marijuana dispensary sales and fold medical marijuana into the recreational marijuana system is now headed for the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee (D). Senate Bill 5052 would create a database of patients (voluntary, but patients won't get tax-free medicine unless they sign up), allow patients to possess three times more marijuana than recreational users, and eliminate the current collective garden structure, replacing it with cooperatives limited to four patients.

Asset Forfeiture

Sparks Fly at Senate Judiciary Committee Asset Forfeiture Hearing. Committee Chair Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) had a heated exchange with Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury over civil asset forfeiture reform in a hearing today. Canterbury opposed ending civil asset forfeiture because doing so would deprive police of "hundreds of millions" of dollars to fight crime and terror, but Grassley dismissed that argument, saying such laws have created a "perverse incentive" for police to abuse them. Police opposition to reform "dismisses the need for real reform and demonstrates the absurdity of a system of justice in which some in law enforcement appear to value funding their own operations over protecting civil rights," Grassley said. The hearing is part of a broad push this year to reform federal civil asset forfeiture laws.

Virginia Senate Kills Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform. The Senate today set aside efforts to enact civil asset forfeiture reform. The decision came during the legislature's annual reconvene session, when solons meet to consider responding to gubernatorial vetoes and amendments to bills passed during the session that ended last month. The legislature had passed a bill requiring only that police provide an inventory of property seized, and some legislators had hoped to get Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to add more substantial reforms, but they gave up on that effort today. Instead, they will leave it for the state crime commission to study.

Law Enforcement

DEA Head Gets Scalded in Hearing Over Agents' Sex Parties. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart was on the hot seat Tuesday as the House Oversight Committee took aim at revelations of taxpayer-funded sex parties involving DEA agents and prostitutes in Colombia. Members scoffed at her claims that she was unable to fire anyone involved and harshly questioned the agency's (lack of) response to the incidents. Click on the link for juicy details.

Sentencing

California Bill to Refelonize "Date Rape" Drugs Advances. A bill that would give prosecutors the option of charging possession of Rohypnol, ketamine, and GHB as a felony passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee today. Assembly Bill 46 is an attempt to partially roll back last year's voter-approved Proposition 47, which defelonized simple drug possession.

Connecticut Bill Would Dramatically Shrink "Drug Free" Zones. The legislature's Judiciary Committee voted last Friday to amend a bill aimed at reducing the number of drug prisoners in the state by shrinking the area of sentence-enhancing "drug free" zones to just schools and day care centers, eliminating the 1,500-foot zone around the buildings. The vote came as an amendment to Senate Bill 952, part of Gov. Dannel Malloy's (D) "Second Chance Society."

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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, 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, 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