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Release: Major Groups Call for UN to Respect Countries That Legalize Marijuana or Other Drugs (5/5/15)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2015

CONTACT: David Borden, borden@drcnet.org

Major Groups Call for UN to Respect Countries That Legalize Marijuana or Other Drugs

Human Rights Should Take Priority Over Drug Enforcement, New Letter Says

NEW YORK, NY – As the United Nations prepares for the first comprehensive review of global responses to drug problems in nearly two decades, a broad coalition of more than 100 organizations is pushing for the international body to respect countries that move away from prohibition.

"Existing US and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization of drug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rights standards and have contributed to serious human rights violations," the groups write in a new letter being released today.

Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Global Exchange, Drug Policy Alliance and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights are among the signatories. Also notable are a number of organizations devoted to health policy and AIDS services.

The letter's release is timed to a United Nations "High-Level Thematic Debate on the World Drug Problem" taking place in New York on Thursday, May 7, in preparation for a UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) scheduled for April 2016. Advocates believe that countries should take the UNGASS as an opportunity to pursue a range of reforms to global drug policy, including revising provisions of the UN Drug Conventions that threaten to stand in the way of reform. The Obama administration has taken the stance that countries should be free to pursue different kinds of systems under the treaties – including legalization – but has also opposed treaty reform, a stance which advocates have questioned.

"The administration's call to respect countries' right to try regulation rather than prohibition is a positive step for drug policy, as are other reforms the US has sought internationally," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, who coordinated the sign-on letter. "But it doesn't make sense to oppose having a discussion within the UN about modernizing the treaties to reflect that."

The coalition has called for the UN to appoint a "Committee of Experts" to study treaty reform, a common UN procedure for addressing issues of interest.

To date, four US states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis, as has the nation of Uruguay. Many other countries have decriminalized possession of certain drugs or have implemented harm reduction measures like syringe exchange programs. While the UN's drug enforcement body has warned that some of these policies may violate the treaties, the push for reform doesn't appear to be slowing anytime soon.

The new letter calls for revising the treaties, and says that in the meanwhile "in case of irreconcilable conflict, human rights principles, which lie at the core of the United Nations charter, should take priority over provisions of the drug conventions."  Human rights concerns may require shifting to drug control systems that aren't based on prohibition, the statement suggests. "Accommodating… experiments… with legalization and regulation of internationally controlled substances may require that the UN drug conventions are interpreted in light of countries' international human rights and other obligations."

Although marijuana legalization is a major factor driving the international drug debate, another is the impact the illicit drug trade has in Latin America, where violence and related criminal problems associated with the trade exceed that suffered in other regions.

John Walsh, senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), said, "Some Latin American leaders are now openly questioning the global drug prohibition regime, because of the destruction caused by criminal organizations fueled by enormous drug trade profits. Meanwhile, the US is undergoing important shifts in its own domestic policy, with the Obama administration wisely accommodating states that are legalizing and regulating cannabis. This expands the political space for other countries as well." Walsh is the coauthor of "Marijuana Legalization is an Opportunity to Modernize International Drug Treaties," co-published by WOLA and The Brookings Institution.

Advocates also warn that flexibility, as called for by the State Department, shouldn't be used to justify human rights violations in any country, such as the death penalty for nonviolent offenses or the banning of life-saving public health interventions like syringe exchange or opioid substitution therapy. "Prohibition has been a public health and human rights disaster," said Charles King, CEO of the US's largest community-based AIDS service organization, Housing Works. "That's why citizens around the world are calling for – and in some cases enacting – forward-thinking reforms that move away from criminalization and toward regulation and control. US and UN agencies should stop trying to cut off the treaty reform discussion and encourage a truly open debate instead."

The full text of the letter and list of signatories are online at http://stopthedrugwar.org/un.

StoptheDrugWar.org works for an end to drug prohibition worldwide, and an end to the "drug war" in its current form. We believe that much of the harm commonly attributed to "drugs" is really the result of placing drugs in a criminal environment. We believe the global drug war has fueled violence, civil instability and public health crises; and that the currently prevalent arrest- and punishment-based policies toward drugs are unjust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

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

Harm Reduction

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

Sentencing

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

Puerto Rico Governor Signs Executive Order Legalizing Medical Marijuana

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not everyone was on board, though.

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

But the Drug Policy Alliance liked what it was seeing.

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

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

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

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

San Juan, PR
United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drug Policy

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

International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

New Synthetic Drugs

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

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

Harm Reduction

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

International

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

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.)

Write and Call Congress TODAY for Vets' Access to Medical Marijuana!

Late this afternoon or this evening (Wednesday, April 29), the House of Representatives is expected to vote on an amendment to allow Veterans Administration physicians to recommend and sign off on medical marijuana for their patients, helping qualified patients obtain state-legal marijuana in the more than 20 states that have medical marijuana laws. This amendment failed on a close vote last year, and stands a great chance of passing this year, with your help!

Please click here to write to your US Representative, and please click here to CALL your Representative TODAY!

Although this amendment stops short of legalizing medical marijuana federally, every positive vote that Congress takes brings us closer to the day when they'll be ready to finally get the federal government out of the way of patients and their doctors, and it will help veterans who use VA facilities in the meanwhile. And that's why we hope you'll step up today and help.

If you are a US voter, please call your US Representative today to voice your support for the Veterans Equal Access Amendment to H.R. 2029, the FY 2015 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. Thank you for taking a stand! Click here for information on the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, click here to read the current VA policy, and click here for information on H.R. 2209.

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.

Chronicle AM: MT Forfeiture Reform Passes Legislature, IL Pot Decrim Passes House, More (4/24/15)

Decrim advances in Illinois, an Ohio legalization initiative is rolling along, asset forfeiture reform passes in Montana and is now under consideration in Michigan, Vancouver will regulate its dispensaries, and more.

2015 is looking like the year of asset forfeiture reform. (wikipedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois House Passes Decriminalization Bill. The House Thursday approved House Bill 218, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Cassidy (D-Chicago). The bill would make possession of 15 grams or less an infraction punishable only by a fine of no more than $125. Under current law, people face up to a year in jail for simple possession. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Ohio Legalization Initiative Making Progress on Signature-Gathering. The Responsible Ohio legalization initiative campaign has gathered more than 180,000 signatures in its effort to put its initiative before voters in November. Buckeye State initiatives need 305,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, so the group probably needs to gather something like 400,000 signatures to ensure that disqualifications don't knock it off the ballot. Responsible Ohio says it is aiming even higher -- for 700,000 signatures. They have until July to gather them. A second legalization initiative, aiming at 2016, Ohioans To End Prohibition, is just in the initial phase of its campaign, while a third effort, led by the Ohio Rights Group, says it will not manage to qualify this year and has filed Election Commission complaints claiming that people associated with Responsible Ohio have interfered with its efforts.

Heroin

Heroin Use Up Sharply in Past Decade, SAMSHA Says. The number of heroin users in the country was stable at around 400,000 between 2002 and 2007, but began increasing in 2008 and reached 681,000 by 2013, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). But that's still less than one-third of 1% of the population. Another 11 million people, or 4% of the population, used prescription pills for off-label reasons.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Package Filed. A bipartisan package of eight asset forfeiture reform bills was filed Wednesday with support from the legislature's Republican leadership. One bill would create uniform, mandatory reporting requirements and raise the standard of evidence needed for a seizure from "a preponderance" to "clear and convincing." Another bill would bar seizures of vehicles used by someone buying an ounce of pot or less. The package doesn't include a bill to ban civil asset forfeiture outright, but it's a start.

Montana Legislature Passes Bill Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture. A bill that would end civil asset forfeiture passed the House Thursday. House Bill 463 had already passed the Senate and now heads for the governor's desk. New Mexico and Wyoming have both passed similar laws this year; the New Mexico governor signed hers, but the Wyoming governor vetoed his.

Drug Testing

Florida ACLU Targets Police Field Drug Tests. The ACLU of Florida is investigating the presumptive field test kits police use to make drug arrests. The move comes just a day after Hillsborough County Public Defender called them "faulty" and "inaccurate." Scientists have reported that kits like the Nark 2 are unreliable, but thousands of people have been arrested on the basis of their field test results.

Louisiana Bill Would Let Employers Drug Test Hair. The House Health Committee Wednesday approved House Bill 379, which would allow employers to use hair drug tests on potential hires. Hair drug tests can detect use going back as far as three months. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Law Enforcement

Seattle Doing Mass Arrests to Clean Up Downtown Drug Dealing Police in Seattle have arrested more than a hundred people in two days in a push to clean up open-air drug dealing downtown. The arrests involved undercover officers making marijuana, heroin, meth, and cocaine buys. Prosecutors said they would seek judicial orders barring those people from returning to the area, but that they would seek diversion programs in other cases.

International

Vancouver Moves to Regulate Marijuana Stores; Ottawa Not Happy. Vancouver has announced plans to regulate the more than 80 unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city, making it the first city in Canada to do so. But the federal Health Minister is warning the city not to do it, saying it would "normalize" marijuana sales.

Drug Cartel Violence Flares in Mexican Border State. Gun battles and arson attacks flared for the second time in a week in Tamaulipas, just across the Rio Grande River from Texas border towns such as Harlingen and Brownsville. The brouhaha broke out after police captured four alleged Gulf Cartel members and included blockades in the town of Altamira. At least two people were killed. Earlier this month, major violence broke out in Reynosa after the arrest of a Gulf Cartel leader. More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed in prohibition-related violence since 2006.

Drug War Issues

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