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NJ MS Patient Loses Appeal, Facing Five Years [FEATURE]

New Jersey passed a medical marijuana law in January 2010 and, after delays, a series of alternative treatment centers (dispensaries) are set to open soon, but none of that has proven any help to multiple sclerosis sufferer and medical marijuana patient John Ray Wilson.
2009 courthouse demonstration
Wilson was convicted of growing 17 pot plants in 2009 after Superior Court Judge Robert Reed ruled that he could not mention his disease or that he used marijuana to control the symptoms of his disease in his defense. Left with no effective defense to offer, the unemployed, uninsured Wilson was convicted of the charge and sentenced to serve five years in state prison.

Wilson then appealed his sentence to the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division. Late last month, he was turned down, with the appeals court ruling that it would not allow a medical use exemption to the charge of manufacturing marijuana.

Now, Wilson could be jailed any day. A judge is considering his request for bail to be granted while he pursues a final appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Wilson supporters and advocates are furious with a legal system that is rigorous about the letter of the law but heedless of humanity or the spirit of the law. They are especially embittered because Wilson's original trial, where medical doctors were prepared to testify to the medical benefits of marijuana for MS sufferers, took place at the same time as the public and legislative debates over medical marijuana, yet he was not allowed to raise the issue in his defense.

"To know that a safe and inexpensive herb like marijuana is able to relieve the pain and spasticity of MS and to actually arrest the progression of this incurable disease is a compelling reason to use it therapeutically," said Ken Wolski, RN, of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey (CMMNJ). "It is an outrage that Wilson will spend many years in the prison system for this, especially since the law in New Jersey now specifically protects MS patients who use medical marijuana."

Under the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, patients with an ID card provided by the state Health Department are allowed to use marijuana with a physicians' recommendation. The law specifies a number of covered medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis.

As New Jersey and Pennsylvania marijuana activist Chris Goldstein noted at Freedom Is Green, medical marijuana supporters and state Sens. Raymond Lesniak and Nick Scutari jointly called on then-Gov. Jon Corzine (D) to pardon Wilson last year, to no avail. They are planning a similar appeal to Gov. Chris Christie (R).
"They want to put a sick person away. It's not fair. It's sad," said Ray Wilson, John's father.

While Wilson awaits word on if and when he will be sent to prison, the operators of the six Alternative Treatment Centers have been given the go-ahead by Gov. Christie to expedite their startups. They will soon be producing hundreds or even thousands of plants for New Jersey patients.

It's been a long time coming. After the bill became law in January 2010, it faced a new governor, Christie, who was much less favorably disposed toward medical marijuana. Christie's administration spent months drafting restrictive regulations, then months more fighting with the legislature and advocates over making them more patient-friendly. Earlier this year, Christie again put the program on hold, citing the potential threat of federal action against state employees, but in recent weeks, he gave the signal to proceed.

None of this has so far made any difference to the New Jersey courts when it comes to Wilson's case. Now, only the state Supreme Court is left, and barring a favorably decision there, a pardon from Gov. Christie. And that compounds the anger of Wilson's supporters.

"Our system diligently and punctiliously adheres to the fine points of the law while rejecting any sense of compassion, no less actual justice," said attorney Ed Hannaman, a CMMNJ board member.

United States

Arizona AG Files Suit Against Medical Marijuana Clubs

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne filed a lawsuit Monday asking a state court to close down "compassion clubs" where medical marijuana patients pay a fee to become members and in return obtain their medicine. The civil suit seeks both a temporary and a permanent injunction to shut them down.

Although some 6,000 Arizonans are registered as medical marijuana patients under the voter-approved law, no dispensaries are operating because state officials have put that portion of the law on hold while Gov. Jan Brewer's federal lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment on the legality of the dispensary language moves forward. Lawyers for the US government last week filed a motion to have that suit dismissed.

The compassion clubs sprung up as a response to pent up patient demand. Now, Horne wants to shut down that distribution avenue, too.

The clubs "falsely claim to be operating lawfully under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act," Horne said in a press release Monday. The law does not provide protection to entities that are not registered as nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries, he argued.

"The law permits one card holder to give marijuana to another card holder. But is does not permit the activities of these defendants, who charge fees to members. These private entities and individuals are in no way permitted to legally transfer marijuana to anybody," Horne said. "The operators of these clubs claim that they are protected under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act when they are not registered as non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries as required under that law. These people are marketing themselves as being able to lawfully transfer marijuana, and that type of deception and blatantly illegal activity must be stopped."

But what the law says is that registered patients face no penalties for "...offering or providing marijuana to a registered qualifying patient or a registered designated caregiver for the registered qualifying patient's medical use... if nothing of value is transferred in return and the person giving the marijuana does not knowingly cause the recipient to possess more than the allowable amount of marijuana."

The clubs operate by charging qualified patients a token membership fee, which then allows patients to make donations and obtain marijuana that is "gifted" by other members of the club. Whether the Maricopa County Superior Court will agree with Attorney General Horne or with the clubs remains to be seen, but one club operator said he welcomed the move.

"I want the courts to weigh in and make a decision," said Al Sobol of the 2811 Club, one of the businesses named in the lawsuit. But Horne's statement that his club was guilty of "deception" made him bristle. "What's deceptive is when the state gives you a card, charges you $150 for it, then makes it so you have no way of using it," he told the Phoenix New Times. Horne and Gov. Jan Brewer are "abusing their authority," he added.

Phoenix, AZ
United States

Chicago to Stop Jailing Marijuana Users?

Last year, police in Chicago arrested more than 23,000 people for simple marijuana possession, 78% of them black. But those charges are routinely dropped by judges, and the head of the Cook County Board, who is facing a serious budget gap, wants the police to knock it off.
Toni Preckwinckle
Facing a $315 million shortfall, Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced a 5% spending cut and threatened layoffs if necessary. Preckwinkle last week discussed the idea of merely ticketing pot smokers with Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and while no decision has yet been taken, the notion is percolating through the police bureaucracy.

"It's pretty well known within the criminal justice system that the judges will dismiss those charges involving very modest amounts of illicit drugs," Preckwinkle told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I suggested to McCarthy that although the law is pretty clear that such possession is a violation of the law, that since the judges routinely and almost universally dismiss such low-level drug charges that the police might stop arresting people for this since it clogs up our jail with these people and their cases will be dismissed out anyway."

This is hardly a unique foray into drug policy reform for Preckwinkle. She campaigned on a platform of less incarceration and more treatment, and just weeks ago, during an event marking the 40th anniversary of Nixon's declaration of a war on drugs, she denounced the drug war as failure.

A Chicago police spokeswoman, Maureen Biggane, told the Sun-Times McCarthy was considering Preckwinkle's suggestion. "At this time, the Chicago Police Department is reviewing the possibility of enforcement action other than physical arrest for certain cannabis offenses," she said.

By last Saturday, McCarthy was telling the Chicago Tribune he was looking into issuing citations for people arrested for small-time pot possession instead of taking them to jail and booking them, but he was eager to point out that they would still be arrested.

"We will continue to make arrests for illegal behavior, whether it's public urination or whether it's carrying a firearm. It's really that simple," McCarthy said. "We're looking at different arrest processing, not not making the arrests."

It's not a done deal yet, McCarthy said. "It's not cooked yet," he said, but added, "I think that people are going to see some changes down the road."

He may face some opposition from within the ranks. According to the Chicago Reader, some high-ranking police officials don't want to give up the ability to use pot arrests to get "gang bangers" off the streets for a few hours.

Whether the cops' ability to make mass busts of "gang bangers" whose most serious offense is possessing marijuana will win out over the Second City's need to save money in a time of austerity remains to be seen, but the battle lines are being drawn right now.

Chicago, IL
United States

National Poll Finds Support for Welfare Drug Testing

A Rasmussen poll released this week found majority support for automatic drug testing of new welfare applicants and lesser, but still high, levels of support for drug testing people already receiving welfare benefits.

The poll comes as a new law Florida law mandating the suspicionless drug testing of welfare applicants and recipients is about to be implemented. Missouri has also passed a law requiring the drug testing of welfare recipients if there is "reasonable suspicion" to suspect drug use.

Bills to drug test welfare recipients have become increasingly popular as states face tough economic times and seek ways to tighten their belts, even though it is not clear that the costs of drug testing tens or hundreds of thousands of people would be offset by the savings generated by throwing drug users off the dole.

Such bills are also constitutionally dubious. A 1999 Michigan law subjecting welfare recipients to suspicionless drug testing was thrown out by the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003 when the court found that it amounted to an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

But that doesn't stop politicians, and this Rasmussen poll suggests why legislators find supporting drug testing such an enticing position.

The national telephone survey of likely voters found that 53% believe all welfare applicants should be drug tested before receiving benefits.  Another 13% only supported random drug testing, while 29% said welfare applicants should only be tested if there was a reasonable suspicion they were using drugs.

That is a whopping 95% who said they thought welfare applicants should be drug tested either routinely, randomly, or upon suspicion. That high number may be an artifact of the poll design; the poll questions only gave those three options when respondents were asked about whether welfare applicants should be drug tested. Rasmussen polling is also reputed to tilt in the conservative direction, which could also skew the findings. But with such a high number, the the general meaning of the results seems clear.

Respondents were more divided when it comes to testing people who are already receiving benefits. Some 35% said recipients should be tested only where there is reasonable suspicion, 31% supported random drug tests, and 29% said all recipients should be regularly tested.

If welfare recipients are found to be using illegal drugs, 70% of respondents said they should lose their benefits. Only 15% said they opposed taking away benefits, while another 15% were undecided. Of those who said benefits should be ended, 58% said it should happen for a first offense, while 40% said there should be one or more warnings before cutting benefits.  [Ed: Much depends on how a question is asked. A poll question commissioned by this organization in 2007 which mentioned "recovery" and "families" found nearly 67% of likely voters opposed to revoking benefits.]

It looks like advocates of welfare rights and civil liberties will have to fight a massive public education battle to turn public opinion around on this issue affecting the lives of some of society's most vulnerable and least able to speak up for their own rights.

Cuomo Signs NY Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Bill

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo June signed into law July 20 legislation aimed at reducing the number of preventable drug overdose deaths in the Empire State. The new law gives protection from prosecution for drug possession offenses to overdose victims seeking medical help or to people seeking medical help for them.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has signed a bill designed to reduce drug overdose fatalities. (image via
The new law also provides protection from underage drinking and drug paraphernalia prosecutions for overdose sufferers or others seeking to help them. The law does not provide protection from drug distribution charges.

New York now becomes the most populous state to enact what are commonly referred to as 911 Good Samaritan laws. They are designed to reduce overdose deaths by removing the fear of prosecution for victims or their acquaintances seeking help.

New York is one of the states where drug overdose -- from both legal and illegal drugs -- is the leading cause of accidental death. In the absence of protections like those just enacted, people suffering overdoses or their friends have often been reluctant to seek medical attention for fear of being arrested.

"No one should go to jail for trying to save a life," said Hiawatha Collins, a leader and Board member of VOCAL-NY, one of the many groups that supported the reforms. "This law will help make sure that calling 911 is the first thing someone does if they witness an overdose -- not worry about what the cops will do. New York is making clear that saving lives needs to be our priority, not locking people up."

"It is uplifting to see our elected officials come together to pass a law that will save thousands of lives in New York," said Evan Goldstein, policy coordinator of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Our elected officials should be applauded for passing this law that is grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights."

New York is the fourth state to enact a 911 Good Samaritan law, following the lead of New Mexico in 2007, Washington state in 2010, and Connecticut earlier this year. The law will go into effect in 60 days.

Albany, NY
United States

NJ Governor Gives Okay to Medical Marijuana Program [FEATURE]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced Tuesday that he will allow the Garden State's medical marijuana program to go into effect, despite vague threats by federal prosecutors that state workers involved in implementing the program could face prosecution. Christie's decision should bring an end to nearly 18 months of delayed implementation of the program, which was signed into law by his predecessor, Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

Medical marijuana -- coming soon to the Garden State (image via
State officials will "begin work immediately" to get six Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) up and running by year's end, Christie said at a Trenton press conference. "We're moving forward with the program as it was set up," he said. "The need to provide compassionate pain relief to these citizens of our state outweighs the risk we are taking in moving forward with the program."

Christie had been accused of foot-dragging by legislators and medical marijuana supporters, who have waited with decreasing patience as the months rolled by without the program actually getting underway. First, state officials took months laboring over how to regulate the program, then Christie halted implementation of the program, saying he sought clarification from federal prosecutors on whether state officials could move ahead without fear of federal prosecution.

That in turn followed a year of delays during which the governor first sought to delay implementation of the law, floated a proposal to limit medical marijuana dispensing to the Rutgers University medical complex (they declined), and in which the state health department twice issued draft regulations that sponsors and advocates charged would effectively make the program unworkable.

The more recent delays were understandable. Federal prosecutors in a number of states with or considering medical marijuana distribution systems have this year sent threat letters to state officials warning that any distribution of medical marijuana remained a crime under federal law and that anyone involved in it -- including state officials -- could be subject to prosecution. Those letters were followed late last month by a Justice Department memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole that seemed to indicate a tougher line from the Obama administration on large medical marijuana providers, pulling back from a previously stated (though imperfectly implemented) position that medical marijuana suppliers acting in accordance with state laws were not suitable targets for federal prosecutors.

The Cole memo, however, did not mention state employees. Despite the lack of explicit of reassurance on the matter, Christie decided to move forward anyway. "After reading both the letter from Deputy Attorney General Cole and also reading remarks from then-candidate Barack Obama, and most importantly, the way we've set up the program, I have decided to move forward as expeditiously as possible to implement the medical marijuana program in New Jersey as outlined," he vowed.

The New Jersey medical marijuana program will allow patients suffering from specified illnesses or conditions to use marijuana with the approval of a physician. The law will create a registry of patients and a system of six ATCs scattered across the state. It will be administered by the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Advocates have criticized some of the program's regulations as overly restrictive, and Christie's announcement today doesn't change that.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finally does the right thing on medical marijuana. (image via
"We still have a number of concerns about the regulations put out by the DHSS for this program," Registered Nurse Ken Wolski, who is executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, told the Chronicle Monday. "The physician registry is unnecessary and will disqualify numerous patients.  Plus the cap on THC level is arbitrary. Home delivery is not being permitted which is just another roadblock to patient access by the Christie administration."

Still, it's a happy week for Wolski. "We are happy that the governor is moving forward with the medicinal marijuana program," Wolski said Monday evening. "Patients have suffered too long waiting for this. In thousands of cases patients in NJ have already died without the improvement in quality of life and relief of suffering that marijuana can bring," he noted.

New Jersey multiple sclerosis sufferer Elise Segal was pleased as well. "I am extremely pleased that the governor decided to move forward with the program," Segal said. "I have nothing but feelings of gratitude toward him and his administration.  I hope the program can get up and running now as soon as possible, so that people like me who are suffering will soon have relief." It looks like Segal will get her wish before year's end.

Christie's announcement was greeted with relief by national groups as well, who called on officials in other states to follow his lead. Since federal prosecutors started sending out the threat letters earlier this year, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) gutted a bill passed by the legislature that would have set up a state-licensed distribution system, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) delayed implementing her state's program, and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) has put his state's program on hold.

"If Gov. Christie can implement his state's medical marijuana program in the face of recent attempts by the federal government to intimidate public officials, then states like Arizona, Rhode Island and Washington should be empowered to implement theirs as well," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group. "Gov. Christie's decision to move ahead with New Jersey's medical marijuana program should be a clarion call to other public officials like Gov. Brewer that the health and welfare of their people are paramount," Sherer added.

"We are absolutely thrilled that the governor has decided to move forward with the program and we hope that officials in other states who are contemplating options for their programs will follow New Jersey’s lead," said Roseanne Scotti, who lobbied the legislature for years on the issue as state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Gov. Christie’s thoughtful analysis regarding state medical marijuana programs shows that states can and should move forward with well-regulated and responsible programs," she added.

Trenton, NJ
United States

Hawaii Teachers Fend Off Random Drug Testing

There will be no random drug testing of Hawaii public school teachers. A battle that began in 2007 came to a quiet end earlier this month, when the state government imposed its "last, best, and final" offer to the teachers union -- an offer that does not include random drug testing.

Hawaii teachers won't have to provide these to keep their jobs. (image via
The controversy began when the state Board of Education inserted language into the union contract saying the union and the board "shall establish a reasonable suspicion and random drug and alcohol testing procedure for teachers." The language came in the wake of a handful of widely publicized drug busts of teachers in Hawaii in previous years.

Hawaii State Teachers Association members voted to ratify the contract, but soon, teachers and the HSTA, along with civil libertarians, raised concerns about random drug testing and balked at going along with that contract provision. Gov. Linda Lingle (R) accused teachers of not acting in good faith, and the provision was stalled by challenges at the Hawaii Labor Relations Board and in state court.

The random testing provision ran into another obstacle when the Board of Education in 2008 refused to pay for the tests. The board argued that the nearly half million dollar cost could be better spent in the classroom.

Neither the board nor the union have commented publicly on the demise of the random drug testing provision, but, unsurprisingly, the ACLU is quite happy.

"The ACLU is pleased that none of Hawaii's educators has been subjected to unconstitutional random drug testing," said Daniel Gluck, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Hawaii. "I'm fairly confident it's not going to come up again," he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

While random drug testing is gone, the board and the union agreed to continue a "reasonable suspicion" drug and alcohol testing policy. Under that policy, teachers who test positive face suspensions of from five to thirty days and will be asked to resign after a third positive test result. Teachers who admit to being impaired or on drugs prior to being tested will not be suspended, but will be required to submit to drug testing for up to a year.

The dropping of the random drug testing provision is one of the few bright spots for Hawaii teachers in the new contract. They may not have to pee in a cup for no good reason, but they will have to endure wage cuts and higher health care premiums.

United States

La Crosse, Wisconsin, Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession

La Crosse, Wisconsin, has decriminalized the possession of up to a quarter ounce of marijuana, as well as pot-related drug paraphernalia. The final move came last Thursday night, when the city's Common Council overrode Mayor Matt Harter's veto of the measure.

The decriminalization measure, authored by District 3 council member Chris Olson, allows city law enforcement to cite small-time marijuana law violators with an offense under the municipal code instead of a criminal misdemeanor under state law.

In achieving the decrim victory, the council had to overcome two vetoes by Mayor Harter. Harter said last month he vetoed the measure because it would be perceived by the public as being "soft" on drug use.

But Olson argued that allowing police to issue municipal citations would create revenue for the city and give "a first-time offender a second chance." He also criticized Police Chief Ed Kondracki for saying he would not have his officers enforce the ordinance.

"We shouldn't be setting policy being dictated by an individual," Olson said.

But a police spokesman later said that Olson was mistaken and that the department would allow officers to issue citations under the ordinance if they wished. The spokesman also noted that the La Crosse County Sheriff's Department has yet to cite anyone under a similar county ordinance, instead charging them under state law.

La Crosse isn't the first Wisconsin locality to decriminalize pot possession. Madison, the state capital, did in 1977, and Milwaukee, the state's largest city, did in 1997. A number of other cities and counties have done so since then.

La Crosse, WI
United States

More States Go After Synthetic Drugs

Although new synthetics are coming to market faster than governments can ban them, a number of states have moved in recent weeks to criminalize their possession and distribution. In Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, state governments have enacted bans on synthetic cannabinoids ("fake pot") or synthetic stimulants ("bath salts"), or both. In South Dakota, they took a slightly different path to arrive at the same end.

Fake pot goes under many brand names. Spice is one. (image via
Synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as "incense" under a variety of names, including Spice and K-2. They are currently the subject of a one-year emergency ban by the DEA, which is set to expire at the end of February. "Bath salts" are made from methcathinone analogues, typically mephedrone and MDPV, and produce a high likened to cocaine, methamphetamines, and ecstasy. The DEA lists them as a "drug of concern," but has yet to act against them.  They are sold under names like Bliss, Ivory Wave, and the less mellow-sounding Charley Sheene and Drone.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law House Bill 1039 on May 31. It criminalizes the possession of "bath salts" by making them a Schedule I controlled substance. The new law makes permanent an emergency ban on the drugs that went into effect in January.

In Louisiana, the legislature has passed House Bill 12, which bans both synthetic marijuana and "bath salts." Gov. Bobby Jindal, who in January issued an executive emergency ban on the synthetic stimulants and who made this bill part of his legislative agenda, is expected to sign it shortly. Under the bill, both fake pot and "bath salts" will be classified as Schedule I drugs and their possession or distribution will be punished accordingly. This bill is set to go into effect July 15.

In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) has signed into law HF0057, which criminalizes bath salts, fake pot, and 2-CE, as well as any substances that are "substantially similar" in chemical structure and pharmacological effects to illegal drugs. That law goes into effect Friday. Although all of the substances are placed on Schedule I of the controlled substances list, possession of fake pot is a misdemeanor and sale of fake pot is a gross misdemeanor. Possession or sale of bath salts or 2-CE is a felony.

"Please do not use as SNUFF," a web site that peddles "bath salts" helpfully advises (
In Minnesota, at least, retailers are fighting back. Three of them filed suit in Hennepin County (Minneapolis) District Court Monday charging that the law is too vague and broad and is not backed by scientific proof. They also argue that the law provides no criteria for determining if a substance is "substantially similar" to an illegal drug and that the ban infringes on individuals' right to privacy and pursuit of happiness.

Consumers and retailers won't know "if they're committing a crime or not," said attorney Marc Kurzman, who is representing the stores. "You shouldn’t have to get the answer by being charged and going through criminal trials," he said. 

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) last week signed into law Senate Bill 1006, which bans the possession, sale, and use of fake pot, "bath salts," and, for good measure, the psychedelic designer drug 2-CE and salvia divinorum. Possession of the proscribed substances can earn you a year in prison, while sales or possession with intent can get you five years. The law will go into effect in late August, 60 days after it was signed into law.

"If left unchecked, synthetic drugs could have developed into the most dangerous drug crisis since methamphetamine labs found their way into our state,'' Corbett said in a press release announcing his signature. "This ban on synthetic drugs sends a strong message that Pennsylvania will not tolerate the use of these chemicals."

In South Dakota, Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) back in March signed into law Senate Bill 34, which will go into effect Friday. In deals with the fake pot and "bath salts" "threat" not by criminalizing them, but by making it a crime to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute them -- or any other substance -- to get high. In South Dakota, it is already a crime to have ingested an illegal drug; now, it will be a crime to ingest legal substances if it is for the purpose of intoxication.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) last week signed into law Senate Bill 54 criminalizing the sale, manufacture, and possession of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants. Possession of synthetic cannabinoids is now punishable by up to six months in jail for a first offense and three years in prison for a second offense, while manufacture or distribution garners up to six years in prison. Possession of synthetic stimulants now garners up to a year in jail for a first offense, while distribution of manufacture earns a number of years in prison, depending on the quantity involved.

"By classifying dangerous synthetic narcotics as illegal in the state of Wisconsin we are giving law enforcement the ability to take these destructive substances off of our streets and out of our neighborhoods," Gov. Walker said in a signing statement.

For a master list of states that have banned or are considering banning or otherwise controlling mephedrone and MDPV ("bath salts"), go here. For a master list of states that have banned or are considering banning or otherwise controlling fake pot, go here.

CHA Drops Plan to Drug Test Public Housing Residents

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has dropped its proposal to require all adults living in its properties to undergo random drug tests. Tenants who tested positive under the plan would have been evicted.

There will be no drug testing of residents at Lake Parc Place or any other CHA properties. (Image courtesy CHA)
The CHA also said Tuesday it would keep the "innocent tenant defense" that the proposal had also targeted. That allows tenants who face eviction because a household member or relative committed a drug offense or other crime to appeal against eviction on the grounds they were not aware of the offense.

The reversal comes after weeks of criticism from residents, activists, and the ACLU of Illinois. The man who sought to implement the proposal, CHA CEO Lewis Jordan, has resigned as well.

"The CHA received a tremendous amount of feedback during the public comment period, and simply, the result of that is that CHA will not move forward," CHA spokeswoman Kellie O'Connell-Miller told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The decision was "welcome news," said ACLU of Illinois senior staff counsel Adam Schwartz. "There is no evidence that individuals who rent CHA apartments are more likely to use drugs than residents in other rental properties throughout the City of Chicago. Singling out these individuals simply is unnecessary and a diversion of precious resources," Schwartz said. "We applaud the Board for listening to the voices of the residents and dropping this harmful proposal."

The CHA Central Advisory Council, consisting of CHA tenant leaders, also applauded the agency's change of course. "CHA made a wise decision. There were just too many issues associated with drug testing," said Robert Whitfield, Central Advisory Council attorney.

Chicago, IL
United States

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