The Drug Debate

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Chronicle AM: New England MJ Legalization Heats Up, Oakland Eyes Public MJ Bank, More... (11/16/16)

Last week's legalization victories are reverberating throughout New England, and the city of Oakland is moving toward a publicly-owned bank that could serve pot businesses.

Marijuana

Connecticut Governor Says He's Considering Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) has said that given last week's votes to legalize marijuana in nearby Maine and Massachusetts, he is reevaluating legalization in his own state. Malloy had previously supported decriminalization, but said that was far enough. But now: "We might have to reexamine our legal position, our position of enforcement, based on what some surrounding states are doing," said Malloy.

Slow Action on Certifying Legalization Vote Could Mean No Legal Weed in Maine Until January. The state's legalization initiative will not go into effect until 30 days after the state certifies and the governor proclaims the results. That could push legalization back until January 7 if the secretary of state's office and the governor take all the time allowed before acting. Legalization supporters had said pot should be legal there by Christmas.

Vermont Legislators Ready to Try to Pass Marijuana Legalization Again. A pair of key lawmakers said they are ready to try to get legalization through the legislature again, but incoming Republican Governor Phil Scott says don't bother. Still, Sen. Dick Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said legalization votes in Maine and Massachusetts are forcing the state's hand. "For me, that's a game-changer, that Massachusetts has voted to legalize," Sears said. Sears' counterpart in the House, Judiciary Committee chairwoman Rep. Maxine Grad, is also ready to go, saying the Maine and Massachusetts votes will make lawmakers more amenable to moving forward.

City of Oakland Eyes Public Bank for Marijuana Industry. The city of Oakland has taken a first step toward opening a public bank in a move aimed at allowing marijuana businesses access to financial services. Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan is leading the charge." Creating a local bank in the city of Oakland could benefit lots of local businesses," said Kaplan. "But, it's also a great match for the needs of our growing cannabis industry to have access to safe banking." The issue has already been before the city council and will be again on November 29.

Chronicle AM: ME Recount Possible, DEA Bans "Pink," WI Welfare Drug Tests Start, More... (11/14/16)

Cannabis cafes are coming, Maine legalization foes seek a recount, Massachusetts legislators are threatening to "improve" the legalization initiative, the DEA bans "pink," and more.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte wants to get rid of habeas corpus as he wages lethal drug war. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia
Marijuana

Marijuana Victories Will See Cannabis Cafes Coming. The victories for marijuana legalization initiatives in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada last week will set the stage for social marijuana consumption at licensed venues. Three of the states make provisions for social consumption, while the fourth leaves the issue for legislators. And in Denver, voters approved a local initiative that will allow local businesses to designate "consumption areas" for customers who bring their own weed.

Maine Legalization Foes Seek Recount After Narrow Defeat. Unofficially, the Question 1 legalization initiative won by a mere 5,000 votes out of about 750,000 cast, and that's too close a call for the "no" campaign to just accept. "No" spokesmen are threatening to seek a recount. They have until the end of work Wednesday to collect a hundred signatures in order to seek a recount from the secretary of state's office.

Massachusetts Legislators Turn Eyes on "Improving" Legalization Initiative. Senate President Stan Rosenberg said last Thursday said the Question 4 initiative will need "improvements" to address issues such as marijuana sales taxes, infused edible products, and driving while high. Rosenberg said the legislature could take up the issues shortly after returning in January. But the Question 4 campaign pushed back, saying that legislators should "respect the will of the voters," let regulators do their job crafting regulations, then see if anything needs fixing.

New Psychoactive Substances

DEA Bans Synthetic Opioid Known as "Pink." Using its emergency scheduling powers, the DEA has banned the synthetic opioid U-47700, commonly known as "pink." Effective today, the drug is now a Schedule I controlled substance. The drug has been linked to dozens of confirmed fatalities, and is now banned for 24 months while the DEA decides if it should be permanently placed in Schedule I.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Welfare Drug Testing Starts Today. As of Monday, people seeking welfare benefits will be subject to drug testing. Republican Gov. Scott Walker painted the move as helping families and employers. "Employers across the state frequently tell me they have good-paying jobs available in high-demand fields, but need their workers to be drug-free," Walker said in a statement. "These important entitlement reforms will help more people find family-supporting jobs, moving them from government dependence to true independence."

International

Philippines President Threatens Drug War Suspension of Habeas Corpus. President Rodrigo Duterte said he is considering suspending habeas corpus because it's just too much work to build cases against individual drug suspects. And he doesn't worry about legality. "I am the president. Of course I have the powers," he said Friday. "I can be ordered by the Supreme Court to stop it, but there are things that they cannot, and maybe, I will not, stop I can go to jail. File all the charges that you can think of. But this country, in my time, will not deteriorate any further." The Philippines constitution says the president may suspend habeas corpus "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it."

Berlin Set to Move on Marijuana Liberalization. The city's governing coalition of Social Democrats, Greens, and the Left Party has agreed to push for partial decriminalization of marijuana. The move would require a waiver from federal authorities to allow experimenting with drug policies that contradict the Federal Intoxicants Law.

Mass Legalizes Marijuana; Maine Still Too Close to Call

New England has become the first region of the country outside the West to embrace marijuana legalization, with voters in Massachusetts approving an initiative Tuesday, while as of early Friday morning, a similar measure in Maine was still too close to call.

At this juncture in the vote count, with 84% of the vote counted, Maine's Question 1 initiative was winning with 51% of the vote, while Massachusetts' Question 4 initiative has won with 53% of the vote. The Associated Press called the Massachusetts victory late Tuesday night

The Maine initiative allows people 21 and over to possess and transport up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana, along with associated paraphernalia. They may also "gift" up to 2 ½ ounces to other adults. Individuals may also grow up to six flowering plants and 12 immature ones at their residences and keep the fruits of their harvest, which could be considerably more than 2 ½ ounces. They can also purchase up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana at a time at licensed marijuana retail stores.

If it squeaks through, the Maine initiative will create a thoroughly regulated and licensed system of marijuana cultivation, production, processing, and retail sales, with a 10% tax on retail sales. Tax revenues beyond program costs will go to the state's general fund.

Cities and towns will have the right to regulate and even prohibit marijuana businesses, and the initiative offers no protection against employer drug testing.

The Massachusetts initiative allows people 21 and over to possess an ounce in public and up to 10 ounces at home, as well as the fruits of their harvest of up to six plants. It also legalizes the possession of pot paraphernalia.

And it creates a commission similar to an Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to oversee and regulate licensed marijuana cultivation, production, testing, and retail facilities. Retail marijuana sales will be subject to the sales tax of 6.25% and an excise tax of 3.75%, or a 10% tax. Cities and counties could add another 2%.

They can also regulate marijuana businesses, or opt out altogether. The initiative offers no protection against employer drug testing. 

Legalization initiatives also won in California and Nevada Tuesday. A legalization initiative in Arizona appeared to be losing early Friday morning. 

Massachusetts Legalizes It, Arkansas Okays Medical Marijuana

The Associated Press has called Massachusetts, saying Question 4 will win. It's currently at 54% with 77% of the vote counted. 

And Arkansas media sources have reported that the Question 6 medical marijuana initiative will pass. It's currently leading 53% to 47%, with 81% of the vote counted. 

AP: California Legalizes Marijuana!

Prop 64 is only leading 51% to 49% with 4% of the vote counted, but AP says it's a done deal. 

Partial Initiative Results: Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, North Dakota

As of 10:50 p.m. Eastern Time:

Legalization Initiatives:

Maine Question 1 leads 53% to 47% with 17% of the vote in.

Massachusetts Question 4 leads 52% to 48% with 22% of the vote in. 

Medical marijuana initiatives:

Arkansas Measure 6 leads 51% to 49% with 14% of the vote in.

North Dakota Measure 5 leads 61% to 39% with 24% of the vote in.

Stay tuned for results from Arizona, California, Montana, and Nevada as the polls close and the counts begin.

Chronicle AM: Obama Says Federal Pot Prohibition "Not Tenable" After Tuesday, More... (11/07/16)

Marijuana Policy 

President Obama Says Federal Pot Prohibition in Question After Tuesday's Vote. Appearing on the Bill Maher Show Friday night, President Obama said federal marijuana prohibition will not "be tenable" if more states vote to legalize the weed on Tuesday. "The good news is is that after this referenda, to some degree it’s gonna call the question, because if in fact it passed in all these states, you now have about a fifth of the country that’s operating under one set of laws, and four-fifths in another," Obama said. "The Justice Department, DEA, FBI, for them to try to straddle and figure out how they’re supposed to enforce laws in some places and not in others — they’re gonna guard against transporting these drugs across state lines, but you’ve got the entire Pacific corridor where this is legal — that is not gonna be tenable," he said.

 

Maine Legalizers Have Huge Cash Advantage. Supporters of the Question 1 marijuana legalization initiative have raised more than $2.4 million dollars, according to campaign finance reports, while opponents have raised only $201,000. Most of the pro-legalization money has come from the New Approach PAC, the instrument of the heirs of late Progressive Insurance founder and drug reform philanthropist Peter Lewis, while 99% of the anti-legalization money has come courtesy of Project SAM's Kevin Sabet, who now heads the newly formed non-profit Alliance for Healthy Marijuana Policy.

Las Vegas Casino Magnate Sheldon Adelson Again Kicks in Against Nevada Pot Initiative. The Sands Corporation head honcho and prolific funder of anti-drug reform efforts has given more than $1.35 million to the campaign trying to defeat the Question 2 marijuana legalization initiative in recent weeks, according to campaign finance reports. That's on top of $2 million he gave opponents in September. In fact, Adelson is virtually a one-man opposition campaign, having provided 97.4% of all reported opposition campaign contributions. Proponents of Question 2 have raised only $1.2 million.

Medical Marijuana

New Report Calls Marijuana a "Promising Option" for Dealing With Opioid Addiction. A new report from the National Cannabis Industry Association finds that increasing legal access to marijuana can be a potent weapon in the fight against opioid addiction. The report findssignificant progress in reducing addiction and overdose deaths in states that have legalized it.

New Mexico Panel Votes to Allow Medical Marijuana for "Opiate Use Disorder." A state advisory board that makes recommendations to the Health Department on New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program voted 5-1 Friday in favor of adding "opiate use disorder" to the list of conditions that qualify. Now, it's up to incoming Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher to accept or deny the recommendation. Such a move could add thousands of new patients to the state's rapidly expanding medical marijuana program.

Asset Forfeiture

Montana Supreme Court Affirms Right to Jury Trial in Civil Forfeiture Cases. In a ruling last week, the state high court upheld and strengthened a 2015 law that reformed asset forfeiture procedures. The ruling came in the case of a man whose land was seized after police found 300 marijuana plants on it. The man was convicted of federal drug charges, but not prosecuted by the state. Even though he faced no state charges, the state seized his land. He requested a jury trial, but was denied in lower court, and a judge turned the property over to the state. But the Supreme Court said the 2015 law supplanted older law on which the trial judge based his decision.

Law Enforcement

Even As Arrests Drop, California Racial Disparities Persist. A new report from the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris finds that arrest rates for all racial groups have dropped in the past decade, but blacks were still much more likely than whites to be arrested on felony charges. When it comes to drugs, black men were six times as likely as whites to be arrested, and black women were nearly three times as likely to be arrested as whites. Latinos, on the other hand, were arrested for drugs at roughly the same rate as whites. 

Chronicle AM: New MA Poll Has Pot Init Winning Handily, Ghana Moves Toward Drug Decrim, More... (11/4/16)

It's just about all pot legalization and medical marijuana initiatives today--oh, and Ghana is moving toward drug decriminalization.

It's looking like legal buds are coming to Boston. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy 

Another New National Poll Has a Solid Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute finds that 63% of Americans 18 and over favor freeing the weed. Only three years ago, the survey had support for legalization at only 45%. The poll is in line with other recent national opinion polls that show solid majorities for marijuana legalization.

Former DEA Heads Ask California Governor to Take Stand Against Legalization. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has yet to take a position on the Prop 64 legalization initiative, and now five former DEA heads are urging him to come out against it. They cited alleged problems with drugged driving and use by teens in Colorado. "Let us at least see if these negative trends continue before taking this plunge," the letter said. "This means that Californians, many of whom will listen to you, should vote against Prop 64. Is it wise social policy to adopt a measure that will substantially increase the numbers of marijuana users, including our youth? The letter was signed by former DEA administrators Robert C. Bonner, Jack Lawn, Karen Tandy, Peter Bensinger and Michele Leonhart.

New Massachusetts Poll Has Legalization With Wide Lead. A new poll from the Western New England University Polling Institute has the Question 4 legalization initiative winning handily with 61% of the vote. Only 34% were opposed. The "yes" vote is up nine points from the group's previous poll at the end of September. The measure had a whopping 81% support among voters under age 40.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Reinstate Initiative; One Still Remains on the Ballot. The state's high court Thursday denied a petition for a rehearing on its decision to disqualify Issue 7. Another medical marijuana initiative, Issue 6, remains on the ballot.

North Dakota Initiative Campaign Gets Last Minute Cash. North Dakota for Compassionate Care, the group behind the Measure 5 medical marijuana initiative has received an unexpected last-minute donation of $15,000 from Drug Policy Action, the lobbying and campaign arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. The group will use the money for a final advertising push to get their message out to voters ahead of next week's elections.

International

Ghana Moving Toward Drug Decriminalization. The country is moving to decriminalize drug use as a means of better managing addiction, Deputy Interior Minister James Agalga said Thursday. Under a bill moving through parliament, users would receive clinical care and treatment instead of prosecution and incarceration. "Those who are addicted and under normal circumstances ought to be treated as patients who need care in the hospital," he explained. 

Chronicle AM: CA's Prop 64 Glides Toward Victory, AR MedMJ Init Has Voters Evenly Divided, More... (11/3/6)

It's all marijuana news today: the news from California is good on a couple of fronts, so is the news from the Pentagon and the District of Columbia. 

Will we see these in Arkansas next year? (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy 

US Military May Ease Up on Marijuana Use By Recruits. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday that the Pentagon is undertaking a wide-ranging review of recruiting standards and practices to ensure they are not "unnecessarily restrictive," including a review of rules governing past marijuana use by recruits. Under current policy, a potential recruit can be rejected for testing positive for pot or admitting past habitual marijuana use.

Latest California Poll Has Legalization Initiative Winning Comfortably. In line with all other recent polls, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll has the Prop 64 initiative winning with 58% of the vote. Support was strongest among voters under 30, 74% of whom said they were voting for the initiative. "The electorate has gotten younger and more demographically diverse," said Dan Schnur, director of the poll, reflecting on differences with 2010, when a legalization initiative lost by six points. "The change over the last six years has been more cultural than political. Society feels differently about marijuana legalization now than it did then."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Poll Shows Tight Race for Medical Marijuana Initiative. A new University of Arkansas poll shows voters evenly split on the Issue 6 medical marijuana initiative. The poll of likely voters has 49% in favor, with 47% opposed. The poll was conducted before a competing initiative, Issue 7, was disqualified from the ballot by the Supreme Court. Support was similar for Issue 7, with 48% in favor and 45% opposed. Issue 7 will remain on the ballot, but votes for and against it will not be counted.

DC Council Okays Letting Out-of-State Patients Purchase Medical Marijuana. The council has approved a measure to let medical marijuana users from other states use their registration cards to purchase their medicine in the District. The vote was unanimous.

Feds Give Up on Trying to Shut Down Flagship Berkeley Dispensary. The Justice Department has given up on its efforts to shut down the Berkeley Patients Group. The three-year effort came to an end Monday, when federal prosecutors in San Francisco filed a motion to dismiss their civil forfeiture case against the dispensary. City officials had supported the dispensary in its battle with then-US Attorney Melinda Haag. The move is the latest sign the federal government is winding down efforts to go after marijuana businesses in states where they are legal. 

Chronicle AM: Big Bucks for CA Legalization Init, MedMJ Cultivation Now Legal in Australia, More... (11/2/16)

The prospect of profits is fueling donations to the California legalization initiative, a key Old Dominion politico is ready to talk decriminalization, medical marijuana cultivation is now legal in Australia, and more.

Marijuana Policy 

California Legalization Initiative Has Raised $16 Million. Activist philanthropists like Sean Parker and George Soros and entrepreneurs with dollar signs in their eyes have kicked in a whopping $16 million to the Prop 64 campaign, which appears headed for victory next week. That's ten times the amount raised by the organized opposition, and about four times what was raised for the failed Prop 19 legalization initiative in 2010. "Legal marijuana is no longer a pipe dream: It's an investment," said Claremont McKenna College economics professor Jack Pitney. "Public opinion has shifted strongly in favor of legalization, and the smart money is following the people."

Key Virginia Pol Ready to Consider Decriminalization. State senate majority leader Tommy Norment (R) said Tuesday he supports studying marijuana decriminalization. "I think it’s absolutely crazy that we continue to lock people up for possession of a modest amount of marijuana," he said. Last year, Norment voted against a decriminalization bill, but he now says decriminalization would keep people from having the stigma of a criminal record. He added, though, that getting decriminalization through the legislature would be a tough fight.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Marijuana Growers Face High License Fees. Under draft rules promulgated by the state Department of Commerce, medical marijuana cultivation licenses would be capped at 18 and would cost a pretty penny. Twelve "Level I" licenses for grows of up to 15,000 square feet will require a $20,000 application fee and a $180,000 license fee, while six "Level II" licenses for grows of up to 1,600 square feet will require a $2,000 application fee and an $18,000 license fee.  The Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee reviewed the plan Tuesday morning, and the full rules were scheduled to be posted to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program website for public comment by Wednesday. 

International

Medical Marijuana Cultivation Now Legal in Australia. The country approved medical marijuana in February, but that didn't kick in until Tuesday. Now, organizations and businesses can apply for licenses to cultivate and manufacture marijuana for medical purposes. Susan Ley, Australia’s Health Minister said that the legislation will give patients safe and legal access to cannabis. "Until now, it has been difficult for patients to access medicinal cannabis products from overseas sources,"said Health Minister Susan Ley. "These new laws change that situation by providing for a domestic supply of medicinal cannabis products that are not readily available for import."

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