The Drug Debate

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Chronicle AM: Million Marijuana Marches, WA April Rec Pot Sales Hit $25 Million, More (5/11/15)

It was a quiet weekend on the drug policy front, except for the Million Marijuana Marches in cities around the world, and all the news was marijuana-related.

It was Million Marijuana March weekend around the world. (Pete Brady/cannabisculture.com)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Parolees and Probationers Can Now Use Medical Marijuana. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Friday signed into law a bill allowing medical marijuana by people under criminal justice system supervision. Now, such people will not be charged with parole or probation violations for using it.

Ohio Politicians Look to Undercut Legalization Initiatives. Faced with as many as three looming marijuana legalization initiatives, some Buckeye State legislators are seeking to take the air out of the movement by pushing more incremental reforms, such as a CBD cannabis oil bill or a legislatively initiated medical marijuana ballot issue. But it remains unclear that even if such a measure should pass, it would reduce the pressure for full-blown legalization.

Washington State Had $25 Million in Recreational Marijuana Last Month. Recreational pot sales were $24.8 million in April, nearly double the January figure of $12.7 million and a dozen times higher than the $2 million in July 2014, the first month of legal marijuana sales. So far this year, pot sales have totaled $119.7 million, with $29.9 in projected retail excise tax revenues.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Appeals Judge's Ruling Blocking Parts of Restrictive Medical Marijuana Law. The attorney general's office last Wednesday appealed rulings by District Judge James Reynolds that blocked provisions of the law prohibiting advertising and the commercial sale of medical marijuana, as well as provisions limiting caregivers to three patients and subjecting doctors who recommend medical marijuana to extra scrutiny. Those provisions have never taken effect because of Reynolds' rulings.

International

Marijuana Legalization Actions Take Place Around the World. Thousands showed up in Rome, thousands more in Prague. Also, Paris and Berlin, and various Brazilian cities, among others.

Victoria, BC, to Regulate Pot Shops Like Vancouver. British Columbia's capital and second largest city is set to follow Vancouver down the path toward regulating -- instead of prohibiting -- marijuana shops. Local police are not opposed, the move could better control who enters the shops, and provisions can be made for nonprofit collectives that have operated for years, city officials said.

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

Drug Policy

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

International

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

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

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

Chronicle AM: TX MJ Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote !); Decrim Advances in DE, IL, More (5/7/15)

Holy Cow! A marijuana legalization bill wins a committee vote in Texas! Also, decrim bills are moving in Delaware and Illinois, welfare drug testing gets shot down by Democrats in Iowa, but advances thanks to Republicans in Wisconsin, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Fourth California Legalization Initiative Filed. Busy, busy. Jason Porter and Lara Marie Collinsworth have filed the 2016 California Bipartisan Decriminalization of Cannabis Act. That's the fourth so far this year, and we're still waiting for the big one to drop. This one would legalize up to five pounds for personal possession and allow a 500 square foot garden. It would also force medical marijuana into a pharmacy system. There is a handy spreadsheet on the various proposals here.

Delaware Decriminalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of pot has passed the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee after its sponsor, Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington), said she would revise to address law enforcement concerns. It now includes language making public pot smoking or smoking in a vehicle a misdemeanor with a maximum $200 fine. The cops still oppose it, though. The bill is House Bill 39.

Illinois Decriminalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. A bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to 15 grams of pot passed the Senate Criminal Law Committee Wednesday. House Bill 218 has already passed the House and now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Texas House Committee Approves Legalization Bill. In a surprise move, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved an outright legalization bill on a 5-2 vote. The bill, House Bill 2165 now awaits a chance at a House floor vote.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois Medical Marijuana Extension Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill to extend the state's long-delayed medical marijuana pilot program is now headed for a final Senate vote. House Bill 3299 passed the House last month. It would extend the program for four years after the first dispensary opens.

Texas Senate Approves CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. The Senate today approved Senate Bill 339, the "Texas Compassionate Use Act," which would allow people with severe epileptic conditions to use CBD cannabis oil. The bill now goes to the House. The House is considering a companion bill, but it has not had a floor vote yet.

New Synthetic Drugs

New Hampshire House Approves Synthetic Drug Bill. The House voted Wednesday to restrict synthetic drugs. The bill, Senate Bill 106, would impose fines on persons who sell synthetic drugs and fines and other penalties on businesses that sold them, but would not penalize personal possession of the substances. The bill has already passed the Senate, but was amended in the House, so it needs to go bac for a final Senate vote.

Texas Senate Approves Synthetic Drug Bill. The Senate Wednesday passed Senate Bill 1582, which would allow the state health department to designate new synthetics as "hazardous controlled substances" until the legislature has time to ban them. The bill now goes to the House.

Asset Forfeiture

Oklahoma Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) today filed Senate Bill 838, the "Personal Asset Protection Act." The bill would require a criminal conviction before asset forfeiture can be undertaken. Although the bill is being filed late in the session, Loveless said it was an important issue and that he would hold an interim study to examine the issue.

Drug Testing

Iowa Welfare Drug Testing Defeated. Senate Democrats stood firm to defeat a welfare drug testing amendment proposed as part of a health and human services budget bill Wednesday. The amendment was defeated on a party-line vote, 26-23. The Senate also rejected an amendment that would have required drug testing for lawmakers.

Wisconsin Welfare Drug Testing Bill Moves. A bill that would require some public benefits recipients to undergo drug testing was approved by the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform Wednesday. The Republican-backed measure is Assembly Bill 192

Chronicle AM: AZ AG Lets Officials Flout Election Laws, MT Gov Signs Forfeiture Reform Bill, More (5/6/15)

Lots of marijuana policy at the statehouse today, a Texas CBD cannabis oil bill moves, Montana's governor signs asset forfeiture reform into law, Vermont heads in the opposite direction on asset forfeiture, and more.

The pro-legalization billboard that went up in Providence this week.
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Attorney General Says Elected Officials Can Campaign Against Legalization. Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) says elected officials can engage in "public education campaigns" against looming marijuana legalization initiatives as long as they don't go as far as telling voters not to vote for them. That's an idiosyncratic interpretation of the state's electioneering laws, and the Marijuana Policy Project, which is backing an initiative there, is threatening to sue.

Iowa Senate Approves Marijuana Bill With Multiple Provisions. The Senate voted Tuesday to approve a bill originally designed to go after synthetic drugs, but which was amended to lessen penalties for possession of five grams or less and to reclassify marijuana from Class I to Class 2. The bill, House File 567, already passed the House, but has to go back for members to vote on the changes made in the Senate.

Louisiana Bill to Lessen Marijuana Penalties Moves. A bill that would decrease maximum sentences for repeat marijuana possession offenders was approved by the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee today. House Bill 149, from Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) would make a second offense punishable by only two years in prison instead of five and a third offense punishable by only five years instead of 20. Passage of the bill would move Louisiana's marijuana sentencing from the insanely draconian to the merely harshly draconian. It now heads to the House floor.

Rhode Island House Approves Bill to Bar Disclosure of Minor Marijuana Offenses. With no debate, the House voted 67-1 Tuesday to bar the public disclosure of the names of people who had been busted only once or twice for marijuana possession. The move addressed two conflicting provisions of the state's 2012 decriminalization law, one of which said records would be sealed 18 months after the payment of fines and another of which said they were to stay sealed.

East Lansing, MI, Votes to Legalize Marijuana. Voters there approved a local legalization initiative with 65% of the vote. The initiative legalizes up to an ounce for people 21 and over on private property. It also allows for the transfer of up to an ounce. Marijuana possession remains illegal under state law.

Rhode Island Activists Put Up Billboard. As the legislature contemplates legalization, Regulate Rhode Island has unveiled a billboard aimed at getting solons' attention and showing them legalization could bring jobs and cash to the state.

Medical Marijuana

Texas CBD Cannabis Oil Bills Move. Bills that would allow people suffering from epilepsy to use CBD cannabis oil won committee votes in both chambers Monday. Senate Bill 339 passed out of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on an 8-1 vote, while its companion measure, House Bill 892, was approved by the House Public Health Committee, also on an 8-1 vote. A Senate floor vote come could next week.

Asset Forfeiture

Montana Governor Signs Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Gov. Steve Bullock (D) Tuesday signed into law HB 463, which would require police to win a conviction before undertaking asset forfeiture proceedings. It also raises the bar for seizures, requiring police to show "clear and convincing evidence" that the property was not legally obtained. Civil asset forfeiture reform has also become law this year in New Mexico.

Vermont House Approves Bill Making Asset Forfeiture Easier. Going against the asset forfeiture reform grain, the House Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that makes it easier for prosecutors to seize the assets of those involved in drug crimes. The bill is S.102 and is supported by law enforcement. The bill was set for a third reading today, and if approved, it would go back to the Senate for approval of changes, or the Senate could call for a conference committee.

Drug Testing

California Roadside Drug Testing Bill Killed. A bill that would have let police use a device similar to a breathalyzer to test drivers for the presence of drugs died in the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday. The bill, Assembly Bill 1356, was supported by law enforcement, but opposed by defense attorneys and the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Surprising State That Could Be the Next to Legalize Weed [FEATURE]

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

It's looking more and more likely that voters in a key battleground state will be voting on marijuana legalization in November, and recent polling suggests it could win. That's this November, not November 2016.

The state is Ohio, where a controversial legalization initiative is already well on the way to qualifying for the ballot, and its backers -- or should we say investors? -- have the cash on hand to make sure it does.

There are marijuana legalization bills pending in any number of states, and early on, there were hopes this would be the year a state legislature would get around to legalizing it. New England states such as Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont looked like the best bets, but it now doesn't seem like it's going to happen.

2016 promises to see a wave of legalization initiatives -- think Arizona, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts, for starters, with Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio also likely to see serious efforts emerge.

But that's next year. The group ResponsibleOhio is well on the way to putting the issue before Buckeye State voters this year. They've already had their proposed constitutional amendment approved for signature gathering and, thanks to paid signature-gatherers, are cruising toward qualifying for the ballot.

To qualify in Ohio, initiatives need 305,000 valid voter signatures; ResponsibleOhio collected 180,000 raw signatures in its first three weeks and still has more than two months to gather the rest. And the campaign is still expanding.

Veteran initiative watchers will tell you campaigns want a cushion of excess signatures to account for ones that are thrown out, maybe 25% to 30% above the requirement at a bare minimum. In Ohio this year, that would be 400-450,000 raw signatures. The campaign says they are aiming for 700,000.

Given the progress so far, and the organization and money behind it (see below), ResponsibleOhio's legalization initiative looks like it will qualify for the ballot.

A New Legalization Model

This is not legalization like we've seen anywhere else. Yes, it allows adults 21 and over to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana and yes, it calls for a system of regulated and taxed marijuana production and sales. And it even has provisions for medical marijuana.

But under ResponsibleOhio's initiative, commercial marijuana production can only take place at 10 sites in the state, and those sites have already been allocated to 10 sets of investors, who have already kicked in $1.7 million for the campaign so far and who are prepared to spend up to $20 million convincing the public to vote for it.

The Big O in his NBA heyday. (wikimedia.org)
The investors include a number of Ohio business interest-real estate developers, venture capital firms, philanthropists, with nary a Cheech or a Chong among them -- but also some home state big names that could sway public opinion. These include NBA legend Oscar "Big O" Robertson, Cincinnati-based fashion designer Nanette Lepore, and former Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns defensive end Frostee Rucker (now with the Arizona Cardinals).

In return for their hoped-for voter-granted monopoly, the investor groups would pay a $100,000 fee and a 15% tax on their gross revenues, as well as other commercial fees. Critics have charged that the plan freezes out all but the initial investor groups, but ResponsibleOhio counters that there will be plenty of commercial opportunities in making and selling marijuana products.

The ResponsibleOhio plan has raised a lot of hackles among movement veterans such as NORML founder Keith Stroup, who voices widely-held worries about the impact of big money in the movement and Ohio activists, some of whom have their own initiative plans, but they may not matter as much as suburban Columbus soccer moms when it comes to election day.

And while this written-in monopoly may seem strange to many, it's not going to seem that strange to Ohio voters. In 2009, they legalized gambling by approving a constitutional amendment that specified sites for four casinos owned by the companies backing the amendment.

Can It Win?

Initiatives need to have money, momentum, and votes to win.

ResponsibleOhio looks to have deep enough pockets to put on a full-scale, multi-million dollar advertising campaign. Estimates are that to win in California next year, legalizers will have to spend $10 million or so in advertising, but ResponsibleOhio is talking about spending up to $20 million in a much smaller media market, and it doesn't have to go begging to donors.

The momentum is there. The entire country is riding a wave of increasing support for marijuana legalization, and Ohio is no exception. A Quinnipiac University poll last month had support at 53% (it also had narrow majorities for legalization in swing states Florida and Pennsylvania), up two points from the same poll a year earlier.

The conventional wisdom is that initiatives should be polling 60% or more at the beginning of the campaign because they are bound to lose some support in the face of organized opposition. But when it comes to marijuana, these hardly seem like conventional times. National polls show an upward trend, and Ohio polls show an upward trend. Whether it can win at the polls in an off-off-year election remains to be seen (the casino initiative did), but it certainly looks like it's going to be on the ballot, and it's got a very good shot on Election Day.

Ohio isn't the West Coast or New England. It's a mid-sized Midwest swing state critical in presidential politics. If Ohio legalizes it this year, the politics of pot is going to get very, very interesting next year.

OH
United States

Chronicle AM: Mexico Drug War Flares Up, Colombia Coca Crops Up, Global Call to UN, More (5/5/15)

Mexico drug war flares, Colombia coca production jumps, a Texas decrim bill is moving, so is a Hawaii dispensary bill and a Louisiana medical marijuana bill. And more.

Coca production is up in Colombia. It could end up as cocaine, like this haul seized by Spanish police.
Marijuana Policy

Texas Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. After failing in a close vote last week, a bill to decriminalize marijuana advanced Monday night. House Bill 507, sponsored by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) passed the House Jurisprudence Committee on a 4-2 vote. It would make possession of up to an ounce a civil infraction with a maximum $250 fine.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Dispensary Bill Wins Final Committee Vote. A bill to finally bring dispensaries to the Aloha State has passed its final committee vote and now heads for a final legislative vote. House Bill 321 would allow for eight dispensaries statewide, with each allowed two retail locations and two grow sites.

Illinois Advisory Board Expands List of Qualifying Illnesses. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Monday recommended adding PTSD and seven other illnesses and conditions to the list of those for which medical marijuana can be used. The decision isn't final; the Department of Public Health must approve.

Louisiana Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Monday approved Senate Bill 143, which would allow people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and cerebral palsy to use the herb. It would create a single grow site and medical marijuana would be distributed through 10 pharmacies. The bill now heads to the House.

Missouri CBD Cannabis Oil Expansion Bill Wins Committee Vote. The bill, SB 386, passed unanimously out of the House Emerging Issues Committee Monday. It now goes to the Select Committee on General Laws.

Tennessee Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) Monday signed into law House Bill 1097, which will expand access to CBD cannabis oil.

Hemp

Missouri Hemp Bill Wins Committee Vote. The bill, HB 830, which would legalize hemp production in the state, passed the Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee on a 6-1 vote. It now heads to the Senate floor.

Drug Policy

Carly Fiorina: "Drug Addiction Shouldn't Be Criminalized." Newly-announced GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina said Monday that the country needs to find a new way to deal with drug addiction. "Drug addiction shouldn't be criminalized," Fiorina said during a conference call with reporters on Monday. "We need to treat it appropriately." She added that "decriminalizing drug addiction and drug use" is good public policy.

Law Enforcement

Gloucester, Massachusetts, Police To Stop Arresting Addicts If They Seek Help. Police in Gloucester say that if drug users come to them and turn in their drugs and/or paraphernalia, they will not be charged with criminal offenses, but will instead be offered treatment in partnership with two local medical centers. "We are poised to make revolutionary changes in the way we treat this disease," Chief Leonard Campanello said. The new policy goes into effect in June.

International

Reform Groups Release Letter Calling on UN to Respect Drug Policy Reforms. More than a hundred human rights, public health and drug and justice reform groups have released an open letter calling on the UN to respect countries' moves to end drug prohibition and to emphasize human rights over harsh law enforcement responses. The move is part of the run-up to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs next year. And check out that website where the letter is. [Disclosure: We organized the letter.]

Coca Production Up Dramatically in Colombia. Coca production jumped 39% last year, according to a new White House report. The report comes as pressure mounts on Colombia to end its US-backed program of aerial herbicide spraying on coca crops after the WHO called glyphosate a carcinogen. The reported increase came after six years of declining or steady production.

Mexican Government Declares War on Jalisco New Generation Cartel. In the wake of a violent week that saw presumed cartel gunmen shoot down a military helicopter, killing six soldiers, along with shootouts, blockades, and vehicle-burnings, the Mexican government says it is going to war against the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which it blames for the violence. "The full force of the Mexican state will be felt in the state of Jalisco," an official vowed Monday. "Satisfactory results will start to be seen very soon."

(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.)

Reform Global Drug Policy

 
 
UN Headquarters, New York

Our new coalition is pressing for a range of reforms to international drug policy, including the prioritizing of human rights, public health, economic development, access to medicines, security, and the revision of the UN drug control conventions to eliminate the conflict that has emerged between treaty language and legalization of marijuana or other drugs in UN member states.

The statement linked here was signed by over 100 organizations, including major ones like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch. It argues that in cases of irreconcilable conflict, nations' obligations under the human rights treaties, which are enshrined as fundamental in the United Nations Charter, take precedence over provisions of the drug control treaties. The statement calls for a range of improvements to policies; for the UN to appoint a "Committee of Experts" to study the topic of drug treaty reform; and calls on the Obama administration to harmonize its foreign policy on drugs with its domestic policies by providing leadership at the UN to make that happen.

We continue to accept signatories for this statement. To do so, please email David Borden at borden@drcnet.org with your organization's name, a sentence indicating that the organization endorses the sign-on statement, and your position within the organization.

Note that we have also circulated a sign-on letter opposing the death penalty for drug convictions. Information on this appears below.


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.

# # #

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.)

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