Marijuana Legalization

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Chronicle AM: New England Pot Polls, First FL MedMJ Dispensary Set to Open, More... (7/20/16)

A Massachusetts poll has the marijuana legalization initiative losing, a New Hampshire poll shows record support for legalization, Florida's first dispensary gets the okay to open, Illinois protects drug court participants' opioid treatment access, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Poll Has Legalization Initiative Losing, But… A new poll from Gravis Marketing has 51% opposed to the legalization initiative sponsored by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, with only 41% saying they would vote for it. The poll was commissioned by a conservative political action committee called Jobs First, and Gravis used "instant voice recognition" to conduct the survey. Gravis said the poll's margin of error was +/- 3.3%.

New Hampshire Poll Has Record Support for Legalization. A whopping 61% of respondents said they supported legalizing small amounts of marijuana in a new WMUR Granite State poll. The strong support for freeing the weed comes as even as 43% of respondents named illegal drug use as the most important problem facing the state. Illegal drug use has been cited as the state's top problem in every WMUR since October 2015.

Medical Marijuana

Florida's First Dispensary Gets Okay to Open. The state Department of Health Wednesday granted a formal Authorization to Process and Authorization to Dispense to the Trulieve dispensary in Tallahassee. The shop will begin selling low-THC marijuana products beginning immediately, with high-THC products available early next month.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Illinois Governor Signs Bill to Protect Drug Court Participant Opioid Treatment Access. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) last week signed into law a bill that will prevent drug court judges from barring participants from using medications doctors prescribe to treat opiate addiction. The measure will go into effect January 1.

Chronicle AM: IL Gov Signs "Bath Salts" Ban, AZ Legalization Battle Heats Up, More... (7/20/16)

Voters in Arizona can now read arguments for and against the marijuana legalization initiative, legalization opponents don't want to let them have a chance to vote on it, "bath salts" will be banned in Illinois, and more.

"Bath salts" (synthetic cathinones) will be banned in Illinois. (MN Dept of Health)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalization Initiative Pro-Con Arguments Pamphlet is Available. The secretary of state's office has made available online the arguments for and against the legalization initiative sponsored by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Anyone willing to cough up the $75 fee to comment could do so. Eight people turned in arguments on the "pro" side, while 40 turned in "con" arguments. Registered voters will also receive a paper copy of the arguments in the mail before election day.

Arizona Chamber of Commerce Joins Lawsuit Against Legalization Initiative. The state Chamber of Commerce and Industry has joined with the anti-legalization group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy in attempting to block the legalization initiative via a lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the materials used to get voters to sign petitions were fraudulent and misleading. In a hearing today, a judge gave the initiative campaign several weeks to respond.

New Psychoactive Substances

Illinois Governor Signs "Bath Salts" Ban Bill. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) Monday signed into law Senate Bill 210, the Bath Salts Prohibition Act, to go into effect January 1. The new law makes it a class 3 felony to sell or offer for sale "any synthetic or natural material containing any quantity of a cathinone chemical structure." The law also will allow local governments to revoke the licenses of retailers who are convicted of a violation.

International

New Zealand Treasury Documents Suggest Annual Pot Tax Revenues of $150 Million. The documents from an informal Treasury report obtained under the Official Information Act reveal that the government spends about $400 million annually enforcing prohibition and that reforming drug policies would "ease pressure on the justice sector, and lead to fewer criminal convictions for youth and Maori." Treasury estimated legalizing marijuana alone could generate annual tax revenues of $150 million.

California: What Will Marijuana Legalization Look Like? [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Twenty years ago, California led the way on weed, becoming the first state in the nation to approve medical marijuana. Now, while it's already lost the chance to be the first to legalize recreational use, the Golden State is poised to push legal pot past the tipping point.

Although voters in Colorado and Washington first broke through the grass ceiling in 2012, with Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, following suit in 2014, if and when Californians vote to legalize it this coming November, they will more than triple the size of the country's legal marijuana market in one fell swoop.

It's not a done deal until election day, of course, but the prospects are very good. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalization initiative is officially on the ballot as Proposition 64, it has cash in the bank for the campaign (more than $8 million collected so far), it has broad political support, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and at least four California US representatives, and it has popular support, with the latest poll showing a healthy 60% of likely voters favor freeing the weed.

It's also that the surfer's paradise is riding a weed wave of its own creation. Thanks in large part to the "normalization" of the pot business that emerged out of California's wild and wooly medical marijuana scene, the national mood about marijuana has shifted in recent years. Because of California, people could actually see marijuana come out of the shadows, with pot shops (dispensaries) selling it openly to anyone with an easily obtained doctor's recommendation and growers turning parts of the state in pot cultivation hotbeds. And the sky didn't fall.

At the same time, the shift in public opinion has been dramatic. According to annual Gallup polls, only a quarter of Americans supported marijuana legalization when California voted for medical marijuana in 1996, with that number gradually, but steadily, increasing to 44% in 2009, before spiking upward ever since then to sit at 58% now.

California isn't the only state riding the wave this year -- legalization will also be on the ballot in Maine and Nevada and almost certainly in Arizona and Massachusetts -- but it is by far the biggest and it will help the state regain its reputation as cutting edge on social trends, while also sending a strong signal to the rest of the country, including the federal government in Washington.

But what kind of signal will it send? What will legalization look like in the Golden State? To begin, let's look at what Prop 64 does:

  • Legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to six plants (per household) by adults 21 and over.
  • Reduces most criminal penalties for remaining marijuana offenses, such as possession or cultivation over legal limits or unlicensed distribution, from felonies to misdemeanors.
  • Regulates the commercial cultivation, processing, distribution, and sale of marijuana through a state-regulated licensing system.
  • Bars commercial "mega-grows" (more than ½ acre indoors or 1 acre outdoors) until at least 2023, but makes provisions for licensed "microbusinesses" (grows smaller than 10,000 square feet).
  • Allows for the licensing of on-site consumption premises, or "cannabis cafes."
  • Allows cities and counties to regulate or even prohibit commercial marijuana activities, but not prohibit personal possession and cultivation.
  • Taxes marijuana at 15% at the retail level, with an additional $9.25 per ounce cultivation tax imposed at the wholesale level.

In other words, pot is largely legalized and a taxed and regulated market is established.

Some changes would occur right away, advocates said.

"The criminal justice impact will be huge and immediate, and it will start on November 9," said Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which is backing Prop 64 not only rhetorically, but also with its checkbook through its lobbying and campaign arm, Drug Policy Action.

California arrests about 20,000 people a year for marijuana felonies and misdemeanors, currently has about 10,000 people incarcerated for pot offenses, and has as many as half a million people with pot convictions on their records. Things are going to change in a big way for all these people.

"Those marijuana arrests will stop," said Lyman. "And everyone currently sitting in jail or prison will be eligible to apply for release. They will have to file a petition, but like Prop 47 [the sentencing reform initiative passed in 2014], unless there is a compelling reason to deny it, the court must grant it. Similarly, all those people who have had marijuana offenses will be eligible to have their record reclassified."

To be clear, it will still be possible to be arrested for a marijuana offense in California after Prop 64. Possession of more than an ounce (or more than four grams of concentrate) will be a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and possession of less than an ounce can be a misdemeanor offense if it is on school grounds during school hours.

Similarly, cultivation of more than six plants without being a permitted medical marijuana patient or without a license is still a crime, but typically only a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in jail. There are some exceptions: Illegal growers could be charged with a felony if the person has prior violent offenses or violates state water or environmental laws.

Minors get special treatment. Kids under 18 who get caught with pot are hit with an infraction punishable by drug education, counseling, or community service, but no fines. People between 18 and 21 get an infraction with a maximum $100 fine. And while adults who possess pot on a school grounds during school hours get a misdemeanor, kids under 18 will only be hit with an infraction.

"We want to reduce the number of young people getting into the system, and this will really dial down the firehose into mass incarceration," said Lyman.

The state's largest marijuana consumer group, California NORML, certainly likes those provisions, but it only gives Prop 64 one thumb up and foresees some issues down the road.

"We're supporting the AUMA with reservations," said the group's long-time head Dale Gieringer. "It's not the best initiative ever written -- it has some problems that will have to be addressed -- but it is an important step. The huge thing it does is legalize adult possession of an ounce and adult cultivation of up to six plants. That's big. And it turns cultivation and possession with intent felonies into misdemeanors, or at worst, wobblers," meaning prosecutors could only in limited cases charge them as felonies.

"The AUMA is very long and complicated, with unnecessary hang-ups and restrictions," Gieringer complained, citing bans on public smoking and vaping as examples.

"In places where there are bans on smoking in apartments or residences, in public is about the only place you can smoke. If it's illegal to smoke pot in a public place, people will be hard-pressed to find any place," he said. "You can't even vaporize in a public place, and that's totally out of line with the existing science. They just caved in to the powerful anti-smoking lobby on that, and we can't endorse that."

The CaNORML membership also includes pot farmers, of which the group estimates there are some 30,000 in the state. They are nervous, Gieringer said.

"We have a lot of small growers and they have a lot of issues," he explained. "They are concerned about regulatory provisions they fear could quickly push small growers out of the business. AUMA requires you to be an in-state resident, and we're already growing more than we need, yet we have out-of-state sponsors lining up behind in-state sponsors."

Indeed, earlier this month, the state industry's largest membership group, the California Growers Association, voted to remain neutral on Prop 64 -- or least for now -- after its membership split almost down the middle on whether to support it. Growers, including association head Hezekiah Allen, worried that big-money investment and consolidation of the industry impelled by huge "mega-grows" could wipe out the now generations-old traditional pot farming scene in the stat's North Coast.

Allen warned in a report to the group's board that such consolidation could "result in a catastrophic economic collapse for huge swathes of California," including the North Coast's Emerald Triangle.

Stoners may have to fight for the right to toke and pot farmers for their place in the market, but some of the communities most buffeted by drug prohibition should see benefits. Prop 64 contains language that will direct revenues to minority communities, and also opens the door for localities themselves to take proactive steps toward racial justice.

"The AUMA has a community reinvestment fund with the first revenues available in 2019," said DPA's Lyman, adding that it will be $10 million the first year and up to $50 million a year in the futre. "This is going to communities most impacted by the drug war, black and brown communities, and will include everything from legal services, to public health and economic development. The communities will be able to decide."

Localities will also be deciding on how to implement regulation of the legal market, and that is another opportunity, Lyman said.

"Hopefully, we will see things like what happened in Oakland, where under the new regulations, 50% of the new licenses have to be from the community," she said. "We hope other cities will do that to mitigate racial discrimination and the injustice of the past by prioritizing people of color and women, so we don't end up white a bunch of white men getting rich off what black and brown people have endured. DPA will be very involved in this."

Somebody is going to be making money, though. The state's marijuana market, estimated at $2.7 billion for medical last year, could quickly hit $7 billion under legalization.

"I see tremendous potential for a blossoming of cannabis opportunities," said veteran California marijuana activist, author, and historian Chris Conrad, who has become a pro-Prop 64 spokesman under the rubric of Friends of Prop 64. "Of course, the size of the industry will be impacted by the need to limit the market to intra-state rather than national or international. Given that California is the world's sixth largest economy and has the largest appetite for cannabis in the world, the state's nonmedical market is going to be sizeable."

Legalization will bring changes from price reductions to changing product lines, he said.

"Overall marijuana production is expected to soar, prices to come down and probably a lot more cannabis will be converted into extracts and expand or open new markets for personal hygiene products, topical remedies and essential oils," Conrad predicted. "There will be large-scale cannabis production that is homogenized with relatively low to medium potency, but still of better quality than Mexican brick weed. But we will never replace the boutique markets any more than Budweiser has eliminated microbreweries or 'Big Wine' has wiped out California's family vintners."

And it's not just marijuana, but pot-related businesses that will boom, said DPA's Lyman.

"Formalizing regulations for the first time will expand the industry, and there will be lots of ancillary industries, such as marketing, packaging, and tracking, that should all thrive in post-legalization California," she said.

"There will be new ancillary markets for products such as locking stash boxes for people to carry their cannabis while driving, toking stations near entertainment venues and discrete, low-wattage, six-plant cultivation tents specialized for use in condos and apartments," added Conrad.

Conrad said he expected counties and cities will opt in to the revenues from allowing pot commerce instead of locking themselves out with bans.

"The distribution around the state will likely be porous, some areas more saturated and others with less access," he said. "Since towns will be licensing lawful businesses and no longer will be at the mercy of the county prosecutors' discretion, I expect to see a general spread of retail sites and onsite consumption shops around the state. Not in every town, not as obnoxious and omnipresent as liquor stores, but not too far away, either."

We shall see.

"You can't predict the future," said Gieringer. "It will be a new situation. Medical marijuana here evolved through several different stages, and I expect the same process to unfold here with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. On balance, the AUMA is an important step, but it's not the end game, and it leaves us with unresolved problems."

You may not be able to predict the future, said Lyman, but you can influence it.

"This will be a work in progress," she said. "The long-term work of implementation starts on November 8. We have to be there. To continue to be engaged will be critical."

But even under state level legalization in California, as long as there is pot prohibition somewhere in America, there will be Golden State growers ready to supply the market.

"The one thing everyone needs to recognize is that this does not end the problem of illegal marijuana growing in California," said Gieringer. "The industry has been well-entrenched for generations and is currently supplying the rest of the country, too. That market isn't going to disappear. The more expensive and difficult it is to become legal, the more people will likely participate in that black market."

Chronicle AM: Obama to Sign Opioids Bill, CO Legal MJ Fueling Economic Growth, More... (7/15/16)

A new report finds legal marijuana has been good for Colorado's economy, the White House announces President Obama will sign CARA, and more.

The president will sign the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act despite the lack of adequate funding. (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Report Finds Legal Marijuana Bolstering Retail, Manufacturing in Colorado. In a new report, the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business finds that the state's marijuana industry is bumping up retail sales and hiring in manufacturing. Recreational cannabis sales began in 2014. That year, "We had a 3.5% increase in employment. In 2015, a 4.9% increase in food-manufacturing employment," the report said. "The data doesn't allow us to slice and dice to say, 'These are indeed edibles or not,' but the recognition is this is where they would be classified." Likewise, chemical manufacturing jobs vanished at a rate of 2.2% a year from 2002 to 2012, but increased 2.1% in 2013, 1.4% in 2014, and 3.9% last year. Chemical manufacturing includes producing cannabis oils.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Obama Will Sign Opioids Bill Despite Lack of Funding. President Obama will sign into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524) even though Congress failed to adequately fund it, the White House said Wednesday. The bill "falls far short" of necessary funding, but Obama will sign it "because some action is better than none." More funds could be appropriated in the future, but that's by no means a done deal.

International

Peru Takes Aim at Coca Cultivation in the VRAEM. The country's anti-drug agency, DEVIDA, said Thursday in is ready to eradicate coca plants in the remote and lawless Valleys of the Rio, Apurimac, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM) region of south-central Peru. The government has held off on eradication in the region, a major coca producer and home to a remnant of the Shining Path rebels. About three-quarters of the country's coca is grown there, and DEVIDA is ready to go after it. "Today I can say that the conditions are now entirely there for a drastic reduction in the coverage of coca in the VRAEM," Devida chief Alberto Otarola said in a news conference. "No part of Peru should be exempt from the rule of law."

Chronicle AM: Congress Passes Opioid Bill, RI Gov Signs PTSD Bill, MT Init Qualifies, More... (7/14/16)

Governors use their bill-signing pens in Rhode Island and North Carolina, a new poll has surprisingly strong support for marijuana legalization in Wisconsin, Montanans will vote on medical marijuana in November, and more.

People with PTSD will now be able to use medical marijuana in Rhode Island. (Wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Wisconsin Poll Has Strong Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday has a whopping 59% support for freeing the weed in the Badger State. The poll question asked whether pot should be "fully legalized and treated like alcohol." The level of support is up dramatically from September 2014, when voters asked a similar (but not identical) question about legalization only gave it 46% support.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative Qualifies for the Ballot. An initiative aimed at reestablishing the state's medical marijuana system has qualified for the November ballot, state officials said Wednesday. The I-182 initiative would reverse restrictions imposed by the legislature in 2011 and, after lengthy court challenges, set to go into effect on August 31. Voters had approved the state's medical marijuana system in 2004.

Rhode Island Governor Signs Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana for PTSD. Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) Wednesday signed into law a bill that will allow medical marijuana to be recommended for the treatment of PTSD symptoms.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Congress Passes Major Heroin and Opioids Bill, But Doesn't Adequately Fund It. The Senate voted Wednesday to send opioid legislation known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) to President Obama for his signature. The House voted last week 407-5 to approve CARA. The bill advances a large number of treatment and prevention measures intended to reduce prescription opioid and heroin misuse, including evidence-based interventions for the treatment of opioid and heroin addiction and prevention of overdose deaths. This bill, however, does not provide federal funding. Republican leadership have maintained that opioid funding must be appropriated through regular order and have repeatedly pledged to fund the programs authorized in CARA this year. Advocates urge Congress to deliver on this promise.

Harm Reduction

North Carolina Governor Signs Bill to Allow Needle Exchanges. Gov. Mike McCrory (R) Monday signed into law House Bill 972, which authorizes the operation of needle exchange programs by local governments.

International

Indian MP Calls for Legalization of Recreational Drugs. MP Dr. Dharamvira Ghandi said Wednesday he is crafting an amendment to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act to legalize recreational drugs. Gandhi has been working with Delhi-based lawyers and professionals on a draft of the bill. He says drug prohibition has failed. "Punitive measures to combat the supply of drugs failed miserably, as demand for drugs had exhibited an exponential growth, leading to creation of drug mafias that provided continuous supplies, regardless of the harshest provisions for punishment," he said. "It has dawned upon countries worldwide that by decriminalizing certain substances that pose minimal health risks, and by following harm reduction policies, the demand for harmful and killing medical drugs had dropped drastically, along with the offences committed. Certain Indian states are currently facing a massive drug problem, with citizens between 15-40 years of age abusing drugs, and this has caused considerable harm to society in general, and the youth in particular."

Chronicle AM: NYC K2 Panic, Sen. Feinstein Rejects Marijuana Initiative, More... (7/13/2016)

Feinstein comes out against California's Prop 64, the Arkansas Health Department comes out against medical marijuana initiatives, an outbreak of synthetic cannabinoid overdoses in New York City raises alarms and more reasoned responses, and more.

K2 strikes in New York City! (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Senator Dianne Feinstein Opposes California Legalization Initiative. US Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has formally opposed the Prop 64 legalization initiative. In remarks Tuesday, she said the measure lacked protections for children and motorists and would clash with the state's medical marijuana system. "I am not really for recreational use of marijuana," she said. "Medical use, yes."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Health Department Opposes Medical Marijuana Initiatives. The state Department of Health said in a statement Tuesday that it opposed such initiatives because marijuana is not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and its legalization by popular vote is not grounded in "rigorous" science. A medical marijuana initiative from Arkansans for Compassionate Care has already qualified for the ballot, and the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment has handed in some 106,000 signatures. It needs 85,000 valid ones to qualify.

North Dakota Activists Actually Handed in 17,000 Signatures. The North Dakotans for Compassionate Care campaign actually handed in some 17,000 raw signatures for its medical marijuana initiative Monday. Earlier reports had the number at 15,500. It's still going to a nail biter to see if it qualifies for the ballot; it needs 13,452 valid voter signatures.

New Psychoactive Substances

Outbreak of "Synthetic Marijuana" Overdoses in New York City. On Tuesday, emergency workers had to transport 33 people suspected of overdosing on synthetic cannabinoids commonly referred to as K2 to local hospitals. Locals and press reports refer to the victims as "zombies." The outbreak occurred at the border of the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Drug Policy Alliance Responds to K2 Outbreak, Media Coverage. The piece by DPA Director of Academic Engagement Dr. Julie Netherland notes that the synthetic cannabinoid market is completely unregulated and people who use those substances do not know what they are getting. She also points out that one of the primary factors driving the use of such substances is marijuana prohibition. And more.

Chronicle AM: GOP Rejects MedMJ, Colombia & FARC Collaborate on Coca Substitution, More... (7/12/16)

Medical marijuana is getting some attention on Capitol Hill, Arizona legalization foes go to court to try to block the initiative, Maine rejects medical marijuana for opiate addiction, Colombia and the FARC rebels partner on a coca crop substitution pilot program, and more.

Colombian coca farmer (DEA Museum)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Prohibitionists File Lawsuit to Block Legalization Initiative. Legalization opponents Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy have joined two county attorneys in filing a lawsuit to block the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol's legalization initiative from going before voters in November. The lawsuit claims the initiative is "misleading" and is not accurately summarized by its title and text. Legalization opponents in Massachusetts tried a similar tactic earlier this year. They failed.

Michigan Asks Judge to Throw Out Legalization Group's Ballot Access Challenge. The state is asking the Court of Claims to dismiss a lawsuit from MI Legalize, which is seeking to place its legalization initiative on the November ballot. The group gathered more than 350,000 signatures and only needed some 252,000 to qualify, but some of those signatures were obtained outside a 180-day window generally mandated by state law. In seeking dismissal, the state argues that there isn't enough time to get the measure on the ballot now, the lawsuit fails to identify constitutional claims and contradicts earlier state Supreme Court rulings.

Kansas City Marijuana Advocates Launch Decriminalization Initiative Campaign. The Kansas City, Missouri, NORML branch is collecting signatures to get a decriminalization initiative on the November ballot. The proposal would decriminalize up to 35 grams of pot, with a maximum fine of $25. The group needs 1,708 valid voter signatures by August 25, but says it plans to gather hundreds more than that and has 800 already.

Medical Marijuana

GOP Rejects Medical Marijuana Platform Plank. Republican delegates meeting Monday in Cleveland ahead of the party's national convention voted against endorsing medical marijuana in their party platform. The vote came after contentious debate, with some delegates making claims about marijuana reminiscent of Reefer Madness. One delegate claimed people who commit mass murders are "young boys from divorced families, and they're all smoking pot," another compared medical marijuana to physically addictive and potentially lethal prescription opiates. Still, it took two voice votes for the measure to be voted down.

Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Medical Marijuana Research Today. The US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism is scheduled to hold a hearing today on "Researching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks of Marijuana." Testimony will be heard from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who are original co-sponsors of medical marijuana legislation introduced last year in the Senate known as the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S 683). Other scheduled witnesses include officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), among others.

Senators Feinstein and Grassley Call for Expedited Evaluation of Medical Uses of CBDs. The two Senate octogenarians have asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Health and Human Services Director Sylvia Burwell for the two agencies to work together to remove barriers to the scientific and medical evaluation of cannabidiol (CBD). The pair, who are, respectively, the co-chair and chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, made their request in a letter to the two agency heads.

Maine Rejects Including Opiate Addiction as Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana. The administration of Tea Party Gov. Paul LePage (R) has rejected a petition seeking to include opiate addiction on the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. State officials said the case for inclusion was "compelling," but they also said human studies hadn't been done and more research was needed.

International

Colombia and FARC Rebels Begin Coca Substitution Pilot Program. The government and the guerrillas Sunday began a pilot project to wean farmers off coca by offering them alternative crops. The move comes as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports that coca production is booming in what farmers see as a last opportunity to cash in before peace allows for a serious crop substitution effort. Some 500 small farmers are voluntarily participating in the program, which will be used as a model for the rest of the country after the FARC and the government reach final peace agreements.

Chronicle AM: House Passes Opioid Bill Without $$, CA Drug Felonies Plummet, More... (7/11/16)

California felony drug arrests are down, Colombian coca production is up, the Arizona marijuana legalization initiative is trailing in a new poll, Congress moves toward final passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, but there's a fight over funding, and more.

The House passes the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, but spurns efforts to pay for it. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Poll Has Legalization Initiative Trailing. A new poll from O.H. Predictive Insights has the legalization initiative sponsored by the Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol losing on election day. The poll found 52.5% opposed, with only 39% in favor. The initiative has not yet officially qualified for the ballot, but is expected to after supporters handed in 100,000 more signatures than needed, providing plenty of cushion for invalidated signatures. The campaign does have significant resources; it looks like it will need them to turn the numbers around.

Arizona Supreme Court Rules Mere Smell of Marijuana is Grounds for Search, Even Though It's a Medical Marijuana State. The state's high court ruled Monday that the mere smell of marijuana is sufficient grounds to obtain a search warrant, even though the state has legalized medical marijuana. But the court also held that the legal foundation for such a search can go up in smoke if police have evidence the suspected marijuana use or possession is legal under state law. The case is State v. Sisco.

North Dakota Legalization Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short. North Dakotans will not be voting on marijuana legalization this fall. Sponsors of the initiative conceded Monday they only had about 10,000 signatures, and they needed 13,452 valid signatures to qualify. Monday was the deadline for turning in signatures.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois Medical Marijuana Sales Continue Climbing. The state saw $2.57 million in medical marijuana sales in June, up from $2.3 million in May, according to figures from the state Department of Agriculture. Sales total $13.8 million since the first dispensaries started operating last November. The numbers should increase even further once two new qualifying conditions -- PTSD and terminal illness -- come on line. They've already been approved, but the Department of Health is in the midst of preparing new rules and application forms.

North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. The North Dakotans for Compassionate Care campaign handed in some 15,500 raw signatures for its medical marijuana initiative Monday, the last day for handing them in. The campaign needs 13,452 valid voter signatures to qualify, so there is very little cushion for invalidated signatures. Stay tuned.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

House Approves Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, But Without Requested Funding. The House last Friday gave final approval to S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), but beat back Democratic efforts to provide additional funding for it. The Obama administration had asked for $1.1 billion, and House Democrats tried in vain last week to $925 million in funding. The White House has suggested it may veto the bill if no extra funding is attached. House Republicans said funding was available elsewhere. The measure is a conference committee compromise, with the Senate set to give final approval this week.

Sentencing

California Drug Felony Arrests Plummet in Wake of Prop 47. What happens when you change drug felonies to misdemeanors? Drug felonies plummet. Felony drug arrests in California dropped between 68% and 73% between 2014 and 2015 according to new data from the California Attorney General. Marijuana felonies followed a similar curve, dropping from 13,300 in 2014 to 8,856 last year. On the other hand, misdemeanor drug arrests nearly doubled, from 92,469 in 2014 to 163,073 last year.

International

Poll Finds Majority of British MPs Favor Medical Marijuana. Some 58% of British MPs back the use of medical marijuana, according to the polling firm Populus. Only 27% were opposed. Support was strongest among Scottish National Party MPs (88%), followed by Labor (60%), and even 55% of Tories were on board.

Colombia Coca Boom Underway. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported last Thursday that coca cultivation had increased by 39% last year and nearly doubled since 2013. Some observers speculate that it reflects coca growers' belief that this could be the last chance to grow the cash crop before a peace deal between the government and the leftist guerrillas of the FARC takes hold. Colombia government officials said the largest increases in cultivation are in areas controlled by the FARC.

In Surprise Reversal, Democrats Call for "Pathway" to Marijuana Legalization

Meeting in Orlando Saturday ahead of the Democratic National Convention later this month, the party's platform drafting committee dropped a moderate marijuana plank it had adopted only days earlier and replaced it with language calling for rescheduling pot and creating "a reasoned pathway to future legalization."

Bernie Sanders supporters had pushed earlier for firm legalization language, but had been turned back last week and didn't have any new language going into this weekend's platform committee meeting. But on Saturday afternoon, the committee addressed an amendment that would have removed marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, as Sanders supporters had earlier sought in vain, with Tennessee Sanders delegate David King arguing that pot was put in the same schedule as heroin during a political "craze" to go after "hippies and blacks."

That amendment was on the verge of being defeated, with some committee members worrying that it went "too far" and that it would somehow undermine state-level legalization efforts, but then committee members proposed merely rescheduling -- not descheduling -- marijuana and added the undefined "pathway" language.

The amendment was then adopted on an 81-80 vote, leading to a period of contention and confusion as former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, the committee co-chair, entered a complaint that at least one member may not have been able to vote. That led to arguments between committee members and between members and non-voting observers, most of whom were Sanders supporters. The Washington Post reported that one Clinton delegate complained loudly that Sanders delegates "wanted 100% of everything."

But the new language prevailed when former Arkansas US senator Mark Pryor, a Clinton delegate, announced that while opponents of the language were unhappy that the earlier compromise language had been replaced, they weren't going to fight it.

"We withdraw the objection," Pryor said.

The marijuana amendment adopted by the platform committee reads:

"Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization."

The earlier language had cited disparate racial enforcement of marijuana laws and urged support for state level "marijuana decriminalization," but only stated support for "policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty."

Bernie Sanders supporters didn't get the descheduling language they wanted, but they did get a commitment to rescheduling and they got the word "legalization" in there, even if the phrase "a reasoned pathway for future legalization" is a bit mealy-mouthed.

And the Democratic Party now has marijuana legalization as part of its platform.

Orlando, FL
United States

Chronicle AM: NORML's Allen St. Pierre to Step Down, Push for Stronger Dem MJ Plank, More... (7/8/16)

It's all marijuana policy today, with pressure on the Democratic platform committee, the long-time NORML head stepping down, organized opposition to legalization rumbling in California and Massachusetts, and more.

Allen St. Pierre will resign as head of national NORML. Thanks for everything, and good luck. (www.normlucf.com)
Marijuana Policy

Congressman, Drug Reformers Urge Democrats to Firm Up Marijuana Reform Plank. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and several national drug reform groups sent a letter Friday to the Democratic National Committee Platform Committee urging members to strengthen the party's lukewarm position on marijuana reform by adding one simple sentence: "We support ending the failed federal marijuana prohibition." Blumenauer was joined by Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Drug Policy Action (the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the Marijuana Policy Project, the National Cannabis Industry Association, NORML, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The platform committee is considering language Friday and Saturday.

Allen St. Pierre to Step Down as Head of NORML. After nearly a quarter-century as the group's executive director, St. Pierre is calling it quits. He's now a husband and a new father, and paying for a family lifestyle "is not possible while working for NORML," he said. Thank you, Allen, and best of luck in the future.

Alaska Regulators Give Preliminary Approval for Take-Away Marijuana at Cannabis Clubs. The Marijuana Control Board has amended its draft regulations for on-site consumption at pot retail shops to allow customers to purchase pot, consume some on-site, and then leave with the rest of the purchase. Before the amendment was accepted, previous language said customers "may not" leave the premises with any unused product. These are still just draft regulations.

California Prosecutors Announce Opposition to Prop 64. Now there's a shocker. The board of directors of the California District Attorneys Association has voted unanimously to oppose Prop 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalization initiative. The DAs warned of "dangerously impaired drivers getting behind the wheel and injuring or killing innocent Californians" and said the initiative would allow "drug dealers" to "infiltrate" the legal marijuana industry by not barring people with previous marijuana convictions.

Massachusetts Legalization Opponents Kick Off Campaign. Some of the state's leading politicians, including Gov. Charlie Baker (R), Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D), and House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D) Friday formally launched their campaign to defeat the legalization initiative sponsored by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The kickoff was set for a "recovery high school" Friday afternoon.

Washington State Recreational Pot Sales At Billion Dollar Mark. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Friday that sales have surpassed $1 billion since weed was legalized in in 2014. The official state website said sales were only $979,937,722, but whatever the precise figure, marijuana is now Washington's billion dollar baby.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment Supporters Hand in Signatures. Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana turned in more than 106,000 signatures to state officials Friday, the last day for turn-ins. They need nearly 85,000 valid voter signatures, so this is going to be a nail-biter. Earlier this week, a competing medical marijuana initiative from Arkansans for Compassionate Care qualified for the ballot.

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