Marijuana Legalization

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Chronicle AM: No Oregon MJ Social Clubs, Huge Chilean MedMJ Crop, More (12/4/15)

Oregon's cannabis cafes face a bleak future after running afoul of the state's anti-smoking laws, a no-smoking Florida medical marijuana bill advances, a huge medical marijuana crop grows in Chile, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Oregon Marijuana Cafes Must Shut Down By Next Month. Operations that allow people to smoke marijuana inside will have to shut down by January 1 or face fines for violating the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act. Some cannabis café owners, such as Madeline Martinez, operator of the World Famous Cannabis Café, say they will fight. "People will be forced to consume in the street, in their car, at the park," she said. "It's a nightmare. I'm going to have to close my doors."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Attorney General Rejects Wording on Medical Marijuana Initiative. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) has rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to allow for medical marijuana in the state, saying the wording is ambiguous. Initiative proponent David Crouch, a Little Rock attorney, will have to submit revised language if he wants to move forward.

Florida Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. A bill that would allow for cannabis oils containing higher levels of THC-- but not for smokable medical marijuana -- passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Thursday. The measure, SB 460, would amend the state's Right to Try Act, which allows patients facing death to try experimental medicines. A companion measure is also moving in the House.

Asset Forfeiture

Virginia Panel Rejects Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform. The Virginia State Crime Commission voted 9-3 Thursday against endorsing civil asset forfeiture reform legislation. Virginia doesn't have a problem with asset forfeiture, asserted Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts, who sits on the panel. The legislature considered asset forfeiture reform last year, but refused to vote on it and instead bumped it over to the crime commission for further study.

International

Latin America's Largest Ever Legal Marijuana Crop Planted in Chile. Regional agricultural authorities in central Chile last month approved a 6,900-plant medical marijuana grow operation that will produce 20 strains of high-potency marijuana. The resulting buds will be converted to cannabis oil after being harvested next spring (fall in the Southern Hemisphere).

Chronicle AM: Drug Czar Calls Overdoses Top Priority, Just One MA Init Left, More (12/3/15)

The drug czar is concerned about the rising toll of heroin overdose deaths. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Poll: Marijuana Legalization Not a High Priority for Californians. Californians are more concerned with school funding, increasing the minimum wage, and tax levels than they are with marijuana legalization, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll. The poll found that 88% thought school funding was "very" or "somewhat" important, 80% though increasing the minimum wage was, 76% thought extending tax increases was, but only 49% though legalizing pot was. Fully one-third (32%) of respondents said legalization was "not at all important."

Down to One Legalization Initiative in Massachusetts. The legalization situation is clarifying. Bay State Repeal, which had mounted a grassroots effort to get its own legalization initiative on the ballot next year, has conceded that if failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. That leaves the Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol as the sole possible contender next year. The latter group turned in more than 100,000 voter signatures earlier this week; it needs some 67,000 valid ones to qualify for the ballot.

Drug Policy

Drug Czar Says Heroin, Prescription Opiate Overdoses Top Priority. Michael Botticelli, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), told a congressional hearing Wednesday that heroin and prescription opiates overdoses are the most urgent issue facing his agency. "There is no more pressing issue," said Botticelli, who testified at a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on the nation's drug policy. "We have seen a reduction in prescription drug misuse among young adults but that has been replaced by a significant increase in heroin overdose deaths. We know some of this is related to the vast supply of very cheap, very pure heroin in parts of the country where we haven't seen it before." He said that more than 8,000 people died of heroin overdoses in 2013 and that he expects last year's figure to be substantially higher.

Sentencing

Massachusetts Poll Shows Broad Support for Repealing Mandatory Minimums. A poll conducted by Suffolk University's Political Research Center for Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) found that voters there support repealing mandatory minimum sentences by a margin of three-to-one. Some 62% supported repeal, while only 21% were opposed. Other poll questions showed broad support for sentencing reforms as well. "Massachusetts voters get it," said Barbara J. Dougan, Massachusetts project director for FAMM. "They know that mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses are a failed public policy. They want these ineffective and expensive laws repealed. The only question left is whether state lawmakers will listen to their constituents."

International

Malaysian Truck Driver Faces Death Sentence for Less Than a Pound of Pot. Abdul Sukur Saiful Bahri, 38, a driver for a government agency, faces a mandatory death sentence after being charged under the country's draconian drug trafficking laws. He was caught with 305 grams of marijuana, about 11 ounces of weed.

Australian Government Creates National Medical Marijuana Licensing Scheme. The federal government has announced a national licensing plan that will remove the need for states and territories to come up with their own regulatory schemes. The national government will now oversee all regulations for medical marijuana. A bill is being drafted to turn the plan into law. That's expected to happen next year.

Chronicle AM: USPS Warns Newspapers on Pot Ads, MX to Debate Cannabis Next Month, More (12/2/15)

The Postal Service has warned newspapers in the Pacific Northwest that carrying pot business ads could violate federal law, a New Mexico medical marijuana patient is suing the Border Patrol over access to his medicine, Minnesota has approved medical marijuana for chronic pain patients, and more.

Minnesota chronic pain patients will participate in the state's medical marijuana program beginning next August. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

US Post Office Warns Pacific Northwest Newspapers About Carrying Pot Business Ads. In a memo last Friday, the USPS in Portland warned newspapers that they could be violating federal law by running advertising for marijuana businesses. The memo noted that is illegal "to place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance." Newspapers in Oregon have contacted Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), both of whose offices said they had been in contact with USPS about "what appears to be an outdated interpretation" of the law.

Arizona Poll Has Voters Evenly Split on Legalization. There will likely be a legalization initiative on the ballot next year, and a new poll suggests it will be in for a fight. The Morrison-Cronkite Poll has the issue in a statistical dead heat, with 49% of voters in support and 51% opposed. The demographics favor the opposition, the pollster said. "Predictably, those 30 and younger (69%) and those age 31 to 55 (57%) are more likely to favor legalization than those 56 and older (36%)," said David Daugherty, associate director at Morrison Institute, who oversees the survey. "It is important to note, Republicans and older adults vote in larger numbers than either Democrats or young adults, which would, at least at this point in time, point toward likely defeat of the legalization of recreational marijuana."

Medical Marijuana

Patient Sues US Border Patrol Over Right to Carry Medical Marijuana. A New Mexico man filed a federal lawsuit Monday charging that Border Patrol agents are not following a new rule that allows him to carry medical marijuana without risk of federal charges. Raymundo Marrufo is seeking an injunction against the agency over questions it asks travelers at border checkpoints. Marrufo contends that the Rohrabacher Amendment, which bars the Justice Department from interfering in medical marijuana states, makes questioning travelers about medical marijuana illegal. "Whether it is a sense of entitlement, indifference or simply ignorance of the law, the court must immediately issue an injunction enjoining the United States Border Patrol from asking questions and conducting searches that violate that Rohrabacher Amendment," the complaint states.

Minnesota to Allow Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain. State Health Commissioner Ed Ehringer announced today that people suffering from chronic pain will be allowed to participate in the state's medical marijuana program beginning next August. The public had backed broadening access, but a panel of medical experts had advised against it. "The relative scarcity of firm evidence made this a difficult decision," Commissioner Ehlinger said. "However, given the strong medical focus of Minnesota's medical cannabis program and the compelling testimony of hundreds of Minnesotans, it became clear that the right and compassionate choice was to add intractable pain to the program's list of qualifying conditions. This gives new options for clinicians and new hope for suffering patients."

Ohio House to Create Medical Marijuana Task Force. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said Tuesday that the House is preparing to launch a task force to study the legalization of medical marijuana. The move comes a month after voters defeated a pot legalization initiative that would have also allowed for medical marijuana.

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Initiative Effort Falters Amid Infighting. The head of Wyoming NORML resigned on Sunday and said he believes the effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot is over. Chris Christian said petitioners had gathered only about 5,000 of the 20,000 voter signatures required to make the ballot. NORML Deputy Director Lee Roth wasn't ready to call it quits, though; he said he hoped new leadership would bolster support.

International

Mexico to Open National Debate on Marijuana Legalization Next Month. Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said Tuesday that the government will launch an informational website about marijuana with scientific and technical papers and will begin a series of public debates on marijuana policy in the third week in January. "To be effective, we must consider the different alternatives as well as the costs, benefits and viability of each of them and their impact on the population," he said. "Mexico will have to decide in the next months which policy it will need to face a phenomenon that affects different areas and aspects of the lives of millions of Mexicans."

Chronicle AM: DEA Snitching Issues, Dutch Towns Want Regulated Marijuana Grows, More (11/30/15)

Marijuana Policy

Cherokee Chief Vetoes Marijuana Legalization Study Resolution. The principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Patrick Lambert, has vetoed a resolution authorizing a feasibility study to examine the "issues and impacts associated with the legalization of cannabis" on tribal lands. "I have stated my opposition to the recreational use of drugs many times, and this includes marijuana," Chief Lambert wrote in his veto letter to Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor. Tribal members supporting legalization, organized as Common Sense Cannabis, responded with a statement saying Lambert was misguided: "In Chief Lambert's veto letter, he solely focuses on the 'recreational' marijuana, in which we call personal use. He cites recreational drug use as the problem in our community. While he is right about drug use as a problem, it does not stem from cannabis use. The problem lies with legal prescription pills and other synthetics, such as meth and heroin." The group is calling for the veto to be overridden in a tribal council meeting this Thursday.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Approves Five Medical Marijuana Growers. The state Department of Health has named the five operations that will be allowed to grow high-CBD, low-THC marijuana. The state's law limits the use of oils derived from the plants to patients suffering from cancer or a disease that "chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms that can be treated with low-THC cannabis."

New Hampshire Woman Wins Approval to Seek Medical Marijuana in Maine. A woman suffering from late-stage lung cancer can seek to buy medical marijuana in neighboring Maine, a judge ruled last Tuesday. Linda Horan, 64, said she could be dead by the time dispensaries open in New Hampshire, so she sued the state to get an ID card that would allow her to purchase it in Maine. The state had argued that issuing her an ID card would undermine its need to control distribution, but the judge wasn't buying that argument. "She is suffering from a painful, terminal disease and is also undergoing chemotherapy. There is no dispute that cannabis can ameliorate some of her suffering," wrote Judge Richard McNamara. "She will suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted."

Law Enforcement

Justice Department Inspector General Slams DEA Snitch Practices. In its semiannual report to Congress, the DOJ's OIG criticized the DEA for failing to have guidelines for the use of "high-level and media-affiliated sources," failing to effectively review snitches' authorization to conduct "Otherwise Criminal Activity," and failing to review its continued use of long-term snitches. The report also noted that the DEA was at times uncooperative, including efforts to obstruct the OIG's reviews of snitch file reviews and long delays in providing requested information.

International

European Parliamentary Council Calls for Public Health-Oriented Drug Policy. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in advance of next year's UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs, has called for a public health approach to drug policy. "The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stresses that the world drug problem constitutes a major public health threat, for both individual drug users and society as a whole… the committee strongly supports the call for a change in approach to drug policy and calls on member States to adopt and promote a public-health-oriented drug policy based on prevention, treatment and harm reduction. It also invites all participants of the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem to defend a new approach to drug policy, which should shift the emphasis from criminal justice to public health."

Dutch Localities Call for Regulated Marijuana Cultivation. The association of Dutch localities, VNG, has issued a new report calling for the government to regulate and license marijuana cultivation as a means of squeezing out smugglers and organized crime. The Dutch allow for the sale of small amounts of marijuana, but there is no legal provision for supplying the crop. 'The current situation cannot continue,' the report states. 'As local officials, we are experiencing major social problems… By turning a blind eye [to marijuana], the government is giving criminals free rein to sell their products. The cannabis industry is loosely entwined with organized crime, which is also involved in ecstasy and human trafficking," the report says.

Uttarkakhand to Become First Indian State to Allow Hemp Cultivation. The state government is now allowing farmers to grow hemp plants with less than 1.5% THC for industrial purposes. The crop can only be sold to the state government, not private buyers.

Chronicle AM: AK to Allow Some Social Pot Smoking, Sentencing Reform Moves in Congress, More (11/23/15)

Marijuana Policy

You'll be able to toke up with this at some Alaska pot shops. (wikimedia.org)
Alaska Will Allow Marijuana Use at Some Stores. The state's Marijuana Control Board voted 3-2 last Friday to allow consumption at some pot shops, making it the first state to do so. Board Chairman Bruce Schulte said there seemed to be public demand for such an option.

New Jersey Marijuana Arrests Going Up, Not Down. Even as state legislators discuss marijuana legalization, New Jersey cops are busily arresting pot smokers at a record pace. Marijuana arrests jumped 10% in 2012 and 10% again in 2013, according to New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reports. The 24,765 marijuana arrests is the highest number in 20 years, and nearly double the amount in 1993.

Vermont Legalization Supporters Release Report. The Vermont Cannabis Collaborative has released a report outlining a legalization framework for state lawmakers. The report calls for home grows of up to nine plants, craft growers who could grow up to 99 plants, and large-scale operators, who could have a grow space of up to 30,000 feet. There's much more at the report link.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Supreme Court Mixed Ruling on Medical Marijuana DUID. The state's high court ruled last Friday that medical marijuana cardholders don't have immunity from prosecution under the state's DUID law, but also held that cardholders can try to mount a defense showing that they did not have enough marijuana or pot metabolites in their system to actually be impaired.

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Rules Committee voted 25-8 last Wednesday to advance a medical marijuana bill. The bill has already passed the Senate, but still needs a House floor vote. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has said he will sign the bill.

Heroin and Prescription

Maryland Legislator Proposes Heroin Maintenance Program. Delegate Dan Morhaim (D) said last Thursday he plans to offer legislation next year to provide free heroin to addicts in a bid to reduce crime.

Asset Forfeiture

New Mexico Senators Sue Albuquerque Over Asset Forfeiture. A bipartisan pair of state senators have filed a lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque over its vehicle seizure program, which they say violates the state's recently passed asset forfeiture reforms. Sens. Lisa Torraco (R-Albuquerque) and Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque) are seeking an injunction to stop the city from seizing vehicles without the owner first being convicted of a crime.

Harm Reduction

FDA Approves Narcan Nasal Spray. The Food and Drug Administration last Thursday approved a naloxone nasal spray to stop or reverse opiate overdoses. The FDA said it was as effective as the injectable form of the drug.

Sentencing

Historic Sentencing Reform Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee. Last Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance the Sentencing Reform Act. The bill, introduced by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and sponsored by thirty other Representatives, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand the federal "safety valve" (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and make many of the sentencing reductions retroactive. The bill is also moving in the Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced its version last month.

International

China Bans More Than a Hundred New Psychoactive Substances. China last month banned more than a hundred new psychoactive substances, including alpha-PVP, more widely known as "flakka." It is now illegal to distribute flakka, synthetic opiates, and a score of other chemicals.

Eight States That May Legalize Marijuana Next Year [FEATURE]

This article was published in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here

Beginning in 2012, four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana. By this time next year, that number could well double, and then some. National polls now consistently show majorities in favor legalization, with a recent Gallup poll having 58% support -- tied for the highest level in the poll's history.

That doesn't mean legalization is inevitable in any given state, as the case of Ohio earlier this month demonstrated. There, an initiative led by non-movement investors who sought monopolistic control of commercial pot cultivation got trounced despite spending millions of dollars.

But the Ohio result was probably a fluke, a convergence of a number of factors, including tone-deaf initiative organizers, a flawed initiative, a widely criticized mascot, and the fact that it was an off-off-year election with low voter turnout. There is no reason to believe that legalization initiatives likely next year in other states will be defeated just because the Ohio effort went down in flames.

At this point, it looks like there are six states likely to legalize weed through the initiative process next year, with those efforts at varying stages, and a couple more that could do it through the legislative process.

Here they are:

INITIATIVE STATES

ALREADY ON THE BALLOT

Nevada. The legalization initiative from the Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol qualified for the ballot last December. That means that by the time Election Day 2016 arrives, organizers will have had nearly two years to make their case to voters. Under state law, the legislature could have acted on the petitions and legalized weed, but it declined to do so, so now it goes direct to the voters. There are no recent state polls on legalization, but it had 54% support in 2013, and there is no reason to think it has declined since then.

PETITION DRIVES WELL ADVANCED

Arizona. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Legalize Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona announced last week that it had already collected 100,000 signatures for its legalization initiative. It needs to collect 150,000 valid signatures by next July to qualify for the ballot, appears well on the way to doing so, and says it is aiming for 230,000 raw signatures to have a healthy cushion. A June poll had support at 53%.

Maine. Once there were two competing initiative campaigns in the state, but now there is only one. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has quit signature gathering for its legalization initiative and joined forces with Legalize Maine in support of its slightly looser legalization initiative. Both campaigns had gathered about 40,000 raw signatures each before coalescing. The Legalize Maine campaign will need 61,000 valid voter signatures to qualify, and it has until February 1 to get them.  That seems eminently doable, and if it makes the ballot, it should win: A poll in April had support for legalization at a whopping 65%.

Massachusetts. Unlike Maine, the Marijuana Policy Project has so far been unable to form a united front with local activists, so there are two ongoing legalization campaigns. The MPP-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and its legalization initiative is vying with the homegrown Bay State Repeal and its legalization initiative. As in Maine, the local initiative is slightly looser. Earlier this month, the Campaign said it has already collected 100,000 signatures. It only needs 64,750 valid signatures to qualify, so it already has a nice cushion and the rest of this month to gather more. It's not known how advanced the Bay State Repeal signature drive is, but it already looks like at least one legalization initiative will be on the ballot next year. Under state law, if an initiative has enough signatures, the legislature can then move to enact it. If the legislature doesn't act, the campaign must then gather an additional 10,800 signatures to put it before the voters. One recent poll had support for legalization at only 41%, but it had a small sample size and large margin of error. Polls from 2014 had legalization winning by anywhere from six to 13 points, and the voters previously supported medical marijuana and decriminalization initiatives with a 63% vote.

Michigan. Another state with two competing campaigns, and the one that looks the iffiest in terms of qualifying for the ballot. Some 252,000 valid voter signatures are needed to qualify, and neither campaign is there yet. Backed by Republican business interests, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition said it had collected 200,000 signatures for its legalization initiative by the end of October before making a "strategic decision" to temporarily suspend petitioning. It has until the end of January to come up with more. Meanwhile, state activists have created the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MI Legalize) and are signature gathering around their own legalization initiative. Last week, they said they were 90,000 signatures short -- although it that is just raw numbers, they will need substantially more to have a comfortable cushion -- and they have until the end of December to get them. Both campaigns have money in the bank and are paying signature-gatherers.

STILL IN A CONFUSED MUDDLE

Will California activists get their ReformCA initiative on the ballot? (reformca.com
California. California should have been an almost sure there next year, and probably still is, but it is getting late in the game, and the evident divisions among legalization proponents are starting to make for some worried wondering. There are no fewer than 18 legalization initiatives in play (some various versions of the same initiative), most of which have little to no chance of coming up with the 365,000 signatures needed to qualify. State activists organized as the California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (ReformCA) thought they had the support of national reform organizations and associated pots of money for their initiative, but that hasn't turned out to be the case. Instead, groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance seem to be throwing their support to an initiative sponsored by tech billionaire Sean Parker. Neither the latest version of the ReformCA initiative nor the Sean Parker initiative has been cleared for signature gathering. Both initiatives now face a ticking clock. Campaigns have six months to get those necessary signatures, but the real hard deadline is June 30. Initiatives must have been cleared for the ballot by then in order to make the November ballot. The Parker initiative will likely have the financial support to do an expedited signature-gathering campaign; whether ReformCA will remains to be seen. While the state-level polling is good -- a June poll had support at a record 54% -- this late disarray doesn't bode well.

LEGISLATIVE STATES

Rhode Island. This year, the legislature took up a legalization bill only to see it held for further study by the Judiciary Committees in both chambers. Next year, it could actually move, and it would if the legislature listens to the voters. In an April poll, 57% said they would support a bill to tax and regulate marijuana.

Vermont. This is probably the best bet for the first state to legalize pot through the legislative process. The groundwork has been being laid for years, it has the support of key state political figures, including Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) and House Speaker Shap Smith (D), and legislative hearings on how -- not whether -- to legalize next year are already underway. The legislature failed to move legalization bills this year, but the stage is set for 2016.

Chronicle AM: NJ Pot Legalization Hearing, Pittsburgh Ponders Decrimalization, More (11/17/15)

Pot legalization was on the agenda in New Jersey, and decriminalization was on the table in Pittsburgh yesterday, West Virginia lawmakers ponder a food stamp drug testing bill, and more. 

Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Legalization. Led by Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D), the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday heard from marijuana legalization advocates, leading Scutari to clash with Sen. Joh Kyrillos (R), who complained that anti-legalization voices were not heard. Earlier, Scutari had said that anti-legalization voices would be heard at a later hearing. Monday's panelists included policy advocates, doctors, and representatives from law enforcement.

Pittsburgh to Take Up Decriminalization Bill. A bill to decriminalize small-time pot possession in the city was to be introduced today. The ordinance, based on a similar one in Philadelphia last year, would make possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana or public pot smoking a civil violation with a $100 fine. The bill is being sponsored by Councilman Daniel Lavelle.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative Has Nearly 350,000 Signatures. The initiative from United for Care has already gathered 342,582 valid voter signatures. That puts it half-way to the 683,179 valid voter signatures to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot. Petitioners have until February to get the rest of the signatures.

Drug Testing

West Virginia Legislature Ponders Welfare Drug Testing. Lawmakers Monday discussed a draft bill to allow for drug testing of some food stamp recipients. The bill would limit drug testing to people for whom there is "reasonable suspicion" of drug use. That suspicion could be aroused by an initial drug screening, if the person has a drug conviction in the past five years, and if a newborn baby born to the food stamp recipient tests positive for drugs. The bill would also allow child welfare authorities to investigate people who failed or did not take a drug test. The bill will likely be formally introduced in January.

Chronicle AM: Canada Starts to Move on Legalizing Pot, Irish Cops Support Heroin Decriminalization, More (11/16/15)

Nick Scutari tries to get the marijuana legalization ball rolling in New Jersey, a petition calling for the DEA head to be fired is going strong, Democratic candidates talk drug and crime policy at the debate, Canada moves toward pot legalization, Irish cops support heroin decrim, and more. 

Ireland's drugs minister wants to decriminalize heroin, and the cops are on board with it. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Legislative Hearing on Pot Legalization Today. Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D), who filed a marijuana legalization bill, S 1896, earlier this session, is holding a hearing on the topic today. Today's witnesses will include supporters of marijuana law reform; opponents will get a chance to opine at a later hearing. No vote is expected today. "A journey of a thousand steps starts with the first," said Scutari, who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the hearing. "The first step was introducing the bill and this is the natural next step — to talk about the benefits of legalization and the negative impact prohibition has had."

Medical Marijuana

Petition To Fire DEA Head Over Medical Marijuana "Joke" Comment Has 80,000 Signatures. Uh, make that 83,044 signatures as of mid-afternoon today. DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg is still getting heat over his statement that medical marijuana is "a joke." It's just his latest comment suggesting the nation's top drug cop is not that well-informed in his subject area.

Florida Supreme Court Cancels Medical Marijuana Initiative Hearing. Backers of a 2016 medical marijuana initiative have just seen one obstacle removed from their path. After Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) announced she would ask the high court to block the initiative, the state Supreme Court has canceled a hearing on it set for December 8. The initiative from United for Care is already well-advanced in the signature gathering process. A similar initiative failed last year with 58% of the vote—60% was needed because it was a constitutional amendment.

Illinois Sees More Than $200,000 in Medical Marijuana Sales in First Week. Only a handful of dispensaries are open in the state, but they took in $211,000 in sales after opening last Monday. The medi-weed was selling for around $450 an ounce, or $16 a gram.

Heroin and Prescription Opiates

EEOC Sues Employer Who Refused to Hire Methadone User. In its latest lawsuit against employers taking actions against prescription medication users, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is going after a company that allegedly refused to hire a woman who is prescribed methadone to deal with her heroin addiction. EEOC alleges that the company is violating the Americans With Disabilities Act because the woman is a recovering substance abuser, has a history of disability, and was "regarded" as disabled based on her methadone use. EEOC has also sued other employers over discrimination against methadone patients, as well as other prescription drug users.

Drug Policy

Democratic Candidates Talk Drug, Crime Policy in Last Saturday's Debate. Bernie Sanders reiterated his support for ending federal marijuana prohibition, while Martin O'Malley and Hillary Clinton joined Sanders in calling for criminal justice reforms and addressing racial inequalities in the criminal justice system. Click on the link for more details.

International

Canada's Prime Minister Begins the Process of Legalizing Marijuana. Freshly-elected Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has instructed Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to begin the process of legalizing and regulating marijuana. Trudeau told Wilson-Raybould he expected her to "deliver on your top priorities," which includes "Working with the Ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health, create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana."

Mexico to Consider Cutting Jail Sentences, Raising Possession Limits for Marijuana. Jumpstarted by a Supreme Court decision earlier this month allowing four Mexicans to use marijuana, the forthcoming national debate on marijuana policy will consider easing jail sentences and raising limits for personal possession of pot, Deputy Interior Minister Roberto Campa said. The national consultation is set for January through March.

Irish Police Back Decriminalizing Heroin Possession. The Garda Representative Association, which represents some 11,000 Irish police officers, is backing the government drug minister's call to decriminalize heroin possession. "I think anything that can deal with the curse of drugs and some innovating thinking on this is to be welcomed," the GRA’s general secretary, PJ Stone, said, adding that the proposal would be seen as a brave move. "We don’t even have enough cells to lock up drug users who get arrested for possessing drugs," a GRA member from Dublin added.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the 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: Petition to Fire DEA Head Gains Traction, Colombia OKs Medical Marijuana, More (11/12/15)

There are now more than 27,000 signatures on a petition asking President Obama to fire DEA head Chuck Rosenberg over his medical marijuana comments, Denver thinks a thousand pot shops is enough, Colombia will allow medical marijuana, and more. 

Coca and cocaine production is on the upswing in Colombia. (deamuseum.org)
Marijuana Policy

ResponsibleOhio Isn't Going Away. The group behind this month's defeated marijuana "monopoly" legalization initiative isn't going quietly into that long good night; instead, ResponsibleOhio is now trying to craft an initiative that can actually win. The group seems to understand that its plan to limit commercial grow opportunities and its bud-headed mascot, Buddie, were real turn-offs.

Denver Moves Toward a Moratorium on New Pot Shops. The city is proposing changes to its marijuana ordinances that would effectively halt new marijuana stores from opening for the next two years. The city currently has more than a thousand licensed operations, and that's enough, city officials said. "We have enough marijuana in Denver," said Ashley Kilroy, Denver's executive director of Marijuana Policy. "Basically, we’re saturated." The only exceptions would be some 85 medical marijuana businesses that were licensed in 2013.

Medical Marijuana

Petition to Fire DEA Head for Calling Medical Marijuana "A Joke" Now Has 16,000 Signatures. People so inclined can add theirs here. Actually, the petition now has some 27,000 signatures, having gained 11,000 more since the linked story was published yesterday.

Kansas City Hospitals Deny Cannabis Oil to Epileptic Patients. That's Kansas City, Missouri. The state passed a law last year allowing for such use, but no hospitals in the Kansas City area will allow their doctors to write a recommendation. The hospitals cite lack of standardized dosages for children and concerns about side-effects and interactions with other medications. Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City will start a study on cannabis oil for epileptic patients next year, but has no plans to widely recommend it. On the other side of the state, the Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in St. Louis does allow doctors to write recommendations.

Asset Forfeiture

Ohio Prosecutors Lobby Against Asset Forfeiture Reform. County prosecutors from across the state lined up Wednesday to testify against House Bill 347, which would eliminate asset forfeiture without a criminal conviction. They called the tactic "a vital tool" in going after drug traffickers during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. Click on the link for more flavor.

International

Colombia Will Allow Medical Marijuana. Colombian Justice Minister Yesid Reyes said today that the country plans to legalize the production and sale of medical marijuana. Legalization will only apply to medical and scientific uses of the plant, he clarified. Pot possession is already legalized under Colombian Supreme Court rulings, but this move will allow for commercial medical production.

Colombia Retakes Title of World's Largest Cocaine Producer. Colombia is back on top in the cocaine production sweepstakes, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The organization puts Colombian production last year at 175,000 acres, compared to 109,000 for Peru, and 31,000 for Bolivia. The UN estimates Colombian cocaine production will increase 52% this year, in part because of the end of aerial eradication and in part because peasants believe that a looming peace deal between the government and the FARC will see benefits for farmers who abandon their crops, so they are planting coca. 

Chronicle AM: DC MJ Arrests Plummet, Senate Passes Veterans MedMj, More (11/11/15)

Decriminalization spreads in South Florida, DC pot arrests hit historic lows, the Senate passes a spending bill that should ease vets' access to medical marijuana, there are calls for the DEA chief's head after he said medical marijuana was "a joke," and more.

Pot arrests are now almost nonexistent in the nation's capital. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Florida's Broward County Adopts Decriminalization Ordinance. County commissioners Tuesday approved an ordinance allowing police to issue $150 citations to people caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana. Violators would also have to complete an assessment/treatment program. The move puts the county, Florida's second most populous, in line with similar moves in Miami-Dade County and Key West.

DC Marijuana Arrests Plummet After Decriminalization, Legalization. Pot arrests are at historic lows in the nation's capital after city officials decriminalized and voters then legalized marijuana possession. Possession arrests peaked at 2,346 in 2011 before declining to 895 in 2014 (only seven of them after the city's decriminalization ordinance took effect in July 2014), and only seven so far for all of this year.

Medical Marijuana

US Senate Approves Bill Allowing Veterans Access to Medical Marijuana. The Senate Tuesday passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill, which includes language that will allow vets to access medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The Veterans Administration had barred VA doctors from issuing medical marijuana recommendations to vets, but this bill will block the VA from spending money to punish vets who use medical marijuana and allow VA doctors to recommend it where it is legal. The language was first approved as an amendment in May; that amendment must now be approved by the House.

Calls for DEA Chief's Head After He Said Medical Marijuana Was "A Joke." Led by Tom Angell at Marijuana Majority, medical marijuana supporters are calling on President Obama to fire DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg in the wake of his recent comments calling medical marijuana "a joke." "My mom is a legal patient in Rhode Island, and she uses medical marijuana to deal with the severe pain she experiences from multiple sclerosis," said Angell. "Medical cannabis is no joke to my family or the millions of other American families who have seen its real benefits." Angell has organized a Change.org petition that anyone can sign.

Minnesota Pain Patients Call for Access to Medical Marijuana. Pain patients pleaded Tuesday with Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger to override a panel of health experts who rejected allowing medical marijuana for chronic pain and allow them to use it. For more than three hours, the commissioner heard from a cavalcade of people who said they wake in pain, spend their days in pain, and spend sleepless nights because of pain. "All of this has been very helpful. It's not going to be an easy task weighing the data, weighing the input, weighing the pros and cons, weighing the risks and benefits," he said. "But that's the job I signed up for. I take it very seriously, both as a physician, as health commissioner and as a person who lives in this state." He has until the end of December to make a decision.

International

Mexican Senator Files Bill to Allow Import of Marijuana Medicines. Sen. Cristina Diaz Salazar (PRI) has filed a bill that would allow patients import marijuana and cannabis derivatives for medical purposes. She said the bill would codify a recent court ruling that granted an 8-year-old girl's parents permission to import cannabis oil to treat her epilepsy.

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