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Michigan Marijuana Legalization Initiative Takes Double Blow, But Vows to Fight On

Efforts to let Michiganders vote on legalizing marijuana this year suffered a one-two punch from the state's political establishment today, but organizers are unbowed and are vowing to keep up the fight to get their initiative on the ballot.

MI Legalize organizers handed in petitions last week. Now, they have to fight to get them all counted. (milegalize.com)
The campaign is led by the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, also known as MI Legalize.

First, the state election board ruled Tuesday that the initiative was at least 106,000 signatures short of qualifying after throwing out 137,000 signatures that were gathered more than 180 days before the signatures were handed in. Last week, the campaign handed in more than 345,000 raw signatures. It needed 252,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The campaign hopes to take advantage in ambiguities in the state's initiative and referendum laws that left an opening for getting older signatures validated, but that hope took another hit later on Tuesday when Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law Senate Bill 776, which limits signature gathering to a strict 180-day window.

"Establishing reasonable time limits on when signatures can be collected helps ensure the issues that make the ballot are the ones that matter most to Michiganders," Snyder said in a statement.

The law passed both the House and Senate with only Republican support, and opponents have said the law will impede the ability of the people to have a voice in government and challenge laws passed by the legislature.

MI Legalize said it is considering legal challenges.

"We're alive and well," MI Legalize spokesman Jeffrey Hank told the Chronicle Tuesday afternoon. "We expected this, and in the next few days, we'll be filing a lawsuit. We will continue to run our campaign as we go through litigation."

But the upstart campaign needs some help, Hank said.

"We've raised over $1.1 million without any big national money," he said. "If we win, this would be the second or third largest marijuana market in the county (after California), but we need people to continue to support us financially."

People can make donations through the MI Legalize website.

Lansing, MI
United States

Chronicle AM: NM Police Defend Reverse Stings on Homeless, Israel Ponders Decrim, More... (6/3/16)

Marijuana legalization remains a hot issue in New England, Albuquerque's police chief defends reverse stings targeting the homeless, the Israeli justice minister ponders decriminalization, and more.

Rhode Islanders want the legislature to vote on legalization. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Retailers Join Opposition to Legalization. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts has come out in opposition to the legalization initiative from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The retailers said their opposition is rooted in concerns about worker safety, absenteeism, and the impact of marijuana on kids and communities.

Rhode Island Advocates Demand Vote on Legalization. Led by Regulate Rhode Island, legalization supporters gathered at the state house Thursday to call on General Assembly leaders to allow a vote on the issue. Two identical bills, House Bill 7752 and Senate Bill 2420, would legalize the drug, but they have not gotten even a committee vote, as has been the case in the legislature every year since 2011. The protestors delivered a petition with more than 1,300 signatures calling on House Speaker Nicholas Mattielo and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed to finally allow votes.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Bill to Add PTSD Wins Committee Vote. A bill that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions advanced out of the Assembly Oversight Committee on a 3-0 vote Wednesday. The measure now heads for an Assembly floor vote. A similar bill was approved by the Assembly last year, but died in Senate committee.

Law Enforcement

Albuquerque Police Chief Defends "Reverse Drug Stings" Targeting Homeless. Police Chief Gordon Eden has made a strong defense of his department's controversial "reversal narcotics operations" in which undercover police posed as drug dealers, sold and traded small amounts of crack and meth to homeless people, then arrested them on felony drug charges. The operations improve "quality of life" for area businesses and residents, Chief Eden said, adding that they would continue.

International

Israel Justice Minister Considers Marijuana Decriminalization. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is considering a different legal approach to people caught with small amounts of marijuana. She is considering decriminalizing small-time possession with a fine of "a few hundred shekels," but the policy is yet to be formally announced.

Cartel Battles Heating Up in Mexico's Baja California. A Sinaloa Cartel weakened by the capture and looming extradition of its leader, "El Chapo" Guzman, is facing a violent challenge from the rising Jalisco New Generation Cartel. The number of homicides in Baja California Sur in the 2014-2016 period has nearly doubled that in the 2011-2013 period, and most of the killings are linked to conflicts in the illicit drug trade.

Chronicle AM: MI Legalizers Hand in Signatures, CA Legislature Acts on MedMJ, More... (6/2/16)

Edibles come to Oregon, California legislators move on medical marijuana bills, NYC pot busts are on the increase again, Michigan legalizers hand in lots of signatures, and more.

Medical marijuana-related bills are working their way through the California legislature. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Grassroots Legalization Effort Gives Up the Ghost. The group Arizonans for Mindful Regulation (AZMFR) has halted its signature gathering campaign after acknowledging it has failed to meet its goals. The group had positioned itself as an alternative to the Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona, which has already handed in signatures and awaits confirmation that its initiative has qualified for the November ballot. AZMFR says it is launching "vote no" campaign against the other initiative and will be back with another legalization effort in 2018.

Michigan Legalizers Turn in More Than 300,000 Signatures. Activists with MI Legalize Monday turned in some 345,000 signatures to state officials in a bid to get their legalization initiative on the November ballot. They only need 252,000 valid voter signatures, but some of the signatures handed in may not be counted because they were gathered more than 180 days before the turn in date. The legislature recently passed a bill limiting signature collection to 180 days, but the governor hasn't signed it yet.

Marijuana Edibles Are Now For Sale in Oregon. As of today, it is legal to purchase edibles from marijuana dispensaries. Up until now, edibles had only been available for medical marijuana patients. Under temporary rules established by the Oregon Health Authority, consumers can now purchase one edible containing up to 15 milligrams of THC per day.

New York City Marijuana Possession Arrests Creeping Up Again. Marijuana possession arrests rose by more than a third in the first quarter of 2016, even after the NYPD promised in 2014 that it was going to work to reduce them. Some 4,225 people were popped for pot in the first three months of this year, up from 2,960 during the same period last year. That's still well below the more than 7,000 arrested in the same period in 2014, but the trend is headed in the wrong direction.

Medical Marijuana

California Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Sales Tax. The Senate Wednesday approved a bill imposing a 15% sales tax on medical marijuana on a 27-9 vote. The measure, Senate bill 987, now goes to the Assembly. Critics have charged it will hurt poor patients, but bill sponsor Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) says he will amend the bill in the Assembly to ensure that low income people don't have to pay the tax.

California Assembly Approves Medical Marijuana Research. The Assembly Wednesday approved Assembly Bill 1575, an omnibus medical marijuana bill that includes provisions easing the way for research on the plant's medicinal properties. The bill specifies that it is "not a violation of state law or local ordinance or regulation for a business or research institution with state authorization to engage in the research of medical cannabis used for the medical purposes." The bill now heads for the Senate.

California Assembly Approves "Cottage" Medical Marijuana Farms. The Assembly Wednesday approved Assembly Bill 2516, which would create a new category of cultivator license for outdoor grows under 2,500 square feet and indoor grows under 500 square feet. "We are trying to ensure small medical cannabis growers on the North Coast can continue to do business as this industry moves forward," said sponsor Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-North Coast). "It is not fair to require the small farmers to adhere to the same standards as larger operations." The bill now heads for the Senate.

Drug Testing

Mississippi Welfare Drug Testing Program Screened 12,000, Got 10 Positive Drug Tests. The Mississippi law that requires drug screening for people seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds subjected some 12,000 people to screening, but found only 175 were suspicious enough to require drug testing. Of the 175 who were tested, only 10 tested positive. The figure is less than one-tenth of 1% of the number of people screened.

International

Dutch Study Finds Legalizing Marijuana Production Beneficial for Public Health and Human Rights. A study conducted for Dutch municipalities seeking regulated marijuana production has found that legalizing it would have public health benefits by reducing violent crime, corruption, fires, and quality of life issues in residential areas. Regulating marijuana should be seen as a "positive obligation to protect human rights," the researchers said.

Medical Marijuana Update

Illinois' medical marijuana program is set to be extended and expanded, the Ohio legislature passes a medical marijuana bill, the Ohio medical marijuana initiative is now dead, and more.

Illinois

Last Friday, the House approved an extension and an expansion of the state's medical marijuana program. The House voted to approve a plan to expand the state's medical marijuana program by adding PTSD and terminal illness to the program's list of qualifying conditions and by extending the program for an additional 2 ½ years. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has now come around and says he supports the bill, which still needs a final Senate vote. The measure is Senate Bill 10.

Massachusetts

Last Tuesday, the Senate voted to waive medical marijuana fees for veterans. The Senate approved a rider to the FY 2017 budget bill that would waive registration fees for veterans for qualify for the state's medical marijuana program. Other patients would still have to pay the $50 registration fee and an annual $50 renewal fee.

Ohio

Last Wednesday, the medical marijuana bill was approved by the legislature.Both houses of the legislature gave final approval to the measure, House Bill 523. The bill barely cleared the Senate on an 18-15 vote and won final approval from the House on a 67-28 vote. Gov. John Kasich (R) has said he will review the bill when it gets to his desk.

Last Saturday, the backers of a medical marijuana initiative called it quits. Faced with a medical marijuana bill approved by the legislature and awaiting the governor's signature, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana announced Saturday that they were ending their campaign to put an initiative on the November ballot. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed effort decided to call it quits because "the reality is that raising funds for medical marijuana policy changes is incredibly difficult, especially given the improvements made to the proposed program by the Ohio General Assembly and the fact that the Governor is expected to sign the bill." The bill passed by the legislature will allow people with about 20 different diseases and conditions to use marijuana, but not to smoke it.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: CA MJ Driving Bill Killed, OH MedMJ Init Quits, More... (5/31/16)

An effort to create a per se marijuana DUID law in California ran into a brick wall of science, the Ohio effort to put a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot shuts down, a US senator seeks an investigation into Purdue Pharma over its claims on OxyContin's extended effectiveness, and more.

The California Assembly rejects a per se marijuana DUID bill after hearing there is no scientific basis for it. (Wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

California Driving While High Bill Killed. A bill that sought to create a per se marijuana drugged driving level of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood has been killed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The committee killed it and a bill that would have let police use oral swabs to strengthen cases after cannabis industry officials said they were not supported by science.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois Medical Marijuana Program Gets Extension, Expansion. The House Friday voted to approve a plan to expand the state's medical marijuana program by adding PTSD and terminal illness to the program's list of qualifying conditions and by extending the program for an additional 2 ½ years. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has now come around and says he supports the bill, which still needs a final Senate vote. The measure is Senate Bill 10.

Ohio Medical Marijuana Initiative Backers Call It Quits. Faced with a medical marijuana bill approved by the legislature and awaiting the governor's signature, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana announced Saturday that they were ending their campaign to put an initiative on the November ballot. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed effort decided to call it quits because "the reality is that raising funds for medical marijuana policy changes is incredibly difficult, especially given the improvements made to the proposed program by the Ohio General Assembly and the fact that the Governor is expected to sign the bill." The bill passed by the legislature will allow people with about 20 different diseases and conditions to use marijuana, but not to smoke it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

US Senator Calls on Feds to Investigate Purdue Pharma Over OxyContin Time-Effectiveness Claims. A US senator has called for a federal investigation of Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, in the wake of reports that the money-making pain reliever wears off early in many patients, leaving them exposed to pain and increased risk of addiction. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) Friday sent letters to the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission urging them to begin probes of the Connecticut-based drug maker.

New York Overdose Tracking Bill Goes to Governor. The Senate and the Assembly have both approved a bill that requires the state Health Department to track non-fatal drug overdoses in a bid to get a more complete picture of opioid drug use in the state. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Chronicle AM: Federal Marijuana Charges Drop, Toronto Dispensary Raids Cause Ruckus, More... (5/27/16)

Federal marijuana trafficking charges are on the decline, although it's not clear why; Britain's prohibitionist Psychoactive Substances Act has gone into effect, Toronto dispensary raids cause a ruckus, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Federal Marijuana Trafficking Charges Decline in Age of Legalization. According to the latest drug trafficking statistics from the US Sentencing Commission, federal marijuana trafficking offenses have declined dramatically since 2012, the year Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana. "The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease," the commission reported. It's not clear why the decline has occurred since marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts Senate Votes to Waive Medical Marijuana Fees for Veterans. The Senate Tuesday approved a rider to the FY 2017 budget bill that would waive registration fees for veterans for qualify for the state's medical marijuana program. Other patients would still have to pay the $50 registration fee and an annual $50 renewal fee.

International

British Law Banning "Legal Highs" Goes Into Effect. The Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect Tuesday, essentially banning any substance that has an effect on the brain -- even if it doesn't exist yet. The new law is attracting criticism from activists and scientists, who say it is overly broad and could lead to an increase in the use of more harmful substances.

Toronto Police Raid Dozens of Dispensaries. Toronto Drug Squad officers raided up to 43 dispensaries across the city Thursday in a crackdown on the shots, which have proliferated in anticipation of marijuana legalization. Cash and marijuana were seized, and some dispensary employees were temporarily detained, but it's unclear what charges, if any, will be coming.

Toronto Police Chief's Press Conference on Raids Disrupted by Angry Protestors. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders ran into a buzz saw of opposition at his press conference Friday attempting to explain the raids on 43 dispensaries a day earlier. Saunders claimed the raids were done in part because of health concerns, but was interrupted repeatedly by protestors challenging his claims. "These clubs have literally been around for 20 years and literally the medical marijuana has been around for hundreds of years and have literally never killed anybody. So how do you justify that there's a health concern when really it's the most benign substance you can ingest?" one protestor shouted.

Chronicle AM: CA Polls 60% Support Legalization, Federal Forfeiture Reform Advances, More... (5/26/16)

It's looking good for California's marijuana legalization initiative, an Ohio medical marijuana bill heads for the governor's desk, a congressional committee approves federal asset forfeiture reform legislation, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California Support for Legalization at 60%, New Poll Finds. Voters in the Golden State are poised to approve the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) in November, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. The poll had support for legalization at 55% among adults and an even higher 60% among likely voters. Support is up four points from the last PPIC poll in May. "Democrats (69%) and independents (65%) are much more likely than Republicans (45%) to say the use of marijuana should be legal. Two in three adults under age 35 favor legalization, while about half of older adults are in favor. Across racial/ethnic groups, strong majorities of blacks (78%) and whites (65%) favor legalization, while fewer Asians (50%) and Latinos (40%) do so. An overwhelming majority of those who say they have tried marijuana favor legalization (78%), while a solid majority of those who have never tried it are opposed (63%)."

West Virginia Decriminalization Bill Filed. Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) Tuesday filed House Bill 114, which would decriminalize the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana and the growing up of to six plants. The bill includes language about protecting medical marijuana patients, but does not contain language limiting possession and cultivation prerogatives to patients.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Marijuana Bill Awaits Governor's Signature.Both houses of the legislature gave final approval to the measure, House Bill 523, Wednesday. The bill barely cleared the Senate on an 18-15 vote and won final approval from the House on a 67-28 vote. Gov. John Kasich (R) has said he will review the bill when it gets to his desk.

Asset Forfeiture

House Judiciary Committee Approves Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. The committee unanimously approved asset forfeiture reform legislation. Known as the DUE PROCESS Act (H.R. 5283) and sponsored by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI), Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) and others, the bill makes important procedural reforms that will help give property owners fighting a federal civil asset forfeiture action greater leverage to contest a government seizure and increases the federal government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings. The DUE PROCESS Act, however, currently does not address the "policing for profit" incentive issue.

Medical Marijuana Update

US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) becomes the first member of Congress to admit using medical marijuana, an Ohio medical marijuana bill is moving, and more.

National

On Tuesday,a GOP congressman came out of the closet on his medical marijuana use. Longtime medical marijuana supporter Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has told marijuana reformers lobbying on Capitol Hill that he uses medical marijuana for arthritis pain. "I went to one of those hemp fests in San Bernardino," he explained, adding that a vendor showed him a topical preparation he could rub on his sore shoulder. "And you know what? I tried it about two weeks ago, and it's the first time in a year-and-a-half that I've had a decent night's sleep, because the arthritis pain was gone."

Nebraska

On Sunday, news came that there will be no medical marijuana initiative this year Cornhusker medical marijuana advocates have decided to delay a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot until 2018. They cited the late start this year and the expense involved.

Ohio

On Tuesday, the medical marijuana bill was amended to remove a pharmacist requirement. The Senate has changed House Bill 523 to remove language added by a committee that required dispensaries to be run by a licensed pharmacist. The Senate also expanded the definition of pain to qualify for medical marijuana. Patient advocates cheered both moves. The bill is expected to head for a full floor vote as early as today.

Rhode Island

Last Friday, the Senate approved adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions. The Senate last Friday unanimously approved a bill that will add PTSD to the list of debilitating medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House.

Chronicle AM: CA MJ Taxes Could Generate $1 Billion/Year, CVS Expands Narcan Program, More... (5/25/16)

There's a pot of gold waiting in California, a Republican congressman comes out of the closet on his medical marijuana use, CVS is expanding expanded access to naloxone to seven more states, and more.

CVS is moving to get the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone into the hands of more drug users. (gov.pa.org)
Marijuana Policy

California Legislative Analyst's Office Says Legalization Could Generate $1 Billion a Year in Taxes and Fees. In a report presented to state lawmakers, the Legislative Analyst's Office said the figure was a mid-range estimate. "Our best estimate is that the state and local governments could eventually collect net additional revenues that could range from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually," analyst Aaron Edwards told lawmakers. The analysts cautioned that legalization could also incur some costs, with likely increased marijuana use requiring additional money to be spent on drug treatment.

New Hampshire Legislature Balks at Decriminalization. The Granite State will remain the only one in New England that has not embraced decriminalization. House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a version of Senate Bill 498 that would lower the penalty for possessing small amounts of pot, but still leave it a criminal offense. The bill does lower the fine from $500 to $350, but possession remains a misdemeanor criminal offense. The House had voted twice in favor of decriminalization this year, but the Senate wouldn't go for it.

Medical Marijuana

GOP Congressman Steps Out of the Closet on Medical Marijuana Use. Long-time medical marijuana supporter Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has told marijuana reformers lobbying on Capitol Hill that he uses medical marijuana for arthritis pain. "I went to one of those hemp fests in San Bernardino," he explained, adding that a vendor showed him a topical preparation he could rub on his sore shoulder. "And you know what? I tried it about two weeks ago, and it's the first time in a year-and-a-half that I've had a decent night's sleep, because the arthritis pain was gone."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Senate Bill Would Tax Prescription Opioids to Fund Drug Treatment Facilities. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) Tuesday introduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment (BOAT) Act, which would impose a one-penny fee for each milligram of opioid prescription drugs. That fee would generate $1.5-2 billion annually, Manchin said. The bill has not yet been assigned a number.

Harm Reduction

CVS Health to Expand Naloxone Access to Seven More States. CVS Health, the massive pharmacy chain, announced Wednesday that it will increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) in the states of Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington this summer. CVS has already increased access to naloxone in 23 other states. The CVS program establishes a standing order with a physician in the state, allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone to patients without an individual prescription.

911 "Bad" Samaritan Law Goes to Ohio Governor's Desk. The state Senate Tuesday approved House Bill 110, which was originally designed to save lives, but has been amended to the point where advocates say it will actually make people less likely to seek emergency help for overdoses. The amended bill limits the number of times people can seek overdose help to the first two times they call and it requires medical providers to give patient information to law enforcement. The bill also requires people to get mandatory treatment screening within 30 days or face arrest. Harm reduction advocates are calling on Gov. John Kasich (R) to veto the bill.

Chronicle AM: CA Teamsters Donate to Anti-Legalization Effort, OH MedMJ Bill Moves, More... (5/24/16)

Arizona legalizers are closing in on their needed signatures, California Teamsters kick in some bucks to oppose legalization, the Patagonia clothing company gets behind industrial hemp, and more.

Coming to Ohio soon? (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalizers Have 215,000 Signatures, They Need 150,000 Valid Ones. With two weeks until their July 7 signature gathering deadline, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol says it has gathered 215,000 signatures, just short of its goal of 230,000. If the campaign obtains all 230,000 and has a 25% invalidation rate or less, it qualifies. If it has a 30% invalidation rate, it falls just short. Stay tuned.

California Teamsters Kick In Cash to Anti-Legalization Campaign. Joining police and prison guards in opposing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalization initiative are the California Teamsters. The truck drivers' union has donated $25,000 to the anti-legalization Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies. The Teamsters' concerns appear to be less with legalization itself than with the initiative's vision of legal marijuana distribution. The Teamsters want distribution to follow the alcohol distribution model, which would benefit its membership.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Marijuana Bill Amended to Remove Pharmacist Requirement. The Senate has changed House Bill 523 to remove language added by a committee that required dispensaries to be run by a licensed pharmacist. The Senate also expanded the definition of pain to qualify for medical marijuana. Patient advocates cheered both moves. The bill is expected to head for a full floor vote as early as today.

Industrial Hemp

Patagonia Clothing Company Gets Behind Hemp. The outdoor clothing retailer is getting behind the push to legalize industrial hemp. The California-based company has created a documentary about Kentucky farmer Michael Lewis, who was the first to grow industrial hemp in the US since World War II. The documentary is called "Harvesting Liberty."

International

Former French Anti-Drug Boss Investigated for Drug Smuggling. Francois Thierry, the former head of the anti-drug agency, Octris, is being investigated over allegations that he imported drugs to supply one of his informers and the he ordered the smuggling of several tons of hashish from Morocco. One informant told the newspaper Liberation that French police officers delivered 19 tons of hash to a Spanish villa he occupied on behalf of Thierry. The drugs were supposed to be bait to catch traffickers, but only some were seized while the rest went to a convicted drug dealer who was an informer for Thierry. This allowed Thierry to trumpet drug busts to the press, but also eliminated the informant's competition and allowed him to corner the market in hash.

Drug War Issues

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