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Seattle Aims to Open the First Safe Injection Sites in the US [FEATURE]

Seattle and surrounding King County are on a path to establish the country's first supervised drug consumption sites as part of a broader campaign to address heroin and prescription opioid misuse. A 99-page report released last week by the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force calls for setting up at least two of the sites, one in the city and one in the suburbs, as part of a pilot project.

The facilities, modeled on the Canadian government-funded InSite supervised injection site in Vancouver, just 140 miles to the north, would be places where users could legally inject their drugs while under medical supervision and be put in contact with treatment and other social services. There have been no fatal overdoses in the 13-year history of InSite.

Although such facilities, which also operate in various European countries and Australia, have been proven to reduce overdose deaths and drug use-related disease, improve local quality of life, and improve the lives of drug users, they remain controversial, with foes accusing them of "enabling" drug use. Thus, the report refers to them not as "safe injection sites," or even "supervised consumption sites," but as the anodyne "Community Health Engagement Locations" (CHELs).

"If it's a strategy that saves lives then regardless of the political discomfort, I think it is something we have to move forward," said County Executive Dow Constantine, discussing the plan at a news conference last week.

The safe sites will address the region's high levels of opioid and heroin use, or what the task force called "the region's growing and increasingly lethal heroin and opioid epidemic." As the task force noted, the number of fatal overdoses in the county has tripled in recent years, with the rate of death rising from roughly one a week (49) in 2009 to one very other day (156) in 2014. The current wave of opioid use appears centered on young people, with the number of people under 30 seeking treatment doubling between 2006 and 2014, and now, more young people are entering detox for heroin than for alcohol.

Outside Vancouver's InSite (vch.ca)
Overdose deaths actually dropped last year to 132, thanks to Good Samaritan laws that shield people who aid overdose victims from prosecution and to the wider use of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. But that's still 132 King County residents who needn't have died. Task force members said the CHELs would help reduce that number even further.

"The heroin epidemic has had a profound effect not just on our region, but across our country as a whole," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. "It is critical that we not only move forward with meaningful solutions that support prevention and treatment, but that we remove the stigma surrounding addiction that often creates barriers to those seeking help.

Not only are key local elected officials on board, so is King County Sheriff John Urquhart. He said the safe site plan was workable.

"As long as there was strong, very strong, emphasis on education, services, and recovery, I would say that yes, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks," he said. "We will never make any headway in the war on drugs until we turn the war into a health issue."

The region may willing to embrace this ground-breaking harm reduction measure, but it is going to require some sort of federal dispensation to get around the Controlled Substances Act and the DEA. How that is going to happen remains to be seen, but Seattle is ready.

The task force wasn't just about CHELs. In fact, the safe sites are just a small, if key, component of a broad-based, far-ranging strategy to attack the problem. The task force report's recommendations come in three categories:

Inside Vancouver's InSite (vch.ca)
Primary Prevention

  • Increase public awareness of effects of opioid use, including overdose and opioid-use disorder.
  • Promote safe storage and disposal of medications.
  • Work with schools and health-care providers to improve the screening practices and better identify opioid use.

Treatment Expansion and Enhancement

  • Make buprenorphine more accessible for people who have opiate-use disorders.
  • Develop treatment on demand for all types of substance-use disorders.Increase treatment capacity so that it’s accessible when and where someone is ready to receive help.

Health and Harm Reduction

  • Continue to distribute more naloxone kits and making training available to homeless service providers, emergency responders and law enforcement officers.
  • Create a three-year pilot project that will include at least two locations where adults with substance-use disorders will have access to on-site services while safely consuming opioids or other substances under the supervision of trained healthcare providers.

Will Seattle and King County be able to actual implement the CHELs? Will the federal government act as obstacle or facilitator? That remains to be seen, but harm reductionists, policymakers, and drug users in cities such as Portland, San Francisco, and New York will be watching closely. There have been murmurs about getting such sites up and running there, too.

Medical Marijuana Update

The governors of Delaware and New Jersey sign medical marijuana expansion bills, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson kicks in a million bucks to fend off medical marijuana in Florida, Montana patients are losing access to providers, and more.

National

On Monday, a study of fatal car crashes found medical marijuana may curb opioid use. A study conducted at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health has found that fewer drivers killed in car crashes tested positive for opioids in medical marijuana states than before those laws went into effect. The findings will be published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

California

On Tuesday, a bill to let landlords ban smoking medical marijuana died. Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-North Coast) has dropped his bill that would let landlords ban smoking medical marijuana after he conceded he was unable to figure out how to meet the needs of medical marijuana patients.

Delaware

Last Thursday, the governor signed a bill allowing medical marijuana use at school. Gov. Jack Markell (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 181 , which allows registered medical marijuana patients to use their medicine while on school grounds. The law allows for cannabis-based medicines such as tinctures and oils to be used. Delaware is now the third state to enact such a law, following Colorado and New Jersey. The new law takes effect immediately.

Florida

On Monday, Sheldon Adelson kicked in a million dollars to defeat medical marijuana. Las Vegas casino magnate and conservative philanthropist Sheldon Adelson is again attempting to sway Florida voters away from approving medical marijuana. In 2012, Adelson spent $5.5 million to help defeat the initiative; this year, he has recently kicked in another one million.

Massachusetts

Last Wednesday, the state moved to ease access to medical marijuana. State regulators released draft rules that would make it easier for patients to gain access to medical marijuana. The rules would allow nurse practitioners to certify patients for medical marijuana, allow dispensaries to post prices on their websites, and allow dispensaries to deliver to patients in nursing homes, hospices, and other health care facilities. "Our goal is safety, transparency, and access for patients who need this," said Dr. Monica Bharel, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which oversees the state's medical marijuana program. "This is an evolving process," Bharel said, "both in Massachusetts and nationally." The proposed rules were presented to the Public Health Council, which will give final approval, but not before a public hearing expected this fall.

Michigan

Last Wednesday, the House gave final approval to a medical marijuana regulation package. The House voted Wednesday in concurrence with last week's Senate vote approving a series of bills that would create a regulatory framework for medical marijuana that explicitly allows for dispensaries to operate. It also creates a licensing system for patients, growers, and dispensaries and establishes a 3% tax on retail sales. The package of bills now goes to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who is expected to sign it into law.

Missouri

As of Wednesday, Missourians were waiting to see if they will get a chance to vote on medical marijuana this year. A Cole County circuit court judge holds the fate of the New Approach Missouri medical marijuana initiative in his hands this week. The group has gone to court in a last-ditch effort to get invalidated signatures in one district overturned, which would give the initiative enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. A decision is expected any day.

Montana

As of Monday, nine out of ten medical marijuana patients had no legal provider. With the GOP-led legislature's 2011 gutting of the state's medical marijuana program now in effect, 93% of the state's more than 12,000 registered patients have no registered provider. That means unless they can grow it themselves, they are out of luck. An initiative that would restore the state's medical marijuana program, I-182, is on the November ballot.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday,the governor signed a bill adding PTSD as a qualifying condition. Gov. Chris Christie (R) Wednesday signed into law Assembly Bill 457, which will allow people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to use medical marijuana. The bill passed the legislature overwhelmingly a month and a half ago.

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

Chronicle AM: Nashville Decriminalizes (Sort Of), MO Judge to Rule on Init Signatures, More... (9/21/16)

It's all marijuana news today, and there's not even much of that. Nashville semi-decriminalizes small-time pot possession, a study finds New Mexico could make big bucks off legalization, and more.

Will Missourians get a chance to vote on medical marijuana this year? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Could Make Big Bucks on Legalization, Study Says. A new report from medical marijuana producer Ultra Health estimates that legal marijuana could bring in revenues of more than $400 million in its first year and closer to $700 million within five years. The report also found that legalizing marijuana would create 11,400 new jobs in its first year.

Nashville Decriminalizes (Sort Of). The Nashville Metro Council gave final approval to a plan to allow police the option of ticketing small-time marijuana possessors instead of arresting them. Police could hand out $50 tickets instead of arresting people, but that discretion means it's not true decriminalization, and that worries Councilman Steve Glover. If you get pulled over by the wrong person, the wrong police officer, the state trooper, you will go to jail for this,' Glover said. "I think we're sending conflicting information."

Medical Marijuana

Waiting to See If Missouri Will Vote on Medical Marijuana. A Cole County circuit court judge holds the fate of the New Approach Missouri medical marijuana initiative in his hands this week. The group has gone to court in a last-ditch effort to get the invalidation of signatures in one district overturned, which would give the initiative enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. A decision is expected any day.

Chronicle AM: Seattle Call for Injection Sites, Duterte Wants More Lethal Drug War, More... (9/20/16)

A Seattle/King County heroin task force has recommended two safe injection sites be established, a California bill to let landlords ban medical marijuana smoking dies, Nevada legalization foes get organized, and more.

from the anti-legalization Protecting Nevada's Children website
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Legalization Foes Get Organized. Opponents of the Question 2 legalization initiative have organized as Protecting Nevada's Children, complete with a slick website that warns that "legalizing marijuana… like giving candy to a baby." Officials with the no campaign are also worrying about "a well-prepared workforce" if Las Vegas becomes "the Amsterdam of the West." The group refuses to divulge its funding, saying it would be revealed in mid-October, when campaign finance reports are due.

Medical Marijuana

California Bill to Let Landlords Ban Medical Marijuana Smoking Dies. Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-North Coast) has dropped his bill that would let landlords ban smoking medical marijuana after he conceded he was unable to figure out how to meet the needs of medical marijuana patients.

Harm Reduction

Seattle Heroin and Opioid Task Force Issues Report, Calls for Two Safe Injection Sites. The King County Heroin and Opiate Addiction Task Force has issued a final report calling on increased prevention and access to treatment for addicted users. Among other recommendations, the report calls for authorities to "Create a three-year pilot project that will include at least two locations where adults with substance-use disorders will have access to on-site services while safely consuming opioids or other substances under the supervision of trained healthcare providers." Look for a detailed article on the task force recommendations tomorrow.

Sentencing Reform

North Dakota Legislature Squabbles Over Drug Sentences. Legislators are working off-session on a pair of criminal justice reform bills aimed at curbing a growing prison population, but some are reluctant to embrace reductions in drug sentences that experts said were necessary to actually achieve prison population cuts. There was support for reducing some sentences for drug possessors, but not for drug sellers. A proposal from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to eliminate mandatory minimums for people dealing drugs was rejected. But a proposal from the Council of State Governments to make probation the presumptive sentence for first-time, low-level felonies was accepted. The bills will be introduced at the beginning of the next session.

International

Philippines President Wants Six More Months of Drug War Because He "Cannot Kill Them All" Fast Enough. Even as the death toll from President Rodrigo Duterte's slow motion massacre of drug suspects tops 3,000, the hardline leader is saying he wants to extend his crusade another six months. "I did not realize how severe and how serious the drug menace was in this republic until I became president," Duterte said. "Even if I wanted to I cannot kill them all because the last report would be this thick," he said, referring to a new police list of people including top officials suspected of being involved in the drugs trade.

Chronicle AM: AK Marijuana Social Club Battle, Oregonians Like Legalization, More... (9/16/15)

Oregonians have no regrets about legalizing weed, a new Cato report studies the impact of state-level legalization so far, the Alaska battle over marijuana social clubs gets heated, and more.

A newly filed federal bill would study and recommend outreach for dealing with new psychoactive substances. (LA Dept. of Health)
Cato Report on Impact of State-Level Marijuana Legalization. The libertarian-leaning Cato Institute has released a report on the impact of legalization in the four states that have gone that route so far. Here's the bottom line: "Our conclusion is that state marijuana legalizations have had minimal effect on marijuana use and related outcomes. We cannot rule out small effects of legalization, and insufficient time has elapsed since the four initial legalizations to allow strong inference. On the basis of available data, however, we find little support for the stronger claims made by either opponents or advocates of legalization. The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents."

Alaska AG Faces Heat Over Ruling That Pot Social Clubs Are Illegal. Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth authored an opinion two weeks ago that marijuana social clubs were illegal, but legislators Wednesday took her to task, saying she was making an unnecessarily broad interpretation of initiative language that banned marijuana use "in public." Several businesses have opened as clubs, saying that because they require membership, they are not public. But Linesmuth was undeterred: "The initiative bars public consumption, and if you're joining others that you don't know in a club, that's a public place," Lindemuth said. But House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage) demurred: "There are lots of definitions of what a public place may be for different purposes," she said. "I think when most people voted on the initiative, to the extent that they were looking at public places, they figured that just meant you can't have people smoking joints while walking down the street. I think that's what the definition of public meant to most people." Given Lindemuth's stance, a legislative fix may be the only solution.

Poll: Oregonians Happy With Marijuana Legalization. A new DHM Research poll finds that 61% of Oregon voters think legalization has had a positive impact on the state. That's five points higher than the 56% who voted for it in 2014. "Big picture, I think Oregonians are relatively satisfied," pollster John Horvick said. "I don't think a lot of minds have changed, but the general acceptance of marijuana continues apace. There hasn't been a backlash."

Medical Marijuana

Delaware Governor Signs Bill Allowing Medical Marijuana Use at School. Gov. Jack Markell (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 181, which allows registered medical marijuana patients to use their medicine while on school grounds. The law allows for cannabis-based medicines such as tinctures and oils to be used. Delaware is now the third state to enact such a law, following Colorado and New Jersey. The new law takes effect immediately.

New Psychoactive Substances

New York US House Member Files Bill to Study and Educate About New Synthetic Drugs. Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-NY) Thursday filed the "Synthetic Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Act," which would authorize the Centers for Disease Control to complete a study or studies on how to combat the use of new synthetic drugs and help treat users, as well as require other government agencies including the National Institutes of Health and Drug Abuse and the Drug Enforcement Agency to come up with a national outreach campaign to reach out to community leaders about the drug's risk. The bill has not yet been assigned a number.

Chronicle AM: DOD Could Become More Flexible on Marijuana, MI MedMJ Regs Pass, More... (9/15/16)

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter seems pretty mellow about marijuana, more workers are testing positive for illegal drugs, medical marijuana advances in Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey, and more.

Employee drug use is on the rise, a major lab reports. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Defense Secretary Hints Pentagon Could Relax When It Comes to Hiring Marijuana Users. Responding to a hypothetical question at TechCrunch's Disrupt SF event on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said the military should be more flexible when it comes to hiring people who have used marijuana or other illicit drugs. When asked if he would be willing to hire someone who "[partook] in some goodies" at Burning Man when looking for engineers, Carter replied: "It depends on what the goodies are. It's a very good question and we are changing that, in recognition of the fact that times change and generations change and by the way, laws change as respect to marijuana. In that and many other ways, we need to, while protecting ourselves and doing the appropriate things to make sure that it's safe to entrust information with people, we need to understand  -- and we do -- the way people [and] lives have changed, not hold against them things that they've done when they were younger. It's an important question and the answer is yes, we can be flexible in that regard, and we need to," he concluded.

Nebraska Marijuana Activists Begin Working on 2018. Two separate initiative campaigns, one aimed at decriminalization and one aimed at legalization, are getting underway with an eye toward making the 2018 ballot. The decriminalization proposal started signature gathering last month; the legalization campaign is awaiting approval from the secretary of state's office to begin signature gathering.

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts Moves to Ease Medical Marijuana Access. State regulators Wednesday released draft rules that would make it easier for patients to gain access to medical marijuana. The rules would allow nurse practitioners to certify patients for medical marijuana, allow dispensaries to post prices on their websites, and allow dispensaries to deliver to patients in nursing homes, hospices, and other health care facilities. "Our goal is safety, transparency, and access for patients who need this," said Dr. Monica Bharel, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which oversees the state's medical marijuana program. "This is an evolving process," Bharel said, "both in Massachusetts and nationally." The proposed rules were presented to the Public Health Council, which will give final approval, but not before a public hearing expected this fall.

Michigan House Gives Final Approval to Medical Marijuana Regulation Package. The House voted Wednesday in concurrence with last week's Senate vote approving a series of bills that would create a regulatory framework for medical marijuana that explicitly allows for dispensaries to operate. It also creates a licensing system for patients, growers, and dispensaries and establishes a 3% tax on retail sales. The package of bills now goes to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who is expected to sign it into law.

New Jersey Governor Signs Bill Adding PTSD as Qualifying Condition. Gov. Chris Christie (R) Wednesday signed into law Assembly Bill 457, which will allow people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to use medical marijuana. The bill passed the legislature overwhelmingly a month and a half ago.

Drug Testing

Quest Diagnostics, one of the country's largest drug testing laboratories, reports that the percentage of workers testing positive for illegal drugs has been increasing for the past three years after decades of decline. Some 4% of all 11 million drug tests came back positive. Positive tests results for marijuana have increased 26% since 2011 and account for almost half (45%) of all positives. But heroin positives jumped 146% in the same period.

Medical Marijuana Update

As all eyes turn toward marijuana legalization initiatives looming in November, it's been pretty quiet on the medical marijuana front. At least there's good news from Michigan.

Michigan

Last Thursday, the Senate passed an industry regulation bill allowing dispensaries. The state Senate Thursday passed a bill that would tax and regulate medical marijuana businesses and explicitly allow for dispensaries. The bill would set a 3% tax on dispensaries' gross retail income, require licensing to grow, process, transport, and sell medical marijuana, and explicitly allow for forms of medical marijuana that include infused, non-smokable forms of the herb. The House approved much of this package almost a year ago. Now, it goes to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder (R).

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

Lansing, MI
United States

Chronicle AM: MA Init Gets Big Bucks, Chicago's West Side is Heroin "Epicenter", More... (9/12/16)

The California legalization campaign heats up, the Massachusetts legalization campaign is sitting pretty with lots of cash, a North Carolina town becomes the first in the South to adopt Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) for drug users, and more.

People lining up to buy heroin in Chicago. (Chicago PD)
Marijuana Policy

California Legalization Supporters File Complaint Against Opposition Committee. Diane Goldstein, one of the proponents for the Prop 64 legalization initiative, filed a complaint last Friday against Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action, the lobbying and campaign arm of the prohibitionist Project SAM. The complaint claims the committee misreported donations, failed to file contribution reports, and left some contribution reports incomplete, including one for Pennsylvania millionaire Julie Schauer, who gave $1.3 million the opposition.

California Highway Patrol Says It Is Neutral on Legalization Initiative. The state Highway Patrol last Friday clarified that it has not taken a position on the Prop 64 legalization initiative. The move comes after the head of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen criticized the measure for not setting a legal driving limit for the amount of THC in drivers' blood. CHP provided technical assistance to the measure's authors and is involved in implementing medical marijuana regulations signed into law last year.

Massachusetts Legalization Initiative Getting Big Bucks Backing. Supporters of the Question 4 legalization initiative have taken in more than $2.4 million since January, most of it from the New Approach PAC, a group based in Washington, DC, that is led by Graham Boyd. Groups opposing Question 4 have only raised less than $400,000, giving supporters a six-to-one funding advantage.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Report Names Chicago's West Side as "Epicenter" of State's Heroin Crisis. A new report from Roosevelt University, Hidden in Plain Sight, examines heroin arrests, hospitalizations, and deaths on the city's West Side and finds that the area accounts for one out of four hospitalizations for overdoses in the entire state. The response to rising heroin use has focused on enforcement, not treatment, said report coauthor Kathy Kane Willis. "Incarceration or arrest is an extremely ineffective and expensive way to treat a health crisis like this. We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," she said. In response to the report, state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) has launched the West Side Heroin Task Force to help find evidence-based solutions to the problem.

Law Enforcement

Fayetteville, NC, Starts First Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program in the South. This month the Fayetteville Police Department and a number of partners, including the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC), are launching a new program to divert low-level drug and sex work (prostitution) offenders to treatment instead of jail. Currently, Fayetteville faces one of the highest rates of opioid abuse in the nation. Last year alone over 500 people were arrested for drug possession in the city. Under the new law enforcement assisted diversion program (LEAD) launched this month, police officers will be able to divert eligible citizens (people with under 4 grams of drugs, no violent record, etc) to treatment providers and social services instead of funneling them through the criminal justice system, where often the cases are thrown out or people serve minimal jail time and wind up back on the streets.

International

Rampant Meth Use is Driving Asia's Drug War. The Philippines isn't the only country in the region waging a deadly "war on drugs." In Thailand and Myanmar, drug users are sentenced to long prison terms, while Indonesia has declared a "narcotics emergency" and resumed the execution of drug convicts. But that tough response is only likely to make things worse, experts said.

Chronicle AM: House GOP Wants Unemployment Drug Tests, MI Senate OKs Dispensaries, More... (9/9/16)

House Republicans unleash another drug testing for benefits campaign, marijuana legalization foes start making moves, Michigan has moved a big step closer to explicitly allowing dispensaries, and more.

House Republicans want laid off workers to have to urinate in a cup before receiving benefits. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Approves First Permit for Retail Pot Shop. The state's Marijuana Control Board Thursday approved the first permit for a retail marijuana store. The permit went to Frozen Budz in Fairbanks. Co-owner Destiny Neade said she hoped to be open by October 1. "Now all I need is some herb," she said. The board was also considering 16 other permit applications.

California Anti-Legalization Effort Gets Big Gift from Pennsylvania Millionaire. Pennsylvania millionaire Julie Schauer has donated $1.3 million to the anti-legalization Smart Approaches to Marijuana/No on 64 campaign committee. Most of the money will be used to try to defeat the Prop 64 legalization initiative, but some will go to fight legalization campaigns in other states, too. Schauer's money made up most of the $64,000 that has gone to a separate committee opposing Prop 64. That committee has only raised $300,000, while committees supporting Prop 64 have raised more than $6 million.

Maine Police Chiefs Oppose Legalization Initiative. The Maine Chiefs of Police Association Friday formally announced its opposition to the Question 1 legalization initiative. "We're concerned about the effect (legalization) may have on the communities and the youth after looking at what's happened in Colorado," said Falmouth Police Chief Edward Tolan, incoming president of the association. "That's what prompted us to take this position as police chiefs."

Michigan Legalizers Ask Federal Court to Intervene in Signature Dispute. A day after being turned away by the state Supreme Court, the MI Legalize campaign has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block the printing of state election ballots until disputed petition signatures are counted. The group handed in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but some of them were gathered outside a 180-day period and not counted, keeping the measure off the ballot. MI Legalize has gotten nowhere in the state courts. Ballots were supposed to be printed today.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Senate Passes Industry Regulation Bill Allowing Dispensaries. The state Senate Thursday passed a bill that would tax and regulate medical marijuana businesses and explicitly allow for dispensaries. The bill would set a 3% tax on dispensaries' gross retail income, require licensing to grow, process, transport, and sell medical marijuana, and explicitly allow for forms of medical marijuana that include infused, non-smokable forms of the herb. The House approved much of this package almost a year ago. Now, it goes to the desk of Gov. Ricky Snyder (R).

Drug Testing

House Republicans in New Push to Drug Test Unemployment Applicants. House Republicans are pushing a new bill that would give states the option of forcing drug tests on applicants for unemployment benefits. They say the bill is needed because a Labor Department rule bars states from using a 2012 law to do so. The measure is HR 5945, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX).

International

Canada Wants US to End Travel Ban on Residents Who Smoke Pot. The case of a Canadian man barred from entering the US because he admitted to recreational marijuana use has provoked the Canadian government to seek a re-set of US border policy. "We obviously need to intensify our discussions with our border authorities in the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security," the public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp late on Thursday. "This does seem to be a ludicrous situation," he said, noting that marijuana is legal in Washington state as well as "three or four other jurisdictions in the United States." First, though, Canada might want to work on its own border policy; it bars US pot smokers from entering the country.

Medical Marijuana Update

In a surprise move, the conservative American Legion comes out for marijuana rescheduling, Arkansas medical marijuana initiatives see lawsuits fly, Ohio is now a medical marijuana state, and more.

National

At the end of August, the American Legion called for marijuana to be rescheduled. The nation's largest veterans' organization has passed a resolution calling on the federal government to move marijuana off of Schedule I. The resolutions calls on the government "amend legislation to remove marijuana from schedule I and reclassify it in a category that, at a minimum will recognize cannabis as a drug with potential medical value." The resolution, which also calls on the DEA to "license privately-funded medical marijuana production operations in the United States to enable safe and efficient cannabis drug development research," was approved at the America Legion annual meeting in Cincinnati at the end of August.

Arkansas

Last Thursday, a second lawsuit challenged the Medical Cannabis Act initiative. A Little Rock attorney who is a member of NORML's National Legal Committee has filed a lawsuit seeking to knock the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act off the November ballot. In the lawsuit, attorney Kara Benca asked the court to invalidate some 15,000 voter signatures, which would disqualify the initiative. A second initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, has also qualified for the ballot. If both pass, the one with the most votes wins.

On Tuesday, medical marijuana foes challenged a second medical marijuana initiative. Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana has filed a lawsuit seeking to disqualify the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment from the November ballot. The same group, which includes the state Chamber of Commerce and Farm Bureau, earlier filed a similar suit against a competing initiative, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. The lawsuits claim ballot titles and descriptions are deceptive. The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act is also the target of another lawsuit challenging its handling of reporting by canvassers.

Ohio

As of Thursday, medical marijuana is now legal in the state, but... Medical marijuana is now legal in the Buckeye State, but it could be years before it legally gets into the hands of patients. The state must first create a system to grow, distribute, and regulate medical marijuana. The state has 30 days to appoint a Marijuana Control Commission, which will then have 240 days to set up rules around the fledgling industry. And actually getting businesses up and running and crops in the ground will take even longer.

Oklahoma

On Tuesday, the medical marijuana initiative campaign filed a lawsuit over the rewriting of the ballot language. Oklahomans for Health, the group behind the medical marijuana initiative, filed suit to challenge Attorney General Scott Pruitt's (R) rewrite of its ballot description. The original wording of the ballot title made it clear that a yes vote would okay only medical use approved by a physician, but Pruitt's version starts out like this: "This measure legalizes the licensed use, sale and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma. There are no qualifying medical conditions identified." And Oklahomans for Health is crying foul: "Thousands and thousands of signatures were collected from voters of Oklahoma," attorney David Slane said after he filed the lawsuit. "No elected official has the right to rewrite these ballots in such a way that he would try to unfairly influence voters. Scott Pruitt has a habit, a pattern of doing this." Because the campaign was late handing in signatures, the issue is unlikely to appear on the ballot this year. Look for 2018.

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

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