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Chronicle AM: Big Bucks for CA Legalization Init, MedMJ Cultivation Now Legal in Australia, More... (11/2/16)

The prospect of profits is fueling donations to the California legalization initiative, a key Old Dominion politico is ready to talk decriminalization, medical marijuana cultivation is now legal in Australia, and more.

Marijuana Policy 

California Legalization Initiative Has Raised $16 Million. Activist philanthropists like Sean Parker and George Soros and entrepreneurs with dollar signs in their eyes have kicked in a whopping $16 million to the Prop 64 campaign, which appears headed for victory next week. That's ten times the amount raised by the organized opposition, and about four times what was raised for the failed Prop 19 legalization initiative in 2010. "Legal marijuana is no longer a pipe dream: It's an investment," said Claremont McKenna College economics professor Jack Pitney. "Public opinion has shifted strongly in favor of legalization, and the smart money is following the people."

Key Virginia Pol Ready to Consider Decriminalization. State senate majority leader Tommy Norment (R) said Tuesday he supports studying marijuana decriminalization. "I think it’s absolutely crazy that we continue to lock people up for possession of a modest amount of marijuana," he said. Last year, Norment voted against a decriminalization bill, but he now says decriminalization would keep people from having the stigma of a criminal record. He added, though, that getting decriminalization through the legislature would be a tough fight.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Marijuana Growers Face High License Fees. Under draft rules promulgated by the state Department of Commerce, medical marijuana cultivation licenses would be capped at 18 and would cost a pretty penny. Twelve "Level I" licenses for grows of up to 15,000 square feet will require a $20,000 application fee and a $180,000 license fee, while six "Level II" licenses for grows of up to 1,600 square feet will require a $2,000 application fee and an $18,000 license fee.  The Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee reviewed the plan Tuesday morning, and the full rules were scheduled to be posted to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program website for public comment by Wednesday. 

International

Medical Marijuana Cultivation Now Legal in Australia. The country approved medical marijuana in February, but that didn't kick in until Tuesday. Now, organizations and businesses can apply for licenses to cultivate and manufacture marijuana for medical purposes. Susan Ley, Australia’s Health Minister said that the legislation will give patients safe and legal access to cannabis. "Until now, it has been difficult for patients to access medicinal cannabis products from overseas sources,"said Health Minister Susan Ley. "These new laws change that situation by providing for a domestic supply of medicinal cannabis products that are not readily available for import."

Chronicle AM: Former LA Mayor Endorses Prop 64, Glasgow Moves Toward UK's First Safe Injection Site, More... (11/1/16)

California's Prop 64 picks up another high-profile endorsement, the city of Glasgow is moving to establish the United Kingdom's first safe injection site, and more.

The Vancouver InSite supervised injection site. Something similar could soon be coming to Scotland. (vch.ca)
Marijuana Policy 

Colorado Lawmakers Call on Arizona "No" Campaign to Quit Using Inaccurate Ads. Three Colorado state legislators Monday sent letters to the campaign opposing the Prop 205 legalization initiative calling on it to quit misstating facts about what has happened since legalization in Colorado. The "no" campaign has claimed that Colorado schools have not seen any money from marijuana revenues, but the legislators point out that the state Department of Education has received more than $138 million in pot tax revenues. "They are saying these things that area really far field from the truth," state Sen. Pat Steadman. "We've been building schools and repairing schools with the excess tax revenue that was dedicated to school construction. Those dollars are flowing."

Former Los Angeles Mayor Endorses California Legalization Initiative. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) Monday became the latest well-known California politician to endorse the Prop 64 legalization initiative. "I took my time on this measure because I wanted to make sure it included protections for children and public safety," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "In evaluating the measure in its entirety, I am convinced there are enough safeguards to make it a workable proposition."

Medical Marijuana

Disqualified Arkansas Initiative Asks State Supreme Court to Reinstate It. Backers of the Issue 7 medical marijuana initiative are seeking recourse from the state's highest court after that same court last week disqualified it days after early voting began in the state. In a ruling last week, the high court said the campaign had violating state laws regarding reporting and registration of paid canvassers and threw out 12,000 signatures that had been approved by state election officials. But the Issue 7 campaign argues that a 2013 law imposing restrictions on paid canvassers is unfair to smaller groups. The state Supreme Court rarely grants petitions for a rehearing. A competing initiative, Issue 6, remains on the ballot. 

International

Glasgow Moves Toward Opening Forced Supervised Injection Facility in the UK.The Glasgow City Alcohol and Drug Partnership is pushing plans for the first safe injection sites in the United Kingdom. The notion is to be considered by the city council, the health board, and the police, all of whom are expected to agree in principle to the idea. Stay tuned. 

Chronicle AM: AK Sees First Legal Pot Shops, Boston Archdiocese Donates Big to Block Pot Init, More... (10/31/16)

A week out from Election Day, it's looking good in California, the organized opposition is spending big in Massachusetts, but the state's largest newspaper endorses the legalization initiative, and more.

New legally on sale in Alaska. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy 

Alaska's First Legal Pot Shop Opens. Herbal Outfitters opened for business in Valdez Saturday, becoming the state's first legal marijuana store. The opening comes nearly two years after voters there approved legalization and was met by long lines of eager customers. Stores in Fairbanks are set to open today and Wednesday.

California Legalization Initiative Still Polling Above 50%. A new Public Policy Institute of California poll has the Prop 64 legalization initiative supported by 55% of likely voters, with 38% opposed and just 6% undecided. That's down from last month's PPIC poll, which had support at 60%, but in line with other recent polls that have had the measure sitting in the mid- to upper-fifties.

Massachusetts Legalization Foes Get Big Give from Boston Archdiocese. Be prepared for a last minute ad blitz against the Question 4 legalization initiative after a late $850,000 donation from the Catholic Church's Boston Archdiocese. That late gift means the opposition now has $2.4 million to spend and only a week to spend it. Pro-legalization forces have outspent the opposition so far by at least $1.3 million, but now it's the foes who have the money in the bank.

Boston Globe Endorses Massachusetts Legalization Initiative. Scolding the state's political class for failing to act to legalize marijuana, its largest newspaper has reluctantly endorsed Question 4. "If the political leaders of the Commonwealth showed even the slightest interest in legalization, it would probably make sense to wait for lawmakers to produce a better-crafted proposal than the current ballot measure," the newspaper wrote. "But Question 4 is all we’ve got. The Globe endorses the yes campaign, despite the proposal’s many flaws, because the harm stemming from continued inaction on marijuana would be even greater."

Even in Wyoming, Support for Marijuana Legalization is Increasing. A new poll from the University of Wyoming's Survey and Analysis Center finds rising support for marijuana in the Cowboy State. Support for legalization is now at 41%, up from 37% two years ago, and support for medical marijuana is even higher, rising from 74% in 2014 to 81% now.  

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Supreme Court Disqualifies One Initiative; One Remains. Responding to a late legal challenge, the state Supreme Court last week disqualified one of the two medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot—even though the ballots had already been printing and early voting had begun. Issue 7, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, was disqualified; Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, remains on the ballot. State officials said votes already cast for Issue 7 will not be counted.

Drug Policy

Gallup Finds Fears About Drugs at Lowest Level Since It Started Asking. A new Gallup poll finds that early two-thirds (65%) of Americans say drug problems in the US are "extremely" or "very serious," which seems high, but the figure is the lowest since the polling firm started asking the question in 2000. Back then, 83% said America's drug problems were "extremely" or "very serious." Gallup speculates that the decline may "reflect less-prominent federal anti-drug efforts in recent years than in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. In fact, more recently, much of the news about drug policy has focused on state-level efforts to decriminalize marijuana."

International

Cartel Violence Driving Jump in Mexico Murders. Homicides have increased to record highs for the last three months, and are up 20% over last year for the year so far. The death toll hit 1,974 in September—the most since 2011 when then President Felipe Calderon's cartel wars were in full swing. Analysts blame renewed fighting among the cartels for the steady uptick. 

Medical Marijuana Update

The Miami Herald endorses the Florida medical marijuana initiative, medical marijuana is playing a role in the Utah gubernatorial race, and more.

Arkansas

Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court okayed the medical marijuana amendment. The state's high court has rejected a bid by medical marijuana opponents to prevent state officials from counting votes for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, on the ballot as Issue 6. A competing medical marijuana initiative, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, also known as Issue 7, is also on the ballot, but still faces a court challenge over signature submissions.

California

Last Thursday, a Los Angeles marijuana regulation initiative qualified for the March 2017 ballot. The Los Angeles Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act has qualified for the March 2017 ballot, the city clerk confirmed. A campaign led by the United Cannabis Business Alliance and the Citizens' Coalition to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods has collected enough validated signatures to qualify, the clerk said. The act would bring the city in compliance with new state medical marijuana regulations.

Florida

On Monday, the Miami Herald endorsed the medical marijuana initiative. The influential newspaper has come out in support of the Amendment 2 initiative, citing the legislature's unwillingness to enact a meaningful medical marijuana law. "In 2014, the Legislature legalized some strains of marijuana for patients with severe seizures. Last year, lawmakers legalized full-scale medical marijuana, but only for the terminally ill," the newspaper noted. "Once again, initiative foes argue the legalization of medical cannabis should be handled by the state Legislature instead of being enshrined into the Florida Constitution. We agree, but since lawmakers have repeatedly failed to pass comprehensive legislation, sick Floridians want this relief. For their sake, we recommend YES on Amendment 2."

Indiana

Last Friday, a new poll had overwhelming support for medical marijuana. A new WTHR/HPI Indiana poll finds nearly three-quarters of likely Hoosier voters are ready for medical marijuana. The poll had 73% in support, with only 25% opposed. Even among Republicans, support was at 59%. Medical marijuana bills have been introduced, but have gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Iowa

On Tuesday, the governor said he was open to renewing the state's CBD cannabis oil law.Gov. erry Branstad (R) said Tuesday he was open to working with advocates to extend a soon-to-end law that allows the use of CBD cannabis oil for patients with epilepsy. The law is set to expire next July 1. "We don't want people to lose something they think will be helpful or that has been helpful to members of their family," Branstad said. "I intend to work with the legislature as well as with the (Governor's) Office of Drug Control (Policy) as we look at what is the appropriate thing to do.

Utah

Last Thursday, the feds said they won't prosecute the Democratic gubernatorial candidate's wife, but the state will. Mike Weinholtz (D) is running for governor of Utah, and his wife is being prosecuted for medical marijuana offenses. Donna Weinholtz, who "uses marijuana to seek relief from chronic neck, back and knee pain brought on by arthritis," was the subject of a federal investigation after she got caught attempting to mail a package containing marijuana, but the feds have declined to prosecute, saying the case would more appropriately be handled by Utah authorities. The Tooele County prosecutor is moving forward with the case.

On Wednesday, Weinholtz's wife pleaded guilty to state charges, and he called for medical marijuana legalization. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Weinholtz called for the legalization of medical marijuana in the state Tuesday just hours after his wife pleaded guilty in state court to misdemeanor pot possession charges over marijuana found in their home. Donna Weinholtz used marijuana medicinally to relieve chronic pain, the couple said. "I, like many Utahns, made a deliberate and conscious decision to use cannabis knowing full well that it is against the law," she said. "I have faith the law will change."

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

(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: US Gets More HIDTA Counties, Indiana Voters Ready for MedMJ, More... (10/15/16)

Los Angeles attempts to prepare for a new era, HIDTA gets an expansion, Indiana voters signal they are ready for medical marijuana, and more.

Medical Marijuana

Indiana Poll Has Overwhelming Support for Medical Marijuana. A new WTHR/HPI Indiana poll finds nearly three-quarters of likely Hoosier voters are ready for medical marijuana. The poll had 73% in support, with only 25% opposed. Even among Republicans, support was at 59%. Medical marijuana bills have been introduced, but have gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Los Angeles Marijuana Regulation Initiative Qualifies for March 2017 Ballot. The Los Angeles Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act has qualified for the March 2017 ballot, the city clerk confirmed Thursday. A campaign led by the United Cannabis Business Alliance and the Citizens' Coalition to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods has collected enough validated signatures to qualify, the clerk said. The act would bring the city in compliance with new state medical marijuana regulations.

Law Enforcement

Drug Czar Designates More Counties as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) Michael Botticelli announced Thursday that an additional 18 counties have been granted the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) designation. That designation will allow them access to federal anti-drug resources granted to HIDTAs. Six counties were added to the Appalachian HIDTA, two to the New York/New Jersey HIDTA, four to the Ohio HIDTA, two to the Baltimore/Washington HIDTA, and six to the Wisconsin HIDTA. Created by Congress in 1988, there are now 28 HIDTAs located in 49 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

International

Turkey Okays Cannabis Production in 19 Provinces. The Turkish Food, Agriculture and Livestock Ministry announced late last month that it will allow marijuana production in 19 provinces across the country "in a bid to combat illegal production." News reports are unclear about whether this refers to recreational or medical marijuana or industrial hemp.

Chronicle AM: Strong MD Legalization Poll, UT Gov Candidate Wife MedMJ Case, More... (10/14/16)

The bud business is booming in Boulder, Marylanders like marijuana legalization, another Michigan city legalizes weed, and more.

Maryland could go green if legislators listen to the voters. (Tumblr/Shanti's Favorites)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Pot Shop Sales Hit Another Record High. Legal marijuana shops, both recreational and medical, took in $126 million in sales in August, setting a new monthly record. The previous record was $122.7 million, set the month before.

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A Washington Post/University of Maryland poll has support for marijuana legalization at 61%, up from 49% two years ago. Three-quarters (74%) of liberals, two-thirds (65%) of moderates, and nearly half (45%) of conservatives now support legalization.

East Lansing, Michigan, Legalizes Use and Possession of Up to An Ounce. The city of East Lansing has approved an ordinance legalizing the possession of up to an once by people 21 and over. Possession still remains a misdemeanor under state law, but local police say they normally don't arrest anyone for possession unless they are known drug dealers. Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing have all passed similar measures.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Supreme Court Okays Medical Marijuana Amendment. The state's high court has rejected a bid by medical marijuana opponents to prevent state officials from counting votes for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, on the ballot as Issue 6. A competing medical marijuana initiative, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, also known as Issue 7, is also on the ballot, but still faces a court challenge over signature submissions.

Feds Won't Prosecute Utah Governor Candidate's Wife, But State Will. Mike Weinholtz (D) is running for governor of Utah, and his wife is being prosecuted for medical marijuana offenses. Donna Weinholtz, who "uses marijuana to seek relief from chronic neck, back and knee pain brought on by arthritis," was the subject of a federal investigation after she got caught attempting to mail a package containing marijuana, but the feds have declined to prosecute, saying the case would more appropriately be handled by Utah authorities. The Tooele County prosecutor is moving forward with the case.

Medical Marijuana Update

With all eyes on the November elections, it's pretty quiet on the medical marijuana front. Minors get admitted to the program in Connecticut, and, speaking of the elections, we have news from Florida.

Connecticut

Last Thursday, minors became eligible to qualify for medical marijuana. Under changes in the state's medical marijuana system that went into effect this week, minors with certain specified conditions can now enroll in the program. Those conditions include cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, irreversible spinal cord injury with intractable spasticity, severe epilepsy, intractable seizure disorders, and terminal illness.

Florida

On Monday, money was flowing into the state over the medical marijuana initiative. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson kicked in another $500,000 in the last week of September to help defeat the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative. That brings Adelson's total for the campaign to $1.5 million. He kicked in $5.5 million to defeat a similar proposal in 2014. All told, the opposition raised $560,000 in the last week of September. Meanwhile, Amendment 2 backers took in $1.07 million in the same period, all but $7,000 from the New Approach PAC. Florida attorney John Morgan has also kicked in $2.3 million of his own money. The no side spent more than $700,000 last week, mainly on TV ads, while the yes side spent $326,000.

On Wednesday, a new poll had the initiative winning big. A new poll from the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida has more than three-out-four likely voters supporting the Question 2 medical marijuana initiative. The poll had support at 77%. The initiative needs 60% to win because it is a constitutional amendment.

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

Chronicle AM: DEA Kratom Ban Retreat, France's First Supervised Injection Site, More... (10/12/16)

A new Pew poll has support for marijuana legalization at 57% nationwide, the DEA is forced to back away from its kratom ban, France opens its first supervised injection site, and more.

In a historic move, the DEA was forced to back away from enacting an emergency ban on kratom. (Project CBD)
Marijuana Policy

New National Poll Has Solid Majority Support for Legalization. A new Pew Research Center poll released today has support for marijuana legalization nationwide at 57%, with 37% opposed. A recent Gallup poll had it at 58%. Pew says the numbers show that public opinion on the issue has flipped in the past decade. In 2006, only 32% supported legalization, with 60% opposed.

Delaware Legislator Vows to File Legalization Bill Next Year. State Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D), the Senate majority whip, said she will introduce a pot legalization bill in January. "It's certainly being considered. It's going to be an uphill battle," Henry said Tuesday during a meeting of the state Medical Marijuana Act Oversight Committee. "But it's time, quite frankly. It's time to certainly look at it."

Nevada's Largest Labor Union Endorses Legalization Initiative. Culinary Union Local 226, the largest labor union in the state, is getting behind the Question 2 legalization initiative. The union represents some 60,000 workers in the Silver State.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Poll Has Initiative With Strong Lead. A new poll from the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida has more than three-out-four likely voters supporting the Question 2 medical marijuana initiative. The poll had support at 77%. The initiative needs 60% to win because it is a constitutional amendment.

Kratom

In Unprecedented Move, DEA Backs Away from Kratom Ban -- At Least for Now. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has posted a notice in the Federal Register stating that it is withdrawing its plans to ban kratom using emergency scheduling powers. The DEA instead is opening a public comment period ending December 1st. The official notice indicates that comments received by the DEA will be considered -- along with formal input from the Food and Drug Administration -- before a determination is made about scheduling kratom. The DEA's proposed ban on kratom, a medicinal plant used for millennia in Southeast Asia and currently by millions in the US, was anticipated to go in effect as early as September 30. The DEA retreat came amidst enormous pressure on the agency from the public and lawmakers to halt the ban.

International

France's First Supervised Injection Site is Open for Business. France has now joined a growing list of European countries that operate supervised injection facilities for drug users. After the Socialist government pushed through legislation allowing them last year, the first one in France opened Tuesday near Paris's Gare du Nord train station.

Peru Renews Military Operations in Key Coca Growing Area. The Peruvian government announced last week that it is declaring a 60-day state of emergency in parts of the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), a key coca producing region. The area had been under a state of emergency for 30 years until last year, when the government ended it after capturing several Shining Path operatives. But now, the military is back with twin briefs to fight drug trafficking and "narcoterrorism."

Cayman Island Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Bill.Lawmakers in the Caribbean island nation voted Monday to legalize the use of CBD cannabis oil for medicinal purposes. The measure still faces one final vote, and could require some tweaking before such medicines become available. No one in the Cayman Islands produces CBD cannabis oil, and it could be problematic to try to import it from the US because of federal marijuana prohibition.

A Possession Arrest Every 25 Seconds: The Cruel Folly of the War on Drugs [FEATURE]

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

Nearly a half century after Richard Nixon inaugurated the modern war on drugs, to criticize it as a failure as so common as to be banal. Yet even as marijuana prohibition falls in some states, the drug war rolls on, an assembly line of criminalization and incarceration, dealing devastating blows to the lives of its victims that linger far beyond the jail or prison cell.

More than 1.25 million arrests for simple drug possession last year. (Creative Commons)
And most of its victims are not capos or kingpins, but simple drug users. According to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), drug possession is the single offense for which the largest number of arrests are made in the US, totaling more than 1.25 million last year, and accounting for more than three-fourths of all drug arrests.

Based on analysis of national and state-level data, as well as more than 360 interviews with drug offenders, family members, past and present government officials, and activists conducted mostly in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and New York, the 196-page report, "Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States," finds that enforcement of drug possession laws causes extensive and unjustifiable harm to individuals and communities across the country.

The long-term consequences can separate families; exclude people from job opportunities, welfare assistance, public housing, and voting; and expose them to discrimination and stigma for a lifetime. While more people are arrested for simple drug possession in the US than for any other crime, mainstream discussions of criminal justice reform rarely question whether drug use should be criminalized at all.

"Every 25 seconds someone is funneled into the criminal justice system, accused of nothing more than possessing drugs for personal use," said Tess Borden, Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the ACLU and the report's author. "These wide-scale arrests have destroyed countless lives while doing nothing to help people who struggle with dependence."

Among those interviewed was for the study was Corey, who is doing 17 years in Louisiana for possessing a half ounce of marijuana. His four-year-old daughter, who has never seen him outside prison, thinks she's visiting him at work.

The harmful consequences of a drug arrest extend far beyond prison walls (ussupremecourt.gov)
Another is "Neal," whose name was changed to protect his privacy. Also in Louisiana, he's doing five years for possessing 0.2 grams of crack cocaine. He has a rare autoimmune disorder and said he cried the day he pleaded guilty because he knew he might not survive his sentence.

Then there's Nicole, held for months in the Harris County Jail in Houston and separated from her three young children until she pleaded guilty to a felony -- her first. The conviction meant she would lose her student financial aid, the food stamps she relied on to feed her kids, and the job opportunities she would need to survive. All for an empty baggie containing a tiny bit of heroin residue.

"While families, friends, and neighbors understandably want government to take action to prevent the potential harm caused by drug use, criminalization is not the answer," Borden said. "Locking people up for using drugs causes tremendous harm, while doing nothing to help those who need and want treatment."

The report also emphasized the now all-too-familiar racial disparities in drug law enforcement, noting that while blacks use drugs at similar or lower rates than whites, they're more than two-and-a-half times more likely to arrested for drug possession and more than four time more likely to be arrested for pot possession. It's even worse in some localities, such as Manhattan, where blacks are 11 times as likely to be busted for drug possession as whites. That amounts to "racial discrimination under international human rights law," the two groups said.

Aside from the vicious cruelty of imprisoning people for years or decades merely for possessing a substance, that drug conviction -- and drug possession, even of tiny amounts, is a felony in 42 states -- also haunts their futures. Drug convicts face the loss of access to social welfare benefits, the stigma of criminality, the disruption of family life, the financial burden of paying fines and fees, and the burden of trying to find work with a felony record. And that harms society at large as well as the criminalized drug users.

And despite tens of millions of drug arrests over the past few decades, with all their collateral damage, the war on drugs doesn't achieve its avowed goal: reducing drug use. There has to be a better way, and Human Rights Watch and the ACLU have something to say about that.

report launch at National Press Club, Washington, DC, 10/12/16
"State legislatures and the US Congress should decriminalize personal use and possession of all drugs. Federal and state governments should invest resources in programs to decrease the risks associated with drug use and provide and support voluntary treatment options for people struggling with drug dependence, along with other approaches," the two groups recommended.

"Until full decriminalization is achieved, officials at all levels of government should minimize and mitigate the harmful consequences of current laws and practices," they added, providing detailed recommendations to state legislatures, police, prosecutors, and other state and local government entities, as well as the federal government.

"Criminalizing personal drug use is a colossal waste of lives and resources," Borden said. "If governments are serious about addressing problematic drug use, they need to end the current revolving door of drug possession arrests, and focus on effective health strategies instead."

Chronicle AM: MA Init Leads in New Poll, Iran Ponders End to Drug Death Penalty, More... (10/6/16)

We have Massachusetts legalization news today, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gets slapped down in his bid to drug test food stamp applicants, Iran's parliament ponders ending the death penalty for drugs, and more.

It looks like another bumper opium harvest next spring in Afghanistan. (unodc.org)
Marijuana Policy

Another Massachusetts Poll Has Legalization Initiative Winning. A new Western New England University Polling Institute poll has the Question 4 leading a month out from election day. The poll had support at 55% among all registered voters, with 39% opposed. When it came to likely voters, the initiative's lead shrunk slightly, with 52% in support and 42% opposed.

Massachusetts ACLU Report Highlights Continuing Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests. Even after decriminalization, people continue to get arrested for marijuana offenses, especially if they're black, a new ACLU report has found. Black Massachusetts residents were 3.3 times more likely to get popped for pot than white ones even though they use it at the same rate. For marijuana sales offenses, the disparity was even more striking: Blacks were 7.1 times more likely than whites to get busted for peddling pot. "Racial disparities are a disturbing feature of our current marijuana policy. Black people are arrested for marijuana possession at 10 times the rate of white people in some counties -- despite the fact that black people and white people use marijuana at the same rate," ACLU Racial Justice Director Rahsaan Hall says in a prepared statement. "Taxing and regulating marijuana is an important step towards reducing the harm that current policies cause to people of color, particularly Black people, and it will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that can be reinvested in our communities."

Drug Testing

Federal Court Rejects Wisconsin's Bid to Drug Test Food Stamp Applicants. A federal judge in Washington has rejected a challenge from Gov. Scott Walker (R) to a federal law that blocks states from drug testing food stamp applicants. Walker had challenged the policy last year as he launched a doomed presidential bid, but the federal judge ruled that Wisconsin filed its complaint too soon, before it had actually implemented the policy, and without giving the Obama administration a chance to formally reject it.

International

Afghan Opium Production Expands to Near Record Levels. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday that opium production this year to one of the highest levels on record. Illicit cultivation has expanded to nearly half a million acres, making it one of the biggest years for poppy since 1994, when the UNODC began estimating the crop size. The all-time record is about 600,000 acres, reported in 2014.

Iraqi Forces Burn ISIS Opium Poppy Crop. Iraqi security forces Wednesday burned a four square acre field planted with opium poppies belonging to ISIS in Salahuddin province. The move was described as an effort to cut ISIS financing through the opium and heroin trade. Iraqi officials said ISIS used laboratories at Mosul University to process the raw opium into heroin.

Iran Moving to End Death Penalty for Drug Offenses. One of the world's leading drug executioners may be about the change its ways. A bill that would end capital punishment for drug trafficking now has the support of a majority in the parliament. If the parliament actually approves the bill, it would have to be ratified by the Guardian Council of Islamic jurists, which has opposed any relaxation of the country's death penalty regime. But executing drug smugglers "will not benefit the people or the country," said Yahya Kamalpur, deputy head of the parliamentary legal and judicial committee. Parliament "wants to eliminate the death penalty for criminals who [smuggle narcotics] out of desperation" and replace it with long prison sentences or hard labor. We are after a scientific and not emotional solution in confronting drug smugglers," he said.

Danes to Consider Bill Easing Marijuana-Impaired Driving Rules. A bill filed in the parliament this week would the country's zero tolerance policy toward drivers with marijuana in their systems in favor of a "stepladder" approach in which the penalty for driving while impaired would depend on the level of marijuana in the driver's system. Under current law, driving with marijuana in one's system can result in the loss of a driver's license for three years. That's too much for bill sponsor Jan Jorgensen of the Liberal Party. "You can actually drive pretty well, even after having smoked hash. There is obviously a limit to how much, but we believe a minimum threshold should be introduced now," he said. "The problem is that we have punished a lot of people who have not been of any danger to traffic at all, simply because they might have smoked marijuana a fortnight ago, and it still could be measured in the blood."

Drug War Issues

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