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United Nations Drug Policy Divisions Aired

British publications have gotten their hands on a leaked UN document that reveals fundamental splits among nations as the international organization prepares for the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs in 2016. Much, but not all, criticism of the status quo is coming from Latin America.

Read the Guardian's article here: Leaked Paper Reveals UN Split Over War on Drugs

Among the countries seeking specific reformist changes in the UN's drug stance:

Ecuador wants language recognizing that the world needs to look beyond prohibition.

Venezuela wants language addressing the economic implications of drug prohibition.

Norway wants language that includes a critical assessment of the "so-called war on drugs."

Switzerland wants language that recognizes the public health consequences of current policies.

The European Union wants language emphasizing drug treatment and care over incarceration.

It's been little over a half-century since the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs codified the global drug prohibition system. The consensus represented by the 1961 treaty is now, at long last, crumbling.

Update: Bill Clinton supports countries being able to make their own decisions about prohibition.

New Drugs: Europe is Discussing

EESC hearing on EC new drugs proposal,11/27/13 (drogriporter.hu)
The European Commission has proposed new procedures that would fast-track its ability to criminalize or otherwise regulate new drugs, according to a report by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union's Peter Sarosi, who attended a public hearing by the European Economic and Social Council (EESC) in Brussels last Wednesday.

Peter spoke at the hearing and recommended the EC refocus its attention from law enforcement to public health, and instead of adopting the EC proposal to follow the example of New Zealand by regulating rather than prohibiting the drugs.

More on this soon.

Location: 
Brussels
Belgium

Chronicle AM -- November 29, 2013

Uruguay's marijuana legalization bill passes another hurdle, a Berlin borough wants cannabis cafes, Chicago proposes tough medical marijuana regulations, Kentucky officials hound the DEA about hemp, and more. Let's get to it:

Is this the face of marijuana legalization? Uruguayan President Jose Mujica (wikimedia.org)
Medical Marijuana

Chicago Proposes Strict Medical Marijuana Regulations. Chicago officials have proposed regulations that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries and grows only in manufacturing districts, would limit the number of grows to 22, and would require that dispensaries and grows be at least 2,500 feet from a school, day care center, or residential area. Medical marijuana becomes legal in Illinois on January 1.

Michigan Appeals Court to Hear Cases on Unemployment Benefits. The Michigan Appeals Court has agreed to hear two cases to determine whether someone fired for using medical marijuana can collect unemployment benefits. Lower court judges have overturned state agency rulings denying the benefits, but medical marijuana foe Attorney General Bill Schuette argues that the law only protects people from criminal prosecutions, not civil penalties.

Hemp

Kentucky Officials Send Letter to DEA Requesting Clarification on Hemp. Kentucky officials have sent a letter to the DEA asking for clarification of its position on industrial hemp. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, US Sen. Rand Paul (R), and US Reps. John Yarmouth and Thomas Massie want the agency to tell them whether growing hemp in states that have enacted a regulatory framework remains illegal. They point to the federal government's response to marijuana legalization and argue that hemp should be treated the same way.

Drug Testing

Idaho Supreme Court Upholds Drug Possession Conviction Based Solely on Drug Test. Idaho's high court Tuesday upheld the conviction of a woman charged with drug possession after blood from her newborn child's umbilical cord tested positive for methadone. The court held unanimously that the drug test result was probable cause to support a possession conviction.

International

Uruguay Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. Uruguay is one step closer to becoming the first country to legalize the marijuana trade after the Senate Health Commission voted Thursday to approve the bill. The government-supported legislation has already passed the lower house and is expected to win final approval in the Senate next month.

Cannabis Cafes Coming to Berlin? Legislators in the hip Berlin borough of Friedrichschain-Kruezberg voted Thursday to approve cannabis coffee shops there. The move is the brainchild of Green Party Mayor Monika Hermann, who proposed it in September. Now, the borough must get the German federal government to agree. Under Article 3 of the German Narcotics Act, sufficient public interest could lead to law changes, provided there is public support and backing scientific evidence.

European Cancer Docs Say Restrictive Laws Aimed at Drug Abuse Block Millions from Pain Relief. The European Society for Medical Oncology warned that half the world's population lacks effective access to pain relievers because of restrictive laws aimed at reducing drug abuse. The group's Global Opioid Policy Initiative survey estimated that millions of cancer patients don't have access to seven cheap medicines essential for pain relief, including morphine and codeine. Access to such drugs "is catastrophically difficult" in many countries, the report's lead author said.

British Tories, Lib Dems At Odds Over Drug Policy. Britain's governing coalition is at odds with itself over drug policy after the new Liberal Democrat drugs minister, Norman Baker, said earlier this week that marijuana legalization "should be considered." That caused Conservative front-bencher and Justice Minister Chris Grayling to clarify that he and the Home Office "won't be considering it."

Northern Nigeria Alcohol Crackdown Sees 240,000 Bottles of Beer Destroyed. In attempt to deepen a sharia law ban on alcohol imposed in 2001, but largely ignored in hotels and the city's Christian quarter, Islamic police in the northern city of Kano destroyed 240,000 bottles of beer. They chanted "God is great" as they did so, and the head of the religious police warned that they will put an end to alcohol consumption. Multiple bombings of bars in the Christian quarter in late July carried out by suspected Islamic militants who complained the government wasn't enforcing sharia law adequately left 29 dead.

Peru Eradicates Record Amount of Coca. Peru, once again the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, announced Thursday that it had eradicated a record 55,000 acres of coca, about one-fifth of the total estimated 250,000-acre crop. That's a 60% increase in eradication over last year. The government said the increase was due to tougher anti-drug efforts and a weakening of the Shining Path in coca growing areas.

Israel Medical Marijuana Use up 30% This Year. Medical marijuana use is up sharply this year in Israel, according to the Health Ministry, which released figures showing 13,000 patients were approved to us it this year, up from 10,000 last year. The increase comes as the government is working on a new proposal to regulate medical marijuana. The Health, Agriculture, and Public Security ministries are expected to present it within the next couple of weeks.

Uruguay Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes Senate Committee

A bill that would make Uruguay the first country to create a legal marijuana commerce passed the Senate Health Commission Thursday. The government-supported bill has already passed the lower house; a final Senate vote is expected next month.

Read more here:

"Uruguay Moves Closer to Legalising Marijuana"

Location: 
Montevideo
Uruguay

Cannabis Cafes Coming to Berlin?

The Green Party mayor of Berlin's hip Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district has won the support of the district council for her plan to make the area a zone of cannabis tolerance. Now, they have to get the federal government to buy in.

Read more about it here:

"Berlin borough pushing for Germany's first cannabis coffee shop"

http://rt.com/news/marijuana-berlin-shop-opens-462

Location: 
Berlin
Germany

Chronicle AM -- November 26, 2013

Medical marijuana gets attention in the statehouse, another drug war atrocity in New Mexico, Greece's first safe injection site is open, and a gram of opium or a few pounds of pot can get you the death penalty if you're in the wrong place. And more. Let's get to it:

This is three times the amount of opium that could get an immigrant worker executed in Dubai. (erowid.org)
Medical Marijuana

Key Michigan Politico Says Medical Marijuana Top Priority in December. House Judiciary Committee Chair Kevin Cotter (R-Mount Pleasant) said Monday his top priority next month is to take up three medical marijuana-related bills. The first,House Bill 4271, would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan after recent court rulings effectively stopped the facilities from operating in the state. Cotter also plans to take up two other medical marijuana-related bills. House Bill 5104 would allow patients to use edible forms of marijuana. And Senate Bill 660 would clear the way for pharmacies to sell medical marijuana in Michigan, but only if the federal government decides to regulate cannabis as a prescription drug.

New Jersey Lawmaker Files Bill Allowing Patients to Buy Out of State. Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union) Monday introduced a bill that would allow Garden State medical marijuana patients to buy their medicine in other states where it is legal and consume it in New Jersey. The bill attempts to address restrictions in the state's medical marijuana law that prevent easy access to some medical marijuana formulations, especially strains with high levels of CBD.

Alabama Lawmaker Ready to Try Again on Medical Marijuana. State Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) will reintroduce medical marijuana legislation again next year, she said Monday. The bill would allow for the use of CBD. Todd's previous medical marijuana bills have gotten nowhere in Montgomery.

Hemp

New Jersey Hemp Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill that would create an industrial hemp license to regulate the "planting, growing, harvesting, possessing, processing, selling, and buying" of the crop passed the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Monday. The bill, Assembly Bill 2415, sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), would require the end of federal hemp prohibition before licenses could be issued.

Law Enforcement

New Mexico Woman Sues over Vaginal Macing During Drug Arrest. What on earth is going on in New Mexico? Just weeks ago, it was forced enemas and colonoscopies for drug suspects; now, another New Mexican, Marlene Tapia, is suing Bernalillo County after she says jail guards strip searched her and sprayed mace in her vagina, where she was hiding drugs. The ACLU of New Mexico is taking the case.

New Jersey Bill Would Increase Drug Penalties. A bill that would reduce the amount of heroin necessary to be charged with a first-degree crime and allow prosecutors to charge drug offenses by the number of units of the drug involved instead of their weight passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee Monday. The bill, Assembly Bill 4151, is sponsored by Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Passaic).

International

Greece Sets Up First Supervised Injection Site. Greece has opened its first "drug consumption" room in a bid to slow the spread of blood-borne diseases among injection drug users there. The site has been open since last month and has been used by more than 200 people so far.

European Drug Experts Urge Austerity-Battered Governments Not to Cut Drug Treatment. Drug experts and policy makers from around Europe gathered in Athens Monday to urge governments to exclude drug-abuse treatment from austerity budget cuts, citing an alarming rise in HIV infections among drug users in Greece. Included in the call are harm reduction programs like the Greek supervised injection site, which is funded with Council of Europe funds.

Colombia's FARC Wants to Lead Alternative Crop Pilot Project. The leftist guerrillas of the FARC, now in peace negotiations with the Colombian government, want an active role in a pilot project to get coca farmers to grow alternative crops. The group is proposing that one of its local military units team with the government in a village in southern Colombia in a five-year project intended to get farmers to quit growing coca.

Malaysia Court Gives Thai Woman Death Sentence for Weed. A judge in Malaysia Monday sentenced a 36-year-old Thai woman to death after she was caught with about 30 pounds of marijuana at a bus depot. Barring a successful appeal, Thitapah Charenchuea will be hanged. DPP Nor Shuhada Mohd Yatim prosecuted the case.

Dubai Prosecutors Seeks Death Penalty for Less Than One Gram of Opium. Prosecutors in Dubai are seeking the death penalty for an Iranian worker accused of possessing 0.8 grams of opium. They charged he possessed it for "promotional purposes," the equivalent of "with the intent to distribute."

Chronicle AM -- November 20, 2013

A Maryland gubernatorial candidate and a Maine legislator both call for marijuana legalization, politicians are in trouble for drugs, and marijuana law reforms appear to be advancing internationally, except in one Australian state. That's just for starters. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur wants to legalize marijuana. (wikipedia.org)
Maryland Gubernatorial Candidate Proposes Marijuana Legalization. Heather Mizeur, a Democratic candidate for Maryland governor, Tuesday released a plan to tax, regulate, and legalize marijuana. Under her proposal, marijuana taxes would generate $157 million a year and would go to pay for early childhood education. Click the link for more details.

Maine Legislator Unveils Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) Tuesday announced she was introducing a new bill to legalize marijuana. The bill, LR 2329, would legalize the possession of small amounts of pot by adults over 21 and impose a 10% sales tax and 15% excise tax on marijuana sales. Russell said the recent vote by Portland residents in favor of legalization sent a clear message to lawmakers.

California Marijuana Legalization Effort Extends Deadline for Input, Amendments. Backers of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014, the nation's first "open-sourced" legalization initiative, have extended their timeline for further comments on the measure. Backers are holding a series of meetings throughout the state before turning in final amendments to state officials in the first week of December. This initiative is sponsored by Americans for Policy Reform. Another measure, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, is already in the signature-gathering phase. Neither has the backing of deep-pocketed donors, who seem to be waiting for 2016 instead.

AMA Passes Resolution Against Marijuana Legalization. Delegates at the American Medical Association's 2013 Interim Meeting Tuesday passed a resolution opposing marijuana legalization. "Our AMA believes that (1) cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern; (2) sale and possession should not be legalized," the resolution says. Note, however, that there is some confusion over the "and possession" language. The draft document cited by the anti-legalization group Project SAM, which touted the resolution's passage in a press release, appears to have the words "and possession" struck through, suggesting that they had been deleted from the resolution and that the AMA might support decriminalization. Project SAM was unable to provide clarification Wednesday, but promised to get back to the Chronicle.

Sentencing Reform

Washington State Defelonization Bill to be Rolled Out Tomorrow. The activist group Sensible Washington is holding a press conference Thursday to formally introduce a legislative proposal to defelonize the possession of personal use amounts of illegal drugs. Speakers will include bill sponsors Representatives Sherry Appleton (23rd Disrict), Joe Fitzgibbon (34th District), Jessyn Farrell (46th District), Luis Moscoso (1st District) and Jim Moeller (49th District), as well as former corrections official and speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Matt McCally.

Politicians in Drug Trouble

Congressman Busted for Cocaine Possession. US Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL), the congressman arrested last month for cocaine possession, pleaded guilty today and was sentenced to a year of supervised probation. [Ed: An article on ThinkProgress.org suggests Radel may have decent views on drug policy, but there isn't really enough information to know for sure. An update to the article pointed out that he voted for legislation that would allow states to subject food stamp recipients to drug tests. However, that vote actually was for a larger piece of recurring legislation, the Farm Bill, of which the drug testing provision was a small part. The drug testing provision was passed as an amendment sponsored by another Republican legislator, on a voice vote, meaning there is no record as to what Radel's position was on it, or if he had one. -DB]

Toronto's Crack-Smoking Mayor is Foe of Drug Reform, Harm Reduction. Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who has belatedly admitted to smoking crack "in a drunken stupor," is a long-time foe of both drug law reform and harm reduction. Ford has consistently supported the criminalization of drug users and scoffed at programs such as clean needles for drug users as "absolutely ridiculous." He's always appealed to law-and-order voters and praises gang and drug sweeps aimed at poor, marginalized groups. He was a loud and vocal opponent of the 2005 Toronto Drug Strategy, which included a proposal that the city support federal marijuana decriminalization. This after he was caught six years earlier with a joint in his pocket when he was busted for drunk driving in Miami. Whether Ford's recent misadventures will prompt (force?) him to change his attitudes remains to be seen. [Ed: Whether it will ever matter again what Ford's views are also remains to be seen.]

International

Dutch Liberals to File Bill for Regulated Marijuana Production. Holland's D66 Liberal party, the second most popular in the country, is drawing up legislation to regulate marijuana cultivation. The measure would address the country's "back door problem," where cannabis cafes are allowed to sell small amounts of marijuana, but cannot legally acquire it. The move comes as pressure is mounting on the conservative coalition government to resolve the issue. Two-thirds of the country's largest municipalities support such a move. The Justice Minister, who opposes legalizing cultivation, has said he will update parliament on the situation by year's end.

Pot Legalization in US Driving Down BC Bud Prices. Marijuana activists in British Columbia say the marijuana legalization votes in Colorado and especially Washington are driving down the prices of the province's trademark BC Bud. Dana Larsen, who runs a Vancouver dispensary and is trying to push a referendum to decriminalize in the province, said his prices had dropped 20%, while Jodie Emery, wife of imprisoned "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery, said pound prices had dropped from $2,000 to $1,000.

Marijuana Decriminalization Clamor Grows in Bermuda. The Bermudan government has already signaled it is willing to discuss the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, and now the opposition is making similar noises. The government said in its Throne Speech that it is working on the possibility of decriminalization, and the opposition People's Labor Party Shadow Finance Minister David Burt has replied, saying his party wants the removal of criminal penalties for possession of small amounts, options for the medical use of marijuana on the island, and the regulation of the sale and use of the drug.

South Australia Ready to March Resolutely Backward on Pot Policy. Parliamentarians in South Australia are preparing to amend the state's marijuana laws for the worse. The changes would reduce the amount of marijuana punishable only by a fine from 100 grams to 25 grams, and carrying more than 25 grams would be a criminal offense. The measure would also double the fine, from $150 to $300. There are also plans afoot to increase the penalties for marijuana cultivation.

UN Drug Bureaucrats Fret About Uruguay's Marijuana Legalization

Uruguay is blowing off the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) as it prepares to become the first country to legalize marijuana commerce, and the INCB is "concerned." The South American nation failed to send a delegation to Vienna to listen to the INCB complain about its plans.

INCB President Raymond Yans is "concerned" about Uruguay (incb.org)
"The INCB has noted with concern that the Government of Uruguay was unable to send a delegation to the just concluded INCB session to discuss the status of the country's compliance with the international drug control conventions," the global anti-drug bureaucrats complained.

The INCB is also "very concerned that the draft legislation currently being considered in Uruguay would, if adopted, legalize production, sale and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes."

"This would be in contravention of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which has been adopted by 186 countries, including Uruguay," said INCB President Raymond Yans. "Cannabis is controlled due to its dependence-producing potential, and the current development in Uruguay, if pursued, would have serious repercussions for public health, particularly for youth, and would be in violation of the United Nations international drug control treaties."

Uruguay's marijuana legalization bill, backed by President Jose Mujica, has already passed the lower house of parliament and is set for a vote soon in the upper house. Since the governing party has majorities in both houses, passage is seen as extremely likely.

The INCB complained earlier this year when the bill passed the lower house, but that has not deterred Uruguay from moving forward. Neither will this latest volley from Geneva, but the INCB refuses to give up.

"The INCB looks forward to Uruguay resuming its dialogue with the Board at the earliest possible opportunity, prior to further consideration of the draft legislation in the country," Yans said hopefully.

Chronicle AM -- November 15, 2013

The future of medical marijuana under Washington state's legalization scheme remains a hot topic, the DEA is banning more new synthetics, there are contradictory signals from Holland, and more news, too. Let's get to it:

Amsterdam cannabis cafes near schools will have to close during the day, although kids can't go in them anyway. (wikimedia.org)
Medical Marijuana

Hundreds Pack Washington State Medical Marijuana Meeting. Medical marijuana patients and providers by the hundreds attended a public hearing in Lacey Wednesday, the final day for public comment on state regulators' proposed plans to do away with medical marijuana grows, shutter dispensaries, and reduce the amount of medicine patients may possess. Regulators essentially want to fold the state's medical marijuana program into its new marijuana legalization scheme. Patients and providers are not happy, and they let the regulators know it.

Former New Mexico Medical Marijuana Official to Speak in Iowa. Dr. Steve Jenison, the former medical director of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, will be in Iowa in coming weeks to make presentations about how the New Mexico program works. His visit comes as pressure to institute medical marijuana in the Hawkeye State is on the rise. Jenison will speak in Iowa City on November 19 and Des Moines on December 2. Click on the link for more details.

Synthetic Drugs

DEA Bans Three More New Synthetic Drugs. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Friday announced it was banning three new synthetic phenethylamines effective immediately. The drugs are 25I-NBOMe, 25C-NBOMe, and 25B-NBOMe, which the DEA describes as powerful psychedelics linked to at least 19 deaths in the US since March 2012. The ban is an emergency ban, placing them on Schedule I for the next two years, while the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services move to permanently ban them.

International

Amsterdam Cannabis Cafes Near Schools Must Shut Down During the Day. Beginning in January, all Amsterdam cannabis cafes within 250 meters of a secondary school will have to shut down during school hours, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said Friday. Thirty-one cannabis cafes will be affected, and the cafe operators' association isn't happy. "This cannot be true," the association said. "It's going to cause problems, and distance from a school is a non-issue. This policy is directed at school pupils but the under-18s don't get into a coffee shop anyway because of the tough controls. But our regulars will have to wait until 18.00 hours."

Most Dutch Municipalities Support Legal Marijuana Cultivation for Cannabis Cafes.Two-thirds of Holland's largest municipalities support some form of government-organized or -legalized marijuana production to supply cannabis cafes, NOS TV reported Friday. That would address the country's "back door problem," where retail sales of marijuana are allowed, but a legal supply for cannabis cafes is not. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten has said he opposes such a move, but has pledged to update parliament on the situation by year's end.

Czech Medical Marijuana Law Leaves Patients without a Legal Supply. The Czech Republic legalized medical marijuana earlier this year, but the estimated 20,000 patients who would be eligible to use it can't get it legally. Fingers are being pointed at the Health Ministry, which opposes it. The ministry banned insurance companies from paying for it, banned its use by people under 18, limited patients to only one ounce a month, and allows only four strains to be imported by Dutch medical marijuana producers -- at very high prices for a low-income country. But even the Dutch medi-weed hasn't arrived -- it may show up in December -- and when it does, pharmacies still won't be able to sell it until an electronic registry is set up.

Bermuda Public Safety Minister Doesn't Rule Out Marijuana Legalization. Bermuda Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley said Thursday that while he personally opposes marijuana legalization, he has not ruled out the possibility of legalizing the herb there. His remarks came in the context of rising interest in marijuana law reform in the island nation, where a public debate on decriminalization is set to happen soon. This is the first time a Bermudan public safety minister has expressed the slightest openness to legalization.

Bolivia Increases Size of Legal Coca Grows. The Bolivian government Wednesday set the amount of coca to be grown legally for traditional uses at 14,705 hectares, an increase of 2,000 hectares over previous years. The increase is needed to meet demand for coca for traditional uses, according to the Comprehensive Study of the Coca Leaf. But Bolivia cultivates nearly twice as much coca as is envisioned for traditional use.

Uruguay May Legalize Marijuana Any Week Now (was Day Now)

pamphlet distributed by NGO coalition that advocated for the Uruguay law
Update: We've heard that end of the month is more likely now.

Uruguay's House of Representatives passed a marijuana legalization bill, we reported last summer, with the Senate vote expected to be easier due to the wider majority held there by President Mujica's governing party. The Senate vote has been predicted to be around the middle of November, which means it could happen any day now. Stay tuned.

An article about it on infobae (in Spanish), the most recent news article I've seen about the imminent vote, has some disappointing quotes from Mexican and Brazilian officials about it. But perhaps these governments are just covering their backs in the diplomatic fray. Brazil's former president, Fernando Enrique Cardoso, is an outspoken advocate on this issue, and recently joined the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform via Skype as part of acceptance remarks for an award given on the last night of the event to the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

The Uruguay legislation, assuming it goes the right way as expected, will directly challenge the international drug treaties -- more so even than Washington and Colorado, because we still have federal law in force in those states, despite the changes to the state laws. It opens up the possibility for interesting new dynamics as the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs approaches, and the 2014 preparatory drug session.

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