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Chronicle AM: Bernie Sanders on Marijuana Policy, LA Reform Bill Advances, New DEA Head Nominated, More (5/21/15)

Marijuana continues to dominate the drug policy news, plus public benefits drug testing bills move in Maine and Wisconsin, the NYPD decides not to bust middle-aged dopers, and more.

Bernie Sanders (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Bernie Sanders Mellow on Marijuana. The Vermont senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination hinted at support for marijuana legalization during a Reddit question and answer session Tuesday, although he did not explicitly call for it. "I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana [when I was mayor]," Sanders said. "Our police had more important things to do." He said he supported decriminalization in Vermont and was watching Colorado closely. "Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana and I'm going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done,"Sanders said. "I will have more to say about this issue within the coming months."

Louisiana Marijuana Sentencing Reform Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved a bill that would reduce the state's draconian marijuana possession sentencing. The measure is Senate Bill 241.

Maine Legalization Bills Get Hearing. The Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday heard testimony on a pair of marijuana legalization bills. Sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), LD 1380 and its companion bill in the Senate would craft a regulatory structure for pot commerce and then put it before voters. If the legislature fails to act, the state could see two legalization initiatives next year.

Second Ohio Pot Legalization Initiative Certified for Signature-Gathering. The secretary of state's office has certified a legalization initiative from Better for Ohio, which means the group can now commence trying to gather the 306,000 signatures needed to qualify for this year's November ballot. Another group, ResponsibleOhio, is already in the signature-gathering phase.

No Decriminalization Initiative for Nashville. An effort by TN-NORML to put a marijuana decriminalization on the municipal ballot this year has apparently fallen short. Monday was the deadline day for handing in signatures, and TN-NORML didn't hand any in. Earlier, the group said it had only 4,000 signatures; it needed nearly 7,000 to qualify.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Governor Signs Bill Limiting Medical Marijuana Growers. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Monday signed into law a bill that will limit medical marijuana caregivers to growing no more than 99 plants. The bill is Senate Bill 15-014. The bill also allows parents to have someone other than themselves grow medical marijuana for child patients and allows school districts to consider allowing medical marijuana use on campus.

Drug Policy

Obama Nominates Chuck Rosenberg to Head DEA. FBI senior official and former US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg has been nominated to replace Michelle Leonhart as head of the DEA. For the last 18 months, Rosenberg has served as chief of staff to FBI Director James Comey. He previously served as US Attorney for Southern Texas and US Attorney for Eastern Virginia and has won support from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Public Benefits Drug Testing Bill Advances. A bill that would require applicants for welfare benefits, unemployment benefits, job training programs, and health coverage through the state-sponsored program to be assessed for drug use passed the Senate Budget Committee Wednesday. People whose assessments suggest they may be using drugs would have to take and pass a drug test to win benefits. A provision to include food stamp recipients was stripped out because it would likely be challenged by the federal government. The measure is Assembly Bill 192.

Maine Bill to Drug Test Food Stamp Recipients Gets Hearing. The Health and Human Services Committee heard Monday from the administration of Gov. Paul LePage (R) about its bill that would require people on the food stamp program to take a written screening test to see if they are using drugs. If the assessment suggested they may be using drugs, they would have to submit to a drug test. People who tested positive could keep their benefits as long as they sought and completed drug treatment. The bill would also bar people with drug felonies from getting food stamps.

Law Enforcement

NYPD To Not Bust Middle-Aged Drug Offenders. The NYPD last week issued a memo instructing its narcs not to bust drug offenders over age 40 and instead concentrate on younger dealers. The department considers younger drug suspects to be more dangerous.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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.)

Two Mississippi Cops Killed in Traffic Stop Turned Drug Search

The two Hattiesburg, Mississippi, police officers killed last Saturday died after a traffic stop turned into an attempted search for drugs and other contraband. Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate become the 23rd and 24th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Associated Press, Officer Deen, the department's drug dog handler, stopped a car driven by Joanie Calloway for speeding. Also in Calloway's vehicle were her boyfriend, Marvin Banks, and another passenger, Cornelius Clark.

Officer Deen decided to search the vehicle and called for backup. This is the point the incident turned from a "routine traffic stop" to a drug war incident. (At a Monday eulogy for Deen, his comrades described him as an enthusiastic officer who made "many drug arrests with his dog, Tomi, at his side.")

When Officer Tate arrived, Deen told the trio to get out of the car. At that point, Banks produced a weapon and shot both officers, Deen in the face and Tate in the lower back.

Both officers were wearing bulletproof vests, but the vests did not protect them from either the head shot or the shot to the back. Both died shortly thereafter.

According to USA Today, Banks has a drug-related criminal history, an ongoing drug habit, and mental issues. He was arrested for both the sale of crack cocaine and possession of a stolen firearm in a three-month period in 2010, and possession of marijuana in 2011. In 2013, he was arrested again on crack cocaine sales charges, and last October, he was arrested for trespass at the University of Southern Mississippi. He had already done two stints on prison, and the drug charge was still pending when he was pulled over.

Banks's mother, Mary Smith, told USA Today that he smoked synthetic marijuana on a daily basis and that he had been hearing voices since being attacked and struck over the head with a pipe several years ago.

"You could tell something was wrong with him," she said. "I hate it for these families that he wasn't in his right mind."

Now, Banks is charged with capital murder, Calloway is charged with being an accessory after the fact, and Clark is charged with obstructing justice. Deen will be buried Thursday and Tate's funeral is set for Sunday.

Hattiesburg, MS
United States

Chronicle AM: Million Marijuana Marches, WA April Rec Pot Sales Hit $25 Million, More (5/11/15)

It was a quiet weekend on the drug policy front, except for the Million Marijuana Marches in cities around the world, and all the news was marijuana-related.

It was Million Marijuana March weekend around the world. (Pete Brady/cannabisculture.com)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Parolees and Probationers Can Now Use Medical Marijuana. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Friday signed into law a bill allowing medical marijuana by people under criminal justice system supervision. Now, such people will not be charged with parole or probation violations for using it.

Ohio Politicians Look to Undercut Legalization Initiatives. Faced with as many as three looming marijuana legalization initiatives, some Buckeye State legislators are seeking to take the air out of the movement by pushing more incremental reforms, such as a CBD cannabis oil bill or a legislatively initiated medical marijuana ballot issue. But it remains unclear that even if such a measure should pass, it would reduce the pressure for full-blown legalization.

Washington State Had $25 Million in Recreational Marijuana Last Month. Recreational pot sales were $24.8 million in April, nearly double the January figure of $12.7 million and a dozen times higher than the $2 million in July 2014, the first month of legal marijuana sales. So far this year, pot sales have totaled $119.7 million, with $29.9 in projected retail excise tax revenues.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Appeals Judge's Ruling Blocking Parts of Restrictive Medical Marijuana Law. The attorney general's office last Wednesday appealed rulings by District Judge James Reynolds that blocked provisions of the law prohibiting advertising and the commercial sale of medical marijuana, as well as provisions limiting caregivers to three patients and subjecting doctors who recommend medical marijuana to extra scrutiny. Those provisions have never taken effect because of Reynolds' rulings.

International

Marijuana Legalization Actions Take Place Around the World. Thousands showed up in Rome, thousands more in Prague. Also, Paris and Berlin, and various Brazilian cities, among others.

Victoria, BC, to Regulate Pot Shops Like Vancouver. British Columbia's capital and second largest city is set to follow Vancouver down the path toward regulating -- instead of prohibiting -- marijuana shops. Local police are not opposed, the move could better control who enters the shops, and provisions can be made for nonprofit collectives that have operated for years, city officials said.

Colombia Suspends Use of Aerial Herbicide to Kill Coca Crops [FEATURE]

[This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and originally appeared here.]

No more of this. (wikipedia.org)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced today that he is halting the use of the herbicide glyphosate as part of a US-backed effort to destroy coca crops. More than four million acres of land in the country have been sprayed with the Monsanto-manufactured weed killer.

The US has paid for the program as part of its multi-billion dollar, decades-long anti-drug campaign in the country that had been (and might be again) the world's largest coca and cocaine producer. US contractors paid by the State Department do some of the spraying.

Santos acted a little more than a month after the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the herbicide is probably carcinogenic and days after the Colombian Health Ministry, citing the WHO report, recommended that the program be halted.

Critics of the spraying program had complained for years that the herbicide not only killed coca crops, but also injured people, livestock, and other plant life exposed to it. Those claims got some backing last year when Daniel Mejia, chairman of an expert panel advising the Colombian government on its drug strategy, published research showing high rates of skin problems and miscarriages in areas sprayed with glyphosate.

The move comes in the midst of peace talks between the Santos government and the rebels of the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces), who have been in rebellion against the government in Bogota for more than 50 years. The two sides had already agreed that aerial eradication should be used only as a last resort.

It was the strength of the rebels around the turn of the century that was a principal reason for the resort to aerial spraying. Their presence in coca-growing areas, where guerrilla fighters protected the crops, made manual eradication risky. At least 62 manual eradicators -- 48 of them soldiers -- have been killed since 2009 and nearly 400 injured, most of them the victims of guerrilla groups.

Colombian coca cultivation had declined for the previous six years, but jumped 39% last year, according to a US government report that came out last week. The conveniently timed report, which blamed the increase on new cultivation outside areas where aerial eradication was allowed, failed, however, to stop the Colombian government from suspending the program.

Chronicle AM: Fiorina on Drugs, Hawaii Dispensaries, Drugs on the UN Agenda More (5/8/15)

Marijuana reforms pass the Kansas House, a dispensary bill passes the Hawaii legislature, another Ohio legalization initiative is moving, one Republican presidential contender makes some nice noises about drug policy, and more.

GOP presidential contender Carly Fiorina stakes out some progressvie drug policy positions. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Kansas House Passes Marijuana Reform Bill. The House Thursday approved a bill that would decrease penalties for small-time marijuana possession, allow for the sale of CBD cannabis oil, and set up a study for uses of industrial hemp. The measure is House Bill 2049. It now heads to the Senate.

Ohio Legalization Initiative Approved by Attorney General. Attorney General Mike DeWine has approved the ballot summary for the "Legalize Marijuana and Hemp in Ohio" initiative proposed by Better for Ohio. The group is pushing this 2015 initiative as alternative to the controversial one being run by ResponsibleOhio, which would set up a 10-grower monopoly on commercial cultivation. The ResponsibleOhio initiative is already deep into its signature-gathering campaign.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Legislature Approves Dispensaries. Fifteen years after it gave the go-ahead to medical marijuana, the state legislature has gotten around to approving a bill that would allow up to 16 dispensaries statewide by mid-2016. House Bill 321 was approved unanimously in the Senate Thursday and passed the House the same day on a 38-13 vote. Gov. David Ige (D) is expected to sign the bill.

Drug Policy

Carly Fiorina Hints at Support for Drug Decriminalization, Would Leave Legal Marijuana States Alone. GOP presidential contender Carly Fiorina staked out some progressive drug policy ground Thursday in an interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board. "I would not, as president of the United States, enforce federal law in Colorado, where Colorado voters have said they want to legalize marijuana," she said, adding that she didn't personally support legalization. "I do not think they should legalize marijuana," she said. "If you look at a place like Colorado, we've sent the message that pot is just no big deal. And it's just not true." And on drug decriminalization, she had this to say: "I don't think it helps this nation to criminalize drug abuse," she said. "It is not helpful -- to the system, the community, or to a drug abuse victim -- it's not helpful to treat them as hardened criminals and throw them into jail."

International

China Urges UN to "Firmly Oppose" Drug Legalization. At a UN debate in preparation for next year's UNGASS on Drugs, China took a predictably hard line stance on legalization: "In recent years, there have been voices calling for the legalization of narcotic drugs and raising doubts about the three UN Conventions on drug control and other existing international drug control mechanisms," said Wang Min, China's deputy permanent representative at the world body. "This is not conducive to the healthy development of international drug control," he added.

Reformers Take on Drug Prohibition At UN. Not all countries agree with China, and global civil society is also active at the UNGASS on Drugs prep sessions. Click on the link to read Dave Borden's account of what's going on.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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: TX MJ Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote !); Decrim Advances in DE, IL, More (5/7/15)

Holy Cow! A marijuana legalization bill wins a committee vote in Texas! Also, decrim bills are moving in Delaware and Illinois, welfare drug testing gets shot down by Democrats in Iowa, but advances thanks to Republicans in Wisconsin, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Fourth California Legalization Initiative Filed. Busy, busy. Jason Porter and Lara Marie Collinsworth have filed the 2016 California Bipartisan Decriminalization of Cannabis Act. That's the fourth so far this year, and we're still waiting for the big one to drop. This one would legalize up to five pounds for personal possession and allow a 500 square foot garden. It would also force medical marijuana into a pharmacy system. There is a handy spreadsheet on the various proposals here.

Delaware Decriminalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of pot has passed the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee after its sponsor, Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington), said she would revise to address law enforcement concerns. It now includes language making public pot smoking or smoking in a vehicle a misdemeanor with a maximum $200 fine. The cops still oppose it, though. The bill is House Bill 39.

Illinois Decriminalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. A bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to 15 grams of pot passed the Senate Criminal Law Committee Wednesday. House Bill 218 has already passed the House and now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Texas House Committee Approves Legalization Bill. In a surprise move, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved an outright legalization bill on a 5-2 vote. The bill, House Bill 2165 now awaits a chance at a House floor vote.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois Medical Marijuana Extension Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill to extend the state's long-delayed medical marijuana pilot program is now headed for a final Senate vote. House Bill 3299 passed the House last month. It would extend the program for four years after the first dispensary opens.

Texas Senate Approves CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. The Senate today approved Senate Bill 339, the "Texas Compassionate Use Act," which would allow people with severe epileptic conditions to use CBD cannabis oil. The bill now goes to the House. The House is considering a companion bill, but it has not had a floor vote yet.

New Synthetic Drugs

New Hampshire House Approves Synthetic Drug Bill. The House voted Wednesday to restrict synthetic drugs. The bill, Senate Bill 106, would impose fines on persons who sell synthetic drugs and fines and other penalties on businesses that sold them, but would not penalize personal possession of the substances. The bill has already passed the Senate, but was amended in the House, so it needs to go bac for a final Senate vote.

Texas Senate Approves Synthetic Drug Bill. The Senate Wednesday passed Senate Bill 1582, which would allow the state health department to designate new synthetics as "hazardous controlled substances" until the legislature has time to ban them. The bill now goes to the House.

Asset Forfeiture

Oklahoma Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) today filed Senate Bill 838, the "Personal Asset Protection Act." The bill would require a criminal conviction before asset forfeiture can be undertaken. Although the bill is being filed late in the session, Loveless said it was an important issue and that he would hold an interim study to examine the issue.

Drug Testing

Iowa Welfare Drug Testing Defeated. Senate Democrats stood firm to defeat a welfare drug testing amendment proposed as part of a health and human services budget bill Wednesday. The amendment was defeated on a party-line vote, 26-23. The Senate also rejected an amendment that would have required drug testing for lawmakers.

Wisconsin Welfare Drug Testing Bill Moves. A bill that would require some public benefits recipients to undergo drug testing was approved by the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform Wednesday. The Republican-backed measure is Assembly Bill 192

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A ring of crooked North Carolina deputies gets popped, so do some Connecticut cops involved in a steroids rings, and so do more jail and prison guards. And more. So it goes. Let's get to it:

In Raleigh, North Carolina, seven former or current Northampton County deputies and three state prison guards were arrested last Thursday on drugs and weapons charges as part of a federal bust that also wrapped up five other people. The group is accused of conspiring to ship large consignments of heroin and cocaine to South Carolina and Maryland. They went down after Halifax County deputies passed on a tip they received about the ring, and the feds then created a sting they called "Operation Rockfish" to ensnare the crooked cops. Click on the link to read the names of those arrested.

In Dallas, a former Grapevine K-9 officer was indicted last Thursday on charges he stole and consumed drugs that were to be used to train his drug dog. Danny Macchio, 49, reported last October that his patrol car had been burglarized and that a gun and training drugs inside the vehicle were missing, but he later confessed to taking and using the drugs. He is now charged with tampering with physical evidence, abuse of official capacity, and misuse of government property.

In New Boston, Texas, three Bowie County jail guards were arrested last Thursday on charges they smuggled drugs, frozen coffee, and even milkshakes to prisoners in the jail. Keyandre Thirdgill, Billy Whitley, and Matthew Newman are all charged with introducing prohibited substances in a correctional facility.

In Huntsville, Alabama, a Madison County jail guard was arrested last Saturday on charges she was sneaking marijuana and other contraband to an inmate. Guard Jacquenette Allen went down after being seen on surveillance video delivering packages of marijuana for sale and cigarettes to an inmate "with whom she was in a relationship." She is charged with second-degree promoting prison contraband and suspended from her job without pay, pending an administrative hearing. She was being held in the jail where she worked on $10,000 bond.

In Newtown, Connecticut, a Newtown Police sergeant and a dispatcher were arrested Monday in "Operation Juice Box," a federal bust of a steroid and oxycodone distribution ring. Sgt. Steven Santucci, 38, and police dispatcher Jason Chikos, 46, were both charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids. They were among eight people arrested in the bust, and are described as buying large quantities of steroids from one of the other arrestees and them reselling them in smaller quantities.

In Wilmington, Delaware, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to 4 ½ years in state prison for smuggling drugs behind the bars. Darryl West, 28, was caught smuggling cell phones and marijuana into the prison. He was convicted of drug dealing, conspiracy, and promoting prison contraband in December.

Medical Marijuana Update

CBD cannabis oil bills become law in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, a similar bill is moving in Texas, Hawaii moves closer to allowing dispensaries, and more.

National

Last Thursday, the House narrowly defeated medical marijuana access for vets. An amendment from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to allow the Veterans Administration help veterans gain access to medical marijuana was defeated Thursday by a vote of 213-210. The amendment was to the spending bill to the Veterans Administration.

California

Last Thursday, the Assembly passed a medical marijuana organ transplant bill. The Assembly approved Assembly Bill 258, filed by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). The bill bars anyone in the organ transplant process from using a patient's use of medical marijuana to deny them a transplant, unless that use is clinically significant to the transplant process. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

On Monday, Clearlake officials said petitioners have gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the "zero tolerance" cultivation ordinance passed by the city council in February. That means the previous ordinance, which allowed for up to six plants, remains in effect. Now, the council will have to decide what to do.

Also on Monday, Huntington Beach strengthened its ban on dispensaries. The city council voted to clarify and toughen the ban, and to do so without the usual 30-day grace period. The vote was 4-3.

Also on Monday, Vallejo filed lawsuits against two dispensary ballot initiatives and is asking the courts to declare them invalid. It is also seeking a court order saying that it is not required to produce a ballot title and summary for the initiatives. The lawsuit claims the initiatives are "facially invalid on both constitutional and statutory grounds."

On Tuesday, the Eureka city council voted to approve two dispensaries within the city. The two dispensaries would be allowed to acquire the product elsewhere. An earlier version of the ordinance would have allowed four dispensaries that grow their own product.

Georgia

Last Thursday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed into law House Bill 1, the "Hailey's Hope Act." The law will allow qualifying patients to use CBD cannabis oils containing less than 5% THC. Click on the link to see the list of qualifying conditions.

Hawaii

Over the weekend, a dispensary bill came back from the dead. Negotiations over the dispensary bill, House Bill 321, collapsed last Friday, but after drama over the weekend, a Senate and House conference committee was set to reconsider the bill Monday. Sixteen of 25 senators had asked for reconsideration after conference committee chair Sen. Josh Green refused to agree to a final version of the bill. Senate President Donna Mercado then threw him off the committee, and Kim and House Speaker Joseph Souki sent out a letter late Friday saying the bill would be reconsidered today. Click on the link for all the juicy details.

On Tuesday, the dispensary bill won a final committee vote. A bill to finally bring dispensaries to the Aloha State has passed its final committee vote and now heads for a final legislative vote. House Bill 321 would allow for eight dispensaries statewide, with each allowed two retail locations and two grow sites.

Illinois

On Monday, an advisory board voted against adding anxiety and diabetes. The board has rejected adding anxiety and diabetes to the list of qualifying conditions and diseases, but is still considering whether to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

On Tuesday, the board expanded the list of qualifying illnesses. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Monday recommended adding PTSD and seven other illnesses and conditions to the list of those for which medical marijuana can be used. The decision isn't final; the Department of Public Health must approve.

Louisiana

Last Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill won a Senate committee vote. Only a year after overwhelmingly rejecting a similar bill, the Senate Health Committee unanimously approved a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 143, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills, Jr. (R-Parks). The bill is set for a Senate floor vote this week. The bill does not allow for smoked marijuana; only marijuana processed into oils.

On Monday, the Senate passed the medical marijuana bill. The Senate approved Senate Bill 143, which would allow people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and cerebral palsy to use the herb. It would create a single grow site and medical marijuana would be distributed through 10 pharmacies. The bill now heads to the House.

Missouri

On Monday, a CBD cannabis oil expansion bill won a committee vote. The bill, SB 386, passed unanimously out of the House Emerging Issues Committee Monday. It now goes to the Select Committee on General Laws.

Oklahoma

Last Thursday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) today signed into law House Bill 2154, also known as Katie and Cayman's Law. It allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil by children suffering from epileptic seizures and sets up a study program.

Rhode Island

On Monday, the state ACLU said it would file a lawsuit over employment rights. The ACLU of Rhode Island says it plans to file a complaint against an employer who refuses to hire medical marijuana patients, even though it is legal in the state. Lawsuits challenging the firing of medical marijuana users have been turned away in California and Michigan.

Tennessee

On Monday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed into law House Bill 1097, which will expand access to CBD cannabis oil.

Texas

On Monday, CBD cannabis oil bills moved in both chambers. Bills that would allow people suffering from epilepsy to use CBD cannabis oil won committee votes in both chambers Monday. Senate Bill 339 passed out of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on an 8-1 vote, while its companion measure, House Bill 892, was approved by the House Public Health Committee, also on an 8-1 vote. A Senate floor vote come could next week.

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

Chronicle AM: AZ AG Lets Officials Flout Election Laws, MT Gov Signs Forfeiture Reform Bill, More (5/6/15)

Lots of marijuana policy at the statehouse today, a Texas CBD cannabis oil bill moves, Montana's governor signs asset forfeiture reform into law, Vermont heads in the opposite direction on asset forfeiture, and more.

The pro-legalization billboard that went up in Providence this week.
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Attorney General Says Elected Officials Can Campaign Against Legalization. Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) says elected officials can engage in "public education campaigns" against looming marijuana legalization initiatives as long as they don't go as far as telling voters not to vote for them. That's an idiosyncratic interpretation of the state's electioneering laws, and the Marijuana Policy Project, which is backing an initiative there, is threatening to sue.

Iowa Senate Approves Marijuana Bill With Multiple Provisions. The Senate voted Tuesday to approve a bill originally designed to go after synthetic drugs, but which was amended to lessen penalties for possession of five grams or less and to reclassify marijuana from Class I to Class 2. The bill, House File 567, already passed the House, but has to go back for members to vote on the changes made in the Senate.

Louisiana Bill to Lessen Marijuana Penalties Moves. A bill that would decrease maximum sentences for repeat marijuana possession offenders was approved by the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee today. House Bill 149, from Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) would make a second offense punishable by only two years in prison instead of five and a third offense punishable by only five years instead of 20. Passage of the bill would move Louisiana's marijuana sentencing from the insanely draconian to the merely harshly draconian. It now heads to the House floor.

Rhode Island House Approves Bill to Bar Disclosure of Minor Marijuana Offenses. With no debate, the House voted 67-1 Tuesday to bar the public disclosure of the names of people who had been busted only once or twice for marijuana possession. The move addressed two conflicting provisions of the state's 2012 decriminalization law, one of which said records would be sealed 18 months after the payment of fines and another of which said they were to stay sealed.

East Lansing, MI, Votes to Legalize Marijuana. Voters there approved a local legalization initiative with 65% of the vote. The initiative legalizes up to an ounce for people 21 and over on private property. It also allows for the transfer of up to an ounce. Marijuana possession remains illegal under state law.

Rhode Island Activists Put Up Billboard. As the legislature contemplates legalization, Regulate Rhode Island has unveiled a billboard aimed at getting solons' attention and showing them legalization could bring jobs and cash to the state.

Medical Marijuana

Texas CBD Cannabis Oil Bills Move. Bills that would allow people suffering from epilepsy to use CBD cannabis oil won committee votes in both chambers Monday. Senate Bill 339 passed out of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on an 8-1 vote, while its companion measure, House Bill 892, was approved by the House Public Health Committee, also on an 8-1 vote. A Senate floor vote come could next week.

Asset Forfeiture

Montana Governor Signs Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Gov. Steve Bullock (D) Tuesday signed into law HB 463, which would require police to win a conviction before undertaking asset forfeiture proceedings. It also raises the bar for seizures, requiring police to show "clear and convincing evidence" that the property was not legally obtained. Civil asset forfeiture reform has also become law this year in New Mexico.

Vermont House Approves Bill Making Asset Forfeiture Easier. Going against the asset forfeiture reform grain, the House Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that makes it easier for prosecutors to seize the assets of those involved in drug crimes. The bill is S.102 and is supported by law enforcement. The bill was set for a third reading today, and if approved, it would go back to the Senate for approval of changes, or the Senate could call for a conference committee.

Drug Testing

California Roadside Drug Testing Bill Killed. A bill that would have let police use a device similar to a breathalyzer to test drivers for the presence of drugs died in the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday. The bill, Assembly Bill 1356, was supported by law enforcement, but opposed by defense attorneys and the Drug Policy Alliance.

Chronicle AM: Mexico Drug War Flares Up, Colombia Coca Crops Up, Global Call to UN, More (5/5/15)

Mexico drug war flares, Colombia coca production jumps, a Texas decrim bill is moving, so is a Hawaii dispensary bill and a Louisiana medical marijuana bill. And more.

Coca production is up in Colombia. It could end up as cocaine, like this haul seized by Spanish police.
Marijuana Policy

Texas Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. After failing in a close vote last week, a bill to decriminalize marijuana advanced Monday night. House Bill 507, sponsored by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) passed the House Jurisprudence Committee on a 4-2 vote. It would make possession of up to an ounce a civil infraction with a maximum $250 fine.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Dispensary Bill Wins Final Committee Vote. A bill to finally bring dispensaries to the Aloha State has passed its final committee vote and now heads for a final legislative vote. House Bill 321 would allow for eight dispensaries statewide, with each allowed two retail locations and two grow sites.

Illinois Advisory Board Expands List of Qualifying Illnesses. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Monday recommended adding PTSD and seven other illnesses and conditions to the list of those for which medical marijuana can be used. The decision isn't final; the Department of Public Health must approve.

Louisiana Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Monday approved Senate Bill 143, which would allow people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and cerebral palsy to use the herb. It would create a single grow site and medical marijuana would be distributed through 10 pharmacies. The bill now heads to the House.

Missouri CBD Cannabis Oil Expansion Bill Wins Committee Vote. The bill, SB 386, passed unanimously out of the House Emerging Issues Committee Monday. It now goes to the Select Committee on General Laws.

Tennessee Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) Monday signed into law House Bill 1097, which will expand access to CBD cannabis oil.

Hemp

Missouri Hemp Bill Wins Committee Vote. The bill, HB 830, which would legalize hemp production in the state, passed the Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee on a 6-1 vote. It now heads to the Senate floor.

Drug Policy

Carly Fiorina: "Drug Addiction Shouldn't Be Criminalized." Newly-announced GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina said Monday that the country needs to find a new way to deal with drug addiction. "Drug addiction shouldn't be criminalized," Fiorina said during a conference call with reporters on Monday. "We need to treat it appropriately." She added that "decriminalizing drug addiction and drug use" is good public policy.

Law Enforcement

Gloucester, Massachusetts, Police To Stop Arresting Addicts If They Seek Help. Police in Gloucester say that if drug users come to them and turn in their drugs and/or paraphernalia, they will not be charged with criminal offenses, but will instead be offered treatment in partnership with two local medical centers. "We are poised to make revolutionary changes in the way we treat this disease," Chief Leonard Campanello said. The new policy goes into effect in June.

International

Reform Groups Release Letter Calling on UN to Respect Drug Policy Reforms. More than a hundred human rights, public health and drug and justice reform groups have released an open letter calling on the UN to respect countries' moves to end drug prohibition and to emphasize human rights over harsh law enforcement responses. The move is part of the run-up to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs next year. And check out that website where the letter is. [Disclosure: We organized the letter.]

Coca Production Up Dramatically in Colombia. Coca production jumped 39% last year, according to a new White House report. The report comes as pressure mounts on Colombia to end its US-backed program of aerial herbicide spraying on coca crops after the WHO called glyphosate a carcinogen. The reported increase came after six years of declining or steady production.

Mexican Government Declares War on Jalisco New Generation Cartel. In the wake of a violent week that saw presumed cartel gunmen shoot down a military helicopter, killing six soldiers, along with shootouts, blockades, and vehicle-burnings, the Mexican government says it is going to war against the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which it blames for the violence. "The full force of the Mexican state will be felt in the state of Jalisco," an official vowed Monday. "Satisfactory results will start to be seen very soon."

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