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Biden Promotes Marijuana Reform in State of the Union, Progressive DAs Fend Off Challengers, More... (3/8/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
Consequences of Prohibition

The END FENTANYL Act has passed Congress, Colorado regulators roll out preliminary rules for psychedelic healing centers, and more. 

Joe Biden used his State of the Union address Thursday night to talk up marijuana reform--if not legalization. (
Marijuana Policy

Biden Promotes Marijuana Reform in State of the Union Address. In a historic first, a sitting president used his State of the Union address to stress marijuana reform as President Biden reiterated his position that no one should be imprisoned for pot possession, touted his mass pardons of marijuana offenders, and emphasized that he initiated a review of marijuana scheduling that should soon lead to the herb's reclassification as a less strictly regulated drug. 

In prepared remarks released before the speech itself, Biden said he is "expunging thousands of convictions for the mere possession because no one should be jailed for simply using or having it on their record."

He also touted his move "directing my Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana."

While Biden's pot remarks are notable, it is also worth noting that he remains opposed to marijuana legalization, even though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has embraced it. 

Drug Policy

Congress Approves Bill Aimed at Fentanyl Smuggling. With a final House floor vote Thursday, the Congress has approved S. 206, also known as the Eradicating Narcotic Drugs and Formulating Effective New Tools to Address National Yearly Losses of Life (END FENTANYL) Act. Cosponsored by Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), the bill would require the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to update its drug interdiction guidance at least once every three years to ensure it is up to date. Currently, many CBP policies that outline drug interdiction practices are outdated and do not provide guidance on how to handle drugs like fentanyl.

"When I visited the southern border earlier this year, I saw firsthand how law enforcement is working hard every day to stop the flow of fentanyl and deadly drugs into our country," said Senator Rosen. "Our bipartisan legislation will support law enforcement’s efforts by giving them the additional tools and training necessary to prevent fentanyl smuggling and help save lives. Far too many communities across Nevada have been impacted by the fentanyl crisis, and I’m glad to see our bipartisan END FENTANYL Act is now headed to the president’s desk to become law."

"America’s fentanyl overdose and poisoning crisis has become truly horrific. And sadly, it can all be traced back to a lack of border security and the trafficking of this deadly poison across our border with Mexico," said Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council, the union for CBP employees, which has embraced a hard line on border issues. 

Judd also applauded the passage of the "bipartisan legislation that will improve CBP’s detection of lethal narcotics such as fentanyl. We must do everything we can to stop the flow of hard narcotics like fentanyl from coming into our country and we will continue to push for border security solutions that keep these poisons out of our communities."

There have been several bills filed this legislative session aimed at addressing the border crisis—or at least appearing to do so—some of which include language about using the US military against Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The END FENTANYL Act is comparatively relatively anodyne. 

Progressives Fare Well in District Attorney Races. Progressive district attorneys, notable for their relaxed attitudes toward drug offenses and broader orientation toward criminal justice reform, have been under attack from conservatives across the land, but fared well in some important races on Super Tuesday. 

In Texas, Travis County (Austin) DA Jose Garza (D) easily won his primary in the face of a well-funded campaign to remove him where opponents including Elon Musk trumpeted overwrought and apocalyptic claims about crime. 

Also in Texas, Harris County (Houston) DA Kim Ogg (D) was defeated in a landslide by more progressive challenger Sean Teare, who won the primary with 75 percent of the vote. 

In California, Los Angeles County DA George Gascon (D) did not do as well, winning only 23 percent of the vote in a crowded field. But that made him the biggest vote-getter in the race, coming in five points ahead of his nearest challenger, and leaving him well-placed in a November run-off election. 

Conservative critics managed to knock off one progressive DA, Chesa Boudin (D) in San Francisco last year, but their campaigns to defeat progressive DAs by criticizing their approaches to crime and tying them to rightwing bogeyman George Soros, do not have a good track record .


Colorado Releases Draft Rules for Psychedelic Treatment Centers. The state Department of Regulatory Authorities (DORA) has released the preliminary requirements for persons or entities seeking to obtain a license to operate a psychedelic treatment center.

Among those requirements are being 21 or older, having no felony convictions, having proof of basic life-support training such as CPR, and completing 190 hours of training programs in natural medicine. 

The regulations come from a 15-member advisory board and include rules about training, education programming, and licensing requirements. They focus on the treatment centers, where people can legally use psychedelics in a supervised setting. 

Proponents of the program like what they see so far. "Overall, we're really impressed," said Taia Poinsatte, state director of the Healing Advocacy Fund, which consulted on the rule-making. 

Colorado is only the second state—after Oregon—to approve such centers. The move came when voters in 2022 approved an initiative allowing for the centers and decriminalizing the possession of five natural psychedelics: psilocybin, psilocin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, and mescaline.

(This article was prepared by's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. 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.)

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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