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HI Legal Pot Bill Keeps Advancing, Global Drug Executions Hit Record High Last Year, More... (3/20/24)

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South Dakota's MAGA governor cracks down on dispensaries and insults Native Americans, a Pennsylvania bill would end cash bail for some fentanyl offenses, and more.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is under fire for comments about Indiaan reservations and drug cartels. (Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore)
Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Continues Advance in House. A marijuana legalization bill drafted by the state attorney general and has already passed the Senate, Senate Bill 335, continues its advance in the House. On Tuesday, the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee voted 7–3 on Tuesday in favor of the bill.

The bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of weed and five grams of concentrates by people 21 and over. The bill also allows for the home cultivation of up to six plants and a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. 

It now moves to the House Finance Committee. 

The measure has been amended in the House to ease some rules and penalties after advocates argued they were too harsh, and the Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee on Tuesday amended it again to require that pot businesses have labor peace agreements with labor unions. 

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Governor Signs Bill Removing Some Dispensary Protections. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has signed into law Senate Bill 71, which allows local law enforcement to inspect, search, seize, prosecute, or impose disciplinary action on medical marijuana dispensaries. This includes medical marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities.

The bill passed and was signed into law over the objections of opponents, who pointed out that law enforcement already has the right to search such facilities if it has probable cause. The presence of police at a dispensary will be intimidating and violate patients' confidentiality, they argued to no avail. 

Drug Policy

Pennsylvania Bill Would Require Cash Bail for Some Fentanyl Offenses. A bill touted as an effort to ensure that people with histories of violent offenses do not get cash bail, Senate Bill 1120 from Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-Allegheny County), also contains a provision that would deny cash bail to people found with more than 10 grams of fentanyl. 

"There was a case where someone was arrested and they were on the terrorism watch and they were released on their own recognizance and they fled the country," said Robinson in justifying his legislation. "A person with a history of violence in the past five years cannot be issued a release on their own recognizance, there has to be a monetary bail set," Robinson said.

Similarly, Robinson justified the fentanyl language in the bill by pointing to the release on his own recognizance of Yan Carlos Pichardo Cepeda, who was arrested after he was allegedly found with $1.5 million worth of the drug. Pichardo Cepeda was released on his own recognizance and his since vanished. 

The bill has already been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and could come up for a Senate floor vote any day now. 

South Dakota Governor Takes Heat from Tribes Over Claim Tribal Leaders are Profiting from Cartels. Working to burnish her MAGA credentials, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said a week ago today that corrupt tribal leaders were working with Mexican drug cartels to bring drugs to Indian reservations, and that has sparked an angry response from the tribes. 

"We’ve got some tribal leaders that I believe are personally benefiting from the cartels being here and that’s why they attack me every day," Noem said during a town hall meeting in Winner, just down the road from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. The cartels were coming through the reservations to traffic drugs, sex, and children, she added. 

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe was not amused: "Governor Noem’s racially prejudiced remarks about tribal presidents and tribal councils being focused on a ‘political agenda’ are simply not true," the letter said. "Governor Noem’s malicious remarks that tribal officials ‘benefit’ from the presence of cartels without any evidence, is made without any basis in truth and is defamatory and libelous," it said in a letter released this week. 

The letter also said the Republican governor spoke from "ignorance and with the intention to fuel a racially based and discriminatory narrative toward Native people." 

Similarly, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe chairman Peter Lengkeek, demanded that Noem provide evidence for her claims. "I wanna ask her, ‘Where is her proof of this financial benefit that we are receiving? Where’s the proof? Show it to me,’" he  said. 

Lengkeek said he initially did not want to "give life" to Noem's remarks, but that Native Americans are suffering from being racially profiled in the state. 

"We’ve had a lot of people pulled over off-reservation and just held up, their cars destroyed by doing drug checks because they think we’re carrying cartel drugs," he said. "It’s really upsetting and what (Noem) did was create an environment that is conducive to racial profiling and hate crimes. … She made life really difficult on Indigenous people here in South Dakota."


Record Number of People Executed for Drug Offenses, New Report Finds. In its annual report, Harm Reduction International (HRI) says that at least 467 people were executed for drug offenses last year, a new record. HRI has been tracking the resort to the death penalty for drugs since 2007. 

"Despite not accounting for the dozens, if not hundreds, of executions believed to have taken place in China, Vietnam, and North Korea, the 467 executions that took place in 2023 represent a 44% increase from 2022," HRI said in its report, which was released on Tuesday.

Drug executions account for more than four out of 10 executions worldwide, HRI found. 

HRI said it had confirmed drug executions in Iran, Kuwait, and Singapore, but that state secrecy surrounds drug executions in countries including China, North Korea, and Vietnam.  

"Information gaps on death sentences persist, meaning many (if not most) death sentences imposed in 2023 remain unknown," the report said. "Most notably, no accurate figure can be provided for China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand. These countries are all believed to regularly impose a significant number of death sentences for drug offenses."

International law prohibits the use of the death penalty for crimes that are not intentional and of "the most serious" nature. The United Nations has stressed that drug offenses do not meet that threshold.

At the end of 2023, some 34 countries continued to retain the death penalty for drug crimes.

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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