Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

State, Local Regulators Call on Congress to Move on MORE Act, Rwanda to Allow MedMJ Exports, More... (10/23/20)

Rwanda okays medical marijuana exports, state and local marijuana regulators want Congress to move on marijuana legalization, and more.

Colombian officals say Mexican drug cartels are the biggest customers for Colombia's cocaine. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

State and Municipal Cannabis Regulators Call on Congress to Prioritize Federal Marijuana Reform. Joined by the Drug Policy Alliance, state and municipal cannabis regulators from across the country are calling on Congress to prioritize federal marijuana reform by passing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) when it comes up for a vote on the House floor following the November 2020 election. In a letter to Congress, regulators said "by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, respecting state’s policies regarding legalization, affording legitimate cannabis businesses access to resources that allow them to be compliant and tax-paying businesses, developing and funding programs aimed at equitable participation in the cannabis industry and acknowledging and addressing the war on drugs and its impacts, the MORE Act would ensure that the federal government is a partner to state and municipal regulators both in our collective responsibility to serve our community through the reform of negatively impactful cannabis policies and in our collective responsibility to recognize and correct injustices."

International

Colombian Official Says Mexican Cartels Top Buyers of Country's Cocaine."The Mexicans are the principal buyers of the supply of coca produced in Colombia," Rafael Guarin, presidential adviser for security said Wednesday. "Fundamentally, the Mexicans take charge of the buying, trafficking and sale in the United States." He named the Sinaloa, Jalisco New Generation, Zetas, and Beltran-Leyva cartels as the top buyers and traffickers of cocaine produced by criminal groups in Colombia, including current and former leftist rebels.

Rwandan Government Okays Medical Marijuana Exports. The Rwanda Development Board announced earlier this month that the government has approved the cultivation of medical marijuana for export as it seeks to target markets in the US and Europe. The country will soon begin taking applications for licenses from interested investors. The board made it clear that "this investment framework does not affect the legal status of cannabis consumption in Rwanda, which remains prohibited."

MT Supreme Court Throws Out Lawsuit Against Pot Initiatives, US Imprisonment Rate at 25-Year Low, More... (10/22/20)

The Montana marijuana legalization initiatives have survived a last-minute legal challenge, the ACLU and DPA challenge the murder conviction of a meth-using California woman whose fetus was stillborn, and more.

There are fewer people behind bars in the US again this year. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Supreme Court Quickly Rejects Lawsuit Against Marijuana Ballot Initiatives. The Montana Supreme Court denied and dismissed a lawsuit seeking to remove CI-118 and I-190, the complementary marijuana legalization initiatives, from the November ballot. I-190 is a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that would allow I-190 to set the minimum age at 21. The initiatives are complementary and work together to establish a careful framework for legalizing marijuana in Montana. 

Reproductive Rights

ACLU, DPA File Brief in Support of Motion to Reopen Case of Meth-Using California Woman Convicted of Murder for Stillborn Birth. The ACLU of Northern California and Drug Policy Alliance filed briefs in support of a motion to allow for Adora Perez, who is serving 11 years in prison for manslaughter after delivering a stillbirth baby, to appeal her case. Attorneys Mary McNamara and Audrey Barron of Swanson & McNamara LLP and Matthew Missakian of the Law Office of C. Matthew Missakian filed the motion, arguing that "Ms. Perez was prosecuted for a crime that doesn’t exist and is now imprisoned basedon a plea that shouldn’t have been accepted." Perez was charged with murder in 2017 for taking methamphetamines while pregnant, even though "California law explicitly exempts women from murder liability for any actions they take that may end their pregnancy." Her attorney at the time told her to plead guilty to manslaughter and serve 11 years in prison to avoid worse charges.

Sentencing Policy

US Imprisonment Rate at Lowest Rate Since 1995.he combined state and federal imprisonment rate of 419 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2019 was the lowest imprisonment rate since 1995, the Bureau of Justice Statistics announced Thursday. The imprisonment rate in 2019 marked a 17% decrease from 2009 and a 3% decrease from 2018, and it marked the 11th consecutive annual decrease. The imprisonment rate—the portion of U.S. residents who are in prison—is based on prisoners sentenced to more than one year. An estimated 14% of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for murder or non-negligent manslaughter at year-end 2018, and 13% were serving time for rape or sexual assault. At the end of fiscal-year 2019, 46% of sentenced federal prisoners were serving time for a drug offense (99% for drug trafficking), and 8% were serving time for a violent offense. The total prison population in the U.S. declined from 1,464,400 at year-end 2018 to 1,430,800 at year-end 2019, a 2% decrease. This marked the fifth consecutive annual decrease of at least 1% in the prison population. At year-end 2019, the prison population had declined 11% from its peak of 1,615,500 prisoners in 2009.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's jail guards gone wild, an Idaho city marshal gets nailed for peddling pot on duty, a South Carolina deputy heads to federal prison after getting caught in a drug sting, and more. Let's get to it:

In Bellevue, Idaho, the city marshal was arrested last Tuesday after Idaho State Police investigators got a tip he was peddling pot while on duty. Marshal William Scaggs, 36, was arrested at the county courthouse and is charged with felony delivery of a controlled substance.

In Lisbon, Ohio, a Colombiana County Jail guard was arrested last Friday for allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail. Guard Jordan Thurmond went down after authorities heard allegations about drugs in the jail and searched Thurmond, finding amphetamines, Oxycodone, and marijuana in his backpack. He is charged with illegal conveyance of prohibited items.

In May's Landing, New Jersey, an Atlantic Justice Facility jail guard was arrested last Friday for allegedly smuggled drugs and cellphones into the jail. Guard Luis Mercado, 25, went down after an investigation by local authorities and is now charged with second-degree misconduct.

In Orangeburg, South Carolina, a former Orangeburg County sheriff's deputy was sentenced last Wednesday to four years in federal prison after being snared in a drug sting. Stanley Lavalle Timmons was one of several officers who agreed to guard a semi-trailer truck they believed was filled with drugs, but was really part of an FBI sting. He was originally charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, but eventually agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy several months prior to sentencing.

In Atlanta, Georgia, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to 10 years in federal prison for drug trafficking. Lakesia Harden went down after police went to a residence she shared with her boyfriend to arrest him for a probation violationand found two small packages containing methamphetamine and 10 containing marijuana. The packages were wrapped to be smuggled into prison. In October 2019 she was convicted of one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and methamphetamine.

In Bolivar, Tennessee, a former Hardeman County jail guard was sentenced Tuesday to five years in federal prison after he was found guilty of smuggling drugs into the jail. Former guard Shontavis Rivers, 21, went down when a drug dog alerted on him as he arrived at work. Under questioning my local police officers, he admitted he had meth and cocaine on him and that he had smuggled drugs on two prior occasions.

Medical Marijuana Update

Missouri and Virginia see their first medical marijuana sales, a Mississippi medical marijuana initiative campaign gets in trouble with the Trump campaign, and more.

Mississippi

Trump Campaign Demands Mississippi Activists Quit Saying He Supports Medical Marijuana Initiative. Although President Trump has repeatedly said he supports medical marijuana, his campaign has mailed a cease and desist letter to Mississippians for Compassionate Care after it used his name, image, or likeness in support of Initiative 65. "President Trump has never expressed support for Initiative 65, and his campaign demands that you immediately cease and desist all activities using the President’s name, image, or likeness in support of the legalization of medical marijuana in Mississippi,"the letter stated. The campaign had recently sent out mailers urging voters to "Join President Trump" in supporting medical marijuana in the state. The campaign responded thusly: "President Trump has clearly stated on multiple occasions that he supports medical marijuana. That is all that we’ve shared – the truth,"said Mississippians for Compassionate Care Communications Director Jamie Grantham.

Missouri

Missouri Sees First Medical Marijuana Sales. Legal medical marijuana went on sale for the first time in the state over the weekend. The first dispensaries opened in St. Louis county, one in Ellisville and one in Manchester. The state has already approved 65,000 patients to use medical marijuana.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Legalization Activists Get Working on 2022. After qualifying for the 2020 ballot and then getting stiffed by the state Supreme Court, which held that the initiative embraced more than one subject, the two state senators who lead Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld, recently filed new petition language with Secretary of State Bob Evnen for voters to consider for the 2022 ballot. The new language is simple and straightforward: "Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes." Now, they will have to recreate the successful 2020 signature-gathering campaign to get back on the ballot in 2022.

New Mexico

New Mexico Judge Orders State Health Department to Loosen Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Rules. First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson in Santa Fe ruled last Tuesday that reciprocal medical marijuana patients can buy, possess and use medical marijuana in New Mexico, regardless of whether their identification matches the state where their medical recommendation to use cannabis came from. His order will also allow New Mexicans to get a recommendation to use medical marijuana from another state and become a reciprocal patient in New Mexico. 

Virginia

Virginia Sees First Medical Marijuana Sales. Legal medical marijuana went on sale for the first time in the state over the weekend. Dharma Pharmaceuticals opened its doors to registered patients on Saturday morning. The shop was seeing patients by appointment only as a coronavirus precaution.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org'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.

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges Over Oxycontin, Another NJ Pot Poll Looking Good, More... (10/21/20)

The Trump campaign demands a Mississippi medical marijuana initiative campaign cease and desist from saying he supports it, the Transform Drug Policy Foundation releases a book on how to regulate stimulants, and more.

Purdue Pharma will pay more than $8 billion in a criminal case around Oxycontin. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Another New Jersey Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Cruising Toward Victory. ABrach Eichler Cannabis Poll released Tuesday has support for the marijuana legalization initiative at 65%, with 29% opposed and 6% undecided. This is the fourth Brach Eichler poll to show support at around two-thirds, while a Fairleigh Dickinson poll released earlier this month had support at 61%. It looks like the Garden State will free the weed next month.

Medical Marijuana

Trump Campaign Demands Mississippi Activists Quit Saying He Supports Medical Marijuana Initiative. Although President Trump has repeatedly said he supports medical marijuana, his campaign has mailed a cease and desist letter to Mississippians for Compassionate Care after it used his name, image, or likeness in support of Initiative 65. "President Trump has never expressed support for Initiative 65, and his campaign demands that you immediately cease and desist all activities using the President’s name, image, or likeness in support of the legalization of medical marijuana in Mississippi,"the letter stated. The campaign had recently sent out mailers urging voters to "Join President Trump" in supporting medical marijuana in the state. The campaign responded thusly: "President Trump has clearly stated on multiple occasions that he supports medical marijuana. That is all that we’ve shared – the truth,"said Mississippians for Compassionate Care Communications Director Jamie Grantham.

Drug Treatment

Massachusetts Attorney General Sues Drug Treatment Center Chain for Medicare Fraud. The state attorney general's office filed suit last Friday against Total Wellness Centers LLC, CleanSlate Centers Inc., and CleanSlate Centers LLC (collectively "CleanSlate) for allegedly submitting millions of dollars in false claims to the state Medicaid program. The complaint alleges CleanSlate submitted millions of dollars in false claims for urine drug screens that were medically unnecessary and violated state and federal self-referral laws because the tests were done at their own lab. "This company’s business model was to illegally profit by cheating our state Medicaid program, which provides vital health care resources to some of our most vulnerable residents," Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. "We will take legal action against this kind of misconduct in order to recover funds for our state and protect the integrity of MassHealth."

Opioids

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges for Opioid Sales. The Justice Department has announced that Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, has agreed to plead guilty to charges of defrauding federal health agencies and violating anti-kickback laws and will pay penalties of $8.3 billion, including $225 million coming from individual members of the Sackler family, which owned Purdue Pharma. The rollout and aggressive marketing of Oxycontin in the late 1990s helped set the stage for the country's opioid epidemic of the early 21st Century.

International

Bolivia's MAS Wins Presidential Election, Will Maintain Evo's Coca Policy. A year after long-time president Evo Morales was forced from office after disputed elections, his former economics minister, Luis Arce, cruised to an electoral victory, winning 52% of the vote in a multi-party election and avoiding the need for a runoff election. Arce said that while he has no problem with the United States, he will maintain Morales' coca policy, under which legal coca cultivation was allowed.

British Drug Reformers Call for the Government to Sell Cocaine and Ecstasy in Pharmacies. In a book just published, the Transform Drug Policy Foundation has created a "how to" for allowing legal sales of stimulant drugs such as cocaine, Ecstasy, and amphetamines. The group recommends selling the drugs in individual doses at state-run special pharmacies as an alternative to the "unwinnable war on drugs."The book is How to Regulate Stimulants: A Practical Guide. Look for a Chronicle review once my copy arrives.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org'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.

Filipino President Says Hold Him Responsible for Drug War Killings; NM Pot, Decriminalization Poll, More... (10/20/20)

New York should be advancing marijuana legalization early next year, Mexico's Senate should be voting on marijuana legalization by month's end, and more.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte says to hold him responsible for drug war killings. Talk is cheap. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York Governor's Advisor Says State Will Legalize Marijuana by April. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top advisor on marijuana, David Culver, said that marijuana legalization legislation will be included in the state budget in January and that the goal was to get it passed by April. The moves will come as neighboring New Jersey votes on legalization in two weeks. "We’re watching New Jersey closely. We’ve always been confident that we get to this before New Jersey, so if they pass the referendum they still have to have agreement between the governor the Senate over there," Culver said, referring to necessary implementing legislation that will need to be approved if voters pass the ballot question. "We’re working on this. We’re going to reintroduce this in our budget in January. We think we can get it done by April 1."

Drug Policy

New Mexico Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization, Near Majority Support for Drug Decriminalization. A poll sponsored by Drug Policy Action, the political and lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, has support for marijuana legalization with social equity provisions at 72%, support for drug defelonization at 62%, and support for drug decriminalization at 49%. Gov. Michelle Luhan Grisham (D) has called for marijuana legalization, but it has yet to get through the legislature.

International

Mexican Senate Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization by Month's End, Majority Leader Says. Ricardo Monreal, Senate leader of the ruling MORENA Party, has said the Senate will vote to approve the bill before the end of October. The legislature is operating under the pressure of a twice-extended Supreme Court deadline since the court declared marijuana prohibition unconstitutional in 2018. Once the Senate passes the bill, it will still have to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies. Different stakeholders are still at odds over the precise nature of the bill, though.

Philippine President Says He Accepts Responsibility for Drug War Killings. President Rodrigo Duterte has brashly said he accepts responsibility for the thousands of people killed in the bloody anti-drug campaign he unleashed after his election in 2016. "If there's killing there, I'm saying I'm the one ... you can hold me responsible for anything, any death that has occurred in the execution of the drug war," Duterte said. "If you get killed, it's because I'm enraged by drugs," said the president known for his coarse and boastful rhetoric. "If I serve my country by going to jail, gladly." He did, however, reject responsibility for the thousands of people killed not by police but by so-called vigilantes.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

Former Mexican Defense Minister Busted at LAX, MT Legal Pot Initiative Faces Late Legal Challenge, More... (10/19/20)

Missouri and Virginia both saw their first legal medical marijuana sales this past weekend, the US Sentencing Commission reports more than 3,000 federal prisoners have secured sentence reductions under the First Step Act, and more. 

Former Mexican Defense Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda busted on US drug charges. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Marijuana Legalization Initiative Faces Last-Minute Legal Challenge in State Supreme Court. Opponents of the state's twinned marijuana legalization initiatives (one would legalize it; the other would allow a change in the state constitution to allow setting the legal age at 21) are preparing a last-minute legal challenge designed to knock the measures off the ballot. The opposition group Wrong for Montana said it is preparing to file a lawsuit arguing that the initiatives violate the state constitution by specifying where revenues generated by legal marijuana would go. Voting is already underway in the state.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Sees First Medical Marijuana Sales. Legal medical marijuana went on sale for the first time in the state over the weekend. The first dispensaries opened in St. Louis county, one in Ellisville and one in Manchester. The state has already approved 65,000 patients to use medical marijuana.

Virginia Sees First Medical Marijuana Sales. Legal medical marijuana went on sale for the first time in the state over the weekend. Dharma Pharmaceuticals opened its doors to registered patients on Saturday morning. The shop was seeing patients by appointment only as a coronavirus precaution.

Sentencing Policy

More Than 3,000 Federal Prisoners Have Received First Step Act Sentencing Reductions. The US Sentencing Commission reports that 3,363 drug offenders have been granted sentencing reductions under the 2018 First Step Act. Those granted reductions saw their sentences decreased by an average of 71 months, a nearly 25% reduction. More than 90% of those receiving sentence reductions were Black.

Pennsylvania Report Recommends Reducing Incarceration for Probationers with Drug Violations. The state Commission on Sentencing has issued a report calling for less jailing and more access to drug treatment for people on probation who get caught using drugs. The report found that about one third of all probation revocations are for drug use. "This report shows that a greater emphasis needs to be placed on providing evidence-based drug treatment for those sentenced to community supervision in order to provide better outcomes for offenders and to avoid costly incarceration," Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) and the chairman of the commission, wrote in a release.

International

Mexico's Former Defense Minister Arrested in US on Drug and Money Laundering Charges. Former Defense Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda was arrested last Friday at Los Angeles International Airport by US authorities and is charged with taking bribes to allow a violent drug cartel to operate with impunity in Mexico. Cienfuegos was secretary of national defense from 2012 to 2018. He is charged with four counts: international heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana manufacture and distribution conspiracy, importation and distribution conspiracies, and conspiracy to launder narcotics proceeds, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.

NE MedMJ Activists Take Aim at 2022, Study Finds Heroin, Fentanyl Use Up During Pandemic, More... (10/16/20)

Virginia's governor signs a minor marijuana reform bill into, the Mexican government has captured a major cartel leader, heroin and fentanyl use is up during the pandemic, and more. 

Fentanyl use has gone up during the COVID pandemic, data from Quest Diagnostics shows. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Governor Signs Marijuana Reform Bill into Law. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has signed into law a bill, SB 5013, that will allow people to issued summonses for decriminalized marijuana possession to prepay their fines rather than having to show up in court. Other marijuana-related bills are still alive in the session, including one already on the governor's desk that would bar police from conducting searches bases solely on the odor of marijuana and a set of competing expungement proposals that are now in conference committee.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Legalization Activists Get Working on 2022. After qualifying for the 2020 ballot and then getting stiffed by the state Supreme Court, which held that the initiative embraced more than one subject, the two state senators who lead Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld, recently filed new petition language with Secretary of State Bob Evnen for voters to consider for the 2022 ballot. The new language is simple and straightforward: "Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes." Now, they will have to recreate the successful 2020 signature-gathering campaign to get back on the ballot in 2022.

Drug Policy

Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Study Finds Fentanyl and Heroin Misuse Skyrockets During COVID-19 Pandemic. A new Quest Diagnostics Health Trends study indicates that misuse of fentanyl, heroin and nonprescribed opioids are on the rise, potentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on healthcare access and support for individuals most at-risk for substance use disorder. The full study, from researchers at Quest Diagnostics and published online in the peer reviewed journal Population Health Management, can be found here. The researchers compared testing positivity rates for January 1, 2019-March 14, 2020 and March 15-May 16, 2020 (during the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak). Among individuals tested, the drug positivity rate increased 35% for non-prescribed fentanyl and 44% for heroin during the pandemic compared to the period prior to the pandemic. Nonprescribed opioids also increased, by 10%. The study also found a massive surge in the positivity rate of drug combining with non-prescribed fentanyl during the pandemic compared to prior to the pandemic. Positivity for non-prescribed fentanyl increased substantially among specimens that were also positive for amphetamines (by 89%), benzodiazepines (48%), cocaine (34%), and opiates (39%; P <0.01 for all comparisons).

International

Mexico Captures Major Cartel Leader. Mexican security forces have captured the head of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, Guanajuato Gov. Diego Sinhue announced Wednesday night. Adan Ochoa, known as "El Azul," rose to lead the cartel after the capture of its former leader Jose Antonio Yepez, known as "El Marro." The cartel has been involved in violent conflict with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel over which will control the drug trade in the central Mexican state.

AZ, MT Marijuana Legalization Polls, NM MedMJ Reciprocity Expansion, British Drug Deaths Up, More... (10/15/20)

The Drug Policy Alliance is in a new push to move the MORE Act, there are new polls on the Arizona and Montana marijuana legalization initiatives, and more. 

Turnout is going to be crucial for the Arizona and Montana marijuana legalization initiatives. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Drug Policy Alliance & JustLeadershipUSA Lead Extensive Coalition of Organizations Representing Directly Impacted People in Calling on Congress to Support Marijuana Reform. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) Thursday led a group of 34 organizations founded and led by people directly impacted by the country’s criminal legal system in urging members of Congress to support comprehensive marijuana reform by passing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) when it comes up for a vote on the House floor following the November 2020 election.. They sent a letter to Congress that argues that ending marijuana prohibition through the MORE Act is critical to addressing extensive racial disparities within the criminal legal system and providing economic relief for the communities that have borne the brunt of these draconian drug policies, creating a clear pathway for them to participate and benefit from the legal marijuana economy.

Arizona Polls Have Marijuana Legalization Initiative with Majority Support. Two new polls have Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Act at over 50% support. A poll from OH Predictive Insights has the measure winning 55% to 37%, while a new Monmouth University poll has it winning 56% to 36%, up five points from a previous Monmouth poll last month.

Montana Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Leading, But Still Under 50%. A new Montana poll has the  I-190 and CI-118 marijuana legalization initiatives with 49% support from likely voters, with 39% opposed, 10% undecided, and 2% saying they will not vote on the initiatives. That means the initiatives must pick up at least one out of five undecided voters to get over the top.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Judge Orders State Health Department to Loosen Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Rules. First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson in Santa Fe ruled Tuesday that reciprocal medical marijuana patients can buy, possess and use medical marijuana in New Mexico, regardless of whether their identification matches the state where their medical recommendation to use cannabis came from. His order will also allow New Mexicans to get a recommendation to use medical marijuana from another state and become a reciprocal patient in New Mexico. 

International

England and Wales Had Record High Fatal Drug Overdose Levels Last Year. The British Office for National Statistics reported Thursday that drug-related deaths hit a record high last year in England and Wales. There were 4,393 drug-poisoning deaths in England and Wales in 2019, compared with 4,359 in 2018, the highest number since comparable records began in 1993. The rate of drug deaths for men actually declined, but that for women increased.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A group of New Jersey jail guards partied too hearty, an Alabama cop gets caught with cocaine and marijuana, and more. Let's get to it:

In Birmingham, Alabama, a Hoover police officer was arrested last Tuesday after a traffic stop turned into a drug bust. Officer Barry Stamps, 56, and his wife, Mary, got caught with 27 grams of cocaine, five grams of marijuana, and two handguns.Both were charged with possession with intent to distribute, 2nd degree unlawful possession of marijuana, and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

In Walterboro, South Carolina, a Georgia prison guard was arrested last Friday after deputies found him asleep in his car with $35,000 worth of drugs. Guard Herbert Mitchell, 36, went down after his vehicle was reported blocking traffic and responding deputies said they found drugs in plain sight. Those drugs totaled 195 grams of methamphetamine and 305 grams of marijuana. He is charged with trafficking methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

In Fort Lee, New Jersey, five Morris County corrections officers pleaded guilty last Friday to various drug charges after admitting they used and shared drugs, including cocaine, together. Corrections officers Dominick Andico, 33, Albert Wyman IV, 36, Robert Busold, 27, Brian T. Rzucidlo, 35, and Sheriff's Officer Nicholas Ricciotti, 31, were forced to resign and will undergo mandatory drug treatment. Andico and Wyman also pleaded guilty to obstruction for using the department's database to conduct an unauthorized search of sellers, Knapp said. Ricciotti was found with Oxycodone pills. Sentencing is set for November 12.

Supreme Court Won't Hear Marijuana Rescheduling Case, New Zealand Marijuana Vote Saturday, More... (10/14/20)

The Supreme Court slaps down the latest effort to reschedule marijuana, Pennsylvania's governor is again calling on the legislature to legalize marijuana, New Zealand votes on marijuana legalization on Saturday, and more.

Marijuana Policy

US Supreme Court Won't Hear Marijuana Legalization Case. The US Supreme Court has declined to hear a case arguing that marijuana's classification as a Schedule I controlled substance is unconstitutional. The three-year-old case was filed by former NFL player Marvin Washington and several other medical marijuana patients. The 2nd US Circuit Court had dismissed the case after the plaintiffs rejected an offer to ask the DEA to voluntarily reschedule the drug, and the plaintiffs then sought review by the Supreme Court. They didn't get it.

Montana Catholic Bishops Urge No Vote on Marijuana Legalization. The Montana Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, has released a statement urging a "no" vote on the state's marijuana legalization initiatives. I-190 would legalize marijuana, while CI-118 would amend the state constitution to allow for the age of majority -- set at 18 -- to be raised for marijuana as it is for alcohol. Legalizing marijuana would be "a threat to the flourishing" of Montanans, especially "the young, the poor, and those who struggle with either substance abuse or mental health challenges," the bishops wrote.

Pennsylvania Governor Reiterates Call for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Tom Wolfe (D) called again on Tuesday for marijuana to be legalized, saying it would help shore up the state's economy. He said he would renew calls on the state legislature to move on marijuana legalization. "I'm here today to ask once again to focus on two particular benefits or legalization: one, the potential economic benefit that Pennsylvania would get and second, the much-needed restorative justice [related to criminalization]," Wolf said. "The growth of the adult-use cannabis industry would help provide jobs, of course, and bolster our economy -- and the revenue from the industry could be used to help support Pennsylvania's small businesses that have suffered because of the pandemic."

International

New Zealand To Vote on Marijuana Legalization Saturday. New Zealanders will vote Saturday in a nationwide referendum on whether to legalize marijuana for people 20 and over. If the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill wins public support, the parliament would then be required to set rules and regulations for the commercial production and sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products. Polling has the population evenly split on the issue.

The Psychedelic Revolution is Coming to the Ballot Box -- This Year [FEATURE]

The psychedelic renaissance that has been emerging in recent years will finally get a chance to be ratified by voters in November. On one side of the country, Oregon will be voting on an initiative to legalize the strictly regulated therapeutic use of psilocybin, while on the other side of the country, Washington, DC will be voting on an initiative that essentially (but not formally) decriminalizes a whole range of plant- or fungi-based psychoactive substances, from ayahuasca to peyote and magic mushrooms.

The measures build on nascent efforts to get city governments to ease access to psychedelics, moves that have so far seen success in Denver, which in 2019 made possession of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority, and Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Ann Arbor, which have followed this year. Most -- but not all -- of this activity is taking place under the rubric of Decriminalize Nature, which describes its mission as "to improve human health and well-being by decriminalizing and expanding access to entheogenic plants and fungi through political and community organizing, education, and advocacy."

The Oregon initiative, Measure 109, isn't part of that. Also known as the Psilocybin Services Act, it would create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People would be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.

The measure would direct the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to develop a program and create regulations for it within two years. The OHA would also be responsible for determining who could be licensed as a facilitator and what qualifications and training they would need, as well as creating a code of professional conduct for facilitators. And the OHA would also set dosage standards and come up with rules for labeling and packaging.

The measure also bars the establishment of psilocybin service centers inside city or town limits and gives local governments the ability to ban them in unincorporated areas within their jurisdictions.

The initiative is the brainchild of Portland psychotherapists Tom and Sheri Eckert, who formed the Oregon Psilocybin Society in 2016 and are the co-chief petitioners for the measure. Unlike the broader psychedelic reform movement, their goal is strictly limited to therapeutic ends.

"We see psilocybin therapy as an end in itself. We see the measure as a template and we plan to help organize the new profession and spread the template in the years to come," Tom Eckert said in an email interview.

"A growing body of research suggests that 'psilocybin' -- a natural compound found in many species of mushrooms -- can, as part of therapy, help relieve a variety of mental health issues, including depression, existential anxiety, addictions, and the lingering effects of trauma," Eckert explained. "Psilocybin therapy demonstrates an excellent safety record and often achieves lasting results after just one or two psilocybin sessions."

While the campaign has an impressive list of endorsers, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the state Democratic Party, four state senators, and a raft of state and national social justice, civil rights, and drug reform groups, it is also catching flak from some in the Decriminalize Nature movement.

In a Facebook post, Decriminalize Nature Portland lambasted Measure 109: "This initiative would create one more medical model which serves the privileged members in society and makes it harder for the most vulnerable people to heal. The cost and hard-to-access system being created by M109 would make it very difficult for lower income people, indigenous communities, immigrants, undocumented people, people who cannot afford an ID, and non-English speaking populations to gain entry into the closed and privileged system being created by this measure. We are concerned about the implications of an elite group of beneficiaries putting a free medicine that grows naturally out of the ground behind a paywall," the group said.

"The greatest danger of M109 is that it would create a special class of permit-holders who would be motivated to lobby to prevent progressive measures such as those passed in Denver, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Ann Arbor, which are designed to enable access to the most vulnerable people by enabling them to grow, gather, gift, and share their own entheogenic plants and fungi," they argued.

When asked how the campaign responds to critiques like that from Decriminalize Nature Portland, Eckert was terse and blunt: "We don't," he said.

(It should be noted that at the same time Oregonians are voting on the psilocybin initiative, they are also voting on Measure 110, which would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs -- including psychedelics.)

Instead, the campaign is relying on a big budget, support from medical figures, and a lack of organized opposition to find a path to victory. The campaign has raised nearly $3 million, with more than $2.5 million of that coming from the New Approach PAC, which supports marijuana and drug reform efforts around the country, and one of whose major donors is David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps.

"We are extremely appreciative of the support extended by the whole Bronner family," Eckert said. "David is intimately involved as part of our executive committee and is a great friend. Dr. Bronner's is a towering example of a conscious company and steward of the Earth."

Will Measure 109 win in November? The only known poll on the issue, from DHM Research in January 2019, had it in a dead heat, with 47 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. Eckert said the campaign has done internal polling but didn't reveal any results. "What I can tell you is that it's close," he said. "Back in 2015, when we first took aim at 2020, this was basically 'mission impossible.' Now we have a real and historic opportunity and we're excited to finish the job."

Back on the East Coast, residents of the nation's capital will be voting on Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020. That measure would have police treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also ask the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

It looks likely to win. The measure has been endorsed by the DC Democratic Party, and according to a September FM3 poll, when read the ballot language, 60 percent of likely voters supported it. That figure jumped to 64 percent when respondents were given a plain-language explanation of the measure.

The initiative is also well-financed, with the New Approach PAC kicking in nearly half a million dollars. There are no registered opposition campaign committees.

For Initiative 81's chief petitioner and campaigns spokesperson Melissa Lavasani, the measure is an outgrowth of her own personal story.

"How I got here was that I healed myself from post-partum depression with psychedelics," she said in a phone interview. "I had no mental health issues like that before, nor did I have any experience with psychedelics. I had an image of psychedelics shaped by propaganda. But then I listened to Joe Rogan when he had [mushroom maestro] Paul Stamets on. My husband grew up in the South and he said it was common to pick mushrooms and eat them, and he said the podcast made a lot of sense. So we decided to give it a try," she related.

"I was insistent on not taking pharmaceutical antidepressants because I saw one friend take his life on them and saw others have their personalities changed. I was a career woman and growing my family. I had a lot to lose, but I tried microdosing, and within a few days I was shocked at how quickly it worked. I was interacting differently with people and the change was so profound," Lavasani continued.

"At the same time, I was watching the Denver magic mushroom campaign -- and Oakland and Santa Cruz quickly followed -- and got inspired. My husband worked for a city council member, and DC was on the forefront of marijuana reform, so why not be a leader on psychedelic reform?"

"I never thought I would be doing this, but this issue is extremely important. How many people in my demographic are on medications? When you did into the research, you see these therapies are extremely effective, so I asked why aren' we acting on this. Our health care system doesn't address these serious mental health issues."

Lavasani acknowledged that passage of the measure would chip only a few flakes from the façade of drug prohibition, but said you have to start somewhere.

"Our measure is a very small step, it's just asking for the Metro police to make it the lowest law enforcement priority so that someone cultivating psilocybin or other substances at home is provided a layer of protection knowing the police won't came after them. I lived in fear and secrecy because I was in possession of a controlled substance. I don't want others to have to do that," she said.

"We are limited in the District because of congressional oversight," Lavasani explained. "We've been talking to allies in Congress while campaigning, and if we win, and the Democrats take the majority in the Senate, we can get restrictive riders removed, and then we can take it further.

"This campaign is a good start, but there's a lot more work to do," she said. "We're okay with it being a first step. When we start talking about psychedelics, the first thing the black community thinks of is PCP. We have to undo a lot of that, so we're out in the community talking to people about plant medicines and talking about what kind of infrastructure we need to stay safe."

The measure's endorsement by the DC Democratic Party showed how attitudes are changing, and quickly, Lavasani said.

"This was a safe yes for the DC Democrats," she noted. "They learned a lesson from cannabis reform -- when it happened it happened very quickly. You know, police reform is on the top of everyone's list right now, and this is the only thing on the ballot that touches on that. The majority of the party understood that the small step we're taking is a positive step toward ending the war on drugs. It's a no brainer -- we all know why it exists and it's time for us to make a change."

For David Bronner, both the Oregon and the DC initiatives are part of a broader push for psychedelic liberation -- and not just natural plant psychedelics.

"In my book, it's strategic because LSD has the most baggage and is the end game, but it's my favorite psychedelic," said Bronner. "'Plant medicines that you can grow naturally resonate with voters, and key stakeholders in the Decriminalize Nature movement definitely favor natural plant medicines versus synthetic psychedelics. I'm a fan of all of them and have experienced the incredible healing and spiritual power of both. It's important to note that the incredible clinical research with synthetic psilocybin at Johns Hopkins for end of life, anxiety, depression, and addiction is supporting the Decriminalize Nature movement," he added.

And this year's psychedelic initiatives are just the beginning, he said.

"Our hope in future election cycles, is to combine broad based treatment not jail and decriminalization (Measure 110 in Oregon) with the Decriminalize Nature ethos where the cutoffs for plant medicines are much higher or eliminated, and that also has a therapeutic psychedelic program like Measure 109 in Oregon, basically combining all three approaches into single state wide ballot measures in Washington and maybe Colorado in 2022," Bronner said.

But first, the movement needs to rack up a couple of victories this November.

NJ Police Chiefs Warn on Marijuana Legalization, European Drug Tends, More... (10/13/20)

Mississippi's Republican governor tries to undermine a medical marijuana initiative, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction has a new report out, and more.

Cocaine en route to Europe seized by Spanish police.
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Police Chiefs Present Arguments Against Marijuana Legalization. In an open letter, the state Association of Chiefs of Police did not explicitly come out against the state's pending referendum on marijuana legalization, but instead presented several arguments designed to highlight its dangers. They wrote that marijuana is not "benign," warned of stoned drivers, claimed the black market is "stronger than ever" in legal states, and cited "unintended consequences" of legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Signs Bill Allowing FDA-Approved Cannabis Medications as Legalization Vote Looms. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) last week signed into law a bill that allows residents to use marijuana-derived medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The move comes as the state prepares to vote on a medical marijuana initiative and a watered-down version of it forwarded by the legislature. Reeves said he is "against efforts to make marijuana mainstream."

International

European Drug Report Shows Advances in Trans-Atlantic Drug Trafficking. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has released the European Drug Report 2020, which examines drug trafficking dynamics from 2018 to 2020. The big takeaways: Cocaine trafficking to Europe has boomed during the pandemic, greater quantities of higher quality cocaine are arriving, the cocaine market is expanding in Europe going back at least a decade, and European MDMA production keeps rising.

VA Bill to Limit Traffic Stops Goes to Governor, NJ Pot Poll Looking Good, More... (10/12/20)

The Arizona marijuana legalization initiative picks up a big endorsement, Michigan's governor signs a package of "clean slate" bills that includes expunging past pot offenses, and more.

A Virginia bill would bar police from making stops for small-time equipment infractions and searching based on the odor of weed.
Marijuana Policy

Arizona's Largest Newspaper Endorses Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The Arizona Republic, the state's largest circulation newspaper, has endorsed the Prop 207 marijuana legalization initiative. "The Arizona Republic recommends passage of Prop. 207 because we need to right an historic wrong -- to decriminalize marijuana use and put the responsibility back on individuals to choose wisely when it comes to low-grade substances such as marijuana and alcohol," the newspaper's editorial board wrote Sunday. It will be legal because the United States made a mistake when it chose to employ criminal law to control marijuana use -- an improper use of the government's most muscular authority," they wrote. "Now we're in the process of a state-by-state correction."

Michigan Governor Signs Bill to Expunge Marijuana Convictions. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has signed six "clean slate" bills, including one that will allow past marijuana offenders to have their offenses expunged from their records. The bill doesn't apply to felony convictions that earned a sentence of 10 years or more. "This is a historic day in Michigan. These bipartisan bills are a game changer for people who are seeking opportunities for employment, housing, and more, and they will help ensure a clean slate for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders," said Governor Whitmer.

New Jersey Poll Shows Marijuana Legalization Initiative Doing Well. A new Farleigh Dickinson University poll has the state's marijuana legalization initiative winning the support of 61% of likely voters and those who have already voted. Only 29% were opposed. That leaves 10% undecided, but if the poll is accurate, even if every undecided voter voted "no," the measure would still pass.

Law Enforcement

Virginia Bill to Limit Police Traffic Stops Goes to Governor. The General Assembly has approved HB 5058, which would bar police from stopping drivers for a wide range of small-time vehicle equipment infractions and block them from searching vehicles on the basis that police smell marijuana coming from the vehicle. "This might be the most significant reform of the state's criminal justice system in decades," said Arlington Public Defender Brad Haywood, executive director of Justice Forward Virginia, a reform coalition that helped to spearhead the legislation. "his is a big step forward for racial justice in Virginia." It is now up to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to sign the bill.

CDC Reports on Rising Cocaine Overdoses, Mexico Poppy Farmers Vow to Fight Eradication, More... (10/9/20)

South Dakota's marijuana legalization initiative picks up support from a leading state political figure, the CDC says cocaine overdose deaths nearly tripled between 2013 and 2018, and more.

Cocaine overdose deaths rose dramatically between 2013 and 2018, the CDC reports. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

California Eradicated More Than A Million Illegal Pot Plants This Year. The state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting has eradicated 1.1 million plants at 455 different grow sites this year. The campaign also racked up 140 arrests and the seizure of 174 weapons. Southern California's Riverside County yielded some 293,000 plants -- the biggest haul -- while Northern California's Tulare, Trinity, Lake and Siskiyou counties rounded out the top five.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle Supports South Dakota Marijuana Legalization. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D), who represented the state in the Congress for nearly three decades, has come out in support of the Amendment A marijuana legalization initiative. "I did not advocate for legal marijuana while I served in the Senate but, like many other Americans, my viewpoint has vastly evolved in recent years, and my passion for improving how our society delivers health care as well as pioneering social and political change has never been stronger," Daschle said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Cocaine

Cocaine Overdose Deaths Rising Dramatically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that cocaine overdose deaths have nearly tripled over five years, rising at an average rate of 27% per year from 2013 to 2018. "While much attention has been given to the increase in drug overdose deaths involving opioids, it's also important to recognize that deaths involving other drugs, such as cocaine, have also increased in recent years," said Dr. Holly Hedegaard, lead researcher and injury epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

International

Mexico Opium Farmers Vow to Stop Military from Burning Poppies. Saying authorities have failed to deliver educational, health, and road improvements, residents of 33 communities in the state of Guerrero have pledged they will not allow the military to destroy their poppy fields. They say that opium cultivation is their only source of income. Farmers have proposed blocking the Acapulco-Zihuatanejo highway and the one linking Chilpancingo and Iguala and warned that if anything happens to military aerial eradication helicopters or military personnel engaged in eradication it would be the fault of the federal government. "We are determined to prevent our poppy plantations from being destroyed whether it is by air or land," said a document agreed to by the villagers.

VT Becomes 11th State to Legalize Personal Use Marijuana Sales, ME Legal Sales Start Tomorrow, More... (10/8/20)

The Virginia legislature has passed bills limiting the ability of police to use the odor of marijuana as the pretext for a warrantless search, Vermont has approved a legal adult use marijuana marketplace, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Maine Begins Recreational Marijuana Sales on Friday. Nearly four years after state voters approved marijuana legalization, pot will be available at retail outlets beginning Friday. Adults 21 years of age or older with a valid ID will be able to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of a combination of marijuana and marijuana concentrate that includes no more than five grams of marijuana concentrate.

Vermont Becomes 11th State to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Market.Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that he has allowed legislation to tax and regulate recreational marijuana sales to go into effect without his signature. He had hinted at a possible veto over racial equity concerns, but instead has stood aside. Vermont now becomes the 11th state to allow recreational marijuana sales, although sales are not expected to actually begin until October 2022.

Virginia Legislature Bars Police from Using Marijuana Odor as a Pretext for a Search. The legislature has passed Senate Bill 5029 and House Bill 5058, which would severely restrict police from using the odor of marijuana to justify warrantless searches. The bill specifies that "no law-enforcement officer may lawfully search or seize any person, place, or thing solely on the basis of the odor of marijuana and no evidence discovered or obtained as a result of such unlawful search or seizure shall be admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding." The move comes after the state decriminalized marijuana possession earlier this year. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Oregonian Endorses Drug Decrim Measure, Mexico Cartel Post-COVID Threat, More... (10/7/20)

Arizona may relax its past marijuana use rules for police applicants, the International Crisis Group calls out the Colombian government over the assassination of hundreds of activists and human rights workers, and more.

Violence and targeted killings continue to plague the Colombian countryside. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Police Board Proposes Relaxing Rules on Past Marijuana Use for Would-Be Cops. The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, the organization that certifies all police officers in the state, has recommended relaxing the rules for past marijuana use for people applying to become a police officer. Under the current rules, applicants cannot have used marijuana within the past three years, cannot have used it more than 20 times, and cannot have used it more than five times after turning 21. Under the new proposal, applicants cannot have used marijuana within the past two years. The other requirements related to marijuana use have vanished.

Drug Policy

Oregon's Biggest Newspaper Endorses Measure 110 Decriminalization and Drug Treatment Initiative. The editorial board of the Oregonian, the state's oldest and largest newspaper, endorsed the Measure 110 drug decriminalization and drug treatment initiative on Wednesday. The Oregonian emphasized the drug treatment aspects of the measure and excoriated the legislature for failing to address the state's lack of drug treatment services. "Lawmakers' failure to appropriately fund addiction and recovery services -- investments that would pay dividends in addressing a common factor in child abuse, homelessness and other issues -- merits supporting the measure," the Oregonian wrote. "While some opponents credit the criminal justice system for helping force those with addictions into treatment, it's not showing the widespread success that this state needs. Broadening access to services so that adults -- and juveniles -- can easily get assistance is a public health solution more closely tied with what is ultimately a public health problem. Oregonians should make clear this is a priority for the state and vote 'yes' on Measure 110."

International

Colombian Government Must Protect Communities to Stop Killings of Activists, International Crisis Group Says in New Report. At least 415 human rights and community activists have been killed since January 2016, and the government is not doing enough about it, the International Crisis Group said in a report released Tuesday. The group said the government must prioritize communities' safety over military operations against armed groups and coca eradication efforts. The government must also implement rural reforms to offer alternatives to coca growing and should widen demobilization efforts, the group added. "Without abandoning the goal of dismantling armed groups, Colombia should offer their members realistic pathways back into civilian life through negotiated collective demobilization," the report said."

Mexican Cartels Pose New National Security Threat Post-COVID, Researchers Say. Organized crime has expanded its influence in Mexico during the coronavirus crisis by offering food and other services the government has failed to provide, according to three researchers who have studied the impact of the pandemic on crime rates in the nation's capital. They also point to rising youth unemployment as providing a "fertile field" for the expansion of cartels in the pandemic's aftermath. With increasing poverty levels and a shrinking GDP because of the pandemic, the cartels are well-placed to threaten national security, they said. "Under this adverse economic scenario, once a vaccine becomes available, we expect conventional crime to resume and organized crime to increase even more," said the study. "If this comes true, it could jeopardize the Mexican government's main functions and turn this social situation into a national security issue."

OR Drug Decrim Init Gets Chan/Zuckerberg Donation, DC Dems Endorse Psychedelic Initiative, More... (10/6/20)

Facebook's founder kicks in half a million dollars for Oregon drug decriminalization, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition launches a national dialog on the overdose crisis and COVID, a group of French MPs show their reactionary side, and more.

Peyote buttons and other natural psychedelics would be effectively decriminalized by a DC initiative. (Creative Commons)
Drug Policy

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Backs Drug Decriminalization in Oregon With $500K, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have donated $500,000 in support of Oregon's Measure 110, the drug treatment and decriminalization initiative. That makes them the second largest donors to the effort, behind Drug Policy Action, the political and lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has kicked in $850,000.

Psychedelics

DC Democrats Endorse Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative. The Democratic Party of the District of Columbia has formally endorsed Initiative 81, which would effectively decriminalize a range of natural psychedelics, such as psilocybin, ayahuasca, and peyote. After a presentation from Decriminalize Nature DC last week, party delegates approved the endorsement by a vote of 23-10.

International

Canadian Drug Policy Coalition Launches National Dialogue Series on the Overdose Crisis and COVID-19. In response to the country's ongoing overdose crisis amid the pandemic, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition at Simon Fraser University, in partnership with the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, is launching Getting to Tomorrow: Ending the Overdose Crisis -- 18 public health dialogues across Canada over the next two years aimed at identifying and moving towards solutions to the overdose crisis, in the context of COVID-19, by building consensus and shared meaning. "The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the illegal drug toxicity death crisis as a catastrophic failure of Canada's current approach to drugs. Governments have moved mountains in response to the COVID-19 pandemic while a coherent pan-Canadian approach to over 15,000 overdose deaths in the past four and a half years has failed to materialize," said Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. "We hope the Getting to Tomorrow dialogue series will inform, engage, and inspire Canadians to become more involved in building a new approach to drugs based on principles of public health and human rights, and lead to improved health and safety for all in our communities."

French MPs Hit Out Against Proposed Marijuana Legalization. Some 80 members of parliament have written an open letter against marijuana legalization after renewed debate on the topic started last week. "There is no 'soft drug'. Drugs are a poison, a plague that we must fight," they wrote. Some MPs had called for legalization as a means of undercutting drug dealers, but this group was having none of it: "Legalizing the sale of cannabis will make current dealers turn towards other, even more dangerous substances. Just because law enforcement struggles to keep up with dealers, doesn't mean that we should legalize the practice," they wrote. They see marijuana and other drugs as the cause of "psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, school failure, dropping out of school, dropping out of society." It concluded by quoting Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who said "drugs are shit."

Mexico Cartel Hitmen Gun Down Six Police Officers in Durango. Gunmen believed to be with the Sinaloa Cartel ambushed a policy convoy in Durango state last Thursday near the town of El Mezquital, killing six officers and leaving seven wounded. Vehicles abandoned by the attackers contained bloodstains, suggesting that some of them had been injured as well.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Posted in:

An LAPD officer gets nailed for stealing money from a grow op worker's backpack during a marijuana raid, and a trio of jail guard break bad. Let's get to it:

In Los Angeles, an LAPD officer was arrested last Thursday for allegedly stealing money from an employee's personal property while inside an illegal marijuana grow operation earlier this year. Officer Luis Alfredo Mota was serving a search warrant at the grow op and is accused of stealing money from an employee's backpack. He is charged with one felony count of second-degree burglary and one misdemeanor count of petty theft in connection with a Jan. 27 incident. He's looking at up to three years in county jail if convicted.

In York, South Carolina, a York County jail guard was arrested last Thursday for trying to smuggle drugs into the jail. Detention Officer Heather McRorie went down after authorities caught wind of the plot. No drugs actually made it inside, authorities said. McRorie is charged with criminal conspiracy and is now a former detention officer.

In Gretna, Louisiana, a jail guard was arrested last Friday for allegedly conspiring with an inmate to smuggle cocaine into the facility. Keoindra Howard, 20, went down after she was detained upon arriving at work, and her vehicle was searched, with cocaine found in it. She is charged with malfeasance in office, possession of cocaine and conspiracy to introduce contraband into a correctional center. The inmate she allegedly conspired with has also been charged.

In Tavares, Florida, a Lake County corrections officer was arrested Monday as he tried to smuggle drugs into the jail. Officer Jimmy Ankrom was searched when he arrived for his shift, and officers found meth and tobacco in his pocket. The exact charges he faces are unclear.

In Chicago, a former Chicago police officer was sentenced last Friday to nearly 13 years in prison for ringleading a crew of crooked cops who posed as federal agents to shake down drug dealers for cash and dope. Eddie Hicks, 71, fled a pending trial on drug charges in 2003, but was arrested in Detroit in 2017 and convicted last year on racketeering, drug and gun charges, as well as jumping bail.

VT Battle Over Marijuana Bill, Key Mexico Leader Vows Marijuana Legalization Bill Passage by December, More... (10/5/20)

Another Arizona poll muddies the waters on support for marijuana legalization, pressure is mounting on Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) to sign or veto the state's marijuana sales bill, and more.

Will Mexico actually legalize marijuana by December? Stay tuned.
Marijuana Policy

New Arizona Poll Has Marijuana Initiative Still Ahead, But Under 50%. The polling is getting wacky in Arizona. Last week, one pollster had Prop 207 winning with 57% of the vote while another had the measure at 50%, with 34% opposed. Now, a new Suffolk University/USA Today poll has the measure with 45.6% support, with 34.2% opposed and 19% undecided. If this latest poll is accurate, Prop 207 needs at least a quarter of those undecideds to break in its favor.

Vermont Racial Justice Group Condemns Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance led several dozen protestors at a Sunday rally at the statehouse to call on Gov. Phil Scott (R) to veto the marijuana legalization bill, SB 54. The group argues that the bill fails to address the impact of systemic racism on the state's marijuana industry as well as the historical disproportionate impact marijuana prohibition has had on communities of color. The Vermont Growers Association also opposes the bill, saying it would be detrimental to the state's current illicit growers because it offers no way for them to transition to the legal marijuana market.

Vermont Coalition of Justice Organizations Urge Governor to Sign Cannabis Bills. Five justice organizations -- ACLU of Vermont, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, Middlebury Showing Up for Racial Justice, Women's Justice and Freedom Initiative, and the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana -- issued a statement Monday urging Gov. Phil Scott (R) to sign SB 54 and accompanying expungement legislation into law. It notes, "Taken together, these bills will make huge strides towards addressing the racist legacy of cannabis prohibition and disparate enforcement of our current cannabis laws." They urge Gov. Scott to sign this bill into law, and, as the bill is implemented, ensure that the promises of racial justice are given full effect.

Psychedelics

Michigan Prosecutor Not Pursuing Psychedelics Possession Cases After Decriminalization Vote. Incoming Washtenaw County prosecutor Eli Savit, who is running unopposed for election, has told the Ann Arbor branch of Decriminalize Nature that in the wake of the Ann Arbor city council voting to essentially decriminalize the possession of psychedelics he would not pursue any cases of simple psychedelic possession. He also called the war on drugs "a terrible failure."

International

Mexico Senate Leader Expects Marijuana Legalization to Pass in December. Ricardo Monreal, leader of the ruling MORENA Party in the Senate has said he expects marijuana legalization to be approved by December. The Supreme Court has given lawmakers a deadline of December 15 to get it done. This after two previous Supreme Court deadlines have come and gone. He said Amsterdam-style on-site consumption would not be allowed, but marijuana would be sold at private, strictly regulated "sale and distribution centers."

Mexican Marijuana Legalization Campaigners Take Fight to Senate's Doorstep. Activists have planted and nurtured a thriving marijuana garden right next to one of the Senate entrances as part of a campaign to pressure the legislature body to get legalization done. The plants are now about eight feet tall. The plants will not be harvested, but the two dozen young people who tend them bring their own marijuana with them and toke up in the evenings. "The aim is to claim our rights as responsible consumers," said Enrique Espinoza, a 30-year-old member of the Mexican Cannabis Movement.

Bipartisan Policy Center Recommends Safe Injection Sites, Marijuana Busts Declined Last Year, More... (10/2/20)

The House includes marijuana banking language in its latest COVID relief bill, pot busts declined last year, an Arizona poll is looking good for marijuana legalization there, and more.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs a pack of marijuana business bills. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

After Climbing Three Years in a Row, US Marijuana Arrests Fell by 18% Last Year. According to the just-released FBI Uniform Crime Report 2019, there were some 545,600 marijuana arrests in the US last year, 92% of them for simple possession. That's an 18% decline from 2018. Marijuana arrests peaked at nearly 873,000 in 2007.

House Democrats Include Marijuana Safe Harbor in Latest COVID Relief Bill. The House is including language to allow financial services for the marijuana industry in its latest $2.2 trillion COVID relief bill. It does so by including the text of the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595) within the relief bill. No word yet on how the Republican-led Senate will respond.

Arizona Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. A new statewide poll of likely voters has support for the Prop 207 legalization initiative at 57%, with 38% opposed. The numbers are basically unchanged from the same poll in August, which had 57% in favor, with 37% opposed.

California Governor Signs Four Bills Affecting Marijuana Industry. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law four bills relating to the marijuana industry. Assembly Bill 1458 eases requirements for edibles manufacturers, Assembly Bill 1525 lets the state or local governments share financial information with the consent of marijuana licensees, Senate Bill 67 establishes marijuana appellations, and Senate Bill 1244 clarifies that marijuana labs may tests samples provided by law enforcement in a bid to reduce illicit cultivation.

Colorado Governor Mass Pardons People Busted for Marijuana Possession. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Thursday signed an executive order pardoning people convicted of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana prior to legalization. "We are finally cleaning up some of the inequities of the past by pardoning 2,732 convictions for Coloradans who simply had an ounce of marijuana or less. It's ridiculous how being written up for smoking a joint in the 1970's has followed some Coloradans throughout their lives and gotten in the way of their success," Polis said. "Today we are taking this step toward creating a more just system and breaking down barriers to help transform people's lives as well as coming to terms with one aspect of the past, failed policy of marijuana prohibition."

Harm Reduction

Bipartisan Policy Center Report: Use Federal Money for Syringe Exchange Programs. The Bipartisan Policy Center released a report Wednesday looking at how federal money is being used to combat the opioid epidemic. The report recommended states do more to combat rising overdose deaths, including adding more syringe exchange programs to help reduce overdose deaths and disease transmission. "(Syringe exchange services) don't increase drug use, but rather facilitate entry into treatment as well as access to naloxone, which, as you know, is a lifesaving antidote for an opioid overdose," BPC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anand Parekh said.

VT Governor Hints Could Veto Marijuana Sales Bill, NY Governor Calls for Arrest of Street Drug Users, More... (10/1/20)

New Jersey's governor gets behing the marijuana legalization initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services wants to impose hair drug testing on federal employees, the New Zealand marijuana legalization referendum is facing headwinds, and more.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has found a new reason to vote a marijuana sales bill after his old reasons were addressed. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Governor Joins Marijuana Legalization Campaign. In an email from the Democratic State Committee Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) called for marijuana to be legalized as a social justice matter. "In fact, Black residents are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than White residents," Murphy said. "Legalization would right those wrongs while also spurring massive economic development opportunities, job creation and new tax revenue." Polls show strong support for the measure, but concerns about confusing ballot design and about voting in general in this election are spurring backers to push aggressively in the final weeks.

Vermont Governor Says He Could Veto Marijuana Sales Bill, Cites Racial Justice Objections. Gov. Phil Scott (R) signaled Tuesday that he could veto the bill legalizing marijuana sales, saying he was concerned the bill did not adequately address racial equity issues. Scott had previously raised concerns about impaired driving, local control, and taxation, but after those were addressed in the current legislation, he has found a new issue to be concerned about. "In terms of the pot bill, I haven't made up my mind about that. I have received a lot of groups -- racial equity groups -- that are asking me to veto it," Scott said during a gubernatorial debate. "I was leaning towards letting it go, but I'm really questioning that at this point. I want to hear and listen from them."

Drug Policy

New York Governor Calls for Arrest of Public Drug Users, Raising Hackles Among Harm Reductionists. During a Tuesday press conference in Manhattan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said police should arrest people injecting drugs on city streets. "The police have to do their jobs, and they have to arrest people who deserve to be arrested," Cuomo said Tuesday. "If somebody is openly injecting drugs on a city street, they should be arrested." The remarks came as Cuomo introduced a five-point plan to stabilize the city, which was short on details. The remarks raised concern about harm reductionists, with the Legal Action Center's Tracie Gardner, a former Cuomo staffer, calling it "a step backwards." She added that "We're supposed to be the leader in responding to people who use drugs. This is not leadership."

Drug Testing

HHS Considering Hair Samples for Federal Employee Drug Testing. The Department of Health and Human Services is considering adding hair testing for federal employees, saying that "hair testing potentially offers several benefits when compared to urine, including directly observed collections, ease of transport and storage, increased specimen stability, and a longer window of drug detection. The department believes these benefits justify pursuing hair testing in federal workplace programs," it said in a Federal Register notice open for comment through November 9. The proposed changes would see hair testing used for pre-employment and random drug testing, but not for "reasonable suspicion" testing.

International

New Zealand Marijuana Legalization Vote Looks to Be a Squeaker. The country is voting on a referendum to legalize marijuana on October 17, and the latest polling suggests a very tight race. 1 News Colmar Brunton polls had the referendum at 43% last November, 40% in June, and 35% now. But another poll conducted by Horizon Research should support and opposition dead even at 49.5% each. Dozens of national political figures including former Prime Minister Helen Clark are now mobilizing in support of the referendum, which is non-binding, but which, if passed, would open the way to a parliamentary vote.

Montana's Marijuana Legalization Campaign Is Set for a Big October Push [FEATURE]

Come November, Big Sky Country could be among the latest places to free the weed. As is the case in Arizona, New Jersey, and South Dakota, marijuana legalization is on the ballot in Montana this year.

Moving to Montana soon? (Gmark1/Creative Commons)
In Montana, though, people will be voting on not one but two complementary initiatives. I-190 would legalize marijuana, while CI-118 would amend the state constitution to allow for the age of majority -- set at 18 -- to be raised for marijuana as it is for alcohol.

I-190 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over and allow for the home cultivation of up to four plants and four seedlings. It would also designate the state Department of Revenue to regulate marijuana commerce from cultivation to retail sale. The initiative sets a retail tax of 20 percent on marijuana and marijuana-infused products.

And that's become a selling point for legalization: It can help fund state spending with the budget stressed by the coronavirus pandemic. A September report from the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that tax revenues from legal marijuana sales would generate between $43 million and $52 million a year in the first five years after legalization.

"Following in the footsteps of eleven other states, Montana voters have the opportunity to legalize recreational marijuana for people over the age of 21 by passing both CI-118 and I-190," said the Public Lands Coalition, which wants to see revenues from marijuana support projects like Habitat Montana, working to ease access to landlocked public lands. "The Montana effort to legalize marijuana differs from other states, though. Roughly 50 percent of the revenue generated from recreational marijuana sales would support state public lands by funding efforts like Habitat Montana. These funds are critical in order to maintain abundant wildlife populations and ensure our outdoor economy continues to thrive."

"Our research has always shown that a majority of Montanans support legalization, and now voters will have the opportunity to enact that policy, which will create jobs and generate new revenue for our state," said Pepper Petersen, a spokesperson for New Approach Montana, which organized the effort, said. "It also means that law enforcement will stop wasting time and resources arresting adults for personal marijuana possession, and instead focus on real crime."

There is no recent polling to back up Petersen's claims, but a pair of older polls suggest he could be onto something. A February University of Montana Big Sky poll had marijuana legalization winning 54 percent to 37 percent. That was up from a March 2019 Big Sky poll that had support at 51 percent.

That's not an especially comfortable lead for a ballot initiative, since organized opposition later in the campaign can eat away at support. And in September, organized opposition emerged in the form of Wrong for Montana. Led by Billings businessman Steve Zabawa, a persistent foe of marijuana reforms, the group is also supported by the Montana Family Foundation and the Montana Contractors Association.

Zabawa said he planned a billboard and digital media campaign. "Our message will be well-received, it'll be shared, and it'll be taken from family to family," he said. "I believe that, at the end of the day, the legalization issue will go away in the state of Montana."

Wrong for America has reported $78,000 in donations and has already spent $61,000, leaving a paltry $17,000 to campaign with. New Approach Montana, on the other hand, has raised nearly $4.8 million dollars and still has $300,000 cash to play with. And nearly half that $4.8 million has been spent for a late campaign TV ad blitz set to begin hitting the airwaves this month.

The campaign's coffers were filled largely by the national New Approach PAC, which supports various drug reform efforts around the country and has kicked in nearly $2 million and the North Fund, which has donated nearly $3 million. A somewhat mysterious entity whose funders remain unknown, it has also donated big bucks to a campaign for DC statehood and an effort to expand Medicaid in Missouri.

All that money and all those TV ads -- and the prospect of all that marijuana tax revenue -- should help New Approach Montana get over the finish line come November 3. But it will be nail-biting time until all the votes are counted.

Medical Marijuana Update

Things are heating up in Mississippi as Election Day nears, the New Jersey legislature approves a medical marijuana telemedicine bill, and more.

Mississippi

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Hearings Coming. The state secretary of state's office will host the first of five public hearings about the medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot, Initiative Measure 65, and its legislatively sponsored alternative, Alternative Measure 65A, on Wednesday in Oxford. The hearings will feature presentations from speakers both for and against Initiative Measure No. 65 and Alternative Measure No. 65A. All public hearings will be conducted in accordance with all state guidelines regarding COVID-19.

Medical Groups Urge Mississippi Voters to Reject Medical Marijuana Initiative. The Mississippi State Medical Association and the American Medical Association released a memo this week calling on voters to reject the medical marijuana initiative, saying the ballot is inherently confusing. They also accused petitioners of being driven by a desire for profit.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Advocates Submit Language for 2022 Ballot. After the state Supreme Court deprived voters of a chance to choose to legalize medical marijuana this year, the group behind the effort, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, on Monday submitted petition language aimed at getting the issue on the 2022 ballot. Five Supreme Court judges ruled that the 2020 initiative, which had already qualified for the ballot, unconstitutionally dealt with more than one subject. The new language keeps it simple: "Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes," is all it says.

New Jersey

New Jersey Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Telemedicine Bill. The Assembly last Thursday approved A-1635/S-619, which would allow health care practitioners to remotely authorize the use of medical marijuana via telemedicine. The bill had already passed the Senate and now goes to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

CA Governor Signs Marijuana Appellations Bill, IL Senate Committee Takes Up Drug Penalties, More... (9/30/20)

A new federal bill uses drugs and terrorism to take aim at tech companies' liability protections, a new Wyoming bill would ban smokeable hemp and most CBD products, and more.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/Old_Gravenstein_Highway_road_sign-213x320.jpg
Your California marijuana may soon be labeled for appellation of origin, like wine. (Frank Schulenberg, Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Signs Marijuana Appellations Bill into Law. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 67, which will allow marijuana growing communities in the state to establish authentic, terroir-based appellations similar to those used by wine producers around the world.

Wyoming Bill Would Limit CBD, Hemp Products. At the behest of Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt, state Sen. R.J. Kost has drafted a bill, 21LSO-88, that would ban the processing, possession, and retail sale of smokable hemp and CBD food and beverage products. CBD oils are not included in the bill. "It's an attempt to try to eliminate where the crossover between marijuana and hemp is so difficult to be able to identify," Kost said. The bill would all ban CBD products from being marketed as a dietary supplement and require labels saying that the product has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Drug Policy

New Federal Bill Uses Drugs, Terrorism Threats to Limit Internet Companies' Liability Protections. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX) on Tuesday filed the See Something, Say Something Online Act that would limit tech companies' liability protections over illegal activity on their platforms. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act currently exempts tech companies from being liable for third-party content on their platforms, but this bill would amend Section 230 to make large tech companies legally responsible for removing specified illegal content -- such as drug sales or terrorist activity -- on their platforms.

Illinois Senate Committee Focuses on Drug Penalty Reform. The state Senate Criminal Law Committee and Special Committee on Public Safety held its latest in a series of hearings related to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus' legislative agenda Tuesday, focusing on reclassifying offenses, drug penalty reform and elderly parole. Witnesses told the committee that changes to reduce penalties for marijuana offenses were a step forward, but that deeper changes are needed. They pointed to racial disparities in drug sentencing, where Blacks who make up less than 15% of the state population account for nearly 70% of prison admissions for drug charges. No legislation has yet been filed.

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