Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: First Step Sentence Cut Prisoners Walk Free, Drug Czar Touts OD Decline, More... (7/19/19)

More than 2,000 federal drug prisoners walk free today under First Step Act reforms, the drug czar touts [declining drug overdose numbers and blames Obama, Texas prosecutors balk at low-level pot prosecutions now that hemp is legal, and more.

There's a bit more room in the federal prisons today after 2,200 inmates walked free under the First Step Act. (Supreme Court)
Marijuana Policy

Texas Governor Tells DAs Not to Drop Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Cases. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) sent a letter Thursday to all county prosecutors urging them to continue to enforce state marijuana laws even though since the state legalized hemp this year prosecutors have no means of testing the amount of THC in a cannabis sample. Their current drug tests only detect the presence of THC, not whether it exceeds the 0.3%, and prosecutors in some of the state's largest counties have announced they will not prosecute small-time pot possession cases.  Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot is one of them, and he said he's not changing his mind:  "I have the responsibility to protect the rights of our citizens and ensure that people are not prosecuted for possessing substances that are legal. The concentration of THC is a statutory element of an offense that we must prove to establish a person's guilt. Our office will not charge a person with a marijuana offense without a laboratory report stating that the substance has an illegal concentration of THC."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Drug Czar Touts Progress Against Opioid Crisis. Jim Carroll, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office) gave his boss, the president, credit for an apparent decline in drug overdose deaths reported earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "This president has made this a priority since day one and we’re beginning to see results. As you know, the billions of pills that were released, without any control or oversight about what was going on in the last administration has resulted in thousands and thousands of people dying," he said. Still, nearly 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year on Trump's watch.

Sentencing Policy

More Than 2,000 Federal Drug Prisoners Walk Free Today Under First Step Act. The federal Bureau of Prisons is set to release today 2,200 inmates who had their release dates recalculated following passage of the First Step Act in December. The measure created an easier pathway for inmates to participate in programs designed to prevent recidivism and earn reductions in their sentences. It also reduced mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders with the goal of accelerating the rehabilitation of criminals and improving their chances for success after release.

International

Colombia Court Upholds Ban on Spraying Coca Fields With Herbicide, but Gives Government an Out. The country's constitutional court on Thursday upheld its restrictions on the aerial spraying of glyphosate to kill coca crops, but also said spraying could be reinstated if the government met certain conditions. The country ended the spraying in 2015 after the World Health Organization linked glyphosate to cancer, and the court ratified that decision. But now, rightist President Ivan Duque wants to overturn that decision. While the court upheld the ban for now, it said it will be up to the national narcotics council to decide whether spraying can resume based on conditions it set in its 2017 ruling.

Chronicle AM: CDC Says Drug ODs Declined Last Year, El Chapo Gets Life in Prison, More... (7/18/19)

The CDC reports that the overdose crisis may have peaked in 2017, El Chapo is sentenced to life in prison for exporting tons of cocaine and other drugs to the US, North Carolina lawmakers want to ban smokable hemp, and more.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman gets life in prison, but somebody has already replaced him. (SEDENA}
Marijuana Policy

More Than 100 Marijuana Businesses Urge Congress to Include Social Equity in Legalization. A coalition representing more than a hundred marijuana businesses and industry associations sent a letter to the congressional leadership Thursday, urging them to ensure that provisions promoting social equity are part of any marijuana reform legislation. The signatories said they feared people from communities that suffered a disproportionate impact from the drug war would be "left behind because a previous [cannabis] conviction often is a disqualifying factor to become an owner or employee in the new legal ‘green-rush'" and also because "they are unable to come up with the capital necessary to break into the industry."

West Hollywood Okays First Cannabis Cafe. The city of West Hollywood, California, has approved a space for what would be the first cannabis café in the city. The council Tuesday approved a business license for Lowell Farms, which promises cannabis cuisine and a smoking area. Since state law forbids the consumption of alcohol and marijuana on the same site, alcohol will not be served. The doors could open within months.

Medical Marijuana

Bipartisan Lawmakers File Federal Bill to Break Medical Marijuana Research Logjam. A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has filed the Medical Marijuana Research Act, which aims to accelerate medical marijuana research by creating a less cumbersome registration process, reforming production and distribution regulations, and allowing for private manufacturing and distribution of marijuana for research purposes. "Forty-seven states have legalized some form of cannabis, yet the federal government is still getting in the way of further progress on the potential for research," said Blumenauer.

Hemp

North Carolina House Committee Votes to Define Smokable Hemp as Marijuana. Acting at the behest of law enforcement, the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday amended SB 352 to classify smokable hemp as a controlled substance like marijuana. The move came after police complained that allowing smokable hemp would make enforcing laws against marijuana smoking unenforceable and that it would cause police to lose probable cause for vehicle searches based on the smell of marijuana smoke or a drug dog's alert. "If this bill passes without the ban, we will put 800 of our law enforcement dogs and their handlers out of business," said Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin).

Ohio House Votes to Approve Hemp Bill. The House on Wednesday voted 88-3 to approve SB 57, which clears the way for legal hemp production in the state. The Senate had already approved the bill, but because the House amended it, the Senate voted later Wednesday to concur in those amendments. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Mike DeWine (R).

Drug Overdoses

CDC Says Drug Overdoses Fell Last Year for First Time in Decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Wednesday that preliminary data showed nearly 68,000 drug overdose deaths last year, a 5% decline over 201, which saw a record of more than 70,000 deaths, and the first decline since the beginning of the current opioid use wave beginning in 1995. But the rate is still about seven times higher than it was then.

Law Enforcement

El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison. Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison plus 30 years in federal court in Manhattan. He had been convicted in February of smuggling tons of cocaine and other drugs into the US. He is headed for the federal maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.

Oregon's Pot Glut: Great for Consumers, Not So Much for Producers [FEATURE]

Drivers heading north on I-5 in southern Oregon not only enjoy the region's towering mountains and evergreen forests, they are also treated to the occasional enticement. At various points along the way, giant billboards appear, shouting out messages like "NEED WEED? Exit Here" and the succinct "MARIJUANA! This exit."

The popular Blue Dream strain is available for $2 gram or $45 an ounce in one Oregon shop. That's not unusual (CP/Flickr)
And when motorists pull off the highway and wander into those shops, they're finding weed at unbelievable prices. One shop offered grams of the popular Blue Dream strain for $2, and bargain-hunting buyers could walk out with an ounce for only $45. A number of other strains were also available for $100 an ounce or less.

It's no fluke. Walk into any pot shop in Oregon, and you'll find perfectly acceptable grams of weed for $2 or $3. Yes, it's typically outdoor marijuana, which store clerks will tell you goes for less because it doesn't get the same level of care and attention that indoor or greenhouse weed does. But the real reason is that outdoor weed gets one key input—light—for free from the sun. At $2 gram, indoor and greenhouse growers are barely recovering production costs; outdoor growers have a little more wiggle room.

If you're feeling particularly Californian, you can still pay $10 or $12 a gram if you want, but that $2 weed is going to get you just as high as that $12 weed. And state regulations let you know the THC content of anything you buy, including high octane strains at bargain basement prices.

Oregon's ridiculously cheap pot prices are a boon to consumers—and the state's tax revenues. With retail prices falling by half last year, consumption jumped by around 30% over the previous year, driving tax revenues past the $94 million mark by year's end.  While marijuana consumers are happy and pot tax coffers are brimful, the situation is not so great for the state's legal pot producers.

Unlike other early legalization states, such as Colorado and Washington, Oregon placed few limits on who could grow legal commercial marijuana, and the result has been overgrowth of epic proportions. According to the state Oregon Control Commission (OLCC), the agency that regulates weed, at the end of the fall harvest last year, Oregon produced enough legal marijuana to supply the state's needs for the next six years. You don't need a Ph.D. in economics to understand how the law of supply and demand is driving prices down.

And OLCC has the raw data to show it: The wholesale price of indoor marijuana peaked at around $2,200 a pound in late 2017 before steadily declining to its current level of about $1,000 a pound. For outdoor weed, which accounts for the vast majority of Oregon production, the price peaked at about $1,500 in late 2016, declined to about $1,000 a pound in late 2017, and slid even further to under $500 a pound after last year's harvest.

For the OLCC, the glut is a sign that the system is working: "Oregon oversupply is a sign that policy choices made to attract illegal and grey market producers into the new commercial system have been successful; this was a start-up challenge Colorado and Washington didn’t have to face," the regulators noted. "Oregon medical marijuana growers had long been suspected of diverting into the illegal market so it was important to attract these well-established producers into the OLCC’s new regulated recreational marijuana program. To entice medical as well as formerly illegal growers into Oregon’s legal market the state lowered the barriers to entry with low license fees and taxes and chose not to limit the number of licenses."

Still, the OLCC conceded that while that approach "fulfilled the immediate objective" of absorbing growers into the legal market," it has also "led to industry churn as businesses face mounting cost pressures and attempt to position themselves for the long term."

Now, fearing that "industry churn" could lead some businesses to try to sell their products on the black market or outside the state, lawmakers have moved to rein in production. This year, lawmakers enacted legislation that for the first time allows the OLCC to stop issuing new production licenses when supply exceeds demand.

They also moved to seek broader markets for the state's legal weed, passing a bill that would allow growers to sell their product out of state. But that isn't going to happen without federal approval, and there's no sign of that in the immediate future. Still, two Democrats who represent Oregon in Congress, Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, last month filed a bill that would allow for interstate commerce between states with legal marijuana programs.

Some legal pot farmers have gone bankrupt, others have just left the business, but a sizeable number have now switched to yet another cannabis product: hemp. In 2015, there were only 13 registered hemp growers in the state; now there are more than 750. And the number of acres devoted to hemp production jumped dramatically as well, from 105 acres in 2015 to more than 22,000 now. That's because hemp can be exported since it is now legal under federal law and because of the boom in CBD products, which can be derived from low-THC hemp as well as from marijuana. With those push factors, the price of hemp flowers, now going for around $350-$700 a pound, is getting close to and sometimes surpassing the price of outdoor weed.

Oregon's legal marijuana market continues to evolve, and, as the OLCC put it, the industry will continue to churn. There are going to be winners and losers among the producers, but for Oregon marijuana consumers, these are the best of times.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Florida sheriff's deputy breaks bad, a New Jersey cop probably shouldn't have done heroin on the job, and more. Let's get to it:

In Buena Vista, Colorado, a state corrections officer was arrested July 2 after he was caught bringing a burrito stuffed with drugs to work. Guard Trevor Martineau, 27, went down at the Buena Vista Correctional Facility following a multi-agency investigation sparked by an inmate who snitched him out. Martineau admitted he had drugs in his lunch bag when confronted, and authorities found the burrito stuffed with "roughly 91 grams of meth, 26 grams of heroin and 46 strips of suboxone" — in addition to "10 strips of buprenorphine naloxone, marijuana wax and six small thumb drives." Martineau admted he was paid $1,000 to pick up the drugs. Authorities said they found $960 of that at his house. He is charged with first-degree introduction of contraband and three charges of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. He was also charged with one count each of unlawful distribution of meth, heroin and Suboxone.

In Crawfordsville, Florida, a former Jackson County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday on charges he routinely pulled drivers over for minor traffic infractions, planted drugs in their vehicles, and then arrested them on bogus drug charges. Former Deputy Zachary Foster displayed a pattern of pulling drivers over, claiming he smelled marijuana, then planting baggies of methamphetamine in the cars. Prosecutors have now dropped nearly 120 cases he brought. He is charged with felony counts of racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of a controlled substance and false imprisonment. He also faces misdemeanor charges of perjury, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In Franklin Township, New Jersey, a Franklin Township police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to heroin possession and driving while impaired after he suffered a heroin overdose in his patrol car in April. Matthew Ellery had to be revived by a colleague who administered naloxone. As part of the plea deal, Ellery agreed to resign from the police force.

Medical Marijuana Update

Utah announces a short delay in medical marijuana licenses, Iowa lawmakers reject even exploring medical marijuana expansion, Hawaii's governor vetoes a bill that would have allowed inter-island transport, and more.

Hawaii

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Inter-Island Transport of Medical Marijuana. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed HB 290, which would have allowed patients to transport their medicine between islands within the state. In his veto message, Ige said air travel was under federal jurisdiction and patients could be exposed to federal prosecution.

Iowa

Iowa Lawmakers Reject Plan to Explore Medical Marijuana Expansion. In a meeting Thursday, lawmakers rejected a plan to form a special committee to work on expansion of the state's limited medical marijuana program. This comes after the legislature passed an expansion bill earlier this year, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who objected to a provision allowing an increase in the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products.

Ohio

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Inter-Island Transport of Medical Marijuana. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed HB 290, which would have allowed patients to transport their medicine between islands within the state. In his veto message, Ige said air travel was under federal jurisdiction and patients could be exposed to federal prosecution.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Adds Anxiety Disorders, Tourette's to List of Qualifying Conditions. Dept. of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced Thursday that the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board had added anxiety disorders and Tourette's Syndrome to the list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana. That brings the state's list of qualifying conditions to 23. The change goes into effect on July 20.

Utah

Utah Delays Deadline to Award Medical Marijuana Licenses. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced Saturday that it is delaying the announcement of who will grow the state’s medical marijuana to the end of the month. State officials had originally estimated a July 15 deadline for the decision. More than 80 farmers and businessmen have applied for the state's 10 grower licenses.

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

Chronicle AM: Senate Committee to Take Up Pot Banking Bill, Berkeley Psychedelic Decrim Push, More... (7/17/19)

In a sign of marijuana's momentum, a Senate committee will take up a pot banking bill next week, Ohio backs away from barring drug felons from food stamp eligibility, the Berkeley city council takes up decriminalizing natural psychedelics, and more.

Berkeley could soon join neighboring Oakland in decriminalizing natural psychedelics. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Schedules Hearing on Marijuana Business Banking Access. The Republican-controlled Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday to examine state-legal marijuana businesses' lack of access to banking services. A House marijuana banking bill has passed out of committee and now has 206 cosponsors. At the same time, though, DEA marijuana arrests increased by about 20%.

DEA Chopping Down Fewer Marijuana Plants but Making More Pot Busts. As more states legalize marijuana, the number of plants seized by the DEA is declining. The DEA reported seizing 2.8 million indoor and outdoor plants last year, a decline of 17% from 2017. At the same time, though, the DEA arrested about 20% more people for marijuana offenses. These increased arrests, however, are not occurring in the legal pot states, but in places such as Kansas and Louisiana.

Psychedelics

Berkeley City Council Committee Considers Decriminalizing Psychedelics Today. Decriminalize Nature, the same folks who successfully got neighboring Oakland to approve a psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, now has a similar ordinance under consideration in Berkeley. The city council's Public Safety Committee will take it up today and can decide to either hold it for further hearings or advance it to the full council.

Collateral Consequences

Ohio Scraps Plan to Ban Food Stamps for Drug Offenders. The state Department of Job and Family Services has abandoned a draft rule that would have denied food stamps to people who had been convicted of felony drug offenses. The department backed down after the ACLU of Ohio posted the draft rule on Twitter, along with a letter of opposition. Kimberly Hall, the department’s director, called it an error. "The draft rule to change Ohio’s policy on SNAP eligibility for those with felony drug offenses was submitted for review in error," she said in an emailed statement. "This error is being corrected. There will be no policy change."

Chronicle AM: MI Pot Expungement Bill Filed, Sri Lanka President Blames Drug Gangs for Terror Attacks, More... (7/16/19)

Columbus, Ohio, is moving to decriminalize up to seven ounces of weed, an expungement bill could clear the records of 235,000 Michigan pot offenders, Sri Lanka's president tells a whopper, and more.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena makes up lies to support his plan to execute drug offenders. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Expungement Bill Could Clear Records for 235,000 People. State Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) is set to file a bill this week that would automatically clear misdemeanor convictions for small-time pot possession for some 235,000 people. "We would go in through the Michigan State Police's database and make changes to records electronically and administratively without having to go through all the time and expense of going through the courts," Irwin said. "This is so important to a large number of people in Michigan ... who when they’re applying for jobs or student loans, they're put in a position where their record can affect their future." Both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) have said they favor clearing those low-level marijuana convictions.

Columbus, Ohio, Moves to Decriminalize Up to Seven Ounces. The city council on Monday unveiled a proposal to decriminalize the possession of up to seven ounces of marijuana. People caught with less than 100 grams would face a $10 fine, while those caught with between 100 and 200 grams would face a $25 fine. Possession of more than 200 grams would still be a felony. The council could vote on the ordinance as early as next Monday, with a public hearing set for this coming Thursday.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Delays Deadline to Award Medical Marijuana Licenses. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced Saturday that it is delaying the announcement of who will grow the state’s medical marijuana to the end of the month. State officials had originally estimated a July 15 deadline for the decision. More than 80 farmers and businessmen have applied for the state's 10 grower licenses.

International

Scotland's Record Number of Drug Deaths Prompts Call for UK Drug Policy Reform. National Records of Scotland has reported that 1,187 people died of drug overdoses last year, the highest rate ever recorded and more than double the 574 drug deaths in 2008. The report is leading to calls for radical reforms of United Kingdom drug policies.

Sri Lanka President Falsely Blames Drug Gangs for Easter Church Attacks. President Maithripala Sirisena claimed Monday that international drug gangs orchestrated the deadly Easter Sunday church bombings that left 258 dead, contradicting his own earlier statements blaming the attacks on Islamists, as well as other statements from authorities clearly pointing the finger at the jihadist group Thowheeth Jamaath. Islamic State has claimed credit for the attacks as well. While Sirisena said the day after the attacks that local terrorists and international terror groups were responsible, he blamed "drug barons" on Monday. "Drug barons carried out this attack to discredit me and discourage my anti-narcotics drive. I will not be deterred," he said. Sirisena is fighting to reinstate the death penalty for drug offenses.

Chronicle AM: ND Pot Legalization Initiative Filed, UK Pot Poll, NH Expungement Law, More... (7/15/19)

It's an all-marijuana Monday, with New Hampshire's Republican governor signing an expungement bill, North Dakota activists filing a legalization initiative petition, a poll showing near majority support for legalization in the United Kingdom, and more.

Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Governor Signs Expungement Bill. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has signed into law HB 399, which allows anyone with a conviction for small-time pot possession before September 16, 2017 to petition the court that issued it and have it removed from his record. On that 2017 date, decriminalization of three-quarters of an ounce of pot went into effect.

North Dakota Group Submits Legalization Initiative Petition to State Officials. A citizens' group unhappy with restrictions on medical marijuana use in the state has submitted a petition to state officials for a constitutional amendment initiative campaign to legalize marijuana. The initiative envisions a taxed and regulated legal market and would allow individuals to grow up to a dozen plants. If approved for signature gathering, it needs some 27,000 valid voter signatures to appear on the ballot. A spokesperson for the group said they were aiming at the June 2020 primary election, not the November 2020 general election.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio to Reconsider Adding Anxiety and Autism as Qualifying Conditions. The State Medical will reconsider whether doctors should be able to prescribe medical marijuana for patients with anxiety or autism. Last month, the board considered adding the two conditions, as well as depression, insomnia, and opioid addiction, but rejected medical marijuana for the latter three. But with anxiety and autism, it merely delayed a decision to await more input from medical experts.

International

UK Poll Has Twice as Many Supporting Marijuana Legalization as Opposing It. A new poll commissioned by a group associated with the ruling Conservative Party has support for marijuana legalization at a near-majority 48%, with only 24% opposed. The YouGov poll conducted on behalf of the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group showed an uptick in support of five points over the same poll last year, while opposition declined by 17 points.

British Virgin Islands Working on Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill. A draft bill to legalize marijuana is being reviewed by government officials, Agriculture Minister Dr. Natalio Wheatley said on Saturday. "Even before this current administration led by Premier Andrew Fahie, there was a discussion about cannabis. Perhaps it was a little quieter discussion but … there is actually a draft bill on the legalization of marijuana that I am currently reviewing. It was done by the last administration," the minister said.

Chronicle AM: UN Will Probe Philippines Drug War Killings, PA MedMJ Expansion, More... (7/12/19)

The UN will probe drug war killings in the Philippines, murders in Mexico hit a monthly high, the North Carolina Opioid Epidemic Response Act is now on the governor's desk, and more.

Equipment to test controlled substances for contaminants would be decriminalized under a North Carolina bill. (SSDP)
Medical Marijuana

Iowa Lawmakers Reject Plan to Explore Medical Marijuana Expansion. In a meeting Thursday, lawmakers rejected a plan to form a special committee to work on expansion of the state's limited medical marijuana program. This comes after the legislature passed an expansion bill earlier this year, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who objected to a provision allowing an increase in the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products.

Pennsylvania Adds Anxiety Disorders, Tourette's to List of Qualifying Conditions. Dept. of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced Thursday that the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board had added anxiety disorders and Tourette's Syndrome to the list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana. That brings the state's list of qualifying conditions to 23. The change goes into effect on July 20.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

North Carolina House Passes Opioid Epidemic Response Act. The House on Wednesday voted to approve HB 325, the Opioid Epidemic Response Act. The Senate has already approved its version of the bill, so it now goes to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper (D). Among other provisions, the bill would eliminate the state registration requirement for buprenorphine prescribers, decriminalize drug testing equipment used to identify contaminants in controlled substances, and removes restrictions on the use of state funds to purchase needles, syringes, or other injection supplies.

International

Mexico Murder Rates Tops 2,000 a Month for First Time. The Mexican news outlet Milenio reported 2,249 murders nationwide in June, the highest monthly tally since it began counting in 2007 and the first time the number killed in a month passed the 2,000 mark. The Mexican states with the highest death counts in June were Jalisco with 206, Mexico with 202, Baja California with 181, and Guanajuato with 176. In all four states, the Jalisco Nueva Generation cartel is playing either a direct or indirect role in the violence.

UN Will Probe Philippines Drug War Deaths. The UN Human Rights Council voted Thursday to begin an investigation into mass killings undertaken as part of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs. The official death count is 6,600, but activists say it could actually be as high as 27,000. Eighteen countries on the council voted for the resolution and 14 against, including China. Fifteen others abstained, including Japan.

Chronicle AM: House OKs Housing Loans for Vets in Pot Industry, HI Governor Vetoes Hemp Bill, More... (7/11/19)

Hawaii's governor wields the veto pen, the House votes to allow home loans for vets working in the marijuana industry, and more.

Hemp field. No hemp for Hawaii after the Democratic governor vetoes the hemp bill. (VoteHemp)
Marijuana Policy

House Votes To Allow Home Loans For Veterans Working In Marijuana Industry. The House voted on Wednesday to approve an amendment to the Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that would end a current VA policy that denies home loan applications to vets who work in the marijuana industry. Authored by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), the amendment was approved on a voice vote as part of a package including 33 other amendments.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Inter-Island Transport of Medical Marijuana. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed HB 290, which would have allowed patients to transport their medicine between islands within the state. In his veto message, Ige said air travel was under federal jurisdiction and patients could be exposed to federal prosecution.

Hemp

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Hemp Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed SB 1353, which would have licensed industrial hemp production in the state. In his veto message, he said "there are concerns that this bill creates a licensing structure that cannot be enforced, will not meet USDA requirements for an approved industrial hemp program, and creates practical problems in the enforcement of existing medical cannabis."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Senators Grassley and Wyden Expand Their Opioid Investigation to Tax-Exempt Organizations. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and ranking Democratic member Max Baucus (D-MT) have sent letters to 10 tax exempt organizations associated with pain asking for information about their financial relationships with opioid manufacturers and other medical organizations. The letters seek detailed information about financial relationships between the groups and opioid manufacturers The targets of the letter are the American Chronic Pain Association, American Pain Society, American Society for Pain Management Nursing, American Society of Pain Educators, Center for Practical Bioethics, Federation of State Medical Boards, The Joint Commission, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Alliance for Patient Access, and International Association for the Study of Pain.

Philippine Drug War Killings Reach Level of Crime Against Humanity, Amnesty International Says [FEATURE]

Three years into the administration of Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte and despite rising international condemnation, Duterte's bloody war on poor drug users continues unabated, with a pattern of unlawful executions under the guise of police sting operations, the human rights group Amnesty International said in a report released Monday.

Rodrigo Duterte's Philippines drug war is drawing the ire of Amnesty International. (Creative Commons)
The report, "'They Just Kill:' Ongoing Extrajudicial Executions and Other Violations in the Philippines' 'War on Drugs,' comes as the United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to vote on a resolution later this week calling for an investigation into the Philippines killings. Amnesty is calling on the council to approve that resolution.

"Three years on, President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ continues to be nothing but a large-scale murdering enterprise for which the poor continue to pay the highest price," said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia. "It is time for the United Nations, starting with its Human Rights Council, to act decisively to hold President Duterte and his government accountable."

Philippines police accept responsibility for more than 6,000 killings, saying they came in raids in which armed suspects fought back against police, but the actual number of killings, many conducted by shadowy vigilante groups suspected of links to the police may be twice or three times that figure. Opposition legislators said in February 2018 the death toll had reached 20,000.

Amnesty said the true number may never be known because "deliberate obfuscation and misinformation" from authorities makes it impossible to get an accurate tally of the killings, which targeted poor and marginalized communities that lack the means to challenge police misconduct and abuses.

It's not just the number of killings that is in doubt, but the circumstances surrounding them. While police typically claimed self-defense, witness and other information developed by Amnesty suggests a pattern of "extrajudicial executions," a polite way of saying murders by police. The claim that police were only defending themselves "doesn’t meet the feeblest standards of credibility," Amnesty concluded.

A Filipino forensic expert interviewed by Amnesty said that police reports of "buy-bust" operations she had examined did not meet the minimum standards of plausibility: "It’s so consistent, it’s a script. In fact, when you see the report, it looks like a template," she said.

As Amnesty reported:

In an all-too-typical case, police claimed Jovan Magtanong, a 30-year-old father of three, fired at them, and that they recovered a .38 caliber pistol and baggies of illegal drugs from the scene of the incident. Witnesses said he was sleeping alongside his children when officers knocked on his house door asking for another man. Jovan’s family said he did not own a gun and had not used drugs for over a year.

"They killed him like an animal," a family member told Amnesty.

Amnesty's latest report builds on an January 2017 investigation showing police had systematically targeted mostly poor and defenseless people across the country, planting "evidence," recruiting paid killers, stealing from the people they kill, and fabricating official reports. That report centered on metro Manila, then the epicenter of the killings, but the new report follows the pattern of killings to Bulacan province in Luzon, the new hotbed of drug war atrocities.

Amnesty examined 27 killings there during 20 incidents, 18 of which were official police operations. Based on witness accounts and other information, it concluded that half were extrajudicial executions. Amnesty said it couldn't develop enough information to qualify the other deaths, but said they pointed broadly to previous patterns of executions.

Amnesty also highlighted the role of "watch lists" of people in communities suspected of using or selling drugs. The "watch lists" are compiled by local officials under pressure to show results in the war on drugs by collecting the names of suspected drug users and sellers. "These lists effectively serve as guides for police of people to arrest or kill," Amnesty said. Amnesty "views these lists as unreliable, illegitimate, and unjustifiable," the group said.

"The Duterte administration has created a deadly numbers game where officials must manufacture lists and monitor them, regardless of whether the individuals on it actually use or sell drugs. This insatiable and vicious system rewards blind compliance and murder," said Nicholas Bequelin.

And the police act with impunity. Of all the killings acknowledged by the police, only one, the murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos in August 2017, which generated global media attention, actually saw police officers punished. But the man in charge of the police there, Senior Superintendent Chito Bersaluna, suffered only a period of "administrative leave" and is now working the drug war in Bulacan.

"The transfer of senior police officials to regions where killings then surged is an alarming indicator of impunity," said Bequelin. "The Duterte administration’s continuing efforts to deny and deflect responsibility are nothing short of mendacious."

The achingly callous attitude of Philippines drug warriors toward their fellow citizens was made clear last week when Ronald Dela Rosa, now a senator but earlier the metro Manila police chief and lead conductor of Duterte's drug war, defended the killing of a three-year-old girl in a drug raid near Manila.

"Shit happens," he said as he accused the girl's father of using her as a human shield.

"It is not safe to be poor in President Duterte’s Philippines," said Bequelin. "All it takes to be murdered is an unproven accusation that someone uses, buys, or sells drugs. Everywhere we went to investigate drug-related killings ordinary people were terrified. Fear has now spread deep into the social fabric of society."

Duterte and his henchmen have already fended off the International Criminal Court (by leaving it) and attempts by domestic critics to investigate their drug war crimes. Now it's time for the UN Human Rights Council to step up.

Medical Marijuana Update

New medical marijuana laws take effect in Georgia and Virginia, medical marijuana expansion is coming to New Jersey, a Florida appeals court throws out Rick Scott-era rules for producers, and more.

Florida

Florida Governor Signs Bill Allowing CBD for Child Epilepsy Patients. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on June 28 signed into law HB 7107, which allows for the use of Epidiolex to treat seizures in children. Epidiolex, from GW Pharmaceutical, is "the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified substance derived from marijuana." The new law changes the drug's classification from Schedule I to Schedule IV.

Florida Appeals Court Finds Law Limiting Medical Marijuana Companies Unconstitutional. The state's 1st District Court of Appeal has ruled that Rick Scott-era rules are unconstitutional and violate Amendment 2, the ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana in the state. The current vertically integrated system that requires companies to grow, process, package, and sell their own medical marijuana violates the amendment, the court ruled, and so does the system that caps licenses. The ruling upholds in part a 2018 Leon County Circuit Court decision that also ruled the system unconstitutional.

Georgia

Georgia CBD Access Law Now in Effect. Four years after the legislature approved the use of CBD for registered patients but failed to provide any means of access to the substance, a law that aims to do that is in effect as of July 1. HB 324 allows six private companies to grow medical marijuana to produce low-THC CBD cannabis oil and allows pharmacies to sell it to patients.

New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) last Tuesday signed into law signed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (S 10). The bill greatly expands the state medical marijuana program by increasing the number of qualifying conditions, raising caps on the amount that may be purchased and possessed, and increasing the number of grower permits.

Virginia

Virginia Medical Marijuana Changes Now in Effect. Three new laws intended to expand patient access to medical marijuana went into effect July 1. SB1557 will allow medical marijuana providers to create products such as capsules, topicals, lozenges, and suppositories, as opposed to just oils. SB1719 adds "registered agents" for those patients physically unable to pick up or receive delivery of their medical cannabis, like those in hospice, assisted living facilities, and those who rely on home healthcare providers. HB1720 allows school healthcare providers to administer medical marijuana to registered student patients just as they would any other medication.

Chronicle AM: Congressional Hearing on Marijuana, HI Governor Vetoes Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill, More... (7/10/19)

Congress heard testimony today challenging marijuana's criminalization, a Democratic House rising star and Senate presidential contender team up on a federal housing bill, Hawaii's governor vetoes a bill to end civil asset forfeiture, and more.

Marijuana got a hearing on Capitol Hill today. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congress Hears Testimony Challenging Marijuana Criminalization. The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security is holding a hearing today on "Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform." Witnesses are discussing alternative policy options, including ending marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Appeals Court Finds Law Limiting Medical Marijuana Companies Unconstitutional. The state's 1st District Court of Appeal has ruled that Rick Scott-era rules are unconstitutional and violate Amendment 2, the ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana in the state. The current vertically integrated system that requires companies to grow, process, package, and sell their own medical marijuana violates the amendment, the court ruled, and so does the system that caps licenses. The ruling upholds in part a 2018 Leon County Circuit Court decision that also ruled the system unconstitutional.

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) on Tuesday vetoed HB 748, which would have ended asset forfeiture without a criminal conviction in the state. Ige acted at the behest of law enforcement agencies statewide, who strongly opposed the bill.  The law would "be too restrictive," Ige said.

Housing

Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez File Bill to Protect Rights in Federal Housing. House upstart Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have teamed up to file the Fair Chance at Housing Act of 2020, which would make it harder to evict tenants for a single criminal offense and would prevent the eviction of family members who didn't know about a guilty person's criminal acts. The bill would also limit criminal record queries by housing authorities screening potential tenants. Under the bill, drug offenses resulting in a sentence of less than 10 years would no longer bar someone from seeking federal housing assistance. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

(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.)

Chronicle AM: Marijuana Justice Coalition Speaks, Trump Administration Split on Fentanyl Analogues, More... (7/9/19)

Hawaii decriminalizes up to three grams of pot as of today, the Marijuana Justice Coalition lays down some principles for reform, the Trump administration is split on what to do about fentanyl analogues, and more.

Fentanyl and its analogues can be deadly, but could also have medicinal benefits. (DEA)
Marijuana Justice Coalition Asserts Statement of Principles on Federal Marijuana Reform. The Marijuana Justice Coalition consists of the ACLU, the Center for American Progress, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, NORML, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The coalition is calling for comprehensive federal marijuana law reform, including the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, expungement and resentencing provisions, eliminating barriers to access to public benefits, provisions eliminating discrimination against marijuana users, protection of immigrants' rights, community reinvestment, and minority involvement.

Arkansas Will See Two More Marijuana Initiatives Filed. The Arkansas Drug Policy Education Group will file two initiative petitions with the secretary of state on Wednesday. The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment would legalize and regulate marijuana for adults while allowing limited home cultivation, while the Arkansas Marijuana Expungement Amendment would allow people convicted of possessing less than a pound of pot to petition for release from custody, reduction of sentence, expungement of conviction, and/or restoration of rights.

Hawaii Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession Without Governor's Signature. A bill passed by the legislature to decriminalize the possession of up to three grams of marijuana went into effect Tuesday without the signature of Gov. David Ige (D). While Ige didn't sign the bill, neither did he veto it, so it goes into effect without him.

New Mexico Legalization Push Begins This Week. A task force created by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and consisting of industry officials and policy experts will meet for the first time on Wednesday to begin crafting proposals to make marijuana legalization a reality in the Land of Enchantment. The task force should be able to give legalization a head start on the 2020 legislative session, which begins in January.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Administration Split on How to Fight Fentanyl Analogues. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have "concerns" over a DEA plan to develop tighter rules for fentanyl analogues. The DEA plan is part of a bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) that would cut the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) out of the new drug review process by letting the DEA permanently classify fentanyl analogues as Schedule I drugs. But a NIDA expert has warned that the move not only put all analogues into Schedule I before anything is known about their medical benefits, but also would make researching them more difficult. And the clock is ticking: a DEA emergency order from 2018 placing all fentanyl analogues into Schedule I is set to expire in February.

Drug Policy and Sustainable Development: Goals 4, 8 and 16 on Education, Work and Rule of Law

Drug Policy and Sustainable Development: Goals 4, 8 and 16 on Education, Work and Rule of Law


side event, UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
Church Center of the United Nations, 777 UN Plaza (1st Avenue & 44th Street), 10th Floor
Thursday July 11, 2019, 4:15‐6:30pm ET

RSVP to [email protected] (requested but not required)
Snacks will be Provided

Panel 1: Challenges people recovering from criminal justice involvement face

accessing work and education (4:15‐5:15pm) 
  • Darrell Bennett, former IMPACT Leadership Program Director, Exodus Transitional Community
  • Megan French‐Marcelin, Fair Hiring Project Coordinator, JustLeadershipUSA
  • David Sheridan, Director of Financial Aid, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
Panel 2: International justice to counter disinformation and promote humanrights, in the Philippines and elsewhere (5:30‐6:30pm)
  • William Pace, Convener, Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 1995‐2019
  • video: Davey Alba for BuzzFeed, "How Duterte Used Facebook to Fuel the Philippine Drug War
  • video: Pamela Combinido, "Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines"
  • others speakers TBA

moderated by David Borden, Executive Director, StoptheDrugWar.org

PDF flyer here

Chronicle AM: AR, MT 2020 Pot Initiatives Get Underway, Amnesty Int'l. on Philippines Drug War, More... (7/8/19)

Marijuana legalization initiative campaigns are gearing up in Arkansas and Montana, a Missouri legislative committee will study asset forfeiture and racial profiling, Amnesty International calls the Philippines drug war a crime against humanity, and more.

2020 is already shaping up to be a big year for marijuana legalization initiatives. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas 2020 Legalization Initiative Campaign Getting Underway. The Arkansas True Grass Ballot Question Committee is gearing up to once again try to get a legalization initiative on the state ballot. The group came up short on signatures in 2016, but is back again with the Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2020, which would legalize it for adults 21 and over, as well as expunge arrest records and free any currently serving marijuana prisoners. The initiative is currently being finalized and will shortly go to the secretary of state's office to be cleared for circulation.

Montana 2020 Legalization Initiative Campaign Getting Underway, and Another Could Follow. A group calling itself MontanaCan has filed a legalization initiative, the Marijuana Regulation Act, or Ballot Issue No. 5, with the secretary of state's office. The measure is now being reviewed by the state's Legislative Services Division before being cleared for circulation. Meanwhile, another group, Coalition 406, is also working on a legalization initiative for 2020, but hasn't filed yet with the secretary of state's office.

Hemp

Ohio Hemp Bill Stalled. A bill to allow the cultivation and sale of hemp,  Senate Bill 57, is stalled in the House because of tussles over CBD. Under state law, CBD remains illegal and under the purview of the state Medical Marijuana Control Program. House leaders say it may be the fall before the bill moves again.

Asset Forfeiture

Missouri Legislative Committee to Hold Hearings on Asset Forfeiture, Racial Profiling. State Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-Wildwood) announced Monday that his Special Committee on Criminal Justice will hold public hearings in July and August to thoroughly examine the issues of racial profiling and civil asset forfeiture. Dogan, who chairs the committee, said the committee will hold public hearings July 24 in St. Louis and August 1 in Kansas City. He said the hearings will focus on examining the 2018 Vehicle Stops Report, which showed the largest racial disparity yet in traffic stops, as well as rising civil asset forfeiture seizures.

International

Amnesty International Calls for Urgent Investigation into Philippines' Deadly War on Drugs. The wave of police killings triggered by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous anti-drugs campaign continues to rage on, destroying lives and devastating communities, a report by Amnesty International revealed Monday. The UN must immediately open an investigation into gross human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity committed as part of the "war on drugs," the human rights group said. "Three years on, President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ continues to be nothing but a large-scale murdering enterprise for which the poor continue to pay the highest price," said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia. "It is time for the United Nations, starting with its Human Rights Council, to act decisively to hold President Duterte and his government accountable."

Sri Lanka Supreme Court Stays Execution of Drug Defendants. The nation's Supreme Court last Friday stayed the death penalty for four persons convicted of drug offenses until at least October 30. If imposed, the death sentences would be the first carried out in the country in 43 years. President Maithripala Sirisena had signed the death warrants last month, ending a moratorium on capital punishment.

Chronicle AM: Call for UN Query on Philippines Drug War Deaths, TX Hemp-Pot Conundrum, More... (7/5/19)

There's good news on two fronts in the drug war in South and Southeast Asia, a new Texas hemp law is screwing up marijuana possession prosecutions, and more.

Rodrigo Duterte's Philippines drug war is once again in the human rights crosshairs. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Texas Hemp Legalization Screws with Marijuana Prosecutions. The legislature's passage of a law legalizing hemp this year is having unintended consequences. The new law changed the definition of marijuana, and prosecutors and crime labs don't have the resources to test if a substance is marijuana or legal hemp. That has led prosecutors across the state to drop hundreds of pot possession cases and to say they won't pursue new ones without further testing. "In order to follow the Law as now enacted by the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor, the jurisdictions… will not accept criminal charges for Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana (4 oz. and under) without a lab test result proving that the evidence seized has a THC concentration over .3%," wrote the district attorneys from Harris, Fort Bend, Bexar and Nueces counties in a new joint policy released Wednesday.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Governor Cuts Funding for Welfare Drug Testing. What a difference a governor makes! Under Republican Scott Walker, the state instituted a food stamp drug testing program, but now, under Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, that program is seeing its funding cut. In budget moves this week, Evers not only slashed the drug testing funding, he also canceled plans for a new prison.

International

Two Dozen Countries Call for UN Investigation of Philippines Drug War Killings. More than two dozen countries formally called Thursday for a UN investigation into thousands of killings in the bloody war on drugs led by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. The government admits to some 6,000 deaths, but activists put the tool as high as 27,000. A draft resolution submitted by Iceland and supported mainly by West European countries urges the government to halt extrajudicial executions and calls on the UN Human Rights Council to address the crisis.

Philippines Drug Warrior on Death of Child Killed by Police in Drug Raid: "Shit Happens." Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a senator who once led the drug crackdown that has resulted in thousands of deaths, pooh-poohed the killing of a three-year-old girl by police during a drug sting, saying the world is not perfect, and "shit happens." Lawyers and activists rejected dela Rosa's stance: "This is not 'shit happens'. This happens when gov't dispenses justice from guns instead of courts," Jose Manuel Diokno, a lawyer who has mounted legal challenges to Duterte's crackdown, wrote on Twitter.

Sri Lanka Supreme Court Delays Executions of Drug Convicts. The Supreme Court has delayed the executions of four people set to be hung for drug offenses. They would have been the first death sentences carried out in the country since 1976. President Maithripala Sirasena ended a 43-year moratorium on the death penalty earlier this year when he signed the death sentences for the four. Now the killings are on indefinite hold, with a court hearing set for October.

Chronicle AM: Arizona 2020 Initiative Gearing Up, Land Mines in the Coca Fields, More... (7/3/19)

Arizona marijuana legalization supporters prepare to try again, New Jersey is set for a big medical marijuana expansion, tension in Colombia's coca fields, and more.

Things are heating up in Colombia's coca fields. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona 2020 Legalization Initiative Campaign Getting Underway. Marijuana legalization supporters are set to try once again to legalize weed via the popular vote after coming up short in 2016. Proponents argue the scenery has shifted enough since then that they can win next year. They will need some 237,000 valid voter signatures by next summer to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Tuesday signed into law signed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (S 10). The bill greatly expands the state medical marijuana program by increasing the number of qualifying conditions, raising caps on the amount that may be purchased and possessed, and increasing the number of grower permits.

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Governor Faces Pressure to Not Veto Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. After hinting last week that he might veto civil asset forfeiture reform legislation, Gov. David Ige (D) is facing rising pressure from lawmakers and others to change course. The measure, HB 748, which would end civil asset forfeiture, passed both houses of the legislature without a dissenting vote. But Ige called civil asset forfeiture "an effective and critical law enforcement tool that prevents the economic benefits of committing a crime from outweighing consequential criminal penalties and punishment." Lawmakers such as bill sponsor Rep. Joy San Buenaventura (D-Puna) countered that the bill is necessary to protect "innocent people whose property was seized because of legalized theft by the government." The practice amounts to "policing for profit," she added. The ACLU of Hawaii is also calling on Ige to not veto the bill.

International

Colombia Complains Armed Groups are Planting Land Mines to Protect Coca Crop. Colombia's High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos told the Organization of American States Tuesday that the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) and the rightist paramilitary force the Urabeños have both resumed planting land mines to protect coca crops from manual eradication efforts. Ceballos said the mining is increasing the isolation of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and undermining the peace process. "Planting landmines again stalls the adequate implementation of the peace accords, because it prevents populations from returning to their territories," he told journalists. Since 1990, more than 400 crop eradicators have been wounded by land mines and 46 killed.

Chronicle AM: Senate Fight Over Fentanyl Analogues Bill, New Laws Now in Effect, More... (7/2/19)

A battle over fentanyl analogues is brewing on Capitol Hill, various new drug laws went into effect yesterday, North Dakota marijuana advocates plan another initiative, and more.

Fentanyl and its analogues are the subject of a brewing battle in the Senate. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Lawmakers Ease Marijuana and Alcohol Laws. The legislature has passed a bill expanding marijuana decriminalization to include juveniles. Under current law, small time possession is decriminalized for adults, but people under 18 face a misdemeanor charge. The new bill makes possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense in all cases for a first or second offense. A third or subsequent offense would subject anyone under 21 to a misdemeanor criminal charge. Lawmakers also approved a bill making consumption or possession of alcohol by a minor a civil offense for the first and second offenses. Both bills now head to the desk of Gov. John Carney (D) for his signature.

New Mexico Marijuana Decriminalization Now in Effect. As of July 1, the possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana is no longer a criminal offense but is now a civil infraction punishable by a fine of no more than $50. Paraphernalia possession is also now decriminalized.

New Mexico Governor Forms Working Group on Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Michelle Luhan Grisham (D) announced last Friday that she will form a working group to study strategy for legalizing marijuana in the state next year. She "will place the matter of legalization on her call for the Second Session of the 54th Legislature, a 30-day session which will begin January 2020," her office said in a press release. In the meantime, she announced the formation of the Cannabis Legalization working group, comprised of lawmakers, stakeholders, and law enforcement officials. "This group will ensure we begin the next session with a credible, equitable and cohesive legalization proposal that will incorporate all public safety concerns, workplace regulations, labeling requirements that protect underage children and all manner of other issues," Lujan Grisham said. "There are open questions about how legalization can work best for New Mexico. This group will answer those questions, and we will arrive at the next session prepared."

North Dakota Legalizers Roll Out New Ballot Proposal. Legalize ND, the folks behind the failed 2018 marijuana legalization initiative, are back with a new ballot proposal for 2020. Unlike the 2018 initiative, which was very wide open, this new draft sets limits on marijuana possession, bans personal cultivation, and establishes a 10% excise tax on sales. The group will spend the next two weeks reviewing the proposal before presenting it to state officials to begin the official initiative process. Another group is already planning a 2020 constitutional amendment to end marijuana prohibition.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Governor Signs Bill Allowing CBD for Child Epilepsy Patients. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last Friday signed into law HB 7107, which allows for the use of Epidiolex to treat seizures in children. Epidiolex, from GW Pharmaceutical, is "the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified substance derived from marijuana." The new law changes the drug's classification from Schedule I to Schedule IV.

Georgia CBD Access Law Now in Effect. Four years after the legislature approved the use of CBD for registered patients but failed to provide any means of access to the substance, a law that aims to do that is now in effect. HB 324 allows six private companies to grow medical marijuana to produce low-THC CBD cannabis oil and allows pharmacies to sell it to patients.

Virginia Medical Marijuana Changes Now in Effect. Three new laws intended to expand patient access to medical marijuana went into effect July 1. SB1557 will allow medical marijuana providers to create products such as capsules, topicals, lozenges, and suppositories, as opposed to just oils. SB1719 adds "registered agents" for those patients physically unable to pick up or receive delivery of their medical cannabis, like those in hospice, assisted living facilities, and those who rely on home healthcare providers. HB1720 allows school healthcare providers to administer medical marijuana to registered student patients just as they would any other medication.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Fight Brewing Over Bill to Keep Fentanyl Analogue Plan in Place. Justice Department officials are squaring off against some Democrats and criminal justice and drug policy reformers over a bill that would keep fentanyl analogues in the same category as heroin, making it easier for the government to prosecute traffickers. An emergency ban on the substances is set to expire in February. The Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act (S 1622), sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has caused some Democrats to worry whether the blanket rescheduling of fentanyl-related substances could create barriers for researchers. Meanwhile, groups including the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU are opposing the bill, arguing that it would create harsher sentencing and more targeting of communities of color without reducing overdoses.

International

British Home Office Backs Move to Let Hard Drug Users Test Their Stashes. The Home Office has announced that it will license a series of laboratories where users of Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine can test their drugs for purity and quality without fear of arrest. Under the plan, drug users could take dose-sized quantities of their drugs to be tested, and then would have a 20-minute consultation about drug use and paths to treatment.

Philippines Medical Marijuana Bill Reintroduced. A bill to legalize medical marijuana was filed in the House on Monday. Similar bills have been filed each year since 2014. Last year, the bill passed the lower house but failed to get out of the Senate.

Peruvian Rebel Remnants Kill Three Soldiers in Key Coca Zone. Remnants of the 1980s guerrilla group the Shining Path killed three soldiers in ambushes in the Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro (VRAEM) region of central Peru late last month. The VRAEM is Peru's largest coca growing area, and the military has vowed "total pacification" there, but the Shining Path remnants, who mainly subsist off the coca and cocaine trade, apparently beg to differ.

Chronicle AM: Malaysia Moves Toward Drug Decriminalization, Cocaine Production at Record High, More... (6/28/19)

In a dramatic change of course, Malaysia is moving toward drug decriminalization; the UN says cocaine production hit an all-time high in 2017, Cory Booker files a bill to protect immigrants with marijuana convictions, and more.

Sen. Cory Booker has filed a bill to protect immigrants from being deported for marijuana offenses. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Cory Booker Files Bill to Protect Immigrants from Being Deported for Marijuana. Democratic presidential contender and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker filed a bill Thursday that would bar the US from deporting immigrants and denying citizenship to people convicted of marijuana offenses. More than 34,000 people were deported for marijuana offenses between 2012 and 2017, according to Human Rights Watch. The bill is the Remove Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act. It is not yet available on the congressional web site.

Congressional Bill Would Allow Marijuana Imports and Exports Between Legal States. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on Thursday filed a bill to allow states to legally export and import marijuana. The bill would allow states that have legalized marijuana to enter into mutual agreements to engage in interstate pot commerce. "As more and more states legalize cannabis, the gap between state and federal laws will only grow more confusing for both legal businesses and consumers," Wyden said in a press release.
The solution is clear: the federal government needs to end its senseless and out of touch prohibition. As we fight for that ultimate goal, however, Congress can and should immediately act to protect the will of Oregonians and voters in other states from federal interference -- and that should include interstate cannabis commerce," he said. Read the text of the bill here.

California Legislature Approves Bill Extending Provisional Permits. The Assembly voted 57-11 Thursday to approve Assembly Bill 97, which will extend the lifespan of provisional business licenses for marijuana operations until 2022. Since the measure passed the Senate on Monday, the bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who is expected to sign it. The measure is a bid to bolster the state's flagging legal marijuana industry.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey to Allow Paramedics to Initiate Buprenorphine. State Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal signed an executive order this week that will allow paramedics to administer buprenorphine, an opioid addiction medication. The aim is to encourage people who have been administered naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose to go right to buprenorphine in the wake of the overdose recovery. Buprenorphine is considered the gold standard for opioid treatment drugs.

International

UN Says Cocaine Production at Record Levels in 2017. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Thursday that cocaine production jumped 13% in 2017 to 1,275 tons, the largest quantity ever reported. Although Colombia accounts for about 70% of total production, output was also increasing in both Bolivia and Peru. Colombian cocaine manufacture has quadrupled between 2013 and 2017.

Malaysia Moving Toward Drug Decriminalization. Malaysia plans to drop criminal penalties for the use and possession of small amounts of drugs, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said Thursday. The country currently has some of the world's toughest penalties for drug possession and more than 1,200 prisoners on death row, most for drug offenses. Less than half a pound of marijuana can merit a death sentence under current law. Ahmad said drug addiction is a complex, relapsing medical condition and throwing an addict into jail will not cure him. "Drug decriminalization will indeed be a critical next step toward achieving a rational drug policy that puts science and public health before punishment and incarceration," Dzulkefly said. "An addict shall be treated as a patient, not as a criminal, whose addiction is a disease we would like to cure."

(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.)

Chronicle AM: Afghan Opium Down, Colombian Coca Leveling Off, More... (6/29/19)

The UN says Afghan opium production is down, the US says Colombian coca production has leveled off but is still at high levels, Louisville passes a lowest law enforcement priority ordinance for marijuana, and more.

Colombian coca production is leveling off, the US says, but there's still plenty of cocaine to go around. (CBP)
Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Governor Won't Veto Decriminalization Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) said this week that he will not veto HB 1383, which decriminalizes the possession of up to three grams of marijuana. Under current law, possession is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Once the bill is signed, it will become a non-criminal violation punishable by a $130 fine.

Louisville Passes Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Ordinance. The Louisville Metro Council has passed an ordinance making "investigation, citations, and arrests" relating to adult possession of a "small amount of marijuana" the lowest law enforcement priority. The ordinance defines adults as 21 or older and says "personal use" could be a half ounce or less of marijuana.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Senate Approves Bill Mandating Law Enforcement Reporting on Seizures. The Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a bill making it mandatory for law enforcement to report on how often it resorted to civil asset forfeiture to seize property from people not convicted of a crime. The bill now goes to the House.

Harm Reduction

Florida Authorizes Expansion of Syringe Access Statewide. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Wednesday signed into law a bill that will allow legally authorized needle exchange programs across the state. The Infectious Disease Elimination Act (SB 366) was approved by the legislature in May after the Drug Policy Alliance worked with local stakeholders to get it through. Florida now becomes just the 22nd jurisdiction in the country to legally authorize syringe exchange programs. Many still operate underground and face daily risk of closure, further fueling the spread of blood-borne diseases and overdose rates.

International

UN Says Afghan Opium Harvest Declines, Thanks to Drought. Opium production fell last year in Afghanistan, by far the world's leading opium producer, because of severe drought, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday. UNODC said the drop was about 25%, leaving output at just under 8,000 tons of raw opium.

US Says Colombian Cocaine Production Leveling Off. According to a 2018 estimate released Wednesday by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia remains high but is leveling off. The estimate states cultivation in Colombia saw a minor decrease in 2018 to 208,000 hectares from 209,000 hectares in 2017. Similarly, potential pure cocaine production also saw a minor decrease in 2018 to 887 pure metric tons from 900 pure metric tons in 2017. Although coca cultivation in Colombia remained at historically high levels in 2018, it was the first year the crop did not increase since 2012.

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

Medical Marijuana Update

A federal amendment to ease veterans' access to medical marijuana gets bumped, an Idaho medical marijuana initiative campaign gets underway, and more.

National

Amendment to Ease Vets' Access to Medical Marijuana Shelved. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), sponsor of an amendment to an annual spending bill for Veteran Affairs that would have widened access to medical marijuana for veterans, pulled the amendment in the face of opposition from the VA. On the House floor, Blumenauer explained that the VA "has not been as helpful as it should be" in easing access for vets. "All of a sudden the VA has decided, well, they would be putting their doctors at risk," he said. "I hope that we'll be able to work together to fix this little quirk to make sure that VA doctors can do what doctors everywhere do in states where medical cannabis is legal and be able to work with their patients."

Delaware

Delaware Sees Two Last-Minute Medical Marijuana Bills. With five days left in the legislative session, two last-minute medical marijuana bills await consideration. SB 170 would allow patients with anxiety to treat their conditions with CBD-rich products, while HB 243, would allow certain approved users to grow a limited amount of their own medical marijuana. The assigned committee has not yet issued a report for this bill, keeping it from a full vote in the house.

Idaho

Idaho Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Gets Underway. The Idaho Cannabis Coalition announced Tuesday that it delivered signatures to the secretary of state's office to start the process for getting a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in 2020. The initiative seeks to provide Idahoans with "safe access to whole plant cannabis and other medical cannabis products through a system of secure dispensaries tightly regulated by the state." Patients with demonstrated physical or financial hardship would qualify to grow their own medicine.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Will Allow Physician Assistants to Recommend Medical Marijuana. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has signed into law a bill expanding the list of providers who may recommend medical marijuana. A bill that allows medical marijuana users to grow their own plants awaits his signature.

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

Chronicle AM: MD Task Force Studying Legalization, ID MedMJ Init Underway, More... (6/26/19)

Maryland legislators begin studying the path to marijuana legalization, New York legalization advocates look to next year, an Idaho medical marijuana initiative campaign gets underway, and more.

Dispensaries like this one could be coming to Idaho if a new initiative campaign is successful. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Legislative Task Force Begins Work on Marijuana Legalization. A General Assembly task force began its work on studying possible marijuana legalization on Tuesday. The body will form subcommittees to study the impact on criminal justice and health, while also considering best approaches to taxation, licensing, and ensuring minority participation. The task force should finish its work by the end of the year, but what members will recommend remains to be seen.

New York Marijuana Advocates Now Aiming to Legalize It Next Year. Marijuana legalization advocates say they plan to spend the next six months lobbying lawmakers to pass a marijuana legalization bill next year. This after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and legislative leaders failed to get it done this year, passing a decriminalization bill as a last-minute sop. Kassandra Frederique of the Drug Policy Alliance pointed the finger at Assembly and Senate leaders, but particularly Gov. Cuomo.

Medical Marijuana

Delaware Sees Two Last-Minute Medical Marijuana Bills. With five days left in the legislative session, two last-minute medical marijuana bills await consideration. SB 170 would allow patients with anxiety to treat their conditions with CBD-rich products, while HB 243, would allow certain approved users to grow a limited amount of their own medical marijuana. The assigned committee has not yet issued a report for this bill, keeping it from a full vote in the house.

Idaho Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Gets Underway. The Idaho Cannabis Coalition announced Tuesday that it delivered signatures to the secretary of state's office to start the process for getting a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in 2020. The initiative seeks to provide Idahoans with "safe access to whole plant cannabis and other medical cannabis products through a system of secure dispensaries tightly regulated by the state." Patients with demonstrated physical or financial hardship would qualify to grow their own medicine.

Chronicle AM: IL Becomes 11th Legal Marijuana State, Iran Says Sanctions Hinder Drug Fight, More... (6/25/19)

With the governor's signature, Illinois becomes the 11th legal marijuana state; Hawaii's governor wields the veto pen against hemp and asset forfeiture bills, Iran says US sanctions are hurting its war on drugs, and more.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/illinoisstatehouse.jpg
Illinois the latest legalization state
Marijuana Policy

It's Official: Illinois Legalizes Marijuana. Illinois has just become the 11th state to legalize marijuana. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed into law a legalization bill passed with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate late last month. With that signature, Illinois became the first state to get a marijuana legalization bill all the way through the legislative process this year, and it became the first state to create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce through the legislative process rather than a voter initiative. (Vermont’s legislature legalized possession and cultivation but not sales in early 2018.) Once the law goes into effect on January 1, Illinois residents 21 and over will be able to legally possess 30 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of concentrate, or 500 milligrams of THC in a marijuana-infused product. Out-of-staters will only be able to possess up to 15 grams of marijuana.

Oregon Governor Signs Marijuana Expungement Measure into Law. Gov. Kate Brown (D) has signed into law SB 420, to facilitate the expungement of past marijuana convictions. The law sets procedures for people previously convicted of possessing up to an ounce of weed to file motions to have their convictions set aside. This measure expands upon a earlier expungement bill passed in 2015.

Hemp

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Hemp Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed SB 1353, which would have established an industrial hemp licensing program required by the US Department of Agriculture for industrial hemp production. Ige said he was concerned the bill would create a licensing structure that could not be enforced.

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Asset Forfeiture Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed HB 748, which would have prohibited civil asset forfeiture. The reason Ige gave for vetoing the bill is that "current laws are effective."

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Turn Over Narcotics Division Files For Probe Of Botched Raid. The Houston Police Department has turned over thousands of files from its narcotics division to the Harris County District Attorney's office. The DA's office said Monday prosecutors will review the files as part of an investigation sparked by a January 28 botched drug raid in which two civilians died and five officers were wounded.

International

Iran Foreign Minister Says US Sanctions Hindering Fight Against Drugs. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a conference in Tehran marking the International Day Against Drug Absue and Illicit Trafficking that the US and certain Western countries are hindering the fight against narcotics. Zarif said the reimposition of US sanctions against Iran as well as "economic terrorism" were preventing Iran from implementing international agreements about fighting drugs. "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that to fight against narcotics it is necessary to avoid politicization and unilateralism, and to pay attention to international cooperation as a necessary means to achieve the goals set forth to build a better future for all human beings and future generations," he said. Iran seized more than 800 tons of Afghan opium last year.

Chronicle AM: Maine Legal MJ Sales (Finally), House Blocks Forfeiture Loophole, More... (6/24/19)

Soon, Mainers will finally be able to buy and sell legal marijuana, the House passes an amendment to block an asset forfeiture end-run for local law enforcement, and more.

Soon, Mainers will be able to go to pot shops like this one. (Sonya Yreul/Drug Policy Alliance)
Maine Governor Says Says She Intends to Sign Law to Allow Marijuana Sales. Gov. Janet Mills (D) said last Friday she plans to sign a law setting up a legal framework for marijuana sales in the state. Voters approved legalization in November 2016, but legal sales were long delayed by recalcitrant former Gov. Paul LePage (R).

Medical Marijuana

Amendment to Ease Vets' Access to Medical Marijuana Shelved. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), sponsor of an amendment to an annual spending bill for Veteran Affairs that would have widened access to medical marijuana for veterans, pulled the amendment in the face of opposition from the VA. On the House floor, Blumenauer explained that the VA "has not been as helpful as it should be" in easing access for vets. "All of a sudden the VA has decided, well, they would be putting their doctors at risk," he said. "I hope that we'll be able to work together to fix this little quirk to make sure that VA doctors can do what doctors everywhere do in states where medical cannabis is legal and be able to work with their patients."

New Hampshire Will Allow Physician Assistants to Recommend Medical Marijuana. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has signed into law a bill expanding the list of providers who may recommend medical marijuana. A bill that allows medical marijuana users to grow their own plants awaits his signature.

Asset Forfeiture

House Passes Amendment to Block Federal Asset Forfeiture Loophole. The House last Wednesday unanimously approved an amendment to the annual Justice Department funding bill that blocks the department from funding a practice known as adoptive seizure, in which the federal government agrees to take over seizure cases from state and local law enforcement in a bid to get around state asset forfeiture laws. The bipartisan amendment was sponsored by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Tim Wahlberg (R-MI).

Criminal Justice

Pennsylvania Senate Schedules Major Hearing on Probation and Parole Reform. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings Monday and Tuesday on the state's probation and parole systems. The committee will hear from more than a dozen stakeholders in the probation and parole debate, including county district attorneys, criminal defense lawyers, and advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Reform Alliance, which is chaired by Philadelphia rapper and probation and parole reform advocate Meek Mill. Representatives from state Department of Corrections, the Office of the Victim Advocate, and the Sentencing Commission will also offer testimony. "It's incredibly important," committee aide Mike Cortez said. "The hearing will be a sounding board to figure out what we can do, what we can't do, and if there are ways we can move bills forward." A recent report found that the state spends about $100 million a year to incarcerate people who committed technical parole infractions and an additional $200 million on people who commit new crimes while on parole or probation.

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