Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: FBI to Investigate Fatal Houston Drug Raid, NH Legal Pot Bill Advances, More... (2/21/19)

The fallout from that fatal January Houston drug raid continues, a New Hampshire pot legalization bill advances, so does a Florida bill to allow smokable medical marijuana, and more.

This could be legal soon in New Hampshire if that marijuana legalization bill keeps moving. (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Governor Uses Budget Address to Call for Legalization. As he unveiled his first annual budget Wednesday, Gov. J,B. Pritzker called for marijuana legalization and taxation to help pay for $1.1 billion in new spending. He also called for the legalization and taxation of sports betting, as well as raising money with new taxes on plastic bags, e-cigs, and raising the cigarette tax.

New Hampshire Legalization Bill Narrowly Wins House Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 10-9 to recommend passage of HB 481, which would legalize up to an ounce for adults and create a system of taxed and regulated sales. Adults could also grow up to six plants. The narrow margin of victory in committee suggests a tough fight to pass it on the House floor.

North Dakota Decriminalization Bill Narrowly Defeated. A bill that would have decriminalized the possession of up to ounce was defeated on a 47-43 vote in the House Wednesday. HB 1155’s defeat means legalization proponents in the state will gear up for a legalization initiative next year.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona House Committee Approves Bill to Protect Edibles, Extracts. The House Committee on Public Safety voted 5-2 Wednesday to approve HB 2149. The measure would specify that the 2010 voter-approved medical marijuana law also includes any products made from its resins. In a case pending before state courts, the state has argued that edibles and hashish are not included in the law.

Florida Bill to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana Heads for Senate Floor Vote. The Senate Rules Committee voted Wednesday to approve SB 182, which would end the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana. That means the measure will head for a Senate floor vote weeks ahead of a March 15 deadline set by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has threatened litigation if the legislature doesn’t act.

Michigan Appeals Court Rules Against Worker Not Hired for Medical Marijuana Use. The state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday against a woman who had a job offer rescinded because she tested positive for marijuana—even though she had a medical marijuana card. The ruling is a boon for employers who apply zero-tolerance substance abuse policies.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota House Approves Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill. The House on Wednesday approved a civil asset forfeiture reform bill on a 57-33 vote. HB 1286 would not end civil asset forfeiture, but would raise the standard of proof from "a preponderance" of the evidence to "clear and compelling evidence." It would also require a criminal conviction before civil asset forfeiture could proceed. The bill now goes to the Senate, which defeated similar legislation in 2017.

Law Enforcement

Two House Republicans Urge State Department to Label Cartels as Terrorist Organizations. A pair of conservative House Republicans, Reps. Mark Green (TN) and Chip Roy (TX), sent a letter Wednesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking the State Department to label drug cartels as terrorist organizations. The proposal would "further stigmatize these groups both at home and abroad," the pair wrote. "These cartels have utilized barbaric tactics including those adopted by [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] ISIS and al Qaeda – murdering and torturing innocents, destabilizing countries and assassinating members of law enforcement," Green added in a statement. Drug cartels differ from terrorist organizations, though, in that they have no political agenda (other than being left alone to go about their business), a key component of the definition of terrorism.

FBI Opens Civil Rights Investigation into Deadly Houston Drug Raid. The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into a January drug raid in Houston that left two people dead and five police officers wounded. The raid was based on falsified search warrant affidavits claiming informants had bought heroin at the house, but the homeowners, who were killed, possessed no heroin at all—only small, personal use amounts of marijuana and possibly cocaine. Fallout from the case has already resulted in one officer being suspended, an end to no-knock raids in the city, and the review of more than 1,400 cases linked to the lying officer. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A West Virginia deputy sheriff gets caught up in an FBI drug dealing investigation, a Georgia prison guard gets nailed for taking bribes to smuggle pot into the joint, and more.

In Hamilton, Ohio, a state prison guard was arrested last Friday for allegedly smuggling drugs into the prison. Daniel Garvey, 28, is charged with illegal conveyance of drugs, trafficking in drugs, and possession of drugs. No details about what led up to the arrest are available.

In Atlanta, a former Georgia prison guard was convicted last Friday of accepting payments to smuggle drugs and other contraband into a state prison. Jokelra Copeland, 32, was found to have repeatedly smuggled packages of marijuana into the prison and to have accepted at least $13,000 in bribes. Copeland was one of 68 Georgia corrections officers arrested by the FBI in 2016 following an extensive federal investigation into officers smuggling contraband into prisons for money while others used their credentials to protect drug deals on the outside, according to the DOJ.

In Charleston, West Virginia, a former Kanawha County Deputy Sheriff was sentenced last Wednesday to three years' probation for lying to the FBI about buying drugs from a suspect for his own personal use. Robert Evans went down when he bought opioid pain medication from a target of an FBI drug trafficking investigation.  The FBI found texts between Evans and the drug dealer that revealed he had been buying pain pills from him for months. Evans returned the favor by running license plate and vehicle identification numbers at the request of drug dealers. 

Medical Marijuana Update

A veterans' medical marijuana bill gets filed in Congress, and statehouses around the country are taking up the topic, too. 

National

House, Senate Bills to Give Vets Access to Medical Marijuana Filed. Legislators in both the House and Senate filed companion bills to make it legal under federal law for military veterans to "use, possess, or transport medical marijuana" in compliance with state laws. Sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the bill, known as The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, would block veterans who use medical marijuana under state laws from being harassed by federal officials and would clarify that VA doctors can recommend medical marijuana to their patients. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website, but the text is available here.

Arkansas

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Dies. A bill that would have added 13 qualifying conditions to the state's medical marijuana law was killed last Wednesday after state health officials maintained the drug causes harm. More than a dozen people spoke in favor of  HB 1150, to no avail.

Georgia

Georgia Bill Would Let Dispensaries Sell CBD Cannabis Oil. A bill filed last Thursday would fix the state's CBD cannabis oil law so that patients could actually obtain the drug. Under current state law, patients can use and possess it but have no legal means of obtaining it. HB 324 would allow for the sale of CBD cannabis oil to patients through dispensaries.  

Missouri

Missouri Expungement Bill for Patients Advances. A bill that would let registered medical marijuana patients have their misdemeanor marijuana offenses expunged has been approved by the House Committee on Criminal Justice in a 7-2 vote. The measure, HB 341, has support in both chambers of the legislature and it is believed Gov. Mike Parsons (R) would sign it.

New Mexico

New Mexico Senate Passes Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana in Schools. A bill that allows medical marijuana to be given to students at public schools passed the Senate on Monday. SB 204 now heads to the House Human Services Committee.

North Dakota

North Dakota House Approves Medical Marijuana Bill Package. The House on Monday approved a package of four bills amending the state’s medical marijuana law, including one that would add 13 new conditions to the state’s list of approved medical conditions. Another bill would allow physician assistants to recommend medical marijuana, while yet another would allow a patient or caregiver to purchase “an enhanced amount” of medical marijuana beyond the 2.5 ounces every 30 days limit. The last bill would add marijuana edibles to the list of medical marijuana products available for purchase. The package now heads for the Senate.

West Virginia

West Virginia House Passes Medical Marijuana Banking Bill. The House passed a medical marijuana banking bill with no debate and no floor speeches last Friday. The measure, HB 2538, creates two state funds, one to received license fees, penalties, and taxes associated with the medical marijuana program, and the other to receive all fees charged to the financial institution by the treasurer. The vote was 89-7. The bill now heads to the Senate.

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

Chronicle AM: Supreme Court Slaps Down Asset Forfeiture, No More No-Knocks in Houston, More... (2/20/19)

The Supreme Court reins in civil asset forfeiture, Denver joins cities participating in LEAD, Houston ends undercover no-knock raids in the wake of a fatal encounter, and more.

The US Supreme Court (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland General Assembly Creates Legalization Working Group. In a sign that marijuana legalization isn’t going to happen this year, the General Assembly has created a working group to study the issue. The bipartisan group will make recommendations in December that could be used to help guide bills during the 2020 legislative session.

South Carolina Poll Has Half Supporting Medical Marijuana, Nearly a Quarter for Legalization. A new poll from political strategist Robert Cahaly has support for marijuana legalization at 22.8%, with another 49.7% saying they supported legalizing marijuana "for people suffering illness and with a doctor’s approval."

Hemp

Ohio Hemp Bill Filed. Lawmakers have filed a bill to legalize hemp production in the state, SB 77. The bill would align state law with the framework of the 2018 farm bill, which legalized hemp nationwide.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Senate Passes Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana in Schools. A bill that allows medical marijuana to be given to students at public schools passed the Senate on Monday. SB 204 now heads to the House Human Services Committee.

Asset Forfeiture

U.S. Supreme Court Unanimously Reins in Civil Asset Forfeiture. In a victory for proponents of civil asset forfeiture reform, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Timbs v. Indiana that the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause applies to states, thereby prohibiting state and local governments from collecting excessive fines, fees and forfeitures. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion. "The protection against excessive fines guards against abuses of government’s punitive or criminal law-enforcement authority," Ginsburg wrote. 

Law Enforcement

Denver Signs on to Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. City officials unveiled a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) pilot program on Tuesday. The program is designed to connect people accused of low-level drug crimes with support services rather than arresting them. LEAD programs operate in a number of other cities, including Philadelphia, Portland, and Seattle. The pilot program is funded through 2020 by a $561,000 grant paid for out of the state's marijuana tax cash fund.

Houston Ends No-Knock Raids in Wake of Fatal Encounter. With few exceptions, Houston undercover officers will no longer conduct no-knock raids. The move comes after four police officers were wounded and a Houston couple killed in a raid that was based on a police officer's lies. "The no-knock warrants are going to go away like leaded gasoline in this city," Chief Art Acevedo announced during a town hall meeting Monday. 

Chronicle AM: Good MD, NJ Pot Polls; Bad Houston Drug Raid; WV MedMJ Banking Bill, More... (2/19/19)

Good pot polls from the Mid-Atlantic, New Jersey edges closer to passing a pot legalization bill, the West Virginia House passes a medical marijuana banking bill, asset forfeiture reform advances in Michigan, and more.

Maryland and New Jersey residents are ready to free the weed, new polls say. (ShantisFavorites/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A new Goucher College poll released Monday has support for marijuana legalization in the state at 57%. Only 37% were opposed.

New Jersey Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A new Monmouth University poll released Monday has support for marijuana legalization at 62%. The poll comes as the governor and legislative leaders are reportedly on the verge of agreement on legalization legislation.

New Jersey Governor and Senate Leader Reach Agreement on Legalization Framework. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) have found a compromise that could see a legalization bill voted on this month. The compromise centers on a new means of taxing legal pot. Instead of just levying a sales tax on purchases, the state would impose a flat rate of $42 an ounce. The other agreement would strengthen the governor’s control over the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

Wisconsin Governor Calls for Pot Decriminalization. Gov. Tony Evers (D) is proposing in his state budget to decriminalize the possession, cultivation, and distribution of up to 25 grams of marijuana, as well as creating a state-regulated medical marijuana program. The proposal would also expunge the convictions of people convicted of marijuana offenses involving 25 grams or less.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Expungement Bill for Medical Marijuana Patients Advances. The House Special Committee on Criminal Justice last Thursday approved HB341, which would provide for the expungement of past misdemeanor marijuana convictions from the records of registered medical marijuana patients. The legislation comes after voters last November approved medical marijuana.

North Dakota House Approves Medical Marijuana Bill Package. The House on Monday approved a package of four bills amending the state’s medical marijuana law, including one that would add 13 new conditions to the state’s list of approved medical conditions. Another bill would allow physician assistants to recommend medical marijuana, while yet another would allow a patient or caregiver to purchase “an enhanced amount” of medical marijuana beyond the 2.5 ounces every 30 days limit. The last bill would add marijuana edibles to the list of medical marijuana products available for purchase. The package now heads for the Senate.

West Virginia House Passes Medical Marijuana Banking Bill. The House passed a medical marijuana banking bill with no debate and no floor speeches last Friday. The measure, HB 2538, creates two state funds, one to received license fees, penalties, and taxes associated with the medical marijuana program, and the other to receive all fees charged to the financial institution by the treasurer. The vote was 89-7. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Senate Passes Bill to End Most Civil Asset Forfeiture. The Senate last Friday approved a bill that would bar asset forfeiture in most cases unless there is also a criminal conviction. The bill, SB 0002, would require a criminal conviction before law enforcement could seize through forfeiture any amount of goods or money valued at less than $50,000. Similar asset forfeiture reform bills are still in committee in the House, but House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) supports civil asset forfeiture reform and introduced a bipartisan reform bill on the first day of the new session.

Drug Testing

Utah Bill to Criminalize Drug Test Cheating Passes House. The House voted 61-8 last Friday to approve HB 16, which would make it illegal to use synthetic urine to pass a drug test. Using either fake urine or someone else’s urine to pass a test would be an infraction. The state currently has no law against using such materials to pass drug tests.

Law Enforcement

Houston Narcotics Division Under Investigation After Officer’s Search Warrant Lies About Drug Dealing Got Two People Killed. The entire 175-person Houston Police Department Narcotics Division will be subjected to an “extensive audit” after a Houston couple and their pit bull were killed in a raid that was based on a fraudulent search warrant. A veteran narcotics officer, Detective Gerald Goines, is accused of lying about using two separate confidential informants to purchase heroin from the couple and will likely be charged with a crime, said Police Chief Art Acevedo. Another officer is accused of retrieving heroin from a police car and giving it to Goines, who claimed it matched heroin purchased during what turned out to be an imaginary drug buy. 

Chronicle AM: VT Legal Pot Sales Bill Advances, ID Gov. Signs Naloxone Access Bill, More... (2/15/19)

A marijuana sales bill is moving in Vermont, a bill to have state-run pot shops is filed in New Mexico, Idaho's governor signs a naloxone access expansion bill, the Sinaloa Cartel lives, and more.

Even in Idaho, there's a need for naloxone. Now, access to the opioid overdose reversal drug is expanded. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Advances. A bill that would set up a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana commerce in the state has passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-1 vote. SB 54  would establish a Cannabis Control Board to issue licenses for cannabis manufacturers, retailers and testing facilities. Sales would be taxed at 10 percent, and local municipalities would have the option of imposing an additional two percent tax. The bill now heads to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, which must approve it before it goes to the Senate floor.

New Mexico GOP Senator's Marijuana Legalization Bill Would Feature State-Run Pot Shops. Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) and three cosponsors filed SB 577 Thursday. Like another bill already filed, the measure would legalize marijuana in the state but would have the state operate retail marijuana shops. The measure is currently before the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Bill Would Let Dispensaries Sell CBD Cannabis Oil. A bill filed Thursday would fix the state's CBD cannabis oil law so that patients could actually obtain the drug. Under current state law, patients can use and possess it, but have no legal means of obtaining it. HB 324 would allow for the sale of CBD cannabis oil to patients through dispensaries.  

Missouri Expungement Bill for Patients Advances. A bill that would let registered medical marijuana patients have their misdemeanor marijuana offenses expunged has been approved by the House Committee on Criminal Justice in a 7-2 vote. The measure, HB 341, has support in both chambers of the legislature and it is believed Gov. Mike Parsons (R) would sign it.

Harm Reduction

Idaho Governor Signs Expansive Naloxone Access Bill into Law. Gov. Brad Little (R) has signed into law HB 12, which expands access to the opioid overdose reversal drug in the state. It will go into effect on July 1.

International

El Chapo May Be Gone, But the Sinaloa Cartel Carries On. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman may be buried deep in the federal prison system, but the Sinaloa Cartel is still in business—and business is booming. The cartel, now under the leadership of second-in-command Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, continues to make massive drug shipments to the US, as recent huge, multi-drug busts at the border attest. "It’s still a major, major force in the Mexican criminal underworld," Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said. It still controls worldwide contacts that can ship Colombian cocaine around the world and import precursor drugs into Mexico to be cooked up and exported north. Zambada has overcome a succession fight after El Chapo's arrest and is now firmly in control. 

Chronicle AM: William Barr Confirmed as US AG, Congressional Marijuana Banking Hearing, More... (2/14/19)

The Senate has confirmed old drug warrior William Barr as attorney general, Congress holds a hearing on marijuana and banking, Ted Cruz wants El Chapo to pay for the wall, and more.

CA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is sending the National Guard after what are likely mythical cartel pot grows. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congress Urged to Open Banks to Marijuana Industry. At a House hearing Wednesday, bank officers and state officials urged Congress to fully open the US banking system to the legal marijuana industry. California Treasurer Fiona Ma said allowing access to banking was a critical step for the growth of the fledgling legal industry, while Gregory Deckard, speaking for the Independent Community Banks of America, said allowing financial access was a critical step.

California Governor Vows Crackdown on Illegal Pot Grows, Blames Cartels. In his State of the State address Tuesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vowed to crack down on cartel-grown black market marijuana, even though it's not clear how great a role the Mexican drug gangs have in the state's huge illicit pot market. Newsom said he would pull state National Guard troops from the Mexican border, and they will be "redeploying up north to go after all these illegal cannabis farms, many of which are run by the cartels that are devastating our pristine forests and increasingly themselves becoming fire hazards." Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML, scoffed at the cartel claims. "I don’t know about this old 'cartels' thing," he said. "Frankly we’ve seen very little at all about illegal activity in the way of growing in the wilderness the way we used to. Cartel involvement is a bugaboo they like to throw around."

North Carolina Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) filed a marijuana legalization bill, SB 58, on Wednesday. The bill would legalize the possession of up to three ounces, with possession of more than three ounces charged as a misdemeanor. Lowe introduced a similar measure last year, but it never made it out of the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

Medical Marijuana

House, Senate Bills to Give Vets Access to Medical Marijuana Filed. Legislators in both the House and Senate filed companion bills to make it legal under federal law for military veterans to "use, possess, or transport medical marijuana" in compliance with state laws. Sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the bill, known as The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, would block veterans who use medical marijuana under state laws from being harassed by federal officials and would clarify that VA doctors can recommend medical marijuana to their patients. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website, but the text is available here.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Dies. A bill that would have added 13 qualifying conditions to the state's medical marijuana law was killed Wednesday after state health officials maintained the drug causes harm. More than a dozen people spoke in favor of  HB 1150, to no avail.

Asset Forfeiture

Ted Cruz Wants El Chapo to Pay for the Border Wall. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is using the conviction of Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to flog a bill he introduced last month that would use assets seized from Mexican drug cartels to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. "America’s justice system prevailed today in convicting Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, on all 10 counts. U.S. prosecutors are seeking $14 billion in drug profits & other assets from El Chapo which should go towards funding our wall to #SecureTheBorder," Cruz wrote in a tweet. The bill is S. 25, cutely titled the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act or the EL CHAPO Act. Companion legislation has also been filed in the House.

Law Enforcement

Old Drug Warrior William Barr Confirmed as US Attorney General. The Senate confirmed William Barr as attorney general Thursday on a 54-45 vote. Only three Democrats—Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Doug Jones (AL), and Joe Manchin (WV) voted in favor of Barr, while Sen. Rand Paul was the only Republican to oppose his nomination. His nomination was opposed by drug reformers who cited his record as a drug war hardliner while serving as attorney general under President George HW Bush.

International

European Parliament Approves Resolution to Advance Medical Marijuana. The European Parliament voted Wednesday to approve a resolution aimed at advancing medical marijuana in countries that form the European Union. The non-binding resolution seeks to provide incentives to member states to increase access to medical marijuana and prioritize medical marijuana research and clinical studies.

Brazil Drug War "Shoot to Kill" Policy Bears First Fruit—13 Dead in Rio. Police engaged in drug raids under the aggressive policies of state Gov. Wilson Witzel, who campaigned on using "shoot to kill" tactics against armed drug gang members, killed at least 13 people in the Fallet/Fogueteiro favela in central Rio de Janeiro last Friday. But relatives of the dead and witnesses said some were gang members but had surrendered their weapons before being executed and two others were teenagers with no gang links who were tortured and executed in their own homes. The killings led to a heated public meeting to demand justice in the favela on Tuesday, but analysts said to expect more: "It’s a very symbolic operation," said Ignacio Cano, a professor of sociology at the State University of Rio, who said he expects police killings to rise: "Everything indicates there will be an increase because there is an open encouragement from both the federal and state government." Cano, compared the killings to the extrajudicial executions of drug users in the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte and said there were indications of "summary executions."

In Bid to Blunt Black Market, California Eyes Marijuana Tax Cuts [FEATURE]

Steve D’Angelo was prescient. As the era of legal recreational marijuana in California began just over a year ago, the East Bay medical marijuana maven expressed concerned that taxes on the newly legal industry were too high.

“It’s going to mean that a significant number of people, less affluent consumers are going to turn to the lower prices of the underground market,” he told KPIX 5 on January 1, 2018, the day it became legal in the state.

A year later D’Angelo’s concerns have been borne out. The state had estimated that retail marijuana sales would exceed the $3 billion in 2017 sales, which came solely from medical marijuana outlets, but instead legal sales actually declined to $2.5 billion.

As a result, tax revenues for the state are significantly lower than projected. The FY 2018 state budget estimated $185 million in marijuana sales taxes, but actually gathered only about $84 million. And based on January sales, the FY 2019 budget, which estimated tax revenues at $630 million, now looks to be overly optimistic. The latest projections have tax revenues for the fiscal year at $471 million.

In California, legal pot sales are saddled with a $9.25 per ounce cultivation tax paid by growers, as well as a 15 percent retail excise tax and a 7.25 percent retail sales tax paid by consumers. When you add in local taxes, pot buyers in some counties could be paying as much as 45 percent in aggregate tax on legal weed.

To be clear, high taxes aren’t the only things strangling the state’s legal marijuana market. Industry figures and analysts point to two other factors as well: The state’s onerous and costly regulatory requirements are keeping many growers and retailers from leaving the black market, and the refusal by many localities to allow legal marijuana sales in their jurisdictions has left broad swaths of the state with no alternative but the black market. (In a bid to boost the legal market, the state last month okayed plans for statewide deliveries no matter what localities say.)

Still, cutting the tax rate is something that could begin to make a dent in the black market. Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced a pot tax cut bill last year that was defeated, but now, with a year’s worth of disappointing marijuana market news to provide momentum, he’s back again with another pot tax cut bill this year.

Late last month, with three cosponsors Bonta refiled Assembly Bill 286, which proposes eliminating the $148 per pound cultivation tax and reducing the 15 percent retail excise tax to 11 percent for three years. The bill also has the support of newly elected state Treasurer Fiona Ma.

 “The black market continues to undercut businesses that are complying with state regulations and doing things the right way,” Bonta said as he rolled out the bill. “AB 286 will temporarily reduce the tax burden on these licensed operators to keep customers at licensed businesses and help ensure the regulated market survives and thrives. This very strategy has been shown to actually increase overall tax revenue in other states.”

One of the cosponsors is Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), who authored an identical bill last year. That bill made it through two committees, only to die in Assembly Appropriations.

“Right now, the illicit market is dominating California’s cannabis industry,” said Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale). “These are bad people who are making our communities unsafe.  We need to give the good guys a chance to succeed otherwise our one chance at creating a regulated industry will be compromised.”

Bonta and his colleagues pointed to the experience of legal marijuana states Oregon and Washington, which have successfully taken steps to reduce tax rates and encourage the growth of the legal market. Washington saw exponential growth in marijuana tax revenue after it simplified its tax structure and reduced its rates. Tax revenues there jumped from $13.4 million in the final month of the initial tax rate in June 2015 to more than $33 million in April 2017.

“By lowering the excise tax and postponing the cultivation tax it will lower the overall price for consumers at the register, which will also reduce the differential between illicit and legal prices. Reducing this gap is critical to making the legal market more competitive against the illicit market and more attractive for consumers,” said Beau Whitney, Senior Economist at New Frontier Data.

Fixing California’s pot taxes clearly won’t resolve all the issues the state faces as it makes the transition to the world’s largest legal marijuana market, but it’s a start. 

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Justice comes for some of the victims of a crooked Chicago cop, a pair of crooked Memphis cops head for federal prison, an Arkansas division commander gets caught stealing from the evidence room, and more.

In Chicago, 10 men convicted of drug crimes had their convictions vacated Monday in Cook County Circuit Court. All of their convictions came at the hands of disgraced former Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts. The Cook County state's attorney's office said vacating the convictions and dismissing the charges was "in the interest of justice. This was the fourth time a similar scene of mass exoneration involving cases connected to Watts.

In Salem, Oregon, a Salem police officer was arrested last Thursday in Portland as he tried to sell stolen property. Officer Seth Thayres,31, had been on administrative leave since last October as he awaited a fitness-for-duty evaluation for unspecified reasons. Portland police had identified Thayres and an accomplice as repeat burglars. He was in possession of methamphetamine when arrested.

In Fairfield, Iowa, a Fairfield police officer was arrested Monday after being caught burglarizing a veterinary clinic and stealing drugs. Officer Ryan Mills, 31, is now charged with burglary in the 2nd degree and at last report was residing in the Jefferson County Jail.

In Sneedville, Tennessee, a former Hancock County jail guard was arrested Monday for allegedly smuggling drugs and cell phones into the jail. Marty Lee Ferguson, 41, is accused of repeatedly introducing contraband between April and December of 2018 but was only charged with one count of official misconduct and one count of introduction of contraband to a penal facility. 

In Marion, Arkansas, a Marion police officer was arrested Monday for allegedly stealing drugs from the evidence room. Lt. Freddy Williams, who headed the department's criminal investigation division, went down after colleagues videotaped him entering the evidence room and slipping evidence into his pants. Williams has confessed to stealing marijuana evidence from 23 cases and pain pills in 10 cases. He is charged with one count of tampering with physical evidence, possession of a controlled substance and violation of rules of conduct by a county officer or employee.

In Chesapeake, Virginia, a Chesapeake sheriff's deputy was arrested Monday after being accused of smuggling heroin into the city jail. Jenis Leroy Plummer Jr. allegedly smuggled dope into the jail for more than a year and half beginning in July 2017. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin, conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right and a separate count of obtaining property under color of official right. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

In Memphis, Tennessee, two former Memphis police officers were sentenced last Thursday to federal prison terms for stealing money and drugs during traffic stops and reselling heroin in the city. Terrion Bryson, 26, and Kevin Coleman went down after investigators got tips about their activities and set up a sting in which they agreed to protect drug loads. Bryson got eight years, while Coleman got 10. 

Medical Marijuana Update

Moves are underway in the minority of states that have not yet okayed medical marijuana to get it done, Arkansas medical marijuana cards are coming soon, Florida's ban on smoking medical marijuana heads for oblivion, and more.

Arkansas

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Cards Valid Beginning Next Week. If you're a registered medical marijuana patient, the card is in the mail. The state Department of Health says more than 7,000 patient ID cards are being sent out now and will be active beginning next Friday.

Colorado

Colorado Bill to Protect Patients' Gun Rights Killed. A bill intended to protect the ability of medical marijuana patients to obtain and maintain concealed carry weapons permits died on a party-line vote Wednesday. SB 93, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins), was killed in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. Marble said the Democrats' decision to kill the bill was unfair to medical marijuana users, but not unexpected. "They don’t want to pass a gun bill," Marble said of the committee, on which she also sits. "Anything to do with guns they’re not going to vote on."

Florida

Florida Legislature Advances Plan to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana. Committees in both the House and the Senate approved bills that would allow patients to smoke their marijuana, although the House plan would limit it to pre-rolled joints with filters. A less restrictive Senate bill to allow smoking, SB 182, passed out of the Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee Tuesday. Movement on the bills suggests lawmakers could pass the legislation before a March 15 deadline set by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Kansas

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana Wednesday. The measure, HB 2163, would provide registration for patients and licenses for medical marijuana growers and distributors and medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill would also establish the cannabis regulatory commission and taxation of cannabis.

Kentucky

.Kentucky Senate Sees Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. State Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) has filed SB 170 to legalize medical marijuana in the state. Companion legislation, HB 136, was introduced last month.

Texas

Texas Medical Marijuana Bills Filed. The legislature will grapple with at least four different medical marijuana bills this session. The state already allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil for epilepsy, but these bills would all expand on that. Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) has filed HB 122, which would legalize medical marijuana. Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) and Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) have proposed HB 209/SB 90. The bills would allow Texans with certain debilitating medical conditions to grow their own marijuana plants for personal use and would also create a licensing process for dispensaries and testing facilities. And Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) has filed HB 551. It would allow Texans who can currently use low-THC medical cannabis under the state's Compassionate Use Act to possess marijuana concentrate.

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

Chronicle AM: Hemp Moving in Red States, NJ to Expand Needle Exchange Programs, More... (2/13/19)

Hemp is hopping in the heartland, the effort to undo Florida's ban on smokable medical marijuana advances, New York City ponders barring pre-employment drug tests for marijuana, and more.

It's starting to feel like it'll be hemp fields from sea to shining sea. (VoteHemp.org)
Marijuana Policy

New York City Bill Would Ban Pre-Employment Marijuana Drug Testing. Councilman Jumaane Williams filed a bill Wednesday that would bar employers from testing job applicants for marijuana as a condition of employment. The bill is part of a broader package of marijuana reform legislation before the city council. "As we’re jettisoning toward legalization, it doesn't make sense that this would be something that would prevent someone from getting gainful employment," Williams said. "If you ingest weed in whatever manner a month ago, I'm not sure how that prevents you from doing your job now," he added.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Legislature Advances Plan to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana. Committees in both the House and the Senate approved bills that would allow patients to smoke their marijuana, although the House plan would limit it to pre-rolled joints with filters. A less restrictive Senate bill to allow smoking, SB 182, passed out of the Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee Tuesday. Movement on the bills suggests lawmakers could pass the legislation before a March 15 deadline set by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Kentucky Senate Sees Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. State Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) has filed SB 170 to legalize medical marijuana in the state. Companion legislation, HB 136, was introduced last month.

Hemp

Mississippi Hemp Bill Advances. An effort to legalize industrial hemp cultivation in the state got a big boost Tuesday when Rep. Dana Criswell (R-Olive Branch successfully offered an amendment to bill modifying the state's drug schedules, HB 1547, to include allowing hemp cultivation. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Nebraska Moving to Legalize Hemp Production. Lawmakers and state agency officials are working together to craft an industrial hemp bill. A hearing was held Tuesday on LB 657, which solons and farmers touted as a means of helping diversifying crops. The Agriculture Department testified that it supported legalizing hemp production but was concerned about proper regulations.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey to Expand Needle Exchange Programs. State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said this week that the state will enhance services at seven existing needle exchange programs and open new ones in the months to come. The plan is part of a broader effort to address opioid addiction and its side effects. 

Chronicle AM: El Chapo Convicted on All Counts, NY Legal Pot Politics Heats Up, More... (2/12/19)

The former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel has been found guilty on all counts at his trial in New York City, Sri Lanka advertises for hangmen as the president there vows to resume drug executions, South Dakota House members defy their governor and approve a hemp bill, and more.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman being arrested in Mexico. He's now been found guilty in a court in New York. (sedena.gov.mx)
Marijuana Policy

New York Pot Legalization Foes Lobby in Albany. Groups opposed to marijuana legalization gathered at the Capitol Monday to urge lawmakers to reject the idea. Led by Kevin Sabet of Smart About Marijuana, foes warned that legalization would lead to increased use among schoolchildren—even though that hasn’t been the case in early legalization states such as Colorado and Washington. Sabet was joined at the Capitol by representatives of the state PTA, the Police Conference of New York and representatives of groups that deal with drug and alcohol addiction, all of which oppose legalization.

New York Coalition Urges Governor Cuomo to Improve Marijuana Legalization Bill to Center Racial and Economic Justice. Members of the Start SMART NY coalition (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade) Tuesday laid out their vision for a just marijuana industry and demanded that Governor Andrew Cuomo incorporate the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (A.1617) into his proposed recreational marijuana legalization plan. The act is model legislation to create a taxed and regulated adult-use marijuana market that not only creates economic opportunities for all New Yorkers but also addresses the harms of decades of prohibition. 

Hemp

South Dakota House Ignores Governor, Passes Hemp Bill. Rejecting advice from Gov. Kristi Noem (R) to leave hemp alone this year, the House on Monday voted 65-2 to pass HB 1191, which would give farmers and producers the green light on hemp production beginning July 1. The bill now heads to the Senate, where GOP leaders say it will likely pass.

Law Enforcement

El Chapo Convicted on All Counts. Joaquin Guzman Loera, known by various aliases, including “El Chapo” and “El Rapido,” was convicted today by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York of being a principal operator of a continuing criminal enterprise – the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel – a charge that includes 26 drug-related violations and one murder conspiracy.  Guzman Loera was convicted of all 10 counts of a superseding indictment, including narcotics trafficking, using a firearm in furtherance of his drug crimes and participating in a money laundering conspiracy.  The verdict followed a 12-week trial before U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan.  Guzman Loera faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. Sentencing has been set for June.

Pregnancy

Tennessee Bill Would Prosecute Mothers for Drug Use While Pregnant. A bill filed last week, SB 659, would authorize a woman to be prosecuted for assault based on the person using a narcotic drug illegally while pregnant if the child is born addicted to or harmed by the drug used. A woman could avoid prosecution under the bill if she was actively enrolled in an addiction recovery program before the child was born if she remained in the program after delivery and successfully completed the program. An identical bill has been filed in the House.

International

Sri Lanka Advertises for Hangmen as President Pushes for Harsher Drug War. The government has begun advertising for hangmen after President Maithripala Sirisena said last week he wanted to resume capital punishment for drug traffickers within 60 days. Although drug trafficking is already a capital offense in the country, no one has been executed for any crime there since 1976. Last month, during a visit to the Philippines, Sirisena praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands.

Chronicle AM: Kamala Harris Endorses Marijuana Legalization, Israel OKs MDMA Trials, More... (2/11/19)

Kamala Harris endorses marijuana legalization, House Democrats reveal a marijuana banking bill, Israel okays clinical studies of MDMA to treat PTSD, and more.

The House is preparing to move on regularizing financial services for marijuana-related businesses. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Kamala Harris Endorses Marijuana Legalization Saying it Brings Joy. Saying marijuana “gives a lot of people joy,” Democratic presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed marijuana legalization Monday. She also said she had tried marijuana in college.

Congressional Democrats Circulate Text of Marijuana Banking Bill. The House Financial Services Committee has released the text of a bill allowing marijuana businesses to do business with the banking and financial sector. The bill goes further than previous bills, with provisions specifying that ancillary businesses  should be allowed to bank and adding protections for marijuana-related “retirement plans or exchange-traded funds.” Another new provision clarifies that “proceeds from a transaction conducted by a cannabis-related legitimate business shall not be considered as proceeds from an unlawful activity solely because the transaction was conducted by a cannabis-related legitimate business.” A memo released by the committee says the bill “would harmonize federal and state law by prohibiting federal banking regulators from engaging in certain actions against financial institutions, such as discouraging, prohibiting, or penalizing depository institutions that serve cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Vote. A bill to legalize marijuana, HB 356, passed out of the Health and Human Services Committee on a 5-2 vote along party lines, with Democrats in support. The vote came after more than three hours of testimony. To have a chance to become law, the bill will have to move quickly through a network of committees and win approval from both legislative chambers by mid-March.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Filed. The House Agricultural Affairs Committee will back legislation that would legalize the cultivation and sale of hemp throughout the state. The measure, HB 122, would change state law to conform with the 2018 federal Farm Bill that legalized hemp nationwide.

South Dakota Governor Says State Not Ready for Hemp. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is encouraging lawmakers to “just say no” to measures that would legalize hemp this year. Noem said the state isn’t ready for hemp.

Collateral Sanctions

Mississippi Bill Would Make Those Convicted of Felony Drug Offenses Eligible for Public Assistance. A bill that would allow people convicted of felony drug offenses to be eligible for public assistance programs is on the move. Senate Bill 2791, also known as the Reentry and Employability Act, passed out of the Senate Judiciary A Committee last week, just ahead of the deadline for general bills to pass out of committee. The bill would waive the state’s participation in a federal law requiring that drug felons not be eligible for such programs. Most other states have already opted out.

International

Israeli Health Ministry Approves MDMA Clinical Trials. The Health Ministry has approved the “compassionate use” of MDMA in clinical trials of the drug’s utility in treating post-traumatic stress disorder. The decision came after extensive investigative work by the ministry, which included sending a representative to the US to work with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

(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: Brazil Call for Drug Decriminalization, HI Legalization Bill Advances, More... (2/8/19)

The first state-level bill to legalize some psychedelics has been filed in Iowa, a marijuana legalization bill advances in Hawaii, so does asset forfeiture reform in New Jersey, a Brazilian committee of experts recommends drug decriminalization, and more.

An Iowa Republican has become the first legislator in the country to file a bill for the legalization of some psychedelics/
Marijuana Policy

US Senate Marijuana Legalization Bill S.420 Filed. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has filed a marijuana legalization bill, S.420. The bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, establish a federal excise tax on marijuana, and create a system for permitting legal marijuana commerce.

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, SB 686. The bill would allow adults to grow, consume, and possess small amounts of marijuana, set up a regulated system of marijuana commerce, and enact a 15% excise tax. The bill will likely have to go through two more committees before heading for a Senate floor vote.

Oregon Bill to Allow Legal Marijuana Exports Gets Hearing. A bill that would open the way for Oregon to export surplus legal marijuana to adjoining states got a hearing in the in the legislature Thursday. The state is suffering from chronic legal marijuana surpluses, and SB 582 aims to address that by allowing for the export of surplus crops. There is little chance the bill will pass this year, but it should lay the groundwork for Oregon marijuana exports once the federal government ends pot prohibition.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill to Protect Patients' Gun Rights Killed. A bill intended to protect the ability of medical marijuana patients to obtain and maintain concealed carry weapons permits died on a party-line vote Wednesday. SB 93, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins), was killed in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. Marble said the Democrats' decision to kill the bill was unfair to medical marijuana users, but not unexpected. "They don’t want to pass a gun bill," Marble said of the committee, on which she also sits. "Anything to do with guns they’re not going to vote on."

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators has proposed a new medical marijuana bill, HB 2163. The bill would limit access to medical marijuana to only veterans for the first 60 days after the bill passes, but then open it up to the public.

Psychedelics

Iowa Bills Would Legalize Magic Mushrooms, Some Psychedelics for Medical Purposes. Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Fairfield) has filed a pair of bills to open the door to the use of some psychedelics for medical purposes. One bill, HF 249, would allow the state board of pharmacy to reclassify such drugs for medicinal use, while the other bill, HF 248, would remove psilocybin and psilocin, the chemicals that put the magic in magic mushrooms, from the state's schedule of controlled substances. The filings mark the first time any legislature will have taken up the issue of legalizing drugs other than marijuana.

Asset Forfeiture

New Jersey Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Package Advances. A package of bills that aim to increase fairness and transparency in civil asset forfeiture proceedings were approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee Thursday. AB 4969 would establish the “Fairness in Asset Forfeiture Proceedings Task Force” to study the nature, extent, and consequences of the lack of legal representation of certain New Jersey residents in asset forfeiture proceedings. AB 4970 would require a criminal conviction for forfeiture of certain seized property. AR 222 urges the New Jersey Supreme Court to study the reasonableness of lowering court fees in civil asset forfeiture cases, while AB 3442 establishes asset forfeiture reporting and transparency requirements. The legislation now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.

Harm Reduction

Maine Governor Moves to Increase Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment in Jails and Prisons. Gov. Janet Mills (D) issued an executive order Wednesday to increase access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction among prisoners in the state's jails and prisons. Under Mills' predecessor, Tea Party Republican Paul LePage, the state Department of Corrections and most jails had policies explicitly prohibiting such treatment.

International

Brazil Committee Studying Country's Drug Laws Calls for Drug Decriminalization. A committee of legal scholars and health experts appointed last year by House Speaker Rodrigo Maia has presented its report, and the report calls for the decriminalization of up to 10 personal use doses of all illicit drugs. It also recommended what those amounts should be. The report is certain to stir controversy in what is now one of the most conservative legislatures in Brazilian history.

Chronicle AM: NY Cops Oppose Pot Legalization, MD Legal Pot Bills Filed, TX MedMJ Bills, More... (2/7/19)

A House committee will take up legal marijuana banking issues next week, NY cops oppose legalization there, Maryland sees pot legalization bills filed, Texas sees medical marijuana bills filed, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Banking Issues to Get House Hearing Next Week. In a refreshing change from the era of Republican control of the House, the Democratic leadership is ready to move on marijuana-related issues. A subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on "Challenges and Solutions: Access to Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses" next Wednesday.

Georgia Pot Decriminalization Bill Gets Hearing. A bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, SB 10, got a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The bill would make possession of a half-ounce or less an offense punishable by no more than a $300 fine and possession of under two ounces would be a misdemeanor. Under current state law, possession of more than an ounce is a felony.

Maryland Pot Legalization Bills Filed. State lawmakers in both chambers filed legislation Wednesday that would end marijuana prohibition in Maryland. SB0771, sponsored by Sen. William C. Smith, Jr. (D-Takoma Park), and HB0656, sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Silver Spring), would make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which cannabis is regulated and taxed for adult use. Past convictions for cannabis possession and cultivation would be automatically expunged. Del. David Moon (D-Takoma Park) filed a constitutional amendment, HB0632, which would establish a similar system. If enacted, it would be placed on the ballot and decided by Maryland voters in November.

New York Police Unions Oppose Pot Legalization. The state association of police unions unanimously opposes efforts to legalize marijuana. "We wanted to be on the record that we oppose it because it's an act of total irresponsibility," Michael Palladino, head of the New York Association of Police Benevolent Associations said Wednesday. "The Governor and lawmakers are trading public safety for a money grab to plug a budget deficit arising from mismanagement of taxpayer funds. Jeopardizing the public’s safety is not something cops support."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Cards Valid Beginning Next Week. If you're a registered medical marijuana patient, the card is in the mail. The state Department of Health says more than 7,000 patient ID cards are being sent out now and will be active beginning next Friday.

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana Wednesday. The measure, HB 2163, is not yet available on the legislative website but would provide registration for patients and licenses for medical marijuana growers and distributors and medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill would also establish the cannabis regulatory commission and taxation of cannabis.

Texas Medical Marijuana Bills Filed. The legislature will grapple with at least four different medical marijuana bills this session. The state already allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil for epilepsy, but these bills would all expand on that. Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) has filed HB 122, which would legalize medical marijuana. Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) and Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) have proposed HB 209/SB 90. The bills would allow Texans with certain debilitating medical conditions to grow their own marijuana plants for personal use and would also create a licensing process for dispensaries and testing facilities. And Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) has filed HB 551. It would allow Texans who can currently use low-THC medical cannabis under the state's Compassionate Use Act to possess marijuana concentrate.

Asset Forfeiture

Utah Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances. Despite strong opposition from law enforcement, a bill that would require that all civil asset forfeiture cases be initially screened in state courts has advanced in the Senate. The measure, SB 109, passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday on a 4-1 vote. The bill would also mandate that seized funds go not to the seizing agency but to a grant fund operated by the state Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

In Historic First, Denver Will Vote on Decriminalizing Magic Mushrooms [FEATURE]

Its official: Voters in Denver will go to the polls in May to decide whether to allow residents to use and possess magic mushrooms and psilocybin, the hallucinogenic substance that makes those mushrooms so magic, without fear of criminal penalty. The city's Election Division confirmed last Friday that an initiative petition to decriminalize the mushrooms had received enough signatures to qualify for the May 7 municipal ballot.

magic mushrooms (Creative Commons)
That will mark the first time any jurisdiction in the United States has taken up the issue. A California statewide initiative campaign last year failed to achieve any traction and never made it to the ballot. An Oregon statewide initiative is aiming at the 2020 ballot, but if it makes it, that vote will take place a year and a half after the Denver vote.

Denver is building a reputation as a leader in progressive drug policy. Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize marijuana in 2012, and in 2016 Denver became the first city in the country to allow for the consumption of marijuana at retail establishments, including bars.

The group behind the initiative, Decriminalize Denver, wants to make the use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms by people 21 and over the city's "lowest law enforcement priority." The initiative would also prevent the city from using its resources to punish adults who are caught using or possessing the mushrooms.

What the proposed ordinance would not do is legalize the sale of the drug in retail shops. One step at a time is the apparent plan.

"We're a pretty progressive city when it comes to drug policy," Decriminalize Denver director Kevin Matthews told NBC News. Still, he said he didn't foresee magic mushroom retail stores similar to pot shops "in the near future."

The initiative has won the approval of the Drug Policy Alliance, which is pushing more broadly for drug decriminalization.

"Under current Colorado law, with the exception of marijuana, simple drug possession can carry felony charges leading to devastating consequences including incarceration and a lifelong criminal record. People across the state want to do things differently," said Art Way, the group's Colorado state director. "While psilocybin is behind a relatively small portion of these arrests, it's terrific that Denver voters will have the opportunity to chip away at the drug war through this initiative."

Even if the initiative were to pass, magic mushrooms would remain illegal under both state and federal law, which considers them a Schedule I controlled substance -- the most dangerous, with no approved medical use and high potential for abuse--a designation shared with heroin, ecstasy, and, bizarrely enough, marijuana.

But are magic mushrooms really so dangerous? The Global Drug Survey, with more than 120,000 participants in more than 50 countries, doesn't think so. Of the more than 12,000 people who reported taking the drug in the 2016 survey, only 0.2 percent required emergency medical treatment, a rate dramatically lower than for ecstasy, LSD, or cocaine.

"Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world," addiction psychiatrist and Global Drug Survey founder Adam Winstock told The Guardian, adding that the biggest risk was that people could pick and eat the wrong mushrooms. "Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms."

Still, magic mushrooms aren't completely harmless, Winstock said. "Combined use with alcohol and use within risky or unfamiliar settings increase the risks of harm most commonly accidental injury, panic and short-lived confusion, disorientation and fears of losing one's mind." In some cases, people can experience panic attacks, he added, advising people who are thinking about using them to "plan your trip carefully with trusted company in a safe place and always know what mushrooms you're using."

Come May, we will see whether voters in Denver are ready to take the next step in progressive drug reform.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Drug Policy Alliance is a financial supporter of Drug War Chronicle.

Medical Marijuana Update

The Florida medical marijuana mess continues, a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative has submitted proposed language, and more.

Florida

Second Florida Bill to End Ban on Smoking Medical Marijuana Filed. State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) has filed SB 182, which would end the state's ban on smoking medical marijuana. A similar bill, SB 372, was filed earlier this month by Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale). The ban has also been challenged in the courts, and GOP Gov. Ron De Santis has said that he will drop the state's appeal in the case if lawmakers don't eliminate the ban.

Florida Bill to End Ban on Smoking Gets Twisted. A bill from Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) that would end the ban on smoking medical marijuana, SB 182, was so altered in the Senate Health Policy Committee Monday that Brandes now says it would be worse for patients that doing nothing at all. At the behest of Chairwoman Gayle Harrell (R-Port St. Lucie), the committee voted to require that patients seeking to use smokable marijuana get a second opinion from a physician and to mandate that doctors would only be able to order smokable marijuana if it were the only route of administration that would benefit the patient. Brandes says the bill “will have to be significantly amended” before he would send it to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Florida Judge Again Strikes Down Cap on Dispensaries. For the second time in a month, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers has struck down a state law capping the number of dispensaries a medical marijuana business can operate. The limit on the number of storefronts was not contained in the state’s successful medical marijuana amendment but imposed by the legislature in 2017. In her opinion, Gievers harshly criticized the legislature and state health officials for failing to comply with the amendment. "The evidence clearly and conclusively establishes beyond any doubt that conveniently located medical marijuana dispensaries (as opposed to vehicle delivery, the only allowed alternative means of dispensing) promote authorized users’ improved access to medical marijuana products and related information and services, at lower cost, and promote public safety (the stated goals for regulation in the amendment)," Gievers wrote in Friday’s ruling.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Backers File Proposed Language. A group calling itself Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws submitted its proposed language for a medical marijuana ballot initiative Tuesday. If approved for signature gathering, the initiative will need about 130,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot. The move comes after the state legislature has refused for years to pass legislation, but initiative organizers say they would prefer to achieve their goals by passing Legislative Bill 110, which is pending this session.

Wyoming

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Barlow has filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana, HB 278. The bill would create a strictly regulated system for the use and distribution of medical marijuana in the state.

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

Chronicle AM: Feds Move Against Philly Safe Injection Site, MA Heroin OD Death Case, More.... (2/6/19)

Pushback against marijuana legalization emerges in Illinois and New York, the federal prosecutor in Philadelphia has moved to block a supervised injection site, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will decide on whether an involuntary manslaughter charge is appropriate in a heroin overdose death case, and more.

Massachusett's highest court will decide if sharing heroin with someone who ODs is involuntary manslaughter. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Catholic Bishops Oppose Marijuana Legalization. The bishops in charge of all six of the state’s Catholic dioceses have unsurprisingly come out against efforts in the state legislature to legalize marijuana. "As lawmakers consider this issue, it is important to remember they are not only debating the legalization of marijuana, but also commercialization of a drug into an industry the state will profit from," the bishops said in a statement. "In seeking the common good, the state should protect its citizens."

New York PTA Opposes Marijuana Legalization. The New York State Parent Teacher Association has Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) and the legislature's push to legalize marijuana.  is urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers to rethink their push to legalize adult-use marijuana. "In 2017 the American Medical Association stated that marijuana is a dangerous drug, a serious public health concern and that the sale of marijuana for recreational use should not be legalized," State PTA Executive Director Kyle Belokopitsky said in a statement. "We need to listen to experts on this and must do more to protect our children from substance use disorders. This is the wrong move for New York state, our children and their families." The bill the governor has proposed requires New Yorkers to be at least 21 years of age to consume marijuana.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Backers File Proposed Language. A group calling itself Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws submitted its proposed language for a medical marijuana ballot initiative Tuesday. If approved for signature gathering, the initiative will need about 130,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot. The move comes after the state legislature has refused for years to pass legislation, but initiative organizers say they would prefer to achieve their goals by passing Legislative Bill 110, which is pending this session.

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve SB 1467, which would end civil asset forfeiture in the state. The bill now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee before heading to a Senate floor vote. 

Harm Reduction

Eastern Pennsylvania US Attorney Files Lawsuit to Block Philadelphia Supervised Injection Site. US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain announced at a Wednesday morning news conference that he had filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking Philadelphia from becoming the first city in the nation to host a supervised injection site. His lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare such a facility illegal under federal law. McSwain said that by seeking a civil ruling before the site became operational, his office could avoid having to resort to making criminal arrests and prosecutions and/or forfeiture proceedings. McSwain's move comes after city officials have spent more than a year preparing to get a site up and running.

Sentencing

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to Decide on Appropriate Penalty for Supplying Heroin in Overdose Cases. The state's highest court will decide whether a UMass-Amherst student who jointly procured heroin with a friend who subsequently overdosed and died from the drug can be charged with involuntary manslaughter based on wanton or reckless conduct and drug distribution. In oral arguments Monday, the student's attorneys noted that while other had been charged with involuntary manslaughter in overdose deaths, their client had not injected the victim with heroin, supplied him with other drugs, or knew of any prior overdoses. The court is not expected to rule on the case for four or five months.

Chronicle AM: FL MedMJ Moves, CA Safe Injection Site Bill Filed, More... (2/5/19)

Florida courts and the legislature are both dealing with the legislature's previous efforts to mess with the voter-approved medical marijuana amendment, a pot legalization bill gets a hearing in New Hampshire, a Virginia trooper and a drug suspect are killed in the drug war, and more.

There's a battle over smokable medical marijuana in Florida. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Guam's Governor Supports Marijuana Legalization Bill. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has come out in support of a marijuana legalization measure, Bill 32-35, the Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019. Her move came after meeting with bill author Sen. Clynt Ridgell last Friday, but her support is not surprising; she’s been in favor of legalization for some time. The bill would allow adults to possess and grow their own marijuana, as well as create a system of legal marijuana commerce.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Gets Hearing. A bill to legalize marijuana, HB 481, got a public hearing Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton), is opposed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bill to End Ban on Smoking Gets Twisted. A bill from Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) that would end the ban on smoking medical marijuana, SB 182, was so altered in the Senate Health Policy Committee Monday that Brandes now says it would be worse for patients that doing nothing at all. At the behest of Chairwoman Gayle Harrell (R-Port St. Lucie), the committee voted to require that patients seeking to use smokable marijuana get a second opinion from a physician and to mandate that doctors would only be able to order smokable marijuana if it were the only route of administration that would benefit the patient. Brandes says the bill “will have to be significantly amended” before he would send it to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Florida Judge Again Strikes Down Cap on Dispensaries. For the second time in a month, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers has struck down a state law capping the number of dispensaries a medical marijuana business can operate. The limit on the number of storefronts was not contained in the state’s successful medical marijuana amendment but imposed by the legislature in 2017. In her opinion, Gievers harshly criticized the legislature and state health officials for failing to comply with the amendment. "The evidence clearly and conclusively establishes beyond any doubt that conveniently located medical marijuana dispensaries (as opposed to vehicle delivery, the only allowed alternative means of dispensing) promote authorized users’ improved access to medical marijuana products and related information and services, at lower cost, and promote public safety (the stated goals for regulation in the amendment)," Gievers wrote in Friday’s ruling.

Hemp

Mississippi Lawmakers Reject Move to Let Farmers Grow Hemp. The House Drug Policy Committee on Monday rejected on a tie vote an amendment that would have changed state law to allow farmers to grow hemp in the state. Congress last year approved the production of hemp in pilot programs.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Gets Hearing. The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony Monday on HB 1286, which seeks to end civil asset forfeiture in the state. Law enforcement officials testified against ending civil forfeiture but appeared open to transparency and reporting requirements in the bill.

Harm Reduction

California Legislature to Consider Allowing Pilot Overdose Prevention ProjectsState Assemblymember Susan Talamantes-Eggman (D-Stockton) and State Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) on Monday filed a bill to allow the City of San Francisco to pilot and evaluate an “overdose prevention site” program. These sites would allow drug users could consume illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, under the supervision of staff trained to prevent and treat drug overdose and to help steer people who use drugs into drug treatment, housing, and other medical and social services. The bill is AB 362.

Law Enforcement

Virginia Trooper, Suspect Killed in Drug Raid. State Trooper Lucas Powell was shot and killed Monday night as he participated in a drug raid by the Piedmont Regional Gang and Drug Task Force in Cumberland County. The person whose home was being raided and who killed Powell, Corey Johnson, was then shot and killed by police.

International

Mexico to Try New Tactics in Search for Those Missing in Drug War. Mexican officials said Monday they have a new plan to search for the more than 40,000 people who have gone missing amidst the country’s drug wars. The government will create a new forensic institute and work more closely with families and international groups, interior ministry undersecretary for human rights Alejandro Encinas said at a press conference. In addition to the 40,000 missing, there are some 26,000 unidentified bodies in the forensic system, he said.

Chronicle AM: Denver Psilocbyin Init Will Go to Voters, White House Issues Drug Strategy, More... (2/4/19)

The White House belatedly released the National Drug Control Strategy, a Denver magic mushroom initiative has qualified for the May ballot, Northeastern marijuana legalizers are busy, and more.

Denver will vote on removing criminal penalties for psychedelic mushrooms. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

World Health Organization Urges Removal of Marijuana from Drug Treaties. The World Health Organization (WHO) last Friday published a letter to the United Nations advising that marijuana and cannabis resin should no longer be considered controlled substances under international drug treaties. WHO specifically asked that the substances be moved out of Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which includes drugs thought to have no therapeutic value.

Cory Booker Enters Presidential Race With Call for Marijuana Legalization, Criminal Justice Reform. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) formally entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination last Friday and called for marijuana legalization and broader criminal justice reforms. There is a need for "changing our drug laws," including "ending the prohibition against marijuana," he said. "We do not have equal justice under the law," Booker said of the disproportionate rate at which black people are incarcerated under the country's drug laws. I believe in redemption."

New York Governor Wants Marijuana Legalized by April 1. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said last Friday he wanted to see marijuana legalized by the state budget deadline of April 1. His remarks came after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that lawmakers might have to wait until after the budget to take up legalization. But Cuomo said Friday he isn't giving up on his timetable and that a lot can happen in the legislature in six weeks.

Pennsylvania Legalization Bill Coming. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny County) will file a legalization bill that expunges criminal records for past pot convictions, releases inmates currently serving time for such offenses, and allows people 21 and over to use, buy, and grow marijuana.

Vermont Attorney General Supports Legalizing Pot Sales. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana legislatively last year but did not legalize marijuana commerce. Now, there's an effort underway to do so with SB 54, and Attorney General TJ Donovan supports it. "We have to have a regulated market," he said last Thursday. "This is common sense." The bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Medical Marijuana

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Barlow has filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana, HB 278. The bill would create a strictly regulated system for the use and distribution of medical marijuana in the state.

Psychedelics

Denver Will Vote on Magic Mushroom Initiative in May. City officials announced last Friday that the Decriminalize Denver initiative to make adult use and possession the lowest law enforcement priority and bar the city from using its resources to arrest and prosecute people for the hallucinogenic fungi has qualified for the ballot and will go before voters in the May municipal election. This marks the first time any jurisdiction in the US will have voted on decriminalizing psychedelics.

Drug Policy

Trump Administration Unveils National Drug Control Strategy. The White House last Thursday released its long-awaited National Drug Control Strategy, which typically is released annually, but which the Trump administration failed to do last year. The document contains little new policy but instead emphasizes existing Trump priorities: reducing drug supply through stricter law enforcement, lowering first-time opioid prescription rates, and expanding access to addiction treatment. Despite its emphasis on supply reduction, it acknowledges the risk of reducing access for chronic pain patients. Although it talks about drugs coming across the Mexican border, the strategy does not contain the words "border wall."

Drug Testing

North Dakota School Board and Employee Drug Testing Bills Die. A pair of bills that would have mandated random, suspicionless drug tests for school employees and school board members have been killed in the Senate. SB 2310 was aimed at school employees, while SB 2337 was aimed at board members.

Sentencing

Mississippi Bill Targets People Who Provide Drugs in Fatal Overdoses. After a conviction for "depraved heart" murder in the case of a fatal overdose was overturned on appeal, state legislators have filed HB 867, which would allow sentences of 20 years to life without parole for people charged with selling drugs that result in the deaths of others. The bill would also increase penalties for the sale of heroin or fentanyl. The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last week and is now headed for the House floor.

(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: NM Drug Defelonization Bill Filed, Egypt to Hang Drug Smugglers, More... (1/31/19)

Illinois police chiefs don't want home marijuana cultivation, legislators in the Dakotas in drug test legislating frenzy, Egypt is set to begin executing drug smugglers, and more.

New Mexico legislators cite prison overcrowding as a reason to defelonize drug possession. (supremecourt. us)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Police Chiefs Say No Home Cultivation. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police said Monday their top priority regarding marijuana legalization is to ensure that it does not allow for personal home cultivation. “It’s dangerous and we’re not trying to be alarmist. It’s just what’s happened in other states,” said Director Ed Wojcicki. “If the bill has home-grown, it’ll make any type of regulation impossible,” said Wojcicki. The legislation being drafted this year does include home cultivation.

Drug Testing

North Dakota Senate Committee Holds Hearing on School Employee Drug Testing Bills. The Senate Human Services Committee held a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would require random, suspicionless drug testing of school board members and school employees. Critics said SB 2337 was unconstitutional, but bill sponsor Sen. David Clemens (R-West Fargo) said it was meant as a “safeguard to eliminate drugs from our schools.” The committee took no action on the bill.

South Dakota Senate Committee Advances Bill to Drug Test Legislators. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 Thursday to advance SB 104, which would impose random drug testing on legislators. The bill would require that between three and 10 legislators be subjected to random drug tests each week the legislature is in session.

Sentencing

New Mexico Bill Would Defelonize Drug Possession. Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque and Rep. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, both Democrats, have filed a bill that makes possession of all drugs without intent to distribute a misdemeanor instead of a felony. SB 408 and its House counterpart are aimed at not burdening drug users with felony records. “A felony conviction leads to what we call ‘civil death,’ ” he said. “You are ostracized from the community; you have a difficult time accessing any services, any public support, including public housing; the doors to higher education are shut closed to you almost forever,” he added.

International

Egypt's Cabinet Approves Bill to Execute Drug Smugglers. The cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill that mandates the death penalty for those who "import or export synthetic substances that cause harm to the body, mind or the nervous system." Under current law, such offenses are punishable by up to life in prison. Under the new law, even simple drug possession would lead to a one-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Philippines House Approves Medical Marijuana. The House of Representatives approved the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act on Tuesday. Under the bill, medical marijuana would only be available at Department of Health hospitals and private hospitals licensed for medical marijuana purposes. The bill does not allow the use of marijuana in its raw form.  

Chronicle AM: Baltimore to End Pot Possession Arrests, Deadly Houston Drug Raid, More... (1/29/19)

The attorney general-to-be puts his vow to not go after legal businesses in writing, Baltimore ends pot possession arrests, a Houston drug raid turns violent and deadly, and more.

Possessing a bud or two won't get you arrested in Baltimore anymore. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Nominee Puts Pledge to Leave Legal Pot Alone in Writing. The man nominated as the next US attorney general, William Barr, has now put his pledge earlier this month to not “go after” state-compliant legal marijuana operations in writing. Responding to written questions from senators, Barr wrote: "As discussed at my hearing, I do not intend to go after parties who have complied with state law in reliance on the Cole Memorandum." That memorandum, crafted in the Obama era, provided some security for legal marijuana businesses but was rescinded by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year.

Minnesota GOP Senate Leader Just Says No to Legal Marijuana Bills. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Monday that bills aiming to legalize marijuana had no chance of passing his chamber. “Legalizing marijuana is...not something I would consider a priority issue,” he said. Democrats control the House, but Republicans hold a two-seat majority in the Senate.

Baltimore To Stop Prosecuting Marijuana Possession, Vacate 5,000 Convictions. State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Tuesday that the city will stop prosecuting pot possession cases and will move to vacate some 5,000 marijuana-related convictions. “Is the enforcement and prosecution of marijuana possession making us safer as a city? The answer is emphatically no,” she said. More than 95% of those arrested for simple possession in the city have been black.

Medical Marijuana

Second Florida Bill to End Ban on Smoking Medical Marijuana Filed. State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) has filed SB 182, which would end the state's ban on smoking medical marijuana. A similar bill, SB 372, was filed earlier this month by Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale). The ban has also been challenged in the courts, and GOP Gov. Ron De Santis has said that he will drop the state's appeal in the case if lawmakers don't eliminate the ban.

Law Enforcement

Houston Drug Raid Leaves Two Suspects Dead, Four Officers Shot. A forced entry raid of a house where heroin sales were suspected resulted in four police officers shot and wounded and two people in the house shot dead by police. Police came under fire as soon as they knocked down the door and attempted to enter the residence. Investigators found no heroin, but they found marijuana and a white powder believed to be cocaine or fentanyl, Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference. 

Chronicle AM: Israel OKs MedMJ Exports, MA Gov Wants Opioid Pain Pill Tax, More... (1/28/19)

Massachusetts' governor wants a tax on prescription pain pills, Minnesota sees marijuana legalization bills filed, Israel becomes the third country to allow medical marijuana exports, and more.

With final approval from the cabinet, Israel becomes the third country to allow medical marijuana exports.
Marijuana Policy

California Lawmakers File Bill to Rein in Black Market Marijuana by Lowering Tax Rates. Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and several cosponsors on Monday introduced AB 286, which would fight the illicit black market of cannabis by encouraging consumers to purchase the product from licensed and regulated businesses. This bill would reduce the price disparity between legal cannabis businesses and black market sources. The bill is not yet available on the legislative website. An identical bill was introduced in 2017 and passed two committees with strong support but was stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Minnesota Legalization Bills Filed. State Sen. Melisa Franzen (DFL) and Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL) on Monday filed identical legalization bills. The bills are not yet available on the legislative website. Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) has previously expressed his support for such legislation, and last week a bill was filed that would put legalization on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.

New Hampshire Governor's Commission Opposes Legalization. The Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Other Drugs has recommended against legalizing marijuana in the state. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has already made his opposition clear, and the commission's move to oppose a particular bill, HB 481, was described by the local press as “unusual.” The bill will have a hearing next week.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Massachusetts Governor Wants to Tax Opioid Manufacturers. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has included a 15% excise tax on sales of prescription opioids as part of his state budget proposal. The proceeds would go to “address the significant and growing costs associated with opioid misuse,” Baker explained. New York passed a similar law last year, which is being challenged in the courts, but with one significant difference: The New York law expressly prohibited pharmaceutical companies from passing on the cost of the tax to consumers, but Baker's proposal doesn't, which means if it is enacted, state residents will pay higher prices for their pain medications.

Drug Courts

West Virginia Bill Would Implement Family Drug Court Pilot Program. The House Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse last Thursday filed a bill to implement a pilot program for family drug courts. They would specialize in cases of abuse and neglect involving substance abuse. The bill, which is not yet available on the legislative website, will be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee.

International

Israeli Cabinet Approves Medical Marijuana Exports. The cabinet on Sunday gave final approval to a law allowing the export of medical marijuana. The move came a month after the Knesset unanimously approved the idea. Israel is now the third country, after Canada and the Netherlands, to allow medical marijuana exports. 

Chronicle AM: NY, WI Pot Polls Look Good, MI Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances, More... (1/25/19)

New polls show strong support for marijuana legalization in New York and Wisconsin, Michael Bloomberg opines against legalization, and more.

Marijuana polling numbers are looking good in New York and Wisconsin. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Possible Presidential Candidate Michael Bloomberg Calls Legalization Nonsensical. Former New York City mayor and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has set himself apart from most of the field by suggesting he would oppose marijuana legalization. He said that "to make it easier for people to engage in a behavior that has a significant possibility of damaging peoples health" is just nonsensical.

New York Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A new Quinnipiac poll has two out of every three New Yorkers supporting marijuana legalization. The poll comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the legislature are pushing for legalization in Albany. Every racial, age, sex, political and regional demographic favored legalization, with 65% in favor statewide and 31% opposed.

Wisconsin Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A new Marquette Law School poll has nearly three out of five residents in favor of marijuana legalization. The poll found support at 59% statewide, with 35% opposed. That's up dramatically from September 2014, when Marquette last polled the question. Back then, support was at only 46%, with 51% opposed.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances. A bill that would require a criminal conviction before police can permanently seize property or cash valued at less than $50,000 is now headed for a Senate floor vote. Senate Bill 2 passed out of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Thursday.

(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.)

The 6 Worst Governors When it Comes to Marijuana Policy [FEATURE]

It's a fundamental of our political system that governors play a critical role in shaping policy at the state level—and even beyond. Governors can use their position as a bully pulpit to advance their agenda, they can use their budget proposals or empower commissions to shape legislation, and they have the power to kill legislation they don't like with their veto pens.

And because Congress has so far refused to act to end federal marijuana prohibition, the role of state governors in marijuana policy is even more important. While they can't simply wave a magic wand to enact their desires, gubernatorial support or opposition can make or break a marijuana reform bill.

With public opinion having shifted dramatically in favor of marijuana legalization—an October Gallup poll had support nationwide at 66 percent, including even a majority of Republicans—and several years worth of legalization to look at in pioneering states such as Colorado and Washington, more and more governors are getting on the legalization bandwagon.

Last week, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) released its 2019 US Governors Scorecard. It gave each governor a letter grade from A to F based on a combination of legislative history, policy positions taken, and public comments on the issue. NORML was pretty happy with what it found.

“There exists unprecedented political support among U.S. governors for marijuana policy reform,” the group noted, pointing to A grades going to nine governors, all of them Democrats. That's up dramatically from the two A grades handed out just last year. Similarly, seven governors, six of them Democrats, saw their grades improve over last year.

Several newly elected Democratic governors, such as Ned Lamont of Connecticut, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, and Tim Walz of Minnesota actively campaigned on a pledge to legalize marijuana, while re-elected New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also broken dramatically toward legalization. It's a winning issue for Democrats.

But support for legalization is “more partisan than ever before,” NORML points out. “While almost half of all Democratic governors are now on record in support of adult use regulation, no Republican governors publicly advocate for this policy.”

NORML graded 46 governors, saying it had insufficient data to grade the other four. Of the 23 Republican governors only five (22 percent) received a passing grade of C or higher, while among the 23 Democratic governors all but one (96 percent) got at least a C. Of the nine governors getting an A, all were Democrats. Of the four governors getting an F, all were Republicans.

Here are the governors graded the worst by NORML. The list contains the four governors graded F as well as the two governors graded D-. They are all Republicans.

1. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey: D-. Ducey opposed a 2016 marijuana legalization initiative, saying “I don't know how we make ourselves a stronger state or a better place through this initiative. Almost everything outside of our economy and education that I have to deal with in this state has a common culprit of drug abuse and addiction.” After the measure was narrowly defeated, he said. “Fortunately, Arizona is a place where common sense can still work. We fought very hard and we won this round.”

2. Idaho Gov. Brad Little: F. Little just took office this month, but is on record opposing marijuana legalization and supports only the most limited of pilot programs permitting the use of CBD, but not its broader legalization. He has also expressed concern that allowing hemp cultivation—which is now legal under federal law—would serve as “camouflage for the marijuana trade.”

3. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant: D-. While he allowed an extremely limited CBD bill to become law, that law provides no in-state supply for those products, and he remains vocally opposed to marijuana legalization: "We're not going to consider it in Mississippi as long as I'm governor," he said. At least he's term-limited out in 2020.

4. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts: F. A firm foe of marijuana legalization, Ricketts has complained bitterly about neighboring Colorado's legal marijuana regime, saying it imposed a burden on western Nebraska law enforcement (which is presumably forced to sit on the side of highways coming out of Colorado and pull over people looking for pot). Ricketts also opposes medical marijuana absent any firm study by the Food and Drug Administration. He and his fellow Cornhuskers have apparently forgotten that the state was once a leader in progressive pot policy, having decriminalized it during that first wave in the 1970s.

5. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine: F. DeWine just took office this month, but as state attorney general he declined to comment on whether the Justice Department should go after medical marijuana users and providers in the state. When running for governor, he opposed a statewide initiative that would have diverted many low-level drug users from prison and came out firmly “against the legalization of recreational marijuana,” even falsely claiming that its legalization in other states had led to increased use among youth.

6. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem: F. Noem hasn't been in office long enough to do any damage, but she thinks marijuana is “a gateway drug” and vowed that “As governor, I will oppose all attempts to legalize marijuana.” She has the distinction of governing over the only state in the country that makes it a crime to have used marijuana.  

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