Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: SAFE Banking Act Battle, SD Pot Legalization Initiative Advances, More... (9/23/19)

Battle over voting on the SAFE Banking Act, South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative okayed for signature gathering, Dr. Bronner's kicks in for Oregon psilocybin initiative, and more.

Dr. Bronner's CEO David Bronner. The company has just donated $150,000 to the Oregon psilocybin initiative. (maps.org)
Marijuana Policy

No Marijuana Banking Without Justice Reform, Three Democratic Presidential Candidates Say. In a sign of divisions within the marijuana legalization movement, three Democratic presidential contenders have joined Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and a coalition of civil rights and drug reform groups in calling for a delay in the passage of the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595) until more progress is made in ending federal pot prohibition.  The three candidates are Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and  Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Those calling for a delay in the banking bill fear that its passage will undermine efforts to advance legalization legislation, while those supporting an early vote say it is a first step that will bolster broaden marijuana reform. A House floor vote is set for Wednesday.  

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Cleared for Signature Gathering. A constitutional amendment initiative that would legalize marijuana has been cleared for signature gathering. The measure was introduced by a former federal prosecutor and is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project. Petitioners now have one year to come up with 33,921 valid voter signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot. The measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess and distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. Individuals would also be allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants. The South Dakota Department of Revenue would be tasked with issuing licenses for manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers. Sales would be taxed at 15%. The measure would also instruct the legislature to pass legislation legalizing hemp and medical marijuana.

Psychedelics

Dr. Bronner's Kicks in $150,000 for Oregon Psilocybin Initiative Campaign. Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, the natural soap company, has donated $150,000 for the Psilocybin Service Initiative, or Initiative Petition #34. The move came Friday night, as Dr. Bronner's CEO David Bronner joined chief petitioners Tom and Sheri Eckert at a kick-off event for the initiative in Portland Friday night. The initiative would allow Oregonians to access psilocybin in a therapeutic setting to treat a range of issues from depression to anxiety to addiction.Backers of the initiative have until July 2, 2020, to get 112,020 signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot. "The Bronner family is no stranger to severe depression and anxiety,"Bronner said. "We firmly believe that the integration of psilocybin therapy, to which the FDA recently granted a special ‘breakthrough designation’ is crucial to heal epidemic rates of depression, anxiety, and addiction that pharmaceutical drugs are completely inadequate for."

International

Mexican President Hints at Referendum on Drug Legalization. President Andres Lopez Manuel Obrador said Friday he was considering a public consultation or referendum on drug legalization: "I am not ruling out the possibility of calling a referendum or a collective reflection about legalizing certain drugs, especially those used for medicinal purposes,"Lopez Obrador said. "I have also been considering how this is part of the chain for ensuring peace and tranquility,"the president said. There are some people who do not want to legalize the use of drugs, not even for medicinal purposes, and there are people that support it (and insist) that the violence originates from the ban (on drugs),"he said.

Chronicle AM: House MJ Banking Bill Vote Next Week, Guatemala Now a Cocaine Producer, More... (9/20/19)

The House prepares to vote on a marijuana banking bill, New Hampshire lawmakers override a veto to ensure patients can grow their own, Guatemala concedes it is now a cocaine-producing nation, and more.

Cocaine -- it's not just from South America anymore. (US CBP)
Marijuana Policy

House Will Vote on Marijuana Banking Bill Next Week. The House leadership confirmed Friday that the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1595) will get a House floor vote next week. The move comes with support from financial institutions, but over the objections of advocacy groups who want to see broader marijuana reforms advance before those catering to the industry alone.

Senate Funding Bill Would Again Block DC Marijuana Legalization. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Financial Services and General Government funding bill for FY 2020 and again included a provision that blocks Washington, DC, from using its own money to implement a legal marijuana sales regime.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Legislature Overrides Veto on Patient Home Grows. The state Senate joined the House Thursday in overriding Gov. Chris Sununu's (R) veto of HB 364, which would allow qualified patients to grow up to three mature plants and 12 seedlings.

Wisconsin Lawmakers Announce Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill. Sens. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) have announced a bipartisan bill to introduce legalized medical cannabis in Wisconsin. The bill "recognizes that people should not have to engage in a criminal act to access medicine for debilitating conditions," they said.

International

Guatemala Joins Ranks of Cocaine Producers. Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart conceded Thursday that the country is now a full-fledged cocaine producer after security forces there uncovered several coca plantations and processing laboratories. Guatemala has long been a major transit country for cocaine, and traffickers have exercised influence over political parties and in some cases territorial control. The country has made little progress fighting the drug war. "Following the discovery of these narco-laboratories and the different fields with the coca plants, Guatemala now becomes a cocaine producer and that puts Guatemala in a totally different situation with respect to regional security," Degenhart said.

APPEAL: Help Us Respond to the Opportunities and the Crises

Posted in:

Dear reader,

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/borden12.jpg
David Borden
As I wrote last week, this is a good time and a bad time in drug policy. Marijuana reform continues to have 2019 momentum. Presidential candidates are debating criminal justice and drug policy more than ever. But politicians are still ready to file new and bad sentencing bills -- so quickly forgetting lessons they claimed to have learned -- and international human rights in the drug war are in full blown crisis.

We need your help to stay on the move at this important time. Can you make a generous donation for our work at this time? Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, and click on the tax-deductible donation link or the non-deductible donation link, whichever kind you wish to make. Our donation form accepts credit card, PayPal, and bank ACH.

We especially need help with non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Because our newsletter reports on political candidates, we cover the substantial cost of our web site server and email list service fully with non-deductible funds. This is to protect our tax-deductible 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which can't afford to be implicated, rightly or wrongly, in candidate advocacy. Most of our current funding is of the tax-deductible kind, especially the larger grants and gifts.

Can you make a non-deductible donation to sustain our newsletter through the campaign season? Or a tax-deductible donation for our campaign to stop Duterte's drug war killings in the Philippines? Our web site supports both one-time donations and recurring ones, on cycles including monthly, quarterly, annually, and other options. Visit our Candidates archive page and our Philippines campaign page to see why this is important.

Donations can also be sent by mail. For a non-deductible donation, make your check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, and send to P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016. Tax-deductible donation checks should be payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address.

Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/about#donations for information on other donation options like stock shares, or to read more about our work. Also visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/global and https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines for more about what we're doing.

Thank you for your support, and enjoy the rest of your summer.

Sincerely,

David Borden
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
"US and UN Drug Policy Reform"
https://stopthedrugwar.org

Court Finds Prosecutorial Misconduct Led to a Drug Conspiracy Conviction, But Lets 30-Year Sentence Stand Anyway [FEATURE]

This article is part 11 of Drug War Chronicle's occasional series on prosecutorial misconduct in drug cases written by investigative journalist Clarence Walker.

The federal prison in Gilmer, WV. Oscar Sosa's home for the next quarter-century, unless he wins on appeal. (BOP)
On October 7, 2016, a jury in Brownsville, Texas, convicted Oscar Sosa, then 32, of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute three kilos of methamphetamine. On April 24, 2017, Southern Texas Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen hammered Sosa with 30 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release.

Sosa appealed, claiming prosecutors committed three errors in the case, rendering the trial unfair. Sosa's appeal alleged the government erred when prosecutors improperly introduced drug profiling evidence by a DEA agent to connect their client into the conspiracy. Sosa also alleged that the prosecutor unfairly bolstered witnesses' purported credibility by indicating Sosa was part of the conspiracy, even though there were no tape-recorded conversations or written documents to prove with certainty that Sosa participated in the trafficking of illegal drugs, nor was he ever caught with any drugs.

With no drugs and no surveillance or documentary evidence, Sosa was in essence convicted by the testimony of cooperating witnesses who faced the possibility of life in prison on drug charges if they didn't help the prosecution. All three cooperating witnesses received prison sentences ranging from six to seven years each for their role in the dope deal.

When the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals took up his case, it found that prosecutorial misconduct had indeed occurred, but rejected his bid for a new trial because his federal defender had failed to object during his original trial.

"Today's outcome is the same as many of our prior decisions addressing drug profiling testimony and bolstering of witnesses' testimony," the court held in its July 25, 2018, ruling. "We find the government engaged in misconduct but nonetheless the court concludes the defendant cannot meet the heavy burden of obtaining reversal for error that he did not object to during trial."

And the court implicitly chided prosecutors more interested in winning than in justice. "If the ultimate end of prosecution is securing convictions it may not be surprising this trend has not deterred improper trial tactics," the court noted.

"It leaves a bad taste to know Oscar Sosa will spend the next 30 years in prison because his defense attorney failed to object to the prosecutorial misconduct," said attorney John T. Floyd, a Harris County Texas federal and state law criminal defense attorney.

"So when a lawyer fails to object it's likely harmless error because over the years the US Supreme Court has watered down all of the amendments in favor of the government," said criminal law veteran Cheryl Irvin, who has tried numerous drug cases including drug related murders.

Although concessions that prosecutorial misconduct unfairly influenced the jury should have resulted in the appeals court granting Sosa a new trial, the appellate jurists -- Justices James Yue-Ho, Gregg Costa and Jennifer Walker Elrod -- made it clear why Sosa's conviction wasn't overturned: "Troubled as we are by the continued use of these improper tactics we do not find that Sosa has met his burden of showing that the errors substantially affected the outcome of the trial," they wrote.

In other words, while prosecutors' conduct in the case was wrong, it wasn't wrong enough to win him a new trial.

Conspiracy dope cases in the federal courts under the statute (21 U.S.C. 846) are inherently dangerous for an individual accused of complicity with other defendants, especially when the evidence is considerably circumstantial and undeniably weak.

To prove a federal drug conspiracy charge the prosecutor must prove:

  • Two or more people conspired to commit an illegal act.
  • A person(s) intentionally or knowingly participated in the conspiracy.
  • A person(s) acted beyond the initial agreement in furtherance of carrying out the crime.

Thus, someone can be prosecuted and convicted in a drug conspiracy case even if he is never caught with drugs in his possession. This is known as a "dry conspiracy."

Dry conspiracies usually start off with one or more individuals who got caught with drugs by police. They then decide to cooperate with the feds, giving up the names of others allegedly involved in the conspiracy in return for much lighter sentences. They will also provide inside information on drug offenses committed, such as how money was laundered, how much drug weight was trafficked, and how much money was paid to couriers, among other things.

Oscar Sosa went down in a dry conspiracy. No drugs, no hard evidence, just the word of cooperating witnesses was enough to put him away -- that and prosecutorial misconduct and a pinch of public defender neglect. After Sosa got slammed with 30 years, his new court-appointed attorney filed an appeal alleging that Assistant US Attorneys Karen Betancourt and Jody Young, committed serious misconduct that should be grounds for the conviction to be reversed.

Going After Sosa

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/oscar-sosa.jpg
Oscar Sosa (Facebook)
The case against Sosa unfolded after DEA agents and sheriff's deputies arrested two drug couriers, Juan Sarmiento and Jose Galvan, while carrying three kilos of meth at a bus station in Harlingen, Texas. When confronted by agents acting on a tip, the pair consented to be searched, and the lawmen found six bundles of meth sewn into Sarmiento's jacket lining and four more in Galvan's pockets.

DEA agents received a tip about the men headed to a gas station which also served as a bus stop. When law enforcement officers confronted Sarmiento and Galvan they panicked and gave officers consent to search them and their luggage, whereupon the lawmen discovered six bundles of crystal meth sewn into Sarmiento's jacket lining. Four more bundles were found in Galvan's pockets.

During questioning the men gave agents conflicting statements about the origin of the drugs. Eventually, though, the men admitted they'd planned to take the meth to a man named 'Oscar' in Plant City, Florida. The men also identified two women "Betty and Patti" as the owner or managers of the narcotics they were carrying.

DEA later identified the women as Mexican nationals Patricia Sosa and Bertha Sosa. Patricia allegedly was either Oscar's aunt or mother and Bertha was an aunt or cousin. Also implicated and charged in the scheme was Genaro Luera, who was also identified as a possible in-law relative connected to Patricia and Bertha.

On appeal, Sosa's attorney identified three examples of prosecutorial misconduct, arguing that the cumulative effect of the errors should cause the conviction to be overturned. While the 5th Circuit jurists agreed that the prosecution erred, it refused to annul the verdict.

"The first error is when the government introduced impermissible profiling testimony by having a DEA expert witness not only describe typical aspects and behavior of a drug trafficking organization, but, also tell the jury where Sosa fit into that structure," the court noted, citing U.S. vs Gonzalez-Rodriguez (621 F. 3d 354), to explain the problem with the profiling testimony.

Here's the exchange between the prosecutor and the DEA agent that unfairly used profiling to bolster the case that Sosa was a drug dealer:

Prosecutor: "When you're looking at (Sosa's records) and you're not finding any assets in Mr. Sosa's name, is that somehow strange he doesn't have any assets in his name, that tells me what?

DEA Agent Jason Bradford: "Yes, we consider that conduct common of drug traffickers.

Prosecutor: "And why is that?"

DEA Agent Bradford: "Because they don't want to leave a trail for their assets."

The appeals court found that the prosecutor erred by eliciting that testimony from the DEA agent. While Sosa had no property or assets in his name, that didn't make him a drug dealer, and it was up to the jury -- not the prosecutor and the DEA agent -- to make that determination.

"When stated in general terms, such testimony may help the jury understand the significance and implications of certain conduct," the court held. "But the ultimate responsibility of linking a defendant's conduct with the characteristics of drug trafficking must be left to the jury."

Sosa's second ground for appeal was that prosecutors committed error by stating in open court that the witnesses' testimony had already been determined to be true, or, worse yet, that they falsely alleged that the judge in the case has concluded the witnesses' testimony was truthful.

The appeals court agreed with that claim, too: "Sosa's claim the government improperly bolstered the credibility of the cooperating witnesses (Sarmiento and Galvan) has merits," it held, citing US vs Gracia (522 F. 3d 597).

In that case, the appellate judges reversed Gracia's conviction for possession of 50 kilos of cocaine based on the prosecutor's bolstering of the witness's testimony. The appeals court pointed out how the prosecutor told the jury that the agents in the case were "very, very credible witnesses" and went far as to ask the jury if they thought an agent, a man with a family, would lie under oath to convict Gracia.

"A personal assertion by a prosecutor of government witnesses' credibility is impermissible," the 5th Circuit explained. "Improper bolstering occurred" in Sosa's case, the judges agreed, when the prosecutor claimed the judge's stamp of approval of the witnesses' credibility.

Credibility of a witness's testimony must always be determined by the jury, and it is not the prosecutor's position that the judge declared such testimony by the cooperating witnesses to be true.

Despite these grave errors, Sosa's attorney, Raquel Munoz, failed to object and have the errors corrected and preserved for appeal.

5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod dissented, arguing prosecutorial misconduct must be punished.
Sosa's third appellate issue argued that a confrontation clause violation occurred when DEA agent Jason Bradford mentioned a tip implicating Patricia Sosa, Sosa's mother or aunt. Prosecutor asked Bradford how DEA determined Patricia Sosa was involved in dealing drugs from Mexico.

Bradford explained how he received an Automated Alert about other agents that were investigating the woman. Bradford further said a Houston undercover agent confirmed Patricia Sosa had sought to find couriers to transport drugs from Mexico into the Houston area. The 5th Circuit ruled against Sosa on this point by stating the tip about Patricia Sosa was something the jury already knew about. "As a result, there was no clear confrontation violation," the justices concluded.

The appeals court found two clear instances of prosecutorial misconduct in Sosa's case, but found that because his defense attorney failed to object in a timely fashion, his conviction should stand, in effect condoning the behavior.

5th Circuit Justice Jennifer Walker disagreed. "I do not condone prosecutorial misconduct here," she wrote in her dissent. "And as the Supreme Court suggested, we should continue to discourage it."

The next step for Oscar Sosa to possibly get a crack at a new trial is to petition for one at the US Supreme Court. Meanwhile, he remains behind bars at FCI Gilmer Unit in West Virginia with more than 25 years to go.

Reach Investigative Criminal Justice Journalist Clarence Walker at [email protected]

Chronicle AM: Beto Says Use MJ Taxes for Drug War Reparations, Yang Says Decriminalize Opiates, More... (9/19/19)

Democratic presidential contenders make dramatic policy proposals, DC loosens up on marijuana, Michigan lawmakers move toward sentencing reform, and more.

Beto O'Rourke wants to legalize marijuana and use the taxes to pay drug war victims. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Beto O'Rourke Proposes Drug War Reparations Funded by Marijuana Taxes. Democratic presidential contender Beto O'Rourke on Thursday proposed legalizing marijuana and using the tax revenues to make direct payments for former drug war prisoners through a "Drug War Justice Grant" program. "We need to not only end the prohibition on marijuana, but also repair the damage done to the communities of color disproportionately locked up in our criminal justice system or locked out of opportunity because of the War on Drugs," ​O'Rourke said in a press release.​ "These inequalities have compounded for decades, as predominantly white communities have been given the vast majority of lucrative business opportunities, while communities of color still face over-policing and criminalization. It's our responsibility to begin to remedy the injustices of the past and help the people and communities most impacted by this misguided war."

DC City Employees Free to Use Marijuana on Own Time. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) issued a mayoral order Wednesday notifying District municipal workers that marijuana use can no longer prevent either getting a government job or keeping one. Some safety-sensitive workers, such as police, are still barred from using marijuana, but now, city agencies can no longer create their own policies and instead must restrict marijuana use only by employees who fit into such categories.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire is One Step Closer to Legalizing Medical Home Growing. The state House voted Wednesday to override Gov. Chris Sununu's (R) veto of HB 364, which would allow qualified patients to grow up to three mature plants and 12 seedlings. The Senate was expected to take up the issue Thursday.

Medical Marijuana Patients Will Be Able to Get Treatment in DC Schools Under Emergency Legislation. The DC city council on Tuesday passed emergency legislation to allow students enrolled in District schools to use medical marijuana at school. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) plans to sign the bill shortly. The emergency legislation would take effect for 90 days after the Mayor's signature.

Drug Policy

Andrew Yang Calls for Decriminalization of Opiates. Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang said Wednesday he would decriminalize the possession of opiates for personal use if elected president. "In addition to decriminalizing marijuana, I would decriminalize opiates for personal use," Yang said, noting that this would include heroin. [Ed: One way that criminalization of opiates increases harm is that when addicted users are incarcerated and then get out, some of them return to using, but with lower tolerance levels than they had before. If they don't realize that, they may take doses that their bodies could handle before, but can kill them now.]

Sentencing Policy

Michigan Sentencing Reform Package Rolled Out. Lawmakers and ACLU officials stood together Wednesday to roll out a new bipartisan plan for sentencing reform. The proposed bill package, introduced by state Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington), state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and state Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), is aimed at overhauling the state's mandatory minimum sentencing laws "It's quite simple: We don't have a problem with crime. We have a problem with incarceration," Santana said. The number of inmates in the state increased by 13,000 during the administration of former Gov. John Engler (R).

(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.)

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A rogue DEA agent cops a plea, a former Detroit cop gets nailed as a dope dealer, and more. Let's get to it:

In New York City, an NYPD school safety agent was arrested Friday after she was caught with three pounds of marijuana and a stash of cash in her apartment. Agent Iashia Glover, 29, got caught not only with $17,000 in cash, but also $2,390 in counterfeit cash. She is charged with marijuana possession and forgery.

In New York City, a former DEA agent pleaded guilty Monday to participating in a decade long drug conspiracy that smuggled thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York. Fernando Gomez "infiltrated" the DEA in 2011 by lying about his ties to the murderous trafficking ring, then assisted them by, among other things, selling weapons to them and divulging law enforcement information to them. He's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison when sentenced in November.

In Detroit, a former Detroit police officer was convicted Tuesday of being part of a drug trafficking organization -- and was even paid $20,000 for staging a fake arrest. Former officer Christopher Staton, 52, was found to have conspired with traffickers to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances, including cocaine and fentanyl. Staton ran license plates and provided other sensitive law enforcement information to the group.

In Mt. Holly, New Jersey, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to seven years in prison after being convicted of smuggling oxycodone, marijuana and tobacco to inmates in exchange for money. Steven Saunders, 51, will be ineligible for parole for five years. He was convicted of conspiracy, official misconduct, bribery in official matters, and acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior, as well as possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute and distribution of marijuana, Grewal said.

Chronicle AM: Coalition Urges Delay in House Pot Banking Vote, Chicago Mayor: No Pot Shops Downtown, More... (9/18/19)

Civil rights and drug policy groups fearing a loss of momentum in ending federal pot prohibition are urging a delay in a marijuana banking bill vote, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot doesn't want pot shops downtown, and more.

Should Congress move on marijuana banking or end federal prohibition first? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Civil Rights Groups Urge Congress to Delay Marijuana Banking Vote. A broad coalition of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and Drug Policy Alliance is calling on Democratic congressional Democratic leaders to postpone a planned vote on a marijuana banking bill next week until farther-reaching legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition advances first. "We are concerned that if the House approves this bill, it will undermine broader and more inclusive efforts to reform our country's marijuana laws," the groups wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in a letter on Tuesday.

Chicago Mayor Wants No Pot Shops Downtown. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) rolled out a proposal Tuesday for how legal marijuana would work in the city. Under her plan, use of marijuana would be banned in public places and no pot shops would be allowed to operate in the Central Business District. That's generating some pushback from some city council members. The proposal would also prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within 500 feet of schools and within 1,500 feet of other dispensaries. A vote on the proposal is expected next month.

International

Colombia Bill to Legalize, Regulate Marijuana Filed. Leftist opposition Sen. Gustavo Bolivar has filed a bill to legalize and regulate the production and consumption of marijuana. The bill is part of a package of drug policy bills aimed at ending the repressive policies of President Ivan Duque. The bill is reportedly backed by former President Juan Manuel Santos, but it is the votes of the Liberal Party that will determine whether the bill advances.

Chronicle AM: DEA Takes Aim at Fentanyl Precursors, CA Governor Takes Aim at Vaping Crisis, More... (9/17/19)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issues an executive order on vaping, the DEA designates some fentanyl precursors as controlled substances, and more.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) takes aim at the vaping crisis. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Issues Executive Order on Vaping. Responding to rising concerns over vaping-related deaths and illnesses, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday issued an executive order launching a new crackdown on the industry, for both tobacco-related companies and marijuana businesses. The order jump-starts a new public awareness campaign focused on the potential dangers of vaping both tobacco and marijuana, seeks recommendations on mandating additional warning signs on vaping products and at stores, and heightens enforcement against counterfeit e-cigs and marijuana products. It requests the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) begin developing recommendations for warnings on vaping products and at retail locations -- possibly including cannabis retailers -- and increasing enforcement against retailers that sell vaping products to minors. While Newsom focused on e-cigs, he also made clear that he was looking at the marijuana industry, too. "This is about these vaping products that are used for both cannabis and tobacco products," Newsom said. "We're getting serious about this issue and we're going to drive these issues as far as we can through executive authority."

Medical Marijuana

Utah Legislature Passes Changes to Medical Marijuana Law, Allows More Dispensaries. The legislature on Tuesday approved changes in the state's medical marijuana law that will allow for 14 medical marijuana dispensaries, and possibly more in the future. But lawmakers said they still need to make further "tweaks" in the law, including removing a state-operated "central fill pharmacy" after local officials expressed concerns about possibly violating federal laws. The state's program is supposed to be up and running by March 1, 2020.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Proposes to Control Three Precursor Chemicals Used in Illicit Fentanyl Manufacture. The DEA has proposed to control three substances used by operators of clandestine laboratories to illicitly manufacture the deadly Schedule II controlled substance fentanyl. The DEA proposed on September 13 that benzylfentanyl and 4-anilinopiperidine be controlled as list I chemicals under the Controlled Substances Act. On Tuesday, DEA proposed to designate norfentanyl as an immediate precursor (i.e., a substance from which another is formed) for fentanyl and to make it a Schedule II controlled substance under the CSA. Both Notices are based on findings that these substances are important precursors used in the illegal production of fentanyl. Most illicit fentanyl manufacturing is done outside the United States.

Fentanyl Isn't About to Go Away. What Can We Do About It? [FEATURE]

In the most thorough review yet of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, a new study from the RAND Corporation warns that its arrival heralds a new dynamic in illicit drug markets -- and that is going to require new approaches for dealing with the dangerous drug.

a fatal dose of illicit fentanyl (dea.gov)
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked the synthetic opioid, which is roughly 50 times as powerful as heroin, to more than 31,000 overdose deaths last year, a little less than half of all drug overdose deaths registered in 2018, and the most people killed by a single drug in a single year in United States history.

Those fentanyl-linked deaths were 10 times the number of synthetic opioid deaths just five years ago. That's because a reliable supply chain has been established. Whether it's coming via DHL or Fedex packages ordered on the dark web direct from under-regulated Chinese pharmaceutical labs or being cooked up from precursor chemicals in informal Mexican labs and then smuggled across the border, fentanyl is pouring into the country.

In addition to its extreme lethality, what makes the rise of fentanyl different from previous drug epidemics is that very few users seek it out. Only the heaviest opioid users with the highest tolerance levels might seek fentanyl. The drug is here, rather, because it works better for drug dealing syndicates. It is cheap and relatively easy to produce, it does not require the control of extensive territories to produce drug crops, and because it is so potent, massive quantities of the drug can be smuggled in small packages, making it more attractive to traffickers.

"This crisis is different because the spread of synthetic opioids is largely driven by suppliers' decisions, not by user demand," RAND researcher Bryce Pardo, lead author of the study, said in a press release. "Most people who use opioids are not asking for fentanyl and would prefer to avoid exposure."

The fentanyl crisis is largely regional, the RAND researchers found. Deaths related to the drug are clustered in Appalachia, the mid-Atlantic and New England.

"While synthetic opioids have not yet become entrenched in illicit drug markets west of the Mississippi River, authorities must remain vigilant," said Jirka Taylor, study coauthor and senior policy analyst at RAND. "Even delaying the onset in these markets by a few years could save thousands of lives."

While the RAND report said "nontraditional strategies may be required" to address fentanyl, it did not make any specific policy recommendations. Instead, the authors urged consideration of a number of innovative approaches, many of which are tenets of harm reduction. They include:

  • supervised consumption sites (or safe injection sites)
  • drug content testing
  • providing prescription heroin to addicts (heroin-assisted treatment)
  • creative supply disruption

"Indeed, it might be that the synthetic opioid problem will eventually be resolved with approaches or technologies that do not currently exist or have yet to be tested," said Beau Kilmer, study coauthor and director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. "Limiting policy responses to existing approaches will likely be insufficient and may condemn many people to early deaths."

In other words, traditional drug war strategies when it comes to fentanyl are not only unlikely to succeed, but people will die. While tough-on-drugs politicians and prosecutors are quick to embrace harsher penalties, the researchers note there is little reason to believe tougher sentences, such as drug-induced murder laws applied to low-level retailers and couriers, will make any difference.

On the other hand, RAND does advocate for short but swift punishments as a deterrent. The one supply-side intervention RAND discussed in this report is efforts to disrupt dark web drug marketing of fentanyl, because the market is driven by suppliers, not users. "It makes sense," they wrote, "to consider supply disruption as one piece of a comprehensive response, particularly where that supply is not yet firmly entrenched."

That's particularly urgent, the researchers explained, because their study, which also examined fentanyl outbreaks in other countries, found that once the drug gains a prominent place in a local drug market, it doesn't go away.

But fentanyl is clearly already entrenched in parts of the US. The RAND report points the way to smarter approaches to dealing with the crisis -- approaches that focus on saving lives.

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

Chronicle AM: House MJ Banking Bill to Get Floor Vote, Purdue Pharma Files for Bankruptcy, More... (9/16/19)

A bill to open up financial services for the marijuana industry will get a House floor vote this month, the maker of OxyContin files for bankruptcy, the marijuana industry places the blame for vaping deaths on marijuana prohibition, and more.

Is marijuana prohibition to blame for vaping deaths? The industry is pointing a finger. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Will Vote This Month on Marijuana Banking Bill. The office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has confirmed that he intends to bring the SAFE Banking Act to the House floor for a vote this month. Hoyer announced the move at a whip meeting last Thursday. The bill passed out of the House Financial Committee in March on a 45-15 vote. It would provide protections for banks that work with marijuana companies since the substance is still illegal under federal law, despite several states having legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

Marijuana Industry Blames Vaping Deaths on Failed Prohibition Policies.The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) has blamed the recent wave of vaping deaths -- a total of six so far -- on "failed prohibition policies" and called on Congress to legalize and regulate marijuana. "These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies," said NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith. "Current federal laws interfere with research, prevent federal regulatory agencies from establishing safety guidelines, discourage states from regulating cannabis, and make it more difficult for state-legal cannabis businesses to displace the illicit market. It is now the responsibility of Congress to end prohibition and regulate cannabis without delay," Smith added. "By removing cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances and instituting a clear regulatory framework through existing agencies, the federal government can provide helpful guidance to states that have or wish to establish regulated cannabis control systems while helping put irresponsible illicit market producers out of business for good."

Medical Marijuana

Utah Lawmakers Meet to Revise Medical Marijuana Law. Legislators returned to the state capitol Monday to once more amend the state's medical marijuana law. One issue is how and where patients will obtain medical marijuana products. The state had contemplated a central government-run pharmacy that would distribute the drug to a system of private pharmacies, but local leaders have balked at having government employees distributing a federally illegal drug.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Purdue Pharma Files for Bankruptcy. Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, the first step of a tentative agreement the company and its owners, the Sackler family, reached last week to settle thousands of lawsuits blaming it for its involvement in the opioid epidemic. The deal is estimated at between $10 and $12 billion, with $3 billion coming from the Sacklers' personal fortunes.

Psychedelics

Ann Arbor Group Wants to Decriminalize Natural Psychedelics. A local group calling itself Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor is planning to ask the city council to decriminalize natural psychedelics, such as peyote and magic mushrooms. They are calling on the council to approve a resolution to prohibit the use of city funds to investigate, arrest, or prosecute anyone for use or possession of such plants.

International

British Labor Party Wants Royal Commission on Drug Policy, Would Follow Its Recommendation to Decriminalize Drugs. A Labor government would consider decriminalizing all drugs if that was recommended by a royal commission, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said. "There is nothing more important than preserving the life of our citizens," she said. "Our current approach to drugs is simply not doing that." Safe injection sites would also be considered, she added.

Thailand Bill Would Allow for Six Marijuana Plants for Personal Use. A member party in the country's ruling coalition government has proposed a bill that would let Thais grow up to six marijuana plants per household for medicinal use. "The principle is for medical use, you can have it at home for ailments, but not smoke it on the street," said Bhumjaithai Party lawmaker Supachai Jaisamut. The bill would also allow the sale of plants to institutions licensed by a Plant-based Drug Institute that would have the authority to purchase, extract, and export CBD.

Chronicle AM: Joe Biden's Muddy Marijuana Policy Message, Peru Coca Eradication Gearing Up, More... (9/13/19)

Joe Biden muddies the waters on his marijuana policy, Copenhagen is moving toward a pilot progeram of legal marijuana sales, Peru prepares to go after coca crops in a lawless region, and more.

Joe Biden. Where, exactly, is he on marijuana policy? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan House Bill to Reschedule Marijuana Filed. Florida US Reps. Donna Shalala (D) and Matt Gaetz (R) filed a bill Thursday aimed at reducing barriers to marijuana research by moving it from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. The Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act is identical companion legislation to a bill filed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) in July, S. 2400.

Joe Biden Says Marijuana Offenses Should Be Misdemeanors, But Without Jail Time. During Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden muddied the waters by saying marijuana offenses should be treated as misdemeanors, even though he has earlier called for decriminalization. Many other candidates are calling for legalization. Here's what Biden said: "Nobody who got in prison for marijuana, for example -- immediately upon being released, they shouldn't be in there." he said. "That should be a misdemeanor. They should be out and their record should be expunged. Every single right should be returned," he said. "When you finish your term in prison, you should be able to not only vote but have access to Pell grants, have access to be able to get housing, have access to be able to move along the way."

International

Denmark's Capital City Moves toward Legal Marijuana. The Copenhagen city council overwhelmingly supports a pilot program that would see marijuana sold legally across the city. The city has long been prepared to move down this path, but had been stymied by a conservative national government. But now, left-wing parties won an overall majority in elections this summer. The new health minister, Magnus Heunicke, doesn't endorse the scheme, but the city council is moving forward anyway. Under the proposed plan, a half dozen or so marijuana dispensaries would operate in the city.

Peru to Start Eradicating Coca Crops in the VRAEM. For the first time, Peruvian security forces will attempt to eradicate illicit coca plants in the country's largest coca growing area, the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), the government announced Thursday. Starting November 1, authorities will undertake a 45-day operation aiming to eradicate some 1,800 acres of coca crops, and they are vowing to intensify such operations next year. The region produced some 60,000 acres of coca in 2017, according to the UN. Although the region has been in a state of emergency for decades, recent governments have declined to send in coca eradication teams for fear of a violent backlash from coca farmers and remnants of the Shining Path guerrillas who have morphed into drug traffickers.

(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: Tentative Oxycontin Settlement, Philippines Says No to UN Investigators, More... (9/12/19)

It looks like the thousands of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma over Oxycontin are about to be settled, a new audit finds California's unlicensed pot shops greatly outnumber licensed ones, Florida's attorney general seeks to block a marijuana legalization initiative, and more.

Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family will reportedly pay out billions to settle Oxycontin lawsuits. (Creative Commons)
California's Legal Pot Shops Are Outnumbered Three-to-One by Black Market Ones. According to an audit conducted by the United Cannabis Business Association, there are more than three times as many unlicensed marijuana shops as there are regulated ones. The audit found about 2,850 unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services, compared to only 873 licensed sellers in the state. The audit was based on Weedmaps listings. Fewer than 20% of California cities allow regulated pot shops, and though many large cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, do allow them, unlicensed dispensaries proliferate there as well. Earlier this year, Weedmaps showed 220 unlicensed pot shops in Los Angeles, compared to only 187 licensed ones.

Florida Attorney General Challenges Legalization Initiative. State Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) is challenging a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana in the state… on the grounds that it is too detailed. The amendment is 10 pages long. "There is no way 10 pages of the law can be summarized clearly in 75 words or less and would adequately convey to the voters what exactly they will be voting on," the attorney general said. There are two significant legalization initiative campaigns underway in the state; the one Moody is challenging is the "Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing, and Other Restrictions" initiative. Now it will be up to the state Supreme Court to determine whether the initiative comports with the legal requirements.

New Mexico Task Force Opposes State-Run Pot Shops. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's (D) Cannabis Legalization Working Group, which is looking at regulatory options for marijuana legalization, has come out against state-run marijuana stores. Instead, it is endorsing a system of licensing commercial entities. The working group also recommends barring local governments from banning pot shops, although they would be allowed to impose zoning and similar restrictions.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Board Rejects Anxiety, Autism as Qualifying Conditions. The State Medical Board voted Wednesday to reject adding anxiety and autism spectrum disorder to the state's list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana. Earlier this year, the state's Medical Marijuana Expert Review Committee recommended adding the conditions, but the board overruled them. It did say it might revisit the issue later "if additional studies or evidence are brought forth in the petition process."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Purdue Pharma, Sackler Family Agree to Oxycontin Settlement. Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family have reportedly agreed to a tentative settlement of thousands of lawsuits filed by states and other localities over the role of Oxycontin in the current opioid epidemic. According to news reports, Purdue will file for bankruptcy and effectively dissolve, while a new company will form and continue selling Oxycontin, with the revenues going to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit settlement. The deal is expected to be worth between $10 and $12 billion, including $3 billion from the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue.

International

Philippines Refuses to Grant UN Access to Investigate Bloody Drug War. The Philippines will not allow visits by the United Nations to investigate its brutal war on drugs, Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said Wednesday. He called the UN experts "bastards" who had already prejudged his country. Asked if UN investigators should be allowed to work in the country, he said: "No. Because they have already prejudged. I already said those bastards -- especially that woman acting like the queen in Alice in Wonderland -- first, the judgment, then the trial. No." That was a reference to Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, who has been a staunch critic of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

Help Us Respond to the Crises and the Opportunities

Dear friend,

 
 
David Borden

As I've written recently, this is a good time and a bad time in drug policy reform. Marijuana reform continues to have 2019 momentum. Presidential candidates are debating criminal justice and drug policy more than ever. But politicians are still ready to file new and bad sentencing bills – so quickly forgetting lessons they claim to have learned – and international human rights in the drug war are in a full blown crisis.

We need your help to stay on the move at this important time. Can you make a donation today to help? Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, and click on the tax-deductible donation link or the non-deductible donation link, whichever kind you wish to make. Our donation form accepts credit card, PayPal, and bank ACH.

We especially need help with non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Because our newsletter reports on political candidates, we cover the substantial cost of our web site server and email list service fully with non-deductible funds. This is to protect our tax-deductible 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which can't afford to be implicated, rightly or wrongly, in candidate advocacy. Most of our current funding is of the tax-deductible kind, especially the larger grants and gifts.Can you make a non-deductible donation to sustain our newsletter through the campaign season? Visit our candidates archive page here.

All that said, a tax-deductible donation for our urgent campaign to stop Duterte's extrajudicial drug war killings in the Philippines, or for our work at the United Nations, would make a big difference too, and we would be equally grateful. Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines and https://stopthedrugwar.org/global to learn more about our work in those areas.

Our web site supports both one-time donations and recurring ones, on cycles including monthly, quarterly, annually, and other options. Donations can also be sent by mail. For a non-deductible donation, make your check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, and send to P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016. Tax-deductible donation checks should be payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address.

Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/about#donations for information on other donation options like stock shares, or to read more about our work. Thank you for your support, and enjoy the rest of your summer.

Sincerely,

David Borden
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
"US and UN Drug Policy Reform"
https://stopthedrugwar.org

Chronicle AM: DEA Proposes Big Cuts in Opioid Production, Increase in Research Marijuana, More... (9/11/18)

The DEA has come out with proposed quotas for marijuana and prescription opioids for 2020, a Florida legalization initiative has already raised a million dollars, and more.

Marijuana Policy

DEA Wants 3.2 Million Grams of Marijuana Legally Grown In 2020. The DEA has set a quota of 3.2 million grams of marijuana to be grown legally for scientific research purposes next year. That's a bit more than 7,000 pounds, and it's up more than 30% over this year's quota of 2.45 million grams. "This will meet the need created by the increase in the amount of approved research involving marijuana," DEA said in a press release. "Over the last two years, the total number of individuals registered by DEA to conduct research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, derivatives and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has increased by more than 40 percent, from 384 in January 2017 to 542 in January 2019."

Florida Legalization Campaign Has Raised $1 Million. Make It Legal Florida (MILF), the group behind the Adult Use of Marijuana initiative, has already raised more than $1.09 million for its effort to put the measure on the 2020 ballot, almost entirely from two major players in the legal marijuana industry, Surterra Wellness and MadMen, Inc. The information comes from campaign finance filings on September 1. Another group, Sensible Florida, is sponsoring a competing marijuana legalization initiative. It has raised $177,883 and received $245,725 in in-kind contributions.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Proposes Reductions in Opioid Manufacturing for 2020. The DEA is proposing to reduce the amount of five Schedule II opioid controlled substances that can be manufactured in the United States next year compared with 2019. The agency proposes to reduce the amount of fentanyl produced by 31%, hydrocodone by 19%, hydromorphone by 25%, oxycodone by 9%, and oxymorphone by 55%. Combined with morphine, the proposed quota would be a 53% decrease in the amount of allowable production of these opioids since 2016.

International

Australian Government Proposes Drug Testing for Welfare Benefits. The Liberal government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has filed a bill in parliament to drug test welfare recipients. The legislation, which would run trial programs in several districts -- all controlled by the Labor party -- would restrict benefits to a debit card following the first positive, and require participation in a drug treatment program following the second. It has been criticized by health experts and drug policy reformers for stigmatizing welfare recipients while diverting from addressing the root causes of addiction. Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, "This is a trial. We are trying to work out if this can work. I am really puzzled by the level of opposition to the government trying to tackle a problem of drug addiction for people who are not in work and helping them get over it with referral to proper services and funding those services in those trial areas."

Psychedelic Science Just Got a Big Boost [FEATURE]

The accelerating field of psychedelic research just got turbocharged. Thanks to a group of private donors, one of the nation's premier universities is moving forward with plans for what's believed to be the first such research center in the country and the largest of its kind in the world.

psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms (Greenoid/Flickr)
Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore will use $17 million in initial funding to create the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, the university announced last week. The center will focus on the impact of psychedelics on behavior, brain biology and function, learning and memory, and mood.

The move comes as renewed scientific interest in the therapeutic uses of psychedelics has mushroomed in recent years, led to a large degree by Johns Hopkins researchers, who have been at the forefront of psychedelic research in the 21st century.

In 2000, Johns Hopkins researchers made a breakthrough, becoming the first in the country to win regulatory approval to restart research on psychedelics in healthy people who had never used such drugs. That resulted in a 2006 publication on the safety and long-lasting positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin, which jumpstarted a renaissance of psychedelic research worldwide.

Researchers linked to the university have published studies on psychedelics in more than 60 peer-reviewed journals, finding therapeutic benefits for people suffering from conditions ranging from nicotine addiction to depression and anxiety associated with terminal diseases.

Those studies helped pave the way for contemporary studies on the treatment of depression. Other Johns Hopkins research has resulted in safety guidelines for psychedelic research that have helped researchers at other universities around the world win approval for studies, while yet more research has dealt with the thorny problem of measuring how psychedelics affect mystical, emotional, and meditative experiences.

And now, get ready for much, much more. The new center will provide support a half-dozen neuroscientists, experimental psychologists, and clinicians, as well as five post-doctoral scientists -- all with expertise in psychedelic studies. Most of the research is going to center on psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms.

"The center's establishment reflects a new era of research in therapeutics and the mind through studying this unique and remarkable class of pharmacological compounds," said Roland Griffiths, the center's director and professor of behavioral biology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "In addition to studies on new therapeutics, we plan to investigate creativity and well-being in healthy volunteers that we hope will open up new ways to support human thriving."

<>"I am thrilled about this magnificent opportunity that has been provided by enlightened private funders," said James Potash, a professor and director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. "This center will allow our enormously talented faculty to focus extensively on psychedelic research, where their passions lie and where promising new horizons beckon."

Because there is no federal funding for such research, private funders have been lined up to cover the first five years of the center's operating expenses. Those funders are the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and four philanthropists: Tim Ferriss, author and technology investor; Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress; Blake Mycoskie, founder of the shoe and accessory brand TOMS; and investor Craig Nerenberg.

"We have to take braver and bolder steps if we want to help those suffering from chronic illness, addiction, and mental health challenges," said Alexandra Cohen. "By investing in the Johns Hopkins center, we are investing in the hope that researchers will keep proving the benefits of psychedelics -- and people will have new ways to heal."

The center's faculty will train graduate and medical students who want to pursue careers in psychedelic science, where there have historically been few avenues for career advancement.

"This represents the largest investment to date in psychedelic research, as well as in training the next generation of psychedelic researchers," said Ferriss. "I sincerely hope this ambitious Johns Hopkins center will inspire others to think big and establish more psychedelic research centers in the US and overseas, as there's never been a better time to support such important work."

And a new era dawns.

Chronicle AM: OR Drug Decriminalization Initiative Filed, CA Pot Banking Bill Dead for This Year, More... (9/10/19)

A drug decriminalization initiative could make its way to Oregon's 2020 ballot, South Dakota's Republican governor vows to veto any hemp bill again next year, a California marijuana banking bill is dead for the year, and more.

Drug decriminalization would result in many fewer scenes like this. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Marijuana Banking Bill Won't Happen This Year. A bill that would have let the state charter special banks to deal with the marijuana industry is going nowhere this year, its sponsor said Monday. Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D) said there will be no vote this year and that if California is going to do this, "we have to do this right."

Baltimore City Councilwoman Introduces Ordinance Banning Marijuana Testing for Some City Job Applicants. City Councilwoman Shannon Sneed (D) filed an ordinance Monday under which applicants for many jobs with the city of Baltimore would not face pre-employment drug screening for marijuana. She said positive marijuana tests could keep otherwise qualified applicants from jobs "due to private recreational activities." Applicants for jobs with the health department, fire department or positions requiring certain security clearances or a commercial driver's license would not be included in the ban and could still be tested. The ordinance is cosponsored by five of the city's 14 other councilmembers.

Hemp

South Dakota Governor Promises to Veto Hemp Again Next Year. Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who vetoed a bill legalizing hemp farming earlier this year, is now vowing to veto such legislation again if it resurfaces next year. She said she would continue to oppose hemp legalization until law enforcement can tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. "Every experiment needs a control," she wrote on Monday. "I believe the social experiment our nation is conducting with highly potent legal weed will end poorly. But to create evidence for a comparison, we need leaders willing to stand up and say, 'No.'"

Drug Policy

Oregon Drug Decriminalization Initiative Filed. Oregon reformers have filed an initiative to decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs with an eye on the November 2020 ballot. The measure, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (Initiative 44), would make the possession of small amounts of drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, a civil violation punishable by a maximum $100 fine and no jail time. There would be an option to avoid the fine by completing a health assessment through an addiction recovery center. That process would involve a substance use disorder screening from a licensed health professional.

Chronicle AM: OR Psilocybin Initiative Advances, Kamala Harris Rolls Out Criminal Justice Platform, More... (9/9/19)

An Oregon initiative to allow the therapeutic use of magic mushrooms is set to begin signature gathering, an Arizona initiative to legalize marijuana is going to get some minor tweaks, and more.

These psilocybin mushrooms could become available for therapeutic purposes if an Oregon initiative passes. (Creative Commons)
Arizona Legalization Initiative Will Move Forward with Minor Changes. The organizers of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act are moving to make "minor" changes to their proposed initiative after changes were recommended by the Legislative Council. Most of the changes are stylistic or grammatical to make the measure consistent with how bills are drafted in the legislature, but one gap identified -- where funds from civil penalties and fines for violations of the act will go -- will be addressed. Backed by medical marijuana operators in the state, the initiative would legalize the personal possession of up to an ounce of pot but would limit retail sites mainly to existing medical marijuana dispensary locations. Retail sales would be taxed at 16%, with most revenues directed toward community colleges and public safety.

Psychedelics

Oregon Psilocybin Initiative Certified for Signature Gathering. Oregon officials certified the ballot title for the Psilocybin Service Initiative, or Initiative Petition #34, last Friday, opening the way for signature gathering to begin. The measure does not generally decriminalize magic mushrooms and their psychoactive ingredient, but instead would allow "manufacture, delivery, administration of psilocybin at supervised, licensed facilities." Backers of the initiative have until July 2, 2020, to get 112,020 valid voter signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot.

Criminal Justice

Kamala Harris Rolls Out Criminal Justice Platform. California senator and Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris on Monday unveiled a proposal for sweeping reforms in the criminal justice system to end mass incarceration, help felons reintegrate into society, and increase oversight of police and prosecutors. She called for marijuana legalization, the end of the death penalty for federal crimes, the end of mandatory minimum sentencing, scrapping the cash bail system, and ending the use of private prisons, among other planks. Rivals for the Democratic nomination, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, have released similar plans.

(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: MS MedMJ Campaign Hands in Signatures, NY Inmates Sue Over Pain Meds, More... (9/6/19)

A broad coalition of civil rights and other groups are calling for marijuana legalization and more, Mississippi activists hand in signatures for a medical marijuana initiative, a possible culprit for that spate of pulmonary illnesses linking to marijuana vaping has been found, and more.

A medical marijuana dispensary. Will we be seeing them soon in Mississippi? (Sonya Yruel/DPA)
Marijuana Policy

Civil Rights Groups Call for Marijuana Legalization, "Dismantling" of Drug Criminalization. More than a hundred civil rights and other groups, including the ACLU, NAACP, National Education Association, and National Organization for Women called Thursday for marijuana legalization and the "dismantling" of drug criminalization. The groups said states should "legalize marijuana through a racial justice framework that focuses on access, equity, and repairing the damage of prohibition" and the federal government should end cannabis prohibition and "implement marijuana reform through a racial justice lens."

Vitamin E Suspected in Serious Lung Problems Among People Who Vaped Marijuana. As the number of people falling ill continues to rise, New York state health officials said Thursday they are zeroing in on an additive -- Vitamin E acetate -- they believe may be behind the outbreak of severe pulmonary illness that has left at least three dead so far, one each in Indiana, Illinois, and Oregon. The officials said high levels of Vitamin E acetate were found in many of the cartridges of marijuana vaping products used by people who suffered serious lung damage. The officials said the products appeared to be black market products.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Turns in Lots of Signatures. Mississippians for Compassionate Care delivered more than 105,000 raw voter signatures to state officials Wednesday. Another 105,000 voter signatures have already been certified by local clerks. The group only needs 86,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

New York Prisoners Sue State Over Crackdown on Pain Pills. A group of state inmates is suing the prison system, saying they are being forced to live with chronic pain because some medications have become too difficult to get behind bars after the prison system tried to crack down on prescription opioid abuse. The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court. They are taking aim at 2017 policy that requires an extra layer of approval by senior prison medical staff before inmates can get prescriptions filled for commonly abused drugs. The lawsuit says that, in reality, that approval is rarely given and that hundreds of prisoners are being cut off from drugs needed for legitimate medical reasons.

Asset Forfeiture

Federal Drug Asset Seizures Slashed by Half Since 2009. Drug-related federal asset forfeitures have declined by 34% since 2014 and by more than half since 2009, according to a new report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. In 2009, there were some 1,426 federal drug-related asset seizures, but so far this year there have only been 513. "Under the current administration, the numbers have risen modestly, but are still far below earlier levels," TRAC reported.

Chronicle AM: Johns Hopkins Gets Psychedelic Center, Guatemala State of Siege, More... (9/5/19)

Johns Hopkins University is opening a psychedelic research center, hemp cultivation in the US quadruples over last year, Guatemala declares a state of seige after suspected drug traffickers killed three soldiers, and more.

The psilocybin molecule. They'll be taking a look at the new Johns Hopkins psychedelic studies center. (Creative Commons)
Hemp

Hemp Farming Quadrupled in Tte US This Year, New Report Shows. In a report released Thursday, the advocacy group Vote Hemp announced that the amount of land devoted to legal hemp cultivation in the country has more than quadrupled this year. Since passage of the farm bill last year federally legalized hemp production, the amount of land licensed for cultivation -- primarily female plants for CBD production -- was 511,442 acres, up from 78,000 acres grown last year and less than 10,000 acres cultivated in 2016.

Law Enforcement

St. Louis Cop Kills Armed Man in Small-Time Marijuana Bust. Early Thursday morning, a St. Louis police officer shot and killed a man he was trying to arrest in a small-time marijuana bust after the man allegedly tried to pull a gun from his pocket. Officers were patrolling an area "known for drug activity" when they noticed several people around a parked car. Approaching the vehicle, they found a man with marijuana on his lap. Police said he refused their commands to exit the vehicle, so they pulled him from the car and one of the officers "notice[d] there [was] a gun that the person [wa]s trying to remove from his pocket" and then shot him. The victim, described as a 28-year-old black man, has not yet been identified.

Psychedelics

Johns Hopkins Launches Center for Psychedelic Research. A group of private donors has given $17 million to start the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine, making it what's believed to be the first such research center in the US and the largest research center of its kind in the world. The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research will focus on how psychedelics affect behavior, brain function, learning and memory, the brain's biology, and mood. At Johns Hopkins, much of the early work with psychedelics has focused on psilocybin, the chemical found in so-called magic mushrooms. Further studies will determine the chemical's effectiveness as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (formerly known as chronic Lyme disease), anorexia nervosa, and alcohol use in people with major depression. Researchers hope to create precision medicine treatments tailored to individual patients' specific needs.

Harm Reduction

Washington State Health Officer Okays Standing Order for Naloxone. Late last week, State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy signed a statewide standing order for the overdose reversal drug naloxone. The order allows any person or organization in the state to get naloxone from a pharmacy. The state Department of Health encourages anyone who is at risk of experiencing or witnessing an opioid overdose to carry naloxone. People who want to get naloxone can use the standing order at any pharmacy in the state without a prescription from a health care provider.

International

Guatemala Declares State of Emergency After Narcos Kill Soldiers. The Guatemalan government on Wednesday declared a state of siege in five northeastern provinces in the wake of an attack by suspected drug traffickers that left three soldiers dead. The provinces are Alta Verapaz, El Progreso, Izabal, Peten and Zacapa provinces, a drug-trafficking corridor that runs from the Honduran to Mexican borders. The measure will impose a curfew, prohibit demonstrations and make it easier for the armed forces to detain people. It must be approved by Congress.

Hemp Legalization Is Wreaking Havoc with Marijuana Prosecutions in Prohibition States [FEATURE]

After passage of the 2018 federal farm bill legalized hemp production, states scrambled to pass their own laws legalizing hemp and CBD. But in doing so, they may have inadvertently signed a death warrant for the enforcement of marijuana prohibition.

hemp field at sunrise (votehemp.org)
Forty-seven states have now legalized hemp, but only 11 have legalized marijuana. The other 36 may be in for a refresher course in the law of unintended consequences.

Hemp and recreational marijuana both come from the same plant species, cannabis sativa. The only thing that differentiates hemp and marijuana are the levels of the intoxicating cannabinoid, THC. Under federal law and most state laws, hemp is defined as cannabis sativa containing less than 0.3% THC. In those states that have yet to legalize marijuana, hemp is thus legal, but THC-bearing weed is not.

But what police and prosecutors in those states are finding is that they can't tell the difference between the two. Their field drug tests can detect cannabis sativa, but they can't detect THC levels. Likewise, police drug dogs can sniff out cannabis, but can't distinguish between hemp and marijuana.

And if they can't prove the substance in question is illegal marijuana and not legal hemp, they don't have a case. Some state crime labs can test for THC levels, but those labs are busy, the tests are costly, and even police and prosecutors are questioning whether it's worth tying up resources to try to nail someone for possessing a joint or two.

In Ohio, after the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) analyzed the state's new hemp law, it sent an August 1 advisory to prosecutors warning that traditional tests could not differentiate between hemp and marijuana and that the agency was months away from "validating instrumental methods to meet this new legal requirement."

In the meantime, the BCI suggested, prosecutors could turn to private, accredited laboratories, but it also recommended that they "suspend any identification" by traditional tests and not prosecute "any cannabis-related items […] prior to the crime laboratory you work with being capable to perform the necessary quantitative analysis."

That prompted Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein to announce a week later that he will no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases and that he was dropping all current and pending cases, too.

"The prosecution of marijuana possession charges would require drug testing that distinguishes hemp from marijuana," Klein said in a written statement. "Without this drug-testing capability, the city attorney's office is not able to prove misdemeanor marijuana possession beyond a reasonable doubt" because "our current drug-testing technology is not able to differentiate."

The prosecutor in surrounding Franklin County, Ron O'Brien, who would handle felony pot possession cases, said his office would probably put those cases on hold unless they involved very large quantities. That's because even though there are labs in the state capable of measuring THC levels, they still have to be accredited to do so, a bureaucratic procedure that could take months, with a backlog of marijuana cases accumulating in the meantime.

And those tests cost money. That's why state Attorney General Dave Yost (R) announced in mid-August that the state was creating a special grant program to help local police agencies pay for testing that can differentiate between hemp and marijuana. It allocates $50,000 to help with testing until state-budgeted funding to upgrade state crime labs kicks in next year.

"Just because the law changed, it doesn't mean the bad guys get a 'get of out of jail free' card," Yost said. "We are equipping law enforcement with the resources to do their jobs."

He also took a pot shot at Columbus City Attorney Klein, saying: "It's unfortunate that Columbus has decided to create an island within Franklin County where the general laws of the state of Ohio no longer apply."

For now, though, it seems like "the general laws of the state of Ohio no longer apply" just about everywhere in the state when it comes to prosecuting marijuana cases.

In Texas, prosecutors have already dropped hundreds of low-level marijuana cases and said they won't pursue more without further testing. Again, it's that inability of standard tests to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.

"The distinction between marijuana and hemp requires proof of the THC concentration of a specific product or contraband, and for now, that evidence can come only from a laboratory capable of determining that type of potency -- a category which apparently excludes most, if not all, of the crime labs in Texas right now," read a July advisoryfrom the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

Since then, top prosecutors from across the state and across the political spectrum, including those in Bexar (San Antonio), Harris (Houston), Tarrant (Ft. Worth), and Travis (Austin), have dismissed hundreds of cases and are refusing more.

"In order to follow the Law as now enacted by the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor, the jurisdictions… will not accept criminal charges for Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana (4 oz. and under) without a lab test result proving that the evidence seized has a THC concentration over 0.3%," wrote the district attorneys from Harris, Fort Bend, Bexar and Nueces counties in a new joint policy released in August.

Travis County officials said they had dropped 32 felony and 61 misdemeanor marijuana cases and they wouldn't be doing any more -- at least for now.

"I will also be informing the law enforcement agencies by letter not to file marijuana or THC felony cases without consulting with the DA's Office first to determine whether the necessary lab testing can be obtained," Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said in a statement.

As in Ohio, law enforcement is awaiting the availability of certified testing labs, but in the meantime, pot prosecutions are basically non-existent in most of the state's largest cities. And now, some Austin city council members are even wondering whether cops there should bother to hand out tickets for pot possession.

It's not just Texas and Ohio. Once Florida's hemp law went into effect, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office announced it would no longer prosecute small-time marijuana cases and police in numerous southwest Florida towns and cities are also putting marijuana arrests on pause.

"Since there is no visual or olfactory way to distinguish hemp from cannabis, the mere visual observation of suspected cannabis -- or its odor alone -- will no longer be sufficient to establish probable cause to believe that the substance is cannabis," wrote Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "Since every marijuana case will now require an expert and necessitate a significant expenditure by the State of Florida, barring exceptional circumstances on a particular case, we will not be prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases."

Other state attorneys across the state are issuing similar memos. In Gainesville, prosecutors are dropping all cannabis charges. But other prosecutors say they will continue to review each case individually, with some like Tallahassee saying they will try "a variety of arguments" before the courts, while other places like Orlando and the Treasure Coast say they will wait until after they receive lab tests before filing charges.

Just across the state line in Georgia, similar scenes are playing out. Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside has begun dropping marijuana cases brought forward since that state's hemp law went into effect, and the Gwinnett County Police Department is now writing tickets for pot possession instead of making arrests.

In Cobb County, Solicitor General Barry Morgan warned there would be no "blanket dismissal" of marijuana cases, but the police chief there sent a memo to his staff saying that "arresting someone for misdemeanor marijuana possession is not recommended."

In Athens-Clarke County, police have been instructed to stop making arrests or issuing citations. Instead, they will seize the substance in question and write a report. Once testing is available and the THC level is above legal limits, they will then seek an arrest warrant. And DeKalb County is dismissing marijuana cases too, with Solicitor General Donna Coleman saying the county "will not proceed with any single-count marijuana cases occurring after the passage of this new law."

It's not just marijuana arrests and prosecutions that are at stake. Neither police nor drug dogs can sniff out the difference between hemp and marijuana. That is going to make it more difficult for police to develop probable cause to search people or vehicles, and it's likely to lead to early retirement of a generation of drug dogs.

"The dogs are done," said State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister of Florida's Third Judicial District. "If they're pot-trained, I don't know how we can ever recertify them. Unless they're trained in the future in a different way, in my area, every dog is going to be retired."

"The dog doesn't put up one finger and say, 'cocaine,' two fingers and say, 'heroin,' and three fingers and say, 'marijuana'," admitted Florida Sheriff's Association President Bob Gaultieri. "We had a very, very hard bright line up until this point that if a cop walks up to a car and you smell marijuana, well no matter what it was, any amount of THC is illegal, so if you smelled it, that gave you probable cause... Now that bright line isn't bright anymore. Now if you walk up to a car and you smell marijuana, you have to conduct an investigation, and that along with other things may give you probable cause."

And it isn't just a handful of states. Any state that has legalized hemp with less than 0.3% THC but hasn't legalized marijuana could face similar quandaries.

"This is a nationwide issue," said Duffie Stone, president of the National District Attorneys Association and a South Carolina prosecutor. "This problem will exist in just about every state you talk to."

There is one quick fix, though: Legalize marijuana.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Two former NYPD cops get a hand-slap for raping an 18-year-old they busted for marijuana, a former DEA agent's crooked activities are going to get him sent away, and more. Let's get to it:

In South Bend, Indiana, a St. Joseph County parole officer was arrested last Wednesdayand accused of soliciting bribes to ensure probationers' drug test results came back negative. Raymontow Davis, 34, is charged with Level 5 felony bribery and Level 6 felony official misconduct. Davis went down after a "cooperating source" went to authorities and told them Davis had discussed taking cash in return for falsifying drug test results. That source provided investigators with call and text message logs showing Davis offering to ensure good test results for $150. He's looking at up to 8 ½ years in prison.

In New York City, two former NYPD detectives pleaded guilty to lesser charges last Thursday after being arrested for raping an 18-year-old Brooklyn woman they had detained on marijuana possession charges. Eddie Martins and Richard Hall were originally charged with rape, sexual assault, and kidnapping, but prosecutors agreed to a plea deal because of "inconsistencies" in the victim's statements. The pair agreed to plea to official misconduct and accepting a bribe and were sentenced to five years' probation.

In Houston, Texas, a former DEA special agent was convicted last Wednesday on seven counts for corrupt activities, including telling an alleged drug dealer to buy a pickup drug valued at $43,000 and then seizing the vehicle for his own use. Former agent Chad Scott was found guilty of two counts of perjury, three counts of obstruction of justice, and two counts of falsifying government records after a seven-day trial. Scott made up fake seizure paperwork for the truck, as well as convincing two drug dealers to falsely testify in federal court about another alleged drug dealer. That man was convicted, but the conviction was overturned after Scott's dirty work came to light. Scott and former DEA Task Force Officer Rodney Gemar were also charged with unlawful conversion of property by a government officer or employee and removing property to prevent seizure. The trial for these charges is scheduled for October 2019.

Chronicle AM: Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill, US-China Exchange Fentanal Complaints, More... (9/4/19)

Half of Arizonans area ready to legalize marijuana, a Mexican senator files a marijuana legalization bill, US and China officials trade fentanyl complaints, more.

A marijuana legalization bill has been filed in Mexico as a Supreme Court deadline looms. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Poll Has 50% for Legalization. A new OH Predictive Insights poll has 50% in favor and 40% opposed, with 10% undecided. The poll comes as organizers of a 2020 legalization initiative campaign seek to qualify for the ballot. The support level is not enough to be comfortable, but greater than a narrowly defeated 2016 initiative ever had.

Foreign Policy

China Says Only "Limited" Cooperation with US on Fentanyl. Responding to complaints from Washington that it is not doing enough to stop the export of fentanyl from illicit labs there, China responded Tuesday by saying it and the United States have only "limited" cooperation on stopping fentanyl smuggling. Liu Yuejin, Vice Commissioner of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, told a news conference that China was cracking down on illicit fentanyl production: "The National Narcotics Control report states that looking at cases, counternarcotics law enforcement departments from China and the United States have for many years maintained a good cooperative relationship," Liu said. "But cooperation on investigating and prosecuting fentanyl-related substances is extremely limited." Since 2012, Liu said the US has only provided "clues" on six fentanyl smuggling cases to the Chinese government, with only three of those resulting in arrests. Liu also denied that China is the source of most fentanyl smuggled into the US.

International

Mexican Senator Files Marijuana Legalization Bill as Supreme Court Deadline Looms. Sen Julio Menchaca Salazar, a member of the ruling MORENA Party, filed a bill to legalize marijuana on Tuesday. The move comes only a month ahead of a deadline imposed by the country's Supreme Court to end marijuana prohibition. The measure also addresses hemp and medical marijuana. The bill comes as the Senate continues with a series of events designed to foster dialogue about how to legalize marijuana. The Supreme Court ruled last year that the existing ban on personal use and cultivation is unconstitutional and gave the congress until next month to remedy the country's drug laws.

Chronicle AM: Trump Stays States' Rights on Pot, Massive DEA Florida Opioid Bust, More... (9/3/19)

The president reiterates his states' rights approach to marijuana legalization, the DEA goes massively after opioids in a Florida operation, Thailand okays hemp and cannabis extracts, and more.

The president reiterated his adminstration's hands-off approach to state-level marijuana legalization last Friday. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

President Trump Says Marijuana Legalization Up to States. Reiterating a stance he has held since the 2016 presidential campaign [Ed: One of Trump's few consistent stances. - DB], President Donald Trump last Friday said the White House would not interfere with state-level legalization efforts. "We're going to see what's going on. It's a very big subject and right now we are allowing states to make that decision. A lot of states are making that decision, but we're allowing states to make that decision," he said in response to a reporter's question.

Minnesota Democrats Begin Legalization Push. Using the state fair in St. Paul as a venue, state Democratic leaders vowed to legalize marijuana next year and announced a series of town halls across the state to see what Minnesotans think about the issue. "We believe that Minnesota can have the best marijuana laws in the country," said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D-Golden Valley), who handed out blue cowbells inscribed with the words "Be Heard on Cannabis" to fairgoers. "We think it's vitally important that Minnesotans weigh in directly on this policy change."

Law Enforcement

DEA Arrests 300 in Massive Florida Opioid Operation. In an enforcement operation late last week named "Operation Cazador," DEA agents in Florida arrested nearly 300 people, seized roughly 200,000 opioid pills and about $3.3 million in assets, and shut down a dozen pharmacies. The operation included roughly 50 search warrants on pharmacies, 25 interviews with physicians, and interdiction of a small number of UPS and FedEx packages.

International

Thailand Removes Marijuana Extracts from Narcotics List. Thailand has removed marijuana and hemp extracts, such as CBD, from its list of controlled substances, officials said Monday. The move is seen as an effort to promote the development of marijuana products for medicinal purposes. Medical use and research was legalized last year.

The Drug War Isn't Waiting, So We Can't Either

Posted in:

Dear friend,

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/borden-dupont-circle-cropped.jpg
David Borden
The drug war isn't waiting -- so we can't either. That goes for the opportunities and it goes for the crises.

Marijuana reform continues to have 2019 momentum. Presidential candidates are debating criminal justice and drug policy more than ever. Harm reduction measures are progressing, like the overdose antidote naloxone and safer injection sites.

But politicians are still ready to file new and bad sentencing bills – sometimes responding to legitimate concerns, like opioid overdoses, but misguidedly forgetting the mistakes that led to mass incarceration. Mitch McConnell still won't let more marijuana reform bills get Senate votes. And President Duterte's drug war mass killing campaign in the Philippines – an issue on which we are organizing – is getting imitated in countries like Indonesia and Brazil.

We need your help to stay on the move at this important time. Can you make a donation today to help? Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, and click on the tax-deductible donation link or the non-deductible donation link, whichever kind you wish to make. Our donation form accepts credit card, PayPal, and bank ACH.

We especially need help with non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Because our newsletter reports on political candidates, we cover the substantial cost of our web site server and email list service fully with non-deductible funds. This is to protect our tax-deductible 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which can't afford to be implicated, rightly or wrongly, in candidate advocacy. Most of our current funding is of the tax-deductible kind, especially the larger grants and gifts.

Can you make a non-deductible donation to sustain our newsletter through the campaign season? Our web site supports both one-time donations and recurring ones, on cycles including monthly, quarterly, annually, and other options. Visit our Candidates archive page to see why this is important.

Donations can also be sent by mail. For a non-deductible donation, make your check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, and send to P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016. Tax-deductible donation checks should be payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address.

Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/about#donations for information on other donation options like stock shares, or to read more about our work. Also visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/global and https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines for more about what we're doing.

Thank you for your support, and enjoy the rest of your summer.

Sincerely,

David Borden
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
"US and UN Drug Policy Reform"
https://stopthedrugwar.org

Chronicle AM: Feds Warn on Marijuana Health Risks, Philly Drug Test Backlog, More... (8/30/19)

Federal officials issue a warning on marijuana for teens and pregnant women, the Philadelphia DA deals with a drug sample testing crisis, Colombian FARC dissidents pick up their guns again, and more.

A Dutch cannabis cafe. A pilot program to begin in 2021 will see legal suppliers for the shops in 10 cities. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Officials Issue Warning on Marijuana for Teens, Pregnant Women. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned jointly Thursday against marijuana use by adolescents and pregnant women. Azar, a former pharmaceutical company executive, called marijuana "a dangerous drug," while Adams warned that "this isn't your mother's marijuana" because of higher THC levels.

Oklahoma Poll Shows State Not Ready to Support Legalization. State voters approved medical marijuana last year, but a new poll suggests legalization may be a bridge too far. A new SoonerPoll found that 59% opposed legalization for non-medical use, with 50.5% strongly opposed.

Law Enforcement

Philadelphia Drug Sample Testing Backlog Means DA Will Prosecute Fewer Low-Level Cases. Faced with a backlog of thousands of untested drug samples, District Attorney Larry Krasner's office has announced an "emergency protocol" to suspend the automatic testing of new samples for low-level drug cases. That means the number of low-level drug cases the DA's office prosecutes each year should be reduced because without testing to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a white powder is actually a controlled substance, prosecutors have no case.

International

Colombia FARC Dissidents Take Up Arms Again. Three years after an historic peace agreement between the leftist guerrillas of the FARC and the Colombian state, dissident FARC leaders announced Thursday that they were rejoining the path of armed struggle. Saying the rightist government of President Ivan Duque has betrayed the accord, the dissidents led by Ivan Marquez (Luciano Marin) said they were ready for a "new stage of fighting." They cited the murders of more than a hundred former FARC members and labor activists, as well as the government's failure to provide sustainable development assistance to areas formerly under their control. "The state has not fulfilled its most important obligation, which is to guarantee the life of its citizens and especially avoid assassinations for political reasons," Marquez. Marquez said his group would work with the ELN, another leftist guerrilla army. The number of dissidents affiliated with Marquez is estimated at around 2-3,000. The civil war with the FARC that began in 1964 left more than 220,000 people dead.

Ten Dutch Cities Will Participate in Legal Marijuana Supply Pilot Program. Beginning in 2021, cannabis cafes in 10 Dutch cities will be supplied with legally grown marijuana under a pilot program aimed at solving the country's "back door problem," where marijuana is allowed to be sold but there is no legal source of supply. The ten cities selected for the program are Arnhem, Almere, Breda, Groningen, Heerlen, Hellevoetsluis, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Tilburg and Zaanstad. In those towns, all cannabis cafes must obtain their supply from legally regulated growers. That's why bigger cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam opted out: They have large numbers of cannabis cafes and authorities worry problems could arise if they all abandoned their illicit suppliers simultaneously.

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