Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: OR Drug Decriminalization Initiative, ND Marijuana Legalization Initiative, More... (12/6/19)

A second North Dakota pot legalization initiative has submitted language to state officials, the Beckley Foundation publishes a report on getting to legal Ecstasy, and more.

Britain's Beckley Foundation has published a report that is a roadmap to legal, regulated Ecstasy markets. (Erowid.org)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Submits Language. A group that wants to legalize marijuana has submitted its initiative language to state election officials for their approval. Legalize ND's initiative would legalize the possession of up to two ounces by people 21 and over, allow localities to opt out of allowing marijuana sales, and ban personal cultivation. It would also impose a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales. State officials now have seven days to review the initiative and decide whether to approve it for circulation. Once that happens, the group would have to come up with 13,452 valid voter signatures by July 6, 2020, to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Ecstasy

Beckley Foundation Issues Report on Creating a Legal, Regulated Market for MDMA. The Britain-based Beckley Foundation has published an innovative report, Roadmaps to Regulation: MDMA, that maps out how a strictly regulated market for MDMA products could work. The report covers the risks and harms associated with MDMA use as well as setting out the benefits of alternative, non-prohibitionist policies for the future.

Drug Decriminalization

Oregon Drug Decriminalization Initiative Begins Signature Gathering.Signature gathering has begun for an initiative that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. The 2020 Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (Initiative Petition #44) needs 112,020 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. Proponents said they would see how signature gathering goes for the next month before deciding whether to press forward.

Chronicle AM: Yang on Safe Injection Sites, Bloomberg on Marijuana, More... (12/5/19)

Michigan pot shops see high demand on opening day, Democratic contenders stake out drug policy positions, Maine finally has all pot business applications ready, and more.

Andrew Yang wants to decriminalize opiates and fund safe injection sites like this one in Vancouver. (vch.ca)

Marijuana Policy

Michael Bloomberg Backs Decriminalization as Marijuana Views Evolve Amid Presidential Run. Faced with criticism over his past positions on marijuana, former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg has now come out in support of decriminalization, which still leaves him lagging behind most of the Democratic pack. "He believes no one should have their life ruined by getting arrested for possession, and, as a part of his reform efforts that drove incarceration down by 40 percent, he worked to get New York State laws changed to end low-level possession arrests," a spokesman said. "He believes in decriminalization and doesn’t believe the federal government should interfere with states that have already legalized."

Maine Says All Marijuana Licenses are Now Available. More than three years after voters legalized marijuana, the state has finally made available all applications for marijuana cultivation, products manufacturing and retail facilities. That means the state could see pot shops open by the spring.

Michigan Pot Shops Forced to Impose Purchase Limits as Demand Overwhelms. High customer volume is forcing marijuana retailers to limit purchases so there will be enough weed to go around. The four shops that opened Sunday saw combined sales of $221,000 that first day. Each of the four shops has had to turn customers away, too. Some customers waited as long as four hours to get inside.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Senator Introduces Bill Providing Broad Employment Protections to Medical Marijuana Users. A bill recently introduced by state Sen. Lori Berman (D) Would provide various protections to job applicants and employees who use medical marijuana. The measure is Senate Bill 962.

Harm Reduction

Andrew Yang Calls for Investments in Safe Injection Sites. Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang says he supports government funding for safe injections sites as part of an effort to counter the country's overdose epidemic. "I would not only decriminalize opiates for personal use but I would also invest in safe consumption sites around the country," Yang said Thursday.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: NH Senate Panels Kill Legal Pot, MMJ Expansion Bills; Fed Agency Eases Hiring Rules, More... (12/4/19)

The US Virgin Islands could be moving toward marijuana legalization, but New Hampshire isn't--at least for now. 

The New Hampshire Senate is not ready to go further with legal pot or expanding medical marijuana. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Senate Committee Votes to Kill Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Democratically-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to effectively kill a House-approved bill, HB 481, that would have legalized marijuana. The committee recommended that the full Senate send the bill to interim study, a polite way of killing it. If the Senate approves the recommendation next year, legalization backers would have to start over in 2021.

US Virgin Islands Ponders Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Albert Bryan is considering legalizing marijuana as a means of propping up the government employees' pension system with an estimated $20 a year in annual pot tax revenues. He is moving to add recreational legalization to a medical marijuana bill that is already being considered by lawmakers. Marijuana taxes would be set at a whopping 30%, expungement would be included, and so would language recognizing Rastararians' sacramental use.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Committee Votes to Kill Medical Marijuana Expansion. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 3-1 to recommend killing SB 175, which would dramatically expand the number of patients who could receive medical marijuana. Currently, only people with a handful of qualifying conditions are eligible for medical marijuana.

Employment

Federal Agency Issues Policy to Improve Hiring Conditions for People With Drug Convictions. The National Credit Union Administration has adopted a new policy that makes it easier for people with past drug convictions and other simple crimes to be employed by credit unions. Under the old policy, anyone with a past criminal offense was barred "from participating in the affairs of an insured credit union," but now, exemptions have been carved out for a number of minor offenses including simple drug possession. "Offering second chances to those who are truly penitent is consistent with our nation's shared values of forgiveness and redemption," the NCUA said. 

Chronicle AM: New Zealand Marijuana Legalization Referendum Coming, SD Hemp Fight, More... (12/3/19)

South Dakota lawmakers are moving toward trying again to legalize industrial hemp, New Zealand provides information on a coming marijuana legalization referendum, and more.

Hemp

South Dakota Lawmakers Vote to Try Again on Hemp Legalization. Legislators voted 10-1 Monday to try again next year to legalize industrial hemp. This year, the legislature passed a hemp bill, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who warned it would open the way to marijuana legalization. Lawmakers in the Senate fell four votes short of overriding her veto. 

International

Brazil Approves Medical Marijuana Rules. The country's pharmaceutical regulator, Anvisa, on Tuesday approved regulations for medical marijuana-based products but blocked a proposal to allow it to be grown in-country. Brazilian companies that seek to manufacture marijuana-based products will have to import their inputs from abroad. The new rules will be published in the official gazette shortly and will go into effect 90 days after that.

New Zealand Releases Information on Looming Marijuana Legalization Referendum. A government website with information on a pending voter referendum to legalize marijuana has gone live. The government has promised a public vote on the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill it drafted (the final draft will come early next year). Voters will be asked a straight Yes/No question: Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill? A firm election date hasn't been set yet, but it must happen by November 21, 2020 at the latest.

Chronicle AM: CA Magic Mushroom Initiative Seeks Signatures, MI Legal Pot Sales Begin, More... (12/2/19)

Michigan's era of legal marijuana sales begins, a California magic mushroom decriminalization initiative is cleared for signature gathering, and more.

Will magic mushrooms be on the California state ballot next year? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan's First Day of Legal Pot Sales Sees Lines of Customers Hundreds of People Long. The era of legal recreational marijuana sales took off with a boom Sunday as would-be customers formed lines hundreds of people long to purchase their newly legal weed. Some shops limited sales amounts in a bid to save some for later customers and in Ann Arbor lines remained long outside shops all day.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Wisconsin Bill Package Seeks to Address Opioid Epidemic. Legislators have filed or will file seven different bills as part of the state's ongoing Heroin, Opioid Prevention (HOPE) Agenda, which has already seen 30 bills passed during the past five years. One bill would start Medicaid coverage of acupuncture, which would require federal approval. Another one would require the Medical Examining Board to issue guidelines for treating neonatal abstinence syndrome. A third bill would continue a law giving immunity from some drug crimes to people who seek help for others suffering overdoses, and to the people receiving help if they complete a drug treatment program. Another bill would create a registry of approved recovery residences, while yet another would extend provisions of the state's prescription drug monitoring program.

Psychedelics

California Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative Cleared for Signature Gathering. An initiative that would decriminalize the possession, use, and gifting of magic mushrooms and the chemical compounds—psilocybin and psilocin—has been cleared for signature gathering. Decriminalize California, the group behind the initiative, has until April 21 to come up with 623,212 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

International

British Drug Treatment Providers Call for Radical Drug Policy Reforms. Major drug treatment providers are calling on the next government to be "brave and radical" in changing drug laws they describe as "not fit for the modern world." Britain's largest treatment provider, Change Grow Live, called for an independent commission to revamp "incredibly outdated" drug laws Change Grow Live was joined by Addaction, Turning Point and Humankind. The four are responsible for the vast majority of drug treatment support in the United Kingdom. They urge the next government to take whatever policy prescriptions the commission would produce, up to an including drug decriminalization.

Chronicle AM: NJ Governor Now Calls for Pot Decrim, MA Bans Flavored Vaping Products, More... (11/27/19)

Mexico responds to President Trump's move to designate cartels as terrorist organizations, Massachusetts becomes the first state to ban flavored vaping products, and more. 

No flavored vapes for Massachusetts residents. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Governor Calls for Decriminalization as Interim Measure. With little chance of marijuana legalization until a proposed November 2020 voter referendum, Gov. Phil Murphy (D), a legalization proponent, has now announced he supports decriminalization as a short-term solution. In a Tuesday statement, Murphy said decriminalization "cannot be our long-term solution" but would provide "critical short-term relief" until voters weigh in next November. "Maintaining a status quo sees roughly 600 individuals, disproportionately people of color, arrested in New Jersey every week for low-level drug offenses is wholly unacceptable," Murphy said.

Foreign Policy

Trump Says He Will Designate Mexican Drug Cartels as Terrorists. President Donald Trump said Tuesday he will designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. "They will be designated ... I have been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy, you have to go through a process, and we are well into that process," Trump said. The move comes after nine US citizens were killed by suspected cartel members in northern Mexico earlier this month. Earlier, Trump offered in a tweet to help Mexico "wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth" in the aftermath of that attack.

Vaping

Massachusetts Bans Flavored Tobacco, Vaping Products. The state has become the first to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products, including menthol cigarettes after Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed the ban into law. Flavored vaping products are banned immediately, while the ban on menthol smokes goes into effect on June 1.

International

Mexico Rejects US Interventionism in Wake of Trump Designating Cartels Terrorists. Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday rejected US "interventionism" after US President Donald Trump said he was working on designating Mexican drug trafficking organizations as terrorists. Lopez Obrador said he was sending his foreign minister to Washington to lead talks after the Thanksgiving holiday. "Cooperation, yes, intervention, no," Lopez Obrador said in a morning news conference when asked about Trump’s comments.

Chronicle AM: Biden Walks Back Pot "Gateway Theory" Remarks, Philippines VP Warns Duterte on Drug War, More... (11/26/19)

Facing criticism, Joe Biden walks back his marijuana "gateway theory" remarks; the FDA designated psilocybin therapy a "breakthrough therapy" for the second time, and more. 

Filipino President Duterte is being called out on his drug war by Vice President Robredo. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Joe Biden Walks Back Marijuana ‘Gateway Drug’ Comment After Week of Criticism. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden now says there "no evidence" marijuana is a gateway drug. That's a retreat from his widely criticized comments last week suggesting that it was a gateway drug. "I don’t think it is a gateway drug. There’s no evidence I’ve seen to suggest that," Biden said Monday in response to a reporter's question.

Psychedelics

FDA Calls Psychedelic Psilocybin a 'Breakthrough Therapy' for Severe Depression. For the second time this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated therapy with psilocybin a "breakthrough therapy," which will help accelerate the typically slow-moving process of drug development and review. Such a designation is only granted when preliminary evidence suggests it may be a significant improvement over existing therapies.

International

Philippines VP, Fired as Drug Czar, Warns Duterte. Vice President Leni Robredo, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drug war who he hired and then fired as head of an inter-agency anti-drug panel, has vowed to carry on her fight against Duterte's draconian drug policies. "When I took this job, I asked you, are you ready for me? My question to you now is what are you afraid of? Are you afraid of what I might discover? Are you afraid of what the public might discover?," Robredo said at a news conference. "If they think I will stop here, then they don't know me, I am just starting", Robredo said. "They cannot remove my determination to stop the killings and hold those responsible to account and win the fight against illegal drugs."

Trinidad and Tobago Marijuana Reform Bills Filed. Two government-backed marijuana reform bills were filed in parliament last Friday. One bill would decriminalize possession of up to 30 grams of weed but would also include new penalties for possession and sale of other drugs, such as LSD, MDMA, and ketamine. It also allows for the growth of four plants for personal use but specifies they must be male plants, which do not produce buds. The second bill would legalize the use, sale, and distribution of marijuana for medical, research, and religious purposes.

(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: CA Pot Tax Increase Coming, MI Bans Pot Vaping Products Until Retested, More... (11/25/19)

California pot taxes will increase come January 1, Michigan halts sales of pot vaping products until they get retested, and more. 

California's struggling legal marijuana industry will get another dose of taxation in the new year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Pot Taxes Set to Go Up in New Year. California tax officials announced last Thursday that marijuana excise and cultivation taxes will go up on January 1. The state Department of Tax and Fee Administration announced that the markup rate for the excise tax will increase from 60% to 80%, while cultivation taxes will rise by 4.3% for flowers and leaves and 8% for fresh marijuana plant material. The move comes as the legal pot industry in the state complains that is it being outcompeted by black market actors, who don't pay taxes.

Vaping

Michigan Halts Sales of Marijuana Vaping Products Until Retested. State regulators have temporarily halted the sale of marijuana products intended for vaping so that they can be tested for a compound linked to lung illnesses. The Marijuana Regulatory Agency issued the emergency rules last Friday. "It is absolutely vital that patients and consumers know, with certainty, the ingredients in the products that they are using," Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said in a written statement. "These rules require stringent testing and will continue to prioritize the health and safety of Michiganders."

International                  

Philippines President Fires Rival He Named Drug Czar Less Than Three Weeks Ago. President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday fired Vice President Mario Leonor Robredo from her position as drug czar, a position he named her to less than three weeks ago. Duterte accused Robredo of embarrassing the country by drawing international attention to his bloody war on drugs. Robredo has infuriated Duterte by criticizing "senseless killings" during his crackdown on drugs that has left thousands dead.

Chronicle AM: CBS News Pot Poll, MA Senate Kills Car Seizure Provision in Anti-Vaping Bill, More... (11/21/19)

There's another national pot poll showing a strong majority for legalization, an Arizona poll shows majority support, too; the ONDCP announces some opioid crisis spending initiatives, and more.

"Got any untaxed vaping products in there, son?" (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

CBS News Poll Hits Record High in Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new CBS News poll has support for marijuana legalization at 65%, an all-time high for the CBS poll and in line with other recent polling. Now, even a majority (56%) of Republicans favor it and even among Americans over 65 legalization has more support than opposition.

Arizona Poll Has a Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from OH Predictive Insights has support for marijuana legalization among registered voters at 54%, with only 33% opposed. The poll comes as at least two different legalization initiative campaigns are vying to get on the 2020 ballot. A 2016 legalization initiative was narrowly defeated.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

ONDCP Announces More Than $4 Million in Grants for Local Programs Combating the Opioid Crisis. Today, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Jim Carroll announced $4.5 million in grants to help local programs counter the effects of the opioid crisis in their communities. ONDCP, the University of Baltimore, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaboratively selected 14 programs in areas of the United States to receive “Combating Opioid Overdose through Community-Level Intervention (COOCLI)” grants. The projects, which will be overseen by the University of Baltimore, will employ a range of approaches such as identifying individuals most at risk of overdosing, supporting medication-assisted treatment in jails, collaborating with public safety agencies, and connecting high-risk pregnant and postpartum women and their children to opioid use disorder care coordination services.

Vaping

Massachusetts Senate Strips Vehicle Seizure Provision from Vaping Bill. The state Senate on Wednesday amended a bill banning flavored tobacco and taxing e-cigarettes to remove a provision that would have allowed the police to seize the vehicle of anyone driving with untaxed vaping products in the car. State law allows the seizure of vehicles in which untaxed cigarettes and tobacco products are found (!). This bill would have extended that provision to vaping products, but was removed on a 39-0 vote after lawmakers raised concerns about proportionality. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A West Virginia narc goes down for stealing heroin from the evidence room and giving it to his snitches, a New Jersey federal prison guard gets caught in a years-long smuggling scheme, and more. Let's get to it:

In Houston, a Harris County Sheriff's Office detention officer was arrested Sunday on a variety of drug charges. Officer Jason Flores, 19, came to work in possession of methamphetamine and Xanax and is now charged with five felonies, including manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, and possession of a prohibited substance in a correctional facility.

In Newark, New Jersey, a federal prison guard pleaded guilty last Thursday to taking cash bribes to smuggle drugs to prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix. Paul Anton Wright, 34, admitted smuggling tobacco, synthetic cannabinoids, and suboxone into the prison for four years and also admitted taking as much as $50,000 in bribes, which he agreed to forfeit as part of his plea agreement. He'll be sentenced in February.

In Clarksburg, West Virginia, a former Harrison County sheriff's deputy was convicted last Friday of distributing heroin to confidential informants. Timothy Rock, 41, who worked for the department's Street Crimes and Drugs Unit, had already been found guilty in state court on 18 counts related to falsifying documents to cover up his theft of heroin from the evidence room to provide to his informants, but then was indicted on the federal charges. At trial, he was convicted of four counts of distribution of heroin. He's looking at up to 20 years in prison on each of the heroin counts.

 

America's Afghanistan Anti-Drug Boondoggle Nears the $9 Billion Mark [FEATURE]

The amount of money the U.S. government has spent trying to wipe out Afghan opium since it invaded the country in 2002 has now reached $8.94 billion, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) noted in his latest quarterly report to Congress on October 30.

Nine billion dollars later, Afghanistan's opium productions rolls on undaunted. (UNODC)
Afghanistan is far and away the world's largest opium producer and has been for the entire period since the U.S. invaded and occupied the country in late 2001. According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) 2018 Afghan Opium Survey, Afghan farmers were cultivating about 150,000 acres of opium poppies in the late 1990s, but around 300,000 acres a year in the mid-2000s.

As the US occupation dragged on, opium cultivation generally climbed throughout the 2010s, peaking at more than 800,000 acres in 2017.  That equates to about nine tons of raw opium produced that year, with the heroin produced from it going into the veins of addicts from Lahore to London. 

The SIGAR report also noted that although drought had caused poppy cultivation to drop by 20% last year, "it remained at the second-highest level since the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring it in 1994."

So, despite spending nearly $9 billion, the U.S. war on Afghan opium has not only not succeeded but has seen the poppy foe steadily gain ground. And even though drought struck the crop in 2018, opium still exceeded the value of all of Afghanistan's licit exports combined and accounted for between 6 and 11 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.

For Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and a long-time observer of U.S. policies aimed at drug producing countries—not just Afghanistan—the SIGAR report spoke volumes.

"Over a similar period in Colombia, the U.S. wasted $10 billion," he said. "I guess we can conclude the drug war failed more efficiently in Afghanistan."

To be fair, the U.S. effort against opium has faced huge hurdles. Because of its crucial role in the national economy, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs to farm workers and incomes to farmers, moves to suppress the crop meet entrenched resistance—and that's where the national government is in control. 

But the Taliban controls roughly half the country, and in those areas, it doesn't try to repress the opium trade, but to tax it. According to a BBC report, the Taliban generates somewhere between $100 million and $400 million from taxes on opium farmers, producers, and traders. That's not the bulk of Taliban revenues, but it is a significant boost for the insurgency.

When it comes to suppressing illicit drug crops, there are three main approaches: eradication, interdiction, and alternative development. According to the new SIGAR report, all three have proven ineffectual in Afghanistan.

Interdiction—the effort to suppress the trade by arresting traffickers and seizing drugs—has been the bailiwick of Afghan security forces funded by the U.S. But the SIGAR report notes that despite their "strong performance" and their "improved capabilities over the years," their activities have had "minimal impact on the country's opium cultivation and production." It notes that all opium seizures since 2002 only add up to about 8 percent of the production of the single year of 2018.

Eradication isn't going very well, either. With the Afghan government announcing early this year that is was abolishing the Ministry of Counter Narcotics and moving its functions to other government entities, essentially no eradication took place this year, the SIGAR report round. Only about one thousand acres were eradicated last year and two thousand the year before. And Helmand province, the biggest poppy producer, saw no eradication at all between 2016 and 2018. 

"Eradication efforts have had minimal impact on curbing opium-poppy cultivation," the SIGAR report concluded.  "The Afghan government has struggled to perform eradication due to the security challenges in poppy-growing areas. Since 2008, on average, annual eradication efforts resulted in eradicating only 2% of the total yearly opium-poppy cultivation."

That may not be a bad thing, said Tree.

"Forced eradication usually forces peasant farmers into food insecurity," he explained. "Panic sets in. How will they feed their families next week, next month, or next year? What’s the one crop they know how to grow, for which there ready and willing buyers, and doesn’t require transportation infrastructure like bulky fruits and vegetables? Of course, farmers replant! But this time, they’ve had to borrow money from traffickers to survive and they become even more ensnared in the drug economy."

The third leg of the anti-drug effort is alternative development. But of the nearly $9 billion the U.S. has invested in the Afghan drug war, less than 5 percent has gone to such programs. The U.S. AID Regional Agricultural Development Plan has received $221 million since 2002, while another $173 million has been spent on alternative development programs. The Defense Department, meanwhile, spent $4.57 billion on counter-narcotics during the same period. 

But alternative development efforts seem to be waning. An important program, the Good Performers Initiative, which sought to encourage provincial level anti-drug efforts ended this year with the transfer of its last two programs to the Afghan government. But even here, the SIGAR report found, "the program was deemed ineffectual at curbing opium cultivation."

It appears that no matter how many billions the U.S. spends to wipe out Afghan opium, its money flushed down the drain. Maybe it's time to try something different.

Chronicle AM: Historic House Committee Pot Legalization Vote, AMA Calls for Total Vaping Ban, More... (11/20/19)

A congressional committee has for the first time passed a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition, the American Medical Association calls for a ban on vaping products, and more.

The AMA wants to create a new prohibition with its call for a ban on vaping. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Legalization Bill Approved by Congressional Committee in Historic Vote.The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a bill that would end federal marijuana prohibition has been approved by a congressional committee. The act passed on a vote of 24-10. The act would federally deschedule marijuana, expunge records of prior marijuana arrests, and impose a five percent tax on sales, with proceeds to be reinvested in communities most impacted by drug prohibition. Next stop is a House floor vote.

Michigan Issues First Recreational Marijuana Business Licenses. Michiganders are just days away from being able to legally purchase marijuana at retail outlets after state regulators issued the first recreational pot business licenses Tuesday. The state Marijuana Regulatory Agency issued the first retail license to Exclusive Brands in Ann Arbor, with sales set to begin December 1. It also issued a growing license to Exclusive Brands and another license to a company that wants to hold marijuana-themed events.

Vaping

AMA Calls for Total Ban on All E-Cigarettes, Vaping Products. The American Medical Association (AMA) called Tuesday for an immediate ban on all electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. The AMA cited increased teen use of e-cigs. "It's simple, we must keep nicotine products out of the hands of young people." Dr. Patrice Harris, AMA's president, said in a statement. The AMA also cited the recent outbreak of vaping-related illnesses linked primarily to black market THC vaping. That outbreak has "shined a light on the fact that we have very little evidence about the short- and long-term health consequences of e-cigarettes and vaping products," Harris said. About 2,100 people have gotten sick; 42 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Chronicle AM: AOC Calls for Drug Decriminalization, SD Meth Awareness Campaign Fiasco, More... (11/19/19)

Garden State voters may get the chance to legalize marijuana themselves, a South Dakota meth awareness campaign gets mocked, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls for drug decriminalization, and more. 

This South Dakota meth awareness campaign is generating mockery and ridicule.
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Senate Democrats File Bill to Put Marijuana Legalization to Public Vote. State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill Monday to allow the public to vote directly on whether to legalize marijuana. Democratic Assembly leaders said they will sponsor similar legislation. The Democratic Senate leaders said they had given up on trying to pass legalization through the legislature after a year of trying.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Supreme Court Rules People on Probation Can Use Medical Marijuana. The state Supreme Court has overruled a trial judge who required that defendants have a doctor testify in court testify in support of their medical marijuana use. The Supreme Court held that the practice violates the state constitution. The judge in the case had deferred to a "standing procedure" of the El Paso County District Attorney's office, but the high court "disapproved" of the decision, saying the state's medical marijuana law "creates a presumption that a defendant who is sentenced to a term of probation may use medical marijuana."

 Florida Bill Would Protect Patients' Employment Rights. Rep. Tina Polsky (D- Boca Raton) has filed a bill that wouldprovide some employment protections to people who use medical marijuana. House Bill 595 would bar employers from discriminating against, firing, demoting, or taking any other "adverse personnel action" against employees who are card-carrying medical marijuana users. Exceptions include workers performing safety-sensitive job duties such as operating machinery, fighting fires, driving, carrying a firearm, handling hazardous materials, or caring for children or patients. If confronted with positive drug test results, job applicants would be able to use doctors' recommendations or state-issued cards as proof of legal use.

Methamphetamines

South Dakota Anti-Meth Campaign Sparks Ridicule. The state has spent $499,000 on an anti-meth public campaign called "Meth. We're on it" that features state residents ranging from ranchers to high school football players pictured beneath that phrase. The rollout of the campaign has sparked considerable online ridicule and mockery with posters suggesting alternatives such as "Meth: Just Do It" "Meth: for Real Men" "Meth: Fun, Cheap, Wacky" "Meth: Bringing Families Together" "Meth: You Should Buy Some and Use It" and "Got Meth?" But Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said Monday that all the attention only showed that the campaign was working.

Drug Policy

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls for Drug Decriminalization. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Sunday for the decriminalization of all drugs, going a step beyond her previous support for the decriminalization of psychedelics. "Marijuana should be legalized, and drug consumption should be decriminalized," she tweeted.
"These are matters of public health."

Chronicle AM: House Committee to Vote on Legal Pot Bill This Week, Bolivia Violence, More... (11/18/19)

We could see a historic congressional vote on marijuana legalization this week, Joe Biden embraces the gateway theory, security forces of Bolivia's new rightist government gun down protesting coca growers, and more. 

Filipino banner displayed at International Drug Policy Reform Conference in St. Louis last week. (Drug Policy Alliance)
Marijuana Policy

House Judiciary Committee to Vote on Federal Legalization Bill. The House Judiciary Committee will vote Wednesday on whether to approve the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3884). The bill would end federal marijuana prohibition by removing marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act. It would also set aside funding to begin repairing the damage done by the war on drugs.

Joe Biden Demurs on Marijuana Legalization, Cites Gateway Fears. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden said he opposed legalizing marijuana at the federal level because there was insufficient evidence to convince him it was not a gateway drug. "The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug," Biden said. "It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it." He also said that marijuana legalization should be left to the states.

New Jersey Marijuana Arrests Jumped in Recent Years. The ACLU of New Jersey has issued a report showing nearly 38,000 marijuana arrests in the state in 2017, up a full 35% over the 28,000 pot busts recorded in 2013. Meanwhile, politicians in the state have failed to get marijuana legalization passed.

Oregon Appeals Court Blocks Ban on Flavored Marijuana Vaping Products. The state Court of Appeals last Thursday blocked the statewide ban on flavored marijuana vaping products. The order comes a month after the court blocked a similar ban on nicotine vaping products. The ruling came in a legal challenge to an executive order by Gov. Kathleen Brown (D) banning flavored vaping products as a response to the outbreak of vaping-related illness this fall.

International

Bolivian Security Forces Gun Down Protesting Coca Growers. Security forces loyal to the ultra-right interim government that took power in La Paz after the forced departure of long-time President Evo Morales opened fire on protesting coca growers near Cochabamba on Friday night, killing nine of them. The coca growers back Morales, and their unions demanded Sunday that provisional leader Jeanine Anez step down "within 48 hours" and that new elections be held within 90 days. Morales was forced out by the military after weeks of demonstrations calling for his ouster over disputed elections last month.

DPA & Representatives from 51 Countries Stand Behind Efforts to ‘STOP THE KILLINGS’ in the Philippines at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference. Last week, at Drug Policy Alliance’s International Drug Policy Reform Conference, attendees from 51 countries protested the thousands of brutal killings that have taken place in the Philippines in the name of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, gathering under cultural collective RESBAK’s iconic ‘Stop the Killings’ banner in a united show of opposition. "With the world watching, we felt compelled to use our platform to draw attention to the horrendous crimes taking place every day in the Philippines, with the full-throated support of that country’s president," said Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The Philippines is a stark example of how the drug war can so easily serve as an excuse for targeting vulnerable people, and harassing critics, and punishing opponents."

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

(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: No Legal Weed in Maryland Next Year, Santa Cruz Psychedelic Decrim Move, More... (11/15/19)

Maryland legislators say they have yet to reach agreement on key aspects of marijuana legalization, leaving prospects for next year in doubt; Santa Cruz, California, moves toward decriminaliizing natural psychedelics, a Georgia medical marijuana commission finally gets members, and more.

Santa Cruz could be the next locale to free the 'shrooms. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

New Congressional Resolution Calls for Marijuana Legalization and Drug Expungements. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) on Thursday filed a congressional resolution calling for marijuana legalization and expunging all drug convictions. Her "People's Justice Guarantee" resolution is more broadly designed to "transform the U.S. criminal legal system to one that meets America’s foundational yet unfilled promise of justice for all"through ending for-profit prisons, decriminalizing some non-violent offenses, capping criminal sentences, and reinvesting in communities adversely impacted by the war on drugs.

Maryland Legislative Panel to Defer Action on Legalizing Marijuana.Leaders of the General Assembly’s Marijuana Legalization Workgroup said Wednesday that they need more time to sort through an issue that is complex and still relatively new. That means the legislature is unlikely to seriously consider marijuana legalization next year. Among the issues unresolved are the amount of fines for smoking in public, whether to allow personal cultivation, whether people could give marijuana to others, and whether companies that have medical marijuana licenses should get favorable treatment.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Names Members of State Medical Marijuana Commission. Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston announced seven appointments Tuesday. They include several doctors, a professor, a police chief and a small business owner. The commission was authorized by a bill passed in April that allows for the in-state production and sale of CBD oil. Now, after a six-month delay, the commission can move forward.

Psychedelics

Santa Cruz, California, Advances Effort to Decriminalize Natural Psychedelics. A city council panel will take up the proposed decriminalization of psychoactive plants and fungi next month after passing through a public hearing Tuesday night. The Public Safety Committee is expected to recommend that the council approve a plan to make natural psychedelics the lowest law enforcement priority.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Ohio narcs go down for a shady scheme, South Carolina cops get snared in a sting, jailers go bad all over the place, and more. Let's get to it:

In Port Clinton, Ohio, two former Ottawa County Drug Task Force agents and a sheriff's deputy were arrested October 27 for alleged misconduct around the unlawful sales of weapons and covering it up. Carl Rider, 55, a former task force commander, is charged with unlawful transaction in weapons, theft in office and a misdemeanor count of falsification. Donald St. Clair, 50, was charged with three counts of perjury. Ottawa County Sheriff’s Deputy James Hanney Jr., 46, was also charged with two counts of perjury after he was accused of the same offense.

In San Antonio, a former Bexar County sheriff's deputy was arrested October 28 for using his position on the dope squad to try to coax sexual favors from suspects. Ramon Rivera, 47, is charged with official oppression.

In Los Angeles, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was arrested October 29 for allegedly lying about a marijuana warehouse robbery involving another deputy. Deputy Bradley Scott Dietze, 45, is accused of lying to LAPD officers investigating the theft of 1,200 pounds of weed and $645,000 in cash. He is charged with a misdemeanor count of resisting, delaying or obstructing a peace officer and could face up to a year in county jail, prosecutors said. The sheriff's deputy involved in the theft, Deputy Marc Antrim, now faces a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances that carries a maximum possible sentence of 40 years in prison.

\In Angola, Louisiana, an Angola state prison guard trainee was arrested October 31 for trying to smuggle marijuana and cell phones into the prison. Cadet guard Diodelda Anderson, 49, went down after a search of her vehicle uncovered 17 grams of pot, 6 ounces of synthetic cannabinoids, three cell phones, and other contraband. She is charged with malfeasance in office and introduction of contraband into a penal institution.

In Graham, North Carolina, an Alamance County prison guard was arrested November 1 along with eight others in a scheme to get drugs to inmates in state prisons. The drug in question was suboxone. The prison guard arrested is Lauren Del Zimmerman, 31. He is charged with conspiracy to sell and deliver a schedule III controlled substance.

In Hamilton, Ohio, a former Warren County jail guard was sentenced last Monday to three years in prison for dealing drugs on the job. Daniel Garvey had been arrested en route to work in February and pleaded guilty to a trafficking charge in September.

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, a Kenosha County sheriff's deputy was arrested Wednesday for possessing marijuana after he stopped a driver, followed him to a marijuana grow operation, questioned him about it, then told him to say the deputy had never been there. Deputy Brian J. Houtsinger, 32, went down after authorities searched his patrol vehicle and found 13 grams of weed, a digital scale, and packaging materials in the trunk. He is also accused of seizing marijuana in another traffic stop, but not reporting it. He is charged with marijuana possession and dereliction of duty.

In Columbia, South Carolina, three former Orangeburg police officers pleaded guilty October 27 after being ensnared in an FBI sting where they thought they were aiding Mexican drug cartels. All three agreed to use their official vehicles to escort what they thought were loads of cartel cash and cartel drugs. Allan Hunter, 51, a former police officer in the town of Springfield, pleaded guilty to numerous charges connected with taking bribes to protect the fake cartel’s drug-trafficking operations. Nathaniel Shazier III, 29, a former Orangeburg County sheriff’s deputy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to guard the fake cartel’s trucks. Stanley Timmons, 44, a former Orangeburg County sheriff’s deputy, pleaded guilty to being part of a conspiracy to guard the fake cartel’s trucks. They're all looking at between five and 20 years in federal prison.

Medical Marijuana Update

The Senate approves a bill protecting medical marijuana states from federal intervention, Alabama and Kansas move toward filing medical marijuana legislation, a South Dakota medical marijuana initiative hands in signatures, and more.

National

Senate Approves Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana States from Federal Intervention. The Senate on October 30 approved a "minibus" appropriations bill covering several agencies that extends a provision protecting state medical marijuana programs from federal interference. The House has passed a version of the bill with even broader protections for all state marijuana programs, so the question now is whether the House language will be adopted in the final bill.

Alabama

Alabama Will See Medical Marijuana Bill Next Year. The state's Medical Marijuana Commission, which was charged with developing medical marijuana legislation, says it will be ready to introduce a medical marijuana bill in the next legislative session. The deadline for the commission's bill to be filed is December 1.

Iowa

Iowa Medical Marijuana Board Recommends Removing THC Cap, PTSD as Qualifying Condition. The Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board has approved a set of recommendations to the legislature including removing the 3% cap on THC in medical marijuana products and replacing it with a purchase limit of 4.5 grams of THC over 90 days. The board also recommended making PTSD a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

Kansas

Kansas Lawmakers Recommend Studying How to Legalize Medical Marijuana. An interim legislative committee recommended October 30 that the legislature advance medical marijuana legislation. The committee recommended that the legislature look to Ohio as a guide.

Kentucky

Kentucky Lawmaker Prefiles Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana. State Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) has prefiled a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. The measure would prohibit smoking of marijuana, but would allow all other forms of consumption. It would also have the industry regulated by the Department for Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control. The state-run system would issue licenses for cultivators, dispensaries, safety facilities, processors, practitioners and patients. A similar bill last year never made it to the House floor despite winning a 16-1 vote in the House Judiciary Committee.

Michigan

Michigan Reduces or Eliminates Fees for Medical Marijuana Users. The state Marijuana Regulatory Agency announced in late October that it has reduced the fee for a two-year patient registry card from $60 to $40 and eliminated a $10 fee to update, replace, or add or remove a caregiver has been removed. The $25 background check processing fee for caregivers has also been eliminated.

South Dakota

South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. New Approach South Dakota, the group behind a medical marijuana initiative, handed in more than 30,000 raw signatures on Novermber 5, nearly double the 16,691 valid voter signatures required to qualify the measure for the November 2020 ballot. State officials will announce in a matter of weeks whether the initiative has qualified.

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

Chronicle AM: New Pew Pot Poll, New AZ Pot Initiative, MI Retail Pot Sales Could Start Soon, More... (11/14/19)

A new Pew pot poll holds few surprises, a second Arizona marijuana legalization initiative is rolled out, a second Florida marijuana legalization initiative passes a key threshold, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Pew Poll: Two-Thirds Support Marijuana Legalization. A new Pew poll finds that two-thirds of Americans say the use of marijuana should be legal, continuing a steady increase in support over the past decade. At the same time, the number of American adults who oppose legalization has declined from 52% in 2010 to 32% now.

Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative Rolled Out. The Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce rolled out its marijuana legalization initiative, the Small Business Liberty Act, Wednesday. The measure would allow for 230 retail outlets for marijuana sales, a hundred more than current exist as medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure also legalizes possession of up to an ounce for personal use and would impose an excise tax of no more than 16%. Players in the state's medical marijuana industry have already filed their own initiative, the Smart and Safe Act. That initiative would limit marijuana retail outlets to about 170 and reserve most licenses for those who already have medical marijuana retail licenses.

Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative Passes Signature Milestone. The marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by Make It Legal Florida, which is backed by the state's biggest medical marijuana companies, has officially collected more than 77,000 verified voter signatures, triggering a review of its language by the state Supreme Court. The group said Wednesday it has already gathered nearly 390,000 raw signatures; it needs 766,200 valid voter signatures by February 1 to qualify for the 2020 ballot. A second legalization initiative sponsored by Regulate Florida reached the threshold in August.

Michigan Legal Recreational Pot Sales Could Begin as Early as December 1. In a surprise move, the state's Marijuana Regulatory Agency announced Wednesday that medical marijuana businesses, including growers and processors, can transfer half their inventory to the recreational market as of December 1, provided they have received a recreational license from the state. But buds for the recreational market may not be available then as the state works to ensure that the medicinal market supply is not disrupted. Edibles and other products should be available, though.

Chronicle AM: Chicago Mayor to End Pot Car Seizure Strategy, Fed Court Upholds Life Sentence in Drug Death, More... (11/13/19)

While Chicago's mayor is trying to ease post-legalization pot penalties, the city's housing authority is warning public housing residents can be evicted for smoking at home; a federal court upholds a life sentence for a drug-related death; and more.

Chicago is getting ready to grapple with legal marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Legalization Campaign Raised More Than $1 Million Last Month. The Make It Legal Florida campaign to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the November 2020 ballot is benefiting from a large cash injection last month. The campaign raised nearly $1.1 million, almost entirely from two medical marijuana companies who stand to benefit from legalization. Surterra Holdings kicked in $544,000, while MedMen gave $540,000. The campaign spent $1.6 million in October, mostly on paid signature gathering. It needs 766,200 valid voter signatures by February to qualify for the ballot, and because it's a constitutional amendment, would require 60% of the vote to be approved.

Massachusetts Regulators "Quarantine" All Marijuana Vaping Products Except Medicinal Use Buds. The state's Cannabis Control Commission moved on Tuesday to "quarantine" all marijuana vaping products except those that contain only buds and are intended for medical marijuana patients. The commission cited a CDC report that pointed a finger at Vitamin E acetate as the culprit in the recent wave of vaping-related illness and injury and said it was acting "in order to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Massachusetts." The quarantine will stay in place until the commission develops regulations for the use of vaping products. according to a press release from the CCC.

Chicago Mayor Moves to Stop Impounding Cars Found with Marijuana. With marijuana legalization looming, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is drafting an ordinance to end the city’s practice of impounding vehicles found with marijuana inside and dramatically reduce fines for those caught using pot in public. "For far too long, unjust and outdated cannabis enforcement laws have adversely and disproportionately affected Chicago’s black and brown neighborhoods," she said. The ordinance would drop fines for public consumption from $250 to $500 down to $50 and end a "zero tolerance" rule requiring the seizure of vehicles with marijuana.  Lightfoot said in a news release.

Chicago Housing Authority Warns No Pot in Public Housing. The Chicago Housing Authority has warned residents of public housing they would be evicted if they use marijuana at home. "While federal law prohibits marijuana use and possession in federally subsidized housing, the Chicago Housing Authority is working to educate and inform residents so they understand all applicable laws related to cannabis and federally funded housing," CHA spokeswoman Molly Sullivan said.

Sentencing Policy

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Life Sentence for Drug-Related Death. A federal appeals court in Michigan has upheld the life sentence of a man blamed for the drug-related death of another man. Steven Whyte was convicted of providing heroin to a man who overdosed and died. The court said the sentence was "severe and perhaps even misguided as a matter of criminal justice policy" but still constitutional.

Chronicle AM: Bolivia's Coca Grower President Forced Out, AOC Calls for Psychedelic Decrim, More... (11/12/19)

Evo Morales, the former coca grower union leader who became president of Bolivia, has been forced from power; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls for the decriminalization of psychedelics, and more.

Evo Morales. He broke with the US drug war in South American and lifted millions of Bolivians out of poverty. Now, he's gone.
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Legislature Seeks Dismissal of Governor's Marijuana Regulation Lawsuit. Attorneys for the state legislature last Friday filed motions to dismiss Gov. Gina Raimondo's (D) lawsuit challenging a state law that grants the General Assembly veto power over new hemp and medical marijuana regulations. The attorneys argued that "it makes little sense" for the lawsuit to continue because the law is slated to be repealed. Raimondo argues that the legislature's move violates the separation of powers provisions in the state constitution that give the executive branch sole power over adoption of regulations and issuance of licenses for the marijuana industry.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Will See Medical Marijuana Bill Next Year. The state's Medical Marijuana Commission, which was charged with developing medical marijuana legislation, says it will be ready to introduce a medical marijuana bill in the next legislative session. The deadline for the commission's bill to be filed is December 1.

Psychedelics

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls for Decriminalizing Psychedelics. In a video message to the Drug Policy Alliance's biennial drug reform conference last Thursday, Rep. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called for decriminalizing the use of and research on psychedelics. She also called for federal marijuana legalization. "I’m very thankful to have been working with the Drug Policy Alliance throughout this year to introduce and work on several different amendments and pieces of legislation to make our lives better," Ocasio-Cortez said. "That includes things like moving money out of the DEA and into overdose treatment programs, as well as really examining some of the ways that we can also decriminalize the use and study of psychedelic compounds for medicinal applications and future policies.".”

Foreign Policy

ONDCP Releases Data on Coca Cultivation and Production Potential in Bolivia. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has released US government annual estimates of coca cultivation and potential cocaine production for Bolivia. It finds that Bolivia remains the third largest producer of cocaine after Peru and Colombia, and that coca cultivation increased 6% last year, boosting potential cocaine production by 2%. The area under cultivation was 50% over the limit set for legal cultivation by the Bolivian government.

International

Bolivia's Coca Grower President Ousted, Flees to Mexico. Long-time Bolivian leader Evo Morales, a former coca growers union leader who won the presidency in 2005 and was re-elected twice has been forced from office and fled the country after extended protests in the wake of disputed elections last week. Morales resigned after he lost the support of the military, which called on him to resign on Saturday. As president, Morales broke with US drug policy in the region and legalized the production of coca in the country. He also lifted millions of Bolivians out of poverty, but began to lose support after ignoring a referendum calling on him not to run again, and chaos escalated after an unexplained 24-hour delay in vote-counting before he was declared the victor.

Chronicle AM: Trump Offers to "Wage War" on Mexican Cartels, SD MedMJ and Legalization Initiatives, More... (11/5/19)

South Dakota medical marijuana and marijuana legalization campaigns turn in raw signatures, a California psychedelic decriminalization initiative gets updated, President Trump offers to "wage war" on Mexican drug cartels after an ambush left nine dual US-Mexican citzens dead, and more.

South Dakota's Badlands. Next year, the state could become less bad for marijuana users. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Turns in Signatures. The activist group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws on Monday submitted more than 50,000 raw signatures to put a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana to a vote. The proposal would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and older and would require the legislature to pass laws regulating cultivation, processing and sale of hemp. The group needs 33,921 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 elections. State officials will announce in a matter of weeks whether the initiative has qualified.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. New Approach South Dakota, the group behind a medical marijuana initiative, handed in more than 30,000 raw signatures on Monday, nearly double the 16,691 valid voter signatures required to qualify the measure for the November 2020 ballot. State officials will announce in a matter of weeks whether the initiative has qualified.

Psychedelics

California Natural Psychedelics Initiative Refiled. Decriminalize California, the group behind a move to decriminalize psilocybin, has filed a new version of its initiative with state officials. The new version seeks a new ballot title and summary and adds language regarding amnesty for past offenses and allowing for sales of psilocybin.

Foreign Policy

In Wake of Killings of Nine Americans, Trump Says He Could Send US Military to "Wage War" on Mexican Drug Cartels. After nine dual US-Mexican citizens were killed in an ambush in Sonora on Monday, President Trump tweeted that he could send the US military into Mexico to "wage war" on drug cartels. The US was "ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively" if Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador asked for help, Trump said. Lopez Obrador declined the offer, but said he would speak to Trump about security cooperation between the two countries.

International

Mexican Supreme Court Gives Congress Six More Months to Legalize Marijuana. The Supreme Court has given Congress another six month to pass legislation that will legalize marijuana after Congress failed to get it done by an October 31 deadline. That means that the bill now seen as closest to the finishing line is likely to be modified. Its current version limits foreign ownership, vertical integration, and license resale, all of which are opposed by business interests. The Senate asked the court for an extension after failing to reach a consensus by the October deadline.

Philippine Drug War Critic Appointed to Key Drug Policy Role. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed his main political rival and a harsh critic of his bloody drug war as co-chair of an inter-agency anti-drugs body. Vice-President Leni Robredo has criticized Duterte's tactics and expressed alarm about the death toll while saying that the deadly campaign has failed to stop the drug trade. The move could be a cynical ploy by Duterte to make her a scapegoat for the failures of his anti-drug campaign, a Robredo spokesman suggested.

Chronicle AM: Hundreds of OK Drug Prisoners Walk Free Today, USDA Publishes Interim Hemp Rules, More... (11/4/19)

Hundreds of low-level Oklahoma drug prisoners walked free today after their sentences were commuted, Michigan advances on a couple of marijuana fronts, the USDA issues interim hemp rules, and more.

Michigan is moving forward on a couple of marijuana fronts. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Now Accepting Applications for Recreational Marijuana Businesses. Nearly a year after voters approved a marijuana legalization initiative, the state is now accepting applications for recreational marijuana businesses. Applications require a non-refundable $6,000 application fee, and businesses that are approved for licenses will have to pay fees of between $1,000 and $40,000 a year. Applicants must specify if they are growers, processors, or a microbusinesses.

Medical Marijuana

Iowa Medical Marijuana Board Recommends Removing THC Cap, PTSD as Qualifying Condition. The Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board has approved a set of recommendations to the legislature including removing the 3% cap on THC in medical marijuana products and replacing it with a purchase limit of 4.5 grams of THC over 90 days. The board also recommended making PTSD a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

Kentucky Lawmaker Prefiles Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana. State Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) has prefiled a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. The measure would prohibit smoking of marijuana, but would allow all other forms of consumption. It would also have the industry regulated by the Department for Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control. The state-run system would issue licenses for cultivators, dispensaries, safety facilities, processors, practitioners and patients. A similar bill last year never made it to the House floor despite winning a 16-1 vote in the House Judiciary Committee.

Michigan Reduces or Eliminates Fees for Medical Marijuana Users. The state Marijuana Regulatory Agency announced last week that it has reduced the fee for a two-year patient registry card from $60 to $40 and eliminated a $10 fee to update, replace, or add or remove a caregiver has been removed. The $25 background check processing fee for caregivers has also been eliminated.

Hemp

USDA Publishes Interim Regulations Governing the Production of Hemp. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Saturday published its final interim rule on rules and regulations for hemp production under the 2018 farm bill. The rules set forth a series of requirements for hemp producers and help clear the way for hemp production in all 46 states that have legalized it.

Sentencing

Oklahoma Commutes Sentences for Hundreds of Inmates. More than 500 state prisoners, most of them serving time for non-violent, low-level drug offenses, were granted commutations last Friday, with more than 400 of them walking out of prison today. Voters there approved a 2016 initiative that changed simple drug possession and low-level property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and the legislature this year approved a bill to make the changes retroactive, opening the door for a fast-track commutation for those prisoners.

International

Scottish MPs Call for Drug Decriminalization. Parliament's Scottish Affairs Committee has issued a report calling for the decriminalization of personal drug use and possession. The report also called for safe injection sites to help address Scotland's record-high drug overdose levels. But the British Home Office still says it has no plans to decriminalize drug possession.

Attention, Amphibian Substance Fans, There's A New Toad in Town [FEATURE]

We've long heard about "toad venom," a secretion from the Sonoran Desert toad containing bufotenin, a psychoactive substance that's a close chemical cousin to DMT. In fact, it is currently au courant among the Brooklyn hipster set, with the New York Post recently calling it "the hottest new psychedelic drug among trendy New Yorkers."

Sapo sage Peter Gorman cruising the Amazon. (sapoinmysoul.com)
"Toad venom" derived from the Sonoran Desert toad is indeed psychedelic, but there is another "toad venom" on the scene, and the two should not be confused. This second "toad venom" comes from the Amazonian tree frog and is also known as "sapo" (Spanish for "toad"). It doesn't get you high in the traditional sense, but it reportedly has some profound mental and physical effects.

"Generally, it is an extremely physical experience, and can be intense," explained journalist Valerie Vande Panne, who has experienced a guided sapo session. "It can induce vomiting and diarrhea. Physically you may become incapacitated, or unable to speak, keep your balance, or move quickly or accurately, which is why you should never be alone and without proper support.

"It is not something to take and relax or chill out. It can be intensely unpleasant, in fact. It is in no way psychedelic or otherwise 'trippy,'" she continued. "You may cry intensely. Afterwards, you might feel a profound relief, and you may find some emotional, spiritual, physical, or other kinds of issues or blockages in your life have been alleviated." 

We know about sapo largely thanks to the efforts of one man: author and journalist and de facto ethno-botanist, and social anthropologist Peter Gorman. A former editor of High Times, Gorman has been traveling to the Peruvian Amazon for decades, where he has lived and raised a family, meanwhile delving deep into indigenous cultures of the region and their healing medicines. His writings, especially his work at High Times, have played a crucial role with exposing Western consciousness to the healing plants and Amazonian way of life. If you've heard of ayahuasca, you can thank Gorman for that, too.

Gorman's life's work is the subject of a new documentary, More Joy Less Pain, which will premiere in New York City on November 11 at the Tribeca Screening Room.The film is a candid look at Gorman and his life with the indigenous Matsés of the Peruvian Amazon and their traditional medicines, including ayahuasca and sapo.(Tickets may be purchased here. Chronicle readers get a 50% discount using promo code 420. Seating is limited.There will be a Q & A with both Director Michael McCoy and likely Peter Gorman himself.)

"This is Peter Gorman’s field work," says legendary psychedelic guru Terence McKenna in the doc. "He seems to know more about this than anyone else."

The documentary should serve as a useful corrective for misguided and sensational media coverage of substances such as sapo and ayahuasca, as well as a closely-informed look at the cultures, traditions, and practices of the Amazon.

As for sapo itself, Vande Panne declined to go into particulars about just how it is used, saying:"I'm not going to get into the details of how to take it--this isn't a medicine to play with, or to learn to use by reading about it on the Internet or with a YouTube tutorial or via some other pop-culture special. Indigenous medicine is powerful and sacred and is wisely treated with respect. "

If you're now really curious about sapo, watch the documentary and then get in touch with Gorman (through the link posted above). He continues to bring people into the jungle to experience healing and serves as a mentor to many studying natural healing. And he continues to blow Western minds with Amazonian wisdom.

Chronicle AM: Senate Extends Protections for State MMJ Programs, PA Pot Poll, More... (11/1/19)

New South Wales ponders drug decriminalization, the Senate extends protections for state medical marijuana programs, and more.

Ice (methamphetamine). Australia's New South Wales is pondering drug decriminalization as it looks at meth use. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization, Less for State-Run Stores. A new Franklin & Marshall College poll has support for marijuana legalization at 58%, but 40% are much less likely to support it if pot would be sold in state liquor stores.

Medical Marijuana

Senate Approves Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana States from Federal Intervention. The Senate on Thursday approved a "minibus" appropriations bill covering several agencies that extends a provision protecting state medical marijuana programs from federal interference. The House has passed a version of the bill with even broader protections for all state marijuana programs, so the question now is whether the House language will be adopted in the final bill.

International

Australia's New South Wales Ponders Drug Decriminalization. The New South Wales Special Commission of Inquiry into Ice (methamphetamine) will release its recommendations next week, but there are already indications that the commission will lean in the direction of harm reduction approaches, as well as drug decriminalization. The commission will reportedly also recommend pill testing at a fixed site and possibly music festivals and expanding the use of safe injection sites.

Chronicle AM: Push on Psychedelics Expands, Mexico Misses Marijuana Legalization Deadline, More... (10/31/19)

We're starting to see pot bills getting filed for next year, a push to ease laws on natural psychedelics is expanding into more cities, Mexico's marijuana legalization push hits a bump, and more.

magic mushrooms (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Texas Marijuana Legalization Bill Prefiled. State Rep. Rolando Gutierrez has prefiled the "REAL Cannabis Legalization Act" ahead of the legislature's 2021 session. The bill aims to establish a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce as well as personal growing.

Wisconsin Decriminalization Bill Filed. A group of Democratic lawmakers has filed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Lawmakers said the move would attack racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement, as well as eliminating the smell of marijuana as probable cause for law enforcement to undertake searches and allowing for expungement of past pot busts.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Lawmakers Recommend Studying How to Legalize Medical Marijuana. An interim legislative committee recommended Wednesday that the legislature advance medical marijuana legislation. The committee recommended that the legislature look to Ohio as a guide.

Psychedelics

Four More Major Cities Take Steps to Decriminalize Psychedelics. Activists in Berkeley, Chicago, Dallas, and Portland are all pushing psychedelic decriminalization measures , either through ballot initiatives or city council actions. They hope to capitalize on the momentum created by the successful campaigns to deprioritize enforcement of laws against natural psychedelics in Denver and Oakland earlier this year.

Sentencing Policy

Florida Bill to End Mandatory Minimums for Nonviolent Drug Offenses Filed. State Rep. Alex Andrade (D-Pensacola) has introduced a bill to remove mandatory minimums for drug offenses and allow a judge to decide the appropriate sentence for the individual defendant. State Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) has filed a companion bill in the Senate. The bill would remove mandatory minimums if there was no violence involved and if the defendant had no prior felony convictions. It also increases the amount of drugs a person must be found with for that person to be charged with drug trafficking rather than just possession and allows people currently serving mandatory minimums to ask a court to reconsider their original sentences.

International

Mexico Misses Deadline for Marijuana Legalization. Mexico will not legalize marijuana by today's Supreme Court-imposed deadline, legislative leaders said earlier this week. Sen. Ricardo Monreal, head of the ruling MORENA Party's congressional delegation cited "unprecedented" lobbying pressure by companies seeking to get rich off legalization. "It was the intention to approve it on Tuesday," he continued, "but that's not going to happen." Instead, he said the bill will be discussed in "the first weeks of November."

Drug War Issues

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