Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Another Push for the SAFE Banking Act, NJ Magic Mushroom Legalization Bill Filed, More... (7/1/22)

The Ohio Supreme Court rejects a police backpack search for marijuana, the Massachusetts Senate has approved an asset forfeiture reform bill, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms. It could be legal to grow, possess, and share them under a New Jersey bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Lawmakers File Marijuana Banking Amendment to Must-Pass Defense Bill in Latest Reform Push. Led by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-OR), sponsor of the House-passed version of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1996), a bipartisan group of lawmakers are pushing an amendment to the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to attach that legislation to the must-pass bill. This is the second year Perlmutter has tried to get the SAFE Banking Act language into the defense spending bill. Passage of the bill in the Senate has been stymied by Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), who has been blocking the incremental bill as he continues to push for a full-scale marijuana legalization bill. Perlmutter's amendment will be taken up in the House Rules Committee, and if approved as part of the spending bill in the House, would be subject to conference committee approval with Senate leaders.

Ohio Supreme Court Finds Marijuana Backpack Search Unconstitutional. In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction of a woman for marijuana possession, ruling that a warrantless search of her backpack in her home violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against warrantless searches. Police came to the woman's home with an unrelated arrest warrant and searched her backpack while she was already handcuffed and sitting in a patrol car. They found 391 grams of mostly marijuana edibles and charged her with felony marijuana possession. Police and prosecutors argued that they had the right to search the backpack for weapons, but the justices held there was no rationale for a weapons search once the woman was detained. Police and prosecutors also argued that a bit of plastic baggie protruding from the backpack justified the search, but the justices rejected that as well. "When police search a bookbag in a home under circumstances that do not give rise to any exigency, they must follow the command of the Fourth Amendment: get a warrant," wrote Justice Patrick DeWine. The case goes back to lower courts for reconsideration.

Psychedelics

New Jersey Senate President Files Bill to Legalize Magic Mushrooms for Personal Use. Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) has filed a bill, Senate Bill 2934, that would allow people 21 and over to "possess, store, use, ingest, inhale, process, transport, deliver without consideration, or distribute without consideration, four grams or less of psilocybin," the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms. People could legally grow, cultivate, or process the mushrooms capable of producing psilocybin on private property. The bill would also expunge past criminal offenses for magic mushrooms. "This bill is a recognition of evolving science related to psilocybin and its medical uses related to mental health, and if science can provide relief in any fashion with this natural substance under a controlled environment then we should encourage this science," Scutari said. In 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill downgrading psilocybin possession from a third-degree crime to disorderly persons offense with a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.  

Asset Forfeiture

Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill to Reform Civil Asset Forfeiture. The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would raise the evidentiary standard for prosecutors to be able to pursue civil asset forfeiture. The bill, Senate Bill 2671, would raise the standard from the lowest legal standard—probable cause—to the "preponderance of evidence." The bill also bars asset forfeiture prosecutions for less than $250 and provides the right to counsel for indigent people in asset forfeiture cases. "We view ourselves as a socially progressive state with strong protection for civil liberties. But our current laws on civil asset forfeiture are anything but, and reforming in this area is long overdue," said Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), lead sponsor of the bill.

CA Safe Injection Site Bill Nears Final Passage, PA MedMJ DUI Bill Advances, More... (6/30/22)

North Carolina permanently legaizes hemp at the last minute, a Missoula, Montana, entheogen decriminalization resolution is withdrawn for lack of support, and more.

The safe injection site in Vancouver. Similar facilities could be coming soon to California cities. (vcha.ca)
Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill to Protect Patients from DUI Charges Advances. The Senate Transportation Committee has approved Senate Bill 167, which would protect state medical marijuana patients from wrongful convictions for driving under the influence. The bill advanced Tuesday on a unanimous vote. The bill would treat medical marijuana like any other prescription drug, requiring proof of impairment that interferes with a person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle before he could be charged with DUI. The state currently has a zero-tolerance DUI law that could expose patients to such charges for taking their medicine. There are some 700,000 medical marijuana patients in the state.

Hemp

North Carolina Approves Permanent Hemp Legalization. Just two days before a previous law temporarily legalizing hemp production was set to expire, leaving an estimated 1,500 state hemp farmers in the lurch, the legislature gave final approval to a bill to make hemp legalization permanent, Senate Bill 455 on Wednesday. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed the bill into law Thursday. The old law was set to expire Friday.

Psychedelics

Missoula, Montana, Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution Shelved. A pair of city council members, Daniel Carlino and Kristen Jordan, earlier this month introduced a resolution to decriminalize entheogenic plants in the city, but they have now shelved it after failing to gain enough support on the council to move it. Other council members cited scarce research on the plants' benefits, unresolved questions about law enforcement, and the potential threat to youth as reasons to oppose the resolution. The sponsors now say they will now regroup and seek to build council support before trying again.

Harm Reduction

California Safe Injection Site Bill Passes Assembly. The Assembly has approved Sen. Scott Weiner's (D-San Francisco) bill to allow safe injection site pilot programs in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County. The bill foresees a five-year pilot program for each of those locales, all of which have formally requested to be included. The bill now goes back to the Senate for a final concurrence vote after changes were made in the Assembly and then to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). "Every overdose death is preventable," said Sen. Wiener. "We have the tools to end these deaths, get people healthy, and reduce harm for people who use drugs. Right now, we are letting people die on our streets for no reason other than an arbitrary legal prohibition that we need to remove. SB 57 is long overdue and will make a huge impact for some of the most vulnerable people in our community."

Supreme Court Sides with Inmate in Crack Cocaine Resentencing Case [FEATURE]

In a Monday decision little-noticed amidst the rising clamor over recent Supreme Court decisions on guns, abortion, and religion, the highest court in the land ruled in favor of a federal crack cocaine prisoner seeking a sentence reduction under the terms of the 2018 First Step Act. The ruling could affect thousands of other mostly Black inmates sentenced under the nation's harsh crack cocaine laws.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor writes for the majority. (Creative Commons)
During the crack panic of the 1980s, Congress passed legislation creating a 100:1 disparity in the weight of the drug required to trigger a mandatory minimum federal prison sentence. Confronted with the increasingly unassailable evidence that the sentencing disparity was neither scientifically justified nor racially neutral—nearly 80 percent of federal crack prosecutions targeted Black people by 2009—Congress in 2010 passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced but did not eliminate the sentencing disparity, setting it at 18:1.

The Fair Sentencing Act provided relief to people sentenced after its passage, but it was not retroactive, meaning people sentenced under the old standard still had to do those harsh sentences. In order to address that oversight and reduce racial inequities, Congress in 2018 passed the First Step Act, making those sentencing changes retroactive and opening the door for people sentenced under the old law to seek resentencing.

The case in question, Concepcion v. United States, began when Carlos Concepcion pleaded guilty to selling crack in 2009 and was sentenced to 19 years in prison based on the 100:1 sentencing disparity in effect at the time. After passage of the First Step Act and having already served a decade of his sentence, Concepcion filed for a reduced sentence. Part of his argument was that he was no longer considered a "career offender" subject to harsher sentencing because of changes in the federal sentencing guidelines unrelated to the First Step Act.

Without that "career offender" designation, Concepcion would have been a free man after serving just less than six years, but a Massachusetts federal district court judge declined to consider factors unrelated to the First Step Act and denied his resentencing request. That denial was upheld by the 1st US Circuit Court in Boston, and Concepcion and his attorneys then appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor in a 5-4 decision.

The majority on the court was an odd one, consisting of the three liberal justices—Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor—joined by hard conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas. Sotomayor wrote the opinion.

In it, she argued that judges enjoy broad discretion at sentencing and that discretion continues in any later proceedings that may change the sentence.

"Federal courts historically have exercised broad discretion to consider all relevant information at an initial sentencing hearing, consistent with their responsibility to sentence the whole person before them," she wrote. "That discretion also carries forward to later proceedings that may modify an original sentence. District courts’ discretion is bounded only when Congress or the Constitution expressly limits the type of information a district court may consider in modifying a sentence.

There is nothing in the First Step Act that limits that discretion, she added.

"Nothing in the text and structure of the First Step Act expressly, or even implicitly, overcomes the established tradition of district courts’ sentencing discretion," she wrote. "The text of the First Step Act does not so much as hint that district courts are prohibited from considering evidence of rehabilitation, disciplinary infractions, or unrelated Guidelines changes. The only two limitations on district courts’ discretion appear in §404(c): A district court may not consider a First Step Act motion if the movant’s sentence was already reduced under the Fair Sentencing Act or if the court considered and rejected a motion under the First Step Act. Neither limitation applies here."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued that the First Step Act only authorized judges to cut sentences related to changes in the crack sentencing ranges, but not unrelated factors.

"Congress enacted the First Step Act to provide a targeted retroactive reduction in crack-cocaine sentencing ranges, not to unleash a sentencing free-for-all in the lower courts," Kavanaugh wrote.

But that was the minority opinion. And if reducing unduly harsh crack cocaine sentences that were based on panic and prejudice is "a sentencing free-for-all," that would be a small price to pay for some restorative justice. 

Medical Marijuana Update

A signature-gathering deadline looms in Nebraska, DC does away with requiring a doctor's recommendation to buy medical marijuana, and more.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Has Only A Week to Come Up With 50,000 Signatures. Things are looking grim for Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the group trying to qualify an initiative for the November ballot. The campaign needs 50,000 more valid voter signatures in the next week to qualify but has only gathered 35,000 signatures in months of signature-gathering. The campaign has been plagued this year by the loss of significant donors who had funded past efforts. "The reality is we need 50,000 Nebraskans to sign the petition in the next two weeks. Now it's on Nebraskans. The volunteers and patients have carried the water this far. It's on Nebraskans to go out and find a place to sign it," said state Sen. Anna Wishart, co-chair of the initiative. The same group qualified an initiative for the 2020 ballot, only to have it thrown out by the state Supreme Court.

North Carolina

North Carolina House Republicans Block Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate has passed a medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 711), but it now appears doomed in the House even though the legislative session still has more than a week to run. During a closed-door meeting Wednesday, House Republicans voted internally not to advance the bill. But the bill is not dead until the session ends, and it is theoretically possible that the bill could advance because budget negotiations are still ongoing.

Washington, DC

DC Council Ends Requirement for Doctor's Recommendation Before Buying Medical Marijuana. The DC Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill eliminating the requirement that people seeking to purchase medical marijuana first obtain a doctor's recommendation. The bill allows city residents 21 and over to "self-certify" they need marijuana for medicinal purposes when they register for a patient card. The bill now goes to Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who has indicated she supports the measure.

No Drug Decriminalization Initiative in WA This Year, Colombia Truth Commission Calls for Legal, Regulated Drugs... (6/29/22)

A House committee has advanced an amendment to protect state-legal marijuana businesses, the DC city council  votes to let adults "self-certify" for a medical marijuana card, and more. 

A Colombian coca farmer. The country's truth commission is calling for big changes. (DEA,gov)
Marijuana Policy

House Appropriations Committee Approves Amendment to Protect Legal State Marijuana Programs. The House Committee on Appropriations voted Tuesday to approve an amendment that would prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with legal adult-use marijuana programs as part of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2023. The bipartisan amendment, introduced by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH), with the non-committee support of past champions Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), would bar the DOJ from using resources to interfere with the ability of states, territories, tribal governments, or the District of Columbia to implement laws and regulations governing the legal and regulated production, sale, and use of cannabis by adults or to target people acting in compliance with those laws.

Medical Marijuana

DC Council Ends Requirement for Doctor's Recommendation Before Buying Medical Marijuana. The DC Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill eliminating the requirement that people seeking to purchase medical marijuana first obtain a doctor's recommendation. The bill allows city residents 21 and over to "self-certify" they need marijuana for medicinal purposes when they register for a patient card. The bill now goes to Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who has indicated she supports the measure.

Drug Policy                

Washington Activists End Bid to Put Drug Decriminalization Initiative on November Ballot, Cite Cost of Signature-Gathering. Commit to Change WA, the people behind a proposed drug decriminalization initiative, said Monday that it was halting efforts to qualify for the ballot this year and would instead work with the legislature to try to pass a decriminalization bill next year. "We will not be moving forward to qualify Washington State Initiative Measure No. 1922 to the November 8 general election ballot," the group said. "Signature gathering proved more challenging and prohibitively expensive than projected." The decision to quit comes even as new polling shows that two-thirds of state voters would have voted for the measure after reading the ballot language. "Though the proposed Initiative 1922 will no longer be on Washington ballots this November, legislators in the state must note that Washington voters are ready to end the War on Drugs and want to start treating substance use issues with compassion and data-backed policies," the pollsters said.  

International

Colombian Truth Commission Calls for "Strict Legal Regulation of Drugs, End to Drug War. A truth commission appointed as part of the 2016 peace accords with the leftist guerrillas of the FARC called on Tuesday for the government to quit focusing on suppressing illicit drugs and instead take the global lead in moving to "strict legal regulation" of those substances. It recommended a new approach to illicit drug production that focuses more on sustainable development and less on the eradication of coca. The commission offered a scathing critique of the country's drug war, backed by the United States. "The current drug policy is ineffective in preventing consumption," the panel writes in a nearly 900-page report. "The policy of the war on drugs and narcotrafficking has been a factor in the persistence of conflict and violence in Colombia." The commission is also calling for sweeping reforms of the criminal justice system and separating the National Police from the Ministry of Defense. The commission's recommendations are non-binding, but incoming President Gustavo Petro has said he will follow them. 

Supreme Court Rules for Crack Prisoners, CO Psychedelic Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures, More... (6/28/22)

A major Swiss bank gets convicted of cocaine money laundering, a House committee wants a GAO report on federal psilocybin policy, and more.

Something good came out of the US Supreme Court on Monday. (Pixabay)
Psychedelics

House Appropriations Committee Calls for Review of Federal Psilocybin Policy. In reports accompanying new spending bills, the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee are calling for a federal review of psilocybin policy, as well as letting researchers study marijuana from dispensaries and using hemp as an alternative to Chinese plastics. The report for the spending bill for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies calls for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to analyze barriers to state, local, and tribal programs using psilocybin. The committee said the GAO should study the impact of federal drug prohibition in jurisdictions that allow psilocybin. The call comes as a psilocybin reform movement is gaining momentum across the country.

Colorado Activists Turn in Signatures for Psychedelic Initiative. The Natural Medicine Colorado campaign, the group behind an initiative to legalize psychedelics and create licensed psilocybin "healing centers," announced Monday that it had turned in 222,648 raw signatures. The campaign only needs 124,632 valid voter signatures, and this cushion of nearly 80,000 excess raw signatures suggests that the initiative will qualify for the November ballot. The measure would legalize the possession, use, cultivation, and sharing of psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), DMT, and psilocyn for people 21 and over. It does not set specific possession limits, nor does it envision recreational sales. The measure would also place responsibility for developing rules for a therapeutic psilocybin with the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Drug Policy

At Oversight Hearing, Director of National Drug Control Policy Highlighted Biden-Harris Administration's Commitment to Tackling Overdose and Addiction Crisis. On Monday, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing with Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), to examine the federal government's response to the overdose and addiction crisis, including the Biden-Harris Administration's 2022 National Drug Control Strategy.

During the hearing, Director Gupta highlighted illicit drug seizures at the southern border and disruption of drug trafficking across the US; the need to expand treatment services; steps such as telehealth services to expand access to care for people in underserved communities; and overdose prevention efforts funded by the bipartisan Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022. Gupta and committee members also highlighted Chairwoman Maloney's Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act.

Supreme Court Rules Judges Can Weigh New Factors in Crack Cocaine Cases. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the First Step Act allows district court judges to consider post-sentencing changes in law or fact in deciding whether to re-sentence people convicted under the harsh crack cocaine laws of the past.

While the penalties are still harsh, they are not quite as much as they were prior to passage of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the ratio of quantity triggers for the worst sentences for powder vs. crack cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1. The First Step Act made those sentencing changes retroactive, giving prisoners the chance to seek reduced sentences. The decision was 5-4, with conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joining the court's liberal minority in the opinion.

The case is Concepcion v. United States, in which Carlos Concepcion was sentenced to 19 years for a crack offense in 2009, a year before passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. He sought resentencing "as if" the Fair Sentencing Act provisions "were in effect at the time the covered offense was committed." That is proper, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the majority opinion: "It is only when Congress or the Constitution limits the scope of information that a district court may consider in deciding whether, and to what extent, to modify a sentence, that a district court's discretion to consider information is restrained. Nothing in the First Step Act contains such a limitation."

International

Swiss Court Convicts Credit Suisse of Cocaine Money-Laundering. The Swiss Federal Criminal Court has found the bank Credit Suisse guilty of failing to prevent money-laundering by a Bulgarian cocaine trafficking organization. One former bank employee was convicted of money-laundering in the case against the country's second-largest bank. The trial included testimony about murders and cash-filled suitcases. The court held that Credit Suisse demonstrated deficiencies in both the management of client relations with criminal groups and the implementation of money-laundering rules. "These deficiencies enabled the withdrawal of the criminal organization's assets, which was the basis for the conviction of the bank's former employee for qualified money laundering," the court said. Credit Suisse said it would appeal.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of "Pill Mill" Docs, UN Human Rights Experts Call for End to Drug War, More... (6/27/22)

Drug charges account for nearly one-third of all federal criminal prosecutions, Pakistan moves toward licensing medical and industrial cannabis production, Spain moves toward medical marijuana sales, and more.

The Supreme Court holds prosecutors to a high standard on charging doctors over prescribing. (Pixabay)
Opiates and Opioids

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Doctors Accused of Overprescribing Opioids. The Supreme Court on Monday set aside the convictions of two doctors accusing of running opioid "pill mills," making it more difficult for the government to prosecute doctors who overprescribe drugs. In seeking to distinguish between legitimate medical conduct and illegally overprescribing, the court held that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the doctor knew or intended to prescribe drugs in an unauthorized manner. "We normally would not view such dispensations as inherently illegitimate; we expect, and indeed usually want, doctors to prescribe the medications that their patients need," Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the court. The cases involved a doctor in Alabama whose clinic dispensed nearly 300,000 opioid prescriptions over a four-year period and a doctor who practiced in Arizona and Wyoming who operated mostly on a cash-only basis, but who also accepted property as payment, including firearms.

Sentencing Policy

US Sentencing Commission Quarterly Report Shows Drugs Remain Most Common Federal Offense. Enforcing federal drug prohibition accounts for nearly one-third of all federal criminal prosecutions, according the US Sentencing Commission's latest quarterly report. Drug offenses accounted for 32.3 percent of all prosecutions in the last two quarters, with methamphetamine accounting for nearly half (48.6 percent) of all drug offenses and fentanyl continuing to increase, now accounting for 11.8 percent of all drug offenses. Immigration was the second largest category of federal prosecutions, accounting for 26.5 percent of all federal prosecutions, followed by firearms offenses at 14.9 percent. No other federal crime category accounted for more than 10 percent of federal prosecutions. A decline in prosecutions that took place during the coronavirus pandemic has now ended, with about 5,000 federal drug prosecutions every six months.

International

UN Human Rights Experts Use International Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking to Call for End of War on Drugs. UN human rights experts have called on the international community to bring an end to the so-called "war on drugs"and promote drug policies that are firmly anchored in human rights. Ahead of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June 2022, the experts issued the following statement:

"Data and experience accumulated by UN experts have shown that the 'war on drugs' undermines health and social wellbeing and wastes public resources while failing to eradicate the demand for illegal drugs and the illegal drug market. Worse, this 'war' has engendered narco-economies at the local, national and regional levels in several instances to the detriment of national development. Such policies have far-reaching negative implications for the widest range of human rights, including the right to personal liberty, freedom from forced labor, from ill-treatment and torture, fair trial rights, the rights to health, including palliative treatment and care, right to adequate housing, freedom from discrimination, right to clean and healthy environment, right to culture and freedoms of expression, religion, assembly and association and the right to equal treatment before the law."

Click on the link above for the rest of the statement.

New Zealand Poll Shows Most Support Replacing Punitive Drug Laws with Health-Based Approach. A new poll produced by The Navigators on behalf of the NZ Drug Foundation finds that a solid majority of New Zealanders support replacing the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act with a health-based approach. Some 68 percent of respondents favored the change. A strong majority -- 61 percent -- also favored drug decriminalization and introducing more support for education and treatment. The poll also showed that there is strong support for more funding to be provided for treatment and education (82 percent) and harm reduction initiatives like drug checking (74 percent).

Pakistan Moves to Allow Cannabis Farming for Medical and Industrial Use. The Ministry of Science and Technology will form an authority to regulate and facilitate the farming and use of cannabis, or "Bhang," as it referred to in the country. The authority will issue 15-year licenses for industrial, medical, processing, research, and development purposes. The Department of Commerce will issue licenses for cannabis exports.

Spain Moving Toward Allowing Medical Marijuana Sales in Pharmacies. A subcommittee in the Congress of Deputies has accepted a draft bill to regulate medical marijuana sales and referred the bill to the Commission on Health for a vote this week. While the proposed bill has very tight distribution rules, it is being lauded as the first step toward providing greater access. Once the bill is approved by the Health Commission, the Spanish Medicines Agency will have six months to draft appropriate regulations. The draft bill will make THC-containing flowers available by prescription for the treatment of specified illnesses and conditions.

Marijuana Banking Protections Again Excluded from Spending Bill, House Approves Easing Bupe Access, More.... (6/24/22)

The Mississippi Supreme Court upholds a black man's life sentence for marijuana possession, a Senate committee clears the way for people who have used marijuana to get jobs in the intelligence community, and more.

buprenorphine (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Banking Provision Stripped from Omnibus Stimulus Bill, New Banking Measure Introduced. A conference committee of lawmakers has stripped the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996) out of the final version of an omnibus economic stimulus bill. The act was included in the House version of the bill, but not the Senate's. The move marks yet another defeat for efforts to provide protections for financial institutions that do business with state-legal marijuana businesses as Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) holds out for full-blown marijuana legalization. Meanwhile, a new bill similar to the SAFE Banking Act, the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Act, has been introduced with bipartisan support.

Senate Committee Approves Measure to Allow People Who Used Marijuana to Work in Intelligence Agencies. The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would allow intelligence agencies to hire people who have used marijuana in the past. The committee advanced the annual intelligence authorization bill, which included the marijuana provision. The move is "a common-sense change to ensure the IC can recruit the most capable people possible," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). National security officials have complained for years that the lifetime prohibition of marijuana use has limited the pool of qualified applicants to the intelligence agencies.

Mississippi Supreme Court Upholds Man's Life Sentence for Marijuana Possession. The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a life sentence for Allen Russell after he was found guilty of possessing 43 grams of marijuana. Such an offense normally carries a three-year sentence, but Allen was sentenced under the state's habitual offender law. He had previously been convicted twice of burglary and once of being a convict in possession of a firearm. The high court ruled that the sentence did not amount to cruel and unusual punishment and was in line with state law. Do we have to mention that Allen is black?

Drug Treatment

House Passes Bill to Remove Barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment. The House on Wednesday approved the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (HR 2482), which seeks to address outdated federal regulations that hamper doctors from being able to prescribe drugs such as buprenorphine that are used to treat opioid use disorder. The bill is part of a larger package that also eliminated barriers to accessing methadone, as well increasing funding and training for people with mental health and substance use disorders to enter the workforce. Current federal requirements that doctors receive a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine have left many rural counties without effective access to the drug.

NE MedMJ Initiative Signature Deadline Looms, Swiss Ease Medical Marijuana Access, More... (6/23/22)

North Carolina House Republicans are blocking a medical marijuana bill that has already passed the Senate, opium sales continue at an Afghanistan opium market despite a Taliban ban, and more.

Despite an announced Taliban ban on opium, sales are continuing at the market in Helmand. (UNODC)
Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Has Only Two Weeks to Come Up With 50,000 Signatures. Things are looking grim for Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the group trying to qualify an initiative for the November ballot. The campaign needs 50,000 more valid voter signatures in the next two weeks to qualify but has only gathered 35,000 signatures in months of signature-gathering. The campaign has been plagued this year by the loss of significant donors who had funded past efforts. "The reality is we need 50,000 Nebraskans to sign the petition in the next two weeks. Now it's on Nebraskans. The volunteers and patients have carried the water this far. It's on Nebraskans to go out and find a place to sign it," said state Sen. Anna Wishart, co-chair of the initiative. The same group qualified an initiative for the 2020 ballot, only to have it thrown out by the state Supreme Court.

North Carolina House Republicans Block Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate has passed a medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 711), but it now appears doomed in the House even though the legislative session still has more than a week to run. During a closed-door meeting Wednesday, House Republicans voted internally not to advance the bill. But the bill is not dead until the session ends, and it is theoretically possible that the bill could advance because budget negotiations are still ongoing.

International

Afghanistan Opium Markets Still Operating in Helmand Province Despite Taliban Ban. The Taliban may have issued an edict banning opium production and the opium trade, but it has yet to take effect in the poppy-growing heartland of Helmand province. Opium farmers there are still selling their harvests to smugglers, and they say they are doing it out of economic necessity in the now poverty-wracked nation. "People will sell it as long as they have it at home, it is not food. By selling it, people can make some money to feed their families," one farmer explained.

Switzerland to Ease Medical Marijuana Access. The Swiss government announced Wednesday that it will lift the ban on medical marijuana, in line with a March 2021 amendment to the Swiss Narcotics Act. As of August 1, patients will no longer have to obtain permission from the Federal Office of Public Health, but instead can get a recommendation from a doctor. "The decision to use a cannabis-based medicine for therapeutic purposes will rest with the doctor, in consultation with the patient," the government said. The government had allowed some 3,000 people to use medical marijuana, but the public health office itself described the process as "tedious administrative procedures" and said "Sick people must be able to access these medicines without excessive bureaucracy."

Leftist Former Guerrilla and Drug War Critic Gustavo Petro Wins Colombian Presidency [FEATURE]

In an election that has overturned a decades-long status quo in Colombian politics, former leftist guerrilla and Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro won the presidency on Sunday. He beat his competitor, Trumpian businessman Rodolfo Hernández, by a margin of 50.44% to 47.03%, with 100 percent of the votes counted.

Colombia's next president, Gustavo Petro (Creative Commons)
Petro's victory is the latest win in a Latin American "pink tide," with leftists recently winning presidential elections in Bolivia, Chile, Honduras and Peru, and poised to take power once again in Brazil.

What to do about the country's booming coca and cocaine trade and the violence that surrounds it was a central theme in the campaign -- with both candidates critical of a war on drugs intertwined with a ferocious counterinsurgency financed by the United States to the tune of $20 billion since the days of Plan Colombia and paid for with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Colombians.

Even the conservative Hernández, a wealthy real estate developer, suggested giving drugs to addicts as a means of ending drug trade violence. "If we give drug addicts free drugs, be it intravenous, aspiration, or oral, then the demand is over. Nobody buys again," Hernández said in a campaign speech last week. "And if they don't buy [drugs] because we give them to users, the sale is over and the drug is over."

Petro, for his part, has called for legalizing marijuana. "The issue of marijuana seems stupid to me to keep it underground," he said in a recent interview. "Ex-presidents' relatives do the business of exporting legal marijuana and, on the other hand, they throw bombs at the peasants and their children who produce marijuana in [the southwestern province of] Cauca. The possibility of legal exportation of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes through licenses from the national government has friends with political power in Colombia. If Colombia does not get its act together, we're going to lose that business."

But he has also been harshly critical of broader drug prohibition. Last month, he asked whether "the million dead Latin Americans -- the majority Colombians and Mexicans -- has been worth it. Drugs are so demonized that it's politically correct to say 'let's ban them and start a war,' but we never consider the consequences."

Colombia "doesn't need more violence" to stop the drug war, he said. "The drug war is fought with capitalism. It is not with lead or with more violence."

He advocates for voluntary crop substitution instead of forced eradication for coca farmers and has promised to use marijuana as a substitute crop.

His position on coca and cocaine legalization was artfully unclear during the campaign, but there is a bill that would authorize a pilot project to directly buy coca from farmers in areas hardest hit by drug trafficking and state violence and allow the government to set a legal coca market price. While the bill gained some backing since in was introduced in 2020, it has languished in limbo under the anti-reformist outgoing President Ivan Duque. Whether the bill will now move under Petro will be an early indicator of his policy positions.

Sanho Tree is director of the Drug Policy Project at the Washington, DC-based Institute for Policy Studies, and has been studying and traveling to Colombia for years. He was nearly at a loss for words.

"I'm still processing this," he told the Chronicle. "I didn't expect him to live this long, much less win. But they fear the vice president [the country's first female Afro-Colombian to hold the office, Francia Márquez] even more, so that's sort of an insurance policy. It's been 20 years of disappointment, horrors, and setbacks, so this is just a moment of unbridled joy," he said.

"This is a step forward for drug policy, human rights, and civil society, and you have Chile and Brazil -- if Lula wins as it looks he will, there will be a powerful triangular bloc in South America that could eclipse even US influence," Tree said.

And that's not the only potential new alignment Tree foresees. "With Bolivia and Peru, and now Colombia, we could see a regional coca bloc," he said.

And unlike his predecessor, said Tree, Petro will take the 2016 peace accords with the FARC seriously and actually try to implement them. The accords were supposed to bring peace to the countryside, but were opposed by Duque, and once the FARC demobilized, violent rightist paramilitaries and leftist guerrilla factions filled the vacuum as the state failed to provide promised alternative development assistance.

"Duque is an Uribista [ally of former ultra-conservative President Alvaro Uribe, who has been linked to the rightist paramilitaries] and hated the guerrillas," Tree said. "He never wanted peace and he sure wasn't going to help any of them. It was a huge opportunity lost and there was a huge sense of betrayal. In many ways, it is as dangerous as ever for NGOs and human rights defenders, and the state has done nothing. They should have seized the opportunity in 2016, but it was all about Trumpian vengeance instead."

Petro will "take the peace treaties seriously," Tree said. "He will invest in rural communities, and that will make a big difference in daily life for people. Right now, it makes a lot of sense for farmers to grow coca because it is such a valuable crop, but it is also very violent and dangerous. Many farmers would rather not be in that business, and if they don't have to participate in that economy, that could be really helpful."

Tree pointed to the positive experience of Bolivia under Evo Morales.

"With Morales in Bolivia, instead of forced eradication and violence, they stopped that and went a regulated supply -- 40 square meters per family -- and that allowed them to have food security and a predictable income stream, and that allows people to diversify local economies. You can do these kinds of economic experiments once you have a little food security."

Also, said Tree, "fumigation will be off the table."

There is an opportunity for positive change in Colombia, especially around drug policy. Now, it is time for Petro to prove himself.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Iowa deputy's pill habit got way out of control, a Pennsylvania cop gets in trouble for letting a drug gang use his apartment as a stash house, and more. Let's get to it:

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a Hanover Township police officer was arrested last Friday for letting a Wilkes Barre apartment he owned be used as a stash house by a drug trafficking operation with ties to Mexico. Officer Kevin Davis is related by marriage to the alleged gang leader, and authorities say he assisted the group in their operations. Davis was just one of nine people busted in the operation, which netted 10 pounds of meth, 2.7 pounds of fentanyl, 10 pounds of marijuana, and $15,000 in cash. He and most of the others are charged with possession with intent to distribute, corrupt organizations, conspiracy, and criminal use of communications facility.

In Bakersfield, California, a Kern County sheriff's detention deputy was arraigned Monday for allegedly bringing meth into the jail. Deputy Elizabeth Fernandez, a 21-year veteran, was found in possession of the drug during her shift, and was charged with being under the influence of drugs, drug possession, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sheriff's officials said it was not clear if the drugs were for her personal use or if she was trafficking to inmates.

In Los Angeles, a former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer pleaded guilty June 10 to smuggling what he thought was meth through LAX in return for an $8,000 bribe. Michael Williams, 39, was instead the victim of a sting by authorities who suspected him of helping smuggle drugs past checkpoints at the airport. He met with an informant to receive the fake meth in a backpack and agreed to deliver it to an accomplice past the airport's security checkpoint. Then he did so. Then he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to one count of attempted distribution of methamphetamine. He's looking at a 10-year federal mandatory minimum.

In Le Mars, Iowa, a former Plymouth County deputy was sentenced last Tuesday to a whopping 40 years in prison for burglarizing multiple homes to steal prescription drugs. Aaron Leusink, 43, who served as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer, had pleaded guilty in April to 11 charges, including burglary, felonious misconduct in office, unlawful drug possession, and theft. Leusink went down after investigators viewing body camera footage of a possible "on the job inappropriate relationship" in an unrelated matter instead found footage of him breaking into a home and stealing prescription pills. A subsequent search of his home turned up more than 1,600 pills, many which appeared to come from the department evidence locker and others that linked him to five unsolved pharmacy burglaries. At his sentencing, Leusink told the judge he had become addicted to painkillers after surgery.

Medical Marijuana Update

Medical marijuana legislation gets thwarted in North Carolina, a governor's medical marijuana committee gets going in Kentucky, and more.

Kentucky

Kentucky Governor's Medical Marijuana Committee Meets for First Time. Faced with intransigent Republican opposition in the legislature, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) created the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee to try to chart a path forward. That committee met for the first time on Monday and heard testimony from Kentuckians both for and against medical marijuana as it seeks to provide guidance to the administration about how to move forward. More hearings are coming.

Louisiana

Louisiana Governor Signs Package of Mainly Medical Marijuana Bills. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has signed into law a package of marijuana-related bills, the majority of them dealing with medical marijuana. One bill allows nurse practitioners and psychologists to recommend medical marijuana, another clarifies that devices used to inhale medical marijuana are not drug paraphernalia, another repeals the 10-license limit on dispensary licenses and leaves room for expanding the number of dispensaries, another bill makes the state Health Department the lead regulatory agency, and another bill allows non-state residents to obtain medical marijuana in the state. Edwards also signed bills that specify that the odor of marijuana alone is not probable cause for a search and that smoking marijuana in a motor vehicle operating on the roadway is illegal.

Minnesota

US Supreme Court Declines Review of Minnesota Ruling That Employers Do Not Have to Reimburse Workers for Medical Marijuana. The Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled that employers can't be required to cover the costs of medical marijuana to treat on-the-job injuries because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Now, the US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of that decision, leaving the ruling intact and Minnesota workers out of luck. The US Solicitor General's Office argued that federal law preempts any state regulation requiring reimbursement for an illegal drug and was joined by the insurance company that was fending off the worker's claim. "If states could enforce laws compelling third parties to subsidize federal crimes, they could directly undermine congressional determinations," the Solicitor General's brief says. "For example, no legal principle would preclude a state from requiring private employers to reimburse the use of other federally prohibited products or substances, such as LSD and other psychedelic drugs, based on perceived benefits."

North Carolina

North Carolina Compassionate Use Act Stalled in House. The state Senate has passed a medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 711), but is now stalled in the House, and House Speaker Tim Moore (R) says it is unlikely to be taken up before the legislative session ends on June 30. The bill passed the Senate easily on a 36-7 vote and recent in-state polling shows wide support for its passage. The bill envisions a network of 10 medical marijuana suppliers, each operating up to 10 dispensaries to provide medicine for people who have registered with the state for the treatment of specified "debilitating medical conditions."

LA Governor Signs MedMJ Bills, KY Governor's MedMJ Committee Meets, More... (6/22/22)

The US Supreme Court declines to overturn a Minnesota ruling that employers don't have to compensate workers for medical marijuana use related to on-the-job injuries, a Kentucky committee to plot a path foward on medical marijuana meets, and more.

shopping at a dispensary (sondrayruel/DPA)
Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Governor's Medical Marijuana Committee Meets for First Time. Faced with intransigent Republican opposition in the legislature, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) created the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee to try to chart a path forward. That committee met for the first time on Monday and heard testimony from Kentuckians both for and against medical marijuana as it seeks to provide guidance to the administration about how to move forward. More hearings are coming.

Louisiana Governor Signs Package of Mainly Medical Marijuana Bills. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has signed into law a package of marijuana-related bills, the majority of them dealing with medical marijuana. One bill allows nurse practitioners and psychologists to recommend medical marijuana, another clarifies that devices used to inhale medical marijuana are not drug paraphernalia, another repeals the 10-license limit on dispensary licenses and leaves room for expanding the number of dispensaries, another bill makes the state Health Department the lead regulatory agency, and another bill allows non-state residents to obtain medical marijuana in the state. Edwards also signed bills that specify that the odor of marijuana alone is not probable cause for a search and that smoking marijuana in a motor vehicle operating on the roadway is illegal.

US Supreme Court Declines Review of Minnesota Ruling That Employers Do Not Have to Reimburse Workers for Medical Marijuana. The Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled that employers can't be required to cover the costs of medical marijuana to treat on-the-job injuries because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Now, the US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of that decision, leaving the ruling intact and Minnesota workers out of luck.

The US Solicitor General's Office argued that federal law preempts any state regulation requiring reimbursement for an illegal drug and was joined by the insurance company that was fending off the worker's claim. "If states could enforce laws compelling third parties to subsidize federal crimes, they could directly undermine congressional determinations," the Solicitor General's brief says. "For example, no legal principle would preclude a state from requiring private employers to reimburse the use of other federally prohibited products or substances, such as LSD and other psychedelic drugs, based on perceived benefits."

TX GOP Opposes Marijuana Legalization, British Prescription Heroin Shortage, More... (6/21/22)

Pennsylvania takes a step toward legalizing fentanyl test strips, Thailand moves to block minors from using marijuana or hemp, and more.

Prescription herion (diamorphine). Supplies are running low in Great Britain. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Texas GOP's New Platform Opposes Marijuana Legalization. At its state convention in Houston last weekend, the Texas Republican Party adopted a platform plank opposing marijuana legalization, even though recent polling shows two-thirds of all Texans and 51 percent of Republicans favor it. The convention did, however, endorse moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the federal Controlled Substances Act. The party also adopted several other drug policy planks, including opposing needle exchange programs, requiring drug testing for welfare recipients, designating Mexican drug trafficking organizations as "terrorist organizations," and encouraging "faith-based rehabilitation."

Psychedelics

Missoula, Montana, City Council Ponders Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution. Two members of the city council filed a resolution to decriminalize "entheogenic plants," including peyote and magic mushrooms, last Wednesday. The council members are Daniel Carlino and Kristen Jordan. It was a grassroots efforts backed by "many Missoulians," said Carlino. "We’ve heard comments in support of this resolution from veterans who have experience with this in treating PTSD. We’ve heard comments of support from therapists, doctors and dozens and dozens of community members." The council has yet to act on the resolution, which would block Missoula police from arresting people for growing, possessing, or gifting entheogens. The police department adamantly opposes the move.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania House Passes Fentanyl Test Strip Bill. The House has unanimously approved a bill to legalize fentanyl strips, House Bill 1393. It does so by removing the test strips from the state's definition of drug paraphernalia. Supporters say the change in the law will allow drug users to avoid overdoses by testing their drugs without fear of being arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia. Philadelphia Mayor John Kenney (D) decriminalized fentanyl test strips in that city in August 2021 and Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) has said his office "will not prosecute individuals simply for possessing fentanyl test strips." This legislation would bring state law in line with what is increasing becoming public policy in the state. Companion legislation is now set to move in the Senate.

International

Thailand to Restrict Marijuana Use to Adults After Complaints. Facing with a rising chorus of complaints after the country liberalized its marijuana laws earlier this month, Thai officials announced last Thursday that they will issue rules limiting access to marijuana and hemp to people 20 years of age and older. People under that age will need permission from a doctor to use such products. The move came amid media  reports that two teenage students were hospitalized for marijuana "overdoses." The government is also going to move to limit marijuana consumption in public and to control cannabis in food.

British Prescription Heroin Shortage Wreaking Havoc with People on Maintenance Regime. British drug non-profits are warning that people on prescription heroin (diamorphine) maintenance are now relapsing because of a nationwide shortage of all doses of the prescription drug. Pharmacists are reporting that patients who had been stable on prescription heroin for 10 or 15 years are deteriorating because they cannot access their medication. The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that

5mg, 30mg, 100mg and 500mg injections of diamorphine are currently out of stock. "These are patients that have been on prescriptions for 20 years and have been very stable and working, living their lives, and are closely monitored to ensure they’re not on other drugs," said Clare Robbins of the drug charity Release. "The majority we are supporting at the moment have now relapsed, often for the first time in 10 or 15 years and that’s really devastating for them," she said. "These people have built relationships with their pharmacists over 10 to 15 years and I’ve had pharmacists on the phone who are quite distressed about seeing their patient deteriorate." Only two companies supply prescription heroin in the United Kingdom, and the supply chain has been wobbly since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in early 2020. 

Brazil Court Okays MedMJ Home Grows, NC MedMJ Bill Stalled, More... (6/15/22)

The North Carolina Compassionate Use Act is stuck in the House, the European Union's drug monitor reports increasing drug production on the continent, and more.

Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Compassionate Use Act Stalled in House. The state Senate has passed a medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 711), but is now stalled in the House, and House Speaker Tim Moore (R) says it is unlikely to be taken up before the legislative session ends on June 30. The bill passed the Senate easily on a 36-7 vote and recent in-state polling shows wide support for its passage. The bill envisions a network of 10 medical marijuana suppliers, each operating up to 10 dispensaries to provide medicine for people who have registered with the state for the treatment of specified "debilitating medical conditions.

International

Brazil Court Approves Home Cultivation of Medical Marijuana. Under current Brazilian law, medical use of products derived from marijuana is limited to imported goods, but a five-judge panel of the Superior Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that three patients had the right to grow their own medicine. The ruling came after the Health Ministry failed to craft regulations for home cultivation and will likely set a national precedent. Judges on the panel ripped into the government's failure to act as based on "this prejudice, this moralism" and accused it of taking "a deliberately backward action toward obscurantism" in delaying action.

EU Drug Monitor Warns of Rising Drug Production in Europe. In its annual report released Tuesday, European Drug Report 2022, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) warned of rising drug production on the continent amidst a proliferation of old and new psychoactive substances (NSP) being peddled and gobbled. "Synthetic drug production continues to increase in Europe," EMCDDA noted, citing illegal labs cranking out large quantities of amphetamines, methamphetamines, Ecstasy, cathinones, and other, more exotic NSPs. Some 350 such labs were busted in 2020, the last year for which data is available The report also warned that European crime groups are increasingly working with foreign trafficking networks to cut costs for drug production and trafficking. NSPs, meanwhile, "continue to appear in Europe at the rate of one per week," the report said.

Medical Marijuana Update

Nebraska initiative campaigners catch a break, the Arkansas Supreme Court has some harsh words for regulators, and more.

Arkansas

Arkansas Supreme Court Blasts Failings of State Medical Marijuana Regulators. In a ruling in a lawsuit filed over a medical marijuana business license, the state Supreme Court lashed out at the state's medical marijuana regulatory agency, the Medical Marijuana Commission. Even though the court upheld the commission's decision not to award a license to Eureka Green, the company that brought the suit, it blasted the commission for a number of "shortcomings," including numerous appeals of its rulings, allegations of bribery, failing to abide by earlier rulings by updating its rules and procedures, and doing a poor job on licensing and industry rulemaking.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Petitioners Win Federal Court Victory. A federal judge has granted a request by the ACLU and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana for a temporary injunction blocking the secretary of state from enforcing a requirement that the petitions contain signatures from five percent of registered voters in each of the state's 38 counties. The ACLU and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana sued over the requirement, successfully arguing that it violates the "one person, one vote" rule by valorizing the votes of people in sparsely settled rural counties over those of people in more populated counties. "The State of Nebraska is absolutely free to require a showing of statewide support for a ballot initiative—but it may not do so based on units of dramatically differing population, resulting in discrimination among voters,"wrote District Judge John Gerrard. Gerrard also criticized the state's argument that if the county provision of the petitioning requirement was found unconstitutional, the whole ballot initiative process would collapse. "For the state to argue that the baby must go with the bathwater is eyebrow-raising," Gerrard wrote.

Nebraska Voters Overwhelmingly Want Medical Marijuana, Poll Finds. Even as petitioners continue to gather signatures to try to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot, newly released polling from the Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey finds that some 83% of Nebraskans supported the idea in 2020 and 2021. The poll also found support for recreational marijuana legalization rising from 40 percent in 2020 to 46 percent in 2021. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana needs to come up with 122,274 valid voter signatures by July 7 to qualify its pair of initiatives for the ballot. A similar effort was thwarted in 2020 when the state Supreme Court invalidated the initiative saying it violated the "one-subject rule," thus two initiatives this time around.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A New Mexico cop gets popped for using drugs to lure potential mates, a Texas deputy partied too hearty, a Minneapolis cop goes away for stealing drugs during bogus traffic stops, and more. Let's get to it:

In Gadsden, Alabama, a Marshall County sheriff's jail guard was arrested June 2 for smuggling meth into the jail. Corrections Officer David Lowe went down after an internal investigation uncovered small amounts of meth and marijuana, and is charged with first-, second-, and third-degree promoting prison contraband and two counts of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine).

In Meridian, Mississippi, an East Mississippi Correctional Facility officer was arrested June 1 for trying to smuggle marijuana into the jail. Guard Jashati Amore Alford was caught bringing five pounds (!) of weed into the jail. She is charged with attempting to introduce contraband into a correctional facility, and was last reported residing at her former place of employment until she made bail.

In Sulphur Springs, Texas, a Van Zandt County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Saturday on drug-related charges after he was found unconscious on the floor of a metal shop with a meth pipe and a subsequent search of his home uncovered a substantial dope stash. Deputy Jon Phillips claimed all the drugs found were evidence, but he never logged them in anywhere. His stash included 209 grams of liquid meth, two grams of crystal meth, 70 units of liquid in a hypodermic syringe believed to be meth, 28 ounces of marijuana, and under a half-gram of cocaine. He is charged with possession of less than 400 grams of a controlled substance, possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance

In Albuquerque, a former New Mexico state police officer was convicted last Monday of dealing drugs to teens while he was on the force. Daniel Capehart went down in a 2018 sting operation where he offered marijuana to someone he thought was a teenage girl in exchange for photos of her. Subsequent investigation revealed that he was stealing drugs seized during arrests and given them to women he was attracted to, including a 16-year-old girl. He is looking at a mandatory minimum five years in prison, but prosecutors are asking for eight.

In Minneapolis, a former Minneapolis police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to more than three years in prison for stealing drugs from people during bogus traffic stops. Ty Jindra, 29, was convicted last November of stealing Tramadol, methamphetamine, and oxycodone from people he had stopped—one for a tag violation and one a group of teens who rolled through a stop sign—and then conducted unlawful searches, confiscating the drugs for his own use. That garnered him two civil rights violations for the illegal searches. Tindra admitted to developing a dependence on Xanax and then moving on to street drugs. 

OR Bans Sale of Artificial Cannabinoids, NE MedMJ Initiative Wins Key Federal Court Ruling, More... (6/14/22)

Polling suggests that if a Nebraska medical marijuana can make the ballot, it can win easily; the Arkansas Supreme Court reams that state's medical marijuaan regulators, and more.

The push is on once again for medical marijuana in the Cornhusker State. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Becomes First State to Ban the Sale of Artificial Cannabinoids. Beginning next month, grocery stores and other unregulated markets will be banned from selling "artificially derived cannabinoids" under rules adopted by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC). To be able to place such products for sale, manufacturers of cannabinoid products synthetically created or extracted will have to seek approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). If approved by the FDA, such products will be able to be sold at dispensaries licensed by the OLCC, but only in the form of edibles, tinctures, pills, or topicals.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Supreme Court Blasts Failings of State Medical Marijuana Regulators. In a ruling in a lawsuit filed over a medical marijuana business license, the state Supreme Court lashed out at the state's medical marijuana regulatory agency, the Medical Marijuana Commission. Even though the court upheld the commission's decision not to award a license to Eureka Green, the company that brought the suit, it blasted the commission for a number of "shortcomings," including numerous appeals of its rulings, allegations of bribery, failing to abide by earlier rulings by updating its rules and procedures, and doing a poor job on licensing and industry rulemaking.

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Petitioners Win Federal Court Victory. A federal judge has granted a request by the ACLU and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana for a temporary injunction blocking the secretary of state from enforcing a requirement that the petitions contain signatures from five percent of registered voters in each of the state's 38 counties. The ACLU and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana sued over the requirement, successfully arguing that it violates the "one person, one vote" rule by valorizing the votes of people in sparsely settled rural counties over those of people in more populated counties. "The State of Nebraska is absolutely free to require a showing of statewide support for a ballot initiative—but it may not do so based on units of dramatically differing population, resulting in discrimination among voters,"wrote District Judge John Gerrard. Gerrard also criticized the state's argument that if the county provision of the petitioning requirement was found unconstitutional, the whole ballot initiative process would collapse. "For the state to argue that the baby must go with the bathwater is eyebrow-raising," Gerrard wrote.

Nebraska Voters Overwhelmingly Want Medical Marijuana, Poll Finds. Even as petitioners continue to gather signatures to try to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot, newly released polling from the Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey finds that some 83% of Nebraskans supported the idea in 2020 and 2021. The poll also found support for recreational marijuana legalization rising from 40 percent in 2020 to 46 percent in 2021. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana needs to come up with 122,274 valid voter signatures by July 7 to qualify its pair of initiatives for the ballot. A similar effort was thwarted in 2020 when the state Supreme Court invalidated the initiative saying it violated the "one-subject rule," thus two initiatives this time around.

Germany Takes First Steps Toward Legal Weed, Australia's NSW AG Calls for Drug Decriminalization, More... (6/13/22)

Brazil's annual march for marijuana is back, a bill legalizing medical marijuana just landed in the Ukrainian parliament, and more.

Up to a gram of cocaine (and other drugs) could be decriminalized in Australia's New South Wales. (Pixabay)
International

Australia's New South Wales Attorney General Proposes Drug Decriminalization. Saying that the state's drug policies are "clearly not working," New South Wales Attorney General Mark Spearman has proposed decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. Reports list a threshold of one gram for amphetamines, cocaine, and methamphetamine, as well as threshold amounts for Ecstasy, ketamine, and LSD, but not for opiates. It is unclear if opiates will be decriminalized as well. Under the proposal, police would the discretion to issue up to two fines to an individual, with the fine waived if the person undertakes counseling or some other health intervention. The move comes just days after the Australiana Capital Territory (Canberra) announced it was moving to decriminalization. The proposal comes more than two years after a special commission on methamphetamine addiction issued a report  calling for reforms, but the state government had yet to act on that report—until now.

Brazilians March for Marijuana Legalization. After a two-year hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, Brazil's annual "Marcha da Macohna" (March for Marijuana) returned over the weekend, with hundreds of people marching in Sao Paulo. Marijuana has been decriminalized since 2006, but remains illegal and use is allowed only for medical reasons. "We really need to have marijuana legalized because that way it will be accessible to anyone. It's not fair for a child to have 80 seizures a day and not have access to the treatment because the family can't pay for the treatment with cannabidiol. They don't have access to it, said demonstrator Barbara Gael. "Yes, legalize it, because all uses are medicinal, even smoking for those who have pain, for example, will relieve the pain. It’s past time to legalize. We’re way behind on this, it’s fundamental."

Germany Moves Toward Marijuana Legalization. The Health Ministry announced Monday that it will begin a series of expert hearings on marijuana legalization beginning Tuesday. Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government has promised to enact legalization, and the hearings will see more than 200 witnesses from the fields of law and medicine, as well as officials from various levels of government and international experts. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he planned to draw up legislation in the second half of the year, after the hearings finish up.

Ukraine Medical Marijuana Bill Goes to Parliament. The executive branch has filed a medical marijuana bill, No. 7457, with the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. The draft law regulates marijuana for medical, industrial, scientific, and technical purposes in order to create conditions for expanding patient access to the plant, including for post-traumatic stress disorders linked to the Russian invasion of the country. The bill does not legalize marijuana for recreational use. 

Australian Capital Territory Decriminalizes Drug Possession, Malaysia Ends Mandatory Death Penalties, More... (6/10/22)

The State Department is looking for drones to spray Colombian coca crops, Thailand begins handing out a million marijuana plants, and more.

A Colombian coca farmer. Are drones coming for his crop? (DEAmuseum.org)
Foreign Policy

US Wants to Use Drones to Kill Coca Plants in Colombia. The State Department is looking for drones to use to spray herbicides on farmers' coca crops, a newly released request on a government website reveals. "The Department of State, INL Bogota, has a requirement to purchase spray UAV systems to support eradication operations throughout Colombia," the request reads. The program would be under the control of the Colombian National Police. The State Department says drones would lessen threats to personnel involved in coca eradication in the country, one of the world's top cocaine producers. "Coca cultivation in Colombia remains at record highs and eradication operations in Colombia remain dangerous. INL Bogota is seeking to bolster the CNP’s capability to increase the coca eradication rates and minimize the risk for police personnel in the field."

International

Australian Capital Territory to Decriminalize Drug Possession. The government of the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) announced Thursday that it will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and methamphetamine. It will become the first jurisdiction in the country to do so. Under the new law, people in possession of less than the threshold amounts of the drugs will be fined, but not arrested. Some, though, can have their fines waived if they attend an informative session on harm reduction or enter drug treatment. "We know from research and evidence around the world that criminalizing drug users does not reduce drug use and that treating drug addiction as a health issue improves outcomes for everyone in the community," said ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith.

Malaysia to Abolish Mandatory Death Penalty, Including for Drug Offenses. The Malaysian government said Friday it will end the mandatory death penalty for various offenses, including drug offenses, and replace it with "alternative punishments" at the discretion of judges. "This shows the government's emphasis on ensuring that the rights of all parties are protected and guaranteed, reflecting the transparency of the country's leadership in improving the criminal justice system," Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said. The country had declared a moratorium on executions in 2018 but laws imposing the mandatory death sentence remained and courts were required to impose those sentences on convicted drug traffickers. The country currently has more than 1,350 under death sentences, including 925 convicted of drug-related offenses. More than 500 of those under death sentences are foreigners.

Thailand Begins Distributing a Million Marijuana Plants. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakulkicked off a marijuana plant giveaway in Bangkok Friday, handing out the first hundred seedlings of what is planned to be a million-plant distribution. The giveaway is designed to encourage marijuana production, which government officials say will help low-income farmers, especially in the northeast. Charnvirakul was cheered by a crowd of thousands as he took credit for legalizing marijuana. The government insists that, officially, only medical marijuana has been legalized, but there are no plans to monitor small-scale cultivation. 

Chicago Expands Drug Diversion Program, Thailand Marijuana Legalization Now in Effect, More... (6/9/22)

Nominees to the US Sentencing Commission vowed to the Senate Judicary Committee that they would implement reforms in the First Step Act, Ukraine moves to allow medical marijuana, and more.

Law Enforcement

Chicago Mayor Announces Expansion of Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program. Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Chicago Police Department (CPD) Superintendent David O. Brown, and Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Allison Arwady on Wednesday announced the expansion of eligibility for the Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program. The program is an initiative that diverts individuals who are arrested for the possession of controlled substances into substance use treatment in lieu of felony charges. The new criteria will now expand to individuals who have not been arrested in Chicago for a violent crime within the past ten years and were in possession of two grams or less of any controlled substance. Additional drugs beyond heroin also now qualify for this d.iversion initiative. These drugs include fentanyl, morphine, ketamine, and methamphetamine, among other controlled substances as identified by Illinois law. The original program criteria for participants were limited to those arrested in possession of one gram or less of only heroin or cocaine and who had no prior violent arrest history. The initial evaluation findings of the program showed there was an almost 50% reduction in future arrests among the first 1,000 participants, 25% of whom were connected with treatment for the very first time.

Sentencing Policy

US Sentencing Commission Vows to Implement Criminal Justice Reform Law. Seven Biden administration nominees to the US Sentencing Commission told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that they will prioritize implementing the 2018 First Step Act, which aims to reduce harsh sentencing for nonviolent offenders and reduce recidivism. The commission lost its quorum in 2019, just a month after President Trump signed the bill into law, preventing it from implementing changes to sentencing guidelines. President Trump nominated new commission members, but the Senate never acted on those nominations, mission, leaving the commission unable to act on the reforms.

International

Ukraine to Legalize Medical Marijuana. The government has advanced a draft medical marijuana bill, with the Cabinet of Ministers approving the draft and sending it to the parliament for approval. Health Minister Viktor Liashko, cited the Russian invasion of the country in announcing the move: "We understand the negative consequences of the war on the mental health camp, "Liashko wrote. "We understand the number of people who will require medical treatment in the last breath. The bill envisions allowing only low THC marijuana for medical use and would strictly regulate the cultivation, production, and sale of medical marijuana products, as well as authorizations and licenses for the cultivation and scientific research.

Thailand's Marijuana Legalization Now in Effect; First Country in Asia to Free the Weed. As of today, people in Thailand are free to grow unlimited amounts of marijuana as the plant is now removed from the country's narcotics list, but smoking weed in public is still an offense. Sales began immediately at Bangkok shops. "We've been waiting for 43 years, since 1979,"said Chaiwat Banjai, one of the owners of Highland Cafe, where sales took place. It was that year that Thailand enacted the Narcotics Act, which outlawed cannabis and its derivatives. "Now, weed is legal. Weed is finally legal. We never thought we'd come so far like this." The government also opened the prison doors to marijuana offenders, releasing more than 3,000 of them, amending sentencing for a thousand more, and dropping charges against people currently charged with marijuana offenses. But the law only legalizes marijuana extracts containing less than 0.2 percent THC, meaning that while people can grow all the plants they want, consuming what they produce will remain technically illegal, as is the case with sales now (but that doe not appear to be stopping them). The parliament is currently considering a bill to regulate the sale and consumption of marijuana.

Delaware Lawmakers Fail to Override Governor's Marijuana Legalization Veto [FEATURE]

Delaware marijuana legalization supporters suffered a bitter defeat this week. They had seen a legalization bill, House Bill 371, pass the legislature with a veto-proof majority, only to see the bill vetoed by Gov. John Carney (D), and when the House voted to override the veto came Tuesday, the veto-proof majority had vanished into thin air, with the effort failing on a 20-20 vote.

Delaware State Capitol (Creative Commons)
That's because five Democrats who voted for the bill -- state Reps. Stephanie Bolden, Andria Bennett, William Carson, and Sean Matthews -- voted against overriding the veto, as did two Republicans who had voted for the bill, Reps. Michael Ramone and Jeffrey Spiegelman. House Speaker Valarie Longhurst (D), who had voted "yes” on the bill, abstained on the override vote.

The vote came just hours after more than 150 people led by the Delaware Cannabis Coalition rallied outside the statehouse to rail against Gov. Carney's veto and urge lawmakers to override it color:#333333">

"If you listen to his reasonings for his veto, it's almost as if you're watching Reefer Madness from the 1930's,” the bill's Senate sponsor, Trey Paradee (D) told the crowd. "So I'm not quite sure where he gets his information on this issue. But at this point, 19 other states have already figured this out. This is long overdue.”

Inside the chamber, House bill sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski (D) implored his colleagues to override the veto.

"I think this body is quite capable of directing and fixing any issues that may come from the passage of this legislation,” Osienski said during the House debate. "We need legalization, so I beg of my colleagues not to wait till 2025 to do this, but to override this veto, and then we can work together on the regulation and taxation.”

While House Bill 371 only legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana -- not a legal marketplace, Osienski was referring to a broader legalization bill that did include a taxed and regulated market, House Bill 372. That bill failed even though it won a majority of votes because it needed a two-thirds majority in the House due to its tax provisions. After that, the legislature then approved House Bill 371, but even personal legalization without a marketplace was too much for Gov. Carney, who said he could live with medical marijuana and even decriminalization, but not legalization.

"I recognize the positive effect marijuana can have for people with certain health conditions, and for that reason, I continue to support the medical marijuana industry in Delaware,” Carney reasoned in his May veto statement. "I supported decriminalization of marijuana because I agree that individuals should not be imprisoned solely for the possession and private use of a small amount of marijuana -- and today, thanks to Delaware's decriminalization law, they are not. That said, I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people. Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”

As the House session ended Wednesday, Osienski released a statement saying legalization would be stymied if Carney did not change his mind about it.

"I didn't have enough votes in my own caucus alone -- only 23 members initially voted for HB 371,” Osienski said. "I didn't have the support of all three Republicans who voted for the bill, which put the veto override out of reach. However, I felt it was important to the advocates and supporters who have fought for a safe, legal, regulated cannabis industry to see this process through to the end.”

The Marijuana Policy Project's state policy director, Karen O'Keefe, isn't counting on Carney changing his mind or legalization happening before Carney leaves office.

"Unless there are major changes to the composition of the Delaware House, prohibition will almost surely continue in Delaware until there's a new governor in 2025,” she told Marijuana Moment. "In the meantime, Delawareans -- disproportionately Black and Brown Delawareans -- will continue to be subjected to thousands of unnecessary, intrusive searches and stops because Gov. Carney vetoed HB 371, and several members of the House didn't have the courage of their convictions to vote to override his veto.”

Too bad Delaware does not have an initiative process. Delawareans have shown levels of support for legal weed at levels above 60 percent for more than five years, yet their political system fails to respond.

Medical Marijuana Update

A North Carolina medical marijuana bill is moving, a Louisiana bill to protect medical marijuana-using state employees goes to the governor, and more.

Louisiana

Louisiana Bill to Protect State Employees Who Use Medical Marijuana Goes to Governor. Both houses of the legislature have now approved House Bill 988, which aims to protect state employees from any negative consequences for using medical marijuana. The bill's author, House Rep. Mandie Laundry explained, "This bill provides employment discrimination protections," bill sponsor Rep. Mandie Laundry (D-New Orleans) explained. "It basically means that they can't be precluded from employment or fired just for having a medical marijuana prescription." The bill is now on the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), who has given no indication of whether he will sign it or not.

New York

New York Senate Approves Bill to Mandate Health Insurance Coverage for Medical Marijuana. The Senate last Wednesday approved Senate Bill 8837, which would require public health insurance programs to cover medical marijuana expenses and clarify that private insurers can do the same. The bill would define marijuana as a "prescription drug," "covered drug," or "health care service" under relevant state codes so that Medicaid and workers compensation would be required to provide coverage. The bill now heads to the Assembly.

North Carolina

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Advances to Senate Floor Vote. The Compassionate Use Act, Senate Bill 711, was unanimously approved by the Senate Rules Committee last Wednesday, clearing the way for a final Senate floor vote, which could happen as soon as today. If and when the bill passes the Senate, it then goes to the House, and if approved by the House, it would go to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who has said he supports medical marijuana. The bill would create a commission to issue 10 medical marijuana supplier licenses, with each supplier able to operate eight retail shops. Patients would be limited to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana.

North Carolina Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate last Thursday voted 35-10 to legalize medical marijuana by approving Senate Bill 711, the Compassionate Use Act. That vote was a second reading of the bill, with another vote required next week before the bill is sent to the House, but after today's vote, that is considered a formality. The bill would let patients possess up to 1 ½ ounces of medical marijuana, but does not allow for home cultivation.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Push for Tax Relief for Medical Marijuana Businesses. The House Finance Committee has approved an amendment to a broader tax code reform bill that would allow medical marijuana businesses to deduct business expenses for state tax purposes. Such businesses cannot deduct business expenses on their federal tax returns because the plant remains federally illegal, but the amendment would let the businesses add deductions after the fact to their federal corporate tax filings. The state Senate has already passed a bill to clarify that medical marijuana businesses may use the state's banking system, but the House has yet to act on its version of that bill.

DE Marijuana Legalization Bill is Dead, No Mandatory School Drug Tests in Pakistan, More... (6/8/22)

The DC city council approves a bill to bar bosses from firing or not hiring workers because of a positive marijuana test, a Michigan bill to make fake urine for drug tests a crime advances, and more.

Michigan lawmakers worry that legal pot smokers are cheating drug tests with fake urine. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Lawmakers Fail to Override Governor's Veto of Marijuana Legalization Bill. No legal weed for you, Delawareans! At least not this year. After Gov. John Carney (D) vetoed a bill that would legalize marijuana possession but not create a legal marketplace, House Bill 371, the House on Wednesday attempted to override his veto. But the effort came up short, failing on a 20-20 vote after House Majority Leader Valarie Longhurst (D) abstained and five Democrats and two Republicans who had voted for the bill voted against the override attempt. Those votes made the difference: The override only needed 26 votes to pass.

DC Council Approves Bill to Block Employers from Firing Workers Who Fail Marijuana Tests. The DC city council on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would bar employers from firing workers who test positive for marijuana, Bill 24-0109, the Cannabis Employment Protection Amendment of 2022. The bill would also ban employers from refusing to hire people with positive marijuana tests. There are some exceptions: employers can still fire marijuana users if the employer is acting under federal guidelines or if the worker partakes on the job. The bill now goes to the desk of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).

Drug Testing

Michigan Bill to Outlaw Fake Urine Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill that would criminalize the sale or possession of "drug masking products, Senate Bill 134, has already passed the Senate and a House committee and is now headed for a House floor vote. The bill would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine to "distribute, deliver, sell, or possess with intent to distribute, deliver, or sell a drug masking product." Selling such products commercially would be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The state legalized marijuana in November 2018.

International

The National Assembly on Wednesday blocked a motion to introduce a bill that would make drug testing of all students mandatory. The move came after Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Murtaza Jayed Abbassi told lawmakers the government already had a program to randomly test students in place. One legislator decried the potential financial and psychological implications of mandatory testing on students and families and suggested that if the law were approved to students, it should be applied to parliamentarians as well.

US Mayors Call for Pot Banking Fix, Portugal Left Bloc Calls for Marijuana Legalization, More... (6/7/22)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is pretty chill about weed, Pennsylvania lawmakers are advancing a tax fix for state medical marijuana businesses, and more.

Marijuana Policy

US Mayors Approve Resolution Calling on Congress to Fix Marijuana Banking Issues and End Pot Prohibition. The US Conference of Mayors on Monday adopted a resolution calling on Congress to pass legislation to protect banks working with state-legal marijuana enterprises. The move comes as Congress ponders whether to include the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996) in a large-scale manufacturing bill that is currently being thrashed out in conference committee. The mayors also called for marijuana legalization. "Now, therefore, be it resolved, that The United States Conference of Mayors urges Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act of 2021 to provide financial security for cannabis dispensaries and related companies and enhance public safety," the resolution says. "Be it further resolved, that The United States Conference of Mayors supports federal legislation legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis and the adult use of recreational cannabis, including the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617) and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA)." The US Conference of Mayors represents the 1,400 US cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

New York City Mayor Takes Chill Stance on Marijuana. Even as the legislature attempted unsuccessfully to crack down on unlicensed marijuana sellers, New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) was telling a crowd at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo in Manhattan to fire up their joints. "Enjoy yourself, light up, but most importantly, spend some money," Adams told the crowd. He also said he would not approach grey market operators with a heavy hand. "'Listen, you can't do this,' give them a warning," the mayor said. Instead of arrests or fines, he said he wants to help non-licensed pot sellers get legitimate. But it wouldn't be total anarchy, Adams said: "If they refuse to adhere to the rules, then you have to come back and take some form of enforcement actions, such as a summons, such as, you know, talking about their ability to sell alcohol." Official legal pot sales are set to begin at year's end.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Push for Tax Relief for Medical Marijuana Businesses. The House Finance Committee has approved an amendment to a broader tax code reform bill that would allow medical marijuana businesses to deduct business expenses for state tax purposes. Such businesses cannot deduct business expenses on their federal tax returns because the plant remains federally illegal, but the amendment would let the businesses add deductions after the fact to their federal corporate tax filings. The state Senate has already passed a bill to clarify that medical marijuana businesses may use the state's banking system, but the House has yet to act on its version of that bill.

International

Portuguese Left Bloc Demands Marijuana Legalization. The Left Bloc, a member of the country's governing coalition, has renewed calls for marijuana legalization after the effort went nowhere for the past two years amidst government crises. The Bloc only holds a small number of seats in the legislature, but it is expecting the support of the Socialist Party, by far the leading member of the coalition. "One year ago this week the initiative of the Left Block was debated in the parliament: the legalization of cannabis," said Left Bloc member Catarina Martins. "As you know, this process did not come to an end. To defend public health is to end hypocrisy," said Martins. "And we believe that there are now all the conditions to end this hypocrisy in Portugal. We know that there are so many people, on all sides of the parliament, which have already realized that the hypocrisy of prohibition has been a way of putting young people at risk."

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