Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: Bangladeshi Drug War Gets Ugly, OK MedMJ Init Polling Well, More... (5/25/18)

The bloody Filipino drug war model spreads to Bangladesh, Congress continues to undercut District of Columbia marijuana and drug policy, a new poll has the Oklahoma medical marijuana initiative cruising toward victory next month, and more.

Oklahomans appear poised to approve a medical marijuana initiative a month from now. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Panel Approves Continued Meddling in DC Marijuana, Drug Laws. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Thursday approved a spending bill that would continue to bar the District of Columbia from expanding marijuana legalization to include taxed and regulated marijuana sales. The bill also adds a new bar on using funds to support opening safe injection sites.

Connecticut Democrats Endorse Marijuana Legalization. The state Democratic Party formally endorsed marijuana legalization at its convention last weekend. Legalization now becomes part of the state party's platform, which now includes this language: "The time for legalization of Marijuana has come. Doing so will raise revenue, which can be used to benefit those suffering from the disease of addiction to prescription pain medications and other opioids."

North Carolina Bill Would Legalize Up to Four Ounces. Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. (D) has filed a bill that would legalize the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana. The bill would also raise the bar from felony possession of marijuana from 1.5 ounces to 16 ounces. The measure is House Bill 944.

Wisconsin's Milwaukee County Will Vote on Non-Binding Legalization Referendum. The county board of supervisors voted 15-1 Thursday to place an advisory referendum on marijuana legalization on the November ballot. Voters will be asked: "Do you favor allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana?"

Medical Marijuana

Illinois House Panel Approves Using Medical Marijuana to Fight Opioid Addiction. The House Executive Committee voted 8-3 Thursday for a bill that would allow people who qualify for opioid prescriptions to apply for the state's medical marijuana program. The measure, Senate Bill 336, has already passed the Senate, but still needs some cleanup provision enacted in the Executive Committee before it goes to the House floor.

Oklahoma Poll Has Medical Marijuana Initiative in Good Shape. A new Sooner Poll has the medical marijuana initiative, State Question 788, cruising toward victory in next month's election. The opposition has managed to drag approval down from 61.8% in January to 57.5% now, but that's still enough support to win a month from now.

International

Bangladesh's Philippines-Style Drug War Deepens. At least 50 people have been shot and killed by police in what human rights activists say is a politically motivated crackdown on drug trafficking. While the killings are part of an announced anti-drug campaign announced by the government, at least one family is telling reporters their relative was an opposition political activist who had nothing to do with drugs. That family and at least one other has reported their relatives being taken into custody by police hours before being found dead in what the government describes as nighttime shootouts with drug gangs. The campaign has only been underway for about 10 days.

Mexican Tourism Secretary Again Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Tourism Secretary Enrique de la Madrid has once again called for marijuana legalization as a means to combat criminality and insecurity. In January, he called for legalization to stop violence in Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo, home of Cancun. "I think that in Mexico we should move toward a regulation at the state level," he said in an interview with Reuters. "Maintaining marijuana in illegality is giving money to drug traffickers, and with that money what these gentlemen do is that they bribe more police, buy more weapons and are more violent," he added.

Chronicle AM: NY Dems Endorse Marijuana Legalization, Surgeon General Talks Harm Reduction, More... (5/24/18)

The US Surgeon General has some surprisingly frank words about harm reduction and evidence-based drug policy, Cory Booker's Marijuana Justice Act picks up another sponsor, Arizona's Supreme Court throws out a state law criminalizing the use and possession of medical marijuana on campus, and more.

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams talks harm reduction and evidence-based opioid treatment. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Jeff Merkley Signs on to Federal Marijuana Justice Act. And then there were five. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has become the fifth cosponsor of Sen. Cory Booker's Marijuana Justice Act (S. 1689). The other cosponsors are Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced a companion measure, H.R. 4815, in the House of Representatives earlier this year that has 35 cosponsors.

New York Democratic Party Officially Endorses Marijuana Legalization. Delegates to the state Democratic convention Wednesday adopted a resolution supporting marijuana legalization: "The New York State Democratic Committee supports the legalization of marijuana which should be regulated and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol," reads a resolution. The resolution adds that legalization is "an important social justice issue."

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Supreme Court Okays Medical Marijuana on College Campuses. The court ruled Wednesday that the state can't criminally charge card-carrying medical marijuana patients for possessing and using their medicine on campus. In Arizona v. Maestas, the court held that a 2012 law banning medical marijuana on campus violated the state's protections for voter-approved laws. The Supreme Court ruling upholds an appellate court ruling that also found in Maestas' favor.

Ohio Dispensary License Announcement Delayed. The state Board of Pharmacy announced Tuesday that its planned announcement of dispensary license awards Wednesday has been postponed and that provisional licenses will instead be issued in June. Legal medical marijuana sales are supposed to begin on September 8. Stay tuned.

Pennsylvania Judge Halts Medical Marijuana Research Program. A Commonwealth Court judge has granted a temporary injunction sought by numerous dispensaries and growers and processors to halt the state's medical marijuana research program. The plaintiffs worry that the regulations for the clinical research programs would give an unfair advantage to clinical research partners and growers. The Health Department is now pondering next steps.

Hemp

Illinois Governor Gets Bill Legalizing Industrial Hemp. With a 106-3 House vote Wednesday, the legislature has approved a bill legalizing industrial hemp, Senate Bill 2298. Now it's up to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) to sign it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

US Surgeon General Urges ER Docs to Advocate for Evidence-Based Opioid Treatment. US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams called Wednesday on emergency room physicians to advocate more vigorously for evidence-based opioid treatment, including harm reduction measures. Adams supported such harm reduction interventions as needle exchanges and safe injection sites. He urged doctors to reach out to and educate stakeholders in their communities. "We have to understand that these policy interventions look different in different parts of the country," Adams said. "We have to understand that public policy means public and that we have to be able to go there and show them that we care before we can share what we know."

Four Ways Fentanyl Could Radically Disrupt the Global Drug Trade

The synthetic opioid fentanyl isn't just killing American drug users by the thousands. Its emergence also signals a shift in the decades-old contours of the global drug trade, with ramifications not only for traditional drug-producing countries and drug trafficking networks but also for US foreign policy.

Black market fentanyl is not just wreaking havoc on the streets of American cities. (Creative Commons)
Synthesized from chemicals -- not from papaver somniferum, the opium poppy -- fentanyl is about 50 times stronger than heroin and is severely implicated in the country's drug overdose crisis, accounting for almost 20,000 deaths in 2016.

Illicit fentanyl is typically mixed with other opiates, such as heroin, resulting in much stronger doses of opioids than users expect, thus leading to opioid overdoses. But it is also increasingly also showing up in non-opiate drugs, resulting in fentanyl overdose deaths among unsuspecting methamphetamine and cocaine users.

But the havoc super-potent fentanyl is wreaking among drug users pales in comparison with the dramatic changes it could prompt in the global illicit drug production industry. As academic researchers Vanda Felbab-Brown, Jonathan Caulkins, and Keith Humphreys write in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, fentanyl's rise has the potential to cause disruption and innovation in black markets.

Here are four ways fentanyl alters the illegal drug production and distribution status quo:

1. It doesn't require an agricultural base. Virtually all of the other opioids on the black market, from heroin to morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, require land to grow poppies on. And they require land that is outside cdthe effective control of the state. Non-state actors who can control such areas, whether it's the Taliban in Afghanistan or the drug cartels in southern and western Mexico, reap the profits and power of that control. With the ascent of lab-produced fentanyl made out of chemicals, traditional opiate producers should see their profits and their influence undermined.

2. It doesn't require a large workforce. Traditional opium production requires a large seasonal workforce of people to plant and tend the poppies, score the pods and scrape off the leaking opium, and then process and package the raw opium. Other workers will get jobs processing raw opium into heroin. All of those jobs bring money into the hands of poor agricultural families and political capital to the traffickers, whether it's the Taliban in Afghanistan or the cartels in Mexico. With fewer job opportunities to offer up, the traffickers lose clout.

3. It doesn't require an elaborate smuggling infrastructure. Because fentanyl is so potent, small amounts of the drug can contain huge numbers of doses, and that means it doesn't require transportation networks of trucks, planes, and boats to get an agricultural crop from the valleys of Afghanistan or the mountains of Mexico to consumers in the US Fentanyl is so potent, medicinal doses are measured in micrograms, and packages of it worth hundreds of thousands of dollars can fit inside a Priority Mail envelope. With smuggling fentanyl as easy as dropping a package in the mail, international drug smuggling organizations now have competition they never had before.

4. All of this can change the dynamics of US foreign policy. If plant-based opiates lose market share to synthetics in the future, this can weaken both insurgencies (Afghanistan) and criminal networks (Mexico). Ever since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, drug warriors have been constrained in their efforts to go after the Afghan opium crops because of fears it would drive poppy-dependent peasants into the hands of the Taliban. If opium production becomes relatively less important vis-à-vis fentanyl production, that constraint on an aggressive US response to Afghan opium production is weakened. Similarly, in Mexico, to the degree that fentanyl displaces peasants and processors and weakens the link between drug cartels and rural populations, it increases the ability of the Mexican government and its American backers to crack down even harder on the cartels.

Under drug prohibition, there is a strong impetus to come up with more pure, more potent, and more compact products. Fentanyl is the ultimate expression of that imperative, and its arrival is changing the contours of the global drug industry. Who knows how it will play out?

Missouri Cops are Diverting School Funding and Making a Joke of State Law

Responding to myriad tales of abuses, like many other states, Missouri has reformed its asset forfeiture laws to require a criminal conviction before cash or property is seized and, in a bid to prevent "policing for profit," to require that money seized by state law enforcement agencies goes solely to the state's schools.

Under Missouri law, seized cash is supposed to go to the schools, but the cops have found an end-around. (Wikipedia)
Somebody needs to tell the cops. As Kansas City TV station KMBC reported, state and local law enforcement agencies seized more than $19 million in the past three years, but only some $340,000 has actually made it to the schools. That's a measly 2% of the cash seized.

That's because police, with the help of the Trump Justice Department, are doing an end run around the state law. Under the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing Program, which was suspended late in the Obama administration but reinstated last year by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, state and local law enforcement agencies can hand their cash-laden cases over to federal prosecutors instead of turning them in to local district attorneys. And when they do, the reporting agency gets to keep 80% of the seized cash, with the Justice Department getting the rest.

The scheme not only subverts state law by diverting much-needed funding for schools to police agencies, but also by allowing state and local cops to seize cash and goods under the federal law, which does not require a criminal conviction first. In this manner, Missouri's cops are not only ripping off the schools, they are also giving a big middle finger to the state's democratically elected representatives who passed the asset forfeiture reform law.

The cops like things just as they are.

"We can immediately put that back in our tool belt if you will," said Major Derek McCollum, the head of the Kansas City Police Department's Asset Forfeiture Squad. The money buys "computer type equipment, covert surveillance type equipment," McCollum told KMBC, adding that he didn't feel like law enforcement was taking money from the schools.

The Missouri School Board Association begs to differ.

"Absolutely, the constitution says it is," said association attorney Susan Goldammer of the forfeiture money. "We still have school districts that don't have air conditioning or have concerns about asbestos. We've got many, many school buildings in the state that are way more than 100 years old," she added.

Instead of turning forfeitures over to the state's school system, the state Highway Patrol spent $70,000 on new weapons. And in Phelps County, which sits astride the east-west throughway Interstate 44 and which profited the most from asset forfeiture, the sheriff spends the money on the department's buildings -- not school buildings.

State Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-St. Louis) is working on a partial fix. He has authored House Bill 1501, under which only cases involving more than $50,000 could be handed over to the feds. (He had originally pegged the figure at $100,000, but has now halved it after "pushback from law enforcement.")

Dogan told KMBC that cases over $50,000 account for about 20% of asset forfeiture cases statewide and that he believes many smaller seizures are from innocent victims or involve rights violations.

"We can eliminate that incentive for them to just take money or take property," Dogan said. "The government seizes their money and says, "we think you're a suspected drug dealer. The government never produces any drugs, never charges you with a crime and then you have to spend more than they've actually seized trying to get your property back. That's unfair."

The $100,000 version of Dogan's bill is currently stalled in the legislature. Facing law enforcement opposition, the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee voted in February to postpone action on it, and the bill has no hearings scheduled and is not on the House calendar.

Perhaps he can get the $50,000 version moving. In the meantime, Missouri's cops continue to perversely profit from prohibition, while the state's schools are out of luck.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Border Patrol agent goes to prison for helping pot smugglers, an NYPD cop gets nailed for agreeing to transport drugs for cash, a Florida crime scene tech gets busted stealing drugs from dead people, and more. Let's get to it:

In Lawrenceville, Georgia, a Gwinnett County sheriff's deputy resigned last Friday as investigators began questioning him about two kilograms of cocaine that were seized but never showed up as evidence. Deputy Antoine Riggins is a 14-year veteran and had been a member of a federal drug task force. In one case, three kilos of cocaine were seized, but only one was checked into evidence. He is also a suspect in two other cases of seized drugs that vanished. Criminal charges are expected in coming days.

In Pensacola, Florida, an Escambia County sheriff's crime scene technician was arrested last Friday for allegedly stealing drugs from dead people. Tech Christine Rollins, 41, went down after an internal investigation. She was charged with trafficking hydrocodone, trafficking oxycodone, petty theft, and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.

In New York City, an NYPD officer was convicted last Thursday of transporting marijuana and cocaine for someone she thought was a drug dealer, but was actually an undercover officer. Nysia Stroud, 30, was assigned to the NYPD Fleet Services Division. She went down after agreeing to transport the contraband and was paid $1,000 each time she did so. She was found guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance and official misconduct. Sentencing is set for June 4.

In Tucson, Arizona, a former Border Patrol officer was sentenced Monday to seven and a half years in federal prison for helping to smuggle marijuana into the country. Former agent Alberto Michel, 41, a nine-year veteran, admitted providing counter-surveillance assistance to smugglers, using the information he obtained as a member of the Intelligence Unit. In return, he would be paid $40 per pound of marijuana. He admitted receiving payments totaling $12,000. Michel was originally charged with six counts but ended up copping a plea to just two: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and a public official accepting a bribe.

Medical Marijuana Update

An amendment protecting medical marijuana in states where it is legal has made it into the House's Justice Department appropriations bill, Illinois legislators approve medical marijuana in schools, the Utah initiative campaign is turning into a pitched battle, and more.

National

Last Thursday, a House panel approved medical marijuana protections. The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment from Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) to continue to protect state-legal medical marijuana programs from federal interference. The amendment is now part of the House's Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. The amendment, previously known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, bars the expenditure of federal funds to go after state-legal medical marijuana.

Illinois

Last Thursday, the legislature approved medical marijuana in schools. The Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would allow for the use of medical marijuana in elementary and middle schools. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). The bill would let parents administer marijuana-infused products, but not smoked marijuana, to their child on school grounds.

Missouri

Last Friday, a medical marijuana bill died. A medical marijuana bill, House Bill 1554, has died in conference committee, leaving the path open for at least one medical marijuana initiative to go before the voters in November. The bill came as an amendment to a healthcare bill and would only have allowed patients with terminal illnesses to use non-smokable marijuana.

Utah

Last Thursday, medical marijuana foes sued to block the initiative from going to the voters. Drug Safe Utah, a group formed to oppose the medical marijuana initiative, went to court to try to block it. In court filings, the group argued that the lieutenant governor, whose office oversees elections, doesn't have the authority to allow campaigners to gather signatures. Drug Safe Utah argued that state officials couldn't act on the initiative because it "conflicts with federal law."

On Monday, medical marijuana initiative supporters fought back in court. Supporters of the medical marijuana initiative showed up in court to intervene in a lawsuit that seeks to prevent the initiative from going before the voters in November. The Utah Patients Coalition is seeking to block a lawsuit from Drug Safe Utah that argues state officials were not legally allowed to approve the initiative.

West Virginia

On Monday, lawmakers were working to force a special session to deal with medical marijuana financing. Some state lawmakers are seeking to force Gov. Jim Justice (D) to call a legislative special session to address financial problems with the state's medical marijuana law. A special session that ended Monday failed to address the issue. For another special session to be called, at least three-fifths of each chamber must sign on. That figure has been met in the Senate, but not yet in the House.

On Tuesday, they came up short. The legislature concluded its may interim meetings Tuesday without securing enough signatures in the House of Delegates to force a special session to address marijuana banking issues. The legislature needed three-fifths of members in both the Senate and the House to force a special session. Enough senators signed on to meet that bar, but not enough delegates did.

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

Chronicle AM: NM Marijuana Poll, House Passes Limited Prison Reform Bill, More... (5/23/18)

A solid majority of New Mexicans support marijuana legalization, the House passes a limited prison -- but not sentencing -- reform bill, an Open Society Foundations report calls for increased opportunities for legal coca sales in Colombia, and more.

Colombian coca grower. A new report says more legal markets for the crop could reduce violence. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A poll from Research & Polling Inc. conducted in March but not released until yesterday has support for marijuana legalization at 63%. Respondents were asked if they would support a bill to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. Support was up 2% over a similar poll in 2016.

Medical Marijuana

West Virginia Bid for Special Session to Address Marijuana Banking Issues Fizzles. The legislature concluded its may interim meetings Tuesday without securing enough signatures in the House of Delegates to force a special session to address marijuana banking issues. The legislature needed three-fifths of members in both the Senate and the House to force a special session. Enough senators signed on to meet that bar, but not enough delegates did.

Prison Reform

House Passes Prison Reform Bill Backed By Trump. The House easily passed a bipartisan prison reform bill Tuesday, but it faces a murky future in the Senate. House Resolution 5682 aims to reduce recidivism by providing training programs for prisoners. Powerful senators, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), however, are holding out for a more substantive bill that includes not just prison reforms, but also sentencing reforms. "For that deal to pass the Senate, it must include sentencing reform. At least as of now, that's something Sen. Durbin and I still are sticking together on," Grassley said at a Tuesday event on criminal justice reform.

International

Open Society Report Calls for Boosting Colombia's Legal Coca Market to Reduce Violence. A new report from Open Society Foundations calls on Colombia to move away from traditional drug eradication measures that have not proven successful and instead create policies that encourage coca farmers to stay out of the black market. The report says both international and Colombian law allow coca to be grown for legal purposes, and Colombia should move to increase that prospect.

Chronicle AM: De Blasio Tells NYPD to Stop Pot Arrests, Aghan Opium Bumper Crop, More... (5/22/18)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to see an end to public pot smoking arrests, Utah medical marijuana supporters are fending off a court challenge, the "Philippine disease" appears to be spreading to Bangladesh, Afganistan sees a bumper poppy crop, and more.

Afghanistan had its largest opium poppy crop ever last year, the UNODC reports. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Opposition Marijuana Poll Has Initiative in Lead, But Under 50%. A new poll commissioned by opponents of Michigan's marijuana legalization initiative had it with 48% support, 11% undecided, and 42% opposed. After pollsters produced arguments in favor of the initiative, support stayed at 48%, but opposition dropped to 36%. After pollsters introduced arguments against the initiative, support actually jumped one point to 49%.

New York Mayor Tells Cops To Stop Arresting People for Public Marijuana Use. Over the weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) told the NYPD to just issue summonses for public pot smoking instead of making arrests. The NYPD already has a working group that has begun to evaluate its marijuana enforcement policies and will present recommendations within 30 days. Now the mayor has made it clear that an end to arrests for public pot smoking is one of the changes he wants.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative Supporters Fight Back in Court. Supporters of the medical marijuana initiative showed up in court Monday to intervene in a lawsuit that seeks to prevent the initiative from going before the voters in November. The Utah Patients Coalition is seeking to block a lawsuit from Drug Safe Utah that argues state officials were not legally allowed to approve the initiative.

West Virginia Lawmakers Seek Special Session for Medical Marijuana Financing. Some state lawmakers are seeking to force Gov. Jim Justice (D) to call a legislative special session to address financial problems with the state's medical marijuana law. A special session that ended Monday failed to address the issue. For another special session to be called, at least three-fifths of each chamber must sign on. That figure has been met in the Senate, but not yet in the House.

International

UN Says Afghan Opium Poppy Production Increased Sharply Last Year. Opium poppy production expanded sharply in Afghanistan last year, increasing from roughly 500,000 acres in 2016 to more than 700,000 acres last year. That's an all-time high, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said. UNODC said no single factor explained the increase but cited "political instability, lack of government control, and security" as main drivers.

Bangladeshi Opposition Warns of Police Killings of Drug Suspects. The country's leading opposition party, the BNP, on Monday accused the government of "indulging in extrajudicial killings" in the pursuit of a country-wide anti-drug drive. "A fresh drive to control narcotics has begun," BNP General Secretary Mirza Fakrul Islam Almagir said. "We also want the country to be free from drug abuse and those involved in it to be brought to justice. But it does not mean people should be killed unlawfully without trial." Almagir added that the government was now killing drug suspects in just the same way it had unlawfully killed opposition leaders and activists. Almagir also suggested the ruling Awami League should clean up its own house first.

Chronicle AM: House Dems Want Action on Naloxone Pricing, German Decrim Hint, More... (5/21/18)

There's too much marijuana in Oregon, Utah medical marijuana foes try another tack to block the initiative, Africa gets its first medical marijuana dispensary, and more.

Price gouging on the opioid overdose reversal drug needs to stop, Democratic House members say. (PA Health Department)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon US Attorney Warns of "Significant Overproduction" of Legal Marijuana, Will Target Diversion. US Attorney Billy Williams said last Friday that the state has a "significant overproduction" problem and that he would prioritize enforcement of overproduction, diversion to other states, and organized crime. The state currently has nearly a million pounds of marijuana buds in inventory, and it's estimated that Oregon's billion dollar a year industry includes about $300 million worth of pot to diverted to the black market.

Pennsylvania State Senator Calls on DAs to Quit Prosecuting Small-Time Pot Cases. One of the Keystone State's leading voices for marijuana law reform, state Sen. Daylin Leach (D), last Friday published an open letter to the state's district attorneys urging them to quit prosecuting pot possession and smoking cases. Leach cited the nine states that have already legalized marijuana and warned, "If people are convicted this year, and legalization occurs next year or the year thereafter, thousands of people will have a stain on their record that will be extremely difficult or impossible to remove."

Medical Marijuana

Utah Medical Marijuana Foes Sue to Block Initiative from Going to Voters. Drug Safe Utah, a group formed to oppose the medical marijuana initiative, went to court last Thursday to try to block it. In court filings, the group argued that the lieutenant governor, whose office oversees elections, doesn't have the authority to allow campaigners to gather signatures. Drug Safe Utah argued that state officials couldn't act on the initiative because it "conflicts with federal law."

Harm Reduction

House Democrats Call on Trump Administration to Lower Naloxone Price. A group of House Democrats led by Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Peter Welch (D-VT) have sent a letter to White House Kellyanne Conway asking for executive action to curb rising prices for naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug. "Federal agencies have the authority to use patented inventions… when in the interest of the public good," the lawmakers wrote. "The current opioid crisis requires invoking this provision."

International

German Drug Official Hints at Move Toward Marijuana Decriminalization. In a report released last week, German drug commissioner Marlene Mortler appeared to call for marijuana decriminalization. "Anyone caught by the police in the future for possession of cannabis for personal consumption should be allowed to choose whether to pay a fine or voluntarily seek help from the expert," she said. German drug arrests were up more than 6% last year, while marijuana arrests were up 14%. About 80% of all marijuana cases were for simple possession.

Africa Gets First Medical Marijuana Dispensary. A medical marijuana dispensary has opened in Durban, South Africa, making it the first on the continent. The store is currently only selling products without THC. "We want to break the stigma on cannabis, to showcase that cannabis can be used effectively to treat a number of conditions and to integrate medical professionals as well as traditional healers to allow the whole of South Africa a holistic approach to health care," said dispensary spokesperson Kirithi Thaver.

The Movement to Expunge Marijuana Convictions in Legalization States Picks Up Steam [FEATURE]

special to Drug War Chronicle by Houston-based investigative journalist Clarence Walker, [email protected]

As marijuana legalization spreads into various states, some are allowing people who'd been previously been convicted of possession of a small amount of pot to clear their records.

Marijuana is now legal in nine states, but what about those old convictions? (IRIN News)
They have their convictions either wiped off their record forever under state expungement laws or, in some cases, have low-level felony marijuana convictions be reduced to misdemeanors. In another variation, a marijuana conviction can be sealed from public view pursuant to a court order under a state's nondisclosure law.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, over 574,000 American citizens were charged with simple possession in 2016.

"It really makes sense to not burden these people with a lifelong criminal record," Kate Bell, a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project in Maryland, recently told the Washington Post.

Approximately 12 more states are considering marijuana legalization this year, with possibly more hopping on the express train as the continuing quest for marijuana legalization continue to roll down the tracks at full speed, making 2018 a pivotal year in the ever-growing movement to convince lawmakers to legalize pot in all 50 states.

"With over 60 percent of Americans now supporting the full legalization of marijuana for adults, the momentum behind marijuana law reform will not only continue but increase as we head into 2018," said NORML executive director Erik Altieri.

Seattle Mayor Jennie Durkan (D) has moved to clear old records.(Wikimedia)
People with prior marijuana convictions face a harsh reality when it comes to becoming a productive member of society with a criminal record. A simple marijuana conviction carries adverse consequences by diminishing a person's access to employment and higher education, military induction denial, and a person can even be denied access to fair housing, particularly apartment rentals.

Recently at least 4,900 Californians petitioned the courts to have their prior marijuana convictions expunged off their criminal record.

Washington state legalized marijuana in 2012, yet many convicted citizens have been burdened with criminal records for simple misdemeanor pot convictions while slick wealthy investors make a killing selling legal weed. Moving to redress the injustice, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced in February that the city will toss several hundred low-level misdemeanor marijuana cases.

"The war on drugs ended up being a war on people who needed help, who needed opportunity and who needed treatment," Durkan told a news conference at the time.

Similarly, prosecutors in San Francisco will throw out thousands of marijuana-related convictions dating back to 1975. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said earlier this year his office will dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor convictions from before the state's legalization of marijuana went into effect, with no action necessary from those convicted.

The moves make perfect sense. What else should happen to convictions for a victimless crime when that victimless behavior is now no longer a crime? American University Law Professor Jenny Roberts has an idea.

"If you've made a legislative determination that this is no longer criminal; why would you want to continue to have people feeling the ramifications of something that people going forward will no longer have to suffer?" she asked.

And so has San Francisco DA George Gascon. (Wikimedia)
In many states that have legalized marijuana, lawmakers are moving in the same direction.

"Since this is now the law of Nevada, it's important we allow folks who have made these mistakes in the past to have their records sealed up," said Nevada Assemblyman William McCurdy, a Democrat who proposed a bill on the issue.

Oregon state law now allows people who'd been convicted of an ounce of marijuana or growing up to six marijuana plants to have their record sealed now that marijuana is legal.

But in Colorado, some lawmakers fought against the proposal. For example, the legislature considered a bill in 2014 to allow citizens to petition the courts to seal their criminal records for old convictions, but the bill died in committee after facing stiff opposition from prosecutors. The Colorado District Attorneys Council opposed the bill because, they argued, it allowed low-level drug dealers to wipe their records clean.

"There were many cases of (drug) distribution that were pleaded down to low-level (possession) felonies," said council executive director Thomas Raynes.

"The bill creates a horrible precedent by retrofitting criminal sanctions for past conduct every time a new law is changed or passed," objected Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General John Suthers.

This year, Colorado passed a less controversial law focused specifically on misdemeanor possession.

Nevada also suffered a mild setback. Governor Brian Sandoval (R) vetoed McCurdy's bill requiring judges to seal records and vacate judgments for marijuana offenses that are now legal.

"To the extent there are individuals suffering under criminal records for conduct now legal in Nevada, those cases are best handled on a case-by-case basis," Sandoval wrote in his veto statement. "Given other reforms to the sealing and expungement process in Nevada, a marijuana-specific law wasn't necessary," Sandoval added.

Although nearly a million people have been arrested for marijuana crimes in California during the past decade, according to Drug Policy Alliance, California courts only received 1,506 petitions from applicants requesting their marijuana conviction be sealed or expunged.

DPA further reported that more than 78,000 convictions qualify to be set aside in Oregon, yet few are seeking expungement. Oregon courts only received approximately 388 requests for set-asides in cases involving marijuana in 2015, with 453 in 2016, and 365 requests in 2017.

Courts are more likely, though, to reject petitioners with extensive criminal histories including violent crimes like murder, kidnapping, sexual assaults, money laundering and crimes involving large amount of drugs.

Marijuana is now legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana in 29 states. The following states are preparing marijuana offense expungement legislation:

California

Assembly Bill 1793, introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-18th District), seeks to enact legislation that would allow the "automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017." Under Proposition 64, residents of California are now allowed to possess and purchase up to 1 ounce of marijuana and cultivate no more than six plants for personal use. The voter-approved measure, in addition to legalizing adult-use consumption, cultivation, and distribution -- allows individuals convicted of past criminal marijuana possessions to petition the courts to have those convictions expunged. An expensive and time-consuming venture for most individuals, the automatic expungement of records would be mandated by the passage AB-1793.

Massachusetts

H.2785, authored by Rep. Aaron Vega (D-5th District), and cosigned by 25 other elected officials, would allow for the expungement of "records of marijuana arrest, detention, conviction and incarceration." Marijuana use in Massachusetts was first decriminalized in 2008, with the voters approving medical marijuana just four years later in November 2012. Officially legalized for adult use on Nov. 8, 2016, residents are still waiting for their first recreational dispensary to open.

New Jersey

S.830, sponsored by Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-22nd District), would not only legalize the personal possession and use of small amounts of marijuana by those over the age of 21, the bill also allows a person convicted of a prior marijuana possession to present an application for expungement to the state's Superior Court.

Vermont

H.865, sponsored by Maxine Grad (D), Tom Burditt (R), Chip Conquest (D), would allow a person to file a petition with the court requesting expungement or sealing of the criminal history related to a conviction if "the person was convicted of an underlying offense for which the underlying conduct is no longer prohibited by law or designated as a criminal offense."

Chronicle AM: 2019 Ohio Init Gears Up, Fed Treatment Bill Advances, More... (5/19/18)

Michigan legalization initiative foes urge the legislature to legalize it, an Ohio legalization initiative can begin signature gathering, a federal drug treatment bill exclusively targeting opioids advances, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Michigan Legalization Initiative Foes Urge Legislature to Pass Legalization. In a surprise move, a campaign committee formed to oppose the pending marijuana legalization initiative is now asking the legislature to preemptively pass legalization. Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools issued a press release Thursday calling on the legislature to approve the initiative. Under state law, the legislature can just pass the initiative, or, if it rejects it or fails to act, the initiative would go before voters in November. State Republicans worry that interest in the initiative will drive turnout at the polls, worsening their chances in the election.

Ohio Legalization Initiative Cleared for Signature Gathering. The state Ballot Board on Thursday cleared a legalization initiative, the Marijuana Rights and Regulation Act, for signature gathering. Campaigners need to come up with some 305,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the initiative. The deadline to make the November ballot is in July, but campaigners say there are instead aiming at 2019.

Medical Marijuana

House Panel Approves Medical Marijuana Protections. The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an amendment from Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) to continue to protect state-legal medical marijuana programs from federal interference. The amendment is now part of the House's Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. The amendment, previously known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, bars the expenditure of federal funds to go after state-legal medical marijuana.

Illinois Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana in Schools. The Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would allow for the use of medical marijuana in elementary and middle schools. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). The bill would let parents administer marijuana-infused products, but not smoked marijuana, to their child on school grounds.

Missouri Medical Marijuana Bill Dies. A medical marijuana bill, House Bill 1554, has died in conference committee, leaving the path open for at least one medical marijuana initiative to go before the voters in November. The bill came as an amendment to a healthcare bill and would only have allowed patients with terminal illnesses to use non-smokable marijuana.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

House Panel Advances Bill to Expand Drug Treatment, But Only for Opioids. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday advanced a bill that would free up Medicaid dollars for spending on treatment for opioid addictions, but some lawmakers warned that the country is facing a polydrug crisis. "I'm troubled that this bill would expand treatment only to people with opioid use disorder as opposed to those with other substance use disorders like alcohol, crack-cocaine, methamphetamine," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). "This bill is not only blind to the reality faced by people suffering from substance use disorder but it's also discriminatory." The measure is HR 5797.

Chronicle AM: Hemp News, San Antonio Could Finally Get a Legal Needle Exchange, More... (5/17/18)

There's good and bad news on hemp today, a new Rhode Island marijuana legalization bill is filed, San Antonio moves toward the first legal needle exchange in Texas, and more.

Hemp fields are starting to pop up. (Vote Hemp)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced. Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Providence) Thursday filed a bill to tax and regulate marijuana. He's been introducing similar bills since 2014. The bill would tax pot at 10% in addition to the state's 7% sales tax, as well as allowing up to another 3% in local taxes. Adults could possess up to an ounce and grow up to two plants. The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Hemp

House Republicans Block Votes on Hemp Amendments. The House Republican leadership has blocked several proposed industrial hemp amendments from being considered on the House floor. Proponents had hoped to add the amendments to the farm bill now under consideration, but the House Rules Committee put the kibosh on that. Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) has a reputation for blocking marijuana-related measures, and he just upheld it again.

Arizona Governor Signs Hemp Bill. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has signed into law Senate Bill 1098, which will create a state pilot program allowing the study and cultivation of industrial hemp. Growing, processing, and transporting hemp will require permits from the state Department of Agriculture.

Indiana Lawmakers Will Study Hemp -- Not Medical Marijuana -- This Summer. An interim legislative committee will spend the summer considering the legalization of hemp, but the panel "will not look into issues related to medical marijuana."

Harm Reduction

Ithaca Mayor Calls on New York Governor to Approve Safe Injection SitesThere. Mayor Svante Myrick (D) has asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to approve a safe injection site in Ithaca. The move comes after New York City announced a plan for four safe injection sites there. "The overdose crisis is statewide and the pilot intervention should be too," Myrick wrote to Cuomo. "This epidemic is also a rural epidemic and our solutions will need to address that reality. Start with Ithaca." The Ithaca Municipal Drug Policy Committee recommended in February 2016 that a supervised consumption pilot program should be implemented in Ithaca.

San Antonio Could Become First Legal Needle Exchange Site in Texas. A decade after a local prosecutor arrested three volunteers for a clean needle program, city officials are set to sing a different tune. Next week, city and county officials, health care providers, drug treatment providers, law enforcement, and nonprofits will meet to discuss how to make San Antonio the first city in the state to have a legal needle exchange program. Stay tuned.

Law Enforcement

Justice Department to Add More Than 300 New Prosecutors. DOJ announced Thursday that it is creating 311 new assistant US attorney positions, the largest increase in prosecutors in decades. More than half will focus on violent crime, 86 on civil enforcement, and 35 on immigration-related crime. Most of the new positions in civil enforcement will be focused on his department's newly created task force targeting opioids. "Under President Trump's strong leadership, the Department of Justice is going on offense against violent crime, illegal immigration, and the opioid crisis -- and today we are sending in reinforcements," Attorney Geneal Sessions said in a statement.

International

Thai Interim Cabinet Approves Medical Marijuana, Decriminalizes Hemp, Kratom, Opium. The interim cabinet has approved a bill that would allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons, as well as decriminalizing the consumption of hemp, kratom, and opium. "The approval of this bill is an important matter," government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said. "Class 5 narcotics were allowed for cultivation and extraction… but not for consumption, which made it impossible to use them for research on humans. The bill now goes before the interim assembly.

Medical Marijuana Update

Medical marijuana could expand in Louisiana and New Jersey, CBD cannabis oil gets regulated in Michigan, and more.

Louisiana

Last Wednesday, the Senate approved adding qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The Senate voted 25-9 to approve House Bill 579, which adds glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, PTSD, and Parkinson's Disease to the state's list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana. It also voted 21-10 to approve House Bill 627, which adds autism spectrum disorders to the list. The bills have already passed the House, but must be approved there again after changes were made in the Senate.

Michigan

Last Thursday, the state announced it will regulate CBD cannabis oil as marijuana. State regulators announced that CBD cannabis oil products will be covered by the state's medical marijuana laws. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs declared that state law allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil -- if it comes from marijuana plants, not hemp plants. "We received lots of questions about if CBD was going to be regulated along with marijuana and how hemp plays into that," said department spokesman David Harns. "Now is the right time to send out an advisory bulletin."

New Jersey

On Tuesday, a bill was filed to expand the state's medical marijuana system. Responding to Gov. Phil Murphy's (D) call to reform the state's medical marijuana program, a trio of state senators has filed a bill that would allow more dispensaries and grows to open, as well as permitting more medical professionals to recommend the drug to their patients. The bill, Senate Bill 10, is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Pennsylvania

On Monday, the governor approved university research on medical marijuana. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has given the go-ahead for eight universities in the state to start studying medical marijuana. It would be the commonwealth's "first step towards clinical research" on the drug. He formally declared them to be "Certified Academic Clinical Research Centers."

Utah

Last Friday, the Mormon Church ups the ante in fight against medical marijuana initiative. The church last Friday doubled down on its opposition to the medical marijuana initiative set for the November ballot. The church released a seven-page memorandum raising dozens of complaints it says "raises grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted."

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

Chronicle AM: Manhattan DA to Quit Trying Small Pot Cases, Keeven Robinson Protests, More... (5/16/18)

Marijuana policy continues to roil New York, a US territory is on the verge of legalizing it, marchers protesting the killing of Keeven Robinson by Louisiana narcs demand justice, and more.

That's 55% supporting marijuana legalization -- in Georgia. (11 Alive screen grab)
Marijuana Policy

Georgia Poll Has Solid Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new Survey USA/11 Alive News poll has a solid majority for legalization. The poll found 55% in favor, with 35% opposed and 10% undecided. The level of support for legalization is up seven points over the last time the question was polled two years ago.

New York Legal Marijuana Could Generate $3 Billion in Revenues, Report Finds. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released an analysis Tuesday estimating that the adult legal market for marijuana in the state could be roughly $3.1 billion. Sales at that level would net as much as $436 million in tax revenues annually, including up to $335 million for New York City alone.

Manhattan DA Announces Plan to End Small-Time Marijuana Prosecutions. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said Tuesday that his office would stop prosecuting people for smoking or possessing marijuana as of August 1. There would be an exception for cases where there is a clear public safety concern. Vance said the move was part of a broader effort to end the city's wide racial disparity in marijuana arrests and prosecutions.

Northern Marianas Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. A bill that would legalize marijuana and allow for legal, regulated, and taxed marijuana commerce passed the Senate of the Pacific US territory on Wednesday. The bill now goes to the House. If approved there, it would then go to the desk of Gov. Ralph Torres (R).

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Bill Would Expand Medical Marijuana System. Responding to Gov. Phil Murphy's (D) call to reform the state's medical marijuana program, a trio of state senators has filed a bill that would allow more dispensaries and grows to open, as well as permitting more medical professionals to recommend the drug to their patients. The bill, Senate Bill 10, is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Law Enforcement

Louisiana's Jefferson Parish NAACP Calls for Arrest of White Narcs Who Choked Black Drug Suspect to Death. As hundreds of protestors marched Monday night through East Jefferson to demand justice in the death of Keeven Robinson, 22, local NAACP head Gaylor Spiller called for the four white undercover officers involved to arrested on murder charges -- and not be placed on paid vacation while awaiting resolution of their cases. Four Jefferson Parish narcs chased Robinson through back yards and over fences before subduing him and leaving him dead. The parish coroner reported Monday that Robinson's death was a homicide caused by compression of his neck during his arrest. He was unarmed.

International

British Nurses Call for Legalizing Medical Marijuana. Members of the Royal College of Nursing have voted overwhelmingly in favor of lobbying the government to legalize medical marijuana. The nurses argued that if drugs such as morphine and fentanyl are legal, medical marijuana should be, too.

Four White Louisiana Narcs Choked This Young Black Man to Death in a Low-Level Drug Bust

New Orleans resident Keeven Robinson, 22, died after being arrested by Jefferson Parish narcotics officers last week. Police originally tried to blame his death on asthma, but now the Jefferson Parish coroner is telling a very different tale.

Keeven Robinson (Demone Robinson)
At a press conference Monday, Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich laid out what initial autopsy results uncovered: "Our initial autopsy findings reveal significant traumatic injuries to the neck, the soft tissue of the neck," he said. "These findings are consistent with compressional asphyxia. We are confident that at the end of our process, this is going to be the cause of death. Regarding manner of death, at this point, manner of death is homicide."

Cvitanovich was quick to point out that when he said "homicide," he did not mean in the legal sense, but in the sense that Robinson died as a result of the actions of others.

According to the sheriff's office, four undercover narcotics deputies, who Sheriff Joe Lopinto did not name but identified as white, were surveilling Robinson, a black man, as part of a drug dealing investigation and followed him to a gas station on Jefferson Highway late last Thursday morning.

When Robinson noticed the agents, who wore badges, approaching him, he attempted to drive off, but jumped from his car about a block away after running into two sheriff's vehicles. The narcs pursued Robinson in a foot chase as he leaped over fences before catching him in the back yard of a residence.

Again, according to the sheriff's office, the deputies then struggled with Robinson, who was carrying what they suspected to be heroin, before they managed to handcuff him. At that point, he stopped breathing. He was rushed to Oshsner Medical Center nearby, but died there.

Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies do not wear body cams.

Robinson was not armed, though Sheriff Lopinto said a gun was found in his car.

Lopinto originally said investigators were looking into whether Robinson's history of asthma contributed to his death, but his family immediately expressed skepticism about that possibility. They said they feared the narcs had either beaten or strangled him to death.

And the coroner's report is proving them correct. Jefferson Parish NAACP President Gaylor Spiller said she was pleased the coroner's office issued a ruling on Robinson's death so quickly and that "there was no cover up."

But Spiller was speaking prematurely. The investigation into the killing of Keeven Robinson is just getting started, and the inevitable finding that no one is criminally responsible is still months away. Call me cynical , or call me a student of what happens when police kill people.

In this case, an unarmed black drug suspect was choked to death by four white narcs. Who wants to bet on any of them being charged with a crime?

One of the World's Most Prestigious Medical Journals Just Called for Legalizing All Drugs

Embracing a harm reduction and public health perspective, one of the world's most prestigious medical journals has released a signed editorial calling for the legalization, taxation, and regulation of currently illegal drugs.

In a editorial last Thursday entitled Drugs Should Be Legalised, Regulated, and Taxed, Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, notes that under drug prohibition, the global trade "fuels organized crime and human misery," and asks, "Why should it not instead fund public services?"

Citing an opinion piece in the same issue of the BMJ from British members of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP, formerly known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) Jason Reed and Paul Whitehouse, Godlee notes that in the United Kingdom (as in the United States) "vast sums are spent prosecuting individuals and trying vainly to interrupt the flow of drugs into cities" while that money would be much better "spent on quality control, education, treatment for drug users, and child protection." Under legalization, "revenues could be diverted from criminal gangs into government coffers," she writes.

Godlee notes that the global drug prohibition consensus is fraying around the edges, and points to the example of Portugal, which decriminalized the possession of all drugs in 2001. There, drug use remains in line with levels in other European countries, but the harms associated with drug use under prohibition have decreased dramatically, particularly in terms of fatal drug overdoses and the spread of injection drug-related infectious disease.

Godlee also pointed to the Netherlands, the United States, and soon, Canada, where "regulated markets for the sale of cannabis generate substantial tax revenues."

Again returning to the opinion piece by Reed and Whitehouse, Godlee writes that "when law enforcement officers call for drugs to be legalized, we have to listen." Ditto for when doctors speak up, she adds, noting that just last month, the Royal College of Physicians came out in favor of drug decriminalization, joining the British Medical Association, the Faculty of Public Health, and the Royal Society of Public Health in supporting drug policy reform.

"This is not about whether you think drugs are good or bad," Godlee concludes. "It is an evidence based position entirely in line with the public health approach to violent crime… The BMJ is firmly behind efforts to legalize, regulate, and tax the sale of drugs for recreational and medicinal use. This is an issue on which doctors can and should make their voices heard."

Unfortunately for the BMJ and the other public health advocates, as in the United States, the political class in the United Kingdom isn't yet on board with evidence-based best practices on drug policy. But this editorial loosens another brick in the wall -- on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chronicle AM: New York Pot Politics, MO Cops Diverting School Funds, UK Pill Testing, More... (5/15/18)

Marijuana policy is front and center in New York, Missouri cops are doing an end run around a state law requiring seized cash go the the state's schools, Britain sees its first permanent pill testing center for recreational drug users, and more.

Missouri cops hand seized cash off to the feds rather than let the state's schools get their hands on it. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

New York Democratic Party About to Endorse Marijuana Legalization. The state Democratic Party is expected to pass a resolution in support of marijuana legalization at its convention next week, a party document says. The move comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) faces a primary challenge from actress Cynthia Nixon, who has embraced legalization.

New York Governor Says Marijuana Legalization Report Coming Any Day Now. A long-awaited report on the impact of marijuana legalization in other states and how New York might be effected will be released "within days," Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Monday. "That report should be done shortly," Cuomo said. "How do you define shortly? It is supposed to be done by calendar, it should be done within days." Cuomo had opposed legalization, but has lately been shifting his ground. "To say well, it won't be in New York I think is to avoid reality at that point," Cuomo added. "The facts changed on this issue and the facts changed quickly."

New York City Mayor Says NYPD Will Change How It Enforces Marijuana Laws. Two days after the New York Times reported on continuing vast racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the NYPD will be changing how it enforces the pot laws. "The NYPD will overhaul and reform its policies related to marijuana enforcement in the next 30 days," de Blasio said. "We must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement. It's time for those to be a thing of the past in New York City and all over this country.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Governor Okays University Research on Medical Marijuana. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has given the go-ahead for eight universities in the state to start studying medical marijuana. It would be the commonwealth's "first step towards clinical research" on the drug. He formally declared them to be "Certified Academic Clinical Research Centers."

Asset Forfeiture

Missouri Cops Steal Money From School Kids. Under state law, money seized as asset forfeitures by police is supposed to go to the state's schools, but that's not what's happening. Missouri law enforcement agencies seized more than $19 million in the last three years, but only $340,000, or about 2%, actually made it to schools. That's because law enforcement agencies instead turn asset forfeiture cases to the federal government under an arrangement that allows 80% of the seizure to go back to the seizing law enforcement agency. A bill to limit the practice was defeated last year, but is back again this year.

International

Britain Sees First Pill Testing Center. The first pill testing center for recreational drug users in Britain has opened in Bristol. Pill testing has gone on at a number of British music festivals, but the new pop-up lab is the first permanent installation. It will be run by a charity, which will also provide drug counseling sessions.

Georgian Government Promises New Drug Policy by June. In the wake of a weekend of drug busts and mass demonstrations against them, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze said Monday the government will adopt a new, more liberal drug policy by the end of June. He said the ruling Georgian Dream Party was split on the issue, but added that he thought an agreement could be reached. "Even though there are different positions in the ruling party, we also have the resources to achieve an agreement. We want to draft a bill and submit it in the next two weeks, which will be a precondition for adopting a law by the end of June," he said, adding the main aim of the draft is to reduce drug consumption in the country and adoption of a more humane policy.

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

Chronicle AM: NYC Marijuana Arrest Disparities Continue, Drug Protests Shake Tbilisi, More ... (5/14/18)

New York City has yet to escape from racially disproportionate marijuana arrests, the Mormon Church picks a fight with medical marijuana, nursing homes can't discriminate against people taking addiction medications, protests rock the capital of Georgia after a massive weekend drug bust, and more.

NYPD seems to think marijuana users only come in the colors black and brown. (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

Oklahoma Legalization Initiative Campaign Getting Underway. A Tulsa-based group calling itself Green the Vote is now collecting signatures for a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana. Campaigners will need nearly 124,000 valid voter signatures by September 8 to qualify for the November ballot. A medical marijuana initiative is already set to go before the voters next month.

New York City Pot Bust Racial Disparities Aren't Going Away. A major investigation by the New York Times has found continued racial disparities in marijuana enforcement and arrests in every neighborhood in the City. "Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people over the past three years. Hispanic people were arrested at five times the rate of white people. In Manhattan, the gap is even starker: Black people there were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people."

Medical Marijuana

Mormon Church Ups the Ante in Fight Against Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative. The church last Friday doubled down on its opposition to the medical marijuana initiative set for the November ballot. The church released a seven-page memorandum raising dozens of complaints it says "raises grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted."

Drug Treatment

Justice Department: Nursing Facilities Can't Exclude Patients Using Addiction Medication. The Justice Department has reached a settlement with a skilled nursing facility in which the facility agreed to pay a fine for excluding a patient because the patient was being treated for opioid use disorder with suboxone and agreed not to discriminate in the future. "Our office is committed to protecting the rights of people with disabilities, which includes those in treatment for an Opioid Use Disorder," United States Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said. "As Massachusetts faces this overdose epidemic, now more than ever, individuals in recovery must not face discriminatory barriers to treatment."

International

Taliban Kill Dozens of Afghan Police in Opium Trafficking Areas. In attacks late last week, Taliban fighters attacking Afghan police bases in Farah province, killing more than 30 police. The province, in the west of the country, contains vital opium smuggling routes into neighboring Iran. Opium from Afghanistan's primary opium province, Helmand, moves north into Farah before heading for the Iranian border.

Georgia Sees Mass Protests After Weekend Mass-Arrest Drug Raids. The capital, Tbilisi, was rocked by mass protests all weekend long after interior ministry police raided two popular nightclubs and arrested more than 60 people on drug charges. Protesters were demanding the freedom of those arrested and a liberalization of the country's drug policies, and were only persuaded to stop -- at least until next weekend -- after Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia promised the government would start working on drug reforms today. The protests also saw the emergence of ultra-rightist thugs who came out to counter-demonstrate.

Chronicle AM: British Medical Journal Calls for Drug Legalization, Ohio Marijuana Init, More... (5/11/28)

One of the world's most prestigious medical journals comes out for drug legalization, an Ohio legalization initiative aimed at 2019 gets initial approval, Quebec will take a look at festival pill testing, and more.

What's in those Ecstasy pills? Quebec may start a pilot pill testing program at festivals to help users find out. (Erowid)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Has Final Public Hearing on Marijuana Legalization Saturday. A meeting tomorrow in Paramus will be the last chance for members of the public to get their opinions on marijuana legalization heard by legislators. The Assembly Oversight, Reform, and Federal Relations Committee will take testimony from invited speakers and the public on the impact at the meeting at Bergen Community College at 10:00am.

Ohio Attorney General Okays Legalization Initiative. State Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) has certified a marijuana legalization as being "fair and truthful," the first step in putting the measure before voters. The Marijuana Rights and Regulations Act now goes to the Ohio Ballot Board, which will determine if it constitutes one or multiple ballot questions. If approved by the board, campaigners would then have to gather nearly 306,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. But because the deadline for signatures for initiatives appearing on the 2018 ballot is July, campaigners are instead aiming for the 2019 ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan to Now Regulate CBD Oil as Marijuana. State regulators announced Thursday that CBD cannabis oil products will be covered by the state's medical marijuana laws. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs declared that state law allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil -- if it comes from marijuana plants, not hemp plants. "We received lots of questions about if CBD was going to be regulated along with marijuana and how hemp plays into that," said department spokesman David Harns. "Now is the right time to send out an advisory bulletin."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Minnesota Senate Approves Bill to Fund Opioid Treatment With Drug Company Fees. The Senate voted 60-6 Thursday to approve Senate File 730, which would raise $20 million a year from licensing fees on drug distributors and manufacturers to fund opioid treatment. A companion measure in the House awaits a final committee vote before heading to the House floor.

International

British Medical Journal Calls for Drug Legalization. The BMJ, one of the world's most prestigious medical journals, on Thursday published an editorial calling for illegal drugs to be legalized, taxed, and regulated. The editorial cited a BMJ opinion piece by Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) UK members, as well as the recent call by the Royal Academy of Physicians for drug decriminalization. "This is not about whether you think drugs are good or bad. It is an evidence based position entirely in line with the public health approach to violent crime… The BMJ is firmly behind efforts to legalize, regulate, and tax the sale of drugs for recreational and medicinal use. This is an issue on which doctors can and should make their voices heard."

Canada's Quebec Authorizes Research into Allowing Festival Pill Testing. The Quebec Health Ministry has announced that it has authorized a $100,000 study to examine the potential outcomes of allowing people to have their drugs tested at festivals, night clubs, and LBGT venues. The study will end in 2020 and then make recommendations to the provincial government about going ahead with a pilot pill testing program. The practice is currently illegal under Canadian law unless the federal government grants an exemption.

Chronicle AM: MI MJ Poll, Leading MX Pres Contender Says Debate Legalizing Drugs, More... (5/10/18)

Michigan marijuana stories abound, another Democratic presidential contender signs on to the federal legalization bill, Mexico's probable next president says he wants a debate on drug legalization, and more.

It's increasingly looking like Michigan will legalize weed come November.
Marijuana Policy

Kamala Harris Signs On to Cory Booker's Legalization Bill. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), oft mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential contender, is the latest senator to cosponsor Sen. Cory Booker's (D-NJ) marijuana legalization bill, S. 1689. Booker is also a potential Democratic presidential contender, as are two of the other three cosponsors, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The only non-presidential contender cosponsor is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Michigan Poll Finds Voters Ready to Legalize Marijuana.A new Michigan State University Institute for Public Policy and Social Research poll strongly suggests the marijuana legalization initiative will cruise to victory in November. The poll found 61% saying they want to legalize marijuana, with 34% opposed. Only 5% were undecided. "Marijuana legalization is the only issue with fewer than 15% undecided. Since the marijuana initiative has a large lead with relatively few undecideds, it appears likely that it will pass," said MSU economics professor Charles Ballard, the director of SOSS.

Michigan GOP Gubernatorial Contenders Reject Marijuana Legalization. All of the Republican candidates for the state governorship are united on at least two things: Support for President Trump, and opposition to marijuana legalization. But at least one, Attorney General Bill Schuette, recognized the handwriting on the wall. "But I think citizens of the state will have a chance to vote, and democracy will prevail," he said.

Michigan Senate Panel Votes to Ban Marijuana-Infused Beer and Wine. Trying to get ahead of a potential "disaster," the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve Senate Bill 969, which bans the sale and use of marijuana-infused beer, wine, and spirits. "This is happening in Colorado and should the ballot proposal pass in November, we're going to end up with it here," argued bill sponsor Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Lodge). "It's a recipe for disaster." The bill now goes before the full Senate.

Wisconsin's Milwaukee County Could See Advisory Referendum on Legalizing Marijuana. The Board of Supervisors' Committee on Judiciary, Safety and General Services on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution to put a non-binding advisory referendum on the November ballot. Voters would be asked: "Do you favor allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana?" The full board will take up the resolution at its May 24 meeting.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Senate Approves Adding Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana. The Senate voted 25-9 Wednesday to approve House Bill 579, which adds glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, PTSD, and Parkinson's Disease to the state's list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana. It also voted 21-10 to approve House Bill 627, which adds autism spectrum disorders to the list. The bills have already passed the House, but must be approved there again after changes were made in the Senate.

International

Mexico's Leading Presidential Candidate Calls for Debate on Drug Legalization. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the left-leaning front-runner in the country's presidential election, has saiad he is open to debating drug legalization to reduce violence and criminality in the country. "All topics should be analyzed. Health is affected more by alcohol and tobacco than other drugs, and prohibiting these drugs creates more violence. Why not talk about it? And why not -- if it's what's best for the country -- approve it and implement it, listening to everyone's input?" he said,during an event titled "Dialogue for Peace and Justice," organized by several non-governmental organizations. AMLO also mentioned a general strategy to counter violence in the country, including a national peace dialog. "If there's crime, an activity will be done, and they will change it, criminals will do other things and my concern is that, by opening the market to drugs, other kinds of crimes will surge. The best thing would be to address the causes, the structure, reach the bottom of things without forgetting these measures (legalization)."

Mexican Soldiers Killed in Guerrero Gun Battle. Three Mexican Army soldiers were killed and three more wounded in a shootout with suspected drug gang members at a ranch outside Coyuca de Benitez, Guerrero. The ranch belonged to a former mayor of the town, who had resigned to run for state congress, but was killed Tuesday. At least 18 politicians have been killed in the state since September. Guerrero is one of Mexico's prime opium growing regions.

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

Illinois Cop's Warning: If You Legalize Weed, We'll Have to Kill Our Drug Dogs

As the state legislature ponders a bill that could make Illinois the 10th state to legalize marijuana, law enforcement is getting nervous. Old anti-marijuana shibboleths have lost their potency, but the Macon County Sheriff's Office has a brand new reason not to free the weed: They will have to kill their drug dogs.

drug dog at work (Creative Commons)
As the Daily Pantagraph reported in an article about what happens to marijuana-sniffing drug dogs in states where it is legal, the dogs typically are trained to detect a number of drugs and it is difficult to retrain them not to alert on marijuana. Other states that have legalized it have either retired their pot-sensitive dogs, tried to retrain them, or used them to search for large, illicit amounts of marijuana.

But Chad Larner, training director of the K-9 Training Academy in Macon County, scoffed at the notion of retraining, saying it would be "extreme abuse" to try to do so, and "Larner said a number of dogs would likely have to be euthanized."

That claim is a ridiculous "red herring," Illinois NORML executive director Dan Linn told the Pantagraph. "The idea that legalizing for adults to have an ounce on them will equal… all these dogs being euthanized, that seems kind of ridiculous and hyperbolic," he said.

Other Illinois drug dog cops contacted by the Pantagraph largely agreed with Linn. They said retired drug dogs "typically live with their handlers" and they "dismissed the idea that any would be euthanized because of retirement."

The Macon County sheriff doesn't go as far as his drug dog trainer, but he is a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization because… drug dogs.

"The biggest thing for law enforcement is, you're going to have to replace all of your dogs," said Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett. "So to me, it's a giant step forward for drug dealers, and it's a giant step backwards for law enforcements and the residents of the community."

Sheriff Buffett isn't just any sheriff. He's the son of Omaha billionaire investor Warren Buffett, and he's used his family wealth both to finance law enforcement spending in the county and to basically buy his way into the sheriff's office. Earlier this year, he announced that his Howard G. Buffett Foundation was donating $1.4 million to the county to pay for everything from new records systems to new guns and ballistic vests. He was appointed to his position by retiring Sheriff Thomas Schneider last September and will serve until a new sheriff is elected in November.

Buffett also financed drug dogs across the state. His foundation paid $2.2 million in 2016 to support drug dog units in 33 Illinois counties. No wonder he and his employees are doing the 2018 version of the classic National Lampoon cover: "Buy This Magazine or We'll Kill This Dog."

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We have a pill-peddling former deputy, a Baton Rouge cop who made a joint mysteriously disappear, and more. Let's get to it:

In Bolivia, North Carolina, a former Brunswick County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Thursday on multiple drug and embezzlement charges. John Christian Blasingame, 42, had been fired in 2016, but was still in possession of state property, including a sheriff's office identification card, a sheriff's office badge, a sheriff's office tie with pin, a sheriff's office lapel pin, and sheriff's office plastic junior deputy badges. Oh, and various drugs. He is charged with selling a Schedule II controlled substance, possession with intent to sell a Schedule II controlled substance, felony possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and embezzlement of state property, among other charges.

In Gretna, Louisiana, a Jefferson Parish jail guard was arrested Monday on charges he smuggled weed into the jail. Correctional deputy Lyndon Hawkins, 25, admitted to smuggling weed when confronted by narcotics detectives. He is charged with transporting drugs into a correctional facility.

In Baton Rouge, a Baton Rouge police officer was fired last Friday after spending seven months on paid administrative leave for failing to report a marijuana joint she seized from a suspect. Michelle Patterson rewrote her incident report to remove any mention of the weed. A criminal investigation is now ended.

Medical Marijuana Update

A pair of Missouri medical marijuana initiative campaigns have handed in lots and lots of signatures, a federal appeals court upheld a DEA rule that CBD is a Schedule I controlled substance, the Utah initiative campaign gets organized opposition, and more.

National

Last Wednesday, a federal appeals court upheld a DEA rule on marijuana extracts. A three-judge panel on the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a DEA rule stating that marijuana extracts, including non-psychoactive CBD, are Schedule I substances. The Hemp Industries Association and others had challenged the rule, arguing that DEA overstepped its bounds by scheduling substances, such as cannabinoids, that were not classified as illicit under the Controlled Substances Act.

On Tuesday, House committee advanced a Veterans Affairs medical marijuana research bill. The House Veterans Affairs Committee Tuesday unanimously approved a measure that aims to increase VA research on medical marijuana. The bill would specify that the agency has the ability to research the herb for conditions including PTSD. The measure is part of a package of bills lawmakers hope to pass this month.

Arkansas

On Monday, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments on the licensing imbroglio. The state Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear oral arguments on a judge's decision to prevent the state from licensing medical marijuana cultivation operators. The judge had ruled that the licensing program violated the voter-approved constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana after a complaint from a business that failed to get a license.

Georgia

On Monday, the governor signed a bill allowing CBD cannabis oil for PTSD, intractable pain. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Monday signed into law House Bill 65, which adds PTSD and intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions that can be treated by CBD cannabis oil.

Louisiana

Last Thursday, the House killed a medical marijuana expansion bill. The House on Thursday voted down House Bill 826, which would have allowed any pharmacist in the state to open a medical marijuana dispensary. Instead, the state will maintain the status quo, which allows only nine pharmacies in the state to dispense medical marijuana.

On Monday, a medical marijuana for autistic children bill advanced. A bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana for children with severe autism has passed the House and, now, a vote in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. House Bill 627 now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Michigan

On Monday, state regulators recommended approving 10 new qualifying conditions. The state's Medical Marihuana Review Panel has recommended the approval of 10 new conditions that could qualify people to use medical marijuana. That's out of a list of 22 conditions people had asked the panel to review. The conditions include obsessive compulsive disorder, arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, Parkinson's, Tourettes, spinal cord injury, autism, and chronic pain. The recommendations now go to Shelly Edgerton, the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, who has until July 10 to make a final decision.

Missouri

On Tuesday, the Senate gave initial approval to a medical marijuana bill. The Senate Tuesday gave initial approval to House Bill 1554, which would allow people suffering from specified serious illnesses to use non-smokeable medical marijuana. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the Senate Committee on Health and Pensions for a second reading. If it survives that, it then goes to the full Senate for a floor vote.

Last Friday, two initiative campaigns handed in lots and lots of signatures. New Approach Missouri and Find the Cure, the folks behind a pair of medical marijuana initiatives (they differ only on how regulations would work and where tax dollars would go), announced last Friday that they had handed in roughly double the number of signatures they need to come up with 160,000 valid voter signatures. Find the Cure said it had handed in more than 300,000 signatures, while New Approach Missouri said it had handed in more than 370,000. Although initiative petitions occasionally see half of their signatures get disqualified, it's far more typical for them to lose a third. If both initiatives make the ballot, the one with the most votes on election day wins.

New Hampshire

Last Thursday, the Senate effectively killed a bill to allow patients to grow their own. The Senate on Thursday refused to pass a bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants. Instead, the body voted to send House Bill 1476 to interim study, effectively killing it for the session.

Utah

On Monday, organized opposition to the medical marijuana initiative emerged, including the DEA. Organized opposition to the Utah Patients Coalition's medical marijuana initiative has emerged, and it includes a local DEA task force, raising questions about a federal agency interfering in a state-level ballot question. Drug Safe Utah is recruiting paid canvassers to try to get voters who signed initiative campaigns to retract their signatures. Its members include the Utah Medical Association and the DEA's Salt Lake City Metro Narcotics Task Force.

On Tuesday, the "Right To Try" CBD medical marijuana law is now in effect. A limited medical marijuana law is now in effect. Under House Bill 195, which passed in March, terminally ill patients will be able to access CBD cannabis oil under a provision that expands the state's 2015 Right to Try Act. Also now in effect is House Bill 197, which establishes a medical marijuana cultivation program in the state. Both of these laws could soon be irrelevant, though: A much broader medical marijuana initiative will be on the ballot in November.

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

Chronicle AM: McConnell Just Says No to Legal Weed, Walmart Tightens Prescribing, More... (5/9/18)

Mitch McConnell just says no, a House committee advances a VA medical marijuana bill, Pennsylvania's governor and attorney general aren't down with a Philadelphia safe injection site, and more.

Mitch McConnell is down with hemp, but not pot. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Marijuana Policy

Mitch McConnell Confirms GOP Still the Party of "No" on Legal Marijuana. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he was not interested in legalizing marijuana, even though his Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has endorsed it. "I do not have any plans to endorse legalization of marijuana," McConnell said. McConnell is pushing for the legalization of hemp, though: "These are two entirely separate plants," McConnell said. "I hope everybody understands that. It is a different plant. It has an illicit cousin which I choose not to embrace."

Medical Marijuana

House Committee Advances Veterans Affairs Medical Marijuana Research Bill. The House Veterans' Affairs Committee Tuesday unanimously approved a measure that aims to increase VA research on medical marijuana. The bill would specify that the agency has the ability to research the herb for conditions including PTSD. The measure is part of a package of bills lawmakers hope to pass this month.

Missouri Senate Gives Initial Approval to Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Tuesday gave initial approval to House Bill 1554, which would allow people suffering from specified serious illnesses to use non-smokeable medical marijuana. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the Senate Committee on Health and Pensions for a second reading. If it survives that, it then goes to the full Senate for a floor vote.

Utah "Right To Try" CBD Medical Marijuana Law Now in Effect. A limited medical marijuana law is now in effect. Under House Bill 195, which passed in March, terminally ill patients will be able to access CBD cannabis oil under a provision that expands the state's 2015 Right to Try Act. Also now in effect is House Bill 197, which establishes a medical marijuana cultivation program in the state. Both of these laws could soon be irrelevant, though: A much broader medical marijuana initiative will be on the ballot in November.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Study: Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Have Little Effect on Overdose Deaths. A new study from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health finds that prescription drug monitoring programs may be only "marginally effective" in reducing drug overdose deaths. "What it really offers is this cautionary tale that says a few things. One, the amount of money and resources that are going into these programs need to be evaluated to understand what their ultimate costs are," social epidemiologist David Fink said. "Studies have come out in the past looking at reduced prescribing behavior, but we're taking it to the next level -- looking at fatal or nonfatal overdoses. And what we're seeing is that when you actually look at the literature, it isn't that strong to support" the programs. The study also found that half the studies looking at heroin overdose rates found a significant increase after prescription drug monitoring programs were implemented.

Walmart Tightens Opioid Prescription Policies. The nation's largest pharmacy chain announced Monday that beginning within 60 days, it will only fill first-time acute opioid prescriptions for a week or less nationwide. It will also limit dosages to 50 morphine milligram units per day. Walmart didn't say what it would do about patients who require greater dosages than that.

Harm Reduction

Officials in Philadelphia want a safe injection site in a bid to reduce drug overdoses that killed more than 1,200 people in the city last year, but the Democratic governor and attorney general aren't on board. A spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf said the idea "presents a number of serious public health and legal concerns, while a spokesman for Attorney General Josh Shapiro said changes in federal law would have to come before he could support a safe injection site.

Chronicle AM: No Home Grow for NH This Year, Australia Welfare Drug Test Plan, More... (5/8/17)

A new report finds legal marijuana makes a marginal contribution to state budgets, a major Las Vegas casino quits pre-employment testing for marijuana, an Australian Senate panel advances a controversial plan to drug test welfare recipients, and more.

A major Las Vegas strip casino gives up on pre-employment screening for marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Report: Legal Marijuana Boostz Government Revenues, Somewhat. A new report from Moody's Investor Service finds that legalizing and taxing marijuana boost revenues, but not dramatically. In Colorado, the report found, marijuana taxes accounted for 2% of the state budget; in Washington state, 1.2%.

No Home Cultivation for New Hampshire This Year. Legal home cultivation is dead in the Granite State this year after the Senate refused to advance a bill approved by the House. The measure, House Bill 1476, would have allowed residents to grow two mature and 12 seedlings. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to refer the bill to "interim study," where bills simply expire at the end of the session.

Major Las Vegas Casino Gives Up on Pre-Employment Marijuana Screening. In another sign of decreasing resort to drug testing for marijuana in a time of spreading legalization and low unemployment, Caesars Entertainment Group announced Monday that it has ended pre-employment drug testing for pot. "A number of states have changed their laws and we felt we might be missing some good candidates because of the marijuana issue and we felt that pre-screening for marijuana was on the whole, counterproductive," said Rich Broome, executive vice president of corporate communications and community affairs for Caesars. "If somebody is believed to be using or high at work, then we would continue to screen for marijuana and other drugs."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments on Licensing Imbroglio. The state Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear oral arguments on a judge's decision to prevent the state from licensing medical marijuana cultivation operators. The judge had ruled that the licensing program violated the voter-approved constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana after a complaint from a business that failed to get a license.

Georgia Governor Signs Bill Allowing CBD Cannabis Oil for PTSD, Intractable Pain. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Monday signed into law House Bill 65, which adds PTSD and intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions that can be treated by CBD cannabis oil.

International

Australian Senate Committee Endorses Plans to Drug Test Welfare Recipients. The Australian federal government's Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee issued a report Monday recommending passage of the government's highly controversial plan to impose drug testing on welfare recipients. The bill would create a trial program under which some 5,000 welfare recipients would face mandatory testing. People who test positive would be placed on "income management" for two years, while those who test positive twice within two years could be forced to undergo drug treatment. The plan has been condemned by medical and social welfare organizations, including the Australian Medical Association, which expressed "significant concern" about the plan. "Elements of the proposal are unnecessarily punitive and will increase stigmatisation among the most disadvantaged in the community," the AMA said.

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