Breaking News:CONGRESS: Pass S. 1055 for Philippines Human Rights Accountability

Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: First Marijuana Overdose Death Reports are Bogus, Canada Pot Plans, More... (11/17/17)

The reports of the first marijuana overdose death are unscientific hype, Canada's provinces try varying paths toward dealing with legal marijuana, and more. 

Canada's provinces are taking varying approaches to looming marijuana legalization.
Marijuana Policy

First Marijuana Ovedose Death? Not So Fast. A case report about a Colorado infant who died after being exposed to marijuana generated numerous headlines about "the first marijuana overdose death" this week, but those headlines misstated the findings. "We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed that child," said St. Luke's University Director of Medical Toxicology Thomas Nappe, an author of the report, told the Washington Post. Instead, said Nappe, the doctors in the case noted the presence of marijuana in the child's system and warned the medical community that it may be worth studying whether there is a relationship between the presence of marijuana and the child's cause of death, myocarditis.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Announces New Fees for Medical Marijuana Businesses. The state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announced Friday that medical marijuana businesses must pay a $6,000 one-time application fee to the state. That's in addition to any municipal fees, which could run as high as $5,000. The fee announcement comes as the state attempts to overhaul its medical marijuana regulations, with "emergency" regulations set to be issued next month.

International

Alberta Will Allow Pot Sales in Private Shops and on Government Web Site. The provincial government filed a bill Thursday to deal with looming pot legalization. The bill would allow marijuana to be sold online on a government website as well as through privately-operated stores. The bill also sets a minimum age of 18 for marijuana consumption. If passed, the proposals would go into effect on July 1, 2018, when marijuana becomes legal in Canada.

Quebec Bill Would Bar Home Marijuana Cultivation, Set Government Sales Monopoly. The provincial government's draft marijuana legislation, filed Thursday, would see marijuana sold only by a series of province-owned pot shops and a government website. The measure also bars home cultivation and attempts to crack down on marijuana-impaired driving. 

Update and Action Alert: Trump, Duterte, Congress, and the Philippine Drug War Killings

Dear Reformer:

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte met for the first time, during the ASEAN Summit in Manila which Duterte hosted. As predicted, Trump did not raise human rights during their meeting, although a White House spokesperson claimed it came up "briefly" during a private discussion.

The top human rights issue Trump might have brought up with Duterte is the campaign of drug war killings that Duterte promised during his presidential campaign, and which he has followed through on since taking office in June last year. Human rights organizations and media have given estimates ranging from 7,000 to 14,000 killed already.

In a sign-on statement I organized, which has been endorsed by nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals and which we released this week in advance of the Trump-Duterte meeting, we note that the Philippine National Police (PNP) acknowledge over 3,900 people have been killed in anti-drug operations under the Duterte administration, plus nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still "unexplained." Our statement also notes the Philippines saw a roughly 50% increase in its official homicide rate, starting immediately when Duterte took office – hard to explain in the absence of an official policy of extrajudicial killing.

The statement was covered in articles on four important Philippines news outlets, including the Inquirer, Rappler (8th and 12th most read web sites in the Philippines respectively), the Philippine Star and InterAksyon. The Interaksyon article credited our coalition with renewing global calls for a UN-led probe into the drug war killings. Leading human rights organizations in the Philippines, Filipino American groups, top NGOs like NOW and Doctors of the World, and many others supported the statement. More than 50 of the NGOs endorsing it are based in Asia, including groups from a majority of the ASEAN states.

Should Trump have met individually with Duterte, and should he have pressed Duterte on human rights when he did? World leaders need to communicate with each other, and there's room for debate as to how best a US president should juggle competing interests. Unfortunately, Trump's silence on human rights during ASEAN leaves standing some incredibly harmful statements he has made on the matter in the past:

We will never know for sure if Trump's implicit greenlighting of Duterte's mass killing campaign led to more such killings, but it's possible. Clearly the president of Indonesia, who launched his own drug war mass murder campaign as part of a reelection strategy in August, must have taken note.

If the president won't lead on human rights, or even arguably helps to make things worse, then Congress should step in. That's why we are supporting S. 1055, "The Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017," bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Although not perfect, S. 1055 would impose important human rights conditions on law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, and would fund positive health programs as well as the work of Philippine human rights defenders. Among the bill's supporters are Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the iDEFEND human rights coalition in the Philippines, the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance, US Filipinos for Good Governance, and our close partners the Drug Policy Alliance.

Along with sending you this update, I also have the following three requests:

  1. If you are a US voter, please write to Congress in support of S. 1055, using the online write-to-Congress form we've set up. Please follow up on your email by calling your state's two Senators and your Representative. (But please do use the form too – this will enable us to contact you if you live in a key state or district.) The time to do this is now, because we are trying to influence the pending State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, over the next few weeks.
  2. Please help to publicize our statement and S. 1055. You can use the set of sample social posts we've prepared for Facebook and Twitter, copied below my signature. You can also go straight to our Twitter page, @stopthedrugwar, where we have already retweeted some of these as posted by others. We'll be posting more to Twitter and to our Facebook group later as well.
  3. We need your financial support for this effort, and for other work like publishing the Drug War Chronicle newsletter, a key tool for advocates and many others in the issue. Tax-deductible donations to our 501(c)(3) nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation, will support work like the Philippines statement and the newsletter. Non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Drug Reform Coordination Network, will support our legislative work directly supporting S. 1055, and other legislative matters in the US. If you would like to designate a gift for a specific program, please leave a note in the comment box on our donation form, or with your check if donating by mail. Links to both nonprofits' donation forms can be found at http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, and our mailing address is P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016.

Thank you for helping and for your time reading this update. As we noted in the closing paragraphs of our Philippines statement, "Support for the global system of responsibilities and rights has become uncertain… lawlessness and extrajudicial violence must not become a model for more countries. When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act… The time for action is now."

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853 / Washington, DC 20016
http://stopthedrugwar.org
"U.S. and U.N. Drug Policy Reform"

Here are the sample social media posts:

Please help us by spreading the statement and news coverage on social media. Following are sample posts for Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter samples:

Posts highlighting S. 1055, the Philippines human rights appropriations bill in the US Senate:

Congress should press Philippines @OfficialDuterte to stop drug war killings, if @realDonaldTrump won't: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/633065/british-paper-s-banner-photo-of-trump-duterte-says-hand-in-hand-with-a-killer/story/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wibl5h2YZdM #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

@SenBobCorker @RepEdRoyce Please sponsor and move the Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act through your committees! http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1055 #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

Thank you @TLHumanRights Lantos Commission co-chairs @RepHultgren @RepMcGovern for highlighting Philippines extrajudicial drug war killings. https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2 #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/human-rights-consequences-war-drugs-philippines

@SenatorCardin @marcorubio Thank you for sponsoring Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act – civil society supports! http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1055 #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

@RepSpeier Thank you for speaking out against Philippines extrajudicial killings at @TLHumanRights – civil society supports! http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit #StopTheKillings https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/human-rights-consequences-war-drugs-philippines WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

Excerpts from the Statement:

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation. We… call on world leaders attending [#ASEANSummit] to unequivocally call for an end to the [Philippines drug war] killings…" https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings @UNHumanRights

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "Since the Philippines escalated its 'drug war'… over 3,900 people have been killed [by police] operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still 'unexplained'" say police. http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "If a government is unwilling or unable to seek justice, treaties allow for intervention by the International Criminal Court…" https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings @IntlCrimCourt

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act… The time for action is now." http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We… urge the international community to fund Philippine human rights defenders at a level matching the crisis." http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @iDefendPH https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGsJsfgvj_w @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Articles to Link:

Global coalition calls for end to Philippine drug war killings ahead of Trump's Philippines visit: http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

International coalition calls for 'decisive actions' against drug war killings in Philippines: https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @jodeszgavilan @rapplerdotcom @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Ahead of ASEAN, international coalition calls for probe into drug war killings: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @gaeacabico @PhilstarNews @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

On eve of ASEAN summit, more than 270 groups, individuals renew calls for UN-led probe of drug war killings: http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @interaksyon @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Press Release: Global Statement Calls for International Action on Philippine Drug War Killings https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Trump Celebrates "Great Relationship" With Philippine President Duterte at ASEAN Summit http://www.drugpolicy.org/press-release/2017/11/trump-celebrates-great-relationship-philippine-president-duterte-asean-summit @MMcFarlandSM @DrugPolicyOrg @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

@amnesty @hrw reports show government responsible for drug war killings: https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/if-you-are-poor-you-are-killed-extrajudicial-executions-in-the-philippines-war-on-drugs/ https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/03/02/license-kill/philippine-police-killings-dutertes-war-drugs #StopTheKillings https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar

Thank you @JustinTrudeau for pressing @OfficialDuterte on human rights, Philippines drug war: http://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/trudeau-raises-concerns-with-duterte-over-bloody-drug-war-in-the-philippines #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar

Thank you @jacindaardern for pressing @OfficialDuterte on human rights, Philippines drug war: https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/188439-jacinda-ardern-comment-drug-war-asean-2017 #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar

Facebook sample posts:

Posts highlighting S. 1055, the Philippines human rights appropriations bill in the US Senate:

Congress should press Philippines to stop the extrajudicial drug war killings, if President Trump won't – enact S. 1055 to put human rights conditions on aid: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/633065/british-paper-s-banner-photo-of-trump-duterte-says-hand-in-hand-with-a-killer/story/ Read the NGO statement at https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/asean-philippines-sign-on-statement-november-2017.pdf. #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Sen. Corker, Rep. Royce, please sponsor and move the Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act through your committees! http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1055 #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress at https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Thank you Lantos Commission co-chairs Reps. Hultgren and McGovern for highlighting Philippines extrajudicial drug war killings in your July hearing. Civil society supports you: https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings #StopTheKilling #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress at https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Thank you Sens. Cardin and Rubio for sponsoring Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act -- civil society supports you: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Thank you Rep. Speier for speaking out against Philippines extrajudicial killings https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/human-rights-consequences-war-drugs-philippines – civil society supports you: http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress at https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Excerpts from the Statement:

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation. We… call on world leaders attending [#ASEANSummit] to unequivocally call for an end to the [Philippines drug war] killings…" https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "Since the Philippines escalated its 'drug war'… over 3,900 people have been killed [by police] operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still 'unexplained'" say police. http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "If a government is unwilling or unable to seek justice, treaties allow for intervention by the International Criminal Court…" https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act… The time for action is now." http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We… urge the international community to fund Philippine human rights defenders at a level matching the crisis." http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @iDefendPH #StopTheKillings

Articles to Link:

Global coalition calls for end to Philippine drug war killings ahead of Trump's Philippines visit: http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

International coalition calls for 'decisive actions' against drug war killings in Philippines: https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @jodeszgavilan @rapplerdotcom @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Ahead of ASEAN, international coalition calls for probe into drug war killings: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @gaeacabico @PhilstarNews @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

On eve of ASEAN summit, more than 270 groups, individuals renew calls for UN-led probe of drug war killings: http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @interaksyon @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Press Release: Global Statement Calls for International Action on Philippine Drug War Killings https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Trump Celebrates "Great Relationship" With Philippine President Duterte at ASEAN Summit http://www.drugpolicy.org/press-release/2017/11/trump-celebrates-great-relationship-philippine-president-duterte-asean-summit #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Other:

Amnesty International Report report shows government responsible for drug war killings: https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/if-you-are-poor-you-are-killed-extrajudicial-executions-in-the-philippines-war-on-drugs/ #StopTheKillings Civil society calls for international action: https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings

Human Rights Watch report shows government responsible for drug war killings: https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/03/02/license-kill/philippine-police-killings-dutertes-war-drugs #StopTheKillings Civil society calls for international action: https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings

Thank you Prime Minister Trudeau for pressing Duterte on human rights in the Philippines drug war: http://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/trudeau-raises-concerns-with-duterte-over-bloody-drug-war-in-the-philippines Civil society supports you -- http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit

Thank you Prime Minister Ardern for pressing Duterte on human rights in the Philippines drug war: https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/188439-jacinda-ardern-comment-drug-war-asean-2017 Civil society supports you -- http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A body cam catches an LAPD cop planting a bag of cocaine on a suspect, a Philadelphia cop gets nailed in a multi-cop drug dealing conspiracy, a Houston cop gets nailed for not turning in seized cocaine, and more. Let's get to it:

In Los Angeles, an LAPD officer was suspended last Thursday for allegedly planting a bag of cocaine in the wallet of a man he was arresting. Officer Samuel Lee was betrayed by his own body camera, which appeared to show him putting the cocaine in the man's wallet. Lee has been taken off field duty while the incident is investigated, and the LAPD has since updated in body camera policy so the cameras record up to two minutes of activity that occurs before the officer turns them on, instead of the 30 seconds under the old policy.

In Houston, a Houston police officer was arrested last Thursday for stealing drugs during traffic stops. Officer Julissa Guzman Diaz, 37, went down in a sting where an undercover officer got himself pulled over for swerving on the highway and told her he had kilos of cocaine in his car. Diaz arrested the driver for DWI, but did not turn in the cocaine, instead calling a wrecker driver to tow the car and offering him a share of the coke. She is charged with felony tampering and fabricating evidence, and is out on $100,000 bail.

In Philadelphia, a Philadelphia police officer was arrested Tuesday for supposedly masterminding a plot to sell seized drugs on the street. Officer Eric Snell went down after coming up with the scheme in the wake of a car chase and the seizure of ounces of cocaine. Rather than turn them in, he allegedly conspired with a group of other officers to sell the stuff on the street. One of the officers had been arrested earlier, and Snell implicated himself in the plot in phone calls to that officer while he was in jail. He faces charges of racketeering conspiracy and drug trafficking.

In Nashville, a Metro-Nashville police narcotics officer was arrested Wednesday for allegedly stealing more than $5,000. Sgt. James Dunaway went down in a sting where police placed $28,000 and four pounds of marijuana in motel room. Dunaway was seen on surveillance video taking money from different locations within the room. A total of $5,860 was taken. Dunaway is charged with felony theft.

In Mountain City, Tennessee, a Mountain City police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to drug and guns crimes. Officer Ronald Shupe, 44, bought oxycodone from an undercover informant and was then arrested by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and Tennessee Highway Patrol agents. He was armed and in uniform. He pleaded guilty to possessing oxycodone with intent to distribute and carrying a gun during a drug trafficking offense.

Medical Marijuana Update

A leading Kentucky politican creates a panel to draft a medical marijuana bill, New York approves medical marijuana for PTSD, Montana released new proposed rules for the industry, and more.

Arizona

On Monday, the state was sued over patient fees. A Phoenix attorney has asked the state Court of Appeals to force health officials to cut the $150 fee patients need to get a state-issued permit to use medical marijuana. Attorney Sean Berberian said the fee is illegally high, is far more than needed to finance the administration of the medical marijuana law, and is designed to divert patients away from applying to use medical marijuana.

Kentucky

On Wednesday, the secretary of state formed a panel to write a medical marijuana bill. Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D) said that she is putting together a panel to write a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. The panel will include doctors, nurses, military veterans, medical marijuana advocates, and law enforcement. The aim is to have a bill ready for the 2018 legislative session.

Montana

On Thursday, the state released new proposed rules for the medical marijuana industry. The state Health Department Thursday released a pack of of proposed rules for the medical marijuana industry, which will be the subject of a public hearing later this month. The rules cover regulation of areas such as employment, product testing and tracking, security, and fees.

New York

Last Saturday, the state approved medical marijuana for PTSD. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law Saturday a bill that adds PTSD to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. "Our veterans risked their lives in order to defend the ideals and principles that this nation was founded upon," Cuomo said in a signing statement, "and it is our duty to do everything we can to support them when they return home. PTSD is a serious problem facing our state, and now we have one more tool available to alleviate suffering."

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

Chronicle AM: GA County Pays Big Time for School Drug Raid, Afghan Opium Crop Up, More... (11/16/17)

California gets ready for legal marijuana, Michigan gets ready to put a legalization initiative on the ballot, a Georgia county pays bigtime for a raid on school students, Afghan opium production nearly doubles, and more.

In Afghan fields, the poppies grow... and grow and grow... (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

California Announces Emergency Licensing Regs for Legal Marijuana Commerce. The state's three marijuana licensing authorities announced Thursday that they have posted online proposed emergency licensing regulations for the era of legal marijuana commerce beginning January 1. The Bureau of Cannabis Control regulations are available here; the Department of Food and Agriculture regulations are available here; and the Department of Public Health regulations are available here.

Michigan Initiative Campaign Has Signatures, Needs to Pay for Them. The campaign to put a legalization initiative on the November 2018 ballot said Wednesday it had gathered more than 360,000 raw signatures, well more than the 252,000 required by law, but that it needed to raise $30,000 to pay off a signature-collection firm before it can turn in the signatures. The campaign said it expected to be able to hand in signatures before Thanksgiving.

San Francisco Won't Be Ready for Legal Pot Sales on January 1. Oh, irony of ironies, the city that was ground zero for the marijuana reform movement won't be ready to allow marijuana sales on January 1, when legal sales begin statewide. In a Tuesday meeting, the Board of Supervisors failed to agree on regulations governing sales, postponing further discussion of the rules until November 28, and virtually ensuring that rules will not be in place by January 1.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Secretary of State Forms Panel to Write Medical Marijuana Bill. Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D) said Wednesday that she is putting together a panel to write a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. The panel will include doctors, nurses, military veterans, medical marijuana advocates, and law enforcement. The aim is to have a bill ready for the 2018 legislative session.

Montana Released New Proposed Rules for Medical Marijuana Industry. The state Health Department Thursday released a pack of of proposed rules for the medical marijuana industry, which will be the subject of a public hearing later this month. The rules cover regulation of areas such as employment, product testing and tracking, security, and fees.

Drug Testing

Department of Transportation Adds Opioids to Truck Driver Drug Testing Panel. The DOT issued a final rule Monday that will expand its drug testing panel for DOT-regulated industries to include hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone. The agency said the move was "a direct effort to enhance safety, prevent opioid abuse and combat the nation's growing opioid epidemic." The rule goes into effect on January 1.

Law Enforcement

Georgia County to Pay $3 Million to Students in School-Wide Drug Search. Worth County, Georgia, has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit brought on behalf of students who were subjected to a school-wide lockdown during a drug sweep in April. Each Worth County High School Student will receive between $1,000 and $6,000, with the higher amounts going to students who suffered more invasive violations. "This settlement is a victory for the hundreds of Worth County students whose constitutional rights were violated," Mark Begnaud, an attorney for one of the students, told UPI.

International

Afghan Opium Output Nearly Doubled This Year. Opium production in Afghanistan hit a record level of nearly 10,000 tons this year, up 87% from last year. The area under poppy cultivation also increased, up 63% over last year. The figures are coming from the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. "It is high time for the international community and Afghanistan to reprioritize drug control, and to acknowledge that every nation has a shared responsibility for this global problem," UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said in a statement.

Chronicle AM: NH Panel Votes Down Legalization Bill, Kratom Battle Heats Up, More... (11/15/17)

Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidates get behind legal weed, a New Hampshire House committee doesn't, Arizona gets sued over high medical marijuana permit fees, the kratom wars heat up, and more.

Kratom -- advocates call it a boon, the FDA and DEA call it a bane. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Support Marijuana Legalization. Four leading Democratic contenders for the gubernatorial nomination are supporting marijuana legalization, and so is one little-known Republican candidate. "We've seen other states do it wrong. In Michigan, we've got a chance to do it right," said former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday night in a candidate forum hosted by MI Legalize. That is the group behind the legalization initiative campaign set to hand in signatures next week. Other Democratic contenders including Abdul El-Sayed and Bill Cobb are also embracing legalization. Republican front runner Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has been an ardent foe of medical marijuana, has so far avoided commenting on legalization.

New Hampshire House Committee Rejects Marijuana Legalization Bill. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted to kill House Bill 656, which would have legalized marijuana, after members expressed concerns about conflicts with federal law and the desirability of legalizing it in a state in the throes of an opioid crisis. But despite the committee vote, the bill is not necessarily dead: In recent years, the full House has repeatedly overturned the committee's recommendations and passed marijuana reform bills.

Vermont Marijuana Task Force Has Second Meeting. Gov. Phil Scott's Marijuana Advisory Commission met for the second time Wednesday, concentrating on the impact of legalization on highway safety. The commission heard a report from Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson. "When you have increased use of marijuana or legalization of marijuana, you're gonna see more fatalities on your roadways. I think the data does support that, and I know there are different views on that, but I would feel comfortable taking that to a jury and trying to convince them of that," said Anderson. The commission must finalize its recommendations by January 15.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Sued Over Patient Fees. A Phoenix attorney has asked the state Court of Appeals to force health officials to cut the $150 fee patients need to get a state-issued permit to use medical marijuana. Attorney Sean Berberian said the fee is illegally high, is far more than needed to finance the administration of the medical marijuana law, and is designed to divert patients away from applying to use medical marijuana.

Kratom

FDA Issues Warning on Kratom, Advocates Reject It. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a public health advisory on kratom Tuesday, saying the herb was linked to 36 deaths and calling its use as an opioid substitute "extremely concerning." But on Wednesday, the American Kratom Association pushed back, calling on the FDA to rescind the advisory because it relied on "discredited, incomplete, and mischaracterized scientific claims." The DEA moved to emergency ban kratom a year ago, but backed down in the face of loud opposition. The FDA alert could suggest that efforts to crackdown could be coming soon.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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: Sessions on State-Legal Pot, Trump and Duterte Buddy Up, More... (11/14/17)

The US attorney general concedes that Obama-era pot policy is still in effect, New York approves medical marijuana for PTSD, the Bolivian high court upholds a coca expansion law, Trump buddies up with drug war criminal Duterte, and more.

Licit Bolivian coca production will nearly double under a new law just approved by the country's high court. (YouTube)
Marijuana Policy

Sessions Acknowledges that Obama's Laissez-Faire Marijuana Policy Remains in Effect. At a congressional hearing Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions conceded that Obama-era policies allowing states to go their own way on marijuana policy remain in effect. "Our policy is the same, really, fundamentally as the Holder-Lynch policy, which is that the federal law remains in effect and a state can legalize marijuana for its law enforcement purposes but it still remains illegal with regard to federal purposes," Sessions said, referring to his Obama administration predecessors.

Wisconsin Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Former state Democratic Party chairman and current contender for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination Matt Flynn has come out for marijuana legalization -- but only if state voters support it. He is calling for a non-binding referendum on the issue to guide policy makers. "Having reviewed the results of legalization in other states, I now believe Wisconsin should legalize marijuana," said Flynn. "I am concerned about the impact of mass incarceration on our society, including both the social and financial impact. Under present law, people can easily acquire a felony record that effectively bars them from most employment for the rest of their lives. The financial burden on the criminal justice system is also unacceptable."

Medical Marijuana

New York Approves Medical Marijuana for PTSD. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law Saturday a bill that adds PTSD to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. "Our veterans risked their lives in order to defend the ideals and principles that this nation was founded upon," Cuomo said in a signing statement, "and it is our duty to do everything we can to support them when they return home. PTSD is a serious problem facing our state, and now we have one more tool available to alleviate suffering."

Foreign Policy

Trump Celebrates "Great Relationship" With Philippines Drug War Criminal Duterte. During a visit to the Philippines Monday as part of his Asian trip, President Donald Trump said he had a "great relationship" with Philippines President Duterte, under whom thousands of alleged drug users and sellers have been killed by policy and shadowy death squads. According to a Duterte spokesman, when Duterte brought up "the drug menace" in his country, Trump did not mention the topic of human rights or express any concern about the bloody toll in Duterte's drug war.

International

Poll: Nearly Two-Thirds of Germans Oppose Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Forsa has found support for marijuana legalization at only 34%, with 63% opposed.  Support for legalization centered in smaller parties on the left and right, with the Left Party (55%), the Green Party (46%), and the Alternative for Germany (41%) having the highest levels of support for legalization.

Bolivia High Court Approves Morales Coca Law. The country's Constitutional Tribunal has upheld a bill passed earlier this year that nearly doubles the amount of licit coca cultivation in the country from 30,000 acres to 55,000 acres. The law also allows the government to regulate the cultivation, sale, and distribution of the leaf.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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.)

You Won't Believe Which Middle East Theocrat Has Okayed Psychedelics Treatment

In a move barely noticed in the West, more than three years ago, Iran's Grand Ayatollah Rohani issued a formal legal ruling -- a "fatwa" -- declaring that the use of entheogens and psychedelics was permissible ("ḥalāl") for Shi'i Muslims for purposes of treatment and spiritual growth.

Iran's Grand Ayatollah Rohani (Wikipedia)
Grand Ayatollah Rohani's fatwa specified that such use should be undertaken under the direction and supervision of qualified experts, but it did not specify which psychoactive substances were meant to be included. The fatwa, however, was delivered after long discussions with petitioners about the effects of DMT, ayahuasca, haoma (or soma), LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, ibogaine, and marijuana.

Sufi mystic, Islamic scholar and psychedelic practitioner Wahid Azal explained what happened in an interview with Reality Sandwich. Another Shi'i scholar approached him about opening a dialog with the Shi'i religious establishment in an effort to get some sort of formal legal opinion about the approach to the therapeutic and spiritual use of entheogens:

To make a long story short, after well over a year and a half of back and forth discussions and correspondences between my friend (and one other individual) with the office of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammad Sadeq Hussaini Rohani in Qom, Iran; in mid-March 2014, via email, the Grand Ayatollah issued a formal legal ruling (that is, a fatwa) determining the use of entheogens and psychoactive substances to be licit and thus permissible (ḥalāl) for Shi'i Muslims provided it be under the direction and supervision of qualified experts (ahl al-ikhtiṣāṣ), and that, moreover, such plant substances as a rule do not impair the mind. In the final missive before the decision, the questioner specifically underscored the issue of the visionary component of these plants, where people have reported visions of paradise and hell, and Grand Ayatollah Rohani's fatwa finds no objections here either.
 

Rohani could have been open to mind-altering drugs because the psychedelics have a resemblance to Esfand, also known as Syrian rue (peganum harmala), which contains the psychoactive indole alkaloid harmaline, a central nervous system stimulant and MAO inhibitor used for thousands of years in the region. According to at least one Shi'i tradition, the Prophet Mohammed took esfand for 50 days.

Whatever the precise theological reasoning behind the Rohani's fatwa, with it, Iran could leapfrog Western nations when it comes to psychedelic research. Although psychedelics are seeing a research renaissance in the West, research here is limited by their criminalized legal status, as well as lack of funding. But the Islamic Republic has cleared the way.

Drug-Induced Homicide Charges Draconian and Ineffective, Study Finds [FEATURE]

A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance shines a harsh spotlight on a strategy that some police, prosecutors, and elected officials are embracing in response to the opioid overdose crisis -- charging sellers with drug-induced homicide -- which the evidence suggests is intensifying, rather than helping, the problem.

James Linder, 28 years for drug induced homicide. (DPA)
The opioid overdose crisis is real enough -- a record of more than 60,000 people died of drug overdoses last year, most of them from opioids -- but claims that charging drug sellers with murder is an effective deterrent are unproven, according to the report, An Overdose Death Is Not Murder: Why Drug-Induced Homicide Laws Are Counterproductive and Inhumane.

Instead, such laws actually deter people not from selling drugs but from seeking life-saving medical assistance in case of overdose. That's because drug-induced homicide prosecutions typically don't target high-level "kingpins," but zero in on the very people best positioned to actually save lives in the event of an overdose: family, friends, and low-level drug sellers, often addicts themselves.

Like Amy Shemberger. In August 2014, she took a ride to score some heroin for herself and her boyfriend, Peter Kucinski. She snorted one bag on the way home and gave the other to Peter when she got home. Suffering from severe alcohol withdrawal, he needed the heroin to feel better. He snorted a $10 bag, then stopped breathing. Amy called 911, but it was too late, and her boyfriend of 18 years was gone -- and then so was their 5-year-old son, taken into custody by child protective services.

Two months later, Amy was charged with drug-induced homicide for sharing her score with her life partner. She's now serving seven years in state prison.

Amy Shemberger is not an outlier. Police and prosecutors routinely abuse their discretion by going after the people best positioned to actually save the lives of overdose victims -- their friends, family members, fellow drug users, and small-time drug sellers. The report offers several examples: In New Jersey, 25 of 32 drug-induced homicide prosecutions in the 2000s targeted friends of the victims who were not involved in significant drug sales. In Wisconsin, 90% of the most recent cases targeted friends or relatives of the victim. In Illinois, a study of these prosecutions found that prosecutors typically charged the last person known to be with the victim.

And, as with everything else in the war on drugs, it's worse if you're not white. Hampered by a felony record, when James Linder, 36, lost his job at a bakery, he resorted to selling small amounts of drugs, making enough money to get a haircut for his son and to help out his sister. But in January 2015, he sold three packets of heroin to Cody Hillier. Hillier's girlfriend, Danielle Barzyk died of an overdose later that same day. Despite never even metting Barzyk, Linder was charged with drug-induced homicide in her death. He was sentenced by an all-white jury in rural Illinois. Unlike Shemberger, he didn't get seven years; he got 28 years in prison.

Linder and Schemberger are by no means alone. Drug-induced homicide laws, originally passed in the depths of 1980s drug war excess, lay largely dormant until rising drug overdose numbers led police and prosecutors to revive them. Currently 20 states -- Delaware, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming -- have drug-induced homicide laws on the books. Other states without such laws also manage to charge these people with the offense of drug delivery resulting in death under various felony-murder, depraved heart, or involuntary or voluntary manslaughter laws.

"This is a wasteful, punitive policy that compounds the tragedy of an overdose by locking up even more people in the name of the failing war on drugs," said Lindsay LaSalle, senior staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance and author of the report. "By placing the blame for an overdose death on the single person who supplied the drugs, all the structural factors that lead to addiction and overdose are ignored, as are the solutions that could actually make a difference. While there's no evidence in support of the effectiveness of drug-induced homicide laws, the good news is that there are proven health and harm reduction interventions that can save lives."

Those include policies and practices such as 911 Good Samaritan laws, which protect people reporting drug overdoses from arrest; expanded access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan), expanded access to opioid-assisted treatment, and expansion of harm reduction programs such as supervised drug injection sites, where users can shoot up under medical supervision and be connected with social service agencies.

There is no national database of drug-induced homicide prosecutions, so the Drug Policy Alliance report relied on media mentions of such cases to chart their spread. It found 363 articles mentioning such cases in 2011, but by 2016, that number had jumped to 1,178, a 300% increase in just five years. And this without any evidence of their effectiveness in reducing drug use or sales or preventing overdose deaths.

The resort to drug-induced homicide charges varies from state to state. Midwestern states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, and Minnesota have been the most aggressive in prosecuting drug-induced homicides, with northeastern states Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York and southern states Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee rapidly expanding their use of these laws. And the move remains politically popular: This year alone, elected officials in at least 13 states -- Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia -- introduced bills to create new drug-induced homicide offenses or strengthen existing drug-induced homicide laws.

But the increased criminalization of people who use and sell drugs only exacerbates the very problem prosecutors are supposedly trying to address. It increases stigma, drives people away from needed care, and will likely result in the same racial disparities now synonymous with other drug war tactics.

"This is no time to ratchet up enforcement responses to addiction and overdose -- we can't afford to repeat the mistakes of the past," warned LaSalle. "Overdose deaths are skyrocketing and it could be your loved one who dies from a preventable drug overdose, simply because someone was too scared to call 911."

Chronicle AM: ME MedMJ Crackdown, Duterte Faces Heat Over Human Rights Abuses, More... (11/10/17)

The DEA will enact an emergency ban on fentanyl analogs, Maine officials try to tighten up the medical marijuana market, NGOs and individuals target Filipino President Duterte ahead of the ASEAN Summit, and more.

Filipino President Duterte remains defiant in the face of rising calls for an investigation into human rights abuses. (Wikimedia
Marijuana Policy

North Dakotans Gear Up for Legalization Initiative Campaign. Coming off a successful medical marijuana initiative campaign last year, state activists are eyeing a full-blown legalization initiative for 2018. The Recreational Marijuana/Expungement initiative campaign is expected to file with the secretary of state's office next week. If approved there, the measure could then move on to the signature gathering phase.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Poll Has Strong Support for Medical Marijuana. A new Georgia College poll has support for medical marijuana at 77%, up 13 points from the same poll two years ago. Rep. Allan Peake (R-Macon) has been pushing for medical marijuana for several years; this poll should give a boost to his efforts in 2018.

Maine Cracks Down on Medical Marijuana. The state Health Department issued new rules Wednesday that tighten the state's medical marijuana market. Under the new rules, authorities can conduct surprise inspections of grows, and the department is implementing a new patient tracking system. The changes will go into effect on February 1.

Industrial Hemp

Wisconsin Senate Passes Hemp Bill. The Senate has unanimously approved a measure that would legalize the production and cultivation of industrial hemp. The bill would create a system of state licenses for farmers to legally grow hemp. The measure now goes to the Assembly, which is also expected to pass the bill.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Will Enact Emergency Ban on Fentanyl Analogs.The Department of Justice Thursday announced that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intends to take immediate action against the flow of illicit fentanyl analogues into this country and the alarming increase in overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids by scheduling all fentanyl-related substances on an emergency basis. When the DEA's order takes effect, anyone who possesses, imports, distributes, or manufactures any illicit fentanyl analogue will be subject to criminal prosecution in the same manner as for fentanyl and other controlled substances. The action announced Thursday will make it easier for federal prosecutors and agents to prosecute traffickers of all forms of fentanyl-related substances.

International

On Eve of ASEAN Summit, Hundreds of Groups Call for UN Probe of Philippines Drug War Killings. More than 280 nongovernmental organizations and individuals have renewed calls for a UN-led investigation into the thousands of deaths linked to the Philippines drug war as the country prepares to host the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit this weekend. They all signed onto a statement coordinated by Stopthedrugwar.org executive director David Borden and "organized by a coalition including the leading human rights organizations in the Philippines, Filipino-American advocacy groups, drug policy reform, recovery, (and) HIV/AIDS groups," among others. The move came after President Duterte again insisted he would brook no criticism of his human rights record, warning that he would tell US President Trump to "lay off" if he brought up the issue. But Trump has given no indication he has any concerns about human rights abuses in the Philippines.

Press Release: Global Statement Calls for International Action on Philippine Drug War Killings

Concern Growing in Asia, US, World Over Philippines Extrajudicial Drug War Killings

In Advance of ASEAN Summit, More Than 270 NGOs, Political Leaders, Human Rights and Health Advocates Call for International Pressure -- and for Justice

pcoo.gov.ph
A global coalition released a statement today calling for urgent measures to stop Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's murderous drug war and to seek justice. The statement comes just before President Trump (who has repeatedly praised Duterte's drug war) will meet with Duterte for the first time, during the ASEAN Summit in the Philippines November 12-14. In anticipation, Duterte has reportedly told Trump to "lay off" human rights issues. Trump is one of 21 world leaders, along with the UN's Secretary General, expected to attend the Summit.

Of the more than 200 NGO endorsers on the statement, more than 40 are based in Asia, including a majority of ASEAN member states as well as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The statement also lists several Asia-wide networks on issues such as HIV, transgender and drug user concerns, and youth democracy activism.

A political component of the statement's outreach efforts is in the early stages, but includes legislators from Canada, Italy, Cambodia, and Washington State, as well as other political and governmental officials from Singapore, Canada and the UK.

"We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation," says the statement. "We likewise call on world leaders attending the ASEAN Summit to unequivocally call for an end to the killings and for human rights to be respected."

The statement notes: "Since the Philippines escalated its 'drug war' in June of last year, over 3,900 people have been killed in anti-drug operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still 'unexplained,' according to police reports. Estimates by media and human rights groups for the total drug war killings have ranged from 7,000 up to 14,000. Appearance suggests there may be a deliberate policy of extrajudicial killing." (References are available in the statement's end notes section.)

The statement was organized by a coalition including the leading human rights organizations in the Philippines, Filipino American advocacy groups, drug policy reform, HIV/AIDS groups and others. It was coordinated by the Washington-DC based organization StoptheDrugWar.org, whose executive director David Borden organized a forum on extrajudicial killings at the UN in Vienna last March that became highly controversial in the Philippines.

Notable signatories on the document include the National Organization for Women (NOW), Doctors of the World, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG, a nationwide Philippines human rights lawyers group founded during the Marcos dictatorship years), Treatment Communities of America, prominent human rights advocate and actor of MASH fame Mike Farrell, former police chief of Seattle Norm Stamper, and others.

"President Duterte has defined a particular section of Philippine society as inhuman & worthy of elimination -- namely the poor," said Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson for In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND), the largest human rights coalition in the Philippines. "Instead of caring for these people and addressing the root cause of their problems, this present leadership has chosen to assault and further brutalize them."

Carlos was featured speaker at a forum at the US Congress's Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in July. 'A bill in the US Senate to impose human rights conditions on law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, "The Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017," was introduced in May by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and has 'seven cosponsors. Lantos Commission co-chairs Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and James McGovern (D-MA) sent a 'letterto President Trump this week urging him to "impress upon President Duterte the United States' profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings associated with the Philippine government's 'war on drugs.'"

Ago Pedalizo of the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) said, "President Duterte, through reprehensible public statements, has instigated unabated extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug suspects by police and vigilante elements as part of his war on drugs. We call on the Philippine government to conduct a thorough and effective investigation of the killings, and to fully cooperate with investigations by international human rights advocates."

"It is unfortunate that President Trump has repeatedly praised not only Duterte personally, but Duterte's bloody drug war too," said Borden. "I hope that both presidents change course on this. In the meantime, Congress should step in by including language from the Cardin/Rubio bill in the pending State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill."

The statement concludes: "The world is at a crossroads. At this uncertain time, lawlessness and extrajudicial violence must not become a model for more countries. When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act -- by individual conscience, age-old moral principles, and the global agreements seeking peace and security for all. The time for action is now."

Chronicle AM: Mexican Military's Drug War Abuses, Norway Reduces LSD Penalties, More... (11/9/17)

The man behind Florida's medical marijuana initiatives is considering a run for governor and now wants to legalize it, a battle over medical marijuana is looming in Indiana, a new report says the Mexican military is getting away with murder in its US-backed drug war, and more.

Mexican Marines doing drug war duty (Borderland Beat/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Towns Approve New Pot Taxes. Voters in several localities approved proposals to set new marijuana taxes on Tuesday. Eagle County approved new sales and excise taxes that will start at 2.5% and increase to 5%. The town of De Beque appoved a 5% sales tax, while Longmont approved a 3% tax and Berthoud a 7% one.

Florida Attorney, Possible Gubernatorial Candidate, Says Legalize It. Florida attorney John Morgan, the man behind the state's medical marijuana initiatives, is considering a run at the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and he says he's ready to legalize marijuana. "As to marijuana itself -- and I've kind of evolved to this point -- I believe now that the real answer is that we should just legalize marijuana, period, in America," he said in an interview with WUFT TV. "There's so many kids, young people, whose lives are ruined forever for possession of marijuana. And you get arrested, yeah, you may not go to jail, but that may be the end of West Point, that may be the end of law school, that may be the end of getting this university, it may be the end of that job."

Medical Marijuana

Indiana Battle Lines Forming Over Medical Marijuana. A group of military veterans advocating for medical marijuana is holding a news conference today to make their case for legalization, but they're facing opposition from the state's county prosecutors, who have urged state leaders to resist legalization "in any form, for any purpose." In making their case, the Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys deployed Reefer Madness-style rhetoric, writing that "despite claims of the contrary, the legalization of marijuana could further exacerbate Indiana's opioid epidemic," and, "that information purporting that marijuana is medicine is based on half-truths and anecdotal evidence."

International

Backed by US Anti-Drug Funds, Mexico's Military is Getting Away With Murder, New Report Charges. A new report from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) charges that the Mexican military is resorting to torture, sexual violence, extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances as it pursues its fight against drug trafficking organizations. Rampant violations go unpunished, and the report exposes a culture of impunity and a lack of transparency within the military. "Violence has increased in the country while human rights violations persist, the urgency and pressure to pass reforms to strengthen the civilian police force has decreased, and accountability has been virtually nonexistent," the report noted.

Norway Lowers Penalties for LSD Possession. Hearing an appeal from a man sentenced to five months in jail for possession of LSD for personal use, the Supreme Court has instead sentenced him to 45 hours of community service, setting the stage for a more general relaxation of penalties for LSD possession for personal use.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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.)

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Hackensack narc bails to avoid problems over illegal searches, a Tennessee cop gets nailed for pain pills, and more prison guards break bad. Let's get to it:

In Mountain City, Tennessee, a Mountain City police officer was arrested Monday on drug and weapons charges in a federal sting. Lt. Ronald Shupe went down after buying Oxycontin tablets from an informant working with the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. He is also accused of giving pain pills to another informant. He is charged with possession with intent to distribute and being an unlawful user of controlled substances in possession of a firearm. He is on administrative leave without pay.

In Hackensack, New Jersey, a former Hackensack narcotics unit commander resigned last Wednesday in a deal that allows him to keep his benefits even though he is embroiled in an internal affairs investigation of warrantless drug searches that led to the dismissal of at least eight drug cases. Capt. Vincent Riotto resigned shortly before a scheduled disciplinary hearing where he and five officers he commanded were to face charges of mishandling evidence, illegally entering an apartment building, and conducting warrantless searches.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former Michigan state prison guard was found guilty October 26 of participating in a drug smuggling ring at the prison. James Kitchen had been arrested in a March drug bust that yielded kilos of cocaine, heroin, meth, and ecstasy. He was convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute, and conspiracy to launder money. He is set to be sentenced on February 5.

In Hagatna, Guam, a Guamanian prison guard was sentenced October 26 to more than three years in federal prison for trying to sneak methamphetamine into the prison. Ronald Periera, 48, went down when he was searched upon arriving at work, and fellow officers found $951 in cash, meth hidden in a cigarette pack, and meth sealed in a clear plastic bag wrapped up in a rolled dollar bill. Officers found more contraband in his car in the prison parking lot. He had pleaded guilty to possession of meth with intent to distribute and providing contraband in prison.

In Westover, Maryland, a state prison guard was sentenced Monday to nearly four years in federal prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy operating inside the state prison in Westover. Xavier Holden, 28, is one of 80 prisoners, relatives, and guards charged in two racketeering indictments over a scheme to bribe guards to smuggle drugs, tobacco, and cell phones into the prison.

Medical Marijuana Update

The FDA cracks down on claims marijuana cures cancer, Michigan's dispensaries catch a break and Detroit's dispensaries win on Election Day, a South Dakota initiative hands in signatures, and more.

National

Last Tuesday, The FDA cracked down on claims marijuana cures cancer The Food and Drug Administration sent letters to four companies warning them they cannot market their products as treatments for cancer. The letter is directed at companies who claim their products can combat tumors and kill cancer cells. "We don't let companies market products that deliberately prey on sick people with baseless claims that their substance can shrink or cure cancer and we're not going to look the other way on enforcing these principles when it comes to marijuana-containing products," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

Last Thursday, an American Legion poll found strong support for medical marijuana among veterans. A poll from the American Legion found support for medical marijuana at a whopping 83% among veterans surveyed. Even more -- 92% -- support research into the clinical efficacy of medical marijuana. The American Legion passed a resolution at its national conference in August urging the federal government to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal.

Michigan

Last Wednesday, the state reversed itself on forcing dispensaries to close during the transition to a new regulatory regime. After ferocious blowback from patients concerned they could lose access to their medicine, the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs reversed an earlier decision forcing dispensaries to shut down while the licensing process for them under a new state law is completed. Now, the dispensaries will be able to stay open past December 15, the day they were supposed to have to shut down.

On Tuesday, Detroit voters approved medical marijuana ballot proposals. Voters in the Motor City approved two ordinances to loosen zoning restrictions and other rules around the city's medical marijuana industry. The ordinances are a popular response to tight zoning laws and rules passed by the city council last year. The marijuana facilities ordinance won with 60.15% of the vote and the marijuana zoning ordinance won with 58.85% of the vote.

North Dakota

On Monday, the Health Department said medical marijuana was still a year away. The state Health Department announced proposed administrative rules for such things as lab testing, security requirements, and transportation regulations, and added that the proposed rules will be open for public comment until December 26. The department also said it doesn't expect the drug to be available for sale to patients for another year -- two years after it was approved by voters.

Ohio

Last Friday, the state issued its first medical marijuana grower licenses. State officials announced they had issued 11 Level II medical marijuana licenses. The licenses will allow holders to begin medical marijuana growing operations.

Pennsylvania

Last Wednesday, the state started signing up patients. The state Health Department announced that it had launched its patient and caregiver registry, bringing patients one step closer to being able to legally access their medicine. Medical marijuana should be available for patients by May 1, the department said.

Last Thursday, patients showed they were interested. The state Health Department reported that more than a thousand people registered on the first day of open applications for the state's new Medical Marijuana Program. That includes both patients and caregivers.

South Dakota

On Tuesday, medical marijuana initiative organizers handed in signatures. Sponsors of an initiative to legalize medical marijuana turned in 15,000 raw signatures Tuesday, the deadline day for initiatives to turn in signatures. The state requires 14,000 valid voter signatures for the measure to qualify for the ballot, and initiative campaigns typically have an invalid signature rate of between 10% and 30%, so it still looks like an uphill battle to get the measure before the voters. A marijuana legalization initiative failed to gather enough signatures to pass this first hurdle.

Tennessee

Last Thursday, state Democrats endorsed medical marijuana. The state Democratic Party's executive committee has passed a resolution calling for the legalization of medical marijuana. The state has seen repeated attempts to pass a medical marijuana bill, to no avail so far.

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

Chronicle AM: NJ Elects MJ-Friendly Gov, Canada NDP Head Calls for Drug Decrim, More... (11/8/17)

Election day brought good news for marijuana reformers in New Jersey, Detroit, and an Ohio town; Canada's NDP leader calls for drug decriminalization, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Maine Republicans Threaten to Block Pot Bill If Not Overhauled. The Republican House Minority Leader, Rep. Ken Fredette (R-Newport), says that after Gov. LePage (R) vetoed the bill to regulate marijuana commerce, it must be altered or it will face another veto. Fredette and the Republicans want tougher penalties for impaired driving, removing "loopholes" from the medical marijuana program, and killing a tax-sharing provision for locales that host marijuana businesses. "If they don't, they'll get more of the same: they'll get another veto," said Fredette on Tuesday. "Rank-and-file House Republicans are frustrated. Our districts think this is moving too fast. If they don't reach out to House Republicans, who have been the most powerful force in Augusta for the past five years and the only group that is willing to work closely with the governor, they'll end up with another veto, and we will sustain that one as easily as we did this one." Meanwhile, it remains legal to possess and grow marijuana for personal use.

Democratic Victory in New Jersey Governor Race a Good Omen for Legalization. Voters elected a pro-marijuana legalization Democrat to replace Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday. Governor-elect Phil Murphy made marijuana legalization part of his campaign and has said he will sign a legalization bill if it reaches his desk. A legalization bill sponsored by Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Union), S3195, has already been filed, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who controls which bills move, said his goal was to get the bill passed within the first 100 days of the Murphy administration.

Athens, Ohio, Depenalizes Marijuana. Voters in the Ohio city approved The Athens Cannabis Ordinance (TACO) on Tuesday with 77% of the vote. TACO removes all penalties for the possession, cultivation, and gifting of up to 200 grams of marijuana. Last November, four other communities passed similar measures. Under state law, though, marijuana possession remains a minor misdemeanor, with fines, but no jail time.

Cook County, Illinois, Commissioner Wants Marijuana on the March Primary Ballot. Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey said on Tuesday he plans to let county residents hold a non-binding vote on marijuana legalization in the March primary election. Fritchey said he already has enough support for the idea from other commission members to get the measure on the ballot. Cook County, the home of Chicago, contains 40% of Illinois voters.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Turns in Signatures. Sponsors of an initiative to legalize medical marijuana turned in 15,000 raw signatures Tuesday, the deadline day for initiatives to turn in signatures. The state requires 14,000 valid voter signatures for the measure to qualify for the ballot, and initiative campaigns typically have an invalid signature rate of between 10% and 30%, so it still looks like an uphill battle to get the measure before the voters. A marijuana legalization initiative failed to gather enough signatures to pass this first hurdle.

Detroit Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Ballot Proposals. Voters in the Motor City approved two ordinances to loosen zoning restrictions and other rules around the city's medical marijuana industry. The ordinances are a popular response to tight zoning laws and rules passed by the city council last year. The marijuana facilities ordinance won with 60.15% of the vote and the marijuana zoning ordinance won with 58.85% of the vote.

International

Canada New Democratic Party Leader Calls for Drug Decriminalization. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Tuesday called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to consider drug decriminalization as a response to the country's opioid crisis. Trudeau has previously dismissed such pleas. Singh argued that the majority of Canadians struggling with opioids also struggle with mental health issues and poverty and that the solution to the crisis lies in social justice, not criminal justice.

South Africa's Highest Court Considers Marijuana Legalization. The country's Constitutional Court heard arguments Tuesday on the government's appeal of a case from the Western Cape High Court, which had held in March that arrests for growing marijuana for personal use at home violated citizens' right to privacy and gave the government two years to amend the Drug Trafficking Act to incorporate that decision. A decision on the appeal is expected by next March.

Chronicle AM: CA Magic Mushroom Initiative Approved for Signature Gathering, More... (11/7/17)

The Maine legislature fails to override the governor's veto of the pot regulation bill, a California initiative to legalize magic mushrooms gets the okay for signature gathering, North Dakotans will wait another year for their medical marijuana, and more.

These could be legal in California soon if an initiative makes the ballot and is approved by voters. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Maine House Fails to Override Veto of Marijuana Regulation Bill. The House voted Monday to sustain Gov. Paul LePage's (R) veto of a bill providing a legal regulatory framework for marijuana commerce. What happens next is unclear. A moratorium on recreational sales expires on February 1. The legislature reconvenes in January, but there is little indication political dynamics will change between now and then. If the moratorium is not extended and a new bill passed, the law as passed by voters in 2016 would go into effect. "I feel like we legalized gasoline, but not gas stations," Rep. Martin Grohman told the Portland Press-Herald.

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Says Medical Marijuana Still a Year Away. The state Health Department Monday announced proposed administrative rules for such things as lab testing, security requirements, and transportation regulations, and added that the proposed rules will be open for public comment until December 26. The department also said it doesn't expect the drug to be available for sale to patients for another year -- two years after it was approved by voters.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Florida's Largest Insurer Stops Covering Oxycontin. The state's largest health insurance company will stop covering OxyContin, the brand name prescription opioid, beginning January 1, in a bid to reduce overdoses and opioid dependence. Instead, Florida Blue will start covering an alternative opioid that isn't crushable for injection or snorting, reducing its potential for abuse, the company said Monday. That other drug is Xtampza ER, which also contains oxycodone, but which is designed to deter abuse because the pills cannot be crushed for snorting or injection.

Psychedelics

California Magic Mushroom Legalization Initiative Approved for Signature Gathering. An initiative that would legalize psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, has been approved for signature gathering by state officials. The California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative needs 365,880 valid voter signatures by April 30 to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.

Sentencing

Massachusetts Sentencing Reform Bill Filed. House leaders Monday proposed sweeping changes to the state's criminal justice and sentencing laws. It's a mixed bag: Some provisions would allow for the expungement of marijuana offenses and end some mandatory minimum drug sentences, but others would increase sentences for dealing in opioids. The bill also includes pre-trial diversion programs and bail reforms. The House will debate the measures next week. The Senate has already passed its own version of a criminal justice reform bill.

International

Canada's Newest Safe Injection Site Approved in Ottawa. Health Canada has given final approval for a safe injection site in Ottawa, which will be housed in a trailer in a hospital parking lot. Operators said they expected to begin welcoming clients today.

Dutch Localities Line Up for Regulated Marijuana Cultivation Pilot Project. Some 25 of the country's 380 local authorities have applied to participate in pilot schemes to allow the regulated growth of marijuana to supply the nation's fabled cannabis cafes. Among those councils which have come forward are Breda, the Noord-Brabant town of Cuijk, and Rotterdam, where mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb wants the experiment to cover distribution as well. The government is expected to announce which locales win spots in the pilot program next year.

Chronicle AM: ME Lawmakers Try to Save MJ Reg Bill from Veto, Denver SIF Advances, More... (11/6/17)

Maine's governor vetoes the marijuana regulation bill, but the legislature will attempt an override today; a plan for a safe injection site in Denver advances, a Michigan roadside drug testing pilot program gets underway this week, and more.

A move is afoot in the legislature to bring a safe injection site to Denver. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Governor Vetoes Bill to Regulate Legal Marijuana Production, Sales. Gov. Paul LePage last Friday vetoed the bill that would regulate legal marijuana commerce in the state. In his veto message, he cited a number of concerns, including how the Trump administration is going to deal with the conflict between state and federal law. "Until I clearly understand how the federal government intends to treat states that seek to legalize marijuana, I cannot in good conscience support any scheme in state law to implement expansion of legal marijuana in Maine," the governor explained.

Maine Lawmakers Meet Today to Try to Override Governor's Veto. The legislature is set to meet at 4:00pm today in a bid to override Gov. LePage's veto of the marijuana regulation bill. The bill passed the Senate, but not the House, by a veto-proof majority earlier this year.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Announces First Licensees for Medical Marijuana Production. State officials announced last Friday they had issued 11 Level II medical marijuana licenses. The licenses will allow holders to begin medical marijuana growing operations.

Drug Testing

Michigan Roadside Drug Testing Pilot Program Begins This Week. Michigan State Police are set to begin a pilot program in five counties to do roadside oral fluid drug tests of drivers in a bid to reduce drugged driving. The counties included are Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw. Under the program, officers trained in "drug recognition" will be able to require drivers to submit to a preliminary saliva test if they suspect he is impaired. The tests will look for the presence of marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine and opiates.

Harm Reduction

Walgreen's to Carry Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug, No Prescription Needed. Walgreen's drugstores will soon stock the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) at its thousands of locations across the US, and it will be available over the counter, no prescription needed. Walgreen's is the nation's second largest drugstore chain with more than 8,000 stores. "By stocking Narcan in all our pharmacies, we are making it easier for families and caregivers to help their loved ones by having it on hand in case it is needed," Walgreen's vice president Rick Gates said in a statement. "As a pharmacy, we are committed to making Narcan more accessible in the communities we serve."

Denver Starts Down Path Toward Safe Injection Sites. Seattle and San Francisco are the US cities closest to opening safe injection sites for drug users, but now Denver is making a move in the same direction. A legislative committee last week gave unanimous approval to a plan to open a pilot site in the city. But that's just a first step: The next step is to get the legislation through the General Assembly when the legislature convenes in January.

International

Colombia, UNODC Sign Cooperation Agreement on Coca and Cocaine. In a deal announced last Friday, Colombia and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have agreed to cooperate on the county's coca reduction strategy. Under the deal, the UNODC will help Colombia implement "alternative and sustainable development programs in areas affected by coca cultivation," according to a press release from the Colombian presidency. The plan is estimated to require $315 million in funding over the next four years. The question is whether Colombia has the political will to come up with the money.

Chronicle AM: Belize Decriminalizes Ten Grams, SF Ponders Smoking in Shops, More... (11/3/17)

It's all marijuana news today, with San Francisco considering allowing smoking at pot shops, an American Legion poll finding very strong support for medical marijuana among veteans, Belize decriminalizing up to 10 grams, and more.

Marijuana Policy

San Francisco Ponders Allowing Pot Smoking in Pot Shops. Bureaucratic battle lines are being drawn inside the city government as it grapples with the looming advent of legal marijuana sales. At a Thursday meeting, the Board of Supervisors' Land Use and Transportation Committee recommended making it legal to smoke pot at pot shops, but the Department of Public Health, which has a longstanding policy of opposing smoking in public spaces, is opposed. This is only one of the issues the city is grappling with as the January 1 legal sales date looms.

Medical Marijuana

American Legion Poll Finds Strong Medical Marijuana Support Among Veterans. A poll from the American Legion released Thursday found support for medical marijuana at a whopping 83% among veterans surveyed. Even more -- 92% -- support research into the clinical efficacy of medical marijuana. The American Legion passed a resolution at its national conference in August urging the federal government to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal.

Pennsylvania Patients Are Eager to Get in the Program. The state Health Department reported Thursday that more than a thousand people registered on the first day of open applications for the state's new Medical Marijuana Program. That includes both patients and caregivers.

Tennessee Democrats Endorse Medical Marijuana. The state Democratic Party's executive committee has passed a resolution calling for the legalization of medical marijuana. The state has seen repeated attempts to pass a medical marijuana bill, to no avail so far.

International

Belize Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession. Governor General Colville Young Thursday signed into law a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill "decriminalizes the possession of cannabis in amounts not exceeding 10 grams, provides for the imposition of monetary and non-recordable penalties for the possession of cannabis in such amounts occurring on school premises, in specified circumstances, and decriminalizes the smoking of cannabis on private premises."

Chronicle AM: DPA Decries Resort to Drug Courts, OSU Creates Drug Policy Center, More... (11/02/17)

The Drug Policy Alliance takes aim at some of the opioid commission's recommendations, Michigan dispensaries can stay open during the shift to the new regime, Ohio State creates a Koch-funded drug policy center, and more.

Pennsylvania patients are a step closer to being able to legally buy their medicine. (Sondra Yruel/DPA)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Budget Plan Would Use Pot Tax Money to Fund Task Force Aimed at Illegal Marijuana Operations. Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D) budget proposal for FY 2018-2019 includes directing $1.2 million in pot tax revenues to create a task force with the state Bureau of Investigation to "investigate black marker marijuana operations across Colorado." Such operations are on the increase, the governor complained.

Medical Marijuana

FDA Cracks Down on Marijuana Cancer Treatment Claims. The Food and Drug Administration sent letters Tuesday to four companies warning them they cannot market their products as treatments for cancer. The letter is directed at companies who claim their products can combat tumors and kill cancer cells. "We don't let companies market products that deliberately prey on sick people with baseless claims that their substance can shrink or cure cancer and we're not going to look the other way on enforcing these principles when it comes to marijuana-containing products," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

Michigan Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Can Stay Open During Shift to New Regime. After ferocious blowback from patients concerned they could lose access to their medicine, the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs on Wednesday reversed an earlier decision forcing dispensaries to shut down while the licensing process for them under a new state law is completed. Now, the dispensaries will be able to stay open past December 15, the day they were supposed to have to shut down.

Pennsylvania Starts Signing Up Patients. The state Health Department announced Wednesday that it had launched its patient and caregiver registry, bringing patients one step closer to being able to legally access their medicine. Medical marijuana should be available for patients by May 1, the department said.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Advocates Denounce White House Opioid Commission's Emphasis on Drug Courts and Proposed Increase in Drug Sentences. The Drug Policy Alliance attacked the emphasis on drug courts, saying research does not support their continued expansion. "Most drug courts do not reduce imprisonment, do not save money or improve public safety, and ultimately fail to help people struggling with drug problems. Today's drug courts are no more effective -- but are considerably more costly -- than voluntary treatment, with participants often spending more time behind bars than those whose cases are handled by conventional courts. While the commission has recommended that drug courts provide access to medication-assisted treatments, it would be far more valuable to offer such treatments on a voluntary basis, without subjecting people who are struggling with addiction to the criminal justice system," the group said in press release Wednesday.

Drug Policy

Ohio State Creates Center to Study Impact of War on Drugs. The Ohio State University announced Wednesday the creation of a center to study the social impacts of the war on drugs. The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center will be funded with a $4.5 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. It will be headed by Professor Robert Berman, who has had a long-term interest in drug policy reform and is perhaps best known as the author of the Sentencing Law and Policy blog.

Medical Marijuana Update

Congresspeople want the VA to research medical marijuana, New Jersey expands its list of qualifying conditions, and more.

National

Last Thursday,lawmakers called on the VA to research medical marijuana for veterans. A group of lawmakers who sit on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee wrote a letter to Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin urging him to use his agency to research medical marijuana. The VA "is uniquely situated to pursue research on the impact of medical marijuana on veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD given its access to world class researchers, the population it serves, and its history of overseeing and producing research resulting in cutting-edge medical treatments," the lawmakers wrote. Shulkin has yet to respond.

Arkansas

Last Thursday, rejected medical marijuana business applicants sued over their rejected bids. A group of applicants seeking to open some of the first medical marijuana businesses in the state filed lawsuits last week charging that the state Medical Marijuana Commission erred in its initial assessment of applications, where it rejected several applicants for failing to meet minimum requirements. The lawsuits seek a temporary restraining order to force the commission to include the plaintiffs' applications during a final scoring review.

New Jersey

On Monday, the state recognized five new qualifying conditions. The state's Medical Marijuana Review Panel has officially approved five new qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use. They are anxiety, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, migraines, chronic pain of visceral origin, and Tourette's Syndrome. The panel rejected adding chronic fatigue syndrome and asthma as qualifying conditions.

Utah

Last Wednesday, another new poll showed continuing strong support for a medical marijuana initiative. A new Salt Lake Tribune/University of Utah Hinckley School of Politics poll has support for a 2018 medical marijuana initiative at 75%. That result mirrors a July poll that had 77% support.

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

Chronicle AM: Trump Opioid Commission Calls for More Drug Courts, More... (11/1/17)

President Trump's opioid commission issues its recommendations, El Paso becomes the latest Texas locale to ease marijuana possession penalties, would-be Arkansas medical marijuana providers file suit over an application process that excluded them, and more.

The Trump opioid commission has called for drug courts nationwide to help ease the crisis.(virginia.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Task Force Report to Be Delayed. The legislative task force studying whether to legalize marijuana has delayed issuing its final report from the end of January to the end of February. The delay was requested by the Keep Delaware Safe and Healthy Coalition, a coalition of influential groups opposed to legalization.

New Jersey Court Rules State Must Consider Reclassifying Marijuana. An Appellate Division court ruled 2-1 Tuesday that the state must at least consider removing marijuana from its list of controlled substances. The ruling came in a case brought by two plaintiffs, a man serving a life sentence for marijuana trafficking and a young girl with epilepsy who uses marijuana for medical reasons. The court did not order the state to reclassify the herb, but said the head of the Division of Consumer Affairs should have considered reclassification instead of just flatly denying a petition to do so.

El Paso Becomes Latest Texas Locale to Not Automatically Arrest for Marijuana Offenses. El Paso county commissioners voted on Monday to approve a program under which first-time offenders caught with less than two ounces of weed can avoid arrest and criminal charges. The state passed a law allowing for the down-grading of pot possession offenses in 2014, but it has only been implemented in Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Business Applicants Sue Over Rejected Bids. A group of applicants seeking to open some of the first medical marijuana businesses in the state filed lawsuits last week charging that the state Medical Marijuana Commission erred in its initial assessment of applications, where it rejected several applicants for failing to meet minimum requirements. The lawsuits seek a temporary restraining order to force the commission to include the plaintiffs' applications during a final scoring review.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

White House Opioid Commission Issues Recommendations. President Trump's commission on the opioid crisis called Wednesday for the nationwide expansion of drug courts and more access to alternatives to opioids for people suffering pain as part of a series of recommendations for shaping drug policy to more effectively address the crisis. The 56 recommendations also include requiring doctors to show they have training in the safe provision of such drugs before their DEA licenses are renewed, requiring health care providers to use prescription drug monitoring databases, and easing Medicaid and insurance payments for opioid drug treatment. The recommendations contain no provision for increased funding.

Chronicle AM: Germany's Merkel May Agree to Legalization as Part of Coalition, More... (10/31/17)

Marijuana decriminalization takes center stage in Virginia drug policy debates, Germany's Angela Merkel may agree to legalize marijuana in a bid to build a governing coalition, and more.

German Prime Minister Angela Merkel could agree to marijuana legalization in a bid to build a governing coalition. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Crime Commission Briefed on Marijuana Stats. The state Crime Commission was briefed Monday on the results of a months-long study examining the costs and consequences of marijuana arrests in the Old Dominion. The study found there were more than 133,000 pot possession arrests in the state in the past 10 years, but that relatively few people went to jail for it in the state. The study was prompted by a proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Virginia Senate Majority Leader Will File Decriminalization Bill. State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) said Monday he plans to file a bill that would decriminalize small-time pot possession for first offenders. Norment said the bill is still being drafted, but would make first-time possession a civil offense punishable by a fine, mandatory education, and a drivers' license suspension.

Drug Testing

West Virginia Welfare Drug Testing Program Gets Underway. Under a program that took effect last week, state residents who apply for welfare must now undergo a drug screen questionnaire, with those whose responses are deemed suspicious required to take and pass a drug test. People who fail a drug test will be required to undergo drug treatment at their own expense -- while being denied funds that could help pay for it.

International

Germany's Merkel May Agree to Marijuana Legalization as Part of Coalition Deal. Reports from German media suggest that Prime Minister Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union Party may agree to support marijuana legalization as part of an effort to form a coalition government with two parties that want to free the weed, the Free Democrats and the Greens. Marijuana policy would be addressed at the end of coalition talks, the reports said.

Two NYPD Cops Charged with Raping Teen After Busting Her for Marijuana

A New York City grand jury indicted two Brooklyn narcotics officers late last week on charges they raped an 18-year-old woman after arresting her for smoking marijuana. The alleged victim says she was assaulted while handcuffed in the back of a police van in the parking lot of a Chipotle restaurant in September.

The two narcotics officers, Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, now face charges of first degree rape. The alleged victim, who posts on social media under the name Anna Chambers, including posts about the case, says that both narcs forced her to perform oral sex on them, and that one of them raped her. She alleges that she and two young men were pulled over by Martins and Hall for smoking pot, and that they targeted her after finding prescription drugs in the car. The narcs told her companions to leave before ordering her to undress so they could "search for drugs."

They didn't find any drugs on her, but handcuffed the teen anyway before coercing her into sex, her attorney, Michael David, told the New York Post.

"You'll spend three hours in the precinct," they allegedly told her. They also allegedly said: "This is what you're going to do for us, and we'll let you go," David said.

"There was zero consent," David said. "The cops were over 6 feet tall. She's very petite, like 5-2 and maybe 100 pounds. There's nothing she could do."

The grand jury issued the indictments October 26 after hearing a week of testimony, including testimony on the stand from Chambers herself. The narcs were not arrested upon indictment, but are expected to turn themselves in this week. They have been placed on modified duty and stripped of their guns and badges and are now suspended without pay. They're looking at between three and 25 years in prison if convicted.

The detectives, from NYPD's Brooklyn South narcotics squad, have not denied that they engaged in sex acts with the alleged victim, but claimed they were consensual. They also spent the past week trying to discredit and impugn their accuser.

In a letter to prosecutors, lawyers for the narcs pointed out that she had filed a $50 million claim against the city in October and that she had posted "provocative" selfies on her Instagram and Twitter accounts after the assault. The lawyers called on prosecutors "to further investigate Chambers' dubious claim before you ask the grand jury to return an indictment against Martins and Hall."

Chambers furiously rejects the narcs' claim that the sex was consensual, her lawyer said.

"She was shocked that the [cops] would say it was consensual after everything that was done to her. She wanted to get the word out," David explained. 'She just wants everybody to know it's an absolute lie that this was consensual. She was raped. She was viciously, brutally raped in handcuffs. It's the truth," he said.

"She's embarrassed," David continued. "She's very depressed over this. Her whole life had changed after this experience. She's afraid of the police, and she really wants justice to be served here."

After the attack, Chambers did what victims are supposed to do: She sought help at NYU Langone Hospital, which performed a rape kit on her that found the cops' DNA. She reported a sexual assault to police. She confided to friends after it happened. And she filed a civil lawsuit. And now, the criminal justice system swings into action against the perpetrators.

One of the reasons the war on drugs is so loathed is that it provides the opportunity for crooked cops to abuse their power in ways that have been alleged in this case. One wonders how many similarly abused women have not come forward.

New York, NY
United States

Chronicle AM: Second Australia SIJ Coming, DEA Adds Heroin Enforcement Teams, More... (10/30/17)

The Victoria state government has approved a safe injection site in Melbourne, a new report warns that high taxes on legal marijuana could push people to the black market, New Jersey adds some new qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use, and more.

Australia's second safe injection site will open in Melbourne next year. (vch.ca)
Marijuana Policy

Report: High Legal Pot Taxes Could Push Consumers to Black Market. California retail marijuana taxes, which could reach as high as 45% in some cases, could potentially push consumers out of legal pot shops and into the black market, according to a new report from the credit rating agency Fitch Ratings. "The existing black market for cannabis may prove a formidable competitor to legal markets if new taxes lead to higher prices than available from illicit sources," the report says.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Adds Five New Qualifying Conditions. The state's Medical Marijuana Review Panel has officially approved five new qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use. They are anxiety, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, migraines, chronic pain of visceral origin, and Tourette's Syndrome. The panel rejected adding chronic fatigue syndrome and asthma as qualifying conditions.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Creates Six New Heroin Enforcement Teams. The DEA has announced the establishment of six new enforcement teams focused on heroin and fentanyl. The teams will operate in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Charleston, West Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Long Island, New York. The DEA got funding in its Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations to pay for the teams.

Public Health Experts Issue Report With Comprehensive Recommendations for Opioid Crisis.
Experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in collaboration with the Clinton Foundation have issued a report with comprehensive recommendations for stemming the opioid crisis. Among its 10 priority recommendations are: expanded electronic opioid prescription monitoring, policies in line with CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines, clear guidance on opioid disposal and "take back" programs, increased federal funding for drug treatment in the most hard hit communities, and cheaper naloxone.

International

Taliban Now Making Heroin -- and Increased Profits. For years, Afghanistan's Taliban have profited from opium poppy production, using the proceeds to finance their war, but now, Afghan and Western officials say that more than half of Afghan opium is being processed in-country, and that is leading for increased profits for the Taliban, for whom the drug trade consists of about 60% of its income.

Australia to Get Second Safe Injection Site, in Melbourne. The Victoria state government cabinet has approved a safe injection site for the North Richmond area of Melbourne. It is set to open next year. At the same time, the state government is also moving to crack down on heroin traffickers by reducing the amounts of heroin needed to impose harsh sentences.

Chronicle AM: Trump Declares Opioid Emergency, SF SIJ Could Come Soon, More... (10/26/17)

The president declares the opioid crisis an emergency, but not enough of one to actually need funding; lawmakers go after the DEA over West Virginia pain pill deliveries, a St. Louis alderman files a marijuana legalization measure, the US Sentencing Commission issues a report on mandatory minimums, and more.

President Trump declares a public health emergency, but not a national emergency, on opioids. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

St. Louis Ordinance Would End Local Marijuana Prohibition. Alderman Megan Green has filed an ordinance that would end enforcement of any laws that allow "the civil or criminal punishment for the use or possession of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia against any individual or entity," with some specified exceptions. Under the bill, pot could be used, sold, and grown in the city. The bill gets a first reading Friday, and Green says she's confident it can pass in coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Medical Marijuana

Lawmakers Call for VA to Research Medical Marijuana for Veterans. A group of lawmakers who sit on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee wrote a letter Thursday to Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin urging him to use his agency to research medical marijuana. The VA "is uniquely situated to pursue research on the impact of medical marijuana on veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD given its access to world class researchers, the population it serves, and its history of overseeing and producing research resulting in cutting-edge medical treatments," the lawmakers wrote. Shulkin has yet to respond.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a Public Health Emergency, But Provides No Funds. President Trump announced Thursday that he had directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency around the opioid crisis. But he declined to declare a national emergency, which would have allowed for the rapid allocation of monies to address it. Trump's declaration carries no funding with it, but would allow some grant money to be used to combat opioid abuse.

Lawmakers Take DEA to Task Over Spread of Opioids. Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee threatened to subpoena the DEA over its slow response to their questions about how wholesale drug distributors poured millions of opioid pain pills into West Virginia. Members said the committee had been waiting six months for answers from the DEA about which companies had sent nine million pills to the town of Kermit, WV (pop. 392), over a two-year period. Members did not express any concerns about how a crackdown on pain pill prescribing might impact chronic pain patients.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Could See Safe Injection Sites Within a Year, Official Says. Safe injection sites in the city could be open in eight to 12 months if a proposal to create them gets approved, Department of Public Health Director Barbara Garcia told supervisors on Wednesday. Even if the plan was approved immediately, it would take time to obtain funding, establish protocols, hire and train staff, and set up the program, she said.

Sentencing

Sentencing Commission Issues Report on Mandatory Minimums. The US Sentencing Commission has issued a report on the use and impact of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses. The report finds, among other things, that mandatory minimums continue to be imposed and result in long sentences in the federal system, but that they were being used less often last year. The report also noted that mandatory minimums may be applied more broadly than Congress intended, but that laws allows for departures from the harsh sentences "result in significantly reduced sentences when applied."

International

Colombia Will Move to Decriminalize Small-Time Coca Farming. The government will introduce legislation that would make the cultivation of up to just under ten acres of coca a non-punishable offense. More than 100,000 families earn a living from coca farming, with the average planting being less than an acre. This move would provide some breathing room for farmers caught between drug gangs on one hand and police on the other. The move was part of the peace deal agreed to with the leftist rebels of the FARC, but this is the first step toward actually implementing it.

Drug War Issues

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