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Austin Police to End Minor Pot Busts, Southern CA DAs Let 100,000 Pot Convictions Be Cleared, More... (7/3/20)

The capital of Texas gives up on enforcing minor marijuana possession offenses, Virginia Democratic lawmakers are eying legalization next year, and more.

Austin pot smokers no longer have to worry about going to jail or getting a ticket for a little weed. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Southern California Counties Clear 100,000 Marijuana Conviction by July 1 Deadline. The state's 58 district attorneys had until July 1 to challenge the state's recommendations to clear the records of some 191,000 past marijuana convictions, and in southern California, the recommendation went largely unchallenged, meaning some 100,000 marijuana convictions in those counties have now been cleared. The move is the result of the passage of the marijuana legalization initiative in 2016.

Virginia Lawmakers Set Eyes on Legalization a Day After Decriminalization Goes into Effect. Some top Democratic legislators have announced plans to introduce a bill next year to legalize and regulate a legal marijuana market. The move came one day after decriminalization went into effect in the state. “Decriminalizing marijuana is an important step in mitigating racial disparities in the criminal justice system, but there is still much work to do,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring . “While marijuana arrests across the nation have decreased, arrests in Virginia have increased.” The lawmakers are tying the move to racial and justice advances.

Austin Police Will No Longer Arrest or Ticket People for Small-Time Marijuana Possession Offenses. Police in the capital of Texas will no longer arrest or ticket anyone for small amounts of marijuana. The only exceptions are if there's an immediate threat to someone's safety or it's part of an investigation into a high-priority felony-level narcotics case or a violent felony. The move is an indirect result of hemp legalization, which made it difficult for prosecutors to distinguish between the two members of the cannabis family. Earlier this year, the state Department of Public Safety announced its labs would no longer accept misdemeanor pot cases for lab analysis, and the Austin police have stopped developing their own testing. Instead, they're just going to let a little pot ride.

Nashville to End Small-Time Pot Prosecutions, More Cops Charged in Wake of Fatal Houston Drug Raid, More... (7/2/20)

Drug reform initiative campaigns are handing in signatures as deadlines approach, Nashville's DA says no more petty pot prosecutions, Mexican gunmen kill 24 in a raid on a drug rehab center, and more.

South Dakota's Badlands. Organized opposition to a marijuana legalization initiative has appeared. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Turns in Massive Signature Cache. Backers of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative filed more than 420,000 raw signatures with the secretary of state's office Thursday. It only needs 237,465 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, allow for cultivation, distribution, and retail sales, and use tax revenues from those sales to fund public education and public safety programs.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Draws Organized Opposition. The Amendment A marijuana legalization campaign, which has already qualified for the November ballot, is now drawing organized opposition. A ballot committee calling itself NO Way on Amendment A has been organized to defeat the initiative and is being led by David Own, the president of the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The opposition is being joined by the usual suspects, including law enforcement, public officials, and social work leaders.

Nashville to End Small-Time Marijuana Possession Prosecutions. Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk announced Wednesday that his office will no longer prosecute cases involving less than a half-ounce of marijuana. "Effective today, the Nashville District Attorney’s office will no longer prosecute individuals for possession of less than a half ounce of marijuana. Marijuana charges do little to promote public health, and even less to promote public safety," Funk said in a statement.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the state's proposed medical marijuana initiative, handed in some 182,000 raw voter signatures Thursday. They need at least 121,669 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The campaign must also meet a requirement that at least 5% of voters in at least 38 counties sign up.

Law Enforcement

Houston DA Files New Charges Resulting from Deadly Drug Raid. The investigation into a 2019 Houston drug raid that left two innocent homeowners dead has now resulted charges being filed against six former officers, who are accused of routinely using false information to get search warrants and of lying on police reports, prosecutors announced on Wednesday. Two former members of the unit — Gerald Goines and Steven Bryant — had previously been charged in state and federal court in the case, including two counts of felony murder filed in state court against Goines. Those two also got hit with numerous new charges. More than 160 drug convictions tied to Goines have been dismissed by prosecutors. Prosecutors expect more cases will be dismissed.

International

Mexican Cartel Gunmen Attack Drug Rehab Center, Killing 24. In one of the bloodiest attacks yet in the cartel wars, gunmen killed 24 people at a drug treatment center in the central Mexican city of Irapuato on Wednesday. It was the second attack on a rehab center in less than a month; on June 6, 10 were killed in a similar incident. Rival cartels sometimes use the centers as de facto bunk houses for their employees. The region is being flailed by fighting between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.

OR Drug Decriminalization Will Go to Voters, VA Pot Decriminalization Now in Effect, More... (7/1/20)

The Old Dominion decriminalizes pot possession, Oregon will vote on decriminalizing all drugs, drug overdoses are jumping during the pandemic, and more. 

Virginia. Now not just for lovers, but for tokers, too. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Now in Effect. As of July 1, marijuana decriminalization has gone into effect in Virginia. Now, people caught with an ounce or less will face a maximum penalty of a $25 fine. A celebration is planned for the state capital Wednesday. "Richmond hasn’t burned this hard since 1865!" the event’s anonymous organizers wrote. In 2018, the last year for which full data is available, 29,000 people were arrested on marijuana charges.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Petitioners Prepare to Hand in Signatures. With a deadline to hand in signatures for their initiativeThursday, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana has stepped up signature-gathering in recent weeks. The group needs 121,000 valid voter signatures and says they are very close. Stay tuned.

Drug Policy

Drug Overdoses Soar Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic. Based on data from ambulance teams, hospitals, and police, the Washington Post is reporting that drug overdose deaths have jumped and keep jumping during the coronavirus pandemic. The Post's data showed overdose deaths up 18% in March, 29% in April, and 42% in May. The Post points to continued isolation, economic devastation, and disruptions in the drug trade as contributing factors.

Ohio Senate Passes Drug Sentencing Reform Bill. On a vote of 25-4, the state Senate Tuesday approved Senate Bill 3, which would reclassify many low-level drug possession felonies as misdemeanors. The bill would also make it easier for people convicted of drug possession crimes to get their records sealed, and it would give judges the option of delaying and possibly dismissing cases if a defendant successfully completed a rehabilitation program. And it doubles the state's already generous limit for decriminalized marijuana possession from 100 grams to 200 grams—nearly half a pound of pot.

Oregon Drug Decriminalization, Treatment Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot. The secretary of state's office has confirmed that the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (IP44) has qualified for the November ballot by handing in more than 116,622 valid voter signatures. The initiative would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of drugs and channel marijuana tax revenues into drug treatment.

OR Therapeutic Psilocbyin Init Looks Set to Make Ballot, Atlanta Cops Quit Drug Arrests During Sickout, More... (6/30/20)

UN human rights experts keep up the pressure on the Philippines, the Oregon therapeutic psilocbyin initiative looks set to make the November ballot, and more. 

Atlanta arrests by the numbers during the police sickout. (APD)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Governor Signs Bill Granting Him Expanded Authority to Pardon Marijuana Offenders. Gov. Jared Polis (D) has signed into law House Bill 1424, which gives his office expanded powers to pardon people with past marijuana convictions. The bill allows the governor to "grant pardons to a class of defendants who were convicted of the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana without an application and without seeking the comment of the District Attorney and judges for those cases."

Medical Marijuana

Iowa Governor Signs Bill Expanding State's Medical Marijuana Program. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has signed into law House File 2589, which expands the state's medical marijuana program to include patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe autism. It also increases the state's THC limit to 4.5 grams in 90 days, a limit which some Democratic legislators said was too low.

Psychedelics

Oregon Activists Say They Enough Signatures to Put Therapeutic Psilocbyin on November Ballot. The people behind the state's therapeutic psilocybin initiative, IP 34 said Monday they had gathering enough valid voter signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The state has not yet verified that the initiative is over the top, but has already verified nearly 107,000 of the 112,020 needed to qualify. The campaign says it has collected a total of 164,782 signatures and it has "great confidence that Oregon’s psilocybin therapy initiative will qualify for the statewide ballot."

Criminal Justice

Pennsylvania Senate Advances Policing Reform Bills. The Democratically-controlled state Senate has passed a pair of policing reform bills, Senate Bill 459, which requires full documentation of all use of force incidents, and Senate Bill 1205, which aims to ban the use of chokeholds in detaining people. More reform legislation is coming, including bills that will focus on police education and training, introduce more professional oversight including civilian review boards, establish explicit boundaries and protocols in regard to escalation and use of force, alleviate officer stresses (including potentially offering better pay), enhancing civil asset forfeiture protections and penalizing false reporting of wrongdoings based on race and ethnicity. 

Atlanta Sees Drug Arrests Drop to Zero During "Blue Flu" Police Sickout. Atlanta police have demonstrated just how discretionary drug arrests are by not making any during the week of June 14-20 in the midst of a police sickout in the wake of unrest over the killing of Rayshard Brooks by a city police officer. During the same week last year, police arrested 67 people on drug charges; this year, the number was zero. Traffic citations similarly dropped dramatically, from 3,100 during that week last year to 50 this year. Meanwhile, both shooting incidents and aggravated assaults increased during the same period this year over last year.

International

UN Human Rights Experts Renew Call for Independent Impartial Investigation of Philippines Drug War. One year ago, 11 UN human rights experts jointly called on the Human Rights  Council to establish an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines. The Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 41/2 which requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in the Philippines and to present it at its 44th session. "The report, issued on 4 June 2020, confirmed our findings and warnings issued over the last four years: widespread and systematic killings and arbitrary detention in the context of the war on drugs, killings and abuses targeting farmers and indigenous peoples, the silencing of independent media, critics and the opposition. The report recognises important efforts to improve the protection of economic and social rights and stresses that these efforts should be guided by a human rights-based approach and focused on 'leaving no one behind'. The reports also finds, as we had, stark and persistent impunity," UN experts said today. "Given the scale and seriousness of the human rights violations, we renew our call on the Human Rights Council to establish an on-the-ground independent, impartial investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines."

NYPD Spent Almost $100 Million on Drug Enforcement Last Year, Mexico Cartel Violence, More... (6/26/20)

Mexico City's police chief narrowly escapes a cartel assassination attempt, the NYPD spent nearly $100 million enforcing the drug laws last year, and more.

Prohibition-related violence continues unabated in Mexico. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Michigan House Passes Bill Allowing Spouses of State Employees to Seek Medical Marijuana Licenses. The House has passed HB 5700, which would allow spouses of state employees to obtain licenses for medical marijuana businesses. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Drug Policy

NYPD Spent Nearly $100 Million Policing Drug Laws Last Year The New York Policy Department spent $96 million enforcing drug laws last year, according to a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance. It spent nearly another half-billion dollars enforcing low-level "broken windows" offenses, the report found. DPA released the brief in support of the Communities United for Police Reform coalition call for Mayor de Blasio and the NYC Council to cut the FY21 NYPD expense budget by $1 billion and redirect savings to core needs in Black, Latinx and other NYC communities of color that have long been the target of the drug war and racist policing.

Sentencing

Michigan Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Package Filed. In a bid to bring down the length of prison sentences in the state—which run nearly twice as long as in neighboring states—lawmakers have filed a bipartisan package of 15 bills aimed at cutting back sentence lengths.

International

Mexico City Police Chief Wounded in Assassination Attempt, Blames Drug Cartel. Mexico City Public Security Chief Omar Garcia Harfuch barely escaped a brazen daytime assassination attempt in the city's upscale Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood early Friday. Harfuch was struck by three bullets and two of his bodyguards were killed, as was a woman bystander. He later blamed the attack on the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Mexican Cartel In-Fighting Leaves 15 Dead in Sinaloa. Clashes between gunmen linked to rival factions of the Sinaloa Cartel left 15 people dead in rural communities near the state capital of Culiacan on Wednesday. Seven men clad in body armor and brandishing assault rifles were killed in Tepuche, while eight more armed men were killed in Bagrecitos as they opened fire on homes and vehicles. The violence comes just a week after a convoy of pickup trucks ambushed and attacked navy marines on patrol. The violence is believed linked to a power struggle between the sons of imprisoned leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and forces loyal to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who has led the cartel since Guzmán’s incarceration. 

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

DOJ Whistleblower Accuses Barr of Anti-Pot Bias, Marijuana Reform Pioneer Dr. Lester Grinspoon Dies, More... (6/25/20)

Bill Barr is accused of improperly pushing probes of legal marijuana companies, DARPA is funding research into psychedelic-inspired drugs for military purposes, Virginia's Black Legislative Caucus wants marijuana legalized this summer, and more.

The Swiss are moving to ease access to medical marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy, 

Justice Department Whistleblower Accuses Attorney General Barr of Targeting Legal Marijuana Industry with Antitrust Probes. Attorney General William Barr improperly targeted legal marijuana companies with anti-trust investigations because he "did not like" the industry, a Justice Department whistleblower told Congress Wednesday. John Elias, a senior official in the department's antitrust division, told the House Judiciary Committee that his office was "forced for political reasons" to pursue unjustified investigations of the industry. "These mergers involve companies with low market shares in a fragmented industry; they do not meet established criteria for antitrust investigations," the statement says. "While these were nominally antitrust investigations and used antitrust investigative authorities, they were not bona fide antitrust investigations. Nonetheless, they accounted for 29% of the antitrust division's full-review merger investigations in Fiscal Year 2019," Elias said.

Virginia Black Lawmakers Push to Legalize Marijuana in Special Session This Summer. The legislature and the governor just approved marijuana legalization, but the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has included full legalization as part of its list of priorities for a special session this summer. The caucus also plans to file bills dealing with a ban on no-knock warrants,  racial data reporting on low-level arrests, and other criminal justice reforms.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Department of Health Announces Waiver to Allow Medical Marijuana Alternative Treatment Centers to Provide Home Delivery. The state Department of Health Thursday issued a waiver that allows Alternative Treatment Centers to provide home delivery of medical marijuana to patients and designated caregivers. This marks a significant first step in implementing the full home delivery provisions found in Jake Honig’s Law, which was signed by Governor Murphy last summer. Deliveries will be conducted by ATC employees who have undergone a criminal background check, and delivery vehicles will need to be equipped with security measures, including GPS tracking and a secure lock box.

Psychedelics

US Military Spending $27 Million to Develop New Class of Psychedelic-Inspired Drugs. The Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded $26.9 million for research that "aims to create new medications to effectively and rapidly treat depression, anxiety, and substance abuse without major side effects.” The researchers are looking at ketamine and psilocybin, but hope to develop drugs without "their hallucinogenic, addictive, and disorienting side effects make their clinical use limited,” said Brian L. Roth, a professor of pharmacology at UNC School of Medicine and the research project’s leader.

Drug Policy

Marijuana Reform Pioneer Dr. Lester Grinspoon Dead at 92. Lester Grinspoon, a Harvard professor, psychiatrist, and author of a dozen books, including Marihuana Reconsidered, the single most comprehensive and thoughtful and convincing explanation of the crucial need to end marijuana prohibition and establish a legal marijuana market, died Thursday at age 92. Back in the 1970s, Grinspoon began reviewing the literature on marijuana at the behest of his Harvard colleague Carl Sagan and concluded that marijuana should not only not be criminalized, but could be an enriching experience. Dr. Grinspoon was also a long-serving member of NORML’s Board of Directors, including many years as board chair. He served as a member of the NORML Advisory Board until his death.

International

Swiss Government Moves to Ease Access to Medical Marijuana. The Federal Council on Wednesday submitted a revised version of the country's drug law that would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana without prior authorization. Under current law, they must first get an exceptional approval from the Federal Office for Public Health. The proposal has the support of all parties except the rightwing Swiss People's Party.

Colombia After the Peace Accords: A Conversation with Vanda Felbab-Brown [FEATURE]

Four years ago, Colombia's decades-long civil war officially came to an end when the leftist rebels of the FARC signed a peace agreement with then-President Juan Manuel Santos. The accord envisioned the demobilization of the FARC as a military force and the use of alternative development to wean peasant farmers from their coca crops and end the country's reputation as a cocaine capital.

Colombian peasant harvesting the coca crop. (DEA.gov)
Four years on, it is probably unfair to call the peace deal a failure, but it hasn't exactly produced the hoped-for results. President Santos completed his term and was replaced by rightist Ivan Duque, who is much less enthusiastic about the accords and whose administration has lagged at implementing the alternative development provisions of the peace deal.

The FARC did demobilize, but last year, after at least 139 FARC members who had laid down their guns were murdered, dissident FARC leaders announced they were rejoining the path of armed struggle, taking several thousand fighters with them. In taking up arms once again, the FARC dissidents rejoined a vicious, multi-sided fight for control of the cocaine trade that never went away. That fight includes gangs from across the border in Venezuela, rightist paramilitary bandas, two different factions of the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), the Colombian military, and at least two major Mexican drug cartels, Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation.

Efforts under Duque to cut coca and cocaine production have not worked. With Duque's government only grudgingly supporting crop substitution and rural development programs that are broadly considered more effective, instead promoting forced eradication, Colombian cocaine production hit a record high last year.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration now views Colombia less as a principal ally in the region and more as a chess piece to be used against the Venezuelan regime of Nicholas Maduro. When it comes to the issue of coca and cocaine, the administration has taken a hard line that harkens back to the days of Plan Colombia. This year, Trump has demanded that Columbia resume spraying of coca crops, proposed an assistance package that slashes economic development aid while nearly doubling anti-drug funding, and deployed a US army brigade to Colombia on a drug-fighting mission.

This week, Drug War Chronicle got on the phone with Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. She is the co-director of the Brookings series on opioids: "The Opioid Crisis in America: Domestic and International Dimensions." Previously, she was the co-director of the Brookings project, "Improving Global Drug Policy: Comparative Perspectives Beyond UNGASS 2016," as well as of another Brookings project, "Reconstituting Local Orders." Felbab-Brown is an expert on international and internal conflicts and nontraditional security threats, including insurgency, organized crime, urban violence, and illicit economies. Her fieldwork and research have covered, among others, Afghanistan, South Asia, Burma, Indonesia, the Andean region, Mexico, Morocco, Somalia, and eastern Africa. She is a senior advisor to the congressionally mandated Afghanistan Peace Process Study Group.

Here's what she had to say:

On the disappointing results of the 2016 accord:

"The peace deal was significant, but produced incomplete results," said Felbab-Brown. "One reason is that non-state actors persisted. The other reason is that the Duque government doesn't like that deal, so it has a policy of death by a thousand cuts, doing the minimum necessary to appear to comply with the law produced by the peace deal while really doing very little."

"The deal was extremely optimistic both in process and in implementation," she argued, pointing to the example of Thailand, where some 30,000 acres of opium poppies were being grown in the 1960s and even with a highly sustained commitment from the Thai monarchy, it took 30 years to end the practice.

"That's only one-tenth of the issue Colombia struggles with," she noted. "The idea that peace would eliminate coca production was unrealistic, but it was necessary to sell the peace plan to the public. People thought that if there was coca, the fighting would persist. And the need to sell it to the United Nations meant people had to emphasize it as part of alternative development."

"Development was the right policy stress, but it was unhampered by a realistic assessment of how long it would take, how much coca would persist untampered by a realistic assessment of how long it would take and how much coca would persist. A fundamental difficulty for Colombia, among others, is that the resources of the state to do rural development and create alternative livelihoods are quite limited."

"The notion that everyone would be asked to get rid of their coca to go through the compensation process created the mess we are seeing now," she said. "Even if it was not possible to bring in enough resources to accomplish this at the national level, it was worsened by Duque's dislike of the policy and his slowing down of rural development efforts. But it still wasn't going to happen in three years of payments and then no more coca. They've tried that about 20 times before, and it always crashed. There's no reason to believe this would be any different."

On the Trump administration's Colombia policy:

Brookings scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown (Brookings.edu)
"The Trump administration has been back to the 1980s with a rigid, doctrinaire view centered on supply-side policies," she observed. "That said, it has come up with some surprising mutations that you wouldn't expect from a regular Republican administration, as when in 2017 it threatened to decertify Colombia as not living up to US-imposed drug fighting objectives. Republicans were consternated, and so were the Colombians, who expected that Trump would be close to Duque. Trump likes rightist governments and a heavy military emphasis. The administration has been weak dealing with the opioid crisis at home and focused on heavy eradication in Colombia. And Trump has really degraded Colombia. Previous administrations saw it as a principle ally and partner in South America, but Trump views Colombia principally as a platform against Venezuela."

"Trump has two objectives in Colombia: Venezuela and drugs," Felbab-Brown said. "On the drug side, he wants aerial spraying with US contractors. It depends on the day or the month whether drugs or Venezuela is first on the agenda, but Venezuela tends to dominate."

Whether the Trump administration can bend the Colombian government to a deeper role in its anti-Maduro machinations remains to be seen, but that may be a dead end now, anyway, Felbab-Brown said.

"Coca kind of competes with Trump's focus on Colombia as a source of policies against Venezuela, and while Duque is more forward leading in that regard than former president Santos, he realizes he can't risk war or meltdown in Venezuela," she said. "So they've been trying to satisfy Trump without causing a real blowup without any real strategy. After that Guaido stunt with the food aid, both the US and Colombia have been left without any kind of way forward."

On best policies moving forward:

If she were advising the Colombian and US governments, Felbab-Brown said, she would emphasize consolidating the zonas de futuro, where the Duque government is trying to introduce a government presence in five abandoned regions where armed groups and drug trafficking flourish, making up less than three percent of the national territory, instead of worrying about coca eradication.

The "future zones" are Colombia's bid to exert sovereign control over ungoverned parts of its territory. (fupad.org)
"A key line of effort would be to think through how the zonas could be made viable, how best to maximize the policy engagement in the zonas and how to expand them. A key problem with earlier versions of this strategy is that if you succeed, you end up with patches of government presence unconnected to anything else. They need to be made contiguous and connected," she argued.

"I would not care about eradication that much," Felbab-Brown said. "Although it would be unrealistic for a US administration to say that, it could strongly suggest it is not our metric. While Congress can put on pressure for more eradication, I would try to think about where it doesn't cause too much harm to the objective of stabilization. Much of the thinking in both governments is that eradication enhances stability, but it actually hampers it," she said.

"Instead, think about progress in reducing violence in strategic areas. How can we minimize the presence of the bandas, the Venezuelan groups, the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels, both of whom are active in Colombia? How can we neuter them or push them out? This is what I would be thinking."

"At a broader strategic level, I would try to persuade Duque to make a much greater effort in rural development and equity, all that. We'll never make Duque into Santos, but perhaps a better version of himself.

On legalization as a solution:

Felbab-Brown was leery of legalization as a solution.

"It's a fantasy in terms of feasibility," she said. "Who is going to legalize cocaine? Not even Switzerland or the Netherlands would go there. And I'm not persuaded it would address the reasons why Colombia is so violent. If you legalized the coca crop, what is the guarantee that these same actors wouldn't be able to get their hands on the coca fields?" she asked.

"There is also a big fallacy in believing that violent actors have control because the commodities are illegal," she argued. "If anything, the conflict isn't just about coca, but timber, gold, and rare minerals -- all legal commodities. These non-state actors are deeply involved in those economies, the dissident groups are interested in the diversification of their portfolios. In Choco, for instance, where there is some of the most intense fighting, some of it is about coca, but more of it is about control of timber and the port. The FARC dissidents, the bandas, the ELN, Sinaloa and Jalisco, they're all there."

"The issue is not fundamentally about whether the commodity is legal or not. Look at the fighting over avocados in Mexico. You can argue for legalizing marijuana or poppies, but legality or illegality is not the crux of the issue. If Mexico wants to legalize poppies, it needs to fix its collapsed law enforcement first."

[Ed: Our organization's view is that global drug prohibition drives up the value and prices for coca and its derivatives, generating tremendous profits for criminal organizations, which get reinvested in other areas of crime and which contribute to their ability to influence political systems. If it would be impossible to secure licit coca grows in Colombia from being taken over by bad actors, another option would be to establish competing operations in other countries with stronger legal systems, providing coca and its derivatives for less than the crime organizations do. We do recognize that transitions between systems have the potential to go wrong, and we don't expect legalization to solve every problem that's become intertwined with prohbition.]

Medical Marijuana Update

All the medical marijuana news is from the Keystone State this week. 

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Counties Can Ban Probationers from Using Medical Marijuana. The State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that counties may not ban people on probation or parole from using medical marijuana if they are registered in the state medical marijuana program. In a unanimous decision, the court noted that people in the program are immune from “arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner” under state law, even if they are under a court’s supervision. “In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, the political branch has decided to permit patients — including probationers — to use medical marijuana for specified, serious medical conditions, upon a physician’s certification,” the court said in its opinion.

Pennsylvania Bill Would Require Police to Prove Actual Impairment Before Charging Medical Marijuana Patients With DUI. A Republican state senator, Camera Bartolotta, has filed a bill aimed at protecting medical marijuana patients from being prosecuted for driving under the influence. The bill does so by exempting patients from the state's DUI law, which requires only the presence of marijuana metabolites to garner a DUI ticket. Instead, police would have to prove that the patient driver is actually impaired.

SF Supes Approve Safe Injection Site Measure, OK Pot Init Can Start Collecting Signatures, More... (6/24/20)

The Kansas City and Los Angeles city councils advance marijuana measures, San Francisco supervisors approve a measure to allow safe injection sites, marijuana legalization is advancing in the Isreali Knesset, and more.

Safe injection sites could be coming to San Francisco--if the state and federal governments clear the way. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Oklahoma Supreme Court Clears Marijuana Legalization Initiative for Signature-Gathering. The state's high court has ruled that the initiative, State Question 807 to legalize marijuana may proceed to the signature-gathering stage. The initiative would legalize marijuana for adults over 21 and impose a 15% marijuana sales tax. Supporters would have to gather about 178,000 signatures of registered voters in 90 days to qualify the question for the ballot.

Kansas City Ordinance Removing Marijuana Prosecutions and Penalties Wins Committee Vote. An ordinance that would remove marijuana prosecutions and penalties from the city code was passed out of the Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee Wednesday on a 4-2 vote and now heads for a full city council vote on July 9.

Los Angeles Ordinance to Reset Legal Marijuana Market Wins Committee Vote. The city council's Rules Committee voted Tuesday to approve a series of changes to help the city's struggling legal marijuana market, including strengthening programs aimed at helping operators from communities that suffered most from the nation's war on drugs. One proposed change would limit delivery licenses only to businesses that meet social equity benchmarks until 2025. The committee also approved allowing businesses to relocate while being licensed, clarify what employees are required to have background checks and streamline the application process.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Approves Bill to Allow Safe Injection Sites. The Board on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow nonprofits to operate safe injection sites in the city. The legislation, backed by Mayor London Breed, passed the Board unanimously. It creates a system for issuing permits to nonprofits who want to undertake such activities. There are still obstacles to overcome, though. A state bill, Assembly Bill 362, which would authorize the city to open a safe injection site, has yet to pass the Senate, and the Trump administration remains opposed to any such moves.

Sentencing Reform

California's Prop 47 Reduced Racial Disparities in Arrests and Jailings, Study Finds. A study by the Public Policy Institute of California has found that Prop 47,  the 2014 ballot measure that lowered penalties for many property and drug crimes in California, has reduced but not eliminated the gap between African Americans and whites in arrests and jailings. In the first two years after Prop 47 went into effect, racial disparities in arrests for crimes covered by the initiative dropped 24.4%, while disparities in booking dropped 36.2%. But for drug crimes, the decline in racial disparity was even more stark, about 55%.

International

Israeli Knesset Gives First Approval to Marijuana Legalization Bills. The full Knesset voted Wednesday to advance a pair of bills that would legalize marijuana. That's only the first step in a legislative process that could take months to reach fruition. Under the bills, possession of up to 50 grams and up to two marijuana plants in a private place would not be a crime. Possessing more than the legal limit would result in a large fine, and public use would be prohibited.

Dem Congresswomen File COVID Decarceration Bill, Vancouver Activists Rally for Safe Drug Supply, More... (6/23/20)

Iowa's capital and largest city moves toward marijuana law reform, Vancouver activists march to demand a safe drug supply, progressive Democratic congresswomen roll out a public health-minded bill to reduce incarceration, and more.

The InSite safe injection site in Vancouver. Now activists are calling for a safer drug supply, too. (vch.ca)
Marijuana Policy

Des Moines Creates Task Force to Study Marijuana Decriminalization. Iowa's capital and largest city is moving toward making enforcement of marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority. On Monday night, the city council took the first step in that process by voting unanimously to create a task force to study marijuana decriminalization. That task force will study the issue and make recommendations to the council by October 1. The resolution was part of an anti-racial profiling ordinance also unanimously passed by the council Monday.

Psychedelics

Iowa Amendment to Decriminalize Psilocybin Defeated. State Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Fairfield) last week filed an amendment to a budget bill that would have removed psilocybin and psilocin from the state's controlled substances list. But members questioned how germane the amendment was to the budget bill and the presiding officer agreed, ruling the measure "not germane." Still, it got a vote and was handily defeated,76-17. Shipley last year filed a bill to legalize psilocybin and MDMA for medical use.

Sentencing Policy

Democratic Congresswomen File Bill to Dismantle Mass Incarceration. Last week, Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (MI), Ayanna Pressley (MA), and Barbara Lee (CA) introduced the as yet unnumbered Dismantle Mass Incarceration for Public Health Act, which would require the release of eligible individuals who are currently in custody in a jail or prison during the COVID-19 crisis and for one year after the crisis ends. "This pandemic should not be a death sentence for anyone," said Congresswoman Tlaib. "We already know that Black and Brown folks are disproportionately affected by this virus outside prison walls. We also know that they’ve been disproportionately incarcerated for decades. These factors make for a unique urgency to get this bill passed, so we ensure incarcerated individuals and their loved ones have a fighting chance to see each other again."

International

Vancouver Activists Rally and March in Downtown Eastside for Safe Drug Supply. With last month being the deadliest for drug overdoses in years with more than 170 dead in the city, Vancouver activists rallied and marched through the Downtown Eastside, the epicenter of hard drug use in the city, to demand access to a safe supply of drugs for users. While acknowledging federal and provincial government efforts to ease access to such drugs, lockdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in interruptions to the drug supply and led to the local manufacture of substitutes cut with more dangerous and toxic ingredients. The rally was led by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).

US Deploys Air Force Planes to Curacao in Anti-Drug Effort, Israel Moves Closer to Pot Legalization, More... (6/22/20)

Georgia Senate Democrats have filed a police reform bill that includes marijuana decriminalization, the US is ramping up anti-drug operations near Venezuela, Israel takes a step toward marijuana legalization, and more.

With a Knesset committee vote, Israel takes another step toward marijuana legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Georgia Police Reform Bill Includes Marijuana Decriminalization. Georgia Senate Democrats have filed the Georgia Justice Act, which covers a wide range of issues such as police body cameras, no-knock warrants, racial profiling, demilitarizing law enforcement and cannabis policy reform. It also includes a plank calling for marijuana decriminalization, under which possession of up to a half ounce would be a misdemeanor punishable by only a $300 fine. Under current state law, possession is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill Would Require Police to Prove Actual Impairment Before Charging Medical Marijuana Patients With DUI. A Republican state senator, Camera Bartolotta, has filed a bill aimed at protecting medical marijuana patients from being prosecuted for driving under the influence. The bill does so by exempting patients from the state's DUI law, which requires only the presence of marijuana metabolites to garner a DUI ticket. Instead, police would have to prove that the patient driver is actually impaired.

Foreign Policy

US Air Force Deploying Planes to Curacao in Ramped Up Anti-Drug Operation. The US Southern Command announced last Friday that four US Air Force planes will be deployed to Curacao, a Caribbean island nation just 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela, for counter-narcotics operations. An E-3 Sentry surveillance plane and an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System plane, supported by two KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, will fly detection and monitoring missions in international airspace, Pentagon officials said. The move is meant to "help U.S. and international law enforcement authorities disrupt and defeat transnational criminal organizations trafficking illegal narcotics in the region," the Southern Command said. The deployment will involve about 200 US personnel at the Cooperative Security Location, a complex used for regional training in counterterrorism and drug interdiction, in Williamstad, Curacao. The move comes several weeks after the Trump administration accused the Venezuelan government of being involved in drug trafficking.

International

Israel Knesset Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bills. The Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday approved a pair of marijuana legalization bills that would legalize marijuana possession and consumption by adults 21 and over. This is only the first step on a process in which the bills must be discussed in committee and then approved at least three times by the full Knesset.

Mexican President Says He Ordered Freeing of El Chapo's Son to Prevent Bloodshed. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador acknowledged last Friday that he personally ordered the release of one of imprisoned Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's sons after he was captured by the military last fall in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa. "I ordered that this operation be stopped and that this presumed criminal be freed," he said, adding that he acted to prevent a slaughter. The capture of Ovidio Guzman Lopez resulted in hours-long gun battles and cartel roadblocks in Culiacan, leaving at least 14 people dead. The violence didn't end until the son was released. “If we hadn’t suspended [the operation] more than 200 innocent people … would have lost their lives,” the president said.

NJ Assembly Passes Criminal Justice Reform Package, MT Pot Legalization Campaign Hands in Signatures, More... (6/19/20)

Montana campaigners handed in what should be enough signatures to get marijuana legalization measures on the ballot, the New Jersey Assembly quickly passed a package of criminal justice reform bills, Houston's police chief is facing mounting pressure to release a report on a deadly drug raid, and more. 

Montana has a good shot at getting a chance to vote on marijuana legalization in November. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. New Approach Montana, the group behind the I-190 marijuana legalization initiative and the CI-118 constitutional amendment to set the legal age for marijuana at 21, announced Friday that it had turned in more than 52,000 raw signatures for the initiative (it needs 25,000 valid voter signatures) and 80,000 signatures for the amendment (it needs 50,000 valid voter signatures). Now it's nail-biting time as organizers wait for the state to see if they came up with enough good signatures.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Counties Can Ban Probationers from Using Medical Marijuana. The State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that counties may not ban people on probation or parole from using medical marijuana if they are registered in the state medical marijuana program. In a unanimous decision, the court noted that people in the program are immune from “arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner” under state law, even if they are under a court’s supervision. “In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, the political branch has decided to permit patients — including probationers — to use medical marijuana for specified, serious medical conditions, upon a physician’s certification,” the court said in its opinion.

Criminal Justice

New Jersey Assembly Passes Package of Eight Criminal Justice Reform Bills. During a 90-minute teleconference vote Thursday, the Assembly passed eight bills dealing with criminal justice reform, all by unanimous or near unanimous votes. The subject matter of the bills ranges from increased transparency for police personnel files, improved data gathering, making a racially based false police report a crime, minority recruitment, heightened diversity training, ending the use of chokeholds, and easing identification requirements for juror lists. Now, it's up to the Senate to act.

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Chief Faces Growing Pressure to Release Internal Audit of Deadly Drug Raid. Police Chief Art Acevedo is under pressure from a growing chorus of elected officials to release the findings of an internal audit on his department’s narcotics division, arguing that the chief’s refusal to do so contradicts his vows to be transparent and accountable. Acevedo ordered the probe in the wake of 2019 raid that left two innocent homeowners dead and four officers wounded. The officer in charge of that raid, Gerald Gaines, was accused by investigators of lying to get the warrant use in the raid and now faces murder charges. Now, in the wake of the George Floyd killing, elected officials are demanding to see that audit.

NV Mass Marijuana Pardons, Colombia Cocaine Surge, NJ Pot Decrim Bill Advances, More... (6/18/20)

Fifteen thousand Nevada pot offenders just got automatic pardons, the UN says Colombian potential cocaine production was up last year, Kansas City moves toward pot decriminalization, and more.

Potential Colombian cocaine production was up slightly last year, the UNODC reports. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Pardons 15,000 People with Marijuana Convictions. Under a resolution from Gov. Steve Sisolak (D), the Board of Pardons Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved automatic pardons for 15,000 people who had been arrested on marijuana possession charges between January 1986 and January 2017. "Today is an historic day for those who were convicted of what has long been considered a trivial crime, and is now legal under Nevada law," the governor said in a press release. "Since the passage of [adult-use legalization] in 2016 and the decriminalization of possession for small amounts of marijuana, many Nevadans  have had these minor offenses remain on their records, in some cases as a felony. This resolution aims to correct that and fully restore any rights lost as a result of these convictions."

New Jersey Assembly Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation. The Assembly on Thursday easily approved a marijuana decriminalization bill, A1897, by a 63-10 vote. The measure decriminalizes the possession and distribution of up to two ounces of marijuana by adults — making these activities punishable by a $50 fine. Those found to be in violation of the law will no longer be arrested or saddled with a criminal record. A broader decriminalization bill that includes more social justice provisions, S2535, is pending in the Senate. Full marijuana legalization is already on the ballot for November.

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Rolls Out Decriminalization Ordinance. Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) and at least four city council members introduced a marijuana decriminalization ordinance Thursday. The proposed ordinance would remove the offense of marijuana possession from the city code. "One of the ways we improve police-community relations is by eliminating laws that for too long have led to negative interactions, arrests, convictions, and disproportionate rates of incarceration of Black men and Black women," said Lucas. "Reducing petty offenses – such as municipal marijuana offenses – reduce these negative interactions each day."

International

UNODC Says Colombia's Potential Cocaine Output Increased Slightly Last Year. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday that potential production of pure cocaine increased 1.5% last year to 1,137 metric tons. The increase in production potential came even as the area under coca cultivation decreased slightly. The increase in productivity is because coca growing is now concentrated in specific areas. The report comes as the Colombian government faces mounting pressure from the US to reduce cocaine exports.

Is the Era of the No-Knock Drug Raid Coming to an End? [FEATURE]

In the mass protests over out-of-control and racially biased law enforcement ignited by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin, Floyd's name isn't the only one being chanted by the crowds. There's also Ahmaud Arbery, the Georgia jogger gunned down by white vigilantes. There's Rayshard Brooks, the Atlanta man shot and killed by police after falling asleep in his car in the Wendy's drive-through lane and them tussling with and fleeing from them as he sought to avoid arrest.

And then there's Breonna Taylor. The 26-year-old black EMT and Louisville resident was killed on March 13 as police executing a midnight no-knock drug search warrant at her apartment were greeted by gunfire by her boyfriend.. As the circumstances of her death emerged, she has become the face of the burgeoning movement to radically restrict the police resort to no-knock warrants, which could just as aptly be referred to as home invasion warrants.

That's what it felt like to Ms. Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. Although Louisville police claimed they knocked and announced their presence, they were operating with a no-knock warrant, and that account is disputed by Walker and Taylor's relatives. Walker said he and Taylor were in bed together when the door crashed in and he thought someone was breaking into their home. He said he fired in self-defense. (Here is that fraught zone where the war on drugs encounters the 2nd Amendment.)

Walker's single shot wounded one officer, who returned fire along with two other officers. Breonna Taylor was hit by at least eight bullets and died at the scene. Walker was charged with attempted murder, although those charges have now been dropped. No drugs were found at the apartment. To make matters even worse, the drug suspect the police were looking for was already in custody when the raid went down.

"They executed this innocent woman because they botched the search warrant execution," attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Taylor family in a lawsuit filed over the killing told the New York Times. "They had the main person that they were trying to get in their custody, so why use a battering ram to bust her door down and then go in there and execute her?"

Outrage over the killing of Breonna Taylor quietly festered as the country hunkered down amidst the coronavirus pandemic, but when the iconic killing of George Floyd finally galvanized the streets, the pain and anger over Taylor's killing became a rallying cry not just in Louisville but across the land. And it's bringing a laser-like focus on a practice more akin to raiding terrorist hideouts in the Middle East than to serving and protecting American citizens, which in turn is leading to a renewed focus on the role of the drug war in all of this.

The war on drugs provided the impetus for no-knock raids from the beginning, and the courts were all too willing to help. The 1963 US Supreme Court case Ker v. California, which gave constitutional imprimatur to forcible police entries, was a drug case where the possibility that evidence could be destroyed carried the day for the cops. When the Supreme Court revisited and refined its no-knock doctrine in the 1990s, the impetus once again was enforcing drug prohibition.

In a case involving small-scale sales of marijuana and meth to an informant, the court ruled in 1995 in Wilson v. Arkansas that police must generally "knock and announce" before kicking in a door with a search warrant, although it allowed for exceptions as per Ker. In another small-time drug sales case, 1997's Richard v. Wisconsin, the court held that police needed to demonstrate "a reasonable suspicion" that announcing their presence before bashing in the door would be dangerous or allow for the destruction of evidence for a no-knock warrant to be permitted.

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police in a fatally bungled no-knock drug raid in March. (Family photo)
Those rulings left "reasonable suspicion" up to state and local judges, and while little national or even state data exists on the rates at which judges rejected no-knock warrant requests, a pair of local studies suggests they essentially acted as rubber stamps. A recent PBS Newshour report cited a Denver Post analysis of no-knock warrant requests from Denver police in 2000, a year after Mexican citizen Ismael Mena was killed in a no-knock drug raid. The cops got 158 out of 163 requests approved. Similarly, a Washington Post analysis of no-knock warrant requests by policy in Little Rock, Arkansas, between 2016 and 208 had the cops getting 103 out of 105 approved.

Police resort to no-knock raids has gone through the roof in recent decades, according to a 2007 study done by Peter Kraska, a professor with the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. He found that while no-knock or announce and enter raids happened about 1,500 times in the early 1980s, that figure skyrocketed to about 40,000 a year by the turn of the century as the drug war deepened. Kraska estimated the number of such raids at about 45,000 a year by 2010.

The raids are mainly for drugs. A 2014 ACLU report looking at SWAT teams doing no-knock raids found that 62% of them were for drugs. In at least a third of those raids, no drugs were found. In nearly another third of those raids, it's not known if any drugs were seized because police did not report that information.

And they can be deadly -- both for their targets and for the officers undertaking them. The New York Times reported three years ago that between 2010 and 2016 alone, at least 13 police officers lost their lives on such raids, but so did more than seven times as many civilians. The Times put the civilian death toll at 94, with many hundreds more injured. They include such total innocents as 19-month-old "Baby Bou Bou" Bounkam Phonesavanh, who was severely burned by a flash bang grenade thrown by a Georgia SWAT officer in a 2015 no-knock raid.

But now, with the killing of Breonna Taylor in the context of mass mobilizations against police brutality and racial bias, no-knock raids are being challenged like never before. The Democratic congressional response to the upheaval in the streets, the Justice in Policing Act, directly targets no-knock raids. As the Democrats put it, the bill "[b]ans no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning no-knock warrants at the local and state level." (Advocates are calling for amendments to strengthen the bill -- and then passage.)

Kentucky's libertarian-leaning US Senator Rand Paul (R) met with Taylor's family and then introduced the Breonna Taylor Act "to prohibit no-knock warrants." The bill would mandate that federal law enforcement officers must announce their presence and purpose before executing a search warrant and it would condition federal aid to law enforcement agencies to ensure they follow the same rules.

"After talking with Breonna Taylor's family, I've come to the conclusion that it's long past time to get rid of no-knock warrants. This bill will effectively end no-knock raids in the United States," said Paul.

Meanwhile, even Paul's Republican colleagues are climbing on the no no-knock bandwagon, although to a more limited degree than the Democrats. The just introduced Justice Act, largely crafted by the GOP's sole black senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, wouldn't ban no-knock raids, but would increase federal reporting requirements for no-knock raids and use of force. It would also increase penalties for false police reports.

It's unclear whether any of these bills will pass or whether compromise legislation will emerge, and it's unclear just how strong any language on no-knock raids will end up being. But what is clear is that Congress finally has the issue squarely in its sights.

But law enforcement is largely a state and local matter, and it's going to be up to state legislatures and governors and city councils and mayors to address the issue at the local level. Louisville has already done so. With protests raging in the streets, the city council early this month moved unanimously to ban no-knock raids. Only two states -- Florida and Oregon -- have banned no-knock raids, but that should be about to change, given the tumult in the streets over police misconduct. It should have happened a long time ago.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Jacksonville narc has some paperwork problems, an Alabama prison guard heads for federal prison, and more. Let's get to it:

In Jacksonville, Florida, a Jacksonville sheriff's detective was arrested last Thursday for falsely filling out forms that document cash, narcotics, or other seized property. Narcotics Detective Bryan Burnett is charged with falsifying documents and official misconduct. At least two forms were falsified, with the amount of money involved under $200. Authorities said the falsifications were not done for monetary gain or Burnett would have been charged with theft.

In York, Pennsylvania, a York County prison guard was arrested Tuesday for plotting to smuggle suboxone into the York County Prison. Officer Joshua Martinez, 31, went down after authorities were informed that he would be getting the drug from an inmate's girlfriend and surveilled him picking up a package from her mailbox. He was then pulled over by state troopers, who found 75 suboxone strips and $2,900 cash. Martinez, the inmates, and the inmate's girlfriend are charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy, and contraband. [Ed: Suboxone and methadone in the prisons would be a helpful measure for authorities to take.]

In Mobile, Alabama, a state prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in federal prison after being convicted of plotting to bring drugs into the Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore. Guard Wiggins Washington, 52, went down after he agreed to meet with a man he thought was supplying methamphetamine, but who was actually working with authorities, who had been informed about the scheme. Washington pleaded guilty to possess meth with intent to distribute and to carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking charge. That second charge garnered a mandatory minimum five years.

Medical Marijuana Update

Louisiana's medical marijuana program is set to expand, Ohio regulators recommend adding a new qualifying condition for medical marijuana, and more.

Louisiana

Louisiana Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday signed into law House Bill 819, which broadly expands the state's medical marijuana program. Now, doctors will be able to recommend medical marijuana for any patient they think it will help.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Still Seeking Signatures. Backers of a medical marijuana initiative say they have some 60,000 valid voter signatures, but that's only half the total they need to qualify for the ballot. Nearly 50,000 of those signatures were gathered before lockdowns imposed because of the coronavirus, which brought signature-gathering to a near halt for months. Now, the campaign has less than a month to gather another 60,000 valid voter signatures.

Ohio

Ohio Regulators Recommend One New Qualifying Condition, Reject Two Others. A state medical board committee has recommended adding cachexia, or wasting syndrome, to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The committee rejected adding autism and anxiety, though. The board will finalize the decision during a board meeting next month.

Senate GOP Unveils Policing Reform Bill, Seattle Moves to End Drug-Related Loitering Charges, More... (6/17/20)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court clarifies that state officials can't order drug tests as part of child welfare investigations, Senate Republicans roll out their version of a police reform bill, and more.

Tennessee Rep. William Lamberth (R), who blocked a resolution honoring a murdered black girl because... marijuana.

Marijuana Policy

Sole Tennessee Lawmaker Blocks Resolution to Honor Murdered Teen Over Alleged Marijuana Sale. A resolution honoring the life of 17-year-old black girl Ashanti Posey, who was fatally shot in April, was blocked by a single Republican lawmaker, Rep. William Lamberth, who said he could not support the measure because she had allegedly been involved in a low-level marijuana deal before she was killed. The resolution required unanimous consent and had already passed the state Senate. Lamberth's one-man veto sparked angry cries of "black lives matter" in the chamber, and some lawmakers walked out in protest.

Drug Testing

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules State Officials Can't Order Drug Tests as Part of Child Welfare Investigations. In a case involving a Republican district attorney accused of child abuse, the state's highest court has ruled that state officials may not order drug tests as part of a child welfare investigation. The court held unanimously that the state's Child Protective Services Law does not "expressly or implicitly authorize collecting samples of bodily fluids, without consent, for testing." The child welfare agency in Fayette County had been requiring such tests despite the lack of a legal basis for doing so. Now, it has stopped.

Law Enforcement

Seattle City Council Takes Up Bill to End Loitering Charges Related to Drugs, Prostitution. Councilmember Andrew Lewis filed a pair of bills Monday to eliminate the charge of loitering when used to try to enforce drug or prostitution laws. Loitering laws, which emerged as part of the war on drugs in the last century, allow police to arrest people they merely suspected of being drug dealers or prostitutes. The bill has support from some other council members, as well as City Attorney Pete Holmes, who helped draft it. "This is an outdated, and frankly racist policy in our City's municipal code." Councilmember Tammy Morales said. "By repealing this part of the code we are assured that drug offenders and sex workers will be treated humanely and not criminalized." The bills go to a vote at the council's next meeting on Monday.

Law Enforcement

Senate Republicans Unveil Policing Reform Bill. Senate Republicans on Wednesday rolled out their version of a police reform bill, which is called the Justice Act. Democrats in the House last week filed their version of a police reform bill, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The Republican bill would discourage but not ban tactics such as no-knock warrants or chokeholds, while the Democrats take a tougher approach. The Democratic plan mandates certain policing practices, while the Republican plan avoids such mandates, instead incentivizing law enforcement agencies to curtail such practices by withholding federal funding for departments that allow them or do no report on them.

Legal MJ Linked to Declining Youth Drug Treatment Admissions, LA MedMJ Expansion Bill Signed, More.... (6/16/20)

Louisiana's governor signs a medical marijuana expansion bill into law, Colorado's legislature passes a bill giving the governor the ability to expunge past small-time marijuana convictions, and more.

The kids are alright. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Legalization Linked to Declining Youth Admissions for Marijuana. A study of "cannabis use disorders" in Colorado and Washington, which was led by researchers from Temple University and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, shows that "the rate of adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana use declined significantly, with the mean rate falling nearly in half" between 2008 and 2017 and "the decline in admissions rate was greater in Colorado and Washington compared to [states where recreational marijuana is not legal]."

Colorado Legislature Approves Expungement Bill. With a final Senate vote Monday, the legislature approved House Bill 1424, which gives the state's governor the ability to expunge low-level marijuana convictions from the criminal records of people arrested on those charges before legalization took effect. The bill also includes means of defining social equity applicants in the marijuana industry.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday signed into law House Bill 819, which broadly expands the state's medical marijuana program. Now, doctors will be able to recommend medical marijuana for any patient they think it will help.

International

Irish Council for Civil Liberties Calls for Urgent Drug Policy Review. The group's executive director, Liam Herrick, is calling on the new coalition government to make the human rights of drug users a key part of a call for a Citizens' Assembly to "consider matters relating to drug use." The government missed an opportunity when it failed to decriminalize drug possession last year, he said. "A Citizens' Assembly to consider matters relating to drug use would no doubt hear personal testimonies of how Ireland's current drug policy has impacted upon a person's life and it would hear evidence from expert witnesses. However, to reach a policy that guarantees better social, health and community outcomes, the protection and vindication of the human rights of people who use drugs in Ireland need to form the bedrock of the discussion," he added.

Biden's Criminal Justice Task Force Gets Ahead of Him, Rio Drug Gangs Coordinate Favela COVID Response, More... (6/15/20)

Pot decriminalization bills are popping up in New Jersey, hemp is now legal in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Rio's drug gangs get busy with coronavirus, and more.

A Brazilian favela, or slum. In Rio de Janeiro, drug gangs are coordinating the response to coronavirus in the favelas. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Sees Second Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. Last week, a decriminalization bill, S2535, was introduced in the Senate. On Monday, another decriminalization bill, A1897, advanced from the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee. The Senate bill would decriminalize the possession of up to a pound of weed, while the Assembly bill only decriminalizes up to 10 grams. The Senate bill has $25 fines; the Assembly bill has fines starting at $150, going to $200 for a second offense, $500 for each following offense.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Regulators Recommend One New Qualifying Condition, Reject Two Others. A state medical board committee has recommended adding cachexia, or wasting syndrome, to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The committee rejected adding autism and anxiety, though. The board will finalize the decision during a board meeting next month.

Hemp

Northern Marianas Governor Signs Hemp Bill. Gov. DLG Torres has signed into law a bill legalizing hemp in the US territory. The new law allows the Natural Resources-Division of Agriculture to regulate the hemp industry in the CNMI "consistent with the federal requirements."

Drug Policy

Biden-Sanders Task Force Members Push for Legalizing Marijuana and Other Drug Reforms. Joe Biden may not have yet endorsed marijuana legalization, but members of a criminal justice task force he organized appear to be getting ahead of him. One unnamed member, a former federal prosecutor, says that Biden's proposal to decriminalize marijuana doesn't go far enough and should be replaced with legalization, and another, former Attorney General Eric Holder suggested broader drug decriminalization without actually using the word. He said dealing with drug use should be a public health issue and taken "out of the system" of law enforcement.

International

Rio de Janeiro Drug Gangs Now Pushing Social Distancing, COVID Medications. With the government of rightist authoritarian populist President Jaoa Bolsonaro largely absent and in denial about coronavirus, residents of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are seeing drug gangs effectively replace the state as responders to the pandemic. They are handing out alcohol, gel, medications, and cash to local residents.

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

Amid the Tumult, Congressional Democrats Take on Policing Run Amok [FEATURE]

With mass protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin now morphing into demands to grapple with racism and to confront a police culture where brutality is all too common, and with the anguished words of Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, echoing through the capitol, congressional Democrats this week rolled out their first effort to address the national uprising, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

George Floyd's legacy is being created right now. (Prachatia/Creative Commons)
The most comprehensive attempt to reform policing ever, the act would, according to a House Judiciary Committee press release:

  • Prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
  • Ban chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  • Mandate the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  • Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave on agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
  • Amend federal criminal statute from "willfulness" to a "recklessness" standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
  • Reform qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.
  • Establish public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
  • Create law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama's Task force on 21st Century policing.
  • Require state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
  • Improve the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
  • Establish a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

"We have heard the terrifying words 'I can't breathe' from George Floyd, Eric Garner, and the millions of Americans in the streets calling out for change," said House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). "For every incident of excessive force that makes headlines, the ugly truth is that there are countless others that we never hear about. This is a systemic problem that requires a comprehensive solution."

Protesters demanding police accountability at the White House. (Geoff Livingston/Creative Commons)
"What we are witnessing is the birth of a new movement in our country with thousands coming together in every state marching to demand a change that ends police brutality, holds police officers accountable, and calls for transparency," said Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-CA). Passage of the act would "establish a bold transformative vision of policing in America," she added. "Never again should the world be subjected to witnessing what we saw on the streets in Minnesota with George Floyd."

But that "bold transformative vision" doesn't directly address one of the main drivers of fraught interactions between law enforcement and the citizenry, especially in minority communities. Police enforcing drug prohibition have arrested more than a million people a year every year since the late 1980s, with the number peaking at nearly two million in 2007 and finally declining to just under a million in 2018. Around 90% of those arrests are for simple drug possession, and around half of them are for simple marijuana possession.

The bill does call for federally banning no-knock raids -- perhaps a better term would be home invasion raids -- like the one in which Louisville police burst through the door of Breonna Taylor's home and riddled the 26-year-old black EMT's body with bullets after her boyfriend opened fire on the intruders coming through the door. Her death helped fuel the rage in Louisville and across the land. Drug law enforcement is the primary reason for federal no-knock raids.

A summary of the bill provided by the House Judiciary Committee notes that blacks are 2 ½ times more likely to be busted for possessing drugs despite using them at the same rate as whites and that they are 3.6 times more likely to be busted for selling drugs even though whites are more likely to do so, but does so only to call for an end to racial and religious profiling. Drug decriminalization, on the other hand, would radically reduce opportunities for discriminatory policing by radically reducing the number of people of all colors subject to being arrested for their choice of substances.

In a statement on the bill, the Drug Policy Alliance said it was "grateful" that the congressional leadership had filed the legislation, but that it does not go nearly far enough.

"[T]his bill fails to fully address issues like police militarization and the use of quick-knock warrants, policing practices that are disproportionately used against people of color in drug investigations," said Maritza Perez, director of DPA's Office of National Affairs. "While the bill places restrictions on programs that facilitate the transfer of military equipment to local police departments, it does not outright put an end to such programs. And while this bill prohibits no-knock warrants for drug cases, it does not outlaw quick-knock warrants which can be just as deadly. Moreover, the bill continues to fund police departments and the war on drugs, rather than shift resources to education, housing, harm reduction services, and other infrastructure that strengthens communities and increases public safety."

The bill needs to be toughened, DPA said, and offered to "work with Congress to improve and strengthen" it.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was also ambivalent, with a press release lauding the bill's provisions banning choke-holds, limiting use of force, and prohibiting racial and religious profiling, but also arguing that it doesn't go far enough in reining in law enforcement.

"The bill introduced today takes significant steps to protect people and ensure accountability against police violence. But the legislation also provides hundreds of millions more to law enforcement, and for the ACLU, that's a nonstarter," said senior ACLU legislative counsel Kanya Bennett.

"While many of the reforms in this bill are laudable and vital, more must be done to change the role of police in our society fundamentally," Bennett continued. "There can be no more Band-Aid or temporary fixes when it comes to policing, which is why we are calling for divestment from law enforcement agencies and reinvestment into the black and brown communities that have been harmed by over policing and mass incarceration. The role of police has to be smaller, more circumscribed, and less funded with taxpayer dollars."

"I Can't Breathe." George Floyd protest in Houston. (2C2K Photography/Creative Commons)
Still, the bill has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights organization, including the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, and the National African American Clergy Network, among others.

"The National African American Clergy Network supports the Justice in Policing Bill. It affirms sacred scripture that everyone is created in the image of God and deserves to be protected by police sworn to value and safeguard all lives. Failure by police to uphold this sacred trust with Black Americans lives, requires systemic changes in policing nationwide," said Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., and Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr., co-convenors of the network.

The Justice in Policing Act will move swiftly toward passage in the House but faces much bumpier prospects in the Republican-controlled Senate. While President Trump has been advocating military crackdowns on protesters, circulating conspiracy theories about senior antifa terrorists and offering himself up as "your law and order president," GOP senators led by Tim Scott (R-SC) -- the party's only black senator -- are working to craft their own version of a police reform bill. As of now, while it acknowledges the need for police reform, which is a significant step for Republicans, it looks to be an even more watered down version of the Democrat's bill.

The pressure from the streets on Congress to get something done so far shows no sign of letting up. Whether the legislative body can actually come to grips with this crisis of confidence in government and policing remains to be seen. But it's already had a very salutary taste of what could be in store if it doesn't.

US Rep Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Prohibition-Related Violence in Colombia and Mexico, More... (6/11/20)

South Dakota marijuana activists launch their election campaign this week, Nevada's governor proposes mass pardons for small time pot possession charges, Michigan's governor signs a roadside drug testing bill into law, and more.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is calling for drug decriminalization as part of a police accountability plan. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Governor Proposes Pardons for Minor Marijuana Convictions. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced Thursday that he will propose a plan to pardon tens of thousands of people convicted on minor marijuana possession charges before the state legalized the drug in 2017. "The people of Nevada have decided that possession of small amounts of marijuana is not a crime," the governor said. "If approved, this resolution will clear the slate for thousands of people who bear the stigma of a conviction for actions that have now been decriminalized."

South Dakota Marijuana Advocates Kick Off Campaign for Both Legalization and Medical Marijuana Initiatives. With both a marijuana legalization initiative, Constitutional Amendment A, and a medical marijuana initiative, Initiated Measure 26, already qualified for the ballot, marijuana activists kicked off their election season campaign to get them both approved in November. If both were approved by voters, the state would become the first to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana on the same day.

Drug Policy

Oregon US Congressman Calls for Drug Decriminalization as Part of Policing Reform Plan. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) released a police accountability plan on Tuesday that includes proposals to legalize marijuana and decriminalize other drugs to reduce over-policing of communities of color. "Reducing police interactions by using non-law enforcement to deal with minor crimes and activities, and repealing punitive drug laws could reduce the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color," the plan states. "We need to rethink the way police are used and encourage alternative policing models that address institutional racism as they are being created." Such a plan would include repealing "policies that incentivize over-policing of communities of color, including the prohibition of cannabis and the decriminalization of other drugs."

Drug Testing

Michigan Governor Signs Roadside Drug Testing Pilot Program Bill. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed into law Senate Bill 718, which establishes a statewide pilot program for roadside drug testing for drivers. The test will use saliva to detect the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis (delta 9 THC), cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates.

International

Colombia's Coca-Growing Cauca Department Wracked with Violence. Armed groups fighting over control over the coca and cocaine trade have been engaging in targeted assassinations and gun battles in southwestern Cauca department. Dissident members of the FARC, which laid down its arms as part of a 2016 peace accord, have been going after their former comrades, while different factions of the National Liberation Army (ELN) clashed with each other. Meanwhile, the targeted killings of social leaders and activists have also continued, with more than 40 killed in the department so far this year.

Mexico's Guanajuato State Hammered by Weekend of Cartel Violence. Nearly three dozen people were killed in a spate of drug gang killings in the central industrial state of Guanajuato over the weekend. In the deadliest single incident, a group of gunmen attacked a drug rehabilitation center in Irapauto and killed 10 people. The violence is linked to a bloody turf war between the Jalisco Cartel and the local Santa Rosa de Lima gang.

Medical Marijuana Update

An Iowa medical marijuana expansion bill has gone to the governor's desk, a Kansas medical marijuana bill died a quick death, and more.

Iowa

Iowa Senate Votes to Expand Medical Marijuana Program. The state Senate last Wednesday voted 32-17 to expand the state's medical marijuana program by increasing the amount of medical marijuana products patients can purchase to up to 25 grams of THC every 90 days. The bill now goes to the House.

Iowa Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. The state Senate has given final approval to a medical marijuana expansion bill, HF-2589, which adds autism and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions and limits patients to 4.5 grams of THC over a 90-day period. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

Kansas

Kansas Lawmakers File Medical Marijuana Bill. Nine House members have cosponsored House Bill 2017, which would set up a system of state-regulated medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sales. The bill would cap allowable amounts at four ounces, the equivalent of a 30-day supply. The bill does not specify which diseases or conditions would be included.

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Dies as Special Session Ends. House Bill 2017, which would have set up a system of state-regulated medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sales, has died as a special short session ended without it moving in the Republican-led legislature. It will be next January before the legislature meets again, so the issue is effectively dead for the rest of this year.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Still Seeking Signatures. Backers of a medical marijuana initiative say they have some 60,000 valid voter signatures, but that's only half the total they need to qualify for the ballot. Nearly 50,000 of those signatures were gathered before lockdowns imposed because of the coronavirus, which brought signature-gathering to a near halt for months. Now, the campaign has less than a month to gather another 60,000 valid voter signatures.

Congressional Dems File Justice in Policing Act, CO Police Accountability Bill Passes Senate, More... (6/10/20)

Police accountability is the topic of the day in Congress and in Colorado, a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative campaign is in a final sprint for signatures, and more.

Newly hired or returning truck drivers catch a break from drug testing during the coronavirus disruption. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Still Seeking Signatures. Backers of a medical marijuana initiative say they have some 60,000 valid voter signatures, but that's only half the total they need to qualify for the ballot. Nearly 50,000 of those signatures were gathered before lockdowns imposed because of the coronavirus, which brought signature-gathering to a near halt for months. Now, the campaign has less than a month to gather another 60,000 valid voter signatures.

Criminal Justice

Congressional Democrats Introduce Justice in Policing Act. In response to the outrage sweeping the nation over police killings of black Americans, on Tuesday House Democratic leaders introduced the Justice in Policing Act, the first-ever comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement and build trust between law enforcement and our communities. The bill bars discriminatory profiling, bans chokeholds and no-knock drug raids at the federal level, mandates the use of bodycams by federal police, and establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry, among other provisions. Look for a Chronicle feature article on the bill tomorrow.

Colorado Police Accountability Bill Passes Senate. The state Senate on Tuesday approved SB20-217, the Law Enforcement Accountability and Integrity Act, with only one dissenting vote. The bill creates a police officer duty to intervene in the presence of unlawful police use of force, outlaws chokeholds, protects protesters from police violence, and removes the shield of immunity from police officers acting unlawful, among other provisions. The bill now moves to the House, where it had a hearing in the House Finance Committee Wednesday.

Drug Testing

Federal Trucking Regulators Extend Waiver on Pre-Employment Drug Testing. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended through September 30 a waiver on pre-employment drug testing requirements for truck drivers. The agency said that layoffs in the industry because of the coronavirus pandemic had reduced the pool of employees for random drug testing, the requirement for drug testing would impose burdens on trucking companies "at the very time they are attempting to return to expanded levels of operation."

NBA Foregoes Recreational Drug Testing, DC Psychedelic Init Gets Signature Boost During Protests, More... (6/9/20)

As a California psilocybin initiative bites the dust, a DC natural psychedelic initative gets a boost; the NBA gives up on recreational drug testing of its players, the Dutch move closer to a pilot program to supply legal marijuana to the country's cannabis cafes, and more.

caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Montana Democratic Party Endorses Marijuana Legalization. The state Democratic Party has formally endorsed marijuana legalization, making it part of its platform. The party supports the "removal of Marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Federal Controlled Substances Act," one plank states. The party also endorsed adding language to the state constitution to "establish the legal age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana at 21 years of age or older." It also calls for "addressing substance abuse as a public health issue, rather than a criminal issue," among other reform policies. The move comes as a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives sponsored by New Approach Montana seek to gather signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Dies as Special Session Ends. House Bill 2017, which would have set up a system of state-regulated medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sales, has died as a special short session ended without it moving in the Republican-led legislature. It will be next January before the legislature meets again, so the issue is effectively dead for the rest of this year.

Drug Testing

NBA Will Not Test for Recreational Drugs When Season Resumes. The National Basketball Association has not been testing players for recreational drugs during the coronavirus-inspired suspension of the 2019-2020 season, and the league will reportedly continue that approach once play resumes. The league will still test players for performance enhancing drugs, though.

Psychedelics

California Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative Officially Dead for This Year. The state secretary of state's office announced Monday that the California Psilocbyin Decriminalization Initiative had failed to qualify for the November ballot. Like other initiative campaigns, this campaign struggled with signature-gathering as social distancing measures and lockdowns took hold in March. Look out for 2022.

Washington, DC, Natural Psychedelic Lowest Priority Initiative Campaign Gets Signature Boost Amidst Mass Protests. The measure, I-81, had been struggling to gather signatures during the coronavirus lockdown, but has received an unexpected boost as the streets of the city fill with demonstrators protesting police brutality. Organizers said they had added some 5,000 new signatures during the street protests. They have until July 6 to come up with 30,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The measure would not legalize or decriminalize natural psychedelics but would make them the city's lowest law enforcement priorities.

International

Dutch Government Announces Applications for Regulated Marijuana Grows to Open Next Month. The Justice Ministry announced Tuesday that marijuana growers who wish to take part in a pilot program to grow regulated marijuana for the country's famous cannabis cafes can sign up to apply beginning July 1. Up to 10 growers will be licensed to supply the cafes in a bid to address the country's lingering "back door problem," where cafes are allowed to sell marijuana products, but there is no legal source of supply. That has only strengthened black market producers.

Israel Coalition Government Will Push for Marijuana Legalization Reforms. The Likud/Blue and White coalition government says it will push legislation in the Knesset "to arrange the issue of decriminalization and legalization [of marijuana] via a responsible model." In the same statement, the government said both parties have also decided to push for reforms to medical marijuana to increase ease of access for patients and make it easier for growers to get licenses.

Mexico Plan to Decriminalize Drugs, House Drug War/Policing Resolution Gaining Cosponsors, More... (6/8/20)

A pair of Democratic House leaders is pressing Attorney General Barr on marijuana legalization and drug rescheduling, a House resolution linking the war on drugs and police brutality is picking up cosponsors at a very rapid clip, and more.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador is ready to push for drug decriminalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Can Do Electronic Signature-Gathering, But the Clock is Ticking. Arkansas for Cannabis Reform, the group behind a marijuana legalization initiative, has won a victory in the state Supreme Court as the court has ruled it can collect signatures electronically. The group needs 89,000 valid voter signatures by July 3 to qualify for the ballot, but only has 23,000 raw signatures right now.

Drug Policy

House Lawmakers Press Attorney General Barr on Drug Rescheduling, Marijuana Legalization. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), head of the Congressional Black Caucus, sent a letter last Friday to Attorney General Bob Barr criticizing a Justice Department move last week to allow the DEA to help police mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd. The two lawmakers also criticized the Trump administration's "counterproductive focus on non-violent drug offenses is a plain reminder that the DEA is out of touch with the Nation's shift from the drug war model to policies of substance abuse treatment, rescheduling drugs, legalizing marijuana, and reducing harsh drug sentences."

Law Enforcement

House Resolution That Cites War on Drugs as Factor in Police Brutality Rapidly Gaining Cosponsors. A House resolution citing the war on drugs as a major factor in police brutality was filed with 12 cosponsors little more than a week ago. By the end of last week, it was up to 50 cosponsors; now, as nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd morph into calls for structural reform, the number of cosponsors has more than tripled to 160.

International

Mexico President Releases Plan to Decriminalize Drugs, Push US to Do Same. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) last week released a new plan that calls for radical reforms on the country's drug laws and negotiations with the US to do the same. The plan calls for drug decriminalization and moving funding from waging the drug war to providing for drug treatment programs. "The 'war on drugs' has escalated the public health problem posed by currently banned substances to a public safety crisis," the policy proposal, which came as part of AMLO's National Development Plan for 2019-2024, read. Mexico's current "prohibitionist strategy is unsustainable," it argued. Ending prohibition is "the only real possibility" to address the problem. "This should be pursued in a negotiated manner, both in the bilateral relationship with the United States and in the multilateral sphere, within the UN," it explained.

Drug War Issues

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