Breaking News:Initiatives 2020 -- Legalization Sweep, Psychedelic Sweep, Medical Marijuana, Decrim

Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs to Take Up Cannabis Rescheduling in December

The 53 member states of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN body charged with supervising the application of the international drug control treaties that form the legal backbone of global drug prohibition, is set to meet in Vienna on December 2-4, and it will take up the question of making some modest scheduling changes to the way cannabis is classified.

As explained in an October briefing paper from the International Drug Policy Consortium and the Transnational Institute, cannabis is currently both a Schedule I and a Schedule IV drug under the international drug treaties. Schedule I includes "substances that are highly addictive and liable to abuse or easily convertible into those (e.g. opium, heroin, cocaine, coca leaf" (although Bolivia begs to differ on the latter), while Schedule IV includes Schedule I drugs with "particularly dangerous properties and little or no therapeutic value (e.g. heroin, carfentanil)."

With medical marijuana legal in dozens of countries in one form or another, the ever-increasing mountain of evidence supporting the therapeutic uses of cannabis, not to mention outright legalization in 15 American states and Canada and Uruguay, with Mexico about to come on board, the harsh scheduling of cannabis is out of touch with both the science and the tide of history. Led by civil society activists working to influence national governments and by dedicated public health officials in the UN bureaucracies, the push is underway to revise those schedules.

But this is the United Nations, and change comes at a glacial pace and even then, only incrementally. The World Health Organization (WHO) is charged under the UN drug conventions with assessing the harms and benefits of substances and making scheduling recommendations. For the first time in its history, it assessed cannabis in 2018. In January 2019, the WHO formally recommended that cannabis be removed from Schedule IV and that CBD cannabis preparations containing less than 0.2% THC, such as tinctures and extracts, be removed from the schedules altogether.

While civil society groups gave the WHO's recommendations decidedly mixed reviews, including its "very questionable rationale for keeping cannabis in Schedule I," they also applauded its "obvious recommendations deserving support." The removal of cannabis form Schedule IV in particular would signify UN recognition that cannabis really does have therapeutic uses.

To that end, civil society groups led by the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies and including the DRCNet Foundation as a cosponsor, submitted a letter to the CND countries encouraging them to accept the WHO recommendations and suggesting "opponent countries might want to show the common and shared responsibility they often mention, by abstaining instead of obstructing the international community." And just to make it clear, the latter added in bold: "Political doubts about a medical treatment can in no way justify rejecting science."

Stay tuned. The CND session and possible progress on cannabis liberalization at the international level are just days away.

San Francisco Ponders Tobacco, Marijuana Smoking, Vaping Ban, Mexico Mass Grave Has 113 Bodies, More... (11/24/20)

Fort Worth, Texas, prosecutors will dismiss minor marijuana charges with one big caveat, Colombia's defense minister says coca eradication is on track, and more.

Colombia is a path to meet its coca eradication goals this year, the defense minister says (DEA Museum)
Marijuana Policy

Fort Worth to Dismiss Small Time Pot Cases—If People Pass Three Drug Tests in Three Months. The Tarrant County (Fort Worth) Criminal District Attorney's Office has announced it will dismiss minor marijuana possession cases, but only if the defendant passes three drug tests in three months. Possession of less than two ounces of marijuana is the most common criminal charge in the county. "One of the goals of the criminal justice system is rehabilitation; sobriety is the beginning of that rehabilitation, "Tarrant County Criminal DA Sharen Wilson said. "When you bring proof of three months of sobriety– 90 days – the charge will be dismissed."

San Francisco Bid to Ban Smoking, Including Marijuana, in Apartment Buildings Draw Opposition. City Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee has introduced a measure that would bar people from smoking or vaping tobacco and marijuana in their apartments. The measure would apply to buildings with at least three units. But the move is drawing opposition from progressive LGBTQ groups and medical and recreational marijuana advocates. Yee's plan allows for medical marijuana, but that isn’t soothing advocates. A vote before the full board is set for December 1.

International

Colombian Defense Minister Says County Will Meet 2020 Coca Eradication Target. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday that the country will meet its 2020 coca eradication target. The government had set a target of 320,000 acres eradicated and has so far eradicated about 300,000 acres. That's an increase of 30% over last year.

Mass Grave With At Least 113 Bodies Found in Mexico's Jalisco State. A mass grave in Jalisco state that was discovered on October 2 has now yielded at least 113 bodies. Jalisco is one of the most violent drug cartel battlegrounds in the country and is the home of the most bodies found in clandestine mass graves since 2006, according to a recent government report.

Mexico Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization, SD Sore Loser Cops Seek to Void Legal Pot Vote, More... (11/23/20)

A CDC study finds that marijuana legalization is linked to declining teen marijuana treatment rates, an EU court throws out France's ban on CBD, and more.

Mexico is poised to become the world's largest legal marijuana market.
Marijuana Policy

Teen Marijuana Treatment Admissions Fell Sharply in States That Legalized, Federal Report Shows. A peer-reviewed research report released last Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds steep declines in teens sent to drug treatment for marijuana use in states that have legalized it. But medical marijuana legalization appeared to have no impact on teen drug treatment admissions for marijuana use. "Consistent with prior research on medical marijuana and adolescent marijuana use, medical legalization status does not appear to correspond to treatment admission trends," the study says. "Notably, however, 7 of 8 states with recreational legalization during the study period fall into the class with the steepest level of admissions decline."

South Dakota Sore Loser Cops File Suit to Overturn Marijuana Legalization. Pennington County (Rapid City) Sheriff Kevin Thom and state Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller have filed a lawsuit seeking to void the state's voter-approved recreational marijuana constitutional amendment. The lawsuit filed last Friday argues that the measure should be considered a revision of the constitution, not an amendment, and that it violates the state constitution by addressing multiple topics. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group behind the initiative, says it is confident it will be upheld.

International

Australia Study Finds Strong Support for Pill Testing. A long-running election study by the Australian National University finds that nearly two-thirds of the public support the harm reduction tactic of pill testing at music festivals. Some 63% favored the idea even though governments across the country have largely refused to implement it despite high-profile drug-related deaths at those festivals.

European Union Court Rules French Ban on CBD Is Illegal. The European Union's Court of Justice ruled last Thursday that France's ban on CBD products is invalid. CBD doesn't qualify as a narcotic drug because "it does not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health," the court held. Under French law, only hemp seeds and fiber—not the flower containing CBD—are legal. France's law violated EU law on the free movement of goods, and the French need to modify their hemp law, the court said. "The national court must assess available scientific data in order to make sure that the real risk to public health alleged does not appear to be based on purely hypothetical considerations,” the court wrote. "A decision to prohibit the marketing of CBD, which indeed constitutes the most restrictive obstacle to trade in products lawfully manufactured and marketed in other [EU] member states, can be adopted only if that risk appears sufficiently established."

Mexican Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Senate voted overwhelming last Thursday to approve a marijuana legalization bill. The bill passed 82-18, with seven members not voting. The congress is under pressure from the national Supreme Court to get legalization done before the end of next month, and the measure now heads to the Chamber of Deputies, where it is also expected to pass. Final passage of the bill would make Mexico the world's largest legal marijuana market.

Book Review: How to Regulate Stimulants

How to Regulate Stimulants: A Practical Guide by Steve Rolles, Harvey Slade, and James Nicholls (2020, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, 304 pp., $20 PB)

Marijuana is now legal, taxed and regulated in 15 states, with most of the Northeast likely to join them next year. The movement for psychedelic liberation is flexing its muscles. Oregon just voted to decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs. Brick by brick the wall of drug prohibition is crumbling in the United States.

And now, the good folks at Britain's Transform Drug Policy Foundation are out with a how-to guide for turning that wall into nothing more than a pile of bricks. When it comes to attacking prohibition, marijuana and psychedelics are the low-hanging fruit -- it's easier for members of the public to consider that the harms attributed to their potential abuse or misuse may be far outweighed by the harms of prohibiting them -- but with stimulants such as meth, Ecstasy, and cocaine, the case for prohibition is more popular because the potential harms of their abuse or misuse are much greater.

Still, Steve Rolles and his coauthors make a strong, thoughtful case for dealing with these drugs as we do other non-banned psychoactive substances: Regulating and offering them to consumers with restrictions based on the degree of risk involved. Caffeine is a stimulant, but one with low risk levels for users and society. It is subject only to the regulations of normal commerce -- quality control, informational packaging, and the like.

Coca leaf, coca tea, and oral coca products (lozenges, hard candies, pouches) have a similar risk profile to caffeine -- that is, not much. But both international and US law fail to differentiate between such products with low levels of the cocaine alkaloid and cocaine itself. A regulatory regime based on reason and science would treat coca tea like coffee, not cocaine. But that doesn't mean cocaine would be prohibited.

Indeed, Rolles et al. explicitly differentiate between different forms of stimulants to create a three-tiered regulatory system based not only on science, public health, human rights, but also recognizing the need to prevent corporate takeover and promote social equity. The first tier is the tier of coca tea and coffee.

The second tier, that of medium risk drugs in their typology, produces what they call their "standard model" for dealing with stimulants. Included here are MDMA pills, amphetamine pills (or meth pills -- Desoxyn, anyone?), and cocaine powder. For this tier, they recommend pharmacy-style retail sales at state-owned shops where specially trained druggists dispense not only the dope but also targeted harm reduction information.

And they recommend rationing of these substances, either by purchase amount limits or by means of licensing requirements. The idea is to limit harm by restricting access to these particularly binge-inducing drugs. Rationing is what we do with legal marijuana by restricting purchases, typical to one ounce per day. We don't do that with alcohol, however; you can walk in and buy multiple kegs of beer or cases of hard liquor and no one bats an eye.

Purchase limits -- say one gram of 70% pure powder cocaine per month -- would probably work for most cocaine consumers, who use it recreationally and infrequently. But it wouldn't work for the party host who wants to supply his guests, and more importantly, it wouldn't suffice for the needs of serious drug users, who make up a huge percentage of the sales of any drug.

If the object is to take drug consumers out of the illicit market, rationing is going to have to be flexible enough to address their needs and demands. The authors suggest a tiered system that would allow larger purchases contingent on periodic brief discussions of risks and harm reduction with trained pharmacy vendors.

When it comes to the hardest forms of stimulants, such as injectable meth or cocaine or smokable meth or crack, the model shifts from regulatory retail to harm reduction. The authors advocates measures such as supervised consumption sites and harm reduction kits for crack users. They envision no retail sales of drugs in such forms, but also no criminalization of their users. That might leave users to get their goodies in the black market (or get creative with less harmful forms of the drug, such as converting cocaine powder into crack at home), which could undercut one of the primary rationales for regulation: killing off the illicit market.

But instead of sticks, Rolles et al. offer carrots. Perhaps hardcore tweakers and cokeheads can be induced into using less harmful forms of their drugs of choice, switching from shooting meth to eating oral amphetamines or being offered less-potent powder cocaine formulations with a price incentive. Not discussed is whether users of tier three substances would have some way of obtaining a regulated supply of them through a medical or other non-sales framework.

Regulating stimulant drugs is tricky, with all sorts of different considerations to undertake. But we have a freedom interest, a social justice interest, and a public health interest in moving away from coercive drug prohibition. The Transform Drug Policy Foundation shows us some of the possible paths and is acutely aware of the intricacies of the task. This is very useful stuff. We should all probably send copies of this book to our state and federal elected officials, but not wait for them before starting down the path ourselves.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's all jail and prison guards gone bad this week. Let's get to it:

In La Grange, Kentucky, a state prison guard was arrested Monday after she was caught with a large quantity of drugs at the prison. Guard Ashley Scrogham Sanford, 25, was found with two different drugs and investigators found she had been paid for smuggling them in. She is charged with trafficking in a controlled substance, trafficking in synthetic drugs, possession of a controlled substance, possession of synthetic drugs, promoting contraband, and official misconduct.

In Rome, Georgia, a former prison guard pleaded guilty last Friday to taking bribes to smuggle methamphetamine, marijuana and tobacco into the Floyd County Correctional Facility. Former guard Michael L. Jones, 31, supervised inmates at a recycling center and used that position to collect packages of drugs from inmate family members (usually for $200 a package) and give them to inmates working at the center, who would then smuggle them back into the jail. He was charged with conspiratorial drug trafficking and extortion under the color of official right. He pleaded guilty to both.

In Valdosta, Georgia, a former Valdosta State Prison guard was sentenced last Wednesday to 46 months in federal prison for smuggling meth and cellphones into the prison. Melissa Crawford, 53, went down after somebody snitched her out and her vehicle was subjected to a "random" search as she arrived at work. She first attempted to drive off, nearly hitting another guard, but was stopped and admitted she was carrying drugs. A car search turned up nearly an ounce of meth, some marijuana, and four cellphones. She had previously pleaded guilty to one count of methamphetamine distribution.

Medical Marijuana Update

The will of the voters is being challenged in Mississippi, a New Mexico panel recommends higher purchase limits for medical marijuana, and more.

Mississippi

Mississippi High Court Takes Up Challenge To Medical Marijuana Measure. Whether voters will actually get the medical marijuana program they approved at the polls earlier this month is now in question after the state Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will take up a challenge to its validity. The challenge was filed by the mayor of the town of Madison days before the election. It argues that the measure is invalid because of a state signature-gathering requirement that is impossible for any initiative to actually comply with. Initiatives are supposed to only get one-fifth of their signatures from each congressional district, but the state now has only four.

New Mexico

New Mexico Panel Recommends Higher Purchase Limits for Medical Marijuana. The state medical cannabis advisory board on Monday recommended allowing medical marijuana patients to buy 15 ounces of marijuana every three months, nearly doubling the current purchase limit. The state health secretary will decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation, although it is unclear when that will happen.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Advisory Board Rejects Insomnia as Qualifying Condition. The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board has refused to add insomnia as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use. Board members said they hesitated because insomnia is often caused by an underlying medical issue. The board voted 7-4 against adding insomnia last week.

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances, Senate Approves Meth "Emerging Drug Threat" Bill, More... (11/19/20)

Madison WI ends penalties for pot use and possession, Vancouver, BC to take up a drug decriminalization ordinance, Mexican marijuana legalization bill heads for a Senate floor vote, and more.

seized methamphetamine in Georgia (Warner Robbins PD)
Marijuana Policy

North Carolina's Governor Racial Equity Task Force Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization, Study of Legalization. Gov. Roy Cooper's (D) Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice has recommended that the state study marijuana legalization and enact decriminalization in the meantime. Attorney General Josh Stein (D) who co-chairs the task force, made the case succinctly: "You cannot talk about improving racial equity in our criminal justice system without talking about marijuana," he said.

Madison, Wisconsin, City Council Votes to Remove Penalties for Marijuana Use, Possession. The city's Common Council unanimously approved three marijuana-related ordinances Tuesday that should reduce pot arrests in the state's capital. One allows adults to possess up to an ounce, another allows them to consume it on public or private property, and a third decriminalizes the possession of pot paraphernalia.

Methamphetamine

Senate Approves Meth Bill by Unanimous Consent. The Senate on Monday approved SB 4612, the Methamphetamine Response Act. The bill declares meth "an emerging drug threat" and requires the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) to come with a response plan within 90 days. That plan, which must be updated annually, must include an assessment of threat, as well as treatment and prevention programs and law enforcement programs. It must also set the level of funding needed to implement the plan. The House version of the bill, HR 8210, is parked in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is where it has been since being introduced.

International

Vancouver Mayor to File Motion to Decriminalize Drug Possession. Vancouver, British Columbia, Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced Wednesday that he will file a motion to decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs in the city. "It's not a criminal issue, it's a health issue," he said, saying the move is "long overdue." If the council passes the measure, the city will ask the federal government to "decriminalize personal possession of illicit substances within the City's boundaries for medical purposes."

Mexico Denies Threatening to Expel DEA Agents After Ex-Defense Minister's Drug Arrest. President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador denied Thursday that Mexico had threatened to expel American DEA agents to retaliate for the arrest of ex-Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos upon arrival at LAX last month. At the same time, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico had threatened a review of security cooperation because the US did not provide advance notice that Cienfuegos was under investigation, but said there was no specific threat to expel DEA agents.

Mexican Senate Committees Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill. The marijuana legalization bill has been formally approved by the Senate Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies committees and is headed for a full floor vote soon. The bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce by adults and allow the cultivation of up to four plants for personal use. It would also set up a taxed and regulated marijuana market.

Fed Judge Approves Purdue Pharma Settlement, US Drops Case Against Ex-Mexican Defense Minister, More... (11/18/20)

Mississuppi's higest court agrees to a hear a challenge to the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, New York City public hospitals say no more drug testing pregnant women without their consent, and more.

Purdue Pharma will cop to serious felonies and pay $2 billion in a settlement with the DOJ. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi High Court Takes Up Challenge To Medical Marijuana Measure. Whether voters will actually get the medical marijuana program they approved at the polls earlier this month is now in question after the state Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will take up a challenge to its validity. The challenge was filed by the mayor of the town of Madison days before the election. It argues that the measure is invalid because of a state signature-gathering requirement that is impossible for any initiative to actually comply with. Initiatives are supposed to only get one-fifth of their signatures from each congressional district, but the state now has only four.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Federal Judge Approves Purdue Pharma OxyContin Settlement. A federal judge in New York has approved a settlement in a case brought by the Justice Department against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Under the agreement, the company must plead guilty to "multiple serious felonies" in coming days. It will cop to conspiracy to defraud the United States, breaking laws against kickbacks, and one other count. The settlement also includes a $2 billion payout, with the federal government getting $225 million and states getting $1.775 billion to fight opioid addiction.

Drug Testing

New York City Public Hospitals Will Stop Drug Testing of Pregnant Women. Responding to an announcement that the city's Commission on Human Rights is investigating racial bias in the drug testing and reporting to child welfare authorities of pregnant women at three major hospitals, the city's public hospitals have announced they will no longer drug test pregnant women unless they have written consent. This is a change from the previous policy of the City Health and Hospitals Corporation, under which doctors and nurses did not need to inform pregnant patients they were being drug tested.

Foreign Policy

US Abandons Drug Case Against Former Mexican Defense Minister. Federal prosecutors made the surprise announcement Tuesday that they are dropping drug charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos, who was arrested at LAX after arriving in the US last month. The announcement came in a joint statement with Mexican attorney general's office. "The United States has determined that sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweigh the government's interest in pursuing the prosecution of the defendant," prosecutors said. Cienfuegos was accused of using his position to shield the H2 cartel and going after its rivals. But his arrest without prior notification of Mexican officials has strained ties between the two countries, with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador threatening to look again at agreements allowing DEA agents to operate in the country.

International

Thailand Loosens Drug Laws to Allow Sale and Possession of Drugs for Research Purposes. The Public Health Ministry has issued new regulations loosening controls on Category II drugs, such as cocaine, opiates and opioids, and ketamine. Under the new rules, such drugs can be sold and possessed for medical and scientific research, medical treatment and disease prevention, or for other government purposes. The new rules go into effect in 240 days.

NJ Marijuana Decrim Sputters, NM Panel Recommends Patient Purchase Limit Expansion, More... (11/17/20)

The New Jersey legislature is trying to pass a marijuana decriminalization bill but isn't there yet, the New Jersey governor and legislative leaders are seeking agreement on legal marijuana taxes, and more.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is seeking agreement with legislative leaders on pot taxes. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Senate Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. The Senate has approved a marijuana decriminalization bill, A1897 / S2535. The bill would allow people to possess up to six ounces and to distribute up to one ounce with no criminal penalties. A first offense would be met with a written warning, followed by a fine for any subsequent offenses. The bill would also expunge previous marijuana possession offenses and end the smell of marijuana as probable cause for a law enforcement search. And it includes an amendment that would decrease the penalties for possession of psychedelic mushrooms.

New Jersey Assembly Postpones Vote on Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. An Assembly vote on the marijuana decriminalization bill, A1897 / S2535, didn't happen Monday after some Assembly members balked at a provision in the bill that would have lessened penalties for the possession of psychedelic mushrooms. That provision was added in the Senate, prompting Assembly bill sponsor Jamel Holley (D-Union) to call the move "irresponsible and poor judgment." The bill is now expected to come up for a vote next week.

New Jersey Governor, Senate Leader Reach Agreement on Marijuana Taxes. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) have apparently come to an accord on the thorny issue of how to tax legal marijuana, but Assembly Leader Craig Coughlin (D) is not on board yet. Sweeney, who opposed any marijuana tax increases has yielded to the governor, agreeing to let the state's Cannabis Regulatory Commission charge growers a 7% sales tax instead of the 6.625% envisioned in the voter-approved initiative that legalized marijuana. Once Coughlin gets on board, the bill to set up regulations for the legal marijuana industry, A21 / S21, could start moving again.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Panel Recommends Higher Purchase Limits for Medical Marijuana. The state medical cannabis advisory board on Monday recommended allowing medical marijuana patients to buy 15 ounces of marijuana every three months, nearly doubling the current purchase limit. The state health secretary will decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation, although it is unclear when that will happen.

NJ Decrim Advances in Wake of Legalization Vote, NYC to Investigate Hospital Drug Test Racial Bias, More... (11/16/20)

Virginia's governor says he supports marijuana legalization, New Jersey does marijuana and mushrooms decrim in wake of initiative, the White House releases Bolivian coca production estimates, and more.

Marijuana legalization is advancing in Mexico. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Man Imprisoned Since 1994 for Selling Marijuana Seeks Release. The Michigan parole board will take up the case of Michael Thompson on Tuesday. He was convicted in 1994 of selling three pounds of marijuana to a snitch and has been behind bars ever since. Given that marijuana is now legal in the state, Thompson's bid for early release has the support of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the prosecutor's office that convicted him. He has suffered serious health problems in prison, including testing positive for COVID-19.

New Jersey Legislature Approves Marijuana Decriminalization, Magic Mushrooms, Too. The state Senate and Assembly have approved a measure that decriminalizes the possession of up to six ounces of marijuana, and defelonized the possession of magic mushrooms, too. The move is an interim measure until legalization takes place in January after voters approved it on Election Day. It also includes expungement of past nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Virginia Governor Supports Marijuana Legalization. Following the release of a study that found the state could generate $300 million in marijuana taxes, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday that he supports marijuana legalization. He plans to work with the General Assembly once it convenes in January, but the process could take up to two years to play out. The state decriminalized possession last year.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Advisory Board Rejects Insomnia as Qualifying Condition. The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board has refused to add insomnia as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use. Board members said they hesitated because insomnia is often caused by an underlying medical issue. The board voted 7-4 against adding insomnia last week.

Drug Testing

New York City to Investigate City Hospitals Over Possible Racial Bias in Drug Testing. The City Commission on Human Rights announced Monday that is investigating allegations of racial bias at three top city hospitals over their policies around the drug testing of pregnant women and newborns. Advocates said that Black and Hispanic families are being reported to state child abuse authorities following a single positive drug test, even though, they said, just a single positive test result does not merit a report. The commission cited studies that show Black women are much more likely to be subjected to maternal drug testing than white women, even though both groups use drugs at similar rates.

Foreign Policy

ONDCP Releases Data on Coca Cultivation and Cocaine Production in Bolivia. Last Friday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the United States Government's annual estimates of coca cultivation and cocaine production potential for the Plurinational State of Bolivia. According to these estimates, Bolivia remains the third largest producer of cocaine in the world. Bolivia's coca cultivation totaled 42,180 hectares in 2019, an increase of 28 percent over 2018. Commensurate cocaine production potential increased 20 percent to 301 metric tons. The Yungas region remained the largest coca cultivation area in Bolivia, while the Chapare region represents the second largest. Cultivation exceeded the 22,000 hectares limit established by the Bolivian government by an estimated 20,180 hectares, or 92 percent.

International

Mexican Senate Committees Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill with Floor Vote Planned Soon. Last Friday, three Senate committees gave preliminary approval to a marijuana legalization bill, with a formal vote set for this week. The bill would let people 18 and over possess up to an ounce and grow up to four plants for personal use. Advocates are still hoping for further revisions to promote consumers' rights and social equity in the legal market.

Poll Finds Little Support for Asset Forfeiture, Argentina Okays MedMJ Home Growing, More... (11/13/20)

State legal marijuana regulators form an association, a New Jersey marijuana decrim bill is amended to include magic mushrooms and wins a committee vote, and more.

Asset forfeiture is not a popular program, a new poll finds. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

State Marijuana Regulators Start 'Cannabis Regulators Association.' State marijuana regulators from across the United States have announced the formation of a non-partisan organization, the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA), to better share institutional knowledge and regulatory best practices. Cannabis regulators from 19 states have joined in filing documents to establish CANNRA, which is being created in order to assist federal, state and local jurisdictions that have approved or are weighing legalization of cannabis. "The Cannabis Regulators Association will provide a much needed forum for regulators to engage with each other to identify and develop best practices, create model policies that safeguard public health and safety, and promote regulatory certainty for industry participants," said Norman Birenbaum, CANNRA's inaugural president.

New Jersey Bill Decriminalizing Up to Six Ounces of Pot -- and Magic Mushrooms, Too -- Passes Senate Committee. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved S 2535, which decriminalizes the possession of up six ounces of marijuana. And an unidentified senator added an amendment decriminalizing up to an ounce of psilocybin mushrooms. It was still a unanimous vote.

Asset Forfeiture

Poll Finds Little Public Support for Asset Forfeiture. A new YouGov poll commissioned by the Institute for Justice finds that asset forfeiture has little public support. Only 26% support allowing police to seize cash or property from someone without a criminal conviction. Some 59% of respondents oppose "allowing law enforcement agencies to use forfeited property or its proceeds for their own use." Opposition to equitable sharing, a federal program that allows state and local police to evade state laws against civil asset forfeiture, was even higher, with 70% against the program. When it comes to where seized funds should be allocated, 38% said Social Security trust funds, 36% said drug treatment, 28% said paying down the national debt, and only 19% wanted forfeiture funds to go to federal law enforcement. (The question was multiple choice, thus adding up to more than 100%.)

International

Argentina to Allow Medicinal Marijuana to Be Grown at Home. President Alberto Fernandez issued a decree Thursday allowing people to grow marijuana at home for medicinal use, as well as allowing caregivers to grow for patients. The decree also allows pharmacies to sell marijuana-based products and orders insurance systems to pay the cost of marijuana for those who obtain a prescription.

Longest-Serving MJ Prisoner to Be Freed, Boston Must Pay Cops Fired Over Bad Drug Tests, More... (11/12/20)

New Jersey politicians are squabbling -- again -- over how to tax legal marijuana, Tucson joins Phoenix in walking away from marijuana prosecutions, the Mexican Senate moves toward a vote on marijuana legalization, and more.

Richard DeLisi has served more than 30 years for marijuana. (family photo)
Marijuana Policy

America's Longest-Serving Marijuana Prisoner Will Go Free Next Month. Richard DeLisi, 71, was sentenced to 90 years in prison for marijuana trafficking by a Florida judge in 1989. He's been behind bars ever since, making him the country's longest-serving marijuana prisoner, but now he's about to be released early because of coronavirus concerns. He should walk out of prison next month, a year and a half ahead of his scheduled release date.

Arizona's Second Most Populous County to Drop Pending Marijuana Possession Cases. Following in the footsteps of Maricopa County (Phoenix), Pima County (Tucson) announced it will begin dismissing minor marijuana possession charges once the election results are certified on November 30. "Pima County has been the most progressive county in Arizona," said Amelia Cramer, the Chief Deputy Pima County Attorney. "Law enforcement agencies exercise discretion and [do not] make physical arrests for possession of marijuana, but issue paper citations. If the individual who is issued the citation attends the class and provides a certificate, the charges dismissed."

New Jersey Politicians Split Over Legal Marijuana Taxes. The state's leading Democrats all say they want to move marijuana legalization enabling legislation as quickly as possible, but Gov. Phil Murphy (D), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) aren't on the same page when it comes to cannabis tax policy. Coughlin is calling for "an additional user fee on cannabis consumers," which would violate the constitutional amendment, which sets a ceiling of 6.625% on retail marijuana sales. Murphy praised Coughlin's position Monday, but Sweeney and legalization sponsor Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D) issued a joint statement disagreeing: "We should not impose any additional taxes that will put the cost of legally purchasing marijuana out of reach for the communities that have been impacted the most," they said. Stay tuned.

Drug Testing

Massachusetts Appeals Court Rules Boston Must Pay Millions to Police Fired Over Faulty Drug Tests. The state Appeals Court ruled Tuesday that the city of Boston must pay millions in back pay to six police officers, mostly Black, who were wrongly fired in the early 2000s because of unreliable drug tests. The six were accused of using cocaine due to a now discarded hair-testing technology that returned disproportionally more false positives for Black officers because of their different hair texture.

International

Israeli Marijuana Legalization Could Occur Within Next Nine Months. The inter-ministerial committee charged with coming up for a plan to regulate the country's marijuana market turned its conclusions over to the Justice Ministry Thursday. The ministry will then draft a legal memo for government approval, which will form the basis of a legalization bill that come could for an initial reading in the Knesset before year's end. The entire legislative process is expected to take around nine months.

Mexican Senators Will Vote on Revised Marijuana Legalization Bill Next Week. A revised draft marijuana legalization bill is now circulating among senators, with several committees set to hold a joint hearing on the bill Friday. The legislation would then go the Senate floor as early as next Tuesday. The bill would allow adults 18 and over to buy and possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to four plants, but would also require users to obtain a license from regulators in order to legally consume marijuana.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Our law enforcement rogues' gallery this week yields an embarrassment of riches. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, three guards at the city's federal jail were arrested October 21 after a grand jury indicted them and four inmates in an ongoing scheme to smuggle drugs, cell phones, and other contraband into the jail. The arrested guards are Andre Davis, 35, Darren Parker, 45, and Talaia Youngblood, 35. The exact charges they face were not specified.

In Franklin, Indiana, a Johnson County probation officer was arrested October 21 for having sex with a woman probationer he supervised and tampering with her drug test. Community Corrections Officer Evan Hill, 50, admitted to the sexual relationship, but denied having actual intercourse and denied dumping her positive drug test sample and recording it as negative. He is charged with felony official misconduct and felony sexual misconduct.

In Clinton, Louisiana, a Dixon Correctional Institute prison guard was arrested October 27 for trying to smuggle drugs to inmates at the prison. Jamenisha Huff got caught placing sheets of paper treated with synthetic cannabinoids in a waste basket in the visitors' bathroom. She is charged with one count each of introduction of contraband into a penal facility and malfeasance in office.

In Miami, a Miami-Dade police officer was arrested October 30 for allegedly protecting shipments of cocaine through the city. Officer Rod Flowers, the son of Bal Harbor Police Chief Raleigh Flowers, was taken into custody by DEA agents. It's not clear what the exact charges are.

In Louisville, a Louisville Metro Police officer was arrested last Friday for seizing pot from people and then giving it to a woman "he had a relationship with." Officer Tyler Gelnett repeatedly seized marijuana and gave it to the woman from December 2019 through April 30, 2020. He faces one count of official conduct and one count of marijuana trafficking. He isalso facing a pending lawsuit from a woman who claims Gelnett groped her during a traffic stop.

In Minneapolis, a former Minneapolis police officer was arrested last Friday on charges that he used his position as a street cop to steal meth, heroin, oxycodone, and other drugs for his own personal use. Ty Raymond Jindra, 28, stole drugs by means of "deception, extortion, and conducting unconstitutional searches and seizures," according to a grand jury indictment. He would seize drugs during searches while his partner wasn't looking and then fail to turn them in and is also accused of skimming from bags of drugs turned in by a concerned citizen before logging them into evidence. He faces six counts of acquiring controlled substances by deception, two counts of extortion under color of official right and three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. He left the department on October 23.

In Jacksonville, a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office jail guard was arrested Sunday for smuggling drugs into the jail. Hunter Jean, 24, went down after a jail inmate reported him to authorities, and he was caught coming to work with a package of marijuana and methamphetamine. He is charged with three felonies: delivery of methamphetamine, delivery of marijuana and introduction of contraband into a detention facility. He resigned his position upon being arrested.

In New York City, an NYPD officer was arrested Monday on charges he played a major role in a drug ring that imported hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into the city from January 2016 until last month. Officer Amaury Abreu, 34, led a group that sent couriers from the Dominican Republic to JFK Airport, where a crooked Customs and Border Patrol officer would escort the shipments through customs. Serving in the NYPD for nine years, Abreu has been suspended without pay, according to a department spokesperson.

In Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the Seward Police Chief was arrested Tuesday for coercing sex from a woman who was facing a marijuana paraphernalia charge. Chief Robert Baldwin, 49, offered to "work out" her situation for her if she would have sex with him. The woman said didn't want to have sex with Baldwin but feared arrest if she didn't. He is charged with obstruction of justice, hindering apprehension and official oppression.

In Houston, a former Harris County deputy constable pleaded guilty October 24 to transporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds on multiple occasions and transporting drugs on at least one occasion. Betty Molina admitted being paid $30,000 for her efforts. She was initially charged with conspiracy, possession, and money laundering, but ended up pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin. She's looking at a mandatory minimum 10 years in federal prison.

In Baltimore, a former Baltimore police officer pleaded guilty last Friday in a case where he and two other officers were accused of not turning in a portion of a cocaine seizure and instead selling three kilograms of cocaine to a confidential informant who was a drug dealer. Ivo Louvado, 47, admitted receiving $10,000 as his share of the proceeds. He copped to one count of making false statements to federal agents. He's looking at a maximum five-year federal prison sentence.

In Houston, a former Border Patrol agent was sentenced last Tuesday to nearly 16 years in federal prison for his role in a cocaine distribution scheme. Daniel Polanco, 39, was involved in the distribution of 15 kilograms of cocaine in 2013, and the investigation into that plot eventually led to the arrest and prosecution of 20 people, including six law enforcement officers. He was convicted of cocaine distribution and making false statements.

In Macon, Georgia, a former Valdosta State Prison guard was sentenced last Friday to 46 months in federal prison after being caught with methamphetamine, marijuana, and cell phone packed in Ziploc bags in her vehicle as she arrived for work. Melissa Crawford, 53, went down after prison investigators got word she would be smuggling drugs into the prison the following day and then searched her vehicle. She then admitted smuggling drugs and other contraband on at least four occasions. It's not clear what exact charges she pled to.

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Coming, British Heroin-Assisted Treatment Pilot Gets Results, More... (11/11/20)

The odor of marijuana will no longer be the sole grounds for police searches in Virginia after March 1, a bid to legalize marijuana in Colombia has failed, but another remains alive, and more.

Peyote and other psychedelics could be decriminalized under a bill soon to be filed in California. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Law Ending Searches Based on Marijuana Order Goes into Effect on March 1. After lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5029 during a special session, police will no longer be able to conduct searches based solely on the odor of marijuana. The law will go into effect on March 1.

Psychedelics

California Will See Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelics. State Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) said Tuesday he plans to introduce a bill that would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics. Weiner is also pushing a broader drug policy agenda that includes legalizing safe injection sites and ending mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses. "The war on drugs has been a disaster, in terms of bloating law enforcement, tearing apart communities, criminalizing addiction and spending enormous amounts of money on prisons," Wiener said. "We need to end the war on drugs. Possession of drugs should just not be a crime."

International

British Pilot Heroin Maintenance Program Celebrates First Year. A heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) program in Middlebrough marked its first anniversary this week and is reporting good results. Half of the 14 people who began the program remain on it and the result has been "low re-offending rates, improved physical and mental well-being, and repaired relationships with family and friends," according to the program's director. The people remaining on the program had committed 541 detected criminal offenses before entering the program, but only three since joining. Participants come twice a day to a clinic to inject pharmaceutical heroin in a supervised setting.

Colombia Shelves Congressional Bill on Marijuana Legalization. A bill that would have legalized marijuana has been defeated in the Chamber of Representatives on a vote of 102-52. Right-wing factions allied with President Ivan Duque defeated the bill. But a second marijuana legalization bill is still alive in the Senate and will be debated by mid-month. To become law, that bill must be fully approved by year's end.

House to Vote on Legalization Bill Next Month, SF Psychedelic Reform Push, More... (11/20/20)

No more pot prosecutions in Phoenix, a new marijuana legalization bill in Texas, a push for psychedelic reform in San Francisco, and more.

The Garden State is moving full speed ahead on implementing marijuana legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House to Vote on Federal Marijuana Legalization Next Month. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Monday that the House would vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HB 3884) next month. It had been scheduled for a September vote, but was delayed after moderate Democrats worried that advancing a marijuana vote ahead of a renewed coronavirus package would hurt their election chances. Instead, several of those moderates lost on Election Day, while marijuana legalization went four for four.

Arizona's Most Populous County Gives Up on Marijuana Prosecutions. The Maricopa County (Phoenix) Attorney's Office announced Monday it will drop all pending charges for marijuana use by adults in the wake of the passage of a marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 207, with 60% of the vote last week. "Instead of continuing to spend resources on these cases, this office will begin implementing the will of the voters immediately," the office said in a written statement Monday.

New Jersey Lawmakers Vote to Advance Legislation to Implement Marijuana Legalization. Companion marijuana legalization implementation bills A21 and S21 advanced in committee Monday, with A21 approved by the Assembly Oversight, Reform, and Federal Relations Committee and S21 approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bills allow for home delivery, on-site consumption, protections for employees, students, parents, tenants, and those needing organ transplants, but not home cultivation. Both bills are set for hearings in their respective appropriations committees later this week.

Texas State Senator Pre-Files Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Senator-Elect Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) made marijuana legalization one of his campaign centerpieces, and now he's following through by a pre-filing a marijuana legalization bill. "There is going to be a budget shortfall to affect all Texans next legislation session, however, I look forward to working with my colleagues to offer a real solution," Gutierrez said in a news release. "This bill will generate new revenue and create at least 30,000 high paying jobs. Our state's economic future is uncertain and in order to best serve our state, we have to look at cannabis legalization as a solution and not keep going back to the taxpayers and raise their taxes."

Psychedelics

Psychedelic Advocates Eye San Francisco Reform. Following Election Day victories in Oregon and Washington, DC, San Francisco activists are ready to press for policy changes in the district attorney's office. Decriminalize Nature national board chair Carlos Plazola said things may be about to change in the city. "We have a call next week with District Attorney [Chesa Boudin]," Plazola said, "in which we hope to do the same thing we recently did in Ann Arbor." Ann Arbor deprioiritzed enforcement of laws against possessing psychedelics in September.

Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at All-Time High of 68%, More... (11/9/20)

Support for marijuana legalization hits an all-time high in the latest Gallup poll, New Jersey lawmakers take up an interim marijuana decriminalization bill, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll: Support for Legal Marijuana Inches Up to New High of 68%. Support for marijuana legalization is at an all-time of 68% in the latest Gallup poll, which was released Monday. When Gallup first measured attitudes toward legalization back in 1969, only 12% supported it, and support didn't exceed 30% until 2000, but has climbed steadily upward since then. Marijuana has majority support among every age, educational, and income bracket. Legalization is favored by 83% of Democrats, 72% of independents, and 48% of Republicans.

Montana Marijuana Foes Try Lawsuit to Overturn Legalization Initiative Victory. Just one day after state voters decisively approved a marijuana legalization initiative, opponents filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the results. They argue that the initiative is unconstitutional because it appropriates tax revenues. A similar pre-election lawsuit was rejected by the state Supreme Court.

New Jersey Bill Would Decriminalize Up to Six Ounces of Marijuana, Sales of Up to an Ounce. With an eye on the interim period before voter-approved marijuana legalization goes into effect, lawmakers took up a bill (S2535) Monday that has been amended to decriminalize possession of up to six ounces of marijuana and distribution of one ounce.

Des Moines Task Force Recommends Marijuana Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Policy. A community force looking at marijuana policy is recommending making pot possession the lowest law enforcement priority. The recommendation presented the recommendation during a city council work session Monday.

Opioid Settlement Looms, NJ Legislature Moves on Voter-Authorized MJ Legalization, More... (11/6/20)

State elected officials react in different ways to marijuana legalization votes, a major settlement looms over prescription opioids, and more.

An opioid manufacturer and three distributors are nearly a major settlement on thousands of opioid lawsuits. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Governor Appoints Top Marijuana Regulator Following Legalization Vote. Moving quickly to implement the will of the voters, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has named the people who will administer the implementation of legalization as the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. He named former policy counsel to the state ACLU and current administration staffer Dianna Houenou to head the commission. She is emphasizing social equity. "Cannabis legalization and regulation is just one illustration of much larger work that is needed to reform our drug policies wholesale. We really are looking to make sure that equity is built into a regulated structure at the onset," she said. The legislature is also quickly swinging into gear.

South Dakota Republican Legislators Look for Ways to Undo the Will of the Voters. After the resounding victory of the state's medical marijuana initiative and the clear victory of its legalization initiative, the state's Republican governor and legislature are now pondering how to try to undo what the voters chose. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said voters made "the wrong choice" in approving the initiatives. The legislature is limited in its ability to mess with the legalization initiative because it was a constitutional amendment, but the medical marijuana initiative is a statutory one, which the legislature can nullify, repeal, or gut such measures, as it did with a voter-approve campaign finance reform initiative in 2016. And lawmakers could vote to propose a future amendment to nullify marijuana legalization. Stay tuned.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

$26 Billion Settlement Offer in Opioid Lawsuits Gains Wide Support. A large pharmaceutical drug maker and three distributors are nearing a $26 billion deal with state and local governments to settle thousands of lawsuits over the companies' role in the opioid epidemic that began in the late 1990s. The four companies are McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson. A settlement would mean those companies would face no risk of further lawsuits from those state and local governments. The bulk of the money would go to help pay for treatment and prevention programs in areas hard-hit by the epidemic.

International

Final Results Confirm New Zealand Marijuana Legalization Referendum Failed. Vote totals tightened after initial results had the country's marijuana legalization referendum failing with only 46% of the vote, but not enough to overcome the vote deficit. The final tally ended with the referendum getting 48%, 51% opposed.

PA Bill Says MedWorkers Comp Not Required, Cuomo Says Legalize Now, More... (11/5/20)

New Jersey's vote to legalize marijuana is turning up the heat on nearby governors, Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers move to let employers and insurers off the hook for paying for medical marijuana under workers' compensation claims, and more.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says "the time is ripe" for marijuana legalization in the Empire State. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor Says Legalization Being Looked at This Year. Prodded by New Jersey's vote Tuesday legalizing marijuana, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said Wednesday his state will likely try again to legalize it this year. "We're much stronger when we work on a regional basis," Lamont said during a Wednesday news conference about marijuana, adding that one of the lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic is Connecticut is stronger when it works with its neighbors. "My thinking is sort of similar when it comes to marijuana... I think that we do something, we do it on a regional basis," he said.

New York Governor Says Time is Ripe for Marijuana Legalization. Lawmakers in Albany will approve marijuana legalization "this year" because "the pressure is on" after neighboring New Jersey legalized it on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Thursday. It was unclear if Cuomo was contemplating a special session before year's end or referring to 2021 legislative session. "I think this year it is ripe because the state is going to be desperate for funding" amid the coronavirus crisis. Legalization represents a potential source of revenue, he argued. "I've supported it for years. The question becomes about the money -- about the distribution and the power. What does it always come back down to? Money and power. Who gets the licenses and who gets the money. I think we get there this year."

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Lawmakers File Bill to Let Employers Avoid Paying Workers' Compensation for Medical Marijuana. A group of Republican lawmakers last Friday filed SB 1360, which would allow employers and insurers to not be required to cover or reimburse for medical marijuana for injured workers. The bill would also clarify that an employer can fire a worker who is intoxicated on the job and not hire someone who fails a marijuana drug test. The bill has been referred to the Health and Human Services Committee.

A Clean Sweep for Drug Reform Initiatives [FEATURE]

The day after Election Day, national election results remained muddy, but one thing was crystal clear: the American public is ready for drug reform. Drug reform initiatives went nine for nine on Tuesday. With successful marijuana legalization initiatives in two of the reddest of the red states to a groundbreaking drug decriminalization initiative and the first voter-approved psychedelic liberalization initiatives, we can see the erosion of drug prohibition happening right before our eyes.

Perhaps the most striking victory of all is Oregon's Measure 110, which will decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs and use revenues from legal marijuana sales to help fund expanded drug treatment. People caught with drugs can either pay a $100 fine or complete a health assessment. Distribution of such drugs would remain criminalized.

The notion of not arresting people just for having or using "hard" drugs is a radical one in the United States, but increasingly common in the rest of the world. At least 29 countries have embraced some form of drug decriminalization, and even the US has seen marijuana possession decriminalized in a number of states. But not cocaine or heroin or meth or LSD. Or not until Tuesday, when more than 58% of Oregon voters said let's try something new.

"Today's victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use," said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in an email message on Tuesday evening. "Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date. It shifts the focus where it belongs -- on people and public health -- and removes one of the most common justifications for law enforcement to harass, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and deport people. As we saw with the domino effect of marijuana legalization, we expect this victory to inspire other states to enact their own drug decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment."

Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action Network, spearheaded the Measure 110 campaign, just as they backed the state's successful 2014 marijuana legalization initiative.

And speaking of marijuana legalization, the weed swept to victory everywhere it was on the ballot -- in Arizona and New Jersey but also in deeply conservative Montana and South Dakota. That means the number of states that have freed the weed jumped from 11 to 15.

"From the Badlands to the Jersey Shore, and from the Grand Canyon to Big Sky Country, Americans across the country have embraced the idea that marijuana legalization is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health, public safety, and, most importantly, justice," Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the Montana and South Dakota campaigns, said in a Wednesday email.

In Arizona, the marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Act, cruised to victory Tuesday night with 60 percent of the vote. It will legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for home grows of up to six plants. The state will regulate a legal marijuana market with a 16% tax on retail sales.

"Arizona voters have spoken, and they are ready for marijuana legalization," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, in a Tuesday night email. "According to the latest Gallup poll, 66% of Americans support marijuana legalization, and this victory further reinforces that stance," Hawkins added. "We are poised for major marijuana reform federally. Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, or the Senate, Americans are ready for legal marijuana."

In Montana, Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190 won with 58 percent and 57 percent of the vote, respectively. I-190 is a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that would allow I-190 to set the minimum age at 21, as is the age for alcohol consumption in the state.

In New Jersey, Public Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that legalizes marijuana for people 21 and over and allows for system of regulated to the state sales tax of 6.625%. It leaves questions such as possession limits and whether to allow home grows up the legislature and state regulators. It won with a resounding 67 percent of the vote.

In South Dakota, Constitutional Amendment A won 54 percent of the vote in a state where more than 60 percent voted for Donald Trump. The measure will legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants in jurisdictions with no retail marijuana outlets. It also envisions a legal marijuana market with a sales tax of 15% and requires the state legislature to pass laws providing for medical marijuana and hemp by next spring.

"This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization," said Hawkins. "With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use."

And speaking of cannabis for medical use, two deep red states, Mississippi and South Dakota both approved medical marijuana initiatives on Tuesday night. Mississippi's Initiative 65 overcome a watered down legislative alternative to win with 74 percent of the vote, while South Dakota's Measure 26 won with 70 percent. That brings the number of states with access to medical marijuana to 38.

And then, there's the psychedelic front. On the East Coast, Washington, DC, voters approved Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020, with 74 percent of the vote. The measure will have police treat natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also asks the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

"Initiative 81's success was driven by grassroots support from DC voters. We are thrilled that DC residents voted to support common sense drug policy reforms that help end part of the war on drugs while ensuring that DC residents benefiting from plant and fungi medicines are not police targets," Decriminalize Nature DC Chairwoman Melissa Lavasani said in a press release.

And on the West Coast, Oregon voters didn't just decriminalize drugs, they also passed Measure 109, the Psilocybin Services Act, with 56 percent of the vote. It will create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People will be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.

Altogether, a stellar night for drug reform at the ballot box. Marijuana legalization continues its inexorable advance across the land, and new fronts are now open on psychedelics and broader drug decriminalization. A few more bricks fell from the wall of drug prohibition this Election Day.

California Effort to Roll Back Sentencing Reforms Defeated on Election Day

A ballot measure that would roll back changes to California's sentencing laws, changing certain misdemeanor crimes, including some drug offenses to felony crimes, was roundly defeated at the ballot box on Election Day. Proposition 20 which "Restricts Parole for Non-Violent Offenders. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors," went down 68% to 32%, according to the Associated Press.

It was an effort to undo sentencing reforms by both the legislature (AB 109 in 2011) and two voter-passed initiatives, Proposition 47 (2014), and Proposition 57 (2016). All of those measures were designed to reduce the state's prison population; this one would have increased it at a cost of tens of millions of dollars a year.

Deep Red States Montana and South Dakota Both Legalize Marijuana

It wasn't just blue Joe Biden-supporting states like Arizona and New Jersey that freed the weed on Election Day. Two of the reddest of the red states also rejected Reefer Madness.

In Montana, Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190 won with 58 percent and 57 percent of the vote, respectively. I-190 is a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that would allow I-190 to set the minimum age at 21, as is the age for alcohol consumption in the state.

In South Dakota, Constitutional Amendment A won 54 percent of the vote in a state where more than 60 percent voted for Donald Trump. The measure will legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants in jurisdictions with no retail marijuana outlets. It also envisions a legal marijuana market with a sales tax of 15% and requires the state legislature to pass laws providing for medical marijuana and hemp by next spring.

The two states become the 14th and 15th to legalize marijuana.

Washington, DC, Approves Natural Entheogen Initiative

Voters in the nation's capital have overwhelmingly approved an initiative to effectively decriminalize the cultivation, use, possession, and distribution of natural psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, and peyote. According to unofficial election results, the measure was winning with 76% of the vote.

Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020, would have police treat natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also asks the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

"Initiative 81's success was driven by grassroots support from DC voters. We are thrilled that DC residents voted to support common sense drug policy reforms that help end part of the war on drugs while ensuring that DC residents benefiting from plant and fungi medicines are not police targets," Decriminalize Nature DC Chairwoman Melissa Lavasani said in a press release.

Mississippi, South Dakota Approve Medical Marijuana

Voters in two red states, Mississippi and South Dakota, have approved initiatives allowing for medical marijuana.

>In Mississippi, Initiative 65 won an easy electoral two-step, with 68% of voters approving medical marijuana and then 74% approving Initiative 65 over a watered down legislative substitute.

"It is great to see that the tides of change are continuing to flow across the country and now they have come to Mississippi," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995 and has played a central role in eight state-level legalization victories over the past eight years. "As we saw in Utah in 2018, and as we see in Mississippi this year, medical marijuana can pass in any state in the country."

In South Dakota, Measure 26 was winning with 69% of the vote late Tuesday night. It would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to three plants. The initiative also establishes a state medical marijuana program with dispensaries, licensed cultivators, and testing operations.

They become the 36th and 37th states to legalize medical marijuana.

Oregon Becomes First State to Decriminalize All Drugs, Allow for Psilocybin Therapy

According to the Oregon secretary of state's office, as of 9:00pm Pacific Time, both of the state's pioneering drug reform initiatives are cruising to victory. The drug decriminalizing Measure 110 was winning with 59% of the vote, and the therapeutic psilocbyin initiative, Measure 109, was winning with 56% of the vote.

Oregon's Mt. Hood (David Mark/Pixabay)
Measure 110 would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs and use revenues from legal marijuana sales to help fund expanded drug treatment. People caught with drugs could either pay a $100 fine or complete a health assessment. Distribution of such drugs would remain criminalized.

Measure 109, the Psilocybin Services Act, would create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People would be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.

Measure 110 was spearheaded by Drug Policy Action, the advocacy and political arm of Drug Policy Alliance, which also backed prior drug policy wins in Oregon, including the YES on 91 campaign in 2014 that legalized marijuana.

"Today's victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use,"said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date. It shifts the focus where it belongs -- on people and public health -- and removes one of the most common justifications for law enforcement to harass, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and deport people. As we saw with the domino effect of marijuana legalization, we expect this victory to inspire other states to enact their own drug decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment."

In addition to decriminalizing possession of all drugs for personal use, Measure 110 will greatly expand access to evidence-informed drug treatment, peer support, housing, and harm reduction services, without raising taxes. Services will be funded through excess marijuana tax revenue (over $45 million) and savings from no longer arresting, incarcerating, and prosecuting people for drug possession. Based on current projections, the excess marijuana tax revenue alone should result in over $100 million in funding for services in the first year and up to $129 million by 2027.

Arizona Legalizes Marijuana

The state's marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Act, is crusing to victory Tuesday night. With nearly 73% of the vote counted as of 8:30pm Pacific Time, NBC News has called the election with the measure currently winning 60% of the vote.

The initative will legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for home grows of up to six plants. The state will regulate a legal marijuana market with a 16% tax on retail sales.

"Arizona voters have spoken, and they are ready for marijuana legalization," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995 and has played a central role in eight state-level adult-use legalization victories over the past eight years.

"According to the latest Gallup poll, 66% of Americans support marijuana legalization, and this victory further reinforces that stance." Hawkins added. "We are poised for major marijuana reform federally. Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, or the Senate, Americans are ready for legal marijuana."

This election night has already seen New Jersey become the 12th state to legalize marijuana. Arizona makes 13. That number could rise to 15 before the night is over as we await results from pot legalization initiatives in Montana and South Dakota.

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