Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Medical Marijuana Update

All of the medical marijuana action is taking place in the South, which is unsurprising given that the region is the last hold-out on medical marijuana.

Alabama

Alabama District Attorneys Urge Lawmakers to Reject Medical Marijuana. Twenty-three of the state's 42 district attorneys have sent a letter to the legislature urging lawmakers to oppose a pending medical marijuana bill. In language right out of the last century, they called marijuana a "gateway drug" and "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Alabama House Republicans Filibuster Vote on Medical Marijuana Bill. House Republicans blocked a vote on a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 46, by tying the chamber up in a nine-hour debate Tuesday afternoon and evening. Now, the House may try to get it passed again on Thursday.

Louisiana

Louisiana House Approves Bill to Allow Patients to Use Smokable Marijuana. The House on Monday voted 73-26 to approve  House Bill 391, which would expand the state's limited medical marijuana program to allow patients to purchase whole-flower marijuana. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Tennessee

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Dies. There will be no medical marijuana in the Volunteer State after the last remaining medical marijuana bill in the legislature was defeated by a single vote in the House Criminal Justice Committee. The bill would have allowed state residents to possess medical marijuana produced in other states.

Tennessee Legislature Moving on Watered Down Medical Marijuana Bill. After a medical marijuana bill was narrowly defeated in the House last week, legislators have now approved a watered down version of House Bill 607 that would allow only for the use of low-THC cannabis oil and create a commission to study legalizing medical marijuana. Governor Bill Lee (R) is expected to sign the measure into law.

Texas

Texas House Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion. The House has given its approval to House Bill 1535, which would raise allowable THC limits from 0.5% to 5% and add PTSD and several additional medical conditions to the state's medical marijuana program.

Supreme Court Hears Crack Sentencing Case, Afghan Opium Cultivation Jumps, More... (5/5/21)

An Alabama medical marijuana bill struggles to get past final obstacles, a watered-down Tennessee medical marijuana bill is moving, a Swiss parliamentary committee votes to legalize marijuana, and more.

In Afghan fields, the poppies grow and grow and grow as cultivation jumped dramatically last year. (UNODC)
Medical Marijuana

Alabama House Republicans Filibuster Vote on Medical Marijuana Bill. House Republicans blocked a vote on a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 46, by tying the chamber up in a nine-hour debate Tuesday afternoon and evening. Now, the House may try to get it passed again on Thursday.

Tennessee Legislature Moving on Watered Down Medical Marijuana Bill. After a medical marijuana bill was narrowly defeated in the House last month, legislators have now approved a watered down version of House Bill 607 that would allow only for the use of low-THC cannabis oil and create a commission to study legalizing medical marijuana. Governor Bill Lee (R) is expected to sign the measure into law.

Sentencing

US Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Crack Cocaine Sentencing Case. The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the case of Tarahrick Terry, who is seeking to get his sentence cut by citing a provision in the First Step Act, passed by Congress in 2018. The act was aimed at redressing racial inequities around crack versus powder cocaine sentencing and made the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparity, retroactive. But justices appeared skeptical that the law applied to low-level offenders such as Terry. He had pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute less than four grams of crack cocaine and was sentenced to 15 ½ years in 2008. Higher-level crack offenses are already covered by the First Step Act, and more than 2,500 people have already been released under its provisions, but hundreds of lower-level crack offenders remain behind bars, hoping for some relief from the Supreme Court.

International

UN Reports Afghan Opium Cultivation Leaped Last Year. Opium cultivation in Afghanistan, the world's largest producer, jumped a whopping 37% last year to more than 500,000 acres of poppies planted, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Afghan government reported Tuesday. The study estimated the crop could produce about 6,300 tons of opium, one of the largest figures in the past quarter-century. Helmand province in the southwest appears to be the poppy heartland, accounting for more than half of all poppy plantings.

Swiss Parliamentary Committee Votes to Legalize Marijuana. The Health Commission of the National Council, the country's lower legislative chamber, voted 13-11 last week to federally legalize marijuana for adults. The measure calls for expanding a current pilot program that allows legal access for some 5,000 registered participants to the entire adult population. If the proposal is fully approved by the National Council, it would move next to the Council of States, the upper body of Switzerland’s Federal Assembly. Marijuana has been decriminalized there since 2012.

Ecstasy Shown to Help with PTSD When Paired with Therapy, LA Smokable MedMJ Bill Advances, More... (5/4/21)

The Maryland Court of Appeals rules that the smell of marijuana is not sufficient probable cause to justify an officer stop, the DC city council ponders reserving some medical marijuana licenses for formerly incarcerated drug offenders, and more.

Pain pill distributors went on trial in Huntington, WV, Monday over their role in the opioid crisis. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Appeals Court Rules Smell of Marijuana Doesn't Justify Officer Stops. The state Court of Special Appeals ruled last week that simply smelling the odor of marijuana does not justify a police officer stopping and investigating someone. The court held that police need "reasonable suspicion" that a crime has been committed and that just smelling marijuana doesn't meet that standard. The state decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams back in 2004, and the court held that since possession of less than that amount is not a crime and since the "odor of marijuana alone does not indicate the quantity, if any, in someone's possession," police cannot rely solely on the odor to conduct a stop and investigation.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana House Approves Bill to Allow Patients to Use Smokable Marijuana. The House on Monday voted 73-26 to approve  House Bill 391, which would expand the state's limited medical marijuana program to allow patients to purchase whole-flower marijuana. The measure now heads to the Senate.

DC Council Considers Legislation to Reserve Some Business Licenses for Formerly Incarcerated Drug Offenders. The city council on Tuesday is taking up legislation that would reserve some new medical marijuana licenses for people who have done time for drug offenses. It is the latest move by the District to try to increase equity in the industry. The bill instructs the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which regulates the industry, to reserve at least one dispensary license, one cultivation center license, and one testing lab license for ex-offenders.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Drug Distribution Companies Go on Trial for Allegedly Fomenting Opioid Addiction Crisis. A federal lawsuit targeting a trio of big drug distribution companies for their role in the ongoing opioid addiction crisis got underway Monday in Huntington, West Virginia. The city of Huntington is suing AmerisourceBergen Drug Company, Cardinal Health Inc, and the McKesson Corporation and alleging they pumped 1.1 billion opioid pain pills into the state, leading to widespread addiction and more than 1,700 opioid overdose deaths statewide. The lawsuit does not address the need of chronic pain patients to have access to sometimes large amounts of prescription opioids. It is one of hundreds filed against drug makers and distributors over the opioid crisis.

Psychedelics

Ecstasy Shown to Help with PTSD When Paired with Therapy. A study about to be published in Nature Medicine found that people with sever post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who were given MDMA (Ecstasy) in conjunction with talk therapy experienced a significantly greater reduction in symptom severity than those who got therapy and a placebo. The study also reported no serious adverse effects, although some participants experienced mild nausea and loss of appetite.

White House Staffers Hold Virtual Meeting with Ex-Incarcerated, Mexico Cartel Drone Attacks, More... (5/3/21)

A drug decriminalization bill is winning support in Maine, so is a buprenorphine legalization bill in Vermont, and more.

White House staffers held a virtual meeting with formerly incarcerated people to talk policy last Friday. (Whitehouse.gov)
Drug Policy

Maine Drug Decriminalization Bill Garners Support at Committee Hearing. A bill that decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of illicit drugs, LD 967, won support from medical and religious groups during a hearing before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee last Thursday. Testifying in support of the bill were the Maine Medical Association and a coalition of religious groups. The bill would make drug possession a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine. The fine could be avoided if people submit to an "evidence-based assessment for proposed treatment for substance use disorder." No vote was taken in committee, but the testimony suggested strong support for the move.

Harm Reduction

Vermont Senate Committee Poised to Pass Buprenorphine Legalization Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Health Committee heard testimony largely in support of a bill to legalize the possession of small amounts of buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. The bill, House Bill 225 , has already passed the House. The Judiciary Committee didn’t vote on the bill because it is currently before the House Rules Committee, but they did express unanimous support for it and expected to approve it once it reaches the committee. The Health Committee must also approve it before it goes for a House floor vote.

Sentencing

White House Officials Meet Virtually with Formerly Incarcerated Criminal Justice Reform Advocates. White House officials met virtually last Friday with a group of former drug war and other prisoners to listen to ideas about how to change criminal justice policies to advance prison and sentencing reform. Domestic policy advisor Susan Rice, public engagement director Cedric Richmond, and White House counsel Dana Remus heard recommendations on how "to reduce incarceration, end racial disparities, and facilitate successful reentry," they said in a White House readout of the event. The trio heard from 10 differerent advocacy groups, including Forward Justice and JustLeadershipUSA.

International

Mexican Drug Cartels Are Attacking Security Forces with Explosive-Laden Drones, Defense Minister Says. Mexican Defense Minister Luis Sandoval said last Wednesday that drug cartels are employing bomb-carrying drones to attack security forces. "We have found that there are some cartels using drones with explosives," the general said during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s daily news conference. The Jalisco New Generation cartel is among those using the drones, Sandoval said, pointing to an attack last Monday in Aguilla, Michoacan, where police clearing roads that had been blocked by cartel members came under attack, leaving two wounded. But the drones are big enough to carry more lethal loads, Sandoval said. "They cannot carry amounts (of explosives) that are harmful to personnel or to a facility," Sandoval said.

Arizona Civil Forfeiture Ban Passes Legislature, Michigan THC Limit Driving Bill Filed, More... (4/29/21)

Federal bills to reform asset forfeiture and study the impact of marijuana legalization get filed, a Tennessee push for medical marijuana dies for the year, and more.

Action on asset forfeiture in the Congress, and in Alabama and Arizona. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill to Study Impacts of Marijuana Legalization Filed. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have filed a bill that would create a first-of-its-kind comprehensive study into the impacts and effects of state-legalized medicinal and non-medicinal marijuana programs. The Marijuana Data Collection Act is also being filed in the House by Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) and Don Young (R-AK). It would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and relevant state health agencies to enter a ten-year arrangement with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct, and update, a study on the effects of legalized state marijuana programs biennially. This study would evaluate the impacts and effects of state-legalized medicinal and non-medicinal marijuana programs on state economies, public health, criminal justice, and employment.

Michigan Bill Would Set Marijuana Blood Level for Driver Intoxication. Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield) has filed House Bill 4727, which would specify how much THC could be in someone's blood before that person is deemed a per se impaired driver. The bill sets a limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. The bill contradicts the recommendations of a state commission that studied THC blood levels and intoxication, which found that "there is no scientifically supported threshold of (THC) bodily content that would be indicative of impaired driving due to the fact that there is a poor correlation between driving impairment and the blood (plasma) levels of (THC) at the time of blood collection."

Medical Marijuana

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Dies. There will be no medical marijuana in the Volunteer State after the last remaining medical marijuana bill in the legislature was defeated by a single vote in the House Criminal Justice Committee. The bill would have allowed state residents to possess medical marijuana produced in other states.

Texas House Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion. The House has given its approval to House Bill 1535, which would raise allowable THC limits from 0.5% to 5% and add PTSD and several additional medical conditions to the state's medical marijuana program.

Psychedelics

Maine Bill to Legalize Therapeutic Use of Psilocybin Filed. State Sen. Donna Bailey (D) has filed a bill that would legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the Maine Psilocybin Services Act. Under the bill, people 21 and over could legally buy psilocybin from licensed retailers and consume them under the supervision of a licensed "psilocybin services facilitator." The bill would require no specific diagnosis to access psilocybin therapy.

Asset Forfeiture

Federal Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. US Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) have filed a civil asset forfeiture reform bill, he Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (HR 2857), or FAIR Act. The bill would raise the level of proof necessary for the federal government to seize property. Further, it would reform the IRS structuring statute to protect innocent small business owners while increasing transparency and congressional oversight.

The bill was cosponsored by Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND).

Alabama Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances. The House State Government Committee voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 394, a comprehensive civil asset forfeiture reform measure. The legislative session ends in three days. The bill could still pass, but it has to move now.

Arizona Legislature Passes Bill to End Civil Asset Forfeiture. The Senate on Wednesday approved HB 2810, which would end asset forfeiture without a criminal conviction. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A trio of North Carolina deputies get nailed for unlawfully seized a suspected drug dealer's car, a sticky-fingered Arkansas sheriff's lieutenant gets stung, and more. Let's get to it:

In Nashville, North Carolina, a Nash County jail guard was arrested Monday after being caught trying to smuggle suboxone into the jail. Guard Chaka Johnson was found with Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid dependence, on him as he arrived at work. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance in a prison/jail premises.

In North Port, Florida, a North Port Police civilian employee was arrested Tuesday after being found in possession of numerous controlled substances. Former Forensic Supervisor Tracy Gold, 48, got caught with 17.8 grams of hydromorphone, 35 grams of oxycodone, and 19.2 grams of hydrocodone, as well as small amounts of alprazolam, triazolam and tramadol. She is facing six felony counts, four for illegal possession of prescription pills and two for having enough pills to traffic drugs.

In Henderson, North Carolina, three Vance County sheriff's deputies were indicted Tuesday on charges they illegally seized a suspected drug dealer's vehicle and then tried to cover it up. Deputies Stephen O'Neal Staton Sr., 52, Purav Jitendrakuma Patel, 25, and Mitch Taybron Pittman, 47, are each charged with embezzlement by a government employee, accessing a government computer to defraud, motor vehicle title fraud and four counts of criminal conspiracy. Staton and Patel also were charged with obstruction of justice, while Pittman also was charged with extortion. The trio stopped a 2007 Cadillac last year and seized the vehicle even though the driver wasn't even charged with a drug crime. All three deputies have been suspended until the case is resolved.

In Port Angeles, Washington, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to 3 ½ years in state prison for smuggling methamphetamine and other drugs into the Clallam Bay Corrections Center. Alfonso Estriba Cofone, 38, had earlier pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. His sentence includes 24 months for committing the crime while living within 1,000 feet of a preschool. He had received $5,000 for smuggling meth, suboxone strips, and marijuana oil into the prison, and he told the court he did it because his mother was sick with cancer and the family needed money for her care.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a former Greene County sheriff's lieutenant was sentenced last Friday to two years in federal prison for stealing more than $30,000 in a drug sting operation. Allen Scott Pillow, 56, went down after FBI agents received a tip that he might be crooked and then set up a fake drug scene with $76,000 in cash in a backpack inside a vehicle. The FBI then asked Pillow to investigate and reported only finding $45,600 inside the backpack. The rest of the money was found at Pillow's home. He pleaded guilty to theft of government property.

Medical Marijuana Update

Albama DAs go Reefer Madness over a medical marijuana bill, Hawaii seeks an exemption from the DEA to run its medical marijuana program free from fear of federal enforcement actions, and more.

Alabama

Alabama District Attorneys Urge Lawmakers to Reject Medical Marijuana. Twenty-three of the state's 42 district attorneys have sent a letter to the legislature urging lawmakers to oppose a pending medical marijuana bill. In language right out of the last century, they called marijuana a "gateway drug" and "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Hawaii

Hawaii Legislature Approves Resolution Seeking Medical Marijuana Exemption from DEA. The state legislature has adopted a resolution, HCR 132, asking the state Health Department to seek an exemption from the DEA to permit it to run its medical marijuana program without fear of federal interference. The resolution asks the Health Department to seek an "exception to regulations" and to seek a DEA rulemaking process to protect the state's medical program from violating the Controlled Substances Act's requirements for drugs in Schedule I.

Louisiana

Louisiana Bill to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana Advances. The House Health and Welfare Committee voted 12-1 Thursday to advance House Bill 391, which would allow medical marijuana patients to smoke their medicine. Louisiana's dispensaries sell medical marijuana in liquids, topical applications, inhalers and edible gummies. But they are barred from offering raw marijuana in smokable form. The proposal heads next to the full House for debate and a vote.

Biden FDA Set to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Louisiana MJ Legalization Advances, More... (4/28/21)

A Montana bill to implement voter-approved marijuana legalization heads to the governor's desk, the South Dakota Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case challenging voter-approved marijuana legalization there, and more.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/menthol-cigarettes.jpg
menthol cigarettes
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Committee Vote. A bill to legalize marijuana, House Bill 524, was approved Tuesday by the House Criminal Justice Committee. The bill advanced on a 7-5 vote, with three Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues to approve it. A second bill, House Bill 24, which would decriminalize marijuana possession, was also approved by the committee.

Montana Marijuana Legalization Implementation Bill Goes to Governor. A bill to implement voter-approved marijuana legalization, House Bill 701, has passed out of the legislature and is now on the desk of Governor Greg Gianforte (R). Republicans had balked at directing some marijuana revenues to conservation projects but voted for the bill after being reminded that if the legislature didn't pass it, the marijuana legalization initiative would go into effect without its input.

South Dakota Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on Governor's Challenge to Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit sponsored by Gov. Kristi Noem (R) challenging the constitutionality of the voter-approved Amendment A marijuana legalization initiative. The measure passed with 54% of the vote, but at the governor's direction, a county sheriff and the head of the state Highway Patrol filed the lawsuit, arguing the initiative was too broad. A circuit court judge in Pierre earlier ruled against the initiative. A decision in the case is not expected for weeks or months.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama District Attorneys Urge Lawmakers to Reject Medical Marijuana. Twenty-three of the state's 42 district attorneys have sent a letter to the legislature urging lawmakers to oppose a pending medical marijuana bill. In language right out of the last century, they called marijuana a "gateway drug" and "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Tobacco

Biden Administration Set to Ban Menthol Cigarettes. The administration is expected to announce this week that it will move to ban menthol cigarettes. The move is supported by tobacco foes and some civil rights groups, who say that Blacks have been disproportionately harmed by the marketing of menthol cigarettes to their communities. But some drug reformers worry the move could lead to a new prohibition. The FDA faces a Thursday deadline to respond to a 2013 petition seeking a menthol cigarette ban and could announce the move then.

Chronicle Book Review: "We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption"

We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption by Justin Fenton (2021, Random House, 335 pp., $28.00 HB)

The thuggish, racially-charged reality of the war on drugs sometimes leaps dramatically into the national spotlight, as when gung-ho drug cops in Louisville gunned down Breonna Taylor in her own apartment last year or when a North Carolina SWAT team sent to execute a routine drug warrant managed to shoot Andrew Brown in the back of the head as he fled in his car. Both were African-American, both collateral damage in the endless drug war.

Such outrages inevitably -- and deservedly -- shock the conscience of the nation and garner lots of headlines. And they sometimes lead to reforms, with Taylor's death resulting in a Louisville ban on no-knock raids and a statewide partial ban on them, as well as propelling legislation both in other states and in Congress.

But most of the time, the drug war just grinds on, chewing up its victims and turning them into raw inputs for the criminal justice industrial complex, but also engendering both crime related to black market activities and deep mistrust if not outright loathing in the communities of color most ground down by the heavy hand of prohibition policing.

It also has a way of chewing through the integrity of too many cops. Corruption and drug law enforcement have gone hand in hand from the days of Harry Anslinger's crooked federal narcs all the way through the war on drugs. The litany of drug-related police corruption scandals is long and sordid, from Serpico's NYPD to the LAPD's Ramparts scandal, the Oakland Riders, Philadelphia's Tarnished Badge scandal and lesser, but equally corrupt groups of officers in places such as Miami, Memphis, Tulsa, and Baton Rouge.

And now we can add Baltimore's Gun Trace Task Force scandal. The name should ring a bell among regular readers of the Chronicle's This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories, where task force members made regular appearances among our listings of officers arrested, convicted, and sentenced for their criminal misdeeds in the past few years. But now, Baltimore Sun crime reporter Justin Fenton, who covered the whole thing as it unfolded, wraps it all up in an ugly little package in We Own This City, the title taken from the arrogant braggadocio of one of the miscreants.

In the 2010s, Baltimore was a city battered by decades of deindustrialization and declining population, hammered hard by heroin, and with surging crime and a murder count reaching record highs. Mayors came into office with new anti-crime plans and appointed new police chiefs with new strategies, but nothing was working. And then came the death of Freddy Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who died in the back of a police paddy wagon under suspicious circumstances.

As the city and the police department reeled in the face of furious outbreaks of rioting and mass protests, they turned to one of the department's stars, a self-promoting hot dog of a cop who managed to make more gun busts than anyone -- and made sure his supervisors knew it -- Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and his squad of elite plainclothes "jump out boys" in the Gun Trace Task Force.

But Jenkins and his boys were less about addressing the drugs and guns problem than exploiting it for their own ends. For years, the crew went on a rampage of unlawful traffic stops, break-ins, robberies, evidence-planting, and drug dealing as they preyed on the citizens of Baltimore -- mostly the Black citizens of Baltimore. They specialized in identifying and ripping off drug dealers and used their networks of informants to peddle the dope right back onto the same streets they took in from. Their false testimonies sent people to prison, and their reckless behavior led to the death of at least one innocent bystander.

That the Gun Trace Task Force got away with its out-of-control crime spree for years is an indictment not only of the amoral men involved, but also the public officials and police administrators who should have caught on but remained clueless until it all exploded in their faces thanks to a federal investigation that eventually cracked the case wide open. It's also a reminder that enforcing drug prohibition generates such scandals on a predictably regular basis.

Fenton does an admirable job of tying this multi-tentacled story into a neat, if disturbing little package. As a local crime reporter, he has the background and extensive contacts to provide a thorough understanding of city and state politics, the intricacies of the Baltimore Police Department, and the people of the city, both folks involved in the trade and just regular folks swept up in the task force crime wave. In so doing, he becomes the voice of the city, appalled and disgusted by the moral rot within the Gun Trace Task Force.

Drug war police corruption is an old story, but this time with a new locale and a new cast of characters, brought to life by a seasoned journalist. We Own This City is a gripping and disturbing read, carrying a lesson we still have not learned.

White House Removes Buprenorphine Restrictions, BC Formally Requests Drug Decrim, More... (4/27/21)

A new poll has record support for marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania, House Republicans file a bill to protect gun rights of state-legal marijuana users, House Democrats file a bill to end the lifetime ban on federal cash and food benefits for people with drug felonies, and more.

buprenorphine (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

House Republicans File Gun Rights Bill for Marijuana Users. A group of House Republicans have filed a bill, HR 2830, that would allow marijuana users to purchase guns in states where marijuana is legal. "There's no reason somebody who uses marijuana responsibly and legally should be barred from purchasing a firearm, we're past that," Guns Save Life Executive Director John Boch said."We shouldn't be removing the constitutional rights of people to keep and bear arms just because they're using a drug or recreational marijuana," he added.

Pennsylvania Poll Has Record Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Muhlenberg College annual public health poll has support for marijuana legalization at 58%, the highest level of support for legalization since the poll began tracking the issue. "The trend on public support for legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania is clear, with support growing for the eighth year in a row," Chris Borick, director of the college's Institute of Public Opinion, said in a statement accompanying the survey results. "As the state government considers this policy option, the public is increasingly coming to the conclusion that they support legalization."

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Legislature Approves Resolution Seeking Medical Marijuana Exemption from DEA. The state legislature has adopted a resolution, HCR 132, asking the state Health Department to seek an exemption from the DEA to permit it to run its medical marijuana program without fear of federal interference. The resolution asks the Health Department to seek an "exception to regulations" and to seek a DEA rulemaking process to protect the state's medical program from violating the Controlled Substances Act's requirements for drugs in Schedule I.

Drug Policy

House Democrats File Bill to End Ban on Federal Assistance for People with Drug Felonies. A handful of Democratic congressmen on Monday filed the Making Essentials Affordable and Lawful (MEAL) Act (not yet on the congressional web site) to stop states from imposing a lifetime ban on people with drug felonies from receiving federal cash and food assistance. Most states have already waived the ban, but the drug war-era law that imposes the ban remains on the books.

Drug Treatment

Biden Administration to Allow Nearly All Doctors to Prescribe Buprenorphine. The administration announced on Tuesday that it intends to dramatically deregulate the opioid maintenance treatment drug buprenorphine. The move was first proposed by the Trump administration back in January and would allow just about any doctor to treat patients with the drug, which is considered the most effective medication for opioid addiction.

International

British Columbia Formally Requests Permission from Canadian Federal Government for Provincial Drug Decriminalization. Five years to the day after the province declared a public health emergency because of overdose deaths, British Columbia has formally requested a federal exemption from Health Canada to decriminalize the personal possession of drugs. The province is specifically seeking a province-wide exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to eliminate criminal penalties for drug possession. "Stigma drives people to hide their drug use, avoid health care and use alone," Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson said. "Through province-wide decriminalization, we can reduce the fear and shame that keep people silent about their drug use, and support people to reach out for help, life-saving supports and treatment."

WA to Make Drug Possession a Misdemeanor, FL Supreme Court Throws Out Legal Pot Initiative, More... (4/26/21)

The Philadelphia City Council votes to bar most pre-employment drug testing for marijuana, leading Democratic senators call on the attorney general to undo a Trump-era ruling that federal prisoners freed because of the pandemic must return to prison once it ends, and more.

Prisons in Washington could be a bit emptier once the state makes drug possession a misdemeanor. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down 2022 Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Supreme Court last Thursday threw out a proposed voter initiative constitutional amendment, holding that the measure's ballot summary was misleading because it says it "permits" the possession, production, and sale of marijuana when marijuana is still illegal under federal law. The state's Republican attorney general challenged the initiative on those grounds last year and the state's all Republican-appointed court justices agreed. Now, its back to the drawing board for legalization supporters in the state.

Philadelphia City Council Votes to Prohibit Pre-Employment Drug Screening for Cannabis. The city council voted overwhelmingly to approve a municipal ordinance, Bill No. 200625, that "prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to undergo testing for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment, under certain terms and conditions." Some safety-sensitive positions, such as police officers or those who supervise children or medical patients will be exempted, as well drug testing mandated under federal law. Mayor Jim Kenney (D) is expected to sign the measure into law.

Drug Policy

Washington Legislature Passes Bill to Make Drug Possession a Simple Misdemeanor. The legislature on Saturday gave final approval to a bill designed to overhaul the state's drug sentencing scheme after the state Supreme Court in February threw out the state's felony drug possession law. The bill, Senate Bill 5476, passed the Senate with language making drug possession a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, but the House amended it to make possession a simple misdemeanor punishable by only up to 90 days in jail. The House also amended the bill so that it expires in two years, leaving the state with no drug possession law unless the legislature acts again.

Incarceration

Leading Democratic Senators Call on Attorney General to Rescind Trump-Era Ruling That Federal Prisoners Released Because of Pandemic Must Return to Prison When Pandemic Ends. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism, last Friday sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting that he rescind the Office of Legal Counsel's January 15, 2021, memorandum opinion entitled "Home Confinement of Federal Prisoners After the COVID-19 Emergency" (OLC opinion). In their letter, Durbin and Booker write that the OLC opinion, issued during the Trump Administration, incorrectly finds that following the emergency period of the pandemic, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must recall federal inmates released to home confinement pursuant to the CARES Act and require these inmates to complete their sentences at BOP facilities. In fact, the CARES Act neither requires nor permits BOP to recall these prisoners, according to the letter.

NC Black Man Killed By Cops Was Fleeing Drug Raid, CA Senate Approves Safe Injection Sites, More... (4/23/21)

US-Mexico law enforcement cooperation in battling Mexican drug cartels is at a standstill, a Montana marijuana legalization implementation bill is heading for House and Senate floor votes, and more.

Andrew Brown. Unarmed man killed by North Carolina police as he fled drug raid. (family photo)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Senate Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Implementation Bill. The Senate Select Committee on Marijuana Law has approved House Bill 701, which is aimed at implementing the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization law. The committee approved more than 30 amendments to the bill addressing multiple aspects of legalization implementation. The bill will now head to House and Senate floor votes.

Harm Reduction

California Senate Approves Safe Injection Site Bill. The state Senate on Thursday approved Senate Bill 57, sponsored by Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco). The bill would legalize safe injection sites as pilot programs in Los Angeles County, Oakland, and San Francisco. The bill now heads to the Assembly, and even if approved there and signed into law, it still faces federal hurdles too.

Law Enforcement

Unarmed Black Man Killed By North Carolina Cops Died Fleeing Drug Raid. Andrew Brown, the Elizabeth City, North Carolina, man killed by sheriff's deputies on Tuesday, died after being shot as he attempted to flee the scene in his vehicle. His killing by Pasquotank County deputies has sparked continuing protests, and the sheriff's office is being pressed to release deputies' body cam footage. Witnesses said deputies began shooting at Brown as he started to drive away from law enforcement. The sheriff said all three deputies on the scene fired their weapons.

US Investigations into Drug Cartels Paralyzed by Standoff with Mexico. Former and current officials in both the US and Mexico told Reuters that the fight against Mexican drug trafficking organizations has "ground to a halt" because of strained relations between the two counties. The freeze came after DEA agents arrested a Mexican general who was later released under pressure from Mexico, but that raid sparked the Mexican Congress to enact a new law requiring US drug agents to report their law enforcement contacts in the country to Mexican officials, whom the Americans regard as corrupt. As a result, investigators from both countries have paused their cooperation out of fear that cases could be compromised or informants killed.

International

Colombia Indigenous Community Attacked for Anti-Coca Stance. An indigenous community in the township of Caldono in Cauca province is under attack from armed leftist and rightist groups tied to the coca and cocaine trade. Last Tuesday, indigenous governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocue, who opposed coca crops in indigenous lands, was assassinated, and last Thursday, at least 31 members of the community were wounded when one of the armed groups opened fire on them as they manually eradicated coca crops.

Medical Marijuana Update

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act gets refiled, a move to block the legalization of any illicit drug in Idaho gets quashed as lawmakers cite the popularity of medical marijuana, and more.

National

Bipartisan Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana for Military Vets Filed in Congress. A bill that would federally legalize medical marijuana for veterans was refiled in Congress Thursday. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), both co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and nine other original cosponsors filed the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act on the House side, while in the Senate, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is leading the proposal, and he's joined by five other lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The bill would allow vets in states with legal medical marijuana programs to use it with a physician's recommendation, and it would allow doctors at Department of Veterans Affairs to make such recommendations.

Idaho

Idaho House Kills Bill That Would Have Blocked Medical Marijuana. The House on Thursday defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have blocked the state from ever legalizing any illicit drug by requiring a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to do so. House Joint Resolution 4 failed after a half-dozen House Republicans voted against it saying Idahoans want medical marijuana.

Iowa

Iowa Lawsuit Challenges Governor's Delay in Seeking Federal Exemption for Medical Marijuana. Veteran activist Carl Olsen has filed a lawsuit against Governor Kim Reynolds (R) after she has failed to move forward with an effort to win an exemption from federal drug laws. The legislature passed and Reynolds signed a bill to do that last year but has failed to act. The lawsuit is an attempt to prod her to move on it.

Louisiana

Louisiana Bill to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana Advances. A bill to allow and tax smokable marijuana for medical marijuana patients, House Bill 514, passed the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously last Friday. The measure would apply the state's 4.45% sales tax to such products. The bill is now ready for a House floor vote.

Tennessee

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill to allow for the use of medical marijuana, Senate Bill 667, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday and now heads for the Senate Calendar Committee. Companion legislation, House Bill 880, is also moving, having passed out of one House Health subcommittee and scheduled for a House Health Committee vote net week.

VA Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Into Law, IL House Approves Drug Defelonization Bill, More... (4/22/21)

A Lebanese hash field. Other farmers are now turning to hash to survive. (Cannabisculture.com)
The House votes to temporarily keep fentanyl analogues in Schedule I, the Minnesota pot legalization bill wins an eighth (!) committee vote, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Eighth House Committee Vote. A bill to legalize marijuana, House File 600, won its eighth committee vote Thursday, advancing out of the House Education Finance Committee on an 8-6 vote. It still has at least one more committee to clear before heading for a House Floor vote. It now goes to the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee.

North Carolina Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Four House members have filed a bill to legalize marijuana, House Bill 617. "We all know someone or have a constituent that has contacted House Member's offices for help with a relative or friend being jailed for possession of small amounts of marijuana," Rep. Pricey Harrison said. "We took great care in writing this bill to include items to encourage bipartisan support. This bill will ensure appropriate guidelines and restrictions." The bill includes a provision allowing up to 12 plants for personal cultivation.

Virginia Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Into Law. Marijuana will become legal on July1 after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed the bill into law. People will be allowed to possess up an ounce of pot and can grow up to four plants at home. Legal sales will follow once rules and regulations are established.

Birmingham, Alabama, to Issue Blanket Pardons for 15,000 Marijuana Convictions. Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Tuesday that the city will issue blanket pardons for some 15,000 people with misdemeanor pot convictions dating back to 1990. The pardons will be automatic, he said, adding that the move would help people rejoin the work force.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Bill to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana Advances. The House Health and Welfare Committee voted 12-1 Thursday to advance House Bill 391, which would allow medical marijuana patients to smoke their medicine. Louisiana's dispensaries sell medical marijuana in liquids, topical applications, inhalers and edible gummies. But they are barred from offering raw marijuana in smokable form. The proposal heads next to the full House for debate and a vote.

Drug Policy

House Votes to Approve Temporarily Keeping Fentanyl Analogues in Schedule I. With a voice vote, the House on Wednesday approved an extension of an emergency designation that places fentanyl-like substances in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The emergency designation is set to expire May 6. In both the House and Senate, there are various bills extend the scheduling of fentanyl analogues for varying lengths of time. This vote gives legislators some time to reach a more permanent agreement. Organizations have criticized the designation as effectively extending the use of mandatory minimum sentencing -- which President Biden has said should be abolished -- and circumventing the science-based process intended to be used in drug scheduling.

Drug Testing

Michigan Senate Approves Bill to Ban "Drug Masking" to Defeat Drug Tests. The state Senate on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 134, which would criminalize using someone else's urine or taking a pill or vitamin to mask the presence of drugs in one's system. The bill makes the offense a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Sentencing

Illinois House Approves Bill to Defelonize Drug Possession. The House on Wednesday approved a bill that would turn drug possession felonies into misdemeanors, House Bill 3447. "This approach not only strengthens communities across Illinois but addresses fundamental problems in our criminal legal system, rejecting decades of failed policy under the moniker of the War on Drugs," said Ben Ruddell, criminal justice policy director with the ACLU of Illinois. "We know that taking a proven public health approach to reducing harms associated with drug use will benefit everyone in the State of Illinois."

International

Lebanese Farmers Turn to Hash Amidst Economic Crisis. Buffeted not only by the coronavirus pandemic but also by the country's deep economic crisis, farmers who for years grew potatoes and other crops are now turning to hashish. "It's not for the love of hashish", explained one farmer. "It's just less expensive than other crops... and allows you to live with dignity."

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered, pill-popping North Carolina police chief goes down, a Baton Rouge narcotics cop already under indictment for corruption gets another charge, and more. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, a Philadelphia police officer was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly lying under oath about observing two Latino men engaging in a drug deal and arresting one of them with no legal justification. Officer James Saxton, 34, now faces charges of perjury, unsworn falsification (for lying on the arrest report), and official oppression.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a Baton Rouge police officer was arrested last Wednesday for the second time in two months. Corporal Jason Acree, a 12-year veteran of the force, was first arrested in February on charges of possession with intent to distribute Schedule I narcotics and official malfeasance as part of a broader takedown of corrupt Baton Rouge narcotics cops. He is now charged also with obstruction of justice.

In Phenix City, Alabama, a Russell County jail guard was arrested last Friday for allegedly smuggling marijuana and other contraband into the jail. Guard Alicia Laury went down after the sheriff's office got information that one of the jailers was in an inappropriate relationship with an inmate and smuggling contraband for him. After being confronted, Laury admitted smuggling a pair of cell phone on one occasion and marijuana, tobacco, and rolling papers on another. She is charged with promoting prison contraband in the second degree, which is a class C felony.

In Chadbourn, North Carolina, the recently-resigned former chief of police was arrested Monday for allegedly stealing drugs, cash, and firearms from the department evidence locker. Former Chief William Anthony Spivey, 35, had resigned two weeks ago amid an investigation into the missing evidence. Spivey went down after the district attorney notified that town manager that the department had not submitted any drug evidence for months, and the ensuing investigation pointed toward him. Among the items reported missing from the evidence room were more than $32,000 in cash, two handguns and a rifle, 367 doses of Xanax and varying amounts of hydrocodone, Oxycontin and methadone. Spivey faces 73 charges, including 31 counts each of stealing or destroying evidence and embezzlement by a public official, as well as trafficking heroin or opium and three counts of trafficking by fraudulent or forging prescriptions.

Biden Won't Commit On Marijuana Legalization Bill, Alabama Forfeiture Reform Advances, More... (4/21/21)

Asset forfeiture reform stalls in Hawaii but advances in Alabama, the Denver city council votes to approve marijuana deliveries and consumption lounges, and more.

Denver. Marijuana deliveries and consumption lounges are coming to the Mile High City. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Won't Commit to Sign Marijuana Legalization Bill If Passed by Congress, Press Secretary Says. President Biden's stance toward a forthcoming marijuana legalization bill is noncommittal, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. She declined to say whether he would sign or veto such a bill. "The president supports leaving decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states, rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts and, at the federal level, he supports decriminalizing marijuana use and automatically expunging any prior criminal records," she said. "He also supports legalizing medicinal marijuana so that's his point of view on the issue." When pressed, Psaki added: "He'll look at the research once that's concluded. Of course we understand the movement that's happening toward it. I'm speaking for what his position is and what long, consistently has been his position. He wants to decriminalize, but again, he'll look at the research of the positive and negative impacts."

Denver to Get Marijuana Deliveries and Consumption Lounges. The city council voted Monday night to allow marijuana deliveries and consumption lounges, and Mayor Michael Hancock says he supports the move. Once signed into law, some of the changes could go into effect immediately, but it could take a few months to get delivery services up and running.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Senate Approves Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. The state Senate on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a bill that reforms but does not end civil asset forfeiture, Senate Bill 210. The bill, passed with support from prosecutors and law enforcement, would bar the seizure of less than $250 in cash or cars worth less than $5,000, require a finding of probable cause before a forfeiture can occur, require a post-seizure seizure order for property seized without a warrant, bar law enforcement from inducing or requiring a person to waive his interest in a property, and prohibit "disproportionate" seizures. The bill now heads to the House.

Hawaii Asset Forfeiture Reform Effort Fails. A move to reform asset forfeiture procedures and eliminate civil asset forfeiture, Senate Bill 294, has stalled amid disagreements between House and Senate legislators. Under the bill, property cold still be seized without a conviction, but not sell it. House leadership was demanding that the entire section on civil asset forfeiture reform be removed, leading Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Karl Rhoads to say: "The House's position on this issue has changed fairly substantially. I think I still have a very difficult time with the fundamental fairness of having someone's property taken away in a criminal context when they haven't been convicted of anything. "I don't see a way forward."

Will the SAFE Marijuana Banking Act Break Through to the Senate? [FEATURE]

For the second time in as many years, the House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1996) on Monday. The bill is designed to allow state-legal marijuana businesses access to banking and financial services. The bill would bar federal regulators from imposing civil or even criminal penalties on financial institutions that serve those businesses.

In an indication of broad political support for normalizing marijuana, the bill was approved on a bipartisan vote of a 321 to 101, with 91 Republicans and one Independent joining with the Democratic majority. It is not at all clear, however, whether any Republicans in the Senate can be persuaded to follow the lead of their House colleagues when they are presented with a chance to vote on companion legislation, S. 910, in the evenly-divided Senate.

Still, the measure is endorsed by a wide variety of groups, including the National Association of State Treasurers and governors from 21 states and territories.

The bill was authoredby US Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), who has been introducing it since 2013, sponsored by Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Warren Davidson (R-OH), and cosponsored by 180 members.

"After years of bringing up this issue, I'm thrilled to see overwhelming support for this bipartisan, commonsense legislation in the US House once again. I feel optimistic about the path forward for the SAFE Banking Act and, more broadly, reforms to our federal cannabis laws," said Perlmutter in a statement after the vote.

"Congress needs to act in order to catch up with the will of the majority of voters across this county and to ensure we are reducing the public safety risk for our constituents and communities," he continued. "I look forward to working with [Senate cosponsors] Senators Merkley and Daines to get the SAFE Banking Act passed in the Senate and signed into law."

For years, state-legal marijuana businesses have been hampered by the lack of access to such business necessities as checking accounts, payroll accounts, and lines of credit because of the financial services industry's fear of running afoul of federal law enforcement. That has required a multi-billion-dollar industry to operate in cash, which poses obvious security problems, as well as depriving banks and other lending institutions access to that capital to invest it productively.

"This bill would finally allow business in states that have legalized cannabis to access to the banking system, just as any other business currently enjoy," said Velasquez. "Doing so will help create jobs in communities throughout America, while stimulating the economy as we recover from the fallout of the pandemic."

"This bill is not about being for or against marijuana, but rather being for the safety and wellbeing of our communities," said Stivers.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) was pleased with the vote.

"This vote marks a meaningful first step in establishing a more equitable cannabis industry and improves the likelihood that other cannabis legislation will advance at the federal level," MPP executive director Steve Hawkins said in a statement.

"Restricting cannabis businesses from accessing financial services creates an unnecessary burden for the industry and limits economic growth," Hawkins added. "If enacted into law, the SAFE Banking Act would strengthen efforts to increase the diversity of the cannabis industry by providing resources for those with limited access to capital and increasing the chances of success for state-level social equity initiatives. Further, it would protect the 321,000 employees directly affected by the cannabis industry's lack of access to financial services."

Now it is up to the Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is working with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) on a full marijuana legalization bill, and there are indications he is concerned that passing more modest reforms before that could undermine that push. But there is also considerable pressure to move on the SAFE Banking Act. Stay tuned.

House Passes SAFE Banking Act, NJ AG Says No Mandatory Minimums for Nonviolent Drug Crimes, More... (4/20/21)

Dallas police will no longer arrest people possessing small amounts of pot, a North Carolina bill seeks to restrict needle exchange programs, and hemp is now legal in all 50 states.

(Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

House Passes Marijuana Banking Bill (Again). The House on Tuesday approved the SAFE Banking Act (House Resolution 1996), which would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to access banking and other financial services. The House also passed the bill last session, but it went nowhere in the then Republican-led Senate.

Alabama Democratic Party Endorses Marijuana Legalization. The state Democratic Party announced Tuesday that it supports the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana in the state. "Nearly 100 years of marijuana prohibition and criminalization has trapped thousands of Alabamians, mostly Black, in our broken criminal justice system," said state Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa). "Reforming policy surrounding cannabis not only serves our state in producing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, but is an important step in reducing arrests and expunging records. Nobody should be sitting in jail for carrying a little bit of weed."

Dallas Cops Will Finally Stop Charging People for Small Amounts of Pot. Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia has ordered his officers to stop charging people found with small amounts of marijuana. Garcia revealed the policy change in a memo to the City Council last Friday. Under the new policy, people will be arrested only if they possess more than two ounces or if there is evidence of sales. Those caught with between two and four ounces will be ticketed, but not jailed.

Medical Marijuana

Iowa Lawsuit Challenges Governor's Delay in Seeking Federal Exemption for Medical Marijuana. Veteran activist Carlo Olsen has filed a lawsuit against Governor Kim Reynolds (R) after she has failed to move forward with an effort to win an exemption from federal drug laws. The legislature passed and Reynolds signed a bill to do that last year but has failed to act. The lawsuit is an attempt to prod her to move on it.

Hemp

With Idaho Governor's Signature on Hemp Bill, Hemp is Now Legal in All 50 States. Gov. Brad Little (R) last Friday signed into law House Bill 126, which legalizes industrial hemp production in the state. Idaho was the last state to legalize hemp after it was federally legalized in 2018.

Harm Reduction

North Carolina NIMBY Bill Would Hamper Needle Exchanges. Spurred by an Asheville neighborhood group that has tried for years to put restrictions on an Asheville needle exchange program, friendly lawmakers have filed Senate Bill 607, which would ban mobile needle exchanges and require engraved needles, background checks, and forced drug treatment. The bill is currently before the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

Sentencing

New Jersey Attorney General Orders End to Mandatory Minimum Prosecutions in Noviiolent Drug Cases. Calling mandatory minimum sentencing "outdated policy," state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a directive Monday telling prosecutors not to seek such sentences in nonviolent drug cases. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy applauded the new directive in a statement. The policy change means that mandatory minimums are "off the table" in current and future nonviolent drug cases. It also allows people currently serving mandatory minimums for such offenses to seek early release.

SAFE Banking Act House Floor Vote Today, Texas Governor Wants Cartel Terrorist Designation, More... (4/19/21)

Another poll reaffirms marijuana legalization's popularity, the push for legalization in Connecticut has hit a roadblock over social equity, a bill to allow smokable medical marijuana advances in Louisiana, and more.

US Capitol (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Pew Poll Has Nine Out of Ten Americans Supporting Some Form of Marijuana Legalization. A new Pew poll has 91% of Americans in favor of legalizing either recreational marijuana or medical marijuana or both. Sixty percent favored legalizing both, while another 31% said they supported legalizing only medical marijuana.

House to Vote on Marijuana Banking Bill Today. House Majority Leader Stony Hoyer (D-MD) has confirmed that the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, House Resolution 1996, will get a House floor vote on Monday. This will be the first floor action on any marijuana-related legislation this session.

Connecticut Marijuana Legalization Hits Roadblock Over Social Equity. Efforts to legalize marijuana this year are in danger after Gov. Ned Lamont (D) and key lawmakers reached an impasse over social equity provisions that the legislators say Lamont's bill is lacking. They said last week they could not support Lamont's bill without stronger social equity provisions. Lamont, for his part, appears ready to wait until next year if necessary. "I think [legalization is] in the best interest of public health and I don't want to surrender this to the underground market and I don't want to surrender it to outside markets. That said, if you get a bill that you think doesn't meet some basic requirements, you'll put it off another year just like they have for many years in the past. You can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," he said Friday.

Wisconsin GOP Senate Leader Rules Out Action on Marijuana Legalization. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said last Thursday that the Republican-controlled state legislature will not legalize recreational or medical marijuana. "We don't have support from the caucus. That's pretty clear, that we don't have 17 votes in the caucus for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes [to] legalize it," LeMahieu said. He added that states should not pass laws that are "in conflict with the federal government."

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Bill to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana Advances. A bill to allow and tax smokable marijuana for medical marijuana patients, House Bill 514, passed the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously last Friday. The measure would apply the state's 4.45% sales tax to such products. The bill is now ready for a House floor vote.

Foreign Policy

Texas Governor Demands Biden Add Cartels to Terrorist List but Didn't Demand the Same of Trump. Governor Greg Abbott (R) has accused the Biden administration of just "standing by" as Mexican cartels "terrorize" South Texas and is demanding that President Biden add the cartels to the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. In doing so, he cited the November 2019 killing of nine US citizens in a cartel attack in northern Mexico, which occurred during the Trump presidency. Abbott never made any such demand of Trump, nor did he complain when Trump, who had threatened such a move, backed down under pressure from Mexico.

MedMJ for Vets Bill in Congress, Pfizer Donating One Million Naloxone Doses, More... (4/16/21)

A medical marijuana bill moves in Tennessee, Idaho lawmakers defeat an anti-drug legalization constitutional amendment, and more.

the opioid overdose antidote naloxone (gov.pa)
Medical Marijuana

Bipartisan Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana for Military Vets Filed in Congress. A bill that would federally legalize medical marijuana for veterans was refiled in Congress Thursday. Reps. Barbara lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), both co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and nine other original cosponsors filed the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act on the House side, while in the Senate, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is leading the proposal, and he's joined by five other lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The bill would allow vets in states with legal medical marijuana programs to use it with a physician's recommendation, and it would allow doctors at Department of Veterans Affairs to make such recommendations.

Idaho House Kills Bill That Would Have Blocked Medical Marijuana. The House on Thursday defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have blocked the state from ever legalizing any illicit drug by requiring a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to do so. House Joint Resolution 4 failed after a half-dozen House Republicans voted against it saying Idahoans want medical marijuana.

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill to allow for the use of medical marijuana, Senate Bill 667, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday and now heads for the Senate Calendar Committee. Companion legislation, House Bill 880, is also moving, having passed out of one House Health subcommittee and scheduled for a House Health Committee vote net week.

Harm Reduction

Pfizer to Donate One Million Doses of Naloxone in a Bid to Blunt Overdose Deaths. Responding to a record number of drug overdose deaths in the United States, Pfizer has made a commitment to Direct Relief to donate 1 million doses of the drug naloxone, which saves lives by reversing opioid overdoses.The newly committed 1 million doses are in addition to the more than 1 million doses Pfizer has donated since 2017, which Direct Relief has distributed at no cost to nonprofit, community-based organizations across the United States. Deaths and emergency room visits from opioid overdoses have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to preliminary data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 87,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in September 2020 -- the highest number of deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.

Drug Policy

Washington Senate Approves Bill to Make Drug Possession a Misdemeanor. The Senate voted Thursday to approve Senate Bill 5476, which would make drug possession a misdemeanor. The bill comes after the state Supreme Court threw out the state's felony drug possession law, leaving drug possession decriminalized. Some legislators argued for decriminalizing drug possession; others argued for refelonizing it but making it a misdemeanor is what the Senate passed.

International

Canada Opposition MP Files Drug Decriminalization Bill. New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Don Davies, who also serves as the party's health critic, has filed a private member's bill to remove provisions criminalizing drug possession from the Criminal Code. "Decades of criminalization, a toxic illicit street supply and a lack of timely access to harm reduction, treatment and recovery services have caused this ongoing catastrophe. It's time to treat substance use and addiction as the health issues they truly are," he said at a news conference. A Liberal bill to reform drug laws filed in February doesn't go far enough, Davies said.

Biden's Drug Policy Priorities Are a Small Step in the Right Direction, But Old Attitudes Linger [FEATURE]

On April 1, the Biden administration gave us the first big hint of what its drug policy will look like as it released the congressionally-mandated Statement of Drug Policy Priorities for Year One. The result is a definite mixed bag: a heavy dose of drug prevention, treatment, and recovery, along with an acknowledgement of harm reduction and a nod in the direction of racially-sensitive criminal justice reform, but also a reflexive reliance on prohibitionist drug war policies both at home and abroad.

And nothing about the most widely used illicit drug by far: marijuana. The word "marijuana" appears not once in the heavily annotated 11-page document, and the word "cannabis" only once, in the title of an academic research paper about the onset of teen drug use in the footnotes. That's perhaps not so surprising, given that, in response to a reporter's question, Vice President Harris said last week the administration was too busy dealing with other crises to worry about making good its campaign pledges about marijuana reform.

What is on the administration's mind is "the overdose and addiction crisis." Citing ever-increasing drug overdose deaths, the statement says "addressing the overdose and addiction epidemic is an urgent priority for [the] administration." But the solution is not to imprison drug users, with the statement noting that "President Biden has also said that people should not be incarcerated for drug use but should be offered treatment instead." (Underlying that seemingly humane approach is the errant presumption that all or most drug users are addicts in need of treatment when, depending on the drug, only between one in five and one in 10 drug users fit that dependent or problematic drug user description.)

Here are the Biden administration's drug policy priorities, all of which are gone into in detail in the statement:

  • Expanding access to evidence-based treatment;
  • Advancing racial equity issues in our approach to drug policy;
  • Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts;
  • Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use;
  • Reducing the supply of illicit substances;
  • Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce; and
  • Expanding access to recovery support services.

Prioritizing treatment, prevention, and recovery is bound to be music to the ears of advocacy groups such as Faces and Voices in Recovery (FAVOR), whose own federal policy and advocacy priorities, while focusing on specific legislation, lean in the same direction. But the group also advocates for harm reduction practices the administration omits, particularly supervised consumption sites. FAVOR noted the administration's statement without comment.

As with the failure to even mention marijuana, the Biden administration's failure to include supervised consumption sites in its embrace of harm reduction -- it is wholeheartedly behind needle exchanges, for example -- is another indication that the administration is in no hurry no rush down a progressive drug reform path. And its prioritizing of supply reduction implies continued drug war in Latin America ("working with key partners like Mexico and Colombia") and at home, via support of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and "multi-jurisdictional task forces and other law enforcement efforts to disrupt and dismantle transnational drug trafficking and money laundering organizations." Prohibition is a hard drug to kick.

Still, naming advancing racial equity issues as a key priority is evidence that the Biden administration is serious about getting at some of the most perverse and corrosive outcomes of the war on drugs and is in line with its broader push for racial justice, as exemplified by Executive Order 13985, "Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government," issued on Biden's first day in office. And it is in this context that criminal justice system reform gets prioritized, although somewhat vaguely, with the promise of the creation of an "interagency working group to agree on specific policy priorities for criminal justice reform."

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has some specific policy priorities for criminal justice reform, too, and they go far beyond where the administration is at. In its 2020 Roadmap for the incoming administration released in November, the group calls for federal marijuana legalization, drug decriminalization, and a slew of other criminal justice and policing reforms ranging from ending mandatory minimum sentencing and the deportation of non-citizens for drug possession to barring no-knock police raids, ending the transfer of military surplus equipment for counter-narcotics law enforcement, and dismantling the DEA. And the federal government should get out of the way of supervised consumption sites, or in DPA's politically attuned language "overdose prevention centers."

"We're glad the administration is taking important steps to address the overdose crisis -- by increasing access and funding to harm reduction services and reducing barriers to life-saving medications -- especially as people are dying at an alarming rate. We also appreciate their commitment to studying how to advance racial equity in our drug policies and best implement innovative practices on the ground. But it's clearly not enough. We need action," DPA Director of the Office of National Affairs Maritza Perez said in a statement responding to the administration's statement. "Black, Latinx and Indigenous people continue to lose their lives at the hands of law enforcement in the name of the drug war, and yet, the administration has chosen to prioritize increased funding for law enforcement. We need supervised consumption sites, not more money for police."

"And while we commend the Administration for taking steps to reduce employment discrimination, unless we address the biggest barrier for people trying to get a job -- past drug convictions and arrests -- we will still be left with significant inequities and racial disparities in the workplace," Perez continued. "It's time we get serious about saving lives and repairing the damage that has been caused by the drug war, particularly on Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities. We can start by passing federal marijuana reform and ending the criminalization of people for drugs in all forms."

Young drug reformers also had a few bones to pick with the administration's priorities. In their own statement in response to the administration, Students for Sensible Drug Policy applauded priorities such as more access to treatment and more research on racial equity, it complained that the administration priorities "fail to provide adequate support to Young People Who Use Drugs (YPWUD) in this country" -- especially those who use drugs non-problematically.

"There are no steps being taken to support YPWUD that do not want to and will not stop using drugs," SSDP said. "Young people have feared and faced the consequences of punitive drug policies and shouldered the burden of caring for their peers who use drugs for far too long. Young leaders calling for drug policy reform recognize that simply using drugs is not problematic and that we can support the safe and prosperous futures of People Who Use Drugs (PWUD) without forcing them to stop as a pre-condition for compassion, care, and opportunity."

Although only time will tell, for drug reformers, the Biden administration is looking like a step in the right direction, but only a step, and its policy prescriptions are limited by a vision of drug use rooted in the last century. Perhaps they can be pressured and prodded to plot a more progressive drug policy path.

Record Support for MJ Legalization in Quinnipiac Poll, CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, More... (4/15/21)

A Minnesota marijuana legalization bill continues to move in the House, the acting drug czar pledges more funds for drug treatment and greater access to overdose reversal drugs, and more.

Coca and cocaine are on the mind of the Colombian government this week. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Quinnipiac Poll Has Record High Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for marijuana legalization at 69%, the highest number ever reported in the poll. That's an increase of 18 points since Quinnipiac first polled the question in 2012. There was majority support for legalization in every demographic group, even people over 65 (51%) and Republicans (62%).

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins 6th Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, won a sixth House committee vote Wednesday in the Judiciary Finance and Criminal Law Committee. It now goes to the State Government Elections and Finance Committee.

Drug Treatment

Acting Drug Czar Pledges to Expand Drug Treatment as Overdose Deaths Rise. Regina M. LaBelle, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) told House lawmakers Wednesday the administration is moving to muster significant federal resources to close gaps in drug treatment availability and make overdose reversing medications more available. She noted that the administration last week submitted its proposed budget to Congress, which included more than $10 billion for addiction programs, an increase of 57% from current funding levels.

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Wins Another Committee Vote. The Senate Health Committee voted 6-2 Wednesday to a bill to decriminalize the possession of a variety of psychedelics, Senate Bill 519. The legislation sponsored by Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

International

Colombia Government Issues Decree Setting the State for Resumption of Aerial Fumigation of Coca Crop. In a joint message this week, Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz and Defense Minister Diego Molano announced Presidential Decree 380, which sets guidelines for the "program for the eradication of illicit crops by aerial spraying." While ministers clarified that the framework "does not automatically reactivate the Program," it is another step in Conservative President Ivan Duque's long-desired effort to reactivate the program, which was halted by former President Juan Manuel Santos in 2015 after the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed it "probably carcinogenic to humans."

Colombia Congress Debates Bill to Regulate Coca and Cocaine. The Congress has begun debate on a bill that would regulate coca and its derivatives. The bill is from two opposition parties, the Green Alliance and the Indigenous and Social Alternative Movement (MAIS). "Ending the drug trafficking business implies turning drug trafficking into a bad business for the mafias, and this is achieved by regularizing the business by the State. Let's remove it from the logic of violence," said Liberal Senator Luis Fernando Velasco. The debate continues.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Busy, busy, busy. Crooked pot-robbing California deputies, a pervy Pennsylvania DARE officer, a gun-stealing heroin addict Connecticut cop, and more. Let's get to it:

In Columbia, South Carolina, a jail guard at the MacDougall Institution was arrested March 24 for allegedly conspiring with inmates to smuggle cellphone, cigarettes, and marijuana into the jail. Guard Jatuane Malik Huggins, 24, supposedly got $1,500 for his efforts, but now faces a charge of furnishing contraband to inmates. And he's been fired.

In Houston, a Harris County deputy constable was arrested last Tuesday for allegedly laundering more than $300,000 in drug money. Deputy Constable Alexander Reyes faces charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He's looking at 10 years to life in prison.

In Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a former Warrington Township DARE officer was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly molesting at least four boys who were in the DARE program between 1996 and 2009. James Carey, 52, is accused of molesting the boys during camping trips and at a local recreation center. He's been charged with 122 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, statutory sexual assault, official oppression and related offenses.

In Fort Myers, Florida, a guard at the Charlotte Correctional Institution was arrested last Thursday for plotting to smuggle drugs into the jail. Guard Leslie Spencer, 48, allegedly agreed to smuggle three ounces of methamphetamine, three ounces of MDMA, a small amount of synthetic marijuana, and two cellphones into the prison and provide it to an inmate in exchange for a payment of $400. It was a sting operation by the FBI, and now Spencer faces a charge of attempted possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances. If convicted, he's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In New York City, an NYPD officer was arrested Monday for selling weed and another, unspecified drug. Officer Catherine Soto, 31, is charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal sale of marijuana, official misconduct, criminal possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana, police said.

In Pensacola, Florida, an Escambia Road Prison guard was arrested Monday for allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail. Guard Byron Jermaine Banks, 29, was a camera operator at the prison and allegedly used his knowledge of the surveillance system to find blind spots where he could pass drugs to inmates. He went down after the inmate he gave drugs to got caught and gave him up. He's facing two felony counts of smuggling contraband into a detention facility.

In Greenwich, Connecticut, a former Greenwich police officer pleaded guilty Monday to stealing guns from another police department to help feed his heroin habit. In two separate incidents, Joseph Ryan, 57, stole five guns from one department and three guns from another and gave them to his dealer. He pleaded guilty to once count of possession of firearms by an unlawful user of a controlled substance. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

In Houston, a former Houston police officer was sentenced March 25 to 87 months in federal prison for stealing drugs during a traffic stop. Julissa Diaz, 41, went down during an internal affairs sting in 2017. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

In Los Angeles, a former LA County sheriff's deputy was sentenced Monday to seven years in federal prison for staging a fake drug raid of a warehouse and stealing more than 1,200 pounds of marijuana and $600,00 in cash. Marc Antrim, 43,pleaded guilty two years ago to five felonies, including conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and deprivation of rights under color of law. He also agreed to forfeit a Mercedes-Benz sedan, and cash and money orders taken in the October 2018 robbery. He is the last of six people charged in the scheme. All of the others have been sentenced to various prison sentences of up to 14 years.

Medical Marijuana Update

Some Delaware dispensaries are under fire from legalization activists, South Dakota's Republican governor still wants to change the voter-approved medical marijuana law, there's progress in the South, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Wins House Committee Vote. A medical marijuana bill that has already passed the Senate, Senate Bill 46, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last Wednesday. The bill now goes to the House Health Committee before heading for a House floor vote. The bill would allow the use of marijuana by people with specified qualifying conditions.

Delaware

Delaware Marijuana Activists Stage Boycott of Medical Dispensaries That Testified Against Legalization Bill. Marijuana legalization advocates have called a boycott of four medical marijuana dispensaries after their representatives testified against a marijuana legalization bill last month. The four companies are Columbia Care, Fresh Delaware, CannTech and EZY Venture. They testified that allowing legalization would oversaturate the market, with some even talking about how it could hurt their bottom lines. The Delaware Cannabis Policy Coalition accused the companies of "simply obstructing the progress of adult-use legislation" and added that "some patients are now staging a boycott of the regulated dispensaries."

Georgia

Georgia Legislature Approves Bill to Allow Marijuana Oil Dispensaries. With a final vote in the Assembly, the legislature has passed House Bill 738, which will allow for the production and distribution of marijuana oil. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp (R).

North Carolina

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. A medical marijuana bill with bipartisan has been filed in the Senate. Senate Bill 711, the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, would protect doctors and patients from civil and criminal penalties for using or recommending medical marijuana and would allow the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana in the state. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.

South Dakota

South Dakota Governor Still Wants Changes in Medical Marijuana Program. Despite being rebuffed by lawmakers during the last legislative session, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) says she wants a special session convened to address the same proposed changes lawmakers just rejected. She wants to set the maximum number of plants grown at three, she wants the Department of Health to be the rule-making authority for the program, and she wants to bar people under 21 from being eligible to use medical marijuana.

Texas

Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Advances. A bill that would expand the state's compassionate use program for medical marijuana, House Bill 1535, has passed the House Public Health Committee. The bill would expand the program, which currently only applies to terminal cancer patients, to include other cancer patients, veterans with PTSD, and chronic pain that would otherwise be treated by an opioid.

OD Deaths Hit Record High During Pandemic, Campaign to End Crack Cocaine Sentence Disparity, More... (4/14/21)

Washington's governor commutes some drug possession sentences after the state's Supreme Court voids its felony drug possession law, the St. Louis County Council votes to decriminalize pot possession, the Orleans Parish prosecutors is not going to try most drug possession cases anymore and more.

There's a move afoot in Congress to finally end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Poll Finds Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization, Expungement. As legislators ponder whether to make Connecticut the next state to legalize marijuana, a new poll from Sacred Heart University shows strong popular support for the move. The poll had support at 66%, with 62% saying that if marijuana is legalized, those with prior marijuana convictions should have their records expunged.

St. Louis County Council Votes to Decriminalize Pot Possession. The council Tuesday night approved a resolution reducing the penalty for possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana to a fine of less than $100. The previous penalty had been up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.The Maplewood City Council also passed legislation Tuesday night to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. A medical marijuana bill with bipartisan has been filed in the Senate. Senate Bill 711, the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, would protect doctors and patients from civil and criminal penalties for using or recommending medical marijuana and would allow the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana in the state. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.

Drug Policy

Orleans Parish District Attorney Will No Longer Charge Small-Time Drug Possession Offenses, Except for Heroin and Fentanyl. The Orleans Parish District Attorney's office has adopted a policy of refusing to prosecute charges for possession of small amounts of drugs. New Orleans police may continue to arrest people for small-time possession, but they will not be prosecuted for "an amount intended for personal use." But there is one big exception: Heroin and fentanyl charges will continue to be prosecuted.

Pardons and Commutations

Washington Governor Commutes Sentences After Felony Drug Possession Law Thrown Out. In the wake of a state Supreme Court decision voiding the state's felony drug possession law, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced Tuesday that he had commuted the sentences of 13 prisoners who were incarcerated on drug possession charges. More commutations are coming, his office said.

Sentencing

Coalition Asks Judiciary Committee Chairs to Eliminate Crack-Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity. More than two dozen think tanks and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum have banded together to call on the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees to end the crack-powder cocaine federal sentencing disparity by passing Senate Bill 71, the EQUAL Act. Sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), the bill would eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and make that change retroactive.

Biden Administration Supports Temporary Extension of Ban on Fentanyl Analogues. The Justice Department said Monday it would support a bill that would extend a temporary ban on fentanyl analogues for another seven months. The Trump-era ban is set to expire next month without action by Congress. The department said it would "work with Congress to seek a clean, seven-month extension to prevent this important law enforcement tool from lapsing." The move has been opposed by criminal justice reform groups some researchers, who worry it could incite mass incarceration and make research more difficult. The department acknowledged these concerns, saying it intends to "address legitimate concerns related to mandatory minimums (prison terms) and researcher access to these substances."

Public Health

Drug Overdoses Hit Record High During Pandemic. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more than 87,000 people died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period that ended in September. That's the largest number for any year since the opioid epidemic began in the mid-1990s. The biggest jump in deaths took place in April and May, in the depths of pandemic lockdowns and attendant fear and stress.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School