Drug War Chronicle #1081 - October 1, 2019

1. Will Oregon Be the First State to Decriminalize All Drugs? [FEATURE]

The groundwork is being laid to put a possible initiative on the 2020 ballot.

2. House Passes SAFE Banking Act

In a historic vote, the House of Representatives has approved a bill to allow state-legal marijuana business access to financial services.

3. Medical Marijuana Update

New Hampshire patients will be able to grow their own, DC patients will be able to use medical marijuana at school, and more.

4. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A rapey reserve officer is in hot water in Louisiana, an NYPD officer who moonlighted as a bodyguard for El Chapo's wife gets nailed in a sting, an Indiana hospital cop gets caught with his fingers in the pain pill jar, and more.

5. Chronicle AM: House MJ Banking Bill Vote Next Week, Guatemala Now a Cocaine Producer, More... (9/20/19)

The House prepares to vote on a marijuana banking bill, New Hampshire lawmakers override a veto to ensure patients can grow their own, Guatemala concedes it is now a cocaine-producing nation, and more.

6. Chronicle AM: SAFE Banking Act Battle, SD Pot Legalization Initiative Advances, More... (9/23/19)

Battle over voting on the SAFE Banking Act, South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative okayed for signature gathering, Dr. Bronner's kicks in for Oregon psilocybin initiative, and more.

7. Chronicle AM: Mexico Legalization Deadline Looms, State AGs Urge Support for Fed Marijuana Bill, More... (9/24/19)

More than 20 state attorneys general have urged congressional leaders to pass legislation to protect state-legal marijuana, Mexico faces a deadline to legalize marijuana, Canadian researchers recommend providing prescription heroin to hard-core addicts, and more.

8. Chronicle AM: MA Will Get Cannabis Cafes, Australia's Capital City Legalizes Weed, More... (9/25/19)

Massachusetts regulators approve cannabis cafes and home delivery, a key congressman pledges continuing support for broad marijuana reforms, Australia's capital city legalizes pot possession, and more.

9. Chronicle AM: CDC Warns on THC Vaping, Indianapolis to End Small Marijuana Prosecutions, More... (9/30/19)

The feds are homing in on THC products as the vaping crisis intensifies, a Virginia poll shows a rapid increase in support for marijuana legalization there, Indianapolis says bye-bye to small-time pot prosecutions, and more.

1. Will Oregon Be the First State to Decriminalize All Drugs? [FEATURE]

The groundwork is being laid now for a possible effort to decriminalize the possession of drugs in Oregon. Last month, a trio of drug reform advocates quietly filed a decriminalization initiative, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, with state officials.

Mt. Hood, outside Portland (Creative Commons)
That is only the first step in the long and complicated process of getting the initiative on the November 2020 ballot and approved by voters, but it is a first step. Between now and then, the Oregon activists and national groups will be weighing whether success is actually possible and if a full-blown campaign to get it passed will happen.

As is evident from the initiative's title, it is not just about drug decriminalization, but also about coming up with better ways than drug-war style policies to address drug misuse and addiction; it is a public health approach rather than a criminal justice approach to the problem.

And it is one that would use taxes derived from the legalization of marijuana to pay for drug treatment and other services for people with drug problems.

According to the proponents, the aim of the initiative "is to make health assessment, treatment and recovery services for drug addiction available to all those who need and want access to those services and to adopt a health approach to drug addiction by removing criminal penalties for low-level drug possession."

Here's what the initiative would do:

  • Decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all drugs. People caught with personal use amounts of any drugs, including heroin and cocaine, would be cited for a violation -- not a felony or misdemeanor -- and would be subject to no more than a $100 fine. Drug sales and manufacture would still be criminalized.
  • Create Addiction Recovery Centers across the state to address "the acute needs of people who use drugs and assessing and addressing any on-going needs thorough intensive case management and linkage to care and services." Those centers will offer health assessments for each client, as well as an individual intervention plan, intensive case management, and connection to services.
  • Increase community access to care, including "low barrier substance abuse disorder treatment," peer support and recovery services, housing, and harm reduction interventions, such as naloxone and needle exchanges, as well as "stimulant-specific drug education and outreach."
  • Pay for it with a Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund and an Oregon Marijuana Account. The marijuana account, funded by marijuana tax and fee revenues, would be distinct from the state's General Fund and would provide funding for the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund, which would provide grants to government and nonprofit groups to provide such services. The fund could also receive monies appropriated by the legislature, as well as any savings from reduced criminal justice costs after decriminalization.

Such a measure is desperately needed, said Anthony Johnson, chief proponent of the initiative, who also headed the state's successful 2014 marijuana legalization campaign. His fellow proponents are Haven Wheelock of the Portland needle exchange Outside In, and Janie Gullickson, executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon.

"Oregon ranks nearly last in the country in access to drug addiction treatment," Johnson explained in an emailed statement. "The waitlist to get treatment can be months long, and in some rural counties, there is practically no treatment at all. This is one reason why one to two Oregonians die of drug overdoses every day, sometimes while they are waiting to get treatment. But instead of expanding access to treatment and recovery, Oregon has recently cut it, reducing general fund money for drug addiction treatment by 89%. If we don't do something soon, many more people will die."

While there is a popular belief that being able to arrest people for drug possession is a key to getting them into treatment, Johnson demurs.

"It shouldn't be," he said. "Most people who need treatment do not get arrested, and many are reluctant to get treatment because drug possession is a crime. Although there are some who may seek treatment as the result of an arrest, the damage done by saddling someone struggling with addiction with a criminal record is vastly worse, stigmatizing them and often costing them jobs, housing, student loans, time, and separation from their family and support network, among other things. Treatment is more effective when people want it and when it is available on demand."

And there's enough money in legal marijuana to pay for it, he said.

"If revenue from marijuana continues to grow at the same rate it has been growing as estimated by the state, this act will bring in about $100 million a year for treatment and services by 2021," Johnson argued. "That number is projected to grow by about $20 million a year. For comparison, there was a recent bill that failed in the legislature that would have provided $2.9 million in new money for treatment. This act would provide more than 30 times that amount -- all from existing resources."

The state took in $103 million in marijuana tax revenue in fiscal year 2019, and it estimates that number will grow by about $23 million a year in the foreseeable future. Under the initiative's provisions, all marijuana tax revenue above $45 million will go to services such as drug addiction treatment, recovery, peer support and housing. The other $45 million will continue to go where it does now -- for schools, public safety and drug addiction treatment and services.

Social and racial justice also demands Oregon find a new path, Johnson argued. A recent study found that blacks in the state are convicted of felony drug possession offenses at twice the rate of whites.

"Our drug laws are deeply inequitable, disproportionately targeting and impacting people of color and in poverty," he said. "Oregonians use drugs at about the same rate, regardless of the color of their skin. However, people of color are much more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted of drug crimes. People of color are also sentenced more harshly and forced to pay higher fines. That's morally reprehensible. At the same time, our current drug laws distort the priorities of police, who end up spending too much time arresting people for being addicted to drugs instead of focusing on community safety."

The initiative was drafted with the help of the Drug Policy Alliance, as well as dozens of Oregonians working in treatment, addiction, and recovery, along with experts on equity, economics, criminal justice, civil liberties, ballot measure campaigns, law, Oregon state politics, and more.

The initiative has been filed, but a final decision on whether it's a "go" has yet to be made. While the Drug Policy Alliance has been involved, it has not yet committed to getting behind this initiative just yet.

"We've been looking at a number of states, including Oregon, that could benefit from moving towards a health-centered approach to drugs and away from criminalization," Matt Sutton, the group's director of media relations said in an email. "At this point in time, we have connected with various groups on the ground and are exploring all of our options. It is much too soon to determine whether or not we will move forward with this measure, however, the process to get something on the ballot in Oregon can be lengthy, and we wanted to make sure the door was still open for the potential measure to proceed."

"We would not be where we were unless there was a strong path to victory, but the campaign is still in an exploratory phase, and we have a lot more work to do before we make a final decision about whether to go forward with the campaign," Johnson said.

Still, the groundwork is being laid for Oregon to once again take a pioneering role in drug policy. It was the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession way back in 1973 and the third to legalize marijuana in 2014. Now, it could be the first to decriminalize the possession of all drugs in 2020.

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

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2. House Passes SAFE Banking Act

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595), which would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to get access to banking and other financial services.

The vote was 321-103, with near unanimous support from Democrats, as well as nearly half of Republicans. The industry pronounced itself pleased.

"We applaud the House for approving this bipartisan solution to the cannabis banking problem, and we hope the Senate will move quickly to do the same, " said Neal Levine, CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation, which lobbied in support of the bill. "This vital legislation will have an immediate and positive impact, not only on the state-legal cannabis industry, but also on the many communities across the nation that have opted to embrace the regulation of cannabis. Allowing lawful cannabis companies to access commercial banking services and end their reliance on cash will greatly improve public safety, increase transparency, and promote regulatory compliance. "

The vote came although some civil rights and drug reform groups had called for it to be put off until more comprehensive marijuana or criminal justice reform could be enacted. They argued that passage of a narrowly targeted financial services bill could erode momentum toward broader reforms.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) was one of those groups. In a statement released after the vote, the group said it had no problem with the banking bill but wanted more.

"We had no objections to the substance of the SAFE Banking bill. However, DPA and allies from the civil rights community sent a letter of concern because we believe it is a mistake for the House to pass an incremental industry bill before passing a comprehensive bill that prioritizes equity and justice for the communities who have suffered the most under prohibition, " said Queen Adesuyi, Policy Coordinator at DPA's Office of National Affairs.

DPA is pushing for passage of the MORE Act, which would federally deschedule marijuana.

"We have long feared that passing SAFE Banking would undermine passage of the MORE Act by taking the momentum out of marijuana reform, " said Adesuyi. "The onus is now upon House Democrats to prove us wrong and pass the MORE Act. We are encouraged by the announcement from House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler that he intends to hold a vote on MORE and will push him in the coming weeks to commit to a date. We also thank Majority Leader Hoyer for his commitment to work with Mr. Nadler and others to advance broader marijuana reform in this Congress. The marijuana banking bill cannot be the end of the road for marijuana reform this Congress. "

But even the banking bill must get through the Senate, where it is not clear it can pass. A companion version of the SAFE Banking Act (S.1200) was introduced in April by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and a bipartisan group of 21 original cosponsors. It currently has 33 total cosponsors. Earlier this month, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) said his committee will take up the cannabis banking issue this year and is working on preparing a new bill.

"This is a serious public safety matter that needs to be addressed by Congress this session, " Levine said. "It is only going to grow in urgency and magnitude as states continue to roll back cannabis prohibition policies. Enacting the SAFE Banking Act would greatly bolster state's efforts to promote safety, regulatory compliance, and equity within the cannabis industry. Cannabis-related companies are lawfully operating in states around the country, and they deserve the same access to banking that is afforded to every other type of lawful business. "

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3. Medical Marijuana Update

New Hampshire patients will be able to grow their own, DC patients will be able to use medical marijuana at school, and more.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire is One Step Closer to Legalizing Medical Home Growing. The state House voted last Wednesday to override Gov. Chris Sununu's (R) veto of HB 364, which would allow qualified patients to grow up to three mature plants and 12 seedlings. The Senate was expected to take up the issue Thursday.

New Hampshire Legislature Overrides Veto on Patient Home Grows. The state Senate joined the House Thursday in overriding Gov. Chris Sununu's (R) veto of HB 364, which would allow qualified patients to grow up to three mature plants and 12 seedlings.

Washington, DC

Medical Marijuana Patients Will Be Able to Get Treatment in DC Schools Under Emergency Legislation. The DC city council on last Tuesday passed emergency legislation to allow students enrolled in District schools to use medical marijuana at school. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) plans to sign the bill shortly. The emergency legislation would take effect for 90 days after the Mayor's signature.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Lawmakers Announce Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill. Sens. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) have announced a bipartisan bill to introduce legalized medical cannabis in Wisconsin. The bill "recognizes that people should not have to engage in a criminal act to access medicine for debilitating conditions," they said.

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

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4. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A rapey reserve officer is in hot water in Louisiana, an NYPD officer who moonlighted as a bodyguard for El Chapo's wife gets nailed in a sting, an Indiana hospital cop gets caught with his fingers in the pain pill jar, and more. Let's get to it:

n New York City, an NYPD officer was arrested last Wednesday in a drug sting. Officer Ishmael Bailey, who recently moonlighted as a bodyguard for the wife of Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's wife during his trial, went down after being caught transporting cocaine for an undercover officer posing as a drug dealer. He is charged with selling and possessing cocaine, as well as receiving bribes, conspiracy and official misconduct.

In Muncie, Indiana, a former Indiana University Ball Memorial Hospital police officer was arrested last Thursday for allegedly stealing pain medications from a hospital safe. Michael Goldsmith, 30, went down after surveillance video implicated him in the theft of 141 opioid pain pills. He is charged with official misconduct, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or deceit, theft and possession of a controlled substance.

In Merryville, Louisiana, a Merryville police reserve officer was arrested Monday on charges he gave drugs to a 16-year-old boy and then sexually assaulted him. Reserve Officer Roland Harrison, 38, faces charges of rape and drug possession. He also faces four counts of unauthorized use of movables, for taking police gear including uniforms without authorization.

In Harvest, Alabama, a state prison guard was arrested Tuesday after he got caught trying to smuggle drugs into the Limestone Correctional Facility. Officer Travis Wales, 39, got caught with a Subutex pill, a bag of methamphetamine, and a bottle of synthetic urine substitute (for passing drug tests). He is charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance and promoting prison contraband after a drug dog found the contraband in Wales' possession.

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5. Chronicle AM: House MJ Banking Bill Vote Next Week, Guatemala Now a Cocaine Producer, More... (9/20/19)

The House prepares to vote on a marijuana banking bill, New Hampshire lawmakers override a veto to ensure patients can grow their own, Guatemala concedes it is now a cocaine-producing nation, and more.

Cocaine -- it's not just from South America anymore. (US CBP)
Marijuana Policy

House Will Vote on Marijuana Banking Bill Next Week. The House leadership confirmed Friday that the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1595) will get a House floor vote next week. The move comes with support from financial institutions, but over the objections of advocacy groups who want to see broader marijuana reforms advance before those catering to the industry alone.

Senate Funding Bill Would Again Block DC Marijuana Legalization. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Financial Services and General Government funding bill for FY 2020 and again included a provision that blocks Washington, DC, from using its own money to implement a legal marijuana sales regime.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Legislature Overrides Veto on Patient Home Grows. The state Senate joined the House Thursday in overriding Gov. Chris Sununu's (R) veto of HB 364, which would allow qualified patients to grow up to three mature plants and 12 seedlings.

Wisconsin Lawmakers Announce Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill. Sens. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) have announced a bipartisan bill to introduce legalized medical cannabis in Wisconsin. The bill "recognizes that people should not have to engage in a criminal act to access medicine for debilitating conditions," they said.

International

Guatemala Joins Ranks of Cocaine Producers. Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart conceded Thursday that the country is now a full-fledged cocaine producer after security forces there uncovered several coca plantations and processing laboratories. Guatemala has long been a major transit country for cocaine, and traffickers have exercised influence over political parties and in some cases territorial control. The country has made little progress fighting the drug war. "Following the discovery of these narco-laboratories and the different fields with the coca plants, Guatemala now becomes a cocaine producer and that puts Guatemala in a totally different situation with respect to regional security," Degenhart said.

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6. Chronicle AM: SAFE Banking Act Battle, SD Pot Legalization Initiative Advances, More... (9/23/19)

Battle over voting on the SAFE Banking Act, South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative okayed for signature gathering, Dr. Bronner's kicks in for Oregon psilocybin initiative, and more.

Dr. Bronner's CEO David Bronner. The company has just donated $150,000 to the Oregon psilocybin initiative. (maps.org)
Marijuana Policy

No Marijuana Banking Without Justice Reform, Three Democratic Presidential Candidates Say. In a sign of divisions within the marijuana legalization movement, three Democratic presidential contenders have joined Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and a coalition of civil rights and drug reform groups in calling for a delay in the passage of the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595) until more progress is made in ending federal marijuana prohibition. The three candidates are Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Those calling for a delay in the banking bill fear that its passage will undermine efforts to advance justice aspects in legalization, while those supporting an early vote say it is a first step that will bolster broaden marijuana reform. A House floor vote is set for Wednesday.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Cleared for Signature Gathering. A constitutional amendment initiative that would legalize marijuana has been cleared for signature gathering. The measure was introduced by a former federal prosecutor and is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project. Petitioners now have one year to come up with 33,921 valid voter signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot. The measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess and distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. Individuals would also be allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants. The South Dakota Department of Revenue would be tasked with issuing licenses for manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers. Sales would be taxed at 15%. The measure would also instruct the legislature to pass legislation legalizing hemp and medical marijuana.

Psychedelics

Dr. Bronner's Kicks in $150,000 for Oregon Psilocybin Initiative Campaign. Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, the natural soap company, has donated $150,000 for the Psilocybin Service Initiative, or Initiative Petition #34. The move came Friday night, as Dr. Bronner's CEO David Bronner joined chief petitioners Tom and Sheri Eckert at a kickoff event for the initiative in Portland Friday night. The initiative would allow Oregonians to access psilocybin in a therapeutic setting to treat a range of issues from depression to anxiety to addiction.Backers of the initiative have until July 2, 2020, to get 112,020 signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot. "The Bronner family is no stranger to severe depression and anxiety," Bronner said. "We firmly believe that the integration of psilocybin therapy, to which the FDA recently granted a special 'breakthrough designation' is crucial to heal epidemic rates of depression, anxiety, and addiction that pharmaceutical drugs are completely inadequate for."

International

Mexican President Hints at Referendum on Drug Legalization. President Andres Lopez Manuel Obrador said Friday he was considering a public consultation or referendum on drug legalization: "I am not ruling out the possibility of calling a referendum or a collective reflection about legalizing certain drugs, especially those used for medicinal purposes," Lopez Obrador said. "I have also been considering how this is part of the chain for ensuring peace and tranquility," the president said. There are some people who do not want to legalize the use of drugs, not even for medicinal purposes, and there are people that support it (and insist) that the violence originates from the ban (on drugs),"he said.

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

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7. Chronicle AM: Mexico Legalization Deadline Looms, State AGs Urge Support for Fed Marijuana Bill, More... (9/24/19)

More than 20 state attorneys general have urged congressional leaders to pass legislation to protect state-legal marijuana, Mexico faces a deadline to legalize marijuana, Canadian researchers recommend providing prescription heroin to hard-core addicts, and more.

Under a Supreme Court ruling, the Mexican congress has one month to pass a marijuana legalization bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

21 State Attorneys General Urge Congress to Protect State Marijuana Programs from Federal Interference. Attorneys general from 21 states sent a letter Monday to congressional leaders urging support for the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act (HR 2093), which would shield state-legal marijuana programs from federal interference. Attorneys general from Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, DC, signed the letter.

Pennsylvania Court Rules Odor of Marijuana No Longer Probable Cause for Traffic Searches. A Lehigh County judge has ruled that since medical marijuana is now legal in the state, the mere presence of a "strong odor" of marijuana does not provide probable cause for a vehicle search. Judge Maria Dantos ruled that because police lacked probable cause for a search, a small amount of marijuana and a weapon found during the search was inadmissible as evidence of a crime. The state is appealing to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

International

Canadian Research Group Recommends Giving Addicts Medical-Grade Heroin. Guidelines published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal recommend that health-care providers offer injectable medical-grade heroin or another prescription opioid to severely addicted users who have proven resistant to other treatment modalities. The recommendations call for the use of injectable diacetylmorphine (prescription heroin) or hydrocodone for patients who have not responded to the most effective oral treatments, methadone and buprenorphine.

Mexico Has One Month to Legalize Marijuana. A Supreme Court-ordered deadline to legalize marijuana is now only one month away, and the country's congress is now pondering 10 different bills that would do just that. One of those bills is drawing concern from activists. It would not change the legal status quo, but would instruct the health ministry to give permits for self-consumption, thereby complying with the Supreme Court ruling, but not completely legalizing marijuana. Mexico must act on one of these bills by Oct. 24.

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8. Chronicle AM: MA Will Get Cannabis Cafes, Australia's Capital City Legalizes Weed, More... (9/25/19)

Massachusetts regulators approve cannabis cafes and home delivery, a key congressman pledges continuing support for broad marijuana reforms, Australia's capital city legalizes pot possession, and more.

Cannabis cafes are coming to Boston. (RegulateMass)
Marijuana Policy

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pledges Broader Marijuana Reform After Banking Vote. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that a vote set for Wednesday on the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595) would only be the first step in a broader push toward marijuana policy reform. "The House is expected to consider the SAFE Banking Act on the floor tomorrow and I will vote for it," Nadler said. "This bill will address one of the many serious problems that results from the criminalization of marijuana at the federal level. "As the sponsor of the MORE Act (HR 3884), I also strongly support additional marijuana reform -- to deschedule marijuana federally and to provide critical assistance and relief to individuals and communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the racially biased war on drugs," Nadler said. "I am therefore committed to marking up this bill and look forward to working with reform advocates and my colleagues in this important effort going forward." The statement comes amid division among reform advocates over whether to seek broader reforms before passing the SAFE Act.

Arizona Legalization Initiative Gets Updated, Begins Signature Gathering. The Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative has been amended to allow more people to expunge past pot convictions and to allow for 26 retail licenses to be issued to "individuals from communities disproportionately impacted" by marijuana prohibition. Now, signature gathering gets underway. Organizers have one year to come up with some 237,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Massachusetts Regulators Approve Cannabis Cafes, Home Delivery. The state Cannabis Control Commission on Tuesday voted to approve regulations that will allow for cannabis cafes where people can eat, vape, or smoke marijuana legally and for marijuana home delivery services. "We feel like we have got a good balance between trying to meet the will of the voters but recognizing that there are concerns from a public health and a public safety standpoint," said Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman. Both new types of licenses will be reserved for the first two years for social equity and economic empowerment applicants, which are categories of businesses owned by minorities, people with drug convictions and people who have lived and worked in communities disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition.

New York Governor Seeks Cooperation with Neighboring States on Vaping and Marijuana Legalization.Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Tuesday he will travel to Connecticut and New Jersey to try to create regional coordination on marijuana legalization. "For one state to do it, it makes no sense if the neighboring state has a different policy because then you just incentivize people to drive over the border and buy it there," he said. "When you start to discuss how to legalize marijuana it moves into the vaping space because a lot of the marijuana products can be vaped" Cuomo said. "When you start saying I want to outlaw flavored cigarettes well how about gummy bear marijuana products?"

International

Australian Capital City Legalizes Marijuana. Canberra, the national capital, has become the first ciaty in Australia to legalize marijuana. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory voted Tuesday to approve a bill allowing people 18 and over to possess and grow marijuana for personal use. The new law will go into effect on January 31, 2020. People will be able to legally possess up to 50 grams (just under two ounces) and grow up to two plants per person, or four per household. The new law, however, conflicts with national marijuana prohibition laws and could be overridden.

Canada's Trudeau Says Liberals Not Looking to Decriminalize Drugs. As he campaigns to keep his job, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the Liberal Party is not going to decriminalize drugs. "We're not looking at full decriminalization at all right now," Trudeau said. "There are other things that we are doing that (are) having a big impact and we're going to make decisions based on science," Trudeau said, pointing to the Liberal government's actions on safe injection sites and other harm reduction methods. Trudeau's stance contrasts with that of the national Liberal caucus, which approved a resolution last year to "re-classify low-level drug possession and consumption as administrative violations" rather than criminal ones.

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9. Chronicle AM: CDC Warns on THC Vaping, Indianapolis to End Small Marijuana Prosecutions, More... (9/30/19)

The feds are homing in on THC products as the vaping crisis intensifies, a Virginia poll shows a rapid increase in support for marijuana legalization there, Indianapolis says bye-bye to small-time pot prosecutions, and more.

What's in your vape? The CDC warns on THC vaping. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Feds Focus on THC Vapes as Source of Most Illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that more than three out of four people who have been sickened by vaping in recent weeks reported using products containing THC, while only 16% reported using only nicotine products. A second CDC study focused on Illinois and Wisconsin found that 87% of patients reported using products containing THC. CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat has now advised people to consider "refraining from the use of vaping products, particularly those containing THC" -- the first time federal officials have specifically warned against the use of such products.

Arizona Legalization Initiative Gets Updated, Begins Signature Gathering. The Smart and Safe Arizona Act legalization initiative has been amended to allow more people to expunge past marijuana convictions and to allow for 26 retail licenses to be issued to "individuals from communities disproportionately impacted" by prohibition. Now, signature gathering gets underway. Organizers have one year to come up with some 237,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Virginia Poll Shows Strong Majority for Legalization. A new poll from the University of Mary Washington has support for marijuana legalization in Virginia at 61%, up sharply from the 39% support reported in the same poll in 2017. "The latest Mary Washington survey demonstrates -- to quote Bob Dylan, 'the times they are a-changin'' -- here in the Old Dominion," said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington and director of its Center for Leadership and Media Studies. The poll found majority support for legalization among all demographic groups except Republicans and people over 65.

Indianapolis Will No Longer Prosecute Marijuana Possession Cases. The Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor's Office announced Monday it will no longer prosecute small-time pot possession cases. "Too often, an arrest for marijuana possession puts individuals into the system who otherwise would not be. That is not a win for our community," Prosecutor Ryan Mears said. "The enforcement of marijuana policy has disproportionately impacted people of color, and this is a first step to addressing that." Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill (R) responded that he was "concerned" that the move would "attract to Indianapolis people with a particular interest in communities where drug enforcement is lax."

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Permission to Reprint: This issue of Drug War Chronicle is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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