Drug War Chronicle #1089 - February 7, 2020

1. Republican Reefer Reactionaries: Meet America's Eight Worst Governors on Marijuana Reform [FEATURE]

The worst governors on weed, according to NORML.

2. Medical Marijuana Update

The fight over medical marijuana in Alabama heats up, a Pennsylvania court sides with a worker fired over legal medical marijuana use, and more.

3. Chronicle AM: NM & NY Govs Call for MJ Legalization, NJ Gov Signs Criminal Justice Bills, More... (1/22/20)

Two Democratic governors push for marijuana legalization, another Democratic governor signs a package of criminal justice reform bills, and more.

4. Chronicle AM: US Revokes Visa of Philippines Drug War Chief, VT Psychedelic Decrim Bill Filed, More... (1/23/20)

Connecticut and New York begin grappling with getting marijuana legalization passed, a Vermont bill would legalize several natural psychedelics, the Mexican Senate will take up marijuana legalization in the coming weeks, and more.

5. Chronicle AM: NM MJ Legalization Bill Filed, San Francisco Heroin/Fentanyl ODs Double, More... (1/24/20)

A New Mexico marijuana legalization bill backed by the governor has been filed, Montana activists file a second legalization initiative, San Francisco authorities report a doubling of heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths last year, and more.

6. Chronicle AM: IL Supreme Court Takes On Searches Based on Smell of Marijuana, Tom Steyer Drug Policy, More... (1/27/20)

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer rolls out a progressive criminal justice platform, a Tennessee marijuana legalization bill is filed, and more.

7. Chronicle AM: Hawaii Bill Would De-Decriminalize Pot, Indiana Syringe Exchange Expansion Bill, More... (1/28/20)

Some Hawaii legislators want to roll back last year's marijuana decriminalization, Mexico's president says a government panel will be formed to make recommendations on how to legalize marijuana, and more.

8. Chronicle AM: NM & NH Legalization Bills Advance, Mexico Mayhem, Psychedelic Reform, More... (1/28/20)

It's getting busy, busy, busy as state legislatures get back into session; Philadelphia's DA ends prosecutions for buprenorphine possession, it was a bloody weekend in Mexico's drug wars, and more.

9. Chronicle AM: Drug Overdoses Declined in 2018, Bernie Sanders Marijuana Legalization Plan, More... (1/30/20)

Cleveland, Ohio, City Council Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. The city council has voted 15-2 to approve a measure that would eliminates fines and jail time for low-level marijuana possession. And it's a pretty high low level: 200 grams. The legislation still needs to be approved by Mayor Frank Jackson (D), who has previously expressed support for it.

10. Chronicle AM: MO MJ Init Launches, SD Unlawful Ingestion Bill, More... (1/31/20)

A Georgia bill would result in quasi-decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, a South Dakota bill would amend the state's unique felony internal possession law to only make it a misdemeanor, and more.

11. Chronicle AM: VT Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Moves, MD Kratom Ban Bill Moves, More... (2/3/20)

Vermont is moving toward full, commercial marijuana legalization, Maryland is moving toward banning -- not regulating -- kratom, and more.

12. Chronicle AM: Taking Sides on Marijuana Legalization in NY, PA MMJ Wrongful Firing Court Ruling, More... (2/4/20)

Major players in New York are staking out positions on marijuana legalization, a Pennsylvania court rules in favor of a worker fired for legal medical marijuana use, and more.

13. Chronicle AM: DC Psychedelic Initiative Advances, VT Legal Pot Sales Bill Moves Again, More... (2/5/20)

Vermont's House is moving on a legal marijuana sales bill approved last year by the Senate, Rhode Island legislators yield in a fight with the governor over medical marijuana, and more.

14. Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Heads for House Floor Vote, Thai Opium Cultivation Declines, More... (2/6/20)

Marijuana decriminalization is moving in Virginia, medical marijuana home cultivation is moving in New Hampshire, a class action lawsuit goes after Detroit-area car seizures, and more.

1. Republican Reefer Reactionaries: Meet America's Eight Worst Governors on Marijuana Reform [FEATURE]

The nation's most venerable marijuana legalization group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), has just issued its 2020 Gubernatorial Scorecard grading the nation's governors on their level of support for ending marijuana prohibition. Thanks to NORML, we can now identify those chief executives whose stances on cannabis remain mired in the last century.

The states in black are home to the nation's worst governors when it comes to marijuana policy. (NORML)
But before we get to that rogues' gallery of governors, its worth mentioning the good news in the scorecard. Based on the governors' voting records and comments on marijuana policy, NORML bestowed "A" grades on nine governors -- all Democrats -- while 11 more Democrats and one Republican earned a "B." That means governors in nearly half the states are working hard to enact or maintain marijuana reform legislation, and that's a long way from where we were only a few years ago.

Getting marijuana reforms, whether its medical marijuana or adult legalization, through state legislatures is a tough, grinding slog, and the position of the governor can make or break a bill. Although, as governors such as Democrats Phil Murphy in New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo in New York found out last year, even the governor's support can't guarantee a measure gets passed.

As NORML executive director Eric Altieri noted in releasing the report, "Most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy takes place at the state level and America's governors are our nation's most powerful state-elected officials. These 50 lawmakers play a key role in whether or not marijuana policy reform advances at the state level so it is vitally important that reformers are aware of where they stand on the issue."

Here are the ones that stand farthest to the right. All eight of these Republican governors earned a big, fat "F" from NORML:

Idaho Gov. Brad Little. While he neither enacted nor vetoed marijuana-related legislation last year, he has opposed any loosening of pot prohibition, including even industrial hemp and medical marijuana. His position is best summed up by this quote from April 2019: If Idahoans wanted to legalize marijuana, "they elected the wrong guy as governor."

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. With marijuana bills unable to get anywhere in the GOP-dominated legislature, Holcomb has not had to sign or veto any measures, but he has historically opposed even medical marijuana, not to mention adult legalization. Now, he's using federal pot prohibition as a shield for his recalcitrance, saying that he will continue to oppose and marijuana reforms as long as the federal ban remains. He also said in 2019 that, "Right now, it's a crime. I'm just simply not willing to look the other way," even though he could act to make it not a crime and even though he is apparently willing to look the other way on his own self-admitted college toking.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. Nebraska was once on the cutting edge of marijuana law reform, decriminalizing it back in the 1970s, but that's apparently been long forgotten by the state's GOP political establishment, including Gov. Ricketts. While governor, he authored a position paper arguing the discredited position that marijuana is a gateway drug, that it's use can lead to suicide, and that medical marijuana is simply a stalking horse for legalization. He was at again just last month, releasing "An Honest Look at Marijuana," which ends thusly: "As Governor, I have a duty to promote public safety. I want Nebraskans to be informed of the dangers of marijuana and to know where I stand on the issue. I firmly oppose legislative legalization and will veto any legislation that attempts to make marijuana use lawful in the Cornhusker State."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. DeWine has long been a reefer recalcitrant and spoken consistently about his opposition to recreational marijuana legalization. Even though neighboring Michigan has flipped and neighboring Pennsylvania could this year, he still sides with his fellow prohibitionist GOP governor in neighboring Indiana. "It would really be a mistake for Ohio, by legislation, to say that marijuana for adults is just okay," he said just last month.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Long an opponent of recreational marijuana legalization, McMaster has also opposed medical marijuana when pressed. In his most recent comments on the issue, when asked about supporting medical marijuana, he said, "No. Law enforcement officials have made it clear that we are not in a position to appropriately regulate medical marijuana."

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. South Dakota is the only state where it's a criminal offense to test positive for marijuana, but Noem is fine with that. She's another GOP gateway theory adherent, claiming in November that marijuana is "the gateway drug to getting people more addicted, getting into stronger drugs, then they end up committing crimes, and it just opens the door to bad habits and behaviors that aren't going to be beneficial." She also vetoed an industrial hemp bill in her heavily agricultural state because, well, it's just a sneaky attempt to legalize weed: "There is no question in my mind that normalizing hemp, like legalizing medical marijuana, is part of a larger strategy to undermine enforcement of the drug laws and make legalized marijuana inevitable," she said in March 2019. And of course, she opposes both the medical marijuana and adult legalization initiatives on the ballot there this year.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. The state passed an extremely limited CBD possession law in 2014, and the only interest he has in any further marijuana reforms is expanding on that. He hasn't gotten behind broader medical marijuana, and he's even against decriminalization, not to mention legalization. "I have said before and still believe that we should not decriminalize marijuana... I think that's not good for our state," he said in March 2019.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon. Gordon is foe of adult legalization and a skeptic on medical marijuana. "I am not in favor of legalizing marijuana," he said as a gubernatorial candidate in 2018."There is maybe some discussion that can be had about medical marijuana, but I am not particularity in favor of doing that until we've had a very full conversation about what that means. So I am not in favor really of legalizing that. My understanding is that there are some alternatives that are prescription based. So the dosage is known, the purity is known, and we're taking risks for our patients." He didn't say anything last year to indicate his position has become more enlightened.

(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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2. Medical Marijuana Update

The fight over medical marijuana in Alabama heats up, a Pennsylvania court sides with a worker fired over legal medical marijuana use, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Attorney General Opposes Medical Marijuana Bill. While the legislature is once again set to take up a medical marijuana bill supported by 12 of 18 members of the Medical Cannabis Study Commission, Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) has now come out against it. He wrote a three-page letter urging lawmakers to oppose the bill this session.

Montana

Montana Posts Medical Marijuana Rules. The state Department of Health and Human Services has posted rules that make changes to the state's medical marijuana system, including a new fee structure and a license structure based on the provider's growing space. The rules are designed to implement a new medical marijuana law the legislature approved last year. The rules are open for public comment until the end of the month.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Court Allows Medical Pot User to Proceed with Wrongful Termination Suit. In a recent decision, Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas ruled that the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act creates a right to sue for wrongful termination and that a worker who claims to have been fired for medical marijuana use authorized by that law can bring a claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Legislators End Bid to Regulate Medical Marijuana Outlets. Lawmakers voted Tuesday in unanimous votes on identical bills in both houses to remove the "legislative veto" language over medical marijuana and hemp regulations that was included in the state budget. They have backed down from a fight with Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) over who will control licensing of six new medical marijuana dispensaries.

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3. Chronicle AM: NM & NY Govs Call for MJ Legalization, NJ Gov Signs Criminal Justice Bills, More... (1/22/20)

Two Democratic governors push for marijuana legalization, another Democratic governor signs a package of criminal justice reform bills, and more.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for marijuana legalization as part of the state's budget process. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Governor Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham used her State of the State address Tuesday to reiterate her call for marijuana legalization. "We've got to create more opportunity in rural communities, on Main Streets all through our state -- and so we've got to consider every single good idea. A perfect example is cannabis," she said. "This is the fact: Recreational cannabis can be the next frontier of our economic expansion. We can get in on the ground floor or we can try to play catch up -- I know which one I prefer." She wants to see the Cannabis Regulation Act (HB 160) passed during the legislature's 30-day session that just got underway.

New York Governor Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) included marijuana legalization in his budget proposal Tuesday. The call for legalization comes after a similar effort foundered in Albany last year. "Legalize adult use cannabis," Cuomo said during his budget speech. "I believe it is best done in the budget. I said that last year. I believe the budget is the opportunity, frankly, to make some tough decisions and work through tough issues that without the budget can often languish, and I suggest that we get it done in the budget." The bill to watch is the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (AB 1617).

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Moving. A bill to legalize hemp farming will get a hearing in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after the committee voted Tuesday to approve it. The bill filed by Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon (Stanley) would allow hemp with tiny amounts of THC to be grown in the state. The bill also has an emergency clause that would allow farmers to grow hemp this year if signed into law.

Criminal Justice

New Jersey Governor Signs Three Criminal Justice Bills. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) used the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to sign three pieces of criminal justice reform legislation. SB 761, also known as the "Earn Your Own Way Out Act," requires the Department of Corrections to develop a reentry program for each inmate and streamlines the parole system. AB 4970 bans civil asset forfeiture with limited exceptions. The law will make it easier for individuals with dismissed or acquitted cases to recover seized money and valuables. SB 3309 creates the New Jersey Violence Intervention Program within the attorney general's office. It will award grants to municipalities, health agencies, law enforcement agencies, and nonprofit organizations that implement effective, evidence-based violence intervention initiatives in communities with disproportionately high rates of gun violence.

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4. Chronicle AM: US Revokes Visa of Philippines Drug War Chief, VT Psychedelic Decrim Bill Filed, More... (1/23/20)

Connecticut and New York begin grappling with getting marijuana legalization passed, a Vermont bill would legalize several natural psychedelics, the Mexican Senate will take up marijuana legalization in the coming weeks, and more.

Mass Murderers: Duterte with his former police chief, now a senator, Bato dela Rosa (King Rodriguez/PPD via Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Senate Democrats Prioritize Marijuana Legalization as Session Looms. Senate Democrats said Thursday that marijuana legalization was among their top agenda items in the upcoming General Assembly session that begins February 5. "There are very high numbers of Connecticut residents already traveling regularly to Massachusetts to buy this product and bring it home with them. I don't think we want to put our heads in the sand," said State Senator Martin Looney (D), Senate President Pro Tempore. "I think the time has come. There is broad base public support for it. We need to recognize it and find support for it."

New York Marijuana Legalization Must Include Social Justice, Drug Policy Alliance Says. Responding to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal including marijuana legalization, the Drug Policy Alliance is reiterating its call for social justice. "We are pleased to see Governor Cuomo's commitment to passing comprehensive marijuana legalization in the state budget this year, and to see him include social equity and small business incubator programs," said Kassandra Frederique, the group's state director. "We are disappointed Governor Cuomo doesn't clearly guarantee that a portion of funds from marijuana sales will be reinvested into the communities most harmed by New York's marijuana arrest crusade. Without this necessary component, the Governor's proposal will not truly right the wrongs done to communities of color by disproportionate enforcement of marijuana."

Psychedelics

Vermont Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Filed. Rep. Brian Cina (P/D) filed a bill Wednesday that would decriminalize psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ayahuasca, peyote, as well as kratom. Cina said he believes that "plants are a gift from nature and they're a part of the web of life that humans are connected to. Plants, especially plant medicines, should be accessible to people," he said. "Use of plant medicine should be considered a health care issue, not a criminal issue." The bill is HB 878. It currently has three cosponsors and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Foreign Policy

US Revokes Visa of Philippine Drug War Architect. The US government has revoked the travel visa of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, the former police chief who led the Duterte government's bloody crackdown on drugs, Dela Rosa confirmed Wednesday. The State Department has the authority to deny visas to people implicated in gross human rights violations, and Dela Rosa has been implicated in extrajudicial killings. The Philippines Commission on Human Rights estimates that more than 27,000 people have been killed in Duterte's and Dela Rosa's drug war. [Ed: Note that this move appears to have preceded passage by Congress of appropriations language barring officials involved in the incarceration of Philippine drug war critic Senator Leila de Lima. If so, the State Department must have done unpublished designations of one or more Philippine officials to ban, under existing authority it already had.]

Harm Reduction

South Carolina Bill Would Increase Access to Overdose Reversal Drug. State Rep. Russell Fry (R-Columbia) has filed HB 4711 to increase access to naloxone, the overdose reversal drug. The bill would require prescribers to offer a naloxone prescription to patients who have a history of a substance use disorder or have overdosed in the past. It's been referred to the Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

International

Mexico Senate Leader Seeks to Legalize Marijuana This Spring. The Mexican Senate will debate a marijuana legalization bill coauthored by Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal once the legislative session begins next month, his office said. The bill would set up an Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis to create rules for legal marijuana commerce.

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

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5. Chronicle AM: NM MJ Legalization Bill Filed, San Francisco Heroin/Fentanyl ODs Double, More... (1/24/20)

A New Mexico marijuana legalization bill backed by the governor has been filed, Montana activists file a second legalization initiative, San Francisco authorities report a doubling of heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths last year, and more.

Heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths doubled in San Francisco last year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Sees Second Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed. The activist group MontanaCan filed a marijuana legalization initiative, Ballot Issue 13, on Monday. That makes two potential legalization initiatives that could be on the ballot in November. The MontanaCan initiative would legalize marijuana for people 18 and up and cap the tax rate at 5%. That contrasts with the New Approach Montana initiative, which sets the age of consumption at 21 and the tax rate at 20%. Both are waiting to be cleared for signature gathering.

New Hampshire Legislature Has Marijuana On Its Mind. As the legislative session gets underway, lawmakers are confronting at least a dozen marijuana bills that have already been filed. Some have to do with medical marijuana, including one that would allow patients to grow their own medicine. Similar legislation has passed the General Assembly in previous years, only to be vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu (R). Also on the agenda is a marijuana legalization bill, HB 1686, which was set for a public hearing Friday. That bill would legalize the possession of up to ¾ ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to six plants, but does not envisage a legal commercial market.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Reps. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque) and Antonio "Moe" Maestas (D-Albuquerque) filed marijuana legalization legislation, HB 160, on Thursday. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as emphasizing social equity and local entrepreneurship. There would be a 9% excise tax on sales. The bill heads first in the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and then in the House Judiciary Committee. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is pushing for the bill to be passed during the current 30-day legislative session.

Austin, Texas, City Council Walks Away from Marijuana Arrests. The city council approved a resolution Thursday directing city police to not spend city funds on newly necessary lab tests to distinguish marijuana from low-THC hemp. The measure passed unanimously, and effectively ends arrests and prosecutions for small-time pot busts in most cases.

Chicago Housing Authority Relaxes Policy on Evicting Marijuana Users. The Chicago Housing Authority has relaxed its hardline approach to marijuana after the state legalized weed this year. Under federal law, people living in subsidized housing are subject to eviction for any drug law violations, and the CHA last year sent letters to its 63,000 households warning that families could be evicted for marijuana violations. But under pressure from Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), the CHA has revised its policy to now say that each marijuana complaint would lead to "consideration of relevant facts on a case-by-case basis."

Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Reservation Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in March. Members of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation will vote on legalizing medical and recreational marijuana and allowing alcohol in casinos in May. The move comes after council members voted in favor of a referendum earlier this month.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

San Francisco Opioid Overdose Deaths Doubled Last Year. Preliminary statistics gathered by city officials show that overdose deaths involving heroin, fentanyl, or the two drugs together hit 290 last year, more than double the 134 reported in 2018. Of those 290 deaths, 234 resulted from fentanyl alone. Just a decade ago, the number of city residents who overdosed on fentanyl and/or heroin was only 17. "It's devastating. It's awful. It's the most deadly epidemic that we've seen in our city since the HIV/AIDS crisis was killing thousands of people," said Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin district where the opioid crisis has hit the city hardest. "It is painful that this is not something being talked about every day at City Hall."

Drug Testing

Iowa Bill Would Make Cheating on a Drug Test a Crime. A bill that would make it a misdemeanor crime to cheat on a drug or alcohol test in a private-sector workplace has passed its first legislative hurdle, being approved Thursday by a Senate Commerce subcommittee. SSB 3013 is being advanced by business interests concerned about the use of synthetic urine and urine additives to beat drug tests.

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6. Chronicle AM: IL Supreme Court Takes On Searches Based on Smell of Marijuana, Tom Steyer Drug Policy, More... (1/27/20)

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer rolls out a progressive criminal justice platform, a Tennessee marijuana legalization bill is filed, and more.

Tom Steyer's platform includes marijuana legalization and opioid decrim. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Supreme Court to Decide If Smell of Marijuana Justifies Police Search. The state's highest court is pondering whether now that marijuana is legal, if smelling it is justification for police searching someone's vehicle. The case it is hearing occurred in 2017, when marijuana possession was decriminalized but not legalized, but will have even more bearing now. In that case, Decatur police pulled over a man and smelled "raw" marijuana. Even though possession of up to ten grams was no longer a crime -- merely a ticketable offense -- police used the odor of marijuana as probable cause to conduct a search, where they found other contraband and arrested the man. The court is now considering the case after oral arguments.

Tennessee Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) has filed a legislation to legalize marijuana, SB 1849. The bill would allow for licensed and regulated marijuana cultivation and retail sale, with sales limited to a half-ounce and taxed at 12%. Half the tax revenues would go to education, 30% to infrastructure, and 20% to the general fund. The bill is not scheduled for debate and no companion legislation has been filed in the House.

Drug Policy

Tom Steyer Calls for Marijuana Legalization, Opioid Decriminalization. Democratic presidential contender and billionaire Tom Steyer called for the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of opium possession as part of a broader criminal justice reform program released last week. "Tom believes we must end the failed War on Drugs. Based on the flawed idea that incarceration is the answer to addiction, federal and state elected officials passed severe sentencing laws that encouraged incarceration for low-level drug offenses," the plan states. "Unfortunately, communities of color were and continue to be disproportionately affected and targeted by these laws, even when other ethnicities were committing the same drug crimes at the same rates." He also called for ending mandatory minimum sentencing, more drug courts, ending the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, and investing $75 million in drug treatment.

(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: Hawaii Bill Would De-Decriminalize Pot, Indiana Syringe Exchange Expansion Bill, More... (1/28/20)

Some Hawaii legislators want to roll back last year's marijuana decriminalization, Mexico's president says a government panel will be formed to make recommendations on how to legalize marijuana, and more.

Marijuana

Hawaii Bill Would Roll Back Decriminalization. Last year, the legislature approved marijuana decriminalization. This year, at least five legislators want to turn back the clock. House Bill 2018 was introduced by five Oahu representatives and argues that "Hawaii should be protected from suffering the dangers and risks increasingly occurring in states which have endorsed the possession and use of marijuana through means of decriminalization and legalization." The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Syringe Exchange Access Bill Filed. A bill to allow syringe exchange programs to operate without the prior declaration of a public health emergency has been filed in Indianapolis. SB 207 would also repeal the July 1, 2021 expiration date of existing syringe exchange programs. The measure has been referred to the Committee on Health and Provider Services and was set for a hearing Wednesday morning.

International

Mexico's President Says A New Marijuana Panel Will Make Legalization Recommendations. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that his government is forming a panel to make recommendations on how marijuana legalization should unfold. "A group is going to be formed to decide what will happen about that with a public health approach. We are about to comply with the recommendation of the Supreme Court," the president said. The high court ruled in 2019 that marijuana prohibition was unconstitutional and gave the government a limited time to rectify the situation. That clock runs out in April, and Lopez Obrador's allies in the congress say they will pass a legalization bill before then.

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8. Chronicle AM: NM & NH Legalization Bills Advance, Mexico Mayhem, Psychedelic Reform, More... (1/28/20)

It's getting busy, busy, busy as state legislatures get back into session; Philadelphia's DA ends prosecutions for buprenorphine possession, it was a bloody weekend in Mexico's drug wars, and more.

Marijuana is on the move at statehouses around the country. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Bill Would Protect Workers from Dismissal for Off-Duty Marijuana Use. Lawmakers in Denver are considering a measure that would protect workers who use marijuana on their own time from being fired for it. House Bill 20-1089 would bar employers from firing workers "for the employee's lawful off-duty activities that are lawful under state law."

Indiana GOP Lawmakers Target Indianapolis Prosecutor's Decision to Not Prosecute Small-Time Marijuana Cases. A GOP-backed bill that seeks to effectively overturn Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor Ryan Mears' recently announced policy of not pressing charges for small-time pot possession is moving in the Senate. The bill would let the attorney general's office step in if a county prosecutor announced a policy of not enforcing a law or was found to have "categorically elected" to not do so. The measure, SB 436, was approved by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee and now heads for a Senate floor vote.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Affairs Committee voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve SB 115, the Cannabis Regulation Act. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as emphasizing social equity and local entrepreneurship. There would be a 9% excise tax on sales. The measure now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Meanwhile, the House version of the bill, HB 160 is headed for the Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and then the Judiciary Committee. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is pushing for the bill to be passed during the current 30-day legislative session.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 13-7 Tuesday to recommend that a bill legalizing the possession and home cultivation of small quantities of marijuana "ought to pass." The measure is HB 1648. It comes after a full marijuana legalization bill failed last year.

Kratom

Missouri Kratom Regulation Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. The House General Laws Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved HB 2061, the Kratom Consumer Protection Act. The bill would deal with the substance by regulating it, not prohibiting it. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Psychedelics

Oakland Activists Unveil Plan to Legalize Sale of Psychedelics This Year. Decriminalize Nature, the group behind the national movement to decriminalize natural psychedelics, has announced a push to legalize the cultivation and sale of those hallucinogens in the city. The city already approved the decriminalization of such substances last year.

Santa Cruz City Council Approves Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure. The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a resolution that would effectively decriminalize "entheogenic plants and fungi" such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ibogaine, and ayahuasca. The resolution says the city shouldn't spend money to investigate psychedelic use by adults 21 and over and that such possession and use "should be considered among the lowest law enforcement priorities for the City of Santa Cruz."

Criminal Justice

Philadelphia DA Will No Longer Prosecute Buprenorphine Possession. District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced that his office will no longer prosecute people for possessing buprenorphine, an opioid-based addiction treatment drug. Krasner said the new policy is aimed at reducing overdoses. Krasner's office has already been dropping possession charges for people who can show they're in a treatment program.

International

Bloody Weekend in Central Mexico Cartel Wars. At least 48 people were killed between Friday and Sunday in prohibition-related violence in the central state of Guanajuato, including a six-year-old. In one incident, five people were killed at a house in Leon; in another, eight people were shot and killed at a taco stand in Celaya; in yet another, nine people were executed at a highway service plaza in Villagran. Among the dead were one soldier and one police officer.

New Zealand Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in September. The country has set September 19 as the date for its next general election. On the ballot will be a simple question: "Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill?" A final draft of the bill is expected to be released soon, but the government has already published a draft bill. If more than 50% of ballots are in favor of the draft legalization bill, the incoming government would be responsible for formally introducing a bill to Parliament. The first draft of the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill is available here.

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9. Chronicle AM: Drug Overdoses Declined in 2018, Bernie Sanders Marijuana Legalization Plan, More... (1/30/20)

The CDC reports that drug overdose deaths declined for the first time in decades in 2018, Colombia's coca farmers are increasingly unhappy, Bernie Sanders could use an executive order to legalize marijuana at the federal level, and more.

Bernie Sanders is looking at using an executive order to end federal marijuana prohibition. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Bernie Sanders Could Use Executive Order to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition. Aides to Vermont senator and Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders (I) have presented him with a list of executive orders he could use to unilaterally change federal policies, including one that would direct the Department of Justice to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances. A bill that would decriminalize marijuana and hash oil for adults was approved Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure, SB 2, now heads to the Finance and Appropriations Committee and, if it passes there, a Senate floor vote.

Cleveland, Ohio, City Council Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. The city council has voted 15-2 to approve a measure that would eliminates fines and jail time for low-level marijuana possession. And it's a pretty high low level: 200 grams. The legislation still needs to be approved by Mayor Frank Jackson (D), who has previously expressed support for it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

CDC Reports Drug Overdose Deaths Declined in 2018. For the first time this century, overall drug overdose deaths declined in 2018, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. The report put the total number of overdose deaths at 67,000 in 2018, down from over 70,000 in 2017, a decline of 4%. But that still makes 2018 the second-worst year for drug overdose deaths in US history. The majority of overdose deaths involved heroin and fentanyl.

Asset Forfeiture

South Carolina Prosecutor to Appeal Circuit Court Judge's Ruling that Civil Asset Forfeiture Law is Unconstitutional. 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson filed notice this week that he intends to appeal a local judge's 2019 ruling that the state's civil asset forfeiture law is unconstitutional under both state and federal law. The move comes a month after Circuit Court Judge Steven John reaffirmed his August ruling. Johns' decision struck down civil asset forfeiture in his district, but the appeal decision would apply statewide.

International

Colombia Coca Farmers Plan Mass Protests as Counternarcotics Strategy Collapses. Coca farmers are demanding the resignation of crop substitution program director Hernando London after he claimed that "coca substitution leaders have not been assassinated." The coca growers' federation says at least 56 community leaders promoting crop substitution programs have been killed since the program began in March 2017. The coca growers said they were fed up with the "bullshit" of President Ivan Duque's administration and would join national strikes set for next month. Duque's anti-coca policy faces collapse if the crop substitution program is not executed because it then cannot resume aerial spraying of coca crops, according to the Constitutional Court. Without voluntary eradication and aerial spraying, only labor-intensive and easily reversed manual eradication could be used -- and 80% of the destroyed crops are replanted.

(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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10. Chronicle AM: MO MJ Init Launches, SD Unlawful Ingestion Bill, More... (1/31/20)

A Georgia bill would result in quasi-decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, a South Dakota bill would amend the state's unique felony internal possession law to only make it a misdemeanor, and more.

South Dakota, where testing positive for illicit drugs can be charged as a felony. (Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Georgia Marijuana Bill Would Remove Threat of Jail Time for Simple Possession. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would remove the possibility of jail time for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Under HB 550, possession would remain a misdemeanor. Possession of more than an ounce is a felony (!) and would remain so under the bill. It is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Launches. Missourians for a New Approach has kicked off a signature gathering campaign that aims to put a marijuana legalization initiative in the form of a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The measure would allow people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of weed purchased from a legal retailer and/or grow up to three plants. The campaign has until mid-May to come up with 160,000 valid voter signatures.

Criminal Justice

South Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Softening State's Unique Unlawful Ingestion Law. It's the only state in the country to make a felony out of testing positive for an illicit drug, and now state Sen. Craig Kennedy (D-Yankton) has filed a bill to change that. SB115 would change ingestion to a Class 1 misdemeanor for the first two offenses and a Class 6 felony if a person is convicted of ingestion for a third time within 10 years. A misdemeanor ingestion conviction would include a mandatory minimum 10-day jail sentence. Kennedy also filed SB114 to incentivize treatment over the criminal justice system for people facing felony ingestion charges.

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11. Chronicle AM: VT Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Moves, MD Kratom Ban Bill Moves, More... (2/3/20)

Vermont is moving toward full, commercial marijuana legalization, Maryland is moving toward banning -- not regulating -- kratom, and more.

A Maryland bill would make kratom a Schedule I drug. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Moves. The House Committee on Government Operations approved 11-0 a bill that would legalize commercial marijuana sales in the state. SB 54 now heads for a Tuesday hearing at the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill was already approved by the Senate last year, but with changes made in the House, would likely require a conference committee to come to agreement if it passes the House.

Kratom

Maryland Bill Would Make Kratom a Schedule I Dangerous Drug. Delegate Ken Kerr (D-Frederick) has filed HB 283, which would criminalize the use, possession, and distribution of kratom by making it a Schedule I controlled substance under state law. It gets a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. A companion bill, SB 147, was reported out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings with a favorable vote Monday. Kratom is banned in six states and four cities in the United States but remains unrestricted under federal law. Kratom advocates call for regulation instead of prohibition, pointing to a model Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which has been passed in four states.

Mexican City Rocked by Violence After Arrest of Cartel Leader. For the second time in recent months, the arrest of a leading cartel figure has sparked widespread violence in a Mexican city. When police detained a senior leader of the Los Viagras cartel, Luis Felipe "El Vocho" last Friday, armed men blocked roads and burned cars in the western city of Uruapan, and there were reports of multiple shootouts. Los Viagras have been involved in a gang war with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel over territory in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan.

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12. Chronicle AM: Taking Sides on Marijuana Legalization in NY, PA MMJ Wrongful Firing Court Ruling, More... (2/4/20)

Major players in New York are staking out positions on marijuana legalization, a Pennsylvania court rules in favor of a worker fired for legal medical marijuana use, and more.

Illinois is the latest state to discover green gold. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Went Through Almost $40 Million Worth of Weed in First Month of Legal Sales. The state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced Monday that legal marijuana sales totaled $39,247,840.83 in the first month after they began. "The revenue from the first month is an incredible look at what the potential could possibly be," said State Senator Toi Hutchinson, Illinois Cannabis Control Senior Advisor. "I just want to build a thriving and healthy industry that protects the public safety."

New York State Bar Association Supports Marijuana Legalization. The State Bar Association last Friday came out in support of legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana. It approved a report from its Committee on Cannabis Law that outlines strategies for implementing legalization in the state. "The report provides the necessary details surrounding safety, research, social equity, taxation, and other principles critical to the success of a legalized adult use program in this state," said Aleece Burgio, who co-chairs the Committee on Cannabis Law. "While policy continues to evolve at the federal level, the committee also believes the most effective way to navigate this complex issue is for any comprehensive cannabis proposal to include hemp, medical marijuana and adult use."

New York State Sheriff's Association Opposes Marijuana Legalization. Gathered at their 86th Annual Winter Training Conference in Albany, the state's sheriffs voted once again to oppose efforts to legalize the possession and sale of recreational marijuana. The association passed a similar resolution last year. The sheriffs argue that legalization would "pose a significant risk to the health and safety of communities."

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Attorney General Opposes Medical Marijuana Bill. While the legislature is once again set to take up a medical marijuana bill supported by 12 of 18 members of the Medical Cannabis Study Commission, Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) has now come out against it. He wrote a 3-page letter urging lawmakers to oppose the bill this session.

Pennsylvania Court Allows Medical Pot User to Proceed with Wrongful Termination Suit. In a recent decision,Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas ruled that the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act creates a right to sue for wrongful termination and that a worker who claims to have been fired for medical marijuana use authorized by that law can bring a claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

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13. Chronicle AM: DC Psychedelic Initiative Advances, VT Legal Pot Sales Bill Moves Again, More... (2/5/20)

Vermont's House is moving on a legal marijuana sales bill approved last year by the Senate, Rhode Island legislators yield in a fight with the governor over medical marijuana, and more.

'Shroom decriminalization could be coming to the nation's capital. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Indiana GOP Senator Drops Bid to Force Marijuana Prosecutions. Sen. Mike Young (R) has dropped a bill that would have allowed the state attorney general to appoint special prosecutors to take over criminal cases that local prosecutors decide not to pursue. The bill was filed in response to the Indianapolis prosecutor's new policy of not pressing charges for small-time marijuana cases. Young let the measure die after the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council argued the proposal wrongly usurped the discretion that county prosecutors must have about how to use their staff and budgets on which cases to pursue.

Kentucky Poll Finds Strong Support for Medical Marijuana, Near Majority for Marijuana Legalization.A poll conducted by two nonprofit groups, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, has support for marijuana legalization at 49% and support for medical marijuana at 90%. That's up 12 points for the latter and 23 points for the former over 2012.

Vermont Committee OKs Bill to Legalize Marijuana Sales and Limit THC Potency. The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to advance a bill to legalize and tax marijuana sales. SB 54 passed out of the Government Operations Committee a day earlier. It now heads for the House Appropriations Committee before going to a House floor vote. It was approved by the Senate last year, and that vote is still in effect.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Posts Medical Marijuana Rules. The state Department of Health and Human Services has posted rules that make changes to the state's medical marijuana system, including a new fee structure and a license structure based on the provider's growing space. The rules are designed to implement a new medical marijuana law the legislature approved last year. The rules are open for public comment until the end of the month.

Rhode Island Legislators End Bid to Regulate Medical Marijuana Outlets. Lawmakers voted Tuesday in unanimous votes on identical bills in both houses to remove the "legislative veto" language over medical marijuana and hemp regulations that was included in the state budget. They have backed down from a fight with Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) over who will control licensing of six new medical marijuana dispensaries.

Psychedelics

Measure to Decriminalize Psychedelics Advances in Washington, DC. A proposed ballot initiative that would decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics has been given preliminary approval by the District's Board of Elections. Now, the board must approve a short title and summary statement, then the official language with be published in the DC register, after which a ten-day challenge period will take place, and after that, the board will meet again to give final approval to the language. Then, Decriminalize Nature DC will have 180 days to come up with 25,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

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14. Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Heads for House Floor Vote, Thai Opium Cultivation Declines, More... (2/6/20)

Marijuana decriminalization is moving in Virginia, medical marijuana home cultivation is moving in New Hampshire, a class action lawsuit goes after Detroit-area car seizures, and more.

There are fewer of these in Thailand these days. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor Renews Marijuana Legalization Pledge in Budget Proposal and Speech. In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) reiterated his call for marijuana legalization. He also put money where his mouth is by including funding for a legal marijuana regulatory framework in the budget proposal submitted to legislators. He also called for regional coordination in marijuana legalization. "The patchwork of cannabis and vaping laws are impossible to enforce. We will work with our neighboring states to make our laws safe, uniform, and enforceable. Like it or not, legalized marijuana is a short drive away in Massachusetts and New York is soon to follow," he added. "Right now do you realize that what you can buy legally in Massachusetts right across the border can land you in prison here in Connecticut for up to a year?"

Virginia General Assembly Blocks Marijuana Legalization, But Advances Decriminalization Bill. The House Courts of Justice Committee voted Wednesday to refer three marijuana legalization bills for study, effectively killing them for this session. At the same time, the committee voted to approve a decriminalization bill, HB 972, setting it up for a House floor vote. Similar legislation is also moving in the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation Bill. The state Senate Thursday approved a bill that would allow patients and caregivers to grow their own medicine. SB 420 now heads to the House, which has passed similar legislation with strong support. The bill allows for the cultivation of three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) vetoed a similar bill last year. The House voted to override his veto, but the Senate fell three votes short of doing so.

Asset Forfeiture

Class Action Lawsuit Targets Detroit Car Seizures. A class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Detroit Wednesday accuses the Wayne County Sheriff's Office of seizing thousands of cars and other property belonging to residents who have not committed crimes in violation of their constitutional rights. "Innocent property owners find themselves ensnared in this system," the lawsuit asserts, leaving them to face the "permanent loss of their car or other property, even when someone else is alleged to have committed a crime without the property owner's knowledge or consent." The lawsuit was filed by the libertarian Institute for Justice.

Drug Testing

Ohio Supreme Court to Decide Whether Worker Drug Testing That Exposed Genitals Invades Privacy. The state Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a case where workers at the company Sterilite had their genitals viewed during random drug tests. Four employees of the company sued claiming an invasion of privacy. The case was originally thrown out by a Stark County Common Pleas judge in 2017, but both sides appealed, and the case is now before the state's high court. Employees at the company were asked to submit to "direct observation" random drug tests where drug test administrators watched their groin areas while they produced urine specimens. Two of the plaintiffs were fired because they didn't provide a urine sample within the two-and-a-half hours allotted, according to court records. The original lawsuit seeks reinstatement with back pay for some of the plaintiffs. All four plaintiffs are seeking damages to compensate for pain, suffering and embarrassment.

International

Nigerian Governor Lobbies President to Legalize Marijuana. Ondo State Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu met with President Buhari on Tuesday and renewed his call for marijuana legalization. He argued that legalization would bring economic and health benefits to the country. "It's not because I take it; I take CBD, that's the oil, for medical purposes. I am convinced about the use to which we can put marijuana," Akeredolu said. "I know of the fact because we had to bring in experts, who have gone round and believe that the strain of marijuana that we grow in Ogbese in Ondo State is the best in the world. So, if you have that then a government must find a way to put it into good use. Our own is that the pathway to growing marijuana is for medical reasons, not for anybody to smoke."

Thai Opium Cultivation Keeps Declining, UNODC Says. Opium cultivation dropped last year, continuing a downward trend that began in 2014, according to a new UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey. The amount of land cultivated with poppies dropped 11% last year, down to about 80,000 acres. UNODC said that "the highest levels of cultivation continue to take place in unstable and conflict prone areas of Shan and Kachin." Production now is less than one-fifth it was at its peak in 1996.

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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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