Breaking News:EVENT: No Time Like the Present: Drug Policy Reform is More Urgent Than Ever

Drug War Chronicle #1092 - April 3, 2020

1. Faced with Coronavirus, Big Cities Begin to Forego Drug Arrests, Prosecutions [FEATURE]

The coronavirus pandemic is pushing police and prosecutors to forego small-time drug busts and prosecutions as a means of preserving the public health.

2. Denver Pot Shop Closure Reversed, Amsterdam Cannabis Cafes Reopen, MedMj Businesses Essential More... (3/25/20)

Marijuana retail outlets stay open in Denver and Amsterdam after pandemic-inspired efforts to shut them down inspire long lines, drug reform and public health groups urge governors to keep medical marijuana dispensaries open, and more.

3. US Indicts Venezuela's Maduro for "Narco-Terrorism," A Call to End Marijuana Arrests, Jailings, More... (3/26/20)

The US indicts a leftist Latin American leader for drug trafficking (but not a rightist one), a Michigan prosecutor gets nailed for embezzling asset forfeiture funds, and more.

4. OR Inits Seek Signatures Online, French Cannabis Prices Rise Fast, More... (3/27/20)

Mexico is unlikely to meet an April 30 deadline to legalize marijuana as its Senate is suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis, Oregon drug decriminalization and therapeutic psilocybin initiatives now are seeking signatures online, and more.

5. MO and OK Inits Could Fall Victim to Pandemic, COVID-19 Spreads Behind Bars, More... (3/30/20)

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on state-level marijuana legalization initiatives, Pennsylvania says needle exchanges are "life-sustaining" during the pandemic, Vancouver moves to allow "safe supply" of regulated drugs during the crisis, and more.

6. NY Legalization Bid Could Fall Victim to COVID, Dutch Cannabis Cafes Open for Carryout, More... (3/31/20)

Marijuana legalization didn't make into New York's draft budget proposal, Netherlands cannabis cafes reopen for carryout, DC psychedelic decriminalization activists find creative ways to seek signatures, and more.

7. NY Governor Says No Legalization in State Budget, First Federal Prisoner COVID-19 Death, More... (4/1/20)

It looks like coronavirus has killed marijuana legalization in New York this year, a new nonprofit focused on psychedelic education has emerged, a nonviolent drug offender is the first federal prisoner to die of COVID-19, and more.

8. Philippine Drug War Rages Despite Pandemic, NORML Issues Marijuana Policy Crisis Guidance, More... (4/2/20)

President Trump showily announces a ramping up of the drug war in the Caribbean, NORML issues pot policy guidance for lawmakers during the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine drug war continues despite the pandemic, and more.

1. Faced with Coronavirus, Big Cities Begin to Forego Drug Arrests, Prosecutions [FEATURE]

Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of pieces we will be doing that will focus on the coronavirus pandemic and its various intersections with drug policy, criminal justice, drug use, and the drug trade.

In a time of global pandemic, small-time drug busts are increasingly seen as a luxury we can't afford. (Creative Commons)
Arresting and imprisoning people for drug offenses is a luxury America's biggest cities are finding they can no longer afford as they struggle with the coronavirus pandemic. Now several of them are leading the way in jettisoning the long-entrenched but totally discretionary policing and prosecutorial practice.

Concerns over officer safety, public safety, and keeping jail populations down in a time of social distancing are driving the moves, which are only temporary. But perhaps politicians, police and prosecutors will have a chance to break their addiction to punishing drug users and sellers by going cold turkey amidst the pandemic. That would be a silver lining to the current crisis.

As the pandemic morphed from looming threat to ongoing crisis in mid-March, forward-looking police departments and prosecutors' offices began to act. In Philadelphia, progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner cited public health concerns as he called for police to revise their arrest policies. The following day, Police Chief Danielle Outlaw issued an internal memo telling police not to arrest people for drug and other low-level non-violent offenses -- at least for now.

Instead, those who would have been arrested are being briefly detained to be identified and while officers gather evidence and then released. Their actual arrests somewhere down the road would be "effectuated by arrest warrant," according to the memo.

In a statement released the following day, Outlaw laid out a public health and police officer safety rationale for the move: "Our mission is to protect and promote the health and safety of our officers and the community we serve to the best of our ability while continuing to discharge every aspect of our core duties," she wrote.

Philadelphia isn't "turning a blind eye to crime," Outlaw told local media as she tried to assuage fears of criminals run amok. "This is similar to the 'summons process' that is utilized in many other counties throughout the Commonwealth. To reiterate, criminal offenders will be held accountable for the crimes they commit," she said.

But that's only if prosecutors in Krasner's office decide to pursue those cases after the fact. And Krasner is not a big fan of the war on drugs. He applauded Outlaw's move in an interview with local media the same day: "It's clear to me that the police commissioner is trying to be thoughtful and creative as we move into uncharted territory," Krasner said, "We commend her for putting the safety of the public's health first."

It's not just Philadelphia. Just days later, Krasner joined DAs from 30 other cities in signing on to an open letter urging local governments to make change in the face of COVID-19. The prosecutors, including those from Baltimore, New York, San Francisco, and St. Louis, called for police to adopt "cite and release policies for offenses which pose no immediate physical threat to the community, including simple possession of controlled substances." They also called for the release of people being held solely because they can't come up with cash bail and for reducing jail and prison populations "to promote the health safety, staff, those incarcerated, and visitors."

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby cited the Philadelphia no-arrest policy when she ordered her prosecutors to dismiss any pending charges for drug possession and attempted drug distribution, as well as such offenses as urinating in public, open container, prostitution and minor traffic offenses.

In a memo to prosecutors, she wrote that such crimes pose no risk to public safety and arrestees would normally be released before trial anyway, so it made sense to take that action to limit the threat of a coronavirus outbreak behind bars. "An outbreak in prison or jails could potentially be catastrophic," she wrote. "Now is not the time for a piecemeal approach where we go into court and argue one by one for the release of at-risk individuals."

Baltimore Police have not adopted a no-arrest policy for such offenses, but a day after Mosby announced her moratorium on new prosecutions, the department said it had given officers guidance to use their own discretion in making low-level arrests to limit their exposure to the virus.

"For the safety of our residents and officers, the Baltimore Police Department is assessing and evaluating what calls-for-service our officers will be responding to in order to minimize the potential for exposure to COVID-19," the department said in a statement. "This includes giving guidance to officers in using their discretion to further minimize arrests on low-level and non-violent offenses, especially those outlined in the State's Attorney letter."

"We are very encouraged to see some policymakers, like Marilyn Mosby, putting public health first and freeing up important public safety resources at this critical time," said Matt Sutton, director of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Drug use does not pose any risk to public safety, so it makes sense that we would not arrest or prosecute people for that alone. Doing so is contrary to public health interests, subjecting them to incarceration where they would be put at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 or spreading it within an already unshielded population that is incapable of practicing the kind of social distancing and increased hygiene measures the rest of us are taking."

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Cook County State''s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that her office was putting a moratorium on prosecuting low-level, non-violent drug offenses while the pandemic rages. "Out of an abundance of caution for the health of law enforcement and the community at large, the State's Attorney's Office will not be pursuing cases which pose little to no risk to public safety at this time," Foxx said.

She added that the move was also necessitated by staffing reductions at the Illinois State Police lab. Even if police seized drugs, there is for now no way to test them, thwarting moving forward with prosecutions.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said officers won't stop making arrests for "large amounts" of drugs and downplayed the effect of the staffing reductions at the state crime lab. He also implied many drug arrestees are not being booked into jails.

"We can make an arrest," he said. "An individual could be released pending further investigation. So just because the drugs aren't being tested right away, it doesn't prohibit our ability to do our job. It will prolong it. But we can certainly conduct narcotics investigations that extend when the state lab reopens."

But in New York City, the current epicenter of the pandemic in the US, where dozens of NYPD officers have already contracted COVID-19, the department said it "won't slow arrests." If the NYPD is being stubbornly recalcitrant, at least one of the city's borough prosecutors is getting on board with using discretion. Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez announced that his prosecutors wouldn't be going after "low-level offenses that don't jeopardize public safety."

The NYPD's stance is hard to fathom, especially as the city is being swamped by a deluge of new coronavirus cases, and the department may by forced to shift its positions as the crisis deepens. At this point, though, it seems to be suffering from a sort of institutional inertia, blindly valuing the arrest of small-time drug offenders and other scofflaws over the health and safety of its own officers and the city's residents. In the midst of the current crisis, it would behoove police and prosecutors everywhere to knock off the rote drug busts and concentrate on the threat staring them in the face.

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

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2. Denver Pot Shop Closure Reversed, Amsterdam Cannabis Cafes Reopen, MedMj Businesses Essential More... (3/25/20)

Marijuana retail outlets stay open in Denver and Amsterdam after pandemic-inspired efforts to shut them down inspire long lines, drug reform and public health groups urge governors to keep medical marijuana dispensaries open, and more.

Amsterdam cannabis cafe. It's open for carryout after the government had to reverse a pandemic-inspired ban.
Marijuana Policy

Denver Mayor Announces Liquor Stores and Pot Shops Have to Close but Forced to Backtrack in Face of Large Crowds. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) announced Monday afternoon that marijuana shops and liquor stores would have to close their doors in response to the coronavirus pandemic but was forced to reverse course later that same day. In response to his announcement, city residents began swarming liquor stores and pot shops -- violating social distancing requirements -- sometimes with lines a block long, forcing the mayor to reconsider. Now, the booze and pot shops can stay open, but must enforce physical distancing requirements.

Medical Marijuana

Public Health, Drug Reform Groups Urge Governors to Deem Medical Marijuana Dispensaries as "Essential" Businesses. A dozen public health and drug reform organizations have sent an open letter to every governor in the country, urging them to recognize medical marijuana as a necessary medicine, and to declare dispensaries "essential" businesses that can stay open during periods of reduced movement related to the coronavirus pandemic. Signatories include the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, NORML, and the Harm Reduction Coalition, as well as public health groups.

Psychedelics

Denver Psychedelic Reform Panel Holds Second Meeting. The Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review panel -- the nation's first such entity -- held its second meeting Tuesday and reached agreement on criteria for law enforcement reporting on activities related to the 'shrooms. Data collected should include age, location of offense, the offense itself (possession, distribution, cultivation), the quantity involved, race, and whether a prosecution ensued, among other things.

International

Holland Reopens Cannabis Cafes Just A Day After Closing Them in Coronavirus Move. The Dutch government on Monday night abruptly reversed a day-old decision to shut down the country's famous cannabis cafes as part of a social distancing response to the coronavirus pandemic. The reversal came as the government was confronted with long lines of people queuing up to score after the ban was initially announced. Now, the cannabis cafes can stay open for carryout purchases only. There was no respite, however, for Amsterdam's sex clubs and brothels. They will have to stay shuttered until April 6.

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3. US Indicts Venezuela's Maduro for "Narco-Terrorism," A Call to End Marijuana Arrests, Jailings, More... (3/26/20)

The US indicts a leftist Latin American leader for drug trafficking (but not a rightist one), a Michigan prosecutor gets nailed for embezzling asset forfeiture funds, and more.

The US escalates its feud with Venezuela by indicting President Nicholas Maduro for "narco-terrorism. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Law Enforcement Officials, Medical Professionals, Clergy, and Cannabis Advocates Call for the Cease of Cannabis Arrests and Release of Incarcerated Cannabis Offenders in Light of COVID-19.The Marijuana Policy Project and other organizations are urging law enforcement officials to dramatically curtail arrests for nonviolent crimes, including ceasing arrests for cannabis offenses. In addition to curtailing arrests, the organizations are calling for officials to release or grant clemency to those incarcerated for cannabis offenses along with dramatically reducing the number of incarcerated nonviolent prisoners, whether sentenced or un-sentenced. The Marijuana Policy Project, Last Prisoner Project, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, National Cannabis Industry Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have sent a letter calling for these actions to the National District Attorneys Association, National Governors Association, National Sheriffs' Association, National Association of Chiefs of Police, National Correctional Industries Association, American Correctional Association, and AFSCME.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Urges Absentee Voting. New Approach South Dakota, the group behind the Constitutional Amendment A marijuana legalization initiative, announced this week is shifting its campaign to social media and urging state residents to consider absentee voting options. Unlike several other state-level legalization initiative campaigns, this one has already qualified for the ballot, so it doesn't have to worry about the coronavirus pandemic's impact on signature-gathering; now it's a matter of getting votes in the midst of the crisis.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Prosecutor Charged with Running Criminal Enterprise for Asset Forfeiture Fund Abuses. Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith has been hit with a slew of criminal charges for allegedly taking funds seized from drug and other suspects for his own personal use. He faces ten charges that include five counts of embezzlement, and single charges of running a criminal enterprise, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit forgery, misconduct in office and accessory after the fact. State officials said Smith used the money for a personal security system for his house, country club parties, campaign expenses and to buy flowers and make-up for his secretaries. Smith's former chief of staff, his current chief of operations, and a local businessman were also charged. They're alleged to have embezzled more than $600,000 since 2012.

Foreign Policy

US Indicts Venezuelan President Maduro on "Narco-Terrorism" Charges. Federal prosecutors on Thursday unveiled indictments of President Nicholas Maduro and other top Venezuelan officials on "narco-terrorism" charges in a new escalation of the Trump administration's pressure campaign against Caracas. US Attorney General William Barr accused Maduro and the others of conspiring with a dissident faction of the Colombian FARC guerrillas "to flood the United States with cocaine." Barr's move against Maduro stands in sharp contrast with the US approach to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, a staunch rightist and US ally, whom federal prosecutors have accused of taking bribes from drug traffickers, but who remains unindicted.

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4. OR Inits Seek Signatures Online, French Cannabis Prices Rise Fast, More... (3/27/20)

Mexico is unlikely to meet an April 30 deadline to legalize marijuana as its Senate is suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis, Oregon drug decriminalization and therapeutic psilocybin initiatives now are seeking signatures online, and more.

psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms (Greenoid/Flickr)
Drug Policy

Oregon Drug Decriminalization Initiative Moves to Online Signature Gathering. The campaign behind the Oregon Drug Treatment and Recovery Act initiative, which would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs, is shifting to online signature gathering as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down normal signature gathering. The campaign says it has already gathered large numbers of signatures, but still needs 8,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. To sign on, click on the link above.

Psychedelics

Oregon Therapeutic Psilocybin Initiative Moves to Online Signature Gathering. The campaign to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes is moving to online signature gathering as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down normal signature gathering. The Oregon Psilocybin Services Act campaign needs 112,000 valid voter signatures by July and says it already has 128,000 raw signatures but wants to create a cushion by adding at least 15,000 more signers. To add your signature, click on this form.

International

France Sees Marijuana, Hash Prices Surge During Coronavirus Lockdown. The price of a 100-gram bar of hashish has nearly doubled in Marseille in a week, thanks to tight border controls imposed as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Similar reports are coming in from Bordeaux and Rennes. Police worry that a prolonged shortage could fan trouble in restive Paris suburbs and prisons.

Mexico Senate Suspends Activities, Puts Marijuana Legalization Deadline in Doubt. The Senate agreed Thursday to postpone most legislative activity because of the coronavirus pandemic, raising questions about whether it can now comply with a Supreme Court-imposed April 30 deadline to approve marijuana legalization. Senate committees approved a bill earlier this month, but it still needs to pass the full Senate and the Chamber of Deputies and signed into law by the president.

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5. MO and OK Inits Could Fall Victim to Pandemic, COVID-19 Spreads Behind Bars, More... (3/30/20)

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on state-level marijuana legalization initiatives, Pennsylvania says needle exchanges are "life-sustaining" during the pandemic, Vancouver moves to allow "safe supply" of regualted drugs during the crisis, and more.

COVID-19 is in the nation's jails and prisons.
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Likely to Fall Victim to Coronavirus Pandemic. Missourians for a New Approach, the folks behind the state's marijuana legalization initiative, are warning that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely mean that the effort will not be able to gather enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The campaign needs 160,000 valid voter signatures by May 3, but at this point has only 60,000 raw signatures. "Yes, it's a terrible setback," said Dan Viets, board chair of the group. "When there's no public gatherings, when people stay in their homes… it's very difficult to find voters."

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative in Doubt as State Shuts Down Signature Gathering. The campaign to put a marijuana legalization initiative, State Question 807 is likely to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of a 30-day statewide emergency declaration, Secretary of State Mike Rogers has ordered a pause to all initiative signature gathering activities. The campaign needs to collect 178,000 signatures in 90 days to qualify for the November ballot. It would be "really difficult, if not impossible to imagine a scenario in which an initiative petition campaign could responsibly and feasibly collect the signatures necessary in order to make the 2020 ballot if that campaign doesn't already have the signatures on hand," said campaign spokesman Ryan Kiesel.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Needle Exchanges Are "Life-Sustaining," State Says. Needle exchanges are technically illegal in the state, but the state Department of Health has deemed them a "life-sustaining" service, allowing them to stay open amid the shutdown of other businesses and nonprofits. Some 20 such programs operate in the state, and advocates are hoping this designation could lead to their legalization down the line.

Incarceration

Coronavirus Spread Accelerates in US Jails and Prisons. Jails and prisons across the US are reporting an accelerating spread of COVID-19 with more than 226 inmates and 131 staff with confirmed cases. In New York City alone, at least 132 inmates and 104 jail staff have been infected. Jails and prisons are responding in varying ways, including releasing thousands of inmates from detention, some with little or no screening before they are released.

International

Vancouver Moving to Allow Take-Home Doses of Regulated Drugs. Canada's British Columbia is moving to provide drug users with take-home supplies of regulated substances, including opioids, stimulants, tobacco, and alcohol. Vancouver has long called for "safe supply" for drug users, but the combination of two public health crises -- the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing overdose epidemic -- has finally made it a reality, with the city drafting new guidelines to allow the practice. "These guidelines enable us to provide a safe supply for people and to ensure that they're able to comply with our public-health advice around isolation or quarantine, should that be required," said Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry. Recent changes to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and provincial prescribing guidelines made the move possible.

Mexican Opium Poppy Cultivation Drops 9%, UNODC Says. The land area under opium poppy cultivation decreased by 9% between July 2017 and June 2018, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Monday. Land under cultivation fell from 78,000 acres to 70,000 acres. Poppy cultivation was centered in the Golden Triangle region of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua meet, but was also grown in northern Nayarit and in the Sierra Madre del Sur of Guerrero. Analysts said the likely explanation for the decrease was a sharp decline in opium gum prices caused by rising demand for synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

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6. NY Legalization Bid Could Fall Victim to COVID, Dutch Cannabis Cafes Open for Carryout, More... (3/31/20)

Marijuana legalization didn't make into New York's draft budget proposal, Netherlands cannabis cafes reopen for carryout only, DC psychedelic decriminalization activists find creative ways to seek signatures, and more.

Closed since mid-month because of the pandemic, Dutch cannabis cafes are now reopening, but for carryout only. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Push to Allow Marijuana Deliveries. State Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago) last month filed HB 5274, which would allow for both medical and recreational marijuana deliveries. Now, she is pushing Gov. JB Pritzker (D) to take action to speed the process in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. "I would be happy to see if the governor maybe could make a special executive order allowing that, or us being able to get that legislation through maybe quicker than normal this year to provide for that," she said. The state is already allowing curbside pickup of customer orders.

New York Marijuana Legalization Likely to Fall Victim to Coronavirus Pandemic. A draft state budget report does not include marijuana legalization, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) had sought prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. Instead the draft budget says that the "Adopted Budget omits the Executive proposal to legalize adult use cannabis." While achieving legalization through the budget process would be the easiest way to get it done, it could still be done through separate legislation, but that path is more difficult.

Psychedelics

DC Psychedelic Decriminalization Campaign Explores Options. Decriminalize Nature DC, the group behind a psychedelic decriminalization initiative aimed at the November ballot, has been forced to suspend conventional signature gathering because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so now the campaign is looking at other options, including "micro-scale petition signature collection." The campaign would mail petitions to supporters, who could collect signatures from "registered DC voters in their immediate vicinity, such as family, roommates, friends and close-by neighbors" and then return the petitions to campaign headquarters.

International

Dutch Cannabis Cafes Reopen, But Only for Carryout. Cannabis cafes were among the many businesses shut down by the Dutch government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 15. They have now been allowed to reopen, but only for carryout orders. Dutch authorities made the move to avoid driving marijuana sales underground to an unregulated black market.

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7. NY Governor Says No Legalization in State Budget, First Federal Prisoner COVID-19 Death, More... (4/1/20)

It looks like coronavirus has killed marijuana legalization in New York this year, a new nonprofit focused on psychedelic education has emerged, a nonviolent drug offender is the first federal prisoner to die of COVID-19, and more.

Prison is no place to be in the midst of a pandemic. (ussc.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Advocates Call on Governor to End Ban on Recreational Marijuana Sales. Marijuana legalization advocates, doctors, and Cannabis Control Commission member Shaleen Title are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker (R) to end his ban on recreational marijuana sales because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most other legal marijuana states are allowing some form of sales. Baker has argued that because Massachusetts is one of the only states in the region that allows recreational marijuana sales, leaving the stores open would attract traffic from other states.

New York Governor Says Marijuana Legalization Won't Be in Budget. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Tuesday the state is not likely to legalize marijuana as part of its budget process, dramatically reducing the likelihood that such a measure will pass this year. Cuomo had pushed for inclusion in the budget, but with the budget deadline looming and the state in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuomo said legalization wasn't likely.

Incarceration

First Known Federal Inmate, a Nonviolent Drug Offender, Dies of Coronavirus. The US Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has confirmed that a federal prisoner had died from COVID-19. That is the first known coronavirus death in the federal system. He was identified as Patrick Jones, 49, who was serving a 27-year sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. He was doing time at a low-security federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana. Fourteen other prisoners and 13 staff members are also infected by the virus.

Federal Bureau of Prisons Orders Prisoner Lockdown. The BOP announced Tuesday that it is moving to Phase Five of its COVID-19 Action Plan, which means all federal prisoners will be confined in their cells for the next 14 days to slow the spread of the virus. The move comes "in response to a growing number of quarantine and isolation cases in our facilities," the BOP said. The BOP also said it is coordinating with the US Marshals Service to "significantly decrease" the arrival of new prisoners. BOP said it would reevaluate after 14 days.

California to Release 3,500 Prisoners Early as COVID-19 Spreads in State Prisons. Lawyers for the state told a panel of federal judges Tuesday the state is taking "extraordinary and unprecedented protective measures" to slow the spread of the virus, including plans to accelerate release and parole dates for 3,500 inmates serving terms for nonviolent crimes and already due to be released within 60 days. The releases are to be conducted "within the next several weeks." The state has already been locking down cell blocks where prisoners exhibit flu-like symptoms.

Psychedelics

Denver-Based Nonprofit Launches National Organization to Educate Public and Develop Leadership in Psychedelic Ecosystem. The Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform, and Education ("SPORE") announced today its nonprofit status as an organization that envisions a world where everyone has safe and responsible access to psychedelics, including psilocybin mushrooms. SPORE was founded by two proponents of the Denver Psilocybin Initiative, Kevin Matthews and Matthew Duffy, to educate the public and develop leadership in the rapidly growing psychedelic ecosystem to support human wellbeing. The group is being sponsored by the nonprofit group Reconsider and a $50,000 donation from Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps.

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8. Philippine Drug War Rages Despite Pandemic, NORML Issues Marijuana Policy Crisis Guidance, More... (4/2/20)

President Trump showily announces a ramping up of the drug war in the Caribbean, NORML issues marijuana policy guidance for lawmakers during the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine drug war continues despite the pandemic, and more.

Whether its drug users or quarantine violators, Philippine President Duterte has a plan: Just kill them. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

NORML Issues Cannabis Policy Guidance for Lawmakers and Prosecutors for Protecting Public Health During COVID-19 Crisis. NORML and its national network of advocacy chapters have released a memo to state lawmakers, regulators, prosecutors, and other interested parties providing guidance for how they can take emergency actions to better promote the health and welfare of cannabis consumers and the general public during the COVID-19 pandemic. In states where marijuana is still illegal, the memo calls for immediately deprioritizing marijuana law enforcement, the dropping of charges for pending nonviolent marijuana offenses, and the release of people in jail or prison solely for nonviolent marijuana offenses. In states where it is legal, NORML is calling for pot shops and their suppliers to be designated "essential services," allowing for the home delivery and curbside pickup of marijuana products, and expanding the ability of doctors to advise patients via telemedicine.

Washington Governor Signs Bill to Diversify State's Marijuana Industry. Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed into law HB 2870, "allowing additional marijuana retail licenses for social equity purposes." The measure will allow regulators to direct unused marijuana business licenses to people from communities most negatively impacted by the drug war. It creates a state Marijuana Equity Task Force and allows the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to grant forfeited, canceled, revoked or otherwise unissued marijuana business licenses to qualified equity applicants.

Drug Policy

Trump Doubles Military Assets in Caribbean in Bid to Bolster Drug Fight after Maduro Indictment. The Trump administration hijacked the daily White House coronavirus pandemic briefing Wednesday to announce that it was deploying more US Navy warships and aircraft to the Caribbean in a bid to prevent drug cartels and "corrupt actors" like Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro from using the pandemic to increase drug smuggling. The move follows the indictment of Maduro and a dozen current or former Venezuelan officials on charges of narco-terrorism conspiracy, drug trafficking and corruption. "We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives," Trump said. The Venezuelan government rejected the move, saying it was merely an effort to district from the Trump administration's incompetent handling of pandemic.

International

Mexico Senate Asks Supreme Court for More Time on Cannabis Legalization. Looking at a Supreme Court-imposed deadline to end marijuana prohibition, but faced with the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, the Mexican Senate has asked the high court to "extend deadlines" until "the Senate is in a position to fulfill the responsibilities towards judiciary power bodies." The original court-imposed deadline was October 2019, but the court granted an extension after the Senate failed to agree on the bill. The court has said it would file no more extensions, but senators think the current crisis may be an exception. They'll have to wait to find out, though; the Supreme Court itself is shut down through at least through mid-month.

Philippine Drug War Rages on in Midst of Coronavirus Pandemic. President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a national partial lockdown on March 15 to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but nothing is stopping his bloody war on drugs. Even amidst the lockdown, drug war killings are continuing. At least nine people have been killed by unknown gunmen in Cebu Province alone. "Reports of drug-related killings continuing amid the lockdown order are deeply concerning, but not surprising," said Rachel Chhoa-Howard of Amnesty International. "The climate of impunity in the Philippines is so entrenched that police and others remain free to kill without consequence." Duterte has also threatened to have the police and military shoot people who violate quarantine.

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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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