Drug War Chronicle #1095 - April 30, 2020

1. With Psychedelic Legalization on the Horizon, How Should We Get There from Here? [FEATURE]

Checking in with last weekend's virtual Psychedelic Liberty Summit.

2. Medical Marijuana Update

There's a push on to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to get pandemic aid relief, Arkansans are heading across the state line for cheaper, more accessible medical marijuana, and more.

3. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Even during the pandemic, corrupt cops keep going down. A former Ohio DARE officer is in big trouble and so is yet another Baltimore police officer.

4. Push to Allow Marijuana Businesses Pandemic Aid, Bloody Gun Battles in Mexico, More... (4/23/20)

A push is on in Congress to secure coronavirus pandemic relief aid for the legal marijuana industry, a poll suggests that a DC psychedelic decriminalization initiative could win -- if it can make the ballot -- and more.

5. Plaintiffs in MJ Scheduling Case vs. DEA Look to Supreme Court, NJ Voters Ready to Approve Legal MJ, More... (4/24/20)

A New Jersey poll shows strong support for approving a November marijuana legalization initiative, California state government agencies are moving to ease the pandemic burden on marijuana businesses, the Supreme Court is being asked to rule on whether marijuana's designation as a Schedule I drug is unconstitutional, and more.

6. Peru Coca Prices Plunge Amid Pandemic, Louisiana Pot Poll Shows State Not There Yet, More... (4/27/20)

A Navy destoryer on an anti-drug mission is forced to return to port, Peruvian coca growers are taking a financial hit during the pandemic, Montana GOP elected officials are opposing an effort to get electronic signature-gathering for a marijuana legalization campaign, and more.

7. US Virgin Islands Governor Urges Passage of Legalization Bill, Call for Pandemic Relief for Marijuana Businesses, More... (4/28/20)

The clamor grows for including state-legal marijuana businesses in coronavirus pandemic in federal economic relief packages, Arkansas medical marijuana patients are heading to Oklahoma for cheaper prices and easier access, and more.

8. Coronavirus Doesn't Halt Colombia Coca Offensive, MT Court Hears Pleas for Electronic Signature-Gathering, More... (4/29/20)

Whether Montana marijuana legalization campaigns can use electronic signature-gathering is now in the hands of a state judge, an Indiana judge orders the return of a Land Rover whose case changed federal asset forfeiture law, Colombia's campaign against coca continues despite the pandemic, and more.

1. With Psychedelic Legalization on the Horizon, How Should We Get There from Here? [FEATURE]

At this point, it's almost a commonplace to say that a psychedelic renaissance is underway. Microdosing has been a thing for years now, scientists around the world are reporting exciting spiritual and therapeutic research results, and venture capitalists are beginning to edge their way into what they hope is the next lucrative drug commodity market.

magic mushrooms (Creative Commons)
But also bubbling up is a social and political movement to free psychedelics (and their users) from the fetters of drug prohibition. Beginning with Denver, a handful of cities across the country have passed what are in effect municipal decriminalization ordinances, with the Decriminalize Nature campaign promoting similar efforts in dozens more.

This year, Oregon and the District of Columbia have psychedelic reform initiatives still in the signature-gathering phase. While hobbled by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, both could still make the ballot this year. (A similar campaign in California recently bit the dust, citing said pandemic.)

The late April Psychedelic Liberty Summit sponsored by the Chacruna Institute for Plant Medicines, was yet another manifestation of the rising interest in psychedelics. "We provide public education and cultural understanding about psychedelic plant medicines and promote a bridge between the ceremonial use of sacred plants and psychedelic science," the institute says in its mission statement. It envisions "a world where plant medicines and other psychedelics are preserved, protected, and valued as part of our cultural identity and integrated into our social, legal and health care systems."

Originally set for San Francisco, the two-day series of wide-ranging panels and presentations instead went virtual in the face of pandemic social distancing requirements. "Attendees" viewed remotely as panelists covered topics ranging from "Sacred Peyote Conservation" to "Psychedelic Medicalization: Unpacking the Landscape of Drug Development and Commercialization" to " How Can We Ensure Respectful, Safe, Ethical, Inclusive and Sustainable Sourcing for Psychedelic Plants and Materials?" and beyond.

Numerous panels were devoted to advancing the cause of ending psychedelic prohibition, and weighing heavily on those involved were questions about just how to proceed. Should reform initiatives target a single psychedelic, as the Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative does, should they target all psychedelics or only natural ones (sorry LSD and MDMA), or should the target be broader drug decriminalization?

Similarly, what role should private investment capital play? Are there lessons to be learned from the commodification of cannabis under state-level legalization? And just how should legal or decriminalized psychedelics be made available to the public? Attempts to answer these questions were a central theme of the summit, and what was clear was that although reform thinkers share a common general goal, there's a breadth of opinion about the details.

For Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML and one of the authors of the groundbreaking 1996 Prop 215 campaign that legalized medical marijuana in the state with bare-bones language, psychedelics are a different ball game.

"I don't think marijuana and psychedelics should be legalized on the same model," said Gieringer. "Marijuana is pretty safe even for novices, but psychedelics need to be treated with more respect. This is not something that should just be sold over the counter to adults from the very get go; first time users should be informed of certain cautions, and we need a new paradigm for distributing psychedelics, maybe something more like drug user clubs, with nonprofit organizations -- not commercial operations -- in charge of manufacturing, distributing, and educating users on the use of psychedelic drugs, as well as being responsible for any harmful effects of the drugs."

Gieringer pointed back to Prop 215 and the reefer revolution it unleashed as he urged initiative campaigns to keep it simple.

"I advise the movement to be cautious about overprescribing elaborate regulatory regimes. We didn't do that with marijuana; we just had a set of principles that people shouldn't be arrested for using or cultivating for personal use. We did that deliberately; we knew it was going to be very complicated in a federal system and we left it to government to fill in the details," he said.

"Prop 215 was a very short initiative," Gieringer reminded. "The Oregon initiative has 71 pages and you still can't have psilocybin mushrooms in your house or use them outside one of these organizations that gets set up under the initiative."

That's the wrong approach, he suggested: "We should go back to a broad initiative that embraces the notion that people should be able to use psychedelics for spiritual, medical, and personal illumination in general, and leave it to the state and federal government to fill in the details."

And not just do it one hallucinogen at a time.

"We ought to approach this more broadly and not just do one drug at a time," he argued. "If we do psilocybin, what about peyote? What about ayahuasca? What about everything else? I favor a broader approach making psychedelics available to people want them on a private use basis. Let's think globally and act locally and wait for our eggs to hatch here. Let's go for simple initiatives that give people direct access to psychedelics."

Any such movement for psychedelic legalization or decriminalization -- as opposed to broader drug legalization or decriminalization -- will need to be self-generating and self-supporting, argued Sean McAllister, a Denver-based attorney who was chairman of the board for Sensible Colorado when that group led the nation's first successful marijuana legalization initiative in 2012 and a consultant for Decriminalize Denver, the group behind the city's 2019 psilocybin initiative.

"Unlike cannabis, psilocybin has only been used by an estimated two to five percent of the population, and only one tenth of one percent are current psychedelic users," he noted. "That's a much smaller pool, and any drug reform initiative requires the support of those who do not use. We're asking the majority to protect our rights, so we have to convince the majority our movement makes sense and won't endanger the public safety or health."

By including reporting requirements for psilocybin-related law enforcement encounters and other public safety and public health impacts via the mayor's psilocybin review panel, on which McAllister sits, the Denver initiative was helping lay the educational groundwork for doing that convincing, he argued.

"We'll write a report at the end of the year assessing the impacts of the initiative, but really nothing has changed," McAllister reported. "Law enforcement was concerned people would be dealing psilocybin on the streets and getting high on the streets, but our community is pretty self-regulating. There's been no explosion or public health or public safety problems. We hope that our report will be of great value to other cities looking to decriminalize psilocybin and to the movement as we attempt to change laws across the country."

But that movement won't be able to count on the largesse of traditional drug reform funders, McAllister warned, noting that statewide initiative campaigns cost millions of dollars.

"There is just not that much interest in psychedelics only," he said. "The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) believes in legalizing all drugs; it doesn't believe in drug exceptionalism. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is primarily focused on MDMA and PTSD. We don't have tens or hundreds of thousands of people in prison, so we don't have the same social justice issues around psychedelics. The ACLU isn't going to lead our movement. We have to step up and build our own organizations and come together as a movement."

"There are a lot of benefits to decriminalizing psychedelics that we need to study further, and it's fascinating to see all these movements for decriminalization popping up around the country, but at the same time I'm ambivalent about it because there's also simultaneously a movement to just decriminalize all drugs," said Jag Davies, who has long stints as a communications specialist for the DPA and MAPS under his belt.

"And I don't think drug decriminalization is as big a deal and as revolutionary as it's made out to be," Davies continued. "Right now, we have a national poll showing 55 percent support for decriminalizing all drugs."

Even though the argument that "marijuana is safer" was used to great benefit in the Colorado marijuana legalization campaign, Davies warned of its hazards.

"One of the mistakes made with marijuana reform messaging is framing it as a safe or safer drug," he argued. "All drugs are the same in that criminalization isn't an effective policy and is counterproductive to public health, but at the same time there will be some difference in how we think about policies. We need to think about who is benefitting and who is left behind. The benefits of decriminalizing more dangerous drugs are much greater," he added, pointing out that the other Oregon initiative would do just that.

In any case, psychedelic warriors should be part of a greater effort, Davies said.

"Drug decriminalization is perhaps a more effective strategy to reduce the harm in the long term," he said. "Even if you're a psychedelic exceptionalist, it's beneficial to join forces with the broader drug reform movement and the criminal justice movements and get the buy-in from those communities before you make your move."

David Bronner, the Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner's natural soaps, straddles both worlds. He has long supported broad drug reform efforts and this year is putting a million dollars into the Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative.

"Having a well-structured therapeutic model makes it accessible to the average person who is not familiar with psychedelics," Bronner said. "The Oregon model is very much about accessing therapy and likewise making sure there is only minimal taxation -- enough to cover the cost of the program -- but keeping it limited in size and scope, so you can make a good livelihood but not have a hundred chain clinics."

"These are preventative measures so we don't see what happened with cannabis and with there being some kind of controls," he added. "The polling says people aren't familiar with mushrooms and want to see strict controls on access, that it can't be accessed outside the therapeutic model."

What Bronner was alluding to -- the undesirability of turning something ineffable like marijuana or psychedelics into just another capitalist commodity -- Steve DeAngelo addressed head on. And he's particularly well-positioned to: A long-time marijuana movement activist, he founded one of the first dispensaries in the nation, Harborside in Oakland, but also the Arcview Group, the first dedicated marijuana investment network, creating a Faustian bargain with profit-seeking capital.

"With Arcview, we hit on the energy of free enterprise to power the social change we wanted, and a lot of the progress we made is because we did invite the investor class in, but it came at a cost, a significant cost," he said. "Prior to Arcview inviting the investor class in, the movement was driven by people who loved cannabis, but we attracted a lot of people whose motivation was not love of cannabis but love of making money."

"I expected the energy to come but was a little taken aback at the urgency and ferocity of it," DeAngelo continued. "Cannabis lovers took investment money and then ceded control to investors. I saw a lot of people who had spent their lives representing the plant start to lose power, their livelihoods, and their influence over how to explain cannabis to the rest of the world. I fear we could see a lot of the same thing with psychedelics. If that happens, the way these substances are taught to the world is going to change. We could see a model for psychedelics more geared to return for investors than toward a meaningful experience for an individual or for positive social change."

"Psychedelics have always been part of my path and one lesson I learned is that intention drives result," DeAngelo said. The consciousness with which we approach something will have a profound influence on what happens. On a psychic level, on a cosmic level, a different vibration is created when psychedelics are evangelized for the aim of making more money than with a motive of love and sharing and bringing about social change. I'm much more comfortable with a message from people who love psychedelics than people who love money."

And so it goes as the nascent psychedelic liberation movement emerges. There is great debate over tactics and strategies, but a commonality of purpose linked to human liberation and social justice. The path forward is uncertain, but it is one we will make as we walk it.

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2. Medical Marijuana Update

There's a push on to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to get pandemic aid relief, Arkansans are heading across the state line for cheaper, more accessible medical marijuana, and more.

National

Marijuana Associations and Credit Unions Call for Federal Coronavirus Relief for Marijuana Businesses. Some 30 marijuana trade organizations and credit unions sent a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday urging them to work to provide marijuana businesses with access to federal relief funds related to the coronavirus pandemic. Because marijuana remains federally illegal, such businesses are specifically excluded from the relief program under already approved relief packages. The coalition argues that Congress should either issue pandemic relief block grants for the states to decide on their own how to allocate funds, or change current relief aid eligibility requirements to allow marijuana businesses access to those funds,

Arkansas

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Patients Cross into Oklahoma for Cheaper, More Accessible Medicine. Medical marijuana patients in the state are heading across the state line to Oklahoma to get their medicine, according to local media reports. They can buy equivalent products for half the cost in Oklahoma, and that state does not have a limited list of qualifying conditions. Instead, it only requires a doctor's recommendation.

Michigan

Michigan Supreme Court Says Medical Marijuana Law Does Not Overrule Local Zoning Ordinances. Breaking with previous Court of Appeals ruling, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state's medical marijuana law doesn't override local zoning ordinances. The township of Byron had barred registered caregivers from growing on a commercial property, and the high court upheld its ability to do so.

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3. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Even during the pandemic, corrupt cops keep going down. A former Ohio DARE officer is in big trouble and so is yet another Baltimore police officer. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was arrested April 19 for lying to federal investigators about selling cocaine that had been stolen from a record-setting cocaine seizure in 2009. Victor Rivera, who retired in March after 26 years with the department, is the 15th Baltimore police officer to be charged by federal prosecutors in the continuing reverberations of the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal. Rivera went down after another officer was charged in that cocaine theft incident last month, and charging documents in that case said he sold cocaine to one of his informants, received profits from him, and divvied them up with two other detectives. He is charged with perjury and is looking at up to 10 years in federal prison.

In Beavercreek, Ohio, a former Beavercreek DARE officer was arrested on April 20 on federal child pornography charges. Kevin Kovacs, 62, worked for the Beavercreek police from 1992 until his resignation in 2018. He was also the Beavercreek schools DARE officer from 2012 until 2018. He is charged with producing, distributing, receiving, transporting, and possessing child pornography, as well as witness tampering.

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4. Push to Allow Marijuana Businesses Pandemic Aid, Bloody Gun Battles in Mexico, More... (4/23/20)

A push is on in Congress to secure coronavirus pandemic relief aid for the legal marijuana industry, a poll suggests that a DC psychedelic decriminalization initiative could win -- if it can make the ballot -- and more.

Some senators and representatives are pushing to get legal marijuana businesses included in pandemic relief funding. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

US Senators Want Small Marijuana Firms Included in Coronavirus Aid. A group of 10 US senators led by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jackie Rosen (D-NV) have sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to include small, state-legal marijuana businesses and related companies in any future coronavirus relief packages. The letter comes a week after nearly three dozen House members sent a similar one.

Lawmakers File Bill to Let Marijuana Companies Have Access to Coronavirus Relief Funds. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) on Thursday filed an as yet unnumbered bill, the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act, which would allow legal marijuana businesses to access disaster relief loans and other programs available during the COVID-19 crisis.

Psychedelics

DC Voters Would Approve Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative If It Makes Ballot, Poll Says. A poll commissioned by Decriminalize DC, the folks behind the psychedelic decriminalization initiative, suggests the measure could pass -- if it manages to make the ballot. Signature-gathering for initiative campaigns around the country have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and DC is no exception. The poll found 51% said they were in favor when read the actual text of the measure, but that figure rose to 60% when voters were provided more information and settled at 59% when voters had heard pro and con arguments.

International

Mexico Sees 13 Dead in Violence in Guerrero Poppy Fields. At least 13 people were killed over the weekend in multisided clashes between community vigilantes, police, soldiers, and members of the Cartel del Sur in the opium poppy-growing town of El Naranjo, Guerrero. Clashes and gun battles lasting for hours broke out Saturday as cartel gunmen duked it out with a "grassroots citizens militia" (vigilante group) called the United Front of Community Police of Guerrero, a repeat of clashes last summer when the vigilantes tried unsuccessfully to force out the cartel. After Saturday's clashes, authorities called in the National Guard, soldiers, and state police, who then engaged in another gun battle, killing four presumed cartel members. Later another four executed bodies were found, and on Monday the bodies of five more men covered in blankets were discovered at the bottom of a ravine surrounded by shell casing.

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5. Plaintiffs in MJ Scheduling Case vs. DEA Look to Supreme Court, NJ Voters Ready to Approve Legal MJ, More... (4/24/20)

A New Jersey poll shows strong support for approving a November marijuana legalization initiative, California state government agencies are moving to ease the pandemic burden on marijuana businesses, the Supreme Court is being asked to rule on whether marijuana's designation as a Schedule I drug is unconstitutional, and more.

Will the Supreme Court take up a case challenging marijuana's designation as a Schedule I drug? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)

DEA Marijuana Scheduling Lawsuit Will Be Appealed To Supreme Court Following Dismissal. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the DEA over the classification of marijuana will appeal to the US Supreme Court after the 2nd US Court of Appeals ruled against them last week. The appeals court had recommended that plaintiffs seek administrative policy change instead, but they will ask the Supreme Court to rule that keeping marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional because it imposes undue burdens that jeopardize patients' lives.

California Offers Marijuana Firms Tax Help to Cope with Coronavirus Pandemic Fallout. The state has issued new guidelines aimed at helping businesses, including marijuana businesses, survive the pandemic. The programs, a mix of extensions, relief, and deferrals, will allow many marijuana companies to keep operations going and meet payroll. The initiatives are coming from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), the Office of Tax Appeals and the Franchise Tax Board.

New Jersey Poll Finds Residents Ready to Approve Marijuana Legalization in November. Unable to reach agreement on a marijuana legalization bill, the state legislature punted the issue to the voters, placing a legislative legalization initiative on the November ballot. Now, a new poll from the Monmouth University Polling Institute finds voters are ready to approve it. The poll had support at 61%, with only 34% opposed.

Virginia Legislature Rejects Governor's Bid to Delay Legal Marijuana Study. The legislature has rejected two proposed amendments to its decriminalization bill from Gov. Ralph Northam (D), including one that called for a delay in the end date for a study on marijuana legalization included in the bill. The House had initially agreed to the change, but the Senate rejected it, and House members were unable to add the delay back in when they received the Senate bill for a final vote. The bill, Senate Bill 2, will decriminalize small-time possession effective July 1.

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6. Peru Coca Prices Plunge Amid Pandemic, Louisiana Pot Poll Shows State Not There Yet, More... (4/27/20)

A Navy destroyer on an anti-drug mission is forced to return to port, Peruvian coca growers are taking a financial hit during the pandemic, Montana GOP elected officials are opposing an effort to get electronic signature-gathering for a marijuana legalization campaign, and more.

It's hard times in the coca fields, as pandemic lockdowns bring price plunges. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Finds State Not There Yet on Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Louisiana Public Opinion LLC shows that a majority of registered voters still oppose legalization -- but that number has decreased slightly. When respondents were asked if they favored legalization, only 37% said yes, compared to 54% opposed. That's up three points from the same survey conducted three years ago, but still well short of a majority.

Montana Republican State Officials Oppose Electronic Signature Gathering for Initiatives. Replying to a lawsuit from New Approach Montana, the sponsor of a constitutional initiative (Ballot Issue 11) that would set 21 as the legal age when people can use marijuana and a statutory initiative (Ballot Issue 14) that would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, the Republican secretary of state and attorney general officially responded that they oppose the electronic gathering of signatures for initiative campaigns impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, the state's top election official, and the state of Montana, represented by Attorney General Tim Fox, have asked the court to throw out the lawsuits, arguing that the circumstances arise out of a "health emergency," not unfair election laws.

Interdiction

US Naval Destroyer on Counternarcotics Mission Forced to Return to Port After Being Hit by Coronavirus Outbreak. The USS Kidd, a guided missile destroyer doing counternarcotic missions in the eastern Pacific Ocean, has been forced to return to port after at least 18 sailors aboard the ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The Navy said the number of those infected with the virus on the vessel was expected to rise. The Kidd is part of the Trump administration's deployment of more warships and aircraft to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific to fight drug cartels.

International

Peru Sees Big Drop in Black Market Coca Prices as Pandemic Bites into Drug Trade. Prices for coca leaf sold to illicit economy drug gangs have plunged 70% since the country went on lockdown last month, according to a local growers' organization. While the country has a legal coca market, an estimated 90% of the crop is destined for the black market. Now, the growers are calling on the government to buy up excess coca inventory for use in licit coca industries.

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7. US Virgin Islands Governor Urges Passage of Legalization Bill, Call for Pandemic Relief for Marijuana Businesses, More... (4/28/20)

The clamor grows for including state-legal marijuana businesses in coronavirus pandemic in federal economic relief packages, Arkansas medical marijuana patients are heading to Oklahoma for cheaper prices and easier access, and more.

Will state-legal marijuana businesses ever get any coronavirus pandemic relief money? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

US Virgin Islands Governor Revises Marijuana Legalization Bill, Urges Quick Passage. Territorial Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) is pushing the legislature to move quickly to approve a revised marijuana legalization bill, saying the action could help generate needed tax revenues from marijuana sales during the coronavirus pandemic. "We have taken the time to gather further public input as well as address the concerns of the individual legislators," the governor said during a COVID-19 update on Monday. As the economic disaster, the last few weeks has affected the [Government Employees Retirement System] greatly, it is our hope that we can have a greater sense of exigency in implementing all the things that can help us regain solvency."

Marijuana Associations and Credit Unions Call for Federal Coronavirus Relief for Marijuana Businesses. Some 30 marijuana trade organizations and credit unions sent a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday urging them to work to provide marijuana businesses with access to federal relief funds related to the coronavirus pandemic. Because marijuana remains federally illegal, such businesses are specifically excluded from relief program under already approved relief packages. The coalition argues that Congress should either issue pandemic relief block grants for the states to decide on their own how to allocate funds or change current relief aid eligibility requirements to allow marijuana businesses access to those funds.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Patients Cross into Oklahoma for Cheaper, More Accessible Medicine. Medical marijuana patients in the state are heading across the state line to Oklahoma to get their medicine, according to local media reports. They can buy equivalent products for half the cost in Oklahoma, and that state does not have a limited list of qualifying conditions. Instead, it only requires a doctor's recommendation.

Michigan Supreme Court Says Medical Marijuana Law Does Not Overrule Local Zoning Ordinances. Breaking with previous Court of Appeals ruling, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state's medical marijuana law doesn't override local zoning ordinances. The township of Byron had barred registered caregivers from growing on a commercial property, and the high court upheld its ability to do so.

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8. Coronavirus Doesn't Halt Colombia Coca Offensive, MT Court Hears Pleas for Electronic Signature-Gathering, More... (4/29/20)

Whether Montana marijuana legalization campaigns can use electronic signature-gathering is now in the hands of a state judge, an Indiana judge orders the return of a Land Rover whose case changed federal asset forfeiture law, Colombia's campaign against coca continues despite the pandemic, and more.

The Colombian government isn't letting a nationwide coronavirus curfew interfere with its war on coca producers. (Pixabay)
Montana Court Hears Arguments Over Electronic Signature-Gathering for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. New Approach Montana, the group behind a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives, was in Lewis and Clark County District Court Tuesday in an effort to win permission to do electronic signature-gathering amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The group says the state's stay-at-home order and continued social distancing directives make it nearly impossible to gather enough in-person signatures to qualify their petitions for the November ballot. The hearing itself was held by telephone, a point New Approach's lawyer emphasized when arguing its case. Attorneys for the state argued against allowing electronic signature gathering, saying there is not enough evidence it can be done securely and that the group's injury was self-inflicted because it had not yet started signature gathering. Initiative-190 would legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the state. It requires over 25,000 valid voter signatures to appear on November's ballot. Constitutional Initiative-118 aims to amend the state constitution to set the age of marijuana consumption and possession at 21. It needs almost 51,000 valid voter signatures.

Asset Forfeiture

Indiana Judge Orders Return of Seized Land Rover That Led to US Supreme Court Asset Forfeiture Case. An Indiana Superior Court judge on Monday ordered the state to "immediately release" a seized Land Rover in a case that made history in the US Supreme Court when the court used it to overturn Indiana's civil asset forfeiture law, saying the seizure was disproportionate to the offense. The ruling comes seven years after police seized Tyson Timbs' $41,000 Land Rover when he was charged with a drug felony. But the state is continuing to appeal the case, so that "immediate release" is not going to happen just yet.

International

Colombia Carries on Major Offensive Against Coca Producers Amidst Pandemic Curfew. Although President Ivan Duque declared a nationwide curfew on March 24 to fight the coronavirus pandemic, massive military operations aimed at eradicating small producer coca plantations are continuing unimpeded. In the departments of Antioquia and Chocó, Norte de Santander, Nariño, Putumayo, and Caquetá, military and civilian eradication personnel are engaged in eradication efforts.

Swiss Parliament Passes Motion to Authorize Cannabis Production and Export. The Swiss Parliament has passed a measure that will allow producers in the country to export low-THC hemp, and doctors to prescribe medical marijuana directly. Currently, would-be patients must obtain prescriptions for the Federal Office of Public Health, an expensive and time-consuming process. The new law is expected to come into force sometime in the middle of next year. It will also include a pilot program for recreational use. The measure still has to be approved by the Council of States before it can proceed.

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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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