Drug War Chronicle #1106 - August 13, 2020

1. Can Marijuana Win Over Voters in This High Plains Red State? [FEATURE]

South Dakota voters will have not one but two different marijuana reform initiatives to decide on in November.

2. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Border Patrol agent does a litle drug transporting on the side, a Utah cop gets frisky with drug court probationers, a pair of California sheriff's deputies pay a price for stealing hundreds of pounds of weed, and more.

3. DC Natural Psychedelic Initiative Qualifies, DPA Federal Drug Decrim Push, More... (8/10/20)

Residents in the nation's capital will vote on whether to effectively decriminalize natural psychedelics, the Arizona marijuana legalization initiative survives a legal challenge, the Drug Policy Alliance pushes for federal drug decriminalization, and more.

4. AZ Legalization Initiative Qualifies, Canada to Allow Psilocbyin for Terminal Patients, More... (8/11/20)

One more state will be voting on marijuana legalization in November, Canadian authorities have granted four terminally ill patients the right to use psilocybin for coming to terms with end of life, and more.

5. MA MJ Industry Unionization Battles, Bolivian Coca Growers Mobilize, More... (8/12/20)

A former crime-fighting prosecutor and attorney general who now wants to legalize marijuana is Joe Biden's vice-presidential pick, a Wyoming judge frees some hemp farmers from a spurious prosecution, and more.

6. DC MJ Sales Init Filed, Filipino Drug Cops Face Murder Charges, More... (8/13/20)

DC activists have filed a legal marijuana sales initiative and hope to get it on this year's ballot, the Bahamas extends the mandate of a commission charged with recommending marijuana law reforms, and more.

1. Can Marijuana Win Over Voters in This High Plains Red State? [FEATURE]

Marijuana is on the ballot in South Dakota this year. This is a state that has the dubious distinction of being the only one to twice defeat a medical marijuana initiative. And it has another dubious distinction: It's the only state where people get prosecuted for having marijuana show up on a drug test.

That South Dakota has reactionary drug laws is not surprising; it is a pretty reactionary state. It voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, and Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has (in)famously discussed adding the president's likeness to Mt. Rushmore with him. The state's congressional delegation is all-GOP, including Senate Majority Whip John Thune, and Republicans control both houses of the legislature as well, holding a supermajority in both for nearly a quarter-century.

Still, not one but two marijuana initiatives managed to find enough support to make the ballot, and local organizers supported by national reform groups New Approach PAC and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) are hoping that marijuana's momentum can overcome rock-ribbed Republican recalcitrance on the prairie come November.

The first, Initiated Measure 26, led by New Approach South Dakota, would create a medical marijuana program for patients with doctor-certified specified debilitating medical conditions. Patients could possess up to three ounces and grow up to three plants -- or more if a doctor okays it. The state Department of Health would create and enforce rules and regulations.

The second, Constitutional Amendment A, would legalize up to an ounce for adults 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated cultivation and sales. It would allow people to grow up to three plants at home -- but only if there are no retail sales outlets in their local government jurisdiction. The amendment would also require the legislature to legalize the sale of hemp and create a state medical marijuana program by April 1, 2022.

Can green win in red South Dakota? Perhaps the state isn't as red as it seems, said Michael Card, an associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota.

"There are more no-party voter registrations now," he said in a phone interview. "Within five years, independents will probably come close to catching up to Republicans. Democrats are fleeing the party because they don't win."

"Our campaign is really bipartisan; this isn't a partisan issue," said Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota, which is leading the effort for the medical marijuana initiative. "It doesn't matter what your party is; this is something that has brought so many people together," she said in a phone interview.

And it's no longer the last century or even the last decade, pointed out MPP campaigns coordinator Jared Moffat, who is working with South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws in support of both initiatives.

"It's been 10 years since the last attempt to reform South Dakota's marijuana laws through the ballot, and in that time, a lot has changed," he said in an email exchange. "Support for marijuana policy reform has increased significantly in every part of the county and 11 states have adopted adult-use legalization laws -- and they're working well. No state has made a serious attempt to repeal those laws. We also have recent internal polling of South Dakotans that suggests we have a great shot at passing both initiatives."

"We've had six years of education leading up to this medical marijuana initiative, the same bill has been sponsored twice in the legislature, it's been debated publicly, there's been a lot of media, and I think it's time," said Mentele. It will take a nice, slow, steady march to victory," she added.

When queried about the need for a separate medical marijuana initiative, she bristled just a bit.

"We need to press forward with both," she said. "Legalizing adult use is beneficial to the economy, but I'm a patient advocate; I'm about things like teaching people how to move off of opioids and pharmaceuticals, and when adult use programs come on board they tend to swallow medical programs. We don't want that to happen. We want two distinct markets with a tax break for patients. The people who aren't medical can buy it and pay taxes, but a true medical marijuana program passes savings on to patients."

So, will both pass, will one pass, will neither pass?

"If I had to predict, expecting high turnout for the presidential race, you're looking at Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County, the largest county in the state voting for it, and probably Brookings and Clay counties [home of South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota, respectively], and Union County, and the reservation counties," said Michael Card, associate professor of political science at USD in a phone interview.

But that means a whole lot of South Dakota counties likely won't be voting for either medical or recreational marijuana this fall. Still, with the Sioux Falls metro area population of 266,000 constituting nearly 30% of the entire state population, that makes up for a number of sparsely-populated, more conservative counties. It's going to be competitive.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the constitutional amendment passed because of the inclusion of industrial hemp and the taxation of marijuana," said Card. "If I were leading the campaign, I'd be telling people this is a tax you don't have to pay. It's also being supported by a former US attorney, Brendan Johnson."

But, Card said, it's also possible that voters could reject legalization and just pass medical marijuana. "Our population is aging, we're seeing more patients, and even for many youth there are medicinal uses, so the idea that they could vote down legalization and approve medical is certainly plausible," he said.

"The governor is very strongly against marijuana in any way, shape, or form," said Card. "She kept the South Dakota legislature from adopting a farmers' hemp cultivation bill. She drew a line in the sand and said no way."

Noem is not alone in opposing marijuana reforms; the usual suspects are also out to block it. In July, the South Dakota Medical Association came out against both initiatives and will write the opposition statement that will appear on the general election ballot. The association maintains that marijuana is a hazardous drug and a public health concern.

Also in July, the legalization initiative drew organized oppositionin the form of a ballot committee calling itself NO Way on Amendment. That group is led by David Own, the president of the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is being joined by law enforcement, public officials, and social work leaders.

"South Dakota's current marijuana laws aren't working, and they are not serving South Dakotans' best interests," argued Moffat. "Amendment A and Measure 26 will fix what's broken and establish a commonsense approach that provides relief to patients, improves public safety, and strengthens South Dakota's economy."

The campaign is still honing messages for key voters, he added, but will likely emphasize the need for tax revenues in the face of economic downturns and the need to get marijuana out of the criminal justice system. He noted that one out of 10 arrests in the state in 2018 was for marijuana. The campaign will also make the argument that passage of the constitutional amendment is necessary to protect medical marijuana from legislative chicanery, as happened with a campaign finance law approved by voters in 2016 and gutted in Pierre.

The campaign is in decent financial shape in small-market South Dakota and ready to do battle, said Moffat.

"With significant in-state and national support, as well as an expanding small-dollar fundraising effort, we are feeling good about the campaign budget at this point. Compared to other states where there are competitive national races, we expect our advertising dollars will go pretty far in South Dakota," he said. "We never want to underestimate the opposition. Right now, it's not clear what they are willing to spend, in terms of both money and political capital, to fight us. My sense is that they're not willing to expend much, but that could change. We'll have to see."

Indeed. Early voting starts September 18.

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2. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Border Patrol agent does a litle drug transporting on the side, a Utah cop gets frisky with drug court probationers, a pair of California sheriff's deputies pay a price for stealing hundreds of pounds of weed, and more Let's get to it:

In Price, Utah, a Price police officer was arrested July 31 for having sex with a woman who was a drug court participant and on probation and with another woman who was on probation. Officer Michael Gordon Jones, 30, told one of the women not to say anything about the relationship, especially to her probation officer and drug court tracker. He was arrested for investigation of custodial sexual relations, although he has yet to be charged. He has since resigned from the department.

In Meridian, Mississippi, an East Mississippi Correctional Facility employee was arrested last Monday 3 for allegedly smuggling marijuana into the jail. Dominique Louise Tingle, 29, is charged with possession of drugs in a correctional facility.

In Brownsville, Texas, a Cameron County jail guard was arrested last Thursday for smuggling marijuana into the jail. Homero Lopez II went down after a jail inmate was caught with weed and an investigation revealed that he had called Lopez's home phone number. When he arrived at work that evening, he was confronted and eventually confessed to smuggling drugs into the jail. Both Lopez and the prisoner were charged with bringing prohibited substances and items into a correctional facility.

In Bakersfield, California, two former Kern County sheriff's deputies pleaded no contest last Thursday to felony charges for stealing more than 350 pounds of marijuana seized by the sheriff's office in 2015. Former deputy Logan August entered his plea to all 15 felony charges against him, which included conspiring to commit a crime, second-degree burglary and falsifying a report as a peace officer. August faces a potential prison sentence of upwards of 10 years and will be sentenced in October. Former deputy Derrick Penney entered his plea to two felony counts of falsifying a report as a peace officer. Penney's remaining five felony charges were dismissed and he will serve 90 days in custody and be placed on probation, according to the DA's office. The pair had earlier been sentenced to probation in federal court after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana in August 2017.

In Phoenix, a US Border Patrol agent was arrested Sunday for allegedly transporting a shipment of drugs from the border to the Phoenix airport. Agent Carlos Victor Passapera Pinott, 53, faces multiple counts of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. He served in the Tucson Sector's Ajo Station. He is accused of driving to a remote border location, then driving to the airport and loading two duffle bags full of dope into another vehicle, which was stopped by investigators who found 21 kilos of cocaine, a kilo of heroin, a kilo of fentanyl, and 350,000 pills of fentanyl. Later that day, agents executed a search warrant at Passapera's home, where they found $329,000 in cash and an additional $40,000 in the vehicle he allegedly drove that morning. He's looking at up to of life in prison, a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years, and up to a $10,000,000 fine.

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3. DC Natural Psychedelic Initiative Qualifies, DPA Federal Drug Decrim Push, More... (8/10/20)

Residents in the nation's capital will vote on whether to effectively decriminalize natural psychedelics, the Arizona pot legalization initiative survives a legal challenge, the Drug Policy Alliance pushes for federal drug decriminalization, and more.

Decriminalize Nature DC street signs
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative Fends Off Legal Challenge. The Smart and Safe Arizona marijuana legalization initiative has survived a legal challenge from foes. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith ruled late Friday that the measure's summary did not mislead voters and the measure can be on the ballot. "At 100 words, the summary also cannot include everything," he wrote. "That is why the full initiative must accompany the petition. This initiative is plain: It wants to legalize recreational marijuana," the judge wrote. "That is the principal provision. It is unlikely electors signing these petitions would be surprised by cascading effects of legalizing a formerly illegal substance."

Drug Policy

Drug Policy Alliance Proposes Federal All-Drug Decriminalization, Releases New Legislative Framework. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released a new federal legislative proposal Dismantling the Federal Drug War: A Comprehensive Drug Decriminalization Framework, which provides a roadmap to effectively end the criminalization of people who use drugs and begin repairing the harm drug law enforcement has caused to communities of color. The DPA model decriminalization legislation -- the Drug Policy Reform Act -- takes the first steps in dismantling the punitive apparatus built up over the past 50 years. To begin refocusing federal drug policies, the legislation shifts the authority for classifying and regulating controlled substances from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The legislation eliminates criminal penalties for all possession of personal-use quantities of controlled substances, and shifts federal resources away from futile enforcement strategies to supportive initiatives to protect the public health and safety.

Methamphetamine

Senators Feinstein and Grassley File Methamphetamine Response Act. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) last Thursday introduced the Methamphetamine Response Act, a bill declaring methamphetamine an emerging drug threat which would require the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop, implement and make public a national plan to prevent methamphetamine addiction and overdoses from becoming a crisis.

Psychedelics

Washington, DC, Natural Psychedelics Initiative Qualifies for the Ballot. The DC Board of Elections announced last Wednesday that Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, has qualified for the November ballot. The act would effectively decriminalize the use and possession of natural psychedelics by making the enforcement of laws against them the lowest priority.

International

World Anti-Doping Association to Shorten Punishments for Recreational Drug Offenses. Beginning next January, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will no longer issue long suspensions for athletes testing positive for recreational drugs out of competition. Instead of being banned for two years, the athletes will now be banned for one to three months. "If the athlete can establish that any ingestion or use occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, then the period of ineligibility shall be three months," WADA's new code says. "In addition, the period of ineligibility calculated... may be reduced to one month if the athlete or other person satisfactorily completes a substance of abuse treatment program approved by the Anti-Doping Organization."

British Tory Drug Reform Group Calls for Rescheduling Psilocybin. The Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group (CDPRG) has published a new report with the Adam Smith Institute outlining the potential medical benefits of psilocybin and urging the UK Home Office to reschedule the compound for research purposes. The not-for-profit group also urges the Home Office to reduce regulatory restrictions on the compound to allow for research into its medical efficacy. The report is Medicinal use of psilocybin: Reducing restrictions on research and treatment.

Colombia's Former President Uribe Placed on House Arrest During Investigation of Ties to Drug Cartels, Paramilitary Groups. Last Thursday, President Ivan Duque announced that former President Alvaro Uribe will be held in custody as the Supreme Court investigates allegations of witness tampering. Uribe, president of Colombia from 2002 to 2010, has long been accused of criminal activities, including having ties to drug cartels and paramilitary groups. He is currently accused of being a founding member of a rightist paramilitary group involved in the decades-long conflict between the government and leftist rebels.

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

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4. AZ Legalization Initiative Qualifies, Canada to Allow Psilocbyin for Terminal Patients, More... (8/11/20)

One more state will be voting on marijuana legalization in November, Canadian authorities have granted four terminally ill patients the right to use psilocybin for coming to terms with end of life, and more.

COVID is in the federal prisons. California US senators want to do something about it. (Creative Commons)
MarijuanaPolicy

Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for Ballot. The Smart and Safe Act marijuana legalization initiative has qualified for the November ballot, the secretary of state's office announced Monday. The measure would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six plants. It also envisions taxed and regulated sales and features several restorative justice provisions. The measure will be on the ballot as Prop 207.

Incarceration

California US Senators, Congressman Call for COVID-19 Package to Include Funding to Control Federal Prison Outbreaks. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Kamala D. Harris and Congressman Salud Carbajal (all D-CA) called Monday for the House and Senate leadership to quickly finalize a COVID-19 emergency response package that includes critical assistance to respond to outbreaks in federal prisons in California. "We are concerned that BOP has not yet implemented universal testing or onsite testing for inmates and staff to stop the spread of the virus throughout the prison system or within our communities," the members wrote. "We therefore urge you to work swiftly to ensure the necessary funds are made available to better equip the BOP in handling this crisis. The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, with $200 million for the BOP to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks, over 10 weeks ago. Our communities cannot afford further delays."

International

Canada to Allow Psilocbyin Access for Terminally Ill Patients. The Health Ministry and the Office of Controlled Substances have announced that four terminally ill patients will be granted access to psilocybin. The move comes just a hundred days after the patients asked the government to let them use the drug to come to terms with their lives ending. "The acknowledgment of the pain and anxiety that I have been suffering with means a lot to me, and I am feeling quite emotional today as a result," said Laurie Brooks, one of the patients able to receive her treatments. "I hope this is just the beginning and that soon all Canadians will be able to access psilocybin, for therapeutic use, to help with the pain they are experiencing, without having to petition the government for months to gain permission."

(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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5. MA MJ Industry Unionization Battles, Bolivian Coca Growers Mobilize, More... (8/12/20)

A former crime-fighting prosecutor and attorney general who now wants to legalize marijuana is Joe Biden's vice-presidential pick, a Wyoming judge frees some hemp farmers from a spurious prosecution, and more.

Joe Biden has selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), the sponsor of a marijuana legalization bill, as his vice-presidential pick.
Marijuana Policy

Joe Biden Selects MORE Act Sponsor Kamala Harris for VP. Presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee has selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) to be his vice-presidential pick. For drug reformers, Harris's record as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general is a mixed one, but she is currently sponsoring a federal marijuana legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (S.2227). The Senate version of the bill hasn't moved, but the House version, HR 3384) made history last year by passing out of the House Judiciary Committee, the first time a legalization bill won a vote in Congress.

Massachusetts Marijuana Cultivation Workers Unionize. Workers at Cultivate Holdings in Leicester voted by an "overwhelming majority" to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1445, the latest victory for organized labor in the industry. In July, workers at Mayflower Medicinals in Holliston voted to join the UFCW. But the union isn't winning every vote; recently, workers at New England Treatment Access voted down unionization. The UFCW accused management of "anti-union tactics" in that case.

Hemp

Wyoming Judge Throws Out Drug Trafficking Charges Against Hemp Farmers. Late last week, a Laramie County judge threw out drug trafficking charges brought against a pair of hemp advocates and farmers and two of their workers after the Division of Criminal Investigation raided their farm last November. Prosecutors sought to bring marijuana manufacture, delivery, possession, and cultivation charges against all four, but the judge ruled that the farmers had intended to produce hemp, not marijuana. Under Wyoming law, hemp has to have less than 0.3% THC. This crop contained less.

International

Bolivian Coca Growers Mobilize, Blockade Roads in Rising Protests Against Delayed Elections

(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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6. DC MJ Sales Init Filed, Filipino Drug Cops Face Murder Charges, More... (8/13/20)

DC activists have filed a legal marijuana sales initiative and hope to get it on this year's ballot, the Bahamas extends the mandate of a commission charged with recommending marijuana law reforms, and more.

Could non-medical sales come to the nation's capital? DC activists want to make it happen. (Sandra Yruel/DPA)
Marijuana Policy

Washington, DC, Legal Marijuana Sales Initiative Filed. Activists in the nation's capital have filed the New Modern Day Cannabis Justice Reform Act initiative, which would end the prosecution of marijuana cultivation, sales, and consumption offenses. Since the District voted to legalize marijuana possession in 2014, a congressional rider has barred it from using tax dollars for that reason, but perhaps anticipating a Congress with a different complexion next year, activists are moving ahead with the measure anyway. And they want to get it on the ballot this year. They would have to be approved by the Board of Elections at its September 2 meeting and then gather more than 24,000 valid voter signatures to qualify.

International

Bahamas Extends Marijuana Commission Until June 2021. The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana, which is charged with assessing public opinion on the issue and making final recommendations to the government, has been reappointed for another year, its chairman, Quin McCartney said Thursday. The commission's mandate was initially for three months, but it has now been engaged on the issue for more than two years. It was formed following recommendations by the Regional Commission on Marijuana at the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The regional commission put forward the view that in a regulated framework marijuana should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol. A preliminary commission report calls for decriminalization of marijuana possession, but not outright legalization. It also recommends allowing for medical marijuana patients to grow their own and allowing tourists to use medical marijuana.

Philippines Drug Cops Face Complaint of Killing Two Men in Fake Drug Raid. Eleven anti-drug policemen in San Jose del Monte are facing criminal complaints for abducting and killing two men in a fake drug sweep in February. The National Bureau of Investigation Death Investigation Division (NBI-DID) filed the complaint on Wednesday. Police had initially reported that Erwin Mergal and Jim Joshua were killed in a shootout with police during a buy-bust operation. But eyewitnesses said the men were seized by police as they passed by the home of a drug suspect. They were photographed while being held by police. In addition to murder charges, the police face charges of planting weapons and planting drugs on the victims. It is a rare exception in President Duterte's drug war, under which police have acknowledged killing thousands of people during drug enforcement operations, and more than 30,000 are believed to have been killed by police or vigilantes. Duterte promised to kill hundreds of thousands of drug suspects during his campaign, and continues to take credit for the killings, but there have been only been a handful of prosecutions of police for drug war killings.

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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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