Drug War Chronicle #1126 - March 12, 2021

1. Mexico Chamber of Deputies Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill [FEATURE]

Who would have thought the US would be the last country in North America to free the weed?

2. Medical Marijuana Update

Florida Republican lawmakers continue to try to intervene in the state's medical marijuana program, the South Dakota Senate agrees to a medical marijuana delay but only if pot is decriminalized now, and more.

3. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A narc goes rogue in Baton Rouge, a pervy former Michigan deputy gets nailed for kiddy porn and stolen pain pills, and more.

4. House Passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, HI Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances, More... (3/5/21)

A Long Island doctor has been the first in New York to be charged with murder for his opioid prescribiing practices, there's strong popular support for marijuana legalizaion in Connecticut, and more.

5. Mexico Lower Chamber Takes Up Legal MJ Bill, WV Bill Extending Drug Sales Sentences Advances, More... (3/8/21)

Advocates for a Washington state bill that would decriminalize drug possession now emphasize drug treatment, the Russians warn against drug legalization efforts, Morocco moves toward legal medical marijuana, and more.

6. Fed Bill Would Protect Immigrants With Marijuana Records, ME Drug Reform Push, More... (3/9/21)

The South Dakota Senate throws the governor a curve ball, New Jersey lawmakers are considering lessening the penalties for home marijuana grows -- but not legalizing them -- and more.

7. HI & NM Marijuana Legalization Bills Advance, NJ Harm Reduction Bills, More... (3/10/21)

Marijuana legalization bills advance in Hawaii and New Mexico, a pot prisoners' group calls on President Biden to grant clemency to federal marijuana offenders, a California bill to end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses advance, and more.

8. Fed Bill Would End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity, SD MedMJ Will Happen on Schedule, More... (3/11/21)

The South Dakota Senate has blocked the governor's effort to delay the implemenation of a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, the Mississippi House has killed a bill that would have substituted for the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative there, and more.

9. Key Democrat Will Refile Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill, MD House Approves Police Reforms, More... (3/12/21)

A Vermont drug decriminalization bill is filed, Rhose Island's governor rolls out a marijuana legalization plan, Morocco moves toward legalizing hemp and medical marijuana, and more.

1. Mexico Chamber of Deputies Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill [FEATURE]

Mexico took a giant step toward ending marijuana prohibition Wednesday night as the Chamber of Deputies approved a legalization bill on a vote of 316-129. The Senate approved the bill late last year, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has signaled he will sign it into law.

But it's not quite a done deal yet. Because the bill was amended in the Chamber of Deputies -- and lawmakers were still debating possible amendments late Wednesday night -- it must now go back to the Senate for approval of the changes.

Still, Mexico, a country legendary for marijuana production since the days of the hippies, is now on the verge of becoming the world's largest legal marijuana market. In the United States, federal marijuana prohibition still obtains despite state-level legalization in an ever-increasing number of states, potentially (and ironically) leaving the US as the odd man out in North America, sandwiched between legal pot pioneers Canada and Mexico.

The legislative move to legalize marijuana is the outgrowth of a Mexican Supreme Court decision three years ago that held marijuana prohibition unconstitutional and gave the congress a limited amount of time to bring the law into compliance with the constitution. Deadlines were repeatedly bumped back, though, especially as the coronavirus took hold, but now the congress was up against another deadline next month. And this time, it beat it.

Mexico uses the military to fight its drug wars. (Creative Commons)
Under the bill, people 18 and up will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants (although one controversial change in the Chamber of Deputies would require home growers to register with the state). The bill also creates a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana commerce. In another change from the Senate bill, this bill would give regulatory control over the new legal industry to the National Commission Against Addictions instead of the independent regulatory body envisioned by the upper house.

Activists bemoaned aspects of the bill, with Mexico Unido Contra la Delinquencia (MUCD) complaining that it represented a "lost opportunity to end the criminalization of users" because it maintains penalties for possession of larger amounts and that it "did not eliminate the crime of cultivation for persons of scarce resources and extreme economic necessity who have dedicated themselves to this as a primordial activity." This would "perpetuate the marginalization and criminal punishment of our peasants, the people most affected by prohibition, who we want to integrate into the market, not maintain in illegality."

MUCD is calling on the Senate to rectify the bill to address such issues. "Above all, we must not create a legal market that only prioritizes the economic benefit of those who participate in sales while we exclude other, less advantaged actors," the group said. "For this, we call on the Senate of the Republic to correct the bill to comply with the mandate of the Supreme Court to eliminate the absolute prohibition of the consumption of cannabis."

The bill would remove one drug from Mexico's lucrative and bloody black markets (DEA)
Still, despite the objections raised by MUCD and others, Mexico is on the verge of shifting from a prohibition regime to legal marijuana regime, and that is a big deal, and a recognition that the country has bigger problems to deal with.

"The damage caused by the prohibition and the war on drugs in Mexico has caused more harm than the health conditions attributed to drug consumption," said Dep. Rubén Cayetano García. "Cannabis is not considered one of the serious public health problems in Mexico."

"For Mexico, given its size and its worldwide reputation for being damaged by the drug war, to take this step is enormously significant," said John Walsh, director of drug policy for the Washington Office on Latin America. "North America is heading toward legalization."

back to top

2. Medical Marijuana Update

Florida Republican lawmakers continue to try to intervene in the state's medical marijuana program, the South Dakota Senate agrees to a medical marijuana delay but only if pot is decriminalized now, and more.

Florida

Florida Bill to Cap THC Levels for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. The House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would cap THC levels in medical marijuana at 10% and 15% for edibles. The vote to advance HB 1455 came despite testimony from doctors and patients that the measure was an assault on medicine. It still needs to be approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee and the House Health Care Appropriations Committee before going to a House floor vote.

South Dakota

South Dakota Senate Agrees to Medical Marijuana Program Delay, But Only with Decriminalization Now. The Senate approved a House bill to delay implementation of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana program, HB 1100, but only after dramatically amending it to include the immediate decriminalization of up to an ounce of marijuana and repeal of the state's unique felony drug ingestion law. Now, the House and Senate have to try to come to an accord over the bill, most likely in conference committee.

Tennessee

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The Senate Government Operations Committee last Wednesday approved SB0854/HB0621, the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act. It is a full-fledged medical marijuana bill that would allow use of the substance for a set of specified qualifying medical conditions. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

back to top

3. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A narc goes rogue in Baton Rouge, a pervy former Michigan deputy gets nailed for kiddy porn and stolen pain pills, and more. Let's get to it:

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a Baton Rouge Police narcotics officer was arrested February 26 for stealing drugs seized as evidence and giving them to a friend. Corporal Jason Acree, 34, went down after another officer ratted him out for stealing marijuana that had been seized in a recent drug investigation and admitting that he planned to give it to a friend. He is charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and malfeasance in office.

In Eureka, California, a Humboldt County Sheriff's Office correctional deputy was arrested last Tuesday after being caught with drugs at work. Deputy Ricardo Tranquilino Aguirre went down after a witness reported he was smuggling drugs into the jail, which led to a Humboldt County Drug Task Force investigation, and his subsequent arrest. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance while armed, smuggling contraband into a jail, possession of a controlled substance for sales, and transportation/sale of a controlled substance. And he is now a former deputy.

In Chehalis, Washington, a former state reform school guard was arrested last Thursday for smuggling marijuana, narcotics, and mobile phones to youth offenders at the states maximum-security lockup for juveniles. Julio Hayes, 40, allegedly accepted $11,170 in payments from inmates at the Green Hill School before he was fired after an FBI raid in February 2020. Inmates would use a phone app to send money to Hayes, who would spend some of it on drugs and pocket the rest. He faces seven counts of extortion, two counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He will be arraigned on March 16.

In Louisburg, North Carolina, a Franklin County Sheriff's Office detention officer was arrested Monday for his role in a scheme to provide drugs and other contraband to inmates. Officer Chase Garnett Strickland, 28, and three inmates were rolled up after jail staff developed information that he was providing marijuana, marijuana edibles, cigarettes, and other contraband. He is charged with one count of providing contraband to an inmate.

In Lansing, Michigan, a former Osceola County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty February 26 to multiple child sex and drug charges. Andrew Wernette, 39, went down after a tip led to a raid of his home, where authorities images and videos of child sexually abusive material and drugs that he had pilfered from the department's drug takeback program, which he supervised. Wernette pleaded guilty to three different kiddie porn counts, as well as one count of larceny (for stealing pills), one count each of possession of morphine and OxyContin, and one count of maintaining a drug house. If give the maximum on all counts, he's looking at up to 72 years in prison.

back to top

4. House Passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, HI Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances, More... (3/5/21)

A Long Island doctor has been the first in New York to be charged with murder for his opioid prescribiing practices, there's strong popular support for marijuana legalizaion in Connecticut, and more.

The killing of George Floyd has now led to the House passage of a major policing reform bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Alabama Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a marijuana decriminalization bill sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro). The bill would turn the current possession misdemeanor for less than two ounces into a violation with a maximum $250 fine. Possession of more than two ounces would be a misdemeanor, but punishable only with a fine. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

Connecticut Poll Has Strong Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Sacred Heart University has support for marijuana legalization at 66%, with 38% strongly supporting and 28% merely supporting. The poll comes as Gov. Ned Lamont (D) seeks support for a marijuana legalization push.

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. In a joint meeting Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary and Ways and Means committees voted to approve Senate Bill 767, which would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and create a path toward legal marijuana commerce. The bill now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Medical Marijuana

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The Senate Government Operations Committee on Wednesday approved SB0854/HB0621, the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act. It is a full-fledged medical marijuana bill that would allow use of the substance for a set of specified qualifying medical conditions. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

New York Physician Charged with Murder for Pain Pill Prescribing. A Long Island doctor, George Blatti, has become the first physician in the state to be charged with second-degree murder after police and prosecutors accused him of "depraved indifference" in prescribing opioid pain medications to his patients, including five who died of drug overdoses. Prosecutors characterized the 76-year-old physician as a "serial killer" who knowingly prescribed "huge" amounts of opioids to his patients.

Blatti's arrest is part of a larger trend of going after doctors for opioid prescribing. In 2011, 88 nationwide doctors faced criminal charges, civil lawsuits or medical suspensions over opioid prescribing; in 2019, that number had jumped to 477. Historically such prosecutions haven't always been reasonably targeted -- the '00s case of Dr. Frank Fisher is instructive -- and deciding whether a given prosecution of this type is a reasonable one can require extensive research.

Law Enforcement

House Passes George Floyd-Inspired Police Reform Bill. The House on Wednesday approved HR 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on a 220 to 212 vote mainly along party lines. The measure had passed the House last year, but didn't move in the then Republican-controlled Senate. The bill would create a national database to track police misconduct, ban some no-knock warrants, ban chokeholds, and move to end racial and religious profiling. It would also weaken "qualified immunity" for police officers, lowering the bar for people to sue police for alleged civil rights violations. Now, the ball is in the Senate's court.

back to top

5. Mexico Lower Chamber Takes Up Legal MJ Bill, WV Bill Extending Drug Sales Sentences Advances, More... (3/8/21)

Advocates for a Washington state bill that would decriminalize drug possession now emphasize treatment, the Russians warn against drug legalization efforts, Morocco moves toward legal medical marijuana, and more.

Mexico is on the verge of making the US the laggard when it comes to marijuana legalization in North America.
Drug Policy

Washington Decriminalization Bill Now Emphasizes Treatment. In the wake of a recent state Supreme Court ruling throwing out the state's felony drug possession law, proponents of a drug decriminalization bill, HB 1499, are now saying that decision is an opportunity to shift drug policy paradigms and are emphasizing the bill's drug treatment provisions. Bill cosponsor Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley (D-Seattle) said behavioral health services and programs are not typically offered to people until after they have been arrested. "It is a disease, it is a disorder, and it is the only illness we treat with criminalization," Harris-Talley said. The bill has passed the House Public Safety Committee and is now before the Appropriations Committee.

Sentencing

West Virginia Bill to Lengthen Supervision for Heroin, Fentanyl Sales Offenders Passes House. Delegate Brandon Steele's (R-Raleigh) HB 2257 passed the House last Friday. The bill would add up to 10 years of supervision for those convicted of methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl sales offenses. That would be in addition to any prison sentence. "The whole point of extended supervision is to watch someone who has a propensity to have a repeat crime of the same nature," said Steele before the vote. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

International

Mexico Chamber of Deputies Takes Up Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Chamber of Deputies this week is finally taking up a marijuana legalization bill, but it has been significantly amended since passed by the Senate last year. The bill is getting a joint hearing Monday in the Health and Justice committees, with a vote expected Tuesday or Wednesday. The bill's main provisions -- legalizing up to an ounce for people 18 and older and allowing for the home cultivation of up to six plants -- remain unaltered, but deputies have amended the regulatory structure, rules for the commercial market and licensing policies, among other aspects.

Morocco Nears Final Vote on Legalizing Hemp, Medical Marijuana. The Government Council is set to discuss a bill about "legal use of cannabis" for the third time on Thursday. If approved, the bill would allow the use of marijuana for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, as well as legalizing the production of hemp containing less than 0.2% THC, the current standard for the European Union.

Russia Warns More Effort Needed to Prevent Drug Legalization. Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev warned the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice that the fight against drug legalization is faltering and more efforts are needed to maintain the prohibitionist status quo. "We insist on a comprehensive and balanced solution to the world drug problem on the basis of strict state compliance with obligations under the relevant UN conventions and the inadmissibility of drug legalization," Kolokoltsev said. Russia's anti-drug strategy officially considers drug legalization a national security threat.

back to top

6. Fed Bill Would Protect Immigrants With Marijuana Records, ME Drug Reform Push, More... (3/9/21)

The South Dakota Senate throws the governor a curve ball, New Jersey lawmakers are considering lessening the penalties for home marijuana grows -- but not legalizing them -- and more.

A Maine bill would remove criminal penalties for the possession of drug paraphernalia. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Would Not Count Against Immigrants' 'Good Moral Character' Under New Congressional Bill. Immigrants who admit having used, possessed, or distributed marijuana in the past would no longer be denied US citizenship under a new bill, HR 1614 filed Monday by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA). The bill would address the use of the "good moral character" requirement used to deny citizenship to people with marijuana histories. The bill is before the House Judiciary Committee.

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization.A Goucher College poll released Tuesday has a full two-thirds of Marylanders supporting marijuana legalization, an all-time high. And for the first time, even 50% of Republicans are in favor. The poll comes as the state legislature takes on the issue.

New Jersey State Senators Are Working on a Home Grow Bill, But Without Home Grows. Marijuana legalization advocate Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) are drafting a bill on home grown marijuana, but it looks like the bill won't actually allow home grows, only lessen the penalties for what is currently a 10-to-20-year felony for growing more than 10 plants and five years for growing a smaller number.

Rhode Island Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D-Warwick) and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) were set to file a marijuana legalization bill Tuesday, but no details have been released as of press time. Former Gov. Gina Raimundo (D) had called for marijuana legalization, but she is now out of office and serving as secretary of commerce in the Biden administration.

Hemp

Idaho House Approves Hemp Bill. The House on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill to legalize hemp production in the state, HB 126. The bill now goes to the Senate. Idaho is the only state that has yet to legalize industrial hemp production.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Senate Agrees to Medical Marijuana Program Delay, But Only with Decriminalization Now. The Senate approved a House bill to delay implementation of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana program, HB 1100, but only after dramatically amending it to include the immediate decriminalization of up to an ounce of marijuana and repeal of the state's unique felony drug ingestion law. Now, the House and Senate have to try to come to an accord over the bill, most likely in conference committee.

Drug Policy

Maine Lawmakers Aim to Decriminalize Drug Possession. Legislators have filed a number of bills this year aimed at undoing the state's hardline drug war approach. One bill, HP 713, would decriminalize drug possession; another, HP 732, would remove penalties for the possession or exchange of drug paraphernalia; while yet another, SP 223, would reform the state's drug sales law so that people could not be charged with distribution basely solely on the amount of drugs seized.

back to top

7. HI & NM Marijuana Legalization Bills Advance, NJ Harm Reduction Bills, More... (3/10/21)

Marijuana legalization bills advance in Hawaii and New Mexico, a pot prisoners' group calls on President Biden to grant clemency to federal marijuana offenders, a California bill to end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses advance, and more.

Marijuana legislation is popping up all over the place. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Last Prisoner Project Calls on Biden to Grant Clemency to Federal Marijuana Prisoners. The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cannabis-related criminal justice reform, has launched 'A Time To Heal,' an advocacy campaign calling on President Biden to leverage his clemency power to commute the sentences of thousands of people unjustifiably incarcerated due to federal marijuana-related violations. The advocacy organization is also encouraging the President to issue grants to the tens of thousands more still struggling because of the collateral consequences of a federal cannabis conviction. "President Biden himself has acknowledged that 'nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime'. We're encouraging him to turn his words into action and use the most immediate tool at his disposal to provide this desperately-needed relief," said project director of strategic initiatives Natalie Papillion.

Arkansas Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) on Monday filed SB499, which would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana an infraction punishable by a $200 fine. Possession is currently a Class A misdemeanor.

Hawaii Senate Approves Expanded Decriminalization, Marijuana Legalization Bills. The state Senate approved two separate marijuana policy reform bills on Tuesday. Senate Bill 767 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over, while Senate Bill 758 would expand the amount of marijuana that is currently decriminalized from three grams to 30 grams. Both measures passed by veto-proof margins. The bills now head for consideration by the House.

New Mexico Senate Committee Approves Two Marijuana Legalization Bills. The Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on Tuesday approved a Senate bill to legalize marijuana, Senate Bill 288 on a unanimous vote and also approved a House bill to legalize marijuana, HB 12, on a 7-4 vote. Two other legalization bills were shelved by sponsors as the legislature seeks consensus on a final measure. The two remaining bills now head for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Legislation must be approved there and on the Senate floor before the session ends on March 20.

New York Coalition Forms for Final Marijuana Legalization Push. Dozens of organized labor groups, progressive organizations, and businesses are set to launch on Wednesday a coalition to make a final push for the legalization of adult-use cannabis products in New York. All told, more than 40 groups are signing onto the coalition called New Yorkers for New Revenue & Jobs, highlighting what advocates contend is one of the main selling points of legalized marijuana in New York: the millions of dollars in revenue the measure would provide in the coming years for the state and local governments. The coalition includes the New York AFL-CIO, as well as the New York Cannabis Industry Association and the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Texas Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D-Dallas) filed a marijuana legalization bill, HB 3248, on Monday. The bill would legalize the possession of up to 2 ½ ounces and 10 ounces at home. It has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bill to Cap THC Levels for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. The House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would cap THC levels in medical marijuana at 10% and 15% for edibles. The vote to advance HB 1455 came despite testimony from doctors and patients that the measure was an assault on medicine. It still needs to be approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee and the House Health Care Appropriations Committee before going to a House floor vote.

Psychedelics

New York Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelic Mushrooms Filed. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D) filed a bill to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms on Monday. AO6065 is similar to legislation Rosenthal filed last year that went nowhere. It would remove psilocybin and psilocin from the state's list of controlled substances. It is now before the Assembly Health Committee.

Harm Reduction

Coronavirus Relief Bill Includes Funding for Addiction Treatment, Harm Reduction. The American Rescue Plan Act, the coronavirus relief bill passed this week by Congress, includes nearly $4 billion for substance abuse disorder and mental health, including funding for harm reduction activities such as needle exchange services, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) said Wednesday. In addition to $1.5 billion for block grants for prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, the act includes $30 million in community-based funding for local substance use disorder services like syringe services programs and other harm reduction interventions.

New Jersey Harm Reduction Bills Filed. Far-reaching harm reduction expansion legislation was introduced in the Senate Health Committee earlier today. The bill package, sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, would reduce overdose deaths, prevent infectious disease, and connect people who use drugs to non-judgmental support. It would do this by creating a statewide standing order for naloxone (brand name Narcan), the medicine that reverses an overdose (S3491); lifting the onerous municipal ordinance requirement that limits harm reduction services (S3009); decriminalizing syringes and expunging previous convictions (S3493); making HIV prophylaxis medication available at pharmacies without a prescription (S1039); and allowing harm reduction programs to offer mail-based services (S3065). Companion measures have been filed in the House.

Sentencing

California Bill to End Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Advances. The Senate Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve SB 73, which would repeal state laws enacted in the midst of the drug war that created mandatory minimum sentences for many drug offenses. It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

back to top

8. Fed Bill Would End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity, SD MedMJ Will Happen on Schedule, More... (3/11/21)

The South Dakota Senate has blocked the governor's effort to delay the implemenation of a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, the Mississippi House has killed a bill that would have substituted for the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative there, and more.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has authored a bill to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. (CC)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Kills Substitute Medical Marijuana Bill. The House late Wednesday killed Senate Bill 2765, which had been filed as a more restrictive alternative to the medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November and now under challenge in the state Supreme Court.

South Dakota Senate Blocks Governor's Effort to Delay Medical Marijuana Rollout. The state Senate has killed Gov. Kristi Noem's (R) effort to delay implementation of the Measure 26 medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November. The House had already passed House Bill 1100, which would have enacted the delay, but the Senate amended the bill to include immediate decriminalization, and when the two chambers were unable to reach a compromise on Wednesday, the bill died.

Sentencing

Bill to End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Awaits Action in Senate. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has filed S. 79, the EQUAL Act, to end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. For years, the disparity was 100:1, but was reduced to 18:1 under legislation passed in the Obama era. This bill would end the disparity entirely, and it would allow for people still serving time for crack sentences under the old law to file motions for reduced sentences. The bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chair, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is sympathetic.

back to top

9. Key Democrat Will Refile Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill, MD House Approves Police Reforms, More... (3/12/21)

A Vermont drug decriminalization bill is filed, Rhose Island's governor rolls out a marijuana legalization plan, Morocco moves toward legalizing hemp and medical marijuana, and more.

The Maryland House has approved sweeping police reforms including limits on no-knock raids. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Key Congressional Chair Will Refile Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), head of the House Judiciary Committee, announced Thursday that he will reintroduce his bill to legalize marijuana this session. The bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed the House last year, but was not taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. This year, the Democrats control both houses.

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization Plan in Budget Proposal. Gov. Dan McKee (D) on Thursday released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022, which includes a plan for legalizing marijuana. McKee is calling for 25 retailers to be licensed in each of the first three years of legalization, with five being earmarked for minority-owned businesses, including those owned by women. Legislative leaders filed their own bill to legalize marijuana earlier this week. Both lawmakers and administration officials said they plan to work together to achieve legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Senate Revives Substitute Medical Marijuana Bill Killed by House. After the House on Wednesday killed a bill to substitute for a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, Senate Bill 2765, the Senate moved late Wednesday night to revive it. Although SB 2765 is dead, Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-South Haven) successfully amended another bill, House Bill 119, using the exact language in SB 2765.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill that would legalize hemp, House Bill 126, which has already passed the House, has now been unanimously approved by the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee and is headed for a Senate floor vote. Idaho is the only state where industrial hemp production remains illegal.

Drug Policy

Idaho Bill to Make Legalizing Drugs More Difficult Passes Senate. A proposed constitutional amendment that would make it impossible to legalize marijuana or any drug through the initiative process has been approved by the Senate and now heads to the House. Under the bill, the legalization of any drug would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. This bill now needs to be approved by two-thirds of the House. If approved, it would then go before voters in 2022.

Vermont Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Reps. Selene Colburn (P) and Logan Nicoll (D) have filed House Bill 422, which would decriminalize the possession and dispensing of personal use amounts of all illicit drugs. Under the bill, personal use quantities would be set by a Drug Use Standards Advisory Board within the Health Department. Persons caught with personal use amounts of drugs would face a $50 fine, which could be avoided by agreeing to be screened for substance abuse disorder.

Law Enforcement

Maryland House Approves Sweeping Police Reform Bill. The House on Thursday approved an omnibus police reform bill, House Bill 670, that, among other things, would require the use of body cameras by 2025, ban chokeholds and create a duty for police to intervene in the face of misconduct, and would limit but not ban no-knock raids. The Senate has already approved a package of nine bills with many provisions similar to the House bill. The two chambers will meet to attempt to reconcile the bills and send them to Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

International

Morocco Government Approves Bill to Legalize Hemp, Medical Marijuana. The cabinet has approved a bill that would legalize non-recreational uses of marijuana, i.e. hemp and medical marijuana. The bill will now be submitted to parliament. The country is seeking to establish a regulatory framework for the entire chain of cultivation, production, processing and marketing of marijuana for medical, cosmetic and industrial uses such as textiles or paper. Morocco has long been one of the world's leading marijuana producers and currently supplies Europe with black market hashish.

back to top
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.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School