Drug War Chronicle #1132 - May 6, 2021

1. Medical Marijuana Update

All of the medical marijuana action is taking place in the South, which is unsurprising given that the region is the last hold-out on medical marijuana.

2. Medical Marijuana Update

An Alabama medical marijuana bill heads to the governor's desk and so does a limited Tennessee medical marijuana bill, and more.

3. Medical Marijuana Update

Busy, busy. There's action at statehouses all over the place, plus Ohio regulators okay three new qualifying conditions, and more.

4. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A New Jersey cop gets caught with a meth lab in his basement, a Florida deputy gets nailed for planting dope on drivers, and more.

5. Arizona Civil Forfeiture Ban Passes Legislature, Michigan THC Limit Driving Bill Filed, More... (4/29/21)

Federal bills to reform asset forfeiture and study the impact of marijuana legalization get filed, a Tennessee push for medical marijuana dies for the year, and more.

6. White House Staffers Hold Virtual Meeting with Ex-Incarcerated, Mexico Cartel Drone Attacks, More... (5/3/21)

A drug decriminalization bill is winning support in Maine, so is a buprenorphine legalization bill in Vermont, and more.

7. Ecstasy Shown to Help with PTSD When Paired with Therapy, LA Smokable MedMJ Bill Advances, More... (5/4/21)

The Maryland Court of Appeals rules that the smell of marijuana is not sufficient probable cause to justify an officer stop, the DC city council ponders reserving some medical marijuana licenses for formerly incarcerated drug offenders, and more.

8. Supreme Court Hears Crack Sentencing Case, Afghan Opium Cultivation Jumps, More... (5/5/21)

An Alabama medical marijuana bill struggles to get past final obstacles, a watered-down Tennessee medical marijuana bill is moving, a Swiss parliamentary committee votes to legalize marijuana, and more.

9. Rio de Janeiro Drug Raid Massacre, AZ Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill, More... (5/7/21)

Medical marijuana bills are moving in several states, a Minnesota marijuana legalization bill has just won its 11th committee vote (!), the Texas House passes a psychedelic therapeutic study bill, and more.

10. MN Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote, Hawaii Pot Poll Shows State Evenly Split, More... (5/10/21/)

A proposed Mississippi marijuana legalization initiative hits a small bump, a Minnesota marijuana legalization bill heads for a House floor vote, and more.

11. MO House Approves Needle Exchange Programs, NE MedMJ Bill Gets Hearing This Week, More... (5/11/21)

A Rhode Island superior court judge throws out a traffic stop and search based on the odor of marijuana, the Missouri House passes a needle exchange bill, and more.

12. LA House Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana, Vancouver Drug Decriminalization Battle, More... (5/12/21)

The Senate Majority Leader says he wants to move a marijuana legalization bill ahead of a marijuana banking bill, a Connecticut marijuana legalization effort may need to go to a special session, and more.

13. WA Governor Signs Misdemeanor Drug Possession Bill, VT Senate Approves Buprenorphine Bill, More... (5/13/21)

Look for a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative next year after the legislature killed a bill this week, a Pennsylvania poll finds broad support for criminal justice reforms, and more.

14. MN House Votes to Legalize Marijuana, AZ Bill Legalizing Fentanyl Test-Strips Goes to Governor, More... (5/14/21)

A Mississippi appeals court upholds a life sentence for a man busted with 1.5 ounces of marijuana, the Minnesota House votes to legalize marijuana, a South Carolina medical marijuana bill dies, and more.

15. AL Becomes Latest MedMJ State, MS Supreme Court Throws Out Voter-Approved MedMJ Initiative, More... (5/17/21)

Ohio medical marijuana regulators expand the list of qualifying conditions, West Virginia medical marijuana regulators ponder allowing patient home grows, Kenyan Rastafaris petition seek to have their marijuana use legalized, and more.

1. Medical Marijuana Update

All of the medical marijuana action is taking place in the South, which is unsurprising given that the region is the last hold-out on medical marijuana.

Alabama

Alabama District Attorneys Urge Lawmakers to Reject Medical Marijuana. Twenty-three of the state's 42 district attorneys have sent a letter to the legislature urging lawmakers to oppose a pending medical marijuana bill. In language right out of the last century, they called marijuana a "gateway drug" and "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Alabama House Republicans Filibuster Vote on Medical Marijuana Bill. House Republicans blocked a vote on a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 46, by tying the chamber up in a nine-hour debate Tuesday afternoon and evening. Now, the House may try to get it passed again on Thursday.

Louisiana

Louisiana House Approves Bill to Allow Patients to Use Smokable Marijuana. The House on Monday voted 73-26 to approve  House Bill 391, which would expand the state's limited medical marijuana program to allow patients to purchase whole-flower marijuana. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Tennessee

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Dies. There will be no medical marijuana in the Volunteer State after the last remaining medical marijuana bill in the legislature was defeated by a single vote in the House Criminal Justice Committee. The bill would have allowed state residents to possess medical marijuana produced in other states.

Tennessee Legislature Moving on Watered Down Medical Marijuana Bill. After a medical marijuana bill was narrowly defeated in the House last week, legislators have now approved a watered down version of House Bill 607 that would allow only for the use of low-THC cannabis oil and create a commission to study legalizing medical marijuana. Governor Bill Lee (R) is expected to sign the measure into law.

Texas

Texas House Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion. The House has given its approval to House Bill 1535, which would raise allowable THC limits from 0.5% to 5% and add PTSD and several additional medical conditions to the state's medical marijuana program.

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2. Medical Marijuana Update

An Alabama medical marijuana bill heads to the governor's desk and so does a limited Tennessee medical marijuana bill, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. With final approval in the House on Thursday, and the Senate approving changes from the House that same day, a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 46, is now headed to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who has not indicated whether she will sign it. The bill would allow people suffering from a list of about 20 specified medical conditions to have access to medical marijuana.

Kansas

Kansas House Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The House on Thursday voted 78-42 to approve a medical marijuana bill, House Substitute for SB158. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Floor Debate This Week. The state's unicameral legislature will debate a medical marijuana bill, LB 474, on Wednesday. Sponsored by Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln), the bill would allow patients with specified qualifying conditions to buy and possess up to 2 ½ ounces, but not smoke it.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill's Time is Running Out. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 150House Bill 3361, is on the calendar for debate in the House this week, but it is unclear whether it will be taken up before the session ends on Friday. The bill would allow patients with specified medical conditions access to medical marijuana and would set up a strictly regulated cultivation and distribution system.

Tennessee

Tennessee Legislature Approves Limited Medical Marijuana Bill. A bill that would expand the state's limited CBD program and create a medical marijuana study commission has passed the legislature and now heads for the desk of Gov. Bill Lee (R), who is expected to sign it. It would allow patients to possess CBD oil with no more than 0.9% THC but provides no legal means of accessing it within the state.

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3. Medical Marijuana Update

Busy, busy. There's action at statehouses all over the place, plus Ohio regulators okay three new qualifying conditions, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Becomes Newest Medical Marijuana State. With the signature of Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Senate Bill 46, medical marijuana is now set to become legal in the state. The new law allows the use of medical marijuana for a set of specified medical conditions and creates the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee how marijuana is grown.

Kansas

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. A medical marijuana bill, House Substitute for Senate Bill 158, has been approved by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee after it approved several amendments. This is the second time the committee has approved the reform proposal for this session. But in March, the House sent the bill back to the committee for further consideration.

Minnesota

Minnesota Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion, Smokable Marijuana. On the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill that will expand the state's medical marijuana program by allowing patients to smoke the buds of the dried plant. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz (D).

Mississippi

Mississippi Supreme Court Voids Voter-Approved Medical Marijuana Law. The state Supreme Court last Friday threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, ruling that it did not meet the state's requirement that 20% of signatures come from each of five congressional districts. The problem is that the state has only had four congressional districts since the 2000 census, and legislative efforts to redress the issue have yet to succeed. Three justices strongly dissented, saying that the secretary of state has rightfully put the measure on the ballot. "The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi," Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a statement. "The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right. It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter."

Mississippi Lawmakers Ponder Special Session on Initiative, Medical Marijuana in Wake of Supreme Court Ruling. A day after the state Supreme Court invalidated a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative because of an unfixed flaw in the state's initiative law, some lawmakers are calling on Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to call a special session to fix the initiative process, while others want a special session to craft a medical marijuana bill. The governor says he's thinking about it.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Killed, Setting Stage for New Initiative. A bill to legalize and regulate medical marijuana, LB 474, was killed in the legislature last Wednesday night. That sets the stage for another drive for a medical marijuana initiative, which is likely to be less restrictive than the bill that just died. The bill died when supporters were unable to go up with enough votes to stop a filibuster by opponents.

Nebraska Activists Relaunch Medical Marijuana Initiative After Legislature Blocks Bill. After medical marijuana foes in the legislature filibustered and killed a bill there on Wednesday, activists aren't wasting a minute in relaunching a campaign to put the issue before voters next year. State Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln), who led the legislative effort, took to Twitter Thursday to urge supporters to go to a website to volunteer and/or sign the petition.

Ohio

Ohio Medical Marijuana Panel Approves Three New Qualifying Conditions. A panel of the Ohio Medical Board has added three new qualifying conditions allowing state residents to use medical marijuana: arthritis, chronic migraines and complex regional pain syndrome, all of which fall into the existing category of chronic or intractable pain.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Killed. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 150House Bill 3361, has died as the legislative session came to an end last Friday. "Quite frankly, I thought this was the year of medical marijuana, which I think has great public support," said Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto. "That will be at the top of the agenda when we come back."

South Dakota

South Dakota Board Okays Medical Marijuana on School Grounds. The state Board of Education Standards has approved a policy that allows adults to give medical marijuana to children for whom doctors have recommended it. Only a "registered caregiver" can administer it, and it must only be in non-smokable form.

West Virginia

West Virginia Regulators Considers Allowing Patients to Grow Their Own. The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is considering a possible recommendation to allow state medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants. Patient advocates cited the cost of buying medical marijuana dispensaries and obstacles to access for residents who do not live near dispensaries. A decision will come some weeks down the road.

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4. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A New Jersey cop gets caught with a meth lab in his basement, a Florida deputy gets nailed for planting dope on drivers, and more. Let's get to it:

In Long Branch, New Jersey, a Long Branch police officer was arrested on Sunday after a domestic disturbance call at his residence with another resident telling police he was involved in drug activity and the State Police Hazmat Unit responding and finding chemicals and equipment consistent with a meth lab, as well as meth residue in some glassware. Officer Christopher Walls, a 19-year veteran of the department, is now charged with first-degree maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) production facility, as well as second-degree counts of possession of a firearm during the course of a CDS offense, risking widespread injury and endangering the welfare of a child. He also faces third degree charges of manufacturing and possession of meth. He has now been suspended without pay.

In Ridgeland, South Carolina, a former state prison guard was arrested Monday for smuggling lollipops laced with methamphetamine into the Ridgeland Correctional Institution. Ex-Sergeant Dana Fisher, 39, went down after she brought a bag of Blow Pop suckers into the prison and a contraband officer noticed that the wrappers appeared to have been altered with glue. The lollipops then tested positive for methamphetamine. Fisher is facing charges of distribution of methamphetamines, providing contraband to an inmate and misconduct in office.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a former Baton Rouge Police Department detective was arrested for a third time Tuesday amid an ongoing investigation of corruption within the entire narcotics division. Ex-Detective Jason Acree had resigned from the department earlier this month after his second arrest. His first arrest, for allegedly stealing marijuana from the evidence room came in February. He was then hit with obstruction of justice charges earlier this month. And he's now hit with new charges of making false statements in an affidavit, maintaining false public records and malfeasance in office. 

In Marianna, Florida, a former Wakulla County sheriff's deputy was convicted Tuesday of planting drugs on innocent drivers during traffic stops. Ex-Deputy Zachary Wester went down after internal affairs investigators found a stash of drugs in his patrol car that he would use to plant during traffic stops. He was charged in a dozen traffic stops where he arrested drivers and passengers on bogus charges and ended up being convicted on 19 counts. Prosecutors had to drop charges in nearly 120 cases involving Wester.

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5. Arizona Civil Forfeiture Ban Passes Legislature, Michigan THC Limit Driving Bill Filed, More... (4/29/21)

Federal bills to reform asset forfeiture and study the impact of marijuana legalization get filed, a Tennessee push for medical marijuana dies for the year, and more.

Action on asset forfeiture in the Congress, and in Alabama and Arizona. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill to Study Impacts of Marijuana Legalization Filed. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have filed a bill that would create a first-of-its-kind comprehensive study into the impacts and effects of state-legalized medicinal and non-medicinal marijuana programs. The Marijuana Data Collection Act is also being filed in the House by Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) and Don Young (R-AK). It would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and relevant state health agencies to enter a ten-year arrangement with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct, and update, a study on the effects of legalized state marijuana programs biennially. This study would evaluate the impacts and effects of state-legalized medicinal and non-medicinal marijuana programs on state economies, public health, criminal justice, and employment.

Michigan Bill Would Set Marijuana Blood Level for Driver Intoxication. Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield) has filed House Bill 4727, which would specify how much THC could be in someone's blood before that person is deemed a per se impaired driver. The bill sets a limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. The bill contradicts the recommendations of a state commission that studied THC blood levels and intoxication, which found that "there is no scientifically supported threshold of (THC) bodily content that would be indicative of impaired driving due to the fact that there is a poor correlation between driving impairment and the blood (plasma) levels of (THC) at the time of blood collection."

Medical Marijuana

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Dies. There will be no medical marijuana in the Volunteer State after the last remaining medical marijuana bill in the legislature was defeated by a single vote in the House Criminal Justice Committee. The bill would have allowed state residents to possess medical marijuana produced in other states.

Texas House Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion. The House has given its approval to House Bill 1535, which would raise allowable THC limits from 0.5% to 5% and add PTSD and several additional medical conditions to the state's medical marijuana program.

Psychedelics

Maine Bill to Legalize Therapeutic Use of Psilocybin Filed. State Sen. Donna Bailey (D) has filed a bill that would legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the Maine Psilocybin Services Act. Under the bill, people 21 and over could legally buy psilocybin from licensed retailers and consume them under the supervision of a licensed "psilocybin services facilitator." The bill would require no specific diagnosis to access psilocybin therapy.

Asset Forfeiture

Federal Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. US Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) have filed a civil asset forfeiture reform bill, he Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (HR 2857), or FAIR Act. The bill would raise the level of proof necessary for the federal government to seize property. Further, it would reform the IRS structuring statute to protect innocent small business owners while increasing transparency and congressional oversight.

The bill was cosponsored by Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND).

Alabama Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances. The House State Government Committee voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 394, a comprehensive civil asset forfeiture reform measure. The legislative session ends in three days. The bill could still pass, but it has to move now.

Arizona Legislature Passes Bill to End Civil Asset Forfeiture. The Senate on Wednesday approved HB 2810, which would end asset forfeiture without a criminal conviction. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

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6. White House Staffers Hold Virtual Meeting with Ex-Incarcerated, Mexico Cartel Drone Attacks, More... (5/3/21)

A drug decriminalization bill is winning support in Maine, so is a buprenorphine legalization bill in Vermont, and more.

White House staffers held a virtual meeting with formerly incarcerated people to talk policy last Friday. (Whitehouse.gov)
Drug Policy

Maine Drug Decriminalization Bill Garners Support at Committee Hearing. A bill that decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of illicit drugs, LD 967, won support from medical and religious groups during a hearing before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee last Thursday. Testifying in support of the bill were the Maine Medical Association and a coalition of religious groups. The bill would make drug possession a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine. The fine could be avoided if people submit to an "evidence-based assessment for proposed treatment for substance use disorder." No vote was taken in committee, but the testimony suggested strong support for the move.

Harm Reduction

Vermont Senate Committee Poised to Pass Buprenorphine Legalization Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Health Committee heard testimony largely in support of a bill to legalize the possession of small amounts of buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. The bill, House Bill 225 , has already passed the House. The Judiciary Committee didn’t vote on the bill because it is currently before the House Rules Committee, but they did express unanimous support for it and expected to approve it once it reaches the committee. The Health Committee must also approve it before it goes for a House floor vote.

Sentencing

White House Officials Meet Virtually with Formerly Incarcerated Criminal Justice Reform Advocates. White House officials met virtually last Friday with a group of former drug war and other prisoners to listen to ideas about how to change criminal justice policies to advance prison and sentencing reform. Domestic policy advisor Susan Rice, public engagement director Cedric Richmond, and White House counsel Dana Remus heard recommendations on how "to reduce incarceration, end racial disparities, and facilitate successful reentry," they said in a White House readout of the event. The trio heard from 10 differerent advocacy groups, including Forward Justice and JustLeadershipUSA.

International

Mexican Drug Cartels Are Attacking Security Forces with Explosive-Laden Drones, Defense Minister Says. Mexican Defense Minister Luis Sandoval said last Wednesday that drug cartels are employing bomb-carrying drones to attack security forces. "We have found that there are some cartels using drones with explosives," the general said during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s daily news conference. The Jalisco New Generation cartel is among those using the drones, Sandoval said, pointing to an attack last Monday in Aguilla, Michoacan, where police clearing roads that had been blocked by cartel members came under attack, leaving two wounded. But the drones are big enough to carry more lethal loads, Sandoval said. "They cannot carry amounts (of explosives) that are harmful to personnel or to a facility," Sandoval said.

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7. Ecstasy Shown to Help with PTSD When Paired with Therapy, LA Smokable MedMJ Bill Advances, More... (5/4/21)

The Maryland Court of Appeals rules that the smell of marijuana is not sufficient probable cause to justify an officer stop, the DC city council ponders reserving some medical marijuana licenses for formerly incarcerated drug offenders, and more.

Pain pill distributors went on trial in Huntington, WV, Monday over their role in the opioid crisis. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Appeals Court Rules Smell of Marijuana Doesn't Justify Officer Stops. The state Court of Special Appeals ruled last week that simply smelling the odor of marijuana does not justify a police officer stopping and investigating someone. The court held that police need "reasonable suspicion" that a crime has been committed and that just smelling marijuana doesn't meet that standard. The state decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams back in 2004, and the court held that since possession of less than that amount is not a crime and since the "odor of marijuana alone does not indicate the quantity, if any, in someone's possession," police cannot rely solely on the odor to conduct a stop and investigation.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana House Approves Bill to Allow Patients to Use Smokable Marijuana. The House on Monday voted 73-26 to approve  House Bill 391, which would expand the state's limited medical marijuana program to allow patients to purchase whole-flower marijuana. The measure now heads to the Senate.

DC Council Considers Legislation to Reserve Some Business Licenses for Formerly Incarcerated Drug Offenders. The city council on Tuesday is taking up legislation that would reserve some new medical marijuana licenses for people who have done time for drug offenses. It is the latest move by the District to try to increase equity in the industry. The bill instructs the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which regulates the industry, to reserve at least one dispensary license, one cultivation center license, and one testing lab license for ex-offenders.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Drug Distribution Companies Go on Trial for Allegedly Fomenting Opioid Addiction Crisis. A federal lawsuit targeting a trio of big drug distribution companies for their role in the ongoing opioid addiction crisis got underway Monday in Huntington, West Virginia. The city of Huntington is suing AmerisourceBergen Drug Company, Cardinal Health Inc, and the McKesson Corporation and alleging they pumped 1.1 billion opioid pain pills into the state, leading to widespread addiction and more than 1,700 opioid overdose deaths statewide. The lawsuit does not address the need of chronic pain patients to have access to sometimes large amounts of prescription opioids. It is one of hundreds filed against drug makers and distributors over the opioid crisis.

Psychedelics

Ecstasy Shown to Help with PTSD When Paired with Therapy. A study about to be published in Nature Medicine found that people with sever post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who were given MDMA (Ecstasy) in conjunction with talk therapy experienced a significantly greater reduction in symptom severity than those who got therapy and a placebo. The study also reported no serious adverse effects, although some participants experienced mild nausea and loss of appetite.

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8. Supreme Court Hears Crack Sentencing Case, Afghan Opium Cultivation Jumps, More... (5/5/21)

An Alabama medical marijuana bill struggles to get past final obstacles, a watered-down Tennessee medical marijuana bill is moving, a Swiss parliamentary committee votes to legalize marijuana, and more.

In Afghan fields, the poppies grow and grow and grow as cultivation jumped dramatically last year. (UNODC)
Medical Marijuana

Alabama House Republicans Filibuster Vote on Medical Marijuana Bill. House Republicans blocked a vote on a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 46, by tying the chamber up in a nine-hour debate Tuesday afternoon and evening. Now, the House may try to get it passed again on Thursday.

Tennessee Legislature Moving on Watered Down Medical Marijuana Bill. After a medical marijuana bill was narrowly defeated in the House last month, legislators have now approved a watered down version of House Bill 607 that would allow only for the use of low-THC cannabis oil and create a commission to study legalizing medical marijuana. Governor Bill Lee (R) is expected to sign the measure into law.

Sentencing

US Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Crack Cocaine Sentencing Case. The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the case of Tarahrick Terry, who is seeking to get his sentence cut by citing a provision in the First Step Act, passed by Congress in 2018. The act was aimed at redressing racial inequities around crack versus powder cocaine sentencing and made the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparity, retroactive. But justices appeared skeptical that the law applied to low-level offenders such as Terry. He had pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute less than four grams of crack cocaine and was sentenced to 15 ½ years in 2008. Higher-level crack offenses are already covered by the First Step Act, and more than 2,500 people have already been released under its provisions, but hundreds of lower-level crack offenders remain behind bars, hoping for some relief from the Supreme Court.

International

UN Reports Afghan Opium Cultivation Leaped Last Year. Opium cultivation in Afghanistan, the world's largest producer, jumped a whopping 37% last year to more than 500,000 acres of poppies planted, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Afghan government reported Tuesday. The study estimated the crop could produce about 6,300 tons of opium, one of the largest figures in the past quarter-century. Helmand province in the southwest appears to be the poppy heartland, accounting for more than half of all poppy plantings.

Swiss Parliamentary Committee Votes to Legalize Marijuana. The Health Commission of the National Council, the country's lower legislative chamber, voted 13-11 last week to federally legalize marijuana for adults. The measure calls for expanding a current pilot program that allows legal access for some 5,000 registered participants to the entire adult population. If the proposal is fully approved by the National Council, it would move next to the Council of States, the upper body of Switzerland’s Federal Assembly. Marijuana has been decriminalized there since 2012.

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9. Rio de Janeiro Drug Raid Massacre, AZ Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill, More... (5/7/21)

Medical marijuana bills are moving in several states, a Minnesota marijuana legalization bill has just won its 11th committee vote (!), the Texas House passes a psychedelic therapeutic study bill, and more.

A favela in Rio de Janeiro. A police raid on a Rio favela left 25 dead this week. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Law Enforcement Arrested Nearly 5,000 People on Marijuana Charges Last Year. Despite spreading legalization at the state level, federal marijuana prohibition remains in full force, with the DEA reporting seizing over 4 ½ million pot plants and making nearly 5,000 marijuana arrests. The number of plants seized was up by 20% over 2019, while the number of arrests was up only slightly from 2019. Both figures, though, represent substantial decreases from a decade ago, when the DEA seized nearly nine million plants and made 8,500 pot arrests.

Idaho Senate Approves Bill to Ban Marijuana Advertising. The state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would bar commercial advertising for marijuana in the state, a move that could potentially impact ballot initiatives to legalize the drug in the state. The bill was only filed this week and had a public hearing earlier in the day that gave the public little chance to participate. The bill now goes to the House.

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Yet Another House Committee Vote. The omnibus marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, was approved by the House Taxes Committee Wednesday. That was the 11th committee to approve the bill. It still must go before the House Ways and Means Committee before heading for a House floor vote. The bill face dim prospects, though, in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Wisconsin GOP Lawmakers Strip Governor's Marijuana Legalization Proposal from Budget. The Republican-dominated Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 on Thursday to delete Gov. Tony Evers' (D) marijuana legalization proposal from the budget. The move was no surprise, and has led to call from Evers for residents to put pressure on GOP lawmakers to support his agenda.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. With final approval in the House on Thursday, and the Senate approving changes from the House that same day, a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 46, is now headed to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who has not indicated whether she will sign it. The bill would allow people suffering from a list of about 20 specified medical conditions to have access to medical marijuana.

Kansas House Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The House on Thursday voted 78-42 to approve a medical marijuana bill, House Substitute for SB158. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Tennessee Legislature Approves Limited Medical Marijuana Bill. A bill that would expand the state's limited CBD program and create a medical marijuana study commission has passed the legislature and now heads for the desk of Gov. Bill Lee (R), who is expected to sign it. It would allow patients to possess CBD oil with no more than 0.9% THC but provides no legal means of accessing it within the state.

Psychedelics

Texas House Approves Psychedelic Therapeutic Study Bill. The House on Thursday voted to approve a bill, House Bill 1802, that would mandate the state conduct a study of the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin and MDMA. The measure passed on an overwhelming vote of 134-12. The bill was amended in the House to limit the study to veterans with PTSD instead of the broader study originally envisioned. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Asset Forfeiture

Arizona Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill into Law. Governor Doug Ducey (R) on Wednesday signed into law House Bill 2810, which reforms but does not eliminate civil asset forfeiture in the state. The bill passed the legislature with strong support.

International

Brazil Drug Raid in Rio Favela Leaves 25 Dead. A massive police operation Thursday against drug traffickers in the Jacarezinho favela in Rio de Janeiro left one policeman and 24 favela residents dead. The bloody raid is drawing condemnation from human rights groups. "Who are the dead? Young black men. That’s why the police talk about ‘24 suspects.’ Being a young, black favela resident automatically makes you a suspect to the police. They just keep piling up bodies and saying, ‘They’re all criminals,’" said Silvia Ramos, head of the Security Observatory at Candido Mendes University. "Is this the public security policy we want? Shootouts, killings and police massacres?" This isn't the deadliest anti-drug police operation in the country's history: A 2005 raid in the Baixada Fluminense favela left 29 dead. Police in Rio have a reputation for deadliness, and Human Rights Watch reports that they killed 453 in the first quarter of 2021.

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10. MN Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote, Hawaii Pot Poll Shows State Evenly Split, More... (5/10/21/)

A proposed Mississippi marijuana legalization initiative hits a small bump, a Minnesota marijuana legalization bill heads for a House floor vote, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Split on Marijuana Legalization, Poll Finds. State residents are evenly divided on whether to legalize marijuana, according to a new Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll. Some 43% of registered voters supported legalization, while 42% were opposed. The difference is within the poll's 2.5% margin of error. Still, the trend is toward increasing support. The last time this poll was conducted, in December 2017, only 36% supported legalization, with 55% opposed.

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. An omnibus marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, has successful run the gauntlet of House committee votes, having been approved by 12 different committees, and now heads for a House floor vote this week. If it passes the House, the bill faces bleak prospects in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Mississippi Marijuana Legalization Initiative Signature-Gathering Delayed. The secretary of state's office said last Friday that signature gathering for Initiative 77, a marijuana legalization initiative, will be delayed because of an error in notifying the public about the initiative. State law requires that the title and summary of an initiative be published within 10 days after those documents are filed, and Secretary of State Michael Watson (R) said it said the notice to the Mississippi Press Association and its affiliate, Mississippi Press Services, which was supposed to distribute it to all the newspapers in the state, but somehow missed five of them. The press association and service have apologized for the error.

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11. MO House Approves Needle Exchange Programs, NE MedMJ Bill Gets Hearing This Week, More... (5/11/21)

A Rhode Island superior court judge throws out a traffic stop and search based on the odor of marijuana, the Missouri House passes a needle exchange bill, and more.

Needle exchange programs like this one could be legalized under a bill that just passed the Missouri House. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Judge Throws Out Traffic Stop Search and Arrest Based on Odor of Marijuana. A Superior Court judge on Monday threw out evidence in two cases after determining that state troopers violated suspects' rights by unconstitutionally converting routine traffic stops into drug investigations and warrantless searches. Both cases involved out-of-state drivers of color and in both cases troopers argued that the apparent nervousness of drivers gave them reasonable suspicion to prolong the traffic stops and search the vehicles. In one of the cases, troopers also argued that the faint odor of marijuana could justify a warrantless search. Marijuana is decriminalized in the state. The trooper in this case initiated the stop because of a seatbelt violation, but as the judge noted in his ruling: "Based on the facts present in this case, it is clear that [the trooper] departed from his seatbelt violation mission and pursued a narcotics investigation when he removed [the driver] from the vehicle." The judge noted that the state Supreme Court had yet to rule on how decriminalization affected reasonable suspicion or probable cause determinations, but noted that neighboring Massachusetts and Vermont high courts had ruled that the odor of marijuana alone is not sufficient for a search.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Floor Debate This Week. The state's unicameral legislature will debate a medical marijuana bill, LB 474, on Wednesday. Sponsored by Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln), the bill would allow patients with specified qualifying conditions to buy and possess up to 2 ½ ounces, but not smoke it.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill's Time is Running Out. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 150House Bill 3361, is on the calendar for debate in the House this week, but it is unclear whether it will be taken up before the session ends on Friday. The bill would allow patients with specified medical conditions access to medical marijuana and would set up a strictly regulated cultivation and distribution system.

Harm Reduction

Missouri House Votes to Approve Needle Exchanges. The House on Monday passed a bill to legalize needle exchange programs, House Bill 1467. There are already needle exchanges in the state, but harm reduction workers currently face the prospect of a misdemeanor charge of providing needles for drug use. Under the bill, needle exchange programs could get legal by registering with the state. The bill now heads to the Senate.

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12. LA House Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana, Vancouver Drug Decriminalization Battle, More... (5/12/21)

The Louisiana House votes to decriminalize pot possession, a Connecticut marijuana legalization effort may require a legislative special session, and more.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is prioritizing marijuana legalization over a marijuana banking bill. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Congress Must Pass Marijuana Legalization Before Taking Up Pot Banking Bill, Schumer Says. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in an interview Tuesday that he is prioritizing a marijuana legalization bill that is still being drafted over a marijuana banking bill, the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1677), that has already passed the House. Biden said he and colleagues will be "introducing our [marijuana legalization] bill shortly" and that the banking bill should wait because "we're not going to bargain against ourselves."

Connecticut Key Players Say Marijuana Legalization May Get Bumped to Special Session. House Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D) said Tuesday that a marijuana legalization bill may be taken up in a special session later this year as the regular session faces a looming deadline. "It’s just one of those issues that we’re working through some of the details that were of concern to everyone over the past couple months, but we’re making progress," Rojas said. told a reporter from CT News Junkie during a press conference. House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) added "if we can find a path to a deal, it’s the kind of thing that I think you could always go into overtime if you had to," and that "we’d all be comfortable coming to special session for that issue."

Louisiana House Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. The House voted 67-25 Tuesday night to approve a marijuana decriminalization bill, House Bill 652. The bill would make possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable only by a $100 fine, even for repeat offenses. The bill now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are unclear.

International

Vancouver Drug Decriminalization Gets Harsh Criticism from Advocates Over Personal Possession Limits. The city is embarking on a plan to decriminalize drug possession but is getting serious flack from drug user advocates who say that the amount of drugs people can possess without criminal charges are too low and do not reflect the realities of drug use. They warn that setting the limits too low could encourage drug users to seek out synthetic opioids and benzodiazepines, setting the stage for more drug overdoses. The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) has announced that it is withdrawing from talks with the city, and it and other drug policy advocates complain that drug users were largely excluded from the decriminalization process and that police have to large a role.

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13. WA Governor Signs Misdemeanor Drug Possession Bill, VT Senate Approves Buprenorphine Bill, More... (5/13/21)

Look for a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative next year after the legislature killed a bill this week, a Pennsylvania poll finds broad support for criminal justice reforms, and more.

The Vermont legislature has approved a bill legalizing the possession of limited amounts of buprenorphine. (Pixabay)
Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Killed, Setting Stage for New Initiative. A bill to legalize and regulate medical marijuana, LB 474, was killed in the legislature Wednesday night. That sets the stage for another drive for a medical marijuana initiative, which is likely to be less restrictive than the bill that just died. The bill died when supporters were unable to go up with enough votes to stop a filibuster by opponents.

Drug Policy

Washington Governor Signs Bill Making Drug Possession a Misdemeanor. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 5476, which makes the possession of personal use amounts of drugs a misdemeanor, not a felony. The bill came after the state Supreme Court threw out the state's felony drug possession law earlier this year, and the legislature grappled with whether to do nothing and effectively decriminalize drug possession or act to ensure drug possession remained a criminal offense, even if not a felony.

Harm Reduction

Vermont Senate Approves Bill to Legalize Buprenorphine Possession. The state Senate on Wednesday voted to approve a bill legalizing the possession of limited amounts of the opioid maintenance drug buprenorphine, House Bill 225. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott (R). It would allow people to possess up to 224 milligrams of the drug, enough for a two week supply, without a doctor's prescription.

Law Enforcement

House Democrats File Bill to End Pentagon Shipments of Excess Equipment to Police Departments. Eighteen House Democrats led by Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-NY) filed a bill Thursday to end the program that lets the Pentagon ship surplus equipment to local police departments. At the same time, more than 150 organizations signed on to a letter to lawmakers backing the bill. "The 1033 program has contributed to a military-style police culture and has endangered countless lives, particularly in communities of color," the 155 organizations wrote in the letter. "It is our assessment that the 1033 program is irreparable and should be abolished, especially in light of the fact that past attempts to reform the program were ineffective."

Pennsylvania Voters Support Criminal Justice Reforms, Poll Finds. A a new poll from Data for Progress and The Lab finds broad support for criminal justice reforms in the state. Voters approved of sentence reductions for good behavior in prison (75%), ending probation when supervision is no longer necessary (68%), limiting the use of cash bail (64%), and decriminalizing drug possession (60%).

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14. MN House Votes to Legalize Marijuana, AZ Bill Legalizing Fentanyl Test-Strips Goes to Governor, More... (5/14/21)

A Mississippi appeals court upholds a life sentence for a man busted with 1.5 ounces of marijuana, the Minnesota House votes to legalize marijuana, a South Carolina medical marijuana bill dies, and more.

Allen Russell is doing life without parole in Mississippi for 1.5 ounces of weed.
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill to Protect Marijuana Users from Losing Public Housing Filed. Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC) has refiled a bill that would let people who live in federally subsidized housing use marijuana in compliance with state laws without fear of losing their housing. Under current federal law and policy, marijuana users can be evicted from public housing even in states where it is legal. "Individuals living in federally assisted housing should not be denied admission, or fear eviction, for using a legal product," Norton said on Thursday. "Adult use and/or medical marijuana is currently legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and over 90 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana." The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

Minnesota House Votes to Legalize Marijuana. The House on Thursday evening approved an omnibus marijuana legalization bill, House File 600. The bill would legalize weed for people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. The bill has the support of Gov. Tim Walz (D), but faces dim prospects in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Mississippi Man's Life Sentence for Marijuana Possession Upheld. A state appeals court on Tuesday upheld a life without parole sentence for Allen Russell after he was arrested with 1.5 ounces of marijuana in 2017. His sentence came after he was designated a habitual offender for having previous burglary and firearms possession convictions. The usual sentence for possessing 1.5 ounces of marijuana is up to three years in prison.

Medical Marijuana                                                   

Nebraska Activists Relaunch Medical Marijuana Initiative After Legislature Blocks Bill. After medical marijuana foes in the legislature filibustered and killed a bill there on Wednesday, activists aren't wasting a minute in relaunching a campaign to put the issue before voters next year. State Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln), who led the legislative effort, took to Twitter Thursday to urge supporters to go to a website to volunteer and/or sign the petition.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Killed. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 150House Bill 3361, has died as the legislative session came to an end Friday. "Quite frankly, I thought this was the year of medical marijuana, which I think has great public support," said Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto. "That will be at the top of the agenda when we come back."

Harm Reduction

Arizona Bill Legalizing Drug-Testing Strips Heads to Governor's Desk. The House has approved a bill that legalizes test strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl, SB1486. Under current state law, the strips are considered drug paraphernalia. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

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15. AL Becomes Latest MedMJ State, MS Supreme Court Throws Out Voter-Approved MedMJ Initiative, More... (5/17/21)

Ohio medical marijuana regulators expand the list of qualifying conditions, West Virginia medical marijuana regulators ponder allowing patient home grows, Kenyan Rastafaris petition seek to have their marijuana use legalized, and more.

The Mississippi Supreme Court. It just threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative. (mississippi.org)
Medical Marijuana

Alabama Becomes Newest Medical Marijuana State. With the signature of Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Senate Bill 46, medical marijuana is now set to become legal in the state. The new law allows the use of medical marijuana for a set of specified medical conditions and creates the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee how marijuana is grown.

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. A medical marijuana bill, House Substitute for Senate Bill 158, has been approved by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee after it approved several amendments. This is the second time the committee has approved the reform proposal for this session. But in March, the House sent the bill back to the committee for further consideration.

Mississippi Supreme Court Voids Voter-Approved Medical Marijuana Law. The state Supreme Court last Friday threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, ruling that it did not meet the state's requirement that 20% of signatures come from each of five congressional districts. The problem is that the state has only had four congressional districts since the 2000 census, and legislative efforts to redress the issue have yet to succeed. Three justices strongly dissented, saying that the secretary of state has rightfully put the measure on the ballot. "The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi," Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a statement. "The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right. It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter."

Ohio Medical Marijuana Panel Approves Three New Qualifying Conditions. A panel of the Ohio Medical Board has added three new qualifying conditions allowing state residents to use medical marijuana: arthritis, chronic migraines and complex regional pain syndrome, all of which fall into the existing category of chronic or intractable pain.

West Virginia Regulators Considers Allowing Patients to Grow Their Own. The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is considering a possible recommendation to allow state medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants. Patient advocates cited the cost of buying medical marijuana dispensaries and obstacles to access for residents who do not live near dispensaries. A decision will come some weeks down the road.

International

Kenyan Rastafaris File Petition Seeking to Legalize Marijuana. The Rastafarian Society of Kenya has filed a petition challenging the constitutionality of the country's drug laws and seeking the suspension of that section of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1994 dealing with marijuana when it comes to Rastafaris. "The Petitioners aver that followers/believers of the Rastafari faith use bhang or cannabis by either smoking, drinking, eating, bathing and/or burning of incense for spiritual, medicinal, culinary and ceremonial purposes as sacrament as the ultimate of manifesting their religion as a Rastafari to meditate and or reason with others in order to connect with their God," the petition said.

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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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