Drug War Chronicle #1150 - January 27, 2022

1. These States Could Legalize Marijuana via the Ballot Box in 2022 [FEATURE]

A new year brings a new slate of potential state-level marijuana legalization initiatives.

2. Medical Marijuana Update

Fourteen months after voters approved medical marijuana at the polls only to see it thrown out by the state Supreme Court, Mississippi legislators have reached an agreement on a medical marijuana bill, and more.

3. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered former Kentucky sheriff is in trouble, a former Connecticut cop gets nailed for helping out a target of a DEA drug investigation, and more.

4. MS House Passes MedMJ Bill, MO Drug Decrim Bill Filed, More... (1/20/22)

A marijuana services company has filed a federal lawsuit over massive cash seizures by cops in California and Kansas, the Colombian Constitutional Court puts the kibosh on spraying coca crops with herbicide, and more.

5. DEA Proposes Scheduling Five Tryptamines, RI Governor to Push for Marijuana Legalization, More... (1/21/22)

Legislators in a pair of red states attempt to deal with mounting pressure for medical marijuana, a Washington state bill moves to end employment-related marijuana testing, and more.

6. VA GOP Bill Would Gut Marijuana Social Equity Funding, Mexico Murders May Have Peaked, More... (1/24/22)

North Dakota marijuana initiative campaigners will have to go back to the drawing board, social equity funding is on the chopping block in Virginia's GOP marijuana implementation bill, and more.

7. SD House Votes to Ban MedMJ Home Grows, MN Usual Suspects Form Anti-Marijuana Coalition, More... (1/25/22)

Life just got a bit easier for Empire State medical marijuana patients, a Wisconsin GOP lawmaker wants to reinstate drug testing for some welfare recipients, and more.

8. MS Lawmakers Reach Agreement on MedMJ Bill, Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decrim, More... (1/26/22)

Thailand takes another big step toward marijuana decriminalization, San Francisco is turning a blind eye to drug use at a Tenderloin services center, and more.

1. These States Could Legalize Marijuana via the Ballot Box in 2022 [FEATURE]

A new year is here, and with it, new opportunities to expand the legal marijuana landscape at the ballot box. Currently, marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, DC, with medical marijuana allowed in 36 states and DC. Given that marijuana legalization is as popular as apple pie -- the most recent Gallup poll has support at a record 68 percent--we should expect to see more join the ranks. There are eight states that could increase that number at the ballot box this year.

(There are also legalization efforts at statehouses -- look for a feature story on that shortly.)

Among the eight states with ballot prospects are several states where legalization would be achieved in a hybrid fashion: The legislature would have to approve a bill calling for a referendum on the issue, and then voters would get their say.

The year is young, and none of the initiatives below have yet qualified. They must all overcome procedural hurdles and signature gathering requirements (except for those hybrids). But if they can manage to get qualified, the polling numbers suggest they can win, even in the reddest states.

With a big tip of the hat to Ballotpedia, Marijuana Moment, and NORML, who are all keeping an eye on the action, here's the list of states working to legalize it at the ballot box this year:

Arkansas

Two separate marijuana legalization initiative campaigns were derailed by coronavirus disruptions and restrictions in 2020, but both are back this year, along with a potential third initiative. All take the form of initiated constitutional amendments.

One initiative is a proposed constitutional amendment submitted by Arkansans for Marijuana Reform. It would legalize the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana buds and two ounces of concentrates and would let people grow up to six mature marijuana plants and six seedlings. Legal marijuana commerce would be handled by the state Department of Finance and Administration, which would have to issue at least one retail license per 15,000 residents.

A second initiative, submitted by Arkansas True Grass,would legalize sales as well as personal possession. Adults could purchase up to four ounces at a time and grow up to 12 plants for personal use, while licensed and regulated marijuana commerce would be taxed at 13 percent at the retail level (8 percent excise tax and 5 percent local sales tax). Past marijuana convictions would be expunged.

The third initiative was just filed this week. It is from former state lawmaker Eddie Armstrong (D), who is also involved in an Illinois marijuana business and who announced back in October that he had formed a campaign called Responsible Growth Arkansas to put a legalization constitutional amendment on the ballot. His Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment would legalize marijuana but seems more interested in who would get coveted licenses. It would have authorities issue licenses first to people who already had medical marijuana licenses and would cap the number of dispensaries at 120.

All three campaigns will need to come up with 89,151 valid voter signatures by July 8 to qualify for the November ballot.

Kentucky

This is a hybrid state: Six members of the House have filed House Bill 225, which, if passed, would put before the voters a referendum question on marijuana legalization. The proposal would allow anyone 21 or over to possess, use, buy, or sell up to an ounce of marijuana and grow, harvest, and store up to five plants for personal use. The measure would also set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.

Whether this bill will move remains to be seen. It went to the Committee on Committees on January 5 and, as of this writing, it has not advanced or been scheduled for a hearing.

Maryland

Another hybrid state. Delegate Luke Clippinger (D), chairman of legislative group studying the issue of marijuana legalization, has filed House Bill 1, which, if passed, would place before voters the following question: "Do you favor the legalization of adult -- use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" If voters approved it, the General Assembly would then be charged with writing the rules covering "use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis."

This bill could move. It was House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) who formed the marijuana working group, and Clippinger is not only chairman of the group but also chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to which it has been referred.

But Jones's counterpart, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D), seems more inclined to support getting a straight legalization bill passed before November than going down the referendum route. Either way would work.

Missouri

Missouri has two marijuana legalization initiatives already cleared for circulation and one measure in the legislature that would, if passed, result in a public referendum on the issue.

Legal Missouri 2022 has filed an initiative that legalizes marijuana for people 21 and over and automatically expunges criminal records for past nonviolent marijuana offenses. It also includes social equity provisions aimed at broadening participation in the industry. The group kicked off its signature gathering campaign in December and needs at least 107,246 valid voter signatures by July 28.

A different group, Fair Access Missouri, has filed multiple initiatives aimed at creating a system of legal marijuana sales for people 21 and over. The group describes itself as a "grassroots coalition of activists, patient advocates, and entrepreneurs working to give Missouri voters an open market with low taxes and low barriers to entry." Fair Access Missouri is also now in the signature gathering phase.

And then there is Rep. Shamed Dogan (R), who has filed a joint resolution, House Joint Resolution 33, to put a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot. He filed the same bill last year, but it did not advance. It is not currently scheduled for a House hearing.

New Hampshire

And another hybrid. The House has already approved a marijuana legalization bill this year, as in years past, but all such bills so far have gone on to die in the Senate. Maybe this year will be different, but in case it is not, three House members have introduced bills to place marijuana legalization constitutional amendments on the ballot. The measures are CACR 20 from Rep. Renny Cushing (D),CACR 34 from Rep. Joshua Adjutant (D) (D), and CACR 35 from Rep. Abdrew Prout (R).

These bills face a significant uphill battle. First, they have no win a 60 percent supermajority in both the House and Senate, which would be a tough slog in the GOP-controlled legislature, and then two-thirds (67 percent) of the voters would have to approve it.

Getting two-thirds of the voters to approve it, though, may not be as challenging as it appears. A recent poll had support for marijuana legalization in the state at 75 percent.

Ohio

And another hybrid. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is campaigning to put a marijuana legalization initiative before the legislature, which would then have four months to approve it. If the legislature votes no or fails to act, the initiative would then go to the voters in November, provided the campaign successful completes another round of signature gathering.

Right now, the campaign is struggling to get past the initial round of signature gathering. The initiative needs 132,887 valid voter signatures to begin the process at the statehouse, and it handed in more than 200,000 raw signatures early in January, but state officials determined that only 199,925 were valid. Campaigners then did a final round of petitioningand came up with an additional 29,918 raw signatures. State officials have yet to confirm the signature count, but less than half of those raw signatures need to be valid to get the campaign past the hurdle.

Oklahoma

Two different marijuana legalization initiative campaigns are underway in the Sooner State.

Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action is behind State Question 819, which would amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana. The measure would legalize up to eight ounces for people 21 and over and has strong home grow provisions, allowing for up to 12 plants (and the fruits of their harvest). It also includes employment and parental rights protections and would make some changes to the state medical marijuana program.

The deep-pocketed national drug reform powerhouse New Approach PAC is behind State Question820, which would allow people 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six mature plants and six seedlings at home.

SQ 819 is a constitutional amendment, so it has a higher signature requirement that SQ 820, which is an initiated statute. SQ 819 will need at least 177,958 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, while SQ 820 will only need 94,911. Once the campaigns get the go-ahead for signature gathering, they have 90 days to get it done, with a June cut-off date for latecomers.

South Dakota

South Dakotans approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020 with 54 percent of the vote, only to have the will of the voters overturned by the state Supreme Court. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML), the folks behind the 2020 effort, are back again with a new, trimmed-back initiative that does not include business licensing, sales, or regulations, instead leaving that to the legislature.

The campaign is in the midst of signature gathering, having turned in some 15,000 raw signatures in December. A 2022 initiated measure requires 16,961 valid signatures from registered South Dakota voters to qualify for the November ballot, but the campaign has until May 3 to complete signature gathering. It says its goal is 25,000 raw signatures.

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2. Medical Marijuana Update

Fourteen months after voters approved medical marijuana at the polls only to see it thrown out by the state Supreme Court, Mississippi legislators have reached an agreement on a medical marijuana bill, and more.

Idaho

Idaho Bill Would Allow Use of Spray Derived from Marijuana. A pair of Republican legislators have filed a bill, House Bill 446, that would allow people suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders to have access to a pain relief spray derived from marijuana. The spray, Nabiximols, is manufactured by GW Pharma and is currently undergoing clinical trials for possible approval by the Food & Drug Administration. It contains a mix of CBD and THC, and would be the second such drug. The legislation was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee on a voice vote and can now come back to the committee for a public hearing. Idaho has been one of the most recalcitrant states when it comes to marijuana law reform. Last year, a medical marijuana bill in the House didn't even receive a hearing, while the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature -- not voters in an initiative -- sole authority to legalize marijuana or any other drugs.

Mississippi

Mississippi Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Medical Marijuana Bill. House and Senate lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on medical marijuana legislation and were preparing to finalize details of the legislation this week before sending the bill to Gov. Tate Reeves (R). The bill was amended in the House to reduce the amount of medical marijuana available each month for patients, in line with the concerns of Gov. Reeves. The agreement comes more than a year after voted approved a medical marijuana initiative only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Nebraska Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill Filed in Bid to Blunt Initiative Campaign. Conservative state Sen. Mike Groene (R-North Platte) has filed a bill, LB 1275, that would allow patients with stage IV cancers, uncontrollable seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy, or a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in the form of an oil or pill. Patients under 19 would need written certification from three different practitioners. Groene was open that his bill is an effort to blunt an ongoing medical marijuana initiative campaign. "I don't want it to pass," he said. "I want the elected officials in charge of the future of this, to define it and change it over time if necessary, to have the medical people in (the Department of Health and Human Services) write the bills."

Ohio

Ohio Bill to Add Autism as Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition Advances. The House Health Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 60, which would add autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House Rules and Reference Committee, which decides which bills get a floor vote. Bill cosponsor Rep. Bill Seize (R-Cincinnati) said he was optimistic the bill would get a floor vote. "This is a good, bipartisan bill," he said, pointing out that 14 other legislators from both parties are cosponsors.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana to (Finally) Be Debated. Senator Tom Davis's (R-Beaufort) Senate Bill 150, the South Carolina Compassionate Use Act, will finally be debated on the Senate floor this week. Davis has been trying for seven years to get to this point. Befitting the conservative state, Davis's bill is also conservative. It bars the use of smokable marijuana, requires an in-patient doctor's visit and a written treatment plan, and limits the conditions that can be treated to a specified list including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma. sickle cell anemia and autism. Davis says he thinks he has enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate and send it to the House, but House leaders have not indicated whether they would take it up before the session ends.

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3. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered former Kentucky sheriff is in trouble, a former Connecticut cop gets nailed for helping out a target of a DEA drug investigation, and more. Let's get to it:

In Covington, Kentucky, a former Greenup County sheriff was arrested last Thursday for allegedly stealing more than $50,000 in cash that had been seized from drug suspects. Former Sheriff Keith Cooper, 68, is accused of making cash withdrawals from the agency's asset forfeiture fund, which holds proceeds from properties seized in drug investigations and can only be used for law enforcement purposes. But Cooper used the money for personal ends and "otherwise unauthorized uses as he deemed fit," according to the federal indictment. He also had deputies try to falsify records once he realized an investigation was happening. He is facing one count of mail fraud and one count of theft of property from a federally funded agency.

In East Haven, Connecticut, a former East Haven police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he used his official position to access a law enforcement database on behalf of a suspect in a DEA drug investigation. Jason Andino, 30, went down when a DEA wiretap picked up a phone conversation where a man associated with the DEA target asked if there was anyone inside the department who could provide information about police activity near his home. Andino was allegedly the person who could -- and did -- provide the information. He is charged with two counts of felony third-degree computer crimes for the alleged illegal use of law enforcement databases.

In Mobile, Alabama, a former Escambia County Detention Center guard was sentenced last Friday to 18 months in prison for smuggling contraband including drugs into the jail. Lakerdra Shanta Snowden, 31, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted taking cash payments totaling more than $5,000 for her efforts. She also copped to bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds, providing contraband to a federal prisoner, and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

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4. MS House Passes MedMJ Bill, MO Drug Decrim Bill Filed, More... (1/20/22)

A marijuana services company has filed a federal lawsuit over massive cash seizures by cops in California and Kansas, the Colombian Constitutional Court puts the kibosh on spraying coca crops with herbicide, and more.

Colombian coca farmers will not have to worry about having toxic herbicides dumped on their fields. (DEA)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Amends Medical Marijuana Bill to Lower Possession Limits, Then Passes It. The House on Wednesday approved the Senate's medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 2095, but only after amending it to lower the amount of marijuana flower patients can possess each month from 3.5 ounces to 3 ounces. The Senate had previously lowered the limit from 4 ounces to 3.5 in a bid to soothe the concerns of Governor Tate Reeves (R), who has expressed worry that the bill allowed patients too much marijuana. The bill now goes back to the Senate. If the Senate rejects the House's amended limit, the bill would then go to conference committee to hash out the differences.

Asset Forfeiture

Marijuana Services Company Sues Cops in California and Kansas Over Seizures of $1.2 Million in Cash. Empyreal Logistics, a company that uses armored cars to transport cash to and from marijuana businesses, has had its vehicles stopped and cash seized on five separate occasions since last May by sheriff's deputies in Kansas and California. The stops resulted in no citations or criminal charges, but the deputies seized $1.2 million in cash under state civil forfeiture law.

Now, with the help of the Institute for Justice, Empyreal has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the seizures violate state law, federal law, and the US Constitution. In a complaint it filed last Friday in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Empyreal says it is "entitled to protection from highway robberies, regardless of whether they are conducted by criminals or by the Sheriff and federal law-enforcement agencies acting under color of law."

In both California and Kansas, local sheriffs handed the seizures over to the DEA in a bid to circumvent state laws limiting seizures and who profits from them. The lawsuit charges that the DEA's involvement violates the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, a spending rider that bars the Justice Department (which includes the DEA and the FBI) from using any of its funds to interfere with the implementation of state laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. Because the DEA violated that restriction, the company says, it also violated the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. And because the seizure was motivated by the prospect of financial gain, the lawsuit says, it violated the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process.

Drug Policy

Arizona Bill Would End Restriction on Food Stamp Benefits to Drug Felons. A bill that would remove requirements that people with past felony drug convictions agree to random drug testing and to taking part in a drug treatment program in order to access the Supplemental Nutritional Program (SNAP) has passed its first hurdle. Sponsored by Rep. Walter Blackman (R-Snowflake), the measure, House Bill 2060, was approved unanimously on Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Missouri Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Rep. Peter Merideth (D) has filed a bill to decriminalize a range of drugs including marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and cocaine. The measure, House Bill 2469, would make low-level drug possession an infraction punishable by a maximum $100 fine or participation in a drug treatment program if ordered by a court. The bill would decriminalize up to 10 grams of cannabis, one gram of heroin, one gram of MDMA, two grams of methamphetamine, 40 units of LSD, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 units of methadone, 40 oxycodone pills and two grams of cocaine. The bill also lowers charges for possessing some quantities greater than personal use from felonies to misdemeanors. It currently has no hearing scheduled.

International

Colombia High Court Blocks Government Plan to Spray Coca Crops with Toxic Herbicide. The country's Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that the administration of conservative President Iván Duque cannot spray the herbicide glyphosate on coca crops without the consent of rural communities. That effectively blocks the proposed renewal of spraying. The ruling came after rural black and indigenous communities sued to block the plan, saying the herbicide causes disease, destroys traditional crops and pollutes the water.

The court imposed a one-year deadline for agreement to be reached to allow spraying, effectively blocking the Duque administration, which leaves office in August, from moving forward before then. Spraying the coca crop with glyphosates was done in the past but blocked by the Constitutional Court in 2015. President Duque has spent the four years of his administration trying to get it going again.

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5. DEA Proposes Scheduling Five Tryptamines, RI Governor to Push for Marijuana Legalization, More... (1/21/22)

Legislators in a pair of red states attempt to deal with mounting pressure for medical marijuana, a Washington state bill moves to end employment-related marijuana testing, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms could be decriminalized under a New Hampshire bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Governor Renews Push for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Dan McKee (D) has included marijuana legalization in his Fiscal Year 2023 budget, calling for the "phased-in introduction of retail licenses." The state Senate overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization in the last session, but the legislature adjourned with no vote in the House. Lawmakers are reportedly working on a compromise between the Senate bill, which envisioned up to 150 retail outlets, and the governor's initial plan, which called for only 25 retail licenses. Both the Senate bill and the governor's plan include social equity provisions.

Washington State Bill Would End Employment Drug Tests for Marijuana. State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) has sponsored Senate Bill 5517, which would amend the state's employment drug testing law to exclude marijuana -- with a couple of notable exceptions. One exception would allow employers to continue to screen for marijuana if they create "drug-free workplace" written policies, including employee education and supervisor training. The other exception would be for federal employees, because marijuana remains federally illegal.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Bill Would Allow Use of Spray Derived from Marijuana. A pair of Republican legislators have filed a bill, House Bill 446, that would allow people suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders to have access to a pain relief spray derived from marijuana. The spray, Nabiximols, is manufactured by GW Pharma and is currently undergoing clinical trials for possible approval by the Food & Drug Administration. It contains a mix of CBD and THC, and would be the second such drug. The legislation was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee on a voice vote and can now come back to the committee for a public hearing.

Idaho has been one of the most recalcitrant states when it comes to marijuana law reform. Last year, a medical marijuana bill in the House didn't even receive a hearing, while the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature -- not voters in an initiative -- sole authority to legalize marijuana or any other drugs.

Nebraska Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill Filed in Bid to Blunt Initiative Campaign. Conservative state Sen. Mike Groene (R-North Platte) has filed a bill, LB 1275, that would allow patients with stage IV cancers, uncontrollable seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy, or a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in the form of an oil or pill. Patients under 19 would need written certification from three different practitioners.

Groene was open that his bill is an effort to blunt an ongoing medical marijuana initiative campaign. "I don't want it to pass," he said. "I want the elected officials in charge of the future of this, to define it and change it over time if necessary, to have the medical people in (the Department of Health and Human Services) write the bills."

Psychedelics

DEA Proposes Labeling Five Psychedelic Tryptamines as Schedule I Controlled Substances. The DEA announced last Friday that it intends to criminalize five tryptamines as Schedule I controlled substances. The five are: 4-Hydroxy-N,N-diisopropyltryptamine (4-OH-DiPT), 5-Methoxy-alphamethyltryptamine (5-MeO-AMT), N-Isopropyl-5-Methoxy-N-Methyltryptamine (5-MeO-MiPT), N,N-Diethyl-5-methoxytryptamine (5-MeO-DET), and N,N-Diisopropyltryptamine (DiPT).

The agency has been monitoring the substances as drugs of concern for more than two decades, sent data on them to the Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 and received medical and scientific reports on them from DHS in 2012. Last year, the agency noted that, "These five tryptamines have no known medical use in the United States and are not marketed internationally as approved drug products. They have all been reported as drugs of abuse in the US by law enforcement authorities and identified in seizures."

It's not a done deal yet, though. Anyone can visit the Federal Register to comment on the proposal until February 14. Some psychedelic sciences companies have already registered their objections.

New Hampshire Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Bill Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators have filed House Bill 1349-FN, which would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms. The bill would decriminalize the possession of up to 12 grams of 'shrooms, enough for several psychedelic experiences.

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6. VA GOP Bill Would Gut Marijuana Social Equity Funding, Mexico Murders May Have Peaked, More... (1/24/22)

North Dakota marijuana initaitive campaigners will have to go back to the drawing board, social equity funding is on the chopping block in Virginia's GOP marijuana implementation bill, and more.

The South Carolina will -- after seven years -- debate a medical marijuana bill this week. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. Activists behind an effort to put a marijuana legalization ballot measure before the voters in November have failed to come up with enough signatures to do so. The deadline for handing signatures for the campaign was Saturday, and the group had only gathered 19,500 raw signatures by then. They needed 31,164 valid voter signatures to qualify. The activists said they are already looking ahead to medical marijuana access and marijuana legalization initiative campaigns for 2024. The legislature took up marijuana legalization last year, but that bill was killed in the state Senate.

Virginia Republican Files Legal Marijuana Implementation Bill that Cuts Taxes, Reduces Social Equity Funding. Delegate Michael Webert (R-Fauquier) has filed legislation to implement marijuana legalization approved by last year's Democratic state legislature, but that legislation makes some changes to what the Democrats envisioned. The bill, House Bill 950, would cut the tax on retail sales from 21 percent to 10 percent in what Webert said is a bid to undercut the black market. It would also eliminate the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, which would have allocated 35 percent of tax revenues to providing scholarships, community programs and business loans to people and communities "historically and disproportionately targeted and affected by drug enforcement." Instead, those funds would now go to repairing or replacing school roofs. The bill also eliminates preferences for people with past marijuana convictions but would allow priority access for people who live in communities with higher than average enforcement, as well as people who are economically disadvantaged or who attended a historically black college or university in the state.

Medical Marijuana

South Carolina Medical Marijuana to (Finally) Be Debated. Senator Tom Davis's (R-Beaufort) Senate Bill 150, the South Carolina Compassionate Use Act, will finally be debated on the Senate floor this week. Davis has been trying for seven years to get to this point. Befitting the conservative state, Davis's bill is also conservative. It bars the use of smokable marijuana, requires an in-patient doctor's visit and a written treatment plan, and limits the conditions that can be treated to a specified list including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma. sickle cell anemia and autism. Davis says he thinks he has enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate and send it to the House, but House leaders have not indicated whether they would take it up before the session ends.

International

Mexico Killings Declined Slightly Last Year. The country's annual death count, driven largely by drug prohibition-related violence, was down for the second year in a row, official figures indicated. Homicides hit an all-time high of 34,690 in 2019 before dropping to 34,544 in 2020 and dropping again to 33,308 last year. More than 340,000 people have been killed since the government of then-President Felipe Calderon deployed the military in a bid to stem rising levels of violence -- only to see the number of killings rise year after year for more than a decade. Current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador created a new security force, the National Guard, to deal with high levels of violence, but the decline in killings is more likely related to social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Citizen Observatory, a civil society group.

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7. SD House Votes to Ban MedMJ Home Grows, MN Usual Suspects Form Anti-Marijuana Coalition, More... (1/25/22)

Life just got a bit easier to Empire State medical marijuana patients, a Wisconsin GOP lawmaker wants to reinstate drug testing of some welfare recipients, and more.

South Dakota medical marijuana patients will not be able to grow this at home under a bill that just passed the House. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Groups Unite to Oppose Marijuana Legalization. The usual suspects are at it again. Faced with a renewed push for marijuana legalization by Democratic lawmakers, the state's police and peace officers association, the state Catholic Conference, and business interests have formed a coalition to oppose any such move. Calling themselves Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization, the coalition is warning of truck drivers driving under the influence amid a lack of roadside drug tests and workers failing drug tests, thereby exacerbating worker shortages because of the pandemic.

Medical Marijuana

New York Medical Marijuana Program Expands. The State Office of Cannabis Management launched a new certification and registration system for the state's medical marijuana program on Monday, expanding patient access and eligibility as it did so. Now, doctors, dentists, and nurse practitioners can recommend medical marijuana for any condition if they think it will benefit a patients instead of being limited to a list of specified conditions. The office has also doubled the amount of medical marijuana patients can obtain and it permanently waived patient and caregivers registration fees.

South Dakota House Votes to Override Will of Voters, Ban Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The House on Monday voted 41-29 to approve House Bill 1004, which bans the home cultivation of medical marijuana by patients and caregivers. The vote directly contravenes the will of the voters, who approved Initiated Measure 26 legalizing medical marijuana with home cultivation with nearly 70 percent of the vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Republican Files Bill to Require Drug Testing for Welfare Beneficiaries. State Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) has released a bill that would reinstate drug testing and work requirements for people receiving benefits under the state's FoodShare program. The measure is part of a larger package of legislation introduced by Republicans that seeks to undo an expansion of welfare benefits during the pandemic. The state already had such requirements for some welfare recipients, but Democratic Governor Tony Evers waived those requirements until September, saying the state doesn't have enough jobs for those seeking them. Born's bill, LRB 5571, would require Evers to begin implementing the existing work and drug testing requirements, including withdrawing any waiver or suspension of the requirements.

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8. MS Lawmakers Reach Agreement on MedMJ Bill, Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decrim, More... (1/26/22)

Thailand takes another big step toward marijuana decriminalization, San Francisco is turning a blind eye to drug use at a Tenderloin services center, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms got some attention in Seattle, Oklahoma City and Richmond this week. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Medical Marijuana Bill. House and Senate lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on medical marijuana legislation and were preparing to finalize details of the legislation this week before sending the bill to Gov. Tate Reeves (R). The bill was amended in the House to reduce the amount of medical marijuana available each month for patients, in line with the concerns of Gov. Reeves. The agreement comes more than a year after voted approved a medical marijuana initiative only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Ohio Bill to Add Autism as Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition Advances. The House Health Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 60, which would add autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House Rules and Reference Committee, which decides which bills get a floor vote. Bill cosponsor Rep. Bill Seize (R-Cincinnati) said he was optimistic the bill would get a floor vote. "This is a good, bipartisan bill," he said, pointing out that 14 other legislators from both parties are cosponsors.

Psychedelics

Oklahoma Republicans File Bills to Decriminalize Psilocybin, Encourage Research on Medical Benefits. State Reps. Daniel Pae (R) and Logan Phillips (R) have filed a pair of bills that would promote research into psilocybin's therapeutic potential, and one of them would also decriminalize small-time possession of the drug. The bills are designed to give lawmakers different options to reach similar objectives, but Pae's bill would also decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce and half of psilocybin.

Virginia House Committee Pushes Back Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill to Next Year. The House Courts of Justice Subcommittee has voted to delay consideration of a bill to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics, House Bill 898, until 2023. The move came even after the bill was amended by its sponsor, Del. Dawn Adams (D), to only apply to medical practitioners and people using psychedelics with a practitioner. The object for the delay is to build support and try again next year. A similar bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 262, remains alive.

Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution. The city council on Monday night approved a resolution to decriminalize a wide range of activities around psychedelic drugs, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline. It was already Seattle policy not to arrest or prosecute people for personal drug possession, but this resolution further protects the cultivation and sharing of psychedelic plants for reasons of "religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices."

Harm Reduction

Wisconsin Legislature Passes Bill to Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips. Both the House and the Senate have approved a bill that would decriminalize fentanyl test strips. Under current law, the overdose prevention tool is considered drug paraphernalia. At least one public health initiative, Vivent Health (formerly the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin), has already distributed nearly 46,000 test strips anonymously, with no questions asked.

San Francisco Allowing People to Use Drugs Inside New Tenderloin Treatment Linkage Center. The city is turning a blind eye to drug use in an outdoor area of the mayor's new Tenderloin Linkage Center in United Nations Plaza. At the center, the city offers basic hygiene services, food, clothing, and referrals to treatment and housing services inside the building. The drug use is going on in a fenced-in area outside the building. Critics have accused the city of running an "illicit drug consumption site," but a spokesman for Mayor London Breed (D) said that the "emergency initiative is about doing everything we can to help people struggling with addiction, and getting them connected to services and treatment. As part of that, the linkage center is serving as a low-barrier site to bring people off the street."

International

Thai Narcotics Control Board Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced Wednesday that the Narcotics Control Board had approved the removal of marijuana from the country's list of controlled substances. The delisting will next be formally singed by Charnvirakul and will go into effect 120 days after notice is published in the government gazette. The move definitely clears the way for the cultivation and production of medical marijuana and hemp, but it was unclear is marijuana possession would no longer be an arrestable offense.

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