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Drug War Chronicle #1174 - November 17, 2022

1. Colorado Becomes Second State to Approve Natural Psychedelic Reforms [FEATURE]

The voters have spoken. Colorado embraces psychedelic decriminalization and therapeutic access to magic mushrooms.

2. Global Commission on Drug Policy Calls for Colombia Legalization, More... (11/11/22)

A federal judge throws a wrench in the works as New York tries to get legal pot shops open, Houston cops and prosecutors have dozens of tainted drug cases but still want to keep seized money from them, and more.

3. MO Pot Sales Coming Fast, Kansas City Entertainment Complex Will Have Marijuana Lounges, More... (11/14/22)

A broad coalition is asking Attorney General Garland to allow legal marijuana sales in the District of Columbia, an Evanston, Illinois, councilman sponsors a psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, and more.

4. CA Local Voters Approve More Legal Pot Shops, Filipino Drug War Continues, More... (11/15/22)

The Gallup organization looks at which groups support or oppose marijuana legalization, most Oregon residents will be able to access nearby psilocybin therapy centers, and more.

5. KY Governor Signs MedMJ Executive Order, AMA Endorses Fentanyl Test Strips, More... (11/16/22)

A congressional committee takes up marijuana legalization, Pennsylvania's governor signs a fentanyl test strip bill into law, and more.

1. Colorado Becomes Second State to Approve Natural Psychedelic Reforms [FEATURE]

Three years after voters in Denver opened the door to psychedelic reform by approving a municipal initiative that made possession of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority, voters statewide have approved an initiative that decriminalizes plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics and creates a program for the therapeutic administration of such substances.

Magic mushrooms and other natural entheogens are now decriminalized in Colorado. (Creative Commons)
On Election Day, voters approved Proposition 122, the Natural Medicine Health Act, with 53.55 percent of the vote. To win, the initiative organizers, Natural Medicine Colorado had to overcome opposition not only from prohibitionists but also from sectors of the state's contentious psychedelic community, such as Decriminalize Nature Colorado, whose competing initiative failed to qualify for the ballot.

Last week's victory makes Colorado the second state to enact reforms decriminalizing a natural psychedelic and setting up a program for therapeutic use. Oregon voters led the way on that by approving Measure 109 in 2020.

Proposition 122 has two main prongs: First, it decriminalizes the personal use, possession, and cultivation by people 21 and over of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), psilocybin, and psilocyn, as well as providing for the sealing of conviction records of people who have completed sentences for the use or possession of those substances. The measure sets no personal possession limits.

Second, it creates a "natural medicine services" program for the therapeutic administration of the specified psychedelics and creates a rubric for regulated growth, distribution, and sales of those substances to entities within the program. Only psilocybin and psilocin would be okayed for therapeutic use until 2026. Then regulators could decide on whether to allow the therapeutic use of DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline.

As part of the "natural medicine services" program, Proposition 122 will also create the Natural Medicine Advisory Board to craft rules and regulations for implementing the program. The board can also make recommendations to the Department of Regulatory Agencies on adding additional substances.

With the help of more than $3.825 million in funding from the New Approach PAC, which has bankrolled numerous drug reform initiatives across the country, Natural Health Colorado zipped through signature-gathering in a quick three months and qualified for the ballot back in June.

That irked groups such as Decriminalize Colorado and the Society for Psychedelic Outreach Reform and Education (SPORE).

"I do not personally align with I-58 [Proposition 122] and the heavy out-of-state influence calling the shots in Colorado," said Melanie Rose Rodgers, co-proponent of the Decriminalize Nature initiative. "What happened with cannabis is happening with mushrooms. Folks from marginalized communities, People of Color are being left out -- once again. With all the inequality and rolling back of freedoms that exist today, let us not create new industries that will cater and serve the rich and wealthy while opening the floodgates for anyone able to buy Colorado 'healing center' licenses. I am opposed to the corporate takeover of sacred earth medicines and psychedelics written in I-58 [Proposition 122]."

"While this may sound like a good thing to people who want to see increased access to psychedelics, this initiative is designed for corporate control, largely restricting access to corporate-owned healing centers Frankly, the NMHA is not a step in the right direction. It is a leap in the wrong direction," said Matthew Duffy, cofounder of SPORE. "The NMHA is a corporate power grab, setting a corrupt foundation for the future of medicine stewardship in Colorado."

But Natural Health Colorado and its backers beg to differ, and they are emphasizing the therapeutic aspects of the measure as they bask in the glow of victory.

"This is a truly historic moment. Colorado voters saw the benefit of regulated access to natural medicines, including psilocybin, so people with PTSD, terminal illness, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues can heal," Natural Medicine Colorado said in a post-election statement. "We look forward to working with the regulatory and medical experts and other stakeholders to implement this new law."

"The Natural Medicine Health Act puts the well-being of patients and communities first," added Josh Kappel, chair of the Natural Medicine Colorado campaign. "It was purposefully designed, with a multi-phase implementation process that sets clear safety rules, while allowing the details of the regulatory structure to be developed by the community and regulators working together."

For David Bronner, CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer) of Dr. Bronner's soaps, which endorsed the initiative, it combines two important means of access to the mind-altering substances. "I see what [Proposition 122] does as one seamless policy: making natural medicines -- psychedelic plant and fungal medicines containing psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine or mescaline (peyote) -- available to all adult Coloradans in two powerful healing modalities: via a regulated access model in a therapeutic context; and the self-regulating community healing model in a decriminalized context," Bronner said.

Now that the voters have spoken, it is time to begin ensuring that Proposition 122 in practice more resembles the vision of its proponents than its opponents.

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2. Global Commission on Drug Policy Calls for Colombia Legalization, More... (11/11/22)

A federal judge throws a wrench in the works as New York tries to get legal pot shops open, Houston cops and prosecutors have dozens of tainted drug cases but still want to keep seized money from them, and more.

Asset forfeiture remains tempting for cops. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Judge Blocks Marijuana Licenses for Several New York Regions. Marijuana retail licenses are on hold in several regions of the state after a federal judge temporarily blocked the state from issuing them in response to a lawsuit from a Michigan company that had been denied approval to operate in the state. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe issued the injection after the company, Variscite, challenged the social equity provision in the state law that requires that licenses be awarded to people who have been affected by drug laws in the state. The primary owner of Variscite was convicted of a marijuana-related offense, but in Michigan, not New York. The injunction impacts five regions where Variscite had sought a license to operate: Finger Lakes, Central New York, western New York, the Mid-Hudson and Brooklyn. The injunction comes as the state Office of Cannabis Management was preparing to issue an initial round of licenses by the end of the year.

Asset Forfeiture

New York's Albany County Comptroller Finds Sheriff's Use of Seized Funds Violated State Law. County Comptroller Susan Rizzo has released an audit that finds that Sheriff Craig Apple's use of asset forfeiture funds violates the state comptroller's opinion guiding how the money should be spent. This is the second audit in a year to find problems with how forfeited funds are being used in the county. The new audit finds that "state and federal forfeiture funds were donated to community based organizations, sports programs and town events which do not meet the criteria for law enforcement or criminal prosecution purposes." The sheriff defended his spending decisions saying, "I see the need to fund youth sports, programs and organizations that promote positive youth engagements."

Houston PD Drops Cases Tainted by Corrupt Narcotics Officers but Decides It Can Still Keep Seized Cash. In the wake of a notorious 2019 drug raid that left two innocent homeowners dead and resulted in the indictment of 11 narcotics officers, Houston prosecutors dropped dozens of cases and prosecutions, but they are refusing to return seized cash from the questionable raids and arrests. "Prosecutors are currently reviewing several cases related to Squad 15 to determine if they involve assets that should be returned to members of the community," said Dane Schiller, spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office. These include cases where the charges have been dropped but police have refused to return money to the victims of police misconduct. The city has retained at least $75,000 seized in operations that are now viewed as too problematic to allow criminal prosecutions to go forward, but that figure represents only a fraction of the monies seized by tainted dope squad members.

International

Global Commission on Drugs Report Calls for Decriminalization and Regulation of All Drugs in Colombia. At a forum in Bogota Thursday, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released its new report, "Drug Policy in Colombia: The Path to Fair Regulations," which calls for drug legalization in the country and lays out five recommendations for getting there: move to legal regulation of currently illicit drugs, prioritize human rights, decriminalize drug possession and consumption, decrease funding for military budgets and increase funding for civil authorities, and strengthen institutions to create a strong human rights approach.

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3. MO Pot Sales Coming Fast, Kansas City Entertainment Complex Will Have Marijuana Lounges, More... (11/14/22)

A broad coalition is asking Attorney General Garland to allow legal marijuana sales in the District of Columbia, an Evanston, Illinois, councilman sponsors a psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, and more.

Main Justice (DOJ headquarters). A coalition wants the attorney general to allow legal pot sales in DC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Broad Coalition Calls on Attorney General Garland to Adopt Non-Enforcement Policy Around DC Marijuana Sales. Although District of Columbia voters legalized marijuana in 2014, congressional riders have blocked the District from allowing taxed and regulated marijuana sales ever since. Now, a coalition of state, local, and national advocacy groups has sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland (D) asking him to break the logjam by adopting a formal policy of non-enforcement. The letter asks the attorney general to treat the situation in DC as "functionally equivalent to the non-enforcement approach it has traditionally taken with respect to the states that have reformed their laws allowing for the taxation and regulation of the adult use of cannabis." As things now stand, DC "is only jurisdiction in the country that cannot regulate marijuana sales or fruitfully tap into the public health and safety benefits of proper regulation."

Missouri Could See Legal Marijuana Sales as Early as January. Elections have consequences, and sometimes they have them in a hurry. The state Department of Health and Senior Services said Friday that existing medical marijuana companies will be able to apply for adult use ("comprehensive") sales licenses as early as December 8 and that sales could begin ahead of a 60-day post-election deadline on February 6. Some of those licenses could be completed "before the 60-day deadline, as soon as we have rules for comprehensive facilities filed," the agency said. "We anticipate comprehensive dispensaries will be able to begin selling to adult use consumers as soon as their license is approved for conversion."

Plans for Kansas City-Area Entertainment Complex with Marijuana Lounges Announced. That didn't take long. One day after voters approved marijuana legalization in the Show Me State, a Kansas City-area hospitality group has announced plans for a new metro area entertainment district project that will include marijuana consumption lounges. The Besa Hospitality Group announced a new entertainment district along the Missouri River about 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City in the village of River Bend. It will be known as the Smokey River Entertainment District.

The Besa Hospitality Group is partnering with BesaMe Wellness, a medical marijuana company, which give it an early shot at procuring an adult sales retail license, and has a target opening date of 4/20/23. "We have an opportunity to showcase cannabis and the acceptance of cannabis in our everyday lives. We're normalizing cannabis through hospitality," says Joey Pintozzi, Vice President of Operations and Marketing. "This is an entertainment venue first and foremost. Cannabis just happens to be part of that experience. People will be free to legally consume in some of the venues and enjoy being themselves."

Psychedelics

Evanston, Illinois, Lawmaker Sponsors Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill. Councilmember Devon Reid of the Chicago suburb of Evanston is sponsoring an ordinance that would make possessing, cultivating and delivering entheogenic substances like psilocybin punishable by a $100 fine without the threat of jail time. That fine could be waived for people who complete a drug treatment program or "reasonable public service work."

The ordinance also includes lowest priority language regarding the "investigation or arrest of anyone for planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, or engaging in practices with or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds." The legislation lists four examples of psychedelics that would be covered -- psilocybin, psilocyn, peyote and ayahuasca -- but it also says decriminalization would not be "limited to" those psychedelics.

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4. CA Local Voters Approve More Legal Pot Shops, Filipino Drug War Continues, More... (11/15/22)

The Gallup organization looks at which groups support or oppose marijuana legalization, most Oregon residents will be ale to access nearby psilocybin therapy centers, and more.

More store fronts like this will be coming to Southern California soon. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Draws Links Between Marijuana Views and Ideology, Religiosity, and Age. In its latest poll of attitudes toward marijuana, taken in October, Gallup finds that support for legalization remains steady at 68 percent. The polling organization also combined data from the last five years to examine which demographic, social, and political groups strongly support it or strongly oppose it.

Subgroups whose support for legalization exceeds the national average by at least 10 points include those with no religious preference (89%), self-identified liberals (84%), Democrats (81%), young adults (79%) and those who seldom or never attend religious services (78%). Subgroups whose support for legalization was more than 10% below the national average include those who attend church weekly (46%), conservatives (49%), Republicans (51%), older adults (53%) and Hispanic adults (56%).

California Voters Approve Ballot Measures to Expand Pot Shop Sales. Voters in a localities across the state voted last week to approve 12 ballot measures that will either expand or create legal retail marijuana markets. The victories, mainly in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, should result in 70 new retail marijuana sales licenses, along with opportunities for ancillary businesses. Los Angeles County should see 25 new retail licenses, while San Diego County should see 20 more. But while 12 communities approved expansions, another half-dozen rejected them. The votes to ease access to adult use marijuana comes as the state's legal marijuana sector struggles to expand amidst high taxes, local bans and hindrances, and a black market that refuses to go away.

Psychedelics

Oregon's Rural Voters Reject Therapeutic Psilocybin Centers but Most Oregonians Will Have Access. On Election Day last week, 27 counties and 114 cities and towns asked voters to approve moratoria or bans on psilocybin therapy centers, which were approved by voters statewide last year. In almost every instance, voters rejected the therapy centers, but those areas account for only a small fraction of the state's population, and most Oregonians will have local access to such facilities. , Nearly three out of four of the state's 4.2 million residents live in localities where the centers are approved, including 17 of the state's most populous cities and 11 counties, including all of the most populous ones.

International

Philippine Police Force Lowballs Drug War Killings in Post-Duterte Era. The Philippine National Police (PNP) said Monday that they have arrested more than 22,000 people in a new drug crackdown under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. PNP Chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. claimed that police had made efforts to reduce the use of lethal force and that only 46 people had been killed in their anti-drug operations since Marcos took office at the end of June. That figure is belied by numbers from the DAHAS database of drug war killings, which puts the death toll at 127 since Marcos took office, including 29 in October and seven more in the first week of November alone.

While the numbers reported killed under Marcos are a substantial reduction from the pace of killings under Duterte -- human rights groups estimate more than 30,000 people were killed during his bloody war on drugs -- they still represent an unacceptably high level of state violence directed at drug users and sellers. Still, Azurin patted himself and his police force on the back, claiming his reported death toll was "very minimal."

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5. KY Governor Signs MedMJ Executive Order, AMA Endorses Fentanyl Test Strips, More... (11/16/22)

A congressional committee takes up marijuana legalization, Pennsylvania's governor signs a fentanyl test strip bill into law, and more.

Marijuana got a hearing on the Hill Tuesday. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Committee Holds Hearing on Marijuana Legalization. The House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing Tuesday on marijuana legalization. Led by Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the committee examined "Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level," using a joint memo published last Friday to lay out the main points of discussion.

Witnesses included Woodfin (Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama), Paul Armentano (Deputy Director of NORML), Andrew Freedman (Executive Director of Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation [CPEAR]), Eric Goepel (Founder and CEO of Veterans Cannabis Coalition), Keeda Haynes (Senior Legal Advisor of Free Hearts), Amber Littlejohn (Policy Advisor of Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce), and Jillian Snider (Policy Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties). Among topics covered were the failed war on drugs, the need for state-level action to accompany President Biden's marijuana pardon announcement, veterans' access to medical marijuana, and hemp's potential as a building material. No votes were taken.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Governor Signs Executive Order Allowing Some Residents to Use Medical Marijuana. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Tuesday signed an executive order allowing patients who meet certain requirements to use and possess medical marijuana. Those eligible must suffer from one of 21 specified medical conditions. The medicine must be purchased in a state where it is legal (and keep your receipt!) and will be limited to eight ounces. Patients must get a letter from a physician certifying that they suffer from one of the specified conditions. The plan goes into effect on January 1.

Harm Reduction

AMA Reiterates Call for Harm Reduction Measures to Attack Overdose Problem. At its annual interim meeting this month, the American Medical Association passed a resolution encouraging the use of harm reduction practices to reduce overdose deaths in the county. The resolution called on city and state medical societies to advocate for harm reduction policies that create immunity for "drug paraphernalia" used in harm reduction, such as fentanyl test strips. "Fentanyl test strips are a point-of-care test that identifies fentanyl contamination in a drug supply with a specificity of 87.5% and a sensitivity of 95.2%," the resolution notes, but also notes that "possession of fentanyl test strips is explicitly legal in only 22 states."

But it is not just fentanyl test strips that the AMA wants to see: "The AMA has strongly supported increased use of a broad array of harm-reduction efforts to reduce death and other harms from nonmedical use of drugs, including for people who inject drugs," the group said. "These efforts include greater access to naloxone, syringe services programs and pilot programs for overdose prevention sites/supervised injection-use facilities. Fentanyl strips are part of this effort, and we urge states to take steps to help a vulnerable population."

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Legislation in Bid to Reduce Overdoses. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) held a ceremonial signing Wedmesday for a new law (Act 111) that legalizes the use of fentanyl test strips and other forms of drug checking to prevent overdose deaths. The legislation passed the state House and Senate unanimously before going to the Governor's desk. The most recent data show Pennsylvania had the third highest number of overdose deaths of any state in the country for the 12-month period ending May 2022. Fentanyl test strips allow people who use drugs to easily test the drugs for the presence of fentanyl.

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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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