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Drug War Chronicle #1196 - October 30, 2023

1. Pennsylvania Bill Imposing Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Some Fentanyl Overdose Death Passes Senate [FEATURE]

A contemporary crisis generates a tired, old response.

2. California Governor Vetoes Psychedelic Decrim Bill [FEATURE]

There will be no psychedelic decriminalization in California this year. Maybe next year.

3. Pushing for Social Equity as Pennsylvania Heads Toward Marijuana Legalization [FEATURE]

The push is on to legalize marijuana in the Keystone State, and black lawmakers want to make sure real equity measures get done.

4. Effort to Recriminalize Drug Possession in Oregon Gets Underway [FEATURE]

Oregon pioneered all drug decriminalization in 2020. Now, an effort to reverse that is getting underway.

5. Two Hundred Families Call for a Health Response to Overdoses, Not Punishment [FEATURE]

There is a better, smarter, more humane way of dealing with the overdose crisis than a return to failed drug war policies.

6. New Hampshire Will Study the State Liquor Store Model for Legal Weed [FEATURE]

The Granite State could be the first in the nation to try selling weed through the state liquor store model.

7. Chronicle Book Review: Whiteout

How the face of opioid addiction in America turned white, and what that means.

8. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Crooked jail and prison guards from Saginaw to South Carolina.

9. CDC Says ODs Hit Record High Last Year, CA Bans "Excited Delirium" As Cause of Death, More... (10/12/23)

More usual suspects come out against the Ohio marijuana legalization initiative, the FDA issues a warning about the home use of prescribed ketamine, and more.

10. Rate of Black Men in Prison Has Dropped by Nearly Half, New Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug, More... (10/13/23)

Ohio's Republican Senate leader is threatening to mess with a marijuana legalization initiative if it passes, the Israel-Hamas war has caused a pause in Germany's march toward marijuana legalization, and more.

11. Hiccup for SAFER Banking Act Senate Vote, CA Governor Signs Social Media Drug Crackdown Law, More... (10/16/23)

Workers at Story Cannabis in Maryland's Mechansville are the latest in the industry to vote to unionize, Gavin Newsom signs a social media law that aims at cracking down on online drug sales, and more.

12. OR Lawmakers Discuss Measure 110 Rollback, Cartel Kills 13 Cops in Mexico, More... (10/24/23)

New York is rolling out a drug checking program, Seattle begins a crackdown on public drug use, and more.

13. NH Commission Holds Legalization Hearing, Vancouver Cops Raid Unsanctioned Drug Suppliers, More... (10/26/23)

A MAGA marijuana legalization bill gets refiled, German parliamentarians finally get around to debating marijuana legalization, and more.

Pennsylvania Bill Imposing Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Some Fentanyl Overdose Death Passes Senate [FEATURE]

The state Senate on Monday approved Senate Bill 235 also known as "Tyler's Law" after an 18-year-old who died of a fentanyl overdose, which would impose a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for some people convicted of providing illicit drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose. Mandatory minimums would apply if the person had two or more prior convictions related to drug delivery and if he received "anything of value" for providing the drugs.

The measure was sponsored by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), a far-right election denier and conspiracy theorist whose views were so extreme he won the Republican nomination for governor in 2022 only to be blown out in the general election, losing by 15 points and handing the office to Democrat Josh Shapiro.

The bill as originally filed was more draconian that what eventually passed the Senate. As filed by Mastriano, the bill would have imposed the mandatory minimums -- 25 years in the original, not 10 -- if the person had two or more priors or he received "something of value," which would have effectively made a bill ostensibly aimed at preventing fatal drug overdoses into one that could see mandatory minimums for any drug sale resulting in a fatality, with or without prior offenses.

The original bill also had no provision exempting people who were sharing drugs from the mandatory minimums. But the Senate approved an amendment by Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D) that addressed both issues. It changed that or to an and, removing the possibility of people other than those twice-convicted of drug sales being hit with mandatory minimums, and it added explicit language exempting situations where "the person and the decedent intended to use the controlled substance or counterfeit controlled substance together or the person used the controlled substance or counterfeit controlled substance with the decedent."

Still, the bill would introduce new mandatory minimum sentences, and that is drawing the ire of groups such as the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Families Against Mandatory Minimums. As the bill awaits consideration in the Democratic-controlled House, the groups are raising the alarm.

"SB 235 would almost certainly incarcerate people with substance use disorders," said the ACLU of Pennsylvania as it came out against the measure. "Instead of reducing the instances of drug-related deaths, SB 235 has the real potential of punishing people for their substance use disorder. Mandatory minimum sentences fail to keep Pennsylvanians safe, while driving up prison populations and costs for taxpayers. Despite their best intentions, legislators should resist resorting to demonstrably failed policies of the past."

"It is 2023, yet some lawmakers continue to cling to the same failed approach to the War on Drugs from 1983," said Celeste Trusty, FAMM Pennsylvania State Policy Director. "We have decades of research proving mandatory minimums to be ineffective and wasteful policy. They have been a primary driver of Pennsylvania's unsustainable prison population which is now the second largest in the northeast. They perpetuate and exacerbate overwhelming racial disparities within our criminal justice system."

"We tried mandatory minimums before," Trusty continued. "They failed. The underlying case here is a tragedy, but this mandatory minimum bill won't prevent overdoses or make us safer or healthier. It won't stop people from using drugs or help people struggling with substance use. In fact, it will make us less safe by forcing judges to ignore effective alternatives and spend millions sending people to prison even if they don't need to be there. I am hopeful the House will focus on crafting legislative responses that actually lead to positive outcomes for our communities."

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California Governor Vetoes Psychedelic Decrim Bill [FEATURE]

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Saturday vetoed a measure that would have decriminalized several natural psychedelics, Senate Bill 58. The substances that would have been decriminalized are psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms), dimethyltryptamine (DMT -- found in ayahusca), and mescaline.

The bill would not have allowed for the legal sale of those substances, but it would have ensured that people would not be arrested or jailed for possessing or using the natural psychedelics.

[Editor's Note: This is the second cutting edge drug reform measure Newsom vetoed this year. In August, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed pilot program safe injection sites. One might wonder if he is sacrificing progressive drug reforms on the altar of ambition for national political office.]

In his veto message, Newsom said he was open to exploring the therapeutic benefits of natural psychedelics, but that guiderails needed to put in place first -- and he appeared to give short shrift to any uses other than medicalized therapeutic use.

"Both peer-reviewed science and powerful personal anecdotes lead me to support new opportunities to address mental health through psychedelic medicines like those addressed in this bill," Newsom wrote. "Psychedelics have proven to relieve people suffering from certain conditions such as depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other addictive personality traits. This is an exciting frontier and California will be on the front-end of leading it. California should immediately begin work to set up regulated treatment guidelines -replete with dosing information, therapeutic guidelines, rules to prevent against exploitation during guided treatments, and medical clearance of no underlying psychoses. Unfortunately, this bill would decriminalize possession prior to these guidelines going into place, and I cannot sign it."

Throwing a sop to the bill's supporters, Newsom urged them to send him a bill next year that includes therapeutic guidelines and added that he was "committed to working with the legislature and sponsors of this bill to craft legislation that would authorize permissible uses and consider a framework for potential broader decriminalization in the future, once the impacts, dosing, best practice, and safety guardrails are thoroughly contemplated and put in place."

The California Coalition for Psychedelic Safety and Education -- a project of the American Legion of California -- opposed the measure and lauded Newsom's veto.

"We're grateful that Gov. Newsom listened to some of the top medical experts, psychedelic researchers and psychiatrists in the country who all warned that legalization without guardrails was at best premature for both personal and therapeutic use," the coalition said Saturday. "Any move toward decriminalization will require appropriate public education campaigns, safety protocols and emergency response procedures to help keep Californians safe."

But bill sponsor Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francico), who spent two year shepherding the bill through the legislature, was not pleased, saying the governor had punted on a chance for the state to lead the nation on psychedelics.

"This is a setback for the huge number of Californians -- including combat veterans and first responders -- who are safely using and benefiting from these non-addictive substances and who will now continue to be classified as criminals under California law," Wiener said in a statement Saturday. "The evidence is beyond dispute that criminalizing access to these substances only serves to make people less safe and reduce access to help."

Wiener added that he would sponsor a new bill next year.

Dr. Bronner's, the California based and family-owned maker of the top-selling natural brand of soap in North America, which helped organize and finance a broad coalition of groups supporting the bill, was also disappointed but hopeful.

"Although the veto of SB 58 is a major disappointment to our coalition and a setback for all who are committed to criminal justice and mental health reform, Gov. Newsom's veto message shows there is still a path forward. Despite this delay, we are confident that we will soon decriminalize and achieve legal access to psychedelics in the state of California," said David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner's and board member of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). "I am grateful to Senator Wiener, all those in the CA Senate and Assembly who supported SB 58, as well as all the activists and advocates who worked on this legislation, including our coalition partners."

"Our world is grappling with epidemics of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction that millions suffer from. Natural psychedelic medicines used responsibly are life-saving medicines that the world needs now, especially traumatized populations such as veterans and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities," Bronner continued.

While the governor's veto has blocked the legislative path to psychedelic reform -- at least for now -- California voters may have a chance to do it themselves next year. Campaigns are underway to put two psychedelic initiatives on the ballot in 2024, one that would legalize the sale and use of magic mushrooms by people 21 and over and one that would seek voter approval of a $5 billion expenditure to create a state agency to research psychedelic therapies.

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Pushing for Social Equity as Pennsylvania Heads Toward Marijuana Legalization [FEATURE]

Pot prohibition in Pennsylvania is getting squeezed. Of its neighboring states, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York have already legalized marijuana, Ohio voters will have their chance to approve it in November, and only West Virginia shares the state's status as a medical marijuana-only state.

State Sen. Sharif Street (D-North Philadelphia) is a key cosponsor of a marijuana legalization bill. (
Efforts to advance adult use legalization in Harrisburg have been stymied for years by Republican control of the statehouse, but after last year's elections, the state now has a Democratic governor in Josh Shapiro, the House now has a Democratic majority, and cracks are now appearing in the Republican-led Senate, where at least two GOP senators are ready to get on board.

Gov. Shapiro in March proposed marijuana legalization as part of his 2023-2024 budget, and this year, there are once again are marijuana legalization bills before the legislature. Rep. David Delloso has once again filed a state liquor store model legalization bill, House Bill 1080, and one of those Republican Senate converts, Sen. Dan Laughlin, is the cosponsor of another legalization bill, Senate Bill 846.

"Legalized adult use of marijuana is supported by an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians and this legislation accomplishes that while also ensuring safety and social equity," said Laughlin upon filing the bill in July. "With neighboring states New Jersey and New York implementing adult use, we have a duty to Pennsylvania taxpayers to legalize adult-use marijuana to avoid losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue and thousands of new jobs."

The bill would legalize the possession of marijuana by people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. It would also address social equity by granting licenses to sell marijuana to social and economic equity applicants while providing room for new and existing licensees to ensure demand in Pennsylvania is met. It would also all non-violent marijuana convictions. Ensuring that minority communities disproportionately impacted by drug prohibition is critical, black legislators say.

"We have a unique and singular opportunity to correct decades of mass incarceration, disproportionate enforcement against marginalized communities, the criminalization of personal choice and the perpetuation of violence, which all materialized from the failed war on drugs," said Sen. Sharif Street, a Democratic cosponsor of the bill. "Legalizing the adult use of cannabis will help us fully and equitably fund education, lower property taxes, and address a variety of community needs throughout Pennsylvania."

Social equity was definitely on the mind of attendees at last week's Cannabis Opportunities Conference -- part of the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunity's (DACO) Black Cannabis Week. The event was hosted by Sen. Street and covered by Marijuana Moment.

"This is going to be a multibillion-dollar industry," Street. "We need to make sure that we're inclusive… We need to make sure that folks can participate at every level of this industry."

Bill cosponsor Rep. Donna Bullock (D), who has previously spoken out against the dominance of large, multistate marijuana companies, was adamant that legalization come with strong social equity provisions.

"No bill will move with my name on it until I'm comfortable that we actually answer those questions," she said. "No bill will move with my name on it until I know for sure we're not repeating the mistakes of equity in name only. If you think you're going to get me with just some expungements, you got it wrong," she added.

"I think sometimes some people get scared to say 'Black,'" Rep. Darisha Parker (D) said. "If we're going to really do this for a legislative perspective, then all of us in the state need to make sure that we're actually doing it, making sure that we're actually supporting the individuals for this social equity bill that we're going to be putting forward. This is our reparations," she added. "Let's get busy."

These black lawmakers agreed that they were willing to take the time to ensure that some of the harms done by the drug war be redressed and that the communities that suffered them get recompense.

Lawmakers are "still taking inventory" to see what's worked in other states and what hasn't, Parker said.

"We've had… a hundred years of getting this wrong. I'm not in a rush to get it wrong again," said Bullock.

Street concurred, saying that in Pennsylvania "we're usually not the first to get anything done, but we'd like to be the first to get it right."

It looks like there is some work to be done to make sure marijuana legalization aids those communities harmed by the drug war, and it looks like there is a committed legislative contingent in Harrisburg ready to make sure that happens. Stay tuned.

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Effort to Recriminalize Drug Possession in Oregon Gets Underway [FEATURE]

In November 2020, voters in Oregon made history by becoming the first in the country to break with a century of drug war by approving the decriminalization of drug possession. Measure 110 not only put an end to thousands of low-level drug arrests, it also provided hundreds of millions of dollars for drug treatment, prevention, and related services by tapping into marijuana tax revenues -- $300 million so far.

On the street in Portland. (Creative Commons)
And now, an effort is underway to roll back the clock. This week, a group of political operatives and deep-pocketed donors calling themselves the Coalition to Fix and Improve Measure 110 filed a pair of proposed ballot initiatives, Fix and Improve Measure 110-Measure A and Fix and Improve Measure 110-Measure B, would once again make drug possession a crime, as well as making changes on the treatment side of the ledger.

The possession of drugs such as cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine would be a misdemeanor, and there would be a new misdemeanor of public drug consumption of illicit drugs. Version "B" of the initiative would also increase penalties for some drug offenses, such as where drug use causes death or when the offender is a repeat offender. That version would also make possession of pill-making machines a felony offense.

The latter version would also shift control of Measure 110 funds from the Oregon Health Authority, which has been criticized for the slow implementation of the treatment and recovery programs, to the Alcohol and Drugs Policy Commission.

Backers of the effort include former Republican lawmaker Max Williams, political consultant Dan Lavey, progressive strategist Paige Richardson and Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton. Financial backers include Nike cofounder Phil Knight, who spent nearly $5 million last year to put anyone but the Democrat in the governor's chair, and kicked in $200,000 for this coalition. Also anteing up are Columbia Sportswear President and CEO Tim Boyle ($300,000), real estate mogul Jordan Schnitzer ($50,000), former Columbia Distributing Company chair Ed Maletis ($50,000) and the Goodman family, a major property owner in Downtown Portland ($100,000).

Portland, the state's largest city, suffers from a high rate of homelessness, public drug use, and an ongoing crisis of mental health treatment, and proponents of the initiatives draw on a culturally conservative critique of the city as a hellhole blighted by liberal leadership and wacky ideas like decriminalizing drugs to make their case.

"We know that Ballot Measure 110 didn't create the homeless crisis or the behavioral-health crisis or is the sole reason we are seeing spikes in crime," said Williams. "But we are convinced that Measure 110 is making things a whole lot worse."

"Even casual observers of Portland can recognize we are well off track here," said Boyle, adding that recriminalizing possession may be just what users need because "the incentive of being incarcerated is powerful. It means people take it seriously. They have an incentive for getting clean."

But treatment providers, affected families, and reform advocates say that while Measure 110 has its issues, reverting to a prohibitionist position is not the answer.

"Drug use has been a problem in many neighborhoods for decades and overdose rates were skyrocketing before passage of Measure 110," said Larry Turner, cofounder and a community navigator of Fresh Out in Portland. "Before passing new laws that will take us back to the days when Black and brown people were disproportionately harmed by criminalization, we need to make Measure 110 more effective without overturning the law and going backwards. We need unified support from leaders committed to providing services to people who need them quickly, demanding accountability from local officials; and strongly supporting first responders and service providers. Let's enforce the laws we have."

"My son died of a heroin overdose when personal possession was a crime. Criminalization and threat of arrest did not save him, and it will not save the thousands of sons and daughters in need of treatment in Oregon today," said Julia Pinsky of Jackson County, who started Max's Mission in memory of her son. "The disorder, crime and human suffering on Oregon's streets are unacceptable. We need to demand that politicians and bureaucrats stop dragging their feet, and finally deliver the housing, drug treatment, and mental health care that people need, and voters have overwhelmingly supported. The fentanyl crisis has made the need for these services even more critical. I don't want any more families to experience the devastation of losing their child."

"It is disappointing that the people behind these petitions didn't talk to Measure 110 providers. We could have told them what is needed to make the measure more effective. We need more support, and the entire system needs increased funding and people need a roof over their head for recovery to be successful. Arresting and jailing people with addiction means they will end up right back on the street with increased overdose risk and a criminal record that will make the road to recovery that much harder," said Shannon Jones, CEO of the Oregon Change Clinic.

"Oregonians have real concerns about the suffering and challenges they see in their communities. Nothing proposed in this initiative provides real solutions, instead it reverts to failed drug war tactics: more criminalization, coercive interventions, and to disappear people who are struggling without addressing the conditions that lead to homelessness and addiction," said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Recriminalizing drugs and forced treatment are false promises of change but will increase overdose risk, increase racial disparities in the criminal legal system, disrupt treatment for those who seek it, and saddle people with criminal records that will serve as barriers to housing, employment, education, and other services for the rest of their lives. Policymakers in Oregon must strengthen Measure 110 by expanding and making more accessible the services and supports people need to both address their needs while ensuring safety for our communities, without criminalization and coercion."

But a poll last month commissioned by the coalition had 56 percent supporting repeal of Measure 110 in its entirety and 64 percent in favor of reverting to drug criminalization. The pollsters found that respondents blamed Measure 110 for rising homelessness (54 percent) and decreased public safety (50 percent), although homelessness levels are driven largely by rental prices and although Portland ranks roughly even with other Pacific Northwest cities, such as Boise, Sacramento, and Seattle, when it comes to crime.

Numbers like that have the state's Democratic political leaders taking a very cautious line on the initiative proposals. Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Portland) and House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) met with Williams, the primary architect of the campaign, on Tuesday to discuss possible legislative alternatives to an initiative campaign.

"They discussed the broad strokes of the ballot measure," said Wagner spokesman Connor Radnovich, "and were in agreement that Oregon needs to address its addiction crisis."

"I am going to take some time to review the ballot measures in detail," said Wagner." Oregon's fentanyl and methamphetamine crisis is unacceptable. The Legislature will comprehensively tackle this crisis in the upcoming legislative session by empowering law enforcement to stop the proliferation of drugs on our streets and ensuring that people get connected with addiction treatment services. Addiction education will also be a key component of our response. Legislative leaders have been meeting with various groups to identify which specific policy proposals will be brought forward in the upcoming session."

"There is no scenario in which this upcoming legislative session doesn't focus on helping those families and communities in need," said Rayfield. "With respect to the current proposals out there, we will continue to review them and any others that come up in the meantime."

Gov. Tina Kotek's chief of staff and other top policymakers have met with initiative proponents, said spokeswoman Elisabeth Shephard. "She has not reviewed the two ballot initiatives yet," Shepard says. "The governor has previously stated that public consumption of controlled substances is a problem that needs to be addressed. She intends to work with legislators to fix the issue and expects a bill on her desk in next year's session."

If drug decriminalization supporters want to keep what they have achieved, they will be facing a battle on multiple fronts.

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Two Hundred Families Call for a Health Response to Overdoses, Not Punishment [FEATURE]

In the face of the continuing overdose crisis and the regressive resort to punitive drug war tactics such as drug-induced homicide laws to combat it, a group of friends and family members of drug users, including many who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses, is calling on Congress to stand firm against looking to more criminalization and prosecution as a solution.

In collaboration with the Drug Policy Alliance, the group, Broken No More, last week sent an open letter to lawmakers urging them to oppose more failed drug war policies and instead embrace evidence-based health responses proven to save lives and prevent other families from suffering the loss of loved ones.

"Opportunistic politicians supported by law enforcement are using the overdose crisis and parents' grief to pass harsh drug laws that will only continue to fill our morgues and prisons," the open letter says. "Punitive laws will not bring our loved ones back, but they will subject other parents' children to more suffering and deny them the support that can keep them alive."

The group makes concrete demands of Congress about what it does and does not want. It says "no more" to drug-induced homicide laws, new mandatory minimum sentencing laws, or new laws increasing penalties for the possession of personal use amounts of illicit drugs.

Instead, it calls for "health-based solutions focused on overdose prevention, harm reduction, and drug treatment," including drug decriminalization (with the savings invested in addiction services and social supports), the panoply of harm reduction measures from needle exchanges and drug checking to safe injection sites, effective voluntary drug treatment options (including access on demand for opioid disorder medications buprenorphine and methadone, "reality based drug education," and removing civil punishments for drug use (in food, housing, and employment).

"As a mother who lost her 16-year-old son to overdose, I strongly oppose imposing harsher penalties for those involved in drug-related deaths," said Tamara Olt, MD, executive director of Broken No More. "It is enough that one family has been devastated by the loss of their loved one. It is cruel and unjust for a second family to lose their child to incarceration and the laws will increase deaths by making people afraid to get help for someone experiencing an overdose. I support a health-based approach, harm reduction, and safer supply to cease the senseless and preventable overdose deaths that are increasing exponentially. No one is disposable."

"I lost my son, my only child, Jeff, to an overdose. But he didn't have to die. There were two people with Jeff that day, one of whom had sold him the heroin he used. They could have called for help but, instead, they pulled him from the SUV and left him on a lawn. And while people will say that they were monsters, they weren't. The monster was fear. Fear of the police. Fear of arrest. Fear of spending 20 years to life in prison. It was fear that killed my son," said Denise Cullen, LCSW, co-founder of Broken No More. "Criminalization and punitive drug laws have resulted in nothing but more imprisonment, more deaths, and more devastated families. We must, instead, invest in health-based solutions that will save the lives of the ones we love. Laws that charge people with murder for a drug-related death may sound like a good idea. Until that is, it's your child that dies on a lawn."

"We stand behind the families who are bravely fighting for the right policy solutions so that no one else has to go through the heartbreak and pain they have experienced. Their voices are abundantly clear that the best way to address the overdose crisis is through continued investment in public health resources and services rather than doubling down on the deeply flawed, unjust, and failed punitive approaches of the past," said Emily Kaltenbach, senior director of state advocacy and criminal legal reform at the Drug Policy Alliance. "Turning to health solutions instead of punishment is the right way forward. People all across the country are looking for answers to the problems of public safety, mass criminalization, racist policing, addiction, overdose, and homelessness. But we know that punishing people for possessing drugs for personal use is not the answer to these issues."

For a complete list of signatories go here. Other parents and family members who have lost loved ones can sign the letter here.

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New Hampshire Will Study the State Liquor Store Model for Legal Weed [FEATURE]

New Hampshire is one of seven states where alcohol sales take place through state-owned liquor stores (another 10 states feature a state monopoly on wholesale alcohol sales to private vendors), and now, it is embarking on a close look at applying that model to legal marijuana sales.

That would be a first for legal weed. All the states that have legalized it so far rely on licensed private enterprises to supply the retail market, but there is no reason that has to be the only possible model for marijuana legalization and given its experience with the state liquor store system, New Hampshire is looking with great interest at using the same model for marijuana.

That is in large part because that is what Gov. Chris Sununu (R) wants. Sununu had for years been an opponent of marijuana legalization, and his threats of vetoes and actual vetoes (like this year) helped torpedo bills, but earlier this year, he declared that legalization is "inevitable" and signaled support for the state liquor store model.

"I've never been a big believer in terms of legalizing recreational marijuana, but the legislature is there," he said. "We're surrounded by I think 1,000 miles by states who have done it. Not only would the bill pass to let it happen, it probably would pass with the ability to override my veto. Even though I might not like it, my responsibility is to set up a model that, long-term, is better than all the other states around us -- that has the protections" through the state's existing state-controlled liquor sales system," the governor said.

"With us controlling the retail on the marketing and the branding side, we would be able to control all that and we do it really well," he said. "Our New Hampshire liquor stores are ranked one of the top five retailers in the country. So we have a model that works. Other states don't really have that, and so we can build off of that."

Legalization is "inevitable" and "it's going to happen," he added.

"So let's provide it with protection," Sununu said. "There'll be some revenue from it -- but you should never be legalizing more drugs for revenue. That has ethical and moral problems wrapped all around it. Other states did that we're not going down that path. So I think if they can do it, we can get it done."

Legislation he signed into law earlier this month, House Bill 611, sets the state on the path toward the state liquor store model. It establishes a commission to study how to implement that model with marijuana. The commission will include five senators and five House representatives, as well as representatives from Attorney General's Office, the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, the New Hampshire Bankers Association, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, the American Civil Liberties Union, the New Hampshire Medical Society, and Communities for Alcohol and Drug-Free Youth.

The commission must report its findings by December 1, so that the legislature can move once the second half of the biennial session begins after the new year.

According to the bill text, "the commission shall study with the purpose of proposing legislation, the feasibility of establishing a state-controlled system to sell marijuana to adults 21 years and older that also: allows the state to control distribution and access, keeps marijuana away from kids and out of schools, controls the marketing and messaging of the sale of marijuana, prohibits "marijuana miles "or the over-saturation of marijuana retail establishments, empowers municipalities to choose to limit or prohibit marijuana retail establishments, reduces instances of multi-drug use, and does not impose an additional tax so as to remain competitive."

Next year, New Hampshire could pioneer a new model for legal marijuana sales. After all, there's more than one way to sell a reefer.

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Chronicle Book Review: Whiteout

Whiteout: How Racial Capitalism Changed the Color of Opioids in America by Helena Hansen, David Herzberg, and Jules Netherland (2023, University of California Press, 369 pp., $29.95 HB)

When the face of opioid addiction turned white, an era that can be marked as beginning with the introduction and mass prescribing of OxyContin in the late 1990s, official attitudes toward drug users shifted away from the punishing and toward the nurturing. They were no longer black deviant criminals, but now white innocent victims.

Republican lawmakers in statehouses around the country who had built careers as fierce drug warriors now sponsored Good Samaritan bills (so that people overdosing and those seeking to help them did not face drug charges), the availability of medicine-assisted treatment (methadone and buprenorphine) spread -- and went upscale, with bupe acting as white people's methadone.

While methadone, associated with the Black and Brown heroin addicts of the 1970s, remains heavily stigmatized, its administration heavily authoritarian, and its dispensing locations almost always deep within poor minority neighborhoods, buprenorphine -- a drug for treating white opioid users of the 21st Century -- is much more easily accessible, available in doctors' offices instead of grim industrial buildings, but also more expensive, limiting its access for people with little money or insurance.

In Whiteout, an addiction psychiatrist (Hansen), a drug historian (Herzberg), and a policy advocate (Netherland) tease apart the structures of Whiteness (the unspoken ideology of white virtue, purity, and superiority) and demonstrate how racial disparities have been cooked into American drug policies from the beginning -- and how not only Black populations but white ones, too, have suffered for it.

In the first great wave of opioid addiction in the late 19th Century, it was middle class white women who suffered the grip of the poppy, and they were largely treated in the doctor's office. As relatively well-off people, they had the ability to access the health care system of the time, to be prescribed the pills they wanted, and to be helped off them if necessary.

Meanwhile, Black Americans more often lacked the money to gain access to the health care system, and once drug prohibition fell into place in the 1910s, they were shunted into the black market, criminalized, and stigmatized. Their neighborhoods became epicenters of the illicit drug trade. Black market drugs in the ghetto, white market drugs at the doctor's office and the drugstore.

But white privilege had its price -- a price that hundreds of thousands of white opioid users have paid since the turn of the century as overdose deaths quintupled in 20 years. Affluent white drug consumers would be provided their drugs by a lightly regulated pharmaceutical industry that the authors demonstrate portrayed the users of its products as white people and marketed their products directly at white people. The poster child for this behavior is Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, which zeroed in on mostly white Appalachia as its force of zealous sales reps went to work. This is the racial capitalism of the title.

Anyone who is uncomfortable with terms like "racial capitalism" is really going to be squirming when Critical Race Theory makes its entrance. Unlike the case with the moral panic around Critical Race Theory in children's schoolbooks (which it isn't), the academic tool is actually applied here and, indeed, is central to the argument the authors make.

It also colors their recommendations for what is to be done. In line with the critique of capitalism, a little more harm reduction here or a little more criminal justice reform there are not going to solve the social problems that give rise to the current opioid crisis. It is going to require real social change, things like universal health care and a real social safety net. And an ongoing interrogation of Whiteness.

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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Crooked jail and prison guards from Saginaw to South Carolina. Let's get to it:

In Saginaw, Michigan, a state prison guard was arrested August 7 but the bust was kept quiet until this week as an investigation that netted two others wrapped up. Kernef Jackson, 61, a 20-year guard at St. Louis Correction faces thirteen charges, including possession and intent to deliver a number of controlled substances, including fentanyl. He is also charged with maintaining a drug house -- in this case, his vehicle (!). The other two arrested were an inmate at the prison and a woman who also faces drug house charges. The arrests came after a yearlong investigation by an area drug task force.

In Suffield, Connecticut, a state prison guard was arrested September 21 after she was caught carrying drugs into the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. Guard Deserae Ortiz, 25, faces nine charges including conveyance of an electronic wireless communications device inside a correctional institution, illegal distribution of a narcotic substance, and illegal distribution of cannabis.

In Columbia, South Carolina, a Richland County sheriff's detention officer was arrested September 25 after being caught at work with loose tobacco, a phone charger, 87 grams of marijuana, and 56 grams of crack cocaine. Officer Taylor Smoaks, 27, is charged with misconduct in office, furnishing contraband, drug possession and drug trafficking. She went down after investigators received a tip that she was providing contraband to detainees.

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CDC Says ODs Hit Record High Last Year, CA Bans "Excited Delirium" As Cause of Death, More... (10/12/23)

More usual suspects come out against the Ohio marijuana legalization initiative, the FDA issues a warning about the home use of prescribed ketamine, and more.

prescription ketamine (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Senate Urges Voters to Reject Marijuana Legalization Initiative. On Wednesday, the day early voting began for next month's election, the Republican-led Senate passed a resolution urging voters to reject the Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative. The measure, Senate Resolution 216, resorted to Reefer Madness-type arguments in its bid to scare voters into a "no" vote. "The proposed statute authored by the commercial marijuana industry," it says, "does not serve the best interests of the people of Ohio, will bring unacceptable threats and risks to the health of all Ohioans, especially children, will create dangers in the workplace and unacceptable challenges and costs to employers, will make Ohio's roads more dangerous, will impose significant new, unfunded costs to Ohio's public social services, and serves only to advance the financial interests of the commercial marijuana industry and its investors."

The resolution asserts that marijuana is "a gateway drug," that drug overdoses "have been the leading cause of injury and death in Ohio" since 2007 (but the 33,000 overdose deaths in a decade are fewer than the 42,000 people killed by COVID), and that a whole litany of dire consequences would arise from legalization, including more emergency room visits for children, increased risk of young people developing psychosis, lower intelligence and learning ability, more car crashes, higher crime rates, a bigger illicit cannabis market and "great risks at the workplace to employers, other workers, customers, and others."

Polling last month had the initiative at 59 percent.

Drug Policy

CDC Says Drug Overdose Deaths Hit All-Time High Last Year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an estimate of drug overdose deaths and projects that 112,024 people died in the 12 months ending in May of this year, some 2,700 more than the previous year. That is a 2.5 percent increase, which indicates a slight leveling off of the still-increasing overdose numbers.

Dr. Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, noted that the increase is leveling off.

"We still have an extraordinary number of overdose deaths that is orders of magnitude higher than we've seen in previous years," said Dr. Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. However, "the increase that we [saw] in 2021 has slowed down. There were extraordinary increases in 2020 and 2021 that have started to flatten out in 2022 -- now going into 2023. They're not declining yet," Keyes said. "But the pace of the increase is certainly slowing. So that is both good news and indicative of a continuing public health crisis."

The death toll rose especially sharply in Western states, with Washington seeing the biggest increase, a jump of 37 percent from the previous year. That increase is likely a function of the late introduction of fentanyl into drug markets in the Pacific Northwest.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in the vast majority of overdose deaths.

"Fentanyl is an unpredictable product, and people who use too much can rapidly have an overdose," Keyes said, adding that the drug is particularly dangerous for people who don't know they are consuming it. "Many people who use drugs are more tolerant to fentanyl and prefer it," she said. "Other people use it without knowing it, and that can be very dangerous because people who don't have a tolerance to opioids who are exposed to fentanyl only need a very small amount of exposure to rapidly induce an overdose."

FDA Issues Warning Over Home Consumption of Telemedicine-Prescribed Ketamine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an alert warning about the dangers of unsupervised use of compounded ketamine to treat psychiatric disorders. The drug, a powerful anesthetic, is increasingly popular for treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other difficult-to-treat mental health issues.

Compounded drugs are drugs created in pharmacies (as opposed to manufactured in pharmaceutical plants) that are modified for the specific needs of individual patients. Ketamine is often used under supervision as part of psychiatric therapy at clinics or "wellness centers," but is also prescribed by online marketers who prescribe it via telemedicine for unsupervised home use.

"Patients who receive compounded ketamine products from compounders and telemedicine platforms for the treatment of psychiatric disorders may not receive important information about the potential risks associated with the product," the FDA warned.

Ketamine is unapproved and unregulated for psychiatric use, but doctors can prescribe it "off label" for any condition they desire. The boom in telemedicine during the pandemic has seen large numbers of online prescribers emerge, who dispense the medication after a brief video interview. Some prescribe as many as 30 doses at a time.

"Whenever you have something new, there may be people who run ahead with it. And there will be people who do things based on less evidence rather than more," said Dr. Joshua Berman, medical director for interventional psychiatry at Columbia University, who helped develop the department's ketamine program.

"Our concern is that these online sellers are going to ruin it for everybody," said Peter Koshland, who runs a compounding pharmacy in San Francisco. "Our fear is that regulators, if they perceive a threat to public health, will move to take this amazing medicine away and leave patients at risk."

Law Enforcement

California Becomes First State to Ban "Excited Delirium" As Cause of Death in Police Encounters. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 360, which bars coroners or medical examiners from using the term "excited delirium" on death certificates.

The state becomes the first to ban the phrase, which medical associations have said is rooted in racism and which has often been used to justify the deaths of people in police custody, especially those using stimulant drugs.

The signing of the bill was a victory for "justice, police accountability, human rights and health," said Dr. Michele Heisler, the medical director of Physicians for Human Rights. "This baseless concept can no longer be used in California to absolve law enforcement for deaths in custody, misinform responses to people facing medical and behavioral crises, or block access to legal remedies."

Two years ago, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced its opposition to the use of the term, saying reports showed a pattern of using the term as "justification for excessive police force, disproportionately cited in cases where Black men die in law enforcement custody."

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Rate of Black Men in Prison Has Dropped by Nearly Half, New Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug, More... (10/13/23)

Ohio's Republican Senate leader is threatening to mess with a marijuana legalization initiative if it passes, the Israel-Hamas war has caused a pause in Germany's march toward marijuana legalization, and more.

A new opioid overdose reversal drug, OpVee, has hit the market.
Marijuana Policy

Ohio GOP Senate President Vows to Mess with Marijuana Legalization Initiative If It Passes. The GOP-dominated state Senate has already passed a resolution opposing the Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative (as well as the Issue 1 abortion rights amendment), and the Republican Senate leader now says that while the legislature would not try to repeal the initiative if it passes, it is likely to try to modify it.

In the Senate, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said that passage of the initiative would cause a "mental health crisis," adding that "this initiated statute is coming right back before this body."

When pressed after the session about precisely what he meant, Huffman clarified. "I will advocate for reviewing it and repealing things or changing things that are in it," he said.

He said he was perturbed about a social equity provision that allocates some marijuana tax revenues for programs aiding people with marijuana convictions to get licenses and financial assistance.

Harm Reduction

New Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Opvee Comes to Market. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new opioid overdose reversal drug, Opvee, back in June, and now, the manufacturer, Indivior, has begun shipping the drug to pharmacies and first responders.

Opvee is a nasal spray containing the opioid receptor-blocking drug nalmefene. It is approved for use in people 12 and over and requires a prescription.

While the market for overdose reversal drugs is growing crowded, with Narcan already widely available and now available without a prescription at major drug store chains a second naloxone nasal spray, RiVive from Harm Reduction Therapeutics aimed at community groups coming soon, Opvee aims to position itself as being better able to respond to fentanyl overdoses. The company says it is a better match against fentanyl because its formulation is more powerful than Narcan or other forms of naloxone.

Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams called Opvee a "fentanyl fighter" and another tool for public health officials to counter illicit fentanyl driving the nation's overdose deaths. "It's as if it was designed to combat fentanyl," Adams said. "It matches up well with the potency and the longevity of fentanyl, so it's a new valuable tool that is available."

But as with other opioid overdose reversal drugs, cost is an issue. Opvee will go for $75 per kit for public interest and government purchasers and $98 for others with no insurance. Narcan now goes for $44.99 for a two-dose kit, while RiVive will go for $36.


Rate of Imprisonment for Black Men Has Dropped by Nearly Half Since 2000, Report Finds. The Sentencing Project released a new report, "One in Five: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration," that presents an overview of trends in incarceration and community supervision. The report identifies the progress made in the 21st century in reducing the US prison population and its racial and ethnic disparities, while sounding the alarm about the future of reforms. One in five Black men born in 2001 is likely to experience imprisonment within their lifetime, a decline from one in three for those born in 1981. But rather than accelerate the pace of reforms, pushback from policymakers threatens further advancement.


According to the report, the imprisonment rate of Black men in 2021 declined substantially, falling by almost half (48%) since 2000, yet Black men were still imprisoned at 5.5 times the rate of white men. The imprisonment rate of Black women declined even more, by 70% since 2000, but Black women remained imprisoned at 1.6 times the rate of white women.

The report also found that the total prison population has declined by 25% after reaching its peak level in 2009; while all major racial and ethnic groups experienced decarceration, the Black prison population has downsized the most; and American Indian and Latinx people were imprisoned at 4.2 times and 2.4 times the rate of whites in 2021, respectively.

The momentum for continued progress is precarious. We've seen a backlash to the progress we've made on criminal justice reform. In fact,preliminary data from the Department of Justice shows that the prison population increased for the first time in almost a decade between 2021 and 2022.

In an effort to protect and expand the progress, The Sentencing Project is producing the "One in Five" series of four reports to examine both the narrowing and persistence of racial injustice in the criminal legal system, as well as to highlight promising reforms.


German Marijuana Legalization Debate Delayed Because of Israel-Hamas War. The Bundestag was set to take up debate on a government-backed bill to legalize marijuana Friday, but that debate is now delayed because of the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The "global political situation" is the reason for the delay, said lawmakers Carmen Wegge and Dirk Heidenblut of the Social Democratic Party, but lawmakers "will make sure that everything gets done somehow in the next week."

But Thorsten Frei, a member of the minority Christian Democratic Union -- not a member of the governing coalition -- said the debate cancellation was "surprising" and reflected internal concerns about the bill more than foreign wars.

Any delay could make it more difficult to get the bill passed by a December 15 deadline, and if that does not happen, further consideration would be pushed back to next February at the earliest. But a revised parliamentary schedule suggests that it could get done by mid-November.

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Hiccup for SAFER Banking Act Senate Vote, CA Governor Signs Social Media Drug Crackdown Law, More... (10/16/23)

Workers at Story Cannabis in Maryland's Mechansville are the latest in the industry to vote to unionize, Gavin Newsom signs a social media law that aims at cracking down on online drug sales, and more.

logo from United Food and Commercial Workers cannabis workers program
Marijuana Policy

GOP Sponsor of Marijuana Banking Bill Says No Senate Floor Vote Until House Passage Assured. According to a marijuana financing executive who spoke with Senate marijuana banking bill sponsor Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) last week, the key senator said a planned vote on the bill, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act (S.2860) is on hold until he is sure it can pass in the House.

While the Senate leadership has always factored the bill's prospects in the House into its thinking, Daines' comments to Pelorus Capital Group President Rob Sechrist make it clear that the bill will not move without that assurance. According to Sechrist, Daines said something to the effect that he is "going to slow this down until there's a clear path through on the House side."

Senate Majority Lader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he want to bring the bill to a Senate floor vote "as quickly as possible," but has not said the vote would depend on the state of play in the House.

Daines' goal "is to make sure that this gets passed, and not just go and die in the House," Sechrist said. "He was passionate about making sure that I understood that this is not about a political win and just getting it over to the House. He is adamant that he wants to make sure that this gets done this time all the way through."

When told some industry members would be "disappointed" to hear the vote is being delayed, Daines replied that a negative view is "not the way to look at it -- I want to make sure this gets all the way done," Secrist said.

But with the House in chaos after Republicans defenestrated former, short-lived Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), it is unclear when the chamber might get around to voting on anything, let alone whether it is ready to pass the SAFER Banking Act.

Maryland Pot Shop Workers Vote to Unionize. Workers at the Story marijuana shop in Mechanicsville have voted overwhelmingly to unionize under the aegis of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UCFW), the latest victory in wave of union organizing in the industry.

"We are stoked on the outcome of our election, and it just further illustrates what we already knew: we are a team that works together to benefit our patients, our community, and ourselves as workers," the workers' organizing committee said after the vote. "We are excited to continue providing the best medicine and overall experience to our patients and our adult-use customers. We look forward to getting down to business and negotiating a contract."

Voting took place last Thursday, with workers voting 14-2 to unionize. The vote came after workers filed for a union election through the National Labor Relations Board in August, after most eligible employees signing authorization cards supporting unionizing. The union will represent 20 employees.

Story Cannabis is a multi-state operator with stores in Arizona and Ohio as well as Maryland. The Mechanicsville store will become the first union shop owned by Story.

In 2020, MaryMed LLC in Hurlock became the first unionized pot shop in the state, but this had already seen two more shops unionize, Zen Leaf in Germantown and PharmaCann Verilife in Westminster.

Drug Policy

California Governor Signs Social Media Drug Crackdown Bill. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) last Friday signed into law a bill, Assembly Bill 1027, designed to increase cooperation between law enforcement and social media platforms in cracking down on the sale of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs.

The new law requires social media platforms to add controlled substances to the list of topics where they must submit terms of service to the state attorney general and to do so by January. Laws requiring the platforms to submit terms of service already exist, but this new law requires social media companies to keep a record of communications between platform users for seven days or face a civil penalty of up to $250,000. The bill also holds social media financially liable if a minor overdoses on fentanyl purchased on their platform.

X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the law from going into effect.

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OR Lawmakers Discuss Measure 110 Rollback, Cartel Kills 13 Cops in Mexico, More... (10/24/23)

New York is rolling out a drug checking program, Seattle begins a crackdown on public drug use, and more.

Drug Policy

Oregon Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Measure 110 Issues. Two years after voters approved Measure 110, which decriminalizes drug possession and allocates hundreds of millions of dollars in marijuana tax revenues to drug prevention and treatment, the measure is under concerted attack. With concerns over overdoses and public drug use rising, a legislative joint committee on addiction met last week with Measure 110 on its mind.

"The crisis that we are facing in our addiction system is not a big-city crisis or a rural-community crisis, it's not a Republican crisis, it's not a Democrat crisis or an Independent crisis, this is a crisis in all of Oregon," said Sen. Kate Lieber, D-Portland, who chairs the committee.

Lieber vowed that the committee would examine all aspects of the crisis and consult with a broad range of experts to come up with policy solutions that lawmakers could address in the 2024 legislative session. Democrats hold a majority in the legislature and have not committed to repealing Measure 110, but Lieber said it could use some adjustments.

"It is clear that the ballot measure that Oregonians passed in 2020 is not delivering what we need it to deliver, and we need to make systemwide change to try to address this issue," she said.

Her Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, was more inclined to attack Measure 110.

"I agree that Measure 110 is not delivering. In fact, I think it has been a massive failure. I think it was born to fail for a couple of reasons. One, is that there was not on-demand treatment that was ready to go when decriminalization happened, and I think that was a huge mistake," he said. "I also think that community harm reduction was not really contemplated with Measure 110 and making sure that those who are causing harm to the community through addiction get to treatment and recovery."

During the hearing, lawmakers heard from addiction prevention and recovery experts, none of whom would go so far as to recommend repealing Measure 110. Instead, they said that the state's addiction treatment and recovery systems are understaffed and underfunded.

Seattle Police Crack Down on Public Drug Use as New City Ordinance Goes into Effect. Last month, the city council passed an ordinance criminalizing public drug use and possession under municipal law, and last Friday, police began emphatically enforcing it. Squads of police officers swept through two neighborhoods -- Little Saigon and downtown Pine Street -- and arrested about two dozen people.

Ten people were jailed, mostly on outstanding felony warrants, while another 15 people who were arrested were referred to case workers and released.

Police Chief Adrian Diaz said the department would conduct similar operations on a weekly basis.

"We are going to be compassionate in our approach to getting people connected with services while still making sure our city streets are safe," he said.

But opponents worry the law will punish people for addictions and called it a new version of the war on drugs, which subjected Black and brown people to disproportionate enforcement. And they noted that access to treatment remains severely limited.

"Data shows the minute you're arrested, there are cascading consequences for your stability," said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda , who opposed the new law. "People are more likely to die while in jail due to withdrawal or die upon release due to overdoses," she said. "We don't want public consumption throughout the streets, but we do not have the treatment resources necessary to implement this policy."

Harm Reduction

New York State Department of Health Announces Drug Checking Programs The New York State Department of Health's Office of Drug User Health (NYSDOH-ODUH) has implemented four drug checking programs operated by state funded Drug User Health Hubs (DUHH). Drug checking is used as a consumer safety tool -- either before or after consumption -- and a method to engage people who use drugs (PWUD) in other harm reduction services. This information can help inform the larger PWUD community about new or emerging adulterants in the local drug supply and how to decrease their risk of overdose from dangerous substances like fentanyl.

"As new or dangerous substances, including fentanyl, continue to appear in the drug supply, the risk of overdose for people who use drugs continues to rapidly increase," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Given this ever-changing landscape, these essential comprehensive drug checking services will help protect New Yorkers and help us to better understand the local drug supply and improve overall drug user health."

The technology used to test for drugs produces results within minutes and provides the technician the ability to determine the chemical composition of the sample. To ensure that technicians can interpret test results accurately, the NYSDOH-ODUH has contracted with an experienced drug checking consultant who provides training and ongoing technical assistance.

For further support, the drug checking program also includes the use of a confirmatory laboratory that allows DUHH to send residual amounts of inactivated drug samples to the lab and in compliance with Drug Enforcement Administration and postal regulations. Technicians will send the first 150 residual samples to the laboratory for additional testing to confirm the accuracy of initial analysis. The laboratory providing the additional analysis utilizes gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC/MS), which is regarded as a gold standard for drug testing.

"The unregulated drug supply is increasingly unpredictable and dangerous. Having comprehensive drug checking available is a strategy to decrease potential harms, including overdoses, and supports our ongoing work to expand and enhance harm reduction services across New York State," said Office of Addiction Services and Supports Commissioner Dr. Chinazo Cunningham.

The drug checking programs are located in Central New York, the Southern Tier, the Mohawk Valley, the Capital Region and Long Island. The program involves staffing and training at each participating DUHH. Governor Kathy Hochul specifically mentioned in her 2023 State of the State Address the expansion of drug checking technology within DUHHs to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of substances before and after use. This enhanced technology will be available at Drug User Health Hubs so that individuals can test their drugs to mitigate drug-related harms and prevent overdose.


Irish Parliamentarians Call for "Radical Change" in Drug Policy After Citizens' Assembly Recommends Decriminalization. Over the weekend, the Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use voted to recommend that the country move toward a "comprehensive health-led" approach to drug policy, including a form of drug decriminalization. In response, a cross-party group of parliamentarians is calling for a "radical change" in drug policy.

In a statement on Monday evening, a group parliamentarians, including politicians from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party, Labor, and People Before Profit, said that the decision by the Citizens' Assembly "reinforces the case for radical change in Irish drug policy".

"We urge the Oireachtas [the parliament] to assign the report, when published, to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice to allow them carry out detailed deliberation and to propose draft legislation," the statement reads. We emphasize the need for detailed analysis and recommendations on the decriminalization of the drug user and regulation of cannabis."

Mexican Cartel Guns Down 13 Cops in Guerrero. Supposed cartel gunmen ambushed police in Coyuca de Benitze, Guerrero, on Monday, leaving 13 dead, including the local police chief and municipal security secretary. This was only the latest in a growing number of deadly attacks against police in the region.

At least 34 police officers have been killed in Guerrero so far in 2023 -- one-tenth of the total number of police killed countrywide -- making it the second most dangerous state for law enforcement.

The state has been plagued by turf wars between various drug trafficking organizations, who seek to dominate both the opium and marijuana-growing mountainous interior and the consumer market in the tourist city of Acapulco and other coastal resort areas.

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NH Commission Holds Legalization Hearing, Vancouver Cops Raid Unsanctioned Drug Suppliers, More... (10/26/23)

A MAGA marijuana legalization bill gets refiled, German parliamentarians finally get around to debating marijuana legalization, and more.

Lab-tested meth and heroin packets sold at cost by Vancouver's Drug Users Libertation Front (DULF).
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Marijuana Legalization Bill Refiled in Congress. A bipartisan marijuana legalization bill first filed in 2021 by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) that served as an alternative to a Democratic-led marijuana legalization bill that has twice passed the House has now been refiled. The first time around, Mace's bill, the States Reform Act, had only GOP support, but this time, a handful of Republicans and Democrats have already signed on.

Mace said she had secured a commitment from then Speaker-to-be Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to hold a committee markup on her bill in return for her vote to raise the debt ceiling and cut certain federal programs. But Mace then became one of eight House Republicans to vote against keeping McCarthy is the leadership, his departure in turn endangering the prospects for any further progress on marijuana legalization after McCarthy was eventually replaced by anti-weed Rep. Michael Johnson (R-LA) as House Speaker.

The text of the new version of the bill is not yet available and it is not clear what changes -- if any -- have been made, but the original bill would have ended federal pot prohibition and, in a bid to win bipartisan support, incorporated equity provisions such as expungements for people with non-violent pot convictions and the imposition of an excise tax that would have supported community reinvestment, law enforcement, and Small Business Administration (SBA) activities.

The bill is primarily aimed at having the federal government treat marijuana in a similar manner to alcohol. Cannabis would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), with retroactive effects for people previously punished.

Cosponsors of this year's bill include Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), as well as Democrat Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Rep. David Trone (D-MD).

New Hampshire Legislative Panel Discusses Marijuana Legalization Recommendations. A bill signed into law in August established the Commission to Study With the Purpose of Proposing Legalization, State Controlled Sales of Cannabis and Cannabis Products with the intention of presenting draft state liquor store marijuana legalization bill recommendations by December 1. The commission has been busy, holding five meetings already, with one more set for early November.

"New Hampshire has an opportunity to safely regulate the sale of marijuana with a model few others can provide," said Gov. John Sununu (R) as he signed the bill. "By establishing a commission to study state-controlled sales, this bill will bring stakeholders from across New Hampshire together to ensure that preventing negative impacts upon kids remains our number one priority."

"We're not here to discuss legalization, we're here to discuss how to put a bill forward that would do legalization, but do it in the matter that is most protective of our citizens and our regulations," said Sen. Timothy Lang. "The charge of the commission is to put the best bill forward possible if legalization were to happen in a state-controlled model."

Look for the state legislature and the governor to advance a state liquor store-model bill before the year's end and to try to get it passed next year.


Sen. Maggie Hassan Uses International Narcotics Control Hearing to Question Officials Over the Opioid Precursor Pipeline. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) questioned officials from the Department of State, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security during a Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing about how US agencies can use international partnerships to address the precursor chemical pipeline that cartels are using to produce fentanyl and other illicit synthetic drugs. Senator Hassan discussed her recent trip to China as part of a bipartisan Congressional Delegation, and how the U.S. can build on the conversations that they had in order to continue pushing Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese officials to limit the export of precursor chemicals.

First, Sen. questioned Maggie Nardi, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the Department of State: "I was on a recent bipartisan congressional delegation trip to China where we met with a number of senior leaders. I pressed Chinese President Xi to crack down on the illicit trafficking of fentanyl precursors that are made in China and as you all have outlined, sold to cartels in Mexico… President Xi indicated that he might be willing to take action on this, he said he would look into appointing senior leadership to start communication with us and we obviously now have to hold him to this. What steps will the State Department take, can it take to proactively engage with its Chinese counterparts to push China more to address the development and sale of fentanyl precursors, and what specific goals or benchmarks will the State Department set to track progress?" asked Hassan.

Nardi thanked Hassan for the message she delivered to Chinese leaders and discussed how the State Department has encouraged China to participate in the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats and that Chinese officials have attended some meetings.

Senator Hassan also asked William Kimbell, the Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice, and Ricardo Mayoral, the Deputy Assistant Director for International Operations for the Department of Homeland Security, "What role can US law enforcement play in disrupting the precursor pipeline if China agrees to work with us? For instance, could US law enforcement work with China to stop illegal money laundering that bankrolls the production of fentanyl precursors?" Mr. Kimbell pointed to recent meetings with Chinese officials about companies that they believe are selling precursors for the manufacturing of fentanyl and said that "the DEA is ready and willing at any given time to share information with them and to provide them with intelligence it needs to stop these companies from this behavior."


Vancouver Police Crack Down on Unsanctioned Safe Supply Program. Vancouver Police on Thursday raided the offices of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) on Hastings Street on the Downtown Eastside, as well as two nearby homes, in a crackdown on unsanctioned "safe supply" drug sales amidst the city's ongoing overdose crisis. Two people were arrested.

DULF initiated the program of sales of lab-tested drugs in an effort to reduce fatal overdoses by ensuring that consumers knew what they were getting, something police acknowledged in a press release on the raid.

Even while noting DULF's harm reduction efforts, police said the group has "publicly admitted to trafficking controlled substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines.

"We understand the magnitude of the ongoing overdose crisis and the impact drug toxicity deaths have in communities throughout the province," Insp. Phil Heard of the VPD's Organized Crime Section said in a statement. "While DULF's actions were intended to reduce the harms caused by toxic drugs, we have always warned that anyone who violates the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act could face enforcement and criminal charges. This group has knowingly operated illegally in the Downtown Eastside and we have now taken action to stop it."

DULF has said it has been selling tested drugs at cost for more than a year, and that its efforts had resulted in fewer overdoses, reduced drug use among some clients, and zero associated overdose deaths.

British Columbia has responded to the overdose crisis by embracing the decriminalization of the possession of personal use amounts of drugs, but that is not nearly enough, according to DULF.

"Decriminalization as a response to overdoses is a drop in the bucket," said group cofounder Jeremy Kalicum.

Marijuana Legalization Debate in Germany's Bundestag Heats Up. The federal legislature, the Bundestag, has for the first time debated a draft marijuana legalization bill proposed by the federal government. The deTbate had originally been set for last week but was delayed by the outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza.

The bill would legalize the use and possession of marijuana by adults, but was "scaled back" from full-blown commercial legalization following consultations with the European Union.

A Social Democratic Party member made the case for legalization, cited profits to organized crime and the fact that illegal marijuana "is often contaminated."

Both the rightist Union Party and the rightist Alternative for Germany spoke against the bill, arguing that it would turn the country "in the wrong direction" and arguing instead for only the legalization of medical marijuana.

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