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Chronicle AM: ME Mj Bills, OH Mj Init, VA Heroin Bills, WY Drug & Asset Forfeiture; More (1/20/15)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #870)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

State legislative sessions are getting underway, and drug policy-related bills are popping up all over. There's good, bad, and ugly. Let's get to it:

Heroin is on the legislative agenda in a number of states, including Virginia. (
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Bill Would Delay Regulations for Marijuana Concentrates. Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer) last Friday filed House Bill 59, which would delay regulations for concentrates by up to a year. That conflicts with the language of the marijuana legalization initiative, and has legalization supporters unhappy. Click on the story link for more details.

A Big Batch of Pot Bills in Maine. There are at least 15 marijuana-related bills pending before the state legislature, including one that would legalize, tax, and regulate the weed. Rep. Dianne Russell (D-Portland), sponsor of the legalization bill, is also sponsoring four medical marijuana bills. Another bill, sponsored by the Department of Public Safety, would set a limit on the amount of THC drivers could have in their systems. Click on the link for more detail.

Nebraska Bill Would Make Pot Concentrates a Felony. The state decriminalized pot possession in the 1970s, but a bill being pushed by the state attorney general's office, LB 326, would begin to undo that by making possession of marijuana concentrates not just a misdemeanor, but a felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. It's been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Responsible Ohio Lays Out its Vision for Legalization. The group wants to put a constitutional amendment to legalize pot on the November 2015 ballot, and today announced details of its proposal. The initiative would create a Marijuana Control Commission, allow for 10 licensed commercial grows, allow for marijuana manufacturing facilities that would sell only to retailers, allow for nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries, and would tax marijuana at a 15% rate. Click on either link for more.


Virginia Legislature Sees Heroin Bills Filed. At least four bills have been filed that seek to address the toll of heroin addiction and overdoses. House Bill 1638 would make people who provided drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose liable for a second degree murder charge; House Bill 1500 is a limited 911 Good Samaritan bill; House Bill 1458 would expand access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone, and Senate Bill 817 would expand the state's prescription monitoring program to allow probation and parole officers to access the database.

Asset Forfeiture

Wyoming Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances to Senate Floor. A bill that would bar police from seizing people's property unless they are charged with a felony drug crime passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday and now awaits a Senate floor vote. Senate File 14 drew late opposition from the offices of Gov. Matt Mead (R) and Attorney General Peter Michael (R), which claimed they would have to charge more people with felonies if they couldn't just take their money, but legislators expressed irritation at the late objections when the bill has been in process for months.

Drug Policy

Wyoming Bill Would Lighten Up on Repeated Drug Possession Punishments. Under current law, people convicted a third time in their lives for misdemeanor drug possession face felony penalties. House Bill 109 would change state law to make the felony penalties apply on the forth conviction, and the previous convictions would have to have happened in the past five years, instead of throughout the convict's lifetime, which is current law. There are at least three other bills relating to drug possession before the legislature; click on the title link to read more.

Drug Testing

Montana Food Stamps Drug Testing Bill Filed. Rep. Randy Pinocci (R-Sun River) Monday filed House Bill 200, which would require all applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, the food stamps program) to be screened for evidence of drug abuse. Those whose screening suggests a possible issue would be required to undergo a drug test. People who test positive for drugs wouldn't be allowed to receive benefits unless they agreed to complete a 30-day drug treatment program.

Harm Reduction

Michigan Cops Start Carrying Overdose Reversal Drug. Deputies in Oakland County have begun carrying naloxone opioid overdose reversal kits in a bid to reduce overdoses. That was made possible by the passage last year of Senate Bill 1049, which allowed law enforcement agencies to distribute the drug to police who have been trained to use it.


German Cops Tired of Messing Around With Small Time Drug Crimes. The country's police union is calling for "soft" drug offenses and other minor crimes to be decriminalized so police can focus on serious crime and terrorism. German police are also faced with shrinking numbers due to mandatory retirement of officers.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Jean Boyd (not verified)

Two of the new heroin bills in Virginia contradict one another. The safe reporting of an overdose bill provides an affirmative defense for individuals who seek medical attention for an overdose if: they remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives and identifies him or herself to the law and co-operates with any criminal investigation.

Drug Induced Homicide bill states that giving or selling of a controlled substance which kills someone accidentally is murder in the 2nd degree with not less than five years and no more than 40. 

One bill states that you will be safe to bring someone to the hospital if they have overdosed. The other bill states that you may go to prison for up to 40 years for murder if you were the person who gave or sold the drug to the deceased. How will you prove that you did not give that person the drug?

So now you are there at the hospital and you are at risk of homicide if you leave the person there. If you stick around you are at risk of murder if they think you gave or sold it. And you are going to be expected to cooperate in a criminal investigation which will ultimately charge another individual with supplying the drug to someone who wanted it.

The reason it is so crazy is because these laws are based upon other laws that are insane. Adults make their own choices and if a person wishes to take opiates they themselves make that choice and the law should stay out of it.

It is stated that there has been an increase of 165% in heroin fatalities in the last two years in Virginia. Are they aware that some people who are not able to receive prescription drugs may move to the street to find relief. If pain medications are made unavailable and they have been, then heroin is an alternative. However, because it is illegal there is no way of regulating the strength. This is the real cause of overdose. But the blame will be placed wrongly because the laws are wrong.

Because this new bill will over-rule the appeals court decision in Woodard vs commonwealth, it makes me wonder if they are making sure that Woodard gets charged with murder in his case. What do they mean when they say it over-rules the Virginia appeals decision?

And finally, Naloxone should be available to anyone who is using opiates. So I do not see how these bills are helping much. They will surely cause confusion. 


Sat, 01/24/2015 - 12:33am Permalink
DiffIdea (not verified)

In reply to by Jean Boyd (not verified)

jean- You are just wrong. I was at the Va bill hearing and there is an exemption from increased penalties for cohorts who share or even sell to a fellow user as an accommodation. They are trying to get at dealers who prey on addicts - sometimes squeezing addicts to be their front line in selling - insulating themselves from sales. Some new dealers are selling "product" that is actually pure or adulterated with fentanyl. That is who the bill is trying to reach and is not in conflict with the admittedly weak (and hopefully some day strengthened Good Samaritan legislation). You are also wrong that those with pain issues are deprived of their (synthetic heroin) opioid painkillers. According to CDC, last year there were over 259 million scrips written - an all time high. 2014 is expected to break that record. Care to cite a source for your assertion that people are being deprived of their opioid prescriptions ? Finally, addiction according to medical practitioners and the AMA is a disease and not a choice.
Mon, 01/26/2015 - 9:50pm Permalink
Jean Boyd (not verified)


Hey Dif, That is a very strong assertion to say I am "wrong." Do the letters in your name have anything to do with DEA?

I do not believe that "addiction" is a disease. Yes, there is a disease model, influenced by Alcohol Anonymous. Somehow, many intelligent physicians have come to agree with the non-medical assertion that people who use substances are diseased. 

There is another model called behavior. This one seems to make more sense to me. I disagree with the word "addiction" and try not to use it as it has been misused.

The Va. bill is going after dealers, however there is a fine line between dealer and user. Most dealers are users who are trying to pay the unfair and high prices for heroin, that are directly related to prohibition. If heroin was sold at a reasonable price, users would be able to purchase it the same way alcohol users buy beer. 

Are you aware of the new pain pill laws in WA state? That would be a good place for you to start reading. I don't care what the CDC says. Doctors are reluctant to write medicine for pain. Doctors are going to jail and losing their licenses for prescribing narcotics.

And finally, the drug laws are written in a way that continues the status quo. There is lots of money to be made from the backs of junkies; drug programs, prisons, fines, and much of the money goes directly to the government. You did not mention my comments about the laws. The Drug War and everything to do with it is based on lies. There is history all over the net on prohibition and the war.

DEA needs to be extinguished. Michelle Leonhart should be fired. They are looking to save their own selves. The Entire Drug War is about making money from poor addicts. Many of them people of color and poor. Please go and educate yourself. There has always been a percentage of society that uses opiates and there always will be. 

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 3:12am Permalink

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