Chronicle AM: VA Pot Arrests at Record High, Brazil Guts Drug Council, Mark Kleiman RIP, More... (7/22/19)

A leading academic voice on drug and criminal justice policy has left us, skyhigh Virginia pot arrests prompt calls for reform, Brazil's rightist government moves to silence critical voices on drug policy, and more. 

Drug reform and criminal justice scholar Mark Kleiman has died at age 68. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Marijuana Arrests at Highest Level in 20 Years. Nearly 29,000 people were arrested on marijuana charges in the state last year, the vast majority for simple possession. That figure is three times the level of 1999 and accounts for nearly 60% of all drug arrests in the state. The spike is leading to calls for decriminalization by some lawmakers, as well as state Attorney General Mark Herring (D), who last month when became the state’s highest official to call for legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Still Looking for Signatures. The Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign is still hunting signatures to qualify its medical marijuana initiative for the November 2020 ballot. The campaign needs to turn in some 86,000 valid voter signatures by October and says it has already gathered more than 100,00 raw signatures.

Utah Regulators Announce Choice of Applicants to Grow Medical Marijuana. The state Department of Agriculture and Food announced Friday it has chosen eight applicants that will be licensed to grow medical marijuana in the state. "Half of the awardees already have existing businesses in Utah and the other half are out of state but have Utah ties. All grows will be located in Utah. Seven of the proposed sites are in rural areas and one is in an urban area," Kerry W. Gibson, commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said in a statement. The agency could have awarded up to 10 licenses, but said it wanted to avoid an oversupply of product.

Obituaries

Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Expert Mark Kleiman Dead at 68. Longtime criminal justice and drug policy expert Mark Kleiman died Sunday of complications from a kidney transplant, his family reported. Coauthor with Jonathan Caulkins, Angela Hawken and Beau Kilmer of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, Kleiman rejected what he called a false dichotomy between legalization and prohibition, arguing for a middle ground that would end prohibition while avoiding the rise of commercially driven "Big Marijuana." His nuanced approach to drug and criminal justice reform didn't always sit well with reformers, but he was for decades a thoughtful and innovative scholar in the arena.

International

Brazil Removing Independents from Drug Policy Council. Rightist President Jair Bolsonaro is removing most non-governmental representatives from a council that sets policy on drugs. In a presidential decree Monday, he cut the size of the council in half and removed experts chosen by associations of jurists, physicians, social workers and other independent groups, leaving mostly those appointed by the government. Critics say it is a move designed to stifle dissent. It is also a continuation of an approach he has already applied to environmental and cultural affairs.

UNODC Warns of Rising Role of Organized Crime in Southeast Asia. In a report issued last Thursday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned that transnational crime groups in the region are generating massive profits from the trafficking of drugs, people, and counterfeit goods, and are becoming increasingly aggressive. UNODC said the methamphetamine trade in particular had exploded, jumping in value from around $15 billion in 2013 to somewhere between $30 and $60 billion now.

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