Another AR Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed, Furor Over Looming Singapore Drug Execution, More... (11/5/21)

Critics chide the new drug czar over his perfomance in West Virginia, a third marijuana legalization initiative has been filed in Arkansas, and more. 

Peru's coca crop is increasing, and much of it has to do with the pandemic. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Sees Third Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed. And then there were three. Veteran activist Melissa Fults on Friday filed the Arkansas Adult Use and Expungement Marijuana Amendment, the third marijuana legalization initiative filed in the state so far this year. The initiative takes the form of a constitutional amendment, which means it faces higher signature-gathering requirements than the other two initiatives, which are statutory initiatives. Constitutional amendments require 89,151 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but statutory initiatives require only 71,321. In either case, signatures must be handed in by early July 2022. The Fults initiative would increase the number of dispensaries to one for every 15,000 residents up to a maximum of 200 and would also allow the home cultivation of up to six plants. The amendment also envisions a tax on recreational marijuana sales, with proceeds going to support education and the state's general fund. Other initiatives already filed are the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Amendment and an initiative sponsored by Arkansas True Grass.

Drug Policy

Critics Question New Drug Czar's Commitment to Harm Reduction. The Biden administration is now on record as supporting harm reduction policies, but some critics of his pick to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office), Dr. Rahul Gupta, are expressing concern over his commitment to harm reduction, especially around his role in shutting down West Virginia's largest needle exchange program. As then-director of the state's Bureau of Public Health and faced with harsh local political opposition to needle exchanges, Gupta ordered an audit of the Charleston needle exchange program and called for it to be suspended because it didn’t require participants to first seek treatment for drug use before accessing clean syringes. That stance flouted Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that support lowering barriers to access and guidelines set up by his own office. Since then, the state has moved toward eliminating all harm reduction services. Dr Robin Pollini, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University, and six other harm reduction experts nationwide wrote letters speaking out against Gupta’s findings saying his central criticism – that treatment options weren’t being prioritized above syringe access – showed he missed the point of harm reduction entirely. "The report was arbitrary in faulting the program for not adhering to practices that were not even required by the state certification guidelines” – guidelines written by Gupta’s own office." Pollini said in a recent interview. Gupta's audit legacy includes a new state law that makes it illegal for harm reduction programs in the state to follow CDC guidelines. Since that law passed, three more counties have shut down their needle exchange programs.

International

Peru Coca Cultivation is Rising; Three Reasons Why. While the White House and Peruvian authorities disagree over how much coca is being produced in the country, there is little disagreement that coca cultivation is increasing and Insight Crime has produced an analysis citing three reasons why: The coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns led the government to suspend eradication efforts and reduced the ability of the National Police to enforce coca cultivation laws, the balloon effect (when crops are suppressed in one area, they pop up in another), and people who lost jobs because of the pandemic headed back to the countryside, where sowing coca or working as laborers on coca farms are some of the only economically viable activities.

Singapore Set to Execute Malaysian Man Over 1 ½ Ounces of Heroin. Singapore is set to hang Malaysian citizen Nagaenthran K.Dharmalingam for smuggling 43 grams of heroin into the country, but human rights and legal groups are calling for the execution to be halted because the man has an IQ of only 69, indicating severe disability. A hearing is set for Monday where supporters will argue that executing a mentally disabled person violated the country's constitution. Nagaenthran's lawyer aid he "could possibly have a mental age below 18," and that that disability doesn't allow him to understand deterrence. "Therefore, we contend that the execution is irrational and a capricious act of the state." The Malaysian Bar and other legal groups submitted appeals to commute his sentence this week, and demonstrations have broken out in front of the Malaysian Parliament demanding the government intervene. The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch echoed calls to save Nagaenthran, saying the execution of a disabled person violates international laws and won’t deter crime. "Singapore should commute Nagaenthran Dharmalingam’s sentence and amend its laws to ensure that no one is subjected to the death penalty, certainly not people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities,” Human Rights Watch said.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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