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Democratic Governors Call For Quick Pot Rescheduling, House Approves Xylazine Bill, More... (12/6/23)

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The Japanese parliament approves legislation allowing for medical use but criminalizing recreational use of marijuana, a bipartisan bill to mandate that hospitals test for the presence of fentanyl is introduced, and more.

Democratic governors want President Biden to press the DEA on marijuana rescheduling (
Marijuana Policy

Six Democratic Governors Call on Biden to See That Marijuana Gets Rescheduled Before Year's End. A half-dozen Democratic governors sent a letter to President Biden Tuesday calling on him to ensure that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reschedules marijuana before the end of 2023. The letter was signed by Govs. Jared Polis of Colorado, JB Pritzker of Illinois, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, Wes Moore of Maryland, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, and Kathy Hochul of New York.

In October 2022, Biden ordered the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Justice Department to undertake a review of marijuana scheduling. This past August, HHS sent a letter to the DEA recommending that marijuana be classified. The DEA is currently pondering its decision.

Now, three months after that recommendation, a group of governors from across the country are urging Biden to see it through that the DEA acts sooner rather than later on the HHS rescheduling recommendation.

"We hope that DEA will follow suit and reschedule cannabis to Schedule III this year, given that 88 percent of Americans are in favor of legalization for medical or recreational use," the governors wrote. "Rescheduling cannabis aligns with a safe, regulated product that Americans can trust."

"This decision by a leading federal health agency comes on the heels of 38 states creating their own state markets and complementary regulatory systems," the governors wrote. "In some cases, these state regimes have thrived for more than a decade, and this recommendation by FDA is a real testament to their success. It's a signal that FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services have faith in state regulators and the regulations that they have promulgated to keep citizens safe."

Moving marijuana to Schedule III would alleviate restrictions on Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code to allow cannabis-related businesses to take ordinary tax deductions just like every other American business, according to the governors.

"Cannabis no longer being required to follow Section 280E will serve to make this industry profitable while safeguarding hundreds of thousands and protecting the health and safety of American consumers," they wrote. "As governors, we might disagree about whether recreational cannabis legalization or even cannabis use is a net positive, but we agree that the cannabis industry is here to stay, the states have created strong regulations, and supporting the state-regulated marketplace is essential for the safety of the American people."

Drug Policy

House Approves Bill Targeting Xylazine. The House on Tuesday approved HR 1734, sponsored by Reps. Yadira Caraveo (D-MD) and Mike Collins (R-GA). The Testing, Rapid Analysis, and Narcotic Quality (TRANQ) Act directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to take steps to enhance understanding of the dangerous animal tranquilizer xylazine, or tranq, and other novel synthetic drugs; develop new tests for detection; and establish partnerships with front-line entities that are often the first points of contact with new street drugs.

A companion version of the legislation sponsored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Peter Welch (D-VT) passed the Senate in June, so the bill now goes to the desk of President Biden.

"In my first week as Vermont's new senator, I came home to talk about the opioid and drug epidemic, and it couldn't have been more clear: the drug supply in Vermont has changed and it's making an already brutal overdose crisis even more challenging to combat," said Welch. "Our communities needed federal resources to deal with Xylazine, and they needed it now. So, we got to work -- and we did it in a bipartisan way. I look forward to President Biden signing the TRANQ Research Act into law, and I thank Senator Cruz and Representatives Collins and Caraveo for their partnership. This bill is a step in the right direction, and it will help us get the resources where they're needed most -- to those on the frontlines and the folks who need testing and detection tools."

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports skyrocketing detections of xylazine, with growth between 2020 and 2021 of 198 percent in the South, 112 percent in the West, 61 percent in the Northeast, and 7 percent in the Midwest. According to the DEA, "the presence of xylazine in illicit drug combinations and its detection in fatal overdoses may be more widespread than reported as a number of jurisdictions across the country may not include xylazine in forensic laboratory or toxicology testing." Tranq, also known as the "zombie drug" has gruesome side effects, causing large wounds that will not heal, and is resistant to standard opioid overdose treatments.

Bipartisan Bill to Study Fentanyl Testing in Hospitals Filed. On Tuesday, Reps. W. Lieu (D-CA), Bob Latta (R-OH), and Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA) introduced Tyler's Law, bipartisan legislation aimed at preventing fentanyl overdoses in the United States. Specifically, the bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to complete a study on how frequently hospitals test for fentanyl in patients experiencing an overdose, and to use the results of the study to issue guidance to hospitals on implementing fentanyl testing in emergency rooms. Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) is an original cosponsor of the bill. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

Currently, many drug screenings in emergency rooms only test for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP) -- but not fentanyl. Since fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, it does not show up on most rapid drug screenings. Adding fentanyl to routine drug screenings in emergency rooms could prevent many fentanyl-related deaths, which increased 97-fold in the United States from 1999-2021, according to HHS.

Tyler's Law is named in memory of Tyler Shamash, a 19-year-old boy who died in 2018 following a fentanyl ingestion. He was not tested for fentanyl upon being checked into the emergency room. His mother, Juli, has been advocating for this legislation and sharing her son's story to prevent others from experiencing the same tragedy.

"The night before Tyler died from consuming fentanyl, he was sent to the hospital with a suspected overdose," said Tyler's mother, Juli. "When he got there, they did a drug test and it turned out negative. After he died, we found out it did not cover fentanyl because it was a synthetic opioid. Had we known we could have sent him to a place with a higher level of care, instead of the sober living home where he died. This bill will save lives in situations like Tyler's, as well as in cases where people are brought into an ER for an overdose of one substance, but they unknowingly consumed fentanyl from a poisoned product."

"It doesn't make sense for hospitals not to test for the number one drug killing Americans today," said Rep. Lieu. "I am grateful to Tyler's mom, Juli, for so bravely sharing her story and shedding light on this issue. Upon hearing her story, I was shocked to learn how common it is for hospitals to omit fentanyl testing for patients experiencing an overdose, and that many physicians are unaware that the tests they run don't detect fentanyl. The bill we are introducing today will help ensure doctors and hospitals are better equipped to prevent fentanyl-related deaths. Tyler's Law can save lives, and I encourage every one of my colleagues to support it."


Japanese Parliament Approves Bill Legalizing Marijuana-Derived Medicines, Criminalizing Recreational Use. The Diet on Wednesday passed a bill legalizing medical products derived from marijuana while also criminalizing the non-medicinal use of marijuana. Under current law, the possession and cultivation of marijuana is banned, but not use. The new bill plugs that loophole, with users facing the same possible seven-year sentence as people caught possessing or growing weed.

Also under current law, marijuana-derived drugs are only permitted in clinical trials. The new bill designates marijuana and THC as narcotics, which can be regulated instead of merely prohibited.

The new laws envisions two types of licenses for growing cannabis, one for low-THC hemp and one for marijuana used to make medicines.

The change in marijuana's legal status will go into effect in one year; the changes in cultivation licensing will go into effect in two years.

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.

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