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OK Supreme Court Asked to Block Prosecutions of MedMJ-Using Pregnant Women, More... (12/15/23)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1201)

Maryland's governor orders a bureaucratic reshuffling in a bid to stem the overdose crisis, a fentanyl and xylazine testing bill heads to the Pennsylvania governor's desk, and more.

Dozens of pregnant Oklahoma women have been prosecuted for using medical marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Woman Asks State Supreme Court to Block Prosecutions of Medical Marijuana-Using Pregnant Women. Brittany Gonsolus, who used medical marijuana edibles and topical creams during her pregnancy with a doctor's recommendation and then was charged with felony child neglect by the Comanche County District Attorney, asked the state Supreme Court Thursday to stop prosecutors in the state from criminally charging women who use medical marijuana during their pregnancies.

At an August court hearing, prosecutors made the bizarre claim that Gonsulus broke the law because her fetus did not have its own, separate medical marijuana license. Her attorneys argued that she should not be prosecuted because medical marijuana is like any other legal medication under state law.

The state has seen a flurry of criminal cases involving women who used marijuana during their pregnancies since it legalized medical marijuana in 2018. At least 17 women have been prosecuted for using medical marijuana during their pregnancies and dozens more for using it without a doctor's recommendation.

Opiates and Opioids

Maryland Governor Issues Executive Order to Broaden State Effort to Combat Drug Overdoses. Gov. Wes Moore (D) on Thursday announced an executive order to "broaden" the state's fight to reduce overdose numbers by reorganizing and expanding an entity previously known as the Opioid Operational Command Center.

Now, that office will be known as the Office for Overdose Response and under the purview of the state Department of Health. Previously, it had operated separately.

The order will "help broaden state and government's approach to tackling the overdose crisis," to reflect the ever-changing nature of the opioid crisis and overdoses in general, Moore said.

In the year from July 2022 to July 2023, 2,583 people died of drug overdoses in the state, with four out of five of them involving fentanyl.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Lawmakers Introduce Plan to Strengthen Civil Asset Forfeiture Process. State Reps. Doug Wozniak (R) and Jaime Greene (R) have introduced a plan they say will ensure funds seized through the civil asset forfeiture process are properly reported and spent on improving public safety.

"Most of our law enforcement agencies have put resources from civil asset forfeiture property to great use in our communities," said Greene. "These bills will provide the accountability and transparency necessary to help ensure all such funds are put to proper use improving public safety."

"People want assurances government officials are using proceeds from the sale of property seized by the government exactly according to law," said Wozniak, R-Shelby Township. "Corruption or even the appearance of corruption is a stain on our society. Our plan brings greater clarity to the civil asset forfeiture law by refining the process and limitations for its use."

The bills, House Bill 5382 and House Bill 5383 would require that seized funds under civil forfeiture be processed the same as other state revenue -- through the treasurer of the unit of government involved in the seizure.

The bills respond, in part, to the case of a former Macomb County prosecutor who was charged in 2020 with embezzlement and misconduct of civil asset forfeiture funds.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Expanded Fentanyl, Xylazine Testing Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. The House on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would expand fentanyl and xylazine testing in the state, Senate Bill 683. The Senate has already approved the bill, so it now goes to the desk of Gov. Josh Shapiro (D).

"Pennsylvania communities and families are being torn apart by a fentanyl poisoning epidemic," bill sponsor Rep. Doug Mastriano (R) said. "We have an opportunity to enact a law to save lives. Testing for fentanyl can mean the difference between life and death for someone who has unknowingly been poisoned with it."

The bill would require general acute care hospitals to test for fentanyl and xylazine when treating a person who is receiving a standard, five-panel urine drug screening in an emergency room setting. A regular opioid test does not test for fentanyl and xylazine.

But rapid fentanyl and xylazine testing already exists. The Food and Drug Administration has approved three low-cost reagents that can be chemically analyzed for the presence of the drugs. If chemical analyzer equipment is not available, hospitals can use widely available testing strips.

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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