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San Francisco Drug Crackdown, Swiss Capital City Considers Legal Cocaine Sales, More... (12/20/23)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1201)
Drug War Issues

Voters in California's fabled Humboldt County will vote in March on whether to rein in marijuana grows, Colombia ponders whether to legalize coca and poppy production for non-drug purposes, and more.

Bern, the Swiss capital, is considering legalizing the sale of cocaine for recreational purposes. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

California's Humboldt County Will Vote on Measure to Limit Marijuana Grows. A Humboldt County Superior Court judge has cleared the way for a measure to limit marijuana grows, the Humboldt Cannabis Reform Initiative, to go before the voters in March. The Humboldt County Growers Alliance (HCGA) and seven pot farmers had sought to block it, claiming that proponents of Measure A had misled voters and failed to provide them with sufficient supporting information.

"To be clear, the court makes no findings on the merits of Measure A, as that is for the voters to decide," Judge Timothy Canning wrote in his ruling. "But the court does find there is in an insufficient showing of objectively and deliberately untrue facts or statements in Measure A such that the court should prevent Humboldt County voters from deciding whether or not to adopt it."

If passed, Measure A would amend the county's general plan and overhaul the county's cannabis regulations to increase noticing requirements for neighboring properties, prohibit new grows larger than 10,000 square feet, cap the number of permits countywide, require permitted operations be inspected annually and phase out the use of generators.

County officials who oppose the measure say 98 percent of marijuana grows in the county are under 10,000 square feet.

HCGA has vociferously opposed the measure, arguing that its passage would have far-reaching consequences that could devastate the county's already struggling marijuana industry.

"While we are disappointed with the ruling, we believe voters will conclusively reject the misleading tactics being used to sell Measure A," said HCGA Executive Director Natalynne DeLapp. "We join with local environmental groups, law enforcement agencies, small businesses and farmers, and political leaders in asking the public to vote no on Measure A in March."

Foreign Policy

US, Mexico, Canada in Third Trilateral Fentanyl Committee Meeting. On Tuesday, "Homeland Security Advisor to the President Liz Sherwood-Randall hosted her Mexican and Canadian counterparts for a virtual meeting of the Trilateral Fentanyl Committee (TFC). President Joe Biden, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau established this trilateral Committee with their high-level representatives during the North American Leaders' Summit on January 9-10, 2023 to guide priority actions to address the illicit fentanyl threat facing North America," according to the official readout of the meeting.

"During this third meeting of the Committee, the co-chairs discussed progress made by the expert working group on identifying opportunities to enhance regulatory and statutory frameworks associated with precursor chemicals and related equipment used for the production of illicit fentanyl. They also shared information about illicit drug trends and recent diplomatic engagements focused on reducing the flow of illicit synthetic drugs and their precursor chemicals. To drive further progress in the fight to counter fentanyl's scourge, they agreed to meet again in person in Mexico in early 2024," the readout concluded.

Law Enforcement

San Francisco Touts Hundreds of Drug Arrests in Tenderloin and SOMA. During a six-month effort to crack down on open-air drug markets in the Tenderloin and South of Market (SOMA) neighborhoods, police have arrested more than 700 people for drug sales and nearly 800 for public drug use, the city reported Tuesday. The city also reported the arrests of additional 420 wanted fugitives and the seizure of 148 kilos of drugs, including more than 80 kilos of fentanyl.

In 2023 overall, SFPD officers have arrested more than 900 dealers in the Tenderloin and SOMA, nearly doubling the number of arrests from last year.

As a result of this operation the District Attorney's Office has seen a record number of felony narcotics cases presented and filed year to date since 2018. Through December 14 of this year, 952 felony narcotics cases were presented of which 827 were filed (87% filing rate) compared to the previous record of 880 cases presented in 2018 and 731 cases filed.

The District Attorney's Office has also frequently resorted to pre-trial detention of "suspected egregious and repeat offending drug dealers who peddle death to protect public safety." The District Attorney's Office has filed over 350 motions to detain dangerous drug dealing suspects but the courts have only granted 34 thus far, suggesting that the DA's office is perhaps overly ambitious in this regard.

The state Highway Patrol has also gotten in on the action, making 119 drug arrests and seizing 30 kills of drugs, including 18 kilos of fentanyl.


Colombian Government Seeks Comment on Authorizing Coca and Poppy Production for Medical, Scientific, Industrial Uses. A draft decree released Tuesday shows that, as part of its bid to change drug policy, the leftist government of President Gustavo Petro is looking into the possibility of allowing coca and poppy production for medical, scientific and industrial uses.

The draft, published for public comment, contemplates authorizing the possession of coca and poppy seeds and the granting of growing licenses. Investigating potential uses for coca, opium poppies, and marijuana "would promote the transition from illegal economies to licit ones, the disruption of drug production and the destruction of criminal organizations," the document said.

Colombia is currently the world's largest cocaine producer.

The rightist opposition was opposed. "This draft, if it became a decree, would directly violate the constitution," said Senator David Luna of the center-right Radical Change party. "It would legalize all criminal structures now dedicated to drug trafficking."

Swiss Capital City Considers Legalizing Recreational Cocaine Use. Bern, the Swiss capital, is looking at a pilot plan to allow for the sale of cocaine for recreational use -- something that has not been tried anywhere. The city parliament supports the idea but faces opposition within the city government and would have to see a change in national law for it to happen.

Switzerland is reexamining its drug laws as some politicians and experts say prohibition is ineffective, and the cocaine proposal follows on a pilot program -- still in its early stages -- to allow legal marijuana sales.

"The war on drugs has failed, and we have to look at new ideas," said Eva Chen, a member of the Bern council from the Alternative Left Party who co-sponsored the proposal. "Control and legalization can do better than mere repression."

Examination of drugs and their metabolites in waste water show that Switzerland has some of the highest levels of cocaine use in Europe, with Zurich, Basel and Geneva all featuring in the top 10 cities for cocaine use.

Other Swiss cities, including Bern, are showing signs of increasing use while prices have dropped 50 percent in the past five years.

"We have a lot of cocaine in Switzerland right now, at the cheapest prices and the highest quality we have ever seen," said Frank Zobel, deputy director at Addiction Switzerland. "You can get a dose of cocaine for about 10 francs these days, not much more than the price for a beer."

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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