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Hawaii AG Unveils Pot Legalization Draft, Boston Settles Hair Drug Test Lawsuit with Black Cops, More... (11/21/23)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on

Ohio's GOP Senate leader is plotting changes to the marijuana legalization law approved by voters just weeks ago, the city of Boston pays out for using discriminatory hair drug tests on police officers, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Attorney General Unveils Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Attorney General Anne Lopez (D) last Friday unveiled a comprehensive 294-page proposal to legalize adult use marijuana and pledged to work with the legislature to get it enacted. The proposal would create a regulatory framework for people 21 and over to grow, possess, and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers.

Although recent years have seen several marijuana legalization bills, none of them have become law, although the Senate passed such a bill in March. Lawmakers have generally welcomed the attorney general's effort, although some advocates and activists have some issues with it.

Lopez did "a really good job pulling together all of the different input and providing a comprehensive bill," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman David Tarnas (D), while the attorney general's proposal is "the best version to date," said Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D).

But while advocates cheered the inclusion of home grows, they want to see some changes, including relief for people who have been arrested under pot prohibition.

"The attorney general’s draft bill falls short when it comes to fostering equity and reparative justice," Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment. "It should be revised. We were pleased to see home cultivation included. But the draft ramps up criminalization in other areas and fails to include provisions newer legalization states have adopted to stop ruining cannabis consumers’ lives.

"The draft bill does not include expungement or resentencing, nor does it protect responsible cannabis consumers from losing their children, jobs, benefits, or professional licenses," she said. "It imposes an unscientific per se DUI standard that ensnares sober drivers, and imposes up to a year in jail under a broad open container law. The draft also pours millions of dollars into cannabis law enforcement—an amount equal to the entire allocation for social equity and community reinvestment."

Ohio Senate President Vows Changes to Voter Approved Marijuana Law, Says Voters Did Not Understand Some Provisions. Senate President Matt Huffman (R) says he is working with lawmakers to develop and pass legislation to revise the marijuana legalization law approved by voters last month. He said "that's what the public generally wants" because voters did not focus on details and simply decided "are we going to legalize marijuana or not."

"Now did the voters, for example, know that there was going to be a preference for licenses to people that have formerly been convicted for selling drugs illegally? Probably not very many people thought of that," he said. "It’s important for the folks to go through here and look to see what changes are going to be made, which we think the public generally wants."

While Americans don't want government to infringe on their civil liberties, they "also want the protections of government, and that’s really the fine line that governments have to find. That’s why generally it’s better to have these things sorted out in the legislature… There needs to be some protection for the public, just like we regulate alcohol," Huffman argued.

He also said lawmakers would fast-track the changes by not filing a new bill, but by incorporating marijuana amendments into an unrelated House-passed bill, pass that in the Senate, then send the revised measure back to the House for a concurrence vote.

Lawmakers have announced various proposed changes, including around public consumption and the allocation of tax revenues.

Drug Testing

Boston Settles Police Drug Testing Lawsuit, Will Pay $2.6 Million to Black Cops. The city of Boston has agreed to pay $2.6 to Black police officers to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit over a drug test that used hair samples to identify drug use.

The four plaintiffs will receive $650,000 each.

Oren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, a nonprofit that has represented the officers, shared his excitement that the lawsuit is finally settled and how the long-lasting litigation impacted his clients.

"This settlement puts an end to a long, ugly chapter in Boston’s history," Orren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, who litigated the case. "As a result of this flawed test, our clients’ lives and careers were completely derailed. The city has finally compensated them for this grave injustice," he said.

"You can imagine what effect that would have to be falsely labeled in this way, and a number of officers were terminated as a result. Many had to leave the field entirely, and their dreams of being a law enforcement officer were shattered," Sellstrom added. "It totally upended our client's lives and in the process also deprived the residents of Boston from having exemplary police officers on the force.

The Black police officers filed suit against the city in 2005, claiming that the hair test discriminated against Black people because their hair is more susceptible to false positives. The city and the company administering the test denied any bias, but the city eliminated the test in 2021.


Japan Amends Marijuana Law, for Better and Worse. Last month, the Japanese government approved a bill amending the country's nearly 75-years-old Cannabis Control Act, renaming it the Law Concerning Regulation of the Cultivation of Cannabis Plants. The act opens the door for the creation of a medical marijuana and industrial hemp industry in the country, but also goes backward on recreational marijuana use.

The new law will allow for pharmaceutical products that are extracted from marijuana plants. Until now, such cannabis-based drugs could only be used in clinical trials.

But the new law also categorizes THC as a narcotic under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Control Act, closing a loophole in the Cannabis Control Act that criminalizes the import, export, cultivation, transferal, or possession of marijuana plants, but does not criminalize use.

"What previously had no penalties will now be harshly punished, with a maximum of seven years in prison. I opposed the bill because there is a serious problem here," said Rep. Taro Yamamoto of the left-leaning Reiwa Shinsengumi Party.

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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