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BC Bill Would Criminalize Public Drug Use, MPP and NORML Merger Talk, More... (10/6/23)

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Consequences of Prohibition

MPP and NORML are in preliminary merger talks, Georgia will become the first state in the country to offer medical marijuana products in pharmacies, and more. 

Marijuana Policy

Top Marijuana Advocacy Groups Ponder Merger Amid Fundraising Challenges, Leadership Transitions. With its executive director having recently resigned and its ability to undertake expensive ballot initiative campaigns curtailed by funding challenges in an era where most people now live in legal marijuana states, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is considering a possible merger with the nation's largest marijuana consumer advocacy group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

MPP was formed as a breakaway from NORML back in 1996, when then-NORML staffers Rob Kampia and Chuck Thomas left the group and to create the new organization. Since then, MPP has had access to millions of dollars in philanthropic donations, but those have largely evaporated as legalization spread and wealthy donors said the industry should step up and fund reforms. The industry has not been so good at doing that, and now MPP says it will have to give up on expensive ballot initiatives and concentrate on Congress and state legislatures.

"I do believe that we were victims of our own success," acting executive director Matthew Schweich said. "We’re highly effective. We passed so many laws through so many states and so many ballot initiatives. And people just got used to our success." MPP is still in "a strong position long-term to maintain its current operations," and the rationale behind the restructuring "is to ensure that we can operate effectively for years to come," he added. "So that’s important to know—but if people want there to be a stronger MPP like we saw in the past, we’re going to need philanthropic donors to return to the fold," he said. "It is just not sustainable to maintain the type of scale that we should have without philanthropic donors returning to help our costs."

"It’s really a shame that we’re no longer able to play a leading role in initiatives," said Karen O’Keefe, MPP's director of state polices who focuses on state legislatures. "There are states where cannabis consumers will have to suffer under prohibition for a decade or more longer probably because there’s just not the funding there to get voters there, per se. By not having the funding to put this issue on the ballot, it delays progress in those states considerably," she said. "And it also doesn’t have that message [to state legislatures]—especially in this high turnout election year, when we would presumably see a lot better results that can help spur quicker action in all of their neighboring states and in Congress."

Now, MPP and NORML are talking about a possible merger, although those conversations have largely happened at the board level and MPP says those talks are "preliminary."

"We are having very early discussions with NORML about various ways that we might partner with them to achieve our mutual cannabis reform goals," said MPP board Chairman Sal Pace. "We’re considering many options for potential collaboration, but there’s nothing new to share right now."

Medical Marijuana

Georgia to Become First State to Offer Medical Marijuana Products in Pharmacies. The state is set to become the first in the nation to offer medical marijuana products at independent pharmacies after the state Board of Pharmacy began accepting applications this week.

Nearly 120 pharmacies have agreed to offer medical marijuana products from Botanical Sciences, one of two licensed production companies in the state. It is likely to take a few weeks before product is available at the pharmacies.

The only medical marijuana product available to state residents is low-THC cannabis oil, with less than 5 percent THC. Patients will be able to buy the product at pharmacies if they show a medical marijuana registry card and identification.

The move will make the product much more widely available for state residents. Currently, there are only seven dispensaries where it can be bought.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Mayoral Candidates Split on Safe Injection Sites. We are still more than a year away from the next mayoral election, but candidates are already attacking each other over pressing issues in the city, including drugs and homelessness. Now, support for a potential safe injection site is one issue dividing candidates.

The race to become San Francisco’s next mayor is still in its early stages, but that hasn’t stopped candidates from trading barbs over their plans to solve the city’s most pressing issues.  

Mayor London Breed campaigned for the position in 2018 in part by supporting safe injection sites, but has since backed away from spending city funds for their operation. This year, Breed's campaign said she would allow a nonprofit to fund and operate a safe injection site, but is awaiting federal guidance before allowing the city to fund it.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai says he support safe injection sites, but wants them to work in conjunction with sober living facilities and other treatment options.

But Levi-Strauss heir Daniel Lurie is opposed. He says he would not support opening such sites and that they would generate "drug tourism" to the city. Instead, he said he would focus on "shutting down open air drug markets and getting everyone sheltered." 


British Columbia Bill Would Make Drug Use Illegal in Almost All Public Places. A bill filed Thursday would make it illegal to use drugs in almost all public spaces, a move reform advocates say would effectively kill the province's drug decriminalization policy less than a year into the three-year pilot project.

The law would ban within 15 meters of a playground, splash pool, skate park, sports field, beach or park and within six meters of the doorways of businesses, residences, recreation centers or any public space.



"Decriminalization was never about the ability to use hard drugs wherever you wanted, and this law makes that very clear," Premier David Eby of the New Democratic Party said as he announced the bill. He said people would instead be directed to safe injection sites.

The provincial coroner called the move "tremendously disappointing" and said the government is advancing a bill "that attempts to push people into back alleys and back corners."

"People are being set up to fail and die," said Vince Tao of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, who added that advocates were shocked by the "all-encompassing" list of restricted areas. "This is a huge step back," Tao said. "I think we can altogether admit that decriminalization is dead."


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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