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San Francisco Task Force to Charge Fentanyl ODs as Homicides, Peru Healer Stabbed, More... (10/30/23)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1197)
Consequences of Prohibition

A Kansas poll has two-thirds support for marijuana legalization, a bipartisan group of lawmakers calls on DEA to deschedule marijuana, and more.

Ancestral healer Don Pedro Sinuiri Barta (Xanen Weni in his native Shipibo) remains under medical attention. (
Marijuana Policy

31 Bipartisan House Lawmakers Push DEA To Consider 'Merits' of Marijuana Legalization as It Completes Scheduling Review. A coalition of 31 bipartisan House lawmakers has sent a letter to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), urging the agency to take into account congressional and state marijuana legalization efforts as it carries out a review into cannabis scheduling. They also criticized the limitations of simple rescheduling as they push for complete a complete removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The letter last Friday to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, with lead signatures from Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dave Joyce (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Brian Mast (R-FL) says that the review represents a "necessary step in the work to end the federal government's failed and discriminatory prohibition of cannabis." As DEA completes its review, the lawmakers said that the law enforcement agency should consider that Congress has been working to comprehensive reform federal cannabis laws.

The letter says that "the administration and relevant agencies such as yours should recognize the merits of full descheduling and work with congressional leaders to ensure this happens," adding that prohibition "does not reflect the will of the broader American electorate" and "it is time that [DEA's] work fully reflects this reality as well."

Other signatories of the letter Reps. Jack Bergman (R-MI), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Lou Correa (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Katie Porter (D-CA), David Trone (D-MD) and others.

Kansas Poll Has Two-Thirds Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Fort Hays State University has support for marijuana legalization in the state at 67%, even as Republican legislators continued to block any progress toward that goal or even toward allowing medical marijuana. Kansas does not have a citizens' initiative process that would allow the public to get around recalcitrant lawmakers.

Republican Sen. Rob Olson, who held Statehouse committee hearings for a medical marijuana bill last year, said Senate President Ty Masterson and Senate Majority Leader Larry Alley -- both Republicans -- don't want a bill to pass. "The majority of the state (does) want medical marijuana," Olson said, "and I don't see a reason why we don't pass a bill."

"We get support from quite a few legislators," said Cheryl Kumberg, President of the Kansas Cannabis Coalition Kumberg, "but the ones that are in power are not supportive for various reasons, and they don't let it go forward."

Drug Policy

California Governor Announces San Francisco Task Force Will Treat Overdoses as Homicides; Advocates Decry Move. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced last Friday a joint law enforcement task force that will treat overdoses as homicide in the city, fulfilling a law enforcement promise made by San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins back in October 2022.

"Making sure that these dealers are admonished, that should they be connected to selling fentanyl to someone who overdoses, that they could be charged with murder because we have to hold these people accountable," Jenkins said in an October 2022 debate. "The objective is to make sure that we are looking into who is selling fentanyl to the individuals who are dying of overdoses on our streets every day that may allow my office to pursue murder charges against those sellers," said Jenkins.

"These people who are dealing these drugs need to be held accountable in a way they have not been before," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. "The objective is to make sure that we are looking into who is selling fentanyl to the individuals who are dying of overdoses on our streets every day that may allow my office to pursue murder charges against those sellers," said Jenkins.

But people directly involved on the ground are skeptical. "I think really what we're concerned about is how is this policy going to be implemented and recognizing that the law enforcement activities to date, including increases in law enforcement overall have not reduced the suffering that we're seeing on the streets," Michael Discepola, the Director of Health at the nonprofit GLIDE said. "One of the challenges I think that this type of policy creates is, I think drug dealers also prevent overdoses because we get Narcan in their hands, and will this prevent other individuals on the street from being willing to get involved to be able to reduce overdose on the street," he said.

The Gubbio Project is a another nonprofit helping people on the streets. "I understand people's desire for accountability but the question is what are they trying to achieve? Punishment does not reduce use," said Lydia Bransten, director of the Gubbio Project.

And the San Francisco Public Defender issued the following statement last Friday: "The task force's announcement today is another step in the wrong direction toward the continued revival of the failed War on Drugs in SF... Threatening to charge people with murder is unfortunately likely to result in more overdoses, as people will be afraid to call for help."


After Indigenous Healer Stabbed in Peru, Indigenous Medicine Conversation Fund Calls for Increased Protection of Ayahuasca, Other Traditional Medicines. A French tourist is being held in jail as he awaits trial for attacking Don Pedro Sinuiri Barta, a 76-year-old ancestral healer (Onanya), in his home village of Nueva Betania in northeastern Peru on the morning of October 11. Sinuiri, who was seriously injured after being stabbed multiple times, has provided healing for many decades to local and international people in his practice, which incorporates the use of plant medicines, including ayahuasca. This is the second such violent attack against Shipibo ancestral healers in the last five years, with the previous incident in 2018 resulting in the death of Olivia Arevalo.

The young French tourist who traveled with his mother was reportedly seeking cocaine from community members and had not used ayahuasca before the attack.

"This tragic episode, yet again, underscores the risks to Indigenous healers and the urgent need to support them in their efforts to protect and preserve traditional medicines," said Miriam Volat, director of the Indigenous Medicine Conservation (IMC) Fund, which stands in support of Sinuiri, his family, and his Shipibo community in this time of healing. Sinuiri's son, Jheison Romulo Sinuiri Ochavano, is president ofOrganización Intercultural Oni Xobo, an IMC Fund-supported project focused on the preservation and conservation of the Shipibo culture, including ancestral medicine practices.

This is not the first time a foreigner has harmed an Indigenous Shipibo healer. In 2018, a Canadian man shot and killed ancestral healer Olivia Arevalo at her home in an urban community near Coronel Portillo in northeastern Peru. Community members quickly retaliated and the man was killed by a mob that had formed. In this case, Indigenous community members chose to trust the judicial system and, after apprehending the assailant, turned him over to police. The family, local Indigenous Organizations, and the Shipibo people, more broadly, continue to demand justice for Sinuiri.

The Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund seeks to educate the public, including the psychedelics boom, about the need to protect five traditional medicines -- Ayahuasca, Toad, Iboga, Peyote, and Mushrooms -- and their related ecologies, which are threatened by the combined crises of climate change, commercialization, overharvesting, and cultural appropriation. In the year since its launch, IMC Fund has raised more than $10 million to support 22 Indigenous-led conservation projects in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Gabon, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. To learn more about the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund, go to:

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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