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AMA Releases 2023 Overdose Report, Ukraine Lawmakers Approve MedMJ, More... (1/3/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1202)
Consequences of Prohibition

Somebody in Washington state thinks people who smoke pot should not be hired in drug treatment positions, Iran hangs nine more drug offenders, and more.

Iran executed nine drug convicts in recent days, state media reports. (
Marijuana Policy

Washington Bill Would Roll Back New Marijuana-Related Employment Protections for Drug Treatment Professionals. Even as a new state shielding most marijuana-using job applicants from employment discrimination goes into effect this week, a bipartisan pair of lawmakers have pre-filed a bill that would roll back that protection for drug treatment workers.

House Bill 2047, sponsored by Reps. Tom Dent (R) and Lauren Davis (D), takes the list of positions exempted from the new law -- including law enforcement, jobs requiring a federal background investigation or security clearance, fire departments, first responders, safety-sensitive positions, corrections officers and those in the airline or aerospace industries -- and adds drug treatment workers to the list.

The bill would specifically allow employers to not hire people who test positive for weed for positions "as a substance use disorder professional or trainee, or any position as a health care professional licensed or certified… where the person will be providing services directly to clients or patients receiving treatment for substance use disorder."

The bill does not require drug treatment industry employers to test for marijuana, but they would no longer be subject to the new law's provision making it "unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in the initial hiring for employment if the discrimination is based upon" the use of marijuana off the job and away from the workplace or a positive drug test for cannabis metabolites. The new law only applies to pre-employment drug testing and employers in general can still prohibit marijuana use by workers after they are hired.

Harm Reduction

AMA Publishes Overdose Epidemic Report 2023. The American Medical Association has published its Overdose Epidemic Report 2023, outlining actions that have been taken by physicians to help end the opioid overdose and death epidemic, as well as what still needs to be done.

The report notes that "the drug-related overdose epidemic is deadlier than ever," even as opioid prescriptions decreased for the 13th consecutive year. This is because overdose and death related to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine increased while xylazine and other toxic synthetic adulterants pose new challenges.

The AMA complained that while the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force continues to "advance evidence-based recommendations for policymakers and physicians" to help end the opioid epidemic, "positive strides are hindered by a lack of meaningful implementation and enforcement of policies that support affordable, accessible and evidence-backed care for patients with substance use disorders, pain or those needing harm reduction services like naloxone, syringes and fentanyl test strips."

It is "Black and Brown communities, pregnant individuals, and youth" who are disproportionately impacted and dying at increased rates compared to other population groups, the report found.

The report notes that doctors have greatly reduced opioid prescribing in almost all states and by nearly 50 percent nationally, but that has not led to fewer fatal drug overdoses "primarily due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, stimulants and other substances."

The report does not address the impact of reduced opioid prescribing on patients suffering from acute or chronic pain.

The report calls on all states to decriminalize drug checking supplies and to reform Good Samaritan laws to protect those who overdose or seek help for an overdose. It also calls for removing barriers to evidence-based care for patients with substance use disorders and to medications for opioid use disorders and treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illness in the jails and prisons throughout the country.


Iran State Media Reports Nine Drug Executions. The official IRNA news agency reported Wednesday that Iran has hanged nine convicted drug traffickers in recent days. Three were hanged at a prison in the northwestern province of Ardabil on charges of "buying and transporting heroin and opium," IRNA said, while the other six were hung separately on charges of trafficking "methamphetamine, heroin and cannabis," it added.

Iran had long been one of the world's leading drug executioners but changed its policies in 2017, resulting in a dramatic reduction in them. But executions for all reasons increased last year as the country's rulers grappled with boiling social unrest.

In June 2023, Amnesty International reported that Iranian authorities had executed at least 173 people convicted of drug-related offenses during the first five months of 2023, accounting for around two-thirds of all executions. In November 2023, the Iran Human Rights Group said the Islamic republic had executed more than 700 people overall last year, the highest figure since 2015.

Ukraine Lawmakers Send Medical Marijuana Bill to Zelensky's Desk. Overcoming a last-minute effort by conservative factions to derail the effort, lawmakers have given final approval to a bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana and sent it to the desk of President Volodymyr Zelensky's desk, who is expected to sign it into law shortly.

The bill allows medical marijuana for patients diagnosed with serious illnesses and PTSD linked to the ongoing war with Russia. While the bill only explicitly mentions cancer and PTSD, lawmakers heard repeatedly from people suffering from other ailments. The bill moves marijuana from a List I substance to a List II substance, meaning it is available for therapeutic use if prescribed.

The Ministry of Agrarian Policy will regulate cultivation, while the State Agency on Medications and the National Police will oversee distribution. The bill also allows for import of raw marijuana in a bid to ensure patient access.

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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