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OK Anti-Drug Bill Labels Hispanic Residents "Terrorists," ME Bill Would Legalize All Drugs, More... (1/19/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1203)
Drug War Issues

A Georgia bill would raise the age for medical marijuana, a South Dakota bill would clarify that workers in certain safety-sensitive positions can still be fired for medical marijuana use, and more.

Lawmakers in Georgia and South Dakota aim to tighten state medical marijuana laws. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Georgia Bill Would Raise Age for Medical Marijuana. Lawmakers have just filed legislation that would raise the age to buy medical marijuana products from 18 to 21.

The state only allows low-THC cannabis and hemp products under the rubric of medical marijuana.

The bill has yet to appear on the legislative web site.

South Dakota Bill to Specify Some Workers Can Be Fired for Medical Marijuana Use Advances. The Senate Commerce and Energy Committee voted Thursday on a part line vote to advance Senate Bill 12, which amends the voter-approved 2020 medical marijuana law to specify that certain workers in "safety sensitive" positions can still be fired for medical marijuana use.

Sen. Jim Mehlhaff (R), the lead sponsor of the bill, said it was requested by contractors because the language of the medical marijuana law conflict with federal workplace safety regulations.

Bill Van Camp, a lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors, told lawmakers marijuana is a dangerous impairment on construction job sites. "Public policies that inadvertently allow for off hours usage of marijuana, either in the medicinal or recreational space, can create problems for companies that have employees performing tasks on job sites that would constitute safety sensitive jobs," he said.

The bill now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Drug Policy

Maine Bill Would Effectively Legalize All Drugs. A bill that would effectively legalize all drugs under state law by repealing existing drug schedules, LD 1975, got a hearing Wednesday in the joint Committee on Health and Human Services.

More than four hours' worth of testimony concerning the legislation was offered by lawmakers and members of the public, while even more testimony was submitted to the Committee after the fact.The measure, "An Act to Implement a Statewide Public Health Response to Substance Use and Amend the Laws Governing Scheduled Drugs," was sponsored by Rep. Lydia V. Crafts (D-Newcastle) last year and carried over into this session.

In addition to repealing the statutes criminalizing the possession of drugs, the bill would also create the "Substance Use, Health and Safety Fund" that would be used to "provide grants and funding to agencies, organizations and service providers… to increase voluntary access to community care for persons who need services related to substance use."

"This bill aims to create a state-wide public health-based response to substance use in Maine," Rep. Crafts said in her testimony introducing the bill. "Our public health approach to LD 1975 aims at helping people rebuild their lives through medical intervention, increased connection and social support. Incarceration impedes this goal."

"Instead of responding to drug use with punishment, which does not work," testified Meagan Sway of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Maine, "LD 1975 would begin to transition our drug policy away from incarceration and punishment and toward a public-health informed framework -- a model that is centered on seeing the whole person and one that offers care, compassion, and grace."

Not everyone was on board. Gordon Smith, Director of Opioid Response for the state, took special issue with broad legalization.

"While I will leave to the Department of Public Safety, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, The Maine Prosecutor's Association and the Attorney General's office the significant implications of this proposed change," Smith testified, "the removal of these provisions from Maine law at a time when the street drugs are the most lethal they have ever been, is not a proposal the Administration can support at this time."

No vote was taken and no work session for the bill has been scheduled.

Oklahoma Anti-Drug Bill Labels Hispanic Residents "Terrorists." Rep. JJ Humphrey (R) has filed a bill, House Bill 3133, that seeks to combat drug and human trafficking in the state by labeling such offenses "acts of terrorism" and defining as a "terrorist" not only "a member of a criminal street gang" and "someone who has been convicted of a gang-related offense" but also "any person who is of Hispanic descent living within the state of Oklahoma."

It hasn't gone over well. Senate Minority Caucus Vice-Chair and Latino Legislative Caucus founder Michael Brooks was shocked but not surprised. "To have the law treat people differently based on their race or ethnicity only creates greater divides," Brooks said. "The bill is fatally flawed, and I don't know if there's much of a way to be able to change it."

Humphrey apologized but then doubled down. "I apologize for using the word Hispanic, but I was not wrong. Again, these are Hispanic. Reality is they are Hispanic. There's nothing to be ashamed with."

Humprey also said that he would amend the bill to change the language from "Hispanic" to "undocumented here illegally, or something like that."

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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