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Portland Drug Emergency Declared, WA Home Grow Bill Advances, More... (1/31/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1204)

Marijuana legalization bills get filed in Hawaii and Kentucky, a Czech economic council calls for a legal, regulated market in marijuana, and more.

Street scene in Portland, Oregon, where officials have declared a drug emergency. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Attorney General's Marijuana Legalization Bill Formally Filed. A marijuana legalization bill grudgingly drafted last year by Attorney General Anne Lopez (D) has now been formally filed at the legislature. In the House, Rep. David Tarnas (D) filed House Bill 2600, and in the Senate, Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D) filed the identical Senate Bill 3335. Lopez said her office did not support legalization but drafted the bill at the behest of the legislature.

Earlier this month, the Senate's majority Democratic leadership listed legalization as one of its top legislative priorities (it has passed legalization bills twice before, only to see them die in the House), but advocates say the attorney general's bill needs a lot of work.

"Generally speaking, the bill provides a sound floorplan for adult-use legalization but erects a structure that is still far too punitive in its approach," said Nikos Leverenz, of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai'i and the Hawai'i Health and Harm Reduction Center. "Placing a velvet glove of legalization on law enforcement's iron hand is not what is called for."

The bill would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six plants, keeping up to 10 ounces of the resulting harvest. It would also create the Hawaii Cannabis Authority to license and regulate commercial production and sales.

But the measure would impose new criminal laws that would affect minors, as well as allowing for the odor of marijuana to be still be used to justify police searches.

The bill as introduced "might actually do more harm than good to the cause of cannabis justice," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for Marijuana Policy Project. "Legalization should mean fewer cannabis arrests, not more," and policy change "should include the clearing of criminal records for cannabis and reinvestment in hard hit communities. Instead, these bills ramp up cannabis-specific law enforcement and impose jail time for innocuous behavior that harms no one, including driving long after impairment wears off and having a previously opened jar of edibles in the passenger area of a car."

Kentucky HB 420 Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Rachel Roberts (D) filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 420, on Tuesday. The bill has a single cosponsor and is not expected to go far in the Republican-controlled legislature.

The bill would legalize the possession, growth, processing, marketing, sale and use of marijuana for adults and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.

It would also allow for the expungement of past marijuana misdemeanors.

The bill would impose a double tax of nine percent on the sale from grower to distributor and another 9 percent on sale from retailers to individual customers.

Washington Bill to Allow Home Grows Advances. A bill that would allow adults to grow up to four plants (10 plants per household), House Bill 2194, has advanced out of the House Committee on Regulated Substances and Gaming on a 7-4 vote.

Despite having been one of the first two states to initially legalize the adult use marijuana market, Washington is one of only five legalization states that disallows home cultivation.

The bill must still get past the House Appropriations Committee before heading for a House floor vote.

Drug Policy

Oregon Leaders Declare Drug Emergency in Portland. Gov. Tina Kotek (D) on Tuesday issued a declaration formally declaring a drug emergency in Portland, the state's largest city, as part of a broader effort to confront the effects of fentanyl on city streets. The move is part of a broader plan announced last year by Kotek to curb public drug use and crime in the city and reestablish a sense of safety and security in the city.

In the order, Kotek cited the "economic and reputational harm" that the fentanyl problem was inflicting on Portland and the state.

"Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond," the governor said in a statement.

As part of the emergency plan, officials will set up a "command center" in central Portland where various city, county, and state agencies can coordinate their responses to fentanyl.

Joining Kotek in making the declaration were Portland's mayor, Ted Wheeler; and the Multnomah County chair, Jessica Vega Pederson -- all Democrats. Democrats in the legislature are currently proposing rolling back the voter-approved Measure 110, which decriminalized drug possession in 2020 as a response to the fentanyl and public drug use crisis.


Czech Economic Council Calls for Regulated Marijuana Market. The National Economic Council (NERV), an independent advisory body that makes recommendations regarding economic reforms, is recommending that the government establish a legal marijuana market to spur economic growth.

"Criminal rates and sentencing principles should be adjusted. In the area of drug policy, a legal regulated cannabis market should be introduced," the NERV noted in its recommendation.

That measure was one of 37 recommendations NERV made for boosting economic growth in the Czech Republic.

Last month, the government presented a draft legalization bill, but one without a legal market. Instead, the bill would legalize possession, home cultivation, and marijuana social clubs -- an approach similar to those being undertaken in Germany and Malta.

Negotiations between parties in the government, who range from liberal to conservative, are still ongoing.

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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