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Drug War Chronicle #906 - October 15, 2015

1. Medical Marijuana Update

Nearly two decades after the passage of Proposition 215, California will finally get comprehensive, statewide medical marijuana regulation, legal dispensaries come a step closer in Michigan, and more.

2. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's jail and prison guards gone bad this week, plus a trio of suburban Cleveland narcs get nailed, and a Customs agent goes to prison for waving a load of marijuana through his port of entry.

3. Chronicle AM: House Leaders Offer Sentencing Reforms, FL & OH Pot Polls, MI MedMJ Bills Move, More (10/8/15)

The House leadership rolls out a sentencing reform package, new polls show pot legalization majorities in Florida and Ohio, the Duke City still can't have decriminalization, and more.

4. Chronicle AM: NYC Psychedelics Conference This Weekend, PA MJ Poll Shows State Split, More (10/9/15)

A Pennsylvania poll shows the state evenly split on marijuana legalization, Massachusetts medical marijuana sales increase as a new dispensary comes online, the Horizons psychedelics conference is this weekend in New York City, and more.

5. Chronicle AM: MedMJ Regulation Coming to CA, US Senate Passes Drug War Bill, More (10/12/15)

Legal marijuana moves ahead in Colorado and Washington, medical marijuana will be comprehensively regulated in California, Jerry Brown splits on a pair of immigration drug deportation bills, Mexican opium poppy production is up dramatically, and more.

6. Chronicle AM: OH MJ Init Polls 56%, Meth Prohibition Madness, More (10/13/15)

A new poll has the Ohio marijuana legaization initiative ahead, another poll suggests Texas is edging closer to marijuana reform, Radley Balko takes on meth prohibition, and more.

7. Chronicle AM: Dems Debate Drugs, Detroit Regulates Dispensaries, Amsterdam Ecstasy Rules, More (10/14/15)

Democratic contenders briefly touched on marijuana and sentencing policy during last night's debate, Ohio's largest medical marijuana group switches sides to endorse the legalization initiative, Detroit moves to regulate dispensaries, and more.

1. Medical Marijuana Update

Nearly two decades after the passage of Proposition 215, California will finally get comprehensive, statewide medical marijuana regulation, legal dispensaries come a step closer in Michigan, and more.

California

Last Friday, the governor signed a medical marijuana regulation bill package into law. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a package of bills designed to bring comprehensive, statewide regulation to the state's thriving medical marijuana industry. The three-bill package will establish "a long-overdue comprehensive regulatory framework for the production, transportation, and sale of medical marijuana," Brown said in his signing statement. "This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system," said Brown. "This sends a clear and certain signal to our federal counterparts that California is implementing robust controls not only on paper, but in practice." The bills are Assembly Bill 266, Senate Bill 653, and Assembly Bill 243.

Florida

Last Thursday, a Florida legislator filed a medical marijuana bill. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) has filed House Bill 307, which would allow patients to use medical marijuana under the state's "investigational drug" law. Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming) said he would file a companion measure in the Senate.

Massachusetts

Last Friday, medical marijuana sales were climbing as more dispensaries opened. Medical marijuana patients purchased some 1,676 ounces of marijuana in September, up from the 1,488 ounces sold in August. The increase comes as the state's second dispensary opened in Brockton. Click on the link for more details.

Michigan

Last Wednesday, the House approved dispensary and edibles bills. The House voted 95-11 to approve House Bill 4209, which would create a state board to regulate dispensaries, as well as approving bills to allow for the use of edibles and to set up a tax structure. The measures now head to the state Senate.

On Tuesday, the Detroit city council approved dispensary regulations. The city council approved regulations to govern the city's booming dispensary business. There are an estimated 150 dispensaries operating in the city. Now, dispensaries will have to get a license or be shut down, and operators will have to undergo a police background check. The regulations also bar drive-through services and bans staying open 24 hours a day.

Missouri

Last Thursday, medical marijuana initiatives were filed.. Show-Me State activists under the aegis of New Approach Missouri Thursday filed a pair of initiatives aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. The group has about $70,000 in the bank and needs to gather some 160,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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2. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's jail and prison guards gone bad this week, plus a trio of suburban Cleveland narcs get nailed, and a Customs agent goes to prison for waving a load of marijuana through his port of entry. Let's get to it:

In Elizabethtown, New York, an Essex County jail guard was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly smuggling drugs in to inmates at the county jail. Deputy Jeffrey Wallace is charged with fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, and first-degree promoting prison contraband, all felonies. He also faces a misdemeanor count of official misconduct.

In Cleveland, three former suburban Cleveland narcotics detectives were arrested last Thursday on charges they schemed to steal thousands of dollars from drug dealers. Torris Moore, 42; Antonio Malone, 33; and Eric Jones, 38, all resigned from the East Cleveland Police in the past year, and two of them appear to be cooperating with authorities. Only Moore was actually physically arrested; the other two, the apparent cooperators, were charged by information and will have to appear in court. They are charged with conducting illegal searches and other crimes to rob drug dealers, filing falsified reports, and conspiracy.

In Hagatna, Guam, a former prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to 57 months in prison for smuggling drugs and other contraband into the prison. Eugene Sunega went down when he was searched upon arriving at work one day and prison staff found methamphetamine, a pipe, and other contraband in his belongings. He had pleaded guilty in April to one count of bringing contraband into the prison.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former US Customs and Border Patrol officer was sentenced last Friday to six and a half years in federal prison for letting vehicles loaded with marijuana go through his port of entry post unimpeded. Jose Luis Zavala went down when a van he had cleared was subjected to a second inspection and Customs officers found 3,000 pounds of Mexican marijuana in it. The driver bailed out and ran back to Mexico. He was convicted of allowing drugs to enter the US.

In New York City, a former NYC jail guard was sentenced Tuesday to 41 months in federal prison for smuggling and selling drugs at the Rikers Island prison. Austin Romaine, 33, had been found guilty of smuggling marijuana, tobacco, and other contraband to inmates, with the DEA testifying that he had been paid $11,000 for his efforts. It's not clear what the exact charges were.

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3. Chronicle AM: House Leaders Offer Sentencing Reforms, FL & OH Pot Polls, MI MedMJ Bills Move, More (10/8/15)

The House leadership rolls out a sentencing reform package, new polls show marijuana legalization majorities in Florida and Ohio, the Duke City still can't have decriminalization, and more.

Dispensaries could be coming soon in Michigan. Legislation is moving. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Poll Has Narrow Majority for Legalization, Overwhelming One For Medical Marijuana. A New Quinnipiac University poll has support for marijuana legalization at 51% and support for medical marijuana at 87%. The state has a CBD medical marijuana law, legislators are proposing expanding it, and there is a medical marijuana initiative campaign underway, too. Click on the link for more poll details and methodology.

Massachusetts Legalization Campaign Halfway There on Signature Gathering. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts says it has already collected some 47,000 signatures, half of its goal of 100,000. The initiative needs just under 65,000 valid voter signatures by November 18. No word yet on how the rival Bay State Repeal, which has its own legalization initiative, is doing.

As Initiative Vote Looms, Ohio Poll Has Narrow Majority for Legalization. A new Quinnipiac University poll has generic support for legalization at 53%, just about where it was a year ago. The poll comes as voters there will decide next month on the fate of a controversial legalization initiative from ResponsibleOhio -- Issue 3 on the November ballot. The poll did not specifically ask voters about support for that measure. Click on the title link for more poll results and methodology.

Albuquerque Mayor's Decriminalization Veto Upheld (Again). For the second time in as many years, the Albuquerque city council has passed a decriminalization ordinance, the mayor has vetoed it, and the council has been unable to override the veto. An attempt to override Mayor Richard Berry's (R) latest veto failed Wednesday night on a 5-4 vote along party lines.

Medical Marijuana

As Clock Ticks, Calls on California Governor to Sign Medical Marijuana Bills. Law enforcement and the cannabis industry, as well as cities and counties and state lawmakers, are all calling on Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to sign a package of comprehensive, statewide medical marijuana regulation bills without delay. The bills are Assembly Bill 266, Senate Bill 653, and Assembly Bill 243. Brown has until Sunday to act. If he doesn't the bills will become law without his signature.

Florida Legislator Files Medical Marijuana Bill. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) has filed House Bill 307, which would allow patients to use medical marijuana under the state's "investigational drug" law. Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming) said he would file a companion measure in the Senate.

Michigan House Approves Dispensaries, Edibles Bills. The House Wednesday voted 95-11 to approve House Bill 4209, which would create a state board to regulate dispensaries, as well as approving bills to allow for the use of edibles and to set up a tax structure. The measures now head to the state Senate.

Harm Reduction

Expert Panel Calls for Injection Drug Users to Have Access to Hep C Treatment. An international expert panel convened by the International Network for Hepatitis in Substance Users is recommending that injection drug users be offered drugs to cure the disease, as well offered comprehensive social support and harm reduction services. The recommendations were published this month in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Sentencing

House Leaders Announce Sentencing Reform Deal. House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) Wednesday announced a deal on sentencing reform with his counterpart Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). The bill -- The Sentencing Reform Act -- takes a similar approach to the Senate's Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, announced last week, although this bill contains new problematic provisions. "This is not the legislation we would have drafted, but we are encouraged that we now have bills in the House and Senate that tackle similar issues and that move the ball down the field for sentencing reform," said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We are more optimistic than ever that a bill will land on the President's desk."

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4. Chronicle AM: NYC Psychedelics Conference This Weekend, PA MJ Poll Shows State Split, More (10/9/15)

A Pennsylvania poll shows the state evenly split on marijuana legalization, Massachusetts medical marijuana sales increase as a new dispensary comes online, the Horizons psychedelics conference is this weekend in New York City, and more.

The annual Horizons conference on psychedelics is this weekend in NYC.
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Poll Shows State Split On Legalization. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for legalization at 47%, with 49% opposed. Given the poll's margin of error, voters are evenly split. There is no such divide when it comes to medical marijuana: 90% of respondents were okay with that. Click on the link for more poll details and methodology.

Wyoming Legislators Prepare Marijuana Reform Bills. Even in the Cowboy State, solons are moving to lighten up on weed. With the legislative session starting in February, bills are already being proposed to decriminalize possession, allow for reciprocity with medical marijuana states (meaning patient travelers from those states could pass through Wyoming without fear of arrest), and allow the use of CBD cannabis oil.

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts Sales Climb as More Dispensaries Open. Medical marijuana patients purchased some 1,676 ounces of marijuana in September, up from the 1,488 ounces sold in August. The increase comes as the state's second dispensary opens in Brockton. Click on the link for more details.

Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative Filed. Show-Me State activists under the aegis of New Approach Missouri Thursday filed a pair of initiatives aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. The group has about $70,000 in the bank and needs to gather some 160,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Psychedelics

Horizons Psychedelics Conference in New York City This Weekend. The ninth annual Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference will be held at the Cooper Union and The New School in New York City on October 10th and 11th. Horizons focuses on state-of-the-art research into the wide range of applications for psychedelics, providing an invaluable forum for experts and interested others to share ideas and insights, and to rethink the future of these unique substances in science, medicine, culture, and history. This year, researchers, scholars, and practitioners from the United States, England and Brazil will present new research and insights in neuroscience, end-of-life anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse/addiction, recreational use, public policy, activism, and more. Click on the link for more details.

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5. Chronicle AM: MedMJ Regulation Coming to CA, US Senate Passes Drug War Bill, More (10/12/15)

Legal marijuana moves ahead in Colorado and Washington, medical marijuana will be comprehensively regulated in California, Jerry Brown splits on a pair of immigration drug deportation bills, Mexican opium poppy production is up dramatically, and more.

Finally, a statewide plan for regulating medical marijuana in California (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado's August Sales Topped $100 Million. For the first time, the state's monthly marijuana sales exceeded $100 million in August. Recreational marijuana came in at $59.2 million, while medical marijuana sales added another $41.4 million. That's $100.6 million in overall pot sales. The state collected $13 million in pot taxes that month.

Washington State Accepting New Retail Shop License Applications. As of today, the State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board is accepting and processing new applications for retail marijuana operations. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries will now need to be licensed, and will be prioritized in the licensing process.

Medical Marijuana

California Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill Package. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last Friday signed into law a package of bills designed to bring comprehensive, statewide regulation to the state's thriving medical marijuana industry. The three-bill package will establish "a long-overdue comprehensive regulatory framework for the production, transportation, and sale of medical marijuana," Brown said in his signing statement. "This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system," said Brown. "This sends a clear and certain signal to our federal counterparts that California is implementing robust controls not only on paper, but in practice."

Immigration

California Governor Signs One Bill to Block Immigrant Drug Deportations, But Vetoes Another. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last Friday signed Assembly Bill 1352, which allows resident non-citizens convicted of a drug offense to seek deferred adjudication and, upon completion, withdrawal of a guilty plea to avoid triggering federal deportation proceedings. But he vetoed Assembly Bill 1351, which would have allowed immigrants to avoid pleading guilty to a drug offense in order to enter drug treatment.

Drug Policy

Senate Passes Transnational Drug Trafficking Act. The US Senate last Thursday approved S. 32, the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act. Sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would make it a federal crime to manufacture or distribute drugs anywhere in the world if there is "reasonable cause to believe that such substances or chemicals will be unlawfully imported into the United States or waters within 12 miles of the US coast." The bill now goes to the House.

International

British Lib Dems Set Up Panel on Marijuana Legalization Ahead of Parliamentary Debate Today. As Parliament prepared to debate marijuana legalization today in response to a widely signed citizen petition, the Liberal Democrats announced they were creating an expert panel on the subject. Click on the link for much more.

Chile Will Allow Sale of Medical Marijuana Products in Pharmacies. Chilean Vice Minister of Health Jaime Burrows said last Friday that the country will modify its laws to allow the sale of medical marijuana products in pharmacies. Such sales would be allowed with "the authorization of a specialist, a prescription, and strict controls of stock," he said. A decree enacting the changes is now being reviewed by President Michelle Bachelet.

UN Commission on Human Rights Calls on Mexico to Retire the Army From the Drug War. The UN body said soldiers should retire from the streets and return to their bases because they are not trained to undertake policing work. "This must be propelled by a real sense of urgency," said the commission's Zaid Raad al-Hussein. "This is not something we can afford to wait months for without an end." The Mexican army has come under sustained criticism over human rights abuses in its war on drug trafficking organizations.

DEA Says Mexican Opium Crop Up By 50%. Jack Riley, the acting administrator of the DEA, told a House committee last week that there has been a 50% increase in poppy production in key Mexican opium-producing states this year. He added that most heroin consumed in the US comes from Mexico.

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6. Chronicle AM: OH MJ Init Polls 56%, Meth Prohibition Madness, More (10/13/15)

Marijuana Policy

A new poll suggests these guys could actually pull it off.
Ohio Poll Has ResponsibleOhio Legalization Initiative at 56%. A new Kent State University poll that asked respondents directly about whether they would support the ResponsibleOhio Issue 3 initiative found that 56% would vote for it. But to complicate matters, the poll also found that 54% intended to vote for Issue 2, which would make it more difficult to write monopolies into the state constitution and is aimed directly at thwarting the ResponsibleOhio initiative. If both pass, look for a lengthy court fight to ensue. More poll details and methodology at the link.

Texas Poll Has Support for Legalization at 46%. A new Lyceum survey shows a narrow gap between fans and foes of marijuana legalization. Some 50% were opposed, with 46% in favor. But of the half that were opposed, 57% of them would support decriminalization. Between the two numbers, that's about three-quarters of Texans saying they are ready to liberalize the marijuana laws.

Methamphetamine

How the Meth Problem Demonstrates Drug Prohibition's Failure. Radley Balko has a long and incisive piece in the Washington Post dissecting how drug prohibition is about the worst way to deal with methamphetamines. It's well worth the read, but here's the bottom line: "Here's one idea that makes too much sense for anyone to seriously consider: Legalize amphetamines for adults. Divert some of the money currently spent on enforcement toward the treatment of addicts. Save the rest. Watch the black markets dry up, and with them the itinerant crime, toxicity and smuggling. Cold and allergy sufferers get relief. Cops can concentrate on other crimes. Pharmacists can go back to being health-care workers, instead of deputized drug cops. Everybody wins, save of course for those who can't bear the prospect of letting adults make their own choices about what they put into their bodies."

International

British MPs Debate Marijuana Legalization. MP Paul Flynn called marijuana prohibition "a disaster more serious than the prohibition of alcohol in the United States," during Monday's debate on marijuana policy. The debate was the result of a petition signed by more than 220,000 people asking Parliament to take up the issue, and the results are a foregone conclusion given the Conservatives' control of the legislative body. Still, marijuana has now made it to Parliament. Click on the link for more debate details.

Legalizing Marijuana Could Save Britain Hundreds of Millions of Dollars, Leaked Treasury Report Says. Legal weed could increase government revenues by as much as a billion dollars a year, according to a Treasury report leaked over the weekend. The government would gain from taxing marijuana, while creating savings by not having to enforce pot laws. The report was commissioned by the Liberal Democrats when they were junior partners in a coalition government with the Conservatives, and the party would have used it to help shape drug policy had it remained in office. "There are successful cannabis markets emerging in different parts of the world and we should look to learn from those experiences," said Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb.

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7. Chronicle AM: Dems Debate Drugs, Detroit Regulates Dispensaries, Amsterdam Ecstasy Rules, More (10/14/15)

Democratic contenders briefly touched on marijuana and sentencing policy during last night's debate, Ohio's largest medical marijuana group switches sides to endorse the legalization initiative, Detroit moves to regulate dispensaries, and more.

Amsterdam takes an enlightened approach to Ecstasy use at electronic dance music festivals. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

In Democratic Debate, Sanders Says He Would Probably Vote "Yes" on Nevada Legalization. Sen. Bernie Sanders said "I suspect I would vote yes" when asked his stance on a marijuana legalization initiative in Nevada. Hillary Clinton said she wasn't ready to support legalizing marijuana, but supported medical marijuana. Both candidates also called for criminal justice system reforms and shorter drug sentences, as did the other contenders. Click on the link for more.

Ohio's Largest Medical Marijuana Group Endorses ResponsibleOhio Legalization Initiative. The Ohio Rights Group, the state's largest pro-medical marijuana organization, has shifted from opposing to supporting Issue 3, the controversial ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative. The group said it would never get the funding to pay for its own medical marijuana initiative campaign and that other legalization proposals also lacked the support to make the ballot. ORG President Jack Pardee said that to oppose Issue 3 while there is no available alternative would be a disservice to patients.

Medical Marijuana

Detroit City Council Passes Dispensary Regulations. The city council Tuesday approved regulations to govern the city's booming dispensary business. There are an estimated 150 dispensaries operating in the city. Now, dispensaries will have to get a license or be shut down, and operators will have to undergo a police background check. The regulations also bar drive-through service and bans dispensaries from staying open 24 hours a day.

International

Amsterdam Fends Off Critics, Allows Possession of Five Ecstasy Tabs at EDM Festival. As the city hosts the annual electronic dance music festival Amsterdam Dance Event, attended by over 300,000 music fans, it is allowing festival-goers to possess up to five Ecstasy tablets. The move is a harm reduction measure, with authorities hoping the lenient stance will encourage pill testing and responsible behavior if problems arise. In the rest of the country, you can only possess one Ecstasy tablet without fear of arrest, and conservative politicians have been complaining about Amsterdam's stance, but the city is ignoring them.

Canada NDP Leader Says Party Would Move Toward Marijuana Legalization. New Democratic Party head Tom Mulcair has said that his party would immediately decriminalize pot possession if elected and then move toward legalization. "We are on track to full legalization, but it is more complicated than snapping your fingers. We are not going to have weed being sold at the LCBO tomorrow morning," Mulcair said. That's a slight advance in the NDP position, which had been that it would study the regulation and legalization of marijuana. The NDP's Liberal Party competitors have staked out a full legalization positions, while the governing Conservatives are firmly opposed. The election is later this month.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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Permission to Reprint: This issue of Drug War Chronicle is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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