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CA Cops Now Support Marijuana Legalization, One-Year Anniversary of San Francisco Drug Crackdown, More... (5/30/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1213)

A dangerous new substance is entering the nation's illicit powder drug supply, the New Hampshire marijuana legalization bill is now going to conference committee, and more.

A police bust in the Tenderloin. There have been a lot of them in the last year. (AdamChandler86)
Marijuana Policy

California Cops Now Support Marijuana Legalization. Law enforcement groups have always been among the usual suspects when it comes to opposing marijuana legalization, but now, the largest police association in the state, the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), has announced it is down with legalization.

PORAC is an association of 950 police unions representing more than 80,000 law enforcement officers in the state.

"The ship has sailed," PORAC wrote in a policy position released earlier this month announcing its call for federal marijuana legalization, "and for the vast majority of Americans, cannabis is legal and accessible."

PORAC released the statement to announce its support of a bill that would force the federal government to recognize state-legal marijuana programs as valid under federal law, HR 6673, the STATES 2.0 Act. The acronym stands for Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States.

"We're not making a moral judgment as to whether you should smoke it or don't smoke it, but we want to make sure [legal cannabis companies] aren't being drowned out by the illegal market," said PORAC President Brian Marvel.

This is a remarkable evolution for PORAC, which opposed the 2016 voter initiative that legalized marijuana in the state, but times have changed.

"A fair amount of officers patrolling the streets nowadays know nothing other than legalized marijuana in the state of California," Marvel said. "They are much more receptive to conversations on marijuana."

New Hampshire House Rejects Marijuana Legalization Bill with Senate Amendments; Measure Will Go to Conference Committee. The House voted Tuesday to reject the Senate's sweeping amendments to a marijuana legalization bill it had already passed, House Bill 1633. It then voted to send the bill to a bicameral conference committee to try to sort out the differences.

That dims the prospects for passage of the bill because a single member of the conference committee can kill it.

Members made winning arguments for refusing the Senate version.

"Instead of rushing to pass a bill that we all know is flawed, let's reject this amendment and insist on making better policies for our constituents," Rep. Heath Howard (D) said before the House floor vote. "We will only get one chance to create a well-regulated market for adult-use cannabis, and it's important we get it right."

"I know the vast majority of my constituents want legalized cannabis," added Republican Kevin Verville (R). "They want it in New Hampshire and they want it sooner than later. But this is not the right approach for us."

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has said he would support the bill with the changes made by the Senate but would oppose the version passed by the House.

"I think the Senate version is okay," Sununu said." They put some other stuff in there that I wasn't necessarily looking for, but they're not deal breakers." But if House lawmakers "want to make significant changes," the governor added, "then it's not going to pass. It's that easy."

The Senate version of the bill embraces Sununu's demands for a state franchise system for retail outlets, limited to 15 stores statewide as opposed to the licensing scheme set up in the House bill. It also introduced other changes that toughened the bill's enforcement aspects. The bill contains no provision for home cultivation. Activists are divided over whether to try to get something passed this year, now that Sununu is on board or to wait until next year when a new Republican governor could once again be an obstacle.

Drug Policy

Meet the Latest New Substance to Enter the Nation's Drug Supply. Public health officials in Pennsylvania and other states are raising alarms about a new entrant into the nation's illicit drug supply, a chemical sedative called medetomidine. They say it is being mixed into fentanyl and other powder drugs and is implicated in a wave of overdoses that began in April and has accelerated this month.

"The numbers reported out of Philadelphia were 160 hospitalizations over a 3 or 4-day period," said Alex Krotulski who heads an organization called NPS Discovery that studies illicit drugs sold in the US.

The drug, which is primarily used as an animal tranquilizer but is also formulated for use among human patients, has also appeared in mass overdose outbreaks in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. It can slow the heart rate to dangerous levels and is undetectable in standard drug screens.

"Some of our emergency medicine doctors started stopping me in the hallway," said Dr. Brendan Hart. "They said 'Something funny is going on with the overdoses.' Patients were coming in with very low heart rates. As low as in the 20s. A normal heart rate is sixty to a hundred [beats per minute] so 20s is extremely low."

Lab tests of street drug samples showed the presence of the sedative. Public health alerts have now been issued in Illinois and Pennsylvania. Medetomidine first appeared in the street drug supply in 2022, but only rarely and in tiny amounts. Now, it appears to be spreading rapidly.

This is only the latest dangerous new drug to confound health officials. Last year, it was xylazine, another animal tranquilizer known as "tranq." The fentanyl-tranq mix led to more overdoses and horrendous flesh wounds and lesions. Now, medetomidine is in the mix, too.

"Patients are being cared for as we speak in emergency rooms," Hart said. "These are very complex drug products. You’ve got fentanyl adulterated with xylazine that now also contains medetomidine."

San Francisco Marks A Year of Drug Crackdowns in SOMA and the Tenderloin. City officials on Wednesday talked up their "successes" in a year-long crackdown on public drug use and dealing in the city's Tenderloin and South of Market (SOMA) neighborhoods. The office of Mayor London Breed (D) reported that San Francisco police have seized 199 kilos of narcotics, including nearly 90 kilos of fentanyl, 48.2 kilos of methamphetamine, 15.5 kilos of cocaine and 8.39 kilos of heroin.

They also arrested 3,150 people on drug charges, of which only about 1,000 were suspected dealers. The figures only include busts and arrests in the two neighborhoods, not the rest of the city.

A year ago Wednesday marked the launch of the Drug Market Agency Coordination Center, which brought local, state, and federal agencies together to crack down on the two neighborhoods.

"We have brought unprecedented levels of coordination to tackle the drug markets on our streets and we are not letting up," Breed said in a statement. "The partnerships we put in place are getting fentanyl out of our neighborhoods and with new technology being deployed and more officers joining our ranks, our efforts will only grow stronger over the coming year."

"Our officers have made tremendous progress over the last year in dismantling San Francisco's pernicious drug markets," said Chief Bill Scott. "We will continue to increase our efforts in making arrests and seizing these poisonous drugs off our streets.

And District Attorney Brooke Jenkins' office announced that 394 felony narcotics were presented this year through May 25, with 344 cases filed. There were also 101 felony narcotics convictions and 70 guilty pleas to other cases.

But while the crackdown has removed some drugs and dealers from the streets, it does not address underlying issues said Michael Diszepola, who works at the GLIDE Memorial Church in the Tenderloin to connect drug users with services.

"Incarceration by law enforcement has not been proven to be able to assist or change the conditions for people who use drugs, and the same thing applies here. Even if we're getting some substances off the streets, we still have a lot of substances on the streets. People are still able to get drugs on the streets," he said. "For us, we want to look at, what are the circumstances that people use drugs are under on the streets, or people with mental illness on the streets and how can we make access points for them available. The reality of the matter is the supply is not safe," said Diszepola.

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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