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FL Legal Pot Campaign Now Most Highly-Funded Ever, UN Health Expert Calls for End to War on Drugs, More... (6/24/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1215)

Activists in Dallas hand in signatures for a municipal decriminalization initiative, Arizona's governor signs a bill that would allow for therapeutic MDMA with federal approval, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Florida’s Marijuana Ballot Measure Keeps Breaking Fundraising Records. With five months still to go, the Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative from Smart & Safe Florida has become the best-funded legalization initiative ever, as funds from marijuana business interests who think they will benefit from legalization pour into campaign coffers.

The campaign has already raised more than $40 million, putting it ahead of the 2016 California Proposition 64 campaign, which raised $36.7 million via eight separate campaign committees by Election Day.

By far the largest contributor is Trulieve, a multi-state operator with pot shops or medical marijuana dispensaries in nine states, including 142 outlets in Florida. Trulieve has donated more than $34 million to the campaign. Trulieve also donated $20 million to the campaign before the current campaign finance reporting cycle, bringing its total investment to more than $54 million. It also holds the record for the single largest donation to any initiative campaign anywhere, $8.25 million.

Trulieve is responsible for about 85 percent of Smart & Safe campaign fundraising, with other marijuana companies making up the bulk of the remainder.

Jeanne Hanna, Director of Research at the Center for Political Accountability, said medical marijuana companies may be donating to this ballot measure in lieu of other political spending because of potential risks and pitfalls that come with them.

"It's not a terribly common type in the grand scope of corporations getting involved in politics with their money, " Hanna said regarding ballot measure spending. "But when they do attract money, they tend to attract a lot. I think it's an area in which companies may think there aren't extensive negative consequences because they're not supporting a candidate who may support a wide variety of issues."

Or Trulieve thinks it can get even richer with this amendment.

Texas Activists Turn in 50,000 Signatures to Put Dallas Decriminalization Initiative on the Ballot. Activists with Ground Game Texas, which has already sponsored local marijuana reform initiatives in a handful of cities, have handed in nearly 50,000 raw signatures in a bid to put a decriminalization initiative, the Dallas Freedom Act, on the November ballot. They need 35,000 valid voter signatures to qualify. Officials at City Hall will make that determination.

Meanwhile, there is another possible path to local decriminalization. Some City Council members are planning to introduce the proposal at a hearing on Wednesday. They argue that if the Council passes the measure, the city would save money by not having to count signatures. Councilmember Chad West says he will introduce the measure.

It would effectively decriminalize the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana, barring police from arresting or ticketing someone for small-time pot possession unless it is part of a high-priority felony investigation involving hard drugs or violent crime. It would also bar Dallas police from using the odor of marijuana as probable cause for a search.

"The Dallas Freedom Act is just that -- it's part of a larger movement that rejects division, creates the change we all deserve, and in true Texan spirit, unapologetically demands it now," said Ground Game Texas Executive Director Catina Voellinger. "From our signatures on the petition to our collective votes on the ballot, this is our power, our voice, our moral receipt -- this is our Texas movement."

State Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has filed lawsuits against five other Texas cities where voters approved local decriminalization laws. Still, a district judge dismissed the suit earlier this month against the city of Austin. The small city of Lockhart, near Austin, is also set to vote on a decriminalization initiative in November.


Arizona Governor Signs Bill Allowing Therapeutic MDMA if FDA Approves Its Use. Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) has signed into law a measure that would allow MDMA for the treatment of PTSD if the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approves the drug, Senate Bill 1677. The FDA is expected to make that decision this fall.

The measure also allows for workers' compensation coverage for MDMA therapy for firefighters and law enforcement under certain conditions -- once the FDA approves the drug.

The governor's signature on the MDMA bill comes as she vetoed a bill that would have moved the state toward a system of licensed and regulated centers for therapeutic psilocybin use. In her veto statement on that bill, Hobbs worried about potential risks and the lack of scientific foundation for its therapeutic use.


UN Health Expert Calls for End of War on Drugs. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commission issued the following release Monday: A UN independent expert Monday called for an end to the 'war on drugs', asking States to move towards harm reduction in drug policies.

In her fourth report to the Human Rights Council, Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, focused on drug use, harm reduction, and the right to health. The report explores how harm reduction relates to both drug use and drug use disorders, as well as to drug laws and policies, aiming to analyze and address the related outcomes that adversely impact the enjoyment of the right to health.

"The enforcement of drug laws and policies compounds other forms of discrimination and disproportionately affects certain individuals, such as persons in situations of homelessness or poverty, persons with mental health issues, sex workers, women, children, LGBTIQA+ persons, Black persons, Indigenous Peoples, migrants, persons who are incarcerated or detained, persons with disabilities, persons living with HIV, tuberculosis or hepatitis, and persons living in rural areas," Mofokeng told the Council. "International drug control conventions have negatively affected the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of certain drugs used as medicines."

The report indicates that the concept of harm reduction has been primarily developed in the context of drug use and refers to policies, programs, and practices that are aimed at minimizing negative health, social, and legal impacts associated with drug use, drug policies, and drug laws. It also stresses that States have an obligation to implement evidence-based interventions to minimize the adverse health and risks and harms associated with drug use.

In her report, the Special Rapporteur seeks to provide recommendations on how, at the domestic level, States should be centered on dignity, public health, and human rights, as well as ground interventions in the best available evidence, free from conflicts of interest.

Mofokeng highlights that ending criminalization, stigmatization, and discrimination which represent structural barriers to accessing services will improve access to information, goods, services, and facilities.

"Global advocacy and high-level statements of intent must be put into action to uphold the right to dignity," she said, adding that "civil society participation is key".

"All stakeholders must respect people who use drugs, people with drug use disorders, and people whose health and well-being is affected by drug laws and policies," the Special Rapporteur said.

She also noted the importance of moving towards substantive equality by paying particular attention to the disproportionate impact of drug laws, policies, and policing.

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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