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LA First State to Make Abortion Drugs Controlled Substances, NH Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill, More... (5/28/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1213)

South Korea threatens to arrest its citizens if they smoke pot in countries where it is legal, Ireland wields harm reduction services as summer festival season arrives, and more.

The abortion drug mifeprestone. It is now a controlled substance in Louisiana. (Genbiopro)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Start Selling for Adult Use Market Advances. Amidst skepticism and concern from industry advocates, the House Economic Committee last Friday approved a bill to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to enter the adult-use market before any competitors are licensed, House Bill 408. The measure now heads for a House floor vote.

The state legalized marijuana last year but currently sees no legal sales for the adult market until the first licenses are issued beginning in November 2024. This bill, sponsored by the state's leading pro-marijuana lawmaker, Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Newark), would allow the state's six dispensaries to seek conversion licenses to sell to the adult-use market as early as August.

The conversion licenses would cost $100,000 with the proceeds going to fund capital needs for social equity license holders. The dispensaries would have 12 months to pay for the license.

"These licenses will provide a chance for the industry to have enough supply of cannabis to meet the April 2025 targeted date with the beginning of the recreational market," Osienski said.

But marijuana advocates worry that the experience of other states suggests that dispensaries eventually fail to meet the needs of their patients after entering the adult-use market.

"I was there for this very same process in New Jersey just a few years ago, and these large corporate players promised to keep up a medical marijuana program, promised to lower prices, promised to have special hours, and they ended up getting fined and criticized for providing none of those things and breaking every one of those promises so far," Chris Goldstein, a regional organizer for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, testified.

Louisiana Senate Passes Bill to Decriminalize Pot Paraphernalia. The state decriminalized the possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana three years ago, and now lawmakers are on the verge of getting around to decriminalizing pot paraphernalia. The Senate last week approved a bill that would do that, House Bill 165.

Under the bill, first offenders for pot paraphernalia would face a fine of no more than $100. Under current law, the penalty is a fine of up to $300 and up to 15 days in jail. With decriminalization in effect, people caught with small amounts of pot face no jail time.

"Currently, the possession of marijuana is less of a penalty than marijuana paraphernalia," said Sen. Royce Duplessis (D-New Orleans), who sponsored the bill in the Senate. Passing the bill is just "common sense," he added.

The bill has already passed the House but because it was amended in the Senate, it must return to the House for a concurrence vote Tuesday.

New Hampshire Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill, But Prospects Are Cloudy in the House. In a historic first, the Senate has given its final approval to a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 1633, which now heads back to the House for a concurrence vote before potentially going to the governor's desk. Currently, New Hampshire is the only New England state where marijuana prohibition still endures.

But prospects in the House are cloudy after the Senate made major amendments to the version passed in the lower chamber. Some House members are saying they will reject the bill in its current form.

Significant changes came out of the Senate Finance Committee, where legalization opponent Senate President Jeb Bradley (R) sponsored amendments that slashed the legal possession limit in half -- from four ounces to two -- created a misdemeanor penalty for smoking pot in a vehicle, and increased penalties for selling marijuana to minors. The Senate rejected an amendment that would have legalized pot possession immediately upon the bill's passage.

The Senate also substantially amended the House bill's scheme for licensing marijuana retailers, replacing it instead with a state franchise model favored by Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

With the bill now heading back to the House, members can either approve it despite the changes, reject it, or send it to a conference committee to seek a compromise. As of now, it is not certain that the votes are there to pass it as is.

Drug Policy

Louisiana Becomes First State to Label Abortion Drugs as Controlled Substances. With the signature of Gov. Jeff Landry on Senate Bill 276 last Friday, the state has become the first in the nation to make it a criminal offense to possess two abortion drugs without a prescription.

The two drugs are mifepristone and misoprostol, often used together to terminate a pregnancy, but also used for other medical reasons. The bill would criminalize their possession without a prescription by adding them to the state's list of "controlled dangerous substances."

Supporters said the bill was necessary to prevent someone from dosing a woman with the pills without her knowledge, and at least two members of the legislature claimed it had happened to someone they knew.

But more than 200 doctors signed a letter to lawmakers saying the measure could produce a "barrier to physicians’ ease of prescribing appropriate treatment" and cause unnecessary fear and confusion among patients and doctors.

Because the bill was amended in the House, it must now go back to the Senate for final concurrence.

"Requiring an abortion-inducing drug to be obtained with a prescription and criminalizing the use of an abortion drug on an unsuspecting mother is nothing short of common sense. This bill protects women across Louisiana and I was proud to sign this bill into law today," Landry said in his signing statement.


Irish Health Service Will Provide Drug Checking Services at Summer Music Festivals. The country's public health department, the Health Services Executive (HSE), will provide "back of the house" drug checking at four music festivals this summer to reduce drug-related harms.

The HSE said it is concerned about the use of cannabinoids, particularly the newly emerged substance HHC, for which there is limited information. HSE's Safer Nightlife Program will also provide harm reduction outreach teams at the festivals.

"Through our ‘back of house’ drug checking, pills, powders, crystals, and some other substances can be analyzed in real time, in collaboration between the HSE, Gardaí, and festival organizers with an aim to identify trends of concern to inform the public at events," said Nicki Killeen, HSE Project Manager Emerging Drug Trends. "Surrender bins will be available in health-led settings in the tent and medical tents. We want to remind people that the tent offers a safe space for people to discuss their drug use, get information, and surrender drugs for analysis. If a trend of concern is identified, we will issue alerts via social media, our volunteers and at the event through the festival promoters. Last summer, we found MDMA pills ranging from 50mg to 246mg (twice the average dose), highlighting significant variability in strength and purity despite similar appearances."

"This year, the HSE Safer Nightlife Program is also expanding and joining forces with agencies from Portugal, Luxembourg, Italy, and Spain to address the intersection of a number of issues such as gender, safety, and substance use in nightlife settings. The Crisscross initiative aims to promote safer and more inclusive nightlife. So far, we have conducted focus groups with professionals and young people who socialize in Dublin nightlife and will begin our training program for professionals later this week. Through the Safer Nightlife Program, we are launching the Crisscross campaign which will include new resources for our outreach on topics such as being a good bystander in nightlife."

South Korea Says It Will Arrest Citizens Who Smoke Pot in Countries Where It Is Legal. In a stunning example of extraterritoriality, the Ministry of Justice on Monday warned citizens who travel to or reside in countries where marijuana is legal that they would face criminal charges back home if they partook while abroad. It said Koreans could face up to five years in prison for expatriate pot-smoking.

"There have been cases in which Korean citizens mistakenly believe that smoking marijuana is alright in countries where it has been legalized," the ministry said in a statement. "Korean citizens, however, could face a heavy penalty under our domestic laws for using illicit drug in those countries after they return."

While the penalty for marijuana use seems draconian, the penalties for distribution are even more so: a mandatory minimum of five years and up to life in prison.

The South Korean government is responding to the increasing move toward marijuana legalization around the world. In Europe, Germany, Luxembourg, and Malta have all legalized it, as have Canada, Uruguay, and 24 American states.

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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