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Louisiana Bill Would Make Abortion Drugs Controlled Substances, NY Marijuana Overhaul, More... (5/13/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1212)

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem's (R) losing streak continues, Mexico is slow-walking visas for DEA agents, and more.

Mifeprestone, an abortion-inducing drug. Louisiana could become the first state to make it a controlled substance. (Genbiopro)

Marijuana Policy

New York Governor Announces Overhaul of State Marijuana Regulator. Following a scathing review of the state's Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and its problem-plagued rollout of legal marijuana commerce, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has announced a complete overhaul of that office.

OCM is in charge of issuing marijuana business licenses, but the review found that 90 percent of applicants for pot shops did not get licenses and that OCM did not monitor applications to identify those that needed additional information to be processed. More than a thousand applications submitted months ago have yet to be acted on.

The review was focused on reducing the time it takes to get shops open, in part by streamlining the application process and in part by increasing the licensing staff by 40 percent. With more staff, the plan is to assign each application one staff person to see it through.

"What we absolutely need to do today is make sure that if we are telling folks we're going to get your application reviewed by January, then you focus on getting the applications reviewed as soon as possible," said Jeanette Moy, commissioner of the Office of General Services.

"We need time to evaluate who's been harmed," Gov. Hochul said. "Did they rely on information that said you would be approved and was not? There's a lot of data. I guarantee it's going to be case-by-case."

Psychedelics

Alaska Bill To Create Task Force to Study Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Heads To Governor's Desk. The state Senate on Friday gave final approval to a bill creating a task force to study how to license and regulate psychedelic-assisted therapy if and when there is federal approval to do so for substances such as MDMA and psilocybin, House Bill 228.

The bill does not legalize those substances but instead creates a legislative task force to study how to license and regulate psychedelic therapy.

"I want to start by saying what this bill does not do," Sen. Forrest Dunbar (D), who sponsored a companion Senate version of the legislation, said before the vote. "It does not legalize psychedelics, nor does it take a position on legalization. Instead, it creates a task force designed to prepare Alaska in a regulatory framework should the FDA approve the medical use of these substances, which some folks are anticipating could happen as early as August of this year," he said.

"Advanced trials being conducted by the federal government demonstrate the effectiveness of psychedelic medicines and psychedelic-assisted therapies in medical settings," he added, "particularly for PTSD."

The bill now goes to Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R). He can either sign it, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

Drug Policy

Louisiana Bill Would Make State First in Nation to Make Abortion Pills Controlled Dangerous Substances. Lawmakers in the state Senate have added a last-minute provision to an anti-abortion bill that make Louisiana the first state in the nation to categorize the abortion-inducing drugs mifeprestone and misoprostol drugs as controlled dangerous substances. Under the proposed law, people possessing the pills without a valid prescription or outside of medical practice could face fines or imprisonment.

The Senate bill in question would criminalize abortions where someone gives a pregnant woman the pills without her consent, a presumably rare event but one that was alleged to have happened to one senator's sister. Pregnant women possessing the drugs for their own use would not face prosecution, but someone helping them obtain the pills could.

The state already bans abortions, whether surgical or via medication, except to save the mother's life or if the pregnancy is "medically futile." In considering this bill, lawmakers rejected adding exceptions for girls 16 and younger who become pregnant due to rape or incest.

The bill would make the abortion drugs controlled substances by amending the state's Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act to include them. Doctors in the state say it is "not scientifically based."

"Adding a safe, medically indicated drug for miscarriage management… creates the false perception that these are dangerous drugs that require additional regulation," more than 240 doctors said in a letter they sent last week to bill sponsor Sen. Thomas Pressly (R). "Given its historically poor maternal health outcomes, Louisiana should prioritize safe and evidence-based care for pregnant women," they urged.

Abby LeDoux, vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood Gulf States, is worrying about the "far-reaching" consequences because of the drugs’ other uses. There are "real questions," she said, "about what it would mean in practice to open the controlled substances list like this, including what aspects of state law legislators think manufacturers would follow, even locally."

The measure awaits a final vote in the House before the session ends June 3.

South Dakota Governor Banned by Yet Another Tribe over Cartel Remarks. And then there were six. The Yankton Sioux Tribe Business and Claims Committee voted unanimously on Friday to ban Gov. Kristi Noem (R) from their reservation because of her comments linking tribal leaders to drug cartels. Five other tribes with reservations in the state have already banned her, meaning six of the nine tribes in the state have told the governor to stay away.

"It's about standing in solidarity together, all the Oceti Sakowin," said Council Member Ryan Cournoyer, referencing the name for speakers of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota languages.

The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate voted to ban the governor earlier last week, following similar actions from the Oglala, Rosebud, Cheyenne River, and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.

Noem has been taking heat from the tribes since a January 31 speech where she claimed Mexican drug cartels have "set up shop" on the reservations and then doubled down in a written column titled "Banish the Cartels" where she claimed without evidence that tribal leaders are "personally benefiting" from the cartels.

Foreign Policy

Mexico Slow-Walking Visas for DEA Agents. DEA agents assigned to Mexico to combat drug trafficking organization there are having to wait up to eight months for working visas, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science heard during a hearing last week.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told members last Tuesday hat 13 agents and intelligence analysts assigned to track the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels are still waiting permission from Mexico to enter the country.

"We are waiting for those 13 visas; I believe one has been pending for eight months. Unfortunately, we know the price that we pay as a country when we wait that long."

That prompted members to question the extent of Mexico's commitment to fighting America's drug war.

"When the DEA encounters obstacles such as difficulties in obtaining visas in a timely manner to operate in Mexico and there are outstanding warrants the Mexican government fails to act upon, it suggests the state of our relationship with Mexico may be far from ideal," said Rep. Hal Rodgers (R-KY), chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science.

"This is where the rubber hits the road when we talk about the distribution of fentanyl into this country," said Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA). "It's coming from China, it’s going to Mexico, it's coming here and it's killing our kids. Mexico is delaying work visas to American DEA agents working in Mexico to get after the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels."

"This lack of engagement, the nonsensical bureaucratic delay in approving visas and blatantly ignoring extradition requests for cartel members should be far from pleasing for anyone who cares about our efforts to counter the cartels," Rodgers said at the hearing.

International

Nigerian Senate Proposes Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking. The Senate last Thursday offered an amendment to a drug trafficking bill that would significantly toughen penalties for trafficking, up to and including the death penalty.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with more than 200 million people and has gone from being a transit point for the drug trade to a country that now produces, distributes, and consumes drugs. Marijuana is grown locally, but cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids are trafficked through the country.

Lawmakers supported the imposition of the death penalty said it would serve as a greater deterrent for traffickers. But opponents said it was irreversible and could lead to wrongful executions.

While the Senate has approved the death penalty language, the House earlier passed the bill without that provision. The competing versions of the bill will now go to conference committee to get hashed out.

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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