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South Africa Legalizes Marijuana, DE Governor Signs MedMJ Expansion Bill, More... (5/29/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1213)

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime issues a new report on East and Southeast Asian drug trafficking, California psychedelic reform proponents ponder a 2026 initiative, and more.

Methamphetamine. The UN reports that production and trafficking is rampant in East and Southeast Asia. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Delaware Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. Jay Carney (D) on Tuesday signed into law a bill vastly expanding the state's medical marijuana program, House Bill 285.

Under the bill, anyone who has "a diagnosed medical condition" and would "receive therapeutic or palliative benefit" from medical marijuana is now eligible for a state medical marijuana card. Additionally, anyone 65 or older can now "self-certify" for a card without a doctor's recommendation.

Previously, the state's medical marijuana law limited it to people suffering from a specified list of "debilitating medical conditions."

The expansion of the medical marijuana program is unrelated to adult-use legalization, which was signed into law last year. Adult-use sales are not expected to begin until March 2025. Until then, medical marijuana is the only path through which to access marijuana.


California Activists Ponder 2026 Psychedelic Ballot Measure. After being stymied in the state legislature for the past two years, psychedelic reform activists are considering a ballot initiative to legalize some psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin and MDMA.

The potential move comes after lawmakers last year approved a natural psychedelic legalization bill from Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) only to see it vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Newsom called on lawmakers to instead concentrate on the therapeutic uses of psychedelics. This year, Wiener did just, but his bill died in committee in the Senate.

Now, after being blocked in Sacramento, psychedelic advocates including Wiener are pondering whether to go ahead with a ballot initiative.

"We are not giving up, whether that means introducing a new bill or ballot measure, this issue is not going away," Wiener said. "We know these substances are helping people turn their lives around."

Wiener added that both a ballot initiative and another legislative effort could happen simultaneously. One issue for activists to decide is how broad an initiative should be. It could be limited to therapeutic purposes or a straightforward legalization measure.

"Californians will continue to seek out psychedelics for all sorts of reasons, including to help alleviate mental health challenges like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Many will do so without guided support and use psychedelics on their own, which increases risks," said Jared Moffat, Campaign Director for the Alliance for Safer Use of Psychedelics, in a statement. "We're not backing down, and will keep pushing to ensure facilitated access to psychedelics becomes a reality in California and that Californians are protected from harm."


UN Report Documents Massive Drug Trade in East and Southeast Asia. In a Tuesday press release, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced a new report on the drug trafficking situation in East and Southeast Asia:

"The synthetic drug market in East and Southeast Asia continues to grow at concerning levels, as organized crime groups leverage gaps in law enforcement and governance challenges to traffic large volumes of drugs and expand their production... The report, titled 'Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia: latest developments and challenges 2024', confirms that 190 tons of methamphetamine were seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2023 -- a record level. After dropping slightly in 2022, seizures of methamphetamine rebounded in 2023 to the highest amount ever recorded for the region."

"The drug trafficking and production situation has become increasingly complex," said Masood Karimipour, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "Organized crime groups are lowering the production costs and scaling up production by using non-controlled chemicals. With scaled-up production, shipments involving over one ton of drugs have become more frequent, which in turn leads to further price drops as availability and affordability increase."

"Taking advantage of the region's extensive trade infrastructure, organized crime groups are increasingly linking land-based trafficking corridors and maritime routes to escalate maritime trafficking of high-volume shipments, such as the route to the Gulf of Thailand, which crosses several land borders in the lower Mekong region. Throughout 2023 and into early 2024, large shipments of over one ton of methamphetamine, often alongside ketamine, have been seized en route to or on maritime routes."

"Organized crime groups are increasingly using the Gulf of Thailand to transport substantial quantities. However, despite the large volumes of seizures and high inflation observed since the COVID-19 pandemic, prices of methamphetamine and ketamine have continued to drop. The wholesale price of methamphetamine is now reaching as low as US$ 400 per kilogram in production areas, pointing to growth in production and strong supply in the regional synthetic drug market."

"Shan State in Myanmar continues to be the predominant source of synthetic drugs in the region, but the illicit manufacture of synthetic drugs is expanding to neighboring countries. It also highlights the sophistication of organized crime groups operating in the region, which are increasingly using a variation of non-controlled chemicals available to expand production while minimizing disruptions to their supply chain."

"At the same time, new synthetic drug products have emerged in the market to appeal to young users. 'Happy water' in sachet form emerged a few years ago and can now be found in multiple countries in the region. More recently, another synthetic drug product has entered the market, called 'party lollipops'. These lollipops have been found to contain multiple substances, such as ketamine, MDMA, and benzodiazepines, which can pose irreparable harm to users. Some are even packaged in well-known product brands, increasing the danger to the public."

South Africa Legalizes Marijuana. President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday signed into law a bill legalizing marijuana possession and cultivation by adults. The Cannabis for Private Purposes Act (CfPPA) was approved by the National Assembly last November and the National Council of Provinces in February.

Lawmakers were responding to a 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that found the prohibition on the possession of cultivation of marijuana unlawful. The high court gave lawmakers two years to rectify the situation, but it took until now anyway.

"The consequent regulatory reform enabled by the CfPPA will, amongst others, entirely remove cannabis from the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act," the president's office said in a press release on Tuesday. "This will further enable amendment of the Schedules to the Medicines and Related Substances Act and provide for targeted regulatory reform of the Plant Breeders Rights Act and the Plant Improvement Act, as well as other pieces of legislation that require amendment to allow for the industrialization of the cannabis sector."

"The Bill further guides the medically prescribed administration of cannabis to a child while also protecting children from undue exposure to cannabis," the president's office said. "It provides for an alternative manner by which to address the issue of the prohibited use, possession of, or dealing in, cannabis by children, with due regard to the best interest of the child. It also prohibits the dealing in cannabis."

The new law does not allow for commercial marijuana cultivation or sales, but a parliamentary spokesman, Moloto Mothapo, said the government sees this bill as the starting point for eventual full-blown commercial legalization.

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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