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US Sentencing Commission Seeks Your Input, Bipartisan Senators File Emergency Room Fentanyl Testing Bill, More... (6/5/24)

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Consequences of Prohibition

A New Jersey poll finds majority support for therapeutic psilocybin, the White House has been busy on the harm reduction front this week, and more.

A hospital emergency room. A new bill aims to provide guidelines for fentanyl testing at ERs. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

GOP Congressman Will Try to Remove Marijuana Banking Protections from Spending Bill.

The GOP-led House Appropriations, Financial Services, and General Government Subcommittee (FSGG) on Tuesday posted the spending bill for Fiscal Year 2025 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG), which includes a provision that provides limited protections for banks doing business with state-legal marijuana companies. On Wednesday, Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-NC) said he would try to get that provision removed.

"I understand it's not in order to propose amendments at this level, but I certainly intend to raise that issue at the appropriate time," Edwards said, signaling that he will propose an amendment to remove the section in the full committee or on the floor.

Edwards argued that the provision should not be in the spending bill because it is "an affirmative authorization disguised as a limitation" on the spending of funds, but his real bone to pick is with any sort of reform of the marijuana laws.

"Our country has never allowed a federally illegal activity to be banked. And it's important to note that, despite some states trying to legalize it, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug," Edwards said. "Marijuana is still illegal, and I believe that it should remain illegal," he said.

Edwards is a staunch pot prohibitionist, having filed a bill last year to punish states and Indian tribes that legalize marijuana. He has also opposed legislation to prevent security clearances from being denied for past marijuana use and criticized the Biden administration for moving to reschedule marijuana.


New Jersey Poll Finds Majority Support for Therapeutic Psilocybin. A poll conducted by the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University finds that more than half -- 55 percent -- of respondents support allowing the therapeutic use of psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms, with only 20 percent opposed and 24 percent uncertain.

The highest levels of support came from people who knew more about the treatments, used psychedelics in the past, or knew someone who felt the need to seek mental health treatment. The question also polled strongly among respondents 18-to-39 and Democrats.

The poll comes as the legislature prepares for a hearing this week on a bill, the Psilocybin Behavioral Health Access and Services Act, Senate Bill 2283. That bill "authorizes production and use of psilocybin to promote health and wellness; decriminalizes, and expunges past offenses involving psilocybin production, possession, use, and distribution."

The bill is sponsored by Senate President Nick Scutari (D) and Sen. Joe Vitale (D). Scutari introduced a similar bill in the previous session, only to see it die.

Harm Reduction

White House Convenes City, County, and Private Sector Leaders to Discuss Saving Lives from Overdose. The White House on Tuesday reported on Tuesday that "White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director Tom Perez, and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta convened city, county, and private sector leaders from communities across the country that are being hit hard by the overdose crisis to discuss efforts to increase access to overdose reversal medications and save lives."

Officials discussed the recently launched White House Challenge to Save Lives from Overdose, a call to increasing training on and access to opioid overdose reversal medications like naloxone. The call highlighted work done by sectors including Major League Baseball, entertainment and night life, transportation and schools.

White House Meets with Overdose Reversal Medication Manufacturers. The White House also released the read-out from a Tuesday meeting with opioid overdose reversal medication makers, where manufacturers announced increased capacity of 25 million additional doses in 2025, intended for hard-hit communities, and accompanying public awareness campaigns.

"Manufacturers announce capacity to produce additional 25 million doses to help saturate hardest-hit communities, along with new donations to help strengthen public awareness campaigns

"This critical increase in production, along with new opportunities to purchase opioid overdose reversal medications over the counter, will increase access to these life-saving medications for more people," the White House statement said. "Seven manufacturers also announced they will donate funds to help expand the geographic reach of the Real Deal on Fentanyl campaign, which educates young people on the dangers of fentanyl and the lifesaving effects of overdose reversal medications." The call also highlighted the White House Challenge to Save Lives from Overdose.

Bipartisan Group of Senators File Bill on Emergency Room Fentanyl Testing. Led by Sens. Joe Manchin (I-WV) and Mike Braun (R-IN), a bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday filed Tyler's Law, a bill directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide hospitals with guidance on how emergency rooms can implement fentanyl testing in their routine drug screens. The bill is named for Tyler Shamash, a teenager who died of an overdose in part because -- unbeknownst to the physician -- he was not tested for fentanyl upon being checked into the emergency room.

"I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of 17-year-old Fairfax County resident Malcolm Kent, who died of a fentanyl overdose that might have been prevented by more comprehensive testing protocols. It's clear that we need to start employing every mechanism we have at our disposal to catch and treat overdoses before they occur," said bill cosponsor Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). "While this law will never bring back Malcolm Kent, Tyler Shamash, or the thousands we've lost too soon to overdoses, in their memory I am glad to push to save more lives by instituting more robust guidance on testing for fentanyl during a suspected overdose."

Malcolm Kent was a 17-year-old Fairfax County resident who went to the emergency room while experiencing an overdose in January 2023 but was not tested for fentanyl. He died of a fentanyl overdose shortly after being discharged.

Tyler’s Law would direct the Secretary of HHS to complete a study to determine how frequently emergency rooms are currently testing for fentanyl when patients come in for an overdose, as well as the associated costs and benefits/risks; and issue guidance to hospitals on implementing fentanyl testing in emergency rooms.

In addition to Manchin, Braun, and Warner, the bill is cosponsored by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Todd Young (R-IN), Alex Padilla (D-CA). The full text of the bill is available here.

Sentencing Policy

US Sentencing Commission Calls for Public Comment on 2024-2025 Priorities. The US Sentencing Commission announced last week that it is seeking comment on possible policy priorities for the sentencing guidelines amendment cycle ending May 1, 2025. Public comment is sought until July 15, and is accepted electronically at, or by mail at United States Sentencing Commission, One Columbus Circle NE, Suite 2-500, Washington, DC 20002-8002, attn Public Affairs -- Priorities Comment.

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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