Drug War Chronicle

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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Pentagon cop gets nailed peddling cocaine, a Memphis cop goes to prison for ripping off and torturing alleged drug dealers, and more. Let's get to it:

In Lamesa, Texas, a prison guard was arrested October 10 after being caught trying to smuggle liquid PCP and liquid fentanyl into the Lamesa state prison. Guard Gilma Paredes was caught with 17.5 ounces of liquid PCP and 21 ounces of liquid fentanyl as she arrived at work, and authorities found an additional 30.5 ounces of liquid PCP and five ounces of liquid fentanyl in her vehicle.

In Vidalia, Louisiana, a former jail guard was arrested October 13 for smuggling drugs into the Concordia Parish Jail. Now former Correctional Officer Anthony Godbold, 35, is charged with two counts of malfeasance in office, two counts of introducing contraband into jail two counts and possession of schedule I controlled substances with intent to distribute.

In Chickasha, Oklahoma, an Oklahoma City police officer was arrested October 21 on drug dealing charges. Officer Dean Yancy Forbes was booked into the Grady County Jail on unspecified multiple charges, as was his wife, Sandra Joy Forbes. He is now on administrative leave with the Oklahoma City Police Department.

In Easley, South Carolina, a now former Greenville County sheriff's deputy was arrested October 24 on marijuana distribution charges. Deputy Nicholas Craig Ison, 22, went down after providing weed to a confidential informant and was immediately fired as well as arrested. He was booked into the Pickens County Jail.

In Arlington, Virginia, a Pentagon police officer was arrested Monday after narcotics detectives watched him picking up a shipment of cocaine. Officer Eric Welch, 33, went down after Arlington detectives received a tip that he was selling cocaine and caught him as he was restocking his supply. He faces charges of possessing at least 2.5 kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute and while carrying a firearm. He's looking at up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In Richland, Washington, a former state prison guard was sentenced October 4 to 46 month in federal prison for conspiring to smuggle drugs and cell phones into the Benton County Jail. Former guard Eric Christian, 34, had pleaded guilty in December 2021 to conspiracy to provide prohibited objects to an inmate of a prison in exchange for bribes. Christian and six codefendants conspired to introduce multiple cell phones, methamphetamine, heroin, suboxone strips, and other contraband into the Benton County Jail. As part of the conspiracy, Christian and his co-conspirators also provided access to dangerous offenders and gang members so that they could identify, assault, and retaliate against cooperating defendants as well as inmates charged with certain types of offenses.

In Columbus, Ohio, a former Columbus vice officer was sentenced October 6 to 18 months in federal prison for planting cocaine on the owner of a strip club. Former Officer Steven Rosser, 46, had been convicted in February of violating the civil rights of club owner Armen Stipanyian by searching him and his vehicle without a warrant and then falsely claiming he found cocaine residue on a desk in Stipanyian's office and arresting him. The planted cocaine amounted to .017 grams. After fraudulently arresting Stipanyian, Rosser falsified documents to conceal his misdeeds. The strip club investigation was an outgrowth of the arrest of adult film star Stormy Daniels at another strip club in the city, and it was FBI agents looking into the Daniels arrests that turned up Rosser's misbehavior. The vice unit that Rosser belonged to was disbanded in 2019 after the Stormy Daniels debacle.

In Machias, Maine, a former Calais police officer was sentenced October 15 to four years in state prison on drug and gun charges after originally being arrested for giving opioid pain pills to a teenage girl in a high school parking lot. The pills were meant for the girl's mother. Jeffrey Bishop, 55, was arrested less than a week after retiring from the department. It is not clear what the exact charges he was convicted of are.

In Memphis, Tennessee, a former Memphis police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison for his role in a police gang that robbed and beat alleged drug dealers. Former Officer Sam Blue, 63, conspired with others from 2014 to 2018 to rob drug dealers and provided his coconspirators with information such as the home addresses of their targets obtained from restricted law enforcement sources, as well as police badges and dashboard blue lights.

In one case, the gang targeted Eric Cain, surveilling him and putting a GPS tracker on his vehicle. Blue provided the gate code needed to get access to Cain's apartment complex, and the rogue crew stopped him on the pretext he was being arrested, handcuffed and hooded him, and took him to another house in Memphis, where they beat him and burned him on his arms, neck, and head while demanding he tell them where his money was. Cain escaped and went to authorities after spending a week in the hospital for his injuries. Blue pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to violate civil rights by using force, violence, and intimidation, and conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce.

Biden Pot Pardons Have Broad Public Support, Afghan Opium Crop Up, More... (11/2/22)

A Colorado psychedelic initiative needs just a bit more support to get over the top next week, the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative is in the same boat, and more.

freshly harvested opium resin in Afghanistan (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Marijuana Pardons Have Broad Public Support, Poll Finds. A new Monmouth University poll finds broad public approval of President Joe Biden's (D) decision to issue blanket pardons to anyone convicted of simple federal marijuana possession charges. The poll also found broad public support for marijuana legalization, with 68 percent in favor, just one point less than the number of those who supported the Biden pardons. "Polling from a variety of sources shows that support for marijuana legalization has been increasing consistently over the past twenty years. Biden's action is in line with how the vast majority of Americans feel about this issue," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Missouri Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiative Leading but Under 50 Percent. The Missouri marijuana polling muddle continues. One recent poll had Amendment 3 with 43 percent of the vote -- not a majority, but a higher figure than those who said they opposed it -- while another poll had the initiative cruising to victory with 62 percent support. Now, the latest poll from Emerson College Polling and The Hill -- the same folks who had the 43 percent poll just weeks ago -- has the initiative again leading but under the 50 percent required to win. This time the poll had support at 48 percent support, with 35 percent opposed and 17 percent undecided. While initiative campaigns would like to see support at 60 percent or so going into the election, or at least above the 50 percent needed to win, if these latest poll numbers are accurate, the campaign would need only to peel away about one out of five undecided voters, and keep the supporters it has now, to emerge victorious next week.

Psychedelics

Colorado Poll Has Psychedelic Initiative Under 50 Percent. The initiative to legalize the possession of psychedelics and create licensed "healing center" where people can use psilocybin under therapeutic supervision, Proposition 122, is trailing slightly according to a new poll, but has gained support since the same poll queried voters in September. The measure has 43 percent support, up from 36 percent in September, but opposition remains higher, increasing from 41 percent in September to 44 percent now. That is a statistical dead heat between "yes" and "no" votes, but still has the initiative below the 50 percent needed to win. Nearly 13 percent of voters remain undecided; the initiative will need to get a majority of those undecideds to get over the top next week.

International

Afghan Opium Crop Up One Third Despite Taliban Ban, UN Says. The 2022 opium crop in Afghanistan is the most profitable in years with cultivation up by nearly a third amid soaring prices, and despite the multiple humanitarian and economic crises facing the country and its Taliban rulers, said the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Tuesday. The authorities banned all cultivation of opium poppy and all narcotics under strict new laws, in April 2022. This year's harvest was largely exempted from the decree, said UNODC, and farmers in Afghanistan must now decide on planting opium poppy for next year amid continued uncertainty about how the Taliban will enforce the ban. Sowing of the main 2023 opium crop must be done by early November this year.

"Afghan farmers are trapped in the illicit opiate economy, while seizure events around Afghanistan suggest that opiate trafficking continues unabated," said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly. "The international community must work to address the acute needs of the Afghan people, and to step up responses to stop the criminal groups trafficking heroin and harming people in countries around the world."

These Five States Could Legalize Marijuana on Election Day [FEATURE]

It is now less than a week until voters across the country head to the polls for Election Day 2022, and by the time the smoke clears, five more states could add themselves to the ranks of the legal marijuana states. Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota have all qualified legalization initiatives for the next week's ballot.

If all five efforts were to succeed, the number of legal marijuana states would jump from 19 to 24, but with four of the five states being among the most conservative in the country, victories are likely to be hard-fought and narrow.

Organizers in a sixth state, Oklahoma, also gathered enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but delays in signature counting by state contractors left t it unable to be certified by the official deadline for the November ballot. It will get a vote either in a special election or the next general statewide election.

Here is what we are looking at in each of the five states:

Arkansas

The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment from Responsible Growth Arkansas would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and create a system of licensed marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution, and retail sales. It would also allow existing medical marijuana infrastructure (dispensaries, grow operations, etc.) to be integrated into the new adult use market. The Arkansas Beverage Control Board would be the regulatory agency.

Retail sales would face normal sales taxes plus an additional 10 percent tax. Fifteen percent of tax revenues would go to law enforcement, 10 percent to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, five percent to fund drug courts, and the remainder to go into the general fund. There are no provisions for home cultivation or to promote social equity, although there is language deferring a criminal background check for people owning less than five percent of a marijuana business.

Recent polling from Talk Business and Politics-Hendrix College showed the initiative barely winning with 51 percent of the vote in a late October poll. The same outfit had the initiative at 59 percent in an early October poll, with the decline in support reflecting a rejection by Republican voters as Election Day draws nearer, partisan divides sharpen, and the state's Republican leadership attacks marijuana legalization.

Maryland

Question 4 would amend the state constitution by adding an article that allows people 21 and over to use and possess marijuana and providing that the General Assembly "shall provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation and taxation of cannabis within the state."

This is an amendment that came not from the people but from the legislature, which passed it as House Bill 1 in April. The legislature that same month also passed implementing legislation to go into effect if the measure passes. The legislation, House Bill 837, which would set legal possession limits at 1.5 ounces and allow for the home cultivation of two plants. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for conduct that would be legal if the measure passes.

The amendment contains no language about regulation or taxation. That will be left up to the legislature.

A March poll had support for legalization at a healthy 62 percent and a Baltimore Sun Media and University of Baltimore poll released Monday showed that support was remarkably stable over time, with 63 percent now approving the initiative, including 54 percent of Republicans.

Missouri

Sponsored by Legalize Missouri 2022, Amendment 3 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to six flowering plants, as well as six immature plants and six clones. The measure also provides for the automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.

The initiative also "seeks to broaden industry participation by small business owners and among disadvantaged populations, including those with limited capital, residents of high-poverty communities, service-disabled veterans, and those previously convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses," according to Legalize Missouri 2022.

The initiative would tax retail sales at 6 percent, with localities allowed to add a 3 percent sales tax. It also gives cities and counties the option of disallowing retail sales via a popular vote.

It would also allow existing medical marijuana operations to seek recreational sales licenses beginning December 8, with regulators allowed up to 60 days to approve them, giving them an effective head-start on newcomer competitors.

The measure had drawn organized opposition from within the cannabis community, with critics saying it does not do enough to promote social equity, that it favors existing operators, and that because it is a constitutional amendment, the legislature would have little say.

In the final days of the campaign, the initiative is being attacked from all sides and is generating polling that is all over the place. Of three polls in the last six weeks, two had the initiative failing with 43 percent and 48 percent of the vote, while a third had it winning with 62 percent. Somebody is right, but it will take an actual election to find out who.

North Dakota

Sponsored by New Approach North Dakota, Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, four grams of concentrates and infused products, and grow up to three plants at home, but not to consume it in public.

The measure includes specific child custody protections for parents who use marijuana in accord with state law, but employers could continue to prohibit marijuana use and there is no provision for expungement. New Approach North Dakota says it intends to address that in the legislature next year. The measure would also allow cities and counties to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses.

The initiative also creates a regulatory framework for commercial production and sales of marijuana with the Department of Health and Human Services (or a different agency designated by the legislature) developing rules and regulations and overseeing licensing of marijuana businesses. Regulators would have until October 1, 2023, to come up with rules for advertising, labeling, packaging, security, and testing standards.

There would be no new tax for marijuana, but the state's 5 percent retail sales tax would apply to marijuana sales. Those tax revenues are not designated for any particular fund. Commercial cultivators would have to pay an annual $110,000 registration fee and retailers would have to pay an annual $90,000 fee.

The number of retailers would be limited to 18 and the number of grow facilities limited to seven. In a bid to reduce monopolistic tendencies in the industry, no one person or entity could own more than one grow facility or four retail stores.

Just four years ago, state voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, but that was a more wide-open measure. There is no recent polling data for this measure.

South Dakota

Two years ago, voters approved a marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote, only to see it thrown out in the state Supreme Court for violating the state's one-subject rule for initiatives. (It legalized marijuana and contained tax and regulatory provisions). Initiated Measure 27 seeks to get past that hurdle by not establishing a tax or regulatory structure for commercial sales. Instead, it would those issues for the legislature to decide.

It would legalize the possession, transport, and distribution of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over. It would also legalize the home cultivation of up to three plants -- but only in localities where there is no retail marijuana outlet, and there will not be any retail marijuana outlets unless and until the legislature acts to allow them.

An August poll had the initiative failing with only 44 percent of the vote, but that poll may be a fluke. It had support in the state's most liberal and populous region, the Sioux Falls metro area at only 38.6 percent. But in 2020, the Sioux falls metro area state Senate districts all reported at least 57 percent approval for legalization and one had the highest support of any district in the state at 72.7 percent. Still, a late September-early October poll also had the initiative losing with only 47 percent of the vote. Given that voters approved a more expansive legalization initiative in 2020 with 54 percent of the vote, these poll numbers are real head-scratchers, but we will know next week how accurate they are.

Opiate Treatment Program (OTP) Barriers, Schumer Says Progress on SAFE Banking Act +, More... (11/1/22)

There's a drug crackdown going on in India's Punjab, Afghan drug prices are rising despite questions about whether the Taliban ban is actually happening, and more.

An Aghan opium poppy field. It is almost planting time again. Will the Taliban ban actually take place? Stay tuned. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Schumer Says Senate Close to Passing Marijuana Banking, Expungements Bill After Talks with Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday that Congress is "very close" to filing and then passing the SAFE Banking Act + bill, which includes provisions including banking protections for state-legal marijuana businesses and expungements of past marijuana convictions. Schumer cited progress he had made in talks with a "bunch of Republican senators."

Schumer had blocked earlier efforts to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which has passed the House seven times, but now appears ready to move on it as prospects for a broader legalization bill fade. "We are getting very close," Schumer said. "I am working in a bipartisan way with Democrats and Republicans to take the SAFE Banking Act, which allows financial institutions to involve themselves in cannabis companies and lend money to them -- but it also does some things for justice, such as expunging a record. So, expunging the records is important, and we're getting clos We may be able to get something done rather soon. I'm working with a bunch of Republican senators, a bunch of Democratic senators, to get something passed."

Drug Treatment

State Opioid Treatment Program Regulations Put Evidence-Based Care Out of Reach for Many. Opioid treatment programs (OTPs) are the only health care modalities that can offer methadone as well as buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone to patients. They are the only facilities that can offer methadone, but federal and state rules not based on evidence are curtailing access to high-quality OTP care, the Pew Trust reports in new research.

Among barriers to OTP treatment, Pew found that 20 states require a new OTP to seek state approval baed on demonstrating a need for services before opening, seven states impose restrictive zoning rules on OTPS that don't apply to other health are facilities, 10 states don't allow clients to take medication home in the first 30 days of treatment, 48 states allow OTPs to throw patients out of the program for not being abstinent from opioids or other drugs, and 23 states specify a counseling schedule for patients rather than providing individualized care. Click on the link for methodology and a full data set.

International

Afghan Drug Prices Soared After Taliban Ban, Despite Little Evidence of Enforcement. Illegal drug prices have skyrocketed in Afghanistan since the Taliban banned the drug trade in April, even though there is only limited evidence that the militants are enforcing the ban. Opium prices have increased more than 50 percent, while methamphetamine prices have also risen, according to countrywide data gathered by the private, UK-based satellite imagery company Alcis. While analysts said the ban is not yet widely enforced, prices are rising based on fears of a future crackdown. A new opium poppy planting season is about to get underway, and it is unclear to what degree local Taliban commanders intend to or even can enforce a ban on poppy production. Satellite data, though, has shown a crackdown on ephedra (used to manufacture meth) markets and meth labs already underway.

But any crackdown would come in the face of a massive nationwide economic crisis that could drive people away from supporting the Taliban. "The things that people used to survive on in the face of a drugs ban -- in terms of joining the [army], working in the cities in construction -- those options are gone," David Mansfield, a researcher on the report and expert on Afghanistan's drugs trade, said. "Do local Taliban... press on this and risk increasing a humanitarian crisis, alienating a population, or do they let it ride because of the fear of resistance?"

India's Punjab Police in Massive Drug Crackdown. Police in the Punjab have arrested 6,997 drug smugglers since July and registered 5,436 FIRs (first information reports -- the initial report of a possible criminal offense), of which 580 are for possessing large quantities of drugs. The crackdown is part of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's "war against the drug menace plaguing the state."

Between roadblocks and other searches, police have seized nearly 260 kilograms of heroin, as well as an additional 147.5 kilograms seized at the ports of Gujarat and Maharashtra. They also seized 300 kilograms of raw heroin, 197 kilograms of marijuana and nearly three million pills, capsules, and vials of pharmaceutical opioids. State police chief Gaurav Yadav has called on police to investigate all leads in every case no matter how small and to aggressively seize the assets of drug suspects.

MD Legalization Question Polls Well, Afghan Shisha Ban, Australia ACT Decriminalizes Drugs, More... (10/31/22)

A Nevada judge orders marijuana removed from the state's Controlled Substances Act, the Germans roll out a marijuana legalization plan, British cops plan a crackdown on recreational drug users, and more.

Famartin via Wikimedia
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Referendum. A new poll from Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore has support for the Question 4 marijuana legalization referendum at 63 percent, with only 25 opposed and 12 percent undecided. The poll results are in line with a pair of September polls, one of which had support at 59 percent and the other of which had support at 72 percent. Voters will be asked "Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1st, 2023, in the state of Maryland?" and if the measure passes, it would automatically implement an already approved bill that would create basic rules and regulations for an adult-use marijuana program.

Nevada Judge Orders Marijuana Removed from State List of Controlled Substances. A judge in Clark County (Las Vegas) ruled last Wednesday that the state pharmacy board lacks the authority to regulate marijuana and marijuana derivatives under state law since voters legalized the substance and ordered the board to remove marijuana from the state's controlled substances list. If the board "designates a substance as a 'controlled substance' but the designation falls outside the authority delegated by the ​​Legislature, the designation is invalid," wrote District Court Judge Joe Hardy. That same judge ruled in September that classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance was unconstitutional because voters had legalized medical marijuana in 1998. "The Board exceeded its authority when it placed, or failed to remove marijuana, cannabis, and cannabis derivatives on its list as Schedule I substances," Hardy wrote in that case.

International

Afghanistan Bans Hookahs, Fruit-Flavored Tobacco. The Taliban has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, banning the smoking of fruit-flavored tobacco (shisha) and the hookahs (water pipes) used to smoke it. The Taliban considers shisha as an intoxicant. The ban was announced in western Herat province earlier this month, and it is not clear whether it extends to the whole country. The Herat Café Owners Association said the ban had cost some 2,500 jobs in the province, which already faces a dire economic situation. But Azizul Rahman Mohajer, the provincial head of the Taliban's Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said hookahs are "against Sharia" and smoking shisha "harms our bodies and causes tobacco addiction, which can spread widely in society."

Australian Capital Territory Decriminalizes Drug Possession. A drug decriminalization measure introduced as a private member's bill by Labor MLA Michael Pettersson won in the territorial legislature last week. The new law will not be implemented for a year to "allow for appropriate police training." Under the new law, people caught with personal use amounts of drugs will face a referral to drug treatment or a maximum $100 fine instead of time in prison.

British Cops to Target Recreational Drug Users in Holiday Enforcement Blitz. Police in Dorset have announced Operation Scorpion, a winter drug enforcement operation that will see a shift in focus from dealers to recreational users of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and MDMA. Police in Avon & Somerset, Dorset, Devon & Cornwall, Wiltshire and Gloucester will be joined by British Transport Police for a series of crackdowns on the night-time economy. Police will focus on city and town centers across the region. "Illegal drug use is just that -- illegal -- and the partners of Op. Scorpion will continue to work together - targeting criminality, taking drugs off our streets, sharing intelligence, protecting the vulnerable and putting a ring of steel around the South West," police said. They are also taking a hard line on marijuana, arguing that "cannabis is not the benign drug those seeking to make a profit would have you believe."

Germany Unveils Marijuana Legalization Plan. The health ministry last Wednesday rolled out a marijuana legalization plan that includes the decriminalization of the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana as well as allowing for the sale of marijuana to adults in a regulated marketplace. The German government will also consult with the European Union's executive commission to ensure that the legalization plan. Berlin will check with the European Union's executive commission to ensure it complies with EU laws and will move forward "on this basis" only if whether the plan approved by the German government is in line with EU laws and would proceed with legislation "on this basis" only if the EU approves.

"The Continuing Detention of Senator Leila de Lima," side event at UN Human Rights Council, Geneva and Online

On Tuesday, October 4, 2022, we held our first side event at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The event featured a statement by prerecorded video from Senator Risa Hontiveros of the Philippines. Father Albert Alejo, a leading human rights advocate from the Philippines who is currently based in Rome, hosted the event in person. Vicente de Lima, brother of imprisoned Philippine former Senator Leila de Lima, spoke live.

News coverage we know about:

Statement of Senator Hontiveros:

full event footage:

Human Rights in the Philippines: The Continuing Detention of Senator Leila de Lima

side event for the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Room XXV, United Nations Office at Geneva, and online
Tuesday 4 October 2022, 3-4pm CET / 9-10pm PHT / 9-10am ET

online via Zoom, registration at https:/stopthedrugwar.org/global/or https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMocOyupj4qE9INDq4OqGL71jsyyRFjvVIQ

live streaming on Facebook and YouTube

speakers:

Senator Risa Hontiveros, Republic of the Philippines (prerecorded video)
Vicente de Lima, brother of Leila de Lima
Father Albert Alejo, S.J., faculty at Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome

moderated by:

David Borden, Executive Director, DRCNet Foundation AKA StoptheDrugWar.org
Marco Perduca, Associazone Luca Coscioni and former Senator, Italy

The "Broken Chair," United Nations Office at Geneva
Last 24 February, Senator Leila de Lima marked five years of incarceration in the Philippines. Under the administration of recently-elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., de Lima remains jailed, despite not being convicted of a crime, and despite the recantations of three key accusers, who say they provided testimony because of pressure.

In the meanwhile, the extrajudicial drug war killings begun by former President Rodrigo Duterte continue. The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court, after pausing its investigation following a Duterte administration treaty motion, has sought court authorization to resume. But the Marcos administration has rejected the investigation and said it will not cooperate.

In "The Continuing Detention of Senator Leila de Lima," speakers will review her case, and the larger human rights situation in the Philippines.

This is a side event organized for the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council. It is organized by DRCNet Foundation, a US-based NGO in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, with cosponsor Associazone Luca Coscioni. Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/globaland https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines for information on our international programs. Email [email protected]or call +1 202-236-8620 for further information about this event.

-- END --

Geneva
Switzerland

DC Voters Still Like Marijuana Legalization, Native Plans to Sue Feds Over Reservation Pot Raid, More... (9/28/22)

Pot prohibitionists are backing a marijuana research bill, the Philippine DEA says it is okay with medical marijuana, and more.

Washington, DC (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pot Prohibitionists Get Behind Effort to Pass Federal Marijuana Research Bill. As the Senate turns toward considering marijuana banking reforms in the form of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking or a SAFE Plus bill, researchers associated with the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) are instead urging Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to move on a bill that would greatly expand marijuana research. The House has already passed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (HR8454), but the bill has seen no action in the Senate. The SAFE Banking Act Plus includes a marijuana research provision, but the SAM researchers want to see the standalone bill passed instead, saying it was "vital" to pass it because marijuana use rates are rising.

DC Voters Support Marijuana Legalization, Oppose Crackdown on Gifting Grey Market, Poll Finds. Eight years after voters in the District of Columbia approved marijuana legalization, they still approve, a new poll finds. The poll from Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies found support for legalization at 72 percent. While DC legalized pot, it has been barred from implementing legal recreational sales by Congress, resulting in a thriving grey "gifting" market. DC residents want a regulated market, not a crackdown, the poll found, with 76 percent supporting a regulated market and only 19 percent supporting shutting down the informal market.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Patient Plans to Sue Feds Over Raid on Tribal Land. Pueblo of Picuris tribal member Charles Farden is preparing to sue the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) over a raid on his medical marijuana garden on tribal land last year. The raid destroyed nine plants he was growing. Now, he has filed a tort claim indicating he intends to sue the federal government, charging that the raid was carried out without a warrant and that it unveiled a federal double standard that discriminates against Native people. A congressional rider blocks the Justice Department from interfering in state-legal medical marijuana programs, but no such rider applies to the BIA, leading Native people uniquely vulnerable to federal marijuana efforts.

International

Philippine DEA Not Opposed to Medical Marijuana. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is ready to legalize medical marijuana, its director, Wilkins Villanueva, told a Senate committee hearing. But the island nation's other drug control body, the Dangerous Drug Board, said its position would be determined by its member health experts. "We have members from the Department of Health who are experts in these medical matters, so we defer to the position and recommendation of the DOH and the Philippine Medical Association," the board said. Medical marijuana is currently available for "compassionate use," but only at great expense. A bill to make medical marijuana available to all who need it is currently pending in the legislature.

Colombia President's Drug War Heterodoxy Draws Critics, Belgian Drug Trafficker Threats, More... (9/27/22)

Singapore arrests its citizens for doing drugs outside the country, Colombian President Petro's frank talk about the need for a new model drug policy is activating critics, and more.

Cocaine prohibiion is getting some renewed attention these days. (Pixabay)
Foreign Policy

Pair of GOP Senators Question Colombian President's Commitment to Cooperating with US on Drugs. Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have sent a letter to Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCDP -- the drug czar's office), expressing their concerns with Colombian President Gustavo Petro's drug policy changes and intentions to modify extradition policy with the United States. They are upset that Petro has initiated peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which they specify is "a left-wing Foreign Terrorist Organization" and that he has resumed diplomatic relations with neighboring Venezuela, or "the Maduro narco-regime," as they put it.

"Petro's favorable actions toward actors working closely with drug traffickers in our hemisphere call into question the Colombian president's commitment to cooperating with the United States to prevent the flow of drugs crossing our border," they charged. They also took issue with Petro's proposal to limit extradition to people who refused to cooperate with the Colombian state, saying it "incentivizes criminals to avoid extradition by bribing or coercing the sitting political regime."

The Colombian president has vocally called for an end to the US's current drug policy in Colombia and his government is considering -- but has not yet enacted -- significant drug policy reforms, such as decriminalizing small-scale coca production.

Colombia Ex-President Warns Petro's Call to Change Course in Drug War Could Make Country a "Narco-State." Ivan Duque, the rightist predecessor to current Colombian President Gustavo Petro, has warned that Petro's call to make a radical change in the war on drugs could turn the country into a "narco-state" that could threaten the security of the US and other countries in the region.

"Now, what worries me is that there is now the possibility of getting into the permission, or the legalization of cocaine and consumption," said Duque. "I think that it will be very bad for Colombia and that will be very bad for the countries in the hemisphere, and I think that could generate also a major security threat to the United States. So by no means I'm in favor of the legalization of the cocaine trade… But I also have to say it, Colombia cannot turn into a narco state. I think the world now has unified in the concept of prohibition, and I think if just one country, let's say Colombia, decides to legalize cocaine, it'll turn itself into a narco state."

The Petro government has so far rejected cocaine legalization, but it is considering the decriminalization of small-scale peasant coca cultivation.

International

Belgian Prime Minister Condemns Threats Against Justice Minister from Drug Traffickers. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Saturday condemned serious threats against the country's justice minister as "totally unacceptable" after a car containing firearms was found near his home. Belgian media says the threats could involve kidnapping by drug traffickers, who have been angered by a recent ramping up of Belgian enforcement activity after an unprecedented flare-up of violence among traffickers this summer. Belgium and the neighboring Netherlands are the main European hubs for cocaine trafficking, with 90 tons of the drug being seized in the Belgian port of Antwerp last year.

Singapore Arrests Citizens for Using Drugs in Other Countries. The city-state's Central Narcotics Bureau announced Saturday that authorities had arrested 41 citizens so far this year for using drugs outside the country. Under Singaporean law, citizens who use drugs outside the country face the same punishment as those caught using drugs inside the country. A first offense can garner up to 10 years in prison, but most people charged with the crime are sent to rehabilitation if there are no other charges against them. The policy is in line with the city-state's draconian drug policies, which include the death penalty for trafficking as little as 15 grams of heroin or 500 grams of marijuana.

Arkansas Legalization Init Cleared for November, Colorado Psilocybin Init Trailing, More... (9/23/22)

Republicans seek political advantage by calling Mexican cartels "terrorist organizations," the FDA eases rules for groups distributing the opioid overdose reversal drug nalxone, and more.

Colorado magic mushroom proponents have an uphill fight ahead of them, a new poll suggests. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Supreme Court Okays Marijuana Legalization Initiative for November Ballot. The state Supreme Court on Thursday held that the Responsible Growth Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative will be counted after all. The move comes after the Board of Election Commissioners ruled that the measure's ballot title was misleading, but the high court disagreed, holding that "initiative power lies at the heart of our democratic institutions" and that the board and prohibitionist groups who had intervened in the case "have not met their burden of proving that the ballot title is insufficient."

Psychedelics

Colorado Poll Has Psilocybin Initiative Trailing. A new poll has the magic mushroom decriminalization initiative, Proposition 122, well south of the 50 percent plus one votes needed to pass in November. The Fox 31/Chennel2/Emerson College/The Hill poll had only 36 percent supporting the measure, with 41 percent opposed and 23 percent undecided. While the large number of undecideds leaves room for hope, they would have to break pretty decisively in favor of the initiative for it to get over the top. Only Democrats favored the initiative (53 percent), while 61 percent of Republicans opposed it. Two racial/ethnic groups emerge as opponents: 64 percent of Blacks oppose it, as do 63 percent of multiracial voters.

Harm Reduction

Opioid Reversal Drug Access to Ease Under Relaxed FDA Rules. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday that harm reduction programs distributing the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone will not have to comply with certain federal product tracing requirements. The agency said it would not enforce certain Drug Supply Chain Security Act requirements on programs that are distributing the drug to at-risk communities while an opioid public health emergency exists. "Combating the opioid overdose epidemic is an urgent public health priority for FDA," the agency wrote in the guidance. The FDA "is committed to advancing solutions to reduce opioid overdose deaths in the United States, including by supporting efforts to increase public availability of and access to naloxone."

Foreign Policy

GOP Senators File Bill Designating Drug Cartels as Terrorist Organization. Sens. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Rick Scott (R-FL) filed a bill Tuesday to formally designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. The Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act. "The illicit drugs and other deadly activities being carried out by cartels are killing Americans at record rates. Since Joe Biden and the Democrats continue to turn a blind eye, we are going to do something about it by designating the drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations," said Sen. Marshall. "As these cartels continue to invade our porous southern border in an increasingly militarized approach, this designation is needed to ramp up our efforts to combat them. We will not rest in our fight to stop fentanyl's terrible scourge wreaking havoc in Kansas and across the US." Nonetheless, Mexican cartels are not foreign terrorist organizations; they are drug trafficking organizations.

GOP Texas Governor Designates Mexican Cartels as Terrorist Organizations. Gov. Gregg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday that designated specified Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, although since Texas does not set US foreign policy it is not clear just exactly what that means. The order instructs the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) "to take immediate action to keep Texans safe amid the growing national fentanyl crisis." Abbott also directed DPS to identify Texas gangs that support the cartels and seize their assets.

OK Legalization Init Won't Be on November Ballot, House Committee Advances Marijuana Bills, More... (9/22/22)

Jockeying over marijuana reform legislation in Congress continues, the Oklahoma Supreme Court says a marijuana legalization initiative won't be on the November ballot but can be voted on later, and more.

Marijuana remains a hot topic on Capitol Hill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Marijuana Banking Bill Sponsor Says Schumer Reaffirms Commitment to Passing It. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the House sponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1996) says he spoke recently with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about passage of his bill in the upper chamber and Schumer said he is "working on it" and is "going to get going" on the measure. "Whether that was just lip service or reality, there is momentum," said Perlmutter. "We're going to get this done. It probably won't happen until the lame duck session after the elections, but I've always felt confident that commonsense will prevail and we'll get this finished, and I think we will." The SAFE Banking Act has repeatedly been passed by the House, only to have consideration in the Senate blocked by Schumer, who has been holding out for a comprehensive marijuana legalization bill. But that bill is now not expected to move this session because it does not appear to have 60 votes in the Senate to get past a Republican filibuster.

House Judiciary Committee Approves Criminal Justice Bills, Including Sealing Records of Federal Marijuana Offenses. The committee led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has approved a number of criminal justice measures, including bipartisan proposals to expunge records for prior federal marijuana offenses (HR 2864), provide funds for states that create systems of automatic expungements (HR 5651) and write into law retroactive relief for people imprisoned because of the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity (HR 5455). The move comes as expectations increase that the Senate will soon see a package of modest marijuana reforms after prospects for the passage of a comprehensive marijuana legalization bill sponsored by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) fade.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Keeps Marijuana Legalization Initiative Off November Ballot. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the State Question 820 marijuana legalization initiative will not be on the November ballot. The court held that it could not be printed on ballot in time to comply with the deadline for mailing them to voters. The initiative met signature-gathering requirements, but got bogged down by a new state law requiring state officials to verify signatures in addition to counting them. But the initiative will eventually go before the electorate. The question "will be voted upon by the people of Oklahoma, albeit either at the next general election following November 8, 2022, or at a special election set by the Governor or Legislature," the court ruled.

The Public Stands Behind Oregon's Drug Decrim and Addiction Funding Law [FEATURE]

It has been nearly two years since Oregon voters approved Measure 110, a sweeping drug decriminalization and public health services funding initiative, and it still has strong public support. That could be because it is producing the kinds of results Oregonians want to see.

Measure 110 is bringing addiction recovery services not just to Portland, but to places like this, too. (Pixabay)
In voting for Measure 110, Oregonians sought to move the emphasis of drug policy from law enforcement to a public health approach, and that is what they are getting. Drug possession arrests, which had already dropped by half in 2020 because of the pandemic, significantly decreased after Measure 110 took effect on February 1, 2021, according to data from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, falling another 65 percent from the 2020 levels in the first six months of 2022.

And Measure 110, which tapped into marijuana tax revenues to fund a broad spectrum of addiction services -- from low-barrier drug treatment and peer support and recovery to overdose prevention and housing and employment support (but not drug treatment covered by Medicaid or insurance) -- is setting the stage for a massive expansion of those services by pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the field.

Late last month, the Oversight & Accountability Council, the body tasked with overseeing the distribution of the funding, approved the remainder of the initial $302 million made available under Measure 110, and on Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority announced that it had finished awarding that money to more than 237 service providers in the form of grants.

With the state suffering more than a thousand overdose deaths in the past year, there is criticism that authorities have moved too slowly. Oregon Health Authority behavioral health director Steve Allen acknowledged as much, saying the agency had learned it needed to give more support and technical assistance to the volunteer committee tasked with grantmaking decisions.

"We understand the frustration this caused in our communities," Allen said. "When you do something for the first time you're going to make mistakes."

But now the money is out there, and it will help fund 237 service providers in 36 Behavioral Health Regional Networks (BHRNs), aimed at ensuring that help is available in even the most remote rural corners of the state. That includes 111 groups providing screening and behavioral health needs assessments, 112 groups doing individual intervention planning, 113 groups doing low-barrier drug treatment, 172 groups doing peer support and mentoring, 88 groups providing housing services, 84 groups providing harm reduction services, and 51 groups doing job support.

The money is going to allow these groups to expand their services by hiring and training new staff, securing additional facilities, buying vehicles for mobile support services, and even purchasing housing.

"Measure 110 changes the system so that there is no wrong door to access services," said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance. "Thanks to Measure 110, you don't have to get arrested before you are maybe offered help. Measure 110 is changing the addiction recovery service landscape so that regardless of the path, supportive services will be more readily available closer to home."

"It's been a long road, but we're ecstatic to see all of the Measure 110 funding for the 2021-2023 biennium finally being approved and going out to service providers to expand critical addiction services in Oregon communities. This is the first step in ensuring Oregon delivers on its promise of replacing a criminal legal approach to drugs with a public health approach and offering the rest of the country a glimpse of what is ultimately possible when we offer people support instead of punishment," said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which was a key supporter of Measure 110 and which is partnering with the Health Justice Recovery Alliance on implementation.

Even with the slow rollout, Oregonians are liking what they are seeing. A poll released this month by Data for Progress found majority support for Measure 110 in every region of the state -- even the conservative eastern an southwestern areas -- and a strong bipartisan majority who agree that problematic drug use should be treated as a public health issue, not one for the criminal justice system.

When asked whether Measure 110 should remain in place, 58 percent said yes. That included 82 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents, but only 31 percent of Republicans.

The polling suggests that tying drug decriminalization to the expansion of recovery services is key to getting it over the finish line. When asked about individual components of the program, 91 percent supported peer mentoring, 90 percent supported employment help, 86 percent supported funding addiction recovery, 84 percent supported housing assistance, but only 62 percent supported harm reduction measures and only 61 percent supported decriminalization itself.

It is almost as if Oregonians made a bargain with themselves: Give us strong measures to aid recovery and we will grudgingly accept such vanguard measures as harm reduction and decriminalizing drugs. These pollsresults should send a clear message to people contemplating future decrim initiatives about how to broaden support for them.

Medical Marijuana Update

A Pennsylvania doctor who is also a medical marijuana patient is suing to be able to purchase a handgun, Oklahoma is prosecuting pregnant women who use medical marijuana, and more.

Louisiana

Louisiana Lawmakers Create Medical Marijuana Task Force. Lawmakers have created a special task force on medical marijuana with a special emphasis on ways to prevent employment discrimination against medical marijuana patients. The task force will also examine options for drug testing workers who use the drug. The task force's first meeting in set for a week from today.

New York

New York Regulators Set Rules for Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The state's Cannabis Control Board on Tuesday adopted regulations for home grows for medical marijuana patients, opening the way for home cultivation to get underway. Under the regulations, patients can grow up to six plants and caregivers, who can grow for up to four patients, can grow up to 12 plants. The regulations specify that landlords cannot penalize or refuse to lease to patients who grow their own. The regulations came after a public comment period where some advocates argued for higher plant limits to no avail. The board also approved conditional licenses for 19 cultivators and 10 processors.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Is Arresting Pregnant Women for Using Marijuana. At least 26 women have been charged with felony child neglect since 2019 for using medical marijuana. That offense carries a sentence of up to life in prison, although defendants have typically pleaded guilty and received probation. At least eight of those women were registered medical marijuana patients. According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, this is the only state to prosecute pregnant women for medical marijuana use. The prosecutions involving medical marijuana are "inconsistent with state law," said Ryan Kiesel, a civil rights attorney and former Oklahoma lawmaker. "Those women are protected as medical marijuana patients under the law," Kiesel said. "It's important to remember, if you have a medical marijuana license, you are under the care of a physician."

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Doctor Who Is Medical Marijuana Patient Sues ATF, FBI After Being Denied Right to Purchase Handgun. Dr. Matthew Roman, a registered medical marijuana patient, was turned down for a handgun purchase after truthfully telling the clerk that he had a medical marijuana card. The clerk, in compliance with federal law, refused to make the sale. Roman has now filed a federal lawsuit against the ATF and the FBI. In 2011, ATF issued a statement clarifying that a 1968 law barring anyone who uses an "unlawful" substance indeed applies to medical marijuana users even in states where it is legal. Roman's suit argues that "this strict, rigid, blanket prohibition violates the fundamental constitutional rights of tens of thousands of nonviolent, law-abiding citizens, and thus violates the Second and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution." In 2016, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiff in a similar case.

State Treasurers Group Renews Call for Marijuana Banking Reform, NY MedMJ Home Grow Regs Adopted, More... (9/21/22)

Indiana lawmakers will meet next week to hear a report on marijuana policy, Louisiana lawmakers have created a task force to look at employment protections for medical marijuana patients, and more.

Marijuana Policy

State Treasures Reaffirm Support for Federal Marijuana Banking Reform at Annual Meeting. The National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) has reaffirmed its support for a resolution that calls on Congress to pass legislation to provide access to banks for the state-legal marijuana industry. The move came at its annual meeting Monday. The resolution says the NAST does not take a position on marijuana legalization but does back legislation to ease the industry's banking problems. The group cites the "ongoing conflict between states' laws legalizing cannabis and current federal laws, resulting in the vast majority of financial institutions refusing to provide banking services to legal cannabis businesses." Leaving the industry without access to banking services is "inefficient, expensive, and opaque, making illicit activity more difficult to track and posing a significant risk to public safety by increasing the likelihood of violent crime." The resolution comes as pressure mounts to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which has repeatedly passed the House only to be stalled in the Senate by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who continues to hold out for a full-fledged marijuana legalization bill.

Indiana Lawmakers to Meet Next Week to Hear Report on Marijuana Policy. Lawmakers will gather on Tuesday for the presentation of a study by a Public Health Summer Study Committee on the potential health benefits, decriminalization and consequences of Delta-8, Delta-9 and other THC products over the last few months. The study was promoted by reform advocates, who hope it will help lay the basis for medical marijuana and/or recreational marijuana legalization. The state Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which opposes both medical and recreational marijuana legalization, will also be present at the capitol to plead its case.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Lawmakers Create Medical Marijuana Task Force. Lawmakers have created a special task force on medical marijuana with a special emphasis on ways to prevent employment discrimination against medical marijuana patients. The task force will also examine options for drug testing workers who use the drug. The task force's first meeting in set for a week from today.

New York Regulators Set Rules for Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The state's Cannabis Control Board on Tuesday adopted regulations for home grows for medical marijuana patients, opening the way for home cultivation to get underway. Under the regulations, patients can grow up to six plants and caregivers, who can grow for up to four patients, can grow up to 12 plants. The regulations specify that landlords cannot penalize or refuse to lease to patients who grow their own. The regulations came after a public comment period where some advocates argued for higher plant limits to no avail. The board also approved conditional licenses for 19 cultivators and 10 processors.

Colombia President Tells UN Drug War Must End; Good MA, MO Pot Polls, More... (9/20/22)

The Missouri Democratic Party can't bring itself to endorse the marijuana legalization initiative, clashes between coca grower union factions in Bolivia continued for another week, and more.

Colombian President Petro remains on message about ending the war on drugs. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Ballot Question. A new Goucher College poll consisting mostly of likely voters has support for the Question 4 marijuana legalization ballot question at 59 percent, with 34 percent opposed and seven percent undecided. The ballot question is a legislatively-initiated measure that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults. If it passes, a bill already passed by the House that would allow for the possession of up to 1,5 ounces of marijuana would be legalized and between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces of marijuana would be decriminalized.

Missouri Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. A new SurveyUSA poll of registered voters has support for the  Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative at 62 percent, with 22 percent opposed, and 16 percent undecided. If these numbers hold true, even if all undecideds decided to vote against the initiative, it would still win.

Missouri Democratic Party Declines to Endorse Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Democratic Party has decided to maintain a stance of neutrality on the  Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative. The party said that while it supports marijuana legalization, it is concerned that the measure "may negatively impact minorities, people of color, and low-income earning Missourians,"in a news release Monday. "Democrats have concerns about the expungement provisions laid out in the amendment, as well as making it difficult for those who do not currently have a license to enter the industry,"the party said. The initiative gives existing medical marijuana businesses a head start on recreational licensing, and that, too, is causing concerns among Democrats.

International

Colombia President Tells UN Democracy Will Die in World Doesn't End Drug War, Pursue Different Strategy. Colombian President Gustavo Petro told the UN General Assembly Tuesday that "democracy will die" if world leaders don't come together to end the current war on drugs. "The war on drugs has failed," he said. "The war on drugs has lasted 40 years. If we do not correct the course, and this continues another 40 years, the United States will see 2.8 million die of overdoses [from fentanyl], which is not produced in our Latin America,"he said. "You will see millions of African Americans be imprisoned in their private prisons. The [Black] prisoner will become a business of prison companies." Petro has previously said the war on drugs has left a million people dead in Latin America, and at the UN on Tuesday, he warned that if current policies continue, another million would die and "they will fill our lives with blood."

Another Week, Another Coca Clash in Bolivia. The two competing factions of coca growers seeking control of the Adepcoca coca growers' union clashed with stones in central La Paz Monday after separate marches into the city. On one side is a faction led by Arnold Alanes, which is close to the government and operated an officially unsanctioned "parallel" coca market in La Paz until it was burned down two weeks ago by member of a faction led Freddy Machicado, who is currently in jail after being arrested for the destruction of the "parallel" market. 

Trump Again Calls for Death Penalty for Drug Dealers, Peru Coca Crop Up, More... (9/19/22)

California's governor signs another batch of marijuana bills, a Pennsylvania doctor and medical marijuana patient sues over the ban on medical marijuana patients buying handguns, and more.

Peyote buttons. The Native American Church is asking Congress for help to preserve the psychoactive cactus. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Signs Another Batch of Marijuana Bills. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Sunday signed into law 10 marijuana bills, including a bill to allow interstate marijuana commerce, a bill to provide employment protections for marijuana users, a bill to make it easier to seal records of prior marijuana convictions, and a bill barring localities from banning medical marijuana deliveries. For too many Californians, the promise of cannabis legalization remains out of reach," Newsom said. "These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry. I look forward to partnering with the legislature and policymakers to fully realize cannabis legalization in communities across California."

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Doctor Who Is Medical Marijuana Patient Sues ATF, FBI After Being Denied Right to Purchase Handgun. Dr. Matthew Roman, a registered medical marijuana patient, was turned down for a handgun purchase after truthfully telling the clerk that he had a medical marijuana card. The clerk, in compliance with federal law, refused to make the sale. Roman has now filed a federal lawsuit against the ATF and the FBI. In 2011, ATF issued a statement clarifying that a 1968 law barring anyone who uses an "unlawful" substance indeed applies to medical marijuana users even in states where it is legal. Roman's suit argues that "this strict, rigid, blanket prohibition violates the fundamental constitutional rights of tens of thousands of non-violent, law-abiding citizens, and thus violates the Second and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution." In 2016, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiff in a similar case.

Drug Policy

At Ohio Campaign Rally, Trump Again Calls for Death Penalty for Drug Dealers. The defeated former president used a campaign rally for Ohio Republicans in Youngstown Saturday to reiterate his call to execute drug dealers. Painting an oratorical portrait of a country awash in crime, he said that "much of the crime wave is caused by drug dealers who during the course of their lives, will kill an average of 500 American citizens not to mention the destruction of millions of American families who are so devastated by drugs. It's an invasion of crime," he added. "And remember much of the crime that we talk about is caused by drugs. And I'm calling for the death penalty for drug dealers and human traffickers." Trump falsely claimed that the death penalty for drug dealers would "reduce drug distribution and crime in our country by much more than 75 per cent. That's in one day

"Every place that has a real death penalty ... they don't have any people dying of drugs. I mean, literally nobody, because these drug dealers are smart," he said. "They say ‘you know what, if I want to keep doing drugs, if I'm going to continue to sell them, I'm not doing them in China. I'll go someplace else like how about the United States of America where nothing happens?’ We would reduce crime in our country by much more than 75 per cent in one hour. In one hour, the day it's passed, it's got to be meaningful, but you would reduce it in one hour," he claimed. "I say it because it's very hard. Nobody ever talks this way. Nobody talks about the death penalty. It's a horrible thing to say. Even for me, it's a horrible thing."

The remarks were met with cheers from the crowd, which also cheered a Q-Anon anthem played at the rally's end and raised their arms in a one-finger Q-Anon salute to it. Trump was campaigning for Republican senatorial candidate JD Vance, who he said was "kissing my ass" to maintain his support It is not clear what Vance's position on the death penalty for drug dealers is.

Psychedelics

Native American Church Leaders Ask Congress for Money to Support Peyote Cultivation and Preservation. Leaders of the Native American Church, whose members can lawfully use the psychoactive cactus peyote, held multiple meetings with members of Congress last week in a bid to garner federal funding for efforts to preserve the limited habitats where peyote can be grown. The supply of peyote is limited and under strain, and Native American Church members want assistance to ensure that it remains available for future generations. Peyote is a slow-growing crop that takes 10 years to mature, and it is stressed by climate change, unsustainable agricultural practices, and increase non-Native use of the hallucinogen.Specifically, church leaders and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) are lobbying lawmakers to allocate $5 million in funding from USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program or Interior’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to provide compensation to landowners who agree to convert their property to protected peyote habitats.

International

Peru Reports Coca Crop Grew by 30 Percent Last Year. The area devoted to coca cultivation increased by more than 30 percent last year, reflecting rising coca cultivation in the country ever since 2015. Ricardo Soberon, head of the drug agency DEVIDA, said cultivation had reached 200,000 acres in 19 coca zones, up from 14 in 2020. Soberon said Peruvian producers were responding to high demand from the United States and Europe. "How can we act to reduce the supply if there is a growing demand to buy cocaine," he asked, pointing out that at a kilo of cocaine goes for $1100 in Peru, but nearly $45,000 in London or Paris. 

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

White House Issues Annual Drug Countries List, CA Governor Signs Forced Treatment Bill, More... (9/16/22)

A federal appeals court shoots down yet another effort to move marijuana off Schedule I, new research finds prentant Black women are more likely to be tested for marijuana, and more.

The annual list of naughty and nice drug producing and trafficking nations is released. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to Marijuana's Schedule I Classification. A group of defendants who had been convicted on federal marijuana charges had their bid to have the substance removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act shot down by the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals at the end of August. They had argued that the scheduling of marijuana had no rational basis because it does not meet the criteria for a Schedule I drug and the court should "strike the offending statutory classification as unconstitutional"and leave reclassification to Congress. But the appeals disagreed, ruling that there is a "conceivable basis" for the classification.

Blacks Disproportionately Drug Tested for Marijuana During Labor, Analysis Finds. A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that patients ordered to undergo marijuana-specific drug screening during the labor and delivery process are disproportionately Black and are also likely to be on subsidized health insurance plans. The research assessed drug screening practices at one St. Louis hospital and found doctors ordered marijuana-related drug tests in 753 patients out of just under 4,000 deliveries. Seventy percent of those subjected to testing were Black. Marijuana tests were also more likely for those patients who were younger or on public insurance. Most subjected to testing came up negative, but of those who did positive, 90 percent were referred to child welfare authorities, even though there were no statistically significant differences between them and other mothers in terms of preterm birth rates or other indicators of natal health.

"Isolated marijuana use was a poor predictor of other substance exposure in our cohort, but a urine drug screening test result positive for marijuana exposed a historically underserved population that is already subject to pervasive systemic racism in the medical field to further stigmatization without changing outcomes. The utility of using isolated marijuana use as a criterion for urine drug screening appears limited in benefit but rife with inequitable potential to harm and should be carefully reconsidered in labor and delivery units for necessity," the authors concluded.

Drug Treatment

California Governor Signs Forced Drug Treatment Bill. To the dismay of drug reform and mental health advocates, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 1338, the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Act, which create a civil court system in all counties that would force people who are experiencing substance use disorder and other mental health issues to undergo an involuntary court process and treatment plan. Although the CARE Act sailed through the legislature, the proposal was opposed by a wide range of advocates who feel it is a huge step in the wrong direction. It will take away people’s basic right to make their own decisions and force them into court-mandated treatment programs, which have been shown to often exacerbate harms while worsening existing health disparities and the overrepresentation of people of color in the criminal legal system. The CARE Act will fail to meet the urgent needs of our communities or offer a path to effective evidence-based treatment, recovery and other health services for Californians who are unhoused, struggling with substance use disorder, or experiencing other mental health issues, they argued.

Foreign Policy

White House Issues Annual List of Major Drug Trafficking and Producing Countries; Contains the Usual Suspects. The White House has released its annual Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2023 and has identified the following countries as major transit or drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. The annual exercise also designated four countries—Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela—as "having failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts during the previous 12 months to both adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements." Notably, all four of these countries are political foes of the US, unlike major drug producing and trafficking countries such as Colombia and Mexico, which are US allies.

Grassley, Whitehouse Lead Senate Caucus in Issuing Report onStrategies to Combat Money Laundering By Drug Cartels. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Co-Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RR), Chairman of the caucus, havereleased a bipartisan report entitled: Strengthening U.S. Efforts to Attack the Financial Networks of Cartels. The report offers recommendations for Congress and the Biden administration to reduce the supply of illicit drugs by closing loopholes in the U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) framework that enable narcotics traffickers to obscure and access their illicit proceeds.Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control members Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and James Risch (R-ID) have also endorsed the report.

Its recommendations include: Help partner nations strengthen their institutions to better defend against corruption and implement justice sector reforms; better track whole-of-government efforts to combat narcotics-related illicit finance;  deploy experts in narcotics-related illicit finance to assist partner nations; authorize innovative and effective programs to combat international money laundering, such as Trade Transparency Units; use regulatory authorities to close loopholes in the U.S. AML framework, including by: ensuring greater transparency in the cross-border transportation of stored value or prepaid access devices, and fully implementing the beneficial ownership requirements of the Corporate Transparency Act; aggressively investigate, prosecute, and pursue the maximum allowable criminal penalties for culpable banks, employees, and executives who fail to timely report suspicious transactions; and address vulnerabilities in the AML framework by swiftly enacting the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Finance, and Counterfeiting Act. The report does not explain how these proposals to deepen the drug war would lead to any different result than decades of previous prohibitionist measures. 

OK Arrests Pregnant Women for Medical Marijuana, Bolivia Coca Leader Arrested, More... (9/15/22)

North Dakota activists cry foul over a financial summary of their legal pot initiative, the South Caroline Supreme ourt upholds civil asset forfeiture, and more. 

Coca farmers are clashing with each other in Bolivia. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Bill to Protect Marijuana-Using Workers Filed. Even though Colorado was the first state to legalize marijuana, it still does not have protections in place for people fired or not hired for using it. That could change under newly filed House Bill 1152 , which would not only protect workers from adverse consequences for off-the-job marijuana use but also allow medical marijuana patients to consume their medicine at work. Past attempts to pass such legislation have failed and the state Supreme Court has held that employers can fire medical marijuana users for off-duty use.

Missouri Lawmaker Files Marijuana Legalization Bill, Urges Special Session to Consider It. In a bid to fend off a marijuana legalization initiative, Amendment 3, Rep. Ron Hicks (R) filed his Marijuana Freedom Act on Wednesday, one day after a judge cleared the way for the initiative to be voted on in November. The bill is a revised version of a bill he filed earlier this year and advanced through committee during the regular legislative session. He is calling on Gov. Mike Parson (R) to include the bill in a pending special session, even though Parsons said recently he would not include it.

Nevada Judge Rules Pharmacy Board's Classification of Marijuana as Schedule I Substance Unconstitutional. District Judge Joe Hardy Jr. ruled Wednesday that the state Board of Pharmacy’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug is unconstitutional. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Nevada, which argued that marijuana doesn't meet the definition of a Schedule I drug under state law because it has accepted medical uses. The judge agreed: "The constitutional right to use marijuana upon the advice of a physician does establish that marijuana has an accepted medical use and treatment in the United States," Hardy said.

North Dakota Activists Accuse State of Misleading Voters About Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Backers of the Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1 marijuana legalization initiative say the state's ballot summary misleads voters about the costs of the measure by failing to include any revenues from legalization in the summary. The state's fiscal summary reads as follows: "The estimated fiscal impact of this measure beginning in 2023 through the 2025-2027 Biennium is Revenue of $3,145,000 and Expenses of $4,985,000." That does not include revenues from legal marijuana, which would be taxed at 5 percent by the state, up to an additional 3 percent by localities, and a possible excise tax. Dave Owen, the chairman of New Approach North Dakota, called the fiscal summary "obviously incomplete" and "intentionally misleading." The state claims it is unable to calculate potential revenues, but an economics professor at North Dakota State University was able to come up with a projection that the state would get about $6 million in pot taxes each year.

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Is Arresting Pregnant Women for Using Marijuana. At least 26 women have been charged with felony child neglect since 2019 for using medical marijuana. That offense carries a sentence of up to life in prison, although defendants have typically pleaded guilty and received probation. At least eight of those women were registered medical marijuana patients. According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, this is the only state to prosecute pregnant women for medical marijuana use. The prosecutions involving medical marijuana are "inconsistent with state law,"said Ryan Kiesel, a civil rights attorney and former Oklahoma lawmaker. "Those women are protected as medical marijuana patients under the law,"Kiesel said. "It’s important to remember, if you have a medical marijuana license, you are under the care of a physician."

Asset Forfeiture

South Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Civil Asset Forfeiture Law But Urges Legislative Reform. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the state's civil asset forfeiture law but suggested the legislature could reform the law to make it more fair to seizure victims. "Several states have amended their statutory schemes to impose more stringent requirements on the government; however, the fact that certain states have legislatively altered their civil forfeiture laws provides no support for judicially changing ours,"the order said. "Legislative alteration might be a good thing, but we are not called upon to decide whether a change in the law would be wise."

International

 

 

. The leader of an anti-government coca growers union faction, Freddy Machicado, was arrested Wednesday for his role in protests that resulted in the burning of a "parallel" coca market in La Paz. He is being held at a police headquarters in El Alto, a La Paz suburb. For weeks, Machiado had led weekly protests against the market, which is operated by another faction of the Adepcoca union close to the government. Its leader, Arnold Alanes, who claims leadership of the union even though a majority of affiliates reject his leadership. There are only two officially sanctioned legal coca markets in the country, but Alanes' "parallel" market had operated unimpeded by the government. 

A Federal Bill to Help Small Pot Growers Survive Is Filed [FEATURE]

It is tough times for the West Coast's small-time legal marijuana growers. In California, they are being battered by low prices, a tax and regulatory environment that favors larger operations, and a thriving black market. Next door in Oregon, small marijuana farmers are facing similar issues and are especially buffeted by falling wholesale prices. The pound of weed that earned an Oregon farmer $1,470 two years ago was going for $696 last month, a more than 50 percent decline since 2020.

paired small scale cannabis and commercial vegetable farm, Humboldt County, CA (https://calag.ucanr.edu)
Another obstacle small operators in both states face is being unable to sell their products outside of their own states. Since marijuana remains illegal under federal law, such sales are prohibited. But now, a pair of congressmen representing the two states have filed legislation that seeks to provide some help for beleaguered small growers by removing barriers to interstate sales.

On Wednesday, Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, filed the Small and Homestead Independent Producers (SHIP) Act to allow small farmers and producers to operate across state lines -- once the end of federal marijuana prohibition is achieved. The bill specifically aims to support the smallest family farmers.

The bill says: "A small cultivator of marijuana and a small manufacturer of a marijuana product may ship and sell marijuana or a marijuana product to an individual located in that State or another State in which possession of marijuana or the marijuana product is lawful by that individual, using the Postal Service or any private or commercial 10 interstate carrier."

It defines "small cultivators of marijuana" as those growing less than one acre outdoors, 22,000 square feet of canopy in greenhouse operations, or 5,000 square feet of indoor canopy. "Small manufacturers of marijuana" are defined as those producers of edibles, tinctures, salves, or concentrates who gross less than $5 million per year.

"Too often, the federal government falls behind, and the gears of Congress work too slowly to keep up with the pace of a changing economy," said Representative Huffman in a press release announcing the bill. "Under my bill, folks in our state will be able to ship their products straight to consumers when the antiquated federal prohibition on cannabis is finally repealed. As large, commercial cannabis operations squeeze out local producers from the market, this legislation is critical for farmers to survive and expand their small businesses. We cannot leave our smallest family-farmers behind under full legalization."

Representatives of small growers said being able to sell direct to consumers would be a major benefit for them. The Origins Council, founded in 2019 to promote sustainable development within California's "legacy" marijuana growing regions and to promote appellations for such areas much like the ones adopted by the international wine industry, is on board.

"The direct-to-consumer model is a necessary resource for any small-scale craft-producing community that is deeply tied to the land on which it creates -- whether it produces wine, whiskey, cheese, beer, cannabis, or honey," said Genine Coleman, Executive Director of Origins Council. "The legacy cannabis community that has worked so long in the shadows should have the opportunity to join the ranks of other artisan producers across the United States and enjoy the privilege of connecting personally with their adult customers. As is always true with each step cannabis takes towards legality, the greater community stands to reap enormous benefit in the process."

So are groups representing small marijuana farms in Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties, California's original Golden Triangle.

"For small craft producers in nearly any context, direct-to-consumer shipping is the critical tool that enables a diversified market to survive and thrive. Cannabis is no different," said Ross Gordon, Policy Director of Humboldt County Growers Alliance (HCGA) and Policy Chair of The Origins Council. "The SHIP Act moves the conversation beyond the question of who can get a license to cultivate cannabis and addresses the practical reality of building an equitable and accessible market for small cannabis producers."

"As a legacy cannabis producer and family farmer located in the heart of the Emerald Triangle, I see the direct-to-consumer retail pathway as the only future of my small farm, and indeed -- of all rural communities like my own whose cultural heritage is rooted in craft cannabis cultivation and artisanal medicine making," said Karla Avila, owner and operator of Flowerdaze Farm in Trinity County and Executive Director of the Trinity County Agriculture Alliance.

The bill is also being endorsed in California by the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, and the Big Sur Farmers Association. Outside of California, it's supporters include the Massachusetts' Farm Bug Co-op, the Maine Craft Cannabis Association, the Vermont Growers Association, and the Washington Sun & Craft Growers Association.

But it is not going to happen until marijuana is legalized at the federal level, a prospect looking increasingly dim in this Congress. Whether progress comes in the next Congress will depend to a large degree on the results on November's mid-term elections. If the Democrats can hold the House and increase their numbers in the Senate, the odds are good. If not, not so much.

Federal Bill to Help Small Pot Growers, UN Report on Philippines, More... (9/14/22)

Bolivia coca conflict continues, the back and forth over the Arkansas marijuaan legalization also continues, and more.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Jared Huffman (D-OR) have a plan to help small marijuana producers. (Creative Commons)

Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Secretary of State Declares Marijuana Legalization Initiative "Insufficent." Secretary of State John Thurston (R) declared Tuesday that the Responsible Growth Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative is "insufficient" to appear on the ballot the State Board of Election Commissioners did not certify the ballot title and popular name of the measure. But the measure will appear on the ballot nonetheless because the state Supreme Court last month ordered its conditional placement on the ballot while it takes up the issue. It has yet to issue a final ruling on whether the vote will count.

California, Oregon Congressmen File Bill to Allow Small Growers to Sell Direct to Consumers Across State Lines. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) have filed a bill to help small marijuana growers compete against large corporations by allowing them to ship and sell their product directly to consumers across state lines once marijuana is federally legalized. The bill is the Small and Homestead Independent Producers (SHIP) Act, which is yet to receive a bill number.
 

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues. Last week, union coca growers opposed to an officially unsanctioned "parallel" legal coca market burned it to the ground, but this week union coca growers who supported the destroyed market sold coca leaves on its steps, demanded the government declare theirs is the only legitimate coca market, and announced another round of mass mobilizations to demand justice. The battle pits the government-allied coca growers of the Arnold Alanes bloc against growers from the Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca) led by Freddy Machicado. The conflict is now nearly a year old, dating from the election of Alanes as the leader of Adepcoca, but the Machicado faction rejects his authority.

UN Report Calls for Philippines to Take New Approach to Drug Policy. Amid continuing reports of human rights violations and abuses in the Philippines, including in the context of anti-drug operations, victims still face challenges in seeking justice, a UN report published Tuesday finds. In the report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights acknowledges the Government’s commitment to cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms, including through an innovative UN joint program on human rights that is being implemented with Government agencies, the national human rights institution and civil society. The report, mandated by Human Rights Council resolution 45/33, calls for the new Philippines administration to adopt a transformative approach that looks to rights-based solutions for critical issues, including drug law enforcement and counter- terrorism, and to end divisive rhetoric that puts human rights defenders at risk. While acknowledging some progress in a number of areas, the report notes that considerable challenges remain.

"The Government took some initiatives to advance accountability for human rights violations and abuses… However, access to justice for victims of human rights violations and abuses remained very limited. Institutional and structural shortcomings in law enforcement and the judiciary remained, despite efforts to address some cases," it says. The report highlights "limited oversight of human rights investigations, inadequate investigation capacity and inter-agency cooperation, limited forensic capacity and protracted judicial processes."

The Philippines has admitted to more than 5,000 drug war killing by police during the recently-ended term of Rodrigo Duterte, but human rights groups put the death toll in the low tens of thousands.

Philippines President Promises to Dial Back Deadly Drug War. Newly-installed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has vowed to pursue a less violent and punitive approach to drug problem after the drug war unleashed by his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, left tens of thousands dead and little accountability. The war on drugs will continue, but we will have to do it a different way," Marcos said. "In fact, right now, we are trying to formulate what is the best way for the rehabilitation program. These are all being formulated." The new anti-drug campaign will emphasize "the upstream of the problem, the prevention," he added. While Marcos's remarks point to a break with tough Duterte-era policies, he stopped short of any explicit condemnation of his bloody policies. 

Scary MO Pot Legalization Poll, NJ Judge Throws Out 2,000 Drug Cases, More... (9/13/22)

Germany moves to ban an LSD derivative, a new pol lhas the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative trailing, and more. 

Alabama routinely holds pregnant women drug offenders in jail without bond. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Poll Has Legalization Initiative Trailing. The constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana, Amendment 3, faces an uphill fight, according to a new poll from the Remington Research Group and Missouri Scout. That poll had 43 percent in favor of the initiative with 47 opposed and 11 percent undecided. But Legal Missouri, the group behind the initiative, pointed out that previous polling had shown majority support for legalization and that this "same pollster and political newsletter predicted medical cannabis might not pass in 2018, weeks before 66 percent of Missourians voted for it on the ballot." Still, the poll numbers are concerning

Drug Testing

New Jersey Judge Throws Out More Than 2,000 Cases Where Drug Tests Were Mishandled. Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian has dismissed more than 2,000 drug charges after a review spurred by a mishandled drug analyses at a State Police laboratory. The same judge initiated the review in 2016 after a lab worker reported that a technicians was filing test results without actually testing the samples. The review spanned more than 10,000 drug charges over 10 years and found more than 2,000 cases that merited dismissal. People who had charges dismissed may be eligible for reimbursement. The lab tech responsible retired before the probe began and was never charged. The review has caused the State Police to adopt more strenuous drug testing methods using mass spectrometry and gas chromatography.

Pregnancy

Alabama Routinely Holds Pregnant Women Arrested for Drug Offenses in Jail Until Trial to Protect Fetuses. Under state law, pregnant women arrested for drug offenses are not allowed to post bail and must stay in state custody—either in jail or drug treatment—until giving birth. Alabama leads the nation in imprisoning pregnant women who have drug charges but is hardly alone, and Etowah County is a real hotbed. It has jailed 150 pregnant women in recent years and is currently holding 12 behind bars.

The trend of imprisoning pregnant and postpartum women for supposedly endangering their fetuses is growing nationwide. According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, there where 413 pregnancy prosecutions from 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, until 2005. But since then, there have been more than 1,300 more cases. Now, in the post-Roe era, expect more such prosecutions, said NAFPW's Afsha Malik. "We know that we’re going to see more examples of pregnant people being criminalized for behavior that may be [seen as] justified for the general public, like using substances," she said. "[Other] cases that we’ve seen are going to accelerate, like [for] falling down the stairs, having a home birth, not seeking prenatal care, having HIV, having a self-induced abortion, and experiencing a pregnancy loss.”

International

Germany Moves to Ban LSD Derivative. The federal government has sent a draft ordinance banning 1-V-L-LSD, a derivative of LSD, to the Bunderat, where it is set to be discussed on Friday. It would add the substance to an existing ban on new psychoactive substances. It is currently available in shops and online. "The substance 1-V-LSD is a substance with a psychedelic effect, which is converted to LSD when it passes through the body and is already represented on the drug market for purposes of abuse," the draft says. Drug Commissioner Burkhard Blienert said people supplying the drug were "unscrupulous players in the drug market"and 

MO Judge Okays Legal Pot Initiative, Taliban War on Opium a Dud So Far, More... (9/12/22)

Fentanyl has largely replaced heroin in the nation's capital and that's being reflected in overdose statistics, India creates a national drug trafficker registry, and more.

In Afghan fields, the poppies grow. Despite the Taliban's announced ban. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Judge Rejects Challenge to Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Show Me State voters will have the chance in November to show the country whether they support marijuana legalization or not after a Cole County judge dismissed a lawsuit from anti-marijuana groups seeking to keep Amendment 3 off the ballot. Opponents sued, arguing that some signatures were invalid because they were verified by the state instead of county election officials, but the judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the Colorado-based plaintiff did not provide evidence that she was a Missouri resident. But the judge also said he would have ruled against the lawsuit regardless of residency because the initiative met state signature-gathering requirements.

Opiates and Opioids

Fentanyl Replaces Heroin as Leading Cause of Overdose Deaths in DC. Fentanyl has now almost completely replaced heroin in Washington, DC, with heroin being detected in only 15 of the city's 166 opioid overdose deaths in the first five months of 2022. Heroin is now killing fewer Washingtonians than fentanyl, cocaine, alcohol, or prescription drugs. Public health experts say public health strategies must be adapted to adjust to the city's changing drug use profile. Most of the city's drug overdoses in the last year were among people between 40 and 70, and 84 percent of them were Black.

International

Taliban Make Little Progress in Countering Drugs. The Taliban banned opium in April, shortly after the last harvest, but as the next poppy growing season approaches, less than 250 acres of poppy have been eradicated and only 4,270 kilograms of opium have been seized, far behind the performance of previous Afghan governments. In 2020, for example, the government seized 80,000 kilos of opium, nearly 20 times as much as this year. And that has some experts questioning the Taliban's commitment to the ban. "There is serious doubt on the intentions of the current rulers whether they really want to eradicate poppy," said Javid Qaem, a former deputy minister for counternarcotics in Afghanistan and now a researcher at Arizona State University. "At the time of the Republic, security was a big challenge. Police could not go to the areas where poppy was cultivated. Taliban claim that they have all the areas under their control. They should be able to do it easily," he told said.

India's "Narco Files" Hold Over 500,000 Names. India's first registry of drug traffickers, launched only a month ago, now has more than 500,000 names on it. The National Integrated Database on Arrested Narco-offenders (NIDAAN) - a database of arrested narcotics offenders from states and union territories, developed by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) - aims to profile each narco-offender by integrating with Inter Operable Justice System (ICJS) and Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS), officials said. It holds the names of all people convicted of drug trafficking offenses in the past 10 years.

San Francisco DA's Misdemeanor Drug Crackdown, Philippine Rejects ICC Investigation into Drug War Killings, More... (9/9/22)

Seattle makes a move on marijuana equity, Bolivian coca growers get rowdy, and more. 

San Francisco DA Brooke Jenkins is moving to crack down on open air drug use and selling in the Tenderloin. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Seattle City Council Approves Marijuana Equity Legislation. The city council has approved a package of marijuana equity legislation, including a measure that anticipates the city issuing new "social equity licenses" for city marijuana businesses. The package is the result of months of work by the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force to address the lack of diversity in the industry in the city. Mayor Bruce Harrell (D) called the package "historic," but also noted that "this is a first—but necessary—step toward equity long overdue in the cannabis industry." The program should put the city in line with forthcoming state rules that will require at least 51 percent ownership by individuals "who have resided in a disproportionately impacted area" where there have been factors like a high poverty rate or a "high rate of cannabis-related arrest, conviction or incarceration” to qualify for the special licenses.

Drug Policy

San Francisco DA Announces New Misdemeanor Drug Policy. New District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has announced a new misdemeanor drug policy that will require mandatory drug treatment for people who have five misdemeanor drug possession citations. The move of part of Jenkins' efforts to move against open-air drug use and drug selling, especially in the city's Tenderloin district. "What we are doing is SFPD has begun citing individuals that are engaged in public drug use," Jenkins said. "Both injecting and smoking, pipes, fentanyl, methamphetamines. When a person reaches five citations for that public drug use that is when we file a complaint that we forward to our community justice centers, so that we can connect that person with resources for treatment."

The ACLU of Northern California has some concerns: "One is that it seems to be a backtracking of the statement the DA made a few weeks back saying that she would not prosecute possession or paraphernalia cases. This is saying, you do this five times we’re going to arrest you. Then we’re going to put you through the criminal legal system, which we know and have seen in the past, it is not the best place to put people into recovery," said Yoel Haile, Criminal Justice Program Director for the group.

International

Bolivia's Coca Grower Conflict Continues as Yungas Growers Burn "Parallel" Market in La Paz. The conflict between pro- and anti-government coca grower union factions escalated Thursday as thousands of farmers from the Yungas region broke through police lines, marched into La Paz, and burned down a "parallel" coca market. The protestors attacked with dynamite, firecrackers, and Molotov cocktails. The country has only two officially sanctioned legal coca markets, in La Paz and Cochabamba, but a pro-government faction of a coca grower union opened the "parallel" market in La Paz last October. The coca growers that burned down the market say the government should have shut it down. "The government and its ministers are responsible for this," coca leader Esar Apaza said, adding that the Yungas coca growers would not go home until the government resolves the conflict.

Philippine Government Rejects ICC Request to Resume Investigation of Duterte's Drug War Crimes. The government of Ferdinand Marco Jr. on Thursday rejected a request from the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to resume an investigation into thousands of drug war killings that took place under his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte. The ICC authorized a full investigation into Duterte's drug war last September but suspended the investigation after the Philippines said it would conduct its own review. In August, the ICC asked Manila to respond to its request to reopen the investigation, and now it has a response from the Philippines Office of the Solicitor General, which says that the international court "has no jurisdiction" over the Philippines. "The alleged murder incidents that happened during the relevant period do not constitute "crimes against humanity,'" the agency said in a statement. Philippine authorities have admitted killing roughly 8,000 people as part of Duterte's drug war, but human rights groups put the actual toll at three or four times that. Only three people have been convicted of killings in the drug war, and the government has conceded that in another 52 deaths, police may have used excessive force. 

San Francisco Deprioritizes Natural Psychedelics, UK Blocks Bermuda Pot Legalization, More... (9/8/22)

Prisoners and advocacy groups call on the Bureau of Prisons to clean up its act, Colombia's new president has some words for the US, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro continues to push against the war on drugs. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

San Francisco Effectively Decriminalizes Natural Psychedelics. The city's Boad of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution that effectively decriminalizes natural psychedelics. The resolution includes the "full spectrum of plants, fungi, and natural materials that can inspire personal and spiritual well-being," and includes ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin. The resolution also allows for the "planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with" those substances and provides no limits on quantities that may be possessed. The resolution effectively decriminalizes these substances by designating them the lowest law enforcement priority, but they remain illegal under state and federal law. San Francisco now joins Arcata, Oakland, and Santa Cruz among California cities that have embraced such measures. A dozen other citizens around the country have, too.

Incarceration

Incarcerated People and Advocacy Organizations Urge Reform of US Bureau of Prisons. In a letter Tuesday to federal Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters, current and former federal prisoners and an array of sentencing, drug policy, and other advocacy groups called on her to "bring the Bureau into compliance with federal law and to lead the Bureau toward a more humane future grounded in transparency and accountability." The letter cited a number of issues and concerns, including unsafe and inhumane prisons, the need for the Bureau to use its power to seek compassionate release, the need for the Bureau to comply with the First Step Act (there are chronic delays in releasing people who qualify), and the pervasiveness of abuse, corruption, and misconduct. In addition to individual signers, the letter was endorsed by the ACLU, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), the Drug Policy Alliance, Fair and Just Prosecution, Federal Public and Community Defenders, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Council of Churches, and the Sentencing Project, which organized the campaign.

Foreign Policy

Colombian President Warns US Drug War Has Failed, Change Must Come. President Gustavo Petro warned the US on Wednesday the he believes the US-led war on drugs in his country is a failure and called for substantial changes in drug policy. The statement came after he met with the commander of the United States Southern Command, General Laura Richardson.  "We were now talking at length with General Laura Richardson … about the failure of the anti-drug policy. I think it should be called without fear: the policy that (Richard) Nixon had in the time It was called the War on Drugs, has failed here," said Petro from the presidential palace. "It is our duty before the United States, but also before the world, to not only say this, but to propose alternatives that will not kill more than a million Latin Americans."

Colombia is the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, and Petro said that his own country is "the biggest culprit" because rural poverty makes drug cultivation and trafficking an attractive livelihood. Petro has moved to restrict the aerial spraying of herbicides and limited the resort to forced eradication of coca crops, promoting voluntary crop substitution instead. He is also proposing changes in the extradition treaty between Colombia and the US to allow those who cooperate with Colombia to avoid extradition to the US.

International

United Kingdom Blocks Bermuda from Legalizing Marijuana. In a rare move, the UK's Governor for Bermuda, who, as the queen's representative typically provides pro forma assent to the Bermudan government's actions, has intervened to block marijuana legalization in the British Overseas Territory. Even as incoming British Prime Minister Liz Truss was vowing to "stand up for freedom and democracy around the world," her government was directing the governor to block the marijuana legalization bill. "I have now received an instruction, issued to me on Her Majesty’s behalf, not to Assent to the Bill as drafted," the governor said. "The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs concluded that the Bill, as currently drafted, is not consistent with obligations held by the UK and Bermuda"under international anti-drugs conventions dating back to 1961. Liz Truss was foreign secretary until Tuesday when she became prime minister. In a statement, the Bermudian government said the move was "disappointing, but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK government and their archaic interpretation of the narcotic conventions. The Bermudian government said it would continue to move forward on marijuana legalization, which could put the country on a collision course with the UK. "The people of Bermuda have democratically expressed their desire for a regulated cannabis licensing regime, following the strong endorsement at the ballot box and an extensive public consultation process. The Government of Bermuda intends to continue to advance this initiative, within the full scope of its constitutional powers, in keeping with our 2020 general election platform commitment." Bermudian Premier David Burt has not commented on this move, but warned earlier that: "If Her Majesty’s representative in Bermuda does not give assent to something that has been passed lawfully and legally under this local government, this will destroy the relationship we had with the United Kingdom."

Colorado Voters Can Embrace Psychedelic Reform in November [FEATURE]

Beginning with the successful 2019 Denver municipal initiative that made possession of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority, Colorado has been on the cutting edge of the psychedelic reform movement. This November, the state is poised to maintain that vanguard status by decriminalizing some psychedelics -- the natural ones.

That is because Natural Health Colorado has managed to get the Natural Medicine Health Act (Initiative 58) on the ballot. The measure has three main planks:

  1. It would decriminalize the personal use, possession, and cultivation by people 21 and over of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), psilocybin, and psilocyn, as well as providing for the sealing of conviction records of people who have completed sentences for the use or possession of those substances. The measure sets no personal possession limits.
  2. It would create a "natural medicine services" program for the therapeutic administration of the specified psychedelics and create a rubric for regulated growth, distribution, and sales of those substances to entities within the program. Only psilocybin and psilocyin would be okayed for therapeutic use until 2026. Then regulators could decide on whether to allow the therapeutic use of DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline.
  3. It would create the Natural Medicine Advisory Board to create rules and regulations for implementing the therapeutic access program. The board could also make recommendations to the Department of Regulatory Agencies on adding additional substances.

psilocybin (Pixabay)
With the help of more than $2.7 million in funding from the New Approach PAC, which has bankrolled numerous drug reform initiatives across the country, Natural Health Colorado zipped through signature-gathering in a quick three months and qualified for the ballot back in June.

A competing initiative campaign from Decriminalize Nature Colorado, which would have only decriminalized entheogens and not created a therapeutic program, failed to qualify for the ballot. Members of that group have since become some of the most outspoken critics of Initiative 58.

"I do not personally align with I-58 and the heavy out-of-state influence calling the shots in Colorado," said Melanie Rose Rodgers, co-proponent of the Decriminalize Nature initiative. "What happened with cannabis is happening with mushrooms. Folks from marginalized communities, People of Color are being left out -- once again. With all the inequality and rolling back of freedoms that exist today, let us not create new industries that will cater and serve the rich and wealthy while opening the floodgates for anyone able to buy Colorado 'healing center' licenses. I am opposed to the corporate takeover of sacred earth medicines and psychedelics written in I-58."

But Natural Health Colorado and its backers beg to differ, and they are emphasizing the therapeutic aspects of the measure.

"This initiative would give Coloradans access to a new, promising, and research-based treatment option for PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges, in a safe, careful, and beneficial way," said Kevin Matthews, an initiative spokesman who led the Denver psilocybin campaign. "These medicines can be transformative for people who have suffered for years and struggled to find help," he said.

"The Natural Medicine Health Act puts the well-being of patients and communities first," said Josh Kappel, chair of the Natural Medicine Colorado campaign. "It was purposefully designed, with a multi-phase implementation process that sets clear safety rules, while allowing the details of the regulatory structure to be developed by the community and regulators working together."

"Our goal is to make the healing benefits of these natural medicines available to people they can help, including veterans with PTSD, survivors of domestic or sexual abuse, people with treatment-resistant depression, and others for whom our typical mental-health treatments just aren't working," said Ben Unger, psychedelic program director for New Approach PAC.

The initiative is also being endorsed by David Bronner, CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer) of Dr. Bronner's soaps. "I see what [Initiative 61] does as one seamless policy: making natural medicines -- psychedelic plant and fungal medicines containing psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine or mescaline (excepting peyote) -- available to all adult Coloradans in two powerful healing modalities: via a regulated access model in a therapeutic context; and the self-regulating community healing model in a decriminalized context," Bronner said.

Whether Initiative 61 can pass in November remains to be seen. Natural Health Colorado has said he has no internal polling for this year, but a poll last year had support for legalizing psilocybin at 50 percent. While the poll question was not an exact match with what the initiative offers, it is close, and the level of support suggests that the contest itself could be close. A rule of thumb among initiative campaigns is that they like to be at 60 percent when the final stretch commences, as it now has.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

This week, it's all jail and prison guards gone wild. Let's get to it:

In Charlotte, North Carolina, an Alexander County jail guard was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly supplying $300,000 worth of suboxone and synthetic marijuana to inmates at the jail. Guard Caroline Nicole Lyon, 29, went down after what authorities said was an extended investigation. She is charged with one account of felony providing drugs to inmates and placed under a $10,000 secure bond.

In Boston, a state prison guard was arrested last Thursday after being found in possession of suboxone as he arrived for work at MCI-Norfolk. Guard Vito Forlano, 44, is charged with possession of a class B drug, as well as distribution of a class B drug and delivering an article to a prisoner. He has been placed on leave and ordered to stay away from the prison.

In Albany, Georgia, a former state prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to five years in federal prison for trying to smuggle drug and cellphones into the Calhoun State Prison. Tempress Johnson, 35, was caught in a prison van with two pounds of meth and eight cellphones and admitted being paid $10,000 for her efforts. She had pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

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