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CT Doubles Amount of Weed You Can Buy Legally, Bolivia Coca Cultivation Drops, More... (11/2/23)

Vancouver Police crack down on shops selling magic mushrooms, Pennsylvania lawmakers consider marijuana legalization -- including a state liquor store model -- and more.

Chewing coca leaf in Bolivia. Overall coca cultivation was down last year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut to Double Amount of Weed You Can Buy in a Single Transaction. The state Department of Consumer Protection has announced that as of December 1 the weight limit for marijuana purchases as a licensed retailers will double from one-quarter ounce to one-half ounce of bud. People can possess up to 1.5 ounces (or its equivalent) and up to five ounces in a locked container at home.

Medical marijuana patients may currently purchase up to five ounces per month and are not subject to individual transaction limits. Those limits will remain unchanged.

"DCP has continually reviewed available supply and demand since prior to the launch of the adult-use cannabis industry in January 2023," said DCP Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli. "As more retailers, production companies and other supply chain licensees have come online, the capacity of the industry has increased. We are confident this measured approach to adult-use sales has resulted in a healthy market for businesses, and a safe and fair marketplace for adult-use cannabis consumers and medical marijuana patients."

Pennsylvania House Committee Holds Legalization Hearing; Lawmakers Ponder State Liquor Store Model. The House Health Subcommittee on Health Care held an informational hearing Wednesday as lawmakers work to find a path to marijuana legalization, a path that the committee chair says may involve consideration of a state-run marijuana sales model.

The committee was not taking up any specific marijuana legalization bills, but had an opportunity to hear testimony from professors, addiction specialists, and advocates about the health concerns of moving forward with legalization.

"Many of us want the same things. We want the products we sell to be tested and safe. We want to ensure teens with developing brains aren't impacting their development by utilizing cannabis. And we want to protect young children from the kinds of accidental overdoses have put kids in the hospital and led to one death," said full Health Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Frankel (D) in his opening remarks.

"We want to right some of the wrongs of the past by ensuring that those who have been the target of cannabis criminalization don't continue to carry the stigma now that cannabis is not considered a crime" under legalization, he said. "We'd like to see our economy benefit from legal sales rather than illegal sales."

He added that "there are legitimate concerns for health and safety," so lawmakers "want to start from a place of recognizing those concerns and think about how we might mitigate through appropriate regulation and oversight."

Rep. Kathy Rapp (R), the ranking GOP member of the Health Committee, said that while she's "adamantly opposed to legalization of marijuana" and doesn't believe regulated sales will lend to significant tax revenue for the state, she appreciates that informational hearings are being held and acknowledged that the issue will ultimately be decided "when we do a floor vote."


Bolivia Coca Crops Dip for First Time in Seven Years, UN Says. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD) said Tuesday that Bolivia has for the first time in seven years seen a reduction in the area under coca cultivation, with the extent dropping from 75,000 acres in 2021 to just over 73,000 acres last year.

"There was a reduction of two percent from 2021 to 2022," it said in an annual report.

Bolivia allows for the growth and marketing of coca leaving for traditional uses, including chewing, use in tea, and religious rituals, as well as "industrial" uses, such as toothpaste and other coca products. Legal cultivation is capped at just under 60,000 acres.

It is the world's third largest coca producer, after Colombia and Peru, which typically compete for first and second place in coca production.

Vancouver Police Raid Three Magic Mushroom Shops. A week after raiding an unlicensed "safe supply" retail drug outlet in the city, Vancouver police were at it again Tuesday, this time hitting three storefronts that offer magic mushrooms for sale. Longtime drug reform advocate Dana Larsen has confirmed that the businesses hit were his three licensed shops he operates on East Hastings Street, West Broadway, and Granville Street. Larsen said he had been arrested and held behind bars for several hours Tuesday before being released.

"I think this is very clearly a motivated raid," said Larsen, who believes he was targeted for advocating for drug legalization. "Took all of our products -- all of our mushrooms and psychedelics and coca leaf."

He recorded one of the raids live on Facebook. It was "very unexpected," he said. "Very surprised to see a raid happening when there's at least a dozen other dispensaries in the city operating without any legal problems, where we actually do have business licenses," he added.

Larsen has been fighting the city over the storefronts for months, with the city attempting to strip his licenses and a court hearing on the issue pending.

"I thought that the city would let the bureaucracy deal with us like they have with cannabis dispensaries in the past," Larsen said in his Facebook video. "We've been here at this location for three years operating very openly and transparently."

But Vancouver Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Addison said the sudden enforcement should serve as a warning to other dispensaries operating illegally in the city.

"This relates to an ongoing investigation into what we believe is the illegal purchase and sale of psychedelic drugs, psilocybin and other products," Addison said. "If you do violate the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act… you could face arrest and charges."

"If you look at the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, yes, we're in violation of that. But there's a Charter of Rights and a constitution in this country that overrides those laws and I believe at some point, the courts in Canada and the politicians will agree with me," Larsen replied.

OH Polls Say Pot Initiative Will Pass Next Week, White House Urges Naloxone in Schools, More... (11/1/23)

A Colorado safe injection site bill gets pulled in the face of a gubernatorial veto threat, the New York Senate attempts to address issues hampering the rollout of the legal marijuana industry, and more.

Naloxone. The White House wants the overdose reversal drug in all schools. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Late Polls Say Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Poised to Pass Next Week. The Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative is set to pass on Election Day next Tuesday if two recent polls are to be believed. A poll from Ohio Northern University has just under two-thirds support for legalization, while a Public Policy Polling survey has support at 59 percent.

The measure would allow adults to grow their own crop at home or resort to licensed market for the sale of marijuana products. But because it is a statutory question rather than a constitutional amendment, the legislature could attempt to amend it after it passes.

Early voting has been going on since October 23, and voter turnout is already well above normal levels. That is because even though this is an off-year election, not only marijuana legalization but also abortion rights is on the ballot. Both issues are generating enthusiastic support.

New York Senate Seeks Solutions to Marijuana Industry Hurdles. The state Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis held its first public hearing Monday as it looks to address complaints over consumer accessibility and licensing hurdles in the struggling nascent legal industry.

Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D) said that many of his constituents have been frustrated by the challenges of trying to get licensed and say they are drowning in a sea of red tape. The first licenses were issued last year, but the legal industry remains challenged by unlicensed operators and the number of legal retail outlets remains relatively small.

The state Office of Cannabis Management acknowledged those frustrations. "While we see clearly what New York cannabis will be, we have a long way to go before we say that the supply chain is functioning as intended," said Chris Alexander, head of the agency. "Small farmers are struggling and we need more retail shelves for their product. We are working to make that a reality and are committed to providing stability to a more volatile industry."

Harm Reduction

White House Calls on All Schools to Carry Opiate Overdose Reversal Drug. The Department of Education has sent a letter to every state education agency, intergovernmental groups, and local, state, and national education associations urging schools to "focus on measures to prevent youth drug use and ensure that every school has naloxone and has prepared its students and faculty to use it."

"Our schools are on the frontlines of this epidemic, but our teachers and students can be equipped with tools to save lives," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) director Rahul Gupta wrote in the letter.

"Overdose deaths among adolescents doubled from 2019 to 2020 and continue to rise, even though youth rates of drug use have remained stagnant. That's because a teenager today can log onto social media with a smartphone and buy what they think is an opioid pain medicine or a prescription stimulant to help them study -- and instead die from one pill that actually has fentanyl in it. Just one pill," the letter said.

"And data show that two-thirds of adolescent drug poisoning deaths occurred with a potential bystander nearby, but naloxone was often not administered," it added, citing a recent study that found that among persons aged 14-18 years, overdose deaths increased 94% from 2019 to 2020 and 20% from 2020 to 2021.

The study also found that the median monthly overdose deaths among persons between 10 and 19 years old increased 109% from July-December 2019 to July-December 2021.

Colorado Safe Injection Site Bill Pulled in Face of Governor's Veto Threat. The legislature's Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee on Monday approved a slew of drug policy reforms to be considered during next year's legislative session but dropped plans to include approving safe injection sites in the face of a veto threat from Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Committee Chair Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy said Polis' office issued the veto threat on the bill last week, three days before the committee was set to meet for a final time. Polis' office also called Sen. Kyle Mullica, a swing vote on the supervised use issue who had worked with deGruy Kennedy throughout the summer on a compromise.

The committee draft would have given the state oversight over safe injection sites and would have required local government approval before sites could open in any given jurisdiction. Mullica and one other Democrat joined with four Republicans on the committee to kill the measure.

"This isn't really a resource question with this bill," said deGruy Kennedy. "This is giving permission for an organization that's ready to do this, to go do it. And I'm incredibly disappointed that it's not going to be moving forward today… Here's to saving more lives next year."

But the committee approved four other drug reform measures aimed at preventing overdoses and improving drug treatment options statewide. The bills would ease access to opioid treatment medications, expand a proven meth treatment, increase fundings for health in prisons and jails, and broaden immunity for organizations that work with drug users. But they have to get through the legislature next year.

San Francisco Task Force to Charge Fentanyl ODs as Homicides, Peru Healer Stabbed, More... (10/30/23)

A Kansas poll has two-thirds support for marijuana legalization, a bipartisan group of lawmakers calls on DEA to deschedule marijuana, and more.

Ancestral healer Don Pedro Sinuiri Barta (Xanen Weni in his native Shipibo) remains under medical attention. (
Marijuana Policy

31 Bipartisan House Lawmakers Push DEA To Consider 'Merits' of Marijuana Legalization as It Completes Scheduling Review. A coalition of 31 bipartisan House lawmakers has sent a letter to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), urging the agency to take into account congressional and state marijuana legalization efforts as it carries out a review into cannabis scheduling. They also criticized the limitations of simple rescheduling as they push for complete a complete removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The letter last Friday to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, with lead signatures from Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dave Joyce (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Brian Mast (R-FL) says that the review represents a "necessary step in the work to end the federal government's failed and discriminatory prohibition of cannabis." As DEA completes its review, the lawmakers said that the law enforcement agency should consider that Congress has been working to comprehensive reform federal cannabis laws.

The letter says that "the administration and relevant agencies such as yours should recognize the merits of full descheduling and work with congressional leaders to ensure this happens," adding that prohibition "does not reflect the will of the broader American electorate" and "it is time that [DEA's] work fully reflects this reality as well."

Other signatories of the letter Reps. Jack Bergman (R-MI), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Lou Correa (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Katie Porter (D-CA), David Trone (D-MD) and others.

Kansas Poll Has Two-Thirds Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Fort Hays State University has support for marijuana legalization in the state at 67%, even as Republican legislators continued to block any progress toward that goal or even toward allowing medical marijuana. Kansas does not have a citizens' initiative process that would allow the public to get around recalcitrant lawmakers.

Republican Sen. Rob Olson, who held Statehouse committee hearings for a medical marijuana bill last year, said Senate President Ty Masterson and Senate Majority Leader Larry Alley -- both Republicans -- don't want a bill to pass. "The majority of the state (does) want medical marijuana," Olson said, "and I don't see a reason why we don't pass a bill."

"We get support from quite a few legislators," said Cheryl Kumberg, President of the Kansas Cannabis Coalition Kumberg, "but the ones that are in power are not supportive for various reasons, and they don't let it go forward."

Drug Policy

California Governor Announces San Francisco Task Force Will Treat Overdoses as Homicides; Advocates Decry Move. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced last Friday a joint law enforcement task force that will treat overdoses as homicide in the city, fulfilling a law enforcement promise made by San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins back in October 2022.

"Making sure that these dealers are admonished, that should they be connected to selling fentanyl to someone who overdoses, that they could be charged with murder because we have to hold these people accountable," Jenkins said in an October 2022 debate. "The objective is to make sure that we are looking into who is selling fentanyl to the individuals who are dying of overdoses on our streets every day that may allow my office to pursue murder charges against those sellers," said Jenkins.

"These people who are dealing these drugs need to be held accountable in a way they have not been before," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. "The objective is to make sure that we are looking into who is selling fentanyl to the individuals who are dying of overdoses on our streets every day that may allow my office to pursue murder charges against those sellers," said Jenkins.

But people directly involved on the ground are skeptical. "I think really what we're concerned about is how is this policy going to be implemented and recognizing that the law enforcement activities to date, including increases in law enforcement overall have not reduced the suffering that we're seeing on the streets," Michael Discepola, the Director of Health at the nonprofit GLIDE said. "One of the challenges I think that this type of policy creates is, I think drug dealers also prevent overdoses because we get Narcan in their hands, and will this prevent other individuals on the street from being willing to get involved to be able to reduce overdose on the street," he said.

The Gubbio Project is a another nonprofit helping people on the streets. "I understand people's desire for accountability but the question is what are they trying to achieve? Punishment does not reduce use," said Lydia Bransten, director of the Gubbio Project.

And the San Francisco Public Defender issued the following statement last Friday: "The task force's announcement today is another step in the wrong direction toward the continued revival of the failed War on Drugs in SF... Threatening to charge people with murder is unfortunately likely to result in more overdoses, as people will be afraid to call for help."


After Indigenous Healer Stabbed in Peru, Indigenous Medicine Conversation Fund Calls for Increased Protection of Ayahuasca, Other Traditional Medicines. A French tourist is being held in jail as he awaits trial for attacking Don Pedro Sinuiri Barta, a 76-year-old ancestral healer (Onanya), in his home village of Nueva Betania in northeastern Peru on the morning of October 11. Sinuiri, who was seriously injured after being stabbed multiple times, has provided healing for many decades to local and international people in his practice, which incorporates the use of plant medicines, including ayahuasca. This is the second such violent attack against Shipibo ancestral healers in the last five years, with the previous incident in 2018 resulting in the death of Olivia Arevalo.

The young French tourist who traveled with his mother was reportedly seeking cocaine from community members and had not used ayahuasca before the attack.

"This tragic episode, yet again, underscores the risks to Indigenous healers and the urgent need to support them in their efforts to protect and preserve traditional medicines," said Miriam Volat, director of the Indigenous Medicine Conservation (IMC) Fund, which stands in support of Sinuiri, his family, and his Shipibo community in this time of healing. Sinuiri's son, Jheison Romulo Sinuiri Ochavano, is president ofOrganización Intercultural Oni Xobo, an IMC Fund-supported project focused on the preservation and conservation of the Shipibo culture, including ancestral medicine practices.

This is not the first time a foreigner has harmed an Indigenous Shipibo healer. In 2018, a Canadian man shot and killed ancestral healer Olivia Arevalo at her home in an urban community near Coronel Portillo in northeastern Peru. Community members quickly retaliated and the man was killed by a mob that had formed. In this case, Indigenous community members chose to trust the judicial system and, after apprehending the assailant, turned him over to police. The family, local Indigenous Organizations, and the Shipibo people, more broadly, continue to demand justice for Sinuiri.

The Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund seeks to educate the public, including the psychedelics boom, about the need to protect five traditional medicines -- Ayahuasca, Toad, Iboga, Peyote, and Mushrooms -- and their related ecologies, which are threatened by the combined crises of climate change, commercialization, overharvesting, and cultural appropriation. In the year since its launch, IMC Fund has raised more than $10 million to support 22 Indigenous-led conservation projects in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Gabon, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. To learn more about the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund, go to:

NH Commission Holds Legalization Hearing, Vancouver Cops Raid Unsanctioned Drug Suppliers, More... (10/26/23)

A MAGA marijuana legalization bill gets refiled, German parliamentarians finally get around to debating marijuana legalization, and more.

Lab-tested meth and heroin packets sold at cost by Vancouver's Drug Users Libertation Front (DULF).
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Marijuana Legalization Bill Refiled in Congress. A bipartisan marijuana legalization bill first filed in 2021 by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) that served as an alternative to a Democratic-led marijuana legalization bill that has twice passed the House has now been refiled. The first time around, Mace's bill, the States Reform Act, had only GOP support, but this time, a handful of Republicans and Democrats have already signed on.

Mace said she had secured a commitment from then Speaker-to-be Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to hold a committee markup on her bill in return for her vote to raise the debt ceiling and cut certain federal programs. But Mace then became one of eight House Republicans to vote against keeping McCarthy is the leadership, his departure in turn endangering the prospects for any further progress on marijuana legalization after McCarthy was eventually replaced by anti-weed Rep. Michael Johnson (R-LA) as House Speaker.

The text of the new version of the bill is not yet available and it is not clear what changes -- if any -- have been made, but the original bill would have ended federal pot prohibition and, in a bid to win bipartisan support, incorporated equity provisions such as expungements for people with non-violent pot convictions and the imposition of an excise tax that would have supported community reinvestment, law enforcement, and Small Business Administration (SBA) activities.

The bill is primarily aimed at having the federal government treat marijuana in a similar manner to alcohol. Cannabis would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), with retroactive effects for people previously punished.

Cosponsors of this year's bill include Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), as well as Democrat Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Rep. David Trone (D-MD).

New Hampshire Legislative Panel Discusses Marijuana Legalization Recommendations. A bill signed into law in August established the Commission to Study With the Purpose of Proposing Legalization, State Controlled Sales of Cannabis and Cannabis Products with the intention of presenting draft state liquor store marijuana legalization bill recommendations by December 1. The commission has been busy, holding five meetings already, with one more set for early November.

"New Hampshire has an opportunity to safely regulate the sale of marijuana with a model few others can provide," said Gov. John Sununu (R) as he signed the bill. "By establishing a commission to study state-controlled sales, this bill will bring stakeholders from across New Hampshire together to ensure that preventing negative impacts upon kids remains our number one priority."

"We're not here to discuss legalization, we're here to discuss how to put a bill forward that would do legalization, but do it in the matter that is most protective of our citizens and our regulations," said Sen. Timothy Lang. "The charge of the commission is to put the best bill forward possible if legalization were to happen in a state-controlled model."

Look for the state legislature and the governor to advance a state liquor store-model bill before the year's end and to try to get it passed next year.


Sen. Maggie Hassan Uses International Narcotics Control Hearing to Question Officials Over the Opioid Precursor Pipeline. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) questioned officials from the Department of State, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security during a Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing about how US agencies can use international partnerships to address the precursor chemical pipeline that cartels are using to produce fentanyl and other illicit synthetic drugs. Senator Hassan discussed her recent trip to China as part of a bipartisan Congressional Delegation, and how the U.S. can build on the conversations that they had in order to continue pushing Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese officials to limit the export of precursor chemicals.

First, Sen. questioned Maggie Nardi, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the Department of State: "I was on a recent bipartisan congressional delegation trip to China where we met with a number of senior leaders. I pressed Chinese President Xi to crack down on the illicit trafficking of fentanyl precursors that are made in China and as you all have outlined, sold to cartels in Mexico… President Xi indicated that he might be willing to take action on this, he said he would look into appointing senior leadership to start communication with us and we obviously now have to hold him to this. What steps will the State Department take, can it take to proactively engage with its Chinese counterparts to push China more to address the development and sale of fentanyl precursors, and what specific goals or benchmarks will the State Department set to track progress?" asked Hassan.

Nardi thanked Hassan for the message she delivered to Chinese leaders and discussed how the State Department has encouraged China to participate in the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats and that Chinese officials have attended some meetings.

Senator Hassan also asked William Kimbell, the Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice, and Ricardo Mayoral, the Deputy Assistant Director for International Operations for the Department of Homeland Security, "What role can US law enforcement play in disrupting the precursor pipeline if China agrees to work with us? For instance, could US law enforcement work with China to stop illegal money laundering that bankrolls the production of fentanyl precursors?" Mr. Kimbell pointed to recent meetings with Chinese officials about companies that they believe are selling precursors for the manufacturing of fentanyl and said that "the DEA is ready and willing at any given time to share information with them and to provide them with intelligence it needs to stop these companies from this behavior."


Vancouver Police Crack Down on Unsanctioned Safe Supply Program. Vancouver Police on Thursday raided the offices of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) on Hastings Street on the Downtown Eastside, as well as two nearby homes, in a crackdown on unsanctioned "safe supply" drug sales amidst the city's ongoing overdose crisis. Two people were arrested.

DULF initiated the program of sales of lab-tested drugs in an effort to reduce fatal overdoses by ensuring that consumers knew what they were getting, something police acknowledged in a press release on the raid.

Even while noting DULF's harm reduction efforts, police said the group has "publicly admitted to trafficking controlled substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines.

"We understand the magnitude of the ongoing overdose crisis and the impact drug toxicity deaths have in communities throughout the province," Insp. Phil Heard of the VPD's Organized Crime Section said in a statement. "While DULF's actions were intended to reduce the harms caused by toxic drugs, we have always warned that anyone who violates the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act could face enforcement and criminal charges. This group has knowingly operated illegally in the Downtown Eastside and we have now taken action to stop it."

DULF has said it has been selling tested drugs at cost for more than a year, and that its efforts had resulted in fewer overdoses, reduced drug use among some clients, and zero associated overdose deaths.

British Columbia has responded to the overdose crisis by embracing the decriminalization of the possession of personal use amounts of drugs, but that is not nearly enough, according to DULF.

"Decriminalization as a response to overdoses is a drop in the bucket," said group cofounder Jeremy Kalicum.

Marijuana Legalization Debate in Germany's Bundestag Heats Up. The federal legislature, the Bundestag, has for the first time debated a draft marijuana legalization bill proposed by the federal government. The deTbate had originally been set for last week but was delayed by the outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza.

The bill would legalize the use and possession of marijuana by adults, but was "scaled back" from full-blown commercial legalization following consultations with the European Union.

A Social Democratic Party member made the case for legalization, cited profits to organized crime and the fact that illegal marijuana "is often contaminated."

Both the rightist Union Party and the rightist Alternative for Germany spoke against the bill, arguing that it would turn the country "in the wrong direction" and arguing instead for only the legalization of medical marijuana.

OR Lawmakers Discuss Measure 110 Rollback, Cartel Kills 13 Cops in Mexico, More... (10/24/23)

New York is rolling out a drug checking program, Seattle begins a crackdown on public drug use, and more.

Drug Policy

Mexico's bloody drug wars keep on generating new body counts. (Creative Commons)
Oregon Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Measure 110 Issues. Two years after voters approved Measure 110, which decriminalizes drug possession and allocates hundreds of millions of dollars in marijuana tax revenues to drug prevention and treatment, the measure is under concerted attack. With concerns over overdoses and public drug use rising, a legislative joint committee on addiction met last week with Measure 110 on its mind.

"The crisis that we are facing in our addiction system is not a big-city crisis or a rural-community crisis, it's not a Republican crisis, it's not a Democrat crisis or an Independent crisis, this is a crisis in all of Oregon," said Sen. Kate Lieber, D-Portland, who chairs the committee.

Lieber vowed that the committee would examine all aspects of the crisis and consult with a broad range of experts to come up with policy solutions that lawmakers could address in the 2024 legislative session. Democrats hold a majority in the legislature and have not committed to repealing Measure 110, but Lieber said it could use some adjustments.

"It is clear that the ballot measure that Oregonians passed in 2020 is not delivering what we need it to deliver, and we need to make systemwide change to try to address this issue," she said.

Her Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, was more inclined to attack Measure 110.

"I agree that Measure 110 is not delivering. In fact, I think it has been a massive failure. I think it was born to fail for a couple of reasons. One, is that there was not on-demand treatment that was ready to go when decriminalization happened, and I think that was a huge mistake," he said. "I also think that community harm reduction was not really contemplated with Measure 110 and making sure that those who are causing harm to the community through addiction get to treatment and recovery."

During the hearing, lawmakers heard from addiction prevention and recovery experts, none of whom would go so far as to recommend repealing Measure 110. Instead, they said that the state's addiction treatment and recovery systems are understaffed and underfunded.

Seattle Police Crack Down on Public Drug Use as New City Ordinance Goes into Effect. Last month, the city council passed an ordinance criminalizing public drug use and possession under municipal law, and last Friday, police began emphatically enforcing it. Squads of police officers swept through two neighborhoods -- Little Saigon and downtown Pine Street -- and arrested about two dozen people.

Ten people were jailed, mostly on outstanding felony warrants, while another 15 people who were arrested were referred to case workers and released.

Police Chief Adrian Diaz said the department would conduct similar operations on a weekly basis.

"We are going to be compassionate in our approach to getting people connected with services while still making sure our city streets are safe," he said.

But opponents worry the law will punish people for addictions and called it a new version of the war on drugs, which subjected Black and brown people to disproportionate enforcement. And they noted that access to treatment remains severely limited.

"Data shows the minute you're arrested, there are cascading consequences for your stability," said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda , who opposed the new law. "People are more likely to die while in jail due to withdrawal or die upon release due to overdoses," she said. "We don't want public consumption throughout the streets, but we do not have the treatment resources necessary to implement this policy."

Harm Reduction

New York State Department of Health Announces Drug Checking Programs The New York State Department of Health's Office of Drug User Health (NYSDOH-ODUH) has implemented four drug checking programs operated by state funded Drug User Health Hubs (DUHH). Drug checking is used as a consumer safety tool -- either before or after consumption -- and a method to engage people who use drugs (PWUD) in other harm reduction services. This information can help inform the larger PWUD community about new or emerging adulterants in the local drug supply and how to decrease their risk of overdose from dangerous substances like fentanyl.

"As new or dangerous substances, including fentanyl, continue to appear in the drug supply, the risk of overdose for people who use drugs continues to rapidly increase," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Given this ever-changing landscape, these essential comprehensive drug checking services will help protect New Yorkers and help us to better understand the local drug supply and improve overall drug user health."

The technology used to test for drugs produces results within minutes and provides the technician the ability to determine the chemical composition of the sample. To ensure that technicians can interpret test results accurately, the NYSDOH-ODUH has contracted with an experienced drug checking consultant who provides training and ongoing technical assistance.

For further support, the drug checking program also includes the use of a confirmatory laboratory that allows DUHH to send residual amounts of inactivated drug samples to the lab and in compliance with Drug Enforcement Administration and postal regulations. Technicians will send the first 150 residual samples to the laboratory for additional testing to confirm the accuracy of initial analysis. The laboratory providing the additional analysis utilizes gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC/MS), which is regarded as a gold standard for drug testing.

"The unregulated drug supply is increasingly unpredictable and dangerous. Having comprehensive drug checking available is a strategy to decrease potential harms, including overdoses, and supports our ongoing work to expand and enhance harm reduction services across New York State," said Office of Addiction Services and Supports Commissioner Dr. Chinazo Cunningham.

The drug checking programs are located in Central New York, the Southern Tier, the Mohawk Valley, the Capital Region and Long Island. The program involves staffing and training at each participating DUHH. Governor Kathy Hochul specifically mentioned in her 2023 State of the State Address the expansion of drug checking technology within DUHHs to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of substances before and after use. This enhanced technology will be available at Drug User Health Hubs so that individuals can test their drugs to mitigate drug-related harms and prevent overdose.


Irish Parliamentarians Call for "Radical Change" in Drug Policy After Citizens' Assembly Recommends Decriminalization. Over the weekend, the Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use voted to recommend that the country move toward a "comprehensive health-led" approach to drug policy, including a form of drug decriminalization. In response, a cross-party group of parliamentarians is calling for a "radical change" in drug policy.

In a statement on Monday evening, a group parliamentarians, including politicians from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party, Labor, and People Before Profit, said that the decision by the Citizens' Assembly "reinforces the case for radical change in Irish drug policy".

"We urge the Oireachtas [the parliament] to assign the report, when published, to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice to allow them carry out detailed deliberation and to propose draft legislation," the statement reads. We emphasize the need for detailed analysis and recommendations on the decriminalization of the drug user and regulation of cannabis."

Mexican Cartel Guns Down 13 Cops in Guerrero. Supposed cartel gunmen ambushed police in Coyuca de Benitze, Guerrero, on Monday, leaving 13 dead, including the local police chief and municipal security secretary. This was only the latest in a growing number of deadly attacks against police in the region.

At least 34 police officers have been killed in Guerrero so far in 2023 -- one-tenth of the total number of police killed countrywide -- making it the second most dangerous state for law enforcement.

The state has been plagued by turf wars between various drug trafficking organizations, who seek to dominate both the opium and marijuana-growing mountainous interior and the consumer market in the tourist city of Acapulco and other coastal resort areas.

Hiccup for SAFER Banking Act Senate Vote, CA Governor Signs Social Media Drug Crackdown Law, More... (10/16/23)

Workers at Story Cannabis in Maryland's Mechansville are the latest in the industry to vote to unionize, Gavin Newsom signs a social media law that aims at cracking down on online drug sales, and more.
logo from United Food and Commercial Workers cannabis workers program
Marijuana Policy

GOP Sponsor of Marijuana Banking Bill Says No Senate Floor Vote Until House Passage Assured. According to a marijuana financing executive who spoke with Senate marijuana banking bill sponsor Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) last week, the key senator said a planned vote on the bill, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act (S.2860) is on hold until he is sure it can pass in the House.

While the Senate leadership has always factored the bill's prospects in the House into its thinking, Daines' comments to Pelorus Capital Group President Rob Sechrist make it clear that the bill will not move without that assurance. According to Sechrist, Daines said something to the effect that he is "going to slow this down until there's a clear path through on the House side."

Senate Majority Lader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he want to bring the bill to a Senate floor vote "as quickly as possible," but has not said the vote would depend on the state of play in the House.

Daines' goal "is to make sure that this gets passed, and not just go and die in the House," Sechrist said. "He was passionate about making sure that I understood that this is not about a political win and just getting it over to the House. He is adamant that he wants to make sure that this gets done this time all the way through."

When told some industry members would be "disappointed" to hear the vote is being delayed, Daines replied that a negative view is "not the way to look at it -- I want to make sure this gets all the way done," Secrist said.

But with the House in chaos after Republicans defenestrated former, short-lived Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), it is unclear when the chamber might get around to voting on anything, let alone whether it is ready to pass the SAFER Banking Act.

Maryland Pot Shop Workers Vote to Unionize. Workers at the Story marijuana shop in Mechanicsville have voted overwhelmingly to unionize under the aegis of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UCFW), the latest victory in wave of union organizing in the industry.

"We are stoked on the outcome of our election, and it just further illustrates what we already knew: we are a team that works together to benefit our patients, our community, and ourselves as workers," the workers' organizing committee said after the vote. "We are excited to continue providing the best medicine and overall experience to our patients and our adult-use customers. We look forward to getting down to business and negotiating a contract."

Voting took place last Thursday, with workers voting 14-2 to unionize. The vote came after workers filed for a union election through the National Labor Relations Board in August, after most eligible employees signing authorization cards supporting unionizing. The union will represent 20 employees.

Story Cannabis is a multi-state operator with stores in Arizona and Ohio as well as Maryland. The Mechanicsville store will become the first union shop owned by Story.

In 2020, MaryMed LLC in Hurlock became the first unionized pot shop in the state, but this had already seen two more shops unionize, Zen Leaf in Germantown and PharmaCann Verilife in Westminster.

Drug Policy

California Governor Signs Social Media Drug Crackdown Bill. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) last Friday signed into law a bill, Assembly Bill 1027, designed to increase cooperation between law enforcement and social media platforms in cracking down on the sale of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs.

The new law requires social media platforms to add controlled substances to the list of topics where they must submit terms of service to the state attorney general and to do so by January. Laws requiring the platforms to submit terms of service already exist, but this new law requires social media companies to keep a record of communications between platform users for seven days or face a civil penalty of up to $250,000. The bill also holds social media financially liable if a minor overdoses on fentanyl purchased on their platform.

X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the law from going into effect.

Rate of Black Men in Prison Has Dropped by Nearly Half, New Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug, More... (10/13/23)

Ohio's Republican Senate leader is threatening to mess with a marijuana legalization initiative if it passes, the Israel-Hamas war has caused a pause in Germany's march toward marijuana legalization, and more.
A new opioid overdose reversal drug, OpVee, has hit the market.
Marijuana Policy

Ohio GOP Senate President Vows to Mess with Marijuana Legalization Initiative If It Passes. The GOP-dominated state Senate has already passed a resolution opposing the Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative (as well as the Issue 1 abortion rights amendment), and the Republican Senate leader now says that while the legislature would not try to repeal the initiative if it passes, it is likely to try to modify it.

In the Senate, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said that passage of the initiative would cause a "mental health crisis," adding that "this initiated statute is coming right back before this body."

When pressed after the session about precisely what he meant, Huffman clarified. "I will advocate for reviewing it and repealing things or changing things that are in it," he said.

He said he was perturbed about a social equity provision that allocates some marijuana tax revenues for programs aiding people with marijuana convictions to get licenses and financial assistance.

Harm Reduction

New Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Opvee Comes to Market. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new opioid overdose reversal drug, Opvee, back in June, and now, the manufacturer, Indivior, has begun shipping the drug to pharmacies and first responders.

Opvee is a nasal spray containing the opioid receptor-blocking drug nalmefene. It is approved for use in people 12 and over and requires a prescription.

While the market for overdose reversal drugs is growing crowded, with Narcan already widely available and now available without a prescription at major drug store chains a second naloxone nasal spray, RiVive from Harm Reduction Therapeutics aimed at community groups coming soon, Opvee aims to position itself as being better able to respond to fentanyl overdoses. The company says it is a better match against fentanyl because its formulation is more powerful than Narcan or other forms of naloxone.

Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams called Opvee a "fentanyl fighter" and another tool for public health officials to counter illicit fentanyl driving the nation's overdose deaths. "It's as if it was designed to combat fentanyl," Adams said. "It matches up well with the potency and the longevity of fentanyl, so it's a new valuable tool that is available."

But as with other opioid overdose reversal drugs, cost is an issue. Opvee will go for $75 per kit for public interest and government purchasers and $98 for others with no insurance. Narcan now goes for $44.99 for a two-dose kit, while RiVive will go for $36.


Rate of Imprisonment for Black Men Has Dropped by Nearly Half Since 2000, Report Finds. The Sentencing Project released a new report, "One in Five: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration," that presents an overview of trends in incarceration and community supervision. The report identifies the progress made in the 21st century in reducing the US prison population and its racial and ethnic disparities, while sounding the alarm about the future of reforms. One in five Black men born in 2001 is likely to experience imprisonment within their lifetime, a decline from one in three for those born in 1981. But rather than accelerate the pace of reforms, pushback from policymakers threatens further advancement.


According to the report, the imprisonment rate of Black men in 2021 declined substantially, falling by almost half (48%) since 2000, yet Black men were still imprisoned at 5.5 times the rate of white men. The imprisonment rate of Black women declined even more, by 70% since 2000, but Black women remained imprisoned at 1.6 times the rate of white women.

The report also found that the total prison population has declined by 25% after reaching its peak level in 2009; while all major racial and ethnic groups experienced decarceration, the Black prison population has downsized the most; and American Indian and Latinx people were imprisoned at 4.2 times and 2.4 times the rate of whites in 2021, respectively.

The momentum for continued progress is precarious. We've seen a backlash to the progress we've made on criminal justice reform. In fact,preliminary data from the Department of Justice shows that the prison population increased for the first time in almost a decade between 2021 and 2022.

In an effort to protect and expand the progress, The Sentencing Project is producing the "One in Five" series of four reports to examine both the narrowing and persistence of racial injustice in the criminal legal system, as well as to highlight promising reforms.


German Marijuana Legalization Debate Delayed Because of Israel-Hamas War. The Bundestag was set to take up debate on a government-backed bill to legalize marijuana Friday, but that debate is now delayed because of the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The "global political situation" is the reason for the delay, said lawmakers Carmen Wegge and Dirk Heidenblut of the Social Democratic Party, but lawmakers "will make sure that everything gets done somehow in the next week."

But Thorsten Frei, a member of the minority Christian Democratic Union -- not a member of the governing coalition -- said the debate cancellation was "surprising" and reflected internal concerns about the bill more than foreign wars.

Any delay could make it more difficult to get the bill passed by a December 15 deadline, and if that does not happen, further consideration would be pushed back to next February at the earliest. But a revised parliamentary schedule suggests that it could get done by mid-November.

CDC Says ODs Hit Record High Last Year, CA Bans "Excited Delirium" As Cause of Death, More... (10/12/23)

More usual suspects come out against the Ohio marijuana legalization initiative, the FDA issues a warning about the home use of prescribed ketamine, and more.

prescription ketamine (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Senate Urges Voters to Reject Marijuana Legalization Initiative. On Wednesday, the day early voting began for next month's election, the Republican-led Senate passed a resolution urging voters to reject the Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative. The measure, Senate Resolution 216, resorted to Reefer Madness-type arguments in its bid to scare voters into a "no" vote. "The proposed statute authored by the commercial marijuana industry," it says, "does not serve the best interests of the people of Ohio, will bring unacceptable threats and risks to the health of all Ohioans, especially children, will create dangers in the workplace and unacceptable challenges and costs to employers, will make Ohio's roads more dangerous, will impose significant new, unfunded costs to Ohio's public social services, and serves only to advance the financial interests of the commercial marijuana industry and its investors."

The resolution asserts that marijuana is "a gateway drug," that drug overdoses "have been the leading cause of injury and death in Ohio" since 2007 (but the 33,000 overdose deaths in a decade are fewer than the 42,000 people killed by COVID), and that a whole litany of dire consequences would arise from legalization, including more emergency room visits for children, increased risk of young people developing psychosis, lower intelligence and learning ability, more car crashes, higher crime rates, a bigger illicit cannabis market and "great risks at the workplace to employers, other workers, customers, and others."

Polling last month had the initiative at 59 percent.

Drug Policy

CDC Says Drug Overdose Deaths Hit All-Time High Last Year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an estimate of drug overdose deaths and projects that 112,024 people died in the 12 months ending in May of this year, some 2,700 more than the previous year. That is a 2.5 percent increase, which indicates a slight leveling off of the still-increasing overdose numbers.

Dr. Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, noted that the increase is leveling off.

"We still have an extraordinary number of overdose deaths that is orders of magnitude higher than we've seen in previous years," said Dr. Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. However, "the increase that we [saw] in 2021 has slowed down. There were extraordinary increases in 2020 and 2021 that have started to flatten out in 2022 -- now going into 2023. They're not declining yet," Keyes said. "But the pace of the increase is certainly slowing. So that is both good news and indicative of a continuing public health crisis."

The death toll rose especially sharply in Western states, with Washington seeing the biggest increase, a jump of 37 percent from the previous year. That increase is likely a function of the late introduction of fentanyl into drug markets in the Pacific Northwest.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in the vast majority of overdose deaths.

"Fentanyl is an unpredictable product, and people who use too much can rapidly have an overdose," Keyes said, adding that the drug is particularly dangerous for people who don't know they are consuming it. "Many people who use drugs are more tolerant to fentanyl and prefer it," she said. "Other people use it without knowing it, and that can be very dangerous because people who don't have a tolerance to opioids who are exposed to fentanyl only need a very small amount of exposure to rapidly induce an overdose."

FDA Issues Warning Over Home Consumption of Telemedicine-Prescribed Ketamine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an alert warning about the dangers of unsupervised use of compounded ketamine to treat psychiatric disorders. The drug, a powerful anesthetic, is increasingly popular for treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other difficult-to-treat mental health issues.

Compounded drugs are drugs created in pharmacies (as opposed to manufactured in pharmaceutical plants) that are modified for the specific needs of individual patients. Ketamine is often used under supervision as part of psychiatric therapy at clinics or "wellness centers," but is also prescribed by online marketers who prescribe it via telemedicine for unsupervised home use.

"Patients who receive compounded ketamine products from compounders and telemedicine platforms for the treatment of psychiatric disorders may not receive important information about the potential risks associated with the product," the FDA warned.

Ketamine is unapproved and unregulated for psychiatric use, but doctors can prescribe it "off label" for any condition they desire. The boom in telemedicine during the pandemic has seen large numbers of online prescribers emerge, who dispense the medication after a brief video interview. Some prescribe as many as 30 doses at a time.

"Whenever you have something new, there may be people who run ahead with it. And there will be people who do things based on less evidence rather than more," said Dr. Joshua Berman, medical director for interventional psychiatry at Columbia University, who helped develop the department's ketamine program.

"Our concern is that these online sellers are going to ruin it for everybody," said Peter Koshland, who runs a compounding pharmacy in San Francisco. "Our fear is that regulators, if they perceive a threat to public health, will move to take this amazing medicine away and leave patients at risk."

Law Enforcement

California Becomes First State to Ban "Excited Delirium" As Cause of Death in Police Encounters. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 360, which bars coroners or medical examiners from using the term "excited delirium" on death certificates.

The state becomes the first to ban the phrase, which medical associations have said is rooted in racism and which has often been used to justify the deaths of people in police custody, especially those using stimulant drugs.

The signing of the bill was a victory for "justice, police accountability, human rights and health," said Dr. Michele Heisler, the medical director of Physicians for Human Rights. "This baseless concept can no longer be used in California to absolve law enforcement for deaths in custody, misinform responses to people facing medical and behavioral crises, or block access to legal remedies."

Two years ago, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced its opposition to the use of the term, saying reports showed a pattern of using the term as "justification for excessive police force, disproportionately cited in cases where Black men die in law enforcement custody."

OH Legal Weed Initiative Early Voting Starts, CA Psychedelic Research Initiative, More... (10/10/23)

The Canadian government issued a report on five years of marijuana legalization, medical marijuana is now one vote away in the Ukrainian parliament, and more.

It's time to vote, Ohio.
Marijuana Policy

Early Voting for Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Begins. Early voting for the marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on the ballot as Issue 2 began on Wednesday. Election day is November 7.

Sponsored by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. The initiative also allows for the home cultivation of six plants per adult, with a limit of 12 per household.

The initiative would also create a new state agency called  the Division of Cannabis Control, which would have the authority to "license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult use cannabis operators, adult use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed," according to the text of the measure. Cannabis products would carry a 10 percent tax, which would be dedicated to administrative costs of marijuana regulation, substance misuse treatment programs and a social equity and jobs program.

A Fallon Research poll last month had support for the initiative at 59 percent.


California Psychedelic Research Initiative Begins Signature-Gathering. Signature-gathering has gotten underway for the TREAT California Act, an initiative that would authorize the state to spend $5 billion to create a state agency focused on advancing research and development of psychedelic therapies.

The initiative would not decriminalize or legalize any substance, but would create a state constitutional right to conduct research using all psychedelic substances except peyote. It would create a state agency called the Treatment, Research, Education, Access, and Therapies (TREAT) Institute. The institute would identify opportunities for advancing scientific research and development into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

"It’s clear we are in a mental healthcare crisis, as conventional therapies too often fail to offer relief for people suffering from PTSD, suicide, and depression, and the effects are simply catastrophic," Jeannie Fontana, CEO of the TREAT California campaign, said in a statement. "We have a moral imperative to address the limitations inherent in our current system, and it’s time we got started."

The initiative will need to come up with 874,161 valid voter signature by next July to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.


Canadian Report Finds Legal Marijuana Industry Struggling. Health Canada has released the "What We Heard Report" on the state of the marijuana industry five years after legalization. The report found that weed companies are finding it difficult to turn a profit because of high taxes, mark-ups, and the costs of regulatory compliance.

The review was mandated by the bill that legalized marijuana and was conducted by an expert panel, which is charged with advising the Health Ministry on how well legalization has met the laws objectives, including protecting the health and safety of Canadians, as well as identifying areas where the law needed to be improved.

"Public health stakeholders insisted that the focus of the regime should be on reducing harms associated with consumption, high-potency products, higher-risk product formats, polysubstance use (that is, the consumption of at least two substances), cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, driving after cannabis use, and cannabis poisonings of children," the panel wrote in the report.

"Public health stakeholders were generally supportive of the precautionary approach—including the 10-milligram delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) limit for edible cannabis products and restrictions on promotion of these products. There were some suggestions that further restrictions should be considered such as stricter age limits on who can possess, distribute, and buy cannabis, setting minimum pricing retailers can charge, and restrictions on selling flavored products."

The illicit market remains an issue but a diminishing one, the panel found.

"While not a direct measure of access, the growth in legal sales—and the decline in illicit sales—indicates that consumers are migrating to legal suppliers," the panel wrote. "Estimates of legal market share vary, but suggest that more than half, and up to as much as three-quarters, of cannabis is being obtained from legal sources (for example, in 2022, a survey found 63 percent of cannabis users always or mostly accessed legal sources, another observed cannabis consumers bought 82 percent of the cannabis they used from legal sources, and 68 percent of household spending on non-medical cannabis was attributed to legal sources)."

The panel wrote that it "heard a great deal about the economic condition of the legal cannabis market," and that industry representatives "expressed concern in that companies in the legal market are struggling to realize profits and maintain financial viability.

"A main message from industry representatives was that, despite the growth of the legal cannabis market, companies across the supply chain are struggling to realize profits and maintain financial viability," the panel wrote in the report.

"Specifically, they noted that the hyper-competitive cannabis market for producers and retailers, combined with the various regulatory fees, distributor mark-ups and fees, and taxes are stifling companies of all sizes. Some noted that other industries, such as alcohol and tobacco, are not subject to federal regulatory fees and that they pay less mark-ups and taxes (for example, beer). Some stakeholders proposed that Health Canada move towards an ‘à la carte’ model for regulatory fees (that is, transactional fees for specific services) and remove the annual regulatory fee. Others felt that the government should adopt a progressive excise tax framework, whereby the tax rate is connected to the size of the firm or the price of the product. Others suggested adjusting the tax rate to 10% for dried cannabis, as opposed to the current model of $1 or 10% per gram, whichever is greater."

Ukraine Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Parliamentary Committee Vote. The parliament's National Health, Medical Care, and Health Insurance Committee approved the government-supported medical marijuana bill on Tuesday, clearing the way for a final vote in the unicameral legislative body, the Verkhovna Rada.

The bill would create a national medical marijuana program to provide access to patients with conditions such as cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from war—a proposed reform that comes as Ukraine continues to experience violent conflict after Russian invaded the country last year.

"We did everything [so that] patients could get their medicine as soon as possible," said MP Olga Stefanyshyna. "So far medical cannabis has not entered in the history of Ukraine. Waiting for the 2nd reading, we believe it will work this time!"

CA Governor Vetoes Weed Labeling Bill, OR Supreme Court Rules on "Possesion with Intent," More... (10/10/23)

Some of the usual suspects line up against the Ohio marijuana legalization initiative, California's governor vetoes a "what about the kids?" marijuana labeling bill, and more.

Cocaine, meth, and MDMA will be effectively decriminalized in Australia's New South Wales. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Vetoes Marijuana Labeling Bill Opposed by Industry. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has vetoed a labeling bill opposed by the industry as too onerous, Assembly Bill 1207, the Cannabis Candy Child Safety Act. The bill would have banned the sale, distribution or manufacturing of cannabis products with packaging and labeling deemed "attractive to children." That would have included promotional material displaying fictional humans, animals, fruits and vegetables.

The industry lobbied for the veto and instead supported Senate Bill 540, which also passed the legislature and which Newsom has now signed into law. That bill instructs the state Department of Cannabis Control to revisit packaging and labeling restrictions "in line with evolving science" and to create "a brochure encouraging responsible cannabis use."

"We're enormously grateful for the governor's thoughtful and nuanced approach to cannabis advertising," said Tiffany Devitt, who manages government affairs for CannaCraft, a Santa Rosa producer. "By vetoing AB 1207 and signing SB 540, he's taken a science-based approach to safeguarding consumers while preserving the ability of California cannabis companies to compete in the national market."

Ohio Business Groups Oppose Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Several influential state business organizations have come out against Issue 2, the marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on the ballot next month.

Citing concerns over workplace safety and company's ability to find workers who can pass drug tests, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Business Roundtable and the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association are opposing the measure.

Legalization presents "No upside for businesses that I can see," said Steve Stivers, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.

Tom Haren, a spokesperson for Ohio’s pro-legalization sponsor, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, dismissed the business groups’ worries as "Reefer Madness type scare tactics."

Drug Policy

Oregon Supreme Court Rules Mere Possession of Large Quantities of Drugs Not Sufficient to Prove Intent to Sell. The state Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that mere possession of a large amount of drugs is not enough to justify charges of possession with intent to distribute drugs. The high court said more evidence was required to show "possession with intent to sell."

The ruling comes in the midst of growing debate over state drug policy, with a joint legislative committee reviewing drug treatment and enforcement efforts and two different initiative campaigns seeking to roll back or otherwise modify Measure 110, the 2020 initiative that decriminalized drug possession in the state.

One of initiatives proposed to change the 2020 law contains language to restore the "possession with intent to sell" standard established through a 1988 decision by the Court of Appeals. That standard had been sufficient to prove "attempt transfer" until the Supreme Court's ruling.

"It is sufficient for us to say what an ‘attempted transfer’ is not: It is not established by evidence that a person possessed a large quantity of a controlled substance and had a general intent to transfer it at an undetermined future time," the court held. "Some additional evidence that the person made an effort to engage in the act of transferring is required. The question of what sort of additional evidence might be sufficient is one that we decline to address in the abstract, as we expect that courts will face it in a great variety of fact patterns.

"In this case, the record is legally insufficient to prove that defendant made an effort to transfer fentanyl. The record shows that defendant possessed a nonuser amount of fentanyl and that some of the fentanyl was packaged in a manner consistent with an intent to deliver it. What the record lacks is evidence that defendant had taken additional steps to engage in conduct that would cause the fentanyl to change hands."

The Supreme Court did not dismiss the case but sent it back to Washington County Circuit Court, where prosecutors could present additional evidence.


Australia's New South Wales Joins Rest of Country in Relaxing Drug Laws. State government officials have announced that as of New Year's Day, people caught with small amounts of drugs will have the option of paying a fine or getting counselling rather than be arrested and subjected to court proceedings. That will bring the state in line with the rest of the country's states and territories.

The new policy will apply to the possession of up to a quarter-gram of MDMA and a gram of cocaine or methamphetamine. The state already applies the policy for up to 30 grams of marijuana.

Police still maintain the discretion to make an arrest, a move that activists denounced about data showed that the diversion scheme was applied less often for indigenous people.

Legislation to effect the change will be introduced in parliament this week.

CA Governor Vetoes Pot Shop Food and Beverage Bill, DEA Extends Telehealth Prescribing, More... (10/9/23)

Arizona pot shop social equity licenses are having a hard time getting their doors open, Kentucky's governor signs an executive order creating a medical marijuana working group, and more.

Doctors will be able to prescribe this opioid dependence disorder drug via telehealth for another year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Social Equity Marijuana Retailers Set to Miss Key Deadline. The state's social equity marijuana retail licensees are supposed to have their shops open by Sunday, but more than half of them are poised to miss that deadline.

While they could face penalties for failing to meet the state-mandated deadline up to having their licenses revoked, state regulators say they will not do that but will allow them more time to get up and running.

Some 26 retail licenses out of 169 are allocated to social equity licensees, who face a number of obstacles to opening, including a lack of funding, lawsuits, competition from existing operators and other factors. They also have to operate under more restrictive rules than other marijuana businesses.

Social equity operators can sell to medical marijuana patients, but patients who buy at those shops have to pay a 16 percent excise tax and cannot buy edibles with more than 100 milligrams of THC per package. Social equity shops can also only sell customers one ounce of buds a day, while the 130 medical marijuana sellers that were grandfathered into the adult-use market can sell 2.5 ounces.       

California Governor Vetoes Bill to Allow Marijuana Retailers to Sell Food and Beverages. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has added another notch in veto belt against progressive drug reforms (he has recently vetoed psychedelic decriminalization and safe injection site pilot project bills) by vetoing a bill that would have allowed localities to give marijuana retailers the ability to prepare and serve non-marijuana food and beverages, Assembly Bill 374.

In his veto message, Newsom said he was concerned the bill could undermine the state's smoke-free workplace protections. He said he "appreciated" that struggling pot shops needed more revenue streams, but that was not enough for him to sign the bill.

Bill sponsor Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) was an effort to move away from the marijuana-only shop model and "bring much-needed tourist dollars into empty downtowns."

"Californians are proud of our state's wine culture, and we do everything we can to make sure that our winemakers receive the support they need -- we need to be doing the exact same thing for cannabis," Haney said. "If we don't start better supporting these businesses we are going to lose decades of being at the forefront of the cannabis movement and other states will be ready to swoop in and take it from us."

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Governor Signs Executive Order Creating New Medical Marijuana Working Group. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) last Thursday announced the creation of a new working group to study marijuana policy developments in the state and the country, as well as announcing the launch of a new government website so people can follow the upcoming implementation of the state's medical marijuana program.

The medical marijuana program is set to begin in 2025. People who are interested in the program's progress can go to to follow along with the implementation process.

The Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Workgroup will consist of 12 membrs who will "study the evolving medical cannabis industry policy and the state of medical cannabis policy in our Commonwealth and around the country."

"This group will include individuals and state and local government and the private sector with relevant experience in law enforcement, agriculture, health care, workforce and economic development," he said. "They will be making recommendations to the program and other state agencies that interact with this new law and with Kentuckians to ensure they have safe access to medical cannabis."

Drug Policy

DEA Extends Telehealth Prescribing of Controlled Substances. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last Friday that they will extend pandemic-era telehealth prescribing flexibility for controlled substances through the end of 2024.

This is the second temporary extension of relaxed prescribing rules for drugs such as opioid use disorder medications and stimulant medications for ADHD. The rules allow doctors to prescribe the drugs virtually without first having an in-patient evaluation.

The rule ensures "a smooth transition for patients and practitioners that have come to rely on the availability of telemedicine for controlled medication prescriptions, as well as allowing adequate time for providers to come into compliance with any new standards or safeguards," the DEA and the HHS wrote. The DEA will work to write new regulations by the fall of 2024.

California Governor Vetoes Psychedelic Decrim Bill [FEATURE]

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Saturday vetoed a measure that would have decriminalized several natural psychedelics, Senate Bill 58. The substances that would have been decriminalized are psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms), dimethyltryptamine (DMT -- found in ayahusca), and mescaline.

Magic mushrooms. Not this year, California. (Greenoid/Flickr)
The bill would not have allowed for the legal sale of those substances, but it would have ensured that people would not be arrested or jailed for possessing or using the natural psychedelics.

[Editor's Note: This is the second cutting edge drug reform measure Newsom vetoed this year. In August, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed pilot program safe injection sites. One might wonder if he is sacrificing progressive drug reforms on the altar of ambition for national political office.]

In his veto message, Newsom said he was open to exploring the therapeutic benefits of natural psychedelics, but that guiderails needed to put in place first -- and he appeared to give short shrift to any uses other than medicalized therapeutic use.

"Both peer-reviewed science and powerful personal anecdotes lead me to support new opportunities to address mental health through psychedelic medicines like those addressed in this bill," Newsom wrote. "Psychedelics have proven to relieve people suffering from certain conditions such as depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other addictive personality traits. This is an exciting frontier and California will be on the front-end of leading it. California should immediately begin work to set up regulated treatment guidelines -replete with dosing information, therapeutic guidelines, rules to prevent against exploitation during guided treatments, and medical clearance of no underlying psychoses. Unfortunately, this bill would decriminalize possession prior to these guidelines going into place, and I cannot sign it."

Throwing a sop to the bill's supporters, Newsom urged them to send him a bill next year that includes therapeutic guidelines and added that he was "committed to working with the legislature and sponsors of this bill to craft legislation that would authorize permissible uses and consider a framework for potential broader decriminalization in the future, once the impacts, dosing, best practice, and safety guardrails are thoroughly contemplated and put in place."

The California Coalition for Psychedelic Safety and Education -- a project of the American Legion of California -- opposed the measure and lauded Newsom's veto.

"We're grateful that Gov. Newsom listened to some of the top medical experts, psychedelic researchers and psychiatrists in the country who all warned that legalization without guardrails was at best premature for both personal and therapeutic use," the coalition said Saturday. "Any move toward decriminalization will require appropriate public education campaigns, safety protocols and emergency response procedures to help keep Californians safe."

But bill sponsor Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francico), who spent two year shepherding the bill through the legislature, was not pleased, saying the governor had punted on a chance for the state to lead the nation on psychedelics.

"This is a setback for the huge number of Californians -- including combat veterans and first responders -- who are safely using and benefiting from these non-addictive substances and who will now continue to be classified as criminals under California law," Wiener said in a statement Saturday. "The evidence is beyond dispute that criminalizing access to these substances only serves to make people less safe and reduce access to help."

Wiener added that he would sponsor a new bill next year.

Dr. Bronner's, the California based and family-owned maker of the top-selling natural brand of soap in North America, which helped organize and finance a broad coalition of groups supporting the bill, was also disappointed but hopeful.

"Although the veto of SB 58 is a major disappointment to our coalition and a setback for all who are committed to criminal justice and mental health reform, Gov. Newsom's veto message shows there is still a path forward. Despite this delay, we are confident that we will soon decriminalize and achieve legal access to psychedelics in the state of California," said David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner's and board member of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). "I am grateful to Senator Wiener, all those in the CA Senate and Assembly who supported SB 58, as well as all the activists and advocates who worked on this legislation, including our coalition partners."

"Our world is grappling with epidemics of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction that millions suffer from. Natural psychedelic medicines used responsibly are life-saving medicines that the world needs now, especially traumatized populations such as veterans and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities," Bronner continued.

While the governor's veto has blocked the legislative path to psychedelic reform -- at least for now -- California voters may have a chance to do it themselves next year. Campaigns are underway to put two psychedelic initiatives on the ballot in 2024, one that would legalize the sale and use of magic mushrooms by people 21 and over and one that would seek voter approval of a $5 billion expenditure to create a state agency to research psychedelic therapies.

BC Bill Would Criminalize Public Drug Use, MPP and NORML Merger Talk, More... (10/6/23)

MPP and NORML are in preliminary merger talks, Georgia will become the first state in the country to offer medical marijuana products in pharmacies, and more. 

San Francisco. Safe injection sites are on mayoral candidates' minds. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Top Marijuana Advocacy Groups Ponder Merger Amid Fundraising Challenges, Leadership Transitions. With its executive director having recently resigned and its ability to undertake expensive ballot initiative campaigns curtailed by funding challenges in an era where most people now live in legal marijuana states, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is considering a possible merger with the nation's largest marijuana consumer advocacy group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

MPP was formed as a breakaway from NORML back in 1996, when then-NORML staffers Rob Kampia and Chuck Thomas left the group and to create the new organization. Since then, MPP has had access to millions of dollars in philanthropic donations, but those have largely evaporated as legalization spread and wealthy donors said the industry should step up and fund reforms. The industry has not been so good at doing that, and now MPP says it will have to give up on expensive ballot initiatives and concentrate on Congress and state legislatures.

"I do believe that we were victims of our own success," acting executive director Matthew Schweich said. "We’re highly effective. We passed so many laws through so many states and so many ballot initiatives. And people just got used to our success." MPP is still in "a strong position long-term to maintain its current operations," and the rationale behind the restructuring "is to ensure that we can operate effectively for years to come," he added. "So that’s important to know—but if people want there to be a stronger MPP like we saw in the past, we’re going to need philanthropic donors to return to the fold," he said. "It is just not sustainable to maintain the type of scale that we should have without philanthropic donors returning to help our costs."

"It’s really a shame that we’re no longer able to play a leading role in initiatives," said Karen O’Keefe, MPP's director of state polices who focuses on state legislatures. "There are states where cannabis consumers will have to suffer under prohibition for a decade or more longer probably because there’s just not the funding there to get voters there, per se. By not having the funding to put this issue on the ballot, it delays progress in those states considerably," she said. "And it also doesn’t have that message [to state legislatures]—especially in this high turnout election year, when we would presumably see a lot better results that can help spur quicker action in all of their neighboring states and in Congress."

Now, MPP and NORML are talking about a possible merger, although those conversations have largely happened at the board level and MPP says those talks are "preliminary."

"We are having very early discussions with NORML about various ways that we might partner with them to achieve our mutual cannabis reform goals," said MPP board Chairman Sal Pace. "We’re considering many options for potential collaboration, but there’s nothing new to share right now."

Medical Marijuana

Georgia to Become First State to Offer Medical Marijuana Products in Pharmacies. The state is set to become the first in the nation to offer medical marijuana products at independent pharmacies after the state Board of Pharmacy began accepting applications this week.

Nearly 120 pharmacies have agreed to offer medical marijuana products from Botanical Sciences, one of two licensed production companies in the state. It is likely to take a few weeks before product is available at the pharmacies.

The only medical marijuana product available to state residents is low-THC cannabis oil, with less than 5 percent THC. Patients will be able to buy the product at pharmacies if they show a medical marijuana registry card and identification.

The move will make the product much more widely available for state residents. Currently, there are only seven dispensaries where it can be bought.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Mayoral Candidates Split on Safe Injection Sites. We are still more than a year away from the next mayoral election, but candidates are already attacking each other over pressing issues in the city, including drugs and homelessness. Now, support for a potential safe injection site is one issue dividing candidates.

The race to become San Francisco’s next mayor is still in its early stages, but that hasn’t stopped candidates from trading barbs over their plans to solve the city’s most pressing issues.  

Mayor London Breed campaigned for the position in 2018 in part by supporting safe injection sites, but has since backed away from spending city funds for their operation. This year, Breed's campaign said she would allow a nonprofit to fund and operate a safe injection site, but is awaiting federal guidance before allowing the city to fund it.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai says he support safe injection sites, but wants them to work in conjunction with sober living facilities and other treatment options.

But Levi-Strauss heir Daniel Lurie is opposed. He says he would not support opening such sites and that they would generate "drug tourism" to the city. Instead, he said he would focus on "shutting down open air drug markets and getting everyone sheltered." 


British Columbia Bill Would Make Drug Use Illegal in Almost All Public Places. A bill filed Thursday would make it illegal to use drugs in almost all public spaces, a move reform advocates say would effectively kill the province's drug decriminalization policy less than a year into the three-year pilot project.

The law would ban within 15 meters of a playground, splash pool, skate park, sports field, beach or park and within six meters of the doorways of businesses, residences, recreation centers or any public space.



"Decriminalization was never about the ability to use hard drugs wherever you wanted, and this law makes that very clear," Premier David Eby of the New Democratic Party said as he announced the bill. He said people would instead be directed to safe injection sites.

The provincial coroner called the move "tremendously disappointing" and said the government is advancing a bill "that attempts to push people into back alleys and back corners."

"People are being set up to fail and die," said Vince Tao of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, who added that advocates were shocked by the "all-encompassing" list of restricted areas. "This is a huge step back," Tao said. "I think we can altogether admit that decriminalization is dead."


Pennsylvania Bill Imposing Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Some Fentanyl Overdose Death Passes Senate [FEATURE]

The state Senate on Monday approved Senate Bill 235 also known as "Tyler's Law" after an 18-year-old who died of a fentanyl overdose, which would impose a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for some people convicted of providing illicit drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose. Mandatory minimums would apply if the person had two or more prior convictions related to drug delivery and if he received "anything of value" for providing the drugs.

Mandatory minimum sentences are so last-century. (Pixabay)
The measure was sponsored by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), a far-right election denier and conspiracy theorist whose views were so extreme he won the Republican nomination for governor in 2022 only to be blown out in the general election, losing by 15 points and handing the office to Democrat Josh Shapiro.

The bill as originally filed was more draconian that what eventually passed the Senate. As filed by Mastriano, the bill would have imposed the mandatory minimums -- 25 years in the original, not 10 -- if the person had two or more priors or he received "something of value," which would have effectively made a bill ostensibly aimed at preventing fatal drug overdoses into one that could see mandatory minimums for any drug sale resulting in a fatality, with or without prior offenses.

The original bill also had no provision exempting people who were sharing drugs from the mandatory minimums. But the Senate approved an amendment by Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D) that addressed both issues. It changed that or to an and, removing the possibility of people other than those twice-convicted of drug sales being hit with mandatory minimums, and it added explicit language exempting situations where "the person and the decedent intended to use the controlled substance or counterfeit controlled substance together or the person used the controlled substance or counterfeit controlled substance with the decedent."

Still, the bill would introduce new mandatory minimum sentences, and that is drawing the ire of groups such as the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Families Against Mandatory Minimums. As the bill awaits consideration in the Democratic-controlled House, the groups are raising the alarm.

"SB 235 would almost certainly incarcerate people with substance use disorders," said the ACLU of Pennsylvania as it came out against the measure. "Instead of reducing the instances of drug-related deaths, SB 235 has the real potential of punishing people for their substance use disorder. Mandatory minimum sentences fail to keep Pennsylvanians safe, while driving up prison populations and costs for taxpayers. Despite their best intentions, legislators should resist resorting to demonstrably failed policies of the past."

"It is 2023, yet some lawmakers continue to cling to the same failed approach to the War on Drugs from 1983," said Celeste Trusty, FAMM Pennsylvania State Policy Director. "We have decades of research proving mandatory minimums to be ineffective and wasteful policy. They have been a primary driver of Pennsylvania's unsustainable prison population which is now the second largest in the northeast. They perpetuate and exacerbate overwhelming racial disparities within our criminal justice system."

"We tried mandatory minimums before," Trusty continued. "They failed. The underlying case here is a tragedy, but this mandatory minimum bill won't prevent overdoses or make us safer or healthier. It won't stop people from using drugs or help people struggling with substance use. In fact, it will make us less safe by forcing judges to ignore effective alternatives and spend millions sending people to prison even if they don't need to be there. I am hopeful the House will focus on crafting legislative responses that actually lead to positive outcomes for our communities."

FDA Issues Guidance for Cocaine, Meth Treatments; US Sanctions Chinese Fentanyl Precursors, More... (10/5/23)

The DA in Oregon's most populous county weighs in on decriminalization, top US officials meet with their counterparts in Mexico on drugs and immigration, and more.

Fentanyl seized in Portland, Oregon. (Multnomah Co. Sheriff)
Drug Policy

Oregon’s Multnomah County DA Supports Decriminalization but Wants Public Drug Use Criminalized. As the debate on whether to overturn voter-approved drug decriminalization heats up—the legislature is studying the issue and an initiative campaign to undo it is underway—Multnomah County (Portland)  District Attorney Mike Schmidt says that while he supports decriminalization, he thinks public drug use should be made a misdemeanor.

"I still believe connecting people to treatment is the right thing, but we also have to preserve our public spaces for everybody, and right now that’s not happening," he said.

The city of Portland has imposed its own public use ban, but in a memo outlining Schmidt's position, his policy director, Aaron Scott, argued that local bans are not likely to be as effective as making public drug use a statewide misdemeanor.

"While we are generally supportive that a public-consumption ban is a valuable part of a larger package, we are very concerned that if it is the only proposal implemented or if it is implemented incorrectly that the proposal will be counterproductive," Knott wrote.

Drug Policy

FDA Urges Development of Cocaine and Meth Addiction Treatments. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued unpublished draft guidance, "Stimulant Use Disorders: Developing Drugs for Treatment," that includes recommendations for clinical trials designed specifically to assess treatments for stimulant use disorders, excluding symptoms associated with caffeine or nicotine use.

"Currently there is no FDA-approved medication for stimulant use disorder," said Marta Sokolowska, Ph.D., deputy center director for substance use and behavioral health in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "When finalized, we hope that the guidance will support the development of novel therapies that are critically needed to address treatment gaps."

The final version of the guidelines will be the first time the agency has issued guidance on treatment stimulant use disorders. Comments on the guidance are open for the next 60 days.

Beyond the guidance, the FDA has also recently held workshops and public meetings to encourage the development of treatments for stimulant use disorder. 

Foreign Policy

Biden Administration Sanctions China-Based Network Involved in Fentanyl Trafficking. The administration on Tuesday imposed sanctions on a Chinese fentanyl precursor syndicate and more than two dozen people and entities involved in the international trade in fentanyl and other drugs. Some of the individuals involved have also been indicted on criminal charges in federal court.

The sanctions, which take immediate effect, ban those people and companies from using the US financial system and bars US citizens from doing business with them.

"Treasury is taking sweeping action with our colleagues in law enforcement to expose and disrupt a network responsible for manufacturing and distributing illicit drugs, including fentanyl and other substances that take thousands of American lives each year," Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement Tuesday. "Today’s action from OFAC and IRS-CI reflects how we will swiftly use all of our tools to counter the global threat posed by the illicit drug trade."

Top US Officials in Mexico for Tense Talks. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to Mexico City Wednesday for two days of meetings with their Mexican counterparts. The two key issues facing policymakers are the illicit drug trade and cross-border immigration.

The meetings come as relations between the two countries are increasingly contentious, especially with Mexico bristling at repeated suggestions by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates that the US use military force inside Mexico against Mexican drug trafficking organization—with or without the consent of the Mexican government.

The Americans will meet with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and do not expect to come back with groundbreaking policy announcements but see the encounter as a chance to ease relations between the two countries.

"The relationship with our neighbor is arguably the most important that we have in terms of the practical impact that it has on the lives of our citizens every day, in so many ways, but also in a number of very challenging ways," Blinken said.

American diplomats said they wanted Mexico to prioritize combating drug trafficking and that the Mexican government should more aggressively deploy the military and federal law enforcement to intercept fentanyl precursor chemicals from China, as well as go after labs in Mexico manufacturing the drug.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Crooked jail and prison guards from Saginaw to South Carolina. Let's get to it:

In Saginaw, Michigan, a state prison guard was arrested August 7 but the bust was kept quiet until this week as an investigation that netted two others wrapped up. Kernef Jackson, 61, a 20-year guard at St. Louis Correction faces thirteen charges, including possession and intent to deliver a number of controlled substances, including fentanyl. He is also charged with maintaining a drug house -- in this case, his vehicle (!). The other two arrested were an inmate at the prison and a woman who also faces drug house charges. The arrests came after a yearlong investigation by an area drug task force.

In Suffield, Connecticut, a state prison guard was arrested September 21 after she was caught carrying drugs into the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. Guard Deserae Ortiz, 25, faces nine charges including conveyance of an electronic wireless communications device inside a correctional institution, illegal distribution of a narcotic substance, and illegal distribution of cannabis.

In Columbia, South Carolina, a Richland County sheriff's detention officer was arrested September 25 after being caught at work with loose tobacco, a phone charger, 87 grams of marijuana, and 56 grams of crack cocaine. Officer Taylor Smoaks, 27, is charged with misconduct in office, furnishing contraband, drug possession and drug trafficking. She went down after investigators received a tip that she was providing contraband to detainees.

NY Governor Looks to Expand Legal Pot Market, Sinaloa Cartel Says No More Fentanyl, More... (10/4/23)

The Florida Supreme Court has set a date for oral arguments on a marijuana legalization initiative, New York's governor rolls out a plan to expand the legal weed market and crack down on the illicit one, and more.

Seized fentanyl. (DHS)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Supreme Court Sets Date for Hearing on Whether Marijuana Legalization Initiative Can Go on Ballot. The state Supreme Court has set November 8 as the date for oral arguments on whether a marijuana legalization initiative can appear on the November 2024 ballot. The court must approve the wording of the initiative before it can be certified for the ballot.

The initiative from Smart & Safe Florida would legalize the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana by people 21 and over, but contains no provision for home cultivation. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries would be authorized to sell marijuana to anyone over 21.

The initiative is being challenged by state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), who argues that it does not meet “the requirements of Florda Statures” and that it marks an effort to create a “monopolistic stranglehold” on the state’s marijuana market by Trulieve, a Florida-based multistate marijuana operator and the state’s largest medical marijuana company, which has contributed the vast bulk of the $40 million raised for the campaign.

The state Supreme Court has rejected five of the past nine voter initiatives it has reviewed and is “heavily tied” to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has repeatedly spoken out against marijuana legalization.

New York Governor Announces Plan to Expand Legal Marijuana Market, Tackle Illegal Sales. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has announced that the state intends to expand its legal marijuana market with hundreds of new retailers while aggressively cracking down on unlicensed marijuana sales. She announced that hundreds of licenses are being made available to grow and sell marijuana beginning today. Applications will be open for two months.

Hochul also touted efforts to crack down on the illicit market, announcing the seizure of more than 8,500 pounds of weed after 246 inspections. And she announced that the state will join forces with local municipalities to obtain orders closing illicit pot businesses, as well as using multiple state agencies to target the operators of illicit businesses.

“We know there's room for improvement as New York works to launch a brand-new cannabis industry and crack down on illicit operators, and I'm committed to working with all stakeholders to get the job done right,” Hochul said in a statement. ”My Administration is laser-focused on shutting down illegal storefronts, protecting the health and safety of children, and helping small businesses thrive. We will continue working to build the most equitable adult-use cannabis industry in the nation that invests in communities and rights the wrongs of the past.” 


Sinaloa Cartel Says It is Out of Fentanyl Business. Banners appearing on overpasses and near highways Monday in northern Mexico signed by a Sinaloa Cartel faction said the drug trafficking organization has gotten out of the sale and production of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid tied to roughly two-thirds of all fatal drug overdoses in the US in recent year.

The banners came from Los Chapitos, the sons of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, former head of the Sinaloa Cartel. They claim they have banned the production or sale of fentanyl within Sinaloa.

“In Sinaloa, the sale, manufacture, transport or any other business dealing with fentanyl, is strictly prohibited, including the sale of chemicals used to produce it,” the banners read. “You have been warned. Respectfully, Chapitos.”

This is not the first time Los Chapitos have denied links to fentanyl trafficking. In May, they claimed in a letter that they were not involved in the fentanyl trade. “We have never produced, manufactured or commercialized fentanyl nor any of its derivatives,” the letter said. “We are victims of persecution and have been made into scapegoats.”

But experts scoff at the assertion. Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said there is concrete evidence that “Sinaloa is the biggest producer of fentanyl in Mexico” and that there has been no sign the cartel is moving away from it.

“I think the Chapitos started feeling the pressure when they increased the reward for their capture,” said Vigil "I think they are trying to create a massive illusion to take the pressure off,” he said. “It’s almost like a big campaign to convince the US they’re not involved. It’s nothing more than pure propaganda."

US Lawmakers Call for Comprehensive Fentanyl Harm Reduction Strategy, Afghan Opium Drop, More... (10/3/23)

A House committee has again blocked an amendment to stop pre-employment marijuana testing for federal job applicants, a Michigan ban on pre-employment marijuana testing of most state workers has gone into effect, and more. 

There are a lot fewer opium poppies in Afghanistan these days. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

House Rules Committee Again Blocks Amendments to End Marijuana Testing for Federal Job Applicants. Rep. Robert Garcia's ongoing attempt to end the practice of drug testing for marijuana for federal job applicants has again been blocked, this time by the GOP-led House Rules Committee, which declined to allow a floor vote on his amendments to the spending bills for the Departments of Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies, as well as for the legislative branch.

Garcia has tried repeatedly and to no avail to attach his amendment to various spending bills, including the departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, State and Foreign Operations, and Veterans Affairs.

The amendments say that, with certain exceptions, the agencies and departments in question cannot use their funding "for testing applicants for marijuana."

Michigan Ban on Pre-Employment Drug Testing for State Workers Now in Effect. A new rule barring pre-employment drug testing for all state workers except those subject to random drug testing went into effect October 1.

Some safety-sensitive and other state positions are still subject to pre-employment testing and all state employees are still subject to drug testing based on impairment suspicion, random selection and post-accident, according to the commission.

Safety-sensitive positions include those operating certain vehicles, equipment and machinery. The ban also doesn’t apply to law enforcement positions, health care workers and prison employees.

Workers can still be disciplined or fired if they have impaired levels of drugs or alcohol, including marijuana, while at work. 

Harm Reduction

Sen. Markey, Rep. Lee Urge Biden Administration to Enact Comprehensive Fentanyl Harm Reduction Strategy, Including Safe Injection Sites. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-12) today led 18 of their colleagues in urging the Biden-Harris administration to develop and publicly announce a national fentanyl harm reduction strategy specifically focused on enhancing public health infrastructure and addressing the collateral consequences that stem from drug arrests and convictions.

The lawmakers emphasized that this strategy should support increased availability of local overdose prevention centers (OPCs) and expanded access to vital medical interventions, including naloxone, drug testing strips, sterile syringes and pipes, methadone, and buprenorphine.

The lawmakers urged the administration to:

  • Deploy federal resources to enable agencies to better identify and repeal collateral consequences that result from drug possession arrests and convictions, such as the drug felony ban on federal food security programs;
  • Improve equitable access to effective harm reduction services — which involves an examination of barriers that community-based syringe services programs may face in applying for federal funds, such as reporting requirements that incorporate personally identifiable information — and adopt policies that minimize those barriers; and,
  • Close research gaps and undertake a comprehensive evidence review on the role of distribution of safer smoking supplies in harm reduction measures, including engagement and retention, risks for overdose and infectious diseases, referral and linkage to other services, and health equity.

"Furthermore, strong evidence indicates that OPCs reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis, prevent overdose deaths, reduce public injections and the volume of shared or discarded syringes, and increase the number of drug users who enter treatment programs. The Biden-Harris administration should set forth federal policy to support the availability and expansion of OPCs as effective harm reduction tools," the lawmakers wrote.

"Further criminalizing fentanyl and doubling down on punitive drug policies only complicates our efforts to address the overdose crisis; people are deterred from seeking needed medical help, and illicit drug manufacturers and sellers are incentivized to create new and increasingly deadly drugs that aren’t covered by existing criminal laws," they continued. "With the Biden-Harris administration’s recent announcement of a plan to address the growing threat of fentanyl, we urge you to take every opportunity to prevent fentanyl-related overdoses from claiming scores of American lives daily."


Afghan Opium Poppy Cultivation Drops 85 Percent, New Analysis Finds. A satellite analysis of the Afghan opium crop by the geographic information services company Alcis estimates that opium cultivation has declined by 85 percent since the Taliban re-took power and decreed a ban on it.

Poppy cultivation was nearly half a million acres in 2022 but dropped below 75,000 acres this year, leading experts to describe the ban "as the most successful counter-narcotics effort in human history."

The key opium-producing province of Helmand saw a whopping 99 percent reduction in cultivation, while Farah saw a 95 percent reduction, and Nimroz say a 91 percent reduction.

Philly City Council Bans Safe Injection Sites, OR Interim Legislative Committee on Drug Policy, More... (10/2/23)

The Dutch are set to embark on a pilot project of creating a legal supply for the country's famed cannabis "coffee shops," Gavin Newsom signs a bill clearing the way for the prescribing of MDMA and psilocybin once they are federally descheduled, and more. 

An Amsterdam cannabis coffee shop. The Dutch are set to begin an experiment in a legal supply for the shops. (Creative Commons)

California Governor Signs Bill Allowing Doctors to Prescribe Psilocybin, MDMA Once Federally Rescheduled. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Saturday signed into law a bill that would let doctors start prescribing psilocybin and MDMA if and when they are federally rescheduled, Assembly Bill 1021.

Sponsored by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D), Isaac Bryan (D) and Corey Jackson (D), the bill says if the federal government reschedules any Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, state health professionals will be automatically able to prescribe and dispense it. The most obvious candidates are psilocybin and MDMA, which have been designated as breakthrough therapies by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are expected to be approved for medical use as early as next year.

Among nearly a dozen marijuana and drug reform bills still on Newsom's desk is Senate Bill 58, which would legalize the possession of small amounts of certain natural psychedelics, excluding peyote.

Drug Policy

Oregon Legislature Creates New Committee to Address Drug Addiction, Review Drug Decriminalization. The legislature has created a Joint Interim Committee on Addiction and Community Safety it a bid to tackle the state's drug use crisis. The committee's mandate is to make addiction services accessible, ensure that law enforcement has the tools to keep communities safe, and review drug policy, especially the drug decriminalizing Measure 110.

The decriminalization measure was approved by voters two years ago, but recent polling shows that a majority of voters (56 percent) are ready to repeal Measure 110 entirely, even though it includes hundreds of millions of dollars for drug treatment, prevention, and related services. An even higher number of respondents (64 percent) were willing to repeal just the decriminalization portion of Measure 110.



Upon announcing the creation of the interim committee last Friday, lawmakers said they will make sure the measure’s outcomes are "in-line with voters’ intent of connecting people to treatment instead of criminal punishment for low-level possession."

"The goal of this committee is simple: to save lives and make our communities safer," said Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) . "Oregonians are being harmed every day by this crisis and we all have a part to play in finding a path forward. It is a complex problem that demands a comprehensive solution and we are committed to working toward a solution this session and into the long term."

"Everyone has a family member or friend that has been impacted by addiction or behavioral health challenges" said House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis). "What we’re seeing in our streets and our communities is unacceptable. As leaders, it’s our job to provide oversight of our current crisis-to-care system and make sure we’re getting the outcomes we intended: a humane approach to addiction that centers the individual’s needs."

Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber (D-Beaverton) and Representative Jason Kropf (D-Bend) will co-chair the committee, which is meeting for the first time in the coming weeks.

Harm Reduction

Philadelphia City Council Overrides Mayor's Veto of Ban on Safe Injection Sites. The city council has overridden a mayoral veto to once again vote to ban safe injection sites in almost all of the city, leaving only one council district where they could possibly be permitted.

The council first passed the measure last month, but Mayor Jim Kenney (D) vetoed it last week. Now, the council has decisively overridden that veto on a 13-1 vote.  

Citizens addressing the council before the vote urged members to reverse themselves, with one man who identified himself as a registered nurse telling the council the ban is "dangerously anti-science" and would limit how the city can address addiction issues.

The measure creates a zoning overlay that would permit safe injection sites only in southwest Philadelphia 3rd council district. Council members defended their position as less of a ban and more of a way for city residents, especially those living near proposed safe injection sites, to have a say on community affairs.

"This bill allows the community to have input on where these sites would be selected, what would be happening around there and how that their input would be put in place if these sites were to ever be put up," said Councilman Mark Squilla (D-District 1).


Dutch Legal Marijuana Supply Pilot Project to Start Up in December. The startup phase for a pilot program to allow the limited legal cultivation and distribution of adult-use marijuana will begin in December, the Dutch government told Parliament last Friday.

The program is three years behind schedule and smaller than originally envisioned, with only two growers in the startup, as opposed to the 10 cultivators who were to supply dozens of cannabis cafes. The project is to address "the backdoor problem" for marijuana retail outlets, which can sell without penalty but have no legal source of supply.

"The cabinet has decided that the (startup) phase of the closed coffee shop chain experiment will start on December 15, 2023," according to the government letter. The most recent planning shows that two legal growers are expected to be ready for delivery to coffee shops in the fourth quarter of 2023. This is sufficient to start the (initial) phase of the experiment in Breda and Tilburg."

During this first phase of the pilot program, participating coffee shops in the two cities will be able to offer both legally-grown marijuana and unregulated products.

The Dutch government expects the startup phase to last a maximum of six months before expanding the program. 


Seattle Mayor's Executive Order on Public Drug Use, UT MedMJ Workers Unionize, More... (9/29/23)

A former Michigan medical marijuana regulator heads to prison for bribery, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office rejects cocaine field tests as "unreliable," and more. 

Cocaine or not cocaine? A Florida sheriff's office is foregoing cocaine field tests after finding them unreliable. (Pixabay)
Medical Marijuana

Michigan Former Medical Marijuana Top Regulator Heads for Prison on Bribery Charges. The former head of the state's Medical Marihuana Licensing Board was sentenced to 55 months in federal prison Thursday after earlier pleading guilty to soliciting and accepting bribes. Rick Johnson, a Republican who is also the former Speaker of the House, headed the now defunct board, which was in charge of reviewing and granting licenses for people seeking to grow and sell medical marijuana.

"Today's sentence sends a very strong message that public corruption will not be tolerated in the state of Michigan," Mark Totten, US Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said after the sentencing. "The length of this sentence reflects the seriousness of the offense."

Johnson admitted receiving at least $110,000 in payments, $20,000 in loans that did not have repayment terms, and "thousands of dollars" in services from a sex worker. Johnson chaired the board from 2015 to 2017. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) dismantled the board in 2019.

Utah Dispensary Workers Vote to Unionize with UFCW. Workers at the Dragonfly Wellness medical marijuana dispensary in Salt Lake City voted Tuesday to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). The unionization vote involved 30 employees, who become the first in the state's medical marijuana industry to unionize.

"Employees included in the newly formed cannabis union include Dragonfly Wellness associates, team leads, drivers, delivery leads, inventory specialists, pharmacists, and head trainers," according to a UFCW Local 99 news release.

Drug Policy

Seattle Mayor Issues Executive Order Guiding Implementation of New Law Prohibiting Public Consumption of Drugs. On Thursday, Mayor Bruce Harrell (D) issued Executive Order 2023-006, guiding implementation and data collection related to the Public Safety and Health Response to the Opioid Crisis Ordinance prohibiting public consumption of fentanyl and other drugs. This follows Mayor Harrell’s April Executive Order addressing fentanyl and the synthetic drug crisis, part of the City’s dual public health and public safety approach to the issue, including advancing innovative treatment solutions to help people access services and get well. 

"Fentanyl and other dangerous drugs are killing people, causing harm, and creating unsafe conditions Downtown and in neighborhoods across Seattle. This law gives us another tool to help those in need access treatment and to keep sidewalks and neighborhoods welcoming for all residents, and my Executive Order provides needed implementation guidance and ensures we are collecting data to measure effectiveness," said Harrell. "We are committed to learning lessons from the past, holding traffickers, dealers, and those causing the most harm accountable, and helping people access treatment and care through diversion services." 

The Executive Order provides direction to officers on how to enforce the ordinance, including examples of how public use and possession can be established and factors that will guide the threat of harm assessment. The Executive Order makes clear that harm pertains to the impact on the ability of others to use shared public space and identifies areas that have a high likelihood of the presence of other community members and where the use of controlled substances impacts public safety and security.  

Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order also reaffirms that diversion is the preferred response to public use and possession offenses and sets expectations for how officers will handle situations where a threat of harm to others is not present. Mayor Harrell’s budget, announced earlier this week, includes millions toward diversion programs and efforts to provide treatment and curb overdose deaths. 

Lastly, the Executive Order calls for the collection of data to assess the scope of public use and possession of controlled substances to both better understand the problems facing the City and to create a baseline to measure the effectiveness of the ordinance and its enforcement. This includes analyzing data from Public Health — Seattle & King County, SPD, and other sources. 

The legislation passed by the Council and signed by Mayor Harrell will take effect next month. In effect, it will:  

  • Codify state law making public consumption of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor in the City’s criminal code.   
  • For the first time in the City’s history, designate diversion and treatment as the preferred approach to addressing substance use issues – connecting people with care and responding to a public health crisis with evidence-based health solutions.   
  • Define a new threat of harm standard – differentiating between drug use that threatens others, recognizing the real and perceived danger of consumption of illegal drugs in public places, and aiming to support safe and welcoming neighborhoods by reducing public use. 

The ordinance, this Executive Order, and the forthcoming SPD policy are just one aspect of the City’s efforts to address the public health and safety concerns caused by synthetic narcotics.

Drug Testing

Florida Sheriff's Office Ends Use of "Unreliable" Cocaine Testing Kits. The Jacksonsville Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday it would stop using cocaine field tests after finding they generate false-positives for common over-the-counter medications. The office issued a memo ordering personnel to quit using the Scott Company cocaine kits immediately and return any unused ones.

Officers will now need to submit suspected cocaine to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory for formal testing. Only if it tests positive at the state lab should officers seek an arrest warrant.

While field test results are not by themselves sufficient evidence to prosecute a drug possession case, a positive field test had been enough for an officer to make an arrest, and defendants often plead in drug cases rather than take the cases to trial. Thus, it is possible false positives have resulted in wrongful arrests and convictions.

"Following a meeting this morning with law enforcement, we became aware that field test kits for cocaine have resulted in false positives. We immediately informed the Public Defender’s Office, Regional Conflict Counsel, the Chief Judge, and local Criminal Defense Bar of this development. We are conducting a thorough review of cases potentially implicated to determine what actions need to be taken moving forward to address this issue."

The office "is now exploring new product options for presumptive field-testing kits for cocaine for future use."

House Passes Defense Bill with Psychedelic Research Amendments, FL Bans Tianetpine, More... (9/28/23)

A broad range of advocacy groups is calling on Congress to support a bill to allow temporary scheduling and testing of fentanyl analogs, Maine's largest city moves toward natural psychedelic decriminalization, and more.

Zaza, a product containing the opiate-like drug tianeptine, is now banned in Florida. (Creative Commons)
Opiates and Opioids

Rights Groups Call on Congress to Support Fentanyl Analog TEST Act. A long list of health policy, drug policy, criminal justice reform, civil and human rights, and advocacy organizations have sent an open letter to the Senate calling on members of that body to cosponsor and support the Temporary Emergency Scheduling and Testing of Fentanyl Analogues Act of 2023 (TEST Act). This bill would allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to place new fentanyl-related substances (FRS) in Schedule I for up to four years, during which time the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) would have to conduct a scientific and medical evaluation of each substance and publicly report the findings.

"Congress has preemptively placed all FRS on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as a class – even those that do not exist," the signatories wrote. "Congress has considered circumventing the scientific research requirements under current law by passing bills such as the HALT Fentanyl Act (H.R. 467), which would automatically designate any FRS as dangerous without studying a substance at all. Temporary scheduling authority is intended to allow the DOJ the time to conduct the scientific and medical evaluations it is required to by law. By allowing DOJ to designate the entire class of FRS as Schedule I without conducting scientific and medical research, Congress may inadvertently leave undiscovered therapeutic medications similar to naloxone and other life-saving medications at a time when the U.S. is facing record numbers of overdose deaths.

"We believe Congress should pass the TEST Act, which would create a statutory period of up to four years for the DOJ to conduct the scientific and medical evaluation of a substance, facilitate the research of FRS, and ensure that substances are placed on the drug schedule according to their scientific profile and potential for abuse."

Signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Council of Churches, the National Harm Reduction Coalition, the Prison Policy Initiative,, the Sentencing Project, and the Washington Office on Latin America.


House Approves Psychedelic Research Amendments as Part of Defense Spending Bill. The House voted Wednesday to approve the annual defense appropriation bill, which included two amendments opening the door to research on psychedelics.

The first, sponsored by Reps. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), would provide $15 million in funding for DOD to carry out "Psychedelic Medical Clinical Trials."

The second amendment, from Crenshaw alone, lays the parameters for the trials, which would involve active duty service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The Defense Health Agency would need to send a report to Congress with its findings.

Portland, Maine, Advances Proposal to Decriminalize Psychedelic Plants and Fungi. The city council's Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee voted unanimously last week to advance a resolution that would decriminalize natural psychedelic plants and fungi. The full council is expected to vote on the resolution by mid-October.

In approving the resolution, the committee also amended it to allow for home cultivation for personal use and sharing without compensation. Selling or dispensing the substances would remain a criminal offense.

The plants and fungi covered by the measure, backed by organizers at Decriminalize Maine, include those containing psilocybin, psilocyn, ibogaine, mescaline (except peyote), and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Peyote is excluded "in light of its vulnerable ecological status, combined with its religious and cultural significance to Indigenous peoples."

The resolution says "that City of Portland departments, agencies, boards, commissions, officers or employees of the city should avoid using city funds or resources to assist in the investigation, criminal prosecution or the imposition of criminal penalties" for the use, possession, cultivation, or sharing of small amounts of the substances "shall be among the lowest law enforcement priority of the City of Portland."

Drug Policy

Florida Bans Tianeptine. Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) has announced an emergency ban on tianeptine, which is regulated and used as a tricyclic antidepressant in over 60 countries but is unregulated in the US. Sold at gas stations and convenience stores under product names such as Zaza, the drug is known colloquially as "gas station heroin" because it causes opioid-like withdrawal symptoms in some users.

"We filed an emergency rule to outlaw tianeptine, an extremely dangerous chemical being sold at gas stations, convenience stores and smoke shops in our state. Tianeptine is linked to five deaths nationwide. And so far this year, Florida’s Poison Control Center has fielded 15 calls about exposure to this drug," Moody said. 

Her action places tianeptine in Schedule I, meaning it becomes a felony to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute the drug.

Alabama, Tennessee, Minnesota, Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Mississippi have already banned tianeptine. 

The ban is temporary, but Moody said she would work with the legislature to make the ban permanent in the next legislative session.

Pushing for Social Equity as Pennsylvania Heads Toward Marijuana Legalization [FEATURE]

Pot prohibition in Pennsylvania is getting squeezed. Of its neighboring states, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York have already legalized marijuana, Ohio voters will have their chance to approve it in November, and only West Virginia shares the state's status as a medical marijuana-only state.

State Sen. Sharif Street (D-North Philadelphia) is a key cosponsor of a marijuana legalization bill. (
Efforts to advance adult use legalization in Harrisburg have been stymied for years by Republican control of the statehouse, but after last year's elections, the state now has a Democratic governor in Josh Shapiro, the House now has a Democratic majority, and cracks are now appearing in the Republican-led Senate, where at least two GOP senators are ready to get on board.

Gov. Shapiro in March proposed marijuana legalization as part of his 2023-2024 budget, and this year, there are once again are marijuana legalization bills before the legislature. Rep. David Delloso has once again filed a state liquor store model legalization bill, House Bill 1080, and one of those Republican Senate converts, Sen. Dan Laughlin, is the cosponsor of another legalization bill, Senate Bill 846.

"Legalized adult use of marijuana is supported by an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians and this legislation accomplishes that while also ensuring safety and social equity," said Laughlin upon filing the bill in July. "With neighboring states New Jersey and New York implementing adult use, we have a duty to Pennsylvania taxpayers to legalize adult-use marijuana to avoid losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue and thousands of new jobs."

The bill would legalize the possession of marijuana by people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. It would also address social equity by granting licenses to sell marijuana to social and economic equity applicants while providing room for new and existing licensees to ensure demand in Pennsylvania is met. It would also all non-violent marijuana convictions. Ensuring that minority communities disproportionately impacted by drug prohibition is critical, black legislators say.

"We have a unique and singular opportunity to correct decades of mass incarceration, disproportionate enforcement against marginalized communities, the criminalization of personal choice and the perpetuation of violence, which all materialized from the failed war on drugs," said Sen. Sharif Street, a Democratic cosponsor of the bill. "Legalizing the adult use of cannabis will help us fully and equitably fund education, lower property taxes, and address a variety of community needs throughout Pennsylvania."

Social equity was definitely on the mind of attendees at last week's Cannabis Opportunities Conference -- part of the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunity's (DACO) Black Cannabis Week. The event was hosted by Sen. Street and covered by Marijuana Moment.

"This is going to be a multibillion-dollar industry," Street. "We need to make sure that we're inclusive… We need to make sure that folks can participate at every level of this industry."

Bill cosponsor Rep. Donna Bullock (D), who has previously spoken out against the dominance of large, multistate marijuana companies, was adamant that legalization come with strong social equity provisions.

"No bill will move with my name on it until I'm comfortable that we actually answer those questions," she said. "No bill will move with my name on it until I know for sure we're not repeating the mistakes of equity in name only. If you think you're going to get me with just some expungements, you got it wrong," she added.

"I think sometimes some people get scared to say 'Black,'" Rep. Darisha Parker (D) said. "If we're going to really do this for a legislative perspective, then all of us in the state need to make sure that we're actually doing it, making sure that we're actually supporting the individuals for this social equity bill that we're going to be putting forward. This is our reparations," she added. "Let's get busy."

These black lawmakers agreed that they were willing to take the time to ensure that some of the harms done by the drug war be redressed and that the communities that suffered them get recompense.

Lawmakers are "still taking inventory" to see what's worked in other states and what hasn't, Parker said.

"We've had… a hundred years of getting this wrong. I'm not in a rush to get it wrong again," said Bullock.

Street concurred, saying that in Pennsylvania "we're usually not the first to get anything done, but we'd like to be the first to get it right."

It looks like there is some work to be done to make sure marijuana legalization aids those communities harmed by the drug war, and it looks like there is a committed legislative contingent in Harrisburg ready to make sure that happens. Stay tuned.

SAFER Banking Act Heads for Senate Floor Vote, Scottish Safe Injection Site Approved, More... (9/27/23)

The US and Colombian governments lay out areas of agreement in drug policy, new research shows that drug decriminalization did not increase overdoses in Oregon and Washington--but did cause arrests to drop--and more. 

The Senate is set to vote on a long-awaited marijuana banking bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

SAFER Banking Act Passes Senate Banking Committee, Heads for Floor Vote. The long-desired bill aimed at opening the banking and financial sector to state-legal marijuana businesses is moving. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee voted Wednesday to approve the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act (S.2860), clearing the way for a Senate floor vote.

"Forcing legal businesses to operate in all-cash is dangerous for our communities ... passing the SAFER Banking Act through committee is a historic moment in this body," said bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

"At this juncture, we believe this piece of legislation is ready for prime time after having had seven votes out of the House in the past," said Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve Cannabis. "Realizing this first vote out of the Senate signals strong bipartisan support from both chambers of Congress."

Drug Policy

Decriminalizing Drug Possession Not Linked to Higher Overdose Death Rates in Oregon or Washington. In recent months, several media outlets have investigated an Oregon law that decriminalized possession of small amounts of controlled substances, including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, for some persons. The articles have included information suggesting that the law may be responsible for continued increases in overdose deaths.

Wednesday, new research led by NYU Grossman School of Medicine published online in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that in Oregon and Washington, two states that implemented drug decriminalization policies in early 2021, there is no evidence of an association between decriminalization and fatal drug overdose rates.

The findings are the result of a collaboration between the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policyy at NYU Langone, the Network for Public Health Law, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The research team’s goal was to investigate whether fully or partially decriminalizing drug possession changed rates of overdose deaths in either state in the first year after the policy change.

"Our analysis suggests that state decriminalization policies do not lead to increases in overdose deaths," said Corey Davis, adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, a member of the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy, and the study’s senior investigator.

Another study published by Davis and colleagues last month found that the Oregon and Washington decriminalization policies dramatically reduced arrests for drug possession and did not lead to increased arrests for violent crimes.

"These two studies show that drug decriminalization measures in Oregon and Washington reduced arrests and did not increase overdose deaths. Taken together, these findings signal reduced harm to people who use drugs and possibly their communities as well," said Davis.

Foreign Policy

US, Colombia Counternarcotics Working Group Issues Joint Statement. After the third meeting of the US-Colombia Counternarcotics Working Group Monday and Tuesday, the two governments issued a joint statement touting their "common efforts to address the development of this group’s work, taking into account the strengthening of democracy, the fight against corruption, the protection of human rights, peace efforts, climate action, public health, and a comprehensive approach to address the global drug problem."

The two governments called for "an approach based on public health and human security, with a long-term vision focused on saving lives and building a better future."

In particular, both parties agreed to the following:

  • Increase interdiction efforts in both countries, significantly increase joint training, capacity building activities, and intelligence sharing to strengthen Colombia’s ability to combat transnational organized crime and multi-crime groups and enhance human security.
  • Expand efforts to combat money laundering and crimes against natural resources and the environment.
  • Reaffirm the will of both governments to continue cooperation to confront the global drug problem, including issues related to criminal activities associated with cocaine and synthetic drugs.
  • With regard to rural security, strengthen and increase judicial and police presence in rural areas.
  • Strengthen the implementation of strategies aimed at promoting the transition to licit economies in rural areas and Areas of Special Environmental Importance, such as the 3T model (Titling, Transition, Transformation) in municipalities to be prioritized for the implementation of a holistic approach to territorial transformation.
  • Provide licit economic development opportunities as alternatives to illicit crops, in conjunction with continued strategic eradication efforts.
  • Implement strategies to reduce the consumption of psychoactive substances and their associated impacts.
  • Strengthen metrics measuring the underlying causes of drug production and the dismantling of transnational narco-trafficking criminal networks.
  • Continue to work with the Colombian Ministry of Justice and Law and Ministry of Foreign Affairs towards identifying a coordination mechanism for the bilateral holistic strategy within the Colombian government.


Scottish Authorities Approve UK's First Safe Injection Site. Authorities in Glasgow have approved the first safe injection site in the United Kingdom. Glasgow's Integration Joint Board, which consists of National Health Service representatives and council officials, approved the planned facility Wednesday.

There is an opening target date of next summer for what will be a three-year pilot program.

The facility will "reduce drug-related harms" for individuals as well as providing them with "opportunities for treatment, care and recovery," said Dr Saket Priyadarshi, associate medical director of Glasgow alcohol and drug recovery services.

A safe injection site has been discussed for years to address the estimated 400-500 people injecting drugs in the city center and was able to move forward now after Scotland's senior law officer said users would not be prosecuted for possessing drugs while at the facility and the Home Office in London said it would not interfere.

House Dems Reintroduce Weed Legalization Bill, San Francisco Mayor Wants Forced Treatment for Benefits, More... (9/22/23)

Wisconsin Democrats roll out a marijuana legalization bill, a Pennsylvania medical marijuana expansion bill passes the Senate, and more.

Members of the Sinaloa Cartel parading through San Gregorio Chemic in Chiapas state, near the Guatemalan border. (YouTube)
Marijuana Policy

House Democrats Reintroduce Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Legislation. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) have reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 5601), one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.

Following efforts led by states across the nation, the MORE Act decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level. The bill also aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring resentencing and expungement of prior convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education, and overall quality of life. The MORE Act also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders.

The bill:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
    • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.  
    • Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals
    • The Equitable Licensing Grant ProgramProvides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
    • Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
    • Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

The MORE Act has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups, including: the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, NORML, Better Organizing to Win Legalization, and Minorities for Medical Marijuana, the Center for American Progress, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Wisconsin Democrats File Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Sen. Melissa Agard and state Rep. Darrin B. Madison have introduced a marijuana legalization bill. This bill would allow Wisconsin to join thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws broadly legalizing cannabis in some form. Republican majorities in the legislature have blocked any progress on such bills in the past.

"I’ve said this time and time again – we know that the most dangerous thing about cannabis in Wisconsin is that it remains illegal," said Sen. Agard. "For the past decade, I have worked to undo Wisconsin’s antiquated and deeply unjust marijuana policies and put our state on a prosperous path forward.  

"Legalizing cannabis is a matter of public safety and racial justice here in Wisconsin," said Rep. Madison. "People in Wisconsin indulge in cannabis use and deserve the ability to buy safe cannabis and use it responsibly without being criminalized. According to the ACLU, Black people were 4.24 times more likely to be arrested than white people in Wisconsin during 2018. Similar disparities exist in convictions, leading to immeasurable harm to black communities in Wisconsin. The bill we’ve introduced today lays a solid foundation for those that have been harshly convicted for non-violent possession charges and the ramifications of those convictions." 

Under the proposal, adults in Wisconsin aged 21 and older could legally have marijuana in their possession. The measure would also lay the groundwork for a regulated cannabis market to launch in the state.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Senate Passes Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Program. The Senate has approved a bill that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program by allowing growers to sell directly to patients despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition. The bill was approved last Wednesday on a 44-3 vote.

Sen. Chris Gebhard and a bipartisan coalition of senators introduced Senate Bill 773  earlier this year. The current state medical law authorizes licenses for 25 businesses growing and processing medical marijuana, but only five of those licensees can sell directly to patients through vertically integrated dispensaries. SB773 would allow all medical marijuana growers and processes to sell directly to patients.

The bill now goes to the House, where it may become a vehicle for broader reforms, from allowing for patient home cultivation to converting the bill into a full-on legalization bill. But changes too profound could endanger an amended bill's prospects back in the Senate, which would have to address any changes.

"There will certainly be vigorous discussions there on what shape this bill will come back to the Senate in said Sen. Dan Laughlin (R). "If this becomes a vehicle for adult use, I doubt that it would pass this chamber. However, I think if they do add home-grown to this bill, it would strengthen the bill and I believe that we would be able to get it through this chamber as well."

Drug Policy

San Francisco Mayor Proposes Mandatory Drug Treatment for Cash Assistance Programs. Trying a new tack in the city's ongoing effort to get a grip on open air drug use and an overdose crisis, Mayor London Breed is now proposing that city residents with addiction issues who receive cash assistance be required to undergo drug treatment in order to keep receiving payments. The proposal would have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Under the proposal, people who apply for County Adult Assistance Programs would have to undergo screening for substance use disorder and participate in a treatment program if they're found to have an addiction. People who refuse or who "do not successfully engage in treatment" would not be eligible for cash assistance.

"We fund a wide range of services, and we want to help people get the care they need but under current state law, local government lack tools to compel people into treatment," Breed said. "This initiative aims to create more accountability and help get people to accept the treatment and services they need."   

Some, but not all, supervisors are on board. Board President Aaron Peskin demurred, saying that Breed should focus on stopping dealers and open-air drug markets rather than "drug testing people on welfare."

"If she can't find the way to prevent several hundred brazen criminals from selling deadly drugs -- how does she think she will find the resources to drug test thousands of welfare recipients?" Peskin said

Drug Testing

Washington Department of Corrections Sued Over Faulty Drug Tests, Harsh Punishments. Columbia Legal Services (CLS) filed a class action complaint against the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), challenging the widespread practice of imposing harsh discipline on people in DOC facilities based on unreliable drug testing. People have faced months in solitary confinement, delays in release from prison, loss of visitation, and other cruel punishments after colorimetric tests have returned "presumptive" positive results on incoming mail and other possessions.

Clifton Bell, et al. v. Washington State Department of Corrections, filed in Thurston County Superior Court last Friday, alleges that DOC’s actions violate plaintiffs' rights under Washington State law and the Washington State Constitution.Plaintiff Gregory Hyde was placed in administrative segregation (another term for solitary confinement) for almost five months after a presumptive positive test result. The item that tested positive for drugs was a packet of crossword, word search, and Sudoku puzzle books sent by Mr. Hyde’s father and stepmother.

After facing months of irreversible disciplinary actions, DOC returned the books in question to Mr. Hyde with no explanation or expungement of the infraction. His father’s name remains on DOC’s records as having mailed drugs to the prison.

"I think DOC is using its power to punish people who can’t fight back," said Mr. Hyde."My elderly father just wanted to send me some puzzle books. Now they’re saying he’s a drug dealer. Now my father is too far away to see because I got transferred to a different facility. My father is impoverished and on a fixed income. I think it’s an abuse of power. I don’t think DOC should be doing this."

Manufactured by companies like DetectaChem and MMC International, the colorimetric tests (also called roadside tests or field tests) are designed to be initial screening testsand the manufacturers are clear that they require confirmatory testing to be valid. Similar test technologies have been found unlawful in many settings, including in other state prison systems. In 2021, a Massachusetts court forced that state’s DOC to stop using similar colorimetric tests from another manufacturer, with the court describing them as "only marginally better than a coin flip"at identifying drugs. The tests in that case were found to deliver false positives nearly 40 percent of the time.


Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel Lauded by Chiapas Townspeople for Rescuing Them from Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Townspeople in San Gregorio Chemic, Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border, cheered a 20-vehicle convoy of Sinaloa Cartel fighters as they paraded through the city after having driven out the rival Jalisco New Generation Cartel (JNGC).

JNGC fighters had seized the town and blocked the only highway access to it for nearly two weeks, killing and extorting local residents along the way. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced over the weekend that he was sending 800 National Guard troops to the area. He also implored local youth not to be seduced by the Sinaloa Cartel.

'It turns out that on the border with Guatemala, in Comalapa, towards Motozintla, there are organized crime groups that are fighting for the territory (Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel) to have spaces, to store drugs that enter from Central America, to have control of that territory and they will confront each other, fortunately there have not been many murders,' López Obrador said during his daily presser with the media.

A local Catholic priest said that local residents may have been intimidated into cheering on the Sinaloa Cartel. "Others will say that they have already allied themselves with drug traffickers. They line them up," he said. "It's not that they want to. There will be people who do it on their own, but people are being forced and that is not worth it. People are being forced to defend one cartel, to fight for another and they are being used as cannon fodder."

NCAA Moves to End Marijuana Ban, Study Finds Mexican Cartels a Major Employer, More... (9/25/23)

A pair of Republican senators file a bill to require congressional approval to down-schedule marijuana, the House Rules Committee advances a pair of psychedelic research amendments to the defense spending bill, and more.

College basketball under the aegis of the NCAA. An end to the weed ban could be coming soon. (Creative Commons/Phil Roeder)
Marijuana Policy

GOP Senators File Bill to Block Marijuana Legalization Without Congressional Approval. Last Friday, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), joined by her colleague Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), introduced the Deferring Executive Authority (DEA) Act to give Congress final approval over the legalization of marijuana. 

According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has signaled it will follow a recommendation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to transfer marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act. This would, in essence, legalize marijuana federally. 

This recommendation was issued after President Biden requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and HHS evaluate marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance.  The Deferring Executive Authority (DEA) Act will require congressional review of rules rescheduling marijuana. 

"Congress makes the laws in this country, not DC bureaucrats," said Lummis. "The American people through their elected representatives in the Senate and House should have the final say on such a momentous change as the legalization of marijuana. The Biden administration’s rush to reschedule marijuana without compelling scientific evidence appears to be political, not about what’s best for the American people."  

NCAA Committee Recommends Legislation to Remove Marijuana from Banned Substances List in All Three Divisions. The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recommended legislation that would remove marijuana from the NCAA's list of banned drug classes at all three divisions, the organization announced last Friday. The recommendation calls for a "robust educational strategy" for college athletes when it comes to marijuana.

"Cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug and that a harm-reduction approach to cannabis is best implemented at the school level," the NCAA said in a statement following midweek meetings in Indianapolis. 

The committee reasoned that removing marijuana from the list of banned substances achieves several aims: acknowledging the ineffectiveness of the current policy of banning, testing, and penalizing; affirming that NCAA drug testing is aimed only at performance-enhancing substances; and emphasizes the importance of moving toward a harm reduction strategy.

The recommendation now goes to the governing structures of the NCAA's three divisions.

"When making a decision on an important topic like this, we agree that the membership should have an opportunity to vote on the final outcome," committee chair James Houle, lead sport psychologist at Ohio State, said in a statement. "We are recommending a big shift in the paradigm when it comes to cannabinoids. We want to modernize the strategy with the most up-to-date research to give schools the best opportunity to support the health of student-athletes."


House Rules Committee Clears Pair of Psychedelic Research Amendments to Defense Spending Bill. The House Rules Committee last Saturday approved two psychedelic research amendments for inclusion in the must-pass defense spending bill. It also cleared the larger defense bill for a House floor vote this as a government spending deadline looms.

One amendment, sponsored by Reps. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), would provide $15 million in funding for DOD to carry out "Psychedelic Medical Clinical Trials."

The other amendment, also from Crenshaw, would require the Defense Health Agency to "submit a report to Congress on options to ensure that active-duty service members who are suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are able to participate in clinical trials under the Department of Veterans Affairs for the purposes of studying the effectiveness of psychedelic substances."


Mexican Drug Cartels Employ 175,000 People, Study Finds. Mexican drug trafficking organizations—the so-called cartels—employ roughly 175,000 people, according to new research findings published in the journal Science. That makes organized crime the fifth-largest employment sector in the country. 

The study examined a decade of data on murders, missing persons, and imprisoned people and used a mathematical model to determine overall cartel membership and which policy responses would best reduce violence. Homicides in the country have tripled since 2007, when then-President Felipe Calderon escalated the domestic drug war by sending in the army.

The study authors argue that the best way to reduce violence is not to lock up more gang members, which they argue would actually increase the murder rate, but to cut cartel recruitment.

"More than 1.7 million people in Latin America are incarcerated, and adding more people to saturated jails will not solve the insecurity problem," wrote the authors.

The analysts identified 198 armed criminal groups in the country, although two of them, the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel, battle for national domination.

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