Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Chronicle AM: Colombia Coca Moves, VT Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Advances, More... (2/25/20)

A Vermont bill to tax and regulate marijuana sales heads for a House floor vote, a potential Ohio marijuana legalization initiative campaign emerges, Israel's embattled prime minister says his government is open to marijuana legalization, and more.

A Colombian peasant working the coca fields. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Poll Has Slim Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Minnesota Public Radio and the Minneapolis Star Tribune has support for marijuana legalization at 51%, with 37% opposed. The poll comes after House Democrats last month revealed plans for a marijuana legalization bill. That bill faces tough prospects in the Republican-led Senate, though.

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Emerges. Some state medical marijuana growers are among a new coalition working on putting a marijuana legalization initiative before the voters in November. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow people 21 and over to buy, possess, and consume up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants. Existing medical marijuana businesses would get the first shot at the market, with state regulators deciding later on whether to issue additional licenses. Not all of the medical marijuana sector is behind the move, though.

Vermont Marijuana Sales Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill to legalize and tax marijuana sales, Senate Bill 54, is now set for a House floor vote after winning the approval of the House Appropriations Committee on a 6-5 vote. The House floor vote should come later this week. The Senate passed the bill last year, but because of changes in the House, differences will have to be settled through a conference committee.

Sentencing Policy

Colorado Bill to Reverse Drug Defelonization Gets Hearing Thursday. The House Judiciary Committee will hear a bill Thursday that seeks to undo a law passed last year that changed drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors. House Bill 20-150 seeks to undo the sentencing reform before it takes effect next month.

International

Colombia Ends Crop Substitution Monitoring Program with UN. The Colombian government has ended its cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in monitoring coca crop substitution, a program the government of President Ivan Duque said it wanted to end. But ending the program would put the government out of compliance with its 2016 peace deal with leftist FARC guerrillas, so the government backed away from that. But refusing to monitor the program would block the UNODC from evaluating the effectiveness of planned forced coca eradication, recently announced by Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and supported by the Trump administration. Previous UNODC reports have found that only a tiny 0.4% of voluntary eradicated crops had been replanted, while the number for forcibly eradicated crops was 80%, making the program quite ineffective.

Colombia Launches Military Push Against FARC Dissidents in National Parks. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday the military will step up an offensive against FARC dissidents who have again taken up arms and are overseeing the clearing of thousands of acres of land in national parks for coca cultivation. Trujillo claimed the FARC dissidents were forcing peasants to clear the land and "commit a massacre against nature."

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Says His Government is Exploring Marijuana Legalization. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday his government is exploring legalizing recreational marijuana and is looking at Canada as a model. He said Justice Minister Amir Ohana "has begun work on the issue, and he will head a committee including professionals and Oren Leibovich, chairman of the [pro-legalization] Green Leaf Party, that will investigate importing the Canadian model for regulation of a legal market in Israel." Netanyahu, who is struggling to maintain power, has gone through two indecisive elections since last April and faces a third next month.

Chronicle AM: Liz Warren Releases Marijuana Plan, WVA Bill Would Hike Meth Sentences, More... (2/24/20)

Elizabeth Warren rolls out a plan for a just and equitable marijuana industry, a Hawaii bill would protect medical marijuana patients from being fired or not hired because of positive drug tests, and more.

Elizabeth Warren. (Tim PierceCreative Commons) https://www.flickr.com/photos/qwrrty/815200
Marijuana Policy

Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan for Just and Equitable Marijuana Industry. Democratic presidential contender and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has released her plan for a Just and Equitable Cannabis Industry. The plan calls for passage of a marijuana legalization bill similar to the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, the appointment of law enforcement agency heads who support legalization, the expungement of past marijuana convictions, and protections for immigrants, among other provisions.  

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Bill to Protect Patients' Employment Rights Advances. A bill that would protect medical marijuana cardholders from being fired or not hired because they tested positive for marijuana is advancing in the legislature. Instead of a drug test, cardholders could undergo a "fit-for-duty" test that measure impairment, not metabolites. The bill excludes law enforcement and prison guards, other public safety workers, and health care workers who administer drugs to patients. The state Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee and the state Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill Friday with some amendments. It now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Kratom

Missouri House Passes Kratom Regulation Bill. The House has approved House Bill 2061, which would require more regulation for kratom products. The bill creates the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which orders "sellers of kratom products to ensure that their products are not adulterated with dangerous substances." The bill would also ban the sale of kratom to people under 18. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Methamphetamine

West Virginia Bill Would Increase Meth Sentences. The Senate last Thursday approved Senate Bill 502, which would increase sentences for methamphetamine offenses to make them as severe as those for narcotics offenses. Under current law, meth possession can net up to five years, but under this bill that would rise to 15 years. Sponsor Sen. Sen. William Ihlenfeld (D), a former U.S. attorney, said that law enforcement and prosecutors told him that increasing sentences would have "a positive effect" in deterring meth-related crime. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is already being taken up in the House.

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

Chronicle AM: KY House Passes MedMJ Bill, DEA Announces New Anti-Meth Operation, More... (2/21/20)

A new poll shows Florida voters strongly support marijuana legalization, the DEA announces Operation Crystal Shield, the drug czar announces this year's version of a border strategy, and more.

The DEA announces a new operation targeting meth "transport hubs." (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the University of North Florida Public Opinion Lab and First Coast News has support for marijuana legalization in the Sunshine State at 64%. The poll asked whether respondents would support allowing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to be legally purchased, possessed, transported, displayed and used. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Democrats supported legalization, and even a majority (52%) of Republicans did, too.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky House Approves Medical Marijuana. The House voted 65-30 Thursday to approve HB 136, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state, but not in smokable form. The bill must pass the state senate and be signed by Gov. Andy Beshear (D) before it becomes law.

Methamphetamine

DEA Announces Launch of Operation Crystal Shield, Will Target Meth Transport Hubs. DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon announced Thursday that the DEA will direct enforcement resources to methamphetamine “transportation hubs” — areas where methamphetamine is often trafficked in bulk and then distributed across the country. While continuing to focus on stopping drugs being smuggled across the border, DEA’s Operation Crystal will target eight major methamphetamine transportation hubs: Atlanta, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, and St. Loius. Together, these DEA Field Divisions accounted for more than 75% of methamphetamine seized in the U.S. in 2019.

Drug Policy

White House Releases National Drug Interdiction Plan, Border Strategies. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Jim Carroll on Thursday released the National Interdiction Command and Control Plan (NICCP), which outlines the Trump Administration’s interdiction strategy to reduce the availability of illicit drugs in the United States. The plan includes both a southwestern border strategy and a northern border strategy. "Almost all of the drugs killing thousands of Americans originate from outside the United States. The Plan demonstrates how close coordination across Federal, State, territorial, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies is crucial to stopping these deadly drugs from coming into our country and making their way into our communities," ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said.

Chronicle AM: NH House Approves Legal Pot Bill, DC Psychedelic Decrim Init Advances, More... (2/20/20)

New Hampshire could be the next state to legalize marijuana after the House approves it, an Alabama medical marijuana bill advances, and so does the DC psychedelic decriminalization initiative.

The DC psychedelic decriminalization initiative takes another step forward. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Must Be "Kept Illegal," Trump Campaign Spokesman Says. A top Trump campaign aide said in an interview Wednesday that the administration's policy is that marijuana and other illegal drugs should remain illegal. "I think what the president is looking at is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent of a young person to make sure that we keep our kids away from drugs," said Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for the Trump 2020 effort. "They need to be kept illegal,"he said. "That is the federal policy."

Colorado Bill to Protect Workers Who Use Marijuana on Their Own Time Fails. A bill aimed at barring employers from firing workers who use marijuana during their off-work hours has been killed amid business concerns over workplace safety and the inability of drug tests to actually determine impairment. House Bill 1089 was defeated unanimously in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. It didn't mention marijuana by name, but would have changed state law to allow for activities deemed illegal under federal law but that are legal under state law.

New Hampshire House Passes Limited Marijuana Legalization Bill.  The House on Thursday voted 236-112 to approve a limited marijuana legalization bill, HB 1648. The bill would legalize the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of weed by adults and allow for the home cultivation of up to six plants (three mature ones), but not allow for taxed and regulated sales. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate Committee Advances Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 165, on an 8-1 vote Wednesday, clearing the way for a Senate floor vote on it. The bill would create the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee and regulate a system of dispensaries and cultivators. The Senate approved a similar bill last year, only to have the House amend it into only a study commission. This year's bill is based on a recommendation by that commission. It now heads for a Senate floor vote.  

Psychedelics

Washington, DC, Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative Ballot Title Approved. The DC Board of Elections on Tuesday approved the short title and summary statement for the proposed psychedelic decriminalization initiative, another step on getting the measure before the voters in November. The initiative doesn't change local laws regarding natural psychedelics, but calls for making offenses involving those substances the lowest law enforcement priority and calls on the DC attorney general and the District’s federal prosecutor to end prosecutions of such offenses. The initiative is now called the "Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020." The short title and summary will be published in the DC Register next week, following which point a 10-day challenge period will be opened. After the close of the comment period on March 9, the panel will then the hold another meeting to give final approval to the language. Once the title and summary get final approval, organizers will have to collect about 25,000 valid signatures from voters within 180 days in order to qualify for the November ballot.

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

Medical Marijuana Update

A Pennsylvania patient fights for access to public housing, and state legislatures are back in session with medical marijuana on the agenda -- for better and for worse.

Alabama

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) has filed Senate Bill 154 to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill is based on a study done by a commission of doctors, lawyers, and legislators. Melson was chair of that commission. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. Patients who don't suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Arizona

Arizona Lawmakers Seek 2% THC Cap for Medical Marijuana. Fifteen House Republicans have cosponsored a bill HCR 2045, that would amend the state's medical marijuana program by putting a 2% THC limit on medical marijuana. Currently, there is no limit on THC. The measure would also provide grants from the state's medical marijuana fund to conduct research on the relationship between marijuana and violence and marijuana and schizophrenia.

Kentucky

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted last Wednesday to approve House Bill 136, which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from conditions that would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

New Mexico

New Mexico Legislature Passes Bill to End Limit Patient Enrollment to State Residents. A bill that would bar out-of-state people from enrolling the state's medical marijuana program has passed out of the legislature and is headed to the desk of Gov. Michelle Grisham Lujan (D), who has said she supports it. State officials said they feared allowing out-of-state enrollment could lead to federal interference in the program. Bill supporters said the state's reciprocity program would allow residents of other states that allowed medical marijuana to participate, but the state hasn't even set the rules for reciprocity yet. They are due by March 1. There are currently more than 600 non-New Mexico residents enrolled in the program.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Patient Fights for Right to Stay in Public Housing. Medical marijuana patient Mary Cease has no criminal record and a low income, but the Housing Authority of Indiana County has twice denied her application for Section 8 housing because Section 8 is a federal program and federal law considers marijuana to be illegal, period. She sued and lost in the Court of Common Pleas last April, but has appealed, and last Thursday, a panel of three Commonwealth Court judges heard oral arguments in her case. Her attorneys asked them to reverse the lower court decision and order Indiana County to give her access to Section 8 housing. No decision is expected for weeks, and final resolution of the case could take months.

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) has filed Senate Bill 154 to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill is based on a study done by a commission of doctors, lawyers, and legislators. Melson was chair of that commission. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. patients who don't suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 136, which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from conditions that would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) has filed Senate Bill 154 to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill is based on a study done by a commission of doctors, lawyers, and legislators. Melson was chair of that commission. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. patients who don't suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 136, which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from conditions that would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) has filed Senate Bill 154 to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill is based on a study done by a commission of doctors, lawyers, and legislators. Melson was chair of that commission. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. patients who don't suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 136, which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from conditions that would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Chronicle AM: Bloomberg Says Decriminalize Weed, GA Hemp/Marijuana Bill, AZ MedMJ THC Limits Bill, More... (2/19/20)

Michael Bloomberg goes as far as calling for marijuana decriminalization, a Georgia bill would let police anyone for possession of green leafy substances even if they can't say whether it's hemp or marijuana, and more. 

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg come out for marijuana decriminalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michael Bloomberg Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization. Former New York City mayor and billionaire Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg formalized his approach to marijuana Tuesday, calling for decriminalization as part of a broader criminal justice platform. But his one-paragraph policy is short on details. It says he would decriminalize "small amounts" of weed and commute sentences for certain convictions. It also says legalization should be left up to the states "for the moment."

Connecticut Clergy Rally for Marijuana Legalization. Local clergy spoke Tuesday in support of Gov. Ned Lamont's (D) push to legalize marijuana at a press conference organized by the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. Prominent leaders such as the Rev. Charlie L. Stallworth of the East End Baptist Tabernacle Church in Bridgeport and the Rev. Edwin Pérez of the United Church of Christ in West Hartford were joined by the Rev. Alexander Sharp of Illinois, executive director of national reform group Clergy for a New Drug Policy, who said legalization would reduce needless arrests and "provide jobs in communities ravaged by the failed war on drugs.”

Georgia Bill Would Allow Police to Make Arrests for Hemp or Marijuana. A bill that would let police arrest people for possession of small amounts of green, leafy substances even if they can't tell whether it's legal hemp or illegal marijuana has passed the House Agriculture Committee and is now headed for a House floor vote. The measure, House Bill 847, is an attempt to allow police to enforce marijuana laws after the federal and state governments legalized hemp. But Mazie Lynn Causey, a lobbyist for the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said if police wanted to enforce marijuana laws, they needed to prove the substance in question was indeed marijuana. “What’s happening here is the criminalizing of a legal substance,” Causey said. “What this bill does is it treats hemp as marijuana for the purposes of prosecution.”

Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny County) has filed another marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 2050 (not yet available on the legislative website). He says it's an improved version of a bill that he filed last year. That bill didn't move, and this one isn't likely to, either. It's headed to the House Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren), who opposes legalization and says she has no plans to move this bill in committee, either.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Lawmakers Seek 2% THC Cap for Medical Marijuana. Fifteen House Republicans have cosponsored a bill, HCR 2045, that would amend the state’s medical marijuana program by putting a 2% THC limit on medical marijuana. Currently, there is no limit on THC. The measure would also provide grants from the state's medical marijuana fund to conduct research on the relationship between marijuana and violence and marijuana and schizophrenia.

New Mexico Legislature Passes Bill to End Limit Patient Enrollment to State Residents. A bill that would bar out-of-state people from enrolling the state's medical marijuana program has passed out of the legislature and is headed to the desk of Gov. Michelle Grisham Lujan (D), who has said she supports it. State officials said they feared allowing out-of-state enrollment could lead to federal interference in the program. Bill supporters said the state's reciprocity program would allow residents of other states that allowed medical marijuana to participate, but the state hasn't even set the rules for reciprocity yet. They are due by March 1. There are currently more than 600 non-New Mexico residents enrolled in the program.

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

Chronicle AM: OK Bills Would Legalize Needle Exchanges, HI Defelonization Bill Advances, More... (2/18/20)

Rhode Island sees marijuana expungement and drug possession expungement bills filed, a Vermont poll shows strong support for legalizing and regulating marijuana sales as the House takes up the issue, a Hawaii drug defelonization bill has been filed, and more.

Oklahoma legislators are pondering a pair of needle exchange bills this year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Marijuana Offense Expungement Bill Filed. A bill aiming to remove barriers for people previously convicted of marijuana offenses have been filed in the legislature. Rep. Anastasia Williams (D) has filed HB 7142 to allow people "previously convicted of marijuana possession, which would now constitute a decriminalized offense, to have their records for those convictions automatically expunged regardless of their criminal history." The House Judiciary Committee last week ordered the bill held for further study.

Vermont Poll Shows Very Strong Support for Legal, Regulated Marijuana Sales.  A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project found that an overwhelming 76% of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses. These results are significant as they come days before the Vermont House is expected to vote on SB 54, a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales in the state. The bill passed the Senate nearly a year ago.

Washington House Passes Bill to Address Racial Inequities in Marijuana Licensing. The House on Sunday approved HB 2870, which aims to address racial inequity within the legal marijuana industry by allowing applicants of a new social equity program to be issued previously forfeited, canceled and revoked retail licenses. That new program would consider the applicant's race and gender, history of marijuana convictions, and plans to employ people of color, as well as the impact the war on drugs had on their neighborhood. There are currently 13 licenses not being used. The bill would also establish a marijuana social equity task force to recommend whether more licenses should be issued. The bill is now in the Senate and must be passed out of committee by February 28.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Filed. Along with Mississippi and South Dakota, Idaho is one of only three states that have not legalized hemp, but that could change after a pair of Republican state representatives filed a bill that would legalize it. A similar bill has already been filed in the Senate.

Drug Policy

Hawaii Drug Defelonization Bill Advances. A bill that would make it a misdemeanor instead of a felony to be caught with less than two grams of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 2793 still needs to be approved in the Senate Public Safety Committee before heading to a Senate floor vote.

Rhode Island Drug Possession Expungement Bill Filed. Rep. Jason Knight (D) has filed HB 7091, which makes peopleconvicted of felony simple possession of a controlled substance eligible for expungement five years after completion of their sentence. The act also repeals the requirement that those seeking expungement pay a fee to the court. The House Judiciary Committee last week ordered the bill held for further study.

Harm Reduction

Oklahoma Bill Would Legalize Needle Exchanges. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is proposing legalizing needle exchanges in a bid to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. SB 1346 from Sen. Carri Hicks (D-Oklahoma City) would would allow governmental or nongovernmental entities to operate needle exchange programs. It would also remove needles from the state's drug paraphernalia laws. The bill must pass through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee before heading for a floor vote. In the House, Rep. Carol Bush (R-Tulsa) has filed HB 3028, which would allow state agencies, county health departments, private businesses, nonprofit entities and churches to operate needle exchange programs so long as the programs aren’t paid for with state funding. That bill passed the House Appropriations Committee last Thursday.

Chronicle AM: Mexico Legal Pot Bill Set to Move, Los Angeles DA Clears 66,000 Pot Convictions, More... (2/14/20)

The clock is ticking on getting marijuana legalization done in Mexico, a Pennsylvania patient fights for the right to have access to public housing, the LA DA clears 66,000 old pot convictions, and more.

Marijuana legalization draws ever nearer in Mexico. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Announces Planned Marijuana Legalization Bill. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D), who filed an unsuccessful legalization bill last year, has announced in a letter to colleagues that he will try again this year. Wheatley's bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, with a 10% wholesale tax on business-to-business transactions and a 6% retail sales tax that would rise to 12% after two years and 19% after another two years. The bill would also expunge past marijuana convictions and promote social equity and restorative justice.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Clears 66,000 Marijuana Convictions. District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Thursday that she had secured the dismissal of some 62,000 felony marijuana convictions and 4,000 misdemeanor convictions. Her announcement came after she filed motions last week to erase those convictions and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Samuel Ohta signed the order on Tuesday.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Patient Fights for Right to Stay in Public Housing. Medical marijuana patient Mary Cease has no criminal record and a low income, but the Housing Authority of Indiana County has twice denied her application for Section 8 housing because Section 8 is a federal program and federal law considers marijuana to be illegal, period. She sued and lost in the Court of Common Pleas last April, but has appealed, and on Thursday, a panel of three Commonwealth Court judges heard oral arguments in her case. Her attorneys asked them to reverse the lower court decision and order Indiana County to give her access to Section 8 housing. No decision is expected for weeks, and final resolution of the case could take months.

International

Key Mexican Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Bill Will Be Approved This Month. Sen. Julio Menchaca of the ruling MORENA Party and head of the Senate Justice Committee said a bill to legalize marijuana was "already circulated to members" of key legislative panels and that "we hope to get it out in the Senate this month." Under a Supreme Court ruling, the Congress has until April to get it done. If the bill indeed passes the Senate this month, it would still have to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies.

Chronicle AM: NM Legal Pot Bill Shot Down; AL, OH Synthetic Urine Criminalization Bills Advance, More... (2/13/20)

Today, New Mexico is the Land of Disenchantment, a Kentucky medical marijuana bill advances, synthetic urine prohibition bills advance in Alabama and Ohio, and more.

Some states are moving to criminalize using synthetic urine to thwart drug tests. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Defeated in Committee. A bill backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) to legalize marijuana was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-4 vote after committee Chairman Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) harshly criticized it. That means the effort to pass SB 115 is likely dead for the year. There are only days left in the legislature's 30-day short session.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) has filed Senate Bill 154 to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill is based on a study done by a commission of doctors, lawyers, and legislators. Melson was chair of that commission. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. patients who don’t suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 136, which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from conditions that would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Drug Testing

Alabama Bill to Criminalize Synthetic Urine for Drug Tests Advances. A bill that would make it a crime to use or distribute synthetic urine to thwart drug tests has passed the House. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Ohio Bill to Criminalize Synthetic Urine for Drug Tests Advances. A bill that would make it a crime to use or distribute synthetic urine to thwart drug tests has passed the Ohio Senate. The measure, SB 156, now heads to the House.

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Passes Legislature, Trump Budget Would Shift Colombia Aid Priorities, More... (2/12/20)

The Virginia legislature passes marijuana decriminalization, a Kentucky medical marijuana bill heads for a House floor vote, a South Dakota hemp bill passes the House, and more.

The Trump administration is eyeing Colombian coca and cocaine production in its new budget. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Legislature Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill; Governor Expected to Sign. Hours after the House of Delegates approved decriminalization Tuesday, the state Senate followed suit by approving its own version of the bill, SB 2. Governor Ralph Northam (D) has said he would sign such a bill, but it first needs to go to conference committee to settle minor differences between the House and Senate versions.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky House Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The House Judiciary Committee voted 17-1 Wednesday to approve  HB 136, which would allow for the use of medical marijuana for certain debilitating medical conditions. The measure now heads for a House floor vote. A similar bill was approved by the committee last year, but never got a floor vote. This year, 51 of the state's 100 representatives are cosponsors.

Hemp

South Dakota House Passes Hemp Bill with No Debate. The House passed a bill to legalize industrial hemp cultivation, HB 1008, with a two-thirds majority after hearing no debate at all. It now goes to the Senate. If that body also passes it by a two-thirds majority and Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signs it into law, an emergency clause would go into effect allowing state farmers to grow a crop this year.

Foreign Policy

Trump Budget Proposal Would Slash Colombia Development Aid, Boost Ant-Drug Funding. President Trump's new federal budget proposal would slash economic assistance to Colombia by nearly $70 million while at the same time nearly doubling anti-drug funding from $125 million this year to $237.5 million for the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1. The budget proposal says the funding is needed to fight "threats posed by sharp increases in coca cultivation."

International

Croatia Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. A Croatian lawmaker has introduced a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis sales and permit adults to grow up to nine marijuana plants for personal use. Mirela Holy, head of the Social Democratic Party's Green Development Council filed the bill and said it will be subject to first public and then parliamentary debate. The country has decriminalized pot possession and legalized medical marijuana in 2015, but marijuana sales remains a felony with a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence.

Chronicle AM: Trump Anti-Drug Budget Released, MT and ND Legal Pot Inits See Changes, More... (2/11/20)

The president praises authoritarian governments that quickly execute drug dealers, the White House releases the annual anti-drug budget, a North Dakota pot legalization initiative extends its signature gathering drive, and more. 

President Trump has a soft spot for authoritarian countries that execute drug dealers. (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Initiative Committee Removes Medical Marijuana Changes from Marijuana Legalization Initiative. New Approach Montana, which is proposing a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives, has revised one of them after state officials raised concerns that its statutory initiative provision lowering the tax on medical marijuana would violate the rule that initiatives only deal with a single subject. New Approach has now removed that language; the changes are reflected in the current version of the initiative.

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Shifts from June Ballot Effort to November. The North Dakota Freedom of Cannabis Act campaign, which seeks to pass a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment has announced it will no longer seek a place on the June ballot, but is now aiming at November. The move came Tuesday, the final day to hand in signatures to qualify for the June ballot. By shifting to the later election date, the campaign gives itself an additional four months to come up with more signatures. It needs 26,904 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot and only had 18,000 raw signatures so far.

Medical Marijuana

Trump's FY 2021 Budget Would Remove Protection for Medical Marijuana States. As part of its just released fiscal year 2021 budget, the Trump administration is proposing an existing policy that protects state medical marijuana programs from Justice Department meddling. Since 2014, Congress has approved a rider in the department's appropriations bill that blocks it from spending funds to do so, but the Senate failed to approve it last year.

Drug Courts

Alabama Report Calls for Statewide Standards for Drug Courts. The legal advocacy group Alabama Appleseed has released a report that examined diversion programs in the state, including the resort to drug courts, and recommends that lawmakers establish uniform statewide standards for such programs, which the report found varied wildly from county to county. "We hope this report will provide a road map for tackling some really tough issues in a smarter way. We hear so much about the opioid crisis, and it is real and it devastates family and communities. We hear so much about the horrors and the violence in our prisons," said Appleseed Executive Director Carla Crowder. "If more people could be treated outside of prison for substance use issues, we could find a way to make these opportunities work for the people who need them most. It could make a difference in two huge and sometimes seemingly overwhelming issues in this state."

Drug Policy

Trump Praises China's "Powerful" Death Penalty for Drug Dealers. At a meeting with US governors at the White House Monday, President Donald Trump responded to a question about fentanyl imported from China by praising Chinese President Xi Jingping's decision to criminalize the drug and execute drug dealers. "Now they've put it into their criminal statutes. And criminal in China for drugs by the way means that's serious, they're getting a maximum penalty," said Trump. "And you know what the maximum penalty is in China for that, and it goes very quickly." He then praised countries that execute drug dealers after "fair but quick" trials: "It's interesting. Where you have Singapore, they have very little drug problem. Where you have China, they have very little drug problem," Trump said. "States with a very powerful death penalty on drug dealers don't have a drug problem. I don't know that our country is ready for that, but if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty... with a fair but quick trial, they have very little, if any drug problem."

Trump Drug Budget Continues to Grow; Treatment and Prevention Funds Barely Exceed Enforcement and Interdiction Funds. The White House has released the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Drug Control Budget, which requests $35.7 billion for counter-drug efforts, an increase of $94 million from the previous year. The request includes $18.6 billion for prevention and treatment efforts, and $17.1 billion for domestic law enforcement, interdiction, and international drug control efforts. 

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Passes House, Nepalese Communists Say Free the Weed, More... (2/10/20)

Colorado activists want to de-legalize weed, Nepalese communists want to re-legalize weed, the Afghan and US governments spar over opium production, and more. 

Sadhus sharing cannabis at Nepal's festival of Shiva. The communist government is moving to re-legalize the herb. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Initiative Would Undo Marijuana Legalization. A pair of activist attorneys have filed Ballot Proposal #249, which would repeal the section of the state constitution that legalizes marijuana. The proposal is only four sentences long, with the key sentence being: "Article XVIII, Section 16 of the Colorado Constitution (Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana) is repealed." The proposal does not seek to change the status quo around legal medical marijuana and hemp. It is currently being reviewed by Legislative Council Staff before heading to the secretary of state's office for title review. Only slightly more than one-third of voters polled in 2016 (the most recent data) supported reversing legalization.

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Passes House, Needs One More Vote in Senate. The House has approved HB 972, which would make simple pot possession an infraction punishable by no more than a $25 fine. Under current state law, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense. The bill also ends driver's license suspensions for adults and treats hash oil like marijuana, instead of the Schedule I substance it is currently considered. The Senate version  of the bill also advanced, passing the Finance and Appropriations Committee with a vote 12-3. It now heads for a final Senate floor vote.

International

ONDCP Releases Data on Poppy Cultivation and Potential Opium Production in Afghanistan. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office) has released the results of the annual US Government estimate measuring poppy cultivation and potential opium production in Afghanistan. The US government estimate found poppy cultivation decreased in 2019 compared to 2018, but potential pure opium production increased.  Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan declined 28 percent, from 221,000 hectares in 2018 to 160,000 hectares in 2019.  Conversely, potential pure opium production increased by 21 percent, from 5,550 metric tons in 2018 to 6,700 metric tons in 2019.  Low opium prices at planting time drove the decline in cultivation.  The rise in potential pure production is a direct result of favorable weather and harvesting conditions.

Afghanistan Interior Ministry Denies ONDCP Opium Report. The Ministry of the Interior has challenged the ONDCP report about a surge of Afghan opium production, saying there has been a significant reduction in drug production in the county because counter-narcotics police have conducted "several raids to destroy it." Officials also cited tighter border controls. "I can assure you about reduction of narcotic products. There are several reasons behind it, the night raids, draught, and narcotics price has downed and recently poppy cultivation in Iraq has scaled up," added Deputy Ministry of Counter Narcotics Najibullah Ahmadi.

Colombia Sets Goal of Eradicating 320,000 Acres of Coca This Year. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday that Colombia hopes to eradicate some 321,237 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca this year. Tools to achieve that goal could include the aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate. The country is under constant pressure from the US, the principal market for Colombian cocaine, to reduce coca cultivation. Last year, Colombia destroyed about 250,000 acres of coca using manual eradication. Aerial spraying of glyphosate was banned in 2015, but President Ivan Duque's government is working to get around that ban and reintroduce the practice.

Nepal's Ruling Communist Party Proposes Marijuana Legalization. Lawmakers from the ruling Communist Party have proposed legalizing marijuana in the country, which has a long history of use. Some 46 members of the party filed the proposal in the parliament. "Legalizing marijuana will help the poor farmers and since most of the Western world, which was reason for making it illegal in the first place, have already ended the prohibition, Nepal should also lift the ban," lawmaker Birod Khatiwada said Monday. Marijuana was only criminalized in 1976 under Western pressure after Nepal developed a reputation as a cannabis-friendly destination on the counter-cultural hippie trail in the 1960s.

Chronicle AM: SF to Open Street Meth Center, Filipino Top Cop Says Bloody Drug War Failed, More... (2/7/20)

Connecticut top lawmakers roll out the governor's marijuana legalization bill, San Francisco moves to open a street meth treatment facility in the Tenderloin, and more. 

An all-female hemp field. South Dakota could be the next state to legalize industrial hemp production. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Top Lawmakers File Governor's Marijuana Legalization Bill. Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D) and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D) on Thursday filed the "Governor's Bill" (SB 16) to legalize marijuana. The measure supported by Gov. Ned Lamont (D) would allow people 21 and over to possess and buy up to an ounce and a half of weed from a licensed retailer. The measure also includes several social equity provisions, including expungement, allowing those with past convictions to work in the industry, and language that would support businesses operated by people from communities most harmed by the drug war. The bill will now be heard by the Joint Judiciary Committee.

Hemp

South Dakota Hemp Bill Advances. A bill to legalize the growth and transportation of hemp in the state, HB1008B, passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee Thursday morning. The bill was first heavily amended by a skeptical Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who vetoed a similar bill last year. The measure now heads for a House floor vote.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco to Open Street Meth Treatment Center. The city is set to open a center for people experiencing methamphetamine-induced psychosis in the Tenderloin neighborhood later this spring. The 24-hour center, to be located on a city-operated parking lot, is aimed at getting people off the streets and connecting them with treatment and other services. It will include two tents housing 15 beds each.

International

Philippines Drug War Enforcement Chief Says "Shock and Awe" Campaign Has Failed. Coloneal Romeo Caramat, head of drug enforcement for the Philippine National Police, has said the President Rodrigo Duterte's ultra-violent drug war has not been effective. "Shock and awe definitely did not work, he told Reuters. "Drug supply is still rampant. Crime has declined somewhat, he added, but drug users can still buy drugs "anytime, anywhere" in the country. A Duterte spokesman declined to comment on Caramat's remarks, but last month said "we are winning the war on drugs."

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Heads for House Floor Vote, Thai Opium Cultivation Declines, More... (2/6/20)

Marijuana decriminalization is moving in Virginia, medical marijuana home cultivation is moving in New Hampshire, a class action lawsuit goes after Detroit-area car seizures, and more.

There are fewer of these in Thailand these days. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor Renews Marijuana Legalization Pledge in Budget Proposal and Speech. In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) reiterated his call for marijuana legalization. He also put money where his mouth is by including funding for a legal marijuana regulatory framework in the budget proposal submitted to legislators. He also called for regional coordination in marijuana legalization. "The patchwork of cannabis and vaping laws are impossible to enforce. We will work with our neighboring states to make our laws safe, uniform, and enforceable. Like it or not, legalized marijuana is a short drive away in Massachusetts and New York is soon to follow," he added. "Right now do you realize that what you can buy legally in Massachusetts right across the border can land you in prison here in Connecticut for up to a year?"

Virginia General Assembly Blocks Marijuana Legalization, But Advances Decriminalization Bill. The House Courts of Justice Committee voted Wednesday to refer three marijuana legalization bills for study, effectively killing them for this session. At the same time, the committee voted to approve a decriminalization bill, HB 972, setting it up for a House floor vote. Similar legislation is also moving in the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation Bill. The state Senate Thursday approved a bill that would allow patients and caregivers to grow their own medicine. SB 420 now heads to the House, which has passed similar legislation with strong support. The bill allows for the cultivation of three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) vetoed a similar bill last year. The House voted to override his veto, but the Senate fell three votes short of doing so.

Asset Forfeiture

Class Action Lawsuit Targets Detroit Car Seizures. A class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Detroit Wednesday accuses the Wayne County Sheriff's Office of seizing thousands of cars and other property belonging to residents who have not committed crimes in violation of their constitutional rights. "Innocent property owners find themselves ensnared in this system," the lawsuit asserts, leaving them to face the "permanent loss of their car or other property, even when someone else is alleged to have committed a crime without the property owner's knowledge or consent." The lawsuit was filed by the libertarian Institute for Justice.

Drug Testing

Ohio Supreme Court to Decide Whether Worker Drug Testing That Exposed Genitals Invades Privacy. The state Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a case where workers at the company Sterilite had their genitals viewed during random drug tests. Four employees of the company sued claiming an invasion of privacy. The case was originally thrown out by a Stark County Common Pleas judge in 2017, but both sides appealed, and the case is now before the state's high court. Employees at the company were asked to submit to "direct observation" random drug tests where drug test administrators watched their groin areas while they produced urine specimens. Two of the plaintiffs were fired because they didn't provide a urine sample within the two-and-a-half hours allotted, according to court records. The original lawsuit seeks reinstatement with back pay for some of the plaintiffs. All four plaintiffs are seeking damages to compensate for pain, suffering and embarrassment.

International

Nigerian Governor Lobbies President to Legalize Marijuana. Ondo State Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu met with President Buhari on Tuesday and renewed his call for marijuana legalization. He argued that legalization would bring economic and health benefits to the country. "It's not because I take it; I take CBD, that's the oil, for medical purposes. I am convinced about the use to which we can put marijuana," Akeredolu said. "I know of the fact because we had to bring in experts, who have gone round and believe that the strain of marijuana that we grow in Ogbese in Ondo State is the best in the world. So, if you have that then a government must find a way to put it into good use. Our own is that the pathway to growing marijuana is for medical reasons, not for anybody to smoke."

Thai Opium Cultivation Keeps Declining, UNODC Says. Opium cultivation dropped last year, continuing a downward trend that began in 2014, according to a new UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey. The amount of land cultivated with poppies dropped 11% last year, down to about 80,000 acres. UNODC said that "the highest levels of cultivation continue to take place in unstable and conflict prone areas of Shan and Kachin." Production now is less than one-fifth it was at its peak in 1996.

Medical Marijuana Update

The fight over medical marijuana in Alabama heats up, a Pennsylvania court sides with a worker fired over legal medical marijuana use, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Attorney General Opposes Medical Marijuana Bill. While the legislature is once again set to take up a medical marijuana bill supported by 12 of 18 members of the Medical Cannabis Study Commission, Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) has now come out against it. He wrote a three-page letter urging lawmakers to oppose the bill this session.

Montana

Montana Posts Medical Marijuana Rules. The state Department of Health and Human Services has posted rules that make changes to the state's medical marijuana system, including a new fee structure and a license structure based on the provider's growing space. The rules are designed to implement a new medical marijuana law the legislature approved last year. The rules are open for public comment until the end of the month.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Court Allows Medical Pot User to Proceed with Wrongful Termination Suit. In a recent decision, Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas ruled that the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act creates a right to sue for wrongful termination and that a worker who claims to have been fired for medical marijuana use authorized by that law can bring a claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Legislators End Bid to Regulate Medical Marijuana Outlets. Lawmakers voted Tuesday in unanimous votes on identical bills in both houses to remove the "legislative veto" language over medical marijuana and hemp regulations that was included in the state budget. They have backed down from a fight with Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) over who will control licensing of six new medical marijuana dispensaries.

Chronicle AM: DC Psychedelic Initiative Advances, VT Legal Pot Sales Bill Moves Again, More... (2/5/20)

Vermont's House is moving on a legal marijuana sales bill approved last year by the Senate, Rhode Island legislators yield in a fight with the governor over medical marijuana, and more.

'Shroom decriminalization could be coming to the nation's capital. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Indiana GOP Senator Drops Bid to Force Marijuana Prosecutions. Sen. Mike Young (R) has dropped a bill that would have allowed the state attorney general to appoint special prosecutors to take over criminal cases that local prosecutors decide not to pursue. The bill was filed in response to the Indianapolis prosecutor's new policy of not pressing charges for small-time marijuana cases. Young let the measure die after the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council argued the proposal wrongly usurped the discretion that county prosecutors must have about how to use their staff and budgets on which cases to pursue.

Kentucky Poll Finds Strong Support for Medical Marijuana, Near Majority for Marijuana Legalization.A poll conducted by two nonprofit groups, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, has support for marijuana legalization at 49% and support for medical marijuana at 90%. That's up 12 points for the latter and 23 points for the former over 2012.

Vermont Committee OKs Bill to Legalize Marijuana Sales and Limit THC Potency. The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to advance a bill to legalize and tax marijuana sales. SB 54 passed out of the Government Operations Committee a day earlier. It now heads for the House Appropriations Committee before going to a House floor vote. It was approved by the Senate last year, and that vote is still in effect.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Posts Medical Marijuana Rules. The state Department of Health and Human Services has posted rules that make changes to the state's medical marijuana system, including a new fee structure and a license structure based on the provider's growing space. The rules are designed to implement a new medical marijuana law the legislature approved last year. The rules are open for public comment until the end of the month.

Rhode Island Legislators End Bid to Regulate Medical Marijuana Outlets. Lawmakers voted Tuesday in unanimous votes on identical bills in both houses to remove the "legislative veto" language over medical marijuana and hemp regulations that was included in the state budget. They have backed down from a fight with Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) over who will control licensing of six new medical marijuana dispensaries.

Psychedelics

Measure to Decriminalize Psychedelics Advances in Washington, DC. A proposed ballot initiative that would decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics has been given preliminary approval by the District's Board of Elections. Now, the board must approve a short title and summary statement, then the official language with be published in the DC register, after which a ten-day challenge period will take place, and after that, the board will meet again to give final approval to the language. Then, Decriminalize Nature DC will have 180 days to come up with 25,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Republican Reefer Reactionaries: Meet America's Eight Worst Governors on Marijuana Reform [FEATURE]

The nation's most venerable marijuana legalization group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), has just issued its 2020 Gubernatorial Scorecard grading the nation's governors on their level of support for ending marijuana prohibition. Thanks to NORML, we can now identify those chief executives whose stances on cannabis remain mired in the last century.

The states in black are home to the nation's worst governors when it comes to marijuana policy. (NORML)
But before we get to that rogues' gallery of governors, its worth mentioning the good news in the scorecard. Based on the governors' voting records and comments on marijuana policy, NORML bestowed "A" grades on nine governors -- all Democrats -- while 11 more Democrats and one Republican earned a "B." That means governors in nearly half the states are working hard to enact or maintain marijuana reform legislation, and that's a long way from where we were only a few years ago.

Getting marijuana reforms, whether its medical marijuana or adult legalization, through state legislatures is a tough, grinding slog, and the position of the governor can make or break a bill. Although, as governors such as Democrats Phil Murphy in New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo in New York found out last year, even the governor's support can't guarantee a measure gets passed.

As NORML executive director Eric Altieri noted in releasing the report, "Most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy takes place at the state level and America's governors are our nation's most powerful state-elected officials. These 50 lawmakers play a key role in whether or not marijuana policy reform advances at the state level so it is vitally important that reformers are aware of where they stand on the issue."

Here are the ones that stand farthest to the right. All eight of these Republican governors earned a big, fat "F" from NORML:

Idaho Gov. Brad Little. While he neither enacted nor vetoed marijuana-related legislation last year, he has opposed any loosening of pot prohibition, including even industrial hemp and medical marijuana. His position is best summed up by this quote from April 2019: If Idahoans wanted to legalize marijuana, "they elected the wrong guy as governor."

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. With marijuana bills unable to get anywhere in the GOP-dominated legislature, Holcomb has not had to sign or veto any measures, but he has historically opposed even medical marijuana, not to mention adult legalization. Now, he's using federal pot prohibition as a shield for his recalcitrance, saying that he will continue to oppose and marijuana reforms as long as the federal ban remains. He also said in 2019 that, "Right now, it's a crime. I'm just simply not willing to look the other way," even though he could act to make it not a crime and even though he is apparently willing to look the other way on his own self-admitted college toking.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. Nebraska was once on the cutting edge of marijuana law reform, decriminalizing it back in the 1970s, but that's apparently been long forgotten by the state's GOP political establishment, including Gov. Ricketts. While governor, he authored a position paper arguing the discredited position that marijuana is a gateway drug, that it's use can lead to suicide, and that medical marijuana is simply a stalking horse for legalization. He was at again just last month, releasing "An Honest Look at Marijuana," which ends thusly: "As Governor, I have a duty to promote public safety. I want Nebraskans to be informed of the dangers of marijuana and to know where I stand on the issue. I firmly oppose legislative legalization and will veto any legislation that attempts to make marijuana use lawful in the Cornhusker State."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. DeWine has long been a reefer recalcitrant and spoken consistently about his opposition to recreational marijuana legalization. Even though neighboring Michigan has flipped and neighboring Pennsylvania could this year, he still sides with his fellow prohibitionist GOP governor in neighboring Indiana. "It would really be a mistake for Ohio, by legislation, to say that marijuana for adults is just okay," he said just last month.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Long an opponent of recreational marijuana legalization, McMaster has also opposed medical marijuana when pressed. In his most recent comments on the issue, when asked about supporting medical marijuana, he said, "No. Law enforcement officials have made it clear that we are not in a position to appropriately regulate medical marijuana."

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. South Dakota is the only state where it's a criminal offense to test positive for marijuana, but Noem is fine with that. She's another GOP gateway theory adherent, claiming in November that marijuana is "the gateway drug to getting people more addicted, getting into stronger drugs, then they end up committing crimes, and it just opens the door to bad habits and behaviors that aren't going to be beneficial." She also vetoed an industrial hemp bill in her heavily agricultural state because, well, it's just a sneaky attempt to legalize weed: "There is no question in my mind that normalizing hemp, like legalizing medical marijuana, is part of a larger strategy to undermine enforcement of the drug laws and make legalized marijuana inevitable," she said in March 2019. And of course, she opposes both the medical marijuana and adult legalization initiatives on the ballot there this year.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. The state passed an extremely limited CBD possession law in 2014, and the only interest he has in any further marijuana reforms is expanding on that. He hasn't gotten behind broader medical marijuana, and he's even against decriminalization, not to mention legalization. "I have said before and still believe that we should not decriminalize marijuana... I think that's not good for our state," he said in March 2019.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon. Gordon is foe of adult legalization and a skeptic on medical marijuana. "I am not in favor of legalizing marijuana," he said as a gubernatorial candidate in 2018."There is maybe some discussion that can be had about medical marijuana, but I am not particularity in favor of doing that until we've had a very full conversation about what that means. So I am not in favor really of legalizing that. My understanding is that there are some alternatives that are prescription based. So the dosage is known, the purity is known, and we're taking risks for our patients." He didn't say anything last year to indicate his position has become more enlightened.

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

Chronicle AM: Taking Sides on Marijuana Legalization in NY, PA MMJ Wrongful Firing Court Ruling, More... (2/4/20)

Major players in New York are staking out positions on marijuana legalization, a Pennsylvania court rules in favor of a worker fired for legal medical marijuana use, and more.

Illinois is the latest state to discover green gold. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Went Through Almost $40 Million Worth of Weed in First Month of Legal Sales. The state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced Monday that legal marijuana sales totaled $39,247,840.83 in the first month after they began. "The revenue from the first month is an incredible look at what the potential could possibly be," said State Senator Toi Hutchinson, Illinois Cannabis Control Senior Advisor. "I just want to build a thriving and healthy industry that protects the public safety."

New York State Bar Association Supports Marijuana Legalization. The State Bar Association last Friday came out in support of legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana. It approved a report from its Committee on Cannabis Law that outlines strategies for implementing legalization in the state. "The report provides the necessary details surrounding safety, research, social equity, taxation, and other principles critical to the success of a legalized adult use program in this state," said Aleece Burgio, who co-chairs the Committee on Cannabis Law. "While policy continues to evolve at the federal level, the committee also believes the most effective way to navigate this complex issue is for any comprehensive cannabis proposal to include hemp, medical marijuana and adult use."

New York State Sheriff's Association Opposes Marijuana Legalization. Gathered at their 86th Annual Winter Training Conference in Albany, the state's sheriffs voted once again to oppose efforts to legalize the possession and sale of recreational marijuana. The association passed a similar resolution last year. The sheriffs argue that legalization would "pose a significant risk to the health and safety of communities."

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Attorney General Opposes Medical Marijuana Bill. While the legislature is once again set to take up a medical marijuana bill supported by 12 of 18 members of the Medical Cannabis Study Commission, Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) has now come out against it. He wrote a 3-page letter urging lawmakers to oppose the bill this session.

Pennsylvania Court Allows Medical Pot User to Proceed with Wrongful Termination Suit. In a recent decision,Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas ruled that the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act creates a right to sue for wrongful termination and that a worker who claims to have been fired for medical marijuana use authorized by that law can bring a claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Chronicle AM: VT Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Moves, MD Kratom Ban Bill Moves, More... (2/3/20)

Vermont is moving toward full, commercial marijuana legalization, Maryland is moving toward banning -- not regulating -- kratom, and more.

A Maryland bill would make kratom a Schedule I drug. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Moves. The House Committee on Government Operations approved 11-0 a bill that would legalize commercial marijuana sales in the state. SB 54 now heads for a Tuesday hearing at the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill was already approved by the Senate last year, but with changes made in the House, would likely require a conference committee to come to agreement if it passes the House.

Kratom

Maryland Bill Would Make Kratom a Schedule I Dangerous Drug. Delegate Ken Kerr (D-Frederick) has filed HB 283, which would criminalize the use, possession, and distribution of kratom by making it a Schedule I controlled substance under state law. It gets a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. A companion bill, SB 147, was reported out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings with a favorable vote Monday. Kratom is banned in six states and four cities in the United States but remains unrestricted under federal law. Kratom advocates call for regulation instead of prohibition, pointing to a model Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which has been passed in four states.

Mexican City Rocked by Violence After Arrest of Cartel Leader. For the second time in recent months, the arrest of a leading cartel figure has sparked widespread violence in a Mexican city. When police detained a senior leader of the Los Viagras cartel, Luis Felipe "El Vocho" last Friday, armed men blocked roads and burned cars in the western city of Uruapan, and there were reports of multiple shootouts. Los Viagras have been involved in a gang war with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel over territory in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan.

Chronicle AM: MO MJ Init Launches, SD Unlawful Ingestion Bill, More... (1/31/20)

A Georgia bill would result in quasi-decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, a South Dakota bill would amend the state's unique felony internal possession law to only make it a misdemeanor, and more.

South Dakota, where testing positive for illicit drugs can be charged as a felony. (Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Georgia Marijuana Bill Would Remove Threat of Jail Time for Simple Possession. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would remove the possibility of jail time for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Under HB 550, possession would remain a misdemeanor. Possession of more than an ounce is a felony (!) and would remain so under the bill. It is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Launches. Missourians for a New Approach has kicked off a signature gathering campaign that aims to put a marijuana legalization initiative in the form of a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The measure would allow people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of weed purchased from a legal retailer and/or grow up to three plants. The campaign has until mid-May to come up with 160,000 valid voter signatures.

Criminal Justice

South Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Softening State's Unique Unlawful Ingestion Law. It's the only state in the country to make a felony out of testing positive for an illicit drug, and now state Sen. Craig Kennedy (D-Yankton) has filed a bill to change that. SB115 would change ingestion to a Class 1 misdemeanor for the first two offenses and a Class 6 felony if a person is convicted of ingestion for a third time within 10 years. A misdemeanor ingestion conviction would include a mandatory minimum 10-day jail sentence. Kennedy also filed SB114 to incentivize treatment over the criminal justice system for people facing felony ingestion charges.

Chronicle AM: Drug Overdoses Declined in 2018, Bernie Sanders Marijuana Legalization Plan, More... (1/30/20)

The CDC reports that drug overdose deaths declined for the first time in decades in 2018, Colombia's coca farmers are increasingly unhappy, Bernie Sanders could use an executive order to legalize marijuana at the federal level, and more.

Bernie Sanders is looking at using an executive order to end federal marijuana prohibition. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Bernie Sanders Could Use Executive Order to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition. Aides to Vermont senator and Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders (I) have presented him with a list of executive orders he could use to unilaterally change federal policies, including one that would direct the Department of Justice to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances. A bill that would decriminalize marijuana and hash oil for adults was approved Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure, SB 2, now heads to the Finance and Appropriations Committee and, if it passes there, a Senate floor vote.

Cleveland, Ohio, City Council Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. The city council has voted 15-2 to approve a measure that would eliminates fines and jail time for low-level marijuana possession. And it's a pretty high low level: 200 grams. The legislation still needs to be approved by Mayor Frank Jackson (D), who has previously expressed support for it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

CDC Reports Drug Overdose Deaths Declined in 2018. For the first time this century, overall drug overdose deaths declined in 2018, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. The report put the total number of overdose deaths at 67,000 in 2018, down from over 70,000 in 2017, a decline of 4%. But that still makes 2018 the second-worst year for drug overdose deaths in US history. The majority of overdose deaths involved heroin and fentanyl.

Asset Forfeiture

South Carolina Prosecutor to Appeal Circuit Court Judge's Ruling that Civil Asset Forfeiture Law is Unconstitutional. 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson filed notice this week that he intends to appeal a local judge's 2019 ruling that the state's civil asset forfeiture law is unconstitutional under both state and federal law. The move comes a month after Circuit Court Judge Steven John reaffirmed his August ruling. Johns' decision struck down civil asset forfeiture in his district, but the appeal decision would apply statewide.

International

Colombia Coca Farmers Plan Mass Protests as Counternarcotics Strategy Collapses. Coca farmers are demanding the resignation of crop substitution program director Hernando London after he claimed that "coca substitution leaders have not been assassinated." The coca growers' federation says at least 56 community leaders promoting crop substitution programs have been killed since the program began in March 2017. The coca growers said they were fed up with the "bullshit" of President Ivan Duque's administration and would join national strikes set for next month. Duque's anti-coca policy faces collapse if the crop substitution program is not executed because it then cannot resume aerial spraying of coca crops, according to the Constitutional Court. Without voluntary eradication and aerial spraying, only labor-intensive and easily reversed manual eradication could be used -- and 80% of the destroyed crops are replanted.

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

Chronicle AM: NM & NH Legalization Bills Advance, Mexico Mayhem, Psychedelic Reform, More... (1/28/20)

It's getting busy, busy, busy as state legislatures get back into session; Philadelphia's DA ends prosecutions for buprenorphine possession, it was a bloody weekend in Mexico's drug wars, and more.

Marijuana is on the move at statehouses around the country. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Bill Would Protect Workers from Dismissal for Off-Duty Marijuana Use. Lawmakers in Denver are considering a measure that would protect workers who use marijuana on their own time from being fired for it. House Bill 20-1089 would bar employers from firing workers "for the employee's lawful off-duty activities that are lawful under state law."

Indiana GOP Lawmakers Target Indianapolis Prosecutor's Decision to Not Prosecute Small-Time Marijuana Cases. A GOP-backed bill that seeks to effectively overturn Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor Ryan Mears' recently announced policy of not pressing charges for small-time pot possession is moving in the Senate. The bill would let the attorney general's office step in if a county prosecutor announced a policy of not enforcing a law or was found to have "categorically elected" to not do so. The measure, SB 436, was approved by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee and now heads for a Senate floor vote.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Affairs Committee voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve SB 115, the Cannabis Regulation Act. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as emphasizing social equity and local entrepreneurship. There would be a 9% excise tax on sales. The measure now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Meanwhile, the House version of the bill, HB 160 is headed for the Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and then the Judiciary Committee. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is pushing for the bill to be passed during the current 30-day legislative session.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 13-7 Tuesday to recommend that a bill legalizing the possession and home cultivation of small quantities of marijuana "ought to pass." The measure is HB 1648. It comes after a full marijuana legalization bill failed last year.

Kratom

Missouri Kratom Regulation Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. The House General Laws Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved HB 2061, the Kratom Consumer Protection Act. The bill would deal with the substance by regulating it, not prohibiting it. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Psychedelics

Oakland Activists Unveil Plan to Legalize Sale of Psychedelics This Year. Decriminalize Nature, the group behind the national movement to decriminalize natural psychedelics, has announced a push to legalize the cultivation and sale of those hallucinogens in the city. The city already approved the decriminalization of such substances last year.

Santa Cruz City Council Approves Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure. The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a resolution that would effectively decriminalize "entheogenic plants and fungi" such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ibogaine, and ayahuasca. The resolution says the city shouldn't spend money to investigate psychedelic use by adults 21 and over and that such possession and use "should be considered among the lowest law enforcement priorities for the City of Santa Cruz."

Criminal Justice

Philadelphia DA Will No Longer Prosecute Buprenorphine Possession. District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced that his office will no longer prosecute people for possessing buprenorphine, an opioid-based addiction treatment drug. Krasner said the new policy is aimed at reducing overdoses. Krasner's office has already been dropping possession charges for people who can show they're in a treatment program.

International

Bloody Weekend in Central Mexico Cartel Wars. At least 48 people were killed between Friday and Sunday in prohibition-related violence in the central state of Guanajuato, including a six-year-old. In one incident, five people were killed at a house in Leon; in another, eight people were shot and killed at a taco stand in Celaya; in yet another, nine people were executed at a highway service plaza in Villagran. Among the dead were one soldier and one police officer.

New Zealand Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in September. The country has set September 19 as the date for its next general election. On the ballot will be a simple question: "Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill?" A final draft of the bill is expected to be released soon, but the government has already published a draft bill. If more than 50% of ballots are in favor of the draft legalization bill, the incoming government would be responsible for formally introducing a bill to Parliament. The first draft of the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill is available here.

Chronicle AM: Hawaii Bill Would De-Decriminalize Pot, Indiana Syringe Exchange Expansion Bill, More... (1/28/20)

Some Hawaii legislators want to roll back last year's marijuana decriminalization, Mexico's president says a government panel will be formed to make recommendations on how to legalize marijuana, and more.

Marijuana

Hawaii Bill Would Roll Back Decriminalization. Last year, the legislature approved marijuana decriminalization. This year, at least five legislators want to turn back the clock. House Bill 2018 was introduced by five Oahu representatives and argues that "Hawaii should be protected from suffering the dangers and risks increasingly occurring in states which have endorsed the possession and use of marijuana through means of decriminalization and legalization." The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Syringe Exchange Access Bill Filed. A bill to allow syringe exchange programs to operate without the prior declaration of a public health emergency has been filed in Indianapolis. SB 207 would also repeal the July 1, 2021 expiration date of existing syringe exchange programs. The measure has been referred to the Committee on Health and Provider Services and was set for a hearing Wednesday morning.

International

Mexico's President Says A New Marijuana Panel Will Make Legalization Recommendations. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that his government is forming a panel to make recommendations on how marijuana legalization should unfold. "A group is going to be formed to decide what will happen about that with a public health approach. We are about to comply with the recommendation of the Supreme Court," the president said. The high court ruled in 2019 that marijuana prohibition was unconstitutional and gave the government a limited time to rectify the situation. That clock runs out in April, and Lopez Obrador's allies in the congress say they will pass a legalization bill before then.

Chronicle AM: IL Supreme Court Takes On Searches Based on Smell of Marijuana, Tom Steyer Drug Policy, More... (1/27/20)

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer rolls out a progressive criminal justice platform, a Tennessee marijuana legalization bill is filed, and more.

Tom Steyer's platform includes marijuana legalization and opioid decrim. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Supreme Court to Decide If Smell of Marijuana Justifies Police Search. The state's highest court is pondering whether now that marijuana is legal, if smelling it is justification for police searching someone's vehicle. The case it is hearing occurred in 2017, when marijuana possession was decriminalized but not legalized, but will have even more bearing now. In that case, Decatur police pulled over a man and smelled "raw" marijuana. Even though possession of up to ten grams was no longer a crime -- merely a ticketable offense -- police used the odor of marijuana as probable cause to conduct a search, where they found other contraband and arrested the man. The court is now considering the case after oral arguments.

Tennessee Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) has filed a legislation to legalize marijuana, SB 1849. The bill would allow for licensed and regulated marijuana cultivation and retail sale, with sales limited to a half-ounce and taxed at 12%. Half the tax revenues would go to education, 30% to infrastructure, and 20% to the general fund. The bill is not scheduled for debate and no companion legislation has been filed in the House.

Drug Policy

Tom Steyer Calls for Marijuana Legalization, Opioid Decriminalization. Democratic presidential contender and billionaire Tom Steyer called for the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of opium possession as part of a broader criminal justice reform program released last week. "Tom believes we must end the failed War on Drugs. Based on the flawed idea that incarceration is the answer to addiction, federal and state elected officials passed severe sentencing laws that encouraged incarceration for low-level drug offenses," the plan states. "Unfortunately, communities of color were and continue to be disproportionately affected and targeted by these laws, even when other ethnicities were committing the same drug crimes at the same rates." He also called for ending mandatory minimum sentencing, more drug courts, ending the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, and investing $75 million in drug treatment.

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

Chronicle AM: NM MJ Legalization Bill Filed, San Francisco Heroin/Fentanyl ODs Double, More... (1/24/20)

A New Mexico marijuana legalization bill backed by the governor has been filed, Montana activists file a second legalization initiative, San Francisco authorities report a doubling of heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths last year, and more.

Heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths doubled in San Francisco last year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Sees Second Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed. The activist group MontanaCan filed a marijuana legalization initiative, Ballot Issue 13, on Monday. That makes two potential legalization initiatives that could be on the ballot in November. The MontanaCan initiative would legalize marijuana for people 18 and up and cap the tax rate at 5%. That contrasts with the New Approach Montana initiative, which sets the age of consumption at 21 and the tax rate at 20%. Both are waiting to be cleared for signature gathering.

New Hampshire Legislature Has Marijuana On Its Mind. As the legislative session gets underway, lawmakers are confronting at least a dozen marijuana bills that have already been filed. Some have to do with medical marijuana, including one that would allow patients to grow their own medicine. Similar legislation has passed the General Assembly in previous years, only to be vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu (R). Also on the agenda is a marijuana legalization bill, HB 1686, which was set for a public hearing Friday. That bill would legalize the possession of up to ¾ ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to six plants, but does not envisage a legal commercial market.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Reps. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque) and Antonio "Moe" Maestas (D-Albuquerque) filed marijuana legalization legislation, HB 160, on Thursday. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as emphasizing social equity and local entrepreneurship. There would be a 9% excise tax on sales. The bill heads first in the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and then in the House Judiciary Committee. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is pushing for the bill to be passed during the current 30-day legislative session.

Austin, Texas, City Council Walks Away from Marijuana Arrests. The city council approved a resolution Thursday directing city police to not spend city funds on newly necessary lab tests to distinguish marijuana from low-THC hemp. The measure passed unanimously, and effectively ends arrests and prosecutions for small-time pot busts in most cases.

Chicago Housing Authority Relaxes Policy on Evicting Marijuana Users. The Chicago Housing Authority has relaxed its hardline approach to marijuana after the state legalized weed this year. Under federal law, people living in subsidized housing are subject to eviction for any drug law violations, and the CHA last year sent letters to its 63,000 households warning that families could be evicted for marijuana violations. But under pressure from Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), the CHA has revised its policy to now say that each marijuana complaint would lead to "consideration of relevant facts on a case-by-case basis."

Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Reservation Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in March. Members of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation will vote on legalizing medical and recreational marijuana and allowing alcohol in casinos in May. The move comes after council members voted in favor of a referendum earlier this month.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

San Francisco Opioid Overdose Deaths Doubled Last Year. Preliminary statistics gathered by city officials show that overdose deaths involving heroin, fentanyl, or the two drugs together hit 290 last year, more than double the 134 reported in 2018. Of those 290 deaths, 234 resulted from fentanyl alone. Just a decade ago, the number of city residents who overdosed on fentanyl and/or heroin was only 17. "It's devastating. It's awful. It's the most deadly epidemic that we've seen in our city since the HIV/AIDS crisis was killing thousands of people," said Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin district where the opioid crisis has hit the city hardest. "It is painful that this is not something being talked about every day at City Hall."

Drug Testing

Iowa Bill Would Make Cheating on a Drug Test a Crime. A bill that would make it a misdemeanor crime to cheat on a drug or alcohol test in a private-sector workplace has passed its first legislative hurdle, being approved Thursday by a Senate Commerce subcommittee. SSB 3013 is being advanced by business interests concerned about the use of synthetic urine and urine additives to beat drug tests.

Drug War Issues

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