Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

These States Could Legalize Marijuana via the Ballot Box in 2022 [FEATURE]

A new year is here, and with it, new opportunities to expand the legal marijuana landscape at the ballot box. Currently, marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, DC, with medical marijuana allowed in 36 states and DC. Given that marijuana legalization is as popular as apple pie -- the most recent Gallup poll has support at a record 68 percent--we should expect to see more join the ranks. There are eight states that could increase that number at the ballot box this year.

(There are also legalization efforts at statehouses -- look for a feature story on that shortly.)

Among the eight states with ballot prospects are several states where legalization would be achieved in a hybrid fashion: The legislature would have to approve a bill calling for a referendum on the issue, and then voters would get their say.

The year is young, and none of the initiatives below have yet qualified. They must all overcome procedural hurdles and signature gathering requirements (except for those hybrids). But if they can manage to get qualified, the polling numbers suggest they can win, even in the reddest states.

With a big tip of the hat to Ballotpedia, Marijuana Moment, and NORML, who are all keeping an eye on the action, here's the list of states working to legalize it at the ballot box this year:

Arkansas

Two separate marijuana legalization initiative campaigns were derailed by coronavirus disruptions and restrictions in 2020, but both are back this year, along with a potential third initiative. All take the form of initiated constitutional amendments.

One initiative is a proposed constitutional amendment submitted by Arkansans for Marijuana Reform. It would legalize the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana buds and two ounces of concentrates and would let people grow up to six mature marijuana plants and six seedlings. Legal marijuana commerce would be handled by the state Department of Finance and Administration, which would have to issue at least one retail license per 15,000 residents.

A second initiative, submitted by Arkansas True Grass,would legalize sales as well as personal possession. Adults could purchase up to four ounces at a time and grow up to 12 plants for personal use, while licensed and regulated marijuana commerce would be taxed at 13 percent at the retail level (8 percent excise tax and 5 percent local sales tax). Past marijuana convictions would be expunged.

The third initiative was just filed this week. It is from former state lawmaker Eddie Armstrong (D), who is also involved in an Illinois marijuana business and who announced back in October that he had formed a campaign called Responsible Growth Arkansas to put a legalization constitutional amendment on the ballot. His Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment would legalize marijuana but seems more interested in who would get coveted licenses. It would have authorities issue licenses first to people who already had medical marijuana licenses and would cap the number of dispensaries at 120.

All three campaigns will need to come up with 89,151 valid voter signatures by July 8 to qualify for the November ballot.

Kentucky

This is a hybrid state: Six members of the House have filed House Bill 225, which, if passed, would put before the voters a referendum question on marijuana legalization. The proposal would allow anyone 21 or over to possess, use, buy, or sell up to an ounce of marijuana and grow, harvest, and store up to five plants for personal use. The measure would also set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.

Whether this bill will move remains to be seen. It went to the Committee on Committees on January 5 and, as of this writing, it has not advanced or been scheduled for a hearing.

Maryland

Another hybrid state. Delegate Luke Clippinger (D), chairman of legislative group studying the issue of marijuana legalization, has filed House Bill 1, which, if passed, would place before voters the following question: "Do you favor the legalization of adult -- use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" If voters approved it, the General Assembly would then be charged with writing the rules covering "use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis."

This bill could move. It was House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) who formed the marijuana working group, and Clippinger is not only chairman of the group but also chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to which it has been referred.

But Jones's counterpart, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D), seems more inclined to support getting a straight legalization bill passed before November than going down the referendum route. Either way would work.

Missouri

Missouri has two marijuana legalization initiatives already cleared for circulation and one measure in the legislature that would, if passed, result in a public referendum on the issue.

Legal Missouri 2022 has filed an initiative that legalizes marijuana for people 21 and over and automatically expunges criminal records for past nonviolent marijuana offenses. It also includes social equity provisions aimed at broadening participation in the industry. The group kicked off its signature gathering campaign in December and needs at least 107,246 valid voter signatures by July 28.

A different group, Fair Access Missouri, has filed multiple initiatives aimed at creating a system of legal marijuana sales for people 21 and over. The group describes itself as a "grassroots coalition of activists, patient advocates, and entrepreneurs working to give Missouri voters an open market with low taxes and low barriers to entry." Fair Access Missouri is also now in the signature gathering phase.

And then there is Rep. Shamed Dogan (R), who has filed a joint resolution, House Joint Resolution 33, to put a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot. He filed the same bill last year, but it did not advance. It is not currently scheduled for a House hearing.

New Hampshire

And another hybrid. The House has already approved a marijuana legalization bill this year, as in years past, but all such bills so far have gone on to die in the Senate. Maybe this year will be different, but in case it is not, three House members have introduced bills to place marijuana legalization constitutional amendments on the ballot. The measures are CACR 20 from Rep. Renny Cushing (D),CACR 34 from Rep. Joshua Adjutant (D) (D), and CACR 35 from Rep. Abdrew Prout (R).

These bills face a significant uphill battle. First, they have no win a 60 percent supermajority in both the House and Senate, which would be a tough slog in the GOP-controlled legislature, and then two-thirds (67 percent) of the voters would have to approve it.

Getting two-thirds of the voters to approve it, though, may not be as challenging as it appears. A recent poll had support for marijuana legalization in the state at 75 percent.

Ohio

And another hybrid. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is campaigning to put a marijuana legalization initiative before the legislature, which would then have four months to approve it. If the legislature votes no or fails to act, the initiative would then go to the voters in November, provided the campaign successful completes another round of signature gathering.

Right now, the campaign is struggling to get past the initial round of signature gathering. The initiative needs 132,887 valid voter signatures to begin the process at the statehouse, and it handed in more than 200,000 raw signatures early in January, but state officials determined that only 199,925 were valid. Campaigners then did a final round of petitioningand came up with an additional 29,918 raw signatures. State officials have yet to confirm the signature count, but less than half of those raw signatures need to be valid to get the campaign past the hurdle.

Oklahoma

Two different marijuana legalization initiative campaigns are underway in the Sooner State.

Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action is behind State Question 819, which would amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana. The measure would legalize up to eight ounces for people 21 and over and has strong home grow provisions, allowing for up to 12 plants (and the fruits of their harvest). It also includes employment and parental rights protections and would make some changes to the state medical marijuana program.

The deep-pocketed national drug reform powerhouse New Approach PAC is behind State Question820, which would allow people 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six mature plants and six seedlings at home.

SQ 819 is a constitutional amendment, so it has a higher signature requirement that SQ 820, which is an initiated statute. SQ 819 will need at least 177,958 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, while SQ 820 will only need 94,911. Once the campaigns get the go-ahead for signature gathering, they have 90 days to get it done, with a June cut-off date for latecomers.

South Dakota

South Dakotans approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020 with 54 percent of the vote, only to have the will of the voters overturned by the state Supreme Court. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML), the folks behind the 2020 effort, are back again with a new, trimmed-back initiative that does not include business licensing, sales, or regulations, instead leaving that to the legislature.

The campaign is in the midst of signature gathering, having turned in some 15,000 raw signatures in December. A 2022 initiated measure requires 16,961 valid signatures from registered South Dakota voters to qualify for the November ballot, but the campaign has until May 3 to complete signature gathering. It says its goal is 25,000 raw signatures.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered former Kentucky sheriff is in trouble, a former Connecticut cop gets nailed for helping out a target of a DEA drug investigation, and more. Let's get to it:

In Covington, Kentucky, a former Greenup County sheriff was arrested last Thursday for allegedly stealing more than $50,000 in cash that had been seized from drug suspects. Former Sheriff Keith Cooper, 68, is accused of making cash withdrawals from the agency's asset forfeiture fund, which holds proceeds from properties seized in drug investigations and can only be used for law enforcement purposes. But Cooper used the money for personal ends and "otherwise unauthorized uses as he deemed fit," according to the federal indictment. He also had deputies try to falsify records once he realized an investigation was happening. He is facing one count of mail fraud and one count of theft of property from a federally funded agency.

In East Haven, Connecticut, a former East Haven police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he used his official position to access a law enforcement database on behalf of a suspect in a DEA drug investigation. Jason Andino, 30, went down when a DEA wiretap picked up a phone conversation where a man associated with the DEA target asked if there was anyone inside the department who could provide information about police activity near his home. Andino was allegedly the person who could -- and did -- provide the information. He is charged with two counts of felony third-degree computer crimes for the alleged illegal use of law enforcement databases.

In Mobile, Alabama, a former Escambia County Detention Center guard was sentenced last Friday to 18 months in prison for smuggling contraband including drugs into the jail. Lakerdra Shanta Snowden, 31, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted taking cash payments totaling more than $5,000 for her efforts. She also copped to bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds, providing contraband to a federal prisoner, and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

Medical Marijuana Update

Fourteen months after voters approved medical marijuana at the polls only to see it thrown out by the state Supreme Court, Mississippi legislators have reached an agreement on a medical marijuana bill, and more.

Idaho

Idaho Bill Would Allow Use of Spray Derived from Marijuana. A pair of Republican legislators have filed a bill, House Bill 446, that would allow people suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders to have access to a pain relief spray derived from marijuana. The spray, Nabiximols, is manufactured by GW Pharma and is currently undergoing clinical trials for possible approval by the Food & Drug Administration. It contains a mix of CBD and THC, and would be the second such drug. The legislation was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee on a voice vote and can now come back to the committee for a public hearing. Idaho has been one of the most recalcitrant states when it comes to marijuana law reform. Last year, a medical marijuana bill in the House didn't even receive a hearing, while the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature -- not voters in an initiative -- sole authority to legalize marijuana or any other drugs.

Mississippi

Mississippi Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Medical Marijuana Bill. House and Senate lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on medical marijuana legislation and were preparing to finalize details of the legislation this week before sending the bill to Gov. Tate Reeves (R). The bill was amended in the House to reduce the amount of medical marijuana available each month for patients, in line with the concerns of Gov. Reeves. The agreement comes more than a year after voted approved a medical marijuana initiative only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Nebraska Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill Filed in Bid to Blunt Initiative Campaign. Conservative state Sen. Mike Groene (R-North Platte) has filed a bill, LB 1275, that would allow patients with stage IV cancers, uncontrollable seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy, or a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in the form of an oil or pill. Patients under 19 would need written certification from three different practitioners. Groene was open that his bill is an effort to blunt an ongoing medical marijuana initiative campaign. "I don't want it to pass," he said. "I want the elected officials in charge of the future of this, to define it and change it over time if necessary, to have the medical people in (the Department of Health and Human Services) write the bills."

Ohio

Ohio Bill to Add Autism as Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition Advances. The House Health Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 60, which would add autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House Rules and Reference Committee, which decides which bills get a floor vote. Bill cosponsor Rep. Bill Seize (R-Cincinnati) said he was optimistic the bill would get a floor vote. "This is a good, bipartisan bill," he said, pointing out that 14 other legislators from both parties are cosponsors.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana to (Finally) Be Debated. Senator Tom Davis's (R-Beaufort) Senate Bill 150, the South Carolina Compassionate Use Act, will finally be debated on the Senate floor this week. Davis has been trying for seven years to get to this point. Befitting the conservative state, Davis's bill is also conservative. It bars the use of smokable marijuana, requires an in-patient doctor's visit and a written treatment plan, and limits the conditions that can be treated to a specified list including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma. sickle cell anemia and autism. Davis says he thinks he has enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate and send it to the House, but House leaders have not indicated whether they would take it up before the session ends.

MS Lawmakers Reach Agreement on MedMJ Bill, Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decrim, More... (1/26/22)

Thailand takes another big step toward marijuana decriminalization, San Francisco is turning a blind eye to drug use at a Tenderloin services center, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms got some attention in Seattle, Oklahoma City and Richmond this week. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Medical Marijuana Bill. House and Senate lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on medical marijuana legislation and were preparing to finalize details of the legislation this week before sending the bill to Gov. Tate Reeves (R). The bill was amended in the House to reduce the amount of medical marijuana available each month for patients, in line with the concerns of Gov. Reeves. The agreement comes more than a year after voted approved a medical marijuana initiative only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Ohio Bill to Add Autism as Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition Advances. The House Health Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 60, which would add autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House Rules and Reference Committee, which decides which bills get a floor vote. Bill cosponsor Rep. Bill Seize (R-Cincinnati) said he was optimistic the bill would get a floor vote. "This is a good, bipartisan bill," he said, pointing out that 14 other legislators from both parties are cosponsors.

Psychedelics

Oklahoma Republicans File Bills to Decriminalize Psilocybin, Encourage Research on Medical Benefits. State Reps. Daniel Pae (R) and Logan Phillips (R) have filed a pair of bills that would promote research into psilocybin's therapeutic potential, and one of them would also decriminalize small-time possession of the drug. The bills are designed to give lawmakers different options to reach similar objectives, but Pae's bill would also decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce and half of psilocybin.

Virginia House Committee Pushes Back Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill to Next Year. The House Courts of Justice Subcommittee has voted to delay consideration of a bill to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics, House Bill 898, until 2023. The move came even after the bill was amended by its sponsor, Del. Dawn Adams (D), to only apply to medical practitioners and people using psychedelics with a practitioner. The object for the delay is to build support and try again next year. A similar bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 262, remains alive.

Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution. The city council on Monday night approved a resolution to decriminalize a wide range of activities around psychedelic drugs, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline. It was already Seattle policy not to arrest or prosecute people for personal drug possession, but this resolution further protects the cultivation and sharing of psychedelic plants for reasons of "religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices."

Harm Reduction

Wisconsin Legislature Passes Bill to Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips. Both the House and the Senate have approved a bill that would decriminalize fentanyl test strips. Under current law, the overdose prevention tool is considered drug paraphernalia. At least one public health initiative, Vivent Health (formerly the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin), has already distributed nearly 46,000 test strips anonymously, with no questions asked.

San Francisco Allowing People to Use Drugs Inside New Tenderloin Treatment Linkage Center. The city is turning a blind eye to drug use in an outdoor area of the mayor's new Tenderloin Linkage Center in United Nations Plaza. At the center, the city offers basic hygiene services, food, clothing, and referrals to treatment and housing services inside the building. The drug use is going on in a fenced-in area outside the building. Critics have accused the city of running an "illicit drug consumption site," but a spokesman for Mayor London Breed (D) said that the "emergency initiative is about doing everything we can to help people struggling with addiction, and getting them connected to services and treatment. As part of that, the linkage center is serving as a low-barrier site to bring people off the street."

International

Thai Narcotics Control Board Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced Wednesday that the Narcotics Control Board had approved the removal of marijuana from the country's list of controlled substances. The delisting will next be formally singed by Charnvirakul and will go into effect 120 days after notice is published in the government gazette. The move definitely clears the way for the cultivation and production of medical marijuana and hemp, but it was unclear is marijuana possession would no longer be an arrestable offense.

SD House Votes to Ban MedMJ Home Grows, MN Usual Suspects Form Anti-Marijuana Coalition, More... (1/25/22)

Life just got a bit easier to Empire State medical marijuana patients, a Wisconsin GOP lawmaker wants to reinstate drug testing of some welfare recipients, and more.

South Dakota medical marijuana patients will not be able to grow this at home under a bill that just passed the House. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Groups Unite to Oppose Marijuana Legalization. The usual suspects are at it again. Faced with a renewed push for marijuana legalization by Democratic lawmakers, the state's police and peace officers association, the state Catholic Conference, and business interests have formed a coalition to oppose any such move. Calling themselves Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization, the coalition is warning of truck drivers driving under the influence amid a lack of roadside drug tests and workers failing drug tests, thereby exacerbating worker shortages because of the pandemic.

Medical Marijuana

New York Medical Marijuana Program Expands. The State Office of Cannabis Management launched a new certification and registration system for the state's medical marijuana program on Monday, expanding patient access and eligibility as it did so. Now, doctors, dentists, and nurse practitioners can recommend medical marijuana for any condition if they think it will benefit a patients instead of being limited to a list of specified conditions. The office has also doubled the amount of medical marijuana patients can obtain and it permanently waived patient and caregivers registration fees.

South Dakota House Votes to Override Will of Voters, Ban Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The House on Monday voted 41-29 to approve House Bill 1004, which bans the home cultivation of medical marijuana by patients and caregivers. The vote directly contravenes the will of the voters, who approved Initiated Measure 26 legalizing medical marijuana with home cultivation with nearly 70 percent of the vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Republican Files Bill to Require Drug Testing for Welfare Beneficiaries. State Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) has released a bill that would reinstate drug testing and work requirements for people receiving benefits under the state's FoodShare program. The measure is part of a larger package of legislation introduced by Republicans that seeks to undo an expansion of welfare benefits during the pandemic. The state already had such requirements for some welfare recipients, but Democratic Governor Tony Evers waived those requirements until September, saying the state doesn't have enough jobs for those seeking them. Born's bill, LRB 5571, would require Evers to begin implementing the existing work and drug testing requirements, including withdrawing any waiver or suspension of the requirements.

VA GOP Bill Would Gut Marijuana Social Equity Funding, Mexico Murders May Have Peaked, More... (1/24/22)

North Dakota marijuana initaitive campaigners will have to go back to the drawing board, social equity funding is on the chopping block in Virginia's GOP marijuana implementation bill, and more.

The South Carolina will -- after seven years -- debate a medical marijuana bill this week. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. Activists behind an effort to put a marijuana legalization ballot measure before the voters in November have failed to come up with enough signatures to do so. The deadline for handing signatures for the campaign was Saturday, and the group had only gathered 19,500 raw signatures by then. They needed 31,164 valid voter signatures to qualify. The activists said they are already looking ahead to medical marijuana access and marijuana legalization initiative campaigns for 2024. The legislature took up marijuana legalization last year, but that bill was killed in the state Senate.

Virginia Republican Files Legal Marijuana Implementation Bill that Cuts Taxes, Reduces Social Equity Funding. Delegate Michael Webert (R-Fauquier) has filed legislation to implement marijuana legalization approved by last year's Democratic state legislature, but that legislation makes some changes to what the Democrats envisioned. The bill, House Bill 950, would cut the tax on retail sales from 21 percent to 10 percent in what Webert said is a bid to undercut the black market. It would also eliminate the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, which would have allocated 35 percent of tax revenues to providing scholarships, community programs and business loans to people and communities "historically and disproportionately targeted and affected by drug enforcement." Instead, those funds would now go to repairing or replacing school roofs. The bill also eliminates preferences for people with past marijuana convictions but would allow priority access for people who live in communities with higher than average enforcement, as well as people who are economically disadvantaged or who attended a historically black college or university in the state.

Medical Marijuana

South Carolina Medical Marijuana to (Finally) Be Debated. Senator Tom Davis's (R-Beaufort) Senate Bill 150, the South Carolina Compassionate Use Act, will finally be debated on the Senate floor this week. Davis has been trying for seven years to get to this point. Befitting the conservative state, Davis's bill is also conservative. It bars the use of smokable marijuana, requires an in-patient doctor's visit and a written treatment plan, and limits the conditions that can be treated to a specified list including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma. sickle cell anemia and autism. Davis says he thinks he has enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate and send it to the House, but House leaders have not indicated whether they would take it up before the session ends.

International

Mexico Killings Declined Slightly Last Year. The country's annual death count, driven largely by drug prohibition-related violence, was down for the second year in a row, official figures indicated. Homicides hit an all-time high of 34,690 in 2019 before dropping to 34,544 in 2020 and dropping again to 33,308 last year. More than 340,000 people have been killed since the government of then-President Felipe Calderon deployed the military in a bid to stem rising levels of violence -- only to see the number of killings rise year after year for more than a decade. Current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador created a new security force, the National Guard, to deal with high levels of violence, but the decline in killings is more likely related to social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Citizen Observatory, a civil society group.

DEA Proposes Scheduling Five Tryptamines, RI Governor to Push for Marijuana Legalization, More... (1/21/22)

Legislators in a pair of red states attempt to deal with mounting pressure for medical marijuana, a Washington state bill moves to end employment-related marijuana testing, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms could be decriminalized under a New Hampshire bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Governor Renews Push for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Dan McKee (D) has included marijuana legalization in his Fiscal Year 2023 budget, calling for the "phased-in introduction of retail licenses." The state Senate overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization in the last session, but the legislature adjourned with no vote in the House. Lawmakers are reportedly working on a compromise between the Senate bill, which envisioned up to 150 retail outlets, and the governor's initial plan, which called for only 25 retail licenses. Both the Senate bill and the governor's plan include social equity provisions.

Washington State Bill Would End Employment Drug Tests for Marijuana. State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) has sponsored Senate Bill 5517, which would amend the state's employment drug testing law to exclude marijuana -- with a couple of notable exceptions. One exception would allow employers to continue to screen for marijuana if they create "drug-free workplace" written policies, including employee education and supervisor training. The other exception would be for federal employees, because marijuana remains federally illegal.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Bill Would Allow Use of Spray Derived from Marijuana. A pair of Republican legislators have filed a bill, House Bill 446, that would allow people suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders to have access to a pain relief spray derived from marijuana. The spray, Nabiximols, is manufactured by GW Pharma and is currently undergoing clinical trials for possible approval by the Food & Drug Administration. It contains a mix of CBD and THC, and would be the second such drug. The legislation was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee on a voice vote and can now come back to the committee for a public hearing.

Idaho has been one of the most recalcitrant states when it comes to marijuana law reform. Last year, a medical marijuana bill in the House didn't even receive a hearing, while the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature -- not voters in an initiative -- sole authority to legalize marijuana or any other drugs.

Nebraska Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill Filed in Bid to Blunt Initiative Campaign. Conservative state Sen. Mike Groene (R-North Platte) has filed a bill, LB 1275, that would allow patients with stage IV cancers, uncontrollable seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy, or a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in the form of an oil or pill. Patients under 19 would need written certification from three different practitioners.

Groene was open that his bill is an effort to blunt an ongoing medical marijuana initiative campaign. "I don't want it to pass," he said. "I want the elected officials in charge of the future of this, to define it and change it over time if necessary, to have the medical people in (the Department of Health and Human Services) write the bills."

Psychedelics

DEA Proposes Labeling Five Psychedelic Tryptamines as Schedule I Controlled Substances. The DEA announced last Friday that it intends to criminalize five tryptamines as Schedule I controlled substances. The five are: 4-Hydroxy-N,N-diisopropyltryptamine (4-OH-DiPT), 5-Methoxy-alphamethyltryptamine (5-MeO-AMT), N-Isopropyl-5-Methoxy-N-Methyltryptamine (5-MeO-MiPT), N,N-Diethyl-5-methoxytryptamine (5-MeO-DET), and N,N-Diisopropyltryptamine (DiPT).

The agency has been monitoring the substances as drugs of concern for more than two decades, sent data on them to the Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 and received medical and scientific reports on them from DHS in 2012. Last year, the agency noted that, "These five tryptamines have no known medical use in the United States and are not marketed internationally as approved drug products. They have all been reported as drugs of abuse in the US by law enforcement authorities and identified in seizures."

It's not a done deal yet, though. Anyone can visit the Federal Register to comment on the proposal until February 14. Some psychedelic sciences companies have already registered their objections.

New Hampshire Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Bill Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators have filed House Bill 1349-FN, which would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms. The bill would decriminalize the possession of up to 12 grams of 'shrooms, enough for several psychedelic experiences.

MS House Passes MedMJ Bill, MO Drug Decrim Bill Filed, More... (1/20/22)

A marijuana services company has filed a federal lawsuit over massive cash seizures by cops in California and Kansas, the Colombian Constitutional Court puts the kibosh on spraying coca crops with herbicide, and more.

Colombian coca farmers will not have to worry about having toxic herbicides dumped on their fields. (DEA)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Amends Medical Marijuana Bill to Lower Possession Limits, Then Passes It. The House on Wednesday approved the Senate's medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 2095, but only after amending it to lower the amount of marijuana flower patients can possess each month from 3.5 ounces to 3 ounces. The Senate had previously lowered the limit from 4 ounces to 3.5 in a bid to soothe the concerns of Governor Tate Reeves (R), who has expressed worry that the bill allowed patients too much marijuana. The bill now goes back to the Senate. If the Senate rejects the House's amended limit, the bill would then go to conference committee to hash out the differences.

Asset Forfeiture

Marijuana Services Company Sues Cops in California and Kansas Over Seizures of $1.2 Million in Cash. Empyreal Logistics, a company that uses armored cars to transport cash to and from marijuana businesses, has had its vehicles stopped and cash seized on five separate occasions since last May by sheriff's deputies in Kansas and California. The stops resulted in no citations or criminal charges, but the deputies seized $1.2 million in cash under state civil forfeiture law.

Now, with the help of the Institute for Justice, Empyreal has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the seizures violate state law, federal law, and the US Constitution. In a complaint it filed last Friday in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Empyreal says it is "entitled to protection from highway robberies, regardless of whether they are conducted by criminals or by the Sheriff and federal law-enforcement agencies acting under color of law."

In both California and Kansas, local sheriffs handed the seizures over to the DEA in a bid to circumvent state laws limiting seizures and who profits from them. The lawsuit charges that the DEA's involvement violates the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, a spending rider that bars the Justice Department (which includes the DEA and the FBI) from using any of its funds to interfere with the implementation of state laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. Because the DEA violated that restriction, the company says, it also violated the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. And because the seizure was motivated by the prospect of financial gain, the lawsuit says, it violated the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process.

Drug Policy

Arizona Bill Would End Restriction on Food Stamp Benefits to Drug Felons. A bill that would remove requirements that people with past felony drug convictions agree to random drug testing and to taking part in a drug treatment program in order to access the Supplemental Nutritional Program (SNAP) has passed its first hurdle. Sponsored by Rep. Walter Blackman (R-Snowflake), the measure, House Bill 2060, was approved unanimously on Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Missouri Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Rep. Peter Merideth (D) has filed a bill to decriminalize a range of drugs including marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and cocaine. The measure, House Bill 2469, would make low-level drug possession an infraction punishable by a maximum $100 fine or participation in a drug treatment program if ordered by a court. The bill would decriminalize up to 10 grams of cannabis, one gram of heroin, one gram of MDMA, two grams of methamphetamine, 40 units of LSD, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 units of methadone, 40 oxycodone pills and two grams of cocaine. The bill also lowers charges for possessing some quantities greater than personal use from felonies to misdemeanors. It currently has no hearing scheduled.

International

Colombia High Court Blocks Government Plan to Spray Coca Crops with Toxic Herbicide. The country's Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that the administration of conservative President Iván Duque cannot spray the herbicide glyphosate on coca crops without the consent of rural communities. That effectively blocks the proposed renewal of spraying. The ruling came after rural black and indigenous communities sued to block the plan, saying the herbicide causes disease, destroys traditional crops and pollutes the water.

The court imposed a one-year deadline for agreement to be reached to allow spraying, effectively blocking the Duque administration, which leaves office in August, from moving forward before then. Spraying the coca crop with glyphosates was done in the past but blocked by the Constitutional Court in 2015. President Duque has spent the four years of his administration trying to get it going again.

New York City's Plans to Install Naloxone Vending Machines [FEATURE]

The city of New York is about to embark on a new program aimed at reducing the toll of drug overdoses in the city: naloxone vending machines. Naloxone is an opioid overdose reversal drug that has saved tens of thousands of lives, and the city wants it to be conveniently and easily available.

vending machine with naloxone and other harm reduction supplies, Cincinnati (caracole.org)
In December 2020, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Fund for Public Health published a request for proposals (RFP) to install ten vending machines dispensing naloxone, as well as other wellness goods, such as safe sex items and toiletries, for its Public Health Vending Machine Initiative.

"The purpose of this RFP is to support low-barrier access to overdose prevention and harm reduction supplies," the department said.

Bids are due later this week, with a contract start-up date of February 7. The program will run through June at a cost of $730,000. The machines will be installed in all five boroughs of the city in neighborhoods most impacted by drug overdoses.

The priority neighborhoods mentioned in the RFP are scattered throughout the city's five boroughs and include East New York, Crotona-Tremont, Highbridge-Morrisania, Hunts Point-Mott Haven, Fordham- Bronx Park, Pelham-Throgs Neck, Central Harlem, East Harlem Union Square, Rockaway, Stapleton-St. George, and South Beach-Tottenville.

"Overdose deaths in New York City are not equally distributed citywide, with some groups and neighborhoods disproportionately experiencing increases in the rate of overdose death," the department explained in the RFP. "During the previous three years, overdose rates among White New Yorkers decreased; however, rates increased among Black New Yorkers during the past year and rates among Latinx New Yorkers have increased for five consecutive years. Structural racism in drug policy and enforcement has been linked to decreased access to services, poorer health outcomes, and increased overdose risk."

The department reported that opioid overdose deaths had reached "epidemic levels" by 2019, with 1,463 unintentional overdose deaths in the city. More than four out five of those overdose deaths involved opioids, with the fast-acting synthetic opioid fentanyl involved in more than two thirds of them.

The city's move is earning kudos from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which says it supports the plan.

"This approach is consistent with harm reduction strategies that seek to meet people who use drugs where they're at and ensure that people have access to safe resources to prevent blood-borne illness and distributing naloxone to people who are the most likely to encounter an overdose and be able to save lives," said DPA director for civil systems reform Melissa Moore in an email with the Chronicle. "The free vending machines mean that people will be able to access these supplies on their schedule and on their timeline, and without the stigma or shame."

Moore noted that the city made the groundbreaking move of opening the nation's first officially sanctioned safe injection sites in December, but said there was still more to be done, especially around creating a safe drug supply.

"At this time there is a huge issue around poisoning and contamination in the drug supply (and significant disruption of the supply chain), so there is a need for more robust drug checking, especially for the amount of fentanyl in a substance, to save lives," she said. "This would include making sure that people who use drugs have access to this equipment at harm reduction programs. There can and should also be movement on safe supply options, as a way to further deal with the contamination and poisoning."

But's that is not all, she said.

"Additionally, if we want to save lives, reduce criminalization, and curb racial disparities, we need comprehensive, innovative, and forward-thinking approaches like decriminalizing personal possession of drugs. This would build on Measure 110, which was passed by two-thirds of voters in Oregon and codify proven public health approaches over criminalization and other failed enforcement tactics of the past."

New York City's naloxone vending machine program is a widely noted harm reduction innovation, but it is not the first in the country. That distinction may go to Las Vegas, which had naloxone vending machines in 2019. And last year, the city of Cincinnati rolled them out in March and the state of Indiana deployed 19 of them in December.

The overdose crisis requires innovation, and getting the opioid overdose reversal drug into the hands of people who could use it is a good example of that. It won't solve the problem -- that will require much more radical shifts in public policy -- but it will reduce the harm.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An NYPD sergeant made a bad choice of a boyfriend, a Houston constable made a bad choice to escort what he thought was a load of dope, and more. Let's get to it:

In Houston, a former deputy constable pleaded guilty January 6 to escorting a tractor-trailer he thought was filled with drugs with his marked constable vehicle. Alexander Reyes, 49, got $6,000 for the escort job, but it was actually an undercover sting with fake cocaine. He copped to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. He is looking at up to life in prison when sentenced in March.

In New York City, a former NYPD sergeant was sentenced last Thursday to probation for being a courier for a heroin operation run by the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods. Arlicia Robinson, 41, got a lenient sentence of four years' supervised release after she was busted in a reverse sting operation when the sentencing judge said she had turned her life around. She was a girlfriend of one of the gang members.

In San Diego, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to three years in prison for smuggling drug and cellphones into the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. Anibal Navarro, 43, had pleaded guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges and admitted to smuggling phones, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and other contraband into the prison. He went down after the inmate who recruited to deliver drugs in return for cash was busted and named him. He admitted to smuggling more than 500 grams of drugs into the prison and was paid between $1,000 and $2,000 per delivery.

Medical Marijuana Update

Mississippi lawmakers are moving to pass a medical marijuana bill more than a year after voters at the polls said they wanted it, a bipartisan pair of Florida lawmakers are seeking to tighten regulations around Delta-8, and more.

Florida

Florida Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Tighten Regulations on Medical Marijuana. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are teaming up in a bid to make it more difficult to buy and sell medical marijuana-related products and they are aiming at Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in particular. Delta-9 THC is the most potent psychoactive compound found in marijuana, but Delta-8 also produces psychoactive effects and is considered legal under federal law because it has never been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Sponsored by Reps. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) and Andrew Learned (D-Brandon), House Bill 679 would increase regulations on Delta-8 and limiting the scope of products protected by the state's medical marijuana law. The bill would prohibit Delta-8 sales to people under 21, limit advertising toward children, create evaluation procedures for new products, and prevent medical marijuana treatment centers from selling licenses for profit.

Mississippi

Mississippi Legislature Takes Up Medical Marijuana. More than a year after voters approved medical marijuana and months after the state Supreme Court nullified the will of the voters, the state legislature is ready to respond. On January 11, Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven) filed , which has been referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and could see action as soon as this week. If it passes the committee, it would then head for a Senate floor vote. Then it would go to the House, but House Speaker Phillip Gunn (R) has said medical marijuana is not a big priority of his.

Mississippi Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate on Januaryt 13 approved its medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 2095. Senate passage comes more than a year after voters approved medical marijuana at the ballot box, only to see that approval overturned by the state Supreme Court. Legislators and Gov. Tate Reeves (R) vowed to pass a medical marijuana bill, but that was delayed after Reeves objected to some provisions of proposed legislation. The bill as passed attempts to address those concerns by allowing for a local opt-out option and by lowering permissible amounts of medical marijuana that patients may possess. The bill now heads to the House, where prospects are less clear.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Lawmaker Will File Bill to Tighten Up Medical Marijuana Law. State Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) said on Wednesday that he plans to file a bill to modify the modify the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act and the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Waste Management Act. The bill would tighten residency requirements for marijuana businesses, and if an Oklahoma resident is found to be a cutout for an entity from outside the state, his marijuana business license would be suspended. "When medical marijuana was legalized in Oklahoma, it basically created a 'Wild West' situation as we did not have enough legal structure in place to address all future issues that could arise," Roberts said. "As the years have passed, we have a better understanding of what we are doing right and what we need to fix."

Overdose Surge Hits Black Men the Hardest, Austin No-Knock Raid Ban and Decrim Inits, More... (1/19/22)

The prospects for home marijuana gardens in the Garden State grow dim, black men are bearing the brunt of the fatal overdose crisis, and more.

Black men are dying of drug overdoses at a rate higher than any other demographic group. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Unlikely to Allow Home Marijuana Cultivation. Marijuana legalization proponent and incoming state Senate President Nick Scutari (D) has signaled that home cultivation of marijuana will not be allowed once the state's adult-use market launches. That launch date was originally set for the middle of next month but is now running behind schedule.

Scutari said he "did not see (home cultivation) happening right now" because it would only further the illicit marijuana market. "I'm not against marijuana being grown at home for medical purposes and maybe even just recreational purposes," Scutari said. "But we've got to let this industry… it's not even off the ground yet."

The issue of home cultivation is creating a divide between activists and marijuana businesses, with legal operators interested in minimizing home grows and protecting market share, while activists argue that medical marijuana patients in particular should have the right to grow their own.

Austin Marijuana Decriminalization, No-Knock Raid Ban Initiative Approved to Go Before Voters in May. The Austin City Council on Tuesday approved an activist-led initiative to decriminalize marijuana and ban no-knock police raids. That was the final obstacle on the path to putting the issue before city voters in municipal elections in May. The council could have adopted the measure as an ordinance, which activists said they would have preferred, but it instead deferred, leaving the call to the voters.

"The City Council's vote to schedule an election on the Austin Freedom Act is a testament to the incredible work of our organizers and volunteers who are fighting for progressive change in their community," Mike Siegel, political director of Ground Game Texas, said. "Thanks to their tireless efforts, voters will have the opportunity in May to end the criminalization of marijuana possession and the dangerous practice of no-knock police raids."

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Tighten Regulations on Medical Marijuana. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are teaming up in a bid to make it more difficult to buy and sell medical marijuana-related products, and they are aiming at Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in particular. Delta-9 THC is the most potent psychoactive compound found in marijuana, but Delta-8 also produces psychoactive effects and is considered legal under federal law because it has never been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.

Sponsored by Reps. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) and Andrew Learned (D-Brandon), House Bill 679 would increase regulations on Delta-8 and limiting the scope of products protected by the state's medical marijuana law. The bill would prohibit Delta-8 sales to people under 21, limit advertising toward children, create evaluation procedures for new products, and prevent medical marijuana treatment centers from selling licenses for profit.

Harm Reduction

Recent Overdose Surge Has Hit Black Men the Hardest. The Pew Research Center reports that amidst a record surge in drug overdose deaths, "while overdose death rates have increased in every major demographic group in recent years, no group has seen a bigger increase than Black men. As a result, Black men have overtaken American Indian or Alaska Native men and White men as the demographic group most likely to die from overdoses." Black men die of drug overdoses at a rate of 54.1 per 100,000, overtaking Native American men (52.1) and white men (44.2). Latino men died at a lower rate of 27.3 per 100,000, with Asian American men bringing up the rear with a rate of 8.5.

NJ Governor Signs Syringe Access Expansion Bills, Thailand to Decriminalize Marijuana, More... (1/18/22)

It's January, and the marijuana bills are coming fast and furious, a Utah bill would create a psychedelic therapy task force, and more.

Louisiana US Senate candidate Gary Chambers fires up for his first campaign ad. (YouTube)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Democrats are back once again with a marijuana legalization bill. State Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Newark) has filed House Bill 150, which would legalize the possession of up to an ounce by people 21 and over, but bans people from growing their own. The bill also envisions a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana commerce and includes a small social equity provision that would earmark a portion of pot taxes for aiding communities most hard hit by the war on drugs. But the bill's prospects are cloudy since it would need a supermajority to pass the legislature and would then face a governor reluctant to sign it.

Louisiana US Senate Candidate Smokes Blunt in Campaign Ad. Democratic US Senate candidate Gary Chambers on Tuesday released his first campaign ad, a video showing him smoking a marijuana blunt and calling for its legalization. "Every 37 seconds someone is arrested for possession of marijuana," said Chambers in the video. "States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year. Most of the people police are arresting aren't dealers but rather people with small amounts of pot, just like me," he goes on. In a tweet accompanying his ad, Chambers added: "I hope this ad works to not only destigmatize the use of marijuana, but also forces a new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology." He is running to challenge sitting US Senator John Kennedy (R).

Maryland Marijuana Legalization Constitutional Amendment Bill Filed. Delegate Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) has filed House Bill 1, a marijuana legalization bill with a twist: It takes the form of a constitutional amendment, which would have to win a supermajority of both the House and Senate before going to voters at the polls during a general election. The measure would legalize marijuana possession for people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. If it gets past the legislature, voters would be asked: "Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" Recent polls show roughly two-thirds of Marylanders are ready to free the weed.

Psychedelics

Utah Bill Would Create Psychedelic Task Force. Rep. Brady Brammer (R-Highland) has filed House Bill 167, which would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force that would "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." The task force would be co-chaired by the head of the state Health Department and the head of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and would also include a licensed psychiatrist; a licensed psychologist; a representative from the Utah Medical Association, someone who researches and studies neuroscience and mental health; a health system representative; and a patient who is knowledgeable about using a psychotherapy drug, among others. Although not mentioned specifically in the bill, supporters say psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, is the drug most likely to be considered by the task force.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Governor Signs Syringe Access Expansion Bills into Law. Governor Phil Murphy (D) on Tuesday signed into laws a pair of bills that will ease access to syringes. The Syringe Access Bill (S-3009/A-4847) removes authority to approve and close syringe access programs (SAPs) from local municipalities and places that authority with the New Jersey Department of Health, aligning SAPs with other public health services. The Syringe Decrim Bill (S-3493/A-5458) decriminalizes possession of syringes and allows for expungement of previous convictions. By shifting authority from municipalities to the New Jersey Department of Health, this legislation effectively prevents the Atlantic City SAP, called the Oasis Drop-In Center and operated by South Jersey AIDS Alliance, from being closed by the Atlantic City Council. In July 2021, the Atlantic City Council voted to remove municipal approval from the SAP over the objections of people who use drugs, people living with HIV, local and statewide advocates, and the Murphy administration.

International

Canadian Harm Reductionists Sue Alberta Over Policy to Require Safe Injection Site Users Show Health ID Cards. Harm reduction groups are taking legal action to try to block the province of Alberta from requiring that people using a safe injection site show their Health Canada identification cards. The policy is set to go into effect on January 31, and harm reductionists say it will create a barrier to using the service and increase the risk of fatal overdoses. The Alberta Court of Appeal has agreed to an emergency hearing on January 27. This latest move comes after a provincial judge earlier this month dismissed an injunction that would have blocked implementation of the new rule.

Thailand to Decriminalize Marijuana. The Thai Food and Drug Administration is set to propose removing marijuana from the country's list of proscribed drugs on Wednesday, clearing the way for Health Minister Anutin Charmvirakul to grant final approval. "While the law change will allow all parts of cannabis to be bought, sold and used, recreational use will likely remain controlled as marijuana extracts with higher tetrahydrocannabinol levels that get people high will still be regulated," said Chaiwat Sowcharoensuk, an analyst at Krungsri Research. "Producers of soaps, beauty products and cosmetics from marijuana will likely be the ones to benefit the most from the decriminalization."

Mexico Cartel Drone Bombs Rivals, Vermont Drug Decriminalization Bill, More... (1/14/22)

Ohio marijuana legalization campaigners take a second stab at coming up with enough signatures for their initiated statute, Virginia lawmakers file bills to defelonize peyote and psilocybin mushrooms, and more.

A bomb dropped from a drone explodes as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel attacks its rivals in Michoacan. (Twitter)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Hands in More Signatures. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has handed in additional signatures after falling short earlier this month. Under state law, the campaign needs 132,887 valid voter signatures to begin the initiated statute process, which would then give state legislature four months to approve it. If it doesn't, campaigners would have to gather another round of signatures and then take the matter directly to the voters. The campaign handed in more than 200,000 raw signatures earlier this month, but the secretary of state's office determined that only 119,825 were valid. Now, the campaign has handed in an additional 29,918 raw signatures. Slightly more than 13,000 of them need to be found valid for the process to continue. Stay tuned.

Psychedelics

Virginia Lawmakers File Bills to Defelonize Peyote, Psilocybin Mushrooms. State Delegate Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) has filed a bill to reduce the penalty for possession of peyote and psilocybin mushrooms from a felon to a misdemeanor. The bill is House Bill 898. Adams, who is also a nurse practitioner, cited psilocybin's growing acceptance in medical contexts, saying "It is increasingly a recognized treatment for refractory depression and PTSD. It's changed people's lives." Companion legislation has been filed in the Senate, but prospects for passage are cloudy at best, especially in the House of Delegates, where Republicans historically unfriendly to drug reform took control after last November's election.

Drug Policy

Vermont Lawmakers File Drug Decriminalization Bill. Democratic and Progressive lawmakers have joined forces to file House Bill 644, which would decriminalize the possession and sale of personal use amounts of illicit drugs. The bill sponsored by Reps. Logan Nicoll (D) and Selene Colburn (P) would make possession or distribution of small amounts of drugs an offense punishable only by a $50 fine, which could be waived by completing a health screening through a new drug treatment referral system. The "benchmark personal use" threshold would be set by a new Drug Use Standards Advisory Board. The bill has 40 initial cosponsors, nearly one-third of the House.

Sentencing

Thousands of Federal Inmates Now Being Released Under First Step Act. Thousands of federal inmates, including many drug offenders, are now eligible for immediate release after the Justice Department published a rule Thursday allowing more prisoners to participate in programs that allow them to earn shorter prison sentences. The inmates will be transferred to residential reentry centers, supervised release programs, or home confinement.

The rule published in the Federal Register on Thursday sets out how the Bureau of Prisons should apply the First Step Act. That law gave the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons considerable leeway in interpreting how to implement it, including whether credits for good time and job training that occurred before the law passed could be used to apply for early release.

International

Mexico's Jalisco New Generation Cartel Deploys Drones to Bomb Rivals. Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organization, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (JNGC), has attacked rivals in Tepalcatepec, Michoacan, with bombs dropped from a drone. Video of the attack, which featured multiple bombs dropped from the sky, appeared on Twitter. It's just the latest violent attack on Michoacan residents as the JNGC engaged in turf wars with various rivals in the state.

Residents on the ground were eventually able to shoot down the drone, but not before it dropped multiple bombs on its target. Townspeople had briefly been in a brief gunfight with JNGC in the hours before the drone attack. The mayor of the municipality, Martha Laura Mendoza, said she has pleaded with federal authorities for help fending off continuing violence. "It's been four months," she added. "No one has contacted us or offered a solution!"

MS Senate Approves MedMJ Bill, Italy Marijuana and Psilocybin Referendum Has Needed Signatures, More... (1/13/22)

Florida Democratic lawmakers urge the Republican legislature to pass a marijuana legalization bill, an Oklahoma Republica lawmaker wants to tighten up the state's medical marijuana law, and more.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R). Will the Senate's modified medical marijuana bill be good enough for him? (ms.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Democrats Call for Marijuana Legalization. State Democratic lawmakers want to legalize marijuana this session and are calling on the state's GOP-controlled legislature to get on board. The Democrats have filed at least ten marijuana-related bills, including one outright legalization bill, House Bill 467. "A bill legalizing marijuana has never been heard in the Florida House," Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson said at a Thursday news conference. "That needs to change this year. States are legalizing cannabis all over the nation, and Florida is falling behind."

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate on Thursday approved its medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 2095. Senate passage comes more than a year after voters approved medical marijuana at the ballot box, only to see that approval overturned by the state Supreme Court. Legislators and Gov. Tate Reeves (R) vowed to pass a medical marijuana bill, but that was delayed after Reeves objected to some provisions of proposed legislation. The bill as passed attempts to address those concerns by allowing for a local opt-out option and by lowering permissible amounts of medical marijuana that patients may possess. The bill now heads to the House, where prospects are less clear.

Oklahoma Lawmaker Will File Bill to Tighten Up Medical Marijuana Law. State Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) said on Wednesday that he plans to file a bill to modify the modify the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act and the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Waste Management Act. The bill would tighten residency requirements for marijuana businesses, and if an Oklahoma resident is found to be a cutout for an entity from outside the state, his marijuana business license would be suspended. "When medical marijuana was legalized in Oklahoma, it basically created a 'Wild West' situation as we did not have enough legal structure in place to address all future issues that could arise," Roberts said. "As the years have passed, we have a better understanding of what we are doing right and what we need to fix."

International

Italy Certifies Signatures on Marijuana and Psilocybin Referendum. Nearly three months after supporters of referendum to legalize marijuana and magic mushrooms turned in more than 630,000 voter signatures, the Supreme Court of Cassation on Wednesday certified that they had collected enough valid signatures to qualify for the measure for the country's spring ballot. The measure still faces an additional hurdle before going to the voters: The Constitutional Court must now determine that the measure does not conflict with the constitution or the country's treaty obligations, and once it does so, the path to the vote is clear. The Constitutional Court will issue its decision on February 15.

Global Coalition to Internationally Reschedule Psilocybin, Mississippi Medical Marijuana Bill, More... (1/12/22)

A Florida bill seeks to make it easier to prosecute drug overdoses as murders, an Austin initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession has enough signatures to qualify for the May ballot, and more.

Austin voters are nearly set to vote on a municipal marijuana decriminalization initiative in May. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Austin Appears Headed for May Vote on Marijuana Decriminalization Measure. The Austin city clerk verified Monday that a campaign to put a measure on the May municipal ballot to decriminalize marijuana and ban no-knock raids has collected enough signatures to qualify. But the city council must first vote to put it on the ballot. The measure, backed by Ground Game Texas, would bar Austin police from ticketing or arresting people for low-level marijuana or pot paraphernalia charges, or paying to test substances suspected of being marijuana. But possession would remain a misdemeanor under state law, and it is unclear whether Austin police would abide by such an ordinance.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Legislature Takes Up Medical Marijuana. More than a year after voters approved medical marijuana and months after the state Supreme Court nullified the will of the voters, the state legislature is ready to respond. On Tuesday, Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven) filed Senate Bill 2095, which has been referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and could see action as soon as this week. If it passes the committee, it would then head for a Senate floor vote. Then it would go to the House, but House Speaker Phillip Gunn (R) has said medical marijuana is not a big priority of his.

Sentencing Policy

Florida Bill to Ease Murder Prosecutions in Drug Overdose Cases Advances. A bill that would make it easier to prosecute fatal drug overdoses as first-degree murder cases was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. Sponsored by state Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), Senate Bill 190 would lower the standard for bringing a murder charge from requiring that prosecutors prove the drug was the "proximate cause" of an overdose death to proving only that it was a "substantial factor."

Brodeur said prosecutors were complaining that they were having difficulty bringing murder charges because "very frequently victims have multiple substances” in their systems when they overdose. "In moving from proximate cause to substantial factor, what we're saying is, rather than getting a battle of the experts that have to prove that this (drug) was the actual cause of death versus something else in your system, as long as there was enough of this one by itself to cause death, that’s enough for prosecution. And that makes it much simpler," Brodeur said.

Public defenders warned that the measure could remove the incentive for people to report overdoses "if they know that there’s a possible death penalty prosecution" that could result. The bill also would add methamphetamine to the list of drugs that can be eligible for first-degree murder charges in overdose deaths. That list currently includes such substances as cocaine, opium and fentanyl. The proposal also would toughen penalties for selling controlled substances within 1,000 feet of facilities that provide substance abuse treatment.

A similar House Bill (HB 95) needs approval from the House Judiciary Committee before it could go to the House floor for consideration.

International

Global Coalition Launches Push to Reschedule Psilocybin Under International Rules. The newly formed International Therapeutic Psilocybin Rescheduling Initiative (ITPRI) has announced a new campaign to get psilocybin mushrooms rescheduled at the international level. The group says it is seeking the change in order to ease barriers to research. Member organizations include the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Beckley Foundation, Mind Medicine Australia, Drug Science and Open Foundation. The coalition wants psilocybin removed from Schedule I of the UN's 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, arguing that it is neither especially risky nor with only limited therapeutic uses, the two conditions required for drugs to be placed in Schedule I. As a first step, the coalition will attempt to find a UN member nation to ask for a formal review of the risks and benefits of the psychedelic.

Canada Opens Legal Pathway for Access to Psychedelic Treatment with MDMA, Psilocbyin, More... (1/11/22)

The nation's top spook announces an easing of rules around past marijuana use and national security clearances, the New Jersey legislature approves needle exchange expansion and syringe decriminalization bills, and more.

psilocybin molecule (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Director of National Intelligence Gives Clarification on Marijuana Issues and Clearance Holders. In guidance released late last year, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines clarified the intelligence community's policy regarding security clearances for people who have used marijuana. Under previous policy, people needed to have not used marijuana for one to two years before applying for a national security position, but now the policy is that past marijuana use should not be determinative, but that they needed to stop using if they were being considered for a position: "In light of the long-standing federal law and policy prohibiting illegal drug use while occupying a sensitive position or holding a security clearance, agencies are encouraged to advise prospective national security workforce employees that they should refrain from any future marijuana use upon initiation of the national security vetting process, which commences once the individual signs the certification contained in the Standard Form 86 (SF-86), Questionnaire for National Security Positions."

The new guidance also addresses investing in marijuana businesses, warning that people seeking clearances should not do so, and it warns people seeking security clearances to be wary of using CBD products -- although it doesn't forbid it. "With respect to the use of CBD products, agencies should be aware that using these cannabis derivatives may be relevant to adjudications in accordance with SEAD 4." In other words, it could show up on a drug test.

Virginia Republican Files Bill to Eliminate Social Equity Funding in Marijuana Program. State Sen. Thomas Norment Jr. has filed a bill, Senate Bill 107, that would eliminate social equity funding for the state's recreational marijuana program. The bill would delete the line in last year's marijuana legalization law that channels 30 percent of revenues into a marijuana equity investment fund. Although Democrats still control the state Senate, minority business advocates worry that the bill could still pass and are calling it an effort to dismantle provisions in the law that have strong public support. If the bill does not pass, the funding will go supporting licensing opportunities for small and minority-owned marijuana businesses.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Legislature Approves Bills Ending Requirement for Municipal Approval for Needle Exchanges. The legislature has passed the Syringe Access Bill (S-3009/A-4847) and the Syringe Decrim Bill (S-3493/A-5458), a pair of bills whose aim is to address the state's opioid overdose epidemic by easing access to clean needles, legalizing possession of needles, and expanding access to addiction services. The first pair of bills ends the requirement that municipalities pass an ordinance to okay local needle exchanges, while the second pair of bills legalized needle possession.

International

Canada Opens Legal Pathway for Access to Psychedelic Treatment with MDMA, Psilocbyin. Health Canada has amended federal regulations to allow doctors to request access to restricted drugs, such as MDMA and psilocybin, for patients undergoing psychedelic therapy. The regulatory change will allow physicians to use the Special Access Program, which allows healthcare practitioners to access drugs that have shown promise in clinical trials, or are approved in other countries, to seek permission to employ the drugs as therapeutics. The amendment to the Food and Drug Regulations was published in the Wednesday edition of the Canada Gazette, Canada's version of the federal register.

NYC Naloxone Vending Machines, No More New Orleans Marijuana Tickets, More... (1/10/22)

A Kentucky GOP lawmaker is trying once again to get a medical marijuana bill passed, a pair of Florida lawmakers file identical bills to legalize fentanyl test strips, and more.

Life is now a bit easier in the Big Easy. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Months After City Council Pardons Small-Time Marijuana Offenses, New Orleans Police Finally Quit Citing People. The New Orleans Police Department last Friday announced that when it comes to marijuana offenses, the agency will "no longer issue citations for simple possession alone." The move came only after a local media outlet published a story, "Despite council ordinance, people still forced to appear in court on simple possession of marijuana citations." The city council had unanimously approved an ordinance removing all criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession back in August, but the department kept citing people for it anyhow -- until now.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Republican Files Medical Marijuana Bill. State Rep. Jason Nemes (R) is renewing his efforts to get a medical marijuana bill passed. After having been rebuffed in past sessions, he is back again this year with House Bill 136, which would create a restrictive medical marijuana program that would allow neither home cultivation nor the smoking of marijuana flowers. Patients could vape whole-plant products, though. Specific rules for the program -- such as qualifying conditions -- would be set by regulators after the bill is passed, but the following conditions will be included: any type of cancer, epilepsy and seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, nausea or vomiting and chronic, severe, intractable or debilitating pain.

Harm Reduction

Florida Lawmakers File Identical Bills to Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips. State Rep. Andrew Learned and state Sen. Shevrin Jones have filed identical bills to decriminalize a life-saving tool, known as fentanyl testing strips, for preventing opioid overdose.

The two bills, House Bill 6101 and Senate Bill 1668, would remove drug testing equipment from Florida's legal definition of drug paraphernalia, which currently includes "all equipment, products, and materials of any kind which are used, intended for use, or designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, transporting, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance."

Under current state law, possession of fentanyl test strips is a misdemeanor and distribution, even by harm reduction groups, could be charged as a felony.

New York City to Install Naloxone Vending Machines in Bid to Reduce Overdoses. City health officials last month published a Public Health Vending Machine Initiative to install ten vending machines with the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone in them. "The purpose of this RFP is to support low-barrier access to overdose prevention and harm reduction supplies," the department said. The machines will also dispense sterile syringes and other wellness goods, such as safe sex items and toiletries.

The machines will be installed in all five boroughs of the city in neighborhoods most impacted by drug overdoses. The request for proposals has a response due date of January 20 and a contract start-up date of February 7. The program will run through June at a cost of $730,000.

NH House Approves Marijuana Legalization (Again), WA Therapeutic Psilocybin Bill Filed, More... (1/7/22)

Kansas Democrats propose constitutional amendments to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, an Indiana lawmaker files a medical marijuana bill, and more.

Psilocbyin mushrooms could be legalized for therapeutic purposes under a Washington state bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Kansas Democrats Announce Plan for Marijuana Legalization, Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendments. House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D) and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst (D) announced on Thursday they will introduce a pair of constitutional amendments to put the issues of marijuana legalization and access to medical marijuana directly to the voters. Democratic lawmakers next door in Iowa announced a similar move earlier this week. Republican-led legislatures in both states have blocked further marijuana law reforms, but the Democrats are hoping the legislatures will at least pass the measures and let the voters decide.

New Hampshire House Again Votes to Legalize Marijuana. For the third time since 2019, the House has approved a marijuana legalization bill, this year's version being HB629-FN. The bill would allow adults to possess up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six plants. It could be traded or given away but not sold. The House passed a broader bill that would have allowed taxed and regulated sales in 2019, only to see it die in the Senate. And a bill similar to this one passed in 2020, only to die in the Senate. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) opposes legalization, but this bill passed the House with a veto-proof majority. It now heads to the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Indiana Lawmaker Files Medical Marijuana Bill. State Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) has filed a bill to allow medical marijuana use in the state. The measure, Senate Bill 231, would create a medical marijuana program where patients and caregivers with a physician's recommendations could possess and use marijuana. It would also set up a regulatory authority to oversee the program. Prospects are uncertain in the Republican-dominated state legislature.

Psychedelics

Washington State Lawmakers File Therapeutic Psilocybin Bill. State Senators Jesse Salomon (D) and Liz Lovelett (D) have introduced a bill that would allow people to use psilocybin and psilocin, the psychoactive ingredients in magic mushrooms, with the assistance of a trained and state-licensed psilocybin services administrator. The bill, Senate Bill 5660, is titled the Psilocybin Wellness and Opportunity Act. People would have to go to a licensed service center to partake, unless they suffer certain medical conditions or are unable to travel, in which case they could receive psilocybin at home and meet remotely with a facilitator. Under the bill, the state Department of Health would issue licenses and regulate the new industry. The act would further establish the Washington Psilocybin Advisory Board within the department to advise on issues such as available scientific and social research, best practices for supported use as well as criteria for the bill's social opportunity program.

Duterte Will "Never Apologize" for Drug War Killings, Oklahoma MJ Legalization Init Filed, More... (1/6/22)

It's January and marijuana legalization efforts are winding up, Manhattan's new DA will refuse to prosecute some drug crimes, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Iowa Lawmakers Release Proposal to Put Marijuana Legalization on the Ballot. Three state Senate Democrats have filed a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in the state. The proposal would put the state's Alcoholic Beverage Commission in charge of regulations, would allow people 21 and over to possess and purchase marijuana, and set up a system of taxed and regulated production and sales. To become law, the amendment would have to be approved by two General Assemblies and then put on the next election ballot. Senators Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), Sarah Trone Garriott (D-Windsor Heights), and Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) introduced the proposal.

New Hampshire House Refuses to Pass or Kill Marijuana Legalization Bill. The House on Tuesday voted down an attempt to kill a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 237, but then also refused to pass it. The bill would have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults 21 years old and older, regulated its use and commercial sales, and tax those sales. The motion to kill the bill failed on a 171-158 vote, while a motion to pass the bill failed on a 170-163 vote. The House then decided on a 300-32 vote to table the bill.

New York Governor Announces $200 Fund for Social Equity Marijuana Businesses. The state will create a $200 million fund to assist social equity applicants trying to get marijuana business licenses, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced during her State of the State address Wednesday. But the funding mechanism -- a "public/private" model based on licensing fees and taxes -- has some minority industry members concerned that the funding will only be available after the industry has already been established, still leaving social equity applicants in an adverse position.

Oklahoma Activists File New Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Activists on Tuesday filed a new marijuana legalization initiative with state officials. This time, the local activists are being backed by the national New Approach PAC, which has backed a number of successful initiatives in other states. A different group of state activists has already filed its own legalization initiative. This newest measure would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce, grow up to six plants and six seedlings, and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana sales. If and when the initiative is approved for signature-gathering, the campaign will have 90 days to come up with 94,911 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Says Proposed Current Dosage Amount for Medical Marijuana is Too High. Governor Tate Reeves (R) is digging in his heels on concerns about how much marijuana medical marijuana patients could use under proposed legislation. "If 10 percent of the Mississippi population gets a marijuana card, that's 300-thousand Mississippians," he said. "At 11 joints a day, that's 3.3 million joints a day, 100 million joints a month,1.2 billion joints on the streets of Mississippi a year and I just think that's too much to be on the streets." Voters approved medical marijuana in the November 2020 elections, only to see it thrown out by the state Supreme Court. Both Reeves and the legislature have vowed to enact medical marijuana legislation, but they have yet to reach an agreement.

Prosecution

Manhattan DA Announces Office Will Not Prosecute Certain Offenses, Including Some Drug Offenses. New Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg issued a memo this week directing his prosecutors to seek jail or prison time only for the most serious offenses and not prosecute charges such as marijuana misdemeanors, fare-jumping, trespass, unlicensed vehicle operation, prostitution, or resisting arrest unless the offense is accompanied by another misdemeanor or felony. Also, small-time drug sellers will not be charged with felonies and will be eligible for diversion. Bragg is only the latest big city progressive prosecutor to embrace such an approach to prosecution; prosecutors in places like Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco have been leading the way.

International

Duterte Says He Will "Never Apologize" for Drug War Deaths. Outgoing Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte remains unrepentant about the thousands of people killed in his bloody war on drugs. In a major speech Tuesday, he said police doing their duty had a right to fight back when their lives were endangered, and that he would not apologize for his actions. "I will never, never apologize for the deaths of those bastards," he said in English, before adding in Tagalog, "Kill me, imprison me, I will never apologize." Official government numbers put the death toll in Duterte's drug war at 6,200, but human rights groups say the real toll is more than 30,000. The Duterte administration is currently trying to fend off an International Criminal Court investigation of human rights abuses in its drug war.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Oregon narcotics officer gets in trouble for trying to profit off black market marijuana, and a trio of prison guards go down for delivering goodies to the inmates. Let's get to it:

In Jackson, Michigan, a state prison guard was arrested December 20 after police found evidence he was smuggling drugs into the Parnall Correctional Facility. Correctional Officer Thomas Saverio Daugherty, 46, went down after the department contacted internal investigators with information he was involved in contraband and then executed a search warrant at his home. He is charged with furnishing contraband to a prisoner and is looking at up to five years behind bars.

In Klamath Falls, Oregon, a former Klamath County narcotics detective and current reserve officer was arrested December 23 was arrested in connection with an illegal marijuana grow. Peter Michael Shephard, 63, leased part of his rural property to a man who claimed to be growing hemp but who never sought a hemp permit and who was actually growing unpermitted marijuana. But police said Shephard never sought confirmation his partner had a hemp permit. He and his partner are both charged with unlawful manufacture of marijuana and engaging in a financial transaction in property derived from unlawful activity.

In Oklahoma City, an Oklahoma County Jail detention officer was arrested last Tuesday for allegedly smuggling drugs into the facility. Officer Reagan Widener, 27, went down during an employee search county's Special Investigative Unit when investigators found an authorized cell phone and then searched her vehicle, finding 4.5 grams of marijuana, a loaded handgun and a digital scale, authorities said. Widener admitted to previously receiving $2,000 for bringing in tobacco and packages of unknown drugs to an inmate. She is charged with distribution of controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute, use of a firearm while committing a felony, and carrying a weapon, drugs or alcohol into jail, according to the release. Widener, who had worked at the jail since August, has since been fired.

In Atlanta, a federal prison guard was arrested last Thursday for allegedly being involved in a scheme to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the US Penitentiary Atlanta. Guard Patrick Shackleford and two inmates have been arraigned on federal bribery, smuggling, and drug charges for the scheme, which went on between approximately June 2018 and February 2019. Shackleford was also a plumbing supervisor and conspired with inmates on his plumbing crew to bring contraband in via a visitors' bathroom.

Medical Marijuana Update

It's still pretty quiet on the medical marijuana front, but legislatures are getting back in session, so look for more action in coming weeks and months.

Mississippi

Mississippi Legislature Convenes, Is Set to Take Up Medical Marijuana. The legislature is back in session, and medical marijuana is on the front burner. Voters approved medical marijuana at the polls in November 2020 only to have the results nullified by the state Supreme Court, and lawmakers have vowed to enact the will of the voters by passing a medical marijuana bill. It was supposed to have been done in a special session late last year, but Gov. Tate Reeves (R) never called it because he was unsatisfied with the proposed legislation. Now, the legislature will give it another try.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Lawmakers to Take Up Vetoed Medical Marijuana Bill. Legislators will try this week to override Gov. Chris Sununu's veto of a bill that would have allowed nonprofit medical marijuana treatment centers to organize as for-profit businesses. In his veto message, Sununu said he vetoed the bill because it would create monopolies that could dominate the marketplace if and when recreational marijuana is legalized. The bill passed the Senate with a veto-proof majority, but passed the House on a voice vote, leaving it unclear whether there is a veto-proof majority there.

Study Confirms Safety of Group Psychedelic Sessions, MS Lawmakers to Take Up MedMJ Again, More... (1/5/22)

Wyoming marijuana legalization activists are forced to turn their aim to 2024, a New Mexico bill to legalize fentanyl test strips is coming, and more.

psilocybin molecule (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Wyoming Activists to Focus on 2024 for Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana Initiatives. Having decided they cannot gather enough voter signatures in time to put marijuana decrim and medical marijuana initiatives on the 2022 ballot, reformers are turning their attention to 2024. They cited poor weather conditions, the pandemic, and slow action on their petitions by state officials for coming up short for this year. They would have needed 41,776 valid voter signatures by next month to make the 2022 ballot, and only have about 30 percent of that number at this point.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Legislature Convenes, Is Set to Take Up Medical Marijuana. The legislature is back in session, and medical marijuana is on the front burner. Voters approved medical marijuana at the polls in November 2020, only to have the results nullified by the state Supreme Court, and lawmakers have vowed to enact the will of the voters by passing a medical marijuana bill. It was supposed to have been done in a special session late last year, but Gov. Tate Reeves (R) never called it because he was unsatisfied with the proposed legislation. Now, the legislature will give it another try.

Psychedelics

Psilocybin Clinical Trial Confirms Safety of Group Psychedelic Sessions. A new study published in the The Journal of Psychopharmacology found no detrimental effects from administering psilocybin in a group setting. The study reported the results of a large clinical trial checking on both short- and long-term effects of administering the drug. While researchers in the 1960s studied the effects of psychedelics when administered in a group setting, since interest in medicinal applications of psychedelics rebounded in recent years, almost all research has focused on the administration of the drugs to individuals.

Harm Reduction

New Mexico Attorney General to Push Bill Legalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Faced with a 25 percent increase in drug overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020, Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) says he is getting behind pending legislation to make fentanyl test strips legal. Under current state law, they are considered drug paraphernalia. State Rep. Tara Lujan (D-Santa Fe) says she will file the bill this week and that it also has the support of the governor and the state health department.

International

Abu Dhabi Court Sentences Two Filipinos to Death for Drug Dealing. The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court has sentenced two unnamed Filipinos to death after convicting them of possessing and selling "narcotics and psychotropic substances."

The death sentences contradict the position of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, as in this 2019 statement: "As part of the United Nations Secretariat, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) does not support the use of the death penalty. Just last December [2018], more countries than ever before -- 121 Member States -- supported a General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The three international drug control conventions, which form the foundation of the global drug control system that has been agreed by nearly every country in the world, cannot be used to justify the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences alone. Application of the death penalty may also impede international cooperation to fight drug trafficking, as there are national laws that do not allow the exchange of information and extradition with countries which may impose capital punishment for the offences concerned. The dangers posed by illicitly-trafficked drugs are evident and lives are at stake. But use of the death penalty cannot provide durable solutions or protect people."

More Fentanyl Than Heroin Seized at Border Last Year, Marijuana Legalization Bills in Maryland and South Dakota, More... (1/4/22)

It's January, and state legislatures are gearing up to deal with marijuana, a New York state inspector general's report unearths serious problems with prison drug testing, and more.

Part of a 254-pound shipment of fentanyl seized at the border. (CBP)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Lawmaker Pre-Files Legislation to Place Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization on State's 2022 Ballot. Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), chairman of the House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup that formed last summer to study adult-use legalization in Maryland, has pre-filed House Bill 1. If approved by three-fifths of the state House and Senate, the bill would ask voters the following referendum question: "Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Maryland?" The bill will be formally introduced when the legislative session opens on January 12.

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures, Has Only Days Left. The secretary of state's office has informed the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol that it had gathered only 119,825 valid voter signatures when it needed 132,887 to get to the first stage of the "initiated statute" process. That means the Coalition now has until January 13 to come up with 13,062 more valid voter signatures. If the campaign meets that hurdle, the legislature would have four months to address the underlying marijuana legalization legislation. If the legislature fails to act or rejects it, supporters can collect another 132,887 signatures to place it on the statewide ballot, likely in November 2022. The initiative would allow people 21 and older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants.

South Dakota Lawmakers Have Marijuana Legalization Bill Ready to Go. With the legislative session set to open next week, state legislative leaders are ready to advance a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, that was drafted by a marijuana working group and approved by the legislative leadership. The bill would restore the will of the voters, who approved legalization at the ballot box in 2020 only to have it thrown out as unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. Legalization isn't the only marijuana-related item on lawmakers' minds; of 38 pre-filed bills, 25 deal with marijuana, mostly with medical marijuana, which voters already approved last year and which the state has moved ahead on.

Drug Testing

New York State Inspector General Investigation Determines Hundreds of Incarcerated New Yorkers Denied Due Process and Endured Severe Punishment as a Result of Egregious Administrative Failure in Drug Testing Program. State Inspector General Lucy Lang announced Tuesday that incarcerated people across the state were subjected to internal penalties including solitary confinement, had their sentences lengthened, parole hearings delayed, family visitation privileges revoked, and suffered other punishments, based upon a highly flawed drug testing program between January and August 2019 administered by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).

Lang's investigation found that these sanctions, which impacted more than 1,600 people during that eight-month period, were based upon preliminary positive results for the presence of the opioid buprenorphine, without obtaining confirmation by more specific alternative tests as was required by the instructions provided by the manufacturer, Microgenics Corporation. DOCCS then failed to properly investigate the reason for a significant spike in positive test results after the implementation of the new tests or take prompt corrective action upon being presented with scientific evidence that many of the results were false positives.

The investigation also found that representatives from Microgenics frustrated the efforts of the incarcerated people who attempted to challenge their charges at administrative hearings by providing false or misleading information about the tests' reliability. Changes are being made as a result of the investigation, including an end to the use of solitary confinement for failing a drug test.

Opioids

US Customs and Border Protection Seized More Fentanyl Than Heroin at the Border Last Year. In Fiscal Year 2021, which ran from October 2020 to September 2021, US Customs and Border Protection seized more at least 11,200 pounds of fentanyl at the border, more than double the 5,400 pounds of heroin seized. CBP also seized 319,447 pounds of marijuana, 97,638 pounds of cocaine, 190,861 pounds of methamphetamine, and 10,848 pounds of ketamine, for the fiscal year 2021. The seizure figures come as fentanyl is implicated in about two-thirds of the record wave of drug overdose deaths plaguing the US this year.

MT Legal Marijuana Sales Begin, IRS Denies Tax Exempt Status to Iowa Ayahuasca Church, More... (1/3/22)

You can now buy two ounces of weed at a time in Oregon instead of only one, New Hampshire lawmakers will try to override the governor's veto of a medical marijuana bill, and more.

Moving to Montana soon? Now you can buy pot there -- if you're in the right county. (Gmark1/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Legal Marijuana Sales Begin. On New Year's Day, the state became the latest to allow legal recreational marijuana sales. The move comes more than a year after voters approved a pair of complementary marijuana legalization initiatives in November 2020 with 57 percent of the vote. But it's not on sale everywhere in the state: Under the law, counties where majorities voted for legalization can have pot shops, but in counties where majorities voted against the initiative cannot allow the shops unless the matter is approved in a county-wide vote.

Oregon Doubles the Amount of Marijuana People Can Buy. On December 28, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission approved new rules that include raising the amount of marijuana that people can purchase on a single occasion from one ounce to two ounces. That went into effect on New Year's Day. The state will now also allow home delivery of marijuana across city and county lines.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Lawmakers to Take Up Vetoed Medical Marijuana Bill. Legislators will try this week to override Gov. Chris Sununu's veto of a bill that would have allowed nonprofit medical marijuana treatment centers to organize as for-profit businesses. In his veto message, Sununu said he vetoed the bill because it would create monopolies that could dominate the marketplace if and when recreational marijuana is legalized. The bill passed the Senate with a veto-proof majority, but passed the House on a voice vote, leaving it unclear whether there is a veto-proof majority there.

Ayahuasca

IRS Denies Tax Exempt Status to Iowa Ayahuasca Church. The Iowaska Church of Healing has lost its bid to win tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. The church holds a "Sacrament of Ayahuasca" where its members use the hallucinogen for spiritual and physical healing, although its leader says he has never conducted such ceremonies at his home or anywhere else in the state. The church applied for tax-exempt status in January 2019.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School