Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Medical Marijuana Update

California medical marijuana patients get more protections, so do District of Columbia city employees, and more.

California

California Governor Signs Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients from Healthcare Discrimination. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 1954, barring doctors from discriminating against patients based on a positive test for THC if the patient is a registered medical marijuana user. The bill adds that healthcare professionals cannot be punished for treating a patient who uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law. He also signed into law Senate Bill 988, which amends an existing law that permits registered patients to use medical marijuana products at hospitals. It would repeal a provision that currently requires that "health care facilities permitting patient use of medical cannabis comply with other drug and medication requirements."

Nebraska

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Attempt by Medical Marijuana Campaign to Block Nebraska Ballot Process. As medical marijuana campaigners ran into problems with signature gathering earlier this summer, they sued, arguing that the state's requirement that initiative campaigns not only reach a certain statew0ide signature threshold but also get signatures from at least 5 percent of voters in at least 38 of the state's 93 counties violated free speech and equal protection rights. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana and the ACLU prevailed in district court in June, winning a temporary injunction suspending the 5 percent requirement. But state officials appealed, and the US 8th Circuit quickly put a hold on the judge's order pending an appeals court ruling. That ruling came Wednesday, when a split panel of the court ruled for the state. "The district court abused its discretion by granting the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction,” Judges Raymond Gruender and David Stras ruled. Judge Jane Kelly disagreed, writing that "if the right to vote is fundamental, I see no reason why it should not apply equally to the initiative process at the heart of Nebraska’s electoral and legislative system." The campaign and the ACLU said the effort would continue and that they may seek a ruling from the full 8th Circuit.

Washington, DC

DC Court Reverses Firing of Government Worker Who Tested Positive for Marijuana. An administrative court in the DC Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) has reversed the firing of medical marijuana patient and city government employee who was accused of being high on the job and later tested positive for marijuana. The employee argued that the city's communications office falsely accused her of being impaired because her eyes were red and she was talking quietly. She pointed out that her eyes were red because she had spent the previous night at a hospital sitting beside a relative who had overdosed. She also presented a valid medical marijuana patient card. The court held that the communications office was negligent in how it handled the process for reasonable suspicion of impairment from drugs. The judge noted that supervisors allowed her to continue working after they accused her of being impaired: "Because Employee was allowed to perform her duties and did in fact adequately do so after being observed by her supervisors, I find that [the supervisors] did not reasonably believe that Employee’s ability to perform her job was impaired. As such, I further conclude that a reasonable suspicion referral was unwarranted," the judge wrote in the ruling. 

Poll Finds SAFE Banking Act Has Broad Support, DEA Fentanyl Scaremongering, More... (9/7/22)

Missouri's Republican governor rejects a call to include marijuana legalization in an upcoming special session, a DC court reverses the firing of a medical marijuana-using employee accused of being high on the job, and more.

"Rainbow" fentanyl--not aimed at kids, experts say. (Multnomah County Sheriff)
Marijuana Policy

Survey: Most Voters Support Federal Banking Reforms for Licensed Marijuana Retailers. The overwhelming majority of voters believe that federal law should be amended so that state-licensed marijuana businesses can readily utilize banks and other financial services, according to national survey data compiled by Morning Consult and commissioned by the Independent Community Bankers of America. Consistent with prior survey data, 65 percent of respondents “support allowing cannabis-related businesses to have access to banking services in states where cannabis is legal.” Moreover, 63 percent of voters agree that allowing cannabis-related businesses to access the banking system will help improve public safety, and 58 percent say that it is “important” that members of the U.S. Senate vote to establish a safe harbor for licensed cannabis businesses. The SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996), which would do just that, has repeatedly passed in the House only to be blocked in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and his allies, who are holding out for passage of a full-fledged marijuana legalization bill.

Missouri Governor Will Not Include Marijuana Legalization in Special Session. Efforts to do a legislative end run around a pending marijuana legalization constitutional amendment (Amendment 3) have come to naught after Gov. Mike Parson's office said Tuesday that he will not expand the scope of his upcoming legislative special session to consider legalizing marijuana. "The call will not be amended to include marijuana legalization," Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Parson, said. Lawmakers hoping to blunt momentum for the measure had called on the governor to include marijuana legalization, but even though Parsons has called Amendment 3 "a disaster," he demurred.

Medical Marijuana

DC Court Reverses Firing of Government Worker Who Tested Positive for Marijuana. An administrative court in the DC Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) has reversed the firing of medical marijuana patient and city government employee who was accused of being high on the job and later tested positive for marijuana. The employee argued that the city's communications office falsely accused her of being impaired because her eyes were red and she was talking quietly. She pointed out that her eyes were red because she had spent the previous night at a hospital sitting beside a relative who had overdosed. She also presented a valid medical marijuana patient card. The court held that the communications office was negligent in how it handled the process for reasonable suspicion of impairment from drugs. The judge noted that supervisors allowed her to continue working after they accused her of being impaired: "Because Employee was allowed to perform her duties and did in fact adequately do so after being observed by her supervisors, I find that [the supervisors] did not reasonably believe that Employee’s ability to perform her job was impaired. As such, I further conclude that a reasonable suspicion referral was unwarranted," the judge wrote in the ruling. 

Opioids and Opiates

DEA Warning that Colored Fentanyl Pills Are Aimed at Kids is Nonsense, Experts Say. On August 30, the DEA warned the public about fentanyl in colorful pills being sold by "drug cartels" to "made to look like candy to children and young  people," calling it "Rainbow fentanyl" and charging that it is "a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults." But drug policy experts said such statements were misleading—and used harsh terms in doing so.

The charge is "typical drug war bullshit," said Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta, a pharmaceutical scientist at the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill. DEA's framing "was so divorced from any reality of what drug markets are actually like, it was almost laughable that our country's top drug enforcement folks are so out of touch.We've been talking about colored dope for years. This is like completely nothing new."

Claire Zagorski, a licensed paramedic, program coordinator and harm reduction instructor for the PhARM Program at The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, described the DEA announcement as "old recycled drug propaganda" that echoes the perennial myth of dope-laced Halloween candy. "Why would someone give away their expensive drugs to some random person they don't know, just so they might have a bad experience? It doesn't make sense," Zagorski told Salon. "At the end of the day, drug sellers are business people, and they're not going to invest in some kind of change to their supply if they don't think there's some good return on it … Kids don't have a lot of money that their parents don't supervise or give to them. So it just doesn't make sense from a business standpoint."

Iran Drug Executions Surge, Trump Baselessly Accuses Fetterman of Abusing Hard Drugs, More... (9/6/22)

Marijuana legalization initiatives in Arkansas and Missouri face challenges, California's governor signs a pair of medical marijuana bills, and more.

The ex-president baselessly accused Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman of abusing hard drugs. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Tells State Supreme Court It Should Be on Ballot and Votes Counted. Responding to the State Board of Election Commissioners' decision to keep a marijuana legalization initiative off the November ballot because the measure's ballot title does not set a limit on THC in marijuana products, the initiative's backers, Responsible Growth Arkansas, told the state Supreme Court last Friday that it not only met but exceeded state requirements about informing voters about the subject of the initiative. After the commissioners initially blocked the measure, Responsible Growth Arkansas won a preliminary injunction keeping it on the ballot until the high court makes a final ruling, but the court also ruled that votes for and against the initiative would not be counted if it rules against the measure.

Missouri Lawmakers, Activists Urge Governor to Add Marijuana Legalization to Special Session, Urge Defeat of Initiative. A bipartisan group of lawmakers and activists called on Gov. Mike Parsons (R) to add marijuana legalization to the agenda of a legislative special session. They also announced the launch of a campaign to defeat a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment (Amendment 3) already approved for the November ballot. "Rather than settle for an ill-suited and monopolistic program shoehorned into our (state) constitution, the Missouri General Assembly has a unique opportunity to consider legislation that would legalize cannabis in a truly free market fashion," said state Rep. Tony Lovasco (R-O'Fallon). Some activists are unhappy with how the initiative would allow the state to continue to cap licenses to grow or sell marijuana and would give current medical marijuana businesses the first shot on the more lucrative recreational licenses. The special session begins next week.

Medical Marijuana

California Governor Signs Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients from Healthcare Discrimination. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 1954, barring doctors from discriminating against patients based on a positive test for THC if the patient is a registered medical marijuana user. The bill adds that healthcare professionals cannot be punished for treating a patient who uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law. He also signed into law Senate Bill 988, which amends an existing law that permits registered patients to use medical marijuana products at hospitals. It would repeal a provision that currently requires that "health care facilities permitting patient use of medical cannabis comply with other drug and medication requirements."

Drug Policy

Donald Trump Baselessly Accuses Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Candidate of Abusing Hard Drugs. In a "Save America Rally" in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Saturday night, former President Donald Trump accused Democratic senatorial nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman of abusing hard drugs without presenting any evidence that backed his claim. "Fetterman supports taxpayer-funded drug dens and the complete decriminalization of illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, and ultra-lethal fentanyl," Trump said. "By the way, he takes them himself." Fetterman's campaign responded with a statement that said in part, "more and more lies from Trump and Dr. Oz, another day, but it's the same crap from these two desperate and sad dudes." Fetterman supports marijuana legalization and has spoken in favor of drug decriminalization, as well as safe injection sites, which is what Trump was referring to when he mentioned "taxpayer-funded drug dens," but there is no evidence he is a hard drug user. He is running against Dr. Mehmet Oz, whom Trump was stumping for. 

International

Iran Drug Executions Are on the Rise Again. Human rights groups say that drug executions are on the rise in Iran. Prior to 2017, Iran executed hundreds of drug offenders each year, but that toll dropped dramatically after the Islamic Republic amended its anti-drug law that year. Thirty persons or fewer were executed for drug offenses in 2018, 2019, and 2020, but that number jumped to 126 last year and had already hit 91 so far this year. Iranian human rights groups say the rise in drug executions is part of a broader spike in executions that "represents a rapid escalation in state-sponsored violence, occurring within a context of raising political unrest in the nation."

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

PA Pot Pardon Program Unveiled, New York City Rally for Safe Injection Sites Statewide, More... (9/2/22)

New York City's child welfare agency is still holding marijuana use against parents--especially black ones--San Francisco's new DA is approaching misdemeanor drug prosecutions much like the old one she accused of being "soft on crime," and more. 

San Francisco's Tenderloin is a drug hot spot. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York City Child Welfare Agency Still Citing Marijuana in Family Separations Despite Legalization and Policy Changes. Marijuana legalization went into effect in New York in March 2021, but court records and interviews with people involved show that the city's child welfare agency continues to use marijuana use by parents to take their children from them. Many interviewees were parents who said "it has felt impossible to extricate themselves from deeply rooted biases in the child welfare system surrounding marijuana use, specifically toward people of color." City child welfare authorities cite parental marijuana use to justify initial separations and prolong family separations by demanding drug testing or participation in drug treatment programs. All of the parents interviewed were black and all of them said marijuana was used against them because of their race. Child welfare said official policy is not to remove children solely on the basis of parental marijuana use, but families and attorneys say the agency does not follow the policy, pointing to petitions in which the only evidence of neglect cited was parental marijuana use.

Pennsylvania Announces Month-Long Pardon Project for People with Small-Time Marijuana Convictions. Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for US Senate in the state, who is running on a platform of marijuana legalization, announced a one-time, large-scale project to pardon people with past minor and non-violent marijuana convictions. The state Board of Pardons will accept applications for the PA Marijuana Pardon Project from Thursday, Sept. 1, through Friday, Sept. 30.  People who were convicted of simple marijuana possession or possession of marijuana for personal use are eligible for the pardons if they have no other criminal convictions. Those who do have additional convictions are invited to apply for clemency. The state estimates that "thousands" of people will qualify for the program.

Harm Reduction

New York City Harm Reductionists Take to Streets on International Overdose Awareness Day to Demand Safe Injection Sites Statewide. At least nine people were arrested outside Gov. Kathy Hochul's Manhattan office Wednesday as hundreds of people rallied to advocate for an expansion of safe injection sites statewide as they marked International Overdose Awareness Day. Two safe injection sites operate in New York City, but none in the rest of the state. Protestors changed "no more drug war" and blocked traffic, leading to the nine arrests. "It’s exhausting to keep experiencing loss after loss after loss, and to keep fighting without a proper response to this epidemic from politicians, said Alicia Singham Goodwin, drug policy campaign coordinator at VOCAL-NY, which helped organize the action. There were also actions to mark the day in Boston, New Hampshire, and California, where a coalition of more than 50 harm reduction groups rallied across the state and criticized Gov. Gain Newsom (D), who just a week ago vetoed a safe injection site pilot project bill. "Governor Newsom not only used his pen to cosign our participants to death, he did so while blaming his choice on our harm reduction infrastructure," said Soma Snakeoil, executive director of Sidewalk Project.

Law Enforcement

San Francisco's New DA Prosecuting Few Misdemeanor Drug Cases. After city voters ousted former DA Chesa Boudin for being "soft on crime," they expected a crackdown from his successor, Brooke Jenkins. But while police have brought three times as many drug cases to her office than in Boudin's time, about two-thirds of them are not being prosecuted. When it comes to misdemeanor offenses such as simple drug or paraphernalia possession, 99 percent of those cases are being dismissed, sent to another law enforcement agency, or recommended for probation or parole revocation. Jenkins spearheaded the recall effort against Boudin, but she looks to be just as "soft on crime" as Boudin was.

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

MI Police Admit Pot Driving Drug Tests Are No Good, CA Pot Bills Go to Governor, More... (9/1/22)

Indonesia has more than 200 people on death row for drug offenses, an effort by a Nebraskas medical marijuana campaign to block part of the state's signature-gathering requirements is rejected by an appeals court, and more

Michigan State Police alerted prosecutors that their drug tests for THC instead alerted for CBD. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Has a Pile of Marijuana Bills on His Desk. Lawmakers were busy as the legislative session came to an end Wednesday, sending another batch of marijuana-related bills to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Now, there are more than a dozen bills awaiting his signature. One would bar localities from banning medical marijuana deliveries, another provides employment protection for off duty marijuana-using workers, another streamlines record-sealing procedures for past marijuana offenses, another would allow the state to set up interstate cannabis commerce, another would authorize medical marijuana for pets, another would protect the rights of marijuana-using parents, another would allow for insurance coverage for marijuana businesses, another changes the state's cannabis tax policy, another would bar doctors from discriminating against registered patients for a positive THC test, another amends the state law requiring medical facilities to accommodate medical marijuana use, another would allow cannabis beverages to be packaged in clear containers, another would add advertising and labeling requirements for vape products, another would bar marijuana regulators from denying temporary event license applications solely because the licensee also has a liquor license, and, last but not least, one would require reporting on marijuana tax revenues distributed to a youth education and prevention program.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Attempt by Medical Marijuana Campaign to Block Nebraska Ballot Process. As medical marijuana campaigners ran into problems with signature gathering earlier this summer, they sued, arguing that the state's requirement that initiative campaigns not only reach a certain statew0ide signature threshold but also get signatures from at least 5 percent of voters in at least 38 of the state's 93 counties violated free speech and equal protection rights. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana and the ACLU prevailed in district court in June, winning a temporary injunction suspending the 5 percent requirement. But state officials appealed, and the US 8th Circuit quickly put a hold on the judge's order pending an appeals court ruling. That ruling came Wednesday, when a split panel of the court ruled for the state. "The district court abused its discretion by granting the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction,” Judges Raymond Gruender and David Stras ruled. Judge Jane Kelly disagreed, writing that "if the right to vote is fundamental, I see no reason why it should not apply equally to the initiative process at the heart of Nebraska’s electoral and legislative system." The campaign and the ACLU said the effort would continue and that they may seek a ruling from the full 8th Circuit.

Drug Testing

Michigan State Police Say Tests for THC in Drivers Actually Showed CBD; Thousands of Cases Could Be Impacted. State police notified prosecutors late last month that drug tests designed to detect THC in the blood of drivers instead alerted to the presence of non-psychoactive CBD and that they have now halted the blood toxicology testing program. "After further review, we now believe this discrepancy may impact cases that occurred on or after March 28, 2019, where the alleged violation is based on the finding of THC alone and there is insufficient evidence of impairment, intoxication, or recent use of marijuana to otherwise support the charged offense," state police said Wednesday. "Laboratory data indicates there are approximately 3,250 laboratory reports that may be impacted," state police said. "These are reports in which there was a THC-confirmed result without other drugs present or alcohol detected above the 0.08% blood-alcohol content legal threshold." March 28, 2019, is when CBD became legal in the state.

International

Indonesia Has More Than 200 People on Death Row for Drug Offenses. There are 404 death row inmates in the island archipelago, and more than half of them are there for drug offenses. It has already executed another 80 drug offenders since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic out of 94 executions overall. Those executed include seven foreign nationals. The resort to the death penalty comes even as the country has since 2009 softened its drug laws, allowing judges to impose rehabilitation instead of prison for drug users and health authorities established guidelines for rehabilitation and treating drug use. 

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United States

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

It is just a little over two months until Election Day, and the picture around marijuana legalization in the states is becoming clear. Six states -- Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota -- have seen initiative campaigns came up with sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot, and if all of them succeed, that would bring the number of states where marijuana is legal to 25 -- half the states in the country.

But a couple of those states should come with asterisks: The Arkansas initiative will be voted on, but the votes may not count as the state Supreme Court weighs whether to uphold the state election commission's decision not to certify the ballot title and popular names on the grounds that they are "misleading." And the Oklahoma initiative may be pushed back to a later special election or the next general election after delays in signature counting by a state contractor left it unable to be certified by the official deadline for the November ballot. The state Supreme Court is currently considering whether to allow the initiative onto the ballot.

The Missouri initiative is also facing a legal challenge from prohibitionists, but that initiative is still on the ballot at this point, so no asterisk here.

Those caveats aside, here is a rundown of the legalization initiatives in the six states that could free the weed in November:

Arkansas

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

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

The most recent poll, from February, had support for legalization at 53.5%. That is a majority, but not a comfortable one.

Maryland

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

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

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

A March poll had support for legalization at a healthy 62 percent.

Missouri

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

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

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

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

The measure had drawn organized opposition from within the cannabis community, with critics saying it does not do enough to promote social equity, that it favors existing operators, and that because it is a constitutional amendment, the legislature would have little say. Still, despite the dissension, a July poll has support for legalization at a healthy 62 percent.

North Dakota

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma

State Question 820 would legalize the possession, transport, and distribution of up to an ounce of marijuana, eight grams of concentrate, or eight grams of marijuana-infused products for people 21 and over. People would be allowed to grow up to six mature plants and six seedlings.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority would be the regulatory agency for legal marijuana commerce, and retail marijuana sales would be taxed at 15 percent. Tax proceeds would go to the general fund (30 percent), public school programs (30 percent), drug treatment and overdose prevention programs (20 percent), the judicial revolving fund (10 percent), and municipalities or counties where marijuana is sold (10 percent).

The measure also would create a process for people to seek expungement of certain marijuana-related conviction or modification of sentences currently being served.

There is no recent polling on SQ 820.

South Dakota

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

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

An August poll had the initiative failing with only 44 percent of the vote, but that poll may be a fluke. It had support in the state's most liberal and populous region, the Sioux Falls metro area at only 38.6 percent. But in 2020, the Sioux falls metro area state Senate districts all reported at least 57 percent approval for legalization and one had the highest support of any district in the state at 72.7 percent. Maybe there has been a radical shift away from supporting legalization in two years, but most likely not.

As in the other five states, the real test comes on November 8.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Arkansas cop breaks bad, a North Carolina detective gets nailed for crooked busts, and more. Let's get to it:

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a former Raleigh police detective was arrested on July 29 for a string of wrongful drug arrests he made in 2019 and 2020. Then-Detective Omar Abdullah used an informant on controlled drug buys to arrest Black men on drug trafficking charges. But lab tests showed that the "drugs" the informant used in those transactions were not illegal narcotics and Abdullah failed to record the transactions on video. He was fired from the department in November 2021, and he is now charged with felony obstruction of justice.

In San Antonio, Texas, a former Bexar County jail deputy was arrested last Monday for smuggling drugs to a jail inmate. Mario Sepulveda, 21, went down after the sheriff's office was tipped that he was sneaking meth and synthetic marijuana to an inmate. Authorities then listened to a recorded phone conversation between the inmate and a woman on the outside that revealed the woman would give drugs to Sepulveda and he would be paid through an online app. He is charged with abuse of official capacity between $1,500 and $20,000, a state jail felony, and possession of a controlled substance in a correctional facility, a third-degree felony.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a Broward County jail deputy was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail. Deputy Victoria Campos-Marquetti, 21, came to authorities' attention over a relationship with an inmate, and that led to her arrest. She is charged with possessing oxycodone with intent to deliver, unlawful compensation, and committing a second-degree felony while armed.

In Gatesville, Texas, a state prison guard was arrested last Wednesday after being caught with cell phones, various illicit drugs, and other contraband that was destined for the prison. Guard Mederis Shaw, 33, faces being fired from his job and possibly felony charges once the prison system finishes its investigation and refers to the case to its Special Prosecution Unit.

In Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a state prison guard was arrested Monday for allegedly selling drugs to a prisoner. Guard Natalie Greene, 24, went down after authorities got word of drug sales and set up a deal where undercover investigators posed as drug distributors to meet with her. She accepted $1,000 in cash and a package of fake drugs and was then arrested. She is charged with contraband and drug dealing offenses.

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, a former Lowell police officer was sentenced August 18 to more than 12 years in federal prison for slinging meth. Skylar Houston went down after his name came up as the Fourth Judicial District Drug Task Force was investigating a drug trafficking operation. Detectives then conducted two separate controlled meth buys from Houston and then arrested him in April 2021. During a search of his residence, they found over 7 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately 4 pounds of marijuana, 1,485 Xanax pills, LSD, mushrooms and steroids.  Two additional firearms were also seized during execution of the warrant.  The drugs were locked in a safe for future distribution by the organization.  

Medical Marijuana Update

Nebraska medical marijuana initiative campaigners make a last gasp effort to get on the November ballot, and more.

Florida

Florida Sets Limits on Medical Marijuana Dosage, Supply. State health officials have released a rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on medical marijuana products. The emergency rule sets a 70-day cap of 24,500 milligrams of THC for non-smokable marijuana. It also sets dosage caps for other forms of ingestion, such as edibles, inhalation, and tinctures. The rule additionally caps purchases of smokable marijuana at 2.5 ounces over a 35-day period. It also creates a process for doctors to seek an exemption to quantity limits for patients they believe need to exceed those limits.

Nebraska

Nebraska Secretary of State Agrees to Review More Signatures After Medical Marijuana Initiative Comes Up Short. There is still a tiny sliver of hope for backers of a pair of medical marijuana initiatives who came up short on signatures after Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) agreed Thursday to review some signatures that were not reviewed earlier. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana asked for the review after analyzing information about the signature checking process. The campaign was about 10,000 signatures short in the initial count. It also fell short on meeting requirements that it reach a 5 percent threshold of signatures in 38 of the states 93 counties. Signature verification must be completed by September 16 in order for the initiative to make the November ballot.

CA Bill to Protect Workers' Off-Duty Marijuana Use Passes, OK Supreme Court to Decide If Legal Pot Initative Makes Ballot, More... (8/31/22)

Workers' rights to use marijuana off duty are in the news, a Missouri marijuana legalization campaign draws organized opposition from within the cannabis community, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Protect Workers from Firing for Off-Duty Marijuana Use Heads to Governor's Desk. A bill that would provide broad employment protections for workers who use marijuana off the job, Assembly Bill 2811, has been approved by the legislature, easily winning a final concurrence vote in the Assembly late last week. The bill would "make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person" solely because of off-duty marijuana use. The bill would also bar employees from demanding that workers or potential hires undergo marijuana testing, with exceptions for federal employees and some safety-sensitive positions. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Draws Organized Opposition—from Within the Cannabis Community. The marijuana legalization initiative from Legal Missouri 2022 has drawn its first organized opposition, and those foes are coming from within the Kansas City cannabis community and allied lawmakers. The critics say the initiative does not offer social equity provisions and that by legalizing marijuana through a constitutional amendment, it removes legislators from the process and prevents legislative oversight. Members of the Impactful Canna Reform Coalition include state Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove (D-Kansas City), a pair of Kansas City medical marijuana businesses, a cooking and catering business, a holistic wellness company, an herbal remedy company, and Kansas City-based community organizers. "The capitalism monster loves to exploit you, and that is what’s happening with this petition," Bland Manlove said in a statement. "Myself and like-minded community partners realized people from politicians to Bob on the street didn’t know the details. We want to make it known."

Nevada Supreme Court Rules That Recreational Use of Marijuana Is Not Protected Off-Duty Conduct. The state's highest court has ruled that a casino employee who was fired after he was injured on the job and then tested positive for marijuana does not any legal recourse. Under state law, workers cannot be punished for the "lawful use" of products while not on duty, but the Supreme Court held that because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, its use is not "lawful," and the employee is therefore not protected. The case is Ceballos v. NP Palace LLC.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Agrees to Consider Whether Marijuana Legalization Initiative Should Be on November Ballot. Organizers behind the State Question 820 marijuana legalization initiative handed in sufficient signatures to meet state requirements, but the initiative still might be kept off the ballot because, for the first time, the state used a private contractor to count signatures and that contractor slow-walked the signature counting process so long that the statutory deadline to put the question on the ballot passed last week. The count, which normally takes two or three weeks, took seven weeks this time, and now, proponents have asked the state Supreme Court to intervene. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the issue. If it rules against the initiative campaign, the measure would then go before voters either in a later special election called by the governor or on the November 2024 ballot.

CA Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, FL Sets MedMJ Rules, More... (9/30/22)

Residents of La Paz, Bolivia, are growing weary of coca grower clashes, Colombia's new president calls for a regional assembly to plot alternatives to the war on drugs, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro at the Andean Presidential Council in Lima Monday. (Presidency of the Republic, Peru)
Medical Marijuana

Florida Sets Limits on Medical Marijuana Dosage, Supply. State health officials have released a rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on medical marijuana products. The emergency rule sets a 70-day cap of 24,500 milligrams of THC for non-smokable marijuana. It also sets dosage caps for other forms of ingestion, such as edibles, inhalation, and tinctures. The rule additionally caps purchases of smokable marijuana at 2.5 ounces over a 35-day period. It also creates a process for doctors to seek an exemption to quantity limits for patients they believe need to exceed those limits.

Harm Reduction

California Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday signed into law Assembly Bill 1598, which er decriminalizes the possession of fentanyl test strips. The bill from Assemblymember Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel) amends the state's controlled substances law by removing drug testing equipment from its definition of drug paraphernalia. Similar bills have passed in numerous states this year. 

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Spurs Protests by Residents Tired of Clashes. Activists and residents of the La Paz neighborhoods of Villa El Carmen, Villa Fatima, and Periferica were set to hit the streets to day to demand an end to the coca grower conflict that has disrupted normal life there for nearly the past month. The conflict pits two factions of the Adepcoca coca growers union, one pro-government and one anti-government, against each other and has resulted in weeks of clashes on the streets of the capital, especially around a disputed coca market in Villa El Carmen. Residents were planning to stage protests and erect roadblocks in all three neighborhoods today. They are demanding the government resolve the coca grower dispute.

Colombian President Seeks Regional Assembly to Rethink Drug Policy. At the Andean Presidential Council in Lima on Monday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro called for a regional assembly to come up with alternatives to what he called the "failed" war on drugs. "We have failed in something called the war on drugs and its toll is a million dead Latin Americans, most of them Colombians, and more and more Mexicans and Central Americans," he said. “If we project further forward, we would have another million Latin Americans killed by homicide, millions of Latin Americans and North Americans in prison, most of black race, and there would be 2,800,000 Americans dying of overdoses from something we don't produce: fentanyl," he warned. Instead Petro proposed convening an assembly of Latin American countries to discuss alternative drug policies. In addition to the Colombian president and his Peruvian host, the leaders of two of the world's largest coca and cocaine producing countries, the Lima meeting was also attended by the presidents of Ecuador an Bolivia, the third largest coca and cocaine producer. 

Gallup Poll Has Pot Use at All-Time High, DEA Walks Back Proposed Ban on Two Psychedelics, More... (8/29/22)

A trio of marijuana bills are on the California governor's desk, New York City cocaine users are adopting fentanyl test strips, Colombia's new president announces a coca growers' assembly, and more.

Everybody's doing it. Well, not everybody, but more people than ever. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Finds Marijuana Use at All-Time High. A new Gallup poll has marijuana use at a record high—and for the first time, more Americans reported smoking marijuana than smoking cigarettes. The new poll has 16 percent of respondents smoking marijuana within the past week, up from 12 percent a year ago and more than double the historic low of seven percent. The number of people who reported cigarette smoking in the past week was 11 percent. That's down from 16 percent last year and a whopping 45 percent during cigarette smoking's peak in the 1950s.

California Interstate Marijuana Commerce, Other Pot Bills Go to Governor's Desk. Bills to create a framework for interstate marijuana commerce, streamline expungement for past marijuana convictions, and safeguard companies providing insurance to the legal marijuana industry have all passed out of the legislature and are on the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). A passel of other marijuana bills are also advancing as the session end approaches. The interstate commerce bill is Senate Bill 1326, the marijuana convictions bill is Assembly Bill 1706, and the insurance bill is Assembly Bill 2568.

Harm Reduction

Fentanyl Test Strips Are ‘Catching On’ Among Cocaine Users. Rising overdoses are prompting some drug users to make testing their stashes for the presence of fentanyl a regular part of their drug-taking ritual. New York City cocaine users say their fear of overdosing on fentanyl-contaminated cocaine has made them wary of using any cocaine that has not been tested. Dozens of bars, clubs, and restaurants in the city are now offering fentanyl test strips as well. A Lower East Side taco restaurant owner said he began stocking the strips this spring after two people he knew died from fentanyl-adulterated cocaine. "It was a no-brainer for us," he said. "When we first put them out, we had customers say, ‘What is that?’ They were like, ‘Let me get one for my friend,’" Mr Tirado said. "It’s catching on."

New Mexico Now Providing Fentanyl Test Strips. Thanks to a change in the state's Harm Reduction Act, state officials are now distributing fentanyl test strips by the thousands. The Department of Health has handed out 15,000 test strips since May and has already ordered another 30,000. At least 1,215 people in the state have died from an overdose involving fentanyl since 2019, but more than 12,000 people have been saved from overdoses by the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Psychedelics

DEA Walks Back Plan to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics. The DEA has backed away from plans to place two obscure psychedelics, DOI (dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine) and DOC (dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine), on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The retreat came after the proposal encountered strong opposition about psychedelic companies and academic researchers. The Panacea company filed a motion requiring the DEA to respond by today, with the possibility of a public hearing to defend its proposal. Instead, the DEA folded without stating any specific reasons.

International

Colombia President Announces First Assembly of Coca Growers.  President Gustavo Petro announced last Friday that the country's first assembly of coca growers will be held in the Catatumbo region in the northwest of the country. "I propose you to get out of that first place (in hectares of coca) last year and build the peace capital of Colombia. That here in Catatumbo the talks of society can be developed and that somewhere talks can begin to leave the weapons behind and move to the era of peace," he said. "I have admitted the idea of carrying out in Catatumbo the first assembly of coca leaf farmers (…) with one intention: to show this government the ways (…) that allow us to achieve that a peasant family that today is dedicated to coca leaf can substitute this for an activity that guarantees them more quality of life", he explained to local residents. Colombia is the world's largest coca and cocaine producer. 

NY Now Taking Applications for Pot Shops, Bolivia Coca Clashes Continue, More... (8/26/22)

A strike in British Columbia is impacting retail marijuana shops, there is still a sliver of hope for Nebraska's medical marijuana initiataive, and more. 

Will the Cornhusker State get to vote on medical marijuana this year? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York Starts Taking Applications for Legal Pot Shops. The state began accepting applications Thursday from people wanting to open legal recreational marijuana retail outlets, and it is making a strong social equity statement by reserving the first 150 licenses for people with past marijuana convictions or their family members. It is a "unique strategy that we’re implementing to try to make sure that those most impacted have real opportunity to participate here," state Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said. "It's really about writing a wrong," he added. There is not yet a firm date for when the first shops will open their doors. After this initial batch of licenses is issued, more licenses will be issued, with a focus on people of color, women, struggling farmers, disabled veterans and people from communities that endured heavy pot policing. The state is seeking to issue half of all licenses to such applicants.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Secretary of State Agrees to Review More Signatures After Medical Marijuana Initiative Comes Up Short. There is still a tiny sliver of hope for backers of a pair of medical marijuana initiatives who came up short on signatures after Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) agreed Thursday to review some signatures that were not reviewed earlier. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana asked for the review after analyzing information about the signature checking process. The campaign was about 10,000 signatures short in the initial count. It also fell short on meeting requirements that it reach a 5 percent threshold of signatures in 38 of the states 93 counties. Signature verification must be completed by September 16 in order for the initiative to make the November ballot.

International

Bolivia Coca Grower Conflict Continues to Fester. Clashes among competing groups of coca growers and with police in La Paz continued for a third week Tuesday even as pro-government coca union leader Arnold Alanes, who manages a "parallel market" in coca that is not officially sanctioned, filed a complaint against the leader of the rival coca growers, Freddy Machicado, for "public instigation to commit a crime." Both men claim to be leaders of Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca) of La Pa, with Alanes assumed to be the legitimate leader of the union but Machicado leading a bloc that considers itself independent—both of the union leadership and the government.  "We have been victims of harassment, violence and dynamite blows and we are presenting (the complaint) in an emergency, given all the violence we have suffered, Alanes said as he delivered the complaint to the local prosecutor's office. The conflict dates back to last September when Alanes was elected leader of Adepcoca and recognized as such by the government. Some sectors of the union rejected him because of those government ties and took over one of the two legal markets for the sale of coca leaves, so the Alanes faction opened a new market near the traditional one in La Paz. The anti-government faction has been mobilizing this past month to pressure the government to close down Alanes' "parallel market," and that is what has been leading to weekly street clashes.

British Columbia Pot Shops Shutting Down Because of Lack of Supply Due to Unrelated Labor Action. The British Columbia General Employees' Union (BCGEU) has been on strike at government distribution warehouses for the past 10 days, and now the province's 400 retail marijuana outlets are facing shortages, with some of them already shutting their doors. The pot shop chain Burb shuttered stores in Port Coquitlam and Port Moody and lay-offs of pot shop workers have already begun. A provincial initiative to let retailers buy directly from BC producers was supposed to start last week, but did not, and the BC Ministry of Finance have not responded to questions about that initiative. The BCGEU, which represents 33,000 workers, agreed Tuesday to resume bargaining at the request of the province. What it will take to reach a settlement isn’t clear. In the meantime, it's hard times for legal marijuana retailers. 

DEA Moves to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics, Odd SD Pot Poll, More... (8/25/22)

Colombia's new president says he will not extradite drug traffickers who quit the trade and comply with surrender conditions, a California bill to protect employees who use marijuana off-the-job is moving, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Protect Marijuana-Using Employees Awaits Senate Floor Vote. A measure that would ban employers from firing or punishing workers who use marijuana outside of work hours has already passed the Assembly and now awaits a Senate floor vote. Assembly Bill 2188, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would bar the use of hair, urine, and other bodily fluid tests for marijuana for employment purposes, with exemptions for workers subject to federal regulations or in safety-sensitive positions. The bill would, however, allow for saliva testing, which picks up the presence of active THC, not the inactive metabolites detected in hair and urine tests. If the bill passes, it is not clear Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would sign it; he is subject to competing pressures on the topic, with the Chamber of Commerce and other business and retail groups opposing it.

South Dakota Poll Suggests Marijuana Legalization Could Lose in November. A new poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy has the IM 27 marijuana legalization initiative with the support of only 43.8 percent of respondents, with 54.4 percent opposed to legalization. But the poll of 500 registered voters is raising some eyebrows, given that just two years ago, voters in the state approved a marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote (only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court).

Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, pointed to some anomalous findings, such as support in the Sioux Falls metro area being at only 38.6 percent. But in 2020, the Sioux falls metro area state Senate districts all reported at least 57 percent approval for legalization and one had the highest support of any district in the state at 72.7 percent.

"When I look a little deeper, I found things that do not make sense to me," said Schweich. "Some of the numbers don't really make sense and conflict strongly with previous data that we've seen. I see this as a flawed poll, but one that I still need to keep in the back of my head as motivation to keep working hard," Schweich said. "I'm not going to dismiss this poll entirely, and it's a reminder that we have to work really hard and not take anything for granted because in recent times, it's gotten harder and harder to predict what an electorate will look like."

Psychedelics

DEA Moves to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics. The DEA is moving to place two obscure psychedelics on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, despite little evidence regarding addiction or other harms. The two substances are DOI (dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine) and DOC (2,5-dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine), first synthesized by psychedelic researcher Alexander Shulgin. Little research has been done on the hallucinogens, but they are said to have subjective effects similar to LSD but lasting longer. DEA says the two drugs have "potential" for abuse, but also says "To date, there are no reports of distressing responses or death associated with DOI in medical literature" and "The physiological dependence liability of DOI and DOC in animals and humans is not reported in scientific and medical literature. DEA also notes that in the past 17 years there has been one death of someone using DOC, but that was "in combination with other drugs."

International

Colombia's President Says Will Not Extradite Drug Traffickers Who Fulfill Deals with the Government. President Gustavo Petro on Wednesday said that drug traffickers who abandon the trade and comply with government surrender conditions will not be extradited to the United States. He also said his government, which was sworn in this month on a vow to bring "total peace" to the country, was reaching out to various armed groups who want to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The US views extradition as a vital tool against the drug trade, but Petro has questioned its effectiveness, and it has been a sore point for many Colombians. "Drug traffickers who do not negotiate with the state will be extradited, drug traffickers who negotiate with the state and re-offend will be extradited, without any kind of negotiation, to the United States," Petro said after a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. "Drug traffickers who negotiate legal benefits with the Colombian state and definitively stop being drug traffickers will not be extradited," he said.

Oklahoma Legalization Init May Miss November Ballot, San Francisco Could Open Safe Injection Sites, More... (8/24/22)

A bipartisan coalition of senators is demanding justice for another American medical marijuana user imprisoned in Russia, a Nebraska senator vows to file a medical marijuana bill next year after an initiative campaign came up short, and more.

Even though Gov. Newsom (D) vetoed a safe injection site bill, San Francisco may move forward anyway. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Oklahoma's Use of Private Vendor to Count Signatures Could Cause Marijuana Legalization Initiative to Miss November Ballot. Yes on 820, the group behind the state's marijuana legalization initiative, is warning that the state's use of a private vendor for the first time to count signatures caused delays that may result in the measure being bumped from the November ballot. The initiative has met the signature threshold to qualify, but the count must now be approved by the state Supreme Court, and after that, a 10-day period for anyone to challenge the signatures. That is running up against a Friday election board deadline, and could keep the initiative off the ballot. "The last petition Oklahomans voted on took 17 days to count 313,000 signatures," Yes on 820 said. "In contrast, we submitted half that amount and it has taken three times as long. This delay means the election board may not receive the green light to print the ballot in time for voters to vote on it in November."

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska State Senator Pledges to Introduce Medical Marijuana Bill After Initiative Campaign Come up Short. After a campaign to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot came up short on signatures, state Sen. Jen Day (D-Gretna) vowed to file a medical marijuana bill in the 2023 legislative session. She said she was also exploring the possibility of calling a special session this fail to take up the issue. "We will exhaust every measure possible to get Nebraskans the medical freedom they deserve and want," Day said. "We know that Nebraskans strongly support this."

Foreign Policy

Bipartisan Senators Demand Justice for Another US Citizen Imprisoned in Russia for Medical Marijuana. A bipartisan coalition of senators have sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calling on the State Department to classify imprisoned US medical marijuana patient Marc Fogel as "wrongfully detained" in Russia, the same status that has been afforded to WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner. "Mr. Fogel's recent 14-year sentence to a maximum-security penal colony for possession of less than an ounce of medical marijuana can only be understood as a political ploy by Vladimir Putin's authoritarian regime," the senators wrote. "Mr. Fogel, a 61-year-old with severe medical conditions, has already been detained for a year. The United States cannot stand by as Mr. Fogel wastes away in a Russian hard labor camp. As the US highlights Griner's unjust detention, Fogel's case "warrants the same degree of political attention and diplomatic intervention," the senators said.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Could Still Move Ahead with Safe Injection Sites Despite Veto of Bill. Although Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed a bill to allow safe injection site pilot programs in Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco on Monday, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said that he would support a nonprofit opening such a site in the city. "To save lives, I fully support a non-profit moving forward now with New York's model of overdose prevention programs," Chiu said in the statement. New York City has a nonprofit group running two safe injection sites. Two city nonprofits, HealthRight360 and the AIDS Foundation, said they are willing to operate sites, but need a location and funding, either from the city or from private donors, as is the case in New York City.

OK Legalization Init Has Enough Signatures, CA Governor Vetoes Safe Injection Sites, More... (8/23/22)

Prohibitionists file a legal challenge to a Missouri legalization initiative, a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative signature-gathering campaign comes up short, and more.

Marijuana is going to be on the ballot in a number of states, but it is not all set yet. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Hit by Legal Challenge from Prohibitionists. The Colorado-based Protect Our Kids PAC, a marijuana prohibitionist group, filed a lawsuit Monday against Legal Missouri's marijuana legalization initiative, which qualified for the ballot last week. The lawsuit charges that the initiative violates the state constitution's single-subject rule. It also argues that the initiative did not really collect enough signatures to qualify and that the state wrongly certified the measure. The lawsuit was filed by a staff member of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), but on behalf of the Colorado-based Protect Our Kids PAC. It was filed on the last day of the 10-day window to file challenges. A similar legal challenge to a legalization initiative is already underway in Arkansas.

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Has Enough Signatures to Make Ballot, But Hurdles Remain. The SQ 820 marijuana legalization has been certified as having collected enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but hurdles remain before it becomes official. The state Supreme Court still has to approve the signatures and if and when that happens, the secretary of state will put out a notice that opponents then have 10 days to challenge the validity of the petition. Those two things need to be accomplished by the end of September or the measure will not make the November ballot. If it doesn't make the November ballot, voters will take it up at a later election.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiatives Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. An initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state will not go before voters in November because cash-strapped activists came up short on valid voter signatures. Activists had hoped to put a complementary pair of initiatives on the ballot, but the campaign came up short both on the statewide number and on the number of counties where a 5 percent of the voters threshold was met. Each initiative needed 87,000 valid voter signatures, but one came up with only 77,843 and the other with 77,119 valid voter signatures. Both needed to get 5 percent of the registered voters in 38 of the state's counties, but one achieved that goal in only 26 counties and the other in 27.

Harm Reduction

California Governor Vetoes Safe Injection Pilot Program Bill. Despite past comments that he was "very open" to allowing safe injection sites to operate in the state, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday vetoed a bill that would do just that, Senate Bill 57. He cited "concerns" about its implementation. In his veto message, Gov. Newsom maintained that he has "long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies," but was "acutely concerned about the operations of safe injection sites without strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans."

Newson left open the possibility that he could support similar legislation in the future, saying "We should strive to ensure our innovative efforts are well planned, even when they start as pilots, to help mitigate the potential for unintended impacts. Therefore, I am instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to convene city and county officials to discuss minimum standards and best practices for safe and sustainable overdose prevention programs. I remain open to this discussion when those local officials come back to the legislature with recommendations for a truly limited pilot program -- with comprehensive plans for siting, operations, community partnerships, and fiscal sustainability that demonstrate how these programs will be run safely and effectively."

California Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Safe Injection Site Pilot Programs [FEATURE]

Despite past comments that he was "very open" to allowing safe injection sites to operate in the state, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday vetoed a bill that would do just that, Senate Bill 57. He cited "concerns" about its implementation.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) says he supports harm reduction but has "concerns." (gov.ca.gov)
Sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill would have allowed for safe injection pilot programs in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Oakland, and San Francisco. In each of those jurisdictions, city councils or boards of supervisors had requested inclusion in the bill and were prepared to begin to implement the proven harm reduction intervention.

California embracing safe injection sites would have been a tremendous advance for harm reduction in the United States, where the first safe injection sites opened just months ago in New York City, and Rhode Island is the only other state to have okayed them. Such facilities have been operating for decades in Europe, Canada, and Australia and have a proven safety track record. At the 170 safe injection sites that have operated around the world, not a single overdose death has been reported. In New York City, in the first three months of operation, staff at these sites were able to halt over 150 overdoses.

The bill was supported by a broad coalition of organizations including the Drug Policy Alliance, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, California Society of Addiction Medicine, National Harm Reduction Coalition, Healthright 360, Tarzana Treatment Center, and the California Association of Alcohol & Drug Program Executives.

Support for the bill was also heightened by significant increases in drug use and overdoses since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. San Francisco saw a record number of overdose deaths in 2020, with 711 deaths in total. In 2021, 640 people died of overdoses, and the city is on track to exceed that number this year. Statewide, approximately 10,000 people died of drug overdoses from April 2020 to April 2021.

In his veto message, Gov. Newsom maintained that he has "long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies," but was "acutely concerned about the operations of safe injection sites without strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans."

He also left open the possibility that he could support similar legislation in the future, saying "We should strive to ensure our innovative efforts are well planned, even when they start as pilots, to help mitigate the potential for unintended impacts. Therefore, I am instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to convene city and county officials to discuss minimum standards and best practices for safe and sustainable overdose prevention programs. I remain open to this discussion when those local officials come back to the legislature with recommendations for a truly limited pilot program -- with comprehensive plans for siting, operations, community partnerships, and fiscal sustainability that demonstrate how these programs will be run safely and effectively."

Sen. Wiener and his allies, however, were not assuaged by Newsom's leaving the door open for future action.

"Today, California lost a huge opportunity to address one of our most deadly problems: the dramatic escalation in drug overdose deaths. By rejecting a proven and extensively studied strategy to save lives and get people into treatment, this veto sends a powerful negative message that California is not committed to harm reduction," Wiener said in a statement Monday. "SB 57 is not a radical bill by any stretch of the imagination. It simply gives permission to cities -- each of which has requested that permission -- to pilot safe consumption sites and get people into treatment."

California risks being left in the lurch as other cities and states move to embrace the harm reduction intervention, he said.

"Other states and cities in the US are already moving forward with this proven health model. New York City, with the vocal support of Mayor Eric Adams, has successfully implemented safe consumption sites. Indeed, Mayor Adams is advocating to expand the sites to operate 24 hours a day, due to their success in reducing public drug use. Rhode Island passed a law authorizing safe consumption sites, and Massachusetts is moving in that direction. Philadelphia is on the verge of settling with the Biden administration to potentially allow it to open safe consumption sites consistent with federal law," Wiener said.

"Today's veto is tragic," Wiener continued. "For eight years, a broad coalition has worked to pass this life-saving legislation. Each year this legislation is delayed, more people die of drug overdoses -- two per day in San Francisco alone. While this veto is a major setback for the effort to save lives and connect people to treatment, we must not -- and will not -- let it end this movement. We'll continue to fight for an end to the War on Drugs and a focus on drug use and addiction as the health issues they are."

Wiener's allies in the coalition pushing for safe injection sites were equally appalled by Newsom's veto.

"We are incredibly disappointed and heartbroken that Gov. Newsom has put his own political ambitions ahead of saving thousands of lives and vetoed this critical legislation," said Jeannette Zanipatin, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which sponsored the bill. "Despite the governor's remarks, LA, San Francisco and Oakland have already designated this a priority by authorizing the programs locally and have been standing ready to implement them quickly. We have already engaged local stakeholders in a robust process and they have taken active steps towards implementation in order to be part of the pilot SB 57 would have put in place. We don't need additional processes. What we need is action. Without action, people are going to die," she said.

"While Newsom plays on the fears that an 'unlimited' number of Overdose Prevention Programs could have been opened, this would have been a limited pilot program that was only for five years and three jurisdictions, with an extremely thorough evaluation process. In 2021 alone, California lost over 10,000 residents to the overdose crisis, and we are continuing to see it disproportionately claim the lives of people of color throughout the state. Make no mistake, these deaths are 100 percent avoidable through common-sense, cost-effective measures, like SB 57, but because of his veto, people will continue to die alone and in the shadows."

"Harm reduction programs in three California cities were poised and ready to implement overdose prevention programs. Oakland, Los Angeles and San Francisco have done the groundwork, have local support, and this veto leaves entire communities of people who use drugs, the majority of them unhoused, without an essential lifesaving tool," said Laura Guzman, senior director of Capacity Building and Community Mobilization at the National Harm Reduction Coalition. "Newsom's veto of SB 57 comes at a time when we lose over 10,000 Californians every year to overdose and have skyrocketing racial disparities in deaths. This veto is completely unjustified."

"We are outraged that Governor Newsom has vetoed SB 57," said Tyler TerMeer, PhD, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "Given the number of fatal overdoses that continue to happen every day in San Francisco and across California, now is the time for us to take bold action in establishing lifesaving overdose prevention programs. We are sending an urgent message to our elected officials that preventing these programs from operating will cost lives."

The coalition formed to pass SB 57 isn't going anywhere, and this fight is far from over. Look for renewed efforts on both the legislative and consultative fronts to make California safe injection sites a reality.

Psychedelic Use Increasing in US, Colombia Looks to Cocaine Decriminalization, More... (8/22/22)

A Swiss pilot program allowing legal marijuana sales will begin in three weeks, Colombia's president plans a drug decrime move, and more.

LSD blotter paper (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

New Study Estimates Over 5.5 Million US Adults Use Hallucinogens. Hallucinogen use has increased since 2015, overall, and particularly among adults 26 and older, while use decreased in adolescents aged 12 -- 17 years, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Irving Medical Center. An estimated 5.5+ million people in the US used hallucinogens in the past year, in 2019, which represents an increase from 1.7 percent of the population aged 12 years and over, in 2002, to 2.2 percent, in 2019. LSD use between 2002 and 2019 increased overall and in all age groups, with the past 12-month rate increasing from 0.9 percent in 2002 to 4 percent in 2019 for those 18-25 years of age. PCP use between 2002 and 2019 decreased, as did the drug Ecstasy since 2015. The study is the first to provide formal statistical analyses of trends in the prevalence of hallucinogen use overall and by age groups during the last two decades. The findings are published online in the peer-reviewed journal Addiction.

International

Colombia's New President Set to Move on Cocaine Decriminalization. The government of new President Gustavo Petro is now proposing an end to "prohibition" and the beginning of a government-regulated cocaine market. Working through both national legislation and alliances with other leftist governments in the region, the Petro government hopes to make the country a laboratory for drug decriminalization. Felipe Tascón, Petro's drug czar, said Colombia hoped to take advantage of the new regional power configuration, where leftists control the governments of the trio of cocaine producing countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Peru) and plans to meet with his regional counterparts on the issue with an eye toward forging a unified regional bloc to take on the international drug conventions at the United Nations. Tascón also said the administration would back legislation to decriminalize both cocaine and marijuana, as well as ending aerial spraying and manual eradication of coca crops. He said that regulating cocaine sales would allow the government to wrest control of the market from drug traffickers and armed groups.

Swiss Pilot Project on Regulated Marijuana Sales Begins Next Month. A pilot project that will see marijuana sold through pharmacies to some 370 study participants is set to begin September 15. The "Weed Care" program will allow participants to legally buy marijuana from nine shops in Basel. Health officials hope the trial will help address political questions about marijuana regulation. Study participants are all current marijuana users who must fill out surveys throughout the 30-month study. "It's not about full legalization -- but regulation -- where consumption is possible in a protected setting. That's what we want to test now," said Lukas Engelberger, medical director for Basel.

Oakland Entheogenic Church Sues Over Raid, Thai Minister Discourages Pot Tourism, More... (8/19/22)

Wisconsin's Republican legislative majority is out of step with the people when it comes to freeing the weed, an Idaho medical marijuana initiative campaign takes a first step, and more.

Magic mushrooms. An Oakland church argues that they are a protected religious sacrament. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Wisconsin Poll Shows Very Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Marquette Law School shows support for marijuana legalization in the state at an all-time high of 69 percent of registered voters. That's an eight-point jump since the school's last poll just five months ago. Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans said they back legalization in the latest poll. A GOP legislative supermajority entrenched through gerrymandering does not care. It hasn't even approved medical marijuana except for low-THC cannabis oil.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Activists Launch Medical Marijuana Ballot Push for 2024. Activists organized as Kind Idaho have filed a proposed 2024 medical marijuana ballot initiative that is essentially identical to one it filed two years ago but which did not end up qualifying for the ballot. The measure would allow patients with qualifying conditions to buy medical marijuana at state-licensed dispensaries or grow up to six plants at home if a dispensary were unavailable or getting to one would impose a hardship on the patient. "Now the waiting game begins," said Joseph Evans, the group's treasurer. "We will be in contact again in five weeks when we come in to pick up and review the changes the [attorney general] suggests."

Psychedelics

Oakland Church That Uses Psychedelic Mushrooms as Sacrament Sues over Police Raid. The Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants, an assembly of the Church of Ambrosia, has filed a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations against the city of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department after police raided the church, which used magic mushrooms as a sacrament, in 2020. The suit charges that the police raid violated its 1st and 14th Amendment rights and that the city's land use code bars them from conducting religious ceremonies and sacraments with psychedelics and marijuana inside the church.

Oakland Police say the church was operating as a dispensary, and they acted after receiving a complaint. One officer, John Romero, applied for church membership, signed an agreement acknowledging the church is not a dispensary and bought 3.5 grams of marijuana, which the church says is intended for on-site consumption as part of its sacrament. Romero returned with a search warrant, damaged five safes, seized paperwork, inventory logs, $200,000 worth of marijuana and mushroom inventory, a computer, and $4,500 in cash. The church says it is about spirituality, not dope dealing."This is not just an excuse for selling drugs," church founder Dave Hodges said. "This is a sincere faith, and the work that I personally do with mushrooms is with the really high doses. There's no doubt in my mind that mushrooms were the first way our ancient ancestors understood there was more to this existence. They raided us like we were some kind of crime family they were taking down or a meth house," Hodges said. "They came in guns blazing, which they didn't need to do. They could've accomplished the same thing with two officers without their guns drawn. This was a classic smash-and-grab scenario where they took our sacrament, they took our money and they never filed any charges." The church is seeking a permanent injunction forcing the city to approve its land use application and to exempt religious use of entheogenic plants as part of the application process. "We would like for the Oakland PD to leave us alone and for the city of Oakland to consider us legitimate," Hodges said.

International

Thai Health Minister Says Pot-Smoking Tourists Not Welcome. Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul discouraged people from visiting the country only to smoke weed. "We don't welcome those kinds of tourists," Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters when asked about recreational marijuana use among foreign visitors. The comments come just two months after Thailand largely decriminalized marijuana, leading to an influx of tourists and the opening of "cannabis cafes." Marijuana tourism could be a boon to the country's important tourism industry, which was badly wounded by the coronavirus pandemic, but the government says recreational use of the drug is not okay. But that could change, Anutin said: "It might come in the near future."

NYPD Busts Unlicensed Pot Trucks, Meth Use/Arrests/OD Deaths All Up in Recent Years, More... (8/18/22)

Nevada's Supreme Court rules against employees who smoke marijuana, Ireland is about to see its first pilot drug checking program, and more.

The Electric Picnic festival in Ireland. This year, there will be onsite drug checking. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada High Court Rules Recreational Marijuana Is Not "Lawful Off-Duty Conduct." In a decision last Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled that recreational marijuana use is not "lawful off-duty conduct" in upholding the firing of a Las Vegas casino dealer who tested positive for marijuana. State employment law provides protections for "lawful off-duty conduct," but the court held that since marijuana remains federally illegal, its use can not be considered "lawful off-duty conduct" in the casino dealer's wrongful termination claim. The ruling means that Nevada employers are free to fire or refuse to hire workers who use marijuana.

New York City Cracks Down on Unlicensed Weed-Selling Trucks. The NYPD said it seized 20 trucks used to sell unlicensed marijuana on Tuesday. "If you are looking to buy illegal cannabis from the Weed World Bus located on 5th Avenue & 40th Street it is no longer open for business," NYPD Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey tweeted. "We do not anticipate it opening for business anytime soon!" The state legalized marijuana in 2021 but has yet to see legal commercial sales. In the meantime, unlicensed vendors have emerged to serve the market. NYPD said the seizures were part of efforts to address quality of life issues, but some New Yorkers may feel their quality of life is reduced if they can't find a place to buy weed.

Methamphetamine

Meth Use, Arrests, and Overdose Deaths Rose Sharply in Recent Years. A new report from the Pew Trusts finds sharply increasing methamphetamine use, arrests, and overdose deaths in the period from 2015 to 2019. Pew said the results "highlight the need for improved responses to a worsening public health problem." Arrests for meth possession jumped 59 percent, meth use was up 22 percent, meth use as a substance-abuse disorder was up 37 percent, and meth-related overdose deaths more than doubled.

"The general response to these trends highlights a reliance on the criminal legal system that has often proved costly and ineffective," Pew said. "Meaningful reductions in drug possession arrests and drug-related deaths may not be achieved without shifting to a public health response that prioritizes evidence-based approaches to treatment and harm reduction." Meth use varies from state, with 16 states reporting at least one in a 100 adults reporting past year use. The states with the highest rates were Arizona, Montana, and West Virginia.

International

Ireland to See Pilot Drug Checking Program at Music Festival, At the Electric Picnic Festival the first weekend of September, the Health Service Executive will operate the country's first pilot drug checking program. Users will deposit drugs in bins for chemical analysis, and if a sample is found to create cause for concern -- say, for unusually high potency or the presence of dangerous adulterants -- authorities will issue warning via social media.

"I am pleased to launch this new project as part of our efforts to reduce drug-related harm in Ireland," says HSE National Clinical Lead, Professor Eamon Keenan. "We are currently very concerned about the emergence of new psychoactive substances and high potency substances which pose a threat to health. This project will provide us with vital information that we otherwise can't access in real time. While this is a progression, the HSE messaging will remain clear, it is safer not to use drugs at all. For those who choose to, they should still follow the practical steps recommended by the HSE to reduce the harms. We will issue a series of health information on social media before and during the event, I encourage the public to follow drugs.ie and engage with our teams at Electric Picnic. It is important to note that our results will only be representative of what is submitted and this will not guarantee the safety of drugs across the drug market."

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for the November Ballot [FEATURE]

And then there were five: With an announcement Monday by the secretary of state that a New Approach North Dakota marijuana legalization initiative had qualified for the ballot, the number of states where legalization is on the ballot climbs to five. The others are Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. (Another legalization effort in Oklahoma is awaiting confirmation that it has gathered sufficient valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.)

New Approach North Dakota easily cleared the state's signature requirement of 15,582 valid voter signatures, with the secretary of state's office reporting the group had 23,368 valid signatures.

Now officially known as Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1, the initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, four grams of concentrates and infused products, and grow up to three plants at home, but not to consume it in public.

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

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

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

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

"Measure 1 is a conservative approach to cannabis legalization based on legislation passed by the North Dakota House of Representatives. It balances personal freedom with personal responsibility," said state Rep. Matthew Ruby (R), a member of the campaign's sponsoring committee. "Adults will no longer be punished for using cannabis -- but only if they do so safely and responsibly. As voters have a chance to review the measure in detail, I'm confident a majority will agree this is the right approach for North Dakota."

Just four years ago, state voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, but things will be different this time around, argued New Approach North Dakota campaign chairman David Owen.

"So, the biggest difference between now and Measure 3 of 2018… is this is restricted, regulated, controlled, legal marijuana," Owen said.

"I served as a police officer in Bismarck for over five years and have defended those accused of marijuana offenses for the last twenty years, said Mark Friese, an attorney and former police officer who is the campaign treasurer. "There is no public safety benefit from arresting adults for small amounts of marijuana. It is a waste of taxpayer resources and a distraction from serious public safety concerns. Cannabis causes far less harm than alcohol. Many people find therapeutic benefits from it. The government shouldn't be in the business of punishing adults who use cannabis responsibly."

Up to now, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, and in 11 of them and DC, it was via the initiative process. We are likely to pick up several more in November. In the best-case scenario, when the dust settles after Election Day, half the states in the country will have legalized it.

New Gallup Pot Poll, Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues, More... (8/17/22)

South Korean prosecutors sign on for more, better drug war, a group of French senators makes an urgent call for marijuana legalization, and more.

Pro- and anti-government coca growers in Bolivia clashed for the third straight week. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll: Support for Marijuana Legalization Remains High, But Americans Are Split on Whether Pot is Good or Bad for Society. In a Gallup poll released this week, support for marijuana legalization was at 68 percent, equaling previous Gallup highs on the question. But Americans were evenly split on whether it is good or bad for society, with 49 percent saying it was a positive and 50 percent saying it was a negative. People who have used marijuana -- nearly half of American adults -- were much more likely to view it positively for both users (70 percent) and society (66 percent). Those who have not used marijuana were more likely to say has negative effects on users (62 percent) and society (72 percent). Some 16 percent of respondents said they currently use marijuana.

International

Bolivia Sees Third Week of Clashes Among Coca Growers. For the third week in a row, hundreds of coca growers from La Paz department marched on Monday to demand the closure of a "parallel" coca market affiliated with the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party. Under the country's coca laws, only two markets are recognized -- one in La Paz and one in Cochabamba -- but the "parallel" market has been operating anyway without any government action.

The La Paz coca growers, organized as Adepcoca, marched toward the parallel market in Villa El, where residents put up barricades to protect themselves and their homes from police and protesters. They had suffered damage during street clashes in the past two weeks. Hundreds of police officers protected the market, shooting teargas at the marchers and arresting 24 of them. But more signs of division among coca growers are becoming apparent. The coca growers of the tropics of Cochabamba declared themselves in a "state of emergency" and said it was not possible "to side with the pro-coup right wing." The government, for its part, on Monday sent a letter to the Adepcoca unionists with an invitation for talks to resolve the issue.

French Senators Petition Macron's Government for Urgent Marijuana Reform. Some 31 senators from the Socialist, Ecologist, and Republican group -- a socialist bloc making up about one-fifth of parliament -- published a letter in the Le Monde newspaper calling on the government of President Macron to launch a consultative process to introduce new legislation to legalize marijuana. The senators rejected the half-step of decriminalization, saying it was a demagogic option and would merely "perpetuate the existing ban." In a commentary published with the letter, Le Monde said that marijuana prohibition is "unsustainable" and it is time to "face reality head-on."

South Korean Prosecutors Vow All-Out War on Organized Crime, Drugs. Prosecutors on Tuesday declared all-out war on drugs and organized crime amid a rising number of such offenses. Drug seizures are at an all-time high and drug arrests are up 13 percent over last year. Prosecutors from six district prosecutors' offices met at the Supreme Prosecutor Office (SPO) in Seoul to plot strategies to suppress organized crime and drug crimes. The prosecutors said the increase in drug crimes was because ordinary citizens are using social media to buy and sell drugs. The SPO said it will construct a database on organized crime and drug crime and would strengthen cooperation with international organizations, such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It also said it would form a consultative group with police and the state intelligence agency.

ND Legal Pot Initiative Qualifies for Ballot, Appalachian Senators Call for More Drug War, More... (8/16/22)

A South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative draws organized opposition, Mexico's week of cartel violence raises questions, and more.

North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Becomes Fifth State to Put a Marijuana Legalization Initiative on the Ballot This Year. The secretary of state's office announced Tuesday that a marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by New Approach North Dakota has qualified for the November ballot. Similar measures have already qualified for the ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, and South Dakota, while an effort in Oklahoma awaits a final signature count. The initiative would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over. They would be able to purchase, possess, transport, and distribute up to an ounce and 500 milligrams of THC. There is also a home grow provision allowing for up to three plants. The initiative also envisions a commercial sector licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaigns Sees Organized Opposition Emerge. Even as the sponsors of the IM 27 marijuana legalization initiative gear up to free the weed for the second time in two years (the 2020 victory was annulled by the state Supreme Court at the behest of GOP Gov. Kristi Noem), organized opposition is emerging. In late July, a group calling itself Protecting South Dakota's Kids filed paperwork with the state as a statewide ballot question committee. It is led by Jim Kinyon, with Fred Deutsch as treasurer. Deutsch is a Republic legislator who is fiercely anti-marijuana.

"Legal marijuana will destroy our communities," says the group's web site. "Protecting South Dakota Kids is a grassroots coalition made up of concerned citizens, healthcare professionals, pastors, educators, treatment providers, law enforcement, and other professionals." But IM 27 backers don't seem too concerned: "Quite a few politicians, including Governor Noem, have realized that disrespecting the will of the people is not a great political strategy," said campaign spokesman Matt Schweich. "We want to earn every vote we can and we want to exceed the 54% outcome in 2020."

Law Enforcement

Appalachian Senators Call for More Drug War. In a Tuesday letter to Dr.Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), a bipartisan group of senators from Appalachian states called for "additional assistance to combat drug-trafficking in the Appalachian region." The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty (both R-TN). They want more resources and more designations of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs).

"These additional federal resources, allocated to areas deemed as critical drug trafficking regions, are essential in eliminating drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. ONDCP has the statutory authority to create new HIDTAs and add new counties to existing HIDTAs once it has received a formal petition from a coalition of law enforcement agencies," the senators said in a press release. "Despite the enormous need, historically the Appalachian HIDTA has only gained approval for approximately 30 percent of petitions submitted. In the most recent round of designations, no counties within the Appalachian HIDTA -- which encompasses Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Southwest Virginia -- received the sought-after designation. This fact, juxtaposed with the region's manifest need, suggests strongly that the process of awarding needs to be revisited."

International

Mexico's Week of Cartel Violence Shakes Administration. Last week was a week of chaos as Mexican drug cartels ran amok in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez as well as in the states of Coahuila, Guanajauto, and Jalisco, and that has left the government of President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) looking for answers. AMLO himself suggested the attacks were part of a political conspiracy: "I don't know if there was a connection, a hidden hand, if this had been set up," he said. "What I do know is that our opponents, the corrupt conservatives, help in the black propaganda."

Defense Secretary Luis Crescencio Sandoval claimed the cartels lashed out because they feel they have been weakened. That may be a more plausible explanation than AMLO's. While AMLO took office in 2018 pledging "hugs not bullets" for violent drug trafficking organizations, in the past year his strategy has shifted Last year, Mexican soldiers were criticized for simply sitting in their bases and watching as cartels battled each other, but this year has seen more attempt to capture major traffickers, including the capture of Rafael Caro Quintero, and more meth lab busts.

"There has been a change in the strategy in fighting drug cartels. Andrés Manuel has been very much criticized recently for his 'hugs, not bullets strategy," security analyst David Saucedo said. "I think that due to pressure from Joe Biden, he is changing that and agreeing to capture high-profile drug traffickers. The narco-terrorism of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is a reaction to the president's change in strategy," Saucedo said. "If the Mexican president continues with this strategy of capturing high-ranking members of the Jalisco cartel, the Jalisco cartel is going to respond with acts of narcoterrorism in the states it controls as part of its vast empire."

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Dies, Mexico Cartels Wreak Havoc, More... (8/15/22)

Another Texas poll has solid majority support for marijuana legalization, cartel violence flares in Mexico, and more.

Mexican security forces deployed to several major cities to deal with cartel violence. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Another Texas Poll Has Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler has support for marijuana legalization at 55 percent. Support is even higher for medical marijuana at 72 percent. Legalization had the support of 65 percent of Democrats 63 percent of independents, but only 43 percent of Republicans. Recent state polls have consistently had majorities for legalization, but one poll released late last year had support even higher at 67 percent. Regardless of popular support, marijuana legalization has made no progress in the GOP-dominated state legislature.

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Dies. State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is walking away from his bill to decriminalize the possession of some psychedelics, Senate Bill 519, after it was amended in committee to delete the language decriminalizing psychedelics. "I've now confirmed that SB 519 -- decriminalizing possession and use of small quantities of certain psychedelic drugs -- was amended by the Assembly Appropriations Committee to remove the decriminalization aspect of the bill," Wiener said. "(SB 519) is limited to a study. While I am extremely disappointed by this result, I am looking to reintroducing this legislation next year and continuing to make the case that it's time to end the War on Drugs. Psychedelic drugs, which are not addictive, have incredible promise when it comes to mental health and addiction treatment. We are not giving up."

International

Mexico's Coahuila State Sees Clashes Between Security Forces, Cartel Gunmen. Mexican security forces killed seven members of a drug cartel Sunday after a convoy of cartel trucks rolled into the town of Villa Union and attacked the city hall on Saturday. Soldiers killed seven more cartel gunmen Saturday. The clashes also left four police officers and two civilians dead. Bullet-riddled trucks left abandoned on the streets carried the initials CDN, the Spanish initials for the Cartel of the Northeast.

Mexican National Guard Troops Swarm Tijuana After Cartels Shut Down City Friday Night. Armed and hooded men believed to be cartel operatives caused mayhem across the city Friday night, burning at least 15 cars and buses in the city and using them to block roadways. Nine more vehicle fires were reported in nearby in Mexicali, Rosarito Beach, Tecate and Ensenada. At the same time, The Jalisco New Generation Cartel declared it was implementing a curfew in the city. Now, the Mexican government has sent in 3,000 National Guard troops to restore order.

Mexican Cartel Wreaks Havoc in Guanajuato and Jalisco After Mexican Army Raids Gang Boss Meeting. An army raid at a meeting of drug gang bosses in the state of Jalisco last week has led to revenge attacks in that state and neighboring Guanajuato state. Drug cartel gunmen burned more than two dozen convenience stores and blocked roads with burning buses in a number of municipalities across the two states. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the initial raid had led to a shoot-out between police and gang members "this provoked protests of burned vehicles, not only in Jalisco, but also in Guanajuato." The US Consulate in Guadalajara warned Americans that: "Local authorities and media are reporting multiple road blockades, burning vehicles, and shootouts between Mexican security forces and unspecified criminal elements in various parts of the Guadalajara metropolitan area."

Mexican Troops Head to Ciudad Juarez After Cartels Clash in Deadly Prison Riot. Hundreds of Mexican soldiers were deployed to Ciudad Juarez Friday after a prison battle and shoot-outs between Los Chapos -- members of the Sinaloa Cartel -- and local gang Los Mexicles left 11 dead, most of them civilians, a day earlier. In the prison riot, two Mexicles were shot and killed, and afterwards they rampaged through the city, killing nine civilians including four employees of a radio station.

CA Psychedelic Legalization Advances, AR MJ Legalization Back on Ballot, More... (8/12/22)

Maryland officials finalize the ballot language for a marijuana legalization referendum, a Florida marijuana legalization bill dies without a hearing, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Supreme Court Puts Marijuana Legalization Initiative Back on the Ballot, But Votes May Not Be Counted Pending Final Ruling. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the secretary of state to certify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot. The ruling came after the initiative's sponsor, Responsible Growth Arkansas, sued the state Board of Election Commissioners for removing it from the ballot even though it had garnered enough valid voter signatures to qualify. The board said it declined to certify the measure because the ballot title and popular name for the measure was misleading. While voters will have the chance to vote on it come November, their votes may not count. The court has not made a final decision on the merits of the election board's refusal to certify the initiative, and if it rules in favor of the board, those votes will be null and void.

Florida Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies Without Hearing. A marijuana legalization bill filed state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) and Michael Grieco (D) has died in the House without a hearing. House Bill1117would have legalized up to 2.5 ounces for people 21 and over and allowed for the home cultivation of up to six plants. "It's no surprise the Republican controlled legislature doesn't want to legalize adult-use cannabis," Smith says. "They didn't want medical cannabis either, but 71% of voters disagreed. And just like they did with medical cannabis, eventually the voters will overrule the legislature. It's not if, but when. Unless of course, the legislature succeeds in making it harder for voters approve citizen-led constitutional amendments, as they are currently trying to do with HB 7111 and HJR 57. Floridians need to get woke."

Maryland Officials Certify Final Text of Marijuana Legalization Ballot Question. After the legislature approved two marijuana bills earlier this year, voters will have the chance to vote on marijuana legalization in November, and now election officials have finalized the language of the ballot question that voters will be asked: "Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1, 2023, in the State of Maryland?" Meanwhile, the Department of Legislative Services has published a summary of the question for the ballot that describes its legislative history, details current marijuana laws, and notes that 18 other states have already legalized marijuana.

Massachusetts: Governor Signs Bill Creating "Social Equity Trust Fund" for Aspiring Marijuana Businesses. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has signed into law Senate Bill 3096, which seeks to promote greater diversity among those participating in the state's licensed marijuana industry and lays the groundwork for the establishment of on-site marijuana consumption facilities. Specifically, the measure creates a "Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund to encourage the full participation… of entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement." Money in the fund "shall be used to make grants and loans, including no-interest loans and forgivable loans, to social equity program participants and economic empowerment priority applicants." In addition, the bill provides guidance for the eventual licensing of onsite adult-use consumption facilities.

Psychedelics

California Bill to Legalize Some Psychedelics Set for Assembly Floor Vote. A bill that would legalize some psychedelic substances, including DMT and psilocybin mushrooms, and which has already passed the Senate is now headed for an Assembly floor vote. Senate Bill 519, filed by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), passed its final hurdle before a floor vote by being approved in the Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday. The bill would legalize the possession of 2 grams of DMT, 15 grams of ibogaine, 0.01 grams of LSD, 4 grams of mescaline, 2 grams of psilocybin or 4 grams of psilocybin mushrooms, and 4 grams of MDMA.

San Francisco Supervisors File Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Psychedelic Measure. City lawmakers have filed a measure that would effectively move the city toward psychedelic decriminalization. It is not a legalization or decrim bill, but a lowest priority bill. The measure reads as follows: "City resources not be used for any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution" related to use of Entheogenic Plants listed on the Federally Controlled Substances Schedule 1 list." The bill is sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston (District 5) and cosponsor Supervisor Hillary Ronen (District 9).

CO Pot Sales Declining for Months, Biden Orders More Colombia Drug War, More... (8/11/22)

An Ohio harm reduction group is suing a state board over how $400 million in opioid settlement money is spent, an Uruguayan meth bust signals a possible shift in drug trafficking between Europe and South America, and more.

Joe Biden and new Colombian President Petro are not on the same page when it comes to drug policy. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Marijuana Sales Decline for Fourth Straight Month. For the fourth month in a row, marijuana sales in Colorado have declined. Sales in June were just $146 million, a 1% decline from the previous month, but a 22% decline from June 2021. So far this year, pot shops sold more than $906 million worth of weed, down from $1.1 billion during the same period last year. This is not the first time there has been a four-month decline in sales; it also happened between August and November 2020. The state has collected more than $30 million in sales tax revenues in only two months so far this year. It collected more than $30 million every month last year.

Opioids

Ohio Harm Reduction Group Sues State Board Over Opioid Settlement Money. Harm Reduction Ohio has filed a lawsuit against a foundation set up by the state to spend more than $400 million that it won in settlements with opioid makers and distributors for drug treatment programs. The lawsuit demands that the foundation, the OneOhio Recovery Foundation, be more transparent about how it will spend that money. The state received $808 million in settlements, and the OneOhio Recovery Foundation gets half. (The rest goes to state and local governments.)

Harm Reduction Ohio President Dennis Cauchon said the foundation's board is not following the state's open meetings law, and that could lead to future problems. "I say preschedule the indictments because in year eleven, if you've got $100 million to spend in a year, don't have to follow ethics law, you can spend on whatever you want," Cauchon said. "It's a formula for cronyism written all over it."

Cauchon also cited the board's makeup, which consists of appointees of Gov. Mike DeWine (R), state lawmakers, and local government leaders, saying it's important to include people with treatment and recovery program experience. "The combination of people in this case needs to include people who have suffered from opioids, the reason this money exists, and they have essentially been excluded entirely," Cauchon said. "If you don't know the population and you don't know the issue, you can't spend a half billion dollars wisely."

Foreign Policy

Biden Orders Continuation of Colombian Drug Interdiction Assistance. President Joe Biden has issued a memo directing the State and Defense departments to continue assisting Colombia to interdict aircraft "reasonably suspected to be primarily engaged in illicit drug trafficking in that country's airspace," given the "extraordinary threat posed by illicit drug trafficking to the national security of that country." The president noted that Colombia "has appropriate procedures in place to protect against innocent loss of life in the air and on the ground in connection with such interdiction," and which includes "effective means to identify and warn an aircraft before the use of force is directed against the aircraft." The memo was issued Wednesday, just three days after Colombian President Gustavo Petro was sworn-in. Petro has called the US-led war on drugs "a complete failure and has pledged to maintain a ban on spraying coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate, putting the two countries at odds around drug policy.

International

Uruguay Makes Historic Seizure of European Meth. Uruguayan authorities seized 43 kilograms of methamphetamine on August 5 in what is believed to be the largest-ever shipment of European meth to reach Latin America. It is a bust that marks a potential shift in the trade in synthetic drugs between the two continents. Underground labs in Europe have traditionally shipped MDMA to Latin America (among other markets), while Europe has imported cocaine and methamphetamine from Latin America. But Mexican chemists may have accompanied Mexican meth going to Europe and shared their manufacturing skills with underground chemists there. Europe's meth production is still small compared to the mountains of meth produced in Mexico, but it is now competing in South American markets. And because of high prices for European meth, it is likely it is being traded for cocaine destined for Europe.

Drug War Issues

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