Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A rogue DEA agent cops a plea, a former Detroit cop gets nailed as a dope dealer, and more. Let's get to it:

In New York City, an NYPD school safety agent was arrested Friday after she was caught with three pounds of marijuana and a stash of cash in her apartment. Agent Iashia Glover, 29, got caught not only with $17,000 in cash, but also $2,390 in counterfeit cash. She is charged with marijuana possession and forgery.

In New York City, a former DEA agent pleaded guilty Monday to participating in a decade long drug conspiracy that smuggled thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York. Fernando Gomez "infiltrated" the DEA in 2011 by lying about his ties to the murderous trafficking ring, then assisted them by, among other things, selling weapons to them and divulging law enforcement information to them. He's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison when sentenced in November.

In Detroit, a former Detroit police officer was convicted Tuesday of being part of a drug trafficking organization -- and was even paid $20,000 for staging a fake arrest. Former officer Christopher Staton, 52, was found to have conspired with traffickers to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances, including cocaine and fentanyl. Staton ran license plates and provided other sensitive law enforcement information to the group.

In Mt. Holly, New Jersey, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to seven years in prison after being convicted of smuggling oxycodone, marijuana and tobacco to inmates in exchange for money. Steven Saunders, 51, will be ineligible for parole for five years. He was convicted of conspiracy, official misconduct, bribery in official matters, and acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior, as well as possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute and distribution of marijuana, Grewal said.

Chronicle AM: Coalition Urges Delay in House Pot Banking Vote, Chicago Mayor: No Pot Shops Downtown, More... (9/18/19)

Civil rights and drug policy groups fearing a loss of momentum in ending federal pot prohibition are urging a delay in a marijuana banking bill vote, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot doesn't want pot shops downtown, and more.

Should Congress move on marijuana banking or end federal prohibition first? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Civil Rights Groups Urge Congress to Delay Marijuana Banking Vote. A broad coalition of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and Drug Policy Alliance is calling on Democratic congressional Democratic leaders to postpone a planned vote on a marijuana banking bill next week until farther-reaching legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition advances first. "We are concerned that if the House approves this bill, it will undermine broader and more inclusive efforts to reform our country's marijuana laws," the groups wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in a letter on Tuesday.

Chicago Mayor Wants No Pot Shops Downtown. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) rolled out a proposal Tuesday for how legal marijuana would work in the city. Under her plan, use of marijuana would be banned in public places and no pot shops would be allowed to operate in the Central Business District. That's generating some pushback from some city council members. The proposal would also prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within 500 feet of schools and within 1,500 feet of other dispensaries. A vote on the proposal is expected next month.

International

Colombia Bill to Legalize, Regulate Marijuana Filed. Leftist opposition Sen. Gustavo Bolivar has filed a bill to legalize and regulate the production and consumption of marijuana. The bill is part of a package of drug policy bills aimed at ending the repressive policies of President Ivan Duque. The bill is reportedly backed by former President Juan Manuel Santos, but it is the votes of the Liberal Party that will determine whether the bill advances.

Chronicle AM: DEA Takes Aim at Fentanyl Precursors, CA Governor Takes Aim at Vaping Crisis, More... (9/17/19)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issues an executive order on vaping, the DEA designates some fentanyl precursors as controlled substances, and more.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) takes aim at the vaping crisis. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Issues Executive Order on Vaping. Responding to rising concerns over vaping-related deaths and illnesses, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday issued an executive order launching a new crackdown on the industry, for both tobacco-related companies and marijuana businesses. The order jump-starts a new public awareness campaign focused on the potential dangers of vaping both tobacco and marijuana, seeks recommendations on mandating additional warning signs on vaping products and at stores, and heightens enforcement against counterfeit e-cigs and marijuana products. It requests the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) begin developing recommendations for warnings on vaping products and at retail locations -- possibly including cannabis retailers -- and increasing enforcement against retailers that sell vaping products to minors. While Newsom focused on e-cigs, he also made clear that he was looking at the marijuana industry, too. "This is about these vaping products that are used for both cannabis and tobacco products," Newsom said. "We're getting serious about this issue and we're going to drive these issues as far as we can through executive authority."

Medical Marijuana

Utah Legislature Passes Changes to Medical Marijuana Law, Allows More Dispensaries. The legislature on Tuesday approved changes in the state's medical marijuana law that will allow for 14 medical marijuana dispensaries, and possibly more in the future. But lawmakers said they still need to make further "tweaks" in the law, including removing a state-operated "central fill pharmacy" after local officials expressed concerns about possibly violating federal laws. The state's program is supposed to be up and running by March 1, 2020.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Proposes to Control Three Precursor Chemicals Used in Illicit Fentanyl Manufacture. The DEA has proposed to control three substances used by operators of clandestine laboratories to illicitly manufacture the deadly Schedule II controlled substance fentanyl. The DEA proposed on September 13 that benzylfentanyl and 4-anilinopiperidine be controlled as list I chemicals under the Controlled Substances Act. On Tuesday, DEA proposed to designate norfentanyl as an immediate precursor (i.e., a substance from which another is formed) for fentanyl and to make it a Schedule II controlled substance under the CSA. Both Notices are based on findings that these substances are important precursors used in the illegal production of fentanyl. Most illicit fentanyl manufacturing is done outside the United States.

Fentanyl Isn't About to Go Away. What Can We Do About It? [FEATURE]

In the most thorough review yet of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, a new study from the RAND Corporation warns that its arrival heralds a new dynamic in illicit drug markets -- and that is going to require new approaches for dealing with the dangerous drug.

a fatal dose of illicit fentanyl (dea.gov)
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked the synthetic opioid, which is roughly 50 times as powerful as heroin, to more than 31,000 overdose deaths last year, a little less than half of all drug overdose deaths registered in 2018, and the most people killed by a single drug in a single year in United States history.

Those fentanyl-linked deaths were 10 times the number of synthetic opioid deaths just five years ago. That's because a reliable supply chain has been established. Whether it's coming via DHL or Fedex packages ordered on the dark web direct from under-regulated Chinese pharmaceutical labs or being cooked up from precursor chemicals in informal Mexican labs and then smuggled across the border, fentanyl is pouring into the country.

In addition to its extreme lethality, what makes the rise of fentanyl different from previous drug epidemics is that very few users seek it out. Only the heaviest opioid users with the highest tolerance levels might seek fentanyl. The drug is here, rather, because it works better for drug dealing syndicates. It is cheap and relatively easy to produce, it does not require the control of extensive territories to produce drug crops, and because it is so potent, massive quantities of the drug can be smuggled in small packages, making it more attractive to traffickers.

"This crisis is different because the spread of synthetic opioids is largely driven by suppliers' decisions, not by user demand," RAND researcher Bryce Pardo, lead author of the study, said in a press release. "Most people who use opioids are not asking for fentanyl and would prefer to avoid exposure."

The fentanyl crisis is largely regional, the RAND researchers found. Deaths related to the drug are clustered in Appalachia, the mid-Atlantic and New England.

"While synthetic opioids have not yet become entrenched in illicit drug markets west of the Mississippi River, authorities must remain vigilant," said Jirka Taylor, study coauthor and senior policy analyst at RAND. "Even delaying the onset in these markets by a few years could save thousands of lives."

While the RAND report said "nontraditional strategies may be required" to address fentanyl, it did not make any specific policy recommendations. Instead, the authors urged consideration of a number of innovative approaches, many of which are tenets of harm reduction. They include:

  • supervised consumption sites (or safe injection sites)
  • drug content testing
  • providing prescription heroin to addicts (heroin-assisted treatment)
  • creative supply disruption

"Indeed, it might be that the synthetic opioid problem will eventually be resolved with approaches or technologies that do not currently exist or have yet to be tested," said Beau Kilmer, study coauthor and director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. "Limiting policy responses to existing approaches will likely be insufficient and may condemn many people to early deaths."

In other words, traditional drug war strategies when it comes to fentanyl are not only unlikely to succeed, but people will die. While tough-on-drugs politicians and prosecutors are quick to embrace harsher penalties, the researchers note there is little reason to believe tougher sentences, such as drug-induced murder laws applied to low-level retailers and couriers, will make any difference.

On the other hand, RAND does advocate for short but swift punishments as a deterrent. The one supply-side intervention RAND discussed in this report is efforts to disrupt dark web drug marketing of fentanyl, because the market is driven by suppliers, not users. "It makes sense," they wrote, "to consider supply disruption as one piece of a comprehensive response, particularly where that supply is not yet firmly entrenched."

That's particularly urgent, the researchers explained, because their study, which also examined fentanyl outbreaks in other countries, found that once the drug gains a prominent place in a local drug market, it doesn't go away.

But fentanyl is clearly already entrenched in parts of the US. The RAND report points the way to smarter approaches to dealing with the crisis -- approaches that focus on saving lives.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Chronicle AM: House MJ Banking Bill to Get Floor Vote, Purdue Pharma Files for Bankruptcy, More... (9/16/19)

A bill to open up financial services for the marijuana industry will get a House floor vote this month, the maker of OxyContin files for bankruptcy, the marijuana industry places the blame for vaping deaths on marijuana prohibition, and more.

Is marijuana prohibition to blame for vaping deaths? The industry is pointing a finger. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Will Vote This Month on Marijuana Banking Bill. The office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has confirmed that he intends to bring the SAFE Banking Act to the House floor for a vote this month. Hoyer announced the move at a whip meeting last Thursday. The bill passed out of the House Financial Committee in March on a 45-15 vote. It would provide protections for banks that work with marijuana companies since the substance is still illegal under federal law, despite several states having legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

Marijuana Industry Blames Vaping Deaths on Failed Prohibition Policies.The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) has blamed the recent wave of vaping deaths -- a total of six so far -- on "failed prohibition policies" and called on Congress to legalize and regulate marijuana. "These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies," said NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith. "Current federal laws interfere with research, prevent federal regulatory agencies from establishing safety guidelines, discourage states from regulating cannabis, and make it more difficult for state-legal cannabis businesses to displace the illicit market. It is now the responsibility of Congress to end prohibition and regulate cannabis without delay," Smith added. "By removing cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances and instituting a clear regulatory framework through existing agencies, the federal government can provide helpful guidance to states that have or wish to establish regulated cannabis control systems while helping put irresponsible illicit market producers out of business for good."

Medical Marijuana

Utah Lawmakers Meet to Revise Medical Marijuana Law. Legislators returned to the state capitol Monday to once more amend the state's medical marijuana law. One issue is how and where patients will obtain medical marijuana products. The state had contemplated a central government-run pharmacy that would distribute the drug to a system of private pharmacies, but local leaders have balked at having government employees distributing a federally illegal drug.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Purdue Pharma Files for Bankruptcy. Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, the first step of a tentative agreement the company and its owners, the Sackler family, reached last week to settle thousands of lawsuits blaming it for its involvement in the opioid epidemic. The deal is estimated at between $10 and $12 billion, with $3 billion coming from the Sacklers' personal fortunes.

Psychedelics

Ann Arbor Group Wants to Decriminalize Natural Psychedelics. A local group calling itself Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor is planning to ask the city council to decriminalize natural psychedelics, such as peyote and magic mushrooms. They are calling on the council to approve a resolution to prohibit the use of city funds to investigate, arrest, or prosecute anyone for use or possession of such plants.

International

British Labor Party Wants Royal Commission on Drug Policy, Would Follow Its Recommendation to Decriminalize Drugs. A Labor government would consider decriminalizing all drugs if that was recommended by a royal commission, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said. "There is nothing more important than preserving the life of our citizens," she said. "Our current approach to drugs is simply not doing that." Safe injection sites would also be considered, she added.

Thailand Bill Would Allow for Six Marijuana Plants for Personal Use. A member party in the country's ruling coalition government has proposed a bill that would let Thais grow up to six marijuana plants per household for medicinal use. "The principle is for medical use, you can have it at home for ailments, but not smoke it on the street," said Bhumjaithai Party lawmaker Supachai Jaisamut. The bill would also allow the sale of plants to institutions licensed by a Plant-based Drug Institute that would have the authority to purchase, extract, and export CBD.

Chronicle AM: Joe Biden's Muddy Marijuana Policy Message, Peru Coca Eradication Gearing Up, More... (9/13/19)

Joe Biden muddies the waters on his marijuana policy, Copenhagen is moving toward a pilot progeram of legal marijuana sales, Peru prepares to go after coca crops in a lawless region, and more.

Joe Biden. Where, exactly, is he on marijuana policy? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan House Bill to Reschedule Marijuana Filed. Florida US Reps. Donna Shalala (D) and Matt Gaetz (R) filed a bill Thursday aimed at reducing barriers to marijuana research by moving it from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. The Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act is identical companion legislation to a bill filed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) in July, S. 2400.

Joe Biden Says Marijuana Offenses Should Be Misdemeanors, But Without Jail Time. During Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden muddied the waters by saying marijuana offenses should be treated as misdemeanors, even though he has earlier called for decriminalization. Many other candidates are calling for legalization. Here's what Biden said: "Nobody who got in prison for marijuana, for example -- immediately upon being released, they shouldn't be in there." he said. "That should be a misdemeanor. They should be out and their record should be expunged. Every single right should be returned," he said. "When you finish your term in prison, you should be able to not only vote but have access to Pell grants, have access to be able to get housing, have access to be able to move along the way."

International

Denmark's Capital City Moves toward Legal Marijuana. The Copenhagen city council overwhelmingly supports a pilot program that would see marijuana sold legally across the city. The city has long been prepared to move down this path, but had been stymied by a conservative national government. But now, left-wing parties won an overall majority in elections this summer. The new health minister, Magnus Heunicke, doesn't endorse the scheme, but the city council is moving forward anyway. Under the proposed plan, a half dozen or so marijuana dispensaries would operate in the city.

Peru to Start Eradicating Coca Crops in the VRAEM. For the first time, Peruvian security forces will attempt to eradicate illicit coca plants in the country's largest coca growing area, the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), the government announced Thursday. Starting November 1, authorities will undertake a 45-day operation aiming to eradicate some 1,800 acres of coca crops, and they are vowing to intensify such operations next year. The region produced some 60,000 acres of coca in 2017, according to the UN. Although the region has been in a state of emergency for decades, recent governments have declined to send in coca eradication teams for fear of a violent backlash from coca farmers and remnants of the Shining Path guerrillas who have morphed into drug traffickers.

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

Chronicle AM: Tentative Oxycontin Settlement, Philippines Says No to UN Investigators, More... (9/12/19)

It looks like the thousands of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma over Oxycontin are about to be settled, a new audit finds California's unlicensed pot shops greatly outnumber licensed ones, Florida's attorney general seeks to block a marijuana legalization initiative, and more.

Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family will reportedly pay out billions to settle Oxycontin lawsuits. (Creative Commons)
California's Legal Pot Shops Are Outnumbered Three-to-One by Black Market Ones. According to an audit conducted by the United Cannabis Business Association, there are more than three times as many unlicensed marijuana shops as there are regulated ones. The audit found about 2,850 unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services, compared to only 873 licensed sellers in the state. The audit was based on Weedmaps listings. Fewer than 20% of California cities allow regulated pot shops, and though many large cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, do allow them, unlicensed dispensaries proliferate there as well. Earlier this year, Weedmaps showed 220 unlicensed pot shops in Los Angeles, compared to only 187 licensed ones.

Florida Attorney General Challenges Legalization Initiative. State Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) is challenging a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana in the state… on the grounds that it is too detailed. The amendment is 10 pages long. "There is no way 10 pages of the law can be summarized clearly in 75 words or less and would adequately convey to the voters what exactly they will be voting on," the attorney general said. There are two significant legalization initiative campaigns underway in the state; the one Moody is challenging is the "Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing, and Other Restrictions" initiative. Now it will be up to the state Supreme Court to determine whether the initiative comports with the legal requirements.

New Mexico Task Force Opposes State-Run Pot Shops. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's (D) Cannabis Legalization Working Group, which is looking at regulatory options for marijuana legalization, has come out against state-run marijuana stores. Instead, it is endorsing a system of licensing commercial entities. The working group also recommends barring local governments from banning pot shops, although they would be allowed to impose zoning and similar restrictions.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Board Rejects Anxiety, Autism as Qualifying Conditions. The State Medical Board voted Wednesday to reject adding anxiety and autism spectrum disorder to the state's list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana. Earlier this year, the state's Medical Marijuana Expert Review Committee recommended adding the conditions, but the board overruled them. It did say it might revisit the issue later "if additional studies or evidence are brought forth in the petition process."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Purdue Pharma, Sackler Family Agree to Oxycontin Settlement. Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family have reportedly agreed to a tentative settlement of thousands of lawsuits filed by states and other localities over the role of Oxycontin in the current opioid epidemic. According to news reports, Purdue will file for bankruptcy and effectively dissolve, while a new company will form and continue selling Oxycontin, with the revenues going to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit settlement. The deal is expected to be worth between $10 and $12 billion, including $3 billion from the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue.

International

Philippines Refuses to Grant UN Access to Investigate Bloody Drug War. The Philippines will not allow visits by the United Nations to investigate its brutal war on drugs, Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said Wednesday. He called the UN experts "bastards" who had already prejudged his country. Asked if UN investigators should be allowed to work in the country, he said: "No. Because they have already prejudged. I already said those bastards -- especially that woman acting like the queen in Alice in Wonderland -- first, the judgment, then the trial. No." That was a reference to Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, who has been a staunch critic of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

Help Us Respond to the Crises and the Opportunities

Dear friend,

 
 
David Borden

As I've written recently, this is a good time and a bad time in drug policy reform. Marijuana reform continues to have 2019 momentum. Presidential candidates are debating criminal justice and drug policy more than ever. But politicians are still ready to file new and bad sentencing bills – so quickly forgetting lessons they claim to have learned – and international human rights in the drug war are in a full blown crisis.

We need your help to stay on the move at this important time. Can you make a donation today to help? Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, and click on the tax-deductible donation link or the non-deductible donation link, whichever kind you wish to make. Our donation form accepts credit card, PayPal, and bank ACH.

We especially need help with non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Because our newsletter reports on political candidates, we cover the substantial cost of our web site server and email list service fully with non-deductible funds. This is to protect our tax-deductible 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which can't afford to be implicated, rightly or wrongly, in candidate advocacy. Most of our current funding is of the tax-deductible kind, especially the larger grants and gifts.Can you make a non-deductible donation to sustain our newsletter through the campaign season? Visit our candidates archive page here.

All that said, a tax-deductible donation for our urgent campaign to stop Duterte's extrajudicial drug war killings in the Philippines, or for our work at the United Nations, would make a big difference too, and we would be equally grateful. Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines and https://stopthedrugwar.org/global to learn more about our work in those areas.

Our web site supports both one-time donations and recurring ones, on cycles including monthly, quarterly, annually, and other options. Donations can also be sent by mail. For a non-deductible donation, make your check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, and send to P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016. Tax-deductible donation checks should be payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address.

Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/about#donations for information on other donation options like stock shares, or to read more about our work. Thank you for your support, and enjoy the rest of your summer.

Sincerely,

David Borden
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
"US and UN Drug Policy Reform"
https://stopthedrugwar.org

Chronicle AM: DEA Proposes Big Cuts in Opioid Production, Increase in Research Marijuana, More... (9/11/18)

The DEA has come out with proposed quotas for marijuana and prescription opioids for 2020, a Florida legalization initiative has already raised a million dollars, and more.

Marijuana Policy

DEA Wants 3.2 Million Grams of Marijuana Legally Grown In 2020. The DEA has set a quota of 3.2 million grams of marijuana to be grown legally for scientific research purposes next year. That's a bit more than 7,000 pounds, and it's up more than 30% over this year's quota of 2.45 million grams. "This will meet the need created by the increase in the amount of approved research involving marijuana," DEA said in a press release. "Over the last two years, the total number of individuals registered by DEA to conduct research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, derivatives and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has increased by more than 40 percent, from 384 in January 2017 to 542 in January 2019."

Florida Legalization Campaign Has Raised $1 Million. Make It Legal Florida (MILF), the group behind the Adult Use of Marijuana initiative, has already raised more than $1.09 million for its effort to put the measure on the 2020 ballot, almost entirely from two major players in the legal marijuana industry, Surterra Wellness and MadMen, Inc. The information comes from campaign finance filings on September 1. Another group, Sensible Florida, is sponsoring a competing marijuana legalization initiative. It has raised $177,883 and received $245,725 in in-kind contributions.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Proposes Reductions in Opioid Manufacturing for 2020. The DEA is proposing to reduce the amount of five Schedule II opioid controlled substances that can be manufactured in the United States next year compared with 2019. The agency proposes to reduce the amount of fentanyl produced by 31%, hydrocodone by 19%, hydromorphone by 25%, oxycodone by 9%, and oxymorphone by 55%. Combined with morphine, the proposed quota would be a 53% decrease in the amount of allowable production of these opioids since 2016.

International

Australian Government Proposes Drug Testing for Welfare Benefits. The Liberal government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has filed a bill in parliament to drug test welfare recipients. The legislation, which would run trial programs in several districts -- all controlled by the Labor party -- would restrict benefits to a debit card following the first positive, and require participation in a drug treatment program following the second. It has been criticized by health experts and drug policy reformers for stigmatizing welfare recipients while diverting from addressing the root causes of addiction. Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, "This is a trial. We are trying to work out if this can work. I am really puzzled by the level of opposition to the government trying to tackle a problem of drug addiction for people who are not in work and helping them get over it with referral to proper services and funding those services in those trial areas."

Psychedelic Science Just Got a Big Boost [FEATURE]

The accelerating field of psychedelic research just got turbocharged. Thanks to a group of private donors, one of the nation's premier universities is moving forward with plans for what's believed to be the first such research center in the country and the largest of its kind in the world.

psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms (Greenoid/Flickr)
Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore will use $17 million in initial funding to create the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, the university announced last week. The center will focus on the impact of psychedelics on behavior, brain biology and function, learning and memory, and mood.

The move comes as renewed scientific interest in the therapeutic uses of psychedelics has mushroomed in recent years, led to a large degree by Johns Hopkins researchers, who have been at the forefront of psychedelic research in the 21st century.

In 2000, Johns Hopkins researchers made a breakthrough, becoming the first in the country to win regulatory approval to restart research on psychedelics in healthy people who had never used such drugs. That resulted in a 2006 publication on the safety and long-lasting positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin, which jumpstarted a renaissance of psychedelic research worldwide.

Researchers linked to the university have published studies on psychedelics in more than 60 peer-reviewed journals, finding therapeutic benefits for people suffering from conditions ranging from nicotine addiction to depression and anxiety associated with terminal diseases.

Those studies helped pave the way for contemporary studies on the treatment of depression. Other Johns Hopkins research has resulted in safety guidelines for psychedelic research that have helped researchers at other universities around the world win approval for studies, while yet more research has dealt with the thorny problem of measuring how psychedelics affect mystical, emotional, and meditative experiences.

And now, get ready for much, much more. The new center will provide support a half-dozen neuroscientists, experimental psychologists, and clinicians, as well as five post-doctoral scientists -- all with expertise in psychedelic studies. Most of the research is going to center on psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms.

"The center's establishment reflects a new era of research in therapeutics and the mind through studying this unique and remarkable class of pharmacological compounds," said Roland Griffiths, the center's director and professor of behavioral biology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "In addition to studies on new therapeutics, we plan to investigate creativity and well-being in healthy volunteers that we hope will open up new ways to support human thriving."

<>"I am thrilled about this magnificent opportunity that has been provided by enlightened private funders," said James Potash, a professor and director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. "This center will allow our enormously talented faculty to focus extensively on psychedelic research, where their passions lie and where promising new horizons beckon."

Because there is no federal funding for such research, private funders have been lined up to cover the first five years of the center's operating expenses. Those funders are the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and four philanthropists: Tim Ferriss, author and technology investor; Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress; Blake Mycoskie, founder of the shoe and accessory brand TOMS; and investor Craig Nerenberg.

"We have to take braver and bolder steps if we want to help those suffering from chronic illness, addiction, and mental health challenges," said Alexandra Cohen. "By investing in the Johns Hopkins center, we are investing in the hope that researchers will keep proving the benefits of psychedelics -- and people will have new ways to heal."

The center's faculty will train graduate and medical students who want to pursue careers in psychedelic science, where there have historically been few avenues for career advancement.

"This represents the largest investment to date in psychedelic research, as well as in training the next generation of psychedelic researchers," said Ferriss. "I sincerely hope this ambitious Johns Hopkins center will inspire others to think big and establish more psychedelic research centers in the US and overseas, as there's never been a better time to support such important work."

And a new era dawns.

Chronicle AM: OR Drug Decriminalization Initiative Filed, CA Pot Banking Bill Dead for This Year, More... (9/10/19)

A drug decriminalization initiative could make its way to Oregon's 2020 ballot, South Dakota's Republican governor vows to veto any hemp bill again next year, a California marijuana banking bill is dead for the year, and more.

Drug decriminalization would result in many fewer scenes like this. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Marijuana Banking Bill Won't Happen This Year. A bill that would have let the state charter special banks to deal with the marijuana industry is going nowhere this year, its sponsor said Monday. Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D) said there will be no vote this year and that if California is going to do this, "we have to do this right."

Baltimore City Councilwoman Introduces Ordinance Banning Marijuana Testing for Some City Job Applicants. City Councilwoman Shannon Sneed (D) filed an ordinance Monday under which applicants for many jobs with the city of Baltimore would not face pre-employment drug screening for marijuana. She said positive marijuana tests could keep otherwise qualified applicants from jobs "due to private recreational activities." Applicants for jobs with the health department, fire department or positions requiring certain security clearances or a commercial driver's license would not be included in the ban and could still be tested. The ordinance is cosponsored by five of the city's 14 other councilmembers.

Hemp

South Dakota Governor Promises to Veto Hemp Again Next Year. Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who vetoed a bill legalizing hemp farming earlier this year, is now vowing to veto such legislation again if it resurfaces next year. She said she would continue to oppose hemp legalization until law enforcement can tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. "Every experiment needs a control," she wrote on Monday. "I believe the social experiment our nation is conducting with highly potent legal weed will end poorly. But to create evidence for a comparison, we need leaders willing to stand up and say, 'No.'"

Drug Policy

Oregon Drug Decriminalization Initiative Filed. Oregon reformers have filed an initiative to decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs with an eye on the November 2020 ballot. The measure, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (Initiative 44), would make the possession of small amounts of drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, a civil violation punishable by a maximum $100 fine and no jail time. There would be an option to avoid the fine by completing a health assessment through an addiction recovery center. That process would involve a substance use disorder screening from a licensed health professional.

Chronicle AM: OR Psilocybin Initiative Advances, Kamala Harris Rolls Out Criminal Justice Platform, More... (9/9/19)

An Oregon initiative to allow the therapeutic use of magic mushrooms is set to begin signature gathering, an Arizona initiative to legalize marijuana is going to get some minor tweaks, and more.

These psilocybin mushrooms could become available for therapeutic purposes if an Oregon initiative passes. (Creative Commons)
Arizona Legalization Initiative Will Move Forward with Minor Changes. The organizers of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act are moving to make "minor" changes to their proposed initiative after changes were recommended by the Legislative Council. Most of the changes are stylistic or grammatical to make the measure consistent with how bills are drafted in the legislature, but one gap identified -- where funds from civil penalties and fines for violations of the act will go -- will be addressed. Backed by medical marijuana operators in the state, the initiative would legalize the personal possession of up to an ounce of pot but would limit retail sites mainly to existing medical marijuana dispensary locations. Retail sales would be taxed at 16%, with most revenues directed toward community colleges and public safety.

Psychedelics

Oregon Psilocybin Initiative Certified for Signature Gathering. Oregon officials certified the ballot title for the Psilocybin Service Initiative, or Initiative Petition #34, last Friday, opening the way for signature gathering to begin. The measure does not generally decriminalize magic mushrooms and their psychoactive ingredient, but instead would allow "manufacture, delivery, administration of psilocybin at supervised, licensed facilities." Backers of the initiative have until July 2, 2020, to get 112,020 valid voter signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot.

Criminal Justice

Kamala Harris Rolls Out Criminal Justice Platform. California senator and Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris on Monday unveiled a proposal for sweeping reforms in the criminal justice system to end mass incarceration, help felons reintegrate into society, and increase oversight of police and prosecutors. She called for marijuana legalization, the end of the death penalty for federal crimes, the end of mandatory minimum sentencing, scrapping the cash bail system, and ending the use of private prisons, among other planks. Rivals for the Democratic nomination, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, have released similar plans.

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

Chronicle AM: MS MedMJ Campaign Hands in Signatures, NY Inmates Sue Over Pain Meds, More... (9/6/19)

A broad coalition of civil rights and other groups are calling for marijuana legalization and more, Mississippi activists hand in signatures for a medical marijuana initiative, a possible culprit for that spate of pulmonary illnesses linking to marijuana vaping has been found, and more.

A medical marijuana dispensary. Will we be seeing them soon in Mississippi? (Sonya Yruel/DPA)
Marijuana Policy

Civil Rights Groups Call for Marijuana Legalization, "Dismantling" of Drug Criminalization. More than a hundred civil rights and other groups, including the ACLU, NAACP, National Education Association, and National Organization for Women called Thursday for marijuana legalization and the "dismantling" of drug criminalization. The groups said states should "legalize marijuana through a racial justice framework that focuses on access, equity, and repairing the damage of prohibition" and the federal government should end cannabis prohibition and "implement marijuana reform through a racial justice lens."

Vitamin E Suspected in Serious Lung Problems Among People Who Vaped Marijuana. As the number of people falling ill continues to rise, New York state health officials said Thursday they are zeroing in on an additive -- Vitamin E acetate -- they believe may be behind the outbreak of severe pulmonary illness that has left at least three dead so far, one each in Indiana, Illinois, and Oregon. The officials said high levels of Vitamin E acetate were found in many of the cartridges of marijuana vaping products used by people who suffered serious lung damage. The officials said the products appeared to be black market products.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Turns in Lots of Signatures. Mississippians for Compassionate Care delivered more than 105,000 raw voter signatures to state officials Wednesday. Another 105,000 voter signatures have already been certified by local clerks. The group only needs 86,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

New York Prisoners Sue State Over Crackdown on Pain Pills. A group of state inmates is suing the prison system, saying they are being forced to live with chronic pain because some medications have become too difficult to get behind bars after the prison system tried to crack down on prescription opioid abuse. The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court. They are taking aim at 2017 policy that requires an extra layer of approval by senior prison medical staff before inmates can get prescriptions filled for commonly abused drugs. The lawsuit says that, in reality, that approval is rarely given and that hundreds of prisoners are being cut off from drugs needed for legitimate medical reasons.

Asset Forfeiture

Federal Drug Asset Seizures Slashed by Half Since 2009. Drug-related federal asset forfeitures have declined by 34% since 2014 and by more than half since 2009, according to a new report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. In 2009, there were some 1,426 federal drug-related asset seizures, but so far this year there have only been 513. "Under the current administration, the numbers have risen modestly, but are still far below earlier levels," TRAC reported.

Chronicle AM: Johns Hopkins Gets Psychedelic Center, Guatemala State of Siege, More... (9/5/19)

Johns Hopkins University is opening a psychedelic research center, hemp cultivation in the US quadruples over last year, Guatemala declares a state of seige after suspected drug traffickers killed three soldiers, and more.

The psilocybin molecule. They'll be taking a look at the new Johns Hopkins psychedelic studies center. (Creative Commons)
Hemp

Hemp Farming Quadrupled in Tte US This Year, New Report Shows. In a report released Thursday, the advocacy group Vote Hemp announced that the amount of land devoted to legal hemp cultivation in the country has more than quadrupled this year. Since passage of the farm bill last year federally legalized hemp production, the amount of land licensed for cultivation -- primarily female plants for CBD production -- was 511,442 acres, up from 78,000 acres grown last year and less than 10,000 acres cultivated in 2016.

Law Enforcement

St. Louis Cop Kills Armed Man in Small-Time Marijuana Bust. Early Thursday morning, a St. Louis police officer shot and killed a man he was trying to arrest in a small-time marijuana bust after the man allegedly tried to pull a gun from his pocket. Officers were patrolling an area "known for drug activity" when they noticed several people around a parked car. Approaching the vehicle, they found a man with marijuana on his lap. Police said he refused their commands to exit the vehicle, so they pulled him from the car and one of the officers "notice[d] there [was] a gun that the person [wa]s trying to remove from his pocket" and then shot him. The victim, described as a 28-year-old black man, has not yet been identified.

Psychedelics

Johns Hopkins Launches Center for Psychedelic Research. A group of private donors has given $17 million to start the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine, making it what's believed to be the first such research center in the US and the largest research center of its kind in the world. The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research will focus on how psychedelics affect behavior, brain function, learning and memory, the brain's biology, and mood. At Johns Hopkins, much of the early work with psychedelics has focused on psilocybin, the chemical found in so-called magic mushrooms. Further studies will determine the chemical's effectiveness as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (formerly known as chronic Lyme disease), anorexia nervosa, and alcohol use in people with major depression. Researchers hope to create precision medicine treatments tailored to individual patients' specific needs.

Harm Reduction

Washington State Health Officer Okays Standing Order for Naloxone. Late last week, State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy signed a statewide standing order for the overdose reversal drug naloxone. The order allows any person or organization in the state to get naloxone from a pharmacy. The state Department of Health encourages anyone who is at risk of experiencing or witnessing an opioid overdose to carry naloxone. People who want to get naloxone can use the standing order at any pharmacy in the state without a prescription from a health care provider.

International

Guatemala Declares State of Emergency After Narcos Kill Soldiers. The Guatemalan government on Wednesday declared a state of siege in five northeastern provinces in the wake of an attack by suspected drug traffickers that left three soldiers dead. The provinces are Alta Verapaz, El Progreso, Izabal, Peten and Zacapa provinces, a drug-trafficking corridor that runs from the Honduran to Mexican borders. The measure will impose a curfew, prohibit demonstrations and make it easier for the armed forces to detain people. It must be approved by Congress.

Hemp Legalization Is Wreaking Havoc with Marijuana Prosecutions in Prohibition States [FEATURE]

After passage of the 2018 federal farm bill legalized hemp production, states scrambled to pass their own laws legalizing hemp and CBD. But in doing so, they may have inadvertently signed a death warrant for the enforcement of marijuana prohibition.

hemp field at sunrise (votehemp.org)
Forty-seven states have now legalized hemp, but only 11 have legalized marijuana. The other 36 may be in for a refresher course in the law of unintended consequences.

Hemp and recreational marijuana both come from the same plant species, cannabis sativa. The only thing that differentiates hemp and marijuana are the levels of the intoxicating cannabinoid, THC. Under federal law and most state laws, hemp is defined as cannabis sativa containing less than 0.3% THC. In those states that have yet to legalize marijuana, hemp is thus legal, but THC-bearing weed is not.

But what police and prosecutors in those states are finding is that they can't tell the difference between the two. Their field drug tests can detect cannabis sativa, but they can't detect THC levels. Likewise, police drug dogs can sniff out cannabis, but can't distinguish between hemp and marijuana.

And if they can't prove the substance in question is illegal marijuana and not legal hemp, they don't have a case. Some state crime labs can test for THC levels, but those labs are busy, the tests are costly, and even police and prosecutors are questioning whether it's worth tying up resources to try to nail someone for possessing a joint or two.

In Ohio, after the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) analyzed the state's new hemp law, it sent an August 1 advisory to prosecutors warning that traditional tests could not differentiate between hemp and marijuana and that the agency was months away from "validating instrumental methods to meet this new legal requirement."

In the meantime, the BCI suggested, prosecutors could turn to private, accredited laboratories, but it also recommended that they "suspend any identification" by traditional tests and not prosecute "any cannabis-related items […] prior to the crime laboratory you work with being capable to perform the necessary quantitative analysis."

That prompted Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein to announce a week later that he will no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases and that he was dropping all current and pending cases, too.

"The prosecution of marijuana possession charges would require drug testing that distinguishes hemp from marijuana," Klein said in a written statement. "Without this drug-testing capability, the city attorney's office is not able to prove misdemeanor marijuana possession beyond a reasonable doubt" because "our current drug-testing technology is not able to differentiate."

The prosecutor in surrounding Franklin County, Ron O'Brien, who would handle felony pot possession cases, said his office would probably put those cases on hold unless they involved very large quantities. That's because even though there are labs in the state capable of measuring THC levels, they still have to be accredited to do so, a bureaucratic procedure that could take months, with a backlog of marijuana cases accumulating in the meantime.

And those tests cost money. That's why state Attorney General Dave Yost (R) announced in mid-August that the state was creating a special grant program to help local police agencies pay for testing that can differentiate between hemp and marijuana. It allocates $50,000 to help with testing until state-budgeted funding to upgrade state crime labs kicks in next year.

"Just because the law changed, it doesn't mean the bad guys get a 'get of out of jail free' card," Yost said. "We are equipping law enforcement with the resources to do their jobs."

He also took a pot shot at Columbus City Attorney Klein, saying: "It's unfortunate that Columbus has decided to create an island within Franklin County where the general laws of the state of Ohio no longer apply."

For now, though, it seems like "the general laws of the state of Ohio no longer apply" just about everywhere in the state when it comes to prosecuting marijuana cases.

In Texas, prosecutors have already dropped hundreds of low-level marijuana cases and said they won't pursue more without further testing. Again, it's that inability of standard tests to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.

"The distinction between marijuana and hemp requires proof of the THC concentration of a specific product or contraband, and for now, that evidence can come only from a laboratory capable of determining that type of potency -- a category which apparently excludes most, if not all, of the crime labs in Texas right now," read a July advisoryfrom the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

Since then, top prosecutors from across the state and across the political spectrum, including those in Bexar (San Antonio), Harris (Houston), Tarrant (Ft. Worth), and Travis (Austin), have dismissed hundreds of cases and are refusing more.

"In order to follow the Law as now enacted by the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor, the jurisdictions… will not accept criminal charges for Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana (4 oz. and under) without a lab test result proving that the evidence seized has a THC concentration over 0.3%," wrote the district attorneys from Harris, Fort Bend, Bexar and Nueces counties in a new joint policy released in August.

Travis County officials said they had dropped 32 felony and 61 misdemeanor marijuana cases and they wouldn't be doing any more -- at least for now.

"I will also be informing the law enforcement agencies by letter not to file marijuana or THC felony cases without consulting with the DA's Office first to determine whether the necessary lab testing can be obtained," Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said in a statement.

As in Ohio, law enforcement is awaiting the availability of certified testing labs, but in the meantime, pot prosecutions are basically non-existent in most of the state's largest cities. And now, some Austin city council members are even wondering whether cops there should bother to hand out tickets for pot possession.

It's not just Texas and Ohio. Once Florida's hemp law went into effect, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office announced it would no longer prosecute small-time marijuana cases and police in numerous southwest Florida towns and cities are also putting marijuana arrests on pause.

"Since there is no visual or olfactory way to distinguish hemp from cannabis, the mere visual observation of suspected cannabis -- or its odor alone -- will no longer be sufficient to establish probable cause to believe that the substance is cannabis," wrote Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "Since every marijuana case will now require an expert and necessitate a significant expenditure by the State of Florida, barring exceptional circumstances on a particular case, we will not be prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases."

Other state attorneys across the state are issuing similar memos. In Gainesville, prosecutors are dropping all cannabis charges. But other prosecutors say they will continue to review each case individually, with some like Tallahassee saying they will try "a variety of arguments" before the courts, while other places like Orlando and the Treasure Coast say they will wait until after they receive lab tests before filing charges.

Just across the state line in Georgia, similar scenes are playing out. Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside has begun dropping marijuana cases brought forward since that state's hemp law went into effect, and the Gwinnett County Police Department is now writing tickets for pot possession instead of making arrests.

In Cobb County, Solicitor General Barry Morgan warned there would be no "blanket dismissal" of marijuana cases, but the police chief there sent a memo to his staff saying that "arresting someone for misdemeanor marijuana possession is not recommended."

In Athens-Clarke County, police have been instructed to stop making arrests or issuing citations. Instead, they will seize the substance in question and write a report. Once testing is available and the THC level is above legal limits, they will then seek an arrest warrant. And DeKalb County is dismissing marijuana cases too, with Solicitor General Donna Coleman saying the county "will not proceed with any single-count marijuana cases occurring after the passage of this new law."

It's not just marijuana arrests and prosecutions that are at stake. Neither police nor drug dogs can sniff out the difference between hemp and marijuana. That is going to make it more difficult for police to develop probable cause to search people or vehicles, and it's likely to lead to early retirement of a generation of drug dogs.

"The dogs are done," said State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister of Florida's Third Judicial District. "If they're pot-trained, I don't know how we can ever recertify them. Unless they're trained in the future in a different way, in my area, every dog is going to be retired."

"The dog doesn't put up one finger and say, 'cocaine,' two fingers and say, 'heroin,' and three fingers and say, 'marijuana'," admitted Florida Sheriff's Association President Bob Gaultieri. "We had a very, very hard bright line up until this point that if a cop walks up to a car and you smell marijuana, well no matter what it was, any amount of THC is illegal, so if you smelled it, that gave you probable cause... Now that bright line isn't bright anymore. Now if you walk up to a car and you smell marijuana, you have to conduct an investigation, and that along with other things may give you probable cause."

And it isn't just a handful of states. Any state that has legalized hemp with less than 0.3% THC but hasn't legalized marijuana could face similar quandaries.

"This is a nationwide issue," said Duffie Stone, president of the National District Attorneys Association and a South Carolina prosecutor. "This problem will exist in just about every state you talk to."

There is one quick fix, though: Legalize marijuana.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Two former NYPD cops get a hand-slap for raping an 18-year-old they busted for marijuana, a former DEA agent's crooked activities are going to get him sent away, and more. Let's get to it:

In South Bend, Indiana, a St. Joseph County parole officer was arrested last Wednesdayand accused of soliciting bribes to ensure probationers' drug test results came back negative. Raymontow Davis, 34, is charged with Level 5 felony bribery and Level 6 felony official misconduct. Davis went down after a "cooperating source" went to authorities and told them Davis had discussed taking cash in return for falsifying drug test results. That source provided investigators with call and text message logs showing Davis offering to ensure good test results for $150. He's looking at up to 8 ½ years in prison.

In New York City, two former NYPD detectives pleaded guilty to lesser charges last Thursday after being arrested for raping an 18-year-old Brooklyn woman they had detained on marijuana possession charges. Eddie Martins and Richard Hall were originally charged with rape, sexual assault, and kidnapping, but prosecutors agreed to a plea deal because of "inconsistencies" in the victim's statements. The pair agreed to plea to official misconduct and accepting a bribe and were sentenced to five years' probation.

In Houston, Texas, a former DEA special agent was convicted last Wednesday on seven counts for corrupt activities, including telling an alleged drug dealer to buy a pickup drug valued at $43,000 and then seizing the vehicle for his own use. Former agent Chad Scott was found guilty of two counts of perjury, three counts of obstruction of justice, and two counts of falsifying government records after a seven-day trial. Scott made up fake seizure paperwork for the truck, as well as convincing two drug dealers to falsely testify in federal court about another alleged drug dealer. That man was convicted, but the conviction was overturned after Scott's dirty work came to light. Scott and former DEA Task Force Officer Rodney Gemar were also charged with unlawful conversion of property by a government officer or employee and removing property to prevent seizure. The trial for these charges is scheduled for October 2019.

Chronicle AM: Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill, US-China Exchange Fentanal Complaints, More... (9/4/19)

Half of Arizonans area ready to legalize marijuana, a Mexican senator files a marijuana legalization bill, US and China officials trade fentanyl complaints, more.

A marijuana legalization bill has been filed in Mexico as a Supreme Court deadline looms. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Poll Has 50% for Legalization. A new OH Predictive Insights poll has 50% in favor and 40% opposed, with 10% undecided. The poll comes as organizers of a 2020 legalization initiative campaign seek to qualify for the ballot. The support level is not enough to be comfortable, but greater than a narrowly defeated 2016 initiative ever had.

Foreign Policy

China Says Only "Limited" Cooperation with US on Fentanyl. Responding to complaints from Washington that it is not doing enough to stop the export of fentanyl from illicit labs there, China responded Tuesday by saying it and the United States have only "limited" cooperation on stopping fentanyl smuggling. Liu Yuejin, Vice Commissioner of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, told a news conference that China was cracking down on illicit fentanyl production: "The National Narcotics Control report states that looking at cases, counternarcotics law enforcement departments from China and the United States have for many years maintained a good cooperative relationship," Liu said. "But cooperation on investigating and prosecuting fentanyl-related substances is extremely limited." Since 2012, Liu said the US has only provided "clues" on six fentanyl smuggling cases to the Chinese government, with only three of those resulting in arrests. Liu also denied that China is the source of most fentanyl smuggled into the US.

International

Mexican Senator Files Marijuana Legalization Bill as Supreme Court Deadline Looms. Sen Julio Menchaca Salazar, a member of the ruling MORENA Party, filed a bill to legalize marijuana on Tuesday. The move comes only a month ahead of a deadline imposed by the country's Supreme Court to end marijuana prohibition. The measure also addresses hemp and medical marijuana. The bill comes as the Senate continues with a series of events designed to foster dialogue about how to legalize marijuana. The Supreme Court ruled last year that the existing ban on personal use and cultivation is unconstitutional and gave the congress until next month to remedy the country's drug laws.

Chronicle AM: Trump Stays States' Rights on Pot, Massive DEA Florida Opioid Bust, More... (9/3/19)

The president reiterates his states' rights approach to marijuana legalization, the DEA goes massively after opioids in a Florida operation, Thailand okays hemp and cannabis extracts, and more.

The president reiterated his adminstration's hands-off approach to state-level marijuana legalization last Friday. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

President Trump Says Marijuana Legalization Up to States. Reiterating a stance he has held since the 2016 presidential campaign [Ed: One of Trump's few consistent stances. - DB], President Donald Trump last Friday said the White House would not interfere with state-level legalization efforts. "We're going to see what's going on. It's a very big subject and right now we are allowing states to make that decision. A lot of states are making that decision, but we're allowing states to make that decision," he said in response to a reporter's question.

Minnesota Democrats Begin Legalization Push. Using the state fair in St. Paul as a venue, state Democratic leaders vowed to legalize marijuana next year and announced a series of town halls across the state to see what Minnesotans think about the issue. "We believe that Minnesota can have the best marijuana laws in the country," said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D-Golden Valley), who handed out blue cowbells inscribed with the words "Be Heard on Cannabis" to fairgoers. "We think it's vitally important that Minnesotans weigh in directly on this policy change."

Law Enforcement

DEA Arrests 300 in Massive Florida Opioid Operation. In an enforcement operation late last week named "Operation Cazador," DEA agents in Florida arrested nearly 300 people, seized roughly 200,000 opioid pills and about $3.3 million in assets, and shut down a dozen pharmacies. The operation included roughly 50 search warrants on pharmacies, 25 interviews with physicians, and interdiction of a small number of UPS and FedEx packages.

International

Thailand Removes Marijuana Extracts from Narcotics List. Thailand has removed marijuana and hemp extracts, such as CBD, from its list of controlled substances, officials said Monday. The move is seen as an effort to promote the development of marijuana products for medicinal purposes. Medical use and research was legalized last year.

The Drug War Isn't Waiting, So We Can't Either

Posted in:

Dear friend,

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/borden-dupont-circle-cropped.jpg
David Borden
The drug war isn't waiting -- so we can't either. That goes for the opportunities and it goes for the crises.

Marijuana reform continues to have 2019 momentum. Presidential candidates are debating criminal justice and drug policy more than ever. Harm reduction measures are progressing, like the overdose antidote naloxone and safer injection sites.

But politicians are still ready to file new and bad sentencing bills – sometimes responding to legitimate concerns, like opioid overdoses, but misguidedly forgetting the mistakes that led to mass incarceration. Mitch McConnell still won't let more marijuana reform bills get Senate votes. And President Duterte's drug war mass killing campaign in the Philippines – an issue on which we are organizing – is getting imitated in countries like Indonesia and Brazil.

We need your help to stay on the move at this important time. Can you make a donation today to help? Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, and click on the tax-deductible donation link or the non-deductible donation link, whichever kind you wish to make. Our donation form accepts credit card, PayPal, and bank ACH.

We especially need help with non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Because our newsletter reports on political candidates, we cover the substantial cost of our web site server and email list service fully with non-deductible funds. This is to protect our tax-deductible 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which can't afford to be implicated, rightly or wrongly, in candidate advocacy. Most of our current funding is of the tax-deductible kind, especially the larger grants and gifts.

Can you make a non-deductible donation to sustain our newsletter through the campaign season? Our web site supports both one-time donations and recurring ones, on cycles including monthly, quarterly, annually, and other options. Visit our Candidates archive page to see why this is important.

Donations can also be sent by mail. For a non-deductible donation, make your check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, and send to P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016. Tax-deductible donation checks should be payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address.

Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/about#donations for information on other donation options like stock shares, or to read more about our work. Also visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/global and https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines for more about what we're doing.

Thank you for your support, and enjoy the rest of your summer.

Sincerely,

David Borden
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
"US and UN Drug Policy Reform"
https://stopthedrugwar.org

Chronicle AM: Feds Warn on Marijuana Health Risks, Philly Drug Test Backlog, More... (8/30/19)

Federal officials issue a warning on marijuana for teens and pregnant women, the Philadelphia DA deals with a drug sample testing crisis, Colombian FARC dissidents pick up their guns again, and more.

A Dutch cannabis cafe. A pilot program to begin in 2021 will see legal suppliers for the shops in 10 cities. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Officials Issue Warning on Marijuana for Teens, Pregnant Women. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned jointly Thursday against marijuana use by adolescents and pregnant women. Azar, a former pharmaceutical company executive, called marijuana "a dangerous drug," while Adams warned that "this isn't your mother's marijuana" because of higher THC levels.

Oklahoma Poll Shows State Not Ready to Support Legalization. State voters approved medical marijuana last year, but a new poll suggests legalization may be a bridge too far. A new SoonerPoll found that 59% opposed legalization for non-medical use, with 50.5% strongly opposed.

Law Enforcement

Philadelphia Drug Sample Testing Backlog Means DA Will Prosecute Fewer Low-Level Cases. Faced with a backlog of thousands of untested drug samples, District Attorney Larry Krasner's office has announced an "emergency protocol" to suspend the automatic testing of new samples for low-level drug cases. That means the number of low-level drug cases the DA's office prosecutes each year should be reduced because without testing to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a white powder is actually a controlled substance, prosecutors have no case.

International

Colombia FARC Dissidents Take Up Arms Again. Three years after an historic peace agreement between the leftist guerrillas of the FARC and the Colombian state, dissident FARC leaders announced Thursday that they were rejoining the path of armed struggle. Saying the rightist government of President Ivan Duque has betrayed the accord, the dissidents led by Ivan Marquez (Luciano Marin) said they were ready for a "new stage of fighting." They cited the murders of more than a hundred former FARC members and labor activists, as well as the government's failure to provide sustainable development assistance to areas formerly under their control. "The state has not fulfilled its most important obligation, which is to guarantee the life of its citizens and especially avoid assassinations for political reasons," Marquez. Marquez said his group would work with the ELN, another leftist guerrilla army. The number of dissidents affiliated with Marquez is estimated at around 2-3,000. The civil war with the FARC that began in 1964 left more than 220,000 people dead.

Ten Dutch Cities Will Participate in Legal Marijuana Supply Pilot Program. Beginning in 2021, cannabis cafes in 10 Dutch cities will be supplied with legally grown marijuana under a pilot program aimed at solving the country's "back door problem," where marijuana is allowed to be sold but there is no legal source of supply. The ten cities selected for the program are Arnhem, Almere, Breda, Groningen, Heerlen, Hellevoetsluis, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Tilburg and Zaanstad. In those towns, all cannabis cafes must obtain their supply from legally regulated growers. That's why bigger cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam opted out: They have large numbers of cannabis cafes and authorities worry problems could arise if they all abandoned their illicit suppliers simultaneously.

APPEAL: Help Us Respond to the Opportunities and the Crises

Posted in:

Dear reader,

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/borden12.jpg
David Borden
As I wrote last week, this is a good time and a bad time in drug policy. Marijuana reform continues to have 2019 momentum. Presidential candidates are debating criminal justice and drug policy more than ever. But politicians are still ready to file new and bad sentencing bills -- so quickly forgetting lessons they claimed to have learned -- and international human rights in the drug war are in full blown crisis.

We need your help to stay on the move at this important time. Can you make a generous donation for our work at this time? Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, and click on the tax-deductible donation link or the non-deductible donation link, whichever kind you wish to make. Our donation form accepts credit card, PayPal, and bank ACH.

We especially need help with non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Because our newsletter reports on political candidates, we cover the substantial cost of our web site server and email list service fully with non-deductible funds. This is to protect our tax-deductible 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which can't afford to be implicated, rightly or wrongly, in candidate advocacy. Most of our current funding is of the tax-deductible kind, especially the larger grants and gifts.

Can you make a non-deductible donation to sustain our newsletter through the campaign season? Or a tax-deductible donation for our campaign to stop Duterte's drug war killings in the Philippines? Our web site supports both one-time donations and recurring ones, on cycles including monthly, quarterly, annually, and other options. Visit our Candidates archive page and our Philippines campaign page to see why this is important.

Donations can also be sent by mail. For a non-deductible donation, make your check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, and send to P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016. Tax-deductible donation checks should be payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address.

Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/about#donations for information on other donation options like stock shares, or to read more about our work. Also visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/global and https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines for more about what we're doing.

Thank you for your support, and enjoy the rest of your summer.

Sincerely,

David Borden
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
"US and UN Drug Policy Reform"
https://stopthedrugwar.org

Chronicle AM: NY Governor Faces Protest over Lack of Progress on NYC Safe Injection Sites, More... (8/29/19)

New York's reformed marijuana decriminalization, which will end arrests for public possession or smoking, is now in effect, and more.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hit by protest over stalled NYC safe injection sites. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York's Marijuana Decriminalization Reform Now in Effect. A bill deepening the state's decriminalization went into effect today. Now, people can publicly possess up to two ounces of marijuana or smoke it without criminal penalties. That's because the new law changes Marijuana Possession in the Fifth Degree from a low-level misdemeanor to a non-criminal violation, meaning police cannot arrest offenders, only ticket them. Although the state decriminalized possession in the 1970s, police in New York City arrested tens of thousands of people for public smoking or possession using that charge -- including people whose marijuana only went into public view after police ordered them to show it.

Harm Reduction

Protest at New York Governor's Manhattan Office Over Slow Progress on Safe Injection Sites. Dozens of harm reduction activists blocked entrances to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) midtown Manhattan office on Wednesday as they demanded he approve a city plan to open four "overdose prevention centers" (safe injection sites). The city had announced the plan more than a year ago but it seems stalled, and activists lay most of the blame on Cuomo, whom they accuse of intentionally delaying a mandated review of the program by the state Department of Health. Thirteen people were arrested amid chants of "Cuomo lied, people died."

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Houston narc gets hit with a murder charge for lying to a judge to get a no-knock search warrant in a fatal drug raid, Detroit police raid themselves to gather evidence of corruption in their now disbanded dope squad, and more.

In Detroit, police investigators seized records and computer data last Thursday -- from their own department. The raid was part of an ongoing internal probe into corruption allegations aimed at the department's drug operations. This latest investigation into the Narcotics Section, which was shuttered in 2014 because of rampant corruption, comes after a large shipment of drugs that had been seized in Detroit was switched for another substance by the time it got to Chicago for a court hearing, Craig said. That same day, a longtime narcotics officer, Michael Mosley, was indicted in federal court Thursday on charges related to allegations that he took a bribe from a drug dealer, who left the cash in the backyards of abandoned Detroit houses.

In Houston, a former Houston Police narcotics officer was arrested last Friday on murder charges over his central role in a drug raid that left two innocent homeowners dead and five police officers wounded. Gerald Goines is accused of lying to a judge about an informant buying heroin at a house where the raid occurred so he could obtain a no-knock search warrant. Goines has admitted in court documents there was no informant. No heroin was found at the home of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, who were both shot multiple times after Tuttle confronted the intruders with a weapon.

In Chesapeake City, Maryland, a Curtis County jail deputy was sentenced Monday to 2 ½ years in federal prison on charges he smuggled heroin, cocaine, cellphone batteries, electronic cigarettes and superglue into the jail. Deputy Jenis Leroy Plummer Jr., 34, went down after jail officials grew suspicious and placed him under surveillance. They then saw him pick up a package containing electronic cigarettes, two baggies of white powder, and a container of KrazyClue. In all, Plummer smuggled about an ounce of heroin and an ounce of cocaine into the jail, netting himself about $6,500.

Chronicle AM: Steny Hoyer Cites Gateway Theory to Oppose Legal Pot, Louisville Ends Pot Busts, More... (8/28/19)

Steny Hoyer goes last century with his embrace of the gateway theory, Louisville ends small-time pot busts, and more.

Top House Democrat Uses Gateway Theory to Oppose Marijuana Legalization. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the second highest ranking Democrat in the House, wrote Monday that he has yet to embrace marijuana legalization because he believes it is a gateway to "harder, more harmful drugs." Hoyer noted that he supported medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization, but remained leery of legal weed. "I still have concerns on this after speaking to people who deal with drug abuse and rehabilitation issues and particularly after learning of the drug's harmful consequences as a threshold drug that leads to the use of harder, very harmful drugs," Hoyer wrote, using alternative language to describe the long-discredited gateway drug theory.

Washington State to Overhaul Legal Marijuana. The state's Liquor and Cannabis Board is proposing changes five years after the state legalized marijuana. "Cannabis 2.0" would overhaul industry rules to boost minority ownership of pot businesses, pave the way for home delivery of medical marijuana, and let the smallest commercial growers increase the size of their operations to become more competitive. The board has proposed two bills for the next session of the legislature: one would create a social equity program to increase minority ownership, while the other would allow small producers to sell medical grade marijuana direct to the state's 36,000 patients, who have long complained they have a hard time finding medical grade marijuana because it requires additional testing for pesticides and heavy metals.

Louisville Ends Small-Time Pot Arrests. Small-time marijuana possession will no longer be prosecuted in Jefferson County, home of Kentucky's largest city, the county attorney's office announced Wednesday. Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell cited racial disparities for the change. "For me to be a minister of justice, I cannot sit idly by when communities of color are treated differently." Following the announcement, Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad said he will instruct his officers to not "routinely write citations for this specific offense."

Campus Reefer Gladness: The Top 10 Most Marijuana-Friendly Colleges and Universities [FEATURE]

The Princeton Review has released its annual compendium of rankings and ratings of institutions of higher learning across the land, The Best 385 Colleges 2020 Edition, and buried deep inside are student survey results>that helped the Review determine which colleges and universities are the most (and least) marijuana-friendly.

Okay, it's not like historic 4/20 days in Boulder, but pot is popular on these campuses. (Creative Commons)
In addition to a myriad of questions about academics, diversity and community, the survey asked 140,000 students, "How widely is marijuana used at your school?"

Before getting to the list, a couple of caveats: First, the survey data is impressionistic -- asking respondents how many other students they thought were tokers instead of asking for self-reporting, which would theoretically be more reliable. Second, the Review provides no hard numbers -- just rankings -- so it's impossible to know if the University of Vermont is way stonier than Pitzer College or just a bit stonier.

That said, the general outline of the pot-friendly colleges skews heavily to the liberal arts and the Northeast, with three outliers on the legal West Coast. And it's fairly consistent over the years. If you review our 2017 articles on the stoniest small colleges and stoniest big schools, you'll see a lot of familiar names.

Here, in rank order, are the Princeton Review's most marijuana-friendly campuses for 2020:

  1. University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
    Enrollment: 11,328
    Vermont legalized pot possession last year, but not sales. Still, the students at UV apparently have no trouble finding it.
  2. Pitzer College, Claremont, CA
    Enrollment: 1,112.
    Part of the Claremont Colleges, this LA-area school is highly ranked academically but includes intercollegiate athletics, too. Go, you fightin' Sage Hens!
  3. University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI
    Enrollment: 13,865
    The state is likely to legalize weed next year, but students aren't waiting. Neither are other Rhode Islanders: the state has one of the highest marijuana use rates in the country.
  4. Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
    Enrollment: 3,009
    Inspiration for the '90s film PCU poking fun at campus activism, the school generates a steady stream of artists, actors, and musicians. What's inspiring them?
  5. Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
    Enrollment: 2,612
    Fun Day is more fun, and the National Comedy Festival is funnier when you're baked. This liberal arts college, a perennial high-ranker, was #1 in 2013 and #4 among small colleges in 2017.
  6. Reed College, Portland, OR
    Enrollment: 1,483
    A radically liberal small college in a legalization state where chain pot-shops dot the landscape. Absolutely not a shocker.
  7. University of Maine, Orono, ME
    Enrollment: 9,365
    Another legalization state, and one where college students are taking full advantage of weed's legal status.
  8. Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
    Enrollment: 1,893
    Students at this liberal arts school have to make their way to Massachusetts to score legal weed. That isn't stopping them.
  9. Marlboro College, Marlboro, VT
    Enrollment: 183
    This tiny private liberal arts college in a legalization state features self-designed courses of study and a self-governed community. It has an organic farm, solar greenhouse, ecological reserve, and observatory. And it has the coolest school mascot name yet: The Fighting Dead Tree.
  10. University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
    Enrollment: 24,346
    UCSB has long had a well-deserved reputation as a party school. And why not? After classes, students can pack a bowl of weed (legal or not -- take your pick in the Golden State), then pick up their surfboards and head to the beach.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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