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Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

House Includes Marijuana Banking in COVID Bill, Mexico Soldiers to Stay on Streets, More... (5/12/20)

A Mexican cartel leader is struck down by the coronavirus, the House leadership is including help for state-legal marijuana businesses in the latest coronavirus relief bill, and more.

The House leadership has included relief for state-legal marijuana businesses in the new COVID bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House COVID Package Includes Cannabis Banking Relief, But Not Small Business Support. The House leadership has included banking relief for the state-legal marijuana industry in its latest coronavirus relief package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. It has done so by incorporating HR 1595, the SAFE Banking Act, within it. That bill amends federal law so that banks and other financial institutions may work directly with state-legal marijuana businesses. The House already approved the SAFE Banking Act back in September. Still, language to amend eligibility for Small Business Administration loans for small businesses was not included.

Maine's Long, Long Road to Legal Marijuana Sales. Nearly four years ago, the state approved a marijuana legalization initiative, but it has yet to see a legal marijuana retailer open. Then Tea Party Republican Gov. Paul LePage threw up obstacles until he left office, and nearly a year ago, the state adopted rules for adult-use marijuana businesses, and the hope was to launch retail this spring, but then coronavirus appeared. This is as the state is waiting for approval from state and local government, including Portland, the state's largest city. The city council there could vote on a local ordinance later this month, but the state says it still can't provide a timeline for the launch of legal sales. Any year now...

International

Mexican President Renews Orders Keeping Military on Streets to Curb Rising Violence. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has ordered the military to take on organized crime and violence for another four years, extending a policy he had previously criticized. He ordered the military to participate "in an extraordinary, regulated, and complementary manner with the National Guard" in public security tasks. Lopez Obrador won office in 2018 with a plan to reduce crime and violence by focusing on the root causes of crime, but the violence has only continued, with a record 35,000 people killed in 2019. "His security strategy is not working and that is why he has had to order with this decree for the Armed Forces to support public security," security specialist Juan Ibarrola told the Milenio newspaper.

Mexican Los Zetas Leader Killed by Coronavirus in Jalisco Prison. Moises Escamilla May, a Los Zetas leader imprisoned for beheading 12 people in Cancun has died of coronavirus at the Puente Grande Federal Prison in Jalisco. He was 45 years old. Security analysts have warned that the impact of the virus on the leadership of criminal organizations, which tend to be older males, could be destabilizing as more experienced leaders who have developed negotiating skills are killed off by the bug, only to be replaced by less experienced and more violent mid-level commanders.

Push to Help Marijuana Businesses in Next COVID Bill, Coca and Conflict in Bolivia and Colombia, More... (5/11/20)

Advocacy groups are pushing for marijuana businesses to be included in the next coronavirus relief bill, a pair of Oregon drug reform initiatives are teaming up for signature-gathering, and more.

Colombian coca grower at work (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Groups Ask Congress to Include Banking Access in Next Coronavirus Bill. A coalition of marijuana advocacy groups sent a letter last Friday to the House leadership asking them to include language allowing the marijuana industry to gain access to banking services as part of pending coronavirus relief legislation. The groups argue that while lack of banking access has been a serious problem for the industry, it is now made worse because such businesses can only accept cash, which hampers recommended social distancing practices. "As recent reports show that viruses can live on cash for up to 17 days, the public safety concerns of this cash-only system compound,"the letter says. "The lack of access to financial institutions places industry workers, government employees, and the public at-large at risk as banknotes circulate from consumers and patients to businesses to government."

Drug Policy

Oregon Drug Decriminalization and Therapeutic Psilocybin Initiative Campaigns Team Up for Signature-Gathering. Activists behind the IP 34 therapeutic psilocybin initiative and the IP 44 drug decriminalization initiative campaigns are joining forces to collect enough signatures for each to qualify for the November ballot. Both campaigns sent out email blasts over the weekend encouraging their supporters to sign petitions for the other measure.

International

Albania Close to Legalizing Medical Marijuana. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced Monday that the government is preparing a draft law that would legalize the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. He said the government had been working for the past year with foreign and local advisors and that the draft bill would soon be made public.

Bolivia Escalates Anti-Drug Campaign in the Chapare, Escalating Tensions. The rightist interim government has stepped up operations against drug trafficking in the Chapare, but its focus on coca-producing communities around Cochabamba is creating intensifying tensions with law enforcement. Rural mobile police officers have been ambushed by traffickers attempting to protect their cocaine labs, and residents in nearby towns broke quarantine rules to find police officers and evict them from the area. Meanwhile, authorities have halted coca eradication efforts, although probably less because of the coronavirus than because Cochabamba coca growers are well organized and close to the deposed former president, Evo Morales, and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party, which is expected to win forthcoming presidential elections. Sending armed state agents into the countryside to destroy farmers' crops poses political risks for the interim government.

Colombia Steps Up Coca Eradication During Lockdown. Despite ordering a full lockdown of the country, the Colombian government is doubling down on the manual eradication of coca plants in remote parts of the country. Coca growers' representatives and human rights groups are demanding the government cease eradication during the lockdown for health reasons.

End Drug Prohibition to Fight Organized Crime, World Leaders Say [FEATURE]

For nearly a decade now, a collection of former heads of state, high political figures, businessmen, and cultural figures have been working to reform drug policy at the national and international levels. Known as the Global Commission on Drug Policy, this group of planetary elders has been busy issuing reports at the rate of one a year on how to reduce the harms of prohibitionist drug policies and what would be more effective and humane alternatives.

members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (globalcommissionondrugs.org)
Now they've just released their latest report, Enforcement of Drug Laws: Refocusing on Organized Crime Elites, which takes on the perverse and insidious ways drug prohibition actually empowers and encourages criminal enterprises, and counsels nations and the global anti-drug bureaucracy to find a better way. That includes pondering the possibility of drug legalization and the taming of illicit markets through regulation -- not prohibition, which has demonstrably failed for decades.

The commission rolled out its report Thursday with a virtual presentation on YouTube.

"This report has a new perspective on the problem of organized crime," said commission member Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and former head of the United Nations Development Program. "Organized crime is a challenge in every society, and if it gets into the political realm and starts corrupting political systems, that is a huge issue, and it has done that," she said.

"Where the commission comes from is that we're saying 'drugs are being caught up in this' because of the refusal of the international community to accept that drugs need to be responsibly regulated," Clark continued. The attempt to prohibit them has actually been a license for organized crime to build a half-trillion dollar a year industry peddling stuff. Could we take drugs out of that through responsible regulation?

As president of Colombia between 2010 and 2018, Juan Manuel Santos mediated a peace treaty with the leftist guerrillas of the FARC and won a Nobel prize for his efforts. He also presided over a country that is perennially in contention for being the world's largest cocaine producer. He knows about what drug prohibition can bring.

"I come from a country that has fought drug traffickers and drug trafficking for so long and has probably paid the highest price of any country in the world -- Colombia has lost its best leaders, best journalists, best judges, best policemen -- and we are still the number one exporter of cocaine to the world markets," Santos said. "Corruption and drug trafficking go hand in hand. The most dangerous and protected individuals often escape, while ordinary people who happen to use illicit drugs see their lives destroyed by the war on drugs," he argued.

"To fight organized crime, we must follow the money," Santos continued. "People are realizing that a war that has been fought for a half century and has not been won is a war that has been lost, and so you have to change your strategy and your tactics if you want to be successful. Corruption, violence, profits, and prohibition are very closely related. You do away with prohibition, you regulate, you bring down the profits, and immediately you will start to see an improvement in violence and corruption."

The commission's work centers around five pathways, explained commission chair and former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss.

"It is putting health first," she said. "Second, it is also giving priority to the use of some of these substances for their medical benefits. It is one of the dramatic situations also, mainly in poor countries, that the people have no access to scheduled pain killers. The third pathway, which we think is very important, is to end the criminalization of people who use drugs. The fourth chapter of our reform program is that we have to deal with the criminality related to drugs, and that is why we issued this report today. And the last point is that we have to take control. The state -- reasonable and responsible people -- have to take control of drug markets and not let them stay in criminal hands."

While the 52-page report provides a detailed, evidence-based examination of the challenges of grappling with criminal groups that thrive under prohibition, it summarizes its findings with five basic recommendations for national governments and at the United Nations, whose anti-drug treaties form the legal backbone of global drug prohibition. These are:

  1. States must acknowledge the negative consequences of repressive law enforcement approaches to drug policies and recognize that prohibition forges and strengthens criminal organizations. Sharing such conclusions with the public must then feed national debates to support bold drug policy reform. (We all know the litany by now: From racially-biased and militarized policing and over-incarceration in the United States to bloody drug wars in Mexico and Colombia financed by prohibition profits, to the murderous and repressive anti-drug campaign in the Philippines, enforcing drug prohibition has dreadfully harmful consequences.)
  2. States must analyze the transnational and trans-sectorial nature of criminal organizations, to review and reform the current exclusive focus on law enforcement. (Drug trafficking organizations don't just traffic drugs; they tend to get their fingers in whatever illicit enterprises can turn a buck for them, from wildlife smuggling to counterfeiting to extortion. And maybe we'd be better off devoting more resources to treatment and prevention instead of trying to suppress and arrest our way out of the problem.)
  3. States must develop targeted and realistic deterrence strategies to counter organized crime and focus their response on the most dangerous and/or highest profiting elements in the criminal market. States must also reinforce interdepartmental cooperation to address criminal markets in a broad sense, not solely drugs, and develop effective transnational coordination against trans-border criminal groups and international money laundering. (It's both cruel and ineffective to target drug users and street-level dealers for arrest and prosecution. But the recent Mexican experience has shown that the alternative strategy of going after "kingpins" can lead to an increase in violence as gang lieutenants engage in murderous struggles to replace each capo killed or captured. It's a real dilemma -- unless you undercut them by ending prohbition.)
  4. States must consider the legal regulation of drugs as the responsible pathway to undermine organized crime. (This increasingly seems like a very reasonable approach.)
  5. UN member states must revisit the global governance of the international drug control regime in order to achieve better outcomes in public health, public safety, justice, and greater impact on transnational organized crime. (It's way past time to nullify or amend the anti-drug treaties that guide international drug policies.)

The Global Commission on Drug Policy has laid out a framework for radical reform. Now, it's up to the nations of the world and the international institutions that bind us together to act.

Traffic Searches Decline with Marijuana Legalization, But Racial Disparities Persist, More... (5/8/20)

A new study reports that driving while black is still a thing even in legal marijuana states, Joe Biden touts some coercive, but non-carceral approaches to drug offenders, and more.

Driving while black is still a thing even in legal marijuana states. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Study: Police Make Fewer Traffic Stops Following Marijuana Legalization, But People of Color Still Disproportionately Targeted. A study reported in the journal Nature: Human Behavior finds police are less likely to search vehicles for contraband where marijuana has been legalized. Focusing on Colorado and Washington, the study found that "after the legalization of marijuana, the number of searches fell substantially" in those two states compared to 12 states that had not enacted legalization. But the study also found that racial disparities persisted even in the legal states: "We found that white drivers faced consistently higher search thresholds than minority drivers, both before and after marijuana legalization," the study reported. "The data thus suggest that, although overall search rates dropped in Washington and Colorado, black and Hispanic drivers still faced discrimination in search decisions."

Maryland Governor Vetoes Bill Shielding Marijuana-Related Convictions from Public View. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has vetoed House Bill 83, which would block old marijuana possession cases from showing up in state case search records, shielding an estimated 200,000 marijuana possession convictions from public view. In his veto statement, Hogan admitted vetoing the measure (and several other criminal justice reform bills) out of political spite, because the House had failed to pass a bill he wanted, the Violent Firearms Offender Act. "While the Senate approved the package by a wide margin, the House failed to act upon it [the Violent Firearms Offenders Act of 2020]," Gov. Hogan wrote. "Therefore... I have vetoed... House Bill 83."

Drug Policy

Joe Biden's Drug Policy Will Emphasize Drug Courts, Drug Treatment Over Incarceration. In his "Plan for Black America" released this week, presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden identified the criminal justice system and drug law enforcement as disproportionately targeting black Americans. When it comes to enforcing drug laws for drugs other than marijuana -- which he says he wants to decriminalize -- he is calling for people not to be imprisoned for drug possession but instead diverting "individuals to drug courts and treatment." Both drug courts and court-ordered drug treatment have been criticized as overly punitive and coercive.

(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.)

Cartel COVID Curfew in Culiacan, SF Providing Booze, Buds, Butts to Quarantined Drug Users, more... (5/7/20)

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc with global drug markets, the Sinaloa Cartel has imposed a coronavirus curfew on a city of nearly a million people, San Francisco is taking a harm reduction approach to quarantined drug users, and more.

El Chapo may be behind bars in the US, but his sons still rule Sinaloa. (sedena.gob.mx)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign to Begin Signature-Gathering with New Safety Protocols. New Approach Montana announced Thursday it will proceed with signature-gathering for a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives and that it had drafted internal policies to protect circulators and the public during the coronavirus pandemic. The move comes after the group lost a court bid to be able to do electronic signature-gathering. They need to collectt about 25,000 valid signatures from registered voters for the statutory legalization measure and 51,000 needed for the constitutional proposal concerning age requirements. Those petitions must be submitted by June 19.

Psychedelics

DC Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative Approved for Signature-Gathering. The DC Board of Elections on Wednesday approved a petition to decriminalize psychedelics in the nation's capital. It also approved a motion allowing circulators to sign their own petitions, removing a longstanding obstacle to initiative campaigns.

Drug Policy

Colorado Governor Signs Drug Defelonization Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) has signed into law HB19-1263, which makes the possession of personal use amounts of illicit drugs a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The move is expected to save the state somewhere between $8 million and $14 million over the next five years, with the savings diverted to fund new drug treatment centers.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Providing Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana to Some People Under Quarantine or Isolation. The city health department confirmed Wednesday that it is providing alcohol, tobacco, medical cannabis and other substances in an effort to prevent a handful of people quarantined or isolating in city-leased hotels from going outside to get the substances themselves. The hotel residents are receiving opioid maintenance medications such as methadone, delivered by methadone clinics. The city says it is using harm reduction to keep these people inside and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

International

UNODC Says Pandemic Pushing Up Price of Illegal Drugs. In a report published Thursday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said pandemic-related border closures, lockdowns, and flight shortages are making drugs more expensive and difficult to obtain around the world. "Many countries across all regions have reported an overall shortage of numerous types of drugs at the retail level, as well as increases in prices, reductions in purity and that drug users have consequently been switching substance (for example, from heroin to synthetic opioids) and/or increasingly accessing drug treatment," the report said.

Mexican City Under Lockdown Imposed by Sinaloa Cartel. Culiacan, Sinaloa, a city of nearly a million people, is under lockdown with a curfew imposed by the Sinaloa Cartel. Iván Archivaldo Guzmán and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán, the sons of imprisoned cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman have threatened violators with beatings with boards, arrests or fines. "This is no game, we're not playing," a member of the Sinaloa Cartel reportedly said in one of several videos circulating on social media. "After ten o'clock at night, all the people must be inside their homes due to the coronavirus, otherwise they will be punished, these are orders "from above (from Los Chapitos)," the video said, referring to the brothers. Cartel members have been patrolling the streets in heavily armed convoys to enforce the curfew.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Posted in:

Just a couple of miscreant men in blue this week, and they were both apparently slinging weed. Let's get to it:

In Las Vegas, a Las Vegas Metro Police officer was arrested last Thursday for slinging weed. Details are lacking, but Officer Jesus Najera, 34, and his brother-in-law are now charged with three counts of conspiracy to violate the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act and one count each of trafficking of THC, trafficking of marijuana and possession of cocaine. Najera has been placed on leave without pay.

In Redding, California, a Redding police officer was arrested Monday in connection with a warehouse filled with marijuana, cocaine, and nearly $60,000 in cash. Corporal Will Williams, 53, went down after a citizen informed authorities of possible illegal activity in a warehouse in an unincorporated area of Shasta County. A search of the warehouse turned up 138 pounds of processed marijuana, 332 marijuana plants, 30 grams of cocaine, two firearms and $59,000 in US currency. Police did not discuss how Williams is connected to the warehouse and they have yet to file criminal charges.

MN House Leader Files Marijuana Legalization Bill, DC Psychedelic Decrim Campaign Catches Break, More... (5/6/20)

A Republican pollster in Pennsyvania calls on GOP legislators to consider supporting marijuana legalization, new New York City drug testing rules go into effect next week, a Minnesota legalization bill is introduced, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Minnesota House Leader Introduces Marijuana Legalization Bill. House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would legalize adult use of marijuana. The bill, HF 4632, would legalize and tax cannabis sales, and establish the Cannabis Management Board to regulate licensing, inspection, and testing of cannabis products. The regulatory scheme would be "focused on developing micro-businesses and a craft market," according to Winkler. Cannabis-related convictions would be expunged. And home cultivation would be allowed. "We made a commitment to introduce legislation this session, and we wanted to follow through on that commitment," Winkler said in a statement. "Our current priority is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but after the town halls and discussions around this issue, we still wanted to put a strong bill forward. As we look to come out of this crisis as a better, stronger Minnesota, we need to continue working toward legalizing cannabis for responsible adult use."

Pennsylvania Poll Has Strong Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A Republican-affiliated pollster, Harper Polling, has found that 62% of Pennsylvanians favor marijuana legalization, with even larger majorities favoring the taxation of legal marijuana sales "as a way to address the state's projected budget deficit. "The pollster argues state Republicans might want to embrace legalization. "Far from being an electoral drag, supporting adult use cannabis has positive effects for a Republican legislator," the pollster wrote in a memo. "Meanwhile, a third of Democrats would be more likely to vote for a Republican legislator who they knew 'supported controlling, regulating and taxing the sale of adult use cannabis,'" the memo asserts.

New York City Marijuana Drug Testing Ban Takes Effect Next Week. On May 10, a law passed by the New York City Council -- Int. No. 1445-A -- will take effect and prohibit employers in New York City from requiring prospective employees to submit to drug testing for the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol. (THC), in their system as a condition of employment. There are exceptions for police officers, child and health care workers, and workers in safety-sensitive positions.

Psychedelics<

DC City Council Approves Bill to Help Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative Qualify for Ballot in Time of Coronavirus. The council unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would ease the way for a proposed psychedelic decriminalization initiative by allowing for electronic signature-gathering during the pandemic. The bill allows ballot initiative campaigns to electronically distribute petition sheets to their signature gatherers and let those petitioners return their collections to organizers in digital form. Voters would still have to physically sign printed sheets, but those could then be scanned and sent back to campaign headquarters.

Kansas Weed Warriors Pay for Bad Raid, NY Mushroom Decrim Bill Filed, More... (5/5/20)

A psilocybin mushrrom decriminalization bill has been filed, Joe Biden again calls for marijuana decriminalization, and more.

Joe Biden still calls only for decriminalization of marijuana, not legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Joe Biden Includes Marijuana Decriminalization -- Not Legalization -- In New Plan for Black America. Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is calling for marijuana decriminalization as part of a newly released plan on racial justice. He said he would "decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions" as part of a "Plan for Black America" his campaign released on Monday. The plan includes broader criminal justice reforms, such as ending the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, repealing mandatory minimum sentences, and diverting people with minor drug charges to treatment instead of prison. But his failure to include marijuana legalization is being criticized by activists who say it is necessary for racial and restorative justice.

Kansas Weed Warriors to Pay $150,000 to Couple They Raided Over Tea Mistaken for Marijuana. It took seven years, but a Leawood, Kansas, couple is finally winning justice after their home was raided by Johnson County Sheriff's deputies who tracked them from a grow supply shop, then mistook tea leaves in their trash for marijuana, then hit the family with a full-on SWAT raid. Adlynn and Robert Harte, both former CIA employees, will receive a settlement of $150,000 for being subjected to the shock and trauma of having their family to such an aggressive invasion of privacy.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Bill to Provide Coronavirus Relief to Marijuana Businesses. Lawmakers held a virtual hearing Tuesday on a bill that would create a state pandemic relief plan that would include state marijuana businesses, which are excluded from federal relief funds. The Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses held a Zoom hearing to debate the bill, which was filed by Chairwoman Diana DiZoglio (D) last month.

Psychedelics

New York Magic Mushroom Decriminalization Bill Filed. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D) has filed a bill to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms by removing the main active ingredient from the state's list of controlled substances. "Psilocybin is a naturally occurring chemical compound produced by certain species of mushroom," the bill says. "Many cities, including Denver, CO, Santa Cruz, CA, and Oakland, CA, have already decriminalized the use and possession of psilocybin, and New York should do the same," it continues. "With the opportunity to positively affect the lives of millions suffering with mental health and addiction issues, this bill will decriminalize psilocybin and allow further research into the study of the drug and its beneficial uses for treatment." The bill has been referred to the Assembly Health Committee.

(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.)

Trump Authorizes Reserves to Fight Cartels, Murder Spike in Ciudad Juarez, More... (5/4/20)

President Trump has authorized the Defense Department to call up military reserves as he ramps up a campaign against the cartels, a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative plans to continue signature-gathering, the legal pot industry is still hiring, and more.

President Trump has authorized calling up 200 military reserves to help in the fight against cartels. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pot Job Seekers Surge as Sector Is Still Hiring. Laid off workers from the retail and hospitality industries are flocking to the marijuana industry in pursuit of jobs. The marijuana business is one that is still hiring, but the number of jobs available is dwindling. There are layoffs in the industry and some of the positions on offer are only temporary, but at least they're jobs to go after.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Unveils New Signature-Gathering Strategy. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the folks behind the Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative, have announced plans to go ahead with signature-gathering despite the coronavirus pandemic once social distancing measures in the state are lifted. The campaign is not going the electronic signature-gathering route but instead is "preparing masks, tables, disposable pens, hand sanitizer to be able to get back out and collect safely in a socially distant way once these direct health measures expire."

Interdiction

Trump Authorizes Pentagon to Activate Reserves for Cartel Fight. President Trump last Thursday issued an executive order authorizing the Defense Department to activate up to 200 additional military personal as part of a recently announced counternarcotics operation in the Caribbean. "Effective today, pursuant to section 12304 of title 10, United States Code, I am authorizing the Secretary of Defense to order units and individual members of the Selected Reserve to active duty to augment active component forces for the effective conduct of 'Enhanced Department of Defense Counternarcotic Operation in the Western Hemisphere,'" he wrote. "This authority is necessary to ensure the Department of Defense can properly conduct operations required to meet our evolving security challenges. As governments and nations focus on the coronavirus, there's a growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists, and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain. And we must not let that happen," he said.

International

Mexico's Ciudad Juarez Sees Big Spike in Killing Despite Quarantine. Homicides in the metropolis just across the Rio Grande from El Paso have increased 42% since March 1 despite stay-at-home orders issued in early March. The month ended with 174 murders, including victims chopped into pieces, burned to death, hanged from bridges, stuffed into storm drains and gunned down in broad daylight. Police said most of the killings are drug-related and that the March spike may be related to the arrest, jail transfer, and death of gang leaders.

245 Caves Camp Road
Williams, OR 97544
United States

MT Judge Blocks E-Signatures for Pot Initiative, Europe Flooded With Cocaine Despite Pandemic, More... (5/1/20)

No electronic signature-gathering for the Montana marijuana legalization initiatives, a Canadian psychedelic decriminalization petition has enough signatures to send it to the House of Commons, Mexico's Jalisco New Generation Cartel is handing out crisis supplies in Puerta Vallarta, and more.

Cocaine seized in Madrid. Authorities aren't catching all of it, though. (espana.gob)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Judge Rejects Legalization Initiative's Pleas for Electronic Signature-Gathering. District Court Judge John Larson of Missoula on Thursday rejected a request from New Approach Montana, the people behind a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives, to allow electronic signature-gathering during the coronavirus pandemic. He held the governor's emergency orders related to the coronavirus do not prevent traditional signature gathering for ballot initiatives. He also rejected the group's request to extend the July 17 deadline for signatures. New Approach Montana is considering whether to appeal the decision.

International

Canadian Psychedelic Decriminalization Petition Goes to House of Commons. An electronic petition calling for the decriminalization of psychedelic plants and fungi will be presented in the House of Commons on Monday. It only needed 500 signatures to reach the threshold required for it to be presented to the House and had surpassed that figure within 12 hours of the petition going live on April 16. Organizers said their goal was 500,000 signatures, "so that there is no doubt left in the government's mind that the time is now to free these plants from the outdated laws that are keeping them from assisting in the healing work that's so desperately needed."

Europe Flooded with Cocaine Despite Coronavirus Trade Disruptions. Latin American drug traffickers have managed to send bumper shipments of cocaine in recent weeks despite the crunch the coronavirus pandemic is imposing on legitimate transatlantic trade. The traffickers have responded by packing huge loads of cocaine onto fewer container ships and commercial airplanes -- a sign they are willing to take bigger risks to get their goods to market. "The global pandemic, at this moment in time, has not had an effect on maritime drug trafficking. It's business as usual," said Michael O'Sullivan, head of the EU-funded Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre which coordinates interdictions at sea.

Mexico's Jalisco New Generation Cartel Hands Out Food in Puerta Vallarta. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) has been handing out food supplies in Pueta Vallarta. The supplies come in boxes marked with cartel logos and "Mencho," the name of the CJNG leader. Puerto Vallarta authorities continue to deny that the cartel is distributing food, despite multiple reports and images of the food boxes displaying the cartel's logo. The boxes contained toilet paper, sardines, tuna, oil, pasta, rice, beans, sugar, salt, cookies, among other items.

New Zealand Government Unveils Final Version of Marijuana Legalization Measure for 2020 Ballot. The New Zealand government has released the final version of the marijuana legalization referendum to be voted on by Kiwis in September. Adults 20 and over would be able to possess and purchase marijuana, grow two plants for personal use, and toke up at cannabis cafes. If approved by voters, the legislature would then have to pass a the bill, which means it could theoretically amend it.

US Imprisonment At Lowest Rate Since 1996, Dr. Bronner's Kicks In $1 Million for OR Psilocybin Init, More... (4/30/20)

The former Honduran National Police chief just got indicted on drug charges in New York City, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps just bestowed a huge gift on the Oregon psilocybin initiative campaign, and more.

Dr. Bronner's Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) David Bronner. The company has just donated $1 million to the OR psilocybin init.
Marijuana Policy

California Coalition Pushes for Tax Breaks for State Pot Businesses. A coalition of advocacy groups, churches, and marijuana companies is asking Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) for a temporary cut in the state's marijuana taxes. The groups warn that the coronavirus crisis and the faltering economy will take an especially hard toll on minority-run businesses. The coalition includes the California NAACP, Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches, the Southern California Coalition, an industry group.

Psychedelics

Dr. Bronner's Kicks in a Million Bucks for the Oregon Therapeutic Psilocybin Initiative. Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps has donated one million dollars to IP 34, the initiative that would create a framework for the use of psilocybin therapy by mental health practitioners in the state. The campaign is about 90% of the way to qualifying for the November ballot, but faces signature-gathering challenges in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. This massive donation should help get the campaign over the top.

Sentencing

US Imprisonment Rate at Its Lowest Since 1996. The federal Office of Justice Programs reported Thursday that the combined state and federal imprisonment rate was 431 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 US residents in 2018, which was the lowest rate since 1996, when there were 427 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 residents, the Bureau of Justice Statistics announced today. The imprisonment rate for black inmates dropped by 28%, reaching the lowest rate since 1989. Louisiana had the highest rate (695 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 state residents), followed by Oklahoma (693 per 100,000), Mississippi (626 per 100,000), Arkansas (589 per 100,000) and Arizona (559 per 100,000). Minnesota, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont had the lowest imprisonment rates in the US, with each having fewer than 200 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 residents. During 2018, the total prison population in the US declined from 1.489 million to 1.465 million, a decline of 1.6% and the fourth consecutive annual decrease of at least 1%. Less than 15% of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for a drug offense at year-end 2017 (4% for possession), the most recent year for which offense-related data are available.

International

Former Honduran National Police Chief Charged in US with Drug Trafficking and Weapons Offenses. Federal prosecutors in New York City announced Thursday that Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, the former chief of the Honduran National Police was charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to import cocaine into the US and related weapons charges. He allegedly abused his official position to protect cocaine shipments and murder a rival drug trafficker as part of a conspiracy involving high-ranking Honduran politicians and members of the National Police.

With Psychedelic Legalization on the Horizon, How Should We Get There from Here? [FEATURE]

At this point, it's almost a commonplace to say that a psychedelic renaissance is underway. Microdosing has been a thing for years now, scientists around the world are reporting exciting spiritual and therapeutic research results, and venture capitalists are beginning to edge their way into what they hope is the next lucrative drug commodity market.

magic mushrooms (Creative Commons)
But also bubbling up is a social and political movement to free psychedelics (and their users) from the fetters of drug prohibition. Beginning with Denver, a handful of cities across the country have passed what are in effect municipal decriminalization ordinances, with the Decriminalize Nature campaign promoting similar efforts in dozens more.

This year, Oregon and the District of Columbia have psychedelic reform initiatives still in the signature-gathering phase. While hobbled by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, both could still make the ballot this year. (A similar campaign in California recently bit the dust, citing said pandemic.)

The late April Psychedelic Liberty Summit sponsored by the Chacruna Institute for Plant Medicines, was yet another manifestation of the rising interest in psychedelics. "We provide public education and cultural understanding about psychedelic plant medicines and promote a bridge between the ceremonial use of sacred plants and psychedelic science," the institute says in its mission statement. It envisions "a world where plant medicines and other psychedelics are preserved, protected, and valued as part of our cultural identity and integrated into our social, legal and health care systems."

Originally set for San Francisco, the two-day series of wide-ranging panels and presentations instead went virtual in the face of pandemic social distancing requirements. "Attendees" viewed remotely as panelists covered topics ranging from "Sacred Peyote Conservation" to "Psychedelic Medicalization: Unpacking the Landscape of Drug Development and Commercialization" to " How Can We Ensure Respectful, Safe, Ethical, Inclusive and Sustainable Sourcing for Psychedelic Plants and Materials?" and beyond.

Numerous panels were devoted to advancing the cause of ending psychedelic prohibition, and weighing heavily on those involved were questions about just how to proceed. Should reform initiatives target a single psychedelic, as the Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative does, should they target all psychedelics or only natural ones (sorry LSD and MDMA), or should the target be broader drug decriminalization?

Similarly, what role should private investment capital play? Are there lessons to be learned from the commodification of cannabis under state-level legalization? And just how should legal or decriminalized psychedelics be made available to the public? Attempts to answer these questions were a central theme of the summit, and what was clear was that although reform thinkers share a common general goal, there's a breadth of opinion about the details.

For Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML and one of the authors of the groundbreaking 1996 Prop 215 campaign that legalized medical marijuana in the state with bare-bones language, psychedelics are a different ball game.

"I don't think marijuana and psychedelics should be legalized on the same model," said Gieringer. "Marijuana is pretty safe even for novices, but psychedelics need to be treated with more respect. This is not something that should just be sold over the counter to adults from the very get go; first time users should be informed of certain cautions, and we need a new paradigm for distributing psychedelics, maybe something more like drug user clubs, with nonprofit organizations -- not commercial operations -- in charge of manufacturing, distributing, and educating users on the use of psychedelic drugs, as well as being responsible for any harmful effects of the drugs."

Gieringer pointed back to Prop 215 and the reefer revolution it unleashed as he urged initiative campaigns to keep it simple.

"I advise the movement to be cautious about overprescribing elaborate regulatory regimes. We didn't do that with marijuana; we just had a set of principles that people shouldn't be arrested for using or cultivating for personal use. We did that deliberately; we knew it was going to be very complicated in a federal system and we left it to government to fill in the details," he said.

"Prop 215 was a very short initiative," Gieringer reminded. "The Oregon initiative has 71 pages and you still can't have psilocybin mushrooms in your house or use them outside one of these organizations that gets set up under the initiative."

That's the wrong approach, he suggested: "We should go back to a broad initiative that embraces the notion that people should be able to use psychedelics for spiritual, medical, and personal illumination in general, and leave it to the state and federal government to fill in the details."

And not just do it one hallucinogen at a time.

"We ought to approach this more broadly and not just do one drug at a time," he argued. "If we do psilocybin, what about peyote? What about ayahuasca? What about everything else? I favor a broader approach making psychedelics available to people want them on a private use basis. Let's think globally and act locally and wait for our eggs to hatch here. Let's go for simple initiatives that give people direct access to psychedelics."

Any such movement for psychedelic legalization or decriminalization -- as opposed to broader drug legalization or decriminalization -- will need to be self-generating and self-supporting, argued Sean McAllister, a Denver-based attorney who was chairman of the board for Sensible Colorado when that group led the nation's first successful marijuana legalization initiative in 2012 and a consultant for Decriminalize Denver, the group behind the city's 2019 psilocybin initiative.

"Unlike cannabis, psilocybin has only been used by an estimated two to five percent of the population, and only one tenth of one percent are current psychedelic users," he noted. "That's a much smaller pool, and any drug reform initiative requires the support of those who do not use. We're asking the majority to protect our rights, so we have to convince the majority our movement makes sense and won't endanger the public safety or health."

By including reporting requirements for psilocybin-related law enforcement encounters and other public safety and public health impacts via the mayor's psilocybin review panel, on which McAllister sits, the Denver initiative was helping lay the educational groundwork for doing that convincing, he argued.

"We'll write a report at the end of the year assessing the impacts of the initiative, but really nothing has changed," McAllister reported. "Law enforcement was concerned people would be dealing psilocybin on the streets and getting high on the streets, but our community is pretty self-regulating. There's been no explosion or public health or public safety problems. We hope that our report will be of great value to other cities looking to decriminalize psilocybin and to the movement as we attempt to change laws across the country."

But that movement won't be able to count on the largesse of traditional drug reform funders, McAllister warned, noting that statewide initiative campaigns cost millions of dollars.

"There is just not that much interest in psychedelics only," he said. "The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) believes in legalizing all drugs; it doesn't believe in drug exceptionalism. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is primarily focused on MDMA and PTSD. We don't have tens or hundreds of thousands of people in prison, so we don't have the same social justice issues around psychedelics. The ACLU isn't going to lead our movement. We have to step up and build our own organizations and come together as a movement."

"There are a lot of benefits to decriminalizing psychedelics that we need to study further, and it's fascinating to see all these movements for decriminalization popping up around the country, but at the same time I'm ambivalent about it because there's also simultaneously a movement to just decriminalize all drugs," said Jag Davies, who has long stints as a communications specialist for the DPA and MAPS under his belt.

"And I don't think drug decriminalization is as big a deal and as revolutionary as it's made out to be," Davies continued. "Right now, we have a national poll showing 55 percent support for decriminalizing all drugs."

Even though the argument that "marijuana is safer" was used to great benefit in the Colorado marijuana legalization campaign, Davies warned of its hazards.

"One of the mistakes made with marijuana reform messaging is framing it as a safe or safer drug," he argued. "All drugs are the same in that criminalization isn't an effective policy and is counterproductive to public health, but at the same time there will be some difference in how we think about policies. We need to think about who is benefitting and who is left behind. The benefits of decriminalizing more dangerous drugs are much greater," he added, pointing out that the other Oregon initiative would do just that.

In any case, psychedelic warriors should be part of a greater effort, Davies said.

"Drug decriminalization is perhaps a more effective strategy to reduce the harm in the long term," he said. "Even if you're a psychedelic exceptionalist, it's beneficial to join forces with the broader drug reform movement and the criminal justice movements and get the buy-in from those communities before you make your move."

David Bronner, the Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner's natural soaps, straddles both worlds. He has long supported broad drug reform efforts and this year is putting a million dollars into the Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative.

"Having a well-structured therapeutic model makes it accessible to the average person who is not familiar with psychedelics," Bronner said. "The Oregon model is very much about accessing therapy and likewise making sure there is only minimal taxation -- enough to cover the cost of the program -- but keeping it limited in size and scope, so you can make a good livelihood but not have a hundred chain clinics."

"These are preventative measures so we don't see what happened with cannabis and with there being some kind of controls," he added. "The polling says people aren't familiar with mushrooms and want to see strict controls on access, that it can't be accessed outside the therapeutic model."

What Bronner was alluding to -- the undesirability of turning something ineffable like marijuana or psychedelics into just another capitalist commodity -- Steve DeAngelo addressed head on. And he's particularly well-positioned to: A long-time marijuana movement activist, he founded one of the first dispensaries in the nation, Harborside in Oakland, but also the Arcview Group, the first dedicated marijuana investment network, creating a Faustian bargain with profit-seeking capital.

"With Arcview, we hit on the energy of free enterprise to power the social change we wanted, and a lot of the progress we made is because we did invite the investor class in, but it came at a cost, a significant cost," he said. "Prior to Arcview inviting the investor class in, the movement was driven by people who loved cannabis, but we attracted a lot of people whose motivation was not love of cannabis but love of making money."

"I expected the energy to come but was a little taken aback at the urgency and ferocity of it," DeAngelo continued. "Cannabis lovers took investment money and then ceded control to investors. I saw a lot of people who had spent their lives representing the plant start to lose power, their livelihoods, and their influence over how to explain cannabis to the rest of the world. I fear we could see a lot of the same thing with psychedelics. If that happens, the way these substances are taught to the world is going to change. We could see a model for psychedelics more geared to return for investors than toward a meaningful experience for an individual or for positive social change."

"Psychedelics have always been part of my path and one lesson I learned is that intention drives result," DeAngelo said. The consciousness with which we approach something will have a profound influence on what happens. On a psychic level, on a cosmic level, a different vibration is created when psychedelics are evangelized for the aim of making more money than with a motive of love and sharing and bringing about social change. I'm much more comfortable with a message from people who love psychedelics than people who love money."

And so it goes as the nascent psychedelic liberation movement emerges. There is great debate over tactics and strategies, but a commonality of purpose linked to human liberation and social justice. The path forward is uncertain, but it is one we will make as we walk it.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Even during the pandemic, corrupt cops keep going down. A former Ohio DARE officer is in big trouble and so is yet another Baltimore police officer. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was arrested April 19 for lying to federal investigators about selling cocaine that had been stolen from a record-setting cocaine seizure in 2009. Victor Rivera, who retired in March after 26 years with the department, is the 15th Baltimore police officer to be charged by federal prosecutors in the continuing reverberations of the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal. Rivera went down after another officer was charged in that cocaine theft incident last month, and charging documents in that case said he sold cocaine to one of his informants, received profits from him, and divvied them up with two other detectives. He is charged with perjury and is looking at up to 10 years in federal prison.

In Beavercreek, Ohio, a former Beavercreek DARE officer was arrested on April 20 on federal child pornography charges. Kevin Kovacs, 62, worked for the Beavercreek police from 1992 until his resignation in 2018. He was also the Beavercreek schools DARE officer from 2012 until 2018. He is charged with producing, distributing, receiving, transporting, and possessing child pornography, as well as witness tampering.

Medical Marijuana Update

There's a push on to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to get pandemic aid relief, Arkansans are heading across the state line for cheaper, more accessible medical marijuana, and more.

National

Marijuana Associations and Credit Unions Call for Federal Coronavirus Relief for Marijuana Businesses. Some 30 marijuana trade organizations and credit unions sent a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday urging them to work to provide marijuana businesses with access to federal relief funds related to the coronavirus pandemic. Because marijuana remains federally illegal, such businesses are specifically excluded from the relief program under already approved relief packages. The coalition argues that Congress should either issue pandemic relief block grants for the states to decide on their own how to allocate funds, or change current relief aid eligibility requirements to allow marijuana businesses access to those funds,

Arkansas

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Patients Cross into Oklahoma for Cheaper, More Accessible Medicine. Medical marijuana patients in the state are heading across the state line to Oklahoma to get their medicine, according to local media reports. They can buy equivalent products for half the cost in Oklahoma, and that state does not have a limited list of qualifying conditions. Instead, it only requires a doctor's recommendation.

Michigan

Michigan Supreme Court Says Medical Marijuana Law Does Not Overrule Local Zoning Ordinances. Breaking with previous Court of Appeals ruling, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state's medical marijuana law doesn't override local zoning ordinances. The township of Byron had barred registered caregivers from growing on a commercial property, and the high court upheld its ability to do so.

Coronavirus Doesn't Halt Colombia Coca Offensive, MT Court Hears Pleas for Electronic Signature-Gathering, More... (4/29/20)

Whether Montana marijuana legalization campaigns can use electronic signature-gathering is now in the hands of a state judge, an Indiana judge orders the return of a Land Rover whose case changed federal asset forfeiture law, Colombia's campaign against coca continues despite the pandemic, and more.

The Colombian government isn't letting a nationwide coronavirus curfew interfere with its war on coca producers. (Pixabay)
Montana Court Hears Arguments Over Electronic Signature-Gathering for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. New Approach Montana, the group behind a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives, was in Lewis and Clark County District Court Tuesday in an effort to win permission to do electronic signature-gathering amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The group says the state's stay-at-home order and continued social distancing directives make it nearly impossible to gather enough in-person signatures to qualify their petitions for the November ballot. The hearing itself was held by telephone, a point New Approach's lawyer emphasized when arguing its case. Attorneys for the state argued against allowing electronic signature gathering, saying there is not enough evidence it can be done securely and that the group's injury was self-inflicted because it had not yet started signature gathering. Initiative-190 would legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the state. It requires over 25,000 valid voter signatures to appear on November's ballot. Constitutional Initiative-118 aims to amend the state constitution to set the age of marijuana consumption and possession at 21. It needs almost 51,000 valid voter signatures.

Asset Forfeiture

Indiana Judge Orders Return of Seized Land Rover That Led to US Supreme Court Asset Forfeiture Case. An Indiana Superior Court judge on Monday ordered the state to "immediately release" a seized Land Rover in a case that made history in the US Supreme Court when the court used it to overturn Indiana's civil asset forfeiture law, saying the seizure was disproportionate to the offense. The ruling comes seven years after police seized Tyson Timbs' $41,000 Land Rover when he was charged with a drug felony. But the state is continuing to appeal the case, so that "immediate release" is not going to happen just yet.

International

Colombia Carries on Major Offensive Against Coca Producers Amidst Pandemic Curfew. Although President Ivan Duque declared a nationwide curfew on March 24 to fight the coronavirus pandemic, massive military operations aimed at eradicating small producer coca plantations are continuing unimpeded. In the departments of Antioquia and Chocó, Norte de Santander, Nariño, Putumayo, and Caquetá, military and civilian eradication personnel are engaged in eradication efforts.

Swiss Parliament Passes Motion to Authorize Cannabis Production and Export. The Swiss Parliament has passed a measure that will allow producers in the country to export low-THC hemp, and doctors to prescribe medical marijuana directly. Currently, would-be patients must obtain prescriptions for the Federal Office of Public Health, an expensive and time-consuming process. The new law is expected to come into force sometime in the middle of next year. It will also include a pilot program for recreational use. The measure still has to be approved by the Council of States before it can proceed.

US Virgin Islands Governor Urges Passage of Legalization Bill, Call for Pandemic Relief for Marijuana Businesses, More... (4/28/20)

The clamor grows for including state-legal marijuana businesses in coronavirus pandemic in federal economic relief packages, Arkansas medical marijuana patients are heading to Oklahoma for cheaper prices and easier access, and more.

Will state-legal marijuana businesses ever get any coronavirus pandemic relief money? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

US Virgin Islands Governor Revises Marijuana Legalization Bill, Urges Quick Passage. Territorial Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) is pushing the legislature to move quickly to approve a revised marijuana legalization bill, saying the action could help generate needed tax revenues from marijuana sales during the coronavirus pandemic. "We have taken the time to gather further public input as well as address the concerns of the individual legislators," the governor said during a COVID-19 update on Monday. As the economic disaster, the last few weeks has affected the [Government Employees Retirement System] greatly, it is our hope that we can have a greater sense of exigency in implementing all the things that can help us regain solvency."

Marijuana Associations and Credit Unions Call for Federal Coronavirus Relief for Marijuana Businesses. Some 30 marijuana trade organizations and credit unions sent a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday urging them to work to provide marijuana businesses with access to federal relief funds related to the coronavirus pandemic. Because marijuana remains federally illegal, such businesses are specifically excluded from relief program under already approved relief packages. The coalition argues that Congress should either issue pandemic relief block grants for the states to decide on their own how to allocate funds or change current relief aid eligibility requirements to allow marijuana businesses access to those funds.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Patients Cross into Oklahoma for Cheaper, More Accessible Medicine. Medical marijuana patients in the state are heading across the state line to Oklahoma to get their medicine, according to local media reports. They can buy equivalent products for half the cost in Oklahoma, and that state does not have a limited list of qualifying conditions. Instead, it only requires a doctor's recommendation.

Michigan Supreme Court Says Medical Marijuana Law Does Not Overrule Local Zoning Ordinances. Breaking with previous Court of Appeals ruling, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state's medical marijuana law doesn't override local zoning ordinances. The township of Byron had barred registered caregivers from growing on a commercial property, and the high court upheld its ability to do so.

Peru Coca Prices Plunge Amid Pandemic, Louisiana Pot Poll Shows State Not There Yet, More... (4/27/20)

A Navy destroyer on an anti-drug mission is forced to return to port, Peruvian coca growers are taking a financial hit during the pandemic, Montana GOP elected officials are opposing an effort to get electronic signature-gathering for a marijuana legalization campaign, and more.

It's hard times in the coca fields, as pandemic lockdowns bring price plunges. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Finds State Not There Yet on Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Louisiana Public Opinion LLC shows that a majority of registered voters still oppose legalization -- but that number has decreased slightly. When respondents were asked if they favored legalization, only 37% said yes, compared to 54% opposed. That's up three points from the same survey conducted three years ago, but still well short of a majority.

Montana Republican State Officials Oppose Electronic Signature Gathering for Initiatives. Replying to a lawsuit from New Approach Montana, the sponsor of a constitutional initiative (Ballot Issue 11) that would set 21 as the legal age when people can use marijuana and a statutory initiative (Ballot Issue 14) that would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, the Republican secretary of state and attorney general officially responded that they oppose the electronic gathering of signatures for initiative campaigns impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, the state's top election official, and the state of Montana, represented by Attorney General Tim Fox, have asked the court to throw out the lawsuits, arguing that the circumstances arise out of a "health emergency," not unfair election laws.

Interdiction

US Naval Destroyer on Counternarcotics Mission Forced to Return to Port After Being Hit by Coronavirus Outbreak. The USS Kidd, a guided missile destroyer doing counternarcotic missions in the eastern Pacific Ocean, has been forced to return to port after at least 18 sailors aboard the ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The Navy said the number of those infected with the virus on the vessel was expected to rise. The Kidd is part of the Trump administration's deployment of more warships and aircraft to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific to fight drug cartels.

International

Peru Sees Big Drop in Black Market Coca Prices as Pandemic Bites into Drug Trade. Prices for coca leaf sold to illicit economy drug gangs have plunged 70% since the country went on lockdown last month, according to a local growers' organization. While the country has a legal coca market, an estimated 90% of the crop is destined for the black market. Now, the growers are calling on the government to buy up excess coca inventory for use in licit coca industries.

Plaintiffs in MJ Scheduling Case vs. DEA Look to Supreme Court, NJ Voters Ready to Approve Legal MJ, More... (4/24/20)

A New Jersey poll shows strong support for approving a November marijuana legalization initiative, California state government agencies are moving to ease the pandemic burden on marijuana businesses, the Supreme Court is being asked to rule on whether marijuana's designation as a Schedule I drug is unconstitutional, and more.

Will the Supreme Court take up a case challenging marijuana's designation as a Schedule I drug? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)

DEA Marijuana Scheduling Lawsuit Will Be Appealed To Supreme Court Following Dismissal. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the DEA over the classification of marijuana will appeal to the US Supreme Court after the 2nd US Court of Appeals ruled against them last week. The appeals court had recommended that plaintiffs seek administrative policy change instead, but they will ask the Supreme Court to rule that keeping marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional because it imposes undue burdens that jeopardize patients' lives.

California Offers Marijuana Firms Tax Help to Cope with Coronavirus Pandemic Fallout. The state has issued new guidelines aimed at helping businesses, including marijuana businesses, survive the pandemic. The programs, a mix of extensions, relief, and deferrals, will allow many marijuana companies to keep operations going and meet payroll. The initiatives are coming from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), the Office of Tax Appeals and the Franchise Tax Board.

New Jersey Poll Finds Residents Ready to Approve Marijuana Legalization in November. Unable to reach agreement on a marijuana legalization bill, the state legislature punted the issue to the voters, placing a legislative legalization initiative on the November ballot. Now, a new poll from the Monmouth University Polling Institute finds voters are ready to approve it. The poll had support at 61%, with only 34% opposed.

Virginia Legislature Rejects Governor's Bid to Delay Legal Marijuana Study. The legislature has rejected two proposed amendments to its decriminalization bill from Gov. Ralph Northam (D), including one that called for a delay in the end date for a study on marijuana legalization included in the bill. The House had initially agreed to the change, but the Senate rejected it, and House members were unable to add the delay back in when they received the Senate bill for a final vote. The bill, Senate Bill 2, will decriminalize small-time possession effective July 1.

Push to Allow Marijuana Businesses Pandemic Aid, Bloody Gun Battles in Mexico, More... (4/23/20)

A push is on in Congress to secure coronavirus pandemic relief aid for the legal marijuana industry, a poll suggests that a DC psychedelic decriminalization initiative could win -- if it can make the ballot -- and more.

Some senators and representatives are pushing to get legal marijuana businesses included in pandemic relief funding. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

US Senators Want Small Marijuana Firms Included in Coronavirus Aid. A group of 10 US senators led by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jackie Rosen (D-NV) have sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to include small, state-legal marijuana businesses and related companies in any future coronavirus relief packages. The letter comes a week after nearly three dozen House members sent a similar one.

Lawmakers File Bill to Let Marijuana Companies Have Access to Coronavirus Relief Funds. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) on Thursday filed an as yet unnumbered bill, the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act, which would allow legal marijuana businesses to access disaster relief loans and other programs available during the COVID-19 crisis.

Psychedelics

DC Voters Would Approve Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative If It Makes Ballot, Poll Says. A poll commissioned by Decriminalize DC, the folks behind the psychedelic decriminalization initiative, suggests the measure could pass -- if it manages to make the ballot. Signature-gathering for initiative campaigns around the country have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and DC is no exception. The poll found 51% said they were in favor when read the actual text of the measure, but that figure rose to 60% when voters were provided more information and settled at 59% when voters had heard pro and con arguments.

International

Mexico Sees 13 Dead in Violence in Guerrero Poppy Fields. At least 13 people were killed over the weekend in multisided clashes between community vigilantes, police, soldiers, and members of the Cartel del Sur in the opium poppy-growing town of El Naranjo, Guerrero. Clashes and gun battles lasting for hours broke out Saturday as cartel gunmen duked it out with a "grassroots citizens militia" (vigilante group) called the United Front of Community Police of Guerrero, a repeat of clashes last summer when the vigilantes tried unsuccessfully to force out the cartel. After Saturday's clashes, authorities called in the National Guard, soldiers, and state police, who then engaged in another gun battle, killing four presumed cartel members. Later another four executed bodies were found, and on Monday the bodies of five more men covered in blankets were discovered at the bottom of a ravine surrounded by shell casing.

Poll Finds Legalizing Marijuana is Good Policy, WA Drug Decriminalization Initiative Campaign Gets Underway, More... (4/22/20)

A new poll finds most of us think marijuana legalization has been a success, Lebanon's parliament approves medical marijuana and hemp cultivation, and more.

A new poll finds that most Americans think legalizing marijuana has been a successful policy. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Poll Finds Majority of Americans Think Marijuana Legalization Is a Successful Policy. A new YouGov poll of 27,000 adults finds that a majority of Americans believe marijuana legalization laws are a success. Some 19% of respondents said legalization was a "success only," while another 36% said it was "more of a success than a failure." That's 55% between the two. Only 6% said it was a "failure only" and only 13% said it was "more of a failure than a success." That's less than one out of five saying legalization is a failure. About a quarter of respondents had no opinion. The figures held true across all regions of the country. Democrats, however, were much more likely to say legalization was a success (67%) than Republicans (41%)

Drug Decriminalization

Washington State Drug Decriminalization Initiative Campaign Gets Underway. A group of activists calling itself Treatment First Oregon is working to place a drug decriminalization and expanded drug treatment initiative on the November ballot. The measure, Initiative 1715, would use marijuana tax revenues to fund drug treatment. It would also have police refer people caught with drugs to a mandatory assessment to be screened for substance abuse disorder within 72 hours. The campaign will need some 259,000 valid voter signatures by July 3 to qualify for the ballot. The campaign says it hopes to go all out with signature gathering in the month of June.

International

Lebanese Parliament Approves Medical Marijuana, Hemp Production as Economy Struggles Amidst Coronavirus Crisis. The parliament on Tuesday approved legislation to legalize marijuana production for medicinal and industrial uses, a move recommended by economic advisers even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the struggling economy. The measure doesn't legalize recreational marijuana or hashish sales, for which the country is famous, but it does seek to create a new legal marijuana industry.

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Wreaking Havoc With Drug Reform Initiatives [FEATURE]

The novel coronavirus pandemic is not just striking down Americans by the tens of thousands and jobs by the tens of millions, it is also wreaking havoc with marijuana and other drug-related voter initiative campaigns this year. It's damnably hard to gather thousands of voter signatures when there aren't any mass gatherings and the public is locked inside.

It's hard to gather signatures when the streets are empty. (Creative Commons)
Just a little more than two months ago, we wrote about 11 states that could see marijuana legalization or medical marijuana on the ballot this year. Stay-at-home orders across the land have winnowed that number, with some campaigns already giving up the ghost and the others facing unprecedented challenges.

It's not just marijuana initiatives. In California, Oregon, and Washington, DC, psilocybin initiatives are facing the same hurdles. And so is an Oregon initiative that would decriminalize the possession of all drugs. (The Oregon psilocybin initiative is holding a video update this afternoon, featuring Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps CEO David Bronner.)

First let's look at what's changed and what hasn't regarding those marijuana initiatives. What hasn't changed is that state legalization initiatives have already qualified for the November ballot in two states, a legislatively-initiated constitutional amendment in New Jersey and Constitutional Amendment A in South Dakota. South Dakota also has a medical marijuana initiative, Initiated Measure 26, already qualified for the ballot, as does Mississippi with Ballot Initiative 65.

Back in February, in addition to those initiatives already on the ballot, signature gathering efforts for marijuana legalization were underway in seven more states and for medical marijuana in two others. Now, though, the pandemic has already killed off campaigns in Missouri and North Dakota.

Organizers in the latter clearly laid the blame on the pandemic. "Due to the virus all of our major avenues for signature collection have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed and going door to door is not safe for both those knocking and those getting knocked," the Legalize ND campaign said. "Businesses will continue to collect, but we don't want to create another vector for the coronavirus. As a result, at this time if something major doesn't change we will not be able to make the 2020 ballot."

The pandemic has also wiped out a medical marijuana initiative in Idaho, where the Idaho Cannabis Coalition announced in March that is was suspending signature gathering. Since it only has until May 1, this marks the effective end to the effort this year. And in Nebraska, the medical marijuana initiative campaign has suspended signature gathering for the duration of the outbreak, even though it says it is still confident it can make the ballot. But it only has until July 3 to come up with 130,000 signatures, and it's not clear how close it is.

In Oklahoma, the campaign to put a marijuana legalization initiative, State Question 807 on the ballot is not officially dead, but is likely to fall victim to the pandemic. As part of a 30-day statewide emergency declaration, Secretary of State Mike Rogers ordered a pause to all initiative signature gathering activities. Given that the campaign needs 178,000 signatures in 90 days to qualify, organizers have all but given up the ghost.

It would be "really difficult, if not impossible to imagine a scenario in which an initiative petition campaign could responsibly and feasibly collect the signatures necessary in order to make the 2020 ballot if that campaign doesn't already have the signatures on hand," said campaign spokesman Ryan Kiesel.

It's also looking grim for Arkansas, where Arkansans for Cannabis Reform is trying to gather signatures for a pair of initiatives, the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment and the Arkansas Marijuana Expungement Amendment. They only had 15,000 raw signatures by later March and need 89,000 valid voter signatures by July 3 to qualify. The campaign did get a late injection of cash that allowed for paid signature gatherers, but by then it was virus time, and that has effectively put the kibosh on the campaign.

In Montana, the never-say-die New Approach Montana campaign joined two in-state political figures to file a lawsuit charging that prohibiting electronic signature gathering during the coronavirus pandemic is unconstitutional. The group is behind a pair of legalization initiatives: a constitutional initiative (Ballot Issue 11) that would set 21 as the legal age when people can use marijuana and a statutory initiative (Ballot Issue 14) that would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. Not allowing for electronic signature gathering would violate the "constitutional rights of Plaintiffs and the people of Montana to amend the constitution and enact laws by initiative, as well as the rights of Plaintiffs and the people of Montana under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution," the lawsuit argues.

The one bright spot for marijuana legalization initiatives still trying to make the ballot is Arizona, where the Smart and Safe Arizona Act needs 237,000 valid voter signatures by early July to qualify for the November ballot. The campaign had already collected 270,000 raw signatures before pandemic lock-downs began and has joined with three other initiative campaigns in the state to petition the state Supreme Court to allow electronic signature gathering via E-Qual, the state's online signature platform, during the pandemic. The campaign had set a goal of 400,000 raw signatures, which it is now unlikely to reach, but even with the lockdown, getting enough raw signatures to ensure it has collected enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot seems to be within reach.

In Oregon, where marijuana is already legal, a pair of drug reform initiatives appear poised to weather the storm and actually get on the ballot. A drug treatment and decriminalization initiative, IP 44, needs 112,000 valid voter signatures by May, but already had 125,000 raw signatures before the state shutdown began. The campaign has moved to online signature gathering in a bid to get those raw signature numbers further into the comfort zone. At last report, the campaign said it still needed 8,000 valid voter signatures.

The Oregon Therapeutic Psilocybin Initiative, IR 34, is in a similar place. The campaign to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes has moved to online and mail signature gathering. It, too, needs 112,000 valid voter signatures, but has a later deadline in July, and had already gathered 100,000 raw signatures before moving to online signature gathering at the end of March. At that point, its raw signature count was up to 128,000 but it was still seeking to create a cushion by adding at least 15,000 more signers.

A California psilocybin legalization initiative led by Decriminalize California is not in as good a place as its brother to the north. It needs 623,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but only had about a quarter of that in raw signatures by mid-March, when the state moved toward lockdown. It and two other initiative campaigns have asked the governor or the legislature to authorize the electronic collection of signatures, but that hasn't happened yet. It looks like an uphill battle for Golden State 'shroomers this year.

And in Washington, DC,Decriminalize Nature DC, the group behind a psychedelic decriminalization initiative, has been forced to suspend conventional signature gathering because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so now the campaign is looking at other options, including "micro-scale petition signature collection." The campaign would mail petitions to supporters, who could collect signatures from "registered DC voters in their immediate vicinity, such as family, roommates, friends and close-by neighbors" and then return the petitions to campaign headquarters.

What promised to be a banner year for drug reform initiatives as the year began is now unlikely to turn out that way as initiative campaigns, like the nation at large, are buffeted by the coronavirus storm. Still, marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in at least two states -- New Jersey and South Dakota -- and probably in Arizona. Medical marijuana will be on the ballot in at least two states, Mississippi and South Dakota. And with any luck, those Oregon initiatives will be on the ballot, too. Even in a year of retrenchment, there are opportunities to make progress.

NYC 4/20 Pot Party Busted Over Social Distancing, Mexican President Acknowledges Cartel Aid-Giving, More... (4/21/20)

Mexico's president acknowledges cartels have been handing out coronavirus relief packages and implore them to knock it off, a New York City 4/20 pot party ran afoul of social distancing measures, and more.

Weed that never got smoked at that New York City 4/20 pot party. (NYPD)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Curbside Pickup of Pot Now in Effect. Emergency regulations allowing for the curbside pickup of marijuana purchases are now in effect in Alaska. The Marijuana Control Board approved the regulations Friday and Lt. Gov Keven Meyer's office signed off on them later that same day. Business owners who want to do curbside pickup have to apply to the state and submit operational plans.

New York City 4/20 Pot Party Busted for Violating Social Distancing. Police alerted by a concerned citizen reporting a large number of people on the third floor of a Manhattan commercial building ended up busting a party of about 40 people who had gathered to celebrate 4/20, the unofficial marijuana holiday. The party was hosted by a marijuana edibles company called Ganja Pigs, which was not available for comment on Tuesday. Police found a duffel bag full of weed at the party, along with edibles, THC, and paraphernalia. Five people were cited for marijuana offenses and 38 people were cited for unlawful trespassing.

International

Mexico President Acknowledges Cartels Handing Out Aid Packages, Implores Them to Knock It Off. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador acknowledged Monday that drug cartels are handing out aid packages during the coronavirus pandemic, said the government couldn't stop it, and implored the cartels to cut it out. "It is something that happens, it cannot be avoided," López Obrador said. "I don't want to hear them saying, ‘we are handing out aid packages,’"he said. "No, better that they lay off, and think of their families, and themselves, those that are involved in these activities and who are listening to me now or watching me." He also suggested that perhaps some cartel members are rethinking their place in society: "I don't rule out that there are people in the gangs who are becoming conscious, because I don't think you can spend your life always watching your back, worrying about another gang, going from one place to another, because you could get eliminated, that is no life at all,"said López Obrador.

New ACLU Report on Pot Arrests Finds Racial Disparities Persist, UK Loosens Up on Buprenorphine, More... (4/20/20)

Some members of Congress are asking for marijuana businesses to be included in future coronavirus relief packages, the Mexican Supreme Court okays a delay in marijuana legalization until the fall, and more. 

It's Bicycle Day commemorating the day in 1943 when Dr. Albert Hoffman first tripped brains on LSD.
Marijuana Policy

ACLU Report Finds Persistent Racial Disparities in Marijuana Law Enforcement—Even in Legal States. A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on US marijuana arrests between 2010 and 2018 finds that "the racist war on marijuana is far from over." The report found that overall black people are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses, even though they use marijuana at roughly the same rate as whites. That includes states where marijuana is legal. The states with the highest disparities were Montana (9.6 times), Kentucky (9.4), Illinois (7.5), West Virginia (7.3), Iowa (7.3), Vermont (6.1), and North Dakota (5.5).

Members of Congress Formally Request Marijuana Industry's Inclusion in Future Coronavirus Relief Packages. Some 34 members of the House ranging from Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) to Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have signed onto a letter formally requesting House leaders to include the marijuana industry in the next round of bailouts for businesses and people hurt by coronavirus pandemic shutdowns. The letter also asks that marijuana companies also be permitted to receive financial assistance from the government's Small Business Administration (SBA).

Alaska Regulators Approve Emergency Changes to Allow Curbside Pickup from Pot Shops. Last Friday, the state Marijuana Control Board approved emergency changes to allow for curbside pickup of marijuana orders as well as a loosening of transportation rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the rule changes will not go into effect until Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) signs off. If approved, the rules will stay in place for up to 120 days.

International

Great Britain Begins Allowing Monthly Buprenorphine Injections for Heroin Addicts During Pandemic. The National Health Service (NHS) has begun providing once-a-month injections of buprenorphine to recovering heroin addicts instead of requiring daily oral medication as part of a move to protect NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic. It is hoped the change will elieve pressure on pharmacy and NHS services by reducing the amount of contact between individuals and frontline staff.

Mexican Supreme Court Again Extends Marijuana Legalization Deadline. The Mexican Supreme Court has accepted a request from lawmakers to postpone an April 30 deadline to approve a marijuana legalization bill. The request came after both houses of the legislature suspended most of their work because of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is expected to be approved during the Senate’s next ordinary session period, which starts in September.

MA Judge Upholds Recreational Pot Shop Ban; Mexican Cartels Hand Out Food, Supplies Amidst Crisis, More... (4/17/20)

Sorry, Massachusetts, no legal pot sales for you for now; Mexican drug cartels and El Chapo's daughter are currying favor by handing out food and supplies amidst the pandemic, and more. 

"El Chapo"-branded face masks being distributed in Mexico by a company owned by his daughter. (Facebook)
Massachusetts Judge Upholds State Ban on Recreational Pot Shops. A Suffolk County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Gov. Charlie Baker (R) acted within the law when he shut down recreational marijuana businesses as part of a broader stay-at-home order issued to address the coronavirus pandemic. Pot businesses filed suit to overturn the ban, which they argued was arbitrary since Baker's order allowed medical marijuana and liquor outlets to remain open, but Suffolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth Salinger agreed with Baker's argument that the shops would attract out of state visitors: "It was reasonable for the governor to be concerned that the relatively few adult-use marijuana establishments in Massachusetts are more likely than liquor stores or [medical marijuana treatment centers] to attract high volumes of customers, including people traveling from other states," Salinger wrote. "The governor’s decision to treat medical marijuana facilities and liquor stores differently than adult-use marijuana establishments has a rational basis and therefore is constitutional."

International

British Columbia Rolls Out Safe Drugs for Street Users. Last month, the Canadian government urged provinces to lower barrier to prescription medications as part of the effort to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic, and now British Columbia is becoming the first province to apply those guidelines to people using street drugs. Healthcare providers are increasing the supply of opiate maintenance drugs and even dispensing some of them via a unique vending machine. By providing a safe supply of legal drug alternatives, the province hopes to lower a sudden spike in drug overdose deaths that coincided with the coronavirus outbreak in Vancouver.

Mexican Drug Cartels Hand Out More Coronavirus Aid. One of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's daughters and several Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been handing out aid packages to help poor residents get through the coronavirus pandemic. Guzman's daughter Alejandrina is seen in Facebook videos filling boxes with slick logos and an image of her father with food and toilet paper. The video narrator calls them "Chapo's provisions." The boxes were distributed in Guadalajara, Jalisco. The products are made for El Chapo 701, a legal business run by his daughter. But other active cartels are also handing out goods to local residents in some areas in a bid to gain public support. In one case, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel can be seen handing out packages of food and supplies labeled: "From your friends, CJNG, COVID-19 contingency support." The Gulf Cartel did a similar free distribution of supplies to poor residents of Victoria, Tamaulipas, last week. 

 

 

MO Pot Legalization Campaign Falls Victim to COVID-19, Border Smugglers Have to Innovate, More... (4/16/20)

The Show Me State won't be able to show us legal weed this year, the DEA says meth and heroin prices are going up, and more. 

How the US-Mexico border used to look. Now, reduced traffic because of COVID-19 is forcing drug smugglers to innovate. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Legalization Campaign Killed by Coronavirus. The marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by Missourians for a New Approach is no more. While activists with the campaign had sought alternative avenues for signature gathering, they have now conceded that is impossible. The campaign needed more than 160,000 valid voter signatures and only has 80,000 raw signatures now.

Law Enforcement

DEA Says Meth, Heroin Prices Going Up. Dante Sorianello, the assistant special agent in charge of the DEA in the San Antonio district, says meth and heroin prices are going up even though there's been no let up in drug trafficking across the border. "We have seen an increase in the price of narcotics domestically. Now does that mean there’s a shortage of the narcotics here, that could be an indicator of that. Could it also be price gouging by some of the traffickers? It could be that, also using the virus as an excuse," said Sorianello.

Reduced Border Traffic Forcing Cartels to Innovate. Mexican drug cartels are sitting on large stockpiles of synthetic drugs, but international travel restrictions have greatly reduced traffic at border ports of entry, allowing Customs and Border Patrol officers more time to search vehicles for drugs, which in turn is leading to large seizures and forcing drug traffickers to innovate, mainly by returning to old smuggling tactics, such as sending drug mules across the desert or having them swim across the Rio Grande River, Customs and Border Patrol says.

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