Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Federal Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed, LA Governor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bill, More... (6/15/21)

An historic federal drug decriminalization bill is filed, the AMA speaks out for better drug treatment access in jails and prisons, and more.

You'll no longer go to jail for this in Louisiana--at least the first time you get caught. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Governor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bill into Law. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday signed into law a bill that decriminalizes the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana, making a first offense punishable by no more than a $100 fine. Subsequent offenses could, though, earn jail time.

Rhode Island Senate Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved a marijuana legalization bill advanced by Senate leadership. Gov. Daniel McKee (D) and House members have each also sponsored competing legalization bills.  

Drug Policy

Historic Federal Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Cori Bush (D-MO) unveiled the Drug Policy Reform Act (DPRA), whose most striking provision is drug decriminalization. The bill would do away with federal criminal penalties for drug possession, a huge step away from drug war orthodoxy.In line with shifting from a law enforcement approach to drug use to a public health approach, the bill significantly would move regulation over drugs from the Justice Department to the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill also features a number of other provisions, from expunging past records and allowing currently serving inmates to seek resentencing to removing many of the collateral consequences of a drug possession conviction, such as the loss of voting rights and employment opportunities, the denial of public benefits such as food stamps, and deportation for non-citizens.

Drug Treatment

AMA Calls for Access to Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Prisons and Jails. Physicians, residents, and medical students adopted policy during the first day of the Special Meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates strengthening the efforts to increase access to evidence-based medical treatment for justice-involved individuals. Specifically, the policy expands and updates the AMA’s longstanding recommendations to require medication treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) as the standard of care for patients in jail and prison settings, including patients who are pregnant, postpartum, or parenting. The updated policy also reiterates the need for screening upon entry and post-incarceration treatment for mental health and substance use disorders.

Historic Federal Drug Decriminalization Bill Introduced [FEATURE]

As Richard Nixon's self-declared "war on drugs" reaches its 50th birthday -- he declared drugs "public enemy number one" and pledged to "fight and defeat that enemy" at a June 17, 1971 press conference -- a pair of US representatives are ready to end the half-century campaign that has seen hundreds of billions of dollars burned, millions of people arrested, and relationships between communities and law enforcement strained, all without ever even coming close to defeating that "enemy."

Preempting the Nixonian half-centennial, on June 15, Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Cori Bush (D-MO) unveiled the Drug Policy Reform Act (DPRA), whose most striking provision is drug decriminalization. The bill would do away with federal criminal penalties for drug possession, a huge step away from drug war orthodoxy.

And although the vast majority of drug possession arrests are conducted by state and local police under state drugs law -- there were more than 1.5 million drug arrests of all sorts in 2019 and the DEA accounted for only slightly more than 26,000 of them -- the bill is not merely symbolic. It would also penalize states that do not adopt decriminalization by limiting their access to funds from federal law enforcement grant programs.

In line with shifting from a law enforcement approach to drug use to a public health approach, the bill significantly would move regulation over drugs from the Justice Department to the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill also features a number of other provisions, from expunging past records and allowing currently serving inmates to seek resentencing to removing many of the collateral consequences of a drug possession conviction, such as the loss of voting rights and employment opportunities, the denial of public benefits such as food stamps, and deportation for non-citizens.

"The United States has not simply failed in how we carried out the War on Drugs -- the War on Drugs stands as a stain on our national conscience since its very inception," said Rep. Watson Coleman in a press release accompanying the roll-out of the bill.

"Begun in 1972 as a cynical political tactic of the Nixon Administration, the War on Drugs has destroyed the lives of countless Americans and their families. As we work to address the opioid epidemic, it is essential that we change tactics in how we address drug use away from the failed punitive approach to a health-based and evidence-based approach," Watson Coleman continued.

"Growing up in St. Louis, I saw the crack-cocaine epidemic rob my community of so many lives," said Rep. Bush in the joint press release. "I lived through a malicious marijuana war that saw Black people arrested for possession at three times the rate of their white counterparts, even though usage rates are similar. As a nurse, I’ve watched Black families criminalized for heroin use while white families are treated for opioid use. And now, as a Congresswoman, I am seeing the pattern repeat itself with fentanyl, as the DEA presses for an expanded classification that would criminalize possession and use. This punitive approach creates more pain, increases substance use, and leaves millions of people to live in shame and isolation with limited support and healing. It's time to put wellness and compassion ahead of trauma and punishment."

While the introduction of the bill is a historic first -- no other drug decriminalization bill has ever been filed in Congress -- the public is already on board and waiting for Congress to catch up. According to a June 9ance (DPA), which helped Reps. Bush and Watson Coleman draft the bill, 83 percent of respondents said the war on drugs has failed, 66 percent support "eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and reinvesting drug enforcement resources into treatment and addiction services," 64 percent support ending mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, and 63 percent said drug use should be approached as a public health, not a law enforcement issue.

"This is a huge transformational shift, acknowledging that the majority of people who use drugs do not use them problematically," said Queen Adesuyi, policy manager for DPA's Office of National Affairs, during a June 15 virtual press conference on the bill. "As evidenced by 50 long years, criminalization and stigma don't make drug use disappear, they just make using drugs more dangerous. We cannot afford another 50 years of drug war violence and neglect. We must consider forging a new path that doesn't include putting people in cages.

Neill Franklin is a 34-year police veteran who for years commanded drug task forces in northeast Maryland. He recently retired as head of the pro-drug reform group the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), and continues to serve as a spokesperson and board member. LEAP's members are past and former members of law enforcement and prosecutors' offices. Franklin was also on the virtual press conference.

"During my career, I was personally responsible for arresting so many people just for possessing drugs," he said. "It's difficult for police to accept what we are now learning about this health issue of drug use, especially after we've been involved in this failed war on drugs for so long, but not one of us at LEAP disagrees with removing the medical issue of drug use from the police and placing it in the capable hands of practitioners and counselors."

Drug decriminalization is especially important now because of fraught relations between police and the communities they are supposed to serve, as evidenced by the mass protests occasioned by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year. Drug prohibition drives many of those tense interactions between police and people of color.

"This is critical for police reform in this country," Franklin continued. "The war on drugs is one of the main reasons we and our community members have conflicts. Searching our citizens day after day, looking for drugs, civil forfeiture, all that."

With only one state -- Oregon -- having so far embraced drug decriminalization, the feds could lead the way, Franklin added.

"With a federal policy of decriminalizing drugs and the people who use them, the states will follow," he predicted.

But with the first federal decriminalization bill just being introduced, the first hurdle is actually moving it. Reps. Bush and Watson Coleman are now busy seeking cosponsors and moving toward hearings as an initial step.

"We're in the process of arranging conversations, looking for a Senate sponsor and speaking with House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) about future hearings," said Watson Coleman during the virtual press conference. "We recognize that this is beyond urgent, and we'll be doing outreach on both the Senate and the House side.

Supreme Court Rejects Reduced Charges for Low-Level Crack Offenders, ICC Prosecutor Seeks to Open Philippine Drug War Investigation, More... (6/14/21)

Connecticut lawmakers will meet in special session this week in a bid to get marijuana legalization done, Wyoming activists began initiative campaigns for marijuana decriminalization and medical marijuana, and more.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has requested authorization to open a formal investigation of Phiiippines drug war abuses. (ICC)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Lawmakers to Take Up Marijuana Legalization in Special Session This Week. After failing to reach agreement on marijuana legalization legislation during the regular legislative session, lawmakers are set to return to Hartford this week to take up the issue. Democrats say they have the votes to pass it, despite Republican concerns.

Wyoming Marijuana Advocates Roll Out Medical Marijuana, Decriminalization Initiative Campaigns. Marijuana advocates and Libertarian Party members held a press conference outside the state capitol in Cheyenne as they turned in two ballot initiatives, one that would legalize medical marijuana and one that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Sentencing

Supreme Court Rejects Reduced Charges for Low-Level Crack Cocaine Offenders. The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the First Step Act does not apply to low-level crack cocaine offenders, even though supporters of the law said it was intended to do so. The court held that the language of the law meant it applied only to people convicted of possessing larger amounts of cocaine, not those arrested with only a small amount. The decision was unanimous.

International

International Criminal Court Likely to Proceed with Official Investigation of Philippine Drug War Killings. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has concluded its preliminary examination into drug war-related abuses in the Philippines and decided there is sufficient evidence to request judicial authorization to proceed with an official investigation. "The situation in the Philippines has been under preliminary examination since 8 February 2018," said Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. "During that time, my Office has been busy analyzing a large amount of publicly available information and information provided to us under article 15 of the Statute. On the basis of that work, I have determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the Government of Philippines 'war on drugs' campaign."

ICC Prosecutor Announces Request to Authorize Philippines Investigation

Dear friends,

ICC headquarters, The Hague, Netherlands
Today the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced it has sought authorization from the court's pretrial chamber to conduct an investigation into the Philippine drug war killings.  The announcement comes a day before ICC Chief Prosecutor Bensouda completes her nine-year term.

It was three years ago last February when Bensouda announced a preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) into the Philippine drug war killings.  That March, as you likely know, President Rodrigo Duterte transmitted a withdrawal notice from the Philippines from the ICC's Rome Treaty.  In March of this year, the Supreme Court of the Philippines dismissed court challenges to the withdrawal which argued that Duterte had overstepped his bounds and that the Senate of the Philippines had to ratify the move for it to take effect.  Regardless, the court maintains jurisdiction over crimes within its scope committed prior to one year from Duterte's withdrawal notice, meaning through March 2019.

The announcement also comes amid increased warnings by OTP and other ICC officials as well as advocates that the budget provided them by states parties to the treaty is insufficient for its mission, including its current workload of investigations, cases and examinations.  In December Bensouda announced a finding in her office's Ukraine preliminary examination that called for an investigation, but OTP has yet to seek the actual legal authorization needed from the court's pretrial chamber to conduct one.  So it is encouraging (and a relief) to see her send such a request in the Philippines case.  (You can watch our December 2020 expert forum discussing the ICC's resources and other challenges online here.)

Our October 2020 "Autocrat Fair" protest, pro-ICC sign at right.
Perhaps such an announcement will come out today or tomorrow about Ukraine.  If not, we can only speculate right now as to the reasons for the different handling.  One possible reason is that the Philippines case involves a situation of ongoing atrocities being committed, whereas the Ukraine case involves allegations from 2013 and 2014.  Another is President Duterte's withdrawal of Philippines from the Rome Treaty, an attack on the viability if not the very existence of the court itself, and an act that could encourage other rights-abusing leaders to follow suit, if not strongly answered.

How the Office of the Prosecutor will prioritize the Philippines investigation is a question that the incoming prosecutor, Karim Khan, will have to decide.  ICC cases are a years-long endeavor under the best of circumstances, much less with the court's tightly-constrained budget, and the current Philippine presidency's hostility toward the investigation.  Still, today's news is a major step forward in the process, and one that will make an impact in the court of public opinion.

Prosecutor Bensouda's announcement of the authorization request is online here.  An article in the Philippine news outlet Rappler is online here.

Idaho Activists Ponder Two Marijuana Initiatives for 2022, Asian Meth Boomed During Pandemic, More... (6/11/21)

Brazil's lower chamber of parliament approves a hemp and medical marijuana bill, a federal appeals court hears arguments in a marijuana rescheduling case, and more.

The global pandemic boosted meth production in Asia, a new UNODC report finds. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Appeals Court Hears Marijuana Rescheduling Arguments in Case Against DEA. A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Thursday in a case pitting a group of scientists and military veterans against the DEA. The plaintiffs seek to force the DEA to formally reconsider marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug.

Idaho Activists Eye Two 2022 Marijuana Initiatives. Gem State activists are aiming to get two marijuana-related initiatives on the 2022 ballot. One, called the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act, would set up a system of dispensaries for patients, who would not generally be allowed to grow their own. The other, the Personal Adult Marijuana Decriminalization Act, would allow for people to possess up to three ounces of marijuana on private property or while driving in one's vehicle back from a legal weed shop in another state. Both initiatives face major challenges in what is arguably the most anti-marijuana state in the county.

International

Asian Meth Industry Boomed During Pandemic, UNODC Reports. Asian drug trafficking organization flooded markets with meth and other synthetic drugs even as the global economy ground to a halt last year because of the pandemic, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report Thursday. "While the pandemic has caused the global economy to slow down, criminal syndicates that dominate the region have quickly adapted and capitalized. They have continued to aggressively push supply in a conscious effort to build the market and demand," Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement provided to CNN.

Brazil Lower House Approves Bill Legalizing Hemp, Medical Marijuana Cultivation. The Chamber of Deputies' Special Commission on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow for the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal, veterinary, scientific, and industrial use despite the best efforts of allies of anti-reform President Jair Bolsonaro. Marijuana could be grown only by companies, patient associations, or NGOs -- not individuals. The bill now goes to the Senate.

NY Syringe Legalization Passes Senate, Portugal Ponders Marijuana Legalization, More... (6/10/21)

Marijuana legalization bills in Delaware and Rhode Island get delayed, Morocco's parliament has approved the legalization of hemp and medical marijuana, and more.

Even though coca planting in Colombia was down last year, cocaine production was up, UNODC says. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill to Let Researchers Study Marijuana from Dispensaries Wins Committee Vote. Tucked inside an omnibus transit bill is a provision that would let researchers study marijuana from state-legal marijuana shops instead of relying on marijuana from the only currently federally authorized source. That bill and its marijuana research provision passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week and now heads for a House floor vote.

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Vote Delayed. The House was set to vote on a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 150, Thursday, but that didn't happen. Bill sponsor Rep. Edward Osienski (D) said lawmakers needed more time to consider proposed changes in the bills. "House Bill 150 is an extremely important piece of legislation with many complicated moving parts," he said. "In recent days, a number of amendments have been filed by myself and other legislators that would make significant changes to the bill as written. Accordingly, my colleagues and I need time to consider the implications of these various amendments before bringing the bill to the House floor for a vote."

Rhode Island House Speaker Says Marijuana Legalization Bill Could Be Taken Up in Summer or Fall. Marijuana legalization won't be taken up during the remaining days of the regular legislative session, House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D) said. "Marijuana legalization will not be decided until after the budget is adopted this month," Shekarchi said Wednesday. "It is possible we will return sometime in the summer or fall."

Harm Reduction

New York Senate Approves Bill Decriminalizing Needle Possession. The state Senate this week approved Senate Bill 2523, which would decriminalize the sale and possession of needles for injecting drugs. The bill now goes to the Assembly, where it is expected to pass.

International

Colombia Coca Planting Shrank Last Year but Cocaine Output Increased, UNODC Says. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says in a new report that Colombia managed to reduce the area of coca planting by 7% in 2020, but that the potential production of cocaine derived from coca grew by 8%. That means the country produced more than 1,228 metric tons of cocaine last year. UNODC said the increase in production despite the decrease in cultivation was because farmers are sowing more productive varieties of coca, using more efficient agricultural techniques, and planting multiple crops in the same year.

Morocco Parliament Approves Hemp, Medical Marijuana Legalization -- But Not Recreational Marijuana. The upper house of Parliament has approved a bill to legalize the cultivation and sale of cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes, but as Interior Minister Abdeluafi Laftit said, "the illegal use and consumption of marijuana is still prohibited in the country." The bill has already passed the lower house.

Portuguese Parliament to Debate Proposed Marijuana Legalization Bills. Portugal decriminalized drug possession two decades ago, but has never gotten around to legalizing marijuana. That could be about to change. Parliament will meet soon to debate two draft laws that would legalize marijuana.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A dope-slinging Michigan detective gets popped, a Tennessee constable was seizing drugs and training his drug dogs with it instead of turning it in, and more. Let's get to it:

In Highland Park, Michigan, a Highland Park detective was arrested last Wednesday on federal charges for allegedly selling fentanyl-laced heroin while on duty and in uniform. Detective Tiffany Lipkovitch, 45, went down after the FBI used an informant wearing a wire to record drug transactions with her. She is charged with distributing a controlled substance and conspiring to distribute controlled substances, and is looking at up to 20 years in prison.

In Rogersville, Tennessee, the Hawkins County Constable was indicted last Thursday for using drugs seized during traffic stops to train drug detection dogs. Constable William Creasy went down after the local DA sicced the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on him, and agents found that he had taken drugs from people during traffic stops, but didn't turn them in, instead using them to train drug dogs. He is charged with official misconduct and drug possession.

In Brownsville, Texas, a Cameron County jail guard was arrested Monday for allegedly trying to smuggle drugs into the jail. Guard Juliet Gallardo went down after the state Criminal Investigation Department was called in. She is charged with attempted smuggling of contraband.

Medical Marijuana Update

Mississippi's Republican governor says the legislature should create a medical marijuana program, a Pennsylvania court upholds the unemployment claims of a patient fired for off-the-job medical marijuana use, and more.

Colorado

Colorado Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Restrictions Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Monday signed into law House Bill 1317, which includes added medical and mental health reviews during patient applications, an expanded medical marijuana tracking system, and a required dosage amount.

Mississippi

Mississippi Governor Says Legislature Should Create Medical Marijuana Program. In the wake of a state Supreme Court decision invalidating the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, Governor Tate Reeves (D) says he wants lawmakers to craft a medical marijuana program. "I support the will of the voters... I think we will have a medical marijuana program in Mississippi," he said. "It is imperative that we get it done, and get it done quickly."

New Jersey

New Jersey Patient Sues Former Employer for Firing Him for Off-Duty Medical Marijuana Use. A medical marijuana patient, Jamal Campbell, is suing his former employer, Watco Companies and Watco Transloading LLC, in federal court for firing him for using doctor-recommended medical marijuana to treat an injury he got at work. Campbell says the state's medical marijuana law should protect him. The state's top court ruled last year that employers cannot fire medical marijuana patients for marijuana use as long as they don't use it at work.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania House Approves Making Medical Marijuana Pandemic Revisions Permanent. The House on Monday approved a bill which would make permanent changes temporarily put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the bill, patients could continue to pick up their medicine outside a dispensary instead of coming into the building and could purchase a three-month supply instead of a one-month supply. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Pennsylvania Court Oks Unemployment Claim After Medical Marijuana Firing. A state appeals court ruled Tuesday that a warehouse worker fired from his job testing positive for marijuana is entitled to unemployment benefits because his employer was aware he was a medical marijuana patient. With its ruling, the court upheld an earlier decision by the state Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.

National Poll Find Majority Supports Drug Decrim, CT Legal Pot Bill Delayed, More... (6/9/21)

Connecticut's marijuana legalization bill gets bumped to a special session later this month, Washington state marijuana regulators allow pot shops to hand out free joints to people who get vaccinated in-store, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Marijuana Legalization Bill Delayed to Special Session. Facing threats of a filibuster from Republican House members on the last day of the regular session, House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) said he was delaying a planned vote on Senate Bill 1118 and would take up the topic during a special session later this month. That means the bill, which passed the Senate on Tuesday, will technically die at midnight tonight and will have to pass both chambers during the special session.

Washington State Regulators Okay Joints for Jabs. The state Liquor and Cannabis Board announced Monday it will allow licensed dispensaries to provide a free joint to customers who get vaccinated at in-store clinics. "Participating cannabis retailers may only provide a pre-roll joint, and no other product may be provided as part of this allowance," the board said. The temporary allowance will expire on July 12.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Patient Sues Former Employer for Firing Him for Off-Duty Medical Marijuana Use. A medical marijuana patient, Jamal Campbell, is suing his former employer, Watco Companies and Watco Transloading LLC, in federal court for firing him for using doctor-recommended medical marijuana to treat an injury he got at work. Campbell says the state's medical marijuana law should protect him. The state's top court ruled last year that employers cannot fire medical marijuana patients for marijuana use as long as they don't use it at work.

Pennsylvania Court Okays Unemployment Claim After Medical Marijuana Firing. A state appeals court ruled Tuesday that a warehouse worker fired from his job testing positive for marijuana is entitled to unemployment benefits because his employer was aware he was a medical marijuana patient. With its ruling, the court upheld an earlier decision by the state Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.

Psychedelics

Connecticut Governor Signs Therapeutic Psilocybin Study Bill. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) on Monday signed into law Senate Bill1083, which includes a provision mandating that the state carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms. "Such study shall include, but need not be limited to, an examination of whether the use of psilocybin by a person under the direction of a health care provider may be beneficial to the person's physical or mental wellbeing," the text of the measure states.

Drug Policy

On 50th Anniversary of "War on Drugs," New Poll Shows Majority of Voters Support Ending Criminal Penalties for Drug Possession, Think Drug War is a Failure. Wednesday, ahead of the 50th anniversary of when President Richard Nixon declared the "war on drugs," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released a Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI) poll showing strong support for eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and replacing it with a new approach centered in public health. The poll found 66% of voters support "eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and reinvesting drug enforcement resources into treatment and addiction services," 63% say drug use should be addressed as a public health issue while only 33% say it should be addressed as a criminal justice issue, 65% support ending the "War on Drugs," 64% support repealing mandatory minimums for drug offenses, 61% support commuting sentences of drug war prisoners, and a whopping 83% say the "War on Drugs" has failed.

CT Senate Votes to Legalize Marijuana, VT Governor Signs Marijuana Social Equity Bill, More... (6/8/21)

Louisiana is one signature away from marijuana decriminalization, Colorado's governor signs a bill tightening up medical marijuana regulations, and more.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has just signed a bill designed to bring social equity to the state's retail pot sector. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Senate early Tuesday approved a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 1118. The House is set to take up the bill Wednesday, the end-of-session deadline. The bill is the product of weeks of negotiations between Gov. Ned Lamont (D) and legislative leaders, and final language was only introduced on Saturday.

Louisiana Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Goes to Governor's Desk. With a final vote in the Senate Monday, a bill to decriminalize the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana, House Bill 652, is now headed for the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

Nevada Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Marijuana Consumption Lounges. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) last Friday signed into law a bill that paves the way for marijuana consumption laws in the state, Assembly Bill 341. It creates two new licensing categories for marijuana businesses, "retail cannabis consumption lounge" and "independent cannabis consumption lounge."

Vermont Governor Signs Marijuana Social Equity Bill. Gov. Phil Scott (R) has signed into law Senate Bill 25, which will establish a fund to help people of color and others affected by past marijuana laws open businesses in the new marijuana market. Retail marijuana sales are set to begin in October 2022 after a bill allowing them passed last year.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Restrictions Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Monday signed into law House Bill 1317, which includes added medical and mental health reviews during patient applications, an expanded medical marijuana tracking system, and a required dosage amount.

Pennsylvania House Approves Making Medical Marijuana Pandemic Revisions Permanent. The House on Monday approved a bill which would make permanent changes temporarily put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the bill, patients could continue to pick up their medicine outside a dispensary instead of coming into the building and could purchase a three-month supply instead of a one-month supply. The measure now heads to the Senate.

CT Marijuana Legalization Vote Coming This Week, British MPs Call for Festival Pill Testing, More... (6/7/21)

Connecticut is poised to become the fourth state to legalize marijuana this year, Mississippi's governor calls on the legislature to create a medical marijuana program, and more.

Connecticut could be the next state to legalize marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor, Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Marijuana Legalization Bill. Legislative leaders announced Saturday that they had reached a deal with Governor Ned Lamont (D) on a marijuana legalization bill. Some lawmakers had concerns with Lamont's initial proposal, particularly around what they portrayed as a lack of social equity provisions, but those have now been addressed, and the bill is expected to be voted on this week. The new compromise legalization bill is Senate Bill 1118.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Says Legislature Should Create Medical Marijuana Program. In the wake of a state Supreme Court decision invalidating the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, Governor Tate Reeves (D) says he wants lawmakers to craft a medical marijuana program. "I support the will of the voters. ... I think we will have a medical marijuana program in Mississippi," he said. It is imperative that we get it done, and get it done quickly."

International

British MPs Call for Pill Testing Amid Fears of Rise in UK Festival Deaths. The parliamentary Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee has called on the home secretary to roll out widespread pill testing services ahead of this year's musical festival season, saying it had reviewed the evidence and found "compelling" arguments that the procedure saved lives. "There have been no drug-related deaths at any festival [with pill testing]," the committee noted. The committee also noted that the government said in 2018 it would not "stand in the way" of pill testing, but that hadn't always been the case, especially since it required the okay of local police departments. "We are highly concerned that a compressed festival season, the likely circulation of high-strength, adulterated drugs and increased risk-taking after lockdown will lead to a spike in drug-related deaths at festivals this summer," the committee noted. "We heard compelling arguments that drug checking saves lives, but in many cases service providers and police forces are being constrained by a lack of clarity in the legal framework and the need for a stronger evidence base."

Czech Lower House Approves Medical Marijuana, Hemp Changes. The lower house of parliament last Wednesday approved a bill amending the country's laws around medical marijuana and hemp. Under the bill, medical marijuana exports would be legal, tinctures and isolates could be sold, medical marijuana could be grown by multiple licensed private groups, and hemp products with less than 1 percent THC would not be considered addictive substances, clearing the way for the production of hemp products. 

VT Legalizes Limited Buprenorphine Possession, Human Rights Watch Supports MORE Act, More... (6/4/21)

A leading international human rights group gets behind the MORE Act, a psychedelic research bill goes to the governor in Texas and another is filed in New York, and more.

Buprenorphine. A new Vermont law allows people to possess a two-week supply without a prescription. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Human Rights Watch Urges Congress to Support the MORE Act. In a letter to House leaders of both parties, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch urges passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617)and calls on leadership figures to show their support by signing on as cosponsors of the bill. "Human Rights Watch again calls upon members of Congress to take the necessary steps to further racial justice by swiftly ending marijuana prohibition and repairing the harm it has caused," the letter said.

Idaho Activists Launch Limited Legalization Initiative Campaign for 2022 Ballot. Idaho activists have launched a new campaign for limited marijuana legalization aimed at the 2022 ballot. The proposed initiative would make it legal for people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces on private property and provide protections for people who travel to neighboring states to procure legal marijuana there by specifying that "transporting a personal amount of marijuana from a jurisdiction where the marijuana was legally purchased" would be legal. Campaigners have until May 1, 2022 to collect about 65,000 valid signatures from registered voters to make the ballot.

Harm Reduction

Vermont Becomes First State to Legalize Limited Possession of Buprenorphine. With the signature of Gov. Phil Scott (R) on House Bill 225 Tuesday, Vermont has become the first state to legalize the possession of buprenorphine, a prescription drug used to treat opioid use disorder. The new law will allow people to possess a roughly two-week supply of the drug without a doctor's prescription. The new law, however, sunsets in two years unless the legislature decides to renew it.

Psychedelics

New York Bill to Create State Sponsored Psychedelic Research Institute. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) this week filed a bill that would mandate that the state create an institute to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs. "There is growing evidence to suggest that psychedelics, including psilocybin, can be a useful tool in treating symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and to help individuals recover from a substance use disorder," Rosenthal explained. "Psychedelics provide a host of benefits without the same risk of overdose or dependency that other medications may provide. This bill would provide New York State the opportunity to research the use of psychedelics and the many benefits they can provide."

Texas Psychedelic Research Bill Heads for Governor's Desk. Both houses of the legislature have now approved House Bill 1802, which would expand research on therapeutic psychedelics. The bill is now on the desk of Governor Greg Abbott (R).

The Push to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition This Year Is Now Underway [FEATURE]

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) took to the House floor last Friday to begin the push to end federal pot prohibition this year with the introduction of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

Can marijuana legalization get through Congress this year? And would Biden sign it? (Creative Commons)
"For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one's views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the federal level has proven unwise and unjust," Nadler said as he addressed his colleagues. "In my view, applying criminal penalties, with their attendant collateral consequences for marijuana offenses is unjust and harmful to our society. The MORE Act comprehensively addresses this injustice, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation."

The bill's initial cosponsors are Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY. A similar version of the MORE Act passed the House last year, only to die from inaction in the Republican-controlled Senate. But this year, the Democrats are in control, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he is preparing to file a bill in the upper chamber soon.

"Last year, we saw more progress toward cannabis legalization than ever before. This has been driven by unprecedented reforms at the state level. Now, Congress must deal with the problems created by the failed federal policy of prohibition," said Rep. Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus in a press release. "With a strong base of support in the House and in the Senate, the table is set. It's past time that we stop federal interference with cannabis banking and research, as well as the terrible pattern of selective enforcement that has devastated communities of color. The MORE Act will help address all of these problems and more."

The MORE Act has three main provisions:

  • It removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, making it legal at the federal level and clearing the way for states to legalize it at home.
  • It mandates that federal courts must expunge past marijuana convictions and allows them to hold resentencing hearings for those still behind bars or under non-custodial supervision.
  • It makes an effort to redress drug war wrongs and racially disparate enforcement by assessing a 5 percent sales tax on marijuana and pot products, which will be used fund three different grant programs for drug war victims, loans to small businesses "owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals," and to eliminate licensing and employment barriers for people "most adversely impacted" by drug prohibition.

The bill would also make legal marijuana businesses eligible for Small Business Administration funding, bar discrimination against people who use or possess marijuana (such as in federal housing) and require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on industry demographics to monitor how much poor people and minorities are actually participating in the industry.

"The MORE Act would not only decriminalize marijuana federally, but also take steps to address the harmful impacts of federal prohibition, particularly on communities of color," said Rep. Jackson Lee, Chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. "We need to pass the MORE Act as an important component of a broader effort to reform our drug laws, which disproportionately harm racial minorities and fuel mass incarceration. That is why I am also working to advance additional legislation to achieve comprehensive reform of our criminal justice system."

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is part of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups (155 organizations in all) that are backing the bill. It worked closely with Rep. Nadler on the original language of the bill last year and has been closely involved ever since.

"It is clear, by the overwhelming extent to which they passed the MORE Act last session, that the House understands this for the urgent racial and social justice issue it is," DPA Director of the Office of National Affairs Maritza Perez said in a statement. "Our communities that have borne the brunt of marijuana prohibition have waited long enough for justice. We urge House leadership to move swiftly to bring the bill back to the floor this session, so that we can continue the momentum and move a marijuana justice bill in the Senate as well."

Unsurprisingly, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is also onboard.

"It's clear that Americans overwhelmingly support ending cannabis prohibition. Reintroducing the MORE Act is a powerful way to reorient negotiations around legalization that gives our entire nation the power to choose cannabis for medical and adult use, strengthens a blossoming industry that is creating jobs and fueling economic growth, and begins to rectify the harms of the racially motivated war on cannabis and its disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities through criminal justice reform and social equity initiatives, MPP Executive Director Steve Hawkins said in a statement. "We endorse this bill and urge Congress to pass it."

But the leader of the loudest anti-marijuana reform group in the country, Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, also unsurprisingly, thinks it's a bad idea.

"As we have said since the initial introduction of this short-sighted bill two years ago, the MORE Act is a complete non-starter and the wrong approach we need when it comes to federal drug policy," he said in a statement warning of Big Pot. "This bill would fully legalize marijuana; it will not simply decriminalize the drug -- which would only remove criminal penalties for possession. Rather, it's nothing less than the wide-scale commercialization and normalization of a drug that does not resemble the old marijuana of the 1970s."

It's pretty lonesome where Sabet is, though. The most recent Gallup poll had more than two-thirds (68 percent) favoring legalization and still trending up. Now, if somebody will just tell the Senate. And the president, who is so far standing firm not for legalization but for decriminalization. The question is: What will Biden do if he MORE Act lands on his desk?

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Oregon cop is in trouble for getting too wasted on drugs he stole from the evidence locker and wrecking his cruiser, a Philadelphia prison guard goes down for acting as a dope DoorDash for inmates, and more.

In Albany, New York, a New York State Patrol trooper was arrested May 26 in the bust of "large-scale narcotics operation." Trooper Robert Coleman, 46, a 20-year veteran, was "abusing narcotics" and was caught in possession of heroin and cocaine, prosecutors said. He's facing one count of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 7th, a class A misdemeanor.

In Brownsville, Texas, a now-former Brownsville police officer was arrested last Tuesday for using his residence to store and distribute methamphetamine and cocaine. Jose Salinas, 52, faces federal drug trafficking conspiracy charges.

In Klamath Falls, Oregon, a now-former Klamath Falls police officer was indicted last Wednesday after of stealing methamphetamine and fentanyl from an evidence locker and then overdosing on the drugs in his police cruiser. Then-Officer Thomas Reif's cruiser jumped the median and veered into oncoming traffic, causing a multi-car crash back in November. After the crash, he was revived at a local hospital, and toxicology results came back positive for meth and fentanyl. Police also found a bag of meth in his locker at the police station. He's accused of using an unauthorized key to remove the drug from another officer's evidence locker, and faces two federal counts of possessing a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.

In Pell City, Alabama, a Pell City police officer was arrested last Thursday on drug charges. Officer Barry Wathen faces two counts of distribution of a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance. And that's all the information we have.

In Philadelphia, a state prison guard was arrested last Friday for allegedly taking more than $11,000 in bribes to smuggle drugs, cell phones, and other contraband into the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center. Guard Haneef Lawson, a 23-year veteran, took the contraband and cash from a relative of one of the prisoners, delivering roughly $69,000 in phones and Suboxone to inmates between last fall and April of this year. He faces an unspecified conspiracy charge.

Medical Marijuana Update

The Florida Supreme Court upholds the state's corporate-friendly medical marijuana rules, the Texas Senate approves a medical marijuana expansion bill, and more.

Colorado

Colorado Bill with Stricter Rules for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. After a lengthy hearings, the House Public& Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill, House Bill 1317, proposing stricter rules for medical marijuana patients and physicians, as well as new packaging requirements for commercial marijuana concentrate and state-funded research into the mental-health effects of potent marijuana products. The bill now goes before the House Finance Committee.

Florida

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Restrictive Medical Marijuana Rules. In a ruling Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld the state's restrictive medical marijuana rules, rejecting a challenge from a grower who was denied a license. The grower had argued that the state's regulation did not comply with the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana. A 2017 law created steep barriers to entry in the industry by mandating that licensees had to operate in every aspect of the business.

Texas

Texas Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate last Tuesday approved House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Amazon Comes Out for Marijuana Legalization, CA Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Passes Senate, More... (6/2/21)

A new poll finds surprising but still minority support for therapeutic uses of psychedelics, a Nevada bill to allow marijuana consumption lounges heads to the governor's desk, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other psychedelics could be decriminalized in California. (Pixabay))
Marijuana Policy

Amazon Will Support Federal Marijuana Legalization, Drop Marijuana Drug Testing for Some Jobs. Amazon consumer boss Dave Clark said in a blog post Tuesday that the company's public policy team would actively support passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act and will quit screening potential hires for marijuana use except for positions regulated by the Department of Transportation.

Nevada Lawmakers Send Marijuana Consumption Lounge Bill to Governor. The state Senate on Monday approved a bill allowing marijuana consumption lounges, Assembly Bill 341. The measure had passed the Assembly last week and is now headed for the desk of Governor Steve Sisolak (D).

Psychedelics

Poll: More Than A Third of Voters Say Psychedelics Have Medicinal Use. A new Hill-HarrisX poll finds that more than a third (35%) say psychedelic substances such as magic mushrooms have a medical use. The poll comes amid increasing excitement in the research community over the medicinal potential of psychedelics and as voters in various locales begin moving to decriminalize and/or allow their therapeutic use.

California Senate Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill. The state Senate on Monday approved a bill to decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of psychedelics, Senate Bill 519. The bill now heads to the Assembly, where it must be approved before going to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom (D).

Duterte Issues More Death Threats to Drug Dealers, AL Law Applies "Implied Consent" to Saliva Tests, More... (6/1/21)

Myanmar may see a rebound in opium production in the wake of the coup and the pandemic, Philippines President Duterte stays true to thuggish form, and more.

More trouble down Mexico way. It's getting hot in the Michoacan's Tierra Caliente.
Drug Testing

Alabama Law Increases Use of Saliva Tests to Catch Drug-Impaired Drivers. Governor Kay Ivey (R) has signed into law a bill that will treat saliva tests the same as breath and blood tests, meaning drivers in the state will have given "implied consent" to be tested and will lose their driving privileges for three months if they refuse. Previously, saliva tests did not carry that "implied consent" provision and drivers accused of driving under the influence could refuse them without sanction.

International

Mexico Cartel Violence Flares in Michoacan. After confrontations with National Guard members last week, warring cartels burned vehicles and blocked highways in the Tierra Caliente region of the state of Michoacan. Eleven roads were reported blocked in five municipalities: Apatzingán, Buenavista, Parácuaro, Tepalcatepec and Aguililla. In Aguilla, gunmen from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel burned vehicles to block more security forces from entering, while in Buenavista guardsmen and state police were attacked with sticks and rocks by local residents. Meanwhile, members of the rival United Cartels blocked roads in Apatzingan, Buenavista, and Paracuaro. No word on any casualties.

UN Warns of Likely Bump in Myanmar Opium Production After Pandemic, Coup. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is warning of a potential rise in opium production because of economic dislocation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the February 1 military coup. Myanmar is the world's second largest opium producer, behind Afghanistan. Production had been trending down since 2014, but the twin threats could reverse that: "The opium economy is really a poverty economy; it functions in a sense the opposite of what the licit economy does. As people exit that economy and they need to make money, they are going to be looking at places they can make it, and often people that are in poor areas and poverty-stricken areas look to make money from the opium economy," said Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC's representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "Probably 12 months out, 18 months out, we're going to be looking at an expansion unless past history is wrong. There's a cycle of this happening in the country over its history," he added.

Philippines President Rejects Providing Full Details on Drug Crackdown, Threatens to Kill More Drug Dealers. President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised speech Monday that he would not open up police records about killings in his bloody anti-drug crackdown, comparing the campaign to the government's war against the communist New People's Army. "This is a national security issue like the NPA," he said. The Supreme Court disagrees, noting in a 2018 resolution that anti-drug operations do not usually "involve state secrets affecting national security" like those dealing with "rebellion, invasion, terrorism, espionage, infringement of our sovereignty or sovereign rights by foreign powers." Duterte also warned drug dealers that: "If I am there, I will really kill you. I don't care if there's TV around. I will really kill you."

Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed in House, MD Governor Vetoes Paraphernalia Decrim, More... (5/28/21)

The proposed Biden budget retains the ban on selling and taxing marijuana in Washington, DC, marijuana consumption lounge bills are moving in California and Nevada, and more.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has vetoed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of drug paraphernalia. (Creative Commons
Marijuana Policy

Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced in House. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D=NY) reintroduced a marijuana legalization bill Friday morning, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act. The House passed a similar version of the bill last year, only to see in die in the GOP-led Senate. This year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he will filed a legalization bill shortly.

Biden Budget Keeps Ban on DC Marijuana Sales. President Biden's first proposed budget retains congressionally imposed on selling and taxing marijuana in the nation's capital. House Democrats could ignore that that proposal and vote to undo the budget rider that blocks the District from moving forward, but that could get complicated in the evenly divided Senate.

California Assembly Approves Bill to Allow Food and Drink Sales at Marijuana Consumption Lounges. The Assembly on Thursday approved Assembly Bill 1034, which would alter the state's marijuana laws, which already allow consumption lounges, to allow those lounges to sell non-marijuana foods and drinks. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Nevada Assembly Approves Marijuana Consumption Lounge Bill. The Assembly on Thursday approved Assembly Bill 341 on a 29-12 vote. The bill would allow existing pot retailers to open a consumption lounge at one of its facilities. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill with Stricter Rules for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. After a lengthy hearings, the House Public& Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill, House Bill 1317, proposing stricter rules for medical marijuana patients and physicians, as well as new packaging requirements for commercial marijuana concentrate and state-funded research into the mental-health effects of potent marijuana products. The bill now goes before the House Finance Committee.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Restrictive Medical Marijuana Rules. In a ruling Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld the state's restrictive medical marijuana rules, rejecting a challenge from a grower who was denied a license. The grower had argued that the state's regulation did not comply with the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana. A 2017 law created steep barriers to entry in the industry by mandating that licensees had to operate in every aspect of the business.

Drug Policy

Federal Bill to Make Fentanyl Schedule I Filed in House. A bipartisan pair of congressmen filed the Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act on Thursday. The drug and its analogs have been temporarily placed in Schedule I, a classification that was set to expire earlier this month, but was extended to October 2022. This bill, and companion legislation already filed in the Senate, would make the move permanent.

Illinois Legislature Approves Bill Restoring Food Stamp Benefits for Drug Felons. With a vote in the Senate Thursday, the legislature has approved House Bill 88, which would provide that a conviction for a drug crime would no longer make people ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (food stamps) benefits. The ban is federally imposed, but contains a provision allowing states to opt out from enforcing it, and nearly all states have.

Harm Reduction

Maryland Governor Vetoes Drug Paraphernalia Decriminalization Bill. Governor Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bill that would have decriminalized the possession of drug paraphernalia on Wednesday, Senate Bill 420. He cited public safety concerns in his veto message. But bill sponsor Senator Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) has vowed to override the veto. The bill passed with a veto-proof majority in the House, but not the Senate.

Good Pot Polls in NH & UT, ME Drug Decrim Advances, More... (9/27/21)

Little Rock makes small-time pot possession the lowest law enforcement priority, a Texas medical marijuana expansion bill is now one House vote away from passing, and more.

Marijuana legalization has overwhelming support in new polls from New Hampshire and Utah. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the University of New Hampshire has 75% support for marijuana legalization, with even a slightly higher number (78%) saying they supported letting people by it from licensed retailers if it is legalized. Support for Governor Chris Sununu (R), who opposes legalization, by contrast, is at 51%.

Utah Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Change Research and released by the US Cannabis Council had support for regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at 73% and support for federal marijuana legalization at 66%.

Little Rock Makes Marijuana Possession Lowest Law Enforcement Priority. City directors approved a municipal ordinance to make misdemeanor marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority on a 7-3 vote Tuesday. Although the police chief said the department hasn't sent anyone to jail for small-time pot possession for several years, directors said without a formal policy there was a risk of selective enforcement.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate late Tuesday approved House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Drug Policy

Maine Joint Committee Advances Drug Decriminalization Bill. The Joint Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved a drug decriminalization bill, LD 967, but was split on how to handle decriminalization as the bill goes forward. The bill would make drug possession a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine, which could be waived if they submit to an "evidence-based assessment for proposed treatment for substance use disorder."

International

Morocco House Votes to Legalize Hemp, Medical Marijuana. The House on Wednesday approved a bill legalizing hemp and medical marijuana. The bill would allow for "the legal uses of cannabis, medical, cosmetic and industrial," with the aim of "converting illicit crops that destroy the environment into sustainable legal activities that generate value, money and employment." The bill must still be approved by the legislature's upper house.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Minnesota deputy cops a plea for being on fentanyl during a deadly high-speed pursuit, a small town Maine police offcer's problems just got much worse, and more. Let's get to it:

In Muleshoe, Texas, a former Bailey County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday on unspecified drug charges. Ex-Deputy Jorge Torres was arrested along with two other people. All three are charged with possession of a controlled substance between 3 and 400 grams. The charge is a first-degree felony. Torres was a deputy until he was fired upon arrest.

In Bangor, Maine, a former Calais police officer arrested in February was indicted last Friday on 35 counts, including multiple counts of stealing drugs and guns from the police department. Jeffrey Bishop, 53, was originally arrested for providing drugs to a teenage girl in a high school parking lot, but now is in much deeper trouble. He now faces five counts of stealing drugs from the department and 24 counts related to 16 stolen guns police found in his home in February. He also was indicted on four charges of aggravated furnishing of drugs and one charge of unlawful trafficking in drugs.

In Fergus Falls, Minnesota, an Otter Tail County sheriff's deputy signed a plea agreement Sunday after being found to be under the influence of fentanyl during a police pursuit that resulted in the deaths of two innocent people. Deputy Kelly Douglas Backman, 43, went down after the post-crash investigation revealed he had fentanyl in his system and had failed to submit evidence in narcotics cases. He will plead guilty to official misconduct and serve 30 days of electronic home monitoring. A misdemeanor DUI charge was dismissed. Prosecutors dismissed several drug cases Backman investigated because he would be considered an unreliable witness in court.

Medical Marijuana Update

Mississippians rallied Tuesday to demand a legislative special session to restor the voter-approved medical marijuana law, a New Mexico patient sues over purchase and plant limits, and more.

Colorado

Colorado Bill to Restrict Concentrates Causes Uproar. A bill that would bring new medical marijuana restrictions, House Bill 21-1317, is generating resistance from parents of child medical marijuana patients, who say it would cause severe barriers to their care. The bill would require physicians to include THC potency level, daily quantity, and directions for use. The bill also imposes new restrictions on medical marijuana for young adults in the 18-to-20 group, who would be required to see two physicians from different practices in order to qualify.

Minnesota

Minnesota Governor Signs into Law Bill Legalizing Smokable Medical Marijuana. Governor Tim Walz (D) on Tuesday signed into law a medical marijuana expansion bill that includes allowing adult patient to use smokable marijuana products. That policy must take effect by March 1, 2022, or earlier if rules are developed and the state's cannabis commissioner authorizes it.

Mississippi

Mississippians Rally to Demand Special Session to Pass Medical Marijuana. Protestors marched Tuesday from the Supreme Court to the governor's mansion calling for a special session of the legislature after the state Supreme Court last week threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana law. The measure had passed with 74% of the vote, but the court tossed it because the state constitution requires signature gathering requirements in five US representative districts and the state has only had four of them since 2000.

New Mexico

New Mexico Patient Sues State Over Medical Marijuana Purchase Limits, Plant Counts. Medical marijuana patient and activist Jason Barker is suing the state over limits on medical marijuana purchases. Under the state's new marijuana legalization law, people can buy up to two ounces at a time, but under state rules, patients may only purchase eight ounces every 90 days. "The law is clear, all medical cannabis patients may purchase at least two-ounces of medical cannabis at any one time, tax free, beginning on June 29, 2021," Barker's lawyer said. Barker also alleges the state's 1,750-plant cap on medical marijuana producers infringes on patients' rights by reducing supply and increasing prices.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Bill to Make Pandemic-Era Lessening of Delivery Restrictions Permanent Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health Committee on Monday approved a proposal to make permanent pandemic-related loosening of the state's medical marijuana rules permanent, House Bill 1024 The state Health Department allowed curbside pickups and the purchase of three-month supplies during the pandemic, and this bill would retain those changes. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Texas

Texas Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Monday to approve House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, and if it does, then go back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate. since 2000.

IL House Passes Marijuana Equity Bill, Mexican State Police Commander Gunned Down, More... (5/26/21)

A new poll shows strong support for marijuana legalization in the Mountaineer State, a Louisiana bill to end the threat of jail time for pot possession advances, and more.

Minnesota medical marijuana patients will soon be able to smoke their medicine. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois House Passes Marijuana Equity Bill. The House on Tuesday passed House Bill 1443, which would revamp the state's system for awarding marijuana dispensary licenses with an eye toward increasing minority participation in the legal industry. The bill would create two new lotteries for dispensary licenses creating 110 new licenses in addition to the 75 already licensed. The bill now heads to the Senate, which has until Monday's legislative deadline to pass it with a simple majority.

Louisiana House Panel Advances Bill to Lower Marijuana Penalties. The Senate Judiciary C Committee voted on Tuesday to approve House Bill 652, which would remove the threat of jail time for low-level marijuana possession offenses. Pot possession would remain a misdemeanor, but punishable only by a $100 fine. The bill has already passed the House and now heads for a final Senate floor vote.

West Virginia Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Change Research finds strong support for marijuana legalization in the state. Some 70% of registered voters supported marijuana legalization, 77% supported Congress doing it this year in light of legalization in other countries, and 89% supported allowing medical marijuana to be dispensed in VA facilities.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Governor Signs into Law Bill Legalizing Smokable Medical Marijuana. Governor Tim Walz (D) on Tuesday signed into law a medical marijuana expansion bill that includes allowing adult patient to use smokable marijuana products. That policy must take effect by March 1, 2022, or earlier if rules are developed and the state's cannabis commissioner authorizes it.

Mississippians Rally to Demand Special Session to Pass Medical Marijuana. Protestors marched Tuesday from the Supreme Court to the governor's mansion calling for a special session of the legislature after the state Supreme Court last week threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana law. The measure had passed with 74% of the vote, but the court tossed it because the state constitution requires signature gathering requirements in five US representative districts and the state has only had four of them since 2000.

International

Mexico's Head of State Police in Sinaloa Gunned Down. Presumed cartel gunmen ambushed Joel Ernesto Soto, director of the Sinaloa State Police, on Monday, killing him. He was found dead in his bullet-riddled car on the outskirts of Culiacan, the state capital. Sinaloa is the home of the Sinaloa cartel, which is now embroiled in internecine violence as well as armed conflict with the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel.

LA House Passes Legal Pot Study Resolution, Peru Coca Zone Massacre, More... (5/25/21)

An Illinois marijuana equity bill heads for a House floor vote, a loosening of medical marijuana regulations during the pandemic may be made permanent in Pennsylvania, the Texas legislature advances bills to reduce penalties for pot concentrates and to study the therapeutic use of psychedelics, and more.

The Shining Path is suspected of massacring villagers in a coca-producing region of Peru. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Marijuana Equity Licensing Bill Heads to House Floor. A bill designed to get more people from drug war-ravaged communities involved in the legal marijuana industry, House Bill 1443, has passed out of the House Rules Committee and is now headed for a House floor vote.

Louisiana House Passes Marijuana Study Resolution. The House on Monday approved House Resolution 1, which directs the House Criminal Justice Committee to conduct a study of the impact of the use and legalization of marijuana. The move comes after efforts to approve legalization stalled in the legislature last week.

Texas Legislature Approves Bill to Lessen Penalties for Marijuana Concentrates. The Senate has approved House Bill 2593, which would reduce the penalty for the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana concentrates to a class B misdemeanor. The measure has already passed the House and now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill to Make Pandemic-Era Lessening of Delivery Restrictions Permanent Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health Committee on Monday approved a proposal to make permanent pandemic-related loosening of the state's medical marijuana rules permanent, House Bill 1024. The state Health Department allowed curbside pickups and the purchase of three-month supplies during the pandemic, and this bill would retain those changes. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Texas Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Monday to approve House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, and if it does, then go back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Methampheamine

Oregon Bill Would Re-Legalize Over-the-Counter Pseudoephedrine Sales. In 2006, Oregon became the first state to ban OTC sales of cold and allergy remedies because they contain pseudoephedrine and could be used in home meth manufacture. Now, a new bill, House Bill 2648, would end the ban and allow anyone over 18 to buy products containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription, has been filed. It is currently before the Senate Health Care Committee.

Psychedelics

Texas Senate Approves Therapeutic Psychedelic Study Bill. The Senate has approved House Bill 1802, which would require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and MDMA. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of a budget-neutrality amendment passed in the Senate.

International

Peru Coca Zone Massacre Leaves 14 Dead. At least 14 men, women, and children were killed in a massacre in the Ene River Valley, one of the country's most important coca-growing areas. Pamphlets from a Shining Path splinter group were left at the scene, and authorities were pointing the finger at the group. Shining Path, a Maoist-inspired guerrilla group, led a brutal insurgency that left 70,000 dead in the 1980s, but had largely been eliminated since 1992. But remnants remain in the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), where they have morphed into coca and cocaine traffickers.

Philippines Senator Lobbies for Death Penalty for Drug Offenses. Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who once led the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs, argued that the death penalty for drug offenses should be reinstated Tuesday during a hearing on a bill that aims to toughen the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. He complained that imprisoned Chinese drug lords were still running their businesses from behind bars, saying "the frustration of law enforcement is that had these drug lords been executed, we would not have these problems now." But drug reform advocate Dr. Lee Edson Yarcia pointed out that under the proposed bill, the death penalty is not imposed on top drug lords or syndicates: "This was included in the provision about persons who are in possession of dangerous drugs during parties, social gatherings, or meetings," he noted. The House passed a reform bill last year, but the Senate has yet to file one. This was a preliminary hearing.

House Marijuana Legalization Bill Coming Soon, CO Doubles Legal Pot Possession Amounts, More... (5/21/21)

The House could see a marijuana legalization bill as early as next week, an Illinois marijuana social equity bill heads for a state House floor vote, and more.

Marijuana Policy

House Marijuana Legalization Bill Could Be Filed as Early as Next Week. House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) could refile the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act as soon as next week, according to Capitol Hill sources. This year's version omits language that would have barred people with marijuana convictions from being able to operate in the legal industry. And it adds language that broadens help for economically disenfranchised people.

Colorado Governor Signs Bill Doubling Legal Possession Amounts. Governor Jared Polis (D) on Thursday signed into law House Bill 21-1090, which doubles the amount of marijuana adults can legally possess from one ounce to two ounces. It also streamlines the record-sealing process for past marijuana possession convictions and expands record-sealing eligibility to include additional marijuana offenses. The new law takes effect immediately.

Illinois Marijuana Social Equity Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill designed to increase participation in the legal marijuana industry for people from distressed communities, House Bill 1443, is now headed for a House floor vote. "The bill will correct a flawed license lottery system that has prevented minorities from ownership in the industry," Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) the bill's chief sponsor, said during a news conference Thursday.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill to Restrict Concentrates Causes Uproar. A bill that would bring new medical marijuana restrictions, House Bill 21-1317, is generating resistance from parents of child medical marijuana patients, who say it would cause severe barriers to their care. The bill would require physicians to include THC potency level, daily quantity, and directions for use. The bill also imposes new restrictions on medical marijuana for young adults in the 18-to-20 group, who would be required to see two physicians from different practices in order to qualify.

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, NM Patient Sues Over Purchase Limits, More... (5/20/21)

The Louisiana House rejected marijuana legalization but is now considering a legalization study resolution, Arizona's governor signs into law a bill legalizing fentanyl test strips, and more.

magic mushrooms (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana House Committee Approves Resolution Calling for Study of Marijuana Legalization. Days after a marijuana legalization bill died in the House, a House committee has approved a resolution calling for the creation of a committee to study the impacts of legalization. The committee would include legislative leaders, prosecutors, sheriffs, medical marijuana industry representatives, criminal justice reform advocates, LSU, and Southern Ag.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Patient Sues State Over Medical Marijuana Purchase Limits, Plant Counts. Medical marijuana patient and activist Jason Barker is suing the state over limits on medical marijuana purchases. Under the state's new marijuana legalization law, people can buy up to two ounces at a time, but under state rules, patients may only purchase eight ounces every 90 days. "The law is clear, all medical cannabis patients may purchase at least two-ounces of medical cannabis at any one time, tax free, beginning on June 29, 2021," Barker's lawyer said. Barker also alleges the state's 1,750-plant cap on medical marijuana producers infringes on patients' rights by reducing supply and increasing prices.

Harm Reduction

Arizona Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill that legalizes fentanyl test strips in a bid to reduce drug overdoses in the state. The bill is SB1486. Drug use claims far too many lives each year," Ducey said in a signing statement. "We want everyone who is using drugs to seek professional treatment. But until someone is ready to get "help, we need to make sure they have the tools necessary to prevent a lethal overdose."

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill that would decriminalize the possession of psychedelics, Senate Bill 519, has passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now headed for a Senate floor vote. The bill would remove criminal penalties for possessing or sharing numerous psychedelics -- including psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine, LSD and MDMA -- for adults 21 and older. Mescaline derived from peyote is not included because of concerns about its scarcity for Native American Church religious purposes.

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