Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

NJ Assembly Passes Criminal Justice Reform Package, MT Pot Legalization Campaign Hands in Signatures, More... (6/19/20)

Montana campaigners handed in what should be enough signatures to get marijuana legalization measures on the ballot, the New Jersey Assembly quickly passed a package of criminal justice reform bills, Houston's police chief is facing mounting pressure to release a report on a deadly drug raid, and more. 

Montana has a good shot at getting a chance to vote on marijuana legalization in November. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. New Approach Montana, the group behind the I-190 marijuana legalization initiative and the CI-118 constitutional amendment to set the legal age for marijuana at 21, announced Friday that it had turned in more than 52,000 raw signatures for the initiative (it needs 25,000 valid voter signatures) and 80,000 signatures for the amendment (it needs 50,000 valid voter signatures). Now it's nail-biting time as organizers wait for the state to see if they came up with enough good signatures.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Counties Can Ban Probationers from Using Medical Marijuana. The State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that counties may not ban people on probation or parole from using medical marijuana if they are registered in the state medical marijuana program. In a unanimous decision, the court noted that people in the program are immune from “arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner” under state law, even if they are under a court’s supervision. “In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, the political branch has decided to permit patients — including probationers — to use medical marijuana for specified, serious medical conditions, upon a physician’s certification,” the court said in its opinion.

Criminal Justice

New Jersey Assembly Passes Package of Eight Criminal Justice Reform Bills. During a 90-minute teleconference vote Thursday, the Assembly passed eight bills dealing with criminal justice reform, all by unanimous or near unanimous votes. The subject matter of the bills ranges from increased transparency for police personnel files, improved data gathering, making a racially based false police report a crime, minority recruitment, heightened diversity training, ending the use of chokeholds, and easing identification requirements for juror lists. Now, it's up to the Senate to act.

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Chief Faces Growing Pressure to Release Internal Audit of Deadly Drug Raid. Police Chief Art Acevedo is under pressure from a growing chorus of elected officials to release the findings of an internal audit on his department’s narcotics division, arguing that the chief’s refusal to do so contradicts his vows to be transparent and accountable. Acevedo ordered the probe in the wake of 2019 raid that left two innocent homeowners dead and four officers wounded. The officer in charge of that raid, Gerald Gaines, was accused by investigators of lying to get the warrant use in the raid and now faces murder charges. Now, in the wake of the George Floyd killing, elected officials are demanding to see that audit.

NV Mass Marijuana Pardons, Colombia Cocaine Surge, NJ Pot Decrim Bill Advances, More... (6/18/20)

Fifteen thousand Nevada pot offenders just got automatic pardons, the UN says Colombian potential cocaine production was up last year, Kansas City moves toward pot decriminalization, and more.

Potential Colombian cocaine production was up slightly last year, the UNODC reports. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Pardons 15,000 People with Marijuana Convictions. Under a resolution from Gov. Steve Sisolak (D), the Board of Pardons Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved automatic pardons for 15,000 people who had been arrested on marijuana possession charges between January 1986 and January 2017. "Today is an historic day for those who were convicted of what has long been considered a trivial crime, and is now legal under Nevada law," the governor said in a press release. "Since the passage of [adult-use legalization] in 2016 and the decriminalization of possession for small amounts of marijuana, many Nevadans  have had these minor offenses remain on their records, in some cases as a felony. This resolution aims to correct that and fully restore any rights lost as a result of these convictions."

New Jersey Assembly Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation. The Assembly on Thursday easily approved a marijuana decriminalization bill, A1897, by a 63-10 vote. The measure decriminalizes the possession and distribution of up to two ounces of marijuana by adults — making these activities punishable by a $50 fine. Those found to be in violation of the law will no longer be arrested or saddled with a criminal record. A broader decriminalization bill that includes more social justice provisions, S2535, is pending in the Senate. Full marijuana legalization is already on the ballot for November.

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Rolls Out Decriminalization Ordinance. Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) and at least four city council members introduced a marijuana decriminalization ordinance Thursday. The proposed ordinance would remove the offense of marijuana possession from the city code. "One of the ways we improve police-community relations is by eliminating laws that for too long have led to negative interactions, arrests, convictions, and disproportionate rates of incarceration of Black men and Black women," said Lucas. "Reducing petty offenses – such as municipal marijuana offenses – reduce these negative interactions each day."

International

UNODC Says Colombia's Potential Cocaine Output Increased Slightly Last Year. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday that potential production of pure cocaine increased 1.5% last year to 1,137 metric tons. The increase in production potential came even as the area under coca cultivation decreased slightly. The increase in productivity is because coca growing is now concentrated in specific areas. The report comes as the Colombian government faces mounting pressure from the US to reduce cocaine exports.

Is the Era of the No-Knock Drug Raid Coming to an End? [FEATURE]

In the mass protests over out-of-control and racially biased law enforcement ignited by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin, Floyd's name isn't the only one being chanted by the crowds. There's also Ahmaud Arbery, the Georgia jogger gunned down by white vigilantes. There's Rayshard Brooks, the Atlanta man shot and killed by police after falling asleep in his car in the Wendy's drive-through lane and them tussling with and fleeing from them as he sought to avoid arrest.

And then there's Breonna Taylor. The 26-year-old black EMT and Louisville resident was killed on March 13 as police executing a midnight no-knock drug search warrant at her apartment were greeted by gunfire by her boyfriend.. As the circumstances of her death emerged, she has become the face of the burgeoning movement to radically restrict the police resort to no-knock warrants, which could just as aptly be referred to as home invasion warrants.

That's what it felt like to Ms. Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. Although Louisville police claimed they knocked and announced their presence, they were operating with a no-knock warrant, and that account is disputed by Walker and Taylor's relatives. Walker said he and Taylor were in bed together when the door crashed in and he thought someone was breaking into their home. He said he fired in self-defense. (Here is that fraught zone where the war on drugs encounters the 2nd Amendment.)

Walker's single shot wounded one officer, who returned fire along with two other officers. Breonna Taylor was hit by at least eight bullets and died at the scene. Walker was charged with attempted murder, although those charges have now been dropped. No drugs were found at the apartment. To make matters even worse, the drug suspect the police were looking for was already in custody when the raid went down.

"They executed this innocent woman because they botched the search warrant execution," attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Taylor family in a lawsuit filed over the killing told the New York Times. "They had the main person that they were trying to get in their custody, so why use a battering ram to bust her door down and then go in there and execute her?"

Outrage over the killing of Breonna Taylor quietly festered as the country hunkered down amidst the coronavirus pandemic, but when the iconic killing of George Floyd finally galvanized the streets, the pain and anger over Taylor's killing became a rallying cry not just in Louisville but across the land. And it's bringing a laser-like focus on a practice more akin to raiding terrorist hideouts in the Middle East than to serving and protecting American citizens, which in turn is leading to a renewed focus on the role of the drug war in all of this.

The war on drugs provided the impetus for no-knock raids from the beginning, and the courts were all too willing to help. The 1963 US Supreme Court case Ker v. California, which gave constitutional imprimatur to forcible police entries, was a drug case where the possibility that evidence could be destroyed carried the day for the cops. When the Supreme Court revisited and refined its no-knock doctrine in the 1990s, the impetus once again was enforcing drug prohibition.

In a case involving small-scale sales of marijuana and meth to an informant, the court ruled in 1995 in Wilson v. Arkansas that police must generally "knock and announce" before kicking in a door with a search warrant, although it allowed for exceptions as per Ker. In another small-time drug sales case, 1997's Richard v. Wisconsin, the court held that police needed to demonstrate "a reasonable suspicion" that announcing their presence before bashing in the door would be dangerous or allow for the destruction of evidence for a no-knock warrant to be permitted.

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police in a fatally bungled no-knock drug raid in March. (Family photo)
Those rulings left "reasonable suspicion" up to state and local judges, and while little national or even state data exists on the rates at which judges rejected no-knock warrant requests, a pair of local studies suggests they essentially acted as rubber stamps. A recent PBS Newshour report cited a Denver Post analysis of no-knock warrant requests from Denver police in 2000, a year after Mexican citizen Ismael Mena was killed in a no-knock drug raid. The cops got 158 out of 163 requests approved. Similarly, a Washington Post analysis of no-knock warrant requests by policy in Little Rock, Arkansas, between 2016 and 208 had the cops getting 103 out of 105 approved.

Police resort to no-knock raids has gone through the roof in recent decades, according to a 2007 study done by Peter Kraska, a professor with the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. He found that while no-knock or announce and enter raids happened about 1,500 times in the early 1980s, that figure skyrocketed to about 40,000 a year by the turn of the century as the drug war deepened. Kraska estimated the number of such raids at about 45,000 a year by 2010.

The raids are mainly for drugs. A 2014 ACLU report looking at SWAT teams doing no-knock raids found that 62% of them were for drugs. In at least a third of those raids, no drugs were found. In nearly another third of those raids, it's not known if any drugs were seized because police did not report that information.

And they can be deadly -- both for their targets and for the officers undertaking them. The New York Times reported three years ago that between 2010 and 2016 alone, at least 13 police officers lost their lives on such raids, but so did more than seven times as many civilians. The Times put the civilian death toll at 94, with many hundreds more injured. They include such total innocents as 19-month-old "Baby Bou Bou" Bounkam Phonesavanh, who was severely burned by a flash bang grenade thrown by a Georgia SWAT officer in a 2015 no-knock raid.

But now, with the killing of Breonna Taylor in the context of mass mobilizations against police brutality and racial bias, no-knock raids are being challenged like never before. The Democratic congressional response to the upheaval in the streets, the Justice in Policing Act, directly targets no-knock raids. As the Democrats put it, the bill "[b]ans no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning no-knock warrants at the local and state level." (Advocates are calling for amendments to strengthen the bill -- and then passage.)

Kentucky's libertarian-leaning US Senator Rand Paul (R) met with Taylor's family and then introduced the Breonna Taylor Act "to prohibit no-knock warrants." The bill would mandate that federal law enforcement officers must announce their presence and purpose before executing a search warrant and it would condition federal aid to law enforcement agencies to ensure they follow the same rules.

"After talking with Breonna Taylor's family, I've come to the conclusion that it's long past time to get rid of no-knock warrants. This bill will effectively end no-knock raids in the United States," said Paul.

Meanwhile, even Paul's Republican colleagues are climbing on the no no-knock bandwagon, although to a more limited degree than the Democrats. The just introduced Justice Act, largely crafted by the GOP's sole black senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, wouldn't ban no-knock raids, but would increase federal reporting requirements for no-knock raids and use of force. It would also increase penalties for false police reports.

It's unclear whether any of these bills will pass or whether compromise legislation will emerge, and it's unclear just how strong any language on no-knock raids will end up being. But what is clear is that Congress finally has the issue squarely in its sights.

But law enforcement is largely a state and local matter, and it's going to be up to state legislatures and governors and city councils and mayors to address the issue at the local level. Louisville has already done so. With protests raging in the streets, the city council early this month moved unanimously to ban no-knock raids. Only two states -- Florida and Oregon -- have banned no-knock raids, but that should be about to change, given the tumult in the streets over police misconduct. It should have happened a long time ago.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Jacksonville narc has some paperwork problems, an Alabama prison guard heads for federal prison, and more. Let's get to it:

In Jacksonville, Florida, a Jacksonville sheriff's detective was arrested last Thursday for falsely filling out forms that document cash, narcotics, or other seized property. Narcotics Detective Bryan Burnett is charged with falsifying documents and official misconduct. At least two forms were falsified, with the amount of money involved under $200. Authorities said the falsifications were not done for monetary gain or Burnett would have been charged with theft.

In York, Pennsylvania, a York County prison guard was arrested Tuesday for plotting to smuggle suboxone into the York County Prison. Officer Joshua Martinez, 31, went down after authorities were informed that he would be getting the drug from an inmate's girlfriend and surveilled him picking up a package from her mailbox. He was then pulled over by state troopers, who found 75 suboxone strips and $2,900 cash. Martinez, the inmates, and the inmate's girlfriend are charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy, and contraband. [Ed: Suboxone and methadone in the prisons would be a helpful measure for authorities to take.]

In Mobile, Alabama, a state prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in federal prison after being convicted of plotting to bring drugs into the Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore. Guard Wiggins Washington, 52, went down after he agreed to meet with a man he thought was supplying methamphetamine, but who was actually working with authorities, who had been informed about the scheme. Washington pleaded guilty to possess meth with intent to distribute and to carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking charge. That second charge garnered a mandatory minimum five years.

Medical Marijuana Update

Louisiana's medical marijuana program is set to expand, Ohio regulators recommend adding a new qualifying condition for medical marijuana, and more.

Louisiana

Louisiana Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday signed into law House Bill 819, which broadly expands the state's medical marijuana program. Now, doctors will be able to recommend medical marijuana for any patient they think it will help.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Still Seeking Signatures. Backers of a medical marijuana initiative say they have some 60,000 valid voter signatures, but that's only half the total they need to qualify for the ballot. Nearly 50,000 of those signatures were gathered before lockdowns imposed because of the coronavirus, which brought signature-gathering to a near halt for months. Now, the campaign has less than a month to gather another 60,000 valid voter signatures.

Ohio

Ohio Regulators Recommend One New Qualifying Condition, Reject Two Others. A state medical board committee has recommended adding cachexia, or wasting syndrome, to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The committee rejected adding autism and anxiety, though. The board will finalize the decision during a board meeting next month.

Senate GOP Unveils Policing Reform Bill, Seattle Moves to End Drug-Related Loitering Charges, More... (6/17/20)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court clarifies that state officials can't order drug tests as part of child welfare investigations, Senate Republicans roll out their version of a police reform bill, and more.

Tennessee Rep. William Lamberth (R), who blocked a resolution honoring a murdered black girl because... marijuana.

Marijuana Policy

Sole Tennessee Lawmaker Blocks Resolution to Honor Murdered Teen Over Alleged Marijuana Sale. A resolution honoring the life of 17-year-old black girl Ashanti Posey, who was fatally shot in April, was blocked by a single Republican lawmaker, Rep. William Lamberth, who said he could not support the measure because she had allegedly been involved in a low-level marijuana deal before she was killed. The resolution required unanimous consent and had already passed the state Senate. Lamberth's one-man veto sparked angry cries of "black lives matter" in the chamber, and some lawmakers walked out in protest.

Drug Testing

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules State Officials Can't Order Drug Tests as Part of Child Welfare Investigations. In a case involving a Republican district attorney accused of child abuse, the state's highest court has ruled that state officials may not order drug tests as part of a child welfare investigation. The court held unanimously that the state's Child Protective Services Law does not "expressly or implicitly authorize collecting samples of bodily fluids, without consent, for testing." The child welfare agency in Fayette County had been requiring such tests despite the lack of a legal basis for doing so. Now, it has stopped.

Law Enforcement

Seattle City Council Takes Up Bill to End Loitering Charges Related to Drugs, Prostitution. Councilmember Andrew Lewis filed a pair of bills Monday to eliminate the charge of loitering when used to try to enforce drug or prostitution laws. Loitering laws, which emerged as part of the war on drugs in the last century, allow police to arrest people they merely suspected of being drug dealers or prostitutes. The bill has support from some other council members, as well as City Attorney Pete Holmes, who helped draft it. "This is an outdated, and frankly racist policy in our City's municipal code." Councilmember Tammy Morales said. "By repealing this part of the code we are assured that drug offenders and sex workers will be treated humanely and not criminalized." The bills go to a vote at the council's next meeting on Monday.

Law Enforcement

Senate Republicans Unveil Policing Reform Bill. Senate Republicans on Wednesday rolled out their version of a police reform bill, which is called the Justice Act. Democrats in the House last week filed their version of a police reform bill, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The Republican bill would discourage but not ban tactics such as no-knock warrants or chokeholds, while the Democrats take a tougher approach. The Democratic plan mandates certain policing practices, while the Republican plan avoids such mandates, instead incentivizing law enforcement agencies to curtail such practices by withholding federal funding for departments that allow them or do no report on them.

Legal MJ Linked to Declining Youth Drug Treatment Admissions, LA MedMJ Expansion Bill Signed, More.... (6/16/20)

Louisiana's governor signs a medical marijuana expansion bill into law, Colorado's legislature passes a bill giving the governor the ability to expunge past small-time marijuana convictions, and more.

The kids are alright. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Legalization Linked to Declining Youth Admissions for Marijuana. A study of "cannabis use disorders" in Colorado and Washington, which was led by researchers from Temple University and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, shows that "the rate of adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana use declined significantly, with the mean rate falling nearly in half" between 2008 and 2017 and "the decline in admissions rate was greater in Colorado and Washington compared to [states where recreational marijuana is not legal]."

Colorado Legislature Approves Expungement Bill. With a final Senate vote Monday, the legislature approved House Bill 1424, which gives the state's governor the ability to expunge low-level marijuana convictions from the criminal records of people arrested on those charges before legalization took effect. The bill also includes means of defining social equity applicants in the marijuana industry.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday signed into law House Bill 819, which broadly expands the state's medical marijuana program. Now, doctors will be able to recommend medical marijuana for any patient they think it will help.

International

Irish Council for Civil Liberties Calls for Urgent Drug Policy Review. The group's executive director, Liam Herrick, is calling on the new coalition government to make the human rights of drug users a key part of a call for a Citizens' Assembly to "consider matters relating to drug use." The government missed an opportunity when it failed to decriminalize drug possession last year, he said. "A Citizens' Assembly to consider matters relating to drug use would no doubt hear personal testimonies of how Ireland's current drug policy has impacted upon a person's life and it would hear evidence from expert witnesses. However, to reach a policy that guarantees better social, health and community outcomes, the protection and vindication of the human rights of people who use drugs in Ireland need to form the bedrock of the discussion," he added.

Biden's Criminal Justice Task Force Gets Ahead of Him, Rio Drug Gangs Coordinate Favela COVID Response, More... (6/15/20)

Pot decriminalization bills are popping up in New Jersey, hemp is now legal in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Rio's drug gangs get busy with coronavirus, and more.

A Brazilian favela, or slum. In Rio de Janeiro, drug gangs are coordinating the response to coronavirus in the favelas. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Sees Second Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. Last week, a decriminalization bill, S2535, was introduced in the Senate. On Monday, another decriminalization bill, A1897, advanced from the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee. The Senate bill would decriminalize the possession of up to a pound of weed, while the Assembly bill only decriminalizes up to 10 grams. The Senate bill has $25 fines; the Assembly bill has fines starting at $150, going to $200 for a second offense, $500 for each following offense.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Regulators Recommend One New Qualifying Condition, Reject Two Others. A state medical board committee has recommended adding cachexia, or wasting syndrome, to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The committee rejected adding autism and anxiety, though. The board will finalize the decision during a board meeting next month.

Hemp

Northern Marianas Governor Signs Hemp Bill. Gov. DLG Torres has signed into law a bill legalizing hemp in the US territory. The new law allows the Natural Resources-Division of Agriculture to regulate the hemp industry in the CNMI "consistent with the federal requirements."

Drug Policy

Biden-Sanders Task Force Members Push for Legalizing Marijuana and Other Drug Reforms. Joe Biden may not have yet endorsed marijuana legalization, but members of a criminal justice task force he organized appear to be getting ahead of him. One unnamed member, a former federal prosecutor, says that Biden's proposal to decriminalize marijuana doesn't go far enough and should be replaced with legalization, and another, former Attorney General Eric Holder suggested broader drug decriminalization without actually using the word. He said dealing with drug use should be a public health issue and taken "out of the system" of law enforcement.

International

Rio de Janeiro Drug Gangs Now Pushing Social Distancing, COVID Medications. With the government of rightist authoritarian populist President Jaoa Bolsonaro largely absent and in denial about coronavirus, residents of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are seeing drug gangs effectively replace the state as responders to the pandemic. They are handing out alcohol, gel, medications, and cash to local residents.

(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.)

Amid the Tumult, Congressional Democrats Take on Policing Run Amok [FEATURE]

With mass protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin now morphing into demands to grapple with racism and to confront a police culture where brutality is all too common, and with the anguished words of Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, echoing through the capitol, congressional Democrats this week rolled out their first effort to address the national uprising, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

George Floyd's legacy is being created right now. (Prachatia/Creative Commons)
The most comprehensive attempt to reform policing ever, the act would, according to a House Judiciary Committee press release:

  • Prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
  • Ban chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  • Mandate the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  • Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave on agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
  • Amend federal criminal statute from "willfulness" to a "recklessness" standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
  • Reform qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.
  • Establish public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
  • Create law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama's Task force on 21st Century policing.
  • Require state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
  • Improve the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
  • Establish a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

"We have heard the terrifying words 'I can't breathe' from George Floyd, Eric Garner, and the millions of Americans in the streets calling out for change," said House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). "For every incident of excessive force that makes headlines, the ugly truth is that there are countless others that we never hear about. This is a systemic problem that requires a comprehensive solution."

Protesters demanding police accountability at the White House. (Geoff Livingston/Creative Commons)
"What we are witnessing is the birth of a new movement in our country with thousands coming together in every state marching to demand a change that ends police brutality, holds police officers accountable, and calls for transparency," said Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-CA). Passage of the act would "establish a bold transformative vision of policing in America," she added. "Never again should the world be subjected to witnessing what we saw on the streets in Minnesota with George Floyd."

But that "bold transformative vision" doesn't directly address one of the main drivers of fraught interactions between law enforcement and the citizenry, especially in minority communities. Police enforcing drug prohibition have arrested more than a million people a year every year since the late 1980s, with the number peaking at nearly two million in 2007 and finally declining to just under a million in 2018. Around 90% of those arrests are for simple drug possession, and around half of them are for simple marijuana possession.

The bill does call for federally banning no-knock raids -- perhaps a better term would be home invasion raids -- like the one in which Louisville police burst through the door of Breonna Taylor's home and riddled the 26-year-old black EMT's body with bullets after her boyfriend opened fire on the intruders coming through the door. Her death helped fuel the rage in Louisville and across the land. Drug law enforcement is the primary reason for federal no-knock raids.

A summary of the bill provided by the House Judiciary Committee notes that blacks are 2 ½ times more likely to be busted for possessing drugs despite using them at the same rate as whites and that they are 3.6 times more likely to be busted for selling drugs even though whites are more likely to do so, but does so only to call for an end to racial and religious profiling. Drug decriminalization, on the other hand, would radically reduce opportunities for discriminatory policing by radically reducing the number of people of all colors subject to being arrested for their choice of substances.

In a statement on the bill, the Drug Policy Alliance said it was "grateful" that the congressional leadership had filed the legislation, but that it does not go nearly far enough.

"[T]his bill fails to fully address issues like police militarization and the use of quick-knock warrants, policing practices that are disproportionately used against people of color in drug investigations," said Maritza Perez, director of DPA's Office of National Affairs. "While the bill places restrictions on programs that facilitate the transfer of military equipment to local police departments, it does not outright put an end to such programs. And while this bill prohibits no-knock warrants for drug cases, it does not outlaw quick-knock warrants which can be just as deadly. Moreover, the bill continues to fund police departments and the war on drugs, rather than shift resources to education, housing, harm reduction services, and other infrastructure that strengthens communities and increases public safety."

The bill needs to be toughened, DPA said, and offered to "work with Congress to improve and strengthen" it.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was also ambivalent, with a press release lauding the bill's provisions banning choke-holds, limiting use of force, and prohibiting racial and religious profiling, but also arguing that it doesn't go far enough in reining in law enforcement.

"The bill introduced today takes significant steps to protect people and ensure accountability against police violence. But the legislation also provides hundreds of millions more to law enforcement, and for the ACLU, that's a nonstarter," said senior ACLU legislative counsel Kanya Bennett.

"While many of the reforms in this bill are laudable and vital, more must be done to change the role of police in our society fundamentally," Bennett continued. "There can be no more Band-Aid or temporary fixes when it comes to policing, which is why we are calling for divestment from law enforcement agencies and reinvestment into the black and brown communities that have been harmed by over policing and mass incarceration. The role of police has to be smaller, more circumscribed, and less funded with taxpayer dollars."

"I Can't Breathe." George Floyd protest in Houston. (2C2K Photography/Creative Commons)
Still, the bill has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights organization, including the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, and the National African American Clergy Network, among others.

"The National African American Clergy Network supports the Justice in Policing Bill. It affirms sacred scripture that everyone is created in the image of God and deserves to be protected by police sworn to value and safeguard all lives. Failure by police to uphold this sacred trust with Black Americans lives, requires systemic changes in policing nationwide," said Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., and Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr., co-convenors of the network.

The Justice in Policing Act will move swiftly toward passage in the House but faces much bumpier prospects in the Republican-controlled Senate. While President Trump has been advocating military crackdowns on protesters, circulating conspiracy theories about senior antifa terrorists and offering himself up as "your law and order president," GOP senators led by Tim Scott (R-SC) -- the party's only black senator -- are working to craft their own version of a police reform bill. As of now, while it acknowledges the need for police reform, which is a significant step for Republicans, it looks to be an even more watered down version of the Democrat's bill.

The pressure from the streets on Congress to get something done so far shows no sign of letting up. Whether the legislative body can actually come to grips with this crisis of confidence in government and policing remains to be seen. But it's already had a very salutary taste of what could be in store if it doesn't.

US Rep Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Prohibition-Related Violence in Colombia and Mexico, More... (6/11/20)

South Dakota marijuana activists launch their election campaign this week, Nevada's governor proposes mass pardons for small time pot possession charges, Michigan's governor signs a roadside drug testing bill into law, and more.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is calling for drug decriminalization as part of a police accountability plan. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Governor Proposes Pardons for Minor Marijuana Convictions. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced Thursday that he will propose a plan to pardon tens of thousands of people convicted on minor marijuana possession charges before the state legalized the drug in 2017. "The people of Nevada have decided that possession of small amounts of marijuana is not a crime," the governor said. "If approved, this resolution will clear the slate for thousands of people who bear the stigma of a conviction for actions that have now been decriminalized."

South Dakota Marijuana Advocates Kick Off Campaign for Both Legalization and Medical Marijuana Initiatives. With both a marijuana legalization initiative, Constitutional Amendment A, and a medical marijuana initiative, Initiated Measure 26, already qualified for the ballot, marijuana activists kicked off their election season campaign to get them both approved in November. If both were approved by voters, the state would become the first to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana on the same day.

Drug Policy

Oregon US Congressman Calls for Drug Decriminalization as Part of Policing Reform Plan. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) released a police accountability plan on Tuesday that includes proposals to legalize marijuana and decriminalize other drugs to reduce over-policing of communities of color. "Reducing police interactions by using non-law enforcement to deal with minor crimes and activities, and repealing punitive drug laws could reduce the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color," the plan states. "We need to rethink the way police are used and encourage alternative policing models that address institutional racism as they are being created." Such a plan would include repealing "policies that incentivize over-policing of communities of color, including the prohibition of cannabis and the decriminalization of other drugs."

Drug Testing

Michigan Governor Signs Roadside Drug Testing Pilot Program Bill. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed into law Senate Bill 718, which establishes a statewide pilot program for roadside drug testing for drivers. The test will use saliva to detect the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis (delta 9 THC), cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates.

International

Colombia's Coca-Growing Cauca Department Wracked with Violence. Armed groups fighting over control over the coca and cocaine trade have been engaging in targeted assassinations and gun battles in southwestern Cauca department. Dissident members of the FARC, which laid down its arms as part of a 2016 peace accord, have been going after their former comrades, while different factions of the National Liberation Army (ELN) clashed with each other. Meanwhile, the targeted killings of social leaders and activists have also continued, with more than 40 killed in the department so far this year.

Mexico's Guanajuato State Hammered by Weekend of Cartel Violence. Nearly three dozen people were killed in a spate of drug gang killings in the central industrial state of Guanajuato over the weekend. In the deadliest single incident, a group of gunmen attacked a drug rehabilitation center in Irapauto and killed 10 people. The violence is linked to a bloody turf war between the Jalisco Cartel and the local Santa Rosa de Lima gang.

Medical Marijuana Update

An Iowa medical marijuana expansion bill has gone to the governor's desk, a Kansas medical marijuana bill died a quick death, and more.

Iowa

Iowa Senate Votes to Expand Medical Marijuana Program. The state Senate last Wednesday voted 32-17 to expand the state's medical marijuana program by increasing the amount of medical marijuana products patients can purchase to up to 25 grams of THC every 90 days. The bill now goes to the House.

Iowa Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. The state Senate has given final approval to a medical marijuana expansion bill, HF-2589, which adds autism and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions and limits patients to 4.5 grams of THC over a 90-day period. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

Kansas

Kansas Lawmakers File Medical Marijuana Bill. Nine House members have cosponsored House Bill 2017, which would set up a system of state-regulated medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sales. The bill would cap allowable amounts at four ounces, the equivalent of a 30-day supply. The bill does not specify which diseases or conditions would be included.

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Dies as Special Session Ends. House Bill 2017, which would have set up a system of state-regulated medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sales, has died as a special short session ended without it moving in the Republican-led legislature. It will be next January before the legislature meets again, so the issue is effectively dead for the rest of this year.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Still Seeking Signatures. Backers of a medical marijuana initiative say they have some 60,000 valid voter signatures, but that's only half the total they need to qualify for the ballot. Nearly 50,000 of those signatures were gathered before lockdowns imposed because of the coronavirus, which brought signature-gathering to a near halt for months. Now, the campaign has less than a month to gather another 60,000 valid voter signatures.

Congressional Dems File Justice in Policing Act, CO Police Accountability Bill Passes Senate, More... (6/10/20)

Police accountability is the topic of the day in Congress and in Colorado, a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative campaign is in a final sprint for signatures, and more.

Newly hired or returning truck drivers catch a break from drug testing during the coronavirus disruption. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Still Seeking Signatures. Backers of a medical marijuana initiative say they have some 60,000 valid voter signatures, but that's only half the total they need to qualify for the ballot. Nearly 50,000 of those signatures were gathered before lockdowns imposed because of the coronavirus, which brought signature-gathering to a near halt for months. Now, the campaign has less than a month to gather another 60,000 valid voter signatures.

Criminal Justice

Congressional Democrats Introduce Justice in Policing Act. In response to the outrage sweeping the nation over police killings of black Americans, on Tuesday House Democratic leaders introduced the Justice in Policing Act, the first-ever comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement and build trust between law enforcement and our communities. The bill bars discriminatory profiling, bans chokeholds and no-knock drug raids at the federal level, mandates the use of bodycams by federal police, and establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry, among other provisions. Look for a Chronicle feature article on the bill tomorrow.

Colorado Police Accountability Bill Passes Senate. The state Senate on Tuesday approved SB20-217, the Law Enforcement Accountability and Integrity Act, with only one dissenting vote. The bill creates a police officer duty to intervene in the presence of unlawful police use of force, outlaws chokeholds, protects protesters from police violence, and removes the shield of immunity from police officers acting unlawful, among other provisions. The bill now moves to the House, where it had a hearing in the House Finance Committee Wednesday.

Drug Testing

Federal Trucking Regulators Extend Waiver on Pre-Employment Drug Testing. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended through September 30 a waiver on pre-employment drug testing requirements for truck drivers. The agency said that layoffs in the industry because of the coronavirus pandemic had reduced the pool of employees for random drug testing, the requirement for drug testing would impose burdens on trucking companies "at the very time they are attempting to return to expanded levels of operation."

NBA Foregoes Recreational Drug Testing, DC Psychedelic Init Gets Signature Boost During Protests, More... (6/9/20)

As a California psilocybin initiative bites the dust, a DC natural psychedelic initative gets a boost; the NBA gives up on recreational drug testing of its players, the Dutch move closer to a pilot program to supply legal marijuana to the country's cannabis cafes, and more.

caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Montana Democratic Party Endorses Marijuana Legalization. The state Democratic Party has formally endorsed marijuana legalization, making it part of its platform. The party supports the "removal of Marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Federal Controlled Substances Act," one plank states. The party also endorsed adding language to the state constitution to "establish the legal age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana at 21 years of age or older." It also calls for "addressing substance abuse as a public health issue, rather than a criminal issue," among other reform policies. The move comes as a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives sponsored by New Approach Montana seek to gather signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Dies as Special Session Ends. House Bill 2017, which would have set up a system of state-regulated medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sales, has died as a special short session ended without it moving in the Republican-led legislature. It will be next January before the legislature meets again, so the issue is effectively dead for the rest of this year.

Drug Testing

NBA Will Not Test for Recreational Drugs When Season Resumes. The National Basketball Association has not been testing players for recreational drugs during the coronavirus-inspired suspension of the 2019-2020 season, and the league will reportedly continue that approach once play resumes. The league will still test players for performance enhancing drugs, though.

Psychedelics

California Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative Officially Dead for This Year. The state secretary of state's office announced Monday that the California Psilocbyin Decriminalization Initiative had failed to qualify for the November ballot. Like other initiative campaigns, this campaign struggled with signature-gathering as social distancing measures and lockdowns took hold in March. Look out for 2022.

Washington, DC, Natural Psychedelic Lowest Priority Initiative Campaign Gets Signature Boost Amidst Mass Protests. The measure, I-81, had been struggling to gather signatures during the coronavirus lockdown, but has received an unexpected boost as the streets of the city fill with demonstrators protesting police brutality. Organizers said they had added some 5,000 new signatures during the street protests. They have until July 6 to come up with 30,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The measure would not legalize or decriminalize natural psychedelics but would make them the city's lowest law enforcement priorities.

International

Dutch Government Announces Applications for Regulated Marijuana Grows to Open Next Month. The Justice Ministry announced Tuesday that marijuana growers who wish to take part in a pilot program to grow regulated marijuana for the country's famous cannabis cafes can sign up to apply beginning July 1. Up to 10 growers will be licensed to supply the cafes in a bid to address the country's lingering "back door problem," where cafes are allowed to sell marijuana products, but there is no legal source of supply. That has only strengthened black market producers.

Israel Coalition Government Will Push for Marijuana Legalization Reforms. The Likud/Blue and White coalition government says it will push legislation in the Knesset "to arrange the issue of decriminalization and legalization [of marijuana] via a responsible model." In the same statement, the government said both parties have also decided to push for reforms to medical marijuana to increase ease of access for patients and make it easier for growers to get licenses.

Mexico Plan to Decriminalize Drugs, House Drug War/Policing Resolution Gaining Cosponsors, More... (6/8/20)

A pair of Democratic House leaders is pressing Attorney General Barr on marijuana legalization and drug rescheduling, a House resolution linking the war on drugs and police brutality is picking up cosponsors at a very rapid clip, and more.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador is ready to push for drug decriminalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Can Do Electronic Signature-Gathering, But the Clock is Ticking. Arkansas for Cannabis Reform, the group behind a marijuana legalization initiative, has won a victory in the state Supreme Court as the court has ruled it can collect signatures electronically. The group needs 89,000 valid voter signatures by July 3 to qualify for the ballot, but only has 23,000 raw signatures right now.

Drug Policy

House Lawmakers Press Attorney General Barr on Drug Rescheduling, Marijuana Legalization. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), head of the Congressional Black Caucus, sent a letter last Friday to Attorney General Bob Barr criticizing a Justice Department move last week to allow the DEA to help police mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd. The two lawmakers also criticized the Trump administration's "counterproductive focus on non-violent drug offenses is a plain reminder that the DEA is out of touch with the Nation's shift from the drug war model to policies of substance abuse treatment, rescheduling drugs, legalizing marijuana, and reducing harsh drug sentences."

Law Enforcement

House Resolution That Cites War on Drugs as Factor in Police Brutality Rapidly Gaining Cosponsors. A House resolution citing the war on drugs as a major factor in police brutality was filed with 12 cosponsors little more than a week ago. By the end of last week, it was up to 50 cosponsors; now, as nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd morph into calls for structural reform, the number of cosponsors has more than tripled to 160.

International

Mexico President Releases Plan to Decriminalize Drugs, Push US to Do Same. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) last week released a new plan that calls for radical reforms on the country's drug laws and negotiations with the US to do the same. The plan calls for drug decriminalization and moving funding from waging the drug war to providing for drug treatment programs. "The 'war on drugs' has escalated the public health problem posed by currently banned substances to a public safety crisis," the policy proposal, which came as part of AMLO's National Development Plan for 2019-2024, read. Mexico's current "prohibitionist strategy is unsustainable," it argued. Ending prohibition is "the only real possibility" to address the problem. "This should be pursued in a negotiated manner, both in the bilateral relationship with the United States and in the multilateral sphere, within the UN," it explained.

Feds Claim "Drug Trafficker" Presence Required "Escalated Force" Use at George Floyd Protests, More...(6/5/20)

Medical marijuana is moving in the Heartland, a New Jersey decriminalization bill gets filed, Colorado lawmakers are moving a police reform bill, and more.

It's looking like the Garden State could see both marijuana decriminalization and legalization this year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Decriminalization Bill Filed. Senate Democrats have filed Senate Bill 2535, which would decriminalize the possession and distribution of one pound or less of marijuana. A first offense would earn a written warning, while subsequent offenses would garner a $25 fine. The bill sponsors are Sens. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) and Ron Rice (D-Newark).

Medical Marijuana

Iowa Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. The state Senate has given final approval to a medical marijuana expansion bill, HF-2589, which adds autism and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions and limits patients to 4.5 grams of THC over a 90-day period. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

Kansas Lawmakers File Medical Marijuana Bill. Nine House members have cosponsored House Bill 2017, which would set up a system of state-regulated medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sales. The bill would cap allowable amounts at four ounces, the equivalent of a 30-day supply. The bill does not specify which diseases or conditions would be included.

Law Enforcement

Feds Assert (With No Evidence) Force Against George Floyd Protestors Was Necessary Because of Drug Traffickers. US Customs and Border Protection claimed in a memo Wednesday that the supposed presence of "drug trafficking organizations" at protests after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police justified the use of "escalated force" at demonstrations. It provided no evidence to support the claim beyond asserting that "due to nefarious actors and drug trafficking organizations using these protests as façades, there have been incidents where law enforcement (LE) officials have needed to respond with nonlethal and escalated force -- incidents including the use of pepper spray, riot shields, and rubber bullets." The claim came less than 48 hours after the Justice Department okayed letting the DEA act as federal law enforcement at the protests, even though it noted that "the federal crimes being committed in the wake of Mr. Floyd's death are largely not drug-related."

Colorado Police Reform Bill Filed. The state Senate president and all Senate Democrats are supporting Senate Bill 20-217, which was introduced this week in the wake of the George Floyd protests. The bill passed out of the Senate State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Thursday and is likely to get a Senate floor vote either Saturday or early next week. The bill is an effort to bring transparency, accountability and better oversight for law enforcement who abuse their power. It would mandate the use of body camerasby July 2021, with failure to record creating a rebuttable presumption of officer misconduct. It also prohibits the use of chokeholds by police and requires public reporting on policing. Failure to record creates a rebuttable presumption of officer misconduct. It would also rein in deadly police shootings and block the rehiring of bad cops.

International

Australia's Melbourne to Get Second Safe Injection Site. The Victoria state government is now planning a second safe injection site in Melbourne after a report showed demand had surged at the North Richmond safe injection site. Premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement today following a two-year trial of the medically supervised North Richmond site. Andrews said he was "absolutely convinced" the second facility would save lives. "There is a need for us to do more to save lives and to change lives not just in North Richmond, but according to our expert panel in the City of Melbourne as well," he said.

Bermuda Government Releases Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill for Public Feedback. The Bermuda government has released a draft marijuana legalization bill under which adults 21 and over could purchase and possess up to seven grams of marijuana. The bill envisions a system of licensed retailers, and a prior marijuana conviction would be no bar to participating in the industry.

NM Primary Voters Remove Anti-Pot Lawmakers, UN Report Scorches Philippine Drug War Killings, More... (6/4/20)

A Democratic infrastructure bill includes language requiring legal marijuana states to consider impaired driving policies, Switzerland is set to move ahead with marijuana legalization pilot projects -- but only if it's organic -- and more.

Filipino President Duterte's drug war is again drawing criticism from the UN. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Democrat Committee Leader Files Bill to Require Legal Marijuana States to Consider Impaired Driving Policies. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, filed an infrastructure bill Wednesday that includes language requiring legal marijuana states to consider programs to curb marijuana-impaired driving and to educate the public about the dangers. The bill does not apply to states that haven't legalized medical or recreational marijuana. The bill is cosponsored by several subcommittee chairs on the panel. It's called the INVEST in America Act.

New Mexico Primary Voters Remove Anti-Marijuana Legalization Lawmakers. In state primary elections Tuesday, voters in at least four state Senate districts have replaced conservative Democrats who opposed legalization with progressive challengers who support it. This makes the prospects for legalization next year even greater. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) supports the move.

Medical Marijuana

Iowa Senate Votes to Expand Medical Marijuana Program. The state Senate Wednesday voted 32-17 to expand the state's medical marijuana program by increasing the amount of medical marijuana products patients can purchase to up to 25 grams of THC every 90 days. The bill now goes to the House.

International

UN Says "Near Impunity" for Drug War Killings in the Philippines. In a report released Thursday, the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights said that tens of thousands of people had been killed in President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drug users and sellers amid "near impunity" for police and the incitement of violence by top officials. The report said that rhetoric may have been interpreted as "permission to kill." Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for independent investigations into the killings and said her office was ready to help credible domestic Philippine or international efforts to establish accountability.

Switzerland Approves Legal Marijuana Pilot Programs -- But Only If It's Organic. The National Council has approved a plan to start marijuana legalization pilot programs, but the government says it must be organic and grown locally. Programs will be carried out in large cities such as Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva, and Zurich. "The models must be tested before starting the debate on whether or not to liberalize cannabis," said Pierre-Yves Maillard (Social Democrats), a spokesperson for the responsible committee. Only people who currently use marijuana and prove it via a hair sample will be able to participate.

Medical Marijuana Update

Pretty quiet on the medical marijuana front this week, but a Louisiana medical marijuana expansion bill has made its way through the legislature, and more.

Connecticut

Connecticut Legislative Committee Gives Final Approval for Two New Qualifying Conditions. The legislature's medical marijuana Regulation Review Committee has given final approval to adding chronic pain and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited disorder that weakens the body's connective tissues. The additions were approved during a Tuesday video conference. The decision follows the recommendation of the state Medical Marijuana Program's Board of Physicians.

Louisiana

Louisiana Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. With a final vote in the House on Sunday, the legislature gave final approval to House Bill 819, which would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any debilitating medical conditions. It now goes to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

ACLU Report on Racial Bias in Marijuana Arrests, DEA Okayed to Spy on George Floyd Protestors, More... (6/3/20)

The ACLU issues a timely report, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International call for reforms of Cambodia's drug detention centers, and more.

Black Americans are more than three times more likely to get busted for pot, a new ACLU report finds. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New ACLU Report Highlights Racial Bias in Marijuana Policing. The new report, A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform, details millions of racially targeted marijuana arrests made between 2010 and 2018. The report shows that Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession despite comparable marijuana usage rates. Additionally, although the total number of people arrested for marijuana possession has decreased in the past decade, law enforcement still made 6.1 million such arrests over that period, and the racial disparities in arrest rates remain in every state.

Marijuana Shops Across the Country Close Doors After Looting. Pot shops from Oregon and California to Massachusetts and Florida are temporarily closing their doors to customers after dozens of them were hit by looters and vandals amidst the chaos of mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd. Among those closed are 30 stores belonging to MedMen, which said its shops are indefinitely closed. Cresco Labs, which operates shops in six states, said it had temporarily closed its three Illinois locations after one was attacked Saturday night.

Drug Policy

The DEA Has Been Given Permission to Investigate People Protesting George Floyd's Death. The Justice Department has given the DEA the temporary power "to enforce any federal crime committed as a result of the protests over the death of George Floyd." That would allow the federal dope cops to "conduct covert surveillance" and collect intelligence on people taking part in protests over the killing. Floyd's death "has spawned widespread protests across the nation, which, in some instances, have included violence and looting," the DEA memo says. "Police agencies in certain areas of the country have struggled to maintain and/or restore order." The memo requests the extraordinary powers on a temporary basis, and on Sunday afternoon a senior Justice Department official signed off.

International

Cambodia Criminal Justice Reforms Should Go Further, Human Rights Groups Say. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on the Cambodian government to go further than its stated plan to tackle prison overcrowding and related human rights abuses in the country's criminal justice system. The reforms announced so far have neglected the ongoing human rights crisis in the country's notorious drug detention centers, which are overcrowded, plagued by torture, and present significant risks of coronavirus infection.

House Progressives File Resolution Condemning Police Brutality, Racial Bias, War on Drugs [FEATURE]

As protests erupted across the country after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a dozen progressive Democratic House members filed a resolution May 29th condemning police brutality not only in the case of Floyd but also in the case of Breonna Taylor, the black, 26-year-old Louisville EMT who was gunned down in her own home by cops on a misbegotten no-knock drug raid.

George Floyd's death at hands of white Minneapolis police officers (Wikipedia)
Those House members leading the resolution are Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA. Additional cosponsors include Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), James McGovern (D-MA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

"For too long, Black and brown bodies have been profiled, surveilled, policed, lynched, choked, brutalized and murdered at the hands of police officers," Congresswoman Pressley said in a statement announcing the resolution. "We cannot allow these fatal injustices to go unchecked any longer. There can be no justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or any of the human beings who have been killed by law enforcement, for in a just world, they would still be alive. There must, however, be accountability."

"From slavery to lynching to Jim Crow, Black people in this country have been brutalized and dehumanized for centuries," said Congresswoman Omar. "The war on drugs, mass criminalization, and increasingly militarized police forces have led to the targeting, torture and murder of countless Americans, disproportionately black and brown. The murder of George Floyd in my district is not a one-off event. We cannot fully right these wrongs until we admit we have a problem. As the People's House, the House of Representatives must acknowledge these historical injustices and call for a comprehensive solution. There are many steps on the path to justice, but we must begin to take them."

The resolution has broad support from racial and social justice organizations, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Action Network, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, ACLU, ACLU of Massachusetts, ACLU of Minnesota, the Justice Collaborative, Color of Change, the National Urban League, Lawyers for Civil Rights, Black and Pink, Boston Chapter, Center for Popular Democracy, Moms Rising, the Drug Policy Alliance, New Florida Majority, PolicyLink, the National Black Police Association, and The Vera Institute of Justice.

The unjustifiable deaths of African-Americans Floyd and Taylor at the hands of white police are, though, just the tip of an iceberg of official oppression and heavy-handed, militarized policing whose brunt is felt most keenly in the country's black and brown communities, but whose breadth encompasses almost all of us. And while protesters shout the names of Floyd and Taylor, the demand for unbiased, accountable policing goes far beyond these latest manifestations of cop culture run amok.

The prosecution of the war on drugs, with its racially biased arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment of people of color and its devastating impact on minority communities, is a major driver of fear and loathing for and distrust of police, the resolution cosponsors argued.

"[T]he system of policing in America, and its systemic targeting of and use of deadly and brutal force against people of color, particularly Black people, stems from the long legacy of slavery, lynching, Jim Crow laws, and the War on Drugs in the United States and has been perpetuated by violent and harmful law enforcement practices," they wrote. "[P]olice brutality and the use of excessive and militarized force are among the most serious ongoing human rights and civil liberties violations in the United States and have led to community destabilization, a decrease in public safety, and the exacerbation of structural inequities."

Contemporary police practice, with its emphasis on low-level enforcement (such as arresting more than a million people a year for simple drug possession), along with the militarization of police "has led to mass criminalization, heightened violence, and mass incarceration that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people," they note.

The toll from law enforcement malpractice is staggering, the representatives argued: "[P]olice brutality and the use of excessive force have robbed countless communities of precious lives, have inflicted intergenerational harm and trauma to families, and are intensifying our Nation's mental health crisis." And, they charge, the cops are literally getting away with murder: "[P]olice in the United States, through acts of brutality and the use of excessive force, kill far more people than police in other comparable nations and have been historically shielded from accountability."

The resolution "condemns all acts of brutality, racial profiling, and the use of excessive force by law enforcement and calls for the end of militarized policing." It also "supports strengthening efforts to eliminate instances of excessive use of force, and conduct stringent oversight and independent investigations into instances of police brutality, racial profiling, and excessive use of force, and hold individual law enforcement officers and police departments accountable."

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police in a fatally bungled no-knock drug raid in March. (family photo)
To that end, the resolution calls on the Justice Department to return to its once proactive role in investigating incidents of police brutality, violence, and racial profiling and police departments that have a pattern of civil rights violations -- a feature of the Obama administration Justice Department that was overturned under Trump.

That would include having the DOJ actively challenge courts "to reconsider decisions that permit unreasonable and excessive police practices," effectively enforce consent decrees with police departments that have been caught misbehaving, and establish civilian review boards that are not mere paper tigers.

"Over the last few months, we have witnessed heightened violent acts of white supremacy, police brutality and targeted harassment because we were simply living while Black," said Congresswoman Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. "And over and over again, offenders go unpunished, allowing this vicious cycle to continue with impunity. We cannot move forward as a nation until what has broken is fixed."

"George Floyd's tragic murder shows how much work we have to fix the relationships between law enforcement and black and brown people," said Congresswoman Lee. "We have seen far too many young men and women of color murdered by police, for as little as driving their car, riding public transportation, having a cell phone, or just being in their own homes. Police officers are supposed to defuse violence -- not inflict it on black and brown communities. While the majority of police officers approach their job in a professional manner, we cannot allow black and brown bodies to be targeted, attacked, and killed with impunity. It's going to take a lot of work and a serious reckoning with our society's ingrained racial biases to stop this violence. We need to restore the proper role of police in our community -- as public servants who are here to protect everyone, not just those they deem worthy of protection. Being Black in America should not be a death sentence."

If the House adopts this resolution, it puts itself squarely on the side of the growing clamor to rein in out of control police. The resolution now has a number, House Resolution 988, and in the days since it was introduced, the number of cosponsors has jumped to 50. That's a start. Now, it's up to the House leadership to see that it moves -- and to show that Congress is finally beginning to grapple with an epidemic of racially-biased, drug war-fueled police thuggery.

Washington, DC
United States

AZ Poll Bodes Well for Marijuana Legalization Initiative, China Anti-Drug Crackdown, More... (6/2/20)

An Arizona poll shows strong support for a marijuana legalization initiative there, a Connecticut panel approves adding two new qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, and more.

Connecticut opens the door to two more qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. (Sandra Yruel/DPA)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Poll Has Near Two-Thirds Support for Marijuana Legalization. If the Smart and Safe Arizona marijuana legalization initiative campaign can manage to make it onto the November ballot, a new poll suggests its prospects for victory are very good. The poll, from the lobbying and consulting firm HighGround, had support for the measure at 65%, with just 25% opposed. The polling came after respondents were given a detailed description of the initiative, as opposed to a generic question.

Medical Marijuana

Connecticut Legislative Committee Gives Final Approval for Two New Qualifying Conditions. The legislature's medical marijuana Regulation Review Committee has given final approval to adding chronic pain and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited disorder that weakens the body's connective tissues. The additions were approved during a Tuesday video conference. The decision follows the recommendation of the state Medical Marijuana Program's Board of Physicians.

International

China Announces More Than 11,000 Arrests in Anti-Drug Campaign That Began in January. The Chinese narcotics control authority has reported more than 11,000 arrests in a yearlong anti-drug campaign that was launched in January. The campaign is aimed at Yunnan Province in southwestern China, which borders Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle of opium production. By contrast, the US arrests more than a quarter-million for drug offenses arrests during the same period each year.

Congressional Resolution Condemns Police Brutality and Drug War, West Coast Pot Shops Trashed, More... (6/1/20)

West Coast marijuana stores get looted in the upheaval gripping the land, a dozen members of Congress file a resolution calling for an end to police brutality and the war on drugs, the Louisiana legislature has been busy passing marijuana bills, and more.

A dozen members of Congress call for an end to police brutality and the war on drugs. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

California, Oregon Marijuana Dispensaries Hit by Looters. California and Oregon marijuana dispensaries are among the businesses hit by the wave of unrest sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A number of them have been looted and vandalized, including Harborside, Blu, ECO Cannabis, and Magnolia Wellness in Oakland, 10 dispensaries in San Francisco, and five more in Los Angeles. In Oregon, at least two dispensaries were hit in Portland and one in Oakland.

Louisiana Legislature Passes Marijuana Banking Bill. The state Senate last Friday gave final approval to House Bill 211, which would protect banks and credit unions serving marijuana businesses from facing penalties from state regulators. The bill has already passed the House, and now heads to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. With a final vote in the House on Sunday, the legislature gave final approval to House Bill 819, which would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any debilitating medical conditions. It now goes to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

Asset Forfeiture

Tennessee Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances in House. A minor civil asset forfeiture reform bill, House Bill 0340, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last Friday. The bill does not ban civil asset forfeiture, but instead eliminates the requirement that someone whose property has been seized through asset forfeiture post a $350 bond to appeal that seizure. Tennessee is one of only three states that have such requirements. The bill now heads to the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.

Drug Policy

Congressional Resolution Condemns Police Brutality, War on Drugs. A dozen members of the House filed a resolution last Friday that condemns police brutality and the racial injustice of the war on drugs. The resolution comes in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer who suffocated him to death and Breonna Taylor in Louisville in a fatally flawed drug raid. The "system of policing in America, and its systemic targeting of and use of deadly and brutal force against people of color, particularly Black people, stems from the long legacy of slavery, lynching, Jim Crow laws, and the War on Drugs in the United States and has been perpetuated by violent and harmful law enforcement practices," the resolution says.

International

Honduras Passes Law Allowing it to Intercept Suspected Drug Smuggling Planes. In a move totally devoid of irony -- US prosecutors have accused high Honduran government officials of being corrupted by the drug trade -- the Honduran legislature has approved a law allowing security forces to intercept planes of smuggling drugs and to participate in more comprehensive intelligence sharing with the United States and other Latin American countries. Honduran officials said the law was aimed at "narco jets" mainly coming from Venezuela. The move comes as the Trump administration is increasing anti-drug operations in the Caribbean and sending US troops to Colombia.

COVID Impacts Cocaine Trade, Bolsters Dark Web Drug Market, More... (5/28/20)

Coronavirus is having differential impacts on the illicit drug trade, Michigan groups push to end the state's drug felon foodstamp ban, Colombian rebels call for a coronavirus ceasefire, and more.

Coca prices are down because of the pandemic, but the cocaine trade keeps on keeping on. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Gets Boost from Federal Judge's Signature-Gathering Ruling. A federal judge ruled Monday that a marijuana legalization initiative campaign, Arkansans for Cannabis Reform, can do electronic signature-gathering because of excessive burdens on in-person signature-gathering due to coronavirus pandemic social distancing. The judge ruled that the secretary of state must accept signatures not gathered in person or notarized. The campaign says it was on a path to gather sufficient signatures before in-person signature-gathering was suspended. It has until July 3 to hand in signatures.

Drug Policy

Michigan Bill Would Hike Heroin, Fentanyl Sales Penalties. State Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) has filed a bill, HB 5627, that would increase penalties for the manufacture and delivery of heroin, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioid drugs. The bill is now before the House Judiciary Committee.

Michigan Groups Call on Governor to End Food Stamp Ban for Drug Felons. A coalition of 25 organizations led by the Center for Employment Opportunities is calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and legislative leaders to end a longtime state policy that permanently bans residents with two or more drug felony convictions from receiving food stamps. The ban is federal, but most states have already moved to receive waivers to avoid enforcing it. The groups say the ban makes it more difficult for people to make the transition from prison to civilian life.

International

Coronavirus Drives Dealers Online as Drugs Supply Soars. The cyber intelligence company Sixgill is reporting that dark web drug sales offers soared nearly 500% over the first few months of this year as drug dealers took to the web to continue doing business in a time of social distancing. The number of drug items for sale on dark websites monitored by Sixgill jumped from 4,154 in December 2019 to more than 24,000 by April 2020. MDMA postings more than doubled, marijuana postings increased more than five-fold, and cocaine postings jumped 10-fold. "Feedback, while an imperfect metric for purchase volume, is a reliable indicator of the rate of transactions," Sixgill explained. "Feedback volume for cannabis, cocaine, and MDMA all nearly doubled over the past half year."

Coronavirus Hits the Cocaine Supply Chain. The coronavirus pandemic is destabilizing the delicate balance in the Andes that the cocaine trade relies on. Lockdowns enforced by soldiers and police have caused trafficking routes to constrict, driving down the price of coca for the more than 237,000 families in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia who depend on it. In the latter two countries, the price of coca has dropped to from one-third to one-sixth of previous levels. "We're concerned about feeding our families because the price of coca continues to drop," said Bolivian coca union leader Albino Pinto. "We face restrictions in moving coca and other goods to the central market. This is blocking both local consumption and export, but our production continues at the same level." But the cocaine trade continues: "Drug traffickers have become more agile in shifting routes and modifying strategies," according to Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network. "Given the harsh reality for those who survive at the lowest rungs of the cocaine trade, pandemic control, just like drug control doesn't stop this business."

Colombia ELN Rebels Would Back Temporary Ceasefire to Help Contain Spread of Coronavirus. The National Liberation Army (ELN), which remains in rebellion against the government in Bogota and is involved in coca and cocaine production, has said it would be willing to take part in a three-month ceasefire to help quash the coronavirus. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire back in March. The ELN said it was waiting for a response from the government of President Ivan Duque.

Fixing the Federal Criminal Justice System: The Establishment Weighs In [FEATURE]

In a just issued report on reforming the federal criminal justice system, a blue-ribbon task force of the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice calls for sweeping changes in the system from its approach to drug offenses to significant sentencing changes, support for getting ex-inmates successfully reintegrated into society, and more.

To make things better in the federal criminal justice system, Congress has some work to do. (Creative Commons)
Formed in July 2019, the Council on Criminal Justice is relatively new on the scene but contains some real heavy hitters. The co-chairs of its advisory board of directors are former US Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates and Koch Industries Senior Vice President Mark Holden, while its founding president is criminal justice expert Adam Gelb and the chair of its board is former head of the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs Laurie Robinson.

The members of the task force that issued the report, Next Steps: An Agenda for Federal Action on Safety and Justice, are also prominent figures from across the political spectrum. They include former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, former Washington, DC and Philadelphia police chief Gordon Ramsey, American Conservative Union general counsel David Savakian, former director of the Open Society Foundation's Addiction Program's Dr. Kima Taylor, as well as Yates and Holden.

Noting in the report's executive summary that both crime and incarceration rates have receded -- although with a considerable lag between the two -- and that the federal prison population finally peaked in 2013, they write that "[y]et there is broad agreement across the political spectrum that more must be done to make communities safe and guarantee justice -- not just by states and localities, where the majority of the criminal justice system operates, but also by the federal government, which runs the country's largest correctional system and helps set the tone of the national conversation."

The task force sought "to craft a consensus view of the actionable, politically viable steps that the federal government can take now and in the near future to produce the greatest improvements in public safety and the administration of justice." With a nod to the ongoing pandemic, the task force noted that although it "concluded its deliberations before the outbreak of COVID-19, several of the recommendations are highly relevant to the federal response, in the short term and beyond."

So, what does this consensus view on federal criminal justice reforms look like?

The task force came up with 15 policy recommendations for actions by the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, along with detailed rationales for each and equally detailed plans for implementing them. Here are some of the highlights:

Marijuana Policy

Reflecting the task force consensus but not quite catching up with public opinion, which now consistently favors legalization in opinion polls, the task force calls not for federal marijuana legalization but for instead allowing states to set their own marijuana policies through a system of waivers. It finds the status quo where "states are, in effect, licensing individuals and businesses to commit federal felonies" as untenable as "states and the industry continue to operate under an illusion of sovereignty where circumstances can change at any moment."

Instead, they recommend formalizing the status quo, acknowledging that states can enact legalization without fear of federal interference, unless and until marijuana is rescheduled or legalized at the federal level.

Sentencing Policy

The task force makes a number of pointed recommendations when it comes to sentencing policies that have made the land of the free the home of the world's largest prison population. They note that the US Sentencing Commission, which is responsible for setting guidelines for federal prison sentences, is currently paralyzed and "has been unable to modify sentencing guidelines to reflect current law, including the bipartisan reforms of the FIRST STEP Act of 2018," because the Trump administration has failed to fill vacancies on it.

The task force's recommendation here is: "The President and the Senate should fully reconstitute the US Sentencing Commission so it can fulfill its statutory duties to make necessary and timely adjustments to the sentencing guidelines, make recommendations to Congress for needed changes to federal criminal and sentencing statutes, and conduct research on the policies and operations of the federal sentencing and corrections systems."

One of the main drivers of the mushrooming federal prison population -- it grew from 24,000 in 1980 to nearly 220,000 before peaking in 2013 -- is mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, leaving federal prisons stuffed "not just with major traffickers but also with thousands of lower-level players in the drug distribution chain, a disproportionate number of whom are minorities," the task force notes.

While, over the years as the incarceration fever began to break, various efforts to mitigate the pernicious effects of mandatory minimums were implemented (and have helped reduce the number of federal prisoners), the task force is ready to be done with them. "Congress should eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing laws for all drug crimes and consider eliminating non-drug mandatory minimums while refraining from enacting any new mandatory minimums pending study," it recommends.

Also on sentencing, the task force notes that neither Congress nor the courts have acted to restrict judges from sentencing someone based on conduct for which they have been acquitted in court, a practice that mainly occurs in drug conspiracy cases. The task force calls on the US Sentencing Commission to amend federal sentencing guidelines to prohibit such sentencing.

And the task force is calling for federal prisoners serving lengthy sentences approved by "tough on crime" legislation in the 1980s and 1990s to be able to appeal to have their sentences reconsidered after serving at least 15 years, with a chance for review every 10 years after that.

Reentry

Giving federal offenders a chance of actually succeeding on the outside upon their release from prison is another main focus of the task force. It starts with recommending that Congress ensure the Bureau of Prisons is working as it should by creating "an independent performance, oversight, and accountability board (Board) to oversee and advise the Bureau of Prisons (BOP)."

To help prisoners prepare for post-carceral careers while still behind bars, the task force calls for the restoration of Pell grants and other expanded educational opportunities, and it recommends several measures to increase their chances once they're back on the street. Among them are sealing low-level criminal records from public view to help employment prospects, expanding public housing access for people with convictions, and providing guidance on closing Medicaid reentry gaps.

The task force also calls for Congress "to support and incentive increased access to residential and community-based treatment services that are evidence-based, including access to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in order to strengthen reentry programs, prevent recidivism, and promote better health outcomes."

The Council on Criminal Justice is about as establishment and mainstream as it gets. When people like this are shouting for the federal criminal justice system to be fixed, you know it needs to be fixed (if you didn't already). The task force has shown us what needs to be done; now it's up to Congress, the courts, and the administration to act. We shall see.

Volunteers Needed: Online Signature Gathering for Psychedelic and Drug Decrim Initiatives

Posted in:

Dear reformer:

The pandemic has been hard on ballot initiative campaigns that need to gather signatures to get on the ballot. But there are some important drug policy initiatives that have a real chance of getting their needed signatures, but which need some help.

Initiative 81 in the District of Columbia would make enforcement against offenses involving entheogenic plants or mushrooms a lowest priority for law enforcement. Submitted in December to the DC Board of Elections by the group Decriminalize Nature DC, I-81's chances of getting onto the ballot were threatened by when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Earlier this month, though, the Board of Elections not only approved it for signature gathering, but granted permission for circulators of the initiative to sign their own petitions. This means that any DC voter can download, print and sign a copy, and return it to the campaign. The campaign is also mailing copies to people who request it.

Wherever you live, you can help get I-81 onto the ballot through phone banking. Today there's a virtual rally for volunteers with guest Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps CEO David Bronner. (It might be too late to join today's rally -- I'm sorry we didn't catch today's opportunity sooner, to let you know sooner.)

In Oregon, Initiative Petition 34 to legalize psilocybin mushroom-assisted therapy has also gone to online signature gathering. The campaign is within 10,000 signatures of what they need to qualify for the ballot, but needs your help for the rest too. Again, you can sign if you're an Oregon voter, but you can volunteer to help from anywhere. Please see our action alert for how to get involved.

And if you're helping with Oregon, you can help two initiatives at once. The Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, IP-44, which would decriminalize illegal substances, needs help with electronic signature gathering too. IP-44 is only 5,500 valid signatures away from qualifying.

This is not a comprehensive list of drug reform initiatives that are trying to move forward despite the pandemic. Many have had to postpone their plans, but a number are still trying. For today at least, those are our suggestions for how to help, and I hope you can.

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
https://stopthedrugwar.org

Medical Marijuana Update

A Louisiana medical marijuana expansion bill is just a step away from passing the legislature, Montana patients will soon be able to buy their medicine at any dispensary, and more.

Louisiana

Louisiana Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate voted 28-6 Wednesday to approve House Bill 819, which would end a rule requiring doctors to register with the state to recommend it and give them broad authority to recommend for any debilitating health condition. The bill has already passed the House but has to go back to the lower chamber to approve amendments made in the Senate.

Montana

Montana to "Untether" Medical Marijuana Users, Allowing Multiple Providers. As of next Tuesday, medical marijuana patients will no longer be stuck using a sole provider. Under a bill approved last year, patients will now be able to seek their medicine from any dispensary or provider. That bill allows patients to purchase up to one ounce per day, with a maximum of five ounces per month. But the daily purchase limit is temporarily suspended in a bid to reduce the number of in-store visits because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Activists Call for Legislature to Reconvene to Override Governor's Veto of Medical Marijuana Delivery Bill. After Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) last week vetoed a bill that would have allowed for medical marijuana deliveries, activists are calling on lawmakers to reconvene to override that veto. While other vetoes by Stitt were successfully overridden, the Senate refused to vote on this one, with the Senate leader's office saying "there was not enough support to override the veto in the Senate and it was not close."

Louisiana Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate voted 28-6 Wednesday to approve House Bill 819, which would end a rule requiring doctors to register with the state to recommend it and give them broad authority to recommend for any debilitating health condition. The bill has already passed the House but has to go back to the lower chamber to approve amendments made in the Senate.

Montana to "Untether" Medical Marijuana Users, Allowing Multiple Providers. As of next Tuesday, medical marijuana patients will no longer be stuck using a sole provider. Under a bill approved last year, patients will now be able to seek their medicine from any dispensary or provider. That bill allows patients to purchase up to one ounce per day, with a maximum of five ounces per month. But the daily purchase limit is temporarily suspended in a bid to reduce the number of in-store visits because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oklahoma Activists Call for Legislature to Reconvene to Override Governor's Veto of Medical Marijuana Delivery Bill. After Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) last week vetoed a bill that would have allowed for medical marijuana deliveries, activists are calling on lawmakers to reconvene to override that veto. While other vetoes by Stitt were successfully overridden, the Senate refused to vote on this one, with the Senate leader's office saying "there was not enough support to override the veto in the Senate and it was not close."

Louisiana Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate voted 28-6 Wednesday to approve House Bill 819, which would end a rule requiring doctors to register with the state to recommend it and give them broad authority to recommend for any debilitating health condition. The bill has already passed the House but has to go back to the lower chamber to approve amendments made in the Senate.

Montana to "Untether" Medical Marijuana Users, Allowing Multiple Providers. As of next Tuesday, medical marijuana patients will no longer be stuck using a sole provider. Under a bill approved last year, patients will now be able to seek their medicine from any dispensary or provider. That bill allows patients to purchase up to one ounce per day, with a maximum of five ounces per month. But the daily purchase limit is temporarily suspended in a bid to reduce the number of in-store visits because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oklahoma Activists Call for Legislature to Reconvene to Override Governor's Veto of Medical Marijuana Delivery Bill. After Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) last week vetoed a bill that would have allowed for medical marijuana deliveries, activists are calling on lawmakers to reconvene to override that veto. While other vetoes by Stitt were successfully overridden, the Senate refused to vote on this one, with the Senate leader's office saying "there was not enough support to override the veto in the Senate and it was not close."

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