Drug War Chronicle

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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Alabama cop gets arrested for meth dealing for the second time in two weeks, a former Virignia police detective is heading to prison for giving a snitch's name to drug dealers, and more. Let's get to it:

In Miami, a Miami-Dade jail guard was arrested last Saturday in a sting operation after he took a $3,000 bribe from an undercover officer to bring cocaine into the correctional facility. Guard Travis Thompson was arrested upon taking possession of the cocaine and cash. He is charged with one count of cocaine trafficking.

In Flomaton, Alabama, a Flomaton police officer was arrested last Monday on meth trafficking charges just a week after he was arrested on similar charges across the state line in Florida. Lt. Isaac Lopez, 36, went down a second time after taking possession of two ounces of meth from an undercover Florida officer. He's facing Alabama charges of trafficking methamphetamine and using a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony.

In Tuskegee, Alabama, a Macon County jail guard was arrested Tuesday for helping inmates smuggle contraband into the jail. Guard Jacorey Penn, 25, allegedly unlocked the jail's back door to let inmates receive contraband that included cellphones, marijuana, cocaine, pills, alcohol and tobacco. He is charged with promoting contraband.

In Newport News, Virginia, a former Hampton police detective was sentenced Monday to six years in prison for providing the name of an informant to a cocaine trafficking organization under investigation. DeAngelo Freeman, 32, worked for the Special Investigations Unit as he conspired with local dealers, naming the informant and providing other information about the investigation to the dealers. He earlier pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine.

Medical Marijuana Update

Both chambers of Congress have passed bills to ease barriers to medical marijuana research, the Mississippi Health Department joins a lawsuit trying to overturn the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, and more.

National

House Passes Medical Marijuana Research Bill. The House last Wednesday approved the Medical Marijuana Research Act (HR 3797) on a voice vote, demonstrating strong support from Democrats and Republicans alike. The measure would remove limits on marijuana research by amending the Controlled Substances Act and would direct the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a program to provide licenses to more marijuana growers and manufacturers. Licensed researchers could then use that marijuana in research approved by the FDA.

Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Research Bill. With a favorable vote Tuesday night, the Senate has passed the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act (S.2302). It would ease the application process for marijuana researchers and would prod the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop medicines derived from marijuana. The House passed a separate marijuana research bill last week. The passage of bills in both chambers means there is still a chance that a marijuana research bill could still pass in the remaining days of the session.

Kentucky

Kentucky Lawmaker to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill. State Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) has said he will reintroduce a medical marijuana bill that passed the House this year but failed to get action in the Senate because of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. "The support in the House will be even stronger than it was last year," Nemes said. "We have replaced a number of 'no' votes with 'yes' votes in the Republican caucus due to retirement and defeating Democrats, so we will be stronger in the House. The whole question is what the Senate will do."

Mississippi

Mississippi Health Department Joins Lawsuit Against Medical Marijuana Initiative. The state Department of Health filed a friend of the court brief Monday in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the will of voters who resounding approved a medical marijuana initiative in November. The agency argued that it shouldn't have to perform the "Herculean feat" of creating a medical marijuana program in just the seven months mandated by the initiative. But the brief goes further, also arguing that citizens have no inherent right to amend the state constitution. And it argues that the initiative violates the state constitution because it contains multiple subjects, including taxation, changing the criminal code, and zoning issues. No indication yet on when the court may rule.

South Carolina

South Carolina Lawmakers Pre-File Bills to Legalize Medical Cannabis. Lawmakers in both the state House and Senate have pre-filed medical marijuana legalization bills, H 3361 and S 150, respectively. The bills are both titled the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act. The bills are identical to legislation considered during the 2019 session, but not filed this year during a legislative session shortened by the pandemic.

Senate Approves Marijuana Research Bill, ICC Philippines Examination Progresses, More... (12/16/20)

A California bill would put an end to mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses, Toronto is moving to open safe injection sites in select homeless shelters, and more.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte may make it to the Hague yet. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Research Bill. With a favorable vote Tuesday night, the Senate has passed the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act (S.2302). It would ease the application process for marijuana researchers and would prod the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop medicines derived from marijuana. The House passed a separate marijuana research bill last week. The passage of bills in both chambers means there is still a chance that a marijuana research bill could still pass in the remaining days of the session.

Sentencing

California Bill Would Repeal Mandatory Minimums for Nonviolent Drug Offenses. State Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) last week introduced Senate Bill 73, which would repeal mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. "We are living with the consequences of bad, racist policies enacted in the 1970s and 80s, which disproportionately criminalize and harm Black and brown communities," Wiener said in a statement. "Our drug laws are a stain on California, and we must stop hurting communities and wasting valuable resources jailing people who have committed nonviolent drug offenses." The bill would give judges discretion to sentence such offenders to probation when appropriate. Under current law, a number of nonviolent drug charges come with mandatory sentencing provisions.

International

Toronto Plans to Open Safe Injection Sites in Homeless Shelters. Canada's largest city is moving to set up overdose prevention centers that include safe injection facilities in homeless shelters. The city will spend almost $8 million on a new "multi-pronged strategy" known as the Integrated Prevention and Harm Reduction Initiative (iPHARE). More than $3 million of that money will go to expanded harm reduction services, including safe injection sites in selected shelters across the city. The sites will only be open to residents of the shelters. Between April 1 and September 30, at least 132 people died of drug overdoses in the city.

Mexico President Blames Small "Mistakes" for Delays in Marijuana Legalization Bill. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that small errors in drafting the long-awaited marijuana legalization bill were the cause of the delay in passing the bill this month. He said legislators had requested a delay in the bill's Supreme Court-imposed Tuesday deadline to deal with it. "The period was practically over but they are matters of form and not substance," he said. "It is nothing more than a matter of mistakes that were made, lack of precision on quantities and there can be no contradictions in the law itself," Lopez Obrador said, referring to how much marijuana citizens can possess legally.

International Criminal Court Says Preliminary Examination of Filipino Drug War Shows Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity. In a report released this week, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) for the International Criminal Court (ICC) said a preliminary examination found there was "reasonable basis to believe" Filipino forces committed crimes against humanity in President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody crackdown on drug users and sellers that has led to thousands of killings since 2016. While OTP noted that Philippines officials have claimed the deaths were justified, it said that "such narrative has been challenged by others, who have contended that the use of lethal force was unnecessary and disproportionate under the circumstances, as to render the resulting killings essentially arbitrary, or extrajudicial, executions."

The examination now moves to its final stage, admissibility, looking at whether the Philippine justice system has is responding to the killings in a legitimate way. If the Philippines can't or won't hold perpetrators accountable, the court can take the case. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has promised a decision will be by mid-2021 over whether to seek authorization from the court to open a formal investigation. She has also pointedly warned that the court's resources fall badly short of what's needed to carry out their mission, which affect how cases are prioritized.

NJ Legal MJ Implementation Bill Advances, MS Health Dept Joins Lawsuit to Block MedMJ, More... (12/15/20)

Medical marijuana bills are coming in Kentucky and South Carolina, a bill to implement voter-approved marijuana legalization in New Jersey is advancing, and more.

Medical marijuana bills are coming next year in Kentucky and South Carolina. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Legal Marijuana Implementation Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved S21, a bill designed to set up the legal recreational marijuana market approved by voters in November, on Monday. The bill now heads for a Senate floor vote. Companion legislation in the Assembly is also expected to advance this week. The bill would send 70% of marijuana sales tax proceeds and 100% of proceeds from a new excise tax to communities most severely impacted by marijuana prohibition.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Lawmaker to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill. State Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) has said he will reintroduce a medical marijuana bill that passed the House this year but failed to get action in the Senate because of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. "The support in the House will be even stronger than it was last year," Nemes said. "We have replaced a number of 'no' votes with 'yes' votes in the Republican caucus due to retirement and defeating Democrats, so we will be stronger in the House. The whole question is what the Senate will do."

Mississippi Health Department Joins Lawsuit Against Medical Marijuana Initiative. The state Department of Health filed a friend of the court brief Monday in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the will of voters who resounding approved a medical marijuana initiative in November. The agency argued that it shouldn't have to perform the "Herculean feat" of creating a medical marijuana program in just the seven months mandated by the initiative. But the brief goes further, also arguing that citizens have no inherent right to amend the state constitution. And it argues that the initiative violates the state constitution because it contains multiple subjects, including taxation, changing the criminal code, and zoning issues. No indication yet on when the court may rule.

South Carolina Lawmakers Pre-File Bills to Legalize Medical Cannabis. Lawmakers in both the state House and Senate have pre-filed medical marijuana legalization bills, H 3361 and S 150, respectively. The bills are both titled the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act. The bills are identical to legislation considered during the 2019 session, but not filed this year during a legislative session shortened by the pandemic.

Drug Policy

Activists Call on President-Elect Biden to Abolish the Drug Czar's Office. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is calling on the incoming president to abolish the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office). "The ONDCP represents a bygone era," the group said in a blog post announcing a letter campaign to that end. "Today, most Americans now agree that the adult use of marijuana ought to be legal, and the majority of states have legalized the substance for either medical or recreational use. There is no longer any legitimate need for the Drug Czar's office or for a Drug Czar." NORML also called for the White House to not appoint former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-MA), a foe of marijuana legalization, as drug czar. There is a letter than you can sign at the link.

Patrick Kennedy Wants to Be Drug Czar, NJ MJ Implementation Bill Heard, More... (12/14/20)

Jostling over who will be named Joe Biden's drug czar has begun, Arizona gets working on rules for the nascent legal marijuana industry, more cartel conflict in Mexico, and more.

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy is openly lobbying to be named drug czar in the Biden administration. (nationalcouncil.org)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Begins Working on Draft Rules for Recreational Marijuana Sales. State health officials have commenced the rulemaking process for legal marijuana commerce. Since election results were certified on November 30, adults can legally possess up to an ounce and grow up to six plants, but legal sales can't start until the rules are set. State officials anticipate sales could begin in the spring. The initiative that legalized marijuana mandates that the state begin accepting applications from medical marijuana dispensaries that want to become recreational shops beginning January 19 and that licenses be issued to more than 60 days after applications are received.

New Jersey Senate Committee Considering Marijuana Legalization Plan Today. The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting Monday to consider S21, the bill to implement marijuana legalization after voters approved it in November. It is also considering a number of other bills, including S3256, which would downgrade the crime of possession of psilocybin mushrooms to a "disorderly person offense."

Drug Policy

Patrick Kennedy Launches Public Bid to Be Named Biden's Drug Czar. Former congressman and mental health and addiction treatment advocate Patrick Kennedy has begun a well-publicized bid to be named head of the White House Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) in the Biden administration. Kennedy is an opponent of marijuana legalization. There are other contenders, including former board president for the American Society of Addiction Medicine Kelly Clark, former Obama era addiction policy official Westley Clark, and March of Dimes chief medical officer Rahul Gupta, who heads the Biden administration's ONDCP transition team. Notably, all of these contenders come from the public health sphere, not the law enforcement sphere as has typically been the case with past drug czars.

International

Australian Capital Territory to See Drug Decriminalization Bill. A backbench member of the Australian Capital Territory's (Canberra) governing Labor Party will introduce a bill to decriminalize drug possession in the ACT Legislative Assembly next year. The opposition has not rejected the idea outright, but says it needs further review. If passed, it would make the ACT the first place in the country to enact drug decriminalization. An early draft of the bill sets possession limits at half a gram of MDMA and two grams of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

Mexican Cartel Battle in Michoacan Now in Second Week. Fighting over control of 13 municipalities in the state of Michoacan between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and Cartels United, which consists of the Sinaloa Cartel and other criminal groups, has gone on for more than a week now. Most recently, 13 people were killed in attacks last week in the towns of Chinicuila and Tepalcatepec, where residents dug trenches across roads to try to prevent gunmen from entering, as well as in Morelia, Zamora, and Uruapan. Multi-sided gun battles pitched cartel hitmen against each other, as well as police, soldiers, and armed residents. At least three civilians were among the dead.

Philippines Says Despite UN CND Vote, Marijuana Is Still a Dangerous Drug. Responding to the recent vote at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) removing marijuana from the most dangerous drug schedule, the Philippines is holding firm. The undersecretary of the Dangerous Drugs Board, Benjamin Reyes, said that doesn't mean marijuana is no longer a dangerous drug. "It is still included. It's just that marijuana (may now) have possible medical use, but still dangerous just like cocaine and opium," he said.

Santa Cruz Needle Exchange Hit With NIMBY Lawsuit, Mexico Supreme Court Okays Legalization Vote Delay, More... (12/11/20)

The Mexican Supreme Court grants another extension on its deadline to end marijuana prohibition, the Oakland city council will next week take up a measure calling on the state to decriminalize psychedelics, and more.

The Oakland City Council has psychedelics on its mind. (Creative Commons)
Heroin and Prescription Opioids

South Carolina Lawmakers File Slew of Bills to Fight Opioid Epidemic. Lawmakers have filed a package of bills aimed at the opioid epidemic, including H. 3362, which would require Medicaid plans to pay for opioid treatment; H. 3363, which would treat criminal offenses involving synthetic opioids like those involving heroin; and H. 3364, which would allow authorities to charge the seller of a drug involved in a fatal overdose to be charged with manslaughter.

Psychedelics

Oakland City Council Will Vote Next Week on Resolution Calling on State to Decriminalize Psychedelics. The city council will take a resolution pushed by Decriminalize Nature that calls on the state to decriminalize psychedelics and let cities and counties allow "healing ceremonies" where people could use those drugs. Decriminalize Nature was inspired to look beyond local measures after state Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) announced plans to file a statewide psychedelic decrim bill.

Harm Reduction

Santa Cruz, California, Needle Exchange Program Sued by NIMBY Neighbors. The Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County has now been hit with a lawsuit over its needle exchange program by unhappy neighbors. The group's needle exchange program "poses a serious threat to the health and safety of the citizens of Santa Cruz County," the plaintiffs argue, and have led to a "significant" number of discarded needles. The Harm Reduction Coalition has long refuted that charge, saying it has removed thousands of needles from the area.

International

Mexican Supreme Court Grants Another Extension to Marijuana Legalization Deadline, Allowing Final Vote to Take Place Next Year. After the Chamber of Deputies requested a delay in a looming vote on the marijuana legalization bill, citing the complexity of the bill, the Supreme Court on Thursday extended the deadline by which the government must act to end marijuana prohibition. The latest deadline was December 15; it has now been pushed back to the end of the spring legislative session in April.

House Passes MedMJ Marijuana Research Bill, Australia's NSW Ponders Drug "Depenalization," More... (12/10/20)

The House has passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act, America's longest-serving nonviolent marijuana prisoners is now a free man, and more.

Richard DeLisi, American's longest-serving nonviolent marijuana offender, is now a free man. (family photo)
Medical Marijuana

House Passes Medical Marijuana Research Bill. The House on Wednesday approved the Medical Marijuana Research Act (HR 3797) on a voice vote, demonstrating strong support from Democrats and Republicans alike. The measure would remove limits on marijuana research by amending the Controlled Substances Act and would direct the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a program to provide licenses to more marijuana growers and manufacturers. Licensed researchers could then use that marijuana in research approved by the FDA. The bill is an orphan, though; there is no equivalent measure in the Senate.

Sentencing

Marijuana Prisoner With 90-Year Sentence Freed. Richard DeLisi, 71, was released from a Florida prison Tuesday after serving 31 years of a 90-year sentence. He is believed to be the longest-serving nonviolent marijuana inmate in the country. His release was engineered by attorneys hired by the Last Prisoner Project, which championed his case.

International

Australia's New South Wales Considers Softening Drug Possession Laws. The cabinet of New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian is discussing a plan to replace most drug possession arrests with a system of warnings and fines. According to the plan, people caught with personal use amounts of drug would be issued a warning on the first offense and fines for a second and third offense. Only if someone were caught four times in one year would he face criminal drug possession charges. The plan is a response to the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug Ice, which recommended drug decriminalization. The Berejiklian administration has rejected decriminalization, but is dancing around the issue by calling the plan "depenalization."

Celebrate Double Marijuana Wins and Continue Your (Doubled) Support!

Posted in:

Dear supporter,

As you may have read about in our newsletter, last week held historic wins for marijuana reform! The US House of Representatives passed a comprehensive bill -- the MORE Act -- which means marijuana legalization across the US is on the horizon. And in a major win globally, the United Nations removed marijuana from its most restrictive category, recognizing its medical value.

Are you able to contribute today to support our efforts to pass the MORE Act in the US Senate and make it law? Any contribution will be matched and your impact will be doubled!

If you are not able to contribute to our work monetarily, please consider sharing the link to our facebook fundraiser on your personal facebook page so we can connect with more allies.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act passed the US House last Friday December 4, making it the first ever marijuana legalization legislation to pass in any chamber of Congress. The MORE Act is especially notable for its focus on justice and equity through clearing past marijuana convictions and earmarking funds to reinvest in the communities most harmed by prohibition.

The vote on marijuana as medicine took place at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, where it approved recommendation 5.1 made by the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. Previously marijuana was in Schedule IV of the 1961 convention, which recommends UN member states use their most strict controls for it.

Contribute to our marijuana legalization and other legislative efforts here. Donate to our UN and other educational and charitable programs (tax-deductible) here.

Learn more about the MORE Act news in our newsletter here. Learn more about the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs vote here. Read about our work at the UN and other international programs here.

Thank You for your support!

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016
https://stopthedrugwar.org

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A western Pennsylvania deputy had a most interesting stash hidden behind his basement wall, a south Alabama small town police officer tries his hand at meth dealing, and more. Let's get to it:

In Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, a Dauphin County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Tuesday after a search of his home uncovered firearms, drugs, and thousands of dollars in cash hidden behind a wall in his basement. Deputy Christopher Reid, 27, went down after a months-long investigation by Susquehanna Township police. The search turned up 11 guns, a half-pound of marijuana, and $28,000 in cash. He is facing a felony drug manufacturing/delivery charge, a misdemeanor drug charge, and a charge of endangering the welfare of children.

In Fulton, Missouri, a state prison guard was arrested last Tuesday for plotting to smuggle drugs into the prison there. Officer Randi Duvall, 35, went down after an investigation by the local sheriff's office, the Department of Corrections, and the US Postal Inspection Service. Postal inspectors tracked a suspicious package to Duvall's post office box, prompting a deputy to meet with Duvall, who then confessed. She is charged with the Class E felony of acceding to corruption.

In El Paso, Texas, an El Paso police officer was arrested last Friday for allegedly helping a cocaine dealer by running license plates of undercover police vehicles doing surveillance on him. Officer Monica Garcia was trying to thwart a DEA investigation of a dealer, and for her efforts, she now faces charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to unlawfully use a communication facility and conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premise. She's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In Pensacola, Florida, a south Alabama police officer was arrested Monday after being caught in a sting in which he was attempting to purchase meth for resale. Lt. Isaac Lopez, 36, of the Flomaton Police Department, is now charged with drug trafficking and using a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony. He was still sitting in the Escambia County Jail in Florida at last report.

In Greenbelt, Maryland, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Tuesday to 27 months in federal prison for smuggling drugs and other contraband into the Maryland Correctional Institute at Jessup in exchange for cash payments. Janel Martin had earlier pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges. She is the third state prison guard to be convicted a broad anti-smuggling case that also saw nine other people charged.

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Delayed Until Next Year, Wyoming Poll Has Majority for Legalization, More... (12/9/20)

More than a dozen marijuana reform bills have been filed in Texas, Canada will allow a small number of health professionals to possess and use magic mushrooms to help them better serve their mushroom-using patients, and more.

Even in Wyoming, there is now a majority for marijuana legalization. (kr.usembassy.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. In a bid to fend off a marijuana legalization initiative in 2022, state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas County) has filed a bill to achieve that goal legislatively. He filed a similar bill last session. "The way you convince your colleagues is to sit down with them and say, guys, we can can either deal with this at our level or the people of the state of Florida are going to deal with it via constitutional amendment," said Brandes. The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Texas Sees More Than a Dozen Marijuana Legalization, Decriminalization Bills Filed. More than a dozen bills to legalize or decriminalize marijuana have been filed for the forthcoming legislative session. Two bills would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of weed and allow up to 12 plants to be grown at home. "I think there is an excellent chance we are going to have a meaningful conversation on legalization, but more importantly where we find common ground on decriminalization and medical access that's where we see a real opportunity for this legislative session," said Heather Fazio, head of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

Wyoming Poll Has Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC) at the University of Wyoming has support for marijuana legalization at 54%. That's a continuation of a steady upward trend since 2014, when support was at only 37%. It rose to 41% in 2016 and 49% in 2018.

International

Canada to Allow Small Number of Health Care Professionals to Use Psychedelic Mushrooms, Health Care Minister Says. Health Minister Patty Hadju has said in a recent interview that Ottawa will let a small number of medical professionals possess and consume magic mushrooms to allow them to better treat a growing number of patients who now have permission to use the drug. The interview is the first sign of the ministry's response to therapists who have applied to use the drug. "I also am happy to say that yesterday [December 5] Health Canada granted exemptions to a number of health care professionals who wanted to possess and consume mushrooms containing psilocybin," Padju said. She added that the decision was "controversial for some and not for others, but the doctors that prescribe this therapy wanted to understand what it would feel like and how to best use it to help their patients that are struggling."

Mexico's Chamber of Deputies Delays Vote on Marijuana Legalization Until Next Year. The Chamber of Deputies had decided to delay approving a marijuana legalization bill until next year to give deputies more time to study the bill. The Congress will not be in session again until February. The Mexican Supreme Court has mandated that the plant be legalized and regulated, but an end of December deadline imposed by the court appears to have gone up in smoke.

CBO Says Marijuana Legalization Would Help Federal Budget Deficit, DEA Virtual Lecture Series to Begin, More... (12/8/20)

A state senator is leading a push for a marijuana legalization initiative in Nebraska, the new progressive Los Angeles County DA is getting down to work, and more.

"Drug Kingpin" Ivan Velasquez Caballero upon extradition to the US. He's been replaced. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Budget Office Says Marijuana Legalization Would Help Federal Budget. In an analysis of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3384), which passed the House last week, the Congressional Budget Office reported that revenues from legal marijuana businesses and shrinking federal prison costs could shrink the federal budget deficit $7.3 billion during the remainder of this decade. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a staunch legalization supporter, liked what he saw in the report: "It shows that the MORE Act would reduce 73,000 person-years of prison time," Blumenauer said. "It would increase revenues by $13.7 billion. It would provide $3 billion for job training and legal aid to people harmed by the war on drugs. While doing all of this, it would reduce the deficit by $7.344 billion."

Nebraska State Senator to Draft Marijuana Legalization Initiative for 2022. Marijuana reform proponent state Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln) announced last Saturday that she has a team drafting a marijuana legalization initiative for the 2022 ballot. She, along with Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, is already involved with drafting a medical marijuana initiative for 2022.

Law Enforcement

DEA Virtual Lecture Series to Begin with Look at Kingpin Strategy. Former Administrator Robert C. Bonner will lead off the first installment of the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum & Visitor Center's fiscal year 2021 lecture series Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy. Mr. Bonner will speak about leading DEA as it put the "Kingpin Strategy" into place in the early 1990s to combat violent and powerful drug trafficking organizations. "The Kingpin Strategy attacks drug organizations' most vulnerable areas-leadership, production, distribution, and assets. DEA designed the strategy to weaken, destroy, and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations," the DEA press release said. Given the Kingpin Strategy's results in places like Colombia and Mexico, someone should ask how that's working out so far. Virtual tickets are available at the link.

New Los Angeles County DA to End Cash Bail, Review Sentences, Divert Low-Level Offenders. Incoming Los Angeles County DA George Gascon said Monday upon taking office that he will end cash bail except for violent offenses and review sentences in thousands of cases. He said the latter move could affect at least 20,000 cases. He also said his office will work to divert people arrested for low-level offenses related to poverty, addiction, homelessness, and mental health issue to behavioral health services.

NJ Governor, Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Marijuana Bill, Mexico Strikes Back at DEA, More... (12/7/20)

South Dakota's attorney general's office intervenes against a challenge to the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization, New Jersey's governor and lawmakers reach an agreement on their marijuana bill, and more.

No random marijuana tests for NBA players next year -- and maybe ever.
Marijuana Policy

NBA Won't Test Players for Marijuana Next Year. In a continuation of a policy adopted this year, the National Basketball Association (NBA) will not drug test players for the presence of marijuana -- and it could be moving toward a permanent suspension of such testing. "Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the NBPA [NBA Players Association] to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020-21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse," an NBA spokesperson said. The pause only applies to random drug tests; a player could be tested for marijuana for cause.

New Jersey Governor, Lawmakers Approve Framework for Recreational Marijuana Bill. "We're proud to announce today that we've reached an agreement on legislation providing the framework for legalization, which is a critical step in reducing racial disparities and social inequities that have long plagued our criminal justice system," the office of Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said in a statement last Friday. Among the areas of agreement are that 70% of marijuana sales tax revenues will go to social justice programs and that licenses will be issued to 37 growers for the first two years. An amendment to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms will be removed and considered separately.

South Dakota Attorney General's Office Asks Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Victorious Legal Marijuana Initiative. State Assistant Attorney General Grant Flynn last Thursday filed a request with a district judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging the legality of the voter-approved initiative that legalizes marijuana in the state. "The State respectfully requests that Contestants' Election Contest be denied in all respects and that Contestants' Complaint be dismissed with prejudice, in its entirety, and judgement be entered in favor of the state," says the filing authored by Flynn. The plaintiffs are arguing that the measure violates the state constitution because it deals with "a multitude" of topics, not just legalizing marijuana. Those include medical marijuana and hemp. "The State denies that Amendment A includes a 'multitude' of different subjects," Flynn wrote. Attorneys representing the initiative campaign have also joined the case. All sides have until January 8 to file motions and briefs.

Foreign Policy

Mexican President Proposes Stripping Diplomatic Immunity for DEA Agents. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has proposed removing diplomatic immunity for DEA agents working in Mexico. Under the proposal, DEA agents would have to submit all the information they collect in the country to the Mexican government. Also, any Mexican government officials contacted by the DEA would have to report on that contact to the Foreign Relations Department. A DEA spokesman said, however, that sharing information with Mexico "is not going to happen," citing corruption in the Mexican government. The proposal after former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested on drug and corruption charges in Los Angeles, only to see the charges dropped weeks later by US prosecutors who cited "sensitive and important foreign policy considerations."

In Historic Move, House Votes to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition [FEATURE]

Breaking almost entirely along party lines, the House on Friday voted to approve the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 or the MORE Act of 2019 (HR 3884). The vote was 228 to 164, with only a handful of Republicans voting "aye" and a handful of Democrats voting "nay."

Friday was an historic day on Capitol Hill. (Creative Commons)
The MORE Act would effectively end federal pot prohibition by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act's list of scheduled substances and eliminating federal criminal penalties for its possession, cultivation and sale. The bill would not affect state laws that criminalize marijuana, but it would end the conflict between states that have already legalized marijuana and federal law.

The bill also includes strong social equity provisions, including the creation of a fund to support programs and services for communities devastated by the war on drugs, a provision for expungement of past federal marijuana offenses, and a provision that bars the federal government from discriminating against people for marijuana use. The latter would protect immigrants from being deported for past marijuana convictions and would ensure that earned benefits are not denied to marijuana users.

The historic vote marks the first time either chamber of Congress has voted for legalization. But there is virtually no chance that the Republican-led Senate will take up -- let alone approve -- the measure in the remaining days of this session, meaning this is a battle that will continue in the next Congress.

Still, drug policy reformers were quick to celebrate the victory.

"Today's vote marks a historic victory for the marijuana policy reform movement. It indicates that federal lawmakers are finally listening to the overwhelming majority of Americans who are in favor of ending prohibition and comes at a critical time as this important measure addresses two key challenges we currently face," Marijuana Policy Project executive director Steven Hawkins said in a statement moments after the vote ended.

"Serious criminal justice reform cannot begin in our country without ending the war on cannabis," Hawkins continued. "The MORE Act would set federal marijuana policy on a path toward correcting an unfair system and help restore justice to those who have been victimized by prohibition. This legislation would also help address our country's fiscal and economic challenges by empowering states to implement programs that can stimulate economic growth and generate new tax revenue at a time when both are desperately needed. We call on the Senate to listen to the American people and pass the MORE Act without delay."

"This is HUGE!" said the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in a blog post announcing the vote. "This is an historic day for marijuana policy in the United States. This vote marks the first time in 50 years that a chamber of Congress has ever revisited the classification of cannabis as a federally controlled and prohibited substance, and it marks the first time in 24 years -- when California became the first state to defy the federal government on the issue of marijuana prohibition -- that Congress has sought to close the widening chasm between state and federal marijuana policies."

"The criminalization of marijuana is a cornerstone of the racist war on drugs. Even after a decade of reform victories, one person was arrested nearly every minute last year for simply possessing marijuana," Maritza Perez, director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) said in a statement. "Today the House took the most powerful step forward to address that shameful legacy. But the MORE Act as passed is imperfect, and we will continue to demand more until our communities have the world they deserve."

DPA is particularly irked by the insertion of language during the legislative process that limits expungement and resentencing provisions to people with nonviolent marijuana offenses and language that blocks people with marijuana felony convictions from fully participating in the industry. The group said in the statement that it would work with Congress next session "to remove these additions and pass a bill that fully aligns with our principles."

"Getting to this point definitely gives us hope, but the fight is far from over. We will continue to build support for an even stronger, and more inclusive bill in the next session," Queen Adesuyi, policy manager for DPA's Office of National Affairs, said in the statement. "We are grateful that members of Congress have rightly come to the realization that the drug war has exacerbated the racial injustices in this country and ending marijuana prohibition is a concrete tangible action they can take to benefit our communities now."

Not everyone was happy, though. America's leading anti-pot activist, Kevin Sabet, president and co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana lashed out at the vote and the House leadership in a statement that called it "a useless show vote."

"The pot industry has won a post-season exhibition game, but they're treating it like Game 7 of the World Series," he snarked. "The bill is a smokescreen for Altria Phillip Morris and their Big Tobacco gang of investors. As we have seen in state after state, marijuana commercialization does not lead to any tangible benefit for disadvantaged communities and social equity programs continue to be manipulated. Legalization simply results in rich, overwhelmingly white men getting richer while using predatory marketing tactics to expand substance abuse in the communities that were somehow supposed to benefit. Big Pot doesn't care about social justice or equity, its only concern is profit."

But while Sabet goes on about his mythical "Big Pot," he neglects to mention who actually supports the bill: the American people. In the latest Gallup poll, released less than a month ago, 68% said they wanted legal marijuana. They may have to wait for NORHWWE Congress to get in done at the federal level, but passage of the MORE Act is in line with what the public wants, even if prohibitionists don't wish to acknowledge that.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of Drug War Chronicle.

Washington, DC
United States

MORE Act Heads for House Vote, San Francisco Bans Apartment Cigarettes -- But Not Pot-Smoking, More... (12/3/20)

Tomorrow will be an historic day for marijuana policy, New Jersey lawmakers struggle over legal marijuana and decriminalization, Peru and the US diverge on the size of last year's coca crop, and more.

There will be no tobacco smoking allowed in apartment buildings in San Francisco. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

MORE Act Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. The House Rules Committee on Wednesday approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3884), clearing the way for a House floor vote on Friday. The committee also approved a rule that the bill will be closed to amendments on the floor. Debate on the bill began today.

New Jersey Lawmakers Want to Put Marijuana On The Ballot Again, to Steer Revenue to People Hurt By Drug War. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and three other Democratic senators are promoting a constitutional amendment that would ensure that marijuana tax revenues would go to "impact zones," or communities harmed by the war on drugs. At the same time, lawmakers are removing a psychedelic mushroom provision from the pending decriminalization bill to remove one roadblock to its passage. With the removal of the mushroom provision, the bill is expected to pass by month's end.

San Francisco Bans Cigarette Smoking in Apartment Building but Allows Pot Smoking. The city's Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 on Tuesday to ban tobacco smoking from apartment buildings with three or more units but relented on its plan to ban marijuana smoking in the face of strong opposition. Activists pointed out that banning pot-smoking in apartments would remove their only legal place to smoke since pot smoking is banned in public places. The ban also includes e-cigarettes.

International

Peru Reports Lower Growth of Coca Cultivation Than US Did. The anti-drug agency DEVIDA said coca cultivation increased only 1% last year to about 135,000 acres and was a slowdown from higher growth the previous year. That's dramatically lower than what the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) reported in June. ONDCP reported that cultivation had increased by 38% to 180,000 acres. DEVIDA said 70% of the country's production was in the VRAEM (Valleys of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers) in the south-central part of the country.

In Historic Vote, UN CND Votes to Remove Cannabis from Most Restrictive Drug Schedule [FEATURE]

In an historic vote Wednesday, the 53 member states of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN body charged with setting drug policy, voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the United Nations' drug classification system as they met in Vienna.

Vienna International Centre
The vote followed an independent scientific assessment undertaken by some of the world's leading experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017 and 2018. The Geneva-based WHO is charged under the UN drug conventions with assessing the harms and benefits of substances and making scheduling recommendations. In January 2019, the WHO formally recommended that cannabis be removed from Schedule IV and that CBD cannabis preparations containing less than 0.2% THC, such as tinctures and extracts, be removed from the schedules altogether.

While civil society groups gave the WHO's recommendations decidedly mixed reviews, including its "very questionable rationale for keeping cannabis in Schedule I," they also applauded its "obvious recommendations deserving support." The removal of cannabis form Schedule IV in particular would signify UN recognition that cannabis really does have therapeutic uses.

As explained in an October briefing paper from the International Drug Policy Consortium and the Transnational Institute, cannabis is currently both a Schedule I and a Schedule IV drug under the international drug treaties. Schedule I includes "substances that are highly addictive and liable to abuse or easily convertible into those (e.g. opium, heroin, cocaine, coca leaf" -- although Bolivia begs to differ on the latter), while Schedule IV includes Schedule I drugs with "particularly dangerous properties and little or no therapeutic value" (e.g. heroin, carfentanil).

Wednesday's vote removing cannabis from Schedule IV means the global anti-drug bureaucracy now recognizes the therapeutic value of cannabis and no longer considers it "particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects."

With medical marijuana legal in dozens of countries in one form or another, the ever-increasing mountain of evidence supporting the therapeutic uses of cannabis, not to mention outright legalization in 15 American states Canada and Uruguay, with Mexico about to come on board, this decision by the CND is long past due, but nonetheless welcome.

"With this decision, the UN closes a 60-year denial of what has been documented as being among the most ancient medicinal plants humankind has domesticated," said independent researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, who has monitored the CND process for years.

It will be 60 years in March since cannabis was placed in Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic without ever having been subject to any scientific assessment.

"As a medical patient myself I know how necessary this change in international law is, to help reduce the suffering of millions of people and how it adds a much needed pain treatment with promise in mitigating reliance on opiates at a key moment in history," said Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (USA), one of the global civil society groups that has been pushing for reform at the UN.

While the CND accepted the WHO's recommendation to remove cannabis from Schedule IV, it failed to advance some other recommendations, including rejecting a recommendation on medical CBD. That means CBD remains unscheduled, outside treaty controls, and liable to national bans. The failure to adopt more progressive WHO recommendations was "disappointing and represents a lost opportunity to make the treaty best fit to purpose," activists said.

But this is the United Nations, and change comes at a glacial pace and even then, only incrementally. Still, Tuesday's vote is a long overdue step in the right direction and lays the groundwork for more progress in years to come.

GOP Snipes at Dems Over Looming House Legal Pot Vote, Congressional Report on Hemispheric Drug War, More (12/2/20)

Republicans seek to make political hay out of the looming House vote on marijuana legalization, a New Mexico criminal justice reform coalition gears up to push for pot legalization there, and more.

A vote on marijuana legalization looms in the House. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Republicans Use MORE Act Vote to Snipe at Democrats. GOP lawmakers are trying to score political points by attacking House Democrats for holding a vote this week on a marijuana legalization bill, the MORE Act (HR 3884). In a seemingly coordinated campaign, GOP members attacked the Democrats for taking up the MORE ACT before additional coronavirus relief is passed. Here's a representative tweet from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): "This week, your House Democrat majority is tackling the tough issues by holding a vote on legalizing pot and banning tiger ownership. Nothing for small businesses. Nothing for re-opening schools. Nothing on battling the pandemic. Just cannabis and cats."

New Mexico Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Gears Up to Press for Marijuana Legalization. Advocates for marijuana legalization have formed a criminal justice reform coalition, New Mexico Safe, to push for marijuana legalization. The group presented information to state lawmakers Tuesday night ahead of next year's legislative session, which begins next month. "This priority is one that obviously generates revenue and reinvest some of those dollars back into the public health system and back into communities that have been most harmed by substance use disorder," said Emily Katzenbach of the Drug Policy Alliance, which is a member of the coalition.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Adds Two More Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana. The state Department of Health has added sickle cell disease and chronic vocal or motor tic disorder to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The change will go into effect in August 2021. An effort to an anxiety as a qualifying condition was denied but will be revisited next year. The state currently allows medical marijuana for 15 qualifying conditions.

Foreign Policy

US Congressional Commission Report Calls for Overhaul of War on Drugs in Latin America. The congressional Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission is calling for a "smarter" approach to hemispheric drug policy in a bipartisan report to be released later this week. The current approach has not stopped drug smuggling or reduced high rates of violence and corruption in the region, the report says. "An increasingly complex threat requires a more agile, adaptive long-term strategy," the report says, stressing that the COVID pandemic has only increased the problem. "The pandemic has exacerbated conditions that are worsening our ongoing opioid crisis, such as lack of adequate treatment, economic distress, and social isolation," said the report. It also noted that some anti-drug policies, such as forced coca eradication and the targeting of "drug kingpins" have had harmful and counterproductive consequences.

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges Over Oxycontin, House to Vote on Legal Pot This Week, More... (12/1/20)

It's now legal to possess and grow your own marijuana in Arizona, the House Rules Committee takes up the MORE Act on Wednesday, Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to three federal criminal charges, and more.

Marijuana Policy

House Rules Committee Takes Up Marijuana Legalization Bill Tomorrow Ahead of Looming Floor Vote. The House Rules Committee takes up the MORE Act (HR 3884) tomorrow, paving the way for a House floor vote on the bill later this week. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sent the bill to the Rules Committee with some modifications, the most significant of which revolve around taxation. The bill originally imposed a 5% tax on marijuana products, but Nadler has amended the bill to remove that language and replace it with a scheme that would allow increases in the tax rate until it reaches 8%.

Arizona Marijuana Legalization Now in Effect. Marijuana is now legal in the state. It became so after the state secretary of state certified the election results, affirming that Prop 207 indeed passed. It is now legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and up to five grams of concentrates and to grow up to six plants for personal use. The legal, regulated marijuana market won't be in effect until sometime next year.

Virginia Legislative Working Group Issues Report Outlining Path to Legalization. A working group on marijuana legalization requested by the legislature issued its report Monday and concluded that the end of pot prohibition "cannot be created quickly." First, the state needs to invest in data collection, craft new regulations, and undertake a public education campaign, the report said. That pushes legalization down the road: "Setting up an adequate regulatory structure will require a significant up-front investment, in time, patience, and budgetary resources," the report reads. The report sets an 18-24-month timeline for legalization and up to five years before there is a fully developed legal marijuana industry.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Federal Criminal Charges Over Oxycontin Role in Opioid Crisis. OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as well as two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. The move came after a plea deal agreed to in October that also includes a historic $3.544 billion fine and a $2 billion criminal forfeiture. The company will now be dissolved and its assets used to incorporate a "public benefit company" designed to serve the public, not the company's bottom line.

ALERT: House of Representatives Voting on MORE Act This Week!

Posted in:

Dear reformer:

The US House of Representatives is scheduled to take an historic, first-ever vote on marijuana legalization this week! A hearing before the vote is scheduled for tomorrow morning (Wednesday), so please take action as soon as you can!

The MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019) will remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, decriminalizing it at the federal level and allowing states to move forward with legalization. It will allow marijuana businesses access to banking services. And it will enact social justice measures to help the communities most impacted by the drug war, like expungement of past convictions and equity measures for the legal marijuana industry. Read more about the MORE Act here.

If you're a US voter, please write your member of Congress using our online action alert. When you're done, please call them too -- use the Congressional Switchboard main number, (202) 224-3121, then ask to be transferred.

This historic moment is also a really important one. I hope we can count on your support to get the MORE Act through the House of Representatives now, and then as we take it from there!

Sincerely,

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

Giving Tuesday: double your impact today!

Posted in:

Dear supporter:

As 2020 comes to a close, the global fight against the war on drugs does not. Your support can make a monumental difference as we advocate to protect human rights and connect drug policy movement organizers from all over the world. Whether you're pushing for change in Latin or North America, in Middle Eastern or African nations, your support is urgently needed this Giving Tuesday. Contributions up to $10,000 will be matched - so double your impact and donate today!

Much of the world is moving toward compassionate drug policy this year as legalization and decriminalization campaigns find success, but human rights and democracy are still at risk. We need your support to fund our work on marijuana and other drug policy at the UN; our Stand with Human Rights and Democracy campaign in partnership with Filipino advocates responding to President Duterte’s drug war killings and President Trump’s support for Duterte; and to continue the Drug War Chronicle newsletter, a critical resource for all drug policy reform issues in the US and abroad.

After a week of eating and online shopping, Giving Tuesday kicks off December with a focus on helping others. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to our educational activities, or click here to make a non-deductible contribution for our lobbying work.

In a year where help is critically needed, we hope you can give to our cause of fighting for an end to drug war injustice. Thank you!

Photo above: On October 27, 2020, we organized “Autocrat Fair,” an event in Washington, DC launching the Stand for Human Rights and Democracy campaign. Autocrat Fair was co-organized with Movement for a Free Philippines, a group concerned with President Rodrigo Duterte's extrajudicial drug war killings. One of the signs highlighted the 30,000 drug war killings that human rights groups believe the government has perpetrated so far.

Linking Duterte's abuses to larger world problems, demonstrators held signs and wore masks representing ten autocratic world leaders, eight of them holding and pulling the strings of Trump marionettes. Autocrats represented in this photo, from left to right, include Victor Orban of Hungary, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, Donald Trump of the United States and Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi.

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016
https://stopthedrugwar.org

House to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Bill This Week, Mexico Senate OKS Legal Pot, More... (11/30/20)

Marijuana legalization is on the move in Washington, DC, and Mexico City, Washington state activists push for therapeutic psilocbyin and broader drug decriminalization, British police chiefs call for expanding a heroin maintenance pilot program, and more.

Marijuana legalization has passed the Mexican Senate, and the Chamber of Deputies should soon follow suit. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Bill This Week. House Majority Leader Stony Hoyer (D-MD) said late last week that a marijuana legalization bill, the MORE ACT (HR 3884) would receive a House floor vote this week. First, though, it will go before the House Rules Committee. A floor vote should come between Wednesday and Friday.

Drug Policy

Washington State to See Push for Psychedelics, Drug Decriminalization. In the wake of victories for therapeutic psilocybin and drug decriminalization in Oregon this year, drug reformers in neighboring Washington are now looking to push similar reforms there. One push is for therapeutic psilocybin for end-of-life patients using existing administrative mechanism, while a second is aiming at a statewide drug decriminalization initiative that also legalizes psilocybin for broader therapeutic purposes. Meanwhile, advocates plan on lobbying the legislature for drug decriminalization this year, too.

International

British Police Chiefs Call for Expansion of Heroin-Assisted Treatment Program. The National Police Chiefs Council is calling for heroin-assisted treatment to be rolled out "across the country" after a year-old pilot program reported "very promising" results. Jason Harwin, the drug policy lead for the group, said his colleagues should ponder following that lead. We should look at expanding it across the rest of the country," Harwin. "Not in every place, not everywhere needs it. But where clearly there’s a heroin problem and particularly drug-related deaths and an impact on criminality and organized crime, it’s clearly a solution that actually helps "individuals and the wider communities as well."

Colombia Defense Minister Says Aerial Fumigation of Coca Crops Must Restart. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said last Friday that the country needed to restart spraying coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate in order to shrink cocaine production and shrink the income of illegal. "There is no doubt at all. Colombia needs to reestablish aspersion, aerial fumigation with glyphosate for national security reasons," Holmes Trujillo said. "Logically it needs to be reestablished with assurances for health and the environment." Doing so would cut off resources "for those who commit massacres and kill social leaders," he added.

Mexican Senate Votes to Legalize Marijuana. The Senate overwhelmingly approved a marijuana legalization bill last Thursday. The bill now goes to the Chamber of Deputies where it is also expected to pass. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has not publicly backed the bill, but his ruling MORENA Party, which supports the bill, holds majorities in both chambers. Under the bill, adults could possess up to an ounce and grow up to four plants at home, while a system of taxed and regulated legal sales would also be set up.

NJ to End Pot Possession Prosecutions, OR County to End Drug Possession Prosecutions, More... (11/27/20)

The impact of voters' choices earlier this month is beginning to be felt, a new poll has New Yorkers ready to legalize marijuana, Vancouver's city council votes to move toward drug decriminalization, and more.

Drug decriminalization begins to take hold in Oregon, so we're going to be seeing less of this. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Attorney General Orders End to Marijuana Possession Prosecutions. In a Wednesday letter to city, county, and state prosecutors, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal ordered them to put a halt to small-time marijuana possession prosecutions until at least January 25. "It simply does not make sense or serve justice to proceed with prosecutions on charges that may be foreclosed soon through legislative action," Grewal said in a statement. "Fairness demands that we suspend prosecution of marijuana possession-related cases while we await direction from the Legislature.".

New York Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at All-Time High. A Sienna College poll released Tuesday has support for legalizing marijuana at an all-time high, with 60% saying it is time to free the weed. That's up five points from the same poll in February, when 55% supported it. Meanwhile, the number of people who opposed it dropped from 40% in February to 32% now.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Court Rules State Must Change "Unreasonable" System to Decide Who Can Sell Medical Marijuana. A three-judge appellate court ruled Wednesday that the state's system for determining who get can medical marijuana dispensary licenses was not transparent, created confusion in the industry, and was "unreasonable." The court threw out a 2018 decision awarding six licenses and ordered the health department to come up with a better rating system.

Drug Policy

Oregon County to End Low-Level Drug Possession Prosecutions. Prosecutors in Clackamas County, just outside Portland, sent a letter to local police chiefs Monday telling them that while they disagreed with voters' decision to decriminalize drug possession earlier this month, they will heed their wishes and drop drug possession cases. "Having officers investigate and submit cases for a prosecution in the weeks leading up to February 1, which will not lead to any sanction or court supervised treatment, is not the most effective use of criminal justice resources," the prosecutor's office said.

International

Canadian Government Gives Formal Response to Petition to Decriminalize Psychedelics. Responding to a petition presented to parliament signed by more than 15,000 Canadians calling for the decriminalization of psychedelics, government ministers formally replied that no such move would take place until psychedelics underwent further study. The ministers also pointed to ways some people could obtain exemptions to use them legally despite federal prohibition.

Vancouver City Council Unanimously Approves Motion to Seek Decriminalization of Drug Possession. The Vancouver city council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a motion asking the federal government to let it decriminalize simple drug possession. The motion was spearheaded by Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who cited high drug overdose death numbers. "On the same day that the B.C. Coroners Service confirmed that a person a day continues to die in our city due to drug overdose, Vancouver has once again decided to lead the way on drug policy in order to save lives," Stewart said. "If approved by the federal government, we will begin a robust process to determine how decriminalization will be implemented in Vancouver."

Minneapolis Makes Feeble No-Knock Warrant Reforms, CT Dems Vow Legal Marijuana Push, More... (11/25/20)

Connecticut Democrats threaten to let voters have a say on marijuana legalization, Georgia opens applications for cannabis oil producers, and more.

Minneapolis enacts minor changes to its policy on no-knock raids, but activists say it isn't nearly enough. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Democrats Will Put Marijuana Legalization Before the Voters if Legislature Fails to Pass Bill. Incoming House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) said Tuesday that if the legislature failed again to legalize marijuana, Democrats will do an end run and let the voters decide the issue via a ballot referendum. "I think it'll be a very, very close vote in the House," Ritter said. "But if we do not have the votes -- and I'm not raising the white flag -- I want to be very clear: We will put something on the board to put to the voters of the state of Connecticut to amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana." That, however, could take until 2022 and possibly even 2024.

Detroit City Council Passes Recreational Marijuana Sales Ordinance. Ending its refusal to allow anything other than medical marijuana sales in the city, the Detroit city council on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve an ordinance allowing adult-use sales. The measure weights licensing preferences to favor longstanding city residents. Those "legacy Detroiters" will be eligible for half of the 75 licenses the city is proposing.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Opens Applications for Medical Marijuana Producers. Businesses that want to produce cannabis oil for medical use can now apply for state licenses. That's because the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission has finally given the go-ahead. Applications are available on the group's website and must be in by December 28.

Law Enforcement

Minneapolis Announces Small Reforms to No-Knock Warrant Policy. Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo have announced changes to the city's policy on no-knock raids, but the changes aren't enough for local activists. Under the policy shift, no-knock raids are not ended, but police officers will instead have to announce their presence as they enter premises -- and keep doing so periodically while they are inside. The move comes in the wake of unrest after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. "This is about proactive policymaking and instilling accountability," Frey said. "We can't prevent every tragedy, but we can limit the likelihood of bad outcomes. This new, no-knock warrant policy will set shared expectations for our community and clear and objective standards within the department." Michelle Gross is president of Communities Against Police Brutality. The move was "pretty disappointing," she said. "Nothing about this would decrease the number of no-knock warrants," she said. "It simply enhances, to a certain degree, the announcement as officers move from room to room. But I don't see this as being a big advance, I really don't."

UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs to Take Up Cannabis Scheduling Next Week

The 53 member states of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN body charged with supervising the application of the international drug control treaties that form the legal backbone of global drug prohibition, is set to meet in Vienna on December 2-4, and it will take up the question of making some modest scheduling changes to the way cannabis is classified.

Vienna International Centre, home to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs
As explained in an October briefing paper from the International Drug Policy Consortium and the Transnational Institute, cannabis is currently both a Schedule I and a Schedule IV drug under the international drug treaties. Schedule I includes "substances that are highly addictive and liable to abuse or easily convertible into those (e.g. opium, heroin, cocaine, coca leaf" -- although Bolivia begs to differ on the latter), while Schedule IV includes Schedule I drugs with "particularly dangerous properties and little or no therapeutic value" (e.g. heroin, carfentanil).

With medical marijuana legal in dozens of countries in one form or another, the ever-increasing mountain of evidence supporting the therapeutic uses of cannabis, not to mention outright legalization in 15 American states Canada and Uruguay, with Mexico about to come on board, the harsh scheduling of cannabis is out of touch with both the science and the tide of history. Led by dedicated public health officials in the UN bureaucracies -- with equally dedicated activists monitoring the process and advocating -- the push is underway to revise those schedules.

But this is the United Nations, and change comes at a glacial pace and even then, only incrementally. The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) is charged under the UN drug conventions with assessing the harms and benefits of substances and making scheduling recommendations. For the first time in its history, it assessed cannabis in 2018, through an examination by WHO's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD). In January 2019, the WHO formally recommended that cannabis be removed from Schedule IV and that CBD cannabis preparations containing less than 0.2% THC, such as tinctures and extracts, be removed from the schedules altogether.

Now the recommendations are back in Vienna, where the CND after several delays is finally expected to vote on them. As the official discussion at an October intersessional meeting of the CND shows, governments with regressive drug policies have argued that recognizing marijuana's medical benefit could lead to increased abuse of the drug, and some have questioned WHO's scientific analysis.

While civil society groups gave the WHO's recommendations decidedly mixed reviews, including its "very questionable rationale for keeping cannabis in Schedule I," they also applauded its "obvious recommendations deserving support." The removal of cannabis form Schedule IV in particular would signify UN recognition that cannabis really does have therapeutic uses.

Stay tuned. The CND session and possible progress on cannabis liberalization at the international level are just days away.

San Francisco Ponders Smoking and Vaping Ban for Tobacco and Marijuana, Mexico Mass Grave Has 113 Bodies, More... (11/24/20)

Fort Worth, Texas, prosecutors will dismiss minor marijuana charges with one big caveat, Colombia's defense minister says coca eradication is on track, and more.

Colombian coca field (DEA Museum)
Marijuana Policy

Fort Worth to Dismiss Small Time Pot Cases -- If People Pass Three Drug Tests in Three Months. The Tarrant County (Fort Worth) Criminal District Attorney's Office has announced it will dismiss minor marijuana possession cases, but only if the defendant passes three drug tests in three months. Possession of less than two ounces of marijuana is the most common criminal charge in the county. "One of the goals of the criminal justice system is rehabilitation; sobriety is the beginning of that rehabilitation, "Tarrant County Criminal DA Sharen Wilson said. "When you bring proof of three months of sobriety -- 90 days -- the charge will be dismissed."

San Francisco Bid to Ban Smoking, Including Marijuana, in Apartment Buildings Draws Opposition. City Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee has introduced a measure that would bar people from smoking or vaping tobacco and marijuana in their apartments. The measure would apply to buildings with at least three units. But the move is drawing opposition from progressive LGBTQ groups and medical and recreational marijuana advocates. Yee's plan allows for medical marijuana, but that isn't soothing advocates. A vote before the full board is set for December 1.

International

Colombian Defense Minister Says County Will Meet 2020 Coca Eradication Target. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday that the country will meet its 2020 coca eradication target. The government had set a target of 320,000 acres eradicated and has so far eradicated about 300,000 acres. That's an increase of 30% over last year. The program includes aerial eradication operations involving the probably poisonous substance herbicide glyphosate, and is unlikely to make more than a short-term dent in cultivation.

Mass Grave With At Least 113 Bodies Found in Mexico's Jalisco State. A mass grave in Jalisco state that was discovered on October 2 has now yielded at least 113 bodies. Jalisco is one of the most violent drug cartel battlegrounds in the country and is the home of the most bodies found in clandestine mass graves since 2006, according to a recent government report.

Mexico Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization, SD Cops Seek to Void Legalization Vote, More... (11/23/20)

A CDC study finds that marijuana legalization is linked to declining teen marijuana treatment rates, an EU court throws out France's ban on CBD, and more.

Mexico is poised to become the world's largest legal marijuana market.
Marijuana Policy

Teen Marijuana Treatment Admissions Fell Sharply in States That Legalized, Federal Report Shows. A peer-reviewed research report released last Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds steep declines in teens sent to drug treatment for marijuana use in states that have legalized it. But medical marijuana legalization appeared to have no impact on teen drug treatment admissions for marijuana use. "Consistent with prior research on medical marijuana and adolescent marijuana use, medical legalization status does not appear to correspond to treatment admission trends," the study says. "Notably, however, 7 of 8 states with recreational legalization during the study period fall into the class with the steepest level of admissions decline."

South Dakota Sore Loser Cops File Suit to Overturn Marijuana Legalization. Pennington County (Rapid City) Sheriff Kevin Thom and state Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller have filed a lawsuit seeking to void the state's voter-approved recreational marijuana constitutional amendment. The lawsuit filed last Friday argues that the measure should be considered a revision of the constitution, not an amendment, and that it violates the state constitution by addressing multiple topics. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group behind the initiative, says it is confident it will be upheld.

International

Australia Study Finds Strong Support for Pill Testing. A long-running election study by the Australian National University finds that nearly two-thirds of the public support the harm reduction tactic of pill testing at music festivals. Some 63% favored the idea even though governments across the country have largely refused to implement it despite high-profile drug-related deaths at those festivals.

European Union Court Rules French Ban on CBD Is Illegal. The European Union's Court of Justice ruled last Thursday that France's ban on CBD products is invalid. CBD doesn't qualify as a narcotic drug because "it does not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health," the court held. Under French law, only hemp seeds and fiber -- not the flower containing CBD -- are legal. France's law violated EU law on the free movement of goods, and the French need to modify their hemp law, the court said. "The national court must assess available scientific data in order to make sure that the real risk to public health alleged does not appear to be based on purely hypothetical considerations," the court wrote. "A decision to prohibit the marketing of CBD, which indeed constitutes the most restrictive obstacle to trade in products lawfully manufactured and marketed in other [EU] member states, can be adopted only if that risk appears sufficiently established."

Mexican Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Senate voted overwhelmingly last Thursday to approve a marijuana legalization bill. The bill passed 82-18, with seven members not voting. The congress is under pressure from the national Supreme Court to get legalization done before the end of next month, and the measure now heads to the Chamber of Deputies, where it is also expected to pass. Final passage of the bill would make Mexico the world's largest legal marijuana market.

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