Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Congress Blocks DC Pot Sales, OK House Approves Psilocybin Decriminalization Bill, More... (3/10/22)

A Missouri marijuana legalization bill gets a hearing, a Maryland drug decriminalization gets one, too, and more.

Republican opposition in the narrowly-divided Senate killed DC's bid to finally be able to have legal marijuana sales. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Bill Gets Hearing. A bill that would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over got a hearing Tuesday, with some legalization supporters urging legislators to pass the bill in order to head off a legalization initiative campaign that would give current medical marijuana businesses the first crack at recreational sales and keep intact the state's ability to limit licenses. The bill sponsored by Rep. Ron Hicks (R-Defiance), the Cannabis Freedom Act (House Bill 2704) was heard in the House Public Safety Committee, but no vote was taken. The bill would allow for the home cultivation of up to 12 flowering plants, would not limit licenses, and would allow retail sales to be taxed at up to 12 percent.

New York's First Marijuana Sales Permits Will Go to People Previous Marijuana Convictions. In an effort to redress the inequities of the enforcement of marijuana prohibition, state officials said Wednesday that the first licenses to sell recreational pot in the state will go to people who have marijuana-related convictions or people with a parent, legal guardian, child or spouse convicted of a marijuana-related offense. "Social equity" applicants will get first crack at the first 100 or 200 pot shop licenses. It is unclear just how many retail licenses will be issued.

Congress Keep Rider Barring DC from Allowing Legal Marijuana Sales. Much to the dismay of DC leaders, the omnibus spending package unveiled Wednesday retains the congressional rider barring the District from allowing the commercial sale of marijuana, which is already legal there. Senate Democrats had removed the rider last year, but this year, congressional Republicans refused to vote for a budget that eliminated "legacy riders" like the one from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) blocking DC pot sales.

.Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Conference Committee Votes to Limit Medical Marijuana Cardholders to Growing Two Flowering Plants, Two Immature Ones. A legislative conference committee has voted to limit the number of plants patients or caregivers may grow at home to two flowering and two immature plants. The committee approved an amendment to that effect from Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) after earlier defeating an amendment from him that would have banned home growing altogether. South Dakota voters legalized medical marijuana at the polls, approving an initiative that set a floor—three plants—but not a ceiling, as this move does.

Psychedelics.

Oklahoma House Passes Psilocybin Decriminalization Bill. The House voted 62-30 to decriminalize the possession of psilocybin and authorize research on the psychedelic for a variety of medical conditions by approving House Bill 3414. The bill would make possession of psilocybin punishable by no more than a $400 fine. It also authorizes research on psilocybin and psilocin at institutions in the state to treat 10 different conditions, including PTSD, depression, and addiction. The bill now moves to the Senate, which, like the House, has a Republican supermajority.

Drug Policy

Maryland Drug Decriminalization Bills Get Committee Hearings. A pair of drug decriminalization bills, House Bill 1054 and Senate Bill 784, got hearings Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee. The bills would decriminalize the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, two grams of meth or cocaine, 1.5 grams of crack, one gram of heroin or ecstasy (or five tabs), and 40 tablets of oxycodone. Possession would be punishable by a $100 fine for first and second offenses. People caught possessing drugs other than marijuana would be required to enroll in a drug education program and undergo a mental health and drug abuse assessment. Similar legislation died in the committee last year, but House Judiciary Committee Vice Chair David Moon (D-Montgomery) is supporting it this year. No vote was taken. 

What Happens When Cops Plant a GPS Tracker on Your Car Without You Knowing? [FEATURE]

This piece was written for Drug War Chronicle by criminal justice reporter Clarence Walker, [email protected].

What happens if an unsuspecting citizen finds a police-installed GPS tracking device attached beneath his vehicle? As documented in the case of Indiana v. Derek Heuring, things can turn pretty strange.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/clarence-gps.jpg
At first glance, the "tiny box" resembled a bomb -- so the vehicle owner snatched the GPS tracker and tossed it. But should the law then allow the arrest of a person for theft of the GPS? The police thought so, because this bizarre sequence of events happened to suspected drug seller Derek Heuring, a Boonville, Indiana resident.

After they executed a search warrant, the Warrick County Sheriff Department narcotics officers in Heuring's hometown charged him with theft of a GPS tracker, which they had secretly put on his SUV. Heuring never knew who owned the tracker or why the device had been under his vehicle.

A search warrant must clearly show the officers had sufficient probable cause to believe Mr. Heuring had committed a crime to make a theft of the GPS stick. How can people be lawfully charged with theft of property found on one's vehicle, when they didn't know it was there in the first place?

Evansville Indiana criminal attorney Michael C. Keating insisted from the beginning that Heuring did not know what the device was or who it belonged to -- and Keating said his client "had no obligation to leave the GPS tracker on his vehicle."

Desperate to find the GPS, officers executing the search warrant on separate properties owned by the Heuring's family scored a bonus when they recovered meth, drug paraphernalia, and a handgun.

The Indiana Supreme Court Justices threw out the GPS theft charge including the methamphetamine possession charges on February 20, 2020.

"I'm not looking to make things easier for drug dealers," Justice Mark Massa said during arguments on the case. "But something is left on your car even if you know it's the police tracking you, do you have an obligation to leave it there and let them track you -- and if you take it off you're subject to a search of your home?" Massa asked rhetorically.

Deputy Attorney General Jesse Drum answered Massa's question with a resounding "yes".

"The officers did everything they could to rule out every innocent explanation," Drum told the justices, hoping to have the warrants upheld and win the state's case.

This legal groundbreaking story is important for law enforcement authorities, judges, prosecutors, and the public because the charges against Derek Heuring highlight the wide-ranging tactics police often use to justify illegal searches in drug cases, as well as raising broader questions about privacy and government surveillance.

In addition, Heuring's case raises the question of whether the police, even with a warrant, should have the leeway to both place a tracking device on a person's vehicle and forbid the individual to remove it from their vehicle if the person knows the police put it there to watch their every move. For example, if a person discovered a hidden camera in his bedroom should the law require him to leave it there without removing it -- knowing the police are trying to build evidence against them?

Antoine Jones (photo by Clarence Walker)
US vs. Antoine Jones became the first landmark case to be decided by the US Supreme Court involving law enforcement's illegal use of a GPS tracking system. Jones had been sentenced to life in prison without parole on drug conspiracy charges and his conviction was reversed on January 23, 2012. FBI and DEA agents planted a warrantless GPS on Jones' vehicle to monitor his movements thinking he was a Mexican cartel associate responsible for distributing mass amounts of cocaine in the Washington DC area. Jones' case is the standard-bearer that forces law enforcement in America today to first obtain a warrant to track someone with a GPS. Antoine Jones singlehandedly fought the almighty Feds tooth, nail, and claw, and finally won his freedom.

In Heuring's situation, the circumstances show how the narcs used a dubious search warrant to recover a GPS tracker claiming that Heuring had stolen it. The police charged him with the GPS theft without evidence that a theft occurred. They were hoping a bogus theft case would suffice against Heuring whom they suspected of dealing illegal drugs.

In a final ruling against state prosecutors that effectively dismissed the cases altogether, another justice opined, "I'm struggling with how that is theft," said Justice Steven David.

"We hold that those search warrants were invalid because the affidavits did not establish probable cause that the GPS device was stolen. We further conclude the affidavits were so lacking in probable cause that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule does not apply," Justice Loretta Rush wrote.

Thus, under the exclusionary rule, "the evidence seized from Heuring's home and his father's barn must be suppressed."

"We reverse and remand,'' the Indiana Supreme Court Justices wrote.

How It Went Down

Indiana resident Derek Heuring (Facebook)
During summer 2018, Warrick County Sheriff Department narcotic officers Matt Young and Jarrett Busing received information from an informant that Heuring was slinging dope for a living. Officer Young obtained a warrant on July 28 to place the department's GPS tracking devices onto Heuring's Ford Expedition SUV to track his movements for 30 days. This GPS tracker was a black box, about 4 inches by 6 inches with no identification to identify where it came from.

The warrant authorized 30 days of tracking, but the device failed to transmit Heuring's location after the sixth day. Then on the seventh day, the narcs received a final update from the tracker showing Heuring's SUV at his residence. The officers were increasingly puzzled over why they weren't detecting location information three days later. Finally, however, a technician assured the officers that the battery was fully charged but that the "satellite was not reading."

Alarmed over the ensuing problem, Officer Busing decided to check out the happenings with the GPS. Busing drove over to Heuring's father's barn where the SUV was parked. He thought the location of the barn thwarted the satellite signal. Subsequently, the officers saw the vehicle parked away from the barn, and then parked outside of the family's home. Officer Young again contacted a technician "to see if the GPS would track now." The tech informed him, "that the device was not registering and needed a hard reset."

Officers went to retrieve the GPS from the SUV, but it was gone!

The officers discussed how a GPS had previously disengaged from a vehicle by accident, yet still, the device was located because the GPS continued to transmit satellite readings. Convinced the GPS had been stolen and stashed in either Heuring's home or his father's barn, Officer Busing filed affidavits for warrants to search both locations for evidence of theft of the GPS.

With guns drawn, deputies stormed Heuring's home and the barn. Deputies recovered meth, drug paraphernalia, and a handgun. Next, Officer Busing obtained warrants to search the house and barn for narcotics. The officers located the GPS tracker during the second search, including more contraband. Finally, deputies arrested the young man.

Although a jury trial hadn't taken place, Heuring's defense attorney Michael Keating filed a series of motions in 2018 to suppress the seized evidence. Keating challenged the validity of the search warrants under both the Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Keating's motion argued the initial search warrants were issued without probable cause that evidence of a crime -- the theft of the GPS device -- would be found in either his home or his father's barn. Prosecutors argued the opposite, and the trial court judge ruled against Heuring, thus setting the stage for defense attorneys to appeal the trial court adverse ruling with the first-level state appellate court, arguing the same facts about the faulty search warrants. After hearing both sides, the appellate judges upheld the trial court's refusal to suppress the evidence against Heuring.

Despite the trial court and the lower-level court upholding the questionable warrants the Indiana Supreme Court Justices heard oral arguments from the defense attorney and the attorney general on November 7, 2019. The central point of the legal arguments boiled down to the search warrants. Supreme Court justices pinpointed the fallacies of the officer's search warrants by in their opinion.

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Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush
"All of the evidence must be suppressed because the initial warrant was invalid," Justice Rush wrote. "Affidavits filed by the officers in support of the search warrant failed to establish probable cause in two respects; first the warrants lacked information that the person who removed the GPS was aware to get consent from the Sheriff's Department, and second, the affidavits lacked information that there was an intent to deprive the Sheriff's Department of the value or use of the GPS."

The justices concurred, "The affidavits support nothing more than speculation -- a hunch that someone removed the device intending to deprive the Sheriff's Department of its value or use."

"We find it reckless for an officer to search a suspect's home and his father's barn based on nothing more than a hunch that a crime had been committed. We are confident that applying the exclusionary rule here will deter similar reckless conduct in the future", Justice Rush concluded.

Derek Heuring is a free man today. Thanks to common sense judges.

And Another GPS Tracking Case: Louisiana Woman Cold-Busted State Police Planting GPS on Her Vehicle; She Removes It; Police Want it Back

Just last year in March, an alert citizen identified as Tiara Beverly was at home in her gated apartment complex in Baton Rouge, Louisiana preparing to run errands when she noticed something peculiar. She spotted a group of suspicious white men standing near her car. Beverly's adrenaline shot sky-high when she saw one of the cool-acting fellows bend over and placed something under her car.

"I instantly panicked," Beverly told local television station WBRZ. "I didn't "know if it was a bomb, but I found out it was a tracker.

Unsatisfied with Beverly's denial that she didn't have a location on the person they were looking for, the police planted a GPS under her car. Two weeks prior, Louisiana State Troopers visited Beverly's home and harshly questioned her about a personal friend she knew. Again, Beverly vehemently denied knowing the person's whereabouts. Finally, two days later, the officers put the GPS on Beverly's vehicle, Details are sketchy of how the police gathered evidence to arrest Beverly on narcotic-related charges in February 2021. A judge released Beverly on a $22,000 bond.

When Beverly finally determined the GPS was placed on her vehicle by police, she rushed to the local NAACP in Baton Rouge and told her story to NAACP president Eugene Collins. Collins told the reporter he contacted the police on Beverly's behalf and the police immediately demanded Collins and Beverly to return the GPS tracker -- and they threatened her.

"They asked me to return the box, or it could make the situation more difficult for me," Collins recalled.

Civilians are prohibited from possessing or using GPS devices, but they are legal for law enforcement, parole, and probation officers or correctional officials to use, according to Louisiana Revised Statute 14: 222.3.

Police told reporters they had a warrant for the tracking device placed on Beverly's vehicle. However, when the WBRZ reporter asked to see the warrant, the State Trooper's Office declined to produce it, issuing the following statement: "Upon speaking with our detectives, this is part of an ongoing investigation involving Ms. Beverly and a suspect with federal warrants."

The Public Information Officer added, "Further information regarding charges and investigative documents will be available."

"The fact that a young woman can see you doing something like this means you're not very good at it," Collins told WBRZ.

Police in Beverly Tiara's case had a good shot to track her whereabouts, yet they blew it big time. Tiara's case isn't over yet, so we'll be reporting on future developments.

In Derek Heuring's criminal charges, Chief Justice Loretta Rush summed it up best when she said, "There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few to protect the privacy of us all."

Poll Shows Strong Support for Legal Marijuana Banking Access, Police Paying Billions to Settle Misconduct Claims, More... (3/9/22)

The Washington Post has a major piece on police misconduct payouts, an expungement bill advances in California, and more.

A medicinal psilocybin task force bill advances in Hawaii. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Poll: Two Thirds of Americans Want Congress to Allow Licensed Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Services. A new poll from Morning Consult conducted on behalf of the American Bankers Association shows strong support for ending federal restrictions that block state-legal marijuana enterprises from accessing financial services. The poll found that 65 percent of respondents "support allowing cannabis businesses to access banking services (e.g., checking accounts, business loans) in states where cannabis is legal." An even higher number -- 68 percent -- said that Congress should pass legislation so those businesses can "access banking services and products in states" where it is legal. Backers of legislation that would do that, the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996), have, though, so far been thwarted by Senate leadership, which is more interested in trying to pass a full-on legalization bill.

California Marijuana Expungement Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill that would automatically expunge past convictions for marijuana offenses that are no longer illegal if such expungements have not been challenged by prosecutors by January 1, 2023, Assembly Bill 1706, passed out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee Monday. It now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee before heading for a potential Assembly floor vote.

Psychedelics

Hawaii Senate Approves Psilocybin Task Force Bill. The Senate on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 3160, which would create a working group to study the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms and develop a long-term plan to ease access to psychedelics for medicinal use for people 21 and over. The bill passed on a unanimous 25-0 vote. It now goes to the House. "Because the State has a shortage of mental health professionals, the State should actively consider novel, innovative, and safe solutions to treat its residents," the bill says.

Law Enforcement

Cops Paid Out More Than $ Billion in Last Decade to Settle Misconduct Claims, Many for Repeat Offenders. In a major investigative piece, the Washington Post reports that law enforcement agencies across the country have paid out more than $3.2 billion to settle misconduct claims -- with thousands of police officers repeatedly accused of wrongdoing. The Post found more than 7,600 officers whose misconduct resulted in more than one claim, with the cost of those claims from repeat offenders reaching $1.5 billion. More than 1,200 officers were the subjects of at least five settlements and more than 200 had 10 or more. The Post suggested that the pattern of repeat settlements showed a lack of police accountability that costs taxpayers.

RI Drug Decrim Bill Filed, Myanmar Drug Trade Ramping Up Amidst Civil War, More... (3/8/22)

Oklahoma Republicans move to take on what they see as an out of control medical marijuana system, Afghan farmers are planting more opium poppies this year, and more.

Opium production is surging in Afghanistan's poppy heartlands of Helmand and Kandahar. (UNODC)
Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma GOP Lawmakers Move to Rein in "Wild West" Medical Marijuana System. The House's Republican Caucus on Monday rolled out a package of bills aimed at reining in the state's free-wheeling medical marijuana program. The move comes after state agents seized more than 150,000 marijuana plants in a bust last month. "We have seen black market elements competing with legitimate Oklahoma businesses. They are putting our citizens at risk. They're doing things in an illegal, unethical manner," said Rep. Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City). The package of 12 bills includes full implementation of a seed to sale system, grants to county sheriffs to fund law enforcement, making the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority a stand-alone agency, provisional licensing with pre-licensing inspections, separate licensing for wholesalers, tough electrical and water data reporting by growers, annual inspection, and more. "If you're an illegal operator of the state of Oklahoma, your time is up," warned Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R-District 16).

Drug Policy

Rhode Island Drug Decriminalization, Therapeutic Psilocybin Bills Filed. Lawmakers filed a pair of drug reform bills last week, one of which, House Bill 7896, would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of all drugs except fentanyl, while the second bill, House Bill 7715, would allow doctors to prescribe psilocybin and would decriminalize psilocybin and buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is an opioid often used as a harm reduction tool to help people transition away from more addictive compounds. The broader decriminalization bill, would make possession of up to an ounce of any drug other than fentanyl a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine for a first offense and up to $300 for subsequent offenses.

Psychedelics

Missouri GOP Lawmaker Files Therapeutic Psychedelics Bill. State Rep. Tony Lovasco (R) on Tuesday filed House Bill 2850, which would legalize a range of natural psychedelics for therapeutic use and decriminalize small-time possession. Under the bill, patients with specified conditions such as treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, and terminal illnesses access to substances such as psilocybin, DMT, mescaline, and ibogaine at designated care facilities or the patients' or caregiver's residence. Patients would be allowed to possess and use up to four grams of the substances. The bill decriminalizes the possession of less than four grams outside the medical model but makes possession of more than four grams a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

International

Afghan Opium Production Surges in Kandahar and Helmand. Opium and other drugs are being sold in open markets, and farmers in the country's opium heartland of southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces are sowing more poppies this year amidst the country's economic collapse after the Taliban's seizure of power last summer and the subsequent withdrawal of all Western assistance to the country. "There is nothing else to cultivate. We were growing wheat before. This year -- we want to cultivate poppy. Previously they were asking for bribes every day but we don't have that problem this year," one farmer said. "If we don't cultivate poppy, we don't get a good return, the wheat doesn't provide a good income," farmer Mohammed Kareem said. "There are no restrictions this year. If the Taliban wanted to ban it, they must let us grow it this year at least," added farmer Peer Mohammad.

Myanmar Militias, Rebel Armies Ramp Up Drug Dealing Amidst Civil War. Armed groups on both sides of Myanmar's civil war are ramping up drug production amidst the turmoil, with much of the methamphetamine and heroin supply going to Asian countries through the porous Laotian border, a UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) official said this week. The $60 billion trade based largely in Shan state is now going into overdrive, he said. "Seizures in Laos and Thailand are off the charts and it is not because of suddenly improved law enforcement -- some other countries' seizures are up too, but in Thailand and Laos the connection to trafficking patterns and locations in Shan is very clear," said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

SD Not Legalizing, Israel Decriminalizing, TN Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Advances, More... (3/7/22)

Bills to produce marijuana-consuming workers advance in Illinois and DC, an Idaho bill to require drug tests for substitute school teachers is killed, and more.

Legislation legalizing fentanyl test strips as an overdose prevention measure is moving in several states.
Marijuana Policy

Illinois House Approves Workplace Protections for Marijuana Users. The House last Thursday approved a bill that would bar most employers from firing workers or refusing new hires merely for testing positive for marijuana use. House Bill 4116 now moves to the Senate. "If we're going to legalize the substance, you should talk about individual liberties and what people want to do on their weekends," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Bob Morgan (D) said. "We should allow people to make good choices and not be discriminated against in the workplace because of those choices as long as it's not affecting the workplace."

South Dakota House Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill (Again). The House on Thursday killed a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, that had been revived via a procedure called a smokeout earlier in the week. The bill had already passed the Senate, only to be killed by the House State Affairs Committee last Monday. But 24 members rose last Tuesday to revive the bill, only to see the House kill it once and for all. That clears the way for a marijuana legalization initiative campaign that is already in the signature gathering process.

Washington, DC, Council Committee Approves Bill to Ban Most Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing. The DC Council's Labor and Workplace Development Committee voted unanimously last Thursday to approve a bill to ban most workplaces from subjecting job applicants to pre-employment marijuana testing. This is an important step towards eliminating historic inequities of cannabis use and ensuring that those who use cannabis medically or recreationally are not penalized in their workspaces [for what they do] on their private time," said bill sponsor Councilmember Trayon White (D). The bill now heads before the full Council.

Drug Testing

Idaho Bill to Drug Test Substitute Teachers Killed. A bill that would have required that substitute teachers be drug tested, House Bill 651, died in a House floor vote last Thursday. Bill sponsor Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) was worried that substitute teachers would either use drugs or sell them to children. "Substitutes come and go. Most districts have no qualifications other than, you're 18, you want to sub, let's go for it. This provides a horrid opportunity for people who want to either solicit drugs to our children or are on drugs themselves." The bill advanced to the House floor despite the opposition of school districts and educators only to be shot down on a 38-31 vote.

Harm Reduction

Tennessee Senate Approves Fentanyl Test Strip Bill. The state Senate has approved legislation legalizing the use of fentanyl test strips, HB2177, in a bid to reduce overdoses in the state. The test strips are currently banned as drug paraphernalia, but this bill removes them from that classification. The bill was supported by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and now heads to the desk of Gov. Bill Lee (R).

International

Israel Moving to Decriminalize Marijuana as Legalization Stalls in Knesset. With marijuana legalization stalled in the Knesset, Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced Sunday that the government is considering decriminalizing recreational marijuana use and expunging the criminal records of those convicted of personal possession or use of marijuana. Sa'ar is expected to sign regulations putting the move into effect in coming days, with approval at the Knesset expected shortly thereafter. The change would go into effect immediately upon approval by the Knesset.

White House Outlines Policies on Overdoses and Opioid Epidemic, GOP Legal Pot Bill Could Get Hearing, More... (3/3/22)

Costa Rica becomes the latest country to legalize medical marijuana, an Oklahoma psychedelic study bill is moving, and more.

President Biden used the SOTU to outline policies on overdoses and the opioid epidemic. (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

GOP Congresswoman Says Her Marijuana Legalization Bill Will Get a Hearing. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who has filed the States Reform Act legalization bill (HR 5977), said Thursday that she has received reassurances that her bill will get a hearing even though her party is in the minority. She also said that there was "no quid pro quo" requiring her to support House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler's (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity, Expungement and Reinvestment (MORE) Act (HR 3617). "Personally, I want to respect the process and MORE is going to come up again and let Democrats do MORE Act. It'll die in the Senate," she said. "And so when that's done, we will do our hearing, and there was nothing done in exchange for it. I just made the ask and we're making it happen."

Opiates and Opioids

Sacklers and Purdue Pharma Reach New Deal with States Over Opioids. Members of the Sackler family, who founded Purdue Pharma, have announced a deal with a group of states that had resisted Purdue's bankruptcy plan. Under the deal, which would settle thousands of pending lawsuits for the company's role in the opioid crisis and still must be approved by a judge, the family agrees to pay an additional one billion dollars, bringing the total they have now agreed to pay to $6 billion. "While the families have acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription medicine that continues to help people suffering from chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities," they said in a statement. While Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to criminal charges of minimizing OxyContin's risk of addiction and misleading marketing, no Sackler family member has ever been criminally charged or admitted wrongdoing.

Psychedelics

Oklahoma Bill to Study Therapeutic Psychedelics Advances. A bill that seeks to allow research into the therapeutic uses of psychedelics, House Bill 3414, has been approved by the House Public Safety Committee and now heads for a House floor vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Pae (R-Lawton), would allow the state's universities and other research institutions to begin studying psilocybin and psilocyn, the psychoactive substances in magic mushrooms.

Drug Policy

Biden Uses State of the Union to Outline Policies on Addiction and Overdose Epidemic. The president outlined his comprehensive approach, including increased funding for public health and supply reduction. He is requesting a historic $41 billion for drug policy efforts that will further these efforts, including $10.7 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services "to fund research, prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services, with a focus on meeting the needs of populations at greatest risk for overdose and substance use disorder." Overall, the president is proposing $23.5 billion for public health approaches to drug use and its consequences.

The Administration has prioritized funds for harm reduction. The American Rescue Plan included $30 million in support for harm reduction services -- a historic amount that will enhance interventions like syringe services programs. Additionally, CDC and the SAMHSA announced that federal funding may now be used to purchase fentanyl test strips in an effort to help curb the dramatic spike in drug overdose deaths.

The president also proposed spending $17.5 billion for supply reduction (read: enforcing drug prohibition), including $5.8 billion for interdiction efforts, an increase from the amount spent this year.

International

Costa Rica Legalizes Medical Marijuana. With the signature of President Carlos Alvarado on a revised medical marijuana bill, Costa Rica becomes the latest nation to legalize medical marijuana. Earlier in the year, Alvarado had vetoed the bill, but lawmakers made changes requested by the president. The bill also legalizes hemp, but not recreational marijuana. Alvarado is about to leave office, and the two presidential candidates seeking to replace him, José María Figueres and Rodrigo Chaves, have both spoken in favor of legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

New Zealand Medical Marijuana Patients Now Have Access to Smokeable Buds. Medical marijuana patients suffering from chronic pain will now be able to purchase smokeable buds after the Ministry of Health approved imports from an Australian firm. The buds are supposed to only be used to make a tea, but smoking or vaping them activates their soothing qualities more quickly, and patients and providers say it will be smoked and vaped.

Rhode Island Marijuana Legalization Bill Rolled Out [FEATURE]

Rhode Island took a big step toward marijuana legalization this week as a long-awaited compromise marijuana legalization bill rolled out. On Tuesday, Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston, Providence) and Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence) introduced identical House and Senate bills to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana in the state.

The bill, the Rhode Island Cannabis Act (Senate Bill 2430 and House Bill 7593) would legalize the sale of up to one ounce of marijuana for those age 21 and up, with no more than 10 ounces for personal use kept in a primary residence, effective October 1. It would also allow Rhode Islanders to grow three plants at home.

And this looks like the year it could actually get done. Democratic Gov. Dan McKee (D) is down for legalization and included a proposal to end cannabis prohibition as part of his annual budget plan in the form of House Bill 7123 in January.

Similarly, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi (D), who has been working with the governor and lawmakers to find a compromise between differing approaches, is now on board and calls legalization "inevitable." Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D-Warwick) is fully supportive.

"We've been working hard since the end of last session to establish consensus on the details, but our efforts to address the issue have been going on for many years, during which time our neighboring states have already made this move ahead of us. Rhode Island is now behind them from a competitive standpoint, since it's fairly easy for most Rhode Islanders to cross the state line to make a legal purchase," McCaffrey said in a statement on Tuesday. "The truth is, legal cannabis is already widely available to Rhode Islanders, but the resulting revenue is not. With this bill, we will create jobs, revenue and control in our own state, and help address some of the inequities that have resulted from prohibition."

The main bone of contention had been who would regulate the legal market, and this legislation addresses that with a sort of hybrid consisting of a new independent Cannabis Control Commission and a Cannabis Office within the Department of Business Regulation. The two agencies, along with a new advisory board, would share responsibility for overseeing the operation of the market.

The bill would allow up to 33 retail pot shop licenses distributed in six zones statewide, including nine compassion centers that could potentially be hybrid recreational and medical retailers. It addresses social equity concerns by requiring that 25 percent of new retail licenses go to applicants who qualify as social equity businesses and another 25 percent of licenses go to worker-owned cooperatives. There is also a funding stream for social equity grants and job training to be generated by fees.

Retail marijuana could be taxed at up to 20 percent via a sales tax of 7 percent, a local sales tax of 3 percent, and an excise tax of 10 percent. State tax revenues would go to the general fund and could be used to pay for expenses related to running a legal marijuana system.

"The time for Rhode Island to move forward with cannabis legalization is now. This historic shift in public policy will create a vibrant new marketplace in our state and end the failed practice of prohibition, which has caused such harm to so many in our communities. To help address those past wrongs, and to ensure all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to share the economic benefits associated with legalization, equity is a central focus of this legislation," said Sen. Miller chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, in his statement announcing the legislation.

"It is the right public policy for Rhode Island to make cannabis possession and sales legal. We have been studying legalization proposals here for many years, and we now can look to our neighboring states' experiences and see that taxing and regulating cannabis makes sense," said Rep. Slater. "I'm especially proud that we have made a very deliberate effort to address social equity through this bill. We have to recognize the harm that prohibition has done to communities, particularly minorities and poor, urban neighborhoods, and ensure that those communities get the support they need to benefit from legalization."

At the Tuesday rollout, legislative leaders made it clear that while the bill is the result of months of negotiations, it is only at the beginning of the legislative process, and the sausage is about to be made.

"I want to emphasize that the bill introduced today is not the final product -- rather, it is the beginning of the public process of legalizing cannabis for recreational use in Rhode Island," Shekarchi said in a statement during the rollout. "We welcome input from the public as to whether or how we should implement recreational usage, and I expect robust discussions with House membership as well."

Still, it seems like the stars are aligning for marijuana legalization this year in the Ocean State. Stay tuned.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Raleigh cop gets caught slinging cocaine from his patrol car, a small-town North Carolina former police chief just got himself in even bigger trouble, and more. Let's get to it:

In Chadbourn, North Carolina, the former Chadbourn police chief was arrested last Thursday after faking his own death to try to avoid prosecution on more than 80 felony charges. Ex-Chief Anthony Spivey, 36, had been due in court last Monday but skipped out and staged his own suicide, only to be caught hiding at his aunt's apartment. He had been chief in the small town until April, when he was slapped with dozens of charges and accused of regularly raiding the police department's evidence locker, destroying evidence, trafficking opium and selling seized weapons to friends and family. He now also has 40 outstanding warrants for failure to appear on those charges. He went down because the State Bureau of Investigation grew curious about why confiscated drugs were not being sent to the state crime lab.

In Washington, DC, a DC correctional officer was arrested last Thursday for allegedly smuggling drugs, knives, and other contraband into the jail in return for cash bribes. Guard Johnson Ayuk, 31, went down after an internal investigation at the jail found that he had been accepting payments from a detainee's girlfriend to bring contraband into the jail. He did so by hiding it beneath compression shorts. He is charged with bribery and providing or possessing contraband in prison.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a Raleigh police officer was arrested last Thursday for selling cocaine from his patrol car while on duty. Officer Keven Rodriguez, 33, went down after the police department and the DEA developed information that he was distributing controlled substances in the area. Authorities did a controlled buy, with an informant giving Rodriguez $2,600 in cash and Rodriguez then sold him two ounces of cocaine. He now faces one count of distribution of a quantity of cocaine and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of, and using and carrying a firearm during, a drug trafficking crime. He's looking at a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison and up to life.

SD Legal Pot Bill "Smoked Out" and Revived, UT Therapeutic Psychedelic Task Force Bill Passes, More... (3/2/22)

A coalition of marijuana and civil rights groups is demanding a House floor vote on a marijuana legalization bill, the Transportation Department is moving toward approval oral drug testing for truckers, and more.

A South Dakota marijuana legalization bill got "smoked out" Tuesday, but not like this. (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana, Civil Rights Groups Demand House Vote on Legalization Bill This Month. A coalition of marijuana reform and civil rights groups convened by the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Justice Coalition, sent a letter to House leadership Tuesday seeking a floor vote this month on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617). Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, the MORE Act passed the House in the last Congress and has passed out of the committee in this Congress in September, but has been stalled since then. "Given that nearly every minute one person in this country is arrested for a minor marijuana crime, the public deserves to know if members of the 117th Congress stand on the side of justice and against the outdated and cruel policy of prohibition and criminalization of marijuana," the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Bill Back from the Dead After Being "Smoked Out." Just one day after a House committee voted to kill the legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, it has been revived using a legislative procedure known as a "smoke out." Under that procedure, legislative leaders can poll lawmakers and if a majority signal they are in favor of proceeding with the bill, the bill can proceed to a House floor vote. "We just smoked out a weed bill," House Speaker Spencer Gosch (R) quipped when enough members stood to be counted. Voters had approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020 only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court, and the activists behind that initiative are currently in the midst of a signature gathering campaign to put the issue on the ballot this year if the legislature fails to pass the bill.

Psychedelics

Utah Legislature Overwhelmingly Approves Psychedelic Therapeutic Study Bill. With a final Senate vote last Friday, the state legislature has approved a bill to set up a task force to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, House Bill 167. The House had passed the bill back on February 10. In each chamber, only one no vote was registered. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Spencer Cox (R) but has a veto-proof majority in case he balks. The bill would create a task force to "provide evidence-based recommendations on any psychotherapy drug that the task force determines may enhance psychotherapy when treating a mental illness."

Drug Testing

US Department of Transportation Publishes Proposed Rules for Oral Fluid Drug Testing. The Department of Transportation last Friday a notice of proposed rulemaking for oral fluid drug testing of transportation employees covered by federal regulations. DOT said that including oral testing would help employers combat cheating on urine drug tests. Oral testing to detect the presence of marijuana only has a 24-hour window, while urine testing can detect marijuana metabolites for days or weeks. Comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking should be submitted by March 30, 2022.

Congress Passes Bill Naming Meth "Emerging Threat," RI Lawmakers Roll Out Marijuana Legalization Bill, More... (3/1/22)

Virginia House Republicans block an early roll-out of recreational marijuana sales, Rhose Island lawmakers unveil a long-anticipated marijuana legalization bill, and more.

crystal meth (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Lawmakers Unveil Much Anticipated Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Sen. Joshua Miller (D) and Rep. Scott Slater (D) on Tuesday unveiled a much-anticipated marijuana legalization bill, which would allow adults to possess up to an ounce and grow up to six plants at home, three of which can be flowering. The bill would also set up a system of licensed establishments to produce and sell marijuana. Legislators had been working for months on the bill, with one big roadblock being whether the market would be regulated by an existing agency or a new one. The bill compromises, creating a hybrid model with a new independent Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) and a Cannabis Office under the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) sharing regulatory duties.

Virginia Republicans Block Bill Legalizing Marijuana Sales. On a 5-3 party line vote, Republican members of the House General Laws Subcommittee killed a bill that would have allowed legal marijuana sales this year. Senate Bill 391 had already passed the Senate, raising hopes that the timeline for legal sales could be speeded up by allowing existing medical marijuana dispensaries to start selling to the general public in September. Legalization passed last year, when Democrats controlled both chambers. This year, the Democrats narrowly retained control of the Senate, but lost the House to Republicans.

Methamphetamine

Grassley, Feinstein Proposal to Curb Rising Methamphetamine Use Passes House, Senate with Broad Bipartisan Support. The House on Tuesday approved the Methamphetamine Response Act (HR 5021). Since the Senate passed its version of the bill, sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), in December, the measure now heads to the desk of President Joe Biden. The bill declares meth an "emerging threat" and requires the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) to develop, implement, and make public, within 90 days of enactment, a national emerging threats response plan that is specific to methamphetamine. The bill also calls for an assessment of evidence-based prevention and treatment programs, as well as law enforcement programs.

SD House Panel Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill, Peru to Try "Kinder, Gentler" Approach to Coca Growers, More... (2/28/22)

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps makes the news in a couple of different ways today, an asset forfeiture reporting bill advances in South Dakota, and more.

Dr. Bronner's Cosmic Engagement Officer David Bronner. His company got a nice profile in the New York Times today.
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota House Panel Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill. If South Dakotans want marijuana legalized -- as they showed by voting to do just that in 2020 -- their only way may be to do it may again be the ballot box. A legislative effort to legalize marijuana that passed out of the Senate last week, Senate Bill 3, was killed Monday by the House State Affairs Committee on an 8-3 vote. That leaves a clear path for a legalization initiative sponsored by South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, which is currently in the signature gathering process.

Psychedelics

New York Times Notes Dr. Bronner's Drug Reform Largesse, Psychedelic Philanthropy. In a major profile piece, the Times has published "Dr. Bronner's, the Soap Company, Dips Into Psychedelics," which details Dr. Bronner's CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer) David Bronner's support of drug reform and psychedelic renaissance efforts over the years. Just since 2015, the company has donated more than $23 million to drug reform and research organizations. (Disclosure: This includes some support to this publication and our parent organization, going back to long before 2015.) The publicly-minded philanthropy has helped support research into the therapeutic benefits of MDMA, various marijuana initiatives, the 2020 Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative and local psychedelic decriminalization efforts, as well as broader drug reform efforts. There's much more at the link.

Dr. Bronner's Is Providing Psychedelic Therapy as Employee Healthcare Benefit. Dr. Bronner's, family-owned maker of the top-selling natural brand of soap in North America, has expanded its mental healthcare benefits to include Ketamine Assisted Therapy, as a first step in providing access to Psychedelic Assisted Therapy to employees to promote mental health. This innovative benefit plan is administered by Enthea, a nonprofit healthcare organization responsible for medical policy development, provider network management, and benefit plan administration. Enthea establishes high 'quality of care' standards for the treatments offered, including credentialing and managing a network of specialty providers.

"The health and well-being of our employees is the primary driver in how we think about benefits and compensation. Offering coverage for Ketamine Assisted Therapy is in the interest of providing tools to our workforce to have the best quality of life and best options for mental health care," explains Michael Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner's. "Our family and company are no strangers to depression and anxiety. We are deeply concerned about the mental health crisis society is facing, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering all our advocacy on this issue, this employee benefit is the next logical step," Bronner continued. Coverage for employees began on January 1.

Asset Forfeiture

South Dakota House Approves Asset Forfeiture Reporting Bill. Rep. Aaron Aylward's (R-Harrisburg) bill requiring asset forfeiture reporting from law enforcement agencies that makes seizures, House Bill 1328, passed out of the House last Friday and is now set for a hearing later this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill requires seizing agencies to gave the state attorney general an annual report itemizing every item seized and requires that the attorney general make that information available online for public inspection. Agencies that fail to generate the required reports would face a fine of $500 or 25% of the value of the seized goods.

International

Peru Drug Agency Shifts to Voluntary, Sustainable Coca Eradication. Peru's anti-drug agency, DEVIDA, announced last Friday that given the lack of effectiveness of compulsory coca crop eradication, it is proposing a Citizen's Social Pact for voluntary, sustainable reduction of coca crops. The agency is now under the leadership of longtime reform advocate Dr. Ricardo Soberon and instead of resorting to compulsion is moving toward building a commitment between the state and civil society with reciprocal rights and duties. DEVIDA will work with indigenous peoples and agricultural producers so they "voluntarily reduce coca crops for illicit purposes in exchange for timely services from the State." The plan will rely on alternative development and reducing illicit crops in a gradual and sustainable matter.

J&J and Drug Distributors Settle Opioid Lawsuits, SD Gov Cool to MJ Legalization Bill, More... (2/25/22)

An Idaho legislator worried that substitute teachers are selling drugs to kids gets a teacher testing bill out of committee, Tennessee is the latest state to see a fentanyl test strip legalization bill, and more.

Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Governor Suggests Possible Veto of Marijuana Legalization Bill. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) sounded skeptical of a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, which has just passed the Senate, at a Wednesday press conference. Noem did not give a direct answer when asked about the issue, saying "it's hard to talk in hypotheticals," and she's "not in favor of recreational marijuana." She added that, "I still believe I haven't seen anybody get smarter from smoking dope." Voters approved marijuana legalization in 2020, only to see their decision overturned by the state Supreme Court. The activists behind the 2020 campaign are now signature gathering for a new initiative, but say they will desist if a workable legalization bill becomes law.

Opiates and Opioids

Johnson & Johnson, Drug Distributors Reach Settlement Over Opioid Lawsuits. Three of the country's largest drug distributors -- McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen -- and drug maker Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that they had reached a settlement with the vast majority of states and localities that had sued them over their role in the nation's early-century opioid crisis. The companies have agreed to pay out $26 billion to settle those thousands of claims, with the first checks set to go out in April with at least 85 percent of the payments dedicated to addiction treatment and prevention services. The distributors and Johnson & Johnson released statements Friday morning, noting that the deal is not an admission of wrongdoing and that they strongly dispute the allegations. The distributors said in a joint statement that they believed that "the implementation of this settlement is a key milestone toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States that have been impacted by the epidemic."

Drug Testing

Idaho House Committee Advances Bill Requiring Drug Testing for Substitute Teachers. Ignoring the objections of state school officials, the House Education Committee voted 8-7 Thursday to approve a bill requiring mandatory pre-employment drug testing of all substitute teachers, at a time when school districts are scrambling for substitute teachers. School officials called the proposed law unworkable and noted that districts already have their own drug testing policies. "It is unnecessary, and further, we have a policy at the local level," Karen Pyron, superintendent of the Butte County School District, told the committee. "It adds cost and inconvenience and an additional burden to our rural schools," she said. But bill sponsor, Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) retorted that she had "tremendous concerns." Substitute teaching "is a very easy way to access children and sell drugs to them," she claimed. Her reasoning prevailed in the narrowly divided committee, and House Bill 651 now heads for a House floor vote.

Harm Reduction

Tennessee Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Filed State Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) has filed a bill to legalize fentanyl testing strips, Senate Bill 2427. They are currently considered drug paraphernalia under state law. "SB 2427 is very important for Tennessee, especially East Tennesse, where we've had a very large number of deaths from drug overdoses," said Briggs. "This bill legalizes a tool that can help save lives from drug overdoses in our state." The bill would sunset after three years unless it was renewed. The House Criminal Justice Committee is set to discuss the bill on March 2.

MD MJ Legalization Referendum Bill Advances, SD Senate Approves Legalization, More... (2/24/22)

A California bill would provide protections to workers for off-duty marijuana use, the New Mexico Supreme Court rules medical marijuana purchases are not subject to a state tax, and more.

(Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Bill Would Protect Marijuana Users from Employment Discrimination. Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D) has filed a bill, Assembly Bill 2188, that would bar employers from punishing workers for off-duty marijuana use. The bill would end discrimination against marijuana-using employees based on testing for metabolites, the non-psychoactive substances that can be detected in drug tests for days or weeks after marijuana use. The bill is supported by California NORML, which noted that "testing or threatening to test bodily fluids for cannabis metabolites is the most common way that employers harass and discriminate against employees who lawfully use cannabis in the privacy of their own homes."

Maryland House Gives Initial Approval to Marijuana Legalization Referendum Bill. The House on Wednesday gave initial approval to House Bill 1, which, if passed, would place before voters the following question: "Do you favor the legalization of adult -- use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" If voters approved it, the General Assembly would then be charged with writing the rules covering "use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis." The House also gave initial approval to House Bill 837, which includes measures to implement legalization if voters approve it. It sets 1.5 ounces as the legal possession limit for adults and decriminalizes between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces, as well as automatic expungement for past conduct made legal by the law. Final House floor votes on the two bills could happen as soon as Friday.

South Dakota Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The state Senate on Wednesday approved a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, which would let people 21 and over possess up to an ounce purchased from licensed retailers. It does not allow for home cultivation. The bill now heads to the House. South Dakota voters approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020, only to have it thrown out by the state Supreme Court. The organizers of that campaign are currently in a signature gathering campaign for a 2022 initiative, which would include home cultivation.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Supreme Court Rules Medical Marijuana Purchases Cannot Be Taxed. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a lower court ruling that marijuana purchases by medical marijuana patients are not subject to the state's gross receipts tax. Producers had sought tax refunds in 2014 and again in 2018, only to be denied by the state Taxation and Revenue Department. In 2020, the state Court of Appeals ruled that medical marijuana should be treated like prescription drugs, which are not taxed. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

Where Marijuana Legalization Could Win at the Statehouse in 2022 [FEATURE]

Nearly a decade after voters in Colorado and Washington led the way, marijuana is now legalized for adult use in 18 states, the District of Columbia, and the territory of Guam. In nearly every state where it is not yet legal, there are efforts underway to change the status quo. With support for marijuana legalization at a record high 68 percent in the most recent Gallup poll, one would be forgiven for thinking that more states are ready.

In some states, activists following the well-worn path of the voter initiative to free the weed; in others, legislators are pursuing a hybrid strategy combining legislative and voter approval. See our earlier rundown of initiative and hybrid efforts here.

But in a number of remaining pot prohibition states, it is up solely to the legislature to get legalization done, whether directly via legislation or by initiating a voter referendum. While legalization bills have been filed in most, if not all, prohibition states, many will fail to pass the legislature, win a chamber floor vote, or even get a committee vote. So, who is going to get it done in 2022? With a big tip of the hat to Ballotpedia, Marijuana Moment, and NORML, who are all keeping an eye on the action, here are some of he states where the odds are best:

Delaware

Last week, a marijuana legalization bill cleared the last hurdle before a House floor vote when the House Appropriations Committee advanced House Bill 305. The bill would allow legal personal possession of 1 ounce of marijuana for adults ages 21 or older and set up a framework for its taxation and sale. It allocates 30 retail sale licenses, 30 manufacturing licenses, 60 cultivation licenses and five testing licenses to be issued within 16 months of the bill's approval.

The committee "walked the bill," which allowed it to advance without a public hearing. The bill had already been approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee. The last time a legalization bill got a House floor vote, back in 2018, it lost by four votes.

This time, the Democrats control both the House and the Senate, as well as the governorship. In the House, Democrats have 26 seats to the GOP's 15, while in the Senate, Democrats have 14 seats to the GOP's seven. And they are going to need virtually all of them to get the bill through owing to a 60 percent super-majority vote requirement because the bill deals with licensing and fees. That same super-majority for legalization may be needed to get the bill past Governor John Carney, who publicly opposed marijuana legalization last year and reiterated that last month,

Maryland

Delegate Luke Clippinger (D), chairman of legislative group studying the issue of marijuana legalization, has filed House Bill 1, which, if passed, would place before voters the following question: "Do you favor the legalization of adult -- use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" If voters approved it, the General Assembly would then be charged with writing the rules covering "use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis."

The bill is moving, pushed along by powerful legislators. It was House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) who formed the marijuana working group, and Clippinger is not only chairman of the group but also chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which advanced the bill to the House floor this week. There, it passed a second floor reading and is now headed for a final House floor vote as early as Friday.

Also headed for a final House floor vote is an accompanying bill sponsored by Clippinger, House Bill 837, that includes measures to implement legalization if voters approve it. It sets 1.5 ounces as the legal possession limit for adults and decriminalizes between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces, as well as automatic expungement for past conduct made legal by the law.

If passed by the House, the measures would still have to be approved by the Senate. Senate President Bill Ferguson (D), though, seems more inclined to support getting a straight legalization bill passed before November than going down the referendum route. One bill that would do that, Senate Bill 692, from Sen. Jill Carter (D), would legalize up to four ounces and allow home cultivation of up to six cannabis plants. Possession in excess of those limits would carry no more than a $150 fine, and past criminal records would be cleared for certain cannabis-related charges.

But there is also a Senate bill that parallels the House measure by seeking voter approval of a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment. That bill, Senate Bill 833, would allow home grows of up to four plants. Either way would work.

Minnesota

After a torturous process that saw it move through a dozen House committees, a marijuana legalization bill, House Fill 600, passed the House in May 2021, only to be stalled in the Senate. It is still alive in this, the second year of the bicameral session, and the House may even revisit it for refinements, but the question is whether the GOP-controlled Senate will be more eager to engage this year.

So far, there is little sign of that, as even Democratic legislative leaders concede. As for the companion to the House bill, Senate File 757, the legislative website reports that "No Senate Committee Hearing or Action has Been Recorded." Still, it ain't over until it's over.

New Hampshire

In January, the Republican-dominated House passed a bill, House Bill 629-FN, that would legalize the possession and unremunerated gifting of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana but would not allow commercial production and sales. That vote came after defeating a broader legalization bill that would have allowed such commerce.

And then this month, the House approved another marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 1598, that would legalize the possession of up to four ounces and allow for sales through state-run pot shops but not allow for home cultivation. But because that bill has fiscal components, it must go back to the House Finance Committee and then be approved once more by the House before heading to the Senate.

The Senate, though, is where New Hampshire legalization bills go to die. That has been the fate of all four previous legalization bills passed by the House, but with the state surrounded by legal marijuana states and the issue garnering overwhelming popular support in the Granite State, this year could be different. But the legislature would have to pass any bill with a veto-proof majority, given the longstanding opposition of Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is close. The Senate passed a legalization bill last June, Senate Bill 568, and Gov. Dan McKee (D) included legalization in his budget proposalin the form of House Bill 7123. Lawmakers are reportedly working on a compromise between the Senate bill, which envisioned up to 150 retail outlets, and the governor's initial plan, which called for only 25 retail licenses. Both the Senate bill and the governor's plan include social equity provisions.

A key player, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi (D) says there is only one issue holding up a final agreement: who will regulate the legal marijuana market? Will it be an independent commission or the State Bureau of Business Regulation? But Shekarchi also said the issue now is not whether to legalize but how to, and that legalization is "inevitable."

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

This week, we have a trio of jail guards gone bad. Let's get to it:

In Cheshire, Connecticut, a former state prison correctional officer was arrested last Thursday for allegedly selling marijuana to inmates and receiving payments through a Cash App account. The unnamed guard went down after an inmate was found with drugs in January 2021 and an investigation ensued. He is charged with conveying an unauthorized item into a correctional institution. He was released on a $10,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on March 17.

In Dresden, Tennessee, a Weakley County corrections officer was arrested last Friday for allegedly trying to bring unspecified Schedule III drugs to inmates. Guard Robert Quimen, 23, went down after an internal investigation at the jail. Authorities said he brought the substance to the jail with the intent of delivering it to inmates. He is charged with manufacturing/selling/delivering controlled substances (Schedule III) and introduction of drugs or intoxicants into a penal facility.

In Newark, New Jersey, a former federal prison corrections officer was sentenced last Thursday to more than two years in prison for taking bribes to bring drugs in to inmates. Paul Anton Wright, 36, will also have to forfeit the $50,000 he received in bribes as part of the 26-month sentence imposed on Thursday. He had pleaded guilty to a bribery charge in November 2019. He admitted to smuggling in tobacco, synthetic marijuana, and suboxone to the Fort Dix federal prison.

Medical Marijuana Update

The Supreme Court asks for Justice Department input on a pair of medical marijuana workers compensation cases, a South Dakota tribe defends non-tribal medical marijuana card holders who face arrest by state and local authorities, and more.

National

Supreme Court Asks Feds to Weigh in on Medical Marijuana Workers Compensation Cases. The Supreme Court has asked the Justice Department to submit a brief in a pair of workmen's compensation cases revolving around medical marijuana. The question is whether federal law protects employers who do not cover medical marijuana costs for workers injured on the job even in states that require it. The answer will depend on an interpretation of the constitution's supremacy clause. The cases involve Minnesota workers who sought workers compensation for medical marijuana expenses after being hurt on the job. The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the claims were invalid because marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Hawaii

Hawaii Senate Committee Approves Bill to Legalize Marijuana for People 65 and Over. In a bid to ease access to medical marijuana for senior citizens, the Senate Health Committee approved a bill that would allow people 65 and over to automatically qualify for medical marijuana regardless of whether they have a qualifying condition, in effect legalizing possession for seniors. The bill passed the committee on a 3-0 vote. It would alter the state's medical marijuana law by adding to the language requiring that patients be diagnosed "as having a debilitating medical condition" that medical marijuana will be available to anyone "who has reached the age of sixty-five."

South Dakota

South Dakota Tribe Aids Legal Defense of Customers Arrested by State, Local Police. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe reported this week that more than a hundred people who have tribal medical marijuana cards have been arrested since it opened the state's first dispensary last year. State officials do not recognize cards issued by the tribe, and local police departments have arrested non-tribe members carrying cards and medical marijuana. "They're taking the cards and handing out fines," Tribal chairman Tony Reider said. "But most we don't know about, because most people are just paying the fines."

Last year, the tribe promised to aid customers facing legal problems, and this week, it said it is currently engaged in defending at least 10 active marijuana cases involving non-members. "I don't think the state has the authority to revoke a license issued by another jurisdiction," said tribal Attorney General Seth Pearman.

Washington, DC

DC Mayor Signs Bill to Let People Over 65 Get Medical Marijuana Without a Doctor's Recommendation. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has signed into law the Medical Marijuana Patient Access Extension Emergency Amendment Act of 2022, which will allow people 65 and over to self-certify their eligibility for medical marijuana without getting a doctor's recommendation. The bill also creates a medical marijuana tax holiday coinciding with 4/20 and extends the registration renewal deadline for patients.

NY Governor Signs Bill to Let Hemp Growers Grow Marijuana, Avocado Imports Resume After Cartel Threat, More... (2/23/22)

A new poll finds three out of four Floridans are ready to legalize marijuana, the Supreme Court asks the Justice Department to file a brief in a pair of medical marijuana workmen's compensation cases, and more.

Marijuana. It is popular in Florida. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Poll Finds Floridians Ready for Marijuana Law Reform. A new poll from the University of North Florida's Public Opinion Research Lab revealed three in four Floridians are ready to legalize pot. Some 76 percent of respondents supported allowing people to legally possess small amounts of marijuana, with just 20 percent oppose. That same 76 percent support figure came among Democrats, while even among Republicans, support was at 64 percent. Among independent voters, support was at 90 percent. Despite strong support for legalization, there is no sign the GOP-dominated state legislature is ready to embrace it, leaving a 2024 initiative campaign as the most likely path to progress.

New York Governor Signs Bill Allowing Hemp Farmers to Grow Marijuana This Season. Governor Kathy Hochul (D) on Tuesday signed into law S08084A, which will allow existing licensed hemp farmers to grow and process marijuana for the adult market this year. Hochul said the bill would help establish a safe, equitable, and inclusive new industry. It creates a new Conditional Adult-Use Cannabis Cultivator license for hemp farmers who want to make the transition. Licensees will be required to create "safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly cultivation practices, participate in a social equity mentorship program, and engage in a labor peace agreement with a bona fide labor organization."

Medical Marijuana

Supreme Court Asks Feds to Weigh in on Medical Marijuana Workers Compensation Cases. The Supreme Court has asked the Justice Department to submit a brief in a pair of workmen's compensation cases revolving around medical marijuana. The question is whether federal law protects employers who do not cover medical marijuana costs for workers injured on the job even in states that require it. The answer will depend on an interpretation of the constitution's supremacy clause. The cases involve Minnesota workers who sought workers compensation for medical marijuana expenses after being hurt on the job. The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the claims were invalid because marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

International

US Resume Avocado Imports from Mexico, Paused by Potential Cartel Threat. Guacamole lovers, take heart! A week-long shutdown of avocado imports from Mexico prompted by threats to US Department of Agriculture inspectors in the state of Michoacan has ended. "The safety of USDA employees simply doing their jobs is of paramount importance," the agency said. "USDA is appreciative of the positive, collaborative relationship between the United States and Mexico that made resolution of this issue possible in a timely manner." The threats are being blamed on the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which is fighting local cartels for control of not only drug trafficking but also control over the lucrative avocado crop in the area.

DE Marijuana Legalization Advances in House, AL Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Nears Final Vote, More... (2/22/22)

Bills to end civil asset forfeiture and block "equitable sharing" with the feds are filed in Tennessee, a Delaware marijuana legalization bill advances, and more.

Trucker shortage? 60,000 are sidelined because of testing positive for marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances in House. The House Appropriations Committee last Thursday quietly advanced a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 305. The committee "walked the bill," which allows the bill to advance without a public hearing. The bill has already been approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee. The bill now heads for a House floor vote. The last time a legalization bill got that far, back in 2018, it lost on the House floor by four votes. HB305 would allow legal personal possession of 1 ounce of marijuana for adults ages 21 or older and set up a framework for its taxation and sale. It allocates 30 retail sale licenses, 30 manufacturing licenses, 60 cultivation licenses and five testing licenses to be issued within 16 months of the bill's approval.

Opiates and Opioids

Alabama Bill to Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips Faces Final House Vote. A bill that would legalize fentanyl test strips, Senate Bill 168, has passed the Senate and two House committee votes and now heads for a House floor vote. The bill aims to address the state's opioid overdose crisis by allowing users to test their substances for the presence of the powerful opioid.

Asset Forfeiture

Tennessee Bills Would End Civil Asset Forfeiture, Opt State Out of Federal Program. A pair of Republican lawmakers have introduced companion bills aimed at ending civil asset forfeiture in the state and blocking state law enforcement from evading the law by handing cases off to the federal government under what is known as the "equitable sharing" program. Rep. Jerry Sexton (R) introduced House Bill 2525 and Sen. John Stevens (R) introduced the companion, Senate Bill 2545 earlier this month.

The opt-out from "equitable sharing" is particularly important given that a policy directive issued in July 2017 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions greenlighting the practice remains in effect. The language in the bill on "equitable sharing" is quite direct: "A state or local law enforcement agency shall not transfer or offer for adoption property, seized under state law, to a federal agency for the purpose of forfeiture under the federal Controlled Substances Act, Public Law 91-513-Oct. 27, 1970, or other federal law." The bills are now in committee in their respective houses.

Drug Testing

Expert Blames Marijuana Testing for Drug Drivers as Leading Cause of Driver Shortage. Chris Harvey, the head of equity strategy at Wells Fargo, is blaming drug testing for making a major contribution to the truckdriver shortage that is causing problems in the supply chain and contributing to rising prices. "It's really about drug testing," Harvey said, speaking at an industry conference last week. "We've legalized marijuana in some states but, obviously, not all... What we've done is we're excluding a significant portion of that trucker industry."

More than 60,000 truckers have been sidelined for testing positive for marijuana as of December under industry drug testing policies that have become stricter even as marijuana is broadly legalized. Under a 2020 law, all truck drivers who have failed a drug test must be listed in a federal database to block them from being hired by other companies. Some 110,000 truckers have tested positive, with 56 percent of them for marijuana use. There is currently a shortage of about 80,000 truckers.

SD Marijuana Legalization Advances, Congress Extends Fentanyl Analog Criminalization Again, More... (2/18/22)

the latest victim of the drug war (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Kentucky Democrats Roll Out Marijuana Legalization Bill. A group of Democratic lawmakers on Thursday rolled out a bill that would legalize sales, expunge marijuana crimes, treat people with medical marijuana, and tax sales for recreational use. They are calling it the "L.E.T.T.'s GROW" act (Senate Bill 186). If passed, it would create a Cannabis Control Board of seven members to establish regulations from seed to sale. The state hasn't managed to get even a medical marijuana bill passed yet, but the Democrats say legalization's economic benefits could make it attractive.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Commerce and Energy Committee voted 5-3 Thursday to approve Senate Bill 3, which would legalize marijuana in the state. The bill would legalize the possession of up to two ounces by people 21 and over, but possession of between four ounces and one pound would be a misdemeanor and possession of more than one pound would be a Class 5 felony. There is no provision for home cultivation. The state Department of Revenue would be responsible for regulating the adult-use program and promulgating rules related to issues such as transportation and registration. State voters approved marijuana legalization in 2020, only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Tribe Aids Legal Defense of Customers Arrested by State, Local Police. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe reported this week that more than a hundred people who have tribal medical marijuana cards have been arrested since it opened the state's first dispensary last year. State officials do not recognize cards issued by the tribe, and local police departments have arrested non-tribe members carrying cards and medical marijuana. "They're taking the cards and handing out fines," Tribal chairman Tony Reider said. "But most we don't know about, because most people are just paying the fines." Last year, the tribe promised to aid customers facing legal problems, and this week, it said it is currently engaged in defending at least 10 active marijuana cases involving non-members. "I don't think the state has the authority to revoke a license issued by another jurisdiction," said tribal Attorney General Seth Pearman.

Opioids

Congress Extends Trump-Era Fentanyl Analog Criminalization for Sixth Time. A group of leading civil rights advocates, grassroots community leaders, and policy experts strongly criticized the inclusion of a provision in the stopgap spending bill passed by Congress that would extend the temporary classification of fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs, opting for indiscriminate criminalization over proven public health solutions. The temporary order will now last until March 11. Congress has repeatedly acted to extend it instead of investing in public health and harm reduction solutions, and President Biden is advocating for making the classification permanent -- despite promising real criminal justice reform.

International

US Suspends Mexican Avocado Exports Over Drug Cartel Threats. The US government has banned all imports of Mexican avocados after an agricultural inspector was threatened by a suspected drug cartel enforcer. Control of the avocado trade in Michoacan is contested by growers and differing drug trafficking cartels, especially the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. The threat came last Saturday via text message, one day before Mexican growers launched an expensive Superbowl ad. Guacamole lovers, act now! Prices could rise.

NY Marijuana Licensing and Equity Bill Goes to Governor, Italian High Court Throws Out Plants Referendum, More... (2/17/22)

An Alabama marijuana decriminalization bill advances, so does a Hawaii bill that would legalize marijuana for people over 65, and more.

There are moves afoot to ease access to medical marijuana for senior citizens. (Sandra Yruel/DPA)
Marijuana Policy

Alabama Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 160 on a 5-4 vote. The bill, filed by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D), would decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces and make possession of more than two ounces a misdemeanor punishable only by a maximum fine of $250. A second offense would net a $500 fine, while a third offense would be considered a Class D felony, but still punishable only by a $750 fine. The bill also provides a mechanism for expungement of past offenses. A similar measure passed the committee last year, only to die without a floor vote.

New York Legislature Approves Marijuana Licensing and Equity Bill. The Senate and the Assembly have both approved Assembly Bill 1248, the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act. The measure provides provisional marijuana cultivation and processing licenses for existing hemp businesses if they take steps to promote equity in the nascent industry. The measure passed the Senate on a 50-13 vote Tuesday and passed the Assembly on a 99-43 vote Wednesday. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Senate Committee Approves Bill to Legalize Marijuana for People 65 and Over. In a bid to ease access to medical marijuana for senior citizens, the Senate Health Committee approved a bill that would allow people 65 and over to automatically qualify for medical marijuana regardless of whether they have a qualifying condition, in effect legalizing possession for seniors. The bill passed the committee on a 3-0 vote. It would alter the state's medical marijuana law by adding to the language requiring that patients be diagnosed "as having a debilitating medical condition" that medical marijuana will be available to anyone "who has reached the age of sixty-five."

DC Mayor Signs Bill to Let People Over 65 Get Medical Marijuana Without a Doctor's Recommendation. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has signed into law the Medical Marijuana Patient Access Extension Emergency Amendment Act of 2022, which will allow people 65 and over to self-certify their eligibility for medical marijuana without getting a doctor's recommendation. The bill also creates a medical marijuana tax holiday coinciding with 4/20 and extends the registration renewal deadline for patients.

International

Italian Constitutional Court Vetoes Plants Referendum. The Constitutional Court on Wednesday threw out a proposed referendum to decriminalize marijuana, psilocybin and some other plants, with cultivation legalized, saying that it included other substances considered to be hard drugs. "This is enough to make us violate multiple international obligations," said Giuliano Amato, the Constitutional Court president. The decision prompted the ire of referendum advocates, who had gathered more than half a million signatures in just about one week to place the measure before voters. The decision was "a terrible blow to democracy," said lawmaker Riccardo Magi, a leading advocate.

Psychedelic Reform Possibilities in 2022 [FEATURE]

Activists in Denver opened psychedelic floodgates for the United States with their successful psilocybin decriminalization initiative in 2019. Since that time, the trickle of bills and initiatives seeking to undo the criminalization of psychedelics has turned into a torrent.

Is it the year of the magic mushroom? (Creative Commons)
In 2020, Oregon and Washington, DC broke things open even wider with Oregon's therapeutic psilocybin initiative and DC's entheogenic plant decrim. (Oregon also passed the broader general drug decrim initiative). A number of towns and cities, most notably in California, Massachusetts, and Michigan, have subsequently enacted psychedelic reforms.

This year, psychedelic reform measures are popping up like mushrooms after a rain shower, with serious decriminalization or legalization efforts in several states, and either therapeutic or study efforts (or therapeutic study efforts) in many more. Many, perhaps most, of these bills will not pass this year, but then, legislating controversial topics is seldom a single-year process. Initiatives probably have a better chance of success -- provided they can make it to the ballot.

With a big tip of the hat to Ballotpedia and Marijuana Moment, here's is what we've got going in 2022:

California

There are two different paths to psychedelic legalization this year, one via the legislature and one as a potential November ballot initiative.

Senate Bill 519 would legalize the possession and unremunerated sharing of psilocybin (2 grams, or 4 grams of magic mushrooms), psilocin, DMT (2 grams), LSD (0.01 gram), MDMA (4 grams), and mescaline for people 21 and older. The bill passed the Senate last year, but sponsor Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) put it on pause, signaling he needed more time to build support in the Assembly.

Regardless of what happens in Sacramento, activists with Decriminalize California have drafted the California Psilocybin Initiative of 2022 , which "decriminalizes under state law the cultivation, manufacture, processing, distribution, transportation, possession, storage, consumption, and retail sale of psilocybin mushrooms, the hallucinogenic chemical compounds contained in them, and edible products and extracts derived from psilocybin mushrooms."

Whether the initiative will qualify for the ballot will be known soon; campaigners have only until March 13 to come up with 623,212 valid voter signatures. As of mid-February, they had not reported gathering 25 percent of the signatures, as is required when that benchmark is reached, so that is not a good sign.

Colorado

New Approach PAC, which supported the Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative in 2020, as well as various marijuana legalization initiatives, is supporting a pair of psychedelic reform initiatives, both known as the Natural Medicine Healing Act. The first would legalize the possession, cultivation and an array of entheogenic substances, as well as establish a regulatory model for psychedelics therapy. The other would initially legalize psilocybin and psilocin alone for personal adult use while and allow for their sale and administration in a therapeutic setting.

Meanwhile, activists with Decriminalize Nature Boulder County have filed the Legal Possession and Use of Entheogenic Plants and Fungi initiative, which would allow people 21 and over to possess, cultivate, gift and deliver psilocybin, psilocyn, ibogaine, mescaline and DMT. The initiative would also allow psychedelic services for therapeutic, spiritual, guidance, or harm reduction purposes with or without accepting payment.

Both initiatives will need 124,632 valid voter signatures by August 8 to qualify for the November ballot.

Florida

State Senate Minority Leader Lauren Brook (D) has filed Senate Bill 348, which would require the state to research the medicinal benefits of psychedelic substances such as ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin. The bill directs the state Health Department to "conduct a study evaluating the therapeutic efficacy of alternative therapies" such as those substances, "in treating mental health and other medical conditions," such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. A companion version of the bill, House Bill 193 has been filed in the House. Neither has moved since last fall, though.

Hawaii

A bill to set up a state working group to study the therapeutic effects of psilocybin mushrooms, Senate Bill 3160, won approval in the Senate Health Committee this month and now awaits a Senate floor vote. Companion legislation, House Bill 2400, is awaiting action in the House.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 738 would decriminalize psilocybin by removing from the state's schedule of controlled substances and requiring the establishment of therapeutic psilocybin treatment centers, which was filed more than a year ago, awaits action in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Iowa

There are a trio of psilocybin bills that are all technically still alive, although they were filed a year ago and have yet to see action. House File 549 would deschedule psilocybin, but a Public Safety subcommittee recommended indefinite postponement last March, and it remains postponed indefinitely. House File 636 would set up a regime for therapeutic psilocybin, and House File 480 would decriminalize certain psychedelics for use by a patient diagnosed with a terminal illness or a life-threatening disease or condition. Neither of those bills have moved out of committee.

Kansas

House Bill 2465 would decriminalize the possession of less than 100 grams of psilocybin and make possession of more than 100 grams a misdemeanor. The bill would also legalize the home cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms. Introduced last month, the bill is now before the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.

Maine

Legislative Document 1582 would enact "the Maine Psilocybin Services Act, which establishes a regulatory framework in order to provide psilocybin products to clients in Maine." Although it is not yet officially dead, it failed to get reported out of the House Health and Human Services Committee earlier this month.

Maryland

A pair of complementary bills, House Bill 1367and Senate Bill 709, would create "the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Alternative Therapies Fund to support the study of the effectiveness of and improving access to alternative therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans." While there has been a Senate hearing on its bill, neither bill has moved out of committee yet.

Massachusetts

House Bill 1494would establish an interagency task force to study the public health and social justice implications of legalizing the possession, consumption, transportation, and distribution of naturally cultivated entheogenic plants and fungi. It is currently before the Judiciary Committee.

Michigan

Sen. Jeff Irwin (D) filed Senate Bill 631 last September. It would legalize the possession, cultivation, and delivery of plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics, such as mescaline and psilocybin. The bill would free people from criminal liability except for "receiving money or other valuable consideration for the entheogenic plant or fungus." In other words, no commercial sales, but people can charge a "reasonable fee for counseling, spiritual guidance, or a related service that is provided in conjunction with the use of an entheogenic plant or fungus under the guidance and supervision of an individual providing the service."

Meanwhile, activists with Decriminalize Nature, Decriminalize Nature Michigan, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy earlier this month filed the Michigan Initiative for Community Healing, which would legalize the use and possession of a broad range of natural entheogens and allow for "supervision, guidance, therapeutic, harm reduction, spiritual, counseling, and related supportive services with or without remuneration."

The measure has yet to be approved for signature gathering -- a decision on that will come next month -- and if and when it is, it will need 340,047 valid voter signatures by May 27 to qualify for the November ballot.

New Hampshire

A bipartisan group of legislators have filed House Bill 1349-FN, which would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms. The bill would decriminalize the possession of up to 12 grams of 'shrooms, enough for several psychedelic experiences. The clock is ticking on this one; it must clear Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee by March 10 or it dies.

New York

Assemblyman Pat Burke (D) has filed a bill, Assembly Bill 8569, that would legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes and create facilities where the mushrooms could be grown and provided to patients. It is a set-up similar to what Oregon voters approved last year. The bill provides a list of qualifying medical conditions but also says psilocybin could be recommended "for any conditions" certified by a practitioner. The Department of Health would be responsible for providing a training course for practitioners and licensing the psilocybin centers.

Meanwhile, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D/WF) has filed Assembly Bill 6065, which decriminalizes psilocybin. That bill has been referred to Assembly Health Committee.

Oklahoma

State Reps. Daniel Pae (R) and Logan Phillips (R) have filed a pair of bills that would promote research into psilocybin's therapeutic potential, and one of them would also decriminalize small-time possession of the drug. The bills are designed to give lawmakers different options to reach similar objectives, but Pae's bill would also decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce and half of psilocybin. Pae's bill, House Bill 3414, has been referred to House Public Health Committee, while Phillips' bill, House Bill 3174, =has been referred to House Rules Committee.

Pennsylvania

Rep. Tracy Pennicuick (R-Montgomery County) filed House Bill 1959, "Providing for research and clinical studies of psilocybin, for duties of Department of Health, for duties of institutional review boards, for duties of authorized psilocybin manufacturers, for duties of approved investigators and for reports" last October. It was referred to the House Health Committee, where it has remained ever since.

Utah

Rep. Brady Brammer (R-Highland) has filed House Bill 167, which would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force that would "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." Although not mentioned specifically in the bill, supporters say psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, is the drug most likely to be considered by the task force. The bill passed the House last week and now heads for the Senate.

Vermont

Rep. Brian Cins (D/P) filed House Bill 309, "An act relating to decriminalizing certain chemical compounds found in plants and fungi that are commonly used for medicinal, spiritual, religious, or entheogenic purposes" 51 weeks ago. It has sat in the House Judiciary Committee without moving ever since, although it did get a hearing in January.

Virginia

In January, the House Courts of Justice Subcommittee voted to delay consideration of a bill to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics, House Bill 898, until 2023. The move came even after the bill was amended by its sponsor, Del. Dawn Adams (D), to only apply to medical practitioners and people using psychedelics with a practitioner. The object for the delay is to build support and try again next year. A similar bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 262, remains alive.

Washington

State Senators Jesse Salomon (D) and Liz Lovelett (D) have introduced a bill that would allow people to use psilocybin and psilocin, the psychoactive ingredients in magic mushrooms, with the assistance of a trained and state-licensed psilocybin services administrator. The bill, Senate Bill 5660, is titled the Psilocybin Wellness and Opportunity Act. People would have to go to a licensed service center to partake, unless they suffer certain medical conditions or are unable to travel, in which case they could receive psilocybin at home and meet remotely with a facilitator. The bill got a Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee hearing earlier this month, but remains in committee.

There is also likely to be a ballot initiative to broadly decriminalize drugs in 2022, similar to what neighboring Oregon voters passed in 2020. That effort, which was foiled in 2020 because of the pandemic, is being led by Commit to Change WA.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Florida deputy goes down for trying to set up an innocent man, an Ohio narc gets ready to head for prison after getting caught in an FBI sting, and more. Let's get to it:

In Fort Myers, Florida, a Lee County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday for conspiring to frame an innocent man on drug charges in return for sexual favors and a trip to Paris. Now former Deputy Niko Irizarry allegedly assisted another man with a grievance against the victim by performing a traffic stop and arresting the man after his coconspirators had planted drugs in his vehicle. He is charged with falsifying an official document.

In Montgomery, Alabama, a Wetumpka police officer was arrested last Friday after police responded to a domestic disturbance call. Officer Jeffrey Hall, 45, is charged with manufacturing a controlled substance and third-degree domestic violence. His wife also faces third-degree domestic violence charges. No further information is available.

In Columbus, Ohio, a former Columbus narcotics officer pleaded guilty last Wednesday to distributing fentanyl and taking bribes to protect cocaine shipments. Marco Merino, 45, was arrested by the FBI in September and accused of distributing approximately 7 1/2 kilograms of fentanyl. He pleaded guilty to drug distribution and to a bribery charge for accepting $45,000 to protect the transit of at least 47 kilograms of cocaine, which was not actually cocaine, but a powder in an FBI sting. Merino is now looking at up to 20 years in federal prison when sentenced. A second officer charged in the case still has a case pending.

Challenge to DEA Tryptamines Ban Will Get Hearing, VA Senate Approves Early Marijuana Sales, More... (2/15/22)

A marijuana legalization bill gets filed in Missouri, a marijuana decriminalization bill is filed in Wyoming, and more.

Tryptamines. The DEA wants to ban five of the psychedelic substances, but the ban is being challenged. (streetdrugs.org)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Rep. Ron Hicks (R) on Tuesday filed a marijuana legalization bill, the Cannabis Freedom Act. Under the act, people 21 and over can possess an unlimited amount of marijuana, grow up to 12 plants, and/or purchase marijuana from licensed retailers. The bill also contains expungement provisions and resentencing for people currently behind bars on pot charges. The state Department of Agriculture would have responsibility for setting up rules and regulations. The bill is House Bill 2704.

Virginia Senate Approves Bill to Start Legal Marijuana Sales September 15. The state Senate voted Tuesday to pass a bill allowing legal marijuana sales to begin on September 15. That bill is Senate Bill 391. Sales were originally set to begin on January 1, 2024, but this bill allows sales at existing medical dispensaries to commence in September, with a full retail market taking shape in 2024. The bill now heads to the GOP-controlled House of Delegates, where its fate is uncertain.

Wyoming Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed. Rep. Mark Baker (R-Green River) has filed a marijuana decriminalization bill, House Bill 106. The bill removes criminal penalties for marijuana use and possession but faces a high hurdle for passage. Because this is a budget session, the bill must get a two-thirds introductory vote in the House to be considered. The bill would decriminalize the possession of up to three ounces.

Psychedelics

Judge Grants Hearing for Opposition to DEA Proposal to Criminalize 5 More Psychedelics. A federal judge has granted a hearing to petitioners challenging the DEA's recent proposal to add five psychedelic compounds to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The agency announced plans in January to criminalize 4-Hydroxy-N,N-diisopropyltryptamine (4-OH-DiPT), 5-Methoxy-alphamethyltryptamine (5-MeO-AMT), N-Isopropyl-5-Methoxy-N-Methyltryptamine (5-MeO-MiPT), N,N-Diethyl-5-methoxytryptamine (5-MeO-DET), and N,N-Diisopropyltryptamine (DiPT); not just for possession, distribution, import, export or manufacturing, but even research, instructional activities and chemical analysis.Administrative Law Judge Teresa A. Wallbaum issued an order Tuesday for a May 4 hearing date after receiving four different requests from industry entities and researchers.

MD Lawmakers Take Up Marijuana Legalization, Former Honduras Prez Detained on US Drug Charges, More... (2/15/22)

The Oregon Health Authority has released draft rules for therapeutic psilocybin, the New Mexico legislature approves legalizing fentanyl test strips, and more.

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Alabama Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed. Senator Rick Singleton (R) has filed a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Senate Bill 160 would make first offense possession of more than two ounces a misdemeanor but with a maximum penalty of a $250 fine, a second offense would be a $500 fine, and a third offense would merit a felony charge and a $750 fine but no jail time. Possession of less than two ounces would also be subject to a $250 fine but would only be an infraction. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Maryland Lawmakers Begin Work on Marijuana Legalization as Plans for Referendum Quicken. Lawmakers in Annapolis have begun working on a pair of bills aimed at legalizing marijuana in the state. The first bill, House Bill 1, sponsored by Del. Luke Clippinger (D), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, would put the question of legalization before the voters in November, while the second bill, House Bill 837, also from Clippinger, provides a framework for lawmakers to come up with a scheme for taxation and regulation.

If the referendum bill is approved by both lawmakers and voters, possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana would become a civil violation punishable by only a $100 fine starting January 1, 2023. And expungement of past possession convictions would be automatic. The legislation would also require the state to conduct a "disparity study" to evaluate barriers groups may face in gaining access to the legal industry.

Psychedelics

Oregon Releases Draft Rules for Therapeutic Use of Psilocybin. The state health department has released draft rules for the therapeutic use of psilocybin. The move is in response to the passage of Measure 109 in November 2020, which gave the state two years to come up with a framework for regulating magic mushrooms for therapeutic purposes. While most of the draft rules deal with how to credential and evaluate training programs for those administering psilocybin, one rule specifies that only one species of mushroom, psilocybe cubensis, will be allowed. Growers would not be allowed to use dung or wood chips to cultivate mushrooms or make synthetic psilocybin and would also not be able to make products that might appeal to children, such as "products in the shape of an animal, vehicle, person or character."

Harm Reduction

New Mexico Legislature Approves Fentanyl Test Strip Bill. The state Senate on Monday gave final approval to House Bill 52, which legalizes test strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl. The move is a bid to reduce overdoses. Overdoses linked to fentanyl began climbing in the state in 2019. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), who supports it.

International

Former Honduran President Detained on US Drug Charges. Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who left office less than a month ago, has been detained by Honduran authorities to face extradition to the US to face drug charges. An extradition request presented to the Honduran Supreme Court accuses Hernandez of participating in a "violent drug-trafficking conspiracy" that transported 500 tons of cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela to the US since 2004. His brother, Juan Antonio Hernandez, is already doing a life sentence in the US for drug trafficking, and so is another trafficker, Geovanny Fuentes, who implicated Hernandez in the conspiracy. It is not clear if or when Hernandez will be extradited; the Supreme Court judge who will hear his case is affiliated with his political party and has a history of freeing suspects in corruption cases.

Manchin and Rubio File Anti-Crack Pipe Bill, New Overdose Memorial Site, More... (2/14/22)

Oregon goes after water haulters in a bid to repress illicit pot grows, the Utah House approves a psychedelic study task force bill, and more.

Joe Manchin apparently doesn't like harm reduction. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Bill Targets Water Haulers in Bid to Clamp Down on Illicit Marijuana Grows. A bill aimed at reining in rampant illicit marijuana production in the southern part of the state, House Bill 4061, would do so by imposing new record-keeping requirements on water haulers and imposing civil and even criminal penalties for haulers who violate the rules or sell to illicit marijuana growers. The bill would also make it a crime to pump ground water to supply illicit marijuana grows without a water right. Farm groups have raised concerns that the bill could have unintended consequences, and legal marijuana growers object to proposed additional licensing requirements. Bill sponsors said they will attempt to amend the bill to address those concerns.

Psychedelics

Utah House Approves Psychedelic Study Task Force Bill. The House last Thursday overwhelmingly approved House Bill 0167, which would create a task force to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances and to develop possible regulations for their lawful use. The bill would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force, which would "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." The bill now heads to the Senate.

Asset Forfeiture

Kansas Bill Would Reform State Asset Forfeiture Laws but Federal Loophole Would Remain. The House Judiciary Committee has introduced an asset forfeiture reform bill, House Bill 2648, which would end civil asset forfeiture (without a criminal conviction) in most cases and addresses "policing for profit" by directing all seizures go to the general fund instead of going to the law enforcement agency that made the seizure, as is the case under current state law. But the bill does not address a loophole that allows state and local law enforcement to get around state asset forfeiture laws by turning cases over to the federal government, which under its equitable sharing program then returns 80 percent of the proceeds to the seizing agency. Instead, it specifically allows police to "transfer the custody or ownership to any federal agency if the property was seized and forfeited pursuant to federal law." The bill gets a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Harm Reduction

Public Health Group Vital Strategies Launches Online Drug Overdose Memorial Site, Harm Reduction Media Campaign. The public health organization Vital Strategies launched a new, interactive, online memorial on Monday to honor those who have lost their lives to a drug overdose -- more than one million in the past two decades in the US -- far surpassing car crashes and firearm fatalities combined. Inspired by the AIDS quilt, the digital mosaic allows anyone to commemorate a loved one lost to overdose and calls for urgent action in their name.

The memorial's launch is accompanied by the largest-ever national advertising campaign promoting harm reduction, starting with a full page ad in the New York Times featuring 200 real people working in harm reduction, on the front lines of the overdose crisis. Three video ads featuring overdose prevention advocates whose own lives were saved by harm reduction will air 6,000 times in and around Washington, DC on a range of channels including: CNN, BET, ESPN, YouTube, Hulu and various podcasts, totaling 37 million impressions.

Manchin, Rubio File Bill to Block Federal Government from Buying Crack Pipes. US Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) sought to score political points around last week's federal "crack pipe" controversy by a filing a bill last Friday to bar the use of federal funds to buy and distribute devices used to consume drugs, such as glass pipes used for smoking crack and meth and syringes. Their bill is the cutely acronymed Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems Act, or PIPES Act.

"Every American and West Virginian has been impacted by the drug epidemic that has killed over 101,000 Americans from April 2020 to April 2021," Manchin said. "While this is a heartbreaking issue that must be fully addressed by the federal government, using taxpayer funds to buy paraphernalia for those struggling with substance use disorder is not the solution." But the provision of supplies such as clean syringes and "smoking kits" that include rubber stoppers, screens, cleaning dowels, vaseline, and scouring pads are a proven harm reduction intervention aimed at reducing overdoses and the spread of infectious disease, as well as improving overall user health.

Drug War Issues

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