Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A pair of California cops who preyed on motorists gets indicted, a pair of Columbus, Ohio, cops who were peddling fentanyl get arrested, and more. Let's get to it:

In San Francisco, two former Rohnert Park police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury on September 22 for a scheme where they pulled over drivers on US Highway 101 and stole marijuana, cash, and property, allowing the drivers to go if they did not contest the seizures. Former Officers Brendan Jacy Tatum and Joseph Huffaker sometimes pretended to be agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. They also drove in unmarked cars without their body cameras and made traffic stops in areas outside their jurisdiction, targeting drivers headed south from California's Emerald Triangle marijuana growing region. Huffaker is charged with extortion under color of law and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of law. Tatum was also accused of tax evasion and falsifying records in the federal investigation. He had $400,000 in unexplained and unreported income in 2016, during the height of their rogue operation. The city of Rohnert Park has already paid out more than one million dollars to settle civil rights lawsuits filed by their victims.

In Leavenworth, Kansas, two former Leavenworth federal prison guards were arrested last Monday and Tuesday on charges they smuggled drugs into the prison. Jacqueline Sifuentes, 25, and Cheyonte Harris, 29, are accused of smuggling methamphetamine, marijuana, and other drugs into the prison, which she then sold to inmates. Harris is charged with conspiring to commit bribery and provide contraband and making false statements to federal agents, while Sifuentes is charged with conspiring to commit bribery and provide contraband, bribery, and providing contraband to an inmate. Harris is looking at up to 10 years in federal prison, while Sifuentes is looking at up to 40.

In Columbus, Ohio, two Columbus police officers were arrested last Wednesday for allegedly peddling pounds of fentanyl. Officers Marco R. Merino, 44, and John J. Kotchkoski, 33, were allegedly involved in the distribution of approximately seven and a half kilograms of fentanyl. Merino also allegedly accepted bribes to protect the transportation of cocaine. According to an affidavit filed in support of a criminal complaint, Merino allegedly tried to recruit a confidential informant to traffic drugs with him. Merino allegedly promised law enforcement protection to the individual and said he could intervene if other law enforcement agencies attempted to investigate the confidential informant. Merino is accused of accepting a total of $44,000 in cash in exchange for protecting the safe transport of at least 27 kilograms of cocaine. Unbeknownst to Merino, there was no actual cocaine and each of the transactions was controlled by federal law enforcement. Also, in June and August 2021, Merino allegedly distributed approximately seven and a half kilograms of fentanyl that Kotchkoski provided to him. It is alleged that Merino would make between $60,000 and $80,000 for the sale of the fentanyl. Both are charged with possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, and Merino is also charged with bribery.

Medical Marijuana Update

Mississippians are still waiting on that legislative special session to get medical marijuana approved, Nebraska activists have begun signature gathering for a linked pair of medical marijuana initiatives, and more.

Mississippi

Mississippi Governor Says Medical Marijuana Bill Needs Changes Before He Will Call a Special Session. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said last Wednesday he will call a special session to get a medical marijuana bill passed "sooner rather than later," but said there are still details to be worked out and that a special session was likely weeks away, instead of this week as lawmakers had requested. "There is no update on exactly when, but I do anticipate we are going to have one sooner rather than later," Reeves said. "We are a long way towards getting a final agreement, but not all the way there yet," Reeves said. "At this point it's just a matter of working out the final details... things such as funding, an appropriation bill, what that would look like." The legislature is moving to implement the will of state voters as expressed in the 2020 elections, where a medical marijuana initiative was approved only to be overturned by the state Supreme Court on technical grounds.

Nebraska

Nebraska Advocates Launch Signature Drive for Medical Marijuana Ballot Measures. Activists organized as Nebraska Medical Marijuana on Friday rolled out a pair of medical marijuana initiatives, with signature gathering set to begin Saturday. Supporters will have until next July to gather the requisite number of signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot. The effort comes after the Republican-led legislature has repeatedly blocked medical marijuana, and after the state Supreme Court blocked a medical marijuana initiative from the 2020 ballot even though it had met signature requirements. The court held that initiative violated the state's one-topic rule for initiatives. This time, activists have split the proposal into two initiatives -- the Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Act, which would protect patients and caregivers from prosecution, and the Medical Cannabis Regulation Act, which would set up a state regulatory system.

South Dakota

South Dakota Legislative Medical Marijuana Subcommittee Votes to Deny Will of Voters, Ban Patient Home Grows. The legislature's medical marijuana subcommittee voted 6-4 last Wednesday to make home marijuana cultivation by patients illegal. The voter approved medical marijuana initiative passed last November explicitly allowed for patient home cultivation, but lawmakers on the panel voted to overturn that part of the initiative in an effort initiated by state Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Brookings). The subcommittee's vote is not final; its recommendations will now be taken up by the legislature's marijuana study committee.

Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization Bill, MI Opioid Treatment Bills, More... (10/6/21)

A crack appears in Pennsylvania Republicans' opposition to legalizing marijuana, that DEA agent killed in Tucson on Monday died enforcing marijuana prohibition, and more.

A proposed Michigan bill would let community-based organization dispense the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Sees Bipartisan Effort to Legalize Marijuana. A Republican state senator has joined forces with a Democrat in a bid to garner bipartisan support for marijuana legalization. Senator Mike Regan (R) and Rep. Amen Brown (D) are teaming up on Regan's proposed bill, which would legalize marijuana, includes social equity provisions, and seeks to create a tax and regulatory structure for legal weed. Democratic politicians in the state, including Gov. Tom Wolf, have been calling for legalization, but the Republican-controlled legislature has so far resisted such entreaties. It's time for us to move forward in Pennsylvania," said Regan, a former US marshal who played a role in crafting the state's medical marijuana program. "If we can take the violence out of it and we can regulate it and tax it and let police focus on the really serious crimes, I think it's a huge step forward."

Opioids

Michigan House Committee Takes Up Opioid Treatment Expansion. The House Health Policy Committee has met to discuss several pieces of health-related legislation, including a pair of bills that would expand access to treatment for opioid use disorder, HB 5163 and HB 5166. "HB 5163 will expand capacity to treat opioid overdoses in emergency departments, a key interception point for people who use drugs where we see a high risk of overdose upon discharge," said bill sponsor Rep. Angela Witwer. The bill would allow emergency departments to provide medication-assisted treatment, create specific hospital overdose care protocols, and provide referrals to community-based care organizations. HB 5166 would increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone by allowing community-based organizations to distribute the drug. Currently, under a 2016 standing order law, pharmacists can give the drug without a prescription, similar to an over-the-counter drug. No votes were taken on the bills.

Law Enforcement

DEA Agent Killed in Tucson Was Enforcing Marijuana Prohibition. DEA Agent Michael Garbo, who was killed Monday in a shootout on an Amtrak passenger train in Tucson, died attempting to enforce federal laws against marijuana. The accused shooter, known only as D.T., opened fire on drug task force agents after they found 2.4 kilograms of marijuana, 50 packages of edibles, and "other marijuana and cannabis products," according to the court documents. D.T. and his partner, Devonte Okeith Mathis, were targeted by the DEA, whose agents were given a list "that contained names of several individuals on an Amtrak train that was arriving in Tucson" as part of their routine investigative activities. Task force officers saw Mathis move several bags a few rows away from where he and his partner were sitting, then took the bags off the train to inspect them and found marijuana. When agents then attempted to approach D.T., he opened fire, killing Garbo and wounding another DEA agent and a Tucson police officer. D.T. was then fatally shot.

Seattle Psychedelic Decriminalization, OH Towns to Vote on Marijuana Decrim, More... (10/5/21)

The Philippine government tries to look like it is doing something about human rights abuses in its drug war, Bolivian coca grower factions continue to clash, Seattle decriminalizes natural psychedelics and more.

Not only the cultivation and possession but also the sharing of natural psychedelics is decriminalized in Seattle. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Towns Will Vote on Marijuana Decriminalization Ballot Measures Next Month. Activists with NORML Appalachia of Ohio and the Sensible Marijuana Coalition have qualified marijuana decriminalization ballot initiatives for next month's ballot in more than a dozen municipalities, even as efforts to qualify in more communities continue. Voters in Brookside, Dillonvale, Laurelville, Martins Ferry, McArthur, Morristown, Mount Pleasant, Murray City, New Lexington, New Straitsville, Powhatan Point, Rayland, Tiltonsville, and Yorkville will have the chance to vote on the initiatives. Some of the 14 local measures read simply: "Shall [jurisdiction] adopt the Sensible Marihuana Ordinance, which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by State Law?" Others are longer and more specific, but all aim to further undermine marijuana prohibition in the Buckeye State.

Psychedelics

Seattle Becomes Largest City to Decriminalize Psychedelics. The city council on Monday approved a resolution to decriminalize not just the cultivation and possession but also the noncommercial sharing of a wide range of psychedelic substances, including psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and non-peyote derived mescaline. The non-inclusion of peyote is a nod to concerns voiced by the indigenous community, where members of the Native American Church consume the cactus as a sacrament. Seattle police already have a policy of not arresting or prosecuting people for drug possession, but this ordinance extends that protection to people growing and sharing psychedelic plants and fungi for open-ended "religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices." The ordinance passed on a unanimous vote.

Law Enforcement

DEA Agent Killed in Drug Sweep of Amtrak Train in Tucson. A DEA agent and a person on an Amtrak train stopped in Tucson were killed in an outburst of gunfire that broke out Monday morning as members of a joint drug task force conducted a drug sweep of the train. Another DEA agent was critically wounded, while a city police officer was also shot and is in stable condition. Two people on board the train reacted to the police presence, with one opening fire. "They were checking for illegal guns, money, drugs," Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said. "This is something they do, as I said, routinely at pretty much all transit hubs." Magnus said he did not know whether any guns or drugs were found by officers. One person is now in custody.

International

Bolivian Anti-Government Coca Growers Storm La Paz Coca Market. Following more violent clashes with security forces, thousands of anti-government coca growers stormed the Adepcoca market in La Paz on Monday. For more than a week, pro- and anti-government coca grower factions have clashed over control of the market, through which 90 percent of the country's legal coca passes, after pro-government coca unions ousted an opposition leader to take control of it. The anti-government faction is centered in the Yungas region, which is the traditional center of Bolivian coca production. Yungas growers have been upset with the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party since 2017, when then-President Evo Morales ended the Yungas monopoly on coca growing by legalizing coca production in his region of Cochabamba.

In Bid to Blunt International Criminal Court Investigation, Philippines Says 154 Police Could Be Liable for Drug War Conduct. Faced with a formal International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into rampant human rights abuses -- including thousands of killings -- during President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs, Filipino Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced Sunday that 154 police officers could be criminally liable for their conduct in the drug war, including 52 cases of killings. The Philippine government is refusing to cooperate with the ICC probe, arguing that it is capable of policing itself, but the 154 officers who are listed as facing potential criminal liability represent only a tiny fraction of the killings that have taken place, of which the government officially acknowledges more than 6,000. Human rights groups have put the figure north of 30,000.

Senators File Bill to Undo Supreme Court Decision on Crack Sentencing, CO Pot Tax Initiative, More... (10/4/21)

A bipartisan group of leading senators files a bill to ensure that low-level federal crack prisoners get the same shot at retroactive sentence reductions as other crack offenders, a Colorado initiative would increase pot taxes to fund educational programs for low-income kids, and more.

Denver. As legal marijuana production hits a record, an initiative would increase taxes to help educate kids. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Produced Almost Two Million Pounds of Legal Marijuana Last Year. According to a report just released by the state's Marijuana Enforcement Division, state-legal marijuana growers produced nearly two million pounds of weed last year. That was 25 percent higher than the 2019 figure. Recreational marijuana accounted for the bulk of weed produced, with 1.38 million pounds, while medical marijuana producers added and 449,000 pounds. Not surprisingly, 2020 also saw the highest marijuana sales since legalization, with nearly $2.2 billion worth of marijuana products sold.

Colorado Initiative Would Increase Marijuana Taxes to Pay for Educational Programs for Kids. When state voters go to the polls in November, they will have an opportunity to vote on whether to raise the state's recreational marijuana sales tax to pay for out-of-school educational programs for children between five and 17, with low-income kids being prioritized. Proposition 119 has already qualified for the ballot. It would increase the sales tax from 15 percent to 20 percent over a five-year period, starting with a three percent increased in 2022 and four percent in 2023. The goal is to raise $137 million a year for the programs.

Sentencing Policy

Senators Introduce Bill to Correct Supreme Court Ruling on Retroactivity of Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reform. A bipartisan group of senators including Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mike Lee (R-UT), have introduced the Terry Technical Correction Act, which clarifies that all offenders who were sentenced for a crack cocaine offense before the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 can apply for its retroactive application under Section 404 of the First Step Act, including individuals convicted of the lowest level crack offenses.

Section 404 of the First Step Act allows crack cocaine offenders to request a sentence reduction pursuant to the Fair Sentencing Act. The Fair Sentencing Act, authored by Durbin, reduced the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1. In 2018, the four were the lead sponsors of the First Step Act, which made the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. Earlier this year in Terry v. United States, the Supreme Court held that low-level crack offenders, whose conduct did not trigger a mandatory minimum penalty, do not qualify for resentencing under Section 404 of the First Step Act. The effect of this holding is that individuals convicted of the offenses with the lowest levels of crack cocaine are not eligible for retroactive relief, whereas others are.

NE MedMJ Initiatives Get Rolling, Temporary Fentanyl Analog Ban Extended, Ecuador Prison Riot, More... (10/1/21)

The city of Raleigh pays out to people framed and jailed on drug charges, civil rights and drug reform groups criticize the inclusion of fentanyl analog scheduling in a stopgap spending bill, and more.

Afghan opium prices are up as actors worry about a Taliban ban on the poppy. (UNODC)
Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Advocates Launch Signature Drive for Medical Marijuana Ballot Measures. Activists organized as Nebraska Medical Marijuana on Friday rolled out a pair of medical marijuana initiatives, with signature gathering set to begin Saturday. Supporters will have until next July to gather the requisite number of signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot. The effort comes after the Republican-led legislature has repeatedly blocked medical marijuana and after the state Supreme Court blocked a medical marijuana from the 2020 ballot even though it had met signature requirements. The court held that initiative violated the state's one-topic rule for initiatives. This time, activists have split the proposal into two initiatives, the Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Act, which would protect patients and caregivers from prosecution, and the Medical Cannabis Regulation Act, which would set up a state regulatory system.

Drug Policy

Civil Rights, Drug Reform Groups Criticize Stopgap Spending Bill for Extending Schedule I Status for Fentanyl-Related Drugs. Civil rights activists and drug policy experts said Friday they were disappointed that the stopgap spending bill passed by Congress Thursday extends the temporary classification of fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs. The measure would "disproportionately impact people of color through harsher criminal penalties and expand mass incarcertation," the groups said, calling for health-centered policies including expanded access to harm reduction and treatment.

Law Enforcement

Raleigh, North Carolina, to Pay $2 Million to People Framed on Drug Charges. The city of Raleigh has agreed to pay 15 plaintiffs $2 million to settle a federal civil right lawsuit that charged officers worked with a confidential informant to frame people on drug trafficking charges. The civil rights lawsuit filed in April sought policy changes and actual and punitive damages from the city of Raleigh, Officer Omar Abdullah and seven of his colleagues, including a sergeant and a lieutenant. The suit was filed by a dozen people who were arrested after the snitch claimed they sold him heroin, and in one case, marijuana, but the drug turned out to be fake. Lawyers for the plaintiffs warned the city that more is coming: "We have informed the City of at least six additional potential plaintiffs who were harmed by this scheme. These individuals are all women and children who were detained or had guns pointed at them during SWAT style raids of their homes," they wrote. "We intend to seek justice for them as well." The original 15 plaintiffs spent a collective 2 ½ years in jail before charges were dismissed.

International

Afghan Opium Prices Rise in Wake of Taliban Take Over, Fears of Ban. The price of opium has tripled in Afghanistan took over last month and announced a possible ban. Farmers at markets in Kandahar province reported the price surge. Buyers are anticipating an opium shortage because of the possible ban "and that's driven up prices," one farmer said. The Taliban banned opium in 2000 in a bid to cultivate Western support, but every year since then, Afghanistan has been the world's leading opium producer. That Kandahar farmer doesn't think the Taliban "can eradicate all opium in Afghanistan," but is enjoying the high prices.

Mexican Drug Cartel Struggle Leads to Deadly Ecuador Prison Riot. At least 116 inmates have been killed in the Litoral prison in Guayaquil in rioting this week linked to a bitter struggle between rival Mexican cartels over cocaine trafficking routes through the country. The prison gangs doing battle with each other with machetes, guns, and grenades inside the penitentiary are linked to either the Sinaloa or the Jalisco New Generation cartels. This is the third major outbreak of prison violence in the country this year, with 79 killed in gang fights in three prisons in February and 22 more killed at Litoral in July.

House Judiciary Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill, SD Lawmakers Move to Ban MedMJ Home Grows, More... (9/30/21)

Mississippi's Republican governor says a special session to deal with medical marijuana is coming soon, a South Dakota medical marijuana subcommittee votes to undo the patient home grow provision approved by voters, and more.

Marijuana legalization is advancing in the Congress. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Committee Approves Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill. The House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3884), a bill that would federally legalize cannabis. The bill is sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and is a comprehensive federal cannabis reform bill that contains strong social equity provisions with an emphasis on restorative justice for communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition. The MORE Act passed the House last year but died in the Senate. This year, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NY) are working on their own legalization bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act but have yet to release a final text.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Says Medical Marijuana Bill Needs Changes Before He Will Call a Special Session. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said Wednesday he will call a special session to get a medical marijuana bill passed "sooner rather than later," but said there are still details to be worked out and that a special session was likely weeks away instead of this week as lawmakers had requested. "There is no update on exactly when, but I do anticipate we are going to have one sooner rather than later," Reeves said. "We are a long way towards getting a final agreement, but not all the way there yet," Reeves said. "At this point it's just a matter of working out the final details... things such as funding, an appropriation bill, what that would look like." The legislature is moving to implement the will of state voters as expressed in the 2020 elections, where a medical marijuana initiative was approved only to be overturned by the state Supreme Court on technical grounds.

South Dakota Legislative Medical Marijuana Subcommittee Votes to Deny Will of Voters, Ban Patient Home Grows. The legislature's medical marijuana subcommittee voted 6-4 Wednesday to make home marijuana cultivation by patients illegal. The voter approved medical marijuana initiative passed last November explicitly allowed for patient home cultivation, but lawmakers on the panel voted to overturn that part of the initiative in an effort initiated by state Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Brookings). The subcommittee's vote is not final; its recommendations will now be taken up by the legislature's marijuana study committee.

International

Bolivia Coca Grower Clashes Extend into Second Week. Coca growers fighting over control of the La Paz market of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca) clashed among themselves and with police in the eight straight day of protests Wednesday. Even though neighborhood residents asked for "restraint," police once again used tear gas against demonstrators, who had set up explosives in the area. Residents have also marched with white flags to demand an end to the violence and formed barricades to block the entry of police and coca growers through various streets. The government has attempted to mediate the conflict, but does not see a solution to the conflict in the short term.

House Votes to End Federal Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity [FEATURE]

In an effort to undo one the gravest examples of racially biased drug war injustice, the House of Representatives voted Tuesday to end the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. HR 1693, the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act of 2021, passed on a vote of 361-66, demonstrating bipartisan support, although all 66 "no" votes came from Republicans.

Amidst racially tinged and "tough on drugs" political posturing around crack use in the early 1980s, accompanied by significant media distortions and oversimplications, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, cosponsored by then-Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and signed into law by Ronald Reagan. Under that bill, people caught with as little as five grams of crack faced a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, while people would have to be caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine to garner the same sentence.

While race neutral on its face, the law was disproportionately wielded as a weapon against African-Americans. Although similarly small percentages of both Blacks and Whites used crack, and there were more White crack users than Black ones, Blacks were seven times more likely to be imprisoned for crack offenses than Whites between 1991 and 2016. Between 1991 and 1995, in the depths of the drug war, Blacks were 13 times more likely to be caught up in the criminal justice meat grinder over crack. And even last year, the US Sentencing Commission reported that Black people made up 77 percent of federal crack prosecutions.

After years of effort by an increasingly broad alliance of drug reform, racial justice, human rights, religious and civic groups, passage of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act took a partial step toward reducing those disparities. The FSA increased the threshold quantity of crack cocaine that would trigger certain mandatory minimums -- instead of 100 times as much powder cocaine than crack cocaine needed, it changed to 18 times as much. The 2018 FIRST STEP Act signed by President Trump allowed people convicted before the 2010 law was passed to seek resentencing. And now, finally, an end to the disparity is in sight.

Reform advocates praised the bill's passage in the House.

"After the murder of George Floyd, it was obvious that we as a country needed to work harder to stamp out racial discrimination in our justice system," Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), said in a statement after the vote. "Eliminating the crack-powder disparity, which has disproportionately and unfairly harmed Black families, was an obvious target. Today's huge bipartisan vote reflects the overwhelming public support for eliminating the crack disparity. We hope the Senate acts quickly to remove this 35-year-old mistake from the criminal code."

"For 35 years, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, based on neither evidence nor science, has resulted in higher sentences that are disproportionately borne by Black families and communities. We applaud the House for passing the EQUAL Act, which will finally end that disparity, including for thousands of people still serving sentences under the unjust disparity who would now have the opportunity to petition courts for a reduced sentence," ACLU senior policy counsel Aamra Ahmad said in a statement.

"Congress should continue to work to end the war on drugs, including ending mandatory minimum sentences that disproportionately impact communities of color while failing to make us safer. Now that the House has taken this important action on the EQUAL Act, the Senate must quickly follow suit and finally end this racially unjust policy," she added.

The Senate version of the bill is S. 79, introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and cosponsored by fellow Democrat Dick Durbin (IL) and GOP Senators Rand Paul (KY), Rob Portman (OH), and Thomas Tillis (NC). After the vote, they prodded their Senate fellows to get moving.

"Today, House Republicans and Democrats joined together in passing the EQUAL Act, legislation that will once and for all eliminate the unjust federal crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity," the bipartisan group said in a joint statement. "Enjoying broad support from faith groups, civil rights organizations, law enforcement, and people of all political backgrounds, this commonsense bill will help reform our criminal justice system so that it better lives up to the ideals of true justice and equality under the law. We applaud the House for its vote today and we urge our colleagues in the Senate to support this historic legislation."

The bill has the support of President Biden, who endorsed it June, but faces uncertain prospects in the Senate, as it needs at least ten Republican votes to not fall victim to a filibuster. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), who has shepherded sentencing reform bills through previously as Judiciary Committee chairman and is still the committee's top Republican, has spoken discouragely about the prospects. Still, the cause of criminal justice reform is one of the few areas where bipartisan deals are possible in Washington these days, and the current Congress is a long way from over.

Medical Marijuana Update

Mississippi is moving toward a legislative special session to implement medical marijuana, Connecticut patients are now able to grow their own medicine, and more.

National

Marijuana Researchers Ask 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Failed Classification Appeal. Researchers and veterans seeking to see marijuana federally reclassified have asked the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its dismissal of their petition last month. A three-judge panel in August held that plaintiffs Dr. Sue Sisley and the Scottsdale Institute had not yet exhausted all administrative options to get the DEA to reschedule marijuana. But the plaintiffs argue that controlling Supreme Court precedent holds that federal judges cannot force litigants to pursue all administrative appeal avenues before turning to the courts for redress. The case is Suzanne Sisley et al. v. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration et al., case number 20-71433.

Connecticut

Connecticut Patients Will Be Able to Grow Their Own Beginning This Week. As of this coming Friday, medical marijuana patients will be able to grow their own medicine at home as a provision of the state's marijuana legalization law goes into effect. That legalization law also drops the requirement that patients designate a dispensary for their purchases and sets up a committee of physicians to decide a variety of issues related to medical marijuana. Now (or very shortly), patients will be able to grow up three mature and three immature plants at home, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. People who are not registered patients will have to wait for 2023 to be able to grow their own personal use pot.

Mississippi

Mississippi Lawmakers Say They Have Agreement on Medical Marijuana Program, Will Ask Governor to Call Special Session to Enact It. House and Senate negotiators said Thursday they have agreed on a proposed medical marijuana program and are now expected to ask Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to call a legislative special session to pass it. Voters had approved a medical marijuana initiative last November, but the state Supreme Court invalidated it on technical grounds (the state constitution requires signature-gathering in all five congressional districts, but the state has only had four districts since 2000). The legislative proposal is more restrictive than the initiative approved by voters, allowing local governments a veto over medical marijuana operations. Because the bill includes tax provisions, it will need a three-fifths majority to pass, but legislative leaders say they are confident they have the votes.

House Passes Bill to End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity, Bolivia Coca Growers Clash, More... (9/29/21)

Grand Rapids, Michigan, endorses a symbolic psychedelic reform, the House votes to end the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, and more. 

A crack cocaine user. Harsh federal crack penalties fell disproportionately on the Black community. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

Grand Rapids is Latest Michigan City to Endorse Psychedelic Decriminalization. The Grand Rapids City Commission on Tuesday approved a resolution calling for the decriminalization of natural psychedelics, such as psilocybin and ayahuasca. The resolution says "those seeking to improve their health and well-being through the use of Entheogenic Plants and Fungi should have the freedom to explore these healing methods without risk of arrest and prosecution." It passed 5-2, but activists were disappointed because the resolution merely expresses support for future reforms and does not make psychedelics a lowest law enforcement priority. Still, Grand Rapids joins a growing number of Michigan communities that have endorsed psychedelic reform, including Ann Arbor, and Detroit voters will have a chance to endorse psychedelic decriminalization with a measure that will appear on the ballot in November.

Sentencing Policy

House Passes Bill to End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity. The House on Tuesday passed HR 1693,  the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act of 2021or the EQUAL Act of 2021. The bill seeks to redress one of the gravest injustices of the drug war by eliminating the federal sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses. The vote was 361-66, with all 66 "no" votes coming from Republicans. Under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, signed into law by Ronald Reagan, people caught with as little as five grams of crack faced a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, while people would have to be caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine to garner the same sentence. The overwhelming majority of people federally prosecuted under the crack provision were Black, even though crack use was enjoyed by people from all races. The 2010 Fair Sentencing Act reduced that disparity from 100:1 to 18:1, and a 2018 criminal justice reform bill signed by Donald Trump allowed people convicted before the 2010 law was passed to seek resentencing. The bill now goes to the Senate, where the Senate version, S. 79, will need the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass. It currently has three GOP cosponsors: Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Rob Portman (OH), and Thomas Tillis (NC). Look for our feature article on the bill later today.

International

Bolivia Coca Growers Conflict Turns Violent. A power struggle among coca grower factions in La Paz has seen street fighting, volleys of tear gas and slingshot, clashes among grower factions and between growers and police. On Monday, a building near the central coca market in La Paz, control over which is being contested by the factions, went up in flames amid the clashes. Last week, several police vehicles were burned during similar protests. One grower faction, led by Arnold Alanes, the head of the coca management agency Adepcoca, is aligned with the governing Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party, while the other faction, led by government critic Armin Lluta, says MAS and former President Evo Morales are trying to seize greater control of the trade. But Alanes says he is being attacked because he is trying to eradicate corruption.

DEA Warning on Counterfeit Pills Containing Meth, Fentanyl; Marijuana Arrests Drop Dramatically, More... (9/28/21)

Pennsylvania lawmakers introduce a marijuana legalization bill, a top Florida Democrat introduces a psychedelic research bill, and more.

Counterfeit Adderall pill. Be careful out there! (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Arrests Fall Precipitously Nationwide in 2020. Marijuana arrests declined by 36% from 2019 to 2020, according to new data released Monday in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. Police arrested an estimated 350,150 people for marijuana offenses in 2020. Of those, 91% were for simple possession. In 2019, 545,602 people were arrested for marijuana offenses. The 2020 arrest figures are the lowest registered since the early 1990s and down more than 50 percent from their 2008 peak, when they totaled more than 800,000. Last year's decline came as state-level legalization continued to expand, but also as police in many jurisdictions pulled back in response to the COVID pandemic.

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Roll Out Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D) on Tuesday formally introduced a marijuana legalization bill, HB 2050, with a strong emphasis on social equity. "We think we have the industry standard," Wheatley said at a press conference with supporters. "You’ve heard me over and over again, year after year, talk about this important issue. For some, it’s an economic question. For others, it’s a question around access and opportunity. But the baseline of why I’ve been harping on this for as long as I have is the social and criminal justice reform aspects." The bill would allow people 21 and over to buy and possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to three mature and three immature plants with a permit. It would also free marijuana prisoners and expunge records of past pot offenses. Fifteen percent of marijuana tax revenues would go to community reinvestment, another 15 percent for substance treatment programs, and 70 percent for the state's general fund. Similar legislation is being drafted in the state Senate, but the legislature remains in the control of Republicans, who have so far opposed advancing any legalization measures.

Drug Policy

DEA Warns of Sharp Increase in Fake Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyl and Meth. The DEA "warns the American public of the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. International and domestic criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills, falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, and killing unsuspecting Americans. These counterfeit pills are easy to purchase, widely available, and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl. Pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by pharmacists." The DEA reported a more than four-fold increase in seizures of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a deadly dose. The DEA warned that not only prescription opioids are being counterfeited but that methamphetamine is also being pressed into counterfeit pills. The number of drug overdose deaths last year reached 93,000, the highest number ever.

Psychedelics

Florida Democrat Files Psychedelic Research Bill. State Senate Minority Leader Lauren Brook (D) last Friday filed a bill to 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 has been filed in the House.

House Marijuana Legalization Bill to Get Judiciary Committee Vote This Week, Seattle Psychedelics, More... (9/27/21)

Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts lawmakers take up safe injection site and drug decriminalization bills during a virtual hearing today, Connecticut medical marijuana patients will be able to grow their own beginning this Friday, and more.

Marijuana legalization is moving in the House. (Creative Commons)
Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill to Get House Judiciary Committee Vote This Week. The House Judiciary Committee announced last Friday that it will vote on on Chairman Jerrold Nadler's (D-NY) marijuana legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617), this week. A committee press release said it will be among a dozen pieces of legislation taken up on Wednesday, including Nadler's bill to "decriminalize marijuana federally and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs." A similar bill passed the House last year but died in the Republican-controlled Senate. This year, however, Democrats control the Senate, so there is optimism the bill could actually pass this year. Whether President Biden would then sign remains in question.

Medical Marijuana

Connecticut Patients Will Be Able to Grow Their Own Beginning This Week. As of this coming Friday, medical marijuana patients will be able to grow their own medicine at home as a provision of the state's marijuana legalization law goes into effect. That legalization law also drops the requirement that patients designate a dispensary for their purchases and sets up a committee of physicians to decide a variety of issues related to medical marijuana. Now (or very shortly), patients will be able to grow up three mature and three immature plants at home, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. People who are not registered patients will have to wait for 2023 to be able to grow their own personal use pot.

Harm Reduction

Massachusetts Lawmakers Take Up Safe Injection Sites Today. Lawmakers are holding a daylong virtual hearing on a pair of bills, SB 1258 and SB 1272 that would pave the way for the introduction of safe injection sites in the state. During the hearing, lawmakers will also take up the topic of drug decriminalization. The idea of supervised sites has the support of groups like the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Hospital Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts but remains legally iffy in terms of federal law. When safe injection site supporters in Philadelphia tried to open a site during the Trump administration, a federal appeals court shut them down, citing a 1988 law aimed at crack houses. Those advocates have now appealed to the US Supreme Court, It remains to be seen whether the high court will take up that appeal.

Psychedelics

Seattle City Council Takes First Step Toward Decriminalizing Psychedelic Plants and Fungi. A city council committee last Friday took up a resolution to decriminalize the possession, cultivation, and sharing of psychedelic plants and fungi by declaring such activities as among the city's lowest law enforcement priorities. The council's Public Safety and Human Services Committee held the hearing and heard from supporters, including Councilmember Andrew Lewis. The committee held no vote, but committee Chair Lisa Herbold said the full council will take up the resolution in coming weeks. "Hopefully the city—as tends to be the case on many impactful progressive issues in the state of Washington—can lead the way on setting the table for an important conversation many communities around the country are having," Lewis said.

House Passes Defense Spending Bill With Pot Banking Provisions, AR Pot Init Campaign Gets Underway, More... (9/24/21)

Mississippians may get a medical marijuana program afterall, the House defense spending bill includes marijuana banking provisions, and more.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's amendments restricting Colombia aid are included in the House defense bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Passes Defense Spending Bill with Marijuana Banking Protections. The House on Thursday approved a defense spending bill that includes an amendment providing protections for banks and other financial institutions doing business with state-legal marijuana enterprises. Such protections have long been sought after by the industry, but still face a difficult path in the Senate, where key senators, such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) want to see marijuana legalization prioritized over banking bills. The Senate Armed Services Committee, for its part, released its version of the defense spending bill Wednesday, which does not contain the banking language. That means whether the final bill will contain the banking language will be up to a conference committee once the Senate passes its version of the bill.

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Gets Underway. A group of activists calling itself Arkansas True Grass has a signature-gathering campaign underway to place a marijuana legalization amendment on the 2022 ballot. The group says it supports the cultivation and legalization of the plant "for all purposes," freeing marijuana prisoners, and expunging past marijuana arrests. The group needs 89,101 valid voter signatures by June 2022 to qualify for the ballot. It already has 20,000 raw signatures.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers Say They Have Agreement on Medical Marijuana Program, Will Ask Governor to Call Special Session to Enact It. House and Senate negotiators said Thursday they have agreed on a proposed medical marijuana program and are now expected to ask Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to call a legislative special session to pass it. Voters had approved a medical marijuana initiative last November, but the state Supreme Court invalidated it on technical grounds (the state constitution requires signature-gathering in all five congressional districts, but the state has only had four districts since 2000). The legislative proposal is more restrictive than the initiative approved by voters, allowing local governments a veto over medical marijuana operations. Because the bill includes tax provisions, it will need a three-fifths majority to pass, but legislative leaders say they are confident they have the votes.

Foreign Policy

House Defense Spending Bill Includes Ban on US Funding Aerial Fumigation of Colombia Coca Crops. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) successfully filed three amendments to the defense spending bill that address relations with Colombia, including an amendmentthat would bar the use of US funds to support aerial fumigation of coca crops. The other two amendments would prohibit the sale of military equipment to Colombia's Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron, which Ocasio-Cortez said was "responsible for egregious abuses during this April's protests" against anti-working class reform and require the State Department to produce a report on the status of human rights in Colombia within 180 days.  

Meth Deaths Were on Rise Before Pandemic, Scotland Moves Toward "De Facto" Drug Decrim, More... (9/23/21)

Violence continues in Colombia's coca producing regions, marijuana researchers appeal a US 9th Circuit Court dismissal of their rescheduling petition, and more.

Meth-related overdose deaths tripled between 2015 and 2019, new research finds. (DEA)
Medical Marijuana

Marijuana Researchers Ask 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Failed Classification Appeal. Researchers and veterans seeking to see marijuana federally reclassified have asked the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its dismissal of their petition last month. A three-judge panel in August held that plaintiffs Dr. Sue Sisley and the Scottsdale Institute had not yet exhausted all administrative options to get the DEA to reschedule marijuana. But the plaintiffs argue that controlling Supreme Court precedent holds that federal judges cannot force litigants to pursue all administrative appeal avenues before turning to the courts for redress. The case is Suzanne Sisley et al. v. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration et al., case number 20-71433.

Methamphetamine

Meth Deaths Tripled in Years Before Arrival of Pandemic. Methamphetamine-related overdose deaths nearly tripled among adults aged between 18 and 64 from 2015 to 2019, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study pointed to more frequent meth use and mixing of drugs as possible reasons for the increases. The number of people using meth increased by 43 percent, but overdose deaths from stimulant drugs other than cocaine increased by 180 percent during the same period. While meth has traditionally been a drug associated with middle-aged white people, it is now spreading to other groups, such as Native Americans, and Black meth use disorder without injection increased 10-fold during that period.

International

Colombia Drug Traffickers Kill Five Soldiers. The Gulf Clan, Colombia's most powerful drug trafficking group, is being blamed for an attack Tuesday on the armed forces in a coca-growing region of Cordoba department that left five soldiers dead and tree more injured. Soldiers were patrolling in a vehicle when they were attacked with "explosive artifacts by presumed members... of the Gulf Clan." Leftist FARC dissidents, rightist paramilitaries, and criminal drug trafficking organizations all compete for control of the lucrative coca and cocaine business there.

Scotland Moves Toward De Facto Drug Decriminalization. Scottish police can now issue a formal warning for possession of Class A drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, instead of arresting and prosecuting people caught with personal use amounts of such drugs, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain told members of the Scottish Parliament. Conservatives called the move "de facto decriminalization," but it's actually more like discretionary decriminalization since police could still file drug possession charges. Police already are able to issue warnings for possession of Class B and C drugs. Bain said she decided to expand that policy so "officers may choose to issue a warning for simple possession offences for all classes of drugs," and also refer people accused of drug offenses to "diversion," where they are handled by social work teams instead of the criminal justice system. The move comes as the country confronts Europe's highest drug overdose rate and saw more than 1,300 drug overdose deaths last year.

Congress to Temporarily Extend Fentanyl Analogue Ban, House to Vote on Marijuana Banking, More... (9/22/21)

Protections for banks dealing with state-legal marijuana businesses will get a House floor vote as part of a defense spending bill, the Congress is poised to temporarily extend the ban on fentanyl analogues, and more.

Overdose deaths rose while opioid prescriptions declined. Go figure. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Amendment to Protect Banks That Service Marijuana Industry Will Get House Vote. The House Rules Committee on Tuesday approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to provide protections to financial institutions that service the state-legal marijuana industry. The amendment is identical to the SAFE Banking Act, which has already passed the House four times. A House floor vote could come as soon as this week. But advocates were disappointed that other reform measures, including an amendment to promote research into the therapeutic uses of certain psychedelics, were rejected by the committee. Adding non-related amendments to spending bills that are difficult to vote against is often used to get legislation passed that is otherwise stalled.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bipartisan Bill to Remove DUI Penalties for Medical Marijuana Users Filed. State Reps. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia} and Todd Polinchock (R-Bucks) have introduced legislation that would ensure the rights of the more than 500,000 medical cannabis patients in Pennsylvania, protecting them from DUI penalties. Under current state law, the presence of marijuana metabolites, which remain present for days or weeks after ingestion, is considered evidence of impairment. "A medical cannabis user can take a miniscule amount of medicine for their ailment and weeks later, with traces of cannabis still in their system, be subject to arrest on a DUI charge if pulled over -- not because they've driven impaired, but because our state laws haven't caught up with the science," Rabb said. "And, if you think you don't know someone who falls into this category -- a person who has been prescribed medical cannabis and who drives and is fearful of the potential DUI charge they could face -- you're wrong. I am a card-carrying medical cannabis patient, and I drive regularly, including in and around Philadelphia and to Harrisburg conducting the people's business."

Opioids

Congress to Temporarily Extend Fentanyl Analogue Ban. Rather than make a final decision on whether to make permanent a ban on fentanyl analogues, the House is preparing to vote to extend a temporary ban set to expire October 22, pushing the expiration date to January 28 as part of a stopgap spending bill. The White House has asked Congress to permanently schedule all fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I, but advocates and some lawmakers say such a move is wrongheaded and will lead to over-policing. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has made such arguments and says he is "not a fan" of extending the deadline. "We have consistently said that this anti-science policy must expire," Maritza Perez, director of the Drug Policy Alliance's Office of National Affairs, said. "This extension will hopefully give Congress ample time to come up with a public health solution that is desperately needed to save lives."

Overdoses Climbed as Opioid Prescriptions Declined, AMA Report Finds. Both fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses have increased over the past decade, even as physicians have prescribed 44 percent fewer opioids during the same period, the American Medical Association said in a new report. The report cited the rise of prescription drug monitoring programs as a key factor in reducing prescribing. The AMA said lawmakers need to "act now" to address the overdose crisis. "The nation's drug overdose and death epidemic has never just been about prescription opioids," said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD. "Physicians have become more cautious about prescribing opioids, are trained to treat opioid use disorder and support evidence-based harm reduction strategies. We use PDMPs as a tool, but they are not a panacea. Patients need policymakers, health insurance plans, national pharmacy chains and other stakeholders to change their focus and help us remove barriers to evidence-based care." The AMA is calling for an end to requiring prior authorization for medications to treat opioid use disorder, evidence-based care including opioid therapy for patients with pain, and support for harm reduction services, such as needle exchanges and the wide distribution of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Houston Narc & Suspect Killed in Drug Raid, FL Marijuana Init Can Gather Signatures, More... (9/21/21)

A Houston drug raid proved deadly Monday, mass killings are on the rise in one of Colombia's cocaine conflict zones, and more.

Will Floridians ever get a chance to vote on marijuana legalization? Maybe next year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Activists Mount Third Effort to Get Legalization Initiative on 2022 Ballot. After the state Supreme Court quashed two previous marijuana legalization initiative attempts earlier this year, the group behind one of them, Regulate Florida, is trying again. The group has filed a new petition with the state and it has been approved for signature gathering. The measure would allow people 21 and over to use and possess marijuana and allow them to grow up to nine plants, but not allow retail sales. Now, campaign organizers must gather 222,898 valid voter signatures to prompt a judicial and fiscal impact review, and if they pass that hurdle, must then come up 891,850 total valid signatures by February 1 to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.

Law Enforcement

Houston Narcotics Officer, Suspect Killed in Drug Raid. A Houston Police narcotics officer was shot and killed and a second officer shot and wounded while serving a drug search warrant early Monday. A suspect was also shot and killed. William "Bill" Jeffrey, a nearly 31-year veteran of the force, was shot several times and succumbed to his injuries. Sgt. Michael Vance, who's been on the force for 20 years, was also wounded and was in surgery Monday. Police said the unnamed suspect came out firing when they knocked on the door. The only information police released about the suspect was his race, Black.

International

Colombia Sees Rising Number of Mass Killings in Drug Conflict Zone. The Colombian Defense Ministry has reported a 91 percent increase in mass killings -- defined as the killing of four or more people -- across the country between January and July compared to the same period last year. Hardest hit has been the southwestern province of Valle del Cauca, where at least nine mass killings have occurred this year. Using a slightly different metric, the think tank Indepaz reported 260 people killed in 71 mass killings of three or more people. Valle del Cauca is contested terrain for a number of armed actors involved in the drug trade, ranging from FARC dissidents to rightist paramilitary to international drug trafficking organizations such as La Oficina de Envigado and local drug trafficking groups. According the Medical Examiner's Office, at least 8,566 were murdered nationwide between January and August, which is 26% more than in the same period last year and the highest number since 2013. The rightist government of President Ivan Duque has announced various strategies to deal with violence and drug trafficking since taking office in 2018, but none have had much impact.

Italian Referendum to Decriminalize Marijuana, Psilocybin, Other Drug Plants Meets Signature Requirement. It took Italian activists only a week to come up with some 500,000 online signatures to qualify a ballot measure decriminalizing the use and possession of marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms, and other psychoactive plants for the spring 2022 ballot. But they are calling on Italians to continue to sign the petition through the end of the month so they can build a buffer of surplus signatures in case some are invalidated. Once the signatures are formally submitted at the end of the month, the Court of Cassation and the Constitutional Court will then review the measure. If those two courts sign off, a vote would take place next spring.

Vancouver Clinic Offers Take-Home Prescription Heroin, Nepal Marijuana Protest, More... (9/20/21)

Violence linked to cartel infighting continues to rock Mexico's state of Michoacan, a Vancouver clinic is now offering take-home prescription heroin to a small number of patients, and more.

Pharmaceutical heroin. Now available as a take-home prescription drug in Vancouver. (Creative Commons)
nternational

Vancouver Clinic Doing Take-Home Prescription Heroin. In a North American first, the Providence Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver has begun providing take-home medical grade heroin to a small number of addicted patients. The program began as an emergency response to the COVID epidemic, when the provincial health authority allowed clinic staff to deliver syringes filled with heroin to patients so they could stay isolated for 10 to 14 days. "Having done that and done that successfully without any problems, we were able to show and demonstrate the strict requirement of the medication to only be [administered] at the clinic was not necessary," said Dr. Scott MacDonald, head physician at the clinic. The program is currently serving only 11 patients, but MacDonald said expanding the program is a crucial step toward addressing the province's opioid crisis, which has seen more than a thousand overdose deaths so far this year. "Their lives can change dramatically. People can go from accessing street opioids, perhaps having unstable housing and unable to work to stabilized and being able to work, and some people working full-time," he said.

Mexico's Michoacan Sees More Cartel Violence. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) besieged the Michoacan municipality of Tepalcatepec last week, killing and beheading five local men who were manning a checkpoint aimed at keeping cartel gunmen out of town. The cartel had tried to seize control of the city but was met with resistance from local residents and the National Guard. Cartel gunmen then switched their focus to the community of La Estanzuela, located near the border between Tepalcatepec and the Jalisco municipality of Jilotlán. The CJNG has been trying to take control of the region for the past two years and is locked in battle with the Carteles Unidos over control of the region and the state.

Nepal Protest for Marijuana Legalization. Sparked by the September 6 arrest of prominent marijuana legalization advocate Rajiv Kafle for consumption, possession, and distribution of marijuana, a youth group from Kathmandu Valley staged a protest calling for legalization at Maitighar on Monday. Protesters chanted slogans and held up signs citing the medicinal and economic benefits of legalization. Nepal has a history of cannabis use dating back centuries and its charas was enjoyed by Western travelers on the Hippie Trail in the 1060s, but under US pressure canceled the licenses for all cannabis businesses in 1973, and then criminalized cannabis in 1976.

CA Psilocybin Legalization Init Cleared for Signature Gathering, DE Supreme Court on Pot Odor, More... (9/17/21)

Supporters of a proposed Philadelphia safe injection site have asked the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision blocking it, the Delaware Supreme Cout rules the mere odor of marijuana is not sufficient cause for a warrantless arrest, and more.

A psilocybin legalization initiative could be on the ballot in California next year .(Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Supreme Court Rules Marijuana Odor Not Sufficient Grounds for Warrantless Arrest. The state Supreme Court ruled 4-1 that the mere odor of marijuana does not give police "reasonable grounds to believe" that either a felony has been committed or that a person has committed a misdemeanor in the presence of an officer -- the only two grounds for which warrantless arrest is allowed. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is decriminalized, and the court held that the mere odor of marijuana cannot lead police to presume that a felony amount of marijuana would be present.

Psychedelics

California Psilocybin Initiative Cleared for Signature Gathering. A proposed initiative that would legalize the possession, cultivation, and sale of psilocybin mushrooms has been cleared for signature gathering by the state attorney general's office. The office has issued an official title and summary for the California Psilocybin Initiative, which is being sponsored by Decriminalize California. It would allow the "personal, medical, therapeutic, religious, spiritual, and dietary use of Psilocybin Mushrooms" for people 21 and over, as well as allowing legal psilocybin sales and cultivation. The campaign will now have 180 days to come up with 623,212 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.

Harm Reduction

Philadelphia Safe Injection Site Supporters Ask Supreme Court to Review Appeals Court Ban.Supporters of a proposed safe injection site in Philadelphia that was blocked by a Trump-era appeals court ruling asked the Supreme Court on Friday to overturn that ruling. The appeals court held that allowing a safe injection site would violate a 1980s "crack house" law by allowing the use of drugs on site. The case will be closely watched because public officials and harm reductionists in a number of cities and states want to move forward with the harm reduction measure. The move is risky, though, given the current makeup of the court.

White House Releases Annual List of Drug Producing & Transit Countries, WA Drug Decrim Initiative Organizing, More... (9/16/21)

Granite State lawmakers are looking at a voter-approved constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana, Washington activists are laying the groundwork for a 2022 drug decriminalization initiative, and more.

President Biden wags a finger at Bolivia and Venezuela over their failure to meet US drug war goals. (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Lawmakers Move Toward Marijuana Legalization Constitutional Amendment. Stymied at the state house, three state representatives have separately filed requests with the Office of Legislative Services for help drafting a bill that would let the voters decide directly whether or not to legalize marijuana. The bill would take the form of a constitutional amendment, but for it to pass, it would require a supermajority of 60 percent in both the House and Senate. It would also require the support of 67 percent of voters once it made the ballot. Meanwhile, lawmakers will take up a legalization bill early next year. A legalization bill managed to pass the House last year but died in Senate committee.

Drug Policy

Washington State Drug Reformers Announce Plan to Put Drug Decriminalization Initiative on 2022 Ballot. A group of drug reformers organized as Commit to Change WA has announced plans to try to qualify a drug decriminalization initiative for the 2022 ballot. The group has yet to release a draft of the proposed initiative but said they will file it in January. Still, the group identified three broad principles for the measure: Ending treating drug use as a crime, a robust commitment to incorporating the experiences of actual drug users, and an emphasis on public health approaches. Neighboring Oregon decriminalized drug possession at the ballot box last year, becoming the first state to do so.

Foreign Policy

White House Releases Annual List of Major Drug Producing and Transit Countries. President Biden on Wednesday released the annual list of drug producing and transit countries, as required by the 2003 Foreign Relations Act. "I hereby identify the following countries as major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries:  Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela," Biden wrote. Of the 22 countries, the president designated only two -- Bolivia and Venezuela -- as "having failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts during the previous 12 months to both adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements and to take the measures required by section 489(a)(1) of the FAA." It may be worth noting that the only two countries to be so designated have socialist governments. Biden did, however, waive the requirement that aid to the two countries be cut off, writing that "the United States programs that support Bolivia and Venezuela are vital to the national interests of the United States."

ICC Will Investigate Philippine Drug War Killings, KY Supreme Court Narrows Good Samaritan Law, More... (9/15/21)

Detroiters will vote on psychedelic decriminalization in November, the International Criminal Court takes a key step in the investigation of Philippine drug war killings, and more.

Filipino President Duterte is now in the International Criminal Court's hotseat. (Creative Commons)
Harm Reduction

Kentucky Supreme Court Narrows Good Samaritan Protections. In a decision late last month, the state Supreme Court ruled that a 2015 Good Samaritan law designed to protect overdose victims and the bystanders who seek assistance for them does not apply when the bystanders who call do not know for certain that a drug overdose has occurred. In the decision in Kentucky v. Milner, the court took up the separate cases of two people for whom assistance was called after they were found passed out in a car.

Both had indeed suffered drug overdoses and were revived, but they were then charged with various crimes, including possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Prosecutors argued that the Good Samaritan law did not apply because the bystanders did not see the people use drugs, did not know overdoses were occurring, and had no reason to believe the victims were at risk of arrest if authorities arrived.

The defendants' attorney said it would be unrealistic to expect bystanders to search an unconscious body for evidence of drug use before calling for help. "Requiring a Good Samaritan to be certain that an overdose was occurring before the exemption would apply would potentially expose both the person overdosing and the Good Samaritan to danger," attorney Steven Nathan Goens wrote in one of his briefs to the Supreme Court. But the court sided with prosecutors, effectively narrowing the scope of the law.

Psychedelics

Detroit Will Vote on Psychedelic Decriminalization in November. A proposed municipal initiative to decriminalize psychedelics has qualified for the November ballot in Detroit. The question voters will have to answer is: "Shall the voters of the City of Detroit adopt an ordinance to the 2019 Detroit City Code that would decriminalize to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults and make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city's lowest law-enforcement priority?" Detroit is Michigan's largest city, but psychedelic reform has already taken place in the university town of Ann Arbor, which approved a lowest priority ordinance last year.

International

International Criminal Court Opens Official Investigation into Philippine Drug War Killings. The International Criminal Court (ICC), which finished a preliminary investigation into human rights abuses in President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs earlier this year, announced Wednesday that it has decided to open an official investigation not only into Duterte's drug war abuses but also into killings by death squads in Davao City when he was mayor and vice mayor. "For these reasons, the chamber hereby authorizes the commencement of the investigation into the Situation in the Philippines, in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called 'war on drugs' campaign," said the pre-trial chamber 1 of the ICC.

By deciding to move forward with an official investigation, the ICC is setting the stage for summons and arrests warrants if requested by Prosecutor Karim Khan. Recently retired Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who led the preliminary investigation, had asked for authorization to open an official investigation, saying there was copious evidence of human rights abuses, and the chamber agreed. "On the basis of the above, the Chamber concludes that there is a reasonable basis for the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation, in the sense that the crime against humanity of murder appears to have been committed, and that potential case(s) arising from such investigation appear to fall within the Court's jurisdiction," said the judges.

Human Rights Watch welcomed Wednesday's announcement: "The International Criminal Court's decision to open an investigation into brutal crimes in the Philippines offers a much-needed check on President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly 'war on drugs,'" said Carlos Conde, the rights group's senior Philippines researcher. "Victims' families and survivors have reason to hope that those responsible for crimes against humanity could finally face justice." The Philippines government has acknowledged some 6,000 police or military drug war killings, but human rights groups say the true number could be north of 30,000.

Read more civil society reactions and other information on the web site of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC).

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's all Sunshine State rogue cops this week, with a DEA supervisory agent nailed for helping a major drug dealer and more. Let's get to it:

>In Fort Myers, Florida, a state prison guard pleaded guilty last Wednesday to participating in a plot to smuggle drugs into the prison. Guard Leslie Samuel Spencer, 49, went down in a sting where he agreed to smuggle three ounces of methamphetamine, one ounce of MDMA, a small amount of synthetic marijuana and two cellphones into the prison and give it to an inmate in exchange for a payment of $400. Spencer met with an undercover FBI agent posing as prisoner's family member and accepted the fake drugs, the cellphones, and the cash. He was then arrested. He pleaded guilty to attempted distribution of methamphetamine and MDMA and is looking at up to 20 years in prison.

In Jacksonville, Florida, a former DEA supervisory agent pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking bribes from a major drug dealer to provide information about investigations into a drug ring that stretched from Florida to California. Former DEA Special Agent and Group Supervisor Nation Koen was arrested in 2018 after a drug dealer reached out to him to help get reduced sentences for family members charged in his drug conspiracy case, Koen turned him into a confidential informant, then asked him if he wanted to get "back to work" selling drugs. The dealer did want to go back to work and was soon paying Koen thousands of dollars to help keep his operation free from law enforcement interference. Koen ran the names of the dealer's associates through a DEA database to see if they were informants, warned the dealer when shipments were under surveillance, and helped at least one dealer avoid arrest by telling him the DEA was looking for him. He was originally charged with bribery and drug distribution, which would have had him facing up to life in prison but agreed to a plea deal where he pleaded guilty to one count of bribery, reducing his exposure to just 15 years.

In Fort Myers, Florida, a state prison guard pleaded guilty last Wednesday to participating in a plot to smuggle drugs into the prison. Guard Leslie Samuel Spencer, 49, went down in a sting where he agreed to smuggle three ounces of methamphetamine, one ounce of MDMA, a small amount of synthetic marijuana and two cellphones into the prison and give it to an inmate in exchange for a payment of $400. Spencer met with an undercover FBI agent posing as prisoner's family member and accepted the fake drugs, the cellphones, and the cash. He was then arrested. He pleaded guilty to attempted distribution of methamphetamine and MDMA and is looking at up to 20 years in prison.In Fort Myers, Florida, a state prison guard pleaded guilty last Wednesday to participating in a plot to smuggle drugs into the prison. Guard Leslie Samuel Spencer, 49, went down in a sting where he agreed to smuggle three ounces of methamphetamine, one ounce of MDMA, a small amount of synthetic marijuana and two cellphones into the prison and give it to an inmate in exchange for a payment of $400. Spencer met with an undercover FBI agent posing as prisoner's family member and accepted the fake drugs, the cellphones, and the cash. He was then arrested. He pleaded guilty to attempted distribution of methamphetamine and MDMA and is looking at up to 20 years in prison.

The Taliban Says It Will Stop the Opium Trade, But Is That Likely? [FEATURE]

One of the first announcements the Taliban made as it seized power in Afghanistan last month was that they were going to end illicit drug production. But, as with other promises of change from the Taliban -- like women's rights or press freedoms -- there is a whole lot of skepticism about the claim.

Afghan opium harvest
At its first press conference in Kabul after entering the city and solidifying their control over the country, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid vowed that their new government would not let Afghanistan become a full-fledged narco-state: "We are assuring our countrymen and women and the international community that we will not have any narcotics produced,"Mujahid said. "From now on, nobody's going to get involved (in the heroin trade), nobody can be involved in drug smuggling."

But in addition to the general skepticism about the Taliban's plans for the country, the notion of them imposing a ban on opium production runs afoul of economic and political realities on the ground. The challenge is that the opium crop is a key component of the Afghan economy, accounting for somewhere between seven and 11 percent the country's Gross Domestic Product, and bringing in as much as $2 billion in 2019, more than Afghanistan's entire licit agricultural sector.

It is also a job creator in a country where opportunities are scarce. The opium harvest employs the equivalent of 119,000 full-time jobs, not counting the farmers themselves and their family members. The broader opium economy also supports untold thousands in the domestic trade (opium traders, heroin producers, domestic dealers) and as service providers for that trade (packers, transporters), as well as internationally connected individuals working in the international trade. The opium economy is especially strong in areas of key Taliban support, such as Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south.

Afghanistan has accounted for between 80 percent and 90 percent of global opium production throughout this century, a pattern that began, ironically enough, in the 1980s, when the CIA waged a secret war against the Soviet occupation of the country and enlisted both Islamic radicals and the opium trade in the battle. Opium "is an ideal crop in a war-torn country since it requires little capital investment, is fast growing and is easily transported and traded,"the State Department reported in 1986.

As noted by global drug historian Alfred W. McCoy, author of the groundbreaking "The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade,"in a 2018 article:

"As relentless warfare between CIA and Soviet surrogates took its toll, Afghan farmers began to turn to opium 'in desperation', since it produced 'high profits' that could cover rising food prices. At the same time, the state department reported that resistance elements took up opium production and trafficking 'to provide staples for [the] population under their control and to fund weapons purchases'."

"As the mujahideen guerrillas gained ground against the Soviet occupation and began to create liberated zones inside Afghanistan in the early 1980s, the resistance helped fund its operations by collecting taxes from peasants who grew the lucrative opium poppies, particularly in the fertile Helmand valley. Caravans carrying CIA arms into that region for the resistance often returned to Pakistan loaded down with opium -- sometimes, reported the New York Times, 'with the assent of Pakistani or American intelligence officers who supported the resistance.'"

And nearly four decades later, Afghanistan remains the world's number one supplier of opium and its derivative, heroin, with the latter going into the veins of habitues from Lahore to London. And now, with the withdrawal of the West and all its billions of dollars of economic assistance and with the key role opium plays in the economy, the Taliban is going to ban it?

It would be a risky move for the Taliban, said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.

"The Taliban can risk a ban, but it would be politically costly in ways that are more complex than in 2000 [when they also banned it] and it could lead to tremendous destabilization,"she told the Chronicle in a phone interview. "This is a country where 90 percent of the population lives in poverty. It's also a situation where many mid-level Taliban commanders are dependent on opium for their income and livelihoods for their fighters. To impose a ban would require the Taliban to maintain a high level of aggression, which would create political fissures and fractures and would play into the hands of other actors. One reason local warlords didn't fight the Taliban this summer was that the Taliban was promising them access to the local economy, and in many places, that means opium."

Even in the best of circumstances, replacing a lucrative illicit economy with legal alternatives is a long-term project, and these are not the best of circumstances, to say the least.

"The Afghan economy is more or less tanking,"Felbab-Brown said. "A massive influx of foreign aid has been an inescapable component of the economic life of the country, and now, the Taliban does not have any way of dealing with stopping opium by delivering alternative livelihoods. Even if they had a well-designed program, you are looking at decades to suppress it,"she said.

Still, the Taliban has done it before.

"When it comes to banning opium, we are looking at a possible replay of the 1990s,"said Felbab-Brown. "What the Taliban want is international recognition. In the 1990s, they kept promising they would ban poppies in return for international recognition, but then said they could not do it because they could not starve their people, until in 2000, they did it. Will they risk that again? My expectation is that we are going to see the same bargaining with the international community, but as I said, if the Taliban does try to do a ban, they will struggle to enforce it."

The Taliban also face a possible loss of the opioid market share if they enact a ban and then change their mind because of adverse circumstances, Felbab-Brown said.

"The difference now is the synthetic opioids,"she said, alluding to the production of fentanyl and its derivatives coming from Chinese and Indian chemical factories. "If the Taliban move to ban and then decide it is too difficult to sustain politically or financially, it might not find it easy to just return to the same markets; the European markets, for instance, could be snatched away by synthetic opioids."

As for how the much vaunted "international community"should approach Afghan opium production, that's a complicated question.

"There is no unity in the international community on how to deal with Afghanistan,"Felbab-Brown said. "The Chinese and Iranians are warming up to the Taliban, and the Russians will be urging the Taliban to go for a ban. I suspect the ban talk is mainly to satisfy the Russians. But we should not be pushing the ban; that would be catastrophic in terms of humanitarian consequences."

Afghan government and Western efforts to suppress the opium trade proved futile throughout the Western occupation, and now the likelihood of any sort of robust international campaign to suppress Afghan poppies appears next to nil. Outside of legalization of the trade, which does not appear even remotely likely, the only alternative for suppressing opium production is to cajole farmers to grow other crops in a bid to wean them off the poppy, but even those sorts of programs are now in question.

"Should the international community be working with the Taliban to try to implement alternatives livelihoods?"asked Felbab-Brown. "It's a difficult question and can't be considered in isolation. It will be part of the bargaining over a whole set of policies, including women's rights and human rights."

Uncertainty abounds over what the Taliban's opium policy will actually look like. In the meantime, the farmers are planting the seeds for next year's crop right now.

NJ Sees a Summer of Marijuana Expungements, Finnish Green League Endorses Pot Legalization, More... (9/14/21)

The Flint, Michigan, city council punts on a chance to do some drug war virtual signaling, South Dakota legislators balk on some of the governor's proposed restrictions on medical marijuana, and more.

New Jersey just got more welcoming for people with past marijuana convictions. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Marijuana Expungements Now Surpass 360,000. In the course of two months this summer, courts in the state have expunged 362,000 low-level marijuana convictions. The move comes after voters approved marijuana legalization at the polls last year. The courts began vacating and dismissing cases in July, then expunging them, a step that clear's the person's criminal record. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) tweeted about this success, saying, "362,000 marijuana cases already expunged. Thousands more to come. With our new cannabis laws, we are turning the page on the failed War on Drugs and ensuring social justice here in New Jersey." Another 125,000 to 150,000 more cases could be expunged shortly. The expungements will have the biggest impact of people of color, who were disproportionately targeted in the Garden State's war on weed.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Lawmakers Reject Some Noem Administration Medical Marijuana Rules. Legislators on Monday largely approved proposed Department of Health rules for the state's nascent medical marijuana program, but rejected a handful of proposed rules, in effect telling the Department of Health to try again. Lawmakers rejected rules that would have limited the amount of high-potency marijuana patients could possess, required a doctor's recommendation for patients who wanted to grow more than three plans, and defined a list of qualifying conditions. Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon tried to tell lawmakers "concentrated cannabis in a smokeable form is shown to be more addictive," but lawmakers weren't buying. The clock is ticking: The medical marijuana law requires the state to enact rules by October 29 and be ready to issue ID cards by November 18, so the Health Department must act quickly if it wants to try to rework and resubmit the rejected rules.

Drug Testing

Flint, Michigan, City Council Delays Voted on Drug Testing Elected Officials. The city council on Monday punted on an opportunity to display some drug war virtue signaling by delaying a vote on whether to subject themselves and the mayor to random drug testing. The council voted 5-4 to send the matter back to the Legislative Affairs Committee for reconsideration. 8th Ward Councilman Allan Griggs sponsored the proposed ordinance, saying it was "just a good policy," but others vehemently disagreed. "This ain’t nothing but a messy mess," said 2nd Ward Councilman Maurice Davis. "Ain’t no way in this world I would ever support this garbage." The ordinance came after one council member was removed from a virtual meeting in May after colleagues said they thought he was drunk, but the proposal does not include testing for alcohol inebriation.

International

Finnish Green League Endorses Marijuana Legalization. The Green League, a member of the governing coalition, voted at a party conference on Sunday to legalize and regulate marijuana. That move makes it the first party in Finland to support marijuana legalization. But the move is drawing opposition from some of the Greens' coalition partners, some of whom cited traditional objections while others chided the Greens about marijuana's carbon footprint. The move comes as attitudes toward marijuana in the country are becoming more tolerant, but support for legalization remains a minority position at this point. 

BOP Tells Certain Drug Prisoners to Apply for Clemency, Italy Marijuana Decrim Referendum, More... (9/13/21)

Italian activists and political parties are pushing a referendum on decriminalizing marijuana cultivation and possession, the Biden administration asks prisoners with certain drug offenses to apply for clemency, and more.

Some federal drug prisoners released to home confinement during the pandemic are urged to seek clemency. (Creative Commons)
Sentencing Policy

Biden Administration Asks Prisoners with Certain Drug Convictions to Apply for Clemency. As part of an effort to grant presidential relief to hundreds of federal drug prisoners now on home confinement because of the pandemic, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is now telling eligible individuals to start filling out applications for clemency. More than 8,000 federal inmates were let out on home confinement last year amid the pandemic, and the Trump Justice Department's position was that they would have to return to prison once the crisis was over. The Biden Justice Department appeared to agree with that position, but this move from the BOP is a strong signal that the administration is looking for ways to keep at least some people from going back to prison to finish their sentences.

International

Italian Push for Marijuana Decriminalization Underway. A number of pro-reform activist groups and political parties have launched a ballot campaign for a referendum to decriminalize domestic marijuana production and remove penalties for personal use. They have until September 30 to come up with 500,000 valid voter signatures and have gathered 100,000 since the campaign began last week. If the signature goals are met and verified by the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Constitutional Court will then rule on whether the question is in line with the Italian constitution. If yes, President Sergio Mattarella would set the date for the referendum, which would ask whether that portion of the country's drug law criminalizing marijuana possession or cultivation should be stricken.

Uruguay Increases THC Limit in Legal Marijuana, Ponders Allowing Tourist Sales. Four years after the country became the first in the world to allow legal recreational marijuana sales, the government of President Luis Lacalle Pou is moving to increase the THC limit in legal marijuana and is studying whether to modify regulations to allow sales to foreign visitors. "It seems to me that if we come up with a good proposal," Uruguay could open its regulated marijuana market to tourists, said National Drugs Board head Daniel Radio. "For the upcoming tourism season, it's highly unlikely, but I wouldn't rule it out." Under current law, adult citizens and foreign residents who sign up for a government registry can grow their own marijuana or buy 40 grams a month at registered pharmacies.

CT Legal Pot Sales Could Be Delayed, CA Hemp Bill Goes to Governor's Desk, More... (9/10/21)

There are signs South Dakota is moving away from harsh drug sentencing, GOP conservatives stick up for mandatory minimum fentanyl analog sentences, and more.

Marijuana Policy

hemp field (Creative Commons)
Connecticut Official Hints Launch of Legal Marijuana Sales Could Be Delayed. Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull said Wednesday that regulators working to implement legal marijuana sales still have details to work out before accepting applications and hinted that the roll-out of legal sales could be delayed. The state enacted marijuana legalization on July 1, and legal sales were originally set to begin in the summer of 2022. But Seagull said that likely will not happen: "We've been suggesting that there will likely be sales by the end of 2022, and we're still aspiring for that," Seagull said. "Obviously, we have to see how things play out in the next few months."

Hemp

California Hemp Regulation Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. Both the state Assembly and the state Senate this week approved a hemp regulation bill, Assembly Bill 45, which now awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). The bill would allow hemp extracts, including CBD, to be added to food, beverage, and cosmetic products; establish new rules for hemp farmers and businesses; require out-of-state hemp imports meet new state standards; and limit the sale of intoxicating THC isomers such as delta-8 THC to legal marijuana sales channels, among other provisions.

Drug Policy

South Dakota Attorney General Weighs In on Ballot Measures to Reduce Penalties for Drug Ingestion, Possession. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) is weighing in on potential ballot measures that would reduce the penalty for unlawful drug ingestion from a felony to a petty offense and the penalty for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. He sent separate statements to the secretary of state's office last week laying out language for altering the state's current harsh drug laws. The first proposed measure would reclassify the illegal possession of all controlled drugs or substances as class one misdemeanors, regardless of how their scheduled drug status in state law. That means instead of facing up to five years in prison, people caught with drugs would face a maximum of one year. The second ballot measure, focusing on the state's unique ingestion law, would drop the potential penalty from prison time to a $25 fine. No campaign has yet emerged to begin the process of qualifying such initiatives for the 2022 ballot.

Opioids

Congressional Republicans Attack Biden on Fentanyl Analog Scheduling, Claiming Plan is Soft on Drug Dealers. Ranking Republican members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees sent a letter to the White House Thursday criticizing the Biden administration's proposal to permanently schedule fentanyl analogs because, they said, it was too easy on drug dealers. "While we support permanent scheduling of fentanyl-related substances, other aspects of the administration's proposal would shield drug traffickers from pushing poisonous drugs into our communities rather than hold them accountable by imposing existing penalties," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). "We are particularly concerned that the provisions removing mandatory minimum penalties for fentanyl-related substance offenses would hinder prosecutorial efforts against serious drug traffickers and could even incentivize sophisticated criminal organizations to import and traffic fentanyl-related substances." Jordan and Grassley also asked for a list of stakeholders that influenced the administration's proposal, as well as "a list of examples in which federal law enforcement authorities have found that mandatory minimum penalties associated with fentanyl-related substances have supported criminal investigations to pursue high-level drug traffickers."

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School