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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A US CBP officer gets nailed with cocaine, an American Samoan jail guard gets nailed smuggling meth into the jail, and more. Let's get to it:

In Atlanta, a US Customs and Border Protection officer was arrested Tuesday after getting caught smuggling three bricks of cocaine in his luggage as he landed in Atlanta on a flight from the US Virgin Islands. The as yet unnamed officer was allowed to bypass airport security because of his job status, but drug sniffing dogs found the coke. He faces multiple charges, including possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

In Pago Pago, American Samoa, an American Samoan correctional officer was arrested Wednesday for allegedly helping to smuggle illegal drugs and cell phones into the territory's only jail. Officer Ofisa Enoka Leifi Jr. is charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of methamphetamine, and concealing an offense.

In Brownsville, Texas, a Cameron County corrections officer was arrested last Thursday for allegedly smuggling marijuana into the County Jail. Officer Ivan Montoya went down after jail guards smelling burning marijuana and he was then snitched out by an inmate as "the officer who had brought in the marijuana." Local media did not report the precise charges.

AZ Legalization Initiative Consolidates, MO Senate Votes to Ban MedMJ Candies, More... (3/11/20)

An Ohio marijuana legalization initiative hits a roadblock, an Arizona marijuana legalization initiative sees the field clear, and more. 

Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalization Initiative Bid Fails, Clears Way for Smart and Safe Legalization Initiative. And then there was one. The Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce has given up on plans for a legalization initiative and is instead endorsing a rival initiative, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act. The Smart and Safe Arizona Act campaign has already gathered more than 270,000 raw signatures, almost guaranteeing that it will qualify for the ballot. It needs 237,000 valid voter signatures by July 2. It has also raised $1.6 million.

Ohio Attorney General Rejects Language of Legalization Initiative. Attorney General Dave Yost (R) has rejected the language for a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana. Yost said the proposed language makes unsupported statements and fails to note the amendment would be written into the constitution. Backers can make changes and resubmit it, but the clock is ticking. They only have until July to get it approved and gather 440,000 valid signatures.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Senate Passes Ban on Medical Marijuana-Infused Candies. The Senate has passed that would ban marijuana-infused candy for medical use in what supporters said was a bid to prevent children from accidentally eating marijuana. The measure would ban candy such as lollipops, cotton candy and fruit and animal-shaped edibles that could appeal to children. The bill now goes to the House.

NJ Supreme Court Protects MedMJ Patients' Employment Rights, SD Hemp Bill Deal, More... (3/10/20)

The New Jersey Supreme Court strikes a blow for medical marijuana patients' employment rights, South Dakota's governor and legislature reach a deal to legalize hemp, and more. 

Mississippi lawmakers couldn't agree on whether to ban or regulate kratom, so they did nothing. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Passes Medical Marijuana Measure as Alternative to Initiative Already on November Ballot. In a bid to head-off a medical marijuana initiative that has already qualified for the November ballot, the House on Monday approved HCR 39 as an alternative for voters. It's the brainchild of Rep. Trey Lamar (R), who claimed people who signed initiative petitions were duped and accused the initiative campaign of "taking advantage" of the state law allowing for citizen-sponsored initiatives. The measure now heads for the Senate.

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Workers Can't Be Fired for Failing Drug Test Because of Medical Marijuana. The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that barring coming to work stoned, medical marijuana patients remain protected by the state's anti-discrimination and cannot be fired for testing positive for marijuana. The high court ruling came just days after an appellate court reached the same conclusion. "This protects hundreds, if not thousands of employees" who’ve faced the "stigma of marijuana," said Jamison Mark, a lawyer for the plaintiff.

Hemp

South Dakota Lawmakers, Governor Reach Deal on Hemp Bill. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has reached an agreement with lawmakers that should result in the quick passage of a bill legalizing hemp production in the state. Noem had been demanding $3.5 million to ensure the program started "responsibly," and now lawmakers have agreed to do that. The House has already passed a bill, and now the Senate has gutted and passed its version of a hemp bill, so the agreement can be ratified in conference committee.

Kratom

Mississippi Legislature Decides to Do Nothing About Kratom. Kratom will remain legal and unregulated in the state after legislators killed bills to regulate it and bills to prohibit it. The bills died Tuesday when committees did not consider them before the first big deadline of the legislative session.

Colombian Cocaine Production Jumps, VA Pot Decrim Bill Heads to Governor, More... (3/9/20)

Colombian cocaine production is way up, the US says as it pushes for forced and aerial eradication, NJ pot legalization supporters organize for victory, WVA is moving to increase meth sentences, and more.

Cocaine production in Colombia is at record levels, the US says. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Legalization Supporters form Coalition to Push for November Victory. Advocates and stakeholders in the state's marijuana industry have formed a campaign coalition, NJ CAN 2020, to fight for marijuana legalization that includes a racial and social justice approach. The group includes members of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, including the ACLU of New Jersey, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, the Latino Action Network, the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference and the NJ CannaBusiness Association.

Oklahoma Sees Another Legalization Initiative Filed. Stakeholders in the state's medical marijuana industry have filed a legalization initiative, SQ 811, in response to an earlier filed legalization initiative that they say would not fully protect the state's existing medical marijuana industry. The initiative would tax marijuana at 25% but says medical marijuana would be "exempt from all taxes." The same group also filed a decriminalization initiative, SQ 812, the same day.

Virginia Legislature Approves Decriminalization Bill. The state Senate on Sunday approved a decriminalization bill, SB 2. The bill has already passed the House, so it now heads to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D). Under the bill, possession of up to an ounce will now merit a fine of no more than $50.  

Sentencing

West Virginia Legislature Approves Bill Raising Meth Sentences. The state Senate on Sunday approved HB 4852, which would double mandatory minimum and maximum sentences for possession with intent to manufacture or deliver methamphetamine. What is currently a one-to-five-year sentence would become a two-to-10-year sentence. The bill has already passed the House but has to go back for a concurrence vote to approve changes made in the Senate.

Foreign Policy

United States and Colombian Officials Set Bilateral Agenda to Reduce Cocaine Supply. Last Friday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the United States Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) led a counternarcotics dialogue with the Government of Colombia to set forth a bilateral, whole-of-government joint action plan to reduce the high levels of coca cultivation and cocaine production by 50 percent by the end of 2023.The dialogue focused on increasing coca eradication and cocaine interdiction, improving security and economic opportunities in the rural areas most afflicted by narcotics trafficking, and targeting narcotics-related money laundering and illicit finances. A focus of the discussion was expanding the results of Colombia’s integrated coca eradication program by ensuring full use of all available tools, including manual eradication, alternative development, and a Colombian-led aerial eradication component, supported by rural development and rural security programs.

International

Canadian Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith has recently tabled a drug decriminalization bill, C-235, which would remove simple drug possession from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. "The international evidence is pretty clear that the way we have dealt with drug use, the war on drugs and throwing police resources to reduce drug use, has failed and has undermined public-health efforts," Erskine-Smith said. "And the overwhelming evidence today is that we should treat drug use as a health issue and we should be removing barriers to seeking treatment, and decriminalization of simple possession would do just that." Private bills rarely pass, but this is a start.

Colombia Cocaine Production Hit Record High Last Year Despite Forced Eradication, US Says. Cocaine production increased 8% last year, reaching an all-time high, according to figures released by the US government. The increase came even as the US and Colombian governments have been promoting forced eradication of coca crops and refusing to support crop substitution and rural development programs that are broadly considered more effective.

Mexico Legal Marijuana Bill Advancing, OR Drug Decriminalization Init Moving, More... (3/6/20)

Boston's first pot shop is set to open Monday, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs again postpones a vote on classifying marijuana, and more.

Viva Mexico! (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Court Rules Smell of Marijuana in Vehicle by Itself Not Grounds for Search. A California appellate panel has ruled that now that marijuana is legal, the smell of marijuana in a car stopped for other reasons isn't enough to justify a full-blown search of the vehicle. "Marijuana and alcohol now receive similar treatment under the law," said the Appellate Division of Alameda County Superior Court in a ruling barring evidence of a loaded handgun that police found during the search in question. The ruling was issued in December and was published by the state courts this week as a precedent for future cases.

Boston's First Pot Shop Set to Open Monday. Three and a half years after voters approved marijuana legalization, Boston is about to get its first marijuana retail outlet. Pure Oasis will open Monday in Dorchester. It is the first shop to be approved by the state's Cannabis Control Commission.

Drug Policy

Oregon Drug Decriminalization Measure Rapidly Gathers Signatures for November Ballot.  A campaign to put a drug treatment and drug decriminalization initiative, the "Drug Treatment and Recovery Act" ( IP 44), on the November ballot has already collected 125,000 raw signatures, the Drug Policy Alliance, which is financing the campaign, announced Thursday. The measure needs 112,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. It has until May to turn in more signatures.

International

UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs Once Again Postpones Key Marijuana Vote. The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has decided to delay until December a vote due to take place this week on the potential global rescheduling of cannabis. The CND, whose meeting in Vienna ended today, was due to vote on a set of recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) to loosen restrictions on marijuana and related substances like CBD and THC. This is the second time the CND has refused to vote on the recommendations, which the WHO first presented in January 2019.

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances. Three Senate committees on Thursday approved a draft legalization bill, bringing it one step closer to passage. Ajoint meeting of the Justice, Health and Legislative Studies committees approved the bill "in general," meaning that individual articles within it remain open for debate and amendment. The bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own. It would also establish a legal market for marijuana that would see 40% of production licenses go to people in communities affected by drug trafficking. Bill specifics will be debated by those same committees and then in a plenary session of the Senate, which could see a final vote as soon as next week. The measure would then go to the Chamber of Deputies. The Supreme Court has issued an April 30 deadline to end marijuana prohibition.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

DEA Proposes Mobile Methadone Programs, Honduran President Took Drug Bribes, More...(3/5/20)

The DEA proposes allowing mobile methadone treatment programs, US prosecutors say the Honduran president took bribes from drug traffickers, Major League Baseball loosens up on marijuana use by players, and more.

Major League Baseball is loosening up on players' marijuana use. (Scott Slade/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Major League Baseball to Allow Players' Marijuana Use. Major League Baseball has liberalized its stance on marijuana use by players. Under a memo released last month, players can now consume marijuana without risk of discipline, although they can't come to work under the influence and they can't enter into commercial agreements with marijuana companies. The league removed marijuana from its list of controlled substances last year.

Asset Forfeiture

Georgia Bill Would End Civil Asset Forfeiture. A bipartisan group of lawmakers have filed House Bill 1086, which would end civil asset forfeiture in the state. It has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill amends state law to require that criminal proceedings be concluded before any civil forfeiture proceedings could take place, unless the property owner or interest holder waives the right to wait for criminal proceedings to conclude. The bill would also prohibit civil forfeiture proceedings from moving forward in the event of a dismissal or acquittal of criminal charges. Current law allows civil forfeiture proceedings even if a person is acquitting of a crime or charges are dismissed. 

Drug Treatment

DEA Proposes Allowing Mobile Methadone Programs. The DEA has filed a notice in the Federal Register that it is considering a proposed rule that would "revise the existing regulations for narcotic treatment programs (NTPs) to allow a mobile component associated with the registered program to be considered a coincident activity. The NTP registrants that operate or wish to operate mobile components (in the state that the registrant is registered in) to dispense narcotic drugs in schedules II-V at a remote location for the purpose of maintenance or detoxification treatment would not be required to obtain a separate registration for a mobile component. This proposed rule would waive the requirement of a separate registration at each principal place of business or professional practice where controlled substances are dispensed for those NTPs with mobile components that fully comply with the requirements of the proposed rule, once finalized. These revisions to the regulations are intended to make maintenance or detoxification treatments more widely available, while ensuring that safeguards are in place to reduce the likelihood of diversion." There are still 53 days to comment on the rule, which can be done at the link above.

Harm Reduction

Arizona House OKs Bill Legalizing Needle Exchange Programs. The House on Wednesday approved House Bill 2608, which would legalize needle exchange programs in the state as part of an effort to reduce disease and overdoses among illicit drug users. The bill now heads to the Senate.

International

Honduran President Took Bribe from Drug Traffickers, US Prosecutors Charge. Honduran President Juan Orlando Sanchez agreed to shield a drug trafficker from prosecution and offered to let him use the country’s armed forces for security in exchange for a $25,000 bribe, prosecutors in Manhattan federal court alleged Tuesday. The drug kingpin, Daniel Fuentes Ramirez, was arrested in Miami on weapons and cocaine conspiracy charges. Last fall, President Sanchez's brother, a former Honduran senator, was convicted in New York on cocaine conspiracy charges.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Northern California town pays big-time for some reefer-stealing rogue officers, a New York City narc gets a little too drunk for his own good, and more. Lete's get to it:

In New York City, an NYPD narcotics officers was arrested Friday after drunkenly harassing a women, punching a bartender, fighting with a security guard, and shooting his gun inside a Williamsburg bar. Officer Steven Abreu, 31, now faces a charge of attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, menacing, criminal mischief and harassment." He's been freed on supervised release.

In Rocky Ford, Colorado, a Rocky Ford police officer was arrested Tuesday for allegedly trying to sell marijuana that he had seized. Officer James Lopez, 56, had seized the marijuana, but instead of turning it in, took it to a friend's house and packaged it for sell. He faces charges of distribution of a controlled substance and official misconduct.

In Rohnert Park, California, the Rohnert Park Police Department agreed to a $1.5 million settlement to a set of drivers who had marijuana unlawfully seized from them by a group of rogue Rohnert Park police officers. The pay-out settles eight different lawsuits from drivers who claimed the officers robbed them out cash and marijuana. The officers were led by former drug enforcement partners Brandon “Jacy” Tatum and Joseph Huffaker, who stopped drivers on US Highway 101 far outside of the city limits. Those two officers have escaped any criminal charges, but are no longer with the department.

Medical Marijuana Update

Utah sees its first dispensary open, a Florida bill to cap THC at 10% hits a snag, and more.

Florida

Florida Measure Would Cap THC at 10% for Underage Patients. House Speaker Jose Oliva (R-Hialeah) last Friday filed an amendment to a Senate Appropriations Committee bill that would cap the THC level of medical marijuana at 10% for underage patients. Last month, Oliva said that capping medical marijuana at 10% was one of his priorities. The amendment to Senate Bill 230, which limits the cap to kids, is most likely a concession to veterans' groups that made it clear last week they opposed any caps.

Florida Bill to Cap THC Levels Hits Snag. An amendment to an appropriations bill that seeks to limit medical marijuana to no more than 10% THC for patients under 21 has hit a snag in the Senate. Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Gayle Harrell, (R-Stuart) introduced the proposal Monday and tried to add it to a Department of Health appropriations bill but has now removed it after facing questions from members of the Senate Rules Committee.

Hawaii

Hawaii Bill to Protect Patients' Employment Rights Advances. A bill that would protect medical marijuana cardholders from being fired or not hired because they tested positive for marijuana is advancing in the legislature. Instead of a drug test, cardholders could undergo a "fit-for-duty" test that measure impairment, not metabolites. The bill excludes law enforcement and prison guards, other public safety workers, and health care workers who administer drugs to patients. The state Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee and the state Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill Friday with some amendments. It now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Utah

Utah Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Amendments Bill. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) last Friday signed into law Senate Bill 121, just days before the state's medical marijuana program opened Monday. The changes in the bill include packaging, expungements, dosing, and limits on how many patient recommendations doctors can provide. "This bill makes needed adjustments and clarifications to Utah's medical cannabis law," Herbert said. "These changes will help us ensure that Utah patients have the best possible access to cannabis products as our new program rolls out on Monday, March 2."

Utah Sees First Dispensary Open. The Beehive State's first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Salt Lake City Monday. Dragonfly Wellness on State Street beat everyone else to the punch. Thirteen other dispensaries are expected to open across the state this year.

Chronicle AM: Drug Policy Alliance Names New Leader, HI House Passes Drug Defelonization Bill, More... (3/4/20)

The Drug Policy Alliance has a new executive director, Mexico's effort to legalize marijuana stalls in the Senate, the Oklahoma House moves to regulate kratom, and more. 

Kassandra Frederique is the new executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. (DPA)
Kratom

Oklahoma House Passes Bill to Regulate—Not Ban--Kratom. The House on Monday passed House Bill 2846, which would regulate kratom. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Drug Policy

Drug Policy Alliance Names Kassandra Frederique as New Executive Director. Ten-year Drug Policy Alliance veteran Kassandra Frederique has been named executive director of the group following the resignation of Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno earlier this year. Frederique was managing director of policy, advocacy, and campaigns before being named executive director. "Kassandra is well suited to lead DPA," the group said in a press release. "Kassandra started at DPA a decade ago as an intern. Her exemplary work propelled her meteoric rise through the organization... In New York, she ran the campaign that reduced marijuana arrests in NYC by 84%. Through strategic advocacy, she shifted the politics around the issue, even bringing skeptic Gov. Cuomo around to the point that New York is now poised to legalize. Kassandra is the architect of innovative campaigns to roll back mass criminalization and expand the debate around overdose. Her voice leads national conversations about the complex interplay between race and the overdose crisis."

Hawaii Senate Approves Drug Defelonization Bill. The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that turns low-level drug possession felonies into misdemeanors. House Bill 2581 would create a new fourth degree misdemeanor category for people caught with less than two grams of a controlled substance. Currently, possession of any amount of drugs except marijuana is a felony. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

Idaho House Passes Bill Relaxing Mandatory Minimums for Heroin, Enacting Them for Fentanyl. The House on Monday passed House Bill 469, which relaxes mandatory minimum sentences for heroin, but added them for fentanyl. In the last two legislative sessions, the House voted to end mandatory minimums, but those bills never moved in the Senate. Now, we'll see if this one does.

International

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Stalled in Senate. With less than two months to meet a Supreme Court deadline to legalize marijuana, legislation to get it done has stalled in the Senate. That's according to opposition Senator Miguel Angel Mancera, who said there is no consensus between the parties. “[Legislation for] recreational use is not moving. It’s more difficult than outsourcing,” the former Mexico City mayor said, referring to a congressional battle over outsourcing last year.

Fentanyl Trade Fuels Cartel Battle in Central Mexico. Five competing drug trafficking groups are fighting over control of the fentanyl trade in the north-central state of Zacatecas, and it's leaving a toll of dead. The number of killings in the state reached 666 last year, more than double the figure from a decade ago. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel dominate the trade, but three other groups are trying to muscle in. They are the Gulf Cartel and two offshoots of the Zetas, known as the Talibanes and the Northeastern Cartel.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

Two Takes on the Global Drug War and Global Drug Cultures [FEATURE]

America shows signs of emerging from the century-long shadow of drug prohibition, with marijuana leading the way and a psychedelic decriminalization movement rapidly gaining steam. It also seems as if the mass incarceration fever driven by the war on drugs has finally broken, although tens if not hundreds of thousands remain behind bars on drug charges.

As Americans, we are remarkably parochial. We are, we still like to tell ourselves, "the world's only superpower," and we can go about our affairs without overly concerning ourselves about what's going on beyond our borders. But what America does, what America wants and what America demands has impacts far beyond our borders, and the American prohibitionist impulse is no different.

Thanks largely (but not entirely) to a century of American diplomatic pressure, the entire planet has been subsumed by our prohibitionist impulse. A series of United Nations conventions, the legal backbone of global drug prohibition, pushed by the US, have put the whole world on lockdown.

We here in the drug war homeland remain largely oblivious to the consequences of our drug policies overseas, whether it's murderous drug cartels in Mexico, murderous cops in the Philippines, barbarous forced drug treatment regimes in Russia and Southeast Asia, exemplary executions in China, or corrupted cops and politicians everywhere. But now, a couple of non-American journalists working independently have produced a pair of volumes that focus on the global drug war like a US Customs X-ray peering deep inside a cargo container. Taken together, the results are illuminating, and the light they shed reveals some very disturbing facts.

Dopeworld by Niko Vorobyov and Pills, Powder, and Smoke by Antony Loewenstein both attempt the same feat -- a global portrait of the war on drugs -- and both reach the same conclusion -- that drug prohibition benefits only drug traffickers, fearmongering politicians, and state security apparatuses -- but are miles apart attitudinally and literarily. This makes for two very different, but complementary, books on the same topic.

Loewenstein, an Australian who previously authored Disaster Capitalism and Profits of Doom, is -- duh -- a critic of capitalism who situates the global drug war within an American project of neo-imperial subjugation globally and control over minority populations domestically. His work is solid investigative reporting, leavened with the passion he feels for his subject.

In Pills, Powder, and Smoke, he visits places that rarely make the news but are deeply and negatively impacted by the US-led war on drugs, such as Honduras. Loewenstein opens that chapter with the murder of environmental activist Berta Caceres, which was not directly related to the drug war, but which illustrates the thuggish nature of the Honduran regime -- a regime that emerged after a 2009 coup overthrew the leftist president, a coup justified by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and which has received millions in US anti-drug assistance, mainly in the form of weapons and military equipment.

Honduras doesn't produce any drugs; it's only an accident of geography and the American war on drugs that we even mention the country in the context of global drug prohibition. Back in the 1980s, the administration of Bush the Elder cracked down on cocaine smuggling in the Caribbean, and as traffickers sought to evade that threat, Honduras was perfectly placed to act as a trampoline for cocaine shipments taking an alternative route through Mexico, which incidentally fueled the rise of today's deadly and uber-wealthy Mexican drug cartels.

The drug trade, combined with grinding poverty, huge income inequalities, and few opportunities, has helped turn Honduras into one of the deadliest places on earth, where the police and military kill with impunity, and so do the country's teeming criminal gangs. Loewenstein walks those mean streets -- except for a few neighborhoods even his local fixers deem too dangerous -- talking to activists, human rights workers, the family members of victims, community members, and local journalists to paint a chilling picture. (This is why Hondurans make up a large proportion of those human caravans streaming north to the US border. But unlike Venezuela, where mass flight in the face of violence and economic collapse is routinely condemned as a failure of socialism, you rarely hear any commentators calling the Honduran exodus a failure of capitalism.)

He reexamines one of the DEA's most deadly recent incidents, where four poor, innocent Hondurans were killed by Honduran troops working under DEA supervision in a raid whose parameters were covered up for years by the agency. Loewenstein engaged in extended communication with the DEA agent in charge, as well as with survivors and family members of those killed. Those people report they have never received an apology, not to mention compensation, from the Honduran military -- or from the United States. While the Honduran military fights the drug war with US dollars, Loewenstein shows it and other organs of the Honduran government are also deeply implicated in managing the drug traffic. And news headlines bring his story up to date: Just this month, the current, rightist president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, of meeting with and taking a bribe from a drug trafficker. This comes after his brother, former Honduran Senator Juan Antonio Hernández, was convicted of running tons of cocaine into the United States in a trial that laid bare the bribery, corruption, and complicity of high-level Hondurans in the drug trade, including the president.

Loewenstein also takes us to Guinea-Bissau, a West African country where 70 percent of the population subsists on less than $2 a day and whose biggest export is cashews. Or at least it was cashews. Since the early years of this century, the country has emerged as a leading destination for South American cocaine, which is then re-exported to the insatiable European market.

Plagued by decades of military coups and political instability, the country has never developed, and an Atlantic shoreline suited for mass tourism now serves mainly as a convenient destination for boatloads and planeloads of cocaine. Loewenstein visits hotels whose only clients are drug traffickers and remote fishing villages where the trade is an open secret and a source of jobs. He talks with security officials who frankly admit they have almost no resources to combat the trade, and he traces the route onward to Europe, sometimes carried by Islamic militants.

He also tells the tale of one exemplary drug bust carried out by a DEA SWAT team arguably in Guinean territorial waters that snapped up the country's former Navy minister. The DEA said he was involved in a "narco-terrorist" plot to handle cocaine shipments for Colombia's leftist FARC guerillas, who were designated as "terrorists" by the administration of Bush the Junior in a politically convenient melding of the wars on drugs and terror.

It turns out, though, there were no coke loads, and there was no FARC; there was only a DEA sting operation, with the conspiracy created out of whole cloth. While the case made for some nice headlines and showed the US hard at work fighting drugs, it had no demonstrable impact on the use of West Africa as a cocaine conduit, and it raised serious questions about the degree to which the US can impose its drug war anywhere it chooses.

Loewenstein also writes about Australia, England, and the United States, in each case setting the historical and political context, talking to all kinds of people, and laying bare the hideous cruelties of drug policies that exert their most terrible tolls on the poor and racial minorities. But he also sees glimmers of hope in things such as the movement toward marijuana legalization here and the spread of harm reduction measures in England and Australia.

He gets one niggling thing wrong, though, in his chapter on the US. He converses with Washington, DC, pot activists Alan Amsterdam and Adam Eidinger, the main movers behind DC's successful legalization initiative, but in his reporting on it, he repeatedly refers to DC as a state and once even mistakenly cites a legal marijuana sales figure from Washington state. (There are no legal sales in DC.) Yes, this is a tiny matter, but c'mon, Loewenstein is Australian, and he should know a political entity similar to Canberra, the Australian Capital Territory.

That quibble aside, Loewenstein has made a hardheaded but openhearted contribution to our understanding of the multifaceted malevolence of the never-ending war on drugs. And I didn't even mention his chapter on the Philippines. It's in there, it's as gruesome as you might expect, and it's very chilling reading.

Vorobyov, on the other hand, was born in Russia and emigrated to England as a child. He reached adulthood as a recreational drug user and seller -- until he was arrested on the London Underground and got a two-year sentence for carrying enough Ecstasy to merit a charge of possession with intent to distribute. After that interval, which he says inspired him to write his book, he got his university degree and moved back to Russia, where he picked up a gig at Russia Today before turning his talents to Dopeworld.

Dopeworld is not staid journalism. Instead, it is a twitchy mish-mash, jumping from topic to topic and continent to continent with the flip of a page, tracing the history of alcohol prohibition in the US at one turn, chatting up Japanese drug gangsters at the next, and getting hammered by ayahuasca in yet another. Vorobyov himself describes Dopeworld as "true crime, gonzo, social, historical memoir meets fucked up travel book."

Indeed. He relates his college-boy drug-dealing career with considerable panache. He parties with nihilistic middle-class young people and an opium-smoking cop in Tehran, he cops $7 grams of cocaine in Colombia and tours Pablo Escobar's house with the dead kingpin's brother as a tour guide, he has dinner with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's family in Mexico's Sinaloa state and pronounces them nice people ("really chill"), and he meets up with a vigilante killer in Manila.

Vorobyov openly says the unsayable when it comes to writing about the drug war and drug prohibition: Drugs can be fun! While Loewenstein is pretty much all about the victims, Vorobyov inhabits the global drug culture. You know: Dopeworld. Loewenstein would bemoan the utter futility of a record-breaking seizure of a 12-ton load of cocaine; Vorobyov laments, "that's 12 tons of cocaine that will never be snorted."

Vorobyov is entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and he brings a former dope dealer's perspective to bear. He's brash and breezy, but like Loewenstein, he's done his homework as well as his journalistic fieldwork, and the result is fascinating. To begin to understand what the war on drugs has done to people and countries around the planet, this pair of books makes an essential introduction. And two gripping reads.

Dopeworld: Adventures in the Global Drug Trade by Niko Vorobyov (August 2020, St. Martin's Press, hardcover, 432 pp., $29.99)

Pills, Powder, and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugs by Antony Loewenstein (November 2019, Scribe, paperback, 368 pp., $19.00)

Chronicle AM: Trump Says Colombia Must Restart Spraying Coca Crop, UT Gets First Dispensary, More... (3/3/20)

Connecticut lawmakers hold a hearing on marijuana legalization, Mexican lawmakers prepare to debate a marijuana legalization bill, President Trump says Colombia must restart aerial spraying of coca crops, and more. 

President Trump calls on Colombia to restart the aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca crops. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Marijuana Legalization. Members of the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on marijuana legalization Monday. The topic was details of a legalization proposal, Senate Bill 6, from Gov. Ned Lamont (D). Under Lamont's proposal, possession of up to 1.5 ounces would be legal for people 21 and over and past pot possession convictions would automatically be expunged for people convicted before 2015. Lawmakers heard from the public, and the committee's next step is a meeting where lawmakers can voice their opinions and then vote on the bill.

Louisiana Activists Rally for Marijuana Law Reform. Members of the reform group Legalize Louisiana rallied in cities across the state Monday to lobby for marijuana rights. Activists gathered outside courthouses in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and New Orleans to demand expansion of medical marijuana, legal reforms, and marijuana legalization.

Maine Legal Marijuana Sales Pushed Back Three Months. Voters legalized marijuana in the state in 2016, but legal sales have yet to happen, and now they're being pushed back another three months. The problem is time-consuming license applications for pot businesses. Applicants must first receive a conditional state license, then get local approval, then return to the state for an active license. The Office of Marijuana Policy says it has received 200 applications, with 80 of them complete enough for regulatory review.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bill to Cap THC Levels Hits Snag. An amendment to an appropriations bill that seeks to limit medical marijuana to no more than 10% THC for patients under 21 has hit a snag in the Senate. Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Gayle Harrell, (R-Stuart) introduced the proposal Monday and tried to add it to a Department of Health appropriations bill but has now removed it after facing questions from members of the Senate Rules Committee.

Utah Sees First Dispensary Open. The Beehive State's first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Salt Lake City Monday. Dragonfly Wellness on State Street beat everyone else to the punch. Thirteen other dispensaries are expected to open across the state this year.

Foreign Policy

Trump Says Colombia Will Have to Restart Spraying of Coca Crops. During a meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque, US President Donald Trump said Colombia will have to restart its aerial spraying program in order to destroy the country's coca crop. "You're going to have to spray," Trump told journalists at a White House meeting with Duque. "If you don't spray you're not going to get rid of (the coca), so you have to spray with regard to the drugs in Colombia." Colombia suspended aerial spraying of the crop in 2015, after the World Health Organization linked glyphosate to environmental harm and cancer risks.

International

Mexico Congress to Debate Marijuana Legalization This Week. The Mexican congress will debate a 228-page marijuana legalization bill this week. It would allow people 18 and over to possess up to an ounce, with possession of more than an ounce but less than 200 grams decriminalized. People could also grow their own crop as long as their harvest is less than 480 grams. Possession of up to 200 grams would be decriminalized. The Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis, a decentralized body established under the measure, would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing licenses for marijuana businesses. There would be a 12% tax on retail marijuana sales.

Chronicle AM: OR Drug Decriminalization Initiative Launches, Colombia Coca Conflict, More... (3/2/20)

Utah's medical marijuana program rolled out today, an Oregon initiative would decriminalize the possession of personal amounts of all drugs, Nepalese Communist lawmakers move toward legalizing marijuana farming, and more. 

Colombian cocaine seized at the US-Mexico border. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Florida Measure Would Cap THC at 10% for Underage Patients. House Speaker Jose Oliva (R-Hialeah) last Friday filed an amendment to a Senate Appropriations Committee bill that would cap the THC level of medical marijuana at 10% for underage patients. Last month, Oliva said that capping medical marijuana at 10% was one of his priorities. The amendment to Senate Bill 230, which limits the cap to kids, is most likely a concession to veterans' groups that made it clear last week they opposed any caps.

Utah Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Amendments Bill. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) last Friday signed into law Senate Bill 121, just days before the state's medical marijuana program opened Monday. The changes in the bill include packaging, expungements, dosing, and limits on how many patient recommendations doctors can provide. "This bill makes needed adjustments and clarifications to Utah’s medical cannabis law," Herbert said. "These changes will help us ensure that Utah patients have the best possible access to cannabis products as our new program rolls out on Monday, March 2."

Drug Policy

Oregon Drug Decriminalization Initiative Launches. A campaign to put a drug treatment and drug decriminalization initiative, the "Drug Treatment and Recovery Act" ( IP 44), on the November ballot launched on Saturday. The measure would take money from the state's existing marijuana tax revenues to fund the expansion of access to drug treatment, as well as decriminalizing the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs, including cocaine, meth, and heroin. If the measure qualifies for the ballot and passes in November, Oregon would be the first state in the country to decriminalize drug possession.

Harm Reduction

Missouri Needle Exchange Bill Passes House. The House last Friday passed House Bill 1486, which would legalize needle exchanges across the state. The bill now heads to the Senate.

International

Colombia High Court Reminds Government No Aerial Fumigation of Coca without Crop Substitution. The country's Constitutional Court last Thursday reminded the government of President Ivan Duque that if it does not help farmers find substitutes for their coca crops—as agreed in a 2016 treaty with the FARC—it will not be able to engage in aerial crop fumigation. The move came in reaction to the government reportedly ended a contract with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that monitors the crop substitution program. The Duque government has said it will resume aerial eradication this year.

Nepalese Communist Party Lawmaker Files Bill to Legalize Marijuana Farming. Former law minister and current House member Sher Bahadur filed a private bill Monday to allow marijuana farming. The move comes after 46 lawmakers last month called for legalization. The Nepalese parliament is controlled by the Nepalese Communist Party.

Chronicle AM: INCB Head Suggests UN Drug Treaties Are Out of Date, Houston Dope Squad Reforms, More... (2/28/20)

A top UN drug official suggests international drug treaties are out of step with the times, a hemp bill is moving in Idaho, Malawi legalizes hemp and medical marijuana cultivation, and more.

The House has voted to ban flavored e-cigs and tobacco, including menthol. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Plans for Special Marijuana Crimes Unit Sparks Outrage. The state plans to spend $649,000 in marijuana taxes to fund a four-person unit in the its Drug Enforcement Agency to deal with regulatory compliance and monitoring illegal marijuana activities, but the plan announced earlier this week isn't sitting well with some lawmakers and marijuana business owners. "We do not want to see one additional person incarcerated for marijuana," said Mark Barnett, a Portland coffee shop owner applying for a recreational cannabis license. "It’s a move in the wrong direction and counter to the very idea of legalization." Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell, co-chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, concurred: "I thought we legalized cannabis," she said. "If we have spent a total of $33.2 million over just the time I’ve been in the legislature, why are we adding more agents for something that we actually legalized?"

Hemp

Idaho Senate Passes Bill to Legalize Hemp Production. The Senate on Thursday approved Senate Bill 1345, which would allow farmers in the state to legally grow and process industrial hemp. The bill now heads to the House.

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Chief Announces Reforms for Tarnished Narcotics Unit. Police Chief Art Acevedo announced a series of reforms for his department's Narcotics Division on Wednesday, just hours after Harris County DA Kim Ogg said 69 defendants convicted on the testimony of disgraced former drug cop Gerald Goines might have their cases overturned. Goines was the lead officer in a fatal raid last year that left two innocent homeowners dead. Among the changes announced by Acevedo are requiring more oversight and signoff from superiors for drug operations, tighter controls on informants and payments, and restating the already announced policy of requiring high-level approval for "no-knock" raids like the one Goines led.

Vaping

House Votes to Ban Flavored E-Cigs, Tobacco, Including Menthol. The House on Friday approved a bill, House Resolution 2339, that would ban the manufacture and sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes, including menthol. The vote divided House Democrats and drew opposition from Republicans. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus slammed the bill over its ban on menthol, which is popular with African-American smokers. The bill's fate is uncertain in the Senate.

International

Top UN Drug Official Questions Whether Drug Control Treaties Are Out of Date. International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) President Cornelius P. de Joncheere said Thursday the United Nations drug conventions may be outdated, especially when it comes to marijuana. "We have some fundamental issues around the conventions that state parties will need to start looking at," he said, adding, "We have to recognize that the conventions were drawn up 50 and 60 years ago." Joncheere said 2021 is "an appropriate time to look at whether those are still fit for purpose, or whether we need new alternative instruments and approaches to deal with these problems."

Australiana New South Wales Commission Calls for Drug Decriminalization. A government-commissioned special inquiry into drug use has called the criminalization of drug users "a profound flaw" in the state's criminal justice system and recommended the complete decriminalization of drugs in the state. The report called current state drug laws "tired" and "lacking in imagination." It calls for pill testing, ending the use of drug dogs at music festivals, and more safe injection sites. But the NSW state government has already rejected some of those recommendations.

 

. Malawi's parliament on Thursday approved legislation to allow the cultivation of medical marijuana and hemp. The country is looking at an alternative to its tobacco crop, its main earner of foreign exchange, which is under pressure from anti-smoking campaigns. "Legalization of this crop will contribute to economic growth as it will contribute in the diversification of the economy and boost the country’s exports, especially at this time when tobacco exports are dwindling," agriculture minister Kondwani Nankhumwa said. Marijuana for recreational use remains illegal.

Chronicle AM: Philly Safe Injection Site Could Open Soon, VT House Approves Pot Sales Bill, More... (2/27/20)

The Vermont House has passed that bill to allow taxed and regulated marijuana sales, a California bill would allow paying meth users not to use, the INCB issues its annual report, and more. 

Crystal meth. A California bill would allow payments to meth users to stop using. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Wants to "Harmonize" Medical, Adult Use Marijuana Programs. The Office of Marijuana Policy told state lawmakers Wednesday that it wants the medical and adult-use programs to abide by the same state rules whenever possible. It introduced a bill to apply the same plant size restriction, labeling rules, manufacturing safety and background checks to both programs. The plan is generating pushback from small operators, who say the plan would drive up prices and force them out of business.

Vermont House Approves Marijuana Sales Bill. The House on Wednesday voted 90-54 to approve Senate Bill 54, which would tax and regulate legal marijuana sales in the state. The Senate approved the bill with a veto-proof margin last year, the first year of the biennial session. Since it was amended in the House, the House and the Senate will have to reconcile differences before sending the bill to the governor's desk.

Methamphetamine

California Bill Would Pay Meth Users Not to Use. State Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) has filed Senate Bill 888, which would make public funding available for programs that provide financial incentives to participants to stop using drugs. The bill would expand substance abuse treatment options that qualify for Medi-Cal, the program that provides health care to the poor, to include contingency management programs that use vouchers or small cash awards to motivate people to stay off drugs. Weiner said he was motivated by a growing methamphetamine problem in the city.

Harm Reduction

Philadelphia Safe Injection Site Could Open as Early as Next Week. Officials with Safehouse, the nonprofit group that is moving to open a safe injection site, said Wednesday that the facility could be open as soon as next week. The announcement came hours after a federal judge ruled that it would not violate federal law. It would be the first legally permitted safe injection site in the country. But US Attorney William McSwain said the government will seek to stop the site from opening, as the government intends to appeal the judge’s decision.

International

International Narcotics Control Board Issues Annual Report. The Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has released its INCB Annual Report 2019, which examines the global drug control situation and makes recommendations to national governments and international organizations. Among other things, the report said the INCB wants more done to ensure pain relief medications are available to everyone who needs them and it warns of the "dangers" of non-medical marijuana developments, i.e. the trend toward marijuana legalization.  

Trump's Latest Drug Budget: Pretty Much More of the Same [FEATURE]

The Trump administration rolled out its proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Drug Control Budget Tuesday, and it's pretty much more of the same -- $35.7 billion more, to be precise. That's a proposed $94 million increase over what was actually allocated in the current fiscal year.

cocaine seized by US Customs at the Mexican border (dhs.gov)
To be fair, only about half of that money would be destined for the fruitless and endless battle to enforce drug prohibition. The request includes $18.6 billion for prevention and treatment efforts and $17.1 billion for "domestic law enforcement, interdiction, and international drug control efforts," the drug war side of the federal drug budget.

"The FY 2021 budget request sends a strong message that, although we've seen signs of real progress, the Trump administration will not let up in our efforts to save American lives," Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Jim Carroll said in a statement accompanying the budget release. "Whether it is going after drug traffickers, getting people struggling with addiction the help they need, or stopping drug misuse before it starts, this budget request ensures our partners will have the resources needed to create safer and healthier communities across the nation."

But big talk notwithstanding, there's not really much of a bump for much-needed treatment. The budget would provide more than $14 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services for drug treatment funding, a 3% increase for the department and a 2.9% increase for treatment funding across the federal government. That includes $3.9 billion in drug treatment funding for the DEA for something outside its purview and for which it has not been previously funded.

There's another $2.135 billion for prevention, which we tend to think of mainly as educational efforts, but which the administration notes includes coercive and punitive "drug-free workplace programs" and "drug testing in various settings, including athletic activities, schools, and the workplace."

Ironically given ONDCP's role in rolling out the drug budget, the budget once again takes aim directly at ONDCP. Since the Bush administration, there have been efforts to eliminate or sideline ONDCP, and the Trump administration is back at it. This budget, if enacted, would slash the drug czar's office funding from the $261 million allocated this year to a measly $4.3 million next year, a whopping 98.4% reduction. Congress has so far always rejected such moves. The major part of that reduction results from the transfer of control over High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) funds from ONDCP to the DEA.

And speaking of the DEA and the prohibition enforcement fraction of the overall drug budget, DEA would see its budget increase to $3.1 billion, an increase of 15.8% over this year. More than half of that increase, though, comes from the transfer of those HIDTA funds from ONDCP.

Overall, domestic drug law enforcement spending would increase to $9.95 billion dollars, a jump of 0.9% over this year. That would include $3.4 billion to pay for housing federal drug war prisoners, $931 million for the US Marshals Service to catch more drug war fugitives, and more than half a billion dollars for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program, among other line items.

There's also $3.4 billion for the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection to "protect America's land, sea, and air borders from drug trafficking-related security threats." At the same time, though, the budget would reduce the Defense Department's drug interdiction activities -- think Coast Guard ships loaded with seized cocaine -- from $225 million to $109 million, a reduction of more than half.

But there's also international drug enforcement spending, and the Pentagon would get another $200 million for interdiction and counterdrug activities. That would be a dramatic 43% reduction from the $354 million appropriated this year.

The Justice Department, though, would see a 31% increase in its overseas spending, to just over half a billion dollars. The vast bulk of that funding -- $499.7 million -- would be destined for DEA overseas activities.

But the department with the biggest chunk of foreign drug war funding is State, which would see its Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement ("drugs and thugs") funded at $441 million, up 15% over this year. That includes things like trying to suppress the Afghan opium crop or the Colombian coca crop, tasks which have proven remarkably futile.

This is the Trump administration's drug war wish list. It is only a budget proposal and is unlikely to remain unchanged, and with keeping ONDCP active a long-running congressional priority, the radical reduction in its funding is one item that's likely to be amended. Still, the Congress has for years passed largely similar drug budgets, and this one will probably pass, too, without many substantial changes.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former DEA agent gets popped for helping a Colombian drug trafficker, a former Atlanta-area drug task force member goes to federal prison for stealing and reselling drugs from drug busts, and more. Let's get to it:

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, a former DEA special agent was arrested last Friday on charges he used cash seized during undercover drug operations to buy luxury goods, including jewelry, cars, and a house in Cartagena, Colombia, and engaged in money laundering with a Colombian drug trafficker. He is charged with conspiracy to launder money, honest services wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit identity theft and aggravated identity theft. His wife, who was also arrested, is charged with conspiracy to launder money. His charging indictment accuses him of "engaging in a corrupt scheme" and "enriching himself by secretly using his position and his special access to information to divert drug proceeds from DEA control to the control of himself and his co-conspirators."

In Cincinnati, a Cincinnati police officer was arrested last Friday on charges she outed an undercover officer to a nightclub owner targeted in a money laundering and drug trafficking investigation, as well as concealing $81,000 in off-duty income. Officer Quianna Campbell, 39, is charged with lying to federal agents and filing false income tax returns.

In North Charleston, South Carolina, a former North Charleston narcotics detective was arrested Tuesday officials said they found he provided information about another agency's investigations to a person involved in drug activity. Brett Bull, 33, allegedly sent text messages to that person, alerting him to drug operations being planned by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office and warning him to "stay away." He is charged withmisconduct in office and obstruction in connection to the incident.

In Atlanta, a former Gwinnet County drug task force member was sentenced Monday to 10 years in federal prison for stealing drugs off the street and then selling them. Antione Riggins, 41, pleaded guilty late last year to drug trafficking He admitted seizing narcotics, including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and oxycodone, while creating documents to try to cover up his tracks. In one case, he seized three pounds of cocaine from a high-speed crash, but only logged one into the evidence room. In another incident, Riggins was tasked with transporting 13 pounds of meth from an Atlanta hotel to the evidence room. None of the meth made it there. Three days after that 2017 incident, Riggins made off with more than eight pounds of heroin that were supposed to go to the evidence room.

Chronicle AM: Philly Safe Injection Site Gets Favorable Final Ruling, San Diego to Dismiss Pot Convictions, More... (2/26/20)

A federal judge has issued a final order saying a proposed Philadelphia safe injection site does not violate federal law, Kansas lawmakers vote to keep a third pot possession conviction a felony, the Virginia legislature has passed a smokeable hemp bill, and more.

The Mexican congress is on a path to legalize marijuana ahead of a Supreme Court-imposed April deadline. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Kansas Lawmakers Kill Bid to Lower Marijuana Penalties. The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee voted 7-4 Tuesday to reject House Bill 2686, which would have reduced third time simple pot possession from a felony to a misdemeanor and released people serving prison time for felony marijuana possession. I thought this was mild enough that it might get through the committee," said Democratic Rep. Boog Highberger, of Lawrence, home to the liberal University of Kansas main campus. "I can't explain it." But Republican committee members said it was a step toward legalization, which they don't support.

San Diego DA Files Motion to Reduce and Dismiss Marijuana Convictions.The San Diego County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday that it has filed a motion to reduce nearly 25,962 felony marijuana convictions to misdemeanors, while also moving to dismiss 1,040 misdemeanor marijuana convictions completely. The office said it had already reduced or dismissed more than 1,600 marijuana-related convictions since 2016, when Proposition 64 was voted into law, legalizing recreational marijuana use in California. The DA's Office's reduction and dismissal motions are pending review by a judge.

Hemp

Virginia Lawmakers Pass Smokeable Hemp Bill. The Senate voted 37-3 Tuesday to approve House Bill 962, which clarifies that smokeable hemp products can lawfully be sold to people 21 and over. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Harm Reduction

Philadelphia Safe Injection Site Gets Final Approval from Federal Judge. A federal judge Tuesday issued a final order in a case where he earlier ruled that a proposed safe injection in the city would not violate federal law. The final order upholds that previous ruling and clears the way for the nonprofit group Safehouse to move forward with opening the site. The Trump administration had challenged the legality of the harm reduction measure and could still appeal the ruling, but Safehouse says it is moving forward anyway.

International

Mexican Congress Moving Closer to Marijuana Legalization. Sen. Ricardo Monreal of the ruling MORENA Party said Monday that marijuana legalization is "on track" and that several congressional committees are meeting this week to work on the issue. Four committees were set to meet to review a draft bill Wednesday. The congress is working under an April Supreme Court deadline to get legalization done.

Chronicle AM: Colombia Coca Moves, VT Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Advances, More... (2/25/20)

A Vermont bill to tax and regulate marijuana sales heads for a House floor vote, a potential Ohio marijuana legalization initiative campaign emerges, Israel's embattled prime minister says his government is open to marijuana legalization, and more.

A Colombian peasant working the coca fields. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Poll Has Slim Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Minnesota Public Radio and the Minneapolis Star Tribune has support for marijuana legalization at 51%, with 37% opposed. The poll comes after House Democrats last month revealed plans for a marijuana legalization bill. That bill faces tough prospects in the Republican-led Senate, though.

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Emerges. Some state medical marijuana growers are among a new coalition working on putting a marijuana legalization initiative before the voters in November. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow people 21 and over to buy, possess, and consume up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants. Existing medical marijuana businesses would get the first shot at the market, with state regulators deciding later on whether to issue additional licenses. Not all of the medical marijuana sector is behind the move, though.

Vermont Marijuana Sales Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill to legalize and tax marijuana sales, Senate Bill 54, is now set for a House floor vote after winning the approval of the House Appropriations Committee on a 6-5 vote. The House floor vote should come later this week. The Senate passed the bill last year, but because of changes in the House, differences will have to be settled through a conference committee.

Sentencing Policy

Colorado Bill to Reverse Drug Defelonization Gets Hearing Thursday. The House Judiciary Committee will hear a bill Thursday that seeks to undo a law passed last year that changed drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors. House Bill 20-150 seeks to undo the sentencing reform before it takes effect next month.

International

Colombia Ends Crop Substitution Monitoring Program with UN. The Colombian government has ended its cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in monitoring coca crop substitution, a program the government of President Ivan Duque said it wanted to end. But ending the program would put the government out of compliance with its 2016 peace deal with leftist FARC guerrillas, so the government backed away from that. But refusing to monitor the program would block the UNODC from evaluating the effectiveness of planned forced coca eradication, recently announced by Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and supported by the Trump administration. Previous UNODC reports have found that only a tiny 0.4% of voluntary eradicated crops had been replanted, while the number for forcibly eradicated crops was 80%, making the program quite ineffective.

Colombia Launches Military Push Against FARC Dissidents in National Parks. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday the military will step up an offensive against FARC dissidents who have again taken up arms and are overseeing the clearing of thousands of acres of land in national parks for coca cultivation. Trujillo claimed the FARC dissidents were forcing peasants to clear the land and "commit a massacre against nature."

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Says His Government is Exploring Marijuana Legalization. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday his government is exploring legalizing recreational marijuana and is looking at Canada as a model. He said Justice Minister Amir Ohana "has begun work on the issue, and he will head a committee including professionals and Oren Leibovich, chairman of the [pro-legalization] Green Leaf Party, that will investigate importing the Canadian model for regulation of a legal market in Israel." Netanyahu, who is struggling to maintain power, has gone through two indecisive elections since last April and faces a third next month.

Chronicle AM: Liz Warren Releases Marijuana Plan, WVA Bill Would Hike Meth Sentences, More... (2/24/20)

Elizabeth Warren rolls out a plan for a just and equitable marijuana industry, a Hawaii bill would protect medical marijuana patients from being fired or not hired because of positive drug tests, and more.

Elizabeth Warren. (Tim PierceCreative Commons) https://www.flickr.com/photos/qwrrty/815200
Marijuana Policy

Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan for Just and Equitable Marijuana Industry. Democratic presidential contender and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has released her plan for a Just and Equitable Cannabis Industry. The plan calls for passage of a marijuana legalization bill similar to the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, the appointment of law enforcement agency heads who support legalization, the expungement of past marijuana convictions, and protections for immigrants, among other provisions.  

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Bill to Protect Patients' Employment Rights Advances. A bill that would protect medical marijuana cardholders from being fired or not hired because they tested positive for marijuana is advancing in the legislature. Instead of a drug test, cardholders could undergo a "fit-for-duty" test that measure impairment, not metabolites. The bill excludes law enforcement and prison guards, other public safety workers, and health care workers who administer drugs to patients. The state Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee and the state Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill Friday with some amendments. It now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Kratom

Missouri House Passes Kratom Regulation Bill. The House has approved House Bill 2061, which would require more regulation for kratom products. The bill creates the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which orders "sellers of kratom products to ensure that their products are not adulterated with dangerous substances." The bill would also ban the sale of kratom to people under 18. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Methamphetamine

West Virginia Bill Would Increase Meth Sentences. The Senate last Thursday approved Senate Bill 502, which would increase sentences for methamphetamine offenses to make them as severe as those for narcotics offenses. Under current law, meth possession can net up to five years, but under this bill that would rise to 15 years. Sponsor Sen. Sen. William Ihlenfeld (D), a former U.S. attorney, said that law enforcement and prosecutors told him that increasing sentences would have "a positive effect" in deterring meth-related crime. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is already being taken up in the House.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: KY House Passes MedMJ Bill, DEA Announces New Anti-Meth Operation, More... (2/21/20)

A new poll shows Florida voters strongly support marijuana legalization, the DEA announces Operation Crystal Shield, the drug czar announces this year's version of a border strategy, and more.

The DEA announces a new operation targeting meth "transport hubs." (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the University of North Florida Public Opinion Lab and First Coast News has support for marijuana legalization in the Sunshine State at 64%. The poll asked whether respondents would support allowing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to be legally purchased, possessed, transported, displayed and used. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Democrats supported legalization, and even a majority (52%) of Republicans did, too.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky House Approves Medical Marijuana. The House voted 65-30 Thursday to approve HB 136, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state, but not in smokable form. The bill must pass the state senate and be signed by Gov. Andy Beshear (D) before it becomes law.

Methamphetamine

DEA Announces Launch of Operation Crystal Shield, Will Target Meth Transport Hubs. DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon announced Thursday that the DEA will direct enforcement resources to methamphetamine “transportation hubs” — areas where methamphetamine is often trafficked in bulk and then distributed across the country. While continuing to focus on stopping drugs being smuggled across the border, DEA’s Operation Crystal will target eight major methamphetamine transportation hubs: Atlanta, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, and St. Loius. Together, these DEA Field Divisions accounted for more than 75% of methamphetamine seized in the U.S. in 2019.

Drug Policy

White House Releases National Drug Interdiction Plan, Border Strategies. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Jim Carroll on Thursday released the National Interdiction Command and Control Plan (NICCP), which outlines the Trump Administration’s interdiction strategy to reduce the availability of illicit drugs in the United States. The plan includes both a southwestern border strategy and a northern border strategy. "Almost all of the drugs killing thousands of Americans originate from outside the United States. The Plan demonstrates how close coordination across Federal, State, territorial, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies is crucial to stopping these deadly drugs from coming into our country and making their way into our communities," ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said.

Chronicle AM: NH House Approves Legal Pot Bill, DC Psychedelic Decrim Init Advances, More... (2/20/20)

New Hampshire could be the next state to legalize marijuana after the House approves it, an Alabama medical marijuana bill advances, and so does the DC psychedelic decriminalization initiative.

The DC psychedelic decriminalization initiative takes another step forward. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Must Be "Kept Illegal," Trump Campaign Spokesman Says. A top Trump campaign aide said in an interview Wednesday that the administration's policy is that marijuana and other illegal drugs should remain illegal. "I think what the president is looking at is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent of a young person to make sure that we keep our kids away from drugs," said Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for the Trump 2020 effort. "They need to be kept illegal,"he said. "That is the federal policy."

Colorado Bill to Protect Workers Who Use Marijuana on Their Own Time Fails. A bill aimed at barring employers from firing workers who use marijuana during their off-work hours has been killed amid business concerns over workplace safety and the inability of drug tests to actually determine impairment. House Bill 1089 was defeated unanimously in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. It didn't mention marijuana by name, but would have changed state law to allow for activities deemed illegal under federal law but that are legal under state law.

New Hampshire House Passes Limited Marijuana Legalization Bill.  The House on Thursday voted 236-112 to approve a limited marijuana legalization bill, HB 1648. The bill would legalize the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of weed by adults and allow for the home cultivation of up to six plants (three mature ones), but not allow for taxed and regulated sales. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate Committee Advances Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 165, on an 8-1 vote Wednesday, clearing the way for a Senate floor vote on it. The bill would create the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee and regulate a system of dispensaries and cultivators. The Senate approved a similar bill last year, only to have the House amend it into only a study commission. This year's bill is based on a recommendation by that commission. It now heads for a Senate floor vote.  

Psychedelics

Washington, DC, Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative Ballot Title Approved. The DC Board of Elections on Tuesday approved the short title and summary statement for the proposed psychedelic decriminalization initiative, another step on getting the measure before the voters in November. The initiative doesn't change local laws regarding natural psychedelics, but calls for making offenses involving those substances the lowest law enforcement priority and calls on the DC attorney general and the District’s federal prosecutor to end prosecutions of such offenses. The initiative is now called the "Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020." The short title and summary will be published in the DC Register next week, following which point a 10-day challenge period will be opened. After the close of the comment period on March 9, the panel will then the hold another meeting to give final approval to the language. Once the title and summary get final approval, organizers will have to collect about 25,000 valid signatures from voters within 180 days in order to qualify for the November ballot.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Medical Marijuana Update

A Pennsylvania patient fights for access to public housing, and state legislatures are back in session with medical marijuana on the agenda -- for better and for worse.

Alabama

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) has filed Senate Bill 154 to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill is based on a study done by a commission of doctors, lawyers, and legislators. Melson was chair of that commission. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. Patients who don't suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Arizona

Arizona Lawmakers Seek 2% THC Cap for Medical Marijuana. Fifteen House Republicans have cosponsored a bill HCR 2045, that would amend the state's medical marijuana program by putting a 2% THC limit on medical marijuana. Currently, there is no limit on THC. The measure would also provide grants from the state's medical marijuana fund to conduct research on the relationship between marijuana and violence and marijuana and schizophrenia.

Kentucky

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted last Wednesday to approve House Bill 136, which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from conditions that would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

New Mexico

New Mexico Legislature Passes Bill to End Limit Patient Enrollment to State Residents. A bill that would bar out-of-state people from enrolling the state's medical marijuana program has passed out of the legislature and is headed to the desk of Gov. Michelle Grisham Lujan (D), who has said she supports it. State officials said they feared allowing out-of-state enrollment could lead to federal interference in the program. Bill supporters said the state's reciprocity program would allow residents of other states that allowed medical marijuana to participate, but the state hasn't even set the rules for reciprocity yet. They are due by March 1. There are currently more than 600 non-New Mexico residents enrolled in the program.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Patient Fights for Right to Stay in Public Housing. Medical marijuana patient Mary Cease has no criminal record and a low income, but the Housing Authority of Indiana County has twice denied her application for Section 8 housing because Section 8 is a federal program and federal law considers marijuana to be illegal, period. She sued and lost in the Court of Common Pleas last April, but has appealed, and last Thursday, a panel of three Commonwealth Court judges heard oral arguments in her case. Her attorneys asked them to reverse the lower court decision and order Indiana County to give her access to Section 8 housing. No decision is expected for weeks, and final resolution of the case could take months.

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) has filed Senate Bill 154 to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill is based on a study done by a commission of doctors, lawyers, and legislators. Melson was chair of that commission. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. patients who don't suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 136, which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from conditions that would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) has filed Senate Bill 154 to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill is based on a study done by a commission of doctors, lawyers, and legislators. Melson was chair of that commission. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. patients who don't suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 136, which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from conditions that would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) has filed Senate Bill 154 to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill is based on a study done by a commission of doctors, lawyers, and legislators. Melson was chair of that commission. Smokable and vaping marijuana products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. Patients suffering from several conditions, including seizures, anxiety, autism, nausea, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder could qualify for cards. patients who don't suffer from any of the conditions listed in the bill could appeal to a board for special consideration.

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 136, which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from conditions that would be determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Chronicle AM: Bloomberg Says Decriminalize Weed, GA Hemp/Marijuana Bill, AZ MedMJ THC Limits Bill, More... (2/19/20)

Michael Bloomberg goes as far as calling for marijuana decriminalization, a Georgia bill would let police anyone for possession of green leafy substances even if they can't say whether it's hemp or marijuana, and more. 

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg come out for marijuana decriminalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michael Bloomberg Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization. Former New York City mayor and billionaire Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg formalized his approach to marijuana Tuesday, calling for decriminalization as part of a broader criminal justice platform. But his one-paragraph policy is short on details. It says he would decriminalize "small amounts" of weed and commute sentences for certain convictions. It also says legalization should be left up to the states "for the moment."

Connecticut Clergy Rally for Marijuana Legalization. Local clergy spoke Tuesday in support of Gov. Ned Lamont's (D) push to legalize marijuana at a press conference organized by the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. Prominent leaders such as the Rev. Charlie L. Stallworth of the East End Baptist Tabernacle Church in Bridgeport and the Rev. Edwin Pérez of the United Church of Christ in West Hartford were joined by the Rev. Alexander Sharp of Illinois, executive director of national reform group Clergy for a New Drug Policy, who said legalization would reduce needless arrests and "provide jobs in communities ravaged by the failed war on drugs.”

Georgia Bill Would Allow Police to Make Arrests for Hemp or Marijuana. A bill that would let police arrest people for possession of small amounts of green, leafy substances even if they can't tell whether it's legal hemp or illegal marijuana has passed the House Agriculture Committee and is now headed for a House floor vote. The measure, House Bill 847, is an attempt to allow police to enforce marijuana laws after the federal and state governments legalized hemp. But Mazie Lynn Causey, a lobbyist for the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said if police wanted to enforce marijuana laws, they needed to prove the substance in question was indeed marijuana. “What’s happening here is the criminalizing of a legal substance,” Causey said. “What this bill does is it treats hemp as marijuana for the purposes of prosecution.”

Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny County) has filed another marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 2050 (not yet available on the legislative website). He says it's an improved version of a bill that he filed last year. That bill didn't move, and this one isn't likely to, either. It's headed to the House Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren), who opposes legalization and says she has no plans to move this bill in committee, either.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Lawmakers Seek 2% THC Cap for Medical Marijuana. Fifteen House Republicans have cosponsored a bill, HCR 2045, that would amend the state’s medical marijuana program by putting a 2% THC limit on medical marijuana. Currently, there is no limit on THC. The measure would also provide grants from the state's medical marijuana fund to conduct research on the relationship between marijuana and violence and marijuana and schizophrenia.

New Mexico Legislature Passes Bill to End Limit Patient Enrollment to State Residents. A bill that would bar out-of-state people from enrolling the state's medical marijuana program has passed out of the legislature and is headed to the desk of Gov. Michelle Grisham Lujan (D), who has said she supports it. State officials said they feared allowing out-of-state enrollment could lead to federal interference in the program. Bill supporters said the state's reciprocity program would allow residents of other states that allowed medical marijuana to participate, but the state hasn't even set the rules for reciprocity yet. They are due by March 1. There are currently more than 600 non-New Mexico residents enrolled in the program.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: OK Bills Would Legalize Needle Exchanges, HI Defelonization Bill Advances, More... (2/18/20)

Rhode Island sees marijuana expungement and drug possession expungement bills filed, a Vermont poll shows strong support for legalizing and regulating marijuana sales as the House takes up the issue, a Hawaii drug defelonization bill has been filed, and more.

Oklahoma legislators are pondering a pair of needle exchange bills this year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Marijuana Offense Expungement Bill Filed. A bill aiming to remove barriers for people previously convicted of marijuana offenses have been filed in the legislature. Rep. Anastasia Williams (D) has filed HB 7142 to allow people "previously convicted of marijuana possession, which would now constitute a decriminalized offense, to have their records for those convictions automatically expunged regardless of their criminal history." The House Judiciary Committee last week ordered the bill held for further study.

Vermont Poll Shows Very Strong Support for Legal, Regulated Marijuana Sales.  A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project found that an overwhelming 76% of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses. These results are significant as they come days before the Vermont House is expected to vote on SB 54, a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales in the state. The bill passed the Senate nearly a year ago.

Washington House Passes Bill to Address Racial Inequities in Marijuana Licensing. The House on Sunday approved HB 2870, which aims to address racial inequity within the legal marijuana industry by allowing applicants of a new social equity program to be issued previously forfeited, canceled and revoked retail licenses. That new program would consider the applicant's race and gender, history of marijuana convictions, and plans to employ people of color, as well as the impact the war on drugs had on their neighborhood. There are currently 13 licenses not being used. The bill would also establish a marijuana social equity task force to recommend whether more licenses should be issued. The bill is now in the Senate and must be passed out of committee by February 28.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Filed. Along with Mississippi and South Dakota, Idaho is one of only three states that have not legalized hemp, but that could change after a pair of Republican state representatives filed a bill that would legalize it. A similar bill has already been filed in the Senate.

Drug Policy

Hawaii Drug Defelonization Bill Advances. A bill that would make it a misdemeanor instead of a felony to be caught with less than two grams of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 2793 still needs to be approved in the Senate Public Safety Committee before heading to a Senate floor vote.

Rhode Island Drug Possession Expungement Bill Filed. Rep. Jason Knight (D) has filed HB 7091, which makes peopleconvicted of felony simple possession of a controlled substance eligible for expungement five years after completion of their sentence. The act also repeals the requirement that those seeking expungement pay a fee to the court. The House Judiciary Committee last week ordered the bill held for further study.

Harm Reduction

Oklahoma Bill Would Legalize Needle Exchanges. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is proposing legalizing needle exchanges in a bid to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. SB 1346 from Sen. Carri Hicks (D-Oklahoma City) would would allow governmental or nongovernmental entities to operate needle exchange programs. It would also remove needles from the state's drug paraphernalia laws. The bill must pass through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee before heading for a floor vote. In the House, Rep. Carol Bush (R-Tulsa) has filed HB 3028, which would allow state agencies, county health departments, private businesses, nonprofit entities and churches to operate needle exchange programs so long as the programs aren’t paid for with state funding. That bill passed the House Appropriations Committee last Thursday.

Chronicle AM: Mexico Legal Pot Bill Set to Move, Los Angeles DA Clears 66,000 Pot Convictions, More... (2/14/20)

The clock is ticking on getting marijuana legalization done in Mexico, a Pennsylvania patient fights for the right to have access to public housing, the LA DA clears 66,000 old pot convictions, and more.

Marijuana legalization draws ever nearer in Mexico. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Announces Planned Marijuana Legalization Bill. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D), who filed an unsuccessful legalization bill last year, has announced in a letter to colleagues that he will try again this year. Wheatley's bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, with a 10% wholesale tax on business-to-business transactions and a 6% retail sales tax that would rise to 12% after two years and 19% after another two years. The bill would also expunge past marijuana convictions and promote social equity and restorative justice.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Clears 66,000 Marijuana Convictions. District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Thursday that she had secured the dismissal of some 62,000 felony marijuana convictions and 4,000 misdemeanor convictions. Her announcement came after she filed motions last week to erase those convictions and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Samuel Ohta signed the order on Tuesday.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Patient Fights for Right to Stay in Public Housing. Medical marijuana patient Mary Cease has no criminal record and a low income, but the Housing Authority of Indiana County has twice denied her application for Section 8 housing because Section 8 is a federal program and federal law considers marijuana to be illegal, period. She sued and lost in the Court of Common Pleas last April, but has appealed, and on Thursday, a panel of three Commonwealth Court judges heard oral arguments in her case. Her attorneys asked them to reverse the lower court decision and order Indiana County to give her access to Section 8 housing. No decision is expected for weeks, and final resolution of the case could take months.

International

Key Mexican Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Bill Will Be Approved This Month. Sen. Julio Menchaca of the ruling MORENA Party and head of the Senate Justice Committee said a bill to legalize marijuana was "already circulated to members" of key legislative panels and that "we hope to get it out in the Senate this month." Under a Supreme Court ruling, the Congress has until April to get it done. If the bill indeed passes the Senate this month, it would still have to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies.

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