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Chronicle AM: NM Legal Pot Bill Shot Down; AL, OH Synthetic Urine Criminalization Bills Advance, More... (2/13/20)

Today, New Mexico is the Land of Disenchantment, a Kentucky medical marijuana bill advances, synthetic urine prohibition bills advance in Alabama and Ohio, and more.

Some states are moving to criminalize using synthetic urine to thwart drug tests. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Defeated in Committee. A bill backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) to legalize marijuana was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-4 vote after committee Chairman Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) harshly criticized it. That means the effort to pass SB 115 is likely dead for the year. There are only days left in the legislature's 30-day short session.

Medical Marijuana

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.

Drug Testing

Alabama Bill to Criminalize Synthetic Urine for Drug Tests Advances. A bill that would make it a crime to use or distribute synthetic urine to thwart drug tests has passed the House. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Ohio Bill to Criminalize Synthetic Urine for Drug Tests Advances. A bill that would make it a crime to use or distribute synthetic urine to thwart drug tests has passed the Ohio Senate. The measure, SB 156, now heads to the House.

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Passes Legislature, Trump Budget Would Shift Colombia Aid Priorities, More... (2/12/20)

The Virginia legislature passes marijuana decriminalization, a Kentucky medical marijuana bill heads for a House floor vote, a South Dakota hemp bill passes the House, and more.

The Trump administration is eyeing Colombian coca and cocaine production in its new budget. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Legislature Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill; Governor Expected to Sign. Hours after the House of Delegates approved decriminalization Tuesday, the state Senate followed suit by approving its own version of the bill, SB 2. Governor Ralph Northam (D) has said he would sign such a bill, but it first needs to go to conference committee to settle minor differences between the House and Senate versions.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky House Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The House Judiciary Committee voted 17-1 Wednesday to approve  HB 136, which would allow for the use of medical marijuana for certain debilitating medical conditions. The measure now heads for a House floor vote. A similar bill was approved by the committee last year, but never got a floor vote. This year, 51 of the state's 100 representatives are cosponsors.

Hemp

South Dakota House Passes Hemp Bill with No Debate. The House passed a bill to legalize industrial hemp cultivation, HB 1008, with a two-thirds majority after hearing no debate at all. It now goes to the Senate. If that body also passes it by a two-thirds majority and Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signs it into law, an emergency clause would go into effect allowing state farmers to grow a crop this year.

Foreign Policy

Trump Budget Proposal Would Slash Colombia Development Aid, Boost Ant-Drug Funding. President Trump's new federal budget proposal would slash economic assistance to Colombia by nearly $70 million while at the same time nearly doubling anti-drug funding from $125 million this year to $237.5 million for the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1. The budget proposal says the funding is needed to fight "threats posed by sharp increases in coca cultivation."

International

Croatia Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. A Croatian lawmaker has introduced a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis sales and permit adults to grow up to nine marijuana plants for personal use. Mirela Holy, head of the Social Democratic Party's Green Development Council filed the bill and said it will be subject to first public and then parliamentary debate. The country has decriminalized pot possession and legalized medical marijuana in 2015, but marijuana sales remains a felony with a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence.

Chronicle AM: Trump Anti-Drug Budget Released, MT and ND Legal Pot Inits See Changes, More... (2/11/20)

The president praises authoritarian governments that quickly execute drug dealers, the White House releases the annual anti-drug budget, a North Dakota pot legalization initiative extends its signature gathering drive, and more. 

President Trump has a soft spot for authoritarian countries that execute drug dealers. (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Initiative Committee Removes Medical Marijuana Changes from Marijuana Legalization Initiative. New Approach Montana, which is proposing a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives, has revised one of them after state officials raised concerns that its statutory initiative provision lowering the tax on medical marijuana would violate the rule that initiatives only deal with a single subject. New Approach has now removed that language; the changes are reflected in the current version of the initiative.

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Shifts from June Ballot Effort to November. The North Dakota Freedom of Cannabis Act campaign, which seeks to pass a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment has announced it will no longer seek a place on the June ballot, but is now aiming at November. The move came Tuesday, the final day to hand in signatures to qualify for the June ballot. By shifting to the later election date, the campaign gives itself an additional four months to come up with more signatures. It needs 26,904 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot and only had 18,000 raw signatures so far.

Medical Marijuana

Trump's FY 2021 Budget Would Remove Protection for Medical Marijuana States. As part of its just released fiscal year 2021 budget, the Trump administration is proposing an existing policy that protects state medical marijuana programs from Justice Department meddling. Since 2014, Congress has approved a rider in the department's appropriations bill that blocks it from spending funds to do so, but the Senate failed to approve it last year.

Drug Courts

Alabama Report Calls for Statewide Standards for Drug Courts. The legal advocacy group Alabama Appleseed has released a report that examined diversion programs in the state, including the resort to drug courts, and recommends that lawmakers establish uniform statewide standards for such programs, which the report found varied wildly from county to county. "We hope this report will provide a road map for tackling some really tough issues in a smarter way. We hear so much about the opioid crisis, and it is real and it devastates family and communities. We hear so much about the horrors and the violence in our prisons," said Appleseed Executive Director Carla Crowder. "If more people could be treated outside of prison for substance use issues, we could find a way to make these opportunities work for the people who need them most. It could make a difference in two huge and sometimes seemingly overwhelming issues in this state."

Drug Policy

Trump Praises China's "Powerful" Death Penalty for Drug Dealers. At a meeting with US governors at the White House Monday, President Donald Trump responded to a question about fentanyl imported from China by praising Chinese President Xi Jingping's decision to criminalize the drug and execute drug dealers. "Now they've put it into their criminal statutes. And criminal in China for drugs by the way means that's serious, they're getting a maximum penalty," said Trump. "And you know what the maximum penalty is in China for that, and it goes very quickly." He then praised countries that execute drug dealers after "fair but quick" trials: "It's interesting. Where you have Singapore, they have very little drug problem. Where you have China, they have very little drug problem," Trump said. "States with a very powerful death penalty on drug dealers don't have a drug problem. I don't know that our country is ready for that, but if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty... with a fair but quick trial, they have very little, if any drug problem."

Trump Drug Budget Continues to Grow; Treatment and Prevention Funds Barely Exceed Enforcement and Interdiction Funds. The White House has released the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Drug Control Budget, which requests $35.7 billion for counter-drug efforts, an increase of $94 million from the previous year. 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. 

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Passes House, Nepalese Communists Say Free the Weed, More... (2/10/20)

Colorado activists want to de-legalize weed, Nepalese communists want to re-legalize weed, the Afghan and US governments spar over opium production, and more. 

Sadhus sharing cannabis at Nepal's festival of Shiva. The communist government is moving to re-legalize the herb. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Initiative Would Undo Marijuana Legalization. A pair of activist attorneys have filed Ballot Proposal #249, which would repeal the section of the state constitution that legalizes marijuana. The proposal is only four sentences long, with the key sentence being: "Article XVIII, Section 16 of the Colorado Constitution (Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana) is repealed." The proposal does not seek to change the status quo around legal medical marijuana and hemp. It is currently being reviewed by Legislative Council Staff before heading to the secretary of state's office for title review. Only slightly more than one-third of voters polled in 2016 (the most recent data) supported reversing legalization.

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Passes House, Needs One More Vote in Senate. The House has approved HB 972, which would make simple pot possession an infraction punishable by no more than a $25 fine. Under current state law, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense. The bill also ends driver's license suspensions for adults and treats hash oil like marijuana, instead of the Schedule I substance it is currently considered. The Senate version  of the bill also advanced, passing the Finance and Appropriations Committee with a vote 12-3. It now heads for a final Senate floor vote.

International

ONDCP Releases Data on Poppy Cultivation and Potential Opium Production in Afghanistan. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office) has released the results of the annual US Government estimate measuring poppy cultivation and potential opium production in Afghanistan. The US government estimate found poppy cultivation decreased in 2019 compared to 2018, but potential pure opium production increased.  Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan declined 28 percent, from 221,000 hectares in 2018 to 160,000 hectares in 2019.  Conversely, potential pure opium production increased by 21 percent, from 5,550 metric tons in 2018 to 6,700 metric tons in 2019.  Low opium prices at planting time drove the decline in cultivation.  The rise in potential pure production is a direct result of favorable weather and harvesting conditions.

Afghanistan Interior Ministry Denies ONDCP Opium Report. The Ministry of the Interior has challenged the ONDCP report about a surge of Afghan opium production, saying there has been a significant reduction in drug production in the county because counter-narcotics police have conducted "several raids to destroy it." Officials also cited tighter border controls. "I can assure you about reduction of narcotic products. There are several reasons behind it, the night raids, draught, and narcotics price has downed and recently poppy cultivation in Iraq has scaled up," added Deputy Ministry of Counter Narcotics Najibullah Ahmadi.

Colombia Sets Goal of Eradicating 320,000 Acres of Coca This Year. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday that Colombia hopes to eradicate some 321,237 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca this year. Tools to achieve that goal could include the aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate. The country is under constant pressure from the US, the principal market for Colombian cocaine, to reduce coca cultivation. Last year, Colombia destroyed about 250,000 acres of coca using manual eradication. Aerial spraying of glyphosate was banned in 2015, but President Ivan Duque's government is working to get around that ban and reintroduce the practice.

Nepal's Ruling Communist Party Proposes Marijuana Legalization. Lawmakers from the ruling Communist Party have proposed legalizing marijuana in the country, which has a long history of use. Some 46 members of the party filed the proposal in the parliament. "Legalizing marijuana will help the poor farmers and since most of the Western world, which was reason for making it illegal in the first place, have already ended the prohibition, Nepal should also lift the ban," lawmaker Birod Khatiwada said Monday. Marijuana was only criminalized in 1976 under Western pressure after Nepal developed a reputation as a cannabis-friendly destination on the counter-cultural hippie trail in the 1960s.

Chronicle AM: SF to Open Street Meth Center, Filipino Top Cop Says Bloody Drug War Failed, More... (2/7/20)

Connecticut top lawmakers roll out the governor's marijuana legalization bill, San Francisco moves to open a street meth treatment facility in the Tenderloin, and more. 

An all-female hemp field. South Dakota could be the next state to legalize industrial hemp production. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Top Lawmakers File Governor's Marijuana Legalization Bill. Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D) and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D) on Thursday filed the "Governor's Bill" (SB 16) to legalize marijuana. The measure supported by Gov. Ned Lamont (D) would allow people 21 and over to possess and buy up to an ounce and a half of weed from a licensed retailer. The measure also includes several social equity provisions, including expungement, allowing those with past convictions to work in the industry, and language that would support businesses operated by people from communities most harmed by the drug war. The bill will now be heard by the Joint Judiciary Committee.

Hemp

South Dakota Hemp Bill Advances. A bill to legalize the growth and transportation of hemp in the state, HB1008B, passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee Thursday morning. The bill was first heavily amended by a skeptical Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who vetoed a similar bill last year. The measure now heads for a House floor vote.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco to Open Street Meth Treatment Center. The city is set to open a center for people experiencing methamphetamine-induced psychosis in the Tenderloin neighborhood later this spring. The 24-hour center, to be located on a city-operated parking lot, is aimed at getting people off the streets and connecting them with treatment and other services. It will include two tents housing 15 beds each.

International

Philippines Drug War Enforcement Chief Says "Shock and Awe" Campaign Has Failed. Coloneal Romeo Caramat, head of drug enforcement for the Philippine National Police, has said the President Rodrigo Duterte's ultra-violent drug war has not been effective. "Shock and awe definitely did not work, he told Reuters. "Drug supply is still rampant. Crime has declined somewhat, he added, but drug users can still buy drugs "anytime, anywhere" in the country. A Duterte spokesman declined to comment on Caramat's remarks, but last month said "we are winning the war on drugs."

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Heads for House Floor Vote, Thai Opium Cultivation Declines, More... (2/6/20)

Marijuana decriminalization is moving in Virginia, medical marijuana home cultivation is moving in New Hampshire, a class action lawsuit goes after Detroit-area car seizures, and more.

There are fewer of these in Thailand these days. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor Renews Marijuana Legalization Pledge in Budget Proposal and Speech. In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) reiterated his call for marijuana legalization. He also put money where his mouth is by including funding for a legal marijuana regulatory framework in the budget proposal submitted to legislators. He also called for regional coordination in marijuana legalization. "The patchwork of cannabis and vaping laws are impossible to enforce. We will work with our neighboring states to make our laws safe, uniform, and enforceable. Like it or not, legalized marijuana is a short drive away in Massachusetts and New York is soon to follow," he added. "Right now do you realize that what you can buy legally in Massachusetts right across the border can land you in prison here in Connecticut for up to a year?"

Virginia General Assembly Blocks Marijuana Legalization, But Advances Decriminalization Bill. The House Courts of Justice Committee voted Wednesday to refer three marijuana legalization bills for study, effectively killing them for this session. At the same time, the committee voted to approve a decriminalization bill, HB 972, setting it up for a House floor vote. Similar legislation is also moving in the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation Bill. The state Senate Thursday approved a bill that would allow patients and caregivers to grow their own medicine. SB 420 now heads to the House, which has passed similar legislation with strong support. The bill allows for the cultivation of three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) vetoed a similar bill last year. The House voted to override his veto, but the Senate fell three votes short of doing so.

Asset Forfeiture

Class Action Lawsuit Targets Detroit Car Seizures. A class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Detroit Wednesday accuses the Wayne County Sheriff's Office of seizing thousands of cars and other property belonging to residents who have not committed crimes in violation of their constitutional rights. "Innocent property owners find themselves ensnared in this system," the lawsuit asserts, leaving them to face the "permanent loss of their car or other property, even when someone else is alleged to have committed a crime without the property owner's knowledge or consent." The lawsuit was filed by the libertarian Institute for Justice.

Drug Testing

Ohio Supreme Court to Decide Whether Worker Drug Testing That Exposed Genitals Invades Privacy. The state Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a case where workers at the company Sterilite had their genitals viewed during random drug tests. Four employees of the company sued claiming an invasion of privacy. The case was originally thrown out by a Stark County Common Pleas judge in 2017, but both sides appealed, and the case is now before the state's high court. Employees at the company were asked to submit to "direct observation" random drug tests where drug test administrators watched their groin areas while they produced urine specimens. Two of the plaintiffs were fired because they didn't provide a urine sample within the two-and-a-half hours allotted, according to court records. The original lawsuit seeks reinstatement with back pay for some of the plaintiffs. All four plaintiffs are seeking damages to compensate for pain, suffering and embarrassment.

International

Nigerian Governor Lobbies President to Legalize Marijuana. Ondo State Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu met with President Buhari on Tuesday and renewed his call for marijuana legalization. He argued that legalization would bring economic and health benefits to the country. "It's not because I take it; I take CBD, that's the oil, for medical purposes. I am convinced about the use to which we can put marijuana," Akeredolu said. "I know of the fact because we had to bring in experts, who have gone round and believe that the strain of marijuana that we grow in Ogbese in Ondo State is the best in the world. So, if you have that then a government must find a way to put it into good use. Our own is that the pathway to growing marijuana is for medical reasons, not for anybody to smoke."

Thai Opium Cultivation Keeps Declining, UNODC Says. Opium cultivation dropped last year, continuing a downward trend that began in 2014, according to a new UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey. The amount of land cultivated with poppies dropped 11% last year, down to about 80,000 acres. UNODC said that "the highest levels of cultivation continue to take place in unstable and conflict prone areas of Shan and Kachin." Production now is less than one-fifth it was at its peak in 1996.

Medical Marijuana Update

The fight over medical marijuana in Alabama heats up, a Pennsylvania court sides with a worker fired over legal medical marijuana use, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Attorney General Opposes Medical Marijuana Bill. While the legislature is once again set to take up a medical marijuana bill supported by 12 of 18 members of the Medical Cannabis Study Commission, Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) has now come out against it. He wrote a three-page letter urging lawmakers to oppose the bill this session.

Montana

Montana Posts Medical Marijuana Rules. The state Department of Health and Human Services has posted rules that make changes to the state's medical marijuana system, including a new fee structure and a license structure based on the provider's growing space. The rules are designed to implement a new medical marijuana law the legislature approved last year. The rules are open for public comment until the end of the month.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Court Allows Medical Pot User to Proceed with Wrongful Termination Suit. In a recent decision, Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas ruled that the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act creates a right to sue for wrongful termination and that a worker who claims to have been fired for medical marijuana use authorized by that law can bring a claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Legislators End Bid to Regulate Medical Marijuana Outlets. Lawmakers voted Tuesday in unanimous votes on identical bills in both houses to remove the "legislative veto" language over medical marijuana and hemp regulations that was included in the state budget. They have backed down from a fight with Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) over who will control licensing of six new medical marijuana dispensaries.

Chronicle AM: DC Psychedelic Initiative Advances, VT Legal Pot Sales Bill Moves Again, More... (2/5/20)

Vermont's House is moving on a legal marijuana sales bill approved last year by the Senate, Rhode Island legislators yield in a fight with the governor over medical marijuana, and more.

'Shroom decriminalization could be coming to the nation's capital. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Indiana GOP Senator Drops Bid to Force Marijuana Prosecutions. Sen. Mike Young (R) has dropped a bill that would have allowed the state attorney general to appoint special prosecutors to take over criminal cases that local prosecutors decide not to pursue. The bill was filed in response to the Indianapolis prosecutor's new policy of not pressing charges for small-time marijuana cases. Young let the measure die after the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council argued the proposal wrongly usurped the discretion that county prosecutors must have about how to use their staff and budgets on which cases to pursue.

Kentucky Poll Finds Strong Support for Medical Marijuana, Near Majority for Marijuana Legalization.A poll conducted by two nonprofit groups, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, has support for marijuana legalization at 49% and support for medical marijuana at 90%. That's up 12 points for the latter and 23 points for the former over 2012.

Vermont Committee OKs Bill to Legalize Marijuana Sales and Limit THC Potency. The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to advance a bill to legalize and tax marijuana sales. SB 54 passed out of the Government Operations Committee a day earlier. It now heads for the House Appropriations Committee before going to a House floor vote. It was approved by the Senate last year, and that vote is still in effect.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Posts Medical Marijuana Rules. The state Department of Health and Human Services has posted rules that make changes to the state's medical marijuana system, including a new fee structure and a license structure based on the provider's growing space. The rules are designed to implement a new medical marijuana law the legislature approved last year. The rules are open for public comment until the end of the month.

Rhode Island Legislators End Bid to Regulate Medical Marijuana Outlets. Lawmakers voted Tuesday in unanimous votes on identical bills in both houses to remove the "legislative veto" language over medical marijuana and hemp regulations that was included in the state budget. They have backed down from a fight with Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) over who will control licensing of six new medical marijuana dispensaries.

Psychedelics

Measure to Decriminalize Psychedelics Advances in Washington, DC. A proposed ballot initiative that would decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics has been given preliminary approval by the District's Board of Elections. Now, the board must approve a short title and summary statement, then the official language with be published in the DC register, after which a ten-day challenge period will take place, and after that, the board will meet again to give final approval to the language. Then, Decriminalize Nature DC will have 180 days to come up with 25,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Republican Reefer Reactionaries: Meet America's Eight Worst Governors on Marijuana Reform [FEATURE]

The nation's most venerable marijuana legalization group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), has just issued its 2020 Gubernatorial Scorecard grading the nation's governors on their level of support for ending marijuana prohibition. Thanks to NORML, we can now identify those chief executives whose stances on cannabis remain mired in the last century.

The states in black are home to the nation's worst governors when it comes to marijuana policy. (NORML)
But before we get to that rogues' gallery of governors, its worth mentioning the good news in the scorecard. Based on the governors' voting records and comments on marijuana policy, NORML bestowed "A" grades on nine governors -- all Democrats -- while 11 more Democrats and one Republican earned a "B." That means governors in nearly half the states are working hard to enact or maintain marijuana reform legislation, and that's a long way from where we were only a few years ago.

Getting marijuana reforms, whether its medical marijuana or adult legalization, through state legislatures is a tough, grinding slog, and the position of the governor can make or break a bill. Although, as governors such as Democrats Phil Murphy in New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo in New York found out last year, even the governor's support can't guarantee a measure gets passed.

As NORML executive director Eric Altieri noted in releasing the report, "Most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy takes place at the state level and America's governors are our nation's most powerful state-elected officials. These 50 lawmakers play a key role in whether or not marijuana policy reform advances at the state level so it is vitally important that reformers are aware of where they stand on the issue."

Here are the ones that stand farthest to the right. All eight of these Republican governors earned a big, fat "F" from NORML:

Idaho Gov. Brad Little. While he neither enacted nor vetoed marijuana-related legislation last year, he has opposed any loosening of pot prohibition, including even industrial hemp and medical marijuana. His position is best summed up by this quote from April 2019: If Idahoans wanted to legalize marijuana, "they elected the wrong guy as governor."

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. With marijuana bills unable to get anywhere in the GOP-dominated legislature, Holcomb has not had to sign or veto any measures, but he has historically opposed even medical marijuana, not to mention adult legalization. Now, he's using federal pot prohibition as a shield for his recalcitrance, saying that he will continue to oppose and marijuana reforms as long as the federal ban remains. He also said in 2019 that, "Right now, it's a crime. I'm just simply not willing to look the other way," even though he could act to make it not a crime and even though he is apparently willing to look the other way on his own self-admitted college toking.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. Nebraska was once on the cutting edge of marijuana law reform, decriminalizing it back in the 1970s, but that's apparently been long forgotten by the state's GOP political establishment, including Gov. Ricketts. While governor, he authored a position paper arguing the discredited position that marijuana is a gateway drug, that it's use can lead to suicide, and that medical marijuana is simply a stalking horse for legalization. He was at again just last month, releasing "An Honest Look at Marijuana," which ends thusly: "As Governor, I have a duty to promote public safety. I want Nebraskans to be informed of the dangers of marijuana and to know where I stand on the issue. I firmly oppose legislative legalization and will veto any legislation that attempts to make marijuana use lawful in the Cornhusker State."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. DeWine has long been a reefer recalcitrant and spoken consistently about his opposition to recreational marijuana legalization. Even though neighboring Michigan has flipped and neighboring Pennsylvania could this year, he still sides with his fellow prohibitionist GOP governor in neighboring Indiana. "It would really be a mistake for Ohio, by legislation, to say that marijuana for adults is just okay," he said just last month.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Long an opponent of recreational marijuana legalization, McMaster has also opposed medical marijuana when pressed. In his most recent comments on the issue, when asked about supporting medical marijuana, he said, "No. Law enforcement officials have made it clear that we are not in a position to appropriately regulate medical marijuana."

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. South Dakota is the only state where it's a criminal offense to test positive for marijuana, but Noem is fine with that. She's another GOP gateway theory adherent, claiming in November that marijuana is "the gateway drug to getting people more addicted, getting into stronger drugs, then they end up committing crimes, and it just opens the door to bad habits and behaviors that aren't going to be beneficial." She also vetoed an industrial hemp bill in her heavily agricultural state because, well, it's just a sneaky attempt to legalize weed: "There is no question in my mind that normalizing hemp, like legalizing medical marijuana, is part of a larger strategy to undermine enforcement of the drug laws and make legalized marijuana inevitable," she said in March 2019. And of course, she opposes both the medical marijuana and adult legalization initiatives on the ballot there this year.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. The state passed an extremely limited CBD possession law in 2014, and the only interest he has in any further marijuana reforms is expanding on that. He hasn't gotten behind broader medical marijuana, and he's even against decriminalization, not to mention legalization. "I have said before and still believe that we should not decriminalize marijuana... I think that's not good for our state," he said in March 2019.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon. Gordon is foe of adult legalization and a skeptic on medical marijuana. "I am not in favor of legalizing marijuana," he said as a gubernatorial candidate in 2018."There is maybe some discussion that can be had about medical marijuana, but I am not particularity in favor of doing that until we've had a very full conversation about what that means. So I am not in favor really of legalizing that. My understanding is that there are some alternatives that are prescription based. So the dosage is known, the purity is known, and we're taking risks for our patients." He didn't say anything last year to indicate his position has become more enlightened.

(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: Taking Sides on Marijuana Legalization in NY, PA MMJ Wrongful Firing Court Ruling, More... (2/4/20)

Major players in New York are staking out positions on marijuana legalization, a Pennsylvania court rules in favor of a worker fired for legal medical marijuana use, and more.

Illinois is the latest state to discover green gold. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Went Through Almost $40 Million Worth of Weed in First Month of Legal Sales. The state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced Monday that legal marijuana sales totaled $39,247,840.83 in the first month after they began. "The revenue from the first month is an incredible look at what the potential could possibly be," said State Senator Toi Hutchinson, Illinois Cannabis Control Senior Advisor. "I just want to build a thriving and healthy industry that protects the public safety."

New York State Bar Association Supports Marijuana Legalization. The State Bar Association last Friday came out in support of legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana. It approved a report from its Committee on Cannabis Law that outlines strategies for implementing legalization in the state. "The report provides the necessary details surrounding safety, research, social equity, taxation, and other principles critical to the success of a legalized adult use program in this state," said Aleece Burgio, who co-chairs the Committee on Cannabis Law. "While policy continues to evolve at the federal level, the committee also believes the most effective way to navigate this complex issue is for any comprehensive cannabis proposal to include hemp, medical marijuana and adult use."

New York State Sheriff's Association Opposes Marijuana Legalization. Gathered at their 86th Annual Winter Training Conference in Albany, the state's sheriffs voted once again to oppose efforts to legalize the possession and sale of recreational marijuana. The association passed a similar resolution last year. The sheriffs argue that legalization would "pose a significant risk to the health and safety of communities."

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Attorney General Opposes Medical Marijuana Bill. While the legislature is once again set to take up a medical marijuana bill supported by 12 of 18 members of the Medical Cannabis Study Commission, Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) has now come out against it. He wrote a 3-page letter urging lawmakers to oppose the bill this session.

Pennsylvania Court Allows Medical Pot User to Proceed with Wrongful Termination Suit. In a recent decision,Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas ruled that the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act creates a right to sue for wrongful termination and that a worker who claims to have been fired for medical marijuana use authorized by that law can bring a claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Chronicle AM: VT Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Moves, MD Kratom Ban Bill Moves, More... (2/3/20)

Vermont is moving toward full, commercial marijuana legalization, Maryland is moving toward banning -- not regulating -- kratom, and more.

A Maryland bill would make kratom a Schedule I drug. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Moves. The House Committee on Government Operations approved 11-0 a bill that would legalize commercial marijuana sales in the state. SB 54 now heads for a Tuesday hearing at the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill was already approved by the Senate last year, but with changes made in the House, would likely require a conference committee to come to agreement if it passes the House.

Kratom

Maryland Bill Would Make Kratom a Schedule I Dangerous Drug. Delegate Ken Kerr (D-Frederick) has filed HB 283, which would criminalize the use, possession, and distribution of kratom by making it a Schedule I controlled substance under state law. It gets a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. A companion bill, SB 147, was reported out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings with a favorable vote Monday. Kratom is banned in six states and four cities in the United States but remains unrestricted under federal law. Kratom advocates call for regulation instead of prohibition, pointing to a model Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which has been passed in four states.

Mexican City Rocked by Violence After Arrest of Cartel Leader. For the second time in recent months, the arrest of a leading cartel figure has sparked widespread violence in a Mexican city. When police detained a senior leader of the Los Viagras cartel, Luis Felipe "El Vocho" last Friday, armed men blocked roads and burned cars in the western city of Uruapan, and there were reports of multiple shootouts. Los Viagras have been involved in a gang war with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel over territory in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan.

Chronicle AM: MO MJ Init Launches, SD Unlawful Ingestion Bill, More... (1/31/20)

A Georgia bill would result in quasi-decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, a South Dakota bill would amend the state's unique felony internal possession law to only make it a misdemeanor, and more.

South Dakota, where testing positive for illicit drugs can be charged as a felony. (Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Georgia Marijuana Bill Would Remove Threat of Jail Time for Simple Possession. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would remove the possibility of jail time for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Under HB 550, possession would remain a misdemeanor. Possession of more than an ounce is a felony (!) and would remain so under the bill. It is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Launches. Missourians for a New Approach has kicked off a signature gathering campaign that aims to put a marijuana legalization initiative in the form of a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The measure would allow people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of weed purchased from a legal retailer and/or grow up to three plants. The campaign has until mid-May to come up with 160,000 valid voter signatures.

Criminal Justice

South Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Softening State's Unique Unlawful Ingestion Law. It's the only state in the country to make a felony out of testing positive for an illicit drug, and now state Sen. Craig Kennedy (D-Yankton) has filed a bill to change that. SB115 would change ingestion to a Class 1 misdemeanor for the first two offenses and a Class 6 felony if a person is convicted of ingestion for a third time within 10 years. A misdemeanor ingestion conviction would include a mandatory minimum 10-day jail sentence. Kennedy also filed SB114 to incentivize treatment over the criminal justice system for people facing felony ingestion charges.

Chronicle AM: Drug Overdoses Declined in 2018, Bernie Sanders Marijuana Legalization Plan, More... (1/30/20)

The CDC reports that drug overdose deaths declined for the first time in decades in 2018, Colombia's coca farmers are increasingly unhappy, Bernie Sanders could use an executive order to legalize marijuana at the federal level, and more.

Bernie Sanders is looking at using an executive order to end federal marijuana prohibition. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Bernie Sanders Could Use Executive Order to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition. Aides to Vermont senator and Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders (I) have presented him with a list of executive orders he could use to unilaterally change federal policies, including one that would direct the Department of Justice to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances. A bill that would decriminalize marijuana and hash oil for adults was approved Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure, SB 2, now heads to the Finance and Appropriations Committee and, if it passes there, a Senate floor vote.

Cleveland, Ohio, City Council Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. The city council has voted 15-2 to approve a measure that would eliminates fines and jail time for low-level marijuana possession. And it's a pretty high low level: 200 grams. The legislation still needs to be approved by Mayor Frank Jackson (D), who has previously expressed support for it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

CDC Reports Drug Overdose Deaths Declined in 2018. For the first time this century, overall drug overdose deaths declined in 2018, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. The report put the total number of overdose deaths at 67,000 in 2018, down from over 70,000 in 2017, a decline of 4%. But that still makes 2018 the second-worst year for drug overdose deaths in US history. The majority of overdose deaths involved heroin and fentanyl.

Asset Forfeiture

South Carolina Prosecutor to Appeal Circuit Court Judge's Ruling that Civil Asset Forfeiture Law is Unconstitutional. 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson filed notice this week that he intends to appeal a local judge's 2019 ruling that the state's civil asset forfeiture law is unconstitutional under both state and federal law. The move comes a month after Circuit Court Judge Steven John reaffirmed his August ruling. Johns' decision struck down civil asset forfeiture in his district, but the appeal decision would apply statewide.

International

Colombia Coca Farmers Plan Mass Protests as Counternarcotics Strategy Collapses. Coca farmers are demanding the resignation of crop substitution program director Hernando London after he claimed that "coca substitution leaders have not been assassinated." The coca growers' federation says at least 56 community leaders promoting crop substitution programs have been killed since the program began in March 2017. The coca growers said they were fed up with the "bullshit" of President Ivan Duque's administration and would join national strikes set for next month. Duque's anti-coca policy faces collapse if the crop substitution program is not executed because it then cannot resume aerial spraying of coca crops, according to the Constitutional Court. Without voluntary eradication and aerial spraying, only labor-intensive and easily reversed manual eradication could be used -- and 80% of the destroyed crops are replanted.

(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: NM & NH Legalization Bills Advance, Mexico Mayhem, Psychedelic Reform, More... (1/28/20)

It's getting busy, busy, busy as state legislatures get back into session; Philadelphia's DA ends prosecutions for buprenorphine possession, it was a bloody weekend in Mexico's drug wars, and more.

Marijuana is on the move at statehouses around the country. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Bill Would Protect Workers from Dismissal for Off-Duty Marijuana Use. Lawmakers in Denver are considering a measure that would protect workers who use marijuana on their own time from being fired for it. House Bill 20-1089 would bar employers from firing workers "for the employee's lawful off-duty activities that are lawful under state law."

Indiana GOP Lawmakers Target Indianapolis Prosecutor's Decision to Not Prosecute Small-Time Marijuana Cases. A GOP-backed bill that seeks to effectively overturn Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor Ryan Mears' recently announced policy of not pressing charges for small-time pot possession is moving in the Senate. The bill would let the attorney general's office step in if a county prosecutor announced a policy of not enforcing a law or was found to have "categorically elected" to not do so. The measure, SB 436, was approved by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee and now heads for a Senate floor vote.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Affairs Committee voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve SB 115, the Cannabis Regulation Act. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as emphasizing social equity and local entrepreneurship. There would be a 9% excise tax on sales. The measure now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Meanwhile, the House version of the bill, HB 160 is headed for the Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and then the Judiciary Committee. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is pushing for the bill to be passed during the current 30-day legislative session.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 13-7 Tuesday to recommend that a bill legalizing the possession and home cultivation of small quantities of marijuana "ought to pass." The measure is HB 1648. It comes after a full marijuana legalization bill failed last year.

Kratom

Missouri Kratom Regulation Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. The House General Laws Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved HB 2061, the Kratom Consumer Protection Act. The bill would deal with the substance by regulating it, not prohibiting it. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Psychedelics

Oakland Activists Unveil Plan to Legalize Sale of Psychedelics This Year. Decriminalize Nature, the group behind the national movement to decriminalize natural psychedelics, has announced a push to legalize the cultivation and sale of those hallucinogens in the city. The city already approved the decriminalization of such substances last year.

Santa Cruz City Council Approves Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure. The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a resolution that would effectively decriminalize "entheogenic plants and fungi" such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ibogaine, and ayahuasca. The resolution says the city shouldn't spend money to investigate psychedelic use by adults 21 and over and that such possession and use "should be considered among the lowest law enforcement priorities for the City of Santa Cruz."

Criminal Justice

Philadelphia DA Will No Longer Prosecute Buprenorphine Possession. District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced that his office will no longer prosecute people for possessing buprenorphine, an opioid-based addiction treatment drug. Krasner said the new policy is aimed at reducing overdoses. Krasner's office has already been dropping possession charges for people who can show they're in a treatment program.

International

Bloody Weekend in Central Mexico Cartel Wars. At least 48 people were killed between Friday and Sunday in prohibition-related violence in the central state of Guanajuato, including a six-year-old. In one incident, five people were killed at a house in Leon; in another, eight people were shot and killed at a taco stand in Celaya; in yet another, nine people were executed at a highway service plaza in Villagran. Among the dead were one soldier and one police officer.

New Zealand Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in September. The country has set September 19 as the date for its next general election. On the ballot will be a simple question: "Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill?" A final draft of the bill is expected to be released soon, but the government has already published a draft bill. If more than 50% of ballots are in favor of the draft legalization bill, the incoming government would be responsible for formally introducing a bill to Parliament. The first draft of the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill is available here.

Chronicle AM: Hawaii Bill Would De-Decriminalize Pot, Indiana Syringe Exchange Expansion Bill, More... (1/28/20)

Some Hawaii legislators want to roll back last year's marijuana decriminalization, Mexico's president says a government panel will be formed to make recommendations on how to legalize marijuana, and more.

Marijuana

Hawaii Bill Would Roll Back Decriminalization. Last year, the legislature approved marijuana decriminalization. This year, at least five legislators want to turn back the clock. House Bill 2018 was introduced by five Oahu representatives and argues that "Hawaii should be protected from suffering the dangers and risks increasingly occurring in states which have endorsed the possession and use of marijuana through means of decriminalization and legalization." The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Syringe Exchange Access Bill Filed. A bill to allow syringe exchange programs to operate without the prior declaration of a public health emergency has been filed in Indianapolis. SB 207 would also repeal the July 1, 2021 expiration date of existing syringe exchange programs. The measure has been referred to the Committee on Health and Provider Services and was set for a hearing Wednesday morning.

International

Mexico's President Says A New Marijuana Panel Will Make Legalization Recommendations. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that his government is forming a panel to make recommendations on how marijuana legalization should unfold. "A group is going to be formed to decide what will happen about that with a public health approach. We are about to comply with the recommendation of the Supreme Court," the president said. The high court ruled in 2019 that marijuana prohibition was unconstitutional and gave the government a limited time to rectify the situation. That clock runs out in April, and Lopez Obrador's allies in the congress say they will pass a legalization bill before then.

Chronicle AM: IL Supreme Court Takes On Searches Based on Smell of Marijuana, Tom Steyer Drug Policy, More... (1/27/20)

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer rolls out a progressive criminal justice platform, a Tennessee marijuana legalization bill is filed, and more.

Tom Steyer's platform includes marijuana legalization and opioid decrim. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Supreme Court to Decide If Smell of Marijuana Justifies Police Search. The state's highest court is pondering whether now that marijuana is legal, if smelling it is justification for police searching someone's vehicle. The case it is hearing occurred in 2017, when marijuana possession was decriminalized but not legalized, but will have even more bearing now. In that case, Decatur police pulled over a man and smelled "raw" marijuana. Even though possession of up to ten grams was no longer a crime -- merely a ticketable offense -- police used the odor of marijuana as probable cause to conduct a search, where they found other contraband and arrested the man. The court is now considering the case after oral arguments.

Tennessee Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) has filed a legislation to legalize marijuana, SB 1849. The bill would allow for licensed and regulated marijuana cultivation and retail sale, with sales limited to a half-ounce and taxed at 12%. Half the tax revenues would go to education, 30% to infrastructure, and 20% to the general fund. The bill is not scheduled for debate and no companion legislation has been filed in the House.

Drug Policy

Tom Steyer Calls for Marijuana Legalization, Opioid Decriminalization. Democratic presidential contender and billionaire Tom Steyer called for the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of opium possession as part of a broader criminal justice reform program released last week. "Tom believes we must end the failed War on Drugs. Based on the flawed idea that incarceration is the answer to addiction, federal and state elected officials passed severe sentencing laws that encouraged incarceration for low-level drug offenses," the plan states. "Unfortunately, communities of color were and continue to be disproportionately affected and targeted by these laws, even when other ethnicities were committing the same drug crimes at the same rates." He also called for ending mandatory minimum sentencing, more drug courts, ending the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, and investing $75 million in drug treatment.

(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: NM MJ Legalization Bill Filed, San Francisco Heroin/Fentanyl ODs Double, More... (1/24/20)

A New Mexico marijuana legalization bill backed by the governor has been filed, Montana activists file a second legalization initiative, San Francisco authorities report a doubling of heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths last year, and more.

Heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths doubled in San Francisco last year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Sees Second Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed. The activist group MontanaCan filed a marijuana legalization initiative, Ballot Issue 13, on Monday. That makes two potential legalization initiatives that could be on the ballot in November. The MontanaCan initiative would legalize marijuana for people 18 and up and cap the tax rate at 5%. That contrasts with the New Approach Montana initiative, which sets the age of consumption at 21 and the tax rate at 20%. Both are waiting to be cleared for signature gathering.

New Hampshire Legislature Has Marijuana On Its Mind. As the legislative session gets underway, lawmakers are confronting at least a dozen marijuana bills that have already been filed. Some have to do with medical marijuana, including one that would allow patients to grow their own medicine. Similar legislation has passed the General Assembly in previous years, only to be vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu (R). Also on the agenda is a marijuana legalization bill, HB 1686, which was set for a public hearing Friday. That bill would legalize the possession of up to ¾ ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to six plants, but does not envisage a legal commercial market.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Reps. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque) and Antonio "Moe" Maestas (D-Albuquerque) filed marijuana legalization legislation, HB 160, on Thursday. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as emphasizing social equity and local entrepreneurship. There would be a 9% excise tax on sales. The bill heads first in the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and then in the House Judiciary Committee. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is pushing for the bill to be passed during the current 30-day legislative session.

Austin, Texas, City Council Walks Away from Marijuana Arrests. The city council approved a resolution Thursday directing city police to not spend city funds on newly necessary lab tests to distinguish marijuana from low-THC hemp. The measure passed unanimously, and effectively ends arrests and prosecutions for small-time pot busts in most cases.

Chicago Housing Authority Relaxes Policy on Evicting Marijuana Users. The Chicago Housing Authority has relaxed its hardline approach to marijuana after the state legalized weed this year. Under federal law, people living in subsidized housing are subject to eviction for any drug law violations, and the CHA last year sent letters to its 63,000 households warning that families could be evicted for marijuana violations. But under pressure from Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), the CHA has revised its policy to now say that each marijuana complaint would lead to "consideration of relevant facts on a case-by-case basis."

Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Reservation Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in March. Members of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation will vote on legalizing medical and recreational marijuana and allowing alcohol in casinos in May. The move comes after council members voted in favor of a referendum earlier this month.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

San Francisco Opioid Overdose Deaths Doubled Last Year. Preliminary statistics gathered by city officials show that overdose deaths involving heroin, fentanyl, or the two drugs together hit 290 last year, more than double the 134 reported in 2018. Of those 290 deaths, 234 resulted from fentanyl alone. Just a decade ago, the number of city residents who overdosed on fentanyl and/or heroin was only 17. "It's devastating. It's awful. It's the most deadly epidemic that we've seen in our city since the HIV/AIDS crisis was killing thousands of people," said Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin district where the opioid crisis has hit the city hardest. "It is painful that this is not something being talked about every day at City Hall."

Drug Testing

Iowa Bill Would Make Cheating on a Drug Test a Crime. A bill that would make it a misdemeanor crime to cheat on a drug or alcohol test in a private-sector workplace has passed its first legislative hurdle, being approved Thursday by a Senate Commerce subcommittee. SSB 3013 is being advanced by business interests concerned about the use of synthetic urine and urine additives to beat drug tests.

Chronicle AM: US Revokes Visa of Philippines Drug War Chief, VT Psychedelic Decrim Bill Filed, More... (1/23/20)

Connecticut and New York begin grappling with getting marijuana legalization passed, a Vermont bill would legalize several natural psychedelics, the Mexican Senate will take up marijuana legalization in the coming weeks, and more.

Mass Murderers: Duterte with his former police chief, now a senator, Bato dela Rosa (King Rodriguez/PPD via Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Senate Democrats Prioritize Marijuana Legalization as Session Looms. Senate Democrats said Thursday that marijuana legalization was among their top agenda items in the upcoming General Assembly session that begins February 5. "There are very high numbers of Connecticut residents already traveling regularly to Massachusetts to buy this product and bring it home with them. I don't think we want to put our heads in the sand," said State Senator Martin Looney (D), Senate President Pro Tempore. "I think the time has come. There is broad base public support for it. We need to recognize it and find support for it."

New York Marijuana Legalization Must Include Social Justice, Drug Policy Alliance Says. Responding to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal including marijuana legalization, the Drug Policy Alliance is reiterating its call for social justice. "We are pleased to see Governor Cuomo's commitment to passing comprehensive marijuana legalization in the state budget this year, and to see him include social equity and small business incubator programs," said Kassandra Frederique, the group's state director. "We are disappointed Governor Cuomo doesn't clearly guarantee that a portion of funds from marijuana sales will be reinvested into the communities most harmed by New York's marijuana arrest crusade. Without this necessary component, the Governor's proposal will not truly right the wrongs done to communities of color by disproportionate enforcement of marijuana."

Psychedelics

Vermont Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Filed. Rep. Brian Cina (P/D) filed a bill Wednesday that would decriminalize psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ayahuasca, peyote, as well as kratom. Cina said he believes that "plants are a gift from nature and they're a part of the web of life that humans are connected to. Plants, especially plant medicines, should be accessible to people," he said. "Use of plant medicine should be considered a health care issue, not a criminal issue." The bill is HB 878. It currently has three cosponsors and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Foreign Policy

US Revokes Visa of Philippine Drug War Architect. The US government has revoked the travel visa of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, the former police chief who led the Duterte government's bloody crackdown on drugs, Dela Rosa confirmed Wednesday. The State Department has the authority to deny visas to people implicated in gross human rights violations, and Dela Rosa has been implicated in extrajudicial killings. The Philippines Commission on Human Rights estimates that more than 27,000 people have been killed in Duterte's and Dela Rosa's drug war. [Ed: Note that this move appears to have preceded passage by Congress of appropriations language barring officials involved in the incarceration of Philippine drug war critic Senator Leila de Lima. If so, the State Department must have done unpublished designations of one or more Philippine officials to ban, under existing authority it already had.]

Harm Reduction

South Carolina Bill Would Increase Access to Overdose Reversal Drug. State Rep. Russell Fry (R-Columbia) has filed HB 4711 to increase access to naloxone, the overdose reversal drug. The bill would require prescribers to offer a naloxone prescription to patients who have a history of a substance use disorder or have overdosed in the past. It's been referred to the Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

International

Mexico Senate Leader Seeks to Legalize Marijuana This Spring. The Mexican Senate will debate a marijuana legalization bill coauthored by Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal once the legislative session begins next month, his office said. The bill would set up an Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis to create rules for legal marijuana commerce.

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

Chronicle AM: NM & NY Govs Call for MJ Legalization, NJ Gov Signs Criminal Justice Bills, More... (1/22/20)

Two Democratic governors push for marijuana legalization, another Democratic governor signs a package of criminal justice reform bills, and more.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for marijuana legalization as part of the state's budget process. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Governor Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham used her State of the State address Tuesday to reiterate her call for marijuana legalization. "We've got to create more opportunity in rural communities, on Main Streets all through our state -- and so we've got to consider every single good idea. A perfect example is cannabis," she said. "This is the fact: Recreational cannabis can be the next frontier of our economic expansion. We can get in on the ground floor or we can try to play catch up -- I know which one I prefer." She wants to see the Cannabis Regulation Act (HB 160) passed during the legislature's 30-day session that just got underway.

New York Governor Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) included marijuana legalization in his budget proposal Tuesday. The call for legalization comes after a similar effort foundered in Albany last year. "Legalize adult use cannabis," Cuomo said during his budget speech. "I believe it is best done in the budget. I said that last year. I believe the budget is the opportunity, frankly, to make some tough decisions and work through tough issues that without the budget can often languish, and I suggest that we get it done in the budget." The bill to watch is the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (AB 1617).

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Moving. A bill to legalize hemp farming will get a hearing in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after the committee voted Tuesday to approve it. The bill filed by Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon (Stanley) would allow hemp with tiny amounts of THC to be grown in the state. The bill also has an emergency clause that would allow farmers to grow hemp this year if signed into law.

Criminal Justice

New Jersey Governor Signs Three Criminal Justice Bills. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) used the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to sign three pieces of criminal justice reform legislation. SB 761, also known as the "Earn Your Own Way Out Act," requires the Department of Corrections to develop a reentry program for each inmate and streamlines the parole system. AB 4970 bans civil asset forfeiture with limited exceptions. The law will make it easier for individuals with dismissed or acquitted cases to recover seized money and valuables. SB 3309 creates the New Jersey Violence Intervention Program within the attorney general's office. It will award grants to municipalities, health agencies, law enforcement agencies, and nonprofit organizations that implement effective, evidence-based violence intervention initiatives in communities with disproportionately high rates of gun violence.

Taking It to the Streets: States That Could Vote on Marijuana in November [FEATURE]

Last year wasn't a great one for advancing marijuana legalization at the state level. Despite high hopes for New Jersey and New York, state legislatures in Trenton and Albany couldn't quite get their acts together and promising efforts petered out. Illinois was the only state to approve marijuana legalization in 2019.

Power to the people. Right on.
It's tough to push a legalization bill through the state legislative process. A single recalcitrant committee head can kill a bill, and even committed proponents can fail to reach agreement, squabbling over issues such as taxation, which agencies will have regulatory power, and ensuring social justice in the industry. And so the bill ends up dying. Of the 11 states that have so far legalized marijuana, only Illinois and Vermont have done it via the legislature, and in Vermont, they only legalized possession and cultivation, not a taxed and regulated market.

It could be different this year because this is an election year, and that means residents of a number of states will or could have a chance to vote directly on whether to legalize marijuana without having to wait for the politicos at the state house to support the will of the people.

In the case of marijuana prohibition, it is state legislatures that refuse to act that are out of step with the times. National opinion polls, such as Gallup and Pew, show support for legalization nationwide in the mid-60s, and even in states where legislatures haven't yet approved full medical marijuana, let alone legalization, there is majority support for freeing the weed. In Georgia, for instance, 55 percent say legalize it, and in Texas, the figure is 53 percent.

While there are serious prospects for legalization at the state house in a handful of state this year -- think Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, and Rhode Island -- a number of other states are seeing marijuana legalization or medical marijuana initiative campaigns get underway, and a couple of states in each category have already qualified for the ballot.

That an initiative campaign is underway is no guarantee it will make it onto the ballot -- a well-funded legalization initiative in Florida just came up short on signatures for this year -- but it is a signal that it could be. Here's where things stand on 2020 marijuana reform initiatives as of mid-January.

States Where Marijuana Legalization Will Be on the Ballot

New Jersey. A constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana is on the ballot. It would legalize the possession, cultivation, processing, transport, and distribution of marijuana under the purview of the already-existing Cannabis Regulatory Authority, with sales subject to the state's sales tax.

This is not a citizens' initiative -- the state doesn't have those -- but a legislative one. After the governor and the legislature couldn't manage to come to agreement on a legalization bill last year, the state's elected officials punted, instead passing a resolution in December that refers the question to the state's voters.

Prospects for passage in November appear good. The most recent polling -- now nearly a year old -- had support for legalization at 62 percent and trending upward over previous years.

South Dakota. With support from the Marijuana Policy Project and the New Approach PAC, Constitutional Amendment A has qualified for the November ballot. It would legalize the personal possession of up to an ounce and the cultivation of up to three plants by adults, as well as setting up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana sales. The measure would also compel the legislature to come up with regulations for medical marijuana and hemp by 2022.

The state has some of the harshest pot laws in the country, including a draconian "internal possession" law that criminalizes testing positive for marijuana, even if it was consumed in a legal marijuana state.

It could also be a tough nut to crack. While the campaign says the initiative has "significant support among a majority of voters," it has not publicly released any polling data, and there are no recent polls on voter attitudes toward weed. What is known is that this socially conservative rural state is the only one to twice defeat a medical marijuana initiative. A medical marijuana initiative is also on the ballot this year (see below), leading to the prospect that voters there could "split the difference," showing their reformist bona fides by finally approving medical marijuana, but leaving approval of legalization for another day.

States Where Marijuana Legalization Could Be on the Ballot

Arizona. Four years after a marijuana legalization initiative was narrowly defeated, there are not one, not two, but three different campaigns trying to put legalization on the ballot this year. They have until July 2 to come up with the requisite number of valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. Two of them need 237,645 valid signatures to qualify; the third, which has a higher bar as a constitutional amendment, needs 356.467.

The best positioned initiative is the industry-led Smart and Safe Arizona Act, which would legalize the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana and allow for a system of state-regulated sales with a 16% excise tax. Those tax revenues would fund education, public health, and infrastructure programs. The campaign says it already has 100,000 raw signatures and expects to hand in 400,000 by June to ensure it has enough valid signatures to get past 237,645.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce is promoting the Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would also legalize adult-use possession, use, and cultivation and tax sales at 16%, but rather than aiming directly at voters, its organizers are hoping to persuade the legislature to vote to put it on the ballot.

And then there's the Marijuana Legalization, Ban on Taxes, and Automatic Pardons Initiative, which would legalize the use of marijuana, provide automatic pardons to people convicted of marijuana-related charges, and prohibit the government from taxing or regulating marijuana commerce. This is a constitutional amendment requiring 356,467 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. It's the brainchild of a group called Relegalize All Drugs, which is also circulating a Legalization of All Drugs Initiative.

If one or more of these measures make the ballot, the polling looks promising, if not overwhelmingly favorable. A February 2019 poll had support for legalization at 52 percent; a September poll had it at 50 percent; and a November poll had it at 54 percent. Initiative campaign organizers aren't really comfortable, though, unless they're polling in at least the high 50s months out because they expect opposition campaigns to eat into earlier support.

Arkansas. Arkansans for Cannabis Reform is gathering signatures for a pair of initiatives, the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment to allow the use of recreational marijuana and the Arkansas Marijuana Expungement Amendment, which would let people convicted of marijuana offenses to petition courts for relief, including release from prison and expungement of their convictions.

Also, a single individual, William Barger, filed the Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Initiative, which would similarly free the weed, but does not appear to be doing much.

Initiatives in Arkansas this year need 89,000 valid voter signatures by July 3 to qualify for the ballot, but that will be an uphill battle. As of January, the Arkansans for Cannabis Reform Group reported it had only 10,000 raw signatures and $10,000 in the bank. It really needs about 120,000 raw signatures to have a cushion for ones that could get thrown out as invalid. It is getting token support from the Marijuana Policy Project, but not staffing or funding.

There is no recent formal polling of support for legalization.

Missouri. With support from the national New Approach PAC, Missourians for a New Approach has filed a constitutional amendment, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, that would allow people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of weed purchased from a legal retailer and/or grow up to three plants. The initiative has been cleared for signature gathering, but organizers are still deciding whether to move ahead on what would be a costly effort. If they do, they have until mid-May to come up with about 160,000 valid voter signatures.

Another constitutional amendment, the Marijuana Legalization and Expungement Initiative, is a product of Colorado-based cannabis educator Mark Pedersen. It would legalize marijuana by removing all state restrictions on its cultivation, possession, consumption, and sales -- regardless of age -- and legally allow driving under the influence of marijuana. It would also destroy all state records of nonviolent marijuana-related crimes. It, too, has been cleared for circulation.

Voters just approved medical marijuana in 2018, and there is no recent polling we know of on the issue (although the Marijuana Policy Project recently claimed "polls indicate there is broad support"), but let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Signature gathering hasn't even gotten underway, and the clock is ticking.

Montana. In mid-January, activists with New Approach Montana filed a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives with the state attorney general's office. One is a constitutional initiative that would set 21 as the legal age when people can use marijuana, while the other is a statutory initiative that would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. It also includes a provision for individuals to grow up to four plants. Both initiatives have until June 27 to qualify for the November ballot, but the constitutional initiative faces a higher signature gathering hurdle than the statutory initiative. The former will need 50,000 valid voter signatures, while the latter will need only 25,000.

The national New Approach PAC and the Marijuana Policy Project are backing the campaign, which is prepared to spend up to $3 million. A May 2019 poll had support for legalization at just 51 percent, suggesting that they're going to need every cent of that money to get over the top.

Nebraska. Filed in August 2018 by Bill Hawkins of the Nebraska Hemp Company and Fred Shoemaker, the Nebraska Cannabis Legalization Initiative would create a constitutional right for people to grow, sell, and use any part of the cannabis plant.

The measure has been cleared for signature gathering, and proponents have until July 2nd to come up with enough valid voter signatures -- but because of a bizarre feature in state law, they wont know what that figure is until that July 2nd deadline, when it must exceed 10% of voters registered on that date.

There has been no recent polling on Cornhusker support for marijuana legalization.

North Dakota. The campaign committee ND for Freedom of Cannabis Act has filed a proposed constitutional initiative to legalize marijuana and allow for up to 12 plants for personal cultivation. It has until February 10th to come up with 26,904 valid voter signatures. The group said last month it is "roughly about halfway" to getting the 30,000 raw signatures it's seeking.

That's not the only game in town, though. The group Legalize ND has filed a marijuana legalization initiative that was approved for signature gathering in December. Now, the group needs 13,500 valid voter signatures by July 6 to get the measure on the 2020 ballot. It would allow any person over the age of 21 to use, possess, and transport up to two ounces of prepared marijuana, but it would ban home growing of the plant.

Oklahoma. State activists backed by the national New Approach PAC have filed State Question 808, which would allow people 21 and over to possess, cultivate, and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers. Possession would be capped at one ounce, and individuals could grow up to six plants.

A previous version of the measure was withdrawn after objections from the medical marijuana community, but this version specifies that a 15% excise tax on sales would not apply to medical marijuana and says only existing medical marijuana dispensaries would be eligible for recreational licenses for the first two years after implementation.

Once the measure is cleared for signature gathering, proponents will have 90 days to come up 177,598 valid voter signatures. If the latest survey data -- an August 2019 poll -- is any indication, the measure face an uphill battle if it qualifies for the ballot. That poll had opposition to legalization at 50 percent.

States Where Medical Marijuana Will Be on the Ballot

Mississippi. Ballot Initiative 65 is on the November ballot. If approved, it would allow patients with any of 22 specified medical conditions to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

The most recent polling data is a year old, but it's very encouraging: That poll had support for legalizing medical marijuana at 67 percent.

South Dakota. Maybe the third time will be the charm. South Dakota is the only state to twice defeat medical marijuana initiatives, in 2006 and by an even bigger margin in 2010.Initiated Measure 26, another New Approach-supported campaign, would allow patients from a list of qualifying conditions possess up to three ounces and grow up to three plants, as well as create a system of dispensary sales.

We couldn't find any recent public polls on local attitudes, but the Marijuana Policy Project said recently that polling suggests it holds "majority support among South Dakota voters."

States Where Medical Marijuana Could Be on the Ballot

Idaho. The Idaho Cannabis Coalition has filed a medical marijuana initiative that would set up a system of licensed dispensaries, growers, processors, and testers, as well as allowing qualified patients to possess up to four ounces. Patients could not grow their own medicine unless they qualify under a hardship exemption, for physical, financial, or geographic reasons. In that case, they could grow up to six plants.

The coalition needs to gather 55,057 valid voter signatures by May 1 to qualify for the ballot. If it manages to make the ballot, the most recent polling, from March 2019, suggests it could win. That Idaho Weekly poll had 73 percent either "strongly" or "somewhat" supporting medical marijuana, with only 26 opposed.

Nebraska. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is sponsoring the Nebraska Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendment, which would give Nebraskans the right to grow, consume, and purchase marijuana for medical reasons, subject only to "reasonable laws, rules, and regulations."

This is another effort supported by the New Approach PAC and the Marijuana Policy Project. It has until July 2 to come up with a signature count equal to 10 percent of registered voters on that date, a figure estimated to be around 122,000. Back in July 2019, organizers said they had already collected 15,000 without using any paid signature gatherers, but they've been mum since then.

Although the most recent polling is ancient -- from 2017 -- the numbers are good: 77 percent said they would vote "yes" on a medical marijuana initiative. That's a good place to start from.

Chronicle AM: NY MJ Legalization Poll Shows Strong Support, Tulsi Gabbard Calls for Drug Legalization, More... (1/21/20)

A New York poll shows strong support for marijuana legalization, Dutch opinion-shapers push for a new drug policy, a US presidential candidate calls for drug legalization and more.

Dutch drug policy is tolerant but incomplete. (Amsterdam canal image via pixabay.com)
Marijuana Policy

California Lawmakers Ponder Temporary Tax Cut for Legal Weed. Lawmakers last Friday revived a measure to temporarily cut taxes on marijuana in a bid to boost the state's legal marijuana market. The bill would cut the state excise tax on marijuana from 15% to 11% and eliminate a cultivation tax for the next three years. The effort foundered last year when Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) objected, but it now appears he is open to changing his mind. Lawmakers estimated that up to 75% of the state's marijuana is still sold in the black market.

New York Poll Shows Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. As the state legislature prepares to try to pass marijuana legalization again this year, a new Sienna College poll finds the public is ready. The poll had support for legalization at 58%.

Drug Policy

Tulsi Gabbard Endorses Legalizing Drugs. Longshot Democratic presidential contender Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HA) has come out for legalizing currently illicit drugs. "If we take that step to legalize and regulate, then we're no longer treating people who are struggling with substance addiction and abuse as criminals and instead getting them the help that they need," she at a campaign stop in Merrimack, New Hampshire on Friday. Her comments came in response to a voter's question about whether she intended to emphasize harm reduction and treatment or move instead to legalization. "All of the above," she said. "The costs and the consequence to this failed war on drugs is so vast and far reaching, socially and fiscally, that if we take these necessary steps, we'll be able to solve a lot of other problems that we're dealing with in this country."

International

Dutch Push for New Drug Policy. Parliamentarians, TV celebrities, health experts, lawyers, and dance scene personalities are among the 79 people who have signed a new manifesto calling for a major shift in Dutch drug policy. "The need for a new and realistic drugs policy is greater than ever. The international drug trade has taken root in the Netherlands and with serious consequences," the online manifesto states. "Mayors are receiving death threats, a lawyer was murdered, and ecstasy waste dumping is threatening the environment. But the manifest powerlessness in the face of drug-related crime is making for ever greater repression." The aim, signatories said, is to reduce drug harms and increase public safety, and that should be done by tackling black market drug revenues. "A regulated -- not a free -- drugs market [is] the starting point of a new drugs policy. lllegality fuels crime. That is why we must tackle the revenue model of the criminals and make a regulated -- not a free -- drug market the starting point of a new drugs policy."

Mexican Murders Hit All-Time High. The country saw some 34,582 murders in 2019, demonstrating the challenge President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces while waging war on drug cartels. The 2019 figure is a 2.5% increase over 2018, despite Lopez Obrador's less confrontational approach to drug cartels.

(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: Federal Marijuana Prosecutions Drop, Drug Czar Touts Reduced Overdoses, More... (1/17/20)

A New Mexico pot legalization bill gets filed, Rhode Island's governor calls for legalization, the drug czar touts a drop in drug overdose deaths, and more.

Federal marijuana prosecutions declined significantly last year, a new report finds. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Prosecutions Decline. Federal marijuana prosecutions declined by 28% from September 30, 2018 to September 30, 2019, according to a report from Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. The year-end report also found that total federal filings for drug crimes was up 5% over the same period, with some 83,000 cases.

New Mexico Legalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D) and Rep. Javier Martinez (D) have filed a bill, Senate Bill 115, that would allow adults in the state to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. The move comes just a day after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signaled that she supported legalizing marijuana this year. The bill would also automatically expunge prior possession convictions and promote participation by small and tribal-owned businesses. The bill would not allow home cultivation, but would decriminalize the growing up of to three plants and six seedlings.

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization Proposal in State Budget Plan. Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has included marijuana legalization as a priority in the state budget plan she released Thursday. The plan envisions state-contracted private marijuana retailers with the state controlling location, price, potency, and quantity of sales. Revenues would be divvied up among the state (61%), the private contractors (29%), and local communities (10%). This is the second year Raimondo is including adult-use cannabis legalization in the state budget; she introduced a similar proposal last year, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Drug Czar Touts Decline in Overdose Deaths. Jim Carroll, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), said Friday that the country had seen a decline in drug overdose deaths for the first time in 30 years. "For the first time in almost 30 years, we've seen a decline in the number of Americans dying from an overdose -- it's a 5 percent reduction," he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2017, with synthetic opioids such as fentanyl being the main driver behind those deaths.

Foreign Policy

US, Mexico Agree on Plan to Reduce Illegal Guns, Drug Trade. The Mexican government said Thursday it had reached agreement with the United States on a plan to combat the illicit trafficking of arms, drugs, and money. The announcement came after a meeting between US Attorney General William Barr and Mexican officials. The two countries said they agreed to cooperate on reducing drug consumption and combating addiction. The agreement came after President Trump threatened in November to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, prompting Mexican officials to quickly seek talks.

International

Canadian Health Minister Says Time Not Right for Drug Decriminalization. Health Minister Patty Hadju said Thursday that talk about decriminalizing drugs to deal with the country's opioid crisis is premature until people have enough help to fight their addictions. "My personal perspective on decriminalization is that it can't be done in a broad sweep," she said. "I think that having a comprehensive kind of approach that includes things like prevention, treatment, harm reduction, enforcement, housing, those are the kind of things that are actually going to start to move the needle," Hajdu said. "It's too premature to have a conversation about full decriminalization of substances until we get to the place where we have comprehensive support for people to get well."

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More prison guards break bad, an Ohio trooper's pill habit got the best of him, an ongoing Paterson, NJ, police corruption scandal snares another cop, and more. Let's get to it:

In Hazard, Kentucky, a Perry County sheriff's deputy was arrested January 1 during a traffic stop and charged with trying to smuggle drugs into the jail. Deputy Shannon Adams, 42, went down after jail staff monitoring inmate phone calls heard incriminating information and contacted the local drug task force. Local reporting did not make clear precisely which criminal charges he faces.

In Mansfield, Ohio, a former Highway Patrol trooper was arrested January 7 for stealing pain pills. Preston Brooks, 33, went down after an internal investigation found he had mishandled "seized prescription drugs" and lied about it. He is charged with theft of drugs and tampering with evidence.

In Paterson, New Jersey, a Paterson police officer was arrested last Tuesday in an ongoing corruption probe that has already scooped up seven other Paterson police officers. Sgt. Michael Cheff participated in stealing money and drugs from suspects along with the other officers, and was charged in a case where police illegally searched a vehicle and arrested a man, then went to his home and lied to his mother to gain consent for a search. He found a safe with $2,700 and took it, divvying some of it up to other officers involved. He is charged with conspiring to violate the civil rights of an individual and with falsifying a corresponding police report.

In Moberly, Missouri, a state prison guard was arrested Saturday for sneaking synthetic cannabinoids and tobacco into the prison where he worked. Guard Timothy Davis, 23, went down after investigators searched his car in the parking lot of the Moberly Correctional Center found 174 grams of synthetic cannabinoids and several unopened bags of tobacco. He is charged with delivery of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

In New York City, six Rikers Island prison guards were arrested Monday for allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail. They were among 21 people indicted in a scheme to import and distribute marijuana, synthetic marijuana (K2) and the narcotic suboxone into jail facilities on the island since early 2019. The indicted guards were Queens residents Darrington James, 30, Patrick Legerme, 29, and Aldrin Livingston, 31; Brooklyn's Michael Murray, 28, and Christopher Walker, 28; and Bellport, NY resident Angel Rodriguez, 23. According to the charges, each of them allegedly accepted thousands of dollars in bribes to get the contraband items past security checkpoints.

Chronicle AM: NM Governor Says Legalize This Year, KY Justice Reform Push, More... (1/16/20)

New Mexico could legalize marijuana next month, Virginia activists says marijuana decriminalization is not enough, Kentucky prepares to go to work on criminal justice reforms, and more.

The Virginia state capitol in Richmond. Activists and legislators are jousting over marijuana reforms. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Protect Marijuana Financial Services Providers Advances. The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions unanimously approved Assembly Bill 1525 on Tuesday. The measure would protect financial institutions and accountants serving the legal marijuana industry by clarifying that they aren't committing crimes under state law. The measure now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

New Mexico Governor Calls for Marijuana Legalization In 2020. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has made marijuana legalization part of her formal agenda for the year. In the agenda she sent to legislators Wednesday, she said she wants a bill "legalizing the use of recreational cannabis in New Mexico and establishing a regulatory framework for its use, including public safety considerations, public health safeguards, and the protection of the state's existing medical cannabis program." A similar effort came up short in the legislature last year, and Grisham created a working group to come up with recommendations in the interim. The legislature comes back for a 30-day session next week, so if all goes well, the state could be the next to free the weed.

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances, Even as Protestors Demand More. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday sent a marijuana decriminalization bill, Senate Bill 2, to a subcommittee to be amended and then returned to Judiciary for further consideration. But the action came amid protests led by the state ACLU, which is calling for full legalization, and says decrim alone doesn't do enough to protect the state's minority communities.

Asset Forfeiture

Kentucky Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. Rep. Reginald Meeks (D-Louisville) has filed House Bill 250, which would require law enforcement agencies to reveal more details about cash and property seized through asset forfeiture or face financial penalties. The bill does not seek to end civil asset forfeiture but would impose stiffer reporting requirements than currently exist. Under current law, agencies are required to make annual reports on asset forfeitures, but only 11% have actually done so.

Criminal Justice

Kentucky Governor and Legislators Make Criminal Justice Reform a Priority. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and the legislature have committed to advancing criminal justice reform this year and have several proposals for reducing the state's prison population to consider. Among them: defelonization of simple drug possession, increasing the threshold for moving a theft from a misdemeanor to a felony from $300 to $500, and probation and parole reform.

Chronicle AM: MI Jail Task Force Recommendations, Congress Wants Answers on Meth and Cocaine ODs, More... (1/15/20)

The Czech Pirate Party reaches for the stars, House members want answers from the administration about rising meth and cocaine deaths, and more.

A Michigan task force releases recommendations on cutting jail populations in the state. (Creative Commons)
Stimulants

Congressional Concern Over Rising Cocaine, Meth Overdose Deaths. The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are calling on the Trump administration to brief them on rising cocaine and methamphetamine deaths and what it is doing about them by early next month. Deaths involving both drugs increased by more than 30% in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We are concerned that while the nation, rightly so, is devoting much of its attention and resources to the opioid epidemic, another epidemic -- this one involving cocaine and methamphetamine -- is on the rise," wrote Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Greg Walden (R-OR), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY). The lawmakers requested briefings from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Criminal Justice

Michigan Jail Task Force Releases Recommendations. A bipartisan task force created last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has released its recommendations for reducing the state's jail populations. The Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force report came up with 18 recommendations, including reducing the number of driver's license revocations for people dealing with crimes unrelated to traffic safety; expanding police discretion to write tickets instead of arresting and taking people to jail; providing crisis response training for law enforcement; and incentivize programs; creating partnerships between law enforcement and treatment providers to divert people with behavioral health needs from the system both before and after arrest, strengthening the presumption of pre-trial release on personal recognizance, and releasing people arrested on certain nonviolent charges prior to arraignment.

Drug Policy

Idaho Bill Would Decriminalize Drug Use, Allow Civil Commitment for Drug Abuse. State Sen. Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise) has introduced SB 1222, which would decriminalize drug use in private places while at the same time allowing civil commitments for drug abuse. The bill would change the state's criminal code by amending the penalties for drug possession so that they only apply to drug possession with intent to deliver, effectively decriminalizing drug possession. The bill is a private member's bill and unlikely to even get a committee hearing, but Burgoyne said he was "hopeful that my legislation will start the conversation with lawmakers, law enforcement, and others about how we treat Idahoans, especially young Idahoans, who are suffering from drug addiction."

International

Czech Pirate Party to Push for Legalization of Marijuana; Prescribed Access to Ecstasy, Magic Mushrooms, LSD. Opposition MP Tomas Vymazal of the Pirate Party has announced plans to file legislation that would legalize recreational use of marijuana and allow doctors to prescribe psychedelics such as LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin. "Similar to the current practice of cannabis prescriptions, specialized medical workplaces would be able to prescribe the [above] substances," Vymazal said. The plan is opposed by the Health Ministry. The Pirate Party holds 22 seats in the 200-seat chamber of deputies.

Drug War Issues

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