Drug War Chronicle

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Chronicle Book Review: "Undoing Drugs" by Maia Szalavitz

Undoing Drugs: The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction by Maia Szalavitz (2021, Hatchette Books, 372 pp., $30 HB)

Last Sunday, I drove to the community center of a small town in southwestern Oregon to find a trio of young women seated at a picnic table in the grass outside the building. The women, two volunteers and a paid staffer from the local HIV alliance, come the first Sunday of every month to provide fentanyl test strips, clean syringes, and packages containing the injectable version of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to local drug users and their friends and family members.

They also have informational pamphlets about the dangers of various substances and how to reduce those dangers. The young women are part of Rogue Valley Harm Reduction, a group devoted to reducing those dangers, and if you would like a clue about how we got to young women in rural Oregon handing out needles and overdose prevention drugs to local drug users, there is no better place to start than Maia Szalavitz's Undoing Drugs.

Szalavitz has been doing excellent journalism around drug policy and addiction issues for years now, and her acumen, expertise, and passion are all on display in Undoing Drugs, her brand new book that tells the story of the rise of harm reduction and uses that narrative to unpack (to "undo") all kinds of harmful paradigms in the realm of drugs and drug policy.

Harm reduction is not a difficult idea. As Szalavitz writes, "The concept itself is surprisingly simple. Harm reduction applies the core of the Hippocratic oath -- first, do no harm -- to addiction treatment and drug policy."

But the concept is even broader than that. We can see harm reduction principles applied in everything from wearing motorcycle helmets or seatbelts to providing condoms for high school students. Or wearing masks and social distancing during a pandemic. Or even more broadly yet, in not criminalizing people over the substances they choose to use.

While Szalavitz neatly documents that the benefits of harm reduction measures such as needle exchanges, opioid maintenance programs, and pill checking programs are amply proven -- such practices save lives, reduce crime and disorder, and allow drug users to achieve less chaotic lives -- she also wisely notes how harm reduction subverts the paradigm of "fighting drugs" and prohibiting them.

Harm reduction flips the morality of drugs on its head. Instead of measuring reductions in drug use as the highest value, harm reduction demands reductions in human misery -- and recognizes quite clearly the human misery generated by drug prohibition: "Once the negative consequences of policy actions count in evaluating their usefulness -- and success isn't just tallied by the amount of drugs seized or the number of people arrested -- it is quite hard to avoid concluding that the damage done by prohibition outweighs any benefit the war on (some) drugs could conceivably have," Szalavitz writes.

Undoing Drugs proceeds both chronologically and thematically, with Szalavitz digging into harm reduction's origins in British heroin prescribing and pioneering Dutch efforts on needle exchanges, propelled by the user activists of the Junkiebund, as well as its American roots in the HIV crisis of the 1980s, when it wasn't only gay men but also injection drug users who were dying of the disease.

Szalavitz, an injection drug user herself at the time, was terrified of getting AIDS from needle sharing and infuriated when she learned that there were simple steps she could have taken to reduce her risk -- but that no one was telling drug users about them. That experience led her on the personal and professional journey that resulted in this book.

As she proceeds, Szalavitz introduces us to a larger than life cast of characters -- drug users, former drug users, public health geeks, academics, major donors, social and racial justice workers -- who propelled harm reduction from the back alleyways to increasingly accepted public policy. A lot of these names will be familiar to longtime readers of the Chronicle: Pioneering harm reductionist Dave Purchase of the North American Syringe Exchange Network, overdose prevention pioneer Dan Bigg at the Chicago Recovery Alliance, and Canadian drug user organizer and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) cofounder Ann Livingston, all get their stories told, along with dozens of others.

Szalavitz has done us all a great service with Undoing Drugs. She applies the lessons of harm reduction to the fields of public health, psychology, addiction treatment, and racial justice, subverting the narrative of drug prohibition on every page, and opening our eyes to the revolutionary potential of harm reduction. But what is really striking and inspiring is the clear message that individual agency can make a real difference, whether it's a single medical practitioner, an impassioned social worker or street drug users organizing themselves to make sure that "if policies are about us, they're not without us." Harm reductionists are changing the world for the better.

MD House Marijuana Legalization Working Group Meets, Italy Moves To Allow Home Pot Grows, More... (9/9/21)

A fire at an overcrowded Indonesian prison kills at least 41, mostly drug offenders; a Maryland House of Delegates working group is moving forward with plans for marijuana legalization, and more.

Coming soon to an Italian balcony? Italy is moving to allow home marijuana cultivation. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland House Marijuana Policy Working Group Meets, Lays Out Plans. A 10-member working group of House members that is studying how to legalize marijuana met for the first time Wednesday and laid out plans for the future. "The House of Delegates will pass a measure to put the question of legalizing on the ballot for the 2022 general election," said work group chair Del. Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore). "This work group will continue meeting throughout the interim. This work group will establish the legal framework necessary to fully implement the legalization of marijuana and learn from the mistakes that other states have made before us," Clippinger said. The working group will meet next on October 9. Maryland's neighbors Virginia and Washington, DC, have already legalized marijuana.

International

Indonesia Prison Fire Kills 41, Mostly Drug Prisoners. A fire that erupted in the overcrowded Tangerang prison outside Jakarta on Wednesday killed at least 41 inmates, the majority of them serving time for drug offenses. At least two foreigners serving drug sentences were among the dead. The fire broke out in the middle of the night in the prison's C2 Block, where 19 cells built to hold 40 inmates were packed with more than triple that number. Under President Joko Widodo, Indonesia has intensified its war on drugs, with extrajudicial executions, drug prosecutions, and death sentences all on the rise.

Italy Moves to Allow Personal Marijuana Grows. A measure to decriminalize the personal cultivation of up to four marijuana plants is advancing in the parliament after it was approved by the Lower House's Justice Committee on Wednesday. While the bill removes penalties for growing, it increases penalties for dealing and trafficking marijuana, increasing the possible maximum sentence from six to 10 years. The move comes almost two years after the Supreme Court ruled that small-time domestic marijuana cultivation is legal. In Europe, the only countries that currently allow for personal grows are Spain and the Czech Republic, which both allow up to five plants.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An ICE agent takes a bribe to pay off a drug debt, a Utah prison guard goes down for drug smuggling into the prison, and more. Let's get to it:

In Bismarck, North Dakota, a former state prison guard was arrested last Tuesday for smuggling drugs and electronic contraband into the prison in exchange for money. Matthew Taylor went down after the state Highway Patrol got ahold of the cellphone of a woman with whom he was arranging the deals, in which he delivered a cellphone, two SIM cards, and a cigarette package containing methamphetamine. In return, he got payments ranging from $240 to $600. The exact charges he faces were not specified.

In Point of the Mountain, Utah, a state prison guard was arrested last Thursday along with two others people on charges they were smuggling drugs in to prisoners. Guard Bryon Curt Stoddard, 45, has been charged with drug distribution or arranging to distribute drugs, a second-degree felony; and drug possession with intent to distribute, a third-degree felony. Stoddard went down after investigators learned that he had supplied methamphetamine, Suboxone, and fentanyl to three inmates and that future drops were planned each week. Investigators recorded a call between Stoddard and another person to arrange meetings. He is accused of receiving $1,000 per drop and using meth himself.

In El Paso, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer was indicted last Wednesday for revealing law enforcement information in exchange for a $500 payment to satisfy a drug debt he owed. Agent Robert Padilla, 50, is looking at up to 15 years in federal prison on charge that were not specified in the Justice Department press release.

Marijuana Use at All-Time High Among Young Adults, Cartel Violence Sparks Protests in Mexico's Michoacan, More... (9/8/21)

The latest Monitoring the Future survey finds marijuana use is at an all-time high among young adults; Georgia's Tybee Island, home of the state's largest public beach, decriminalizes pot possession, and more.

Tybee Island, Georgia, where the city council just decriminalized pot possession. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Use at All-Time High Among College-Aged Adults in 2020. Marijuana use continued to rise among college students over the past five years and remained at historically high levels among same-aged peers who are not in college in 2020, according to survey results from the 2020 Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel study. This represents the highest levels of marijuana use recorded since the 1980s. The survey also found that marijuana vaping and nicotine vaping leveled off in 2020 after sharp increases reported every year since 2017 for both college students and same-aged respondents who are not in college. Among college students specifically, there was also a significant increase in the annual use of hallucinogens, and a substantial and significant drop in current alcohol use between 2019 and 2020. The Monitoring the Future (MTF) study has been annually tracking substance use among college students and noncollege adults ages 19-22 since 1980. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, the survey is conducted annually by scientists at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor. Results are based on data from college students one to four years beyond high school graduation who are enrolled full-time in a two- or four-year college in March of the given year, compared with same-age high school graduates not enrolled full-time in college.

Georgia City, Home of State's Largest Public Beach, Decriminalizes Pot Possession. The city council in Tybee Island, home to the state's largest public beach, has approved an ordinance that imposes a maximum $150 fine for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, making pot possession no longer a criminal offense under the municipal code. Under state law, however, possession of up to an ounce remains a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. It is not clear how local police and prosecutors will handle such cases. Tybee Island is only the latest of more than a dozen other state cities and counties that have reduced penalties for marijuana possession.

International

Mexico's Michoacan Sees Protests Over Cartel Violence. Residents of the Tierra Caliente region of the central-western state of Michoacan, which has been the scene of ongoing clashes, blockades, and disruptions caused by competing criminal organizations, took to the streets over the weekend to demand military intervention to confront the cartels. "Hugs, not bullets doesn't work in Tepalcatepec, Aguililla and Coalcomán. The federal government is abandoning its people, massacred by the CJNG [Jalisco New Generation Cartel]," read one banner held up by protesters outside a military base in Apatzingán. "Hugs, not bullets" is a slogan of the policy of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of addressing the root causes of violence rather than confronting the cartels with force. The municipalities of Aguililla, Apatzingan, Buenavista, Coalcoman, and Tepalcatepec have been particularly hard-hit, where more than 3,000 fled the violence in August. In recent days, about 1,000 people have fled and taken shelter at a sports center in Tepalcatepec. "We're being displaced from our homes, we're afraid, they're throwing bombs and grenades at us," one woman told the newspaper Reforma at Sunday's protest." … [President] López Obrador must listen to us. We're hungry and cold, we're calling on the relevant authorities to support us, not just authorities of the state but also the United Nations and UNICEF… Children have no homes because [organized] crime has destroyed their homes with flamethrowers. We need help from… all the forces of Mexico…," she said.

NYC Marijuana Arrests Hit Single Digits, MI Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Filed, More... (9/7/21)

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds marijuana legalization has little impact on youth use rates, the number of marijuana arrests in New York City in the second quarter of 2021 totaled a whopping eight -- that's right, eight -- and more.

New York City pot smokers have good reason to smile these days. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

AMA Study Finds Marijuana Legalization Does Not Lead to Increased Youth Use. A study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that the impact of marijuana legalization on adolescent marijuana consumption is "statistically indistinguishable from zero." The study analyzed federal Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 1993 through 2019 in 10 states that had legalized either medical marijuana or adult use. Marijuana legalization "was not associated with current marijuana use or frequent marijuana use," the researchers found. In fact, the researchers found youth use actually went down in medical marijuana states: "[M]edical marijuana law (MML) adoption was associated with a 6% decrease in the odds of current marijuana use and a 7% decrease in the odds of frequent marijuana use."

New York City Marijuana Arrests Hit Single Digits After Legalization. Marijuana arrests in New York City -- once the marijuana arrest capital of the world -- have dropped to single digits since marijuana legalization went into effect in the state on March 31. The city recorded only eight marijuana arrests in the second quarter of this year, down from 163 during the first quarter. That's a 95% decrease from what were already quite low arrest levels. All of the arrests were for possession of more than three ounces, and they reflected continuing racial disparities, but with such a small sample size, it is difficult to say anything definitive about that. Criminal court summonses for people who were given marijuana possession tickets but didn't pay them also decreased dramatically, from 3,700 in the first quarter to eight in the second quarter.

Psychedelics

Michigan Bill Filed to Legalize Possession, Cultivation of Psychedelics. Two Democratic state senators, Jeff Irwin and Adam Hollier, last Thursday filed a bill to legalize the possession, cultivation, and delivery of a variety of plant- and fungus-based psychedelics, such as mescaline and psilocybin, Senate Bill 631. The bill would amend state law so that people are exempted from prosecution for such activities as long as they are not "receiving money or other valuable consideration for the entheogenic plant or fungus." That means no commercial production and sales. But people can charge a "reasonable fee for counseling, spiritual guidance, or a related service that is provided in conjunction with the use of an entheogenic plant or fungus under the guidance and supervision of an individual providing the service." Michigan has become a locus of the psychedelic decriminalization movement, with Decriminalize Nature chapters pushing local city councils to adopt reforms. In Ann Arbor, the city council approved psychedelic decriminalization last year and have designated this month as Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month. Similar moves are afoot in Grand Rapids, too.

Biden Asks Congress to Permanently Schedule Fentanyl Analogues, Seattle Task Force Calls for Drug Decrim, More... (9/3/21)

A Seattle task force calls for drug decriminalization, Vancouver activists seek permission to operate drug buyers' clubs, and more.

Congress must decide whether to permanently schedule fentanyl analogues as Schedule I substances. (Creative Commons)
Drug Policy

Biden's Acting Drug Czar Asks Congress for Opioid Crackdown Help. The Biden administration has asked Congress to permanently schedule illicit fentanyl analogues as Schedule I substances, alongside heroin and MDMA. Acting Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) Director Regina LaBelle made the request in a letter to Congress, saying the move would help law enforcement go after illicit opioid manufactures and dealers. Drug reformers had lobbied the administration not to take this step, and reacted unhappily (see below).

Civil Rights Leaders, Drug Policy Experts Denounce as Counterproductive Biden Recommendations on Fentanyl-Related Substances and Continued War on Drugs. In response to the recommendations presented to Congress by the ONDCP, HHS, and the Justice Department to permanently schedule fentanyl analogues as Schedule I drugs, civil rights leaders drug policy reform leaders including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Drug Policy Alliance issued the following statement:

"We cannot continue doing the same things and expect to get different results. Despite the Biden administration's stated commitment to criminal justice reform, and ending disparities in the system, the recommendation to permanently schedule fentanyl-related substances echoes the failed drug policies of our past. Today's proposal is reminiscent of these policies, which led to over-policing and law enforcement, disproportionately impacted people of color, overcrowded prisons, and cost lives. The proposal is a major step backward in the fight to dismantle the harms of the past and save lives."

Seattle Task Force Calls for Drug Decriminalization. The city's Overdose Emergency Innovative Recovery (OEIR) task force is recommending the decriminalization of the possession of all drugs. The group, which was responding to the city council's request for policy advice on how to reduce overdose deaths, announced its recommendations at a Tuesday night event. It said that removing the penalties around drug possession -- or even legalizing and regulating them -- would "create opportunities for research and access to a regulated safe supply in a manner that is safest for everyone in the community." The task force also recommended expanding housing, treatment and harm reduction services, and working to reduce social stigma around substance abuse disorders. "Unlearning drug war propaganda of the last century will take time and patience," the group said in a summary document. "It will take an all hands on deck effort to end the stigmatization and harm that more than a century of prohibition has caused."

International

Vancouver Activists Formally Ask Canadian Government to Allow Buyers' Clubs for Hard Drugs. The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) have formally asked the Canadian government to allow them to operate buyers' clubs for heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine in order to produce users with a reliable "safe supply" of those drugs. The two groups submitted an open letter to Health Canada requesting a formal exemption from federal criminal drug laws so that no one is prosecuted for operating a "compassion club" to distribute those drugs. "The DULF Fulfillment Center and Compassion Club model is saving lives right now," the letter states, "and will save more if we are permitted to continue our work with federal authorization. We are prepared to undertake such action, and hope that you will support our efforts. Lives depend on it." The letter requests a decision from Health Canada by October 15. If DULF and VANDU's request is granted, it will represent a historic milestone in international efforts to roll back the drug war. More importantly, it will have an immediate impact on the safety of compassion club members.

Medical Marijuana Update

Another effort to force the federal government to reevaluate its stance on medical marijuana gets shot down, an expansion of Texas's medical marijuana program goes into effect today, and more.

National

US 9th Circuit Rejects Bid to Make Feds Rethink Stance on Medical Marijuana. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Monday refused to make the federal government reconsider its decades-old position that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use. The ruling came in a case brought by medical marijuana researcher Dr. Suzanne Sisley and three veterans who claimed harm from marijuana being classified as a Schedule I drug. The plaintiffs asked the court to force the DEA to revisit its stance, with plaintiff's attorney calling the DEA's stance "a relic of a bygone era." In their 16-page opinion Monday, a three-judge panel rejected the petition, finding Sisley and her co-petitioners failed to exhaust other avenues of relief they could have pursued before going to court.

South Dakota

South Dakota Legislative Panel Recommends Overruling Voters and Banning Medical Marijuana Home Grows.The legislature's Medical Marijuana Subcommittee voted 6-4 Monday to recommend banning home grown medical marijuana cultivation, even though it is expressly allowed under the language of IM 26, the medical marijuana initiative overwhelmingly approved by voters last November. The issue now goes to the legislature's full Marijuana Study Committee, which consists of eight senators and 16 representatives. Lawmakers on the adult use committee also discussed banning home grown marijuana on Wednesday as the state awaits a Supreme Court ruling on whether the voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative is unconstitutional.

Texas

Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion Goes into Effect This Week. A law approved by the legislature earlier this year that expands the use of medical marijuana in the state goes into effect on Wednesday. The expansion will now allow veterans who suffer from PTSD, cancer patients, and people suffering other specified medical conditions to join the list of qualifying conditions. The new law also raises the dosage limit of THC from .5% to 1%.

DEA to Increase Research Production Quotas for Marijuana & Psilocybin, SD MedMJ Home Grows Endangered, More... (9/1/21)

Panama legalizes medical marijuana, the DEA boosts quotas for production of marijuana and psilocbyin for research purposes, and more.

South Dakota lawmakers want to ban medical marijuana home grows even though the voters approved them. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

The DEA Seeks to Increase Federal Production Limits for Psilocybin and Marijuana Research. The DEA has published a new document in the Federal Register proposing a significant increase in federal quotas for the production of psilocybin, psilocin (the metabolized version of psilocybin), and marijuana for research purposes. Both psilocybin and psilocin had a ceiling of 50 grams, which has been increased to 1500 grams and 1000 grams, respectively. The DEA also wants to raise the production quota for marijuana from 1.5 million grams this year to 2 million grams next year, as well as doubling upscale marijuana extract production to 500,000 grams. "DEA firmly believes in supporting regulated research of schedule I controlled substances," wrote the agency. "Therefore, the [Aggregate Production Quota] increases reflect the need to fulfill research and development requirements in the production of new drug products, and the study of marijuana effects in particular, as necessary steps toward potential Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of new drug products."

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Legislative Panel Recommends Overruling Voters and Banning Medical Marijuana Home Grows.The legislature's Medical Marijuana Subcommittee voted 6-4 Monday to recommend banning home grown medical marijuana cultivation, even though it is expressly allowed under the language of IM 26, the medical marijuana initiative overwhelmingly approved by voters last November. The issue now goes to the legislature's full Marijuana Study Committee, which consists of eight senators and 16 representatives. Lawmakers on the adult use committee also discussed banning home grown marijuana on Wednesday as the state awaits a Supreme Court ruling on whether the voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative is unconstitutional.

Psychedelics

Denver Activists Push to Expand Psilocybin Decriminalization to Allow Gifting and Communal Use. The activists who successful managed a campaign to make Denver the first city in the US to decriminalize the possession of psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms are now aimed to legalize the noncommercial gifting and communal use of the substance. Kevin Matthews, founder of Vote Nature and head of the city's Psilocybin Mushroom Review Panel, said the proposal would ensure that people "have the liberty to gather in private group settings to celebrate and commune with psilocybin mushrooms without worrying about law enforcement intervention." The proposal is included in the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel's 2021 Comprehensive Report, which has already been approved by the district attorney and is pending further sign-off by other officials.

International

Panama Legalizes Medical Marijuana. After five years of consideration, the national assembly on Monday unanimously approved Bill 153, which legalizes medical marijuana in the Central American nation. The bill allows for home grown medical marijuana but bars its sale. It also requires the government to import marijuana in pill and liquid drop form. That medicine will be distributed through pharmacies that have applied for a permit and pass a site inspection.

OH Marijuana Legalization Campaign Can Gather Signatures, Biden Considers Drug Sentence Commutations, More... (8/31/21)

An effort to force the DEA to reconsider the Schedule I status of marijuana has been shot down by the 9th Circuit, an Ohio marijuana legalization campaign gets the go-ahead to start signature gathering, and more.

Will the president commute some drug sentences to avoid sending people out on home confinement back to prison? (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Gets Okay to Start Signature Gathering. A marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was approved for signature gathering Monday by the Ohio Ballot Board. The board determined that the initiative indeed addresses a single issue -- marijuana legalization -- and can proceed. Backers must now come up with 132,887 valid voter signatures to put the proposal before the legislature. If the legislature refuses to act, rejects the proposal, or amend it within four months, backers could then collect another 132,887 valid voter signatures to put the issue directly before the voters in 2022.

Medical Marijuana

US 9th Circuit Rejects Bid to Make Feds Rethink Stance on Medical Marijuana. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Monday refused to make the federal government reconsider its decades-old position that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use. The ruling came in a case brought by medical marijuana researcher Dr. Suzanne Sisley and three veterans who claim harm from marijuana being classified as a Schedule I drug. The plaintiffs asked the court to force the DEA to revisit its stance, with plaintiff's attorney calling the DEA's stance "a relic of a bygone era." In their 16-page opinion Monday, a three-judge panel rejected the petition, finding Sisley and her co-petitioners failed to exhaust other avenues of relief that they could have pursued before coming to court.

Criminal Justice

President Biden Considering Commuting Sentences of Some Drug Offenders. In a bid to avoid forcing drug offenders released to home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic back to prison after the emergency ends, President Biden is considering commuting their sentences by using his clemency powers. The proposal is aimed at nonviolent drug offenders with fewer than four years left on their sentences. Those with longer sentences or who committed other types of crimes would be out of luck. Normally, federal prisoners are only eligible for home confinement in the final six months of their sentences, and as many as 2,000 who were sent home are outside that limit and subject to being returned to prison when the COVID emergency ends (although thanks to recalcitrant Americans, that end date seems to be constantly receding). A Trump-era Justice Department memo concluded that once the emergency ends, legal authority to keep inmates in home confinement would "evaporate," but inmates advocates and some Democratic lawmakers are urging the administration to reject that memo and come up with a rationale to extend home confinements.

CA Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Held Over, TX MedMJ Expansion Goes into Effect Wednesday, More... (8/30/31)

A Philadelphia site injection site that was blocked by a federal appeals court is asking the Supreme Court to take up the case, a third marijuana legalization initiative campaign emerges in Missouri, and more.

California psychedelic decriminalization will have to wait until next year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Sees Third Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Emerge. And then there were three. A group calling itself Legal Missouri 2022 filed a marijuana legalization initiative proposal last week that would allow people 21 and over to purchase at least three ounces of marijuana, tax sales at 6% with an additional local option of up to 3%, and allow people to grow up to six mature and six immature plants, but only after registering with the state. Another group, Fair Access Missouri, is pushing a number of initiatives, including several that would set up a system of legalized marijuana sales, but none of those proposals have yet passed muster for the secretary of state's office. Yet another group, New Approach Missouri, is also working on a 2022 initiative after their 2020 effort was thwarted by coronavirus restrictions during signature gathering. To qualify for the 2022 ballot, initiatives will have to get 171,592 valid voter signatures by early July 2022.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion Goes into Effect This Week. A law approved by the legislature earlier this year that expands the use of medical marijuana in the state goes into effect on Wednesday. The expansion will now allow veterans who suffer from PTSD, cancer patients, and people suffering other specified medical conditions to join the list of qualifying conditions. The new law also raises the dosage limit of THC from .5% to 1%.

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Held Over for Next Year. The bill to decriminalize the possession of a number of psychedelics in the state, Senate Bill 519, is being held over to next year after stalling in the Assembly. In a statement last Thursday, bill sponsor state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced the bill will be shelved even though the "groundbreaking legislation moved significantly farther than anticipated." More time is needed to "lay educational groundwork with members and the public to ensure the bill’s success" and that the delay will allow supporters to "capitalize on the momentum from this year while building support in the Assembly for next year."

Harm Reduction

Philadelphia Safe Injection Site Proponents Appeal to Supreme Court After Lower Court Ruling Halted Their Project. Safehouse, the group that was set to open a safe injection site in Philadelphia before being blocked last year by a federal court ruling, has filed a petition with the US Supreme Court asking it to take up the case. In the earlier case, the Trump administration sided strongly with federal prosecutors to block the site from opening; now the question is what stance the Biden administration will take. The administration has broadly embraced harm reduction, but President Biden has yet to weigh in on safe injection sites.  In what could be a precedent-setting case that could steer policy for years, Safehouse is taking a significant risk by going before a very conservative Supreme court. Having the administration on its side could only help its prospects.

DEA to Review Foreign Operations, Vancouver Activists Plan Another "Safe Supply" Drug Giveaway, More... (8/26/21)

California wants to try a form of drug treatment where users are paid not to use, Vancouver activists plan to mark International Overdose Awareness Day with a "safe supply" drug giveaway, and more.

The DEA will review its international operations, although there is no sign it is looking at a paradigm shift.
Drug Policy

DEA Announces Review of International Operations. The Drug Enforcement Administration on Thursday announced a comprehensive review of DEA’s international operations and foreign footprint, including administrative and financial support for those operations from DEA headquarters. Administrator Anne Milgram has recommended a top to bottom review of foreign operations that will be overseen by an independent team.  As part of the review, the team will talk to DEA personnel posted in DEA’s foreign offices and headquarters. DEA listed "international cartels, narco-terrorist violence, and precursor chemicals flowing from other countries" as global threats it faces. "This review will provide recommendations for my consideration upon completion.  Specifically, I expect the team to provide an assessment of DEA’s current international operational capacity, and to identify areas for improvement to ensure DEA’s international operations are impactful and effective, with the appropriate structures, procedures, and controls to ensure integrity and accountability," said Administrator Milgram. There is in indication the agency is undergoing a paradigm shift, though.

Drug Treatment

California Seeks Federal Permission to Do "Contingency Management" Drug Treatment. The state is seeking permission from the federal government to do "contingency management" drug treatment, in which users are paid money to stay sober, receiving increasing payments for each drug test passed. Such a program has been underway with military veterans for years, with research showing it is an effective way to get people off stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, for which there are no pharmaceutical treatments available. Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is asking the federal government to allow the state to use federal tax dollars to pay for it through Medicaid. Meanwhile, state Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) has filed a bill, Senate Bill 110, to do something similar. That bill has already passed the Senate with no  opposition and has a Republican co-sponsor in the Assembly, where it has already been approved by the Health Committee and is now before the Appropriations Committee. Wiener’s bill would require California’s Medicaid program to pay for the treatment while Newsom’s plan would let counties choose whether to participate.

International

Vancouver Activists to Mark August 31 International Overdose Awareness Day by Handing Out Free "Safe Supply" of Drugs. A Vancouver-based safe supply advocacy group, the Drug Users Liberation Front (DULF), handed out free cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine during a July event to dramatize the need for a "safe supply" of drugs" as the city faces a drug overdose crisis, and now, they are getting ready to do it again. DULF says the July event showed the "life-saving potential of a community-led response to the crisis of prohibition in Canada" as an alternative to Vancouver's proposed model of decriminalization. DULF will be joined at the Overdose Awareness Day Event by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), which has raised $13,000 to buy and test drugs to be distributed for free among registered VANDU members. "We recognize this a day to honor those we lost to the War on Drugs," said VANDU. "A senseless war fueled by colonial dispossession, racist violence, capitalist exploitation and police criminalization that has taken far too many lives.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Oregon cop ODs on dope he stole from the evidence locker and causes a multiple car crash, and more. Let's get to it:

In Medford, Oregon, a former Klamath Falls police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing methamphetamine and fentanyl from the departmental evidence room. Former Officer Dwayne Reif, 28, went down after he overdosed in his police vehicle on fentanyl that he removed from the evidence room using an unauthorized key. When he overdosed, his police car jumped the median and travelled into oncoming traffic, causing a multi-vehicle accident. After his overdose, police searched his work locker and found a hidden evidence bag containing meth. He pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a DEA agent pleaded guilty last Wednesday to accepting bribes from a drug traffickers to help him continue to distribute cocaine, heroin, and other drugs. Agent Nathan Koen, 45, had previously busted the trafficker, but then turned him into an informant, and the trafficker quickly resumed his business, only now with Koen's help. He went down after FBI agents watched him accept a $9,000 cash bribe in a Las Vegas casino bathroom. He copped to one count of bribery of a public official and is looking at up to 15 years in prison.

In New Orleans,  a former DEA agent was sentenced August 12 to more than 13 years in federal prison for stealing money from suspects, falsifying government records and committing perjury during a federal trial. Former Agent Chad Scott "broke every rule in the book," prosecutors charged. Scott, 53, was found guilty at successive trials of a long list of corruption counts. The charges stemmed from an expansive federal investigation into misconduct claims that had surrounded Scott for much of his 17-year career, even as he racked up headline-grabbing drug busts between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Medical Marijuana Update

Prospects for medical marijuana this year remain alive in Mississippi and North Carolina, and more.

Mississippi

Mississippi Special Session to Pass Medical Marijuana Still Possible. Lawmakers are still working on reaching a consensus on a medical marijuana bill with the hope that Gov. Tate Reeves (R) will hew to his vow to call a special session to get medical marijuana approved in the state. The push for the special session comes after voters approved medical marijuana at the polls last year, only to see the state Supreme Court invalidate the initiative. The state constitution requires that initiative petitions contain signatures from each of the state's five congressional districts, but the state has only had four districts since redistricting in 2000, and the legislature has not acted in the two decades since to rectify the constitutional conundrum. “I think the parties are close enough at this point or will be in the foreseeable future, that if the governor so chose to call a special session," said Representative Trey Lamar. "I don’t believe that it would take too long to get the parties to put a measure together and get it passed," he said. "The ball is in the governor’s hands. If he wants to do it then we’ll respond and we’ll come to Jackson and we’ll get it done. If not, then I guess we’ll wait until January."

North Carolina

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Ready to Advance in Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday accepted revisions to the Compassionate Care Act, Senate Bill 711, laying the groundwork for formal approval at a later meeting. The bill had already passed Judiciary and one more committee last month but was referred back to Judiciary this month to deal with revisions. The proposal would allow patients with specified "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana, but with revisions now includes patients with terminal conditions who have less than six months to live, as well as those who qualify for hospice care. Under the legislation, patients could possess up to one and a half ounces of cannabis, but home cultivation would not be permitted. The measure would provide for up to 10 medical marijuana suppliers, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries. Once the bill passes out of Judiciary, it must still be re-referred to the Health and Rules and Operations committees before heading for a floor vote.

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to approve a revised bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Senate Bill 711. The committee had already approved the bill but had to take it up again after it was revised in a separate committee. Now, it goes before one final committee, the Senate Health Care and Rules Committee before heading for a Senate floor vote. The bill would allow patients with one of a list of "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana. The bill will now also allow patients with terminal illnesses with less than six months to live and those in hospice care to use medical marijuana. Patients could possess up to an ounce and a half but would not be able to grow their own. Medical marijuana would be provided by up to 10 growers, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries.

Wyoming

Wyoming Marijuana Legalization, Medical Marijuana Initiatives Signature Gathering to Begin Next Month. After the state attorney general's office last week approved the wording of proposed marijuana legalization and medical marijuana initiatives, supporters are gearing up to begin signature gathering next month. "We’ll be hitting events, going door to door. We intend to get it all wrapped up by February," Wyoming NORML Executive Director Bennett Sondeno said. Wyoming's signature requirements are tough: Proponents must gather valid signatures from 15% of voters in the previous general election from each of at least 16 of the state’s 23 counties. There have been nine different initiative efforts in the past 25 years; none qualified for the ballot. The last initiative to actually make the ballot and pass was a railroad safety initiative in 1992.

Thai Parliament Approves Drug Reform Bill, US Reform Groups Urge DOJ to End Fentanyl Analog Scheduling

Drug reform, civil rights, and other groups urge the Justice Department to end the punitive emergency scheduling of fentanyl and its analogs, a North Carolina medical marijuana bill advances, and more.

Fentanyl and its analogs are the subject of a battle over draconian emergency scheduling. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to approve a revised bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Senate Bill 711. The committee had already approved the bill but had to take it up again after it was revised in a separate committee. Now, it goes before one final committee, the Senate Health Care and Rules Committee before heading for a Senate floor vote. The bill would allow patients with one of a list of "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana. The bill will now also allow patients with terminal illnesses with less than six months to live and those in hospice care to use medical marijuana. Patients could possess up to an ounce and a half but would not be able to grow their own. Medical marijuana would be provided by up to 10 growers, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries.

Opioids

More Than 140 Groups Urge DOJ to End Over-Criminalization of Fentanyl-Related Substances. Some 142 drug reform, criminal justice, religious, civil liberties, and other groups have written to Attorney General Merrick Garland to urge the Biden administration to let the Trump administration's temporary "classwide" emergency scheduling of fentanyl-related substances expire on October 22. The groups also asked the administration to engage in more interactions with stakeholders before it finalizes its recommendations to Congress, complaining that the coalition had only been granted one half-hour "listening session" with the working group studying the topic. "The class wide scheduling policy must expire," the groups wrote. "Class wide scheduling would exacerbate pretrial detention, mass incarceration, and racial disparities in the prison system, doubling down on a fear-based, enforcement-first response to a public health challenge. The policy could also lead to over-criminalization and prosecutorial misconduct. Under the class wide control, any offense involving a 'fentanyl-related substance' is subject to federal criminal prosecution, even if the substance in question is helpful or has no potential for abuse. Failure to define with specificity through our laws what is or is not illegal will lead to miscarriages of justice."The groups also argued that class wide scheduling will not help curb overdose rates or curb the supply of fentanyl or its analogs.

International

Thai Parliament Approves New Drug Law Emphasizing Prevention and Treatment. The parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to a new drug law that emphasizes prevention and treatment rather than punishment for small-scale drug users while also introducing tougher measures against organized crime. The omnibus bill first approved by the cabinet in 2019, consolidates more than 20 existing laws relating to drugs, ranging from sentencing for drug possession and distribution to asset forfeiture. "The new law shifts away from the old concept that emphasises only suppression because more suppression has not resulted in drug eradication," said Chatchawan Suksumjit, a senator who chaired a joint parliamentary committee overseeing changes to the new narcotic laws. "Punishment will now be divided between low level, which means drug users, who will systematically receive treatment rather than prison, while high level offenders will face more severe punishment," he said. Drug offenders make up more than 80% of Thailand's 300,000 prisoners. The new law could result in reduced sentences for up to 50,000 of them once it becomes law after winning royal endorsement later this year.

NJ Regulators Approve Rules for Recreational Pot Market, Mexico President Could Free Aged Killer Drug Lord, More....(8/24/21)

A Mississippi legislative special session to pass a medical marijuana bill is still possible, New Jersey moves one step closer to legal recreational marijuana sales, and more.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador is considering releasing Felix Gallardo, jailed in the killing of a DEA agent in 1985. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Regulators Approves Rules for Recreational Marijuana Market. The state's marijuana regulators last week approved rules for setting up the recreational marijuana market, paving the way for legal sales to begin, although the date that might happen remains uncertain. The rules give priority in applications to women-, minority-, and disabled veteran-owned businesses. The director of the five-person commission, Jeff Brown, said the next step will be a notification that applications are being accepted. Commission Chairperson Dianna Houenou said the commission wants to see that the application process is proceeding smoothly before setting a start date for sales. “We know that there is a lot of interest in getting this market up and running and we were duty-bound to do it right."

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Special Session to Pass Medical Marijuana Still Possible. Lawmakers are still working on reaching a consensus on a medical marijuana bill with the hope that Gov. Tate Reeves (R) will hew to his vow to call a special session to get medical marijuana approved in the state. The push for the special session comes after voters approved medical marijuana at the polls last year, only to see the state Supreme Court invalidate the initiative. The state constitution requires that initiative petitions contain signatures from each of the state's five congressional districts, but the state has only had four districts since redistricting in 2000, and the legislature has not acted in the two decades since to rectify the constitutional conundrum. “I think the parties are close enough at this point or will be in the foreseeable future, that if the governor so chose to call a special session," said Representative Trey Lamar. "I don’t believe that it would take too long to get the parties to put a measure together and get it passed," he said. "The ball is in the governor’s hands. If he wants to do it then we’ll respond and we’ll come to Jackson and we’ll get it done. If not, then I guess we’ll wait until January."

International

Mexican President Open to Freeing Drug Lord Jailed for 1985 Murder of DEA Agent. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said last Friday he was open to freeing imprisoned drug lord Angel Felix Gallardo, who has been behind bars for decades in Mexico for his role in the 1985 killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena outside Guadalajara. Lopez Obrador cited Gallardo's old age and poor health. Gallardo, 75, is blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, and cannot walk. He called Lopez Obrador "a man of good will" in a televised interview last week. Responding to a question about that interview, Lopez Obrador said: "If it is justified ... of course, yes. "I also want him to understand my situation, that I do not want anyone to suffer. I do not want anyone to be in jail. I am a humanist," said Lopez Obrador, adding that prosecutors would review the case. Last month, Lopez Obrador proposed releasing thousands of inmates who were elderly, had been tortured, or suffered from health problems, as well as non-serious offenders.

OH Marijuana Legalization Measure Takes Small Step Forward, Portland Psychedelic Push, More... (8/23/21)

An Ohio effort to legalize marijuana cleared an initiial hurdle last Friday, Wyoming marijuana legalization and medical marijuana advocates will begin signature gathering next month, and more.

Wyoming marijuana initiatives face real hurdles in getting to the ballot, but activists are trying. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Attorney General Okays Marijuana Legalization Measure's Summary Language. State Attorney General Dave Yost (R) last Friday certified summary language for a proposed marijuana legalization initiative that would direct the state legislature to take up the issue and ultimately present the issue directly to voters if the legislature rejects or refuses to act on legalization. Now, the measure goes before the Ohio Ballot Board, which will determine whether it contains a single law, a requirement for state ballot initiatives. If it gets past the Ballot Board, signature gathering could then begin. Supporters would need 132,887 valid voter signatures from voters in at least half of the state's 88 counties. If signature gathering goals are met, the legislature would have four months to approve legalization. If it fails to do so, supporters could then collect another 132,887 signatures to place the proposal before Ohio voters during the next election.

Wyoming Marijuana Legalization, Medical Marijuana Initiatives Signature Gathering to Begin Next Month. After the state attorney general's office last week approved the wording of proposed marijuana legalization and medical marijuana initiatives, supporters are gearing up to begin signature gathering next month. "We’ll be hitting events, going door to door. We intend to get it all wrapped up by February," Wyoming NORML Executive Director Bennett Sondeno said. Wyoming's signature requirements are tough: Proponents must gather valid signatures from 15% of voters in the previous general election from each of at least 16 of the state’s 23 counties. There have been nine different initiative efforts in the past 25 years; none qualified for the ballot. The last initiative to actually make the ballot and pass was a railroad safety initiative in 1992.

Psychedelics

Portland, Oregon, Activists Push to Decriminalize Psychedelic Cultivation, Gifting, and Community Ceremonies. Portland activists who say they want to fill a gap left when state voters approved both psilocybin therapy and drug decriminalization are making a push to have the city commission pass a resolution to decriminalize the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics. The Plant Medicine Healing Alliance (PMHA) says the policies leave some important activity at risk of criminalization. The new local resolution they are asking the the City Commission to pass would make it so that activities such as gifting and community-based ceremonies involving entheogenic substances like ayahuasca and ibogaine would be made among Portland’s lowest law enforcement priorities. The proposal would affirm peoples’ "right to cultivate, prepare, possess, or administer entheogenic substances, especially for community healing or a good faith religious or spiritual practice." In a nod to indigenous groups, the PHMA is excluding peyote from its list because of concerns about the sustainability of the limited peyote crop.

Taliban Say No More Opium Production Under Their Rule, CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, More... (8/19/21)

The harm reduction group DanceSafe releases new test kits for cocaine and ketamine, a North Carolina medical marijuana bil is moving, and more.

Will Afghan poppy fields become a thing of the past? The Taliban say yes. (UNODC)
Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Ready to Advance in Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday accepted revisions to the Compassionate Care Act, Senate Bill 711, laying the groundwork for formal approval at a later meeting. The bill had already passed Judiciary and one more committee last month but was referred back to Judiciary this month to deal with revisions. The proposal would allow patients with specified "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana, but with revisions now includes patients with terminal conditions who have less than six months to live, as well as those who qualify for hospice care. Under the legislation, patients could possess up to one and a half ounces of cannabis, but home cultivation would not be permitted. The measure would provide for up to 10 medical marijuana suppliers, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries. Once the bill passes out of Judiciary, it must still be re-referred to the Health and Rules and Operations committees before heading for a floor vote.

Harm Reduction

DanceSafe Releases New Test Kit for Cocaine and Ketamine. DanceSafe, a nationally active and long-standing public health nonprofit, has released a new consumer drug checking kit that can reliably identify cocaine and ketamine, two of the most commonly used illicit drugs. The kit consists of two small bottles known together as Morris reagent. To use the kit, the user places one drop of liquid from each bottle onto a tiny amount of the drug and stirs the mixture with a toothpick for 20-30 seconds. The reaction turns bright blue in the presence of cocaine and purple in the presence of ketamine. The reagent can also detect two major ketamine analogues, DCK and 2-FDCK, which turn a navy blue color. Nearly all other drugs turn a dull green color, indicating a non-reaction. "This is a game changer," says Mitchell Gomez, DanceSafe’s Executive Director. "The cocaine and ketamine markets are highly adulterated, and this new test kit can help consumers avoid many of the counterfeit powders."

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Advances. A bill to decriminalize the possession of many psychedelics, Senate Bill 519, passed a procedural hurdle in the Assembly on Monday, getting a second reading on the Assembly floor and being re-referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It now faces a "suspense hearing" August 26, after which it would head for a final Assembly floor vote if it passes. If it then passes the Assembly, it would go back to the Senate for approval of amendments made in the Assembly, all of which must be accomplished by September 10 in order to reach the governor's desk this year. If the bill doesn't advance by then, it would not be dead but wouldn't be acted on again until January. One amendment that irks advocates like Decriminalize Nature sets possession limits, such as two grams of DMT, four grams of mescaline, two grams of psilocybin, and four grams of magic mushrooms. The group has called for the bill to be tabled until the kerfuffle over possession limits is settle to its satisfaction, but bill sponsor Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco says he wants to move forward now while the bill has momentum.

International

Taliban Say No More Opium Production in Afghanistan Under Their Rule. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference in Kabul Wednesday that there will be zero drug production or trafficking in the country in the near future. "There will be no drug production, no drug smuggling. We saw today that our young people were on drugs near the walls; this was making me very, very sad that our youth are addicted," Mujahid said. "Afghanistan will not be a country of cultivation of opium anymore, but we need international help for that. The international community needs to help us," he added. Throughout this century, Afghanistan has been the world's leading opium producer, responsible for more than 80% of global supply with an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Afghans and produces a sizeable chunk of the country's Gross National Product. Wiping out opium production would create a huge economic disruption in the country, but the Taliban was able to do it in 2000, the year before they were overthrown by a US invasion.

Chronicle Book Review: "This Is Your Mind on Plants" by Michael Pollan

Chronicle Book Review:This is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan (2021, Penguin Press, 274 pp., $28.00 HB)

A long time ago, in the days of Ronald Reagan, I once fell into conversation with an indigenous campesino at a rustic roadside café on a lonely road through the Sierra Madre Mountains in the state of Oaxaca, long notorious for its marijuana cultivation. We conversed in Spanish, a second language for both of us, about peasant life thereabouts and, eventually, about la mota.

One remark he made has stayed with me to this day: "How can a plant be illegal?" he wanted to know. This was not a question of understanding legal systems, but of wrapping his native head around the arrogant Western notions that plants -- an essential part of nature and the source of much healing -- are "good" or "bad" and that we can decree part of nature to be a crime.

Renowned foodie and plant author Michael Pollan has long dealt with that question, not so much wrestling with it as observing and noting the absurd, arbitrary, capricious, and historically-contingent laws privileging some psychoactive plants -- coffee or tea, anyone? -- while demonizing and even criminalizing others. He took on marijuana (as well as apples, potatoes, and tulips) in The Botany of Desire (2002) and plant- and fungi-based psychedelics (as well as synthetics) in How to Change Your Mind (2018).

And now he's back with This Is Your Mind on Plants, in which he examines our relationship with four psychoactive plants -- opium, caffeine, and the mescaline-bearing cacti peyote and San Pedro. Pollan recognizes that such plants are not good or bad, but good and bad -- they can heal and stimulate and they can addict and kill (or in the case of psychedelics, really mess with your head) -- and relates how the original Greek word for drug, pharmakos, meant both medicine and poison. Prohibitions crush such subtle understandings beneath demonizing dogma. As Pollan notes in his introduction:

But the blunt instrument of a drug war has kept us from reckoning with these ambiguities and the important questions about our nature they raise. The drug war's simplistic account of what drugs do and are, as well as its insistence on lumping them all together under a single meaningless rubric, has for too long prevented us from thinking about the meaning and potential of these very different substances. The legal status of a molecule is one of the least interesting things about it. Much like a food, a psychoactive drug is not a thing -- without a human brain, it is inert -- but a relationship; it takes both a molecule and mind to make anything happen.

The legal status of a molecule may not be of much interest to Pollan -- he acknowledges his privilege as he admits he's not really afraid of getting busted for the peyote cactus in his Berkeley garden -- but it has cast shadows over some of his research, particularly his chapter on his experience growing opium poppies, written in the 1990s and originally published with some "how to" pages removed out of fear of possible federal persecution.

Opium poppies, the plants that produce morphine and all its derivatives, such as heroin, are legal to buy and grow in the United States. But make that first cut on a mature seed pod to release the opium sap and you could find yourself looking at a federal drug manufacturing charge. Or, worse yet, have the feds think you know too much about how you get morphine from your pretty flowers and you could get yourself arrested for possessing legal poppy straw that you bought at the local flower shop.

That's what happened to Jim Hogshire, author of Opium for the Masses, the book that inspired Pollan's opium article in the first place. Hogshire's persecution, which occurred as Pollan was growing his own poppies, made him acutely concerned about the legal status of the molecule and the murky borderlines where one transforms from avid gardener into drug manufacturer.

The chapter is a chilling reminder of Clinton-era war on drugs paranoia, but also of DEA stupidity. While quietly seeking to suppress a handful of amateur poppy-growing gardeners, it was busily ignoring what would prove to be the actual opium epidemic of our time, the prescription opioids. The same year the feds were going after the gardeners, is also the year when PurduePharma rolled out Oxycontin, followed by years of aggressive marketing that had a skewing physician perceptions about when or for how long this useful but also abusable medication should be prescribed.

Pollan quit drinking coffee for his chapter on caffeine. He writes that he usually takes drugs he writes about because he feels he has to to understand them, but that with coffee, to which he like hundreds of millions of others around the planet is addicted, he felt that he had to experience life without the miracle molecule. It didn't go well, but he survived to tell the tale.

And it's a tale, of coffee's role in the making of industrial civilization. Caffeine, after all, Pollan notes, made the night-shift possible, improved concentration, and increased worker productivity. Of course, it's a legal drug! That despite it occasionally being banned, the denizens of European coffeeshops being suspected of being quite clear-headed, argumentative, and capable of political subversion, not to mention the mingling of classes that went on. With coffee, England roused itself from its alcoholic haze and went on to conquer the world.

In his chapter on mescaline, Pollan writes about his adventures with the San Pedro cactus, a mescaline-bearing succulent like peyote (although not as potent), which, unlike peyote, is legal in the United States. But as with his experiment with poppy growing back in the '90s, Pollan runs into legal ambiguity: When does growing a San Pedro cross the line into manufacturing mescaline?

To be accurate, peyote is not completely illegal in the US. Bizarrely enough, it is a substance whose legality is not determined by itself but by who is consuming it. If you are a member of the Native American Church, it is legal. If you're not, it's not. That's weird, but it does at least protect the ability of Native Americans to consume peyote, which is central to their religious practice.

Pollan does well in navigating the complexities of using substances that come from long traditions of indigenous use, and grasps the point made by the church that the best thing white people can do for peyote is leave it alone. That has led to conflict with groups like Decriminalize Nature, which want to legalize plant-based psychedelics, or entheogens, for everyone. Pollan handles that division with aplomb and respect, much as he does with the entire book. This isn't really a book about drug policy, but it is a wonderful book about some very special plants and the role they play.

Medical Marijuana Update

It's the dog days of summer, but there is still a little bit of medical marijuana news to report.

Mississippi

Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Board Rejects Adding New Qualifying Medical Conditions. The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board on Tuesday voted to reject adding five medical conditions to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use. Those conditions were traumatic brain injury, hepatitis, Hepatitis C, chronic insomnia that isn’t responding to other treatments and major depressive disorder that isn’t responding to other treatments. The board has already approved 23 serious medical conditions for medical marijuana use, but board members were concerned the applications for traumatic brain, hepatitis, and Hepatitis C were "overly broad" and cited worries that juveniles with traumatic brain injuries could qualify for medical marijuana. With chronic insomnia and major depressive, the board concluded there was no evidence that medical marijuana would benefit patients with those conditions.

Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.

September Will Be Psychedelic Awareness Month in Ann Arbor, US Afghan Opium Fiasco, More... (8/18/21)

Pennsylvania's medical marijuana advisory board rejects five potential qualifying conditions, it will be Psychedelic Awareness Month next month in Ann Arbor, and more.

Harvesting opium poppies in Afghanistan. Nearly $9 billion in US anti-drug aid couldn't stop it. (UNODC)
Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Board Rejects Adding New Qualifying Medical Conditions. The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board on Tuesday voted to reject adding five medical conditions to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use. Those conditions were traumatic brain injury, hepatitis, Hepatitis C, chronic insomnia that isn’t responding to other treatments and major depressive disorder that isn’t responding to other treatments. The board has already approved 23 serious medical conditions for medical marijuana use, but board members were concerned the applications for traumatic brain, hepatitis, and Hepatitis C were "overly broad" and cited worries that juveniles with traumatic brain injuries could qualify for medical marijuana. With chronic insomnia and major depressive, the board concluded there was no evidence that medical marijuana would benefit patients with those conditions.

Psychedelics

Ann Arbor Declares September Will Be Psychedelic Awareness Month. The city council voted Monday to officially designate September as Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month. The move comes nearly a year after the council voted to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics and passed on a unanimous vote. "Practices with entheogenic plants/fungi have been considered sacred to human cultures and human relationships with nature for thousands of years," the resolution says. The measure also says the city council "advocates increased awareness and understanding of the potential benefits of entheogens for mental health, personal and spiritual growth, as well as honoring the long standing ancestral practices and relationships with these entheogens."

Foreign Policy

The US Spent Nearly $9 Billion to Suppress Afghan Opium; It Remains World's Largest Opium Producer. As the two-decade American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan comes to an end, it is worth noting that the US tried throughout the occupation to quash the country's opium crop, spending $8.9 billion over the years to do so. To no avail: The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports that Afghanistan has accounted for more than 80% of global opium production throughout this century and that opium cultivation in the country rose from 150,000 acres in 2002 to more than 450,000 last year.

Gallup Says Nearly Half of US Adults Have Smoked Pot, Sri Lanka Drug War Abuses Called Out, More... (8/17/21)

Washington state's governor is moving to commute hundreds of drug possession sentences, a new Gallup poll has the number of Americans who admit ever using marijuana at an all-time high, and more.

The number of Americans who admit to having tried marijuana is at an all-time high, says Gallup. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll: Percent of US Adults Who Have Ever Smoked Pot at Highest Point Ever. A new Gallup poll has the percentage of US adults who have ever tried marijuana at 49%, the highest figure Gallup has recorded to date. In 1969, just 4% said they had tried it, with that figure rising to 20% in 1977, 30% in 1985, and 40% in 2015. But the number of people who say they currently "smoke marijuana" is much smaller, staying steady at between 11% and 13% after jumping from the 7% in 2013, the first year Gallup asked the question. Trends in marijuana use are generational, with only 19% of people over 75 having tried it, compared with about half of millennials (51%), Generation Xers (49%) and baby boomers (50%).

Drug Policy

Washington State Governor Unveils New Process to Commute Hundreds of Drug Possession Sentences. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Monday rolled out a new method for hundreds of people seeking to commute their sentences for low-level drug convictions to do so. The move comes after the state Supreme Court invalidated the state's drug possession law because it did not require people to knowingly possess, leading the state legislature to pass a bill allowing people caught with drugs to be referred to a health evaluation and possible drug treatment for their first two offenses. Now, the governor is pushing expedited clemency for those eligible under the new policy and those currently on probation or paroled for low-level drug possession can directly petition the governor for a commutation.

International

Human Rights Watch Calls for Suspension of International Assistance to Sri Lanka Police over Abuses in War on Drugs, Fight Against COVID. Human Rights Watch has called on international donors and "partners" of the Sri Lankan police to suspend assistance to them because they "are increasingly killing and abusing people under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic measures and an anti-drug campaign." The group cited recent police abuses including alleged extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary detention. It called on the government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to "restore independent oversight of the police and meaningfully investigate and prosecute alleged police abuses." "Sri Lanka's police seem intent on building on their past record of serious abuses, instead of cleaning up their act," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The UN, UK, and others working with Sri Lankan law enforcement should recognize that without the political will to reform on Sri Lanka’s part, their engagement risks appearing to endorse abusive agencies." Human Rights Watch noted two cases in May where men in arrested on drug charges were fatally shot while in police custody. It also noted that the Sri Lankan government placed the police and the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board under the Defense Ministry last year. The police crackdown on drugs has allegedly involved planting drugs on suspects, torture, and other ill-treatment in police custody or at "rehabilitation" centers run by the Army. A new report from Harm Reduction International  found that "treatment" at those centers includes near-daily beatings and other physical abuses amounting to torture.

Magic Mushroom Shops Sprout in Vancouver, OH Activists Resubmit Marijuana Legalization Petition, More... (8/16/21)

California's Supreme Court says no pot for prisoners, the Philippine Justice Department makes an announcement but sheds no light, and more.

Shops in Vancouver are selling magic mushrooms and other psychedelic delectables despite their being illegal to sell. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

California Supreme Court Rules No Pot for Prisoners. Inmates in the state prison system do not have the right to possess marijuana under Proposition 64, the 2016 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in the state, the state Supreme Court ruled in a case last week. That decision reverses a 2019 lower court decision that held prisoners could possess marijuana behind bars but could not smoke or otherwise ingest it. "We agree with the Attorney General that if the drafters had intended to so dramatically change the laws regarding cannabis in prison, we would expect them to have been more explicit about their goals," wrote Associate Justice Joshua Groban in the 5-2 opinion. "While perhaps not illogical to distinguish between the possession and use of cannabis, it is nonetheless difficult to understand why the electorate would want to preclude laws criminalizing cannabis possession in prison, but permit laws criminalizing cannabis consumption in prison," he continued.

Ohio Activists Resubmit Marijuana Legalization Petition. An activist group, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has resubmitted a marijuana legalization petition and required signatures after its first effort was rejected las week by Attorney General David Yost (R). "We appreciate the attorney general’s feedback on our initial filing and have fully addressed the issues flagged in this updated filing" coalition spokesman Tom Haren said. If and when the initiative is approved for signature gathering, the group will have to collect 132,887 valid voter signatures to put the proposed law before the legislature. If the legislature rejects it or fails to act on it, it could go before the voters after a second round of signature gathering.

International

Magic Mushroom Shops Sprout in Vancouver. A handful of shops selling magic mushrooms and other psychedelic substances are operating in Vancouver, British Columbia, even though selling magic mushrooms remains illegal in Canada. One such shop, the Coca Leaf Café & Mushroom Dispensary on East Hastings Street, is owned by long-time drug activist Dana Larsen. "We're sitting in a place that is unique in the world. There's nowhere else where you can get the same range of substances and things that we do right here," Larsen said. "Within a few years there’s going to be hundreds of mushroom and psychedelic dispensaries across Canada," Larsen predicted. It's not his first rodeo when it comes to promoting illicit drugs: He ran an illegal pot shop, gave out 5 million pot seeds during the 2016 "Overgrow Canada" campaign, and mailed grams of weed to Liberal politicians. Although he's operating without a license, he's not too worried, he said:  "I'm pretty good at finding that grey area where you can expand things but take a little risk, but maybe not get arrested," he said. "And even if that happened, a judge being like, ‘Yeah, Dana deserves to go to jail for a long time because he's selling people coca tea and a gram or two of psychedelic mushrooms,’ it’s just not going to happen." 

Philippine Justice Department Says It Has Finished Review of 52 Drug War Killing Cases. The Department of Justice panel that examined 52 cases of drug war killings forwarded by the Philippine National Police (PNP) says it has finished report. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he was going over the report, but there was no indication if or when the report is going to be made public. The review is part of a Filipino government effort to blunt a potential formal investigation by the International Criminal Court, which has completed a preliminary investigation and awaits a decision by prosecutors on whether to move ahead. But the 52 cases forwarded to the Justice Department represent only a tiny fraction of the more than 6,000 drug war killings for which the PNP took responsibility and an even tinier fraction of the total number of drug war killings, many conducted by shadowy vigilantes, a number human rights groups put at somewhere north of 30,000. For the latest on the horrendous human rights situation in the Philippines, see this recently released report from the Philippine Human Rights Information Center, The Killing State: Duterte's Legacy of Violence.

White House Considering Clemency for Federal Drug Offenders, WY Marijuana Initiatives Advance, More... (8/13/21)

A major drug crackdown in India's Assam state is raising fears of another bloody drug war like the one in neighboring Bangladesh, Wyoming marijuana inititives pass a first hurdle, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Wyoming Marijuana Initiatives Pass First Hurdle. The secretary of state has certified the first one hundred signatures for two marijuana-related marijuana initiatives, one for medical marijuana and one for recreational legalization. That certification means that the initiatives are now clearly for broader signature gathering to qualify for the November 2022 ballot. To qualify, petitioners must gather 41,776 valid voter signatures before February 14, 2022.

Criminal Justice

White House Says Biden Exploring Clemency for Federal Drug Offenders. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that President Biden is looking into using his executive authority to grant clemency to people with certain non-violent drug convictions. Her comments came in response to a question about plans for federal inmates who had been released to home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic. The administration is "working hard every day to reform our justice system in order to strengthen families, boost our economy, give people a chance at a better future," Psaki responded. "As part of this, the president is deeply committed to reducing incarceration, helping people successfully reenter society. And he has said too many people are incarcerated—too many are black and brown. And he is therefore exploring multiple avenues to provide relief to certain nonviolent drug offenders, including through the use of his clemency power."

International

India's Assam State Launches War on Drugs. The northeastern Indian state of Assam has for years served as the primary transit corridor for drugs from neighboring Myanmar, particularly methamphetamine, and now the state government has launched a major crackdown, seizing record amounts of drugs and arresting more than 2,000 people since May, more than full-year totals for any previous year. Assam connects the northeast to the rest of India, and experts estimate that 80% of the drugs flowing into the state end up in the rest of the country. The crackdown comes after an ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Himanta Biswa Sarma, became the state's chief minister in May, saying he was giving police a free hand to suppress drugs, including shooting suspects when necessary. So far only two people have been killed in police raids. Some experts fear Assam could descend into drug war violence like that which has occurred in neighboring Bangladesh, where methamphetamine use is rife, and police have have killed hundreds of suspected drug dealers since 2018.

Naloxone Shortage Looms, MS MedMJ Effort Drawing Near to Special Session, More... (8/11/21)

Wisconsin Democrats cross the state line to an Illinois pot shop to roll out their marijuana legalization bill, there's bad news for people who might need the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, and more.

The opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. Supplies are running short after a manufacturing problem. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Wisconsin Democrats Unveil Marijuana Legalization Bill—At Illinois Dispensary. Democratic lawmakers crossed the state line to use an Illinois marijuana sales outlet as the backdrop for their rollout of a marijuana legalization bill Tuesday. Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) and Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) are filing a bill that would legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and set up a system of taxed and regulated sales. But the bill's prospects are iffy at best in the GOP-controlled state legislature, which has fended off similar efforts for the past eight years. "However you feel about cannabis use, keeping it illegal isn’t helping anything. It’s only hurting. The people of Wisconsin are ready for legalization," Spreitzer said.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.

Harm Reduction

Naloxone Shortage Looms. Pfizer, the maker of single-dose injectable naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, has halted production of the drug since April because of an unspecified manufacturing issue, and that is making the life-saving drug more difficult to obtain and more expensive in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis that has taken tens of thousands of lives in the last year. Pfizer offers the drug at a discount to a national buyers' club of harm reduction programs, but says it may be February before it can meet demand again. That effectively means the life-saving drug will have to be rationed until then. "Who do you stop supplying? Jennifer Plumb of Utah Naloxone said. "Who do you stop prioritizing? Who do you stop making sure has naloxone?"

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Busy, busy. Take a little vacation and look what happens: Crooked (and perverted) cops run wild. Let's get to it:

In New Albany, Indiana, a New Albany police officer was arrested on July 19 for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a meth-using informant. Officer Adam Schneider had already been arrested a week earlier on voyeurism charges after the Indiana State Police searched his phone and found images and videos of women changing clothes in a dressing room of a business at Schneider's residence. Now, an informant has told investigators she and Schneider carried on a sexual relationship and that he had found her in possession of meth he did not seize but allowed her to keep. The source also told authorities Schneider knew she possessed meth on several occasions and that he told her to get rid of it or sell it. It was the investigation into the sexual relationship between Schneider and the informant that led to the voyeurism charges. He also faces felony charges of obstruction of justice and official misconduct and has been placed on administrative leave.

In Central Falls, Rhode Island, a Wyatt Detention Center jail guard was arrested July 20 along with two inmates and two ex-inmate drug suppliers in a scheme to smuggle suboxone into the prison. Correctional Officer Kaii Almeida-Falcones, 25, allegedly worked with the outside dealers to smuggle the drug into the jail. It is not clear what the precise charges are.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a Carlisle police detective was convicted July 16 of using his official position two extort sexual favors from two female drug defendants. Officer Christopher Collare, 53, who was also a task force officer with the FBI and a member of the Cumberland County Drug Task Force, in one 2015 case agreed not to appear at an evidentiary hearing so that charges would be dismissed in exchange for sex, and in a 2018 case, took steps to reduce a potential prison sentence in exchange for sexual favors. He was also found guilty of distributing heroin in 2016 and lying on a federal form to become a member of an FBI task force and lying repeatedly to FBI agents in a May 2018 interview. He was convicted of federal program bribery, bribery by a federal official, distribution of heroin, and six counts of false statements. He was jailed following the verdict and is looking at up to 50 years in federal prison.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a former state police officer was convicted July 23 on drug charges related to his efforts to seduce a high school student with free marijuana, as well as a separate sex-for-drugs scheme Former Officer Daniel Capeheart, 36, went down after sending text messages to a teenage girl he had pulled over. The girl's father notified local sheriff's deputies, who then used the phone to message Capeheart, requesting marijuana. Capeheart then twice left marijuana for the girl. He also did nearly the same thing with another teenage girl, leaving marijuana for her at specified drop locations. He was convicted of two counts of distributing marijuana and a third count of distributing methamphetamine. He faces between five and 40 years in prison.

In Waycross, Georgia, a former senior guard at the Coffee County Correctional Facility pleaded guilty July 23 for her role in a major south Georgia drug trafficking conspiracy. Jessica Azalae Burnett, aka "The Madam," 41, was a sergeant and a senior guard with CoreCivic, the private prison company that operates Coffee County Correctional Facility, admitted working with other conspirators in distribution of methamphetamine and marijuana. Her role in the conspiracy included smuggling cell phones, drugs and other contraband into the state prison. She pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana and is looking at up to 20 years in the federal pen. Burnett is one of 48 defendants indicted in Operation Sandy Bottom, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation centered in the Sand Ridge neighborhood on the east side of Douglas, Ga., in an area known as “the bottoms.” The 57-count indictment, USA v. McMillan et. al,  was unsealed in January 2021 and alleges that the conspiracy, controlled by a subset of the violent Gangster Disciples street gang, used guns, violence and fear to control methamphetamine trafficking operations throughout the community and to enable contraband distribution inside Georgia prisons.

In El Paso, Texas, a former El Paso police officer pleaded guilty Monday to helping her stepfather stash and distribute cocaine. Former Officer Monica Garcia, 24, admitted using her position as a police officer to conduct countersurveillance and run the license plates of vehicles near her stepfather's stash house to identify undercover police vehicles. She pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug-involved premise and is looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In Marianna, Florida, a former Jackson County sheriff's deputy was sentenced July 15 to 12 ½ years in prison for planting drugs on motorists and then arresting them. Former Deputy Zachary Wester, 28, had faced 67 counts including racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, and false imprisonment, and was found guilty on 19 of them.  

In Detroit, a former Detroit police officer was sentenced last Friday to 18 months in prison for taking a $15,000 bribe from a drug dealer in exchange for not pursuing charges against him. Former Officer Michael Mosley, 49, went down after participating in a drug raid where two kilos of heroin, one kilo of cocaine, and six guns were recovered. The dealer admitted to Mosley the drugs were his and signed a confession, and the two stayed in contact as Mosley tried to turn him into a snitch. But the dealer instead offered up the bribe to make the charges go away. He pleaded guilty to bribery.

In Mission, Texas, a former East Hidalgo Detention Center guard was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in federal prison for supplying an inmate with cocaine. Former Correctional Officer Erasmo Loya, 56, took cash for providing inmates with food, marijuana, and cocaine. Loya had supplied cocaine to one prisoner for two years, and was indicted on a bribery charge in November 2019. In a plea agreement, Loya copped instead to providing contraband to a person in a correctional facility, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

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