Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Senate Dems Seek Input on Marijuana Legalization Bill, Senate Groups Calls for Police Reform Efforts by Biden, More... (2/11/22)

Chuck Schumer is trying to get his marijuana legalization bill finalized, an Illinois bill would fix a bizarre situation around expungement of past marijuana offenses, and more.

Ten senators have asked the Biden administration to get moving on demilitarizing the police. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Top Senate Democrats Seek Input on Finalizing Marijuana Legalization Bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have sent a letter to their fellow senators inviting them "into the drafting process as we work to finalize this legislation." The senators called on committee chairs and ranking members of relevant committees, as well as senators from legalization states to provide input. The letter comes after Schumer announced this week that he is working to introduce a bill in the spring. He, Booker, and Wyden released a draft of their proposed bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act last July.

Illinois Bill to End Drug Test Requirement for Marijuana Expungement Advances. It is a bizarre situation: In a state where marijuana is legal, people who hope to get their marijuana arrest records expunged must first pass a drug test showing that they are not using marijuana. A bill that would fix that, House Bill 4392, was filed by Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana), and passed out of the House Judiciary Criminal Committee Thursday on a partisan 11-8 vote. However, Ammons plans to hold the bill on second reading and bring it back to the committee when the amendments are ready.

Harm Reduction

Drug Policy Alliances Criticizes Biden Administration Over "Crack Pipe" Kerfluffle. In response to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of National Drug Control Policy's statement that they will no longer be allowing federal funding to go towards putting pipes in safer smoking supplies, the Drug Policy Alliance criticized the administration for "backtracking" in the face of rightwing social media firestorm.

"Backtracking on providing critical evidence-based resources that could greatly improve the health of people who consume drugs through smoking is a huge missed opportunity that will disproportionately be felt in Black and Indigenous communities, especially as these communities have experienced some of the sharpest increases in overdose deaths involving fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine," said DPA executive director Kassandra Frederique. "Despite nearly identical rates of drug use in Black and white communities, Black, Indigenous, and communities of color have long been disproportionately criminalized and treated with handcuffs and rap sheets -- as we remember all too well from the 80s and 90s with the 'rack epidemic' -- instead of the public health tools they need to live healthier and more stable lives."

"Health policy must be driven by evidence, not by clickbait," Frederique continued. "We applaud the Biden administration for the steps they have taken to advance harm reduction and advocate for the funding needed to supply needed resources and save lives, but they must stand firm against misinformation and continue the course to deploy all evidence-based solutions, including all forms of safer smoking supplies, to save lives now."

Law Enforcement

Senators Urge Biden to Step Up Efforts to Demilitarize Police. Led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), a group of 10 senators has released a letter urging the Biden administration to step up efforts to demilitarize the police. "We urge you to prioritize the demilitarization of law enforcement by limiting the transfer or purchase of certain military equipment for federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local law enforcement agencies," the senators wrote in their letter to the president. "This should include reforms to the Department of Defense's (DoD) program to transfer surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies -- known as the '1033 program' -- as well as DoD's program to allow law enforcement agencies to purchase military equipment -- known as the '1122 program.' Militarized law enforcement increases the prevalence of police violence without making our communities safer. Now is the moment to make these necessary reforms."

In their letter to the president, the senators cite reports showing that police militarization fails to reduce rates of violent crime or change the number of officers assaulted or killed. Instead, arming police departments with military equipment has led to an increase in officer-involved shootings and civilian deaths.

CDC Prepares New Opioid Prescribing Guidelines, OH Senate Won't Take Up Legalization Voter Init, More... (2/10/22)

The South Carolina Senate approves a medica marijuana bill, a new Rand study tracks opioid prescribing declines, and more.

Opioid pain prescribing practices are in the news. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio GOP Senate Leader Says He Will Not Bring Marijuana Legalization Initiative to a Vote. State Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) says he will not bring the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol's marijuana legalization initiative to a vote in the Senate. Under Ohio law, petitioners who collect the requisite number of valid voter signatures for a ballot initiative then place the proposal before the legislature, which has four months to act on it. If the legislature refuses to act on the proposal or rejects it, petitioners can undertake a second round of signature gathering and, if successful, present the issue to directly to the voters.

"I don't want anybody to misunderstand my position," Huffman said. "I'm not going to bring it to the Senate floor. And if that means people want to go put it on the ballot, have at it." While the Coalition has yet to comment on Huffman's remarks, it has previously indicated it will indeed proceed to that second round of signature gathering. They will need to come up with 132,887 valid voter signatures to make the November ballot.

Medical Marijuana

South Carolina Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. After the debate on medical marijuana made it to the Senate floor last week, the Senate on Wednesday approved the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (Senate Bill 150). The bill gets a final vote in the Senate Thursday, before heading to the House, where its fate is unclear. Whether House Speaker Jay Lucas (R) will let the bill move in his chamber remains uncertain. And Gov. Henry McMaster (R) remains noncommittal on whether he would sign the bill, saying "that would depend on a lot of things."

Opioids

Opioid Prescribing Declines, but Cuts Are Not Uniform Across Locations, Age Groups, or Type of Prescriber. The volume of prescription opioids dispensed from retail pharmacies declined by 21% from 2008 to 2018, but the decline was not uniform across geographic areas, among types of patients, or by type of prescriber, according to a new RAND Corporation study. The study, published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, is the first to examine the decline in opioid prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies based on both volume and potency of the drugs dispensed.

The study found that over the study period, per capita MME (morphine milligram equivalents) volume declined the most in metropolitan counties (more than 22%) and in counties with higher rates of fatal opioid overdoses (a 35% decline). Substantial variation existed both within and across states. In some states, MME volume per capita increased in multiple counties. In many other states, there were both counties with increases and others with substantial decreases. Counties that experienced substantial decreases in per capita MME often were adjacent to counties with per capita increases.

Most clinical specialties recorded declines in the MME volume per practicing clinician. The greatest decrease in MME volume per practicing clinician was among adult primary care physicians (40% decline) and pain specialists (15% decline) -- the clinicians with the highest MME volume per clinician in 2008 -- 2009. The greatest percentage decrease was among emergency physicians (71% decline) -- clinicians who are likely prescribing opioids predominantly to patients experiencing acute pain in acute care settings.

"These results suggest the effects of clinician and policymaker efforts to reduce opioid prescribing have affected populations differently," Stein said. "Future efforts to enhance clinically appropriate opioid prescribing may need to be more clinically nuanced and targeted for specific populations."

CDC Proposes New, Slightly Looser Opioid Prescribing Guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday released new draft guidelines for prescribing opioids for pain relief. The new guidelines remove previously recommended ceilings on doses for chronic pain patients, leaving it instead for doctors to use their own best judgment. But they also urge doctors to first resort to "nonopioid therapies" for both chronic and acute pain.

The new guidelines are the first comprehensive revisions of the CDC's 2016 guidelines, and attempt to find the proper balance between alleviating severe pain and exposing patients to the perils of opioids. The new guidelines have now been published in the Federal Register and are open for comments. Comment here.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A small-town Georgia cops gets caught slinging weed from his patrol car, a corrupt killer Puerto Rican cop heads for decades in prison, and more. Let's get to it:

In Warwick, Georgia, a Warwick police officer was arrested last Thursday for selling marijuana while on duty and in uniform. Officer Leon Mitchell, 32, went down after investigators with Southwestern Regional Drug Enforcement Office (SWRDEO) that he was slinging weed, and undercover agents began buying marijuana from him. After he was arrested, marijuana, scales, and plastic baggies were found in his police cruiser. He's facing two counts of sale/distribution of marijuana, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, three counts of violation of oath of office, and last but not least, two counts of use of a communication device during the commission of a felony.

In Kokomo, Indiana, a Howard County corrections officer was arrested Tuesday after she was caught smuggling drugs into the county jail. Guard Emily Harvey, 32, went down after detectives received a tip that a guard was bringing in drugs and they then watched her enter a unit to which she was not assigned and meet with an inmate. A search of the inmate's cell yielded a vape pen, and a search of Harvey's vehicle in the parking lot turned up six grams of suboxone and "additional contraband." She is charged with dealing in a schedule I, II or III substance; two counts of trafficking with an inmate; official misconduct; and possession of a controlled substance.

In New York City, a former Puerto Rico Police Department officer was sentenced last Thursday to 30 years in federal prison for agreeing to help a drug trafficking organization that shipped drugs from Puerto Rico to New York City, where they were distributed from a Bronx daycare. William Vazquez-Baez had pleaded guilty earlier to one count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy and one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit murder for hire. Prosecutors alleged that Vazquez-Baez conspired with the La ONU group, which sold thousands of pounds of cocaine and used violent methods to protect its operation. Vazquesz-Baez was on salary with the gang and provided it with intelligence obtained from the police narcotics unit and helped protect its shipments while in transit. Vazquez-Baez also informed gang members that a local resident, Freddy Mendez-Rivera, was complaining to police about drug dealing in his are, which led to his kidnapping and murder. And he was involved in two other murders for the gang.

In Warwick, Georgia, a Warwick police officer was arrested last Thursday for selling marijuana while on duty and in uniform. Officer Leon Mitchell, 32, went down after investigators with Southwestern Regional Drug Enforcement Office (SWRDEO) that he was slinging weed, and undercover agents began buying marijuana from him. After he was arrested, marijuana, scales, and plastic baggies were found in his police cruiser. He's facing two counts of sale/distribution of marijuana, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, three counts of violation of oath of office, and last but not least, two counts of use of a communication device during the commission of a felony.

These States Could Still Approve Medical Marijuana in 2022 [FEATURE]

In the space of a quarter-century, the United States went from having no state where medical marijuana was legal to seeing it become the law of the land in three dozen states. The passage of Prop 215 by California voters in 1996 ushered in an era of rapid expansion of medical marijuana, first primarily via the initiative process, but also increasingly by state legislators attuned to the will of the public.

Mississippi became the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana just this month as lawmakers in Jackson and a very cautious governor finally agreed on a bill to enact the will of the people as expressed in a 2020 initiative that was thwarted by a state Supreme Court ruling. But there are still seven states that allow only CBD oil (Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin) and six more states that don't allow any form of medical marijuana (Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wyoming).

Moves are afoot in nearly all of them to catch up to the rest of the country this year. In some states, it is through the initiative process; in others, through the legislative process. But some states are already a lost cause for the year or face insurmountable odds: Georgia (bills filed, but set to die), Iowa (no bills filed), Indiana (bill never made it out of committee). Texas (no bills filed), and Wyoming (initiative did not qualify, no bills filed).

With a big tip of the hat to Ballotpedia, Marijuana Moment, and NORML, who are all keeping an eye on the action, here's the list of states working to legalize it at the ballot box this year, here are the states where hope still lives for medical marijuana in 2022:

Idaho

With a state legislature and governor stubbornly against marijuana in any form, the only medium-term prospect for medical marijuana is through the initiative process. One group, Kind Idaho, tried going down that path in 2020 but called off the effort in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. They are back this year with the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act of 2022, which envisions a full-fledged program complete with long lists of qualifying conditions and taxed and licensed cultivation, production, and sales, as well as allowing patients or caregivers to possess up to four ounces. Only patients who qualify for a "hardship exemption" -- financial hardship, lack of access to transportation, lack of a dispensary "within a reasonable distance" -- could grow their own, up to six plants.

But the clock is ticking. The campaign said just last month that it had gathered only 10,000 raw signatures so far. It needs 64,945 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot and the mainly volunteer effort only has until May 1 to come up with them.

Kansas

The House last year passed a medical marijuana bill, House Substitute for SB 158, and that bill is still alive in the Senate, where it got hearings -- but no vote -- in the Committee on Interstate Cooperation in mid-January. The Senate is controlled by Republicans, who have resisted reform, but so is the House, which got the bill through. And Gov. Laura Kelly (D) also supports medical marijuana.

Legislative Democrats, meanwhile, introduced a pair of constitutional amendments to put the issues of marijuana legalization and access to medical marijuana directly to the voters. Democratic lawmakers next door in Iowa announced a similar move earlier this week. The Democrats are hoping that even if Republicans remains resistant to marijuana reform, they would at least pass the measures and let the voters decide.

Kentucky

Rep. Jason Nemes (R) got a medical marijuana bill passed in the House in 2020, but it died without a Senate vote in the midst of the pandemic. He tried again in 2021, but the bill stalled. After scaling back his bill in a bid to win conservative support, he is back this year with House Bill 136, which also has 40 cosponsors.

Under this year's version of the bill, there would be no home cultivation by patients or caregivers and there would be no smokeable medical marijuana allowed. Patients could consume flowers but would have to vape them. The bill leaves specific rules on qualifying conditions and possession limits up to regulators, but specifies that qualifying conditions will includecancer, epilepsy and seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, nausea or vomiting and chronic, severe, intractable or debilitating pain.

The bill has a good shot of passing the House and even in the Senate if it is allowed to come up for a vote, but faces an obstacle in the person of Senate President Robert Stivers (R), who has "concerns" and wants "more studies."

Nebraska

After the state Supreme Court invalidated a 2020 medical marijuana initiative because it violated the state's single-subject rule for initiatives, initiative sponsors State Senators Anna Wishart (D) and Adam Morfeld (D) came back this year with a set of three separate initiatives to create a medical marijuana program. One is a constitutional amendment and two are statutory initiatives.

The Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendment simply states that "Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes, while the Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Act protects patients from arrest for using medical marijuana and the Medical Cannabis Commission Act would regulate medical marijuana businesses that provide it to qualified patients.

An activist group, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) is in the middle of a signature gathering drive now. It has until July 7 to come up with approximately 86,000 valid voter signatures for the initiatives and 112,000 signatures for the constitutional amendment.

South Carolina

Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) has been trying for seven years to get some sort of medical marijuana bill through the legislature, and just this week, this year's version, Senate Bill 150, saw a medical marijuana bill get a Senate floor debate for the first time ever, and then pass the Senate Wednesday night. Its fate in the House, though, is unclear; whether House Speaker Jay Lucas (R) will let the bill move in his chamber remains uncertain. And Gov. Henry McMaster (R) remains noncommittal on whether he would sign the bill, saying "that would depend on a lot of things."

Honed to advance in the conservative state, Davis's bill is also conservative. It bars the use of smokable marijuana, requires an in-patient doctor's visit and a written treatment plan, and limits the conditions that can be treated to a specified list including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma. sickle cell anemia and autism. And not only is home cultivation not allowed; possessing the plant form of marijuana would remain a misdemeanor.

Tennessee

State Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville) earlier this month introduced a bill that would create a medical marijuana program, House Bill 2458, which awaits committee assignment. Its companion legislation, Senate Bill 2477, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Whether these bills will go anywhere remains to be seen. Medical marijuana bills have all died in the past, and last year, the legislature voted down decriminalization. Republicans are in a solid majority in both the state House of Representatives and the Senate, but the year is young.

Washington Drug Decrim Init Ready for Signature Gathering, Crack Pipe Funding Furor, More... (2/9/22)

Thailand removes cannabis from its schedule of controlled substances (but marijuana legalization is still down the road a bit), a Washington state drug decriminalization initiative is cleared to begin signature gathering, and more.

A broken crack pipe. Bowing to noise from the right, the Biden administration won't fund harm reduction kits with them. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Bill Would Protect Workers from Being Fired for Off-Job Marijuana Use. Rep. Brianna Titone (D-Arvada) has filed a bill, House Bill 1152, that would bar employers from either refusing to hire or firing workers because of their off-duty marijuana use. The measure also includes a provision requiring employers to consumer medical marijuana at work, with some exemptions for safety-sensitive positions. "Marijuana is legal in Colorado," said state Rep. Titone. "And what people do in their spare time that doesn't impact their work shouldn't really be a problem for them. They should be able to enjoy the legal things that we have here in Colorado and not be penalized for it." The state Supreme Court has previously ruled on the side of employers on the issue, particularly in the 2015 case of Brandon Coats v. Dish Network.

Drug Policy

Washington Drug Decriminalization, Treatment Initiative Ready to Begin Signature Gathering. A drug decriminalization and treatment funding initiative that was filed last month by the group Commit to Change WA, which is backed by the state ACLU, is ready to begin signature gathering in a bid to qualify for the November ballot. The move comes after a Monday deadline for challenges to its ballot title passed without any challenges. The initiative would remove the state's existing penalties for drug use and possession, expunge past drug use and possession convictions, and appropriate more than $100 million a year for drug prevention, treatment, outreach, and recovery, including at least $10 million a year for harm reduction. The campaign now has until July 8 to come up with 324,516 valid voter signatures to make the ballot.

Harm Reduction

Cowed by Criticism from the Right, Biden Administration Drops Funding for Safer Crack Pipes. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) head Dr. Rahul Gupta announced that a harm reduction grant program for drug users will not fund safer pipes for crack or meth smokers. "No federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits," Gupta and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

There is $30 million in federal funding for harm reduction, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration had listed "safe smoking kits/supplies" among the items that could be purchased with taxpayer money. Other items included included overdose prevention drugs, medication lockboxes, test kits for infectious diseases, and syringe disposal containers. The tender did not actually mention pipes, but it did trigger online reports that the Biden administration was using taxpayer dollars to buy "crack pipes."

International

Thailand Officially Drops Cannabis from List of Controlled Substances. As of today, cannabis is no longer a Category 5 controlled substance. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul signed a ministerial announcement officially removing it on Tuesday. The delisting means that all parts of the plant can be legally consumed, but THC extracts above 0.2 THC will remain illegal. The change will go into effect in 120 days. This means that production of hemp and hemp-based CBD products can commence, but it will still be against the law to grow and consume marijuana until a bill is submitted to parliament in order to establish a regulatory framework for production and sales.

DOJ Signals Openness to Safe Injection Sites, Congressional Commission Issues Overdose Strategy Report, More... (2/8/22)

Pennsylvania sees its first ever legislative debate on marijuana legalization, Tennessee sees a slew of marijuana-related bills, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Sees First Legislative Debate on Marijuana Legalization. For the first time ever, Keystone State lawmakers took up the topic of marijuana legalization as the Senate Law & Justice Committee held a hearing on Monday. The hearing was on a proposal from committee Chair Sen. Mike Regan (R-York County), but focused largely on unsafe practices in the industry and products going through existing black markets. The committee heard from lawmakers, medical marijuana industry representatives, and law enforcement officials. Another, bipartisan marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 473, which includes expungement and social equity provisions, is also before the committee. No votes were taken. Regan said the committee would hold another hearing in coming months to see what "trials and tribulations" other states had endured.

Tennessee Marijuana Legalization, Medical Marijuana Bills Filed. Lawmakers in the Volunteer State are facing a slew of marijuana legalization, decriminalization, and medical marijuana bills filed this session. So far, the legislative web site shows at least 28 bills, most of them addressing legalization. The state is one of seven that have allowed for the use of CBD cannabis oil, but that is as far down the road as the legislature has gone so far. An attempt to decriminalize marijuana possession was killed last session, as was a broader medical marijuana bill.

Opioids

Congressional Commission Urges Five-Pronged Strategy to Confront Overdose Crisis. A bipartisan congressional commission. the Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking released a report Tuesday calling for a multipronged strategy to confront the nation's overdose crisis. The commission called for the strategy to be based around five pillars: Restoring the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to cabinet rank, disrupting the drug supply through better coordinated law enforcement, demand reduction through treatment and harm reduction measures, using diplomatic means to cut off the supply of fentanyl precursor chemicals, and developing surveillance tools to monitor new drug trends. In other words, new, improved drug war, albeit with a slightly gentler touch regarding harm reduction.

Harm Reduction

Justice Department Signals It Could Allow Safe Injection Sites. In a statement to the Associate Press, the Justice Department said it is "evaluating" the harm reduction intervention and seeking guidance from regulators on "appropriate guardrails." That is a drastic change from the Trump administration, under which the department successfully sued to block a Philadelphia safe injection site, and is the first hint, after months of silence, that DOJ is open to safe injection sites. "Although we cannot comment on pending litigation, the Department is evaluating supervised consumption sites, including discussions with state and local regulators about appropriate guardrails for such sites, as part of an overall approach to harm reduction and public safety," DOJ said in the statement last Friday.

DOJ isn't the only federal government entity to edge closer to supporting safe injection sites. In December, the National Institutes of Health mentioned them in a call for harm reduction research, and that same month, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) head Dr. Rahul Gupta said he was "interested in looking at the science and data behind all of the emerging harm reduction practices."

Schumer Says Marijuana Legalization Bill Coming in April, Study Questions Reliability of Maternal Drug Testing, More... (2/7/22)

Wisconsin's governor vetoes a bill that would have dramatically hiked criminal penalties for butane marijuana extraction, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is now making bombs to deploy against the military, and more.

Marijuana legalization could be coming to the Senate in April. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Schumer Says He Aims to File His Marijuana Legalization Bill in April. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced last Friday that he plans to formally introduce his marijuana legalization bill in April. "In the coming weeks, we're ramping up our outreach -- and we expect to introduce final legislation. Our goal is to do it in April," Schumer said. "Then we begin the nationwide push, spearheaded by New York, to get the federal law done. As majority leader, I can set priorities. This is a priority for me." Schumer's bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), was first released in draft from last July, and advocates had grown increasingly impatient with the lack of movement since then, especially after he blocked passage of the SAFE Banking Act, which the House had approved and attached to a defense spending bill. But now, Schumer has signaled movement ahead.

Wisconsin Governor Vetoes Bill to Ramp Up Penalties for Marijuana Extraction. Gov. Tony Evers last Friday vetoed a bill that would have significantly increased criminal penalties for people using butane or similar fuels to process marijuana for extracts. The measure, Assembly Bill 440, would have made using butane to extract marijuana a Class E felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It is currently a Class I felony with a maximum 3 ½ year sentence. In his veto message, Evers said, "I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to increasing criminal offenses or penalties related to marijuana use," adding that "marijuana criminalization has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, especially in Wisconsin." Evers supports marijuana legalization, but has made no headway with the Republican-led legislature.

Drug Testing

Study Questions Reliability of Maternal Drug Testing. A study presented at 2022 Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine last Friday is raising more questions about the drug testing of pregnant women after it found that maternal urine samples and samples of the meconium from their newborn babies frequently produce different results. That disagreement (or "discordance") could trigger inappropriate interventions by child protective services, including separation of infants from their mothers, the researchers said.

"There's a very big debate right now in the obstetrics and perinatology communities about the utility of biochemical testing and the identification of high-risk women," said lead author Cassandra Heiselman, DO, MPH, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, told Medscape Medical News. "We know that each biochemical test has limitations, which can include basically the inability to detect all substances, especially synthetic opioids like fentanyl, [and] the possibility for false results."

Ironically, marijuana use was the most common factor associated with a positive meconium test. "Some studies have shown cannabis use in the second trimester can show up in meconium testing even if the mother has stopped that behavior," Heiselman said. "Then there is also cross-reactivity with other substances that can lead to higher false positive results, especially in the urine toxicology."

International

Mexican Drug Cartel Turns to IEDs to Use Against Army as Drug War Rages On. In a first in Mexico's drug wars, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel has deployed homemade bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against the Mexican military. The attacks came on Saturday in Tepalcatepec in the western state of Michoacan, which has been riven with criminal conflicts for months. The bombs were described as pipe bombs with a cone-shaped cap to direct the explosion. Local self-defense forces fighting the cartel said the bombs did extensive damage to a military armored vehicle. This is just the latest escalation for the cartel, which last month resorted to dropping bombs from drones on its rivals.

House Passes Bill With SAFE Banking, Psilocybin Rescheduling Petition Filed, More... (2/4/22)

A key Maryland legislator rolls out a marijuana legalization bill, the Utah legislature approves employment protections for medical marijuana cardholders, and more.

The ACLU and NAPW are sticking up for pregnant women subjected to non-consenual drug testing again. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Passes Manufacturing, Technology Bill That Includes SAFE Banking Act. For the second time this session, the House has voted to include the SAFE Banking Act in a larger bill it passed. It passed earlier as part of a defense spending bill only to be stripped out by Senate leaders seeking instead to promote full-on marijuana legalization legislation. The House approved the America COMPETES Act, complete with the SAFE Banking Act amendment, Thursday night by a vote 222-210, mainly along party lines. The Senate has already passed its version of the America COMPETES Act, which does not include the SAFE Banking Act language. It will now be up to House and Senate negotiators to decide whether to include it in the final bill.

Maryland Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. A key member of the legislature, House Judiciary Committee Chair Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore) filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 837, on Thursday. Under the bill, Marylanders could possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana for recreational use. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for simple possession. The bill also creates a plan for implementation of legalization, which is seen as a bridge to the House, whose leaders support a voter referendum on the issue. "While I feel strongly that the voters should decide this issue, it is the General Assembly that is charged with making sure we have a legally defensible, equity-driven plan in place should they choose legalization," said House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County).

Virginia Coalition to Oppose Legal Marijuana Commerce Emerges. The usual suspects are back. A group of parents, substance abuse professionals, and law enforcement have created a coalition to try to block the state from establishing a legal marketplace for marijuana, as envisioned under the marijuana legalization bill passed last year. The doomsayers are being joined by Project SAM, a group that consistently opposes marijuana legalization. The new coalition claims that allowing legal marijuana sales will endanger Virginians. Their efforts may gain some traction in the legislature, which is now controlled by Republicans, as opposed to last year, when the Democrat-controlled body approved legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Legislature Approves Bill Affirming That Medical Marijuana Should Be Treated Like Any Other Prescription Drug. With a final vote in the House on Wednesday, the legislature has approved Senate Bill 46, which reaffirms that medical marijuana cardholders are entitled to protections from job actions related to their medical marijuana use. The bill came after the Utah Patients Coalition complained that some first responders were having problems with local governments for even having a medical marijuana card. It is now up to Governor Spencer Cox (R) to sign or veto the measure.

Psychedelics

Seattle Doctors Files DEA Petition to Reschedule Psilocybin for Medical Use. Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, a Seattle end-of-life care specialist, has filed a formal petition with the DEA seeking to remove psilocybin from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The petition asks the DEA to reschedule as a less-restricted Schedule II drug. The substance has a low potential for abuse and shows "exceptional promise in relieving debilitating symptoms in those with intractable and otherwise untreatable illness," including the severe anxiety and depression that can result from a terminal illness. "The original placement of psilocybin," the document says, "was the result of a substantial overestimation of the risk of harm and abuse potential, not rigorous science."

Joining the suit, attorneys general from eight US states and the District of Columbia filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the patients, noting the therapeutic potential of not only psilocybin but also other currently illegal drugs, including as MDMA. "Here, dying patients seek access to promising new treatments still in the investigative process -- access expressly permitted under both state and federal law -- to help them live in peace," the amicus brief said.

Utah Psychedelic Study Bill Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health and Human Services committee on Thursday approved House Bill 167, which would create a task force to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and make recommendations for their lawful use. The measure passed on a 10-1 vote and now heads for a House floor vote.

Drug Testing

Groups File Human Rights Complaint on Behalf of New Mother Over Non-Consensual Drug Test and False Positive. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) and the ACLU of Illinois filed a charge of discrimination against Saint Alexius Hospital last week with the Illinois Department of Human Rights over a non-consensual drug test of a first-time mother before she went into labor. The test came back positive because of an Easter cake made with poppy seeds that the mother ate before entering the hospital, leading to the hospital initially holding the newborn in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit and then requiring the family to have someone besides the mother with the child at all times for three months.

"Saint Alexius violated [this mother's] civil rights by subjecting her to a non consensual and medically unnecessary drug test," said Emma Roth, staff attorney at NAPW. "She will never be able to get back those precious first months with her baby. The fact that Ms. F. was reported on the basis of a false positive due to poppy seed consumption highlights the absurdity of Saint Alexius's non consensual testing and reporting practices. Yet routine drug testing and reporting of pregnant patients is never justified in light of the harmful consequences for families."

House Advances SAFE Banking Act (Again), MI Psychedelic Legalization Initiative Filed, More... (2/3/22)

Mountains of meth are being cooked up in Myanmar's Shan state, UNODC reports. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

House Approves Marijuana Banking on Voice Vote, Final Approval with Roll Call Vote Expected Today. The House on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a marijuana banking amendment to a science and technology bill, with a roll call voice vote expected Thursday. The amendment is the SAFE Banking Act, which is aimed at providing access to financial services for state-legal marijuana businesses. The measure has repeatedly been approved by the House, most recently as part of a defense appropriations bill, but Senate negotiators more interested in passing a full-on marijuana legalization bill killed it then.

Bipartisan Coalition of House Members Call for Quick Vote on Marijuana Legalization. A bipartisan group of House members sent a letter to congressional leaders Wednesday demanding that Congress move "expeditiously" to pass a bill to legalize marijuana. The bill in question is the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617), which passed the House in 2020 and passed the House Judiciary Committee this session, but has yet to be scheduled for a floor vote.

The MORE ACT is "is foundational in righting systemic injustices and removing barriers for families and individuals nationwide" and so it should be "expeditiously considered by the House and Senate," the letter said. The letter was led by Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) and cosigned by Reps. Nikema Williams (D-GA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Marie Newman (D-IL), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Angie Craig (D-MN) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

Drug Policy

Grassley, Whitehouse Implore Biden Administration to Quickly Release National Drug Control Strategy for 2022. On Wednesday, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, pushed the Biden administration to finish its work on and release the 2022 National Drug Control Strategy. Their bipartisan letter comes after Dr. Rahul Gupta -- Director of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) -- indicated last week that their 2022 strategy could be delayed until the end of June, far past the statutorily required date of February 7, 2022.

"We are pleased that your office is taking a thoughtful look and share your sentiments, especially in light of the record overdose deaths. Despite this, we are disappointed in the delay. The Strategy is critical in informing the federal government's approach to drug enforcement, prevention, and treatment. Now more than ever, a timely and whole-of-government Strategy is necessary," the senators wrote.

Psychedelics

Michigan Activists File Psychedelic Legalization Ballot Initiative. The national group Decriminalize Nature, its state affiliate, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) have filed paperwork for an initiative to legalize the possession, cultivation, and non-remunerated sharing of psychedelics, as well as setting up a system to enable therapeutic and spiritual use. The measure would legalize a broad range of psychedelics for people 18 and over. Sales would be allowed to provide psychedelics to people whose doctors have issued written recommendations for them.

International

Colombian Army Kills Nine in Raid on Gulf Clan Cartel. Defense Minister Diego Molina announced late Tuesday evening that at least nine people were killed in an army raid on the Gulf Clan Cartel in northwest Colombia. The raid took place in Ituango, a Gulf Clan stronghold. The Gulf Clan is a major drug trafficking organization, considered responsible for about a third of the cocaine being smuggled out of the country. It's leader, Dario Antonio Usuga, also known as Otoniel, was arrested in October in a raid involving 500 police and military, an event that President Ivan Duque said marked "the end" of the Guld Clan. Apparently not quite yet.

Myanmar Illicit Drug Production Surges Since Coup. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said this week that political turmoil and instability in the wake of a military coup has resulted in massive increases in drug production and trafficking in the country. Last month alone, authorities in Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar seized a mind-boggling 90 million methamphetamine tablets and 4.4 tons of crystal meth, with the bulk of it reportedly produced in Myanmar's Shan state. "Meth production increased last year from already extreme levels in northern Myanmar and there is no sign it will slow down," said Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC's regional representative in Southeast Asia.

Mississippi Becomes Latest State to Legalize Medical Marijuana [FEATURE]

With the signature of Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on a compromise medical marijuana bill on Wednesday, Mississippi becomes the 37th state to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Mississippians should see dispensaries operating before year's end. (Sondra Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance)
Mississippi voters had overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana at the polls in November 2020, passing a broad medical marijuana measure, Initiative 65, with 74% of the vote (and rejecting a more restrictive legislative alternative, Initiative 65A.) But that victory was nullified by the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the state's signature gathering requirements for initiatives could not be complied with, invalidating not only Initiative 65 but also the whole initiative process in the state.

Heedful of the will of the people, both the legislature and the governor vowed to get a medical marijuana bill passed. The Supreme Court ruling was in May 2021; it took until now for the executive branch and the legislative branch to come to agreement on how to replace what the judicial branch threw out. Meanwhile, patients waited increasingly impatiently.

They got medical marijuana, but in a more restrictive form that what the voted for back in 2020. The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act (Senate Bill 2095) allows patients to purchase smokeable marijuana, but only ¾ of an ounce per week, and there is no provision for home cultivation. Marijuana flower must be no more than 30 percent THC, while concentrates must be no more than 60 percent.

People with a specified list of conditions -- cancer, Parkinson's, Huntington's, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, sickle cell anemia, Alzheimer's, agitation of dementia, PTSD, autism, pain refractory to opioid management, diabetic/peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord disease, or severe injury -- qualify for medical marijuana.

People with chronic medical conditions that produce wasting, severe nausea, seizures, severe muscle spasms, and chronic pain also qualify, but chronic pain is narrowly defined as "a pain state in which the cause of the pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated, and which in the generally accepted course of medical practice, no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible, or none has been found after reasonable efforts by a practitioner."

Doctors, certified nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and optometrists can all sign recommendations for patients if they believe the patient "would likely receive medical or palliative benefit" from medical marijuana. But before they can do that, they have to have completed eight hours of continuing medical education courses on medical marijuana (and five hours each year after that) and have performed an in-person examination of the patient.

People who want to get in the medical marijuana business can obtain licenses if they pay nonrefundable application fees ranging from $1,500 for a 1,000-square foot canopy micro-cultivator license to $100,000 for the largest operators. There is no cap on the number of medical marijuana businesses. There will be a wholesale tax of 5 percent in addition to the state sales tax of 7 percent.

Marijuana reform advocates generally praised the passage of the bill, though with some reservations.

"With this victory, tens of thousands of Mississippians with debilitating health conditions will finally be able to safely and legally access something that can alleviate their pain and improve their quality of life. Mississippi now serves as the latest example that medical cannabis legalization is possible in any state in the country. We are hopeful that this move will add to the growing momentum towards cannabis policy reform in the South," said Toi Hutchinson, president and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in a press release.

"Marijuana access is long overdue for Mississippi's patients," NORML's State Policies Manager Jax James said in a blog post. "The overwhelming majority of voters decided in favor of this policy change over a year ago, and for the past 14 months the will of the people has been denied."

But James also expressed disappointment in some of both what the bill does contain and what it does not.

"We remain concerned that lawmakers saw fit to add unnecessary taxes on cannabis products, that patients are prohibited from home-cultivating limited amounts of cannabis for their own personal use, and that those with chronic pain are restricted from accessing cannabis products until first using more dangerous and addictive substances like opioids," she said.

For MPP, though, the bottom line was that another state now allows patients access to medical marijuana.

"Despite tremendous support, Mississipians faced an uphill battle for a medical cannabis program. With this new law, justice has finally prevailed. Patients in Mississippi who are seriously ill will no longer be subject to arrest and criminal penalties for using medical cannabis and instead will be met with compassion. We applaud the legislature for working to restore the will of the voters in one of the most conservative states in the nation and Gov. Reeves for signing it into law," said Kevin Caldwell, MPP Southeast legislative manager.

The state Department of Health will begin issuing patient registry cards in 60 days, begin accepting applications from practitioners and begin licensing marijuana businesses other than dispensaries within 120 days, and licensing dispensaries within 150 days. The clock is ticking.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Michigan detective cops to dealing dope, a Missouri deputy was crazy for prescription pills, and more. Let's get to it:

In Marietta, Georgia, a Cobb County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday for bringing drug contraband into the Adult Detention Center. Deputy Dyimond Johnson, 30, went down after an internal investigation at the jail. He is charged with "crossing guard lines with a controlled substance," violating his oath of office, making a false statement, and conspiracy to commit a felony. He is now a former deputy.

In Hillsboro, Missouri, a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday for allegedly stealing prescription drugs both on and off duty. Now-former Deputy Michael Filsinger, 35, used his access to the department's report management system to find reports involving prescription drugs, then reached out to people named in those reports claiming to be a detective following up on previous investigations and stole drugs during some of those interactions. He is charged with four counts of felony stealing, one county of misdemeanor stealing, and one count of misuse of official information by a public servant.

In Darlington, South Carolina, a Darlington County jail guard was arrested Tuesday after getting caught with contraband including marijuana, a cellphone, and pocket knife inside the W. Glenn Campbell Detention Center. Devonte Rashawn Harrell is charged with misconduct in office and possession of marijuana. He has now been fired.

In Highland Park, Michigan, a former Highland Park police detective pleaded guilty last Friday to dealing fentanyl-laced heroin. Tiffany Lipkovitch, 46, a 10-year veteran of the department, worked together with another woman on drug deals, which the FBI recorded. In one deal, Lipkovitch introduced a drug buyer to her partner in crime to score dope, for which she received $300. Lipkovitch pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute controlled substances and is now looking at up to 40 years in prison.

Medical Marijuana Update

Minnesota medical marijuana patients will soon be able to buy buds, South Dakota medical marijuana patients will be able to buy edibles, and more.

Minnesota

Minnesota Patients Can Buy Buds Beginning in March. Patients registered in the state's Medical Cannabis Program will be eligible to buy dried cannabis flower for smoking from the state's medical cannabis dispensaries starting March 1. In preparation for the change, registered patients interested in smokable cannabis can make an appointment for a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist beginning Feb. 1 so they will be pre-approved to buy pre-packaged dried flower and pre-rolls once available. Consultations, which can be in-person or virtual, are required when a patient changes the type of medical cannabis they receive. Smokable cannabis may be available a few days before March 1, if the state's relevant administrative rules are finalized early. Patients should check with their medical cannabis dispensary for further details. The sale of smokable cannabis is limited to patients and caregivers who are 21 years or older and who are registered with the Medical Cannabis Program.

South Dakota

South Dakota House Committee Votes to Ban Edibles. Ignoring the will of the voters, who in 2020 overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana initiative that included access to marijuana edibles, the House State Affairs Committee last Wednesday voted narrowly to ban them. The committee voted 7-6 to approve House Bill 1058. "The purpose of the bill is about keeping children safe from exposure and accidental ingestion of edibles," claimed sponsor Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence). The bill would make it difficult for medical marijuana retailers to have viable businesses by restricting what are popular items in most medical marijuana states, industry supporters say.

South Dakota House Kills Bid to Ban Edibles. The state House of Representatives voted last Thursday to defeat House Bill 1058, which would have blocked medical marijuana patients from using edibles, concentrates, and extracts. The measure had been approved in committee, but died on a 47-21 vote.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Republicans File Medical Marijuana Bill. State Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R) and Rep. Patrick Snyder (R) have filed a restrictive medical marijuana bill that would bar the use of smoked or vaped marijuana, It would also create a commission to regulate medical marijuana in the state. Physicians would have to be certified by the commission before they could recommend medical marijuana. The bill, which has yet to be posted to the legislative website, faces long odds.in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) has said he thinks medical marijuana legalization should be a federal issue.

SAFE Banking Act Gets Another Chance in the House, Opioid Makers Settle with Native American Tribes, More... (2/2/22)

An Arizona judge upholds social equity provisions in the state's marijuana law, the SAFE Banking Act will get another House floor vote, and more.

Marijuana Policy

SAFE Banking Act Heading for Another House Floor Vote. The House Rules Committee has cleared the way for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to get another chance at passage. The bill, which aims to provide protections for financial institutions doing business with state-legal marijuana businesses, had passed out of the House as part of a defense appropriations bill but was killed by Senate negotiators who favored a vote on marijuana legalization first. Last week, bill sponsor Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) offered it as an amendment to a large-scale tech and manufacturing research and innovation bill, and on Tuesday, the Rules Committee determined the proposal to be in order, meaning it will be taken up by the House as part of that larger bill.

Arizona Judge Upholds Rules for Social Equity Marijuana Licenses. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit challenging the state's rules implementing a program aimed promoting social equity in the marijuana industry. The program is reserving 26 marijuana business licenses for "people from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws." The lawsuit filed by the Greater Phoenix Urban League and a business argued that the rules lack a means to prevent license transfers and to ensure that profits remain in communities, but Judge Randall held that the rules satisfied the broad mandates under the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization law.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Patients Can Buy Buds Beginning in March. Patients registered in the state's Medical Cannabis Program will be eligible to buy dried cannabis flower for smoking from the state's medical cannabis dispensaries starting March 1. In preparation for the change, registered patients interested in smokable cannabis can make an appointment for a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist beginning Feb. 1 so they will be pre-approved to buy pre-packaged dried flower and pre-rolls once available. Consultations, which can be in-person or virtual, are required when a patient changes the type of medical cannabis they receive. Smokable cannabis may be available a few days before March 1, if the state's relevant administrative rules are finalized early. Patients should check with their medical cannabis dispensary for further details. The sale of smokable cannabis is limited to patients and caregivers who are 21 years or older and who are registered with the Medical Cannabis Program.

Opioids

Drug Distributors, Johnson & Johnson Settles with Native American Tribes Over Opioid Distribution. Three drug distributors -- McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen -- and drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson have reached a $665 million settlement with Native American tribes regarding the flood of prescription opioids into Native communities. More than 400 tribes sued the companies for producing and shipping opioids to the tribes regardless of concerns about overdoses and other health issues. The companies maintain they followed federal law and did nothing wrong but agreed to the settlement anyway. The lawsuit is part of a broader push-back after an expansion of opioid prescribing in the late 1990s and early 200s that has seen numerous lawsuits against drug companies, as well as reductions in opioid prescribing, which has left some chronic pain patients in the lurch.

Officials Now Say Fentanyl-Tainted Marijuana Scare a False Alarm, Competing CO Psychedelic Inits, More...(2/1/22)

A Calfornia Republican lawmaker wants to go back to the bad old days, Colorado now sees competing psychedelic legalization initiatives, and more.

fentanyl (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California GOP Bill Would Make Unlicensed Marijuana Cultivation a Felony Again. Assemblyman Thurston Smith (R-Riverside) has filed a bill that would recriminalize growing marijuana plants without a license, Assembly Bill 1725. The bill would make growing more than six plants without a license a felony punishable by up to three years in jail. Smith said his bill was aimed at enormous illegal grow operations. "These illicit growers have been operating with impunity, knowing that the law allows them to grow with barely a hindrance. For far too long, (state lawmakers in) Sacramento (have) been soft on crime, and the illicit market has exploded with massive unlicensed grows popping up all around the state." The bill faces long odds in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

Massachusetts Marijuana Host Community, Social Equity Bill Advances. The Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy took up legislation aimed at putting tighter rules on legally required contracts between hosts communities and marijuana businesses and establishing a Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund. The measure, House Bill 174 faced no opposition in the committee. The bill is a priority of House Speaker Ron Mariano (D), and takes on aspects of the state's pot laws that both regulators and the industry have said need to be addressed.

"The gap between the law's stated commitment to equity and the on-the-ground reality of the industry shows just how much work we have left to do," Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, said. "There's universal agreement about the problems: high costs of entry and lack of access to capital create a near-impossible barrier for many talented entrepreneurs. This bill addresses both sides of that coin. I'm thrilled we're finally advancing it."

Opioids

Connecticut Scare on Fentanyl-Tainted Marijuana Mostly Unfounded, State Says. The state Department of Health reported in November that nearly 40 overdoses were linked to fentanyl-tainted marijuana, but it now turns out that there was only one case -- and that case was most likely caused by accidental contamination. In the original report, the state said there had been 39 overdoses believed linked to fentanyl-tainted marijuana, that the patients required revival with naloxone, and they "denied any opioid use and claimed to have only smoked marijuana." But the health department says at least 30 of the 39 had histories of opioid use.

The department also said that only one marijuana sample tested positive for fentanyl. "Based on the information gathered since the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl, the CT ORS [Connecticut Overdose Response Strategy] assesses that the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl was likely accidental contamination and an isolated incident," a department spokesman said. Boyle wrote in an email to Hearst Connecticut Media. The contamination likely occurred when the dealer "failed to clean their instruments before processing the marijuana and cross-contaminated it with fentanyl," he said.

Psychedelics

Colorado Sees Second Psychedelic Initiative Filed. Activists with Decriminalize Nature Boulder County have filed an initiative that would allow people 21 and over to possess, cultivate, gift and deliver psilocybin, psilocyn, ibogaine, mescaline and DMT. The initiative would also allow psychedelic services for therapeutic, spiritual, guidance, or harm reduction purposes with or without accepting payment. A separate psychedelic initiative backed by New Approach PAC and David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's liquid soap company, the Natural Medicine Health Act, envisions a two-tiered regulatory model where only psilocybin would be legalized and regulated for therapeutic purposes until June 2026, after which regulators could add other psychedelics.

New Bid for SAFE Banking Bill, OH Activists' MJ Legalization Measure Heads to Legislature, More... (1/31/22)

South Dakota medical marijuana patients will get to enjoy their edibles after all, a New Hampshire subcommittee kills one marijuana bill but more are coming, and more.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is trying once again to propel the SAFE Banking Act forward. (house.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Congressman Files New Marijuana Banking Reform Amendment to Major Spending Bill. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, announced Friday that he is bringing forth an amendment to a major technology and manufacturing research and innovation bill that would incorporate the measure aimed at protecting the state-legal marijuana industry. The SAFE Banking Act has cleared the House five times by now, only to die in the Senate. Most recently, Senate negotiators pushing for full legalization stripped it from a defense spending bill that had passed the House.

"The SAFE Banking Act is the best opportunity to enact some type of federal cannabis reform this year and will serve as the first of many steps to help ensure cannabis businesses are treated the same as any other legal, legitimate business," Perlmutter said. "I will continue to pursue every possible avenue to get SAFE Banking over the finish line and signed into law."

New Hampshire House Subcommittee Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety voted 16-1 last Friday to kill a marijuana legalization bill. But more marijuana bills are coming, including one related to home cultivation, one setting fines for possession, and another legalization bill. The bill killed last Friday was House Bill 1468-FN.

Ohio Activists Have Enough Signatures to Force Legislative Vote on Marijuana Legalization. The secretary of state's office announced last Friday that the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol had handed in enough valid voter signatures to force the legislature to act on marijuana legalization -- or give voters a shot at it. The legislature now has four months to approve marijuana legalization. If it votes not to or neglects to act at all, the Coalition would then be able to place the issue directly before voters by gathering another 133,000 valid voter signatures.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota House Kills Bid to Ban Edibles. The state House of Representatives voted last Thursday to defeat House Bill 1058, which would have blocked medical marijuana patients from using edibles, concentrates, and extracts. The measure had been approved in committee, but died on a 47-21 vote.

New Synthetic Opioids in Overdose Crisis, Jordanian Army Ambushes Drug Smugglers, More... (1/28/22)

Tennesseans could send their legislators a message on marijuana policy under a pair of bills just filed, Costa Rica's president vetoes a medical marijuana bill and demands changes, and more.

captagon molecule (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Tennessee Odd Couple Lawmakers File Bill for Statewide Poll on Marijuana Legalization. Firebrand conservative Rep. Bruce Griffery (R-Paris) has paired with liberal Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) to file identical bills that would give state residents a chance to get their voices heard on the topic of marijuana legalization, Senate Bill 1973 and House Bill 1634. The bills would require county election commissions to put three non-binding questions related to marijuana legalization on the 2022 ballot and forward the results to the legislature.

The questions the bills pose are: 1) Should the state of Tennessee legalize medical marijuana? 2) Should the state decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana? and 3) Should the state legalize and regulate the commercial sales of recreational marijuana? While the results would be non-binding, strong popular support for marijuana reforms could end up moving the legislature, which for years has been resistant to them.

Opioids

Two Powerful, Little-Known Synthetic Opioids Show Up In Overdose Crisis. In a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers from the DEA, a toxicology lab at the University of California-San Francisco, and the Knox County (Tennessee) Regional Forensic Center are raising the alarm about two powerful synthetic opioids that are starting to show up in overdose deaths. The two drugs, Para-fluorofentanyl and metonitazene, are now being seen more often by medical examiners in overdose deaths and, increasingly, one of the two drugs is the sole drug used before the overdose.

These opioids are often mixed with fentanyl, which is implicated in about two-thirds of all overdose deaths. In Knoxville, of 770 fatal overdoses between November 2020 and August 2021, 562 featured fentanyl, with another 190 of those also testing positive for meth. But 48 But 48 involved para-fluorofentanyl, and 26 involved metonitazene, according to the report, and those numbers are on the rise, researchers said.

International

Costa Rican President Vetoes Medical Marijuana, Demands Changes. President Carlos Alvarado on Thursday vetoed a medical marijuana bill passed by the Congress, saying it needed changes before he would approve it. He said the bill needs to be changed to limit home cultivation and consumption. "I trust that they will be accepted, and the law will be in force soon," said Alvarado, whose term ends in May. Now, the bill goes back to Congress to see if it will make the changes Alvarado wants.

Jordanian Army Says It Killed 27 Armed Drug Smugglers. The Jordanian army said it killed 27 armed drug smugglers on Thursday, wounded others, and sent others "supported by other armed groups" retreating back across the border into Syria. The smugglers were carrying captagon, a popular Middle Eastern amphetamine. This is only the bloodiest of a growing number of such incidents in the past year, many involving shootouts, which has prompted the army to toughen its rules of engagement with smugglers.

"We will strike with an iron fist..those who dare think of tampering with our national security," the army statement said. Witnesses said as many as 80 armed smugglers crossed the border in dense fog, only to be ambushed by the Jordanian army. As many as 50 are missing and believed dead, another witness said.

Syria has become a hub of captagon manufacturing and smuggling during its decade-long civil war. Jordanian officials say the Lebanese militia/political party/social welfare organization Hezbollah is behind the surge in smuggling. Hezbollah denies it.

DE Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes Committee, SD Lawmakers Move to Ban MedMJ Edibles, More... (1/27/22)

Psilocybin is making some news this week in Colorado, Wisconsin Republicans roll out a restrictive medical marijuana bill, and more.

South Dakota -- no medical marijuana edibles for you if the legislature has its way. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health and Human Development Committee voted Wednesday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 150. The bill legalizes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over but does not allow people to grow their own. Instead, people would have to purchase marijuana from a state-regulated cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution industry. Basically, the same bill has been introduced each year since 2019 but has never gotten as far as a House floor vote. This year, a proposed Social Equity Loan fund was removed because funding measures would require a three-fourths supermajority to pass. Governor Jay Carney (D) remains opposed to the bill despite changes made designed to appease him.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota House Committee Votes to Ban Edibles. Ignoring the will of the voters, who in 2020 overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana initiative that included access to marijuana edibles, the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted narrowly to ban them. The committee voted 7-6 to approve House Bill 1058. "The purpose of the bill is about keeping children safe from exposure and accidental ingestion of edibles," claimed sponsor Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence). The bill would make it difficult for medical marijuana retailers to have viable businesses by restricting what are popular items in most medical marijuana states, industry supporters say.

Wisconsin Republicans File Medical Marijuana Bill. State Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R) and Rep. Patrick Snyder (R) have filed a restrictive medical marijuana bill that would bar the use of smoked or vaped marijuana, It would also create a commission to regulate medical marijuana in the state. Physicians would have to be certified by the commission before they could recommend medical marijuana. The bill, which has yet to be posted to the legislative website, faces long odds.in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) has said he thinks medical marijuana legalization should be a federal issue.

Psychedelics

Colorado Activists File Revised Psilocybin Legalization and Healing Center Initiatives. Activists behind Denver's historic 2019 vote to decriminalize psilocybin have now filed revised versions of a pair of proposed initiatives, one that would legalize psilocybin and one that would create licensed healing centers where the drug could be used for therapeutic purposes. The original legalization initiative included a wide range of psychedelics including DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline, but the new one merely legalizes psilocybin and regulates it for therapeutic use until 2026. After that, regulators could include other psychedelics. The revised initiatives also do away with specified possession limits and include social justice provisions.

Colorado Lawmakers File Bill to Study Psychedelics and Mental Health Treatment. Reps. Alex Valdez (D-Denver), Edie Hooton (D-Boulder), and Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins) have filed a bill that would create a panel to study psychedelics and mental health treatment. The measure, House Bill 1116, would have the panel meet for one year to "study the use of plant-based medicines to support mental health, report its findings and make policy recommendations" to the Colorado General Assembly, the governor and other state officials.

The panel would consist of 17 members and would include physicians, veterans, natural healers, plant-based medicine advocates, Indigenous communities, criminal defense lawyers and law enforcement, The bill allows for the study of four natural psychedelics: DMT, ibogaine, and psilocybin and psilocin, which are the active ingredients in psychedelic mushrooms.

These States Could Legalize Marijuana via the Ballot Box in 2022 [FEATURE]

A new year is here, and with it, new opportunities to expand the legal marijuana landscape at the ballot box. Currently, marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, DC, with medical marijuana allowed in 36 states and DC. Given that marijuana legalization is as popular as apple pie -- the most recent Gallup poll has support at a record 68 percent--we should expect to see more join the ranks. There are eight states that could increase that number at the ballot box this year.

(There are also legalization efforts at statehouses -- look for a feature story on that shortly.)

Among the eight states with ballot prospects are several states where legalization would be achieved in a hybrid fashion: The legislature would have to approve a bill calling for a referendum on the issue, and then voters would get their say.

The year is young, and none of the initiatives below have yet qualified. They must all overcome procedural hurdles and signature gathering requirements (except for those hybrids). But if they can manage to get qualified, the polling numbers suggest they can win, even in the reddest states.

With a big tip of the hat to Ballotpedia, Marijuana Moment, and NORML, who are all keeping an eye on the action, here's the list of states working to legalize it at the ballot box this year:

Arkansas

Two separate marijuana legalization initiative campaigns were derailed by coronavirus disruptions and restrictions in 2020, but both are back this year, along with a potential third initiative. All take the form of initiated constitutional amendments.

One initiative is a proposed constitutional amendment submitted by Arkansans for Marijuana Reform. It would legalize the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana buds and two ounces of concentrates and would let people grow up to six mature marijuana plants and six seedlings. Legal marijuana commerce would be handled by the state Department of Finance and Administration, which would have to issue at least one retail license per 15,000 residents.

A second initiative, submitted by Arkansas True Grass,would legalize sales as well as personal possession. Adults could purchase up to four ounces at a time and grow up to 12 plants for personal use, while licensed and regulated marijuana commerce would be taxed at 13 percent at the retail level (8 percent excise tax and 5 percent local sales tax). Past marijuana convictions would be expunged.

The third initiative was just filed this week. It is from former state lawmaker Eddie Armstrong (D), who is also involved in an Illinois marijuana business and who announced back in October that he had formed a campaign called Responsible Growth Arkansas to put a legalization constitutional amendment on the ballot. His Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment would legalize marijuana but seems more interested in who would get coveted licenses. It would have authorities issue licenses first to people who already had medical marijuana licenses and would cap the number of dispensaries at 120.

All three campaigns will need to come up with 89,151 valid voter signatures by July 8 to qualify for the November ballot.

Kentucky

This is a hybrid state: Six members of the House have filed House Bill 225, which, if passed, would put before the voters a referendum question on marijuana legalization. The proposal would allow anyone 21 or over to possess, use, buy, or sell up to an ounce of marijuana and grow, harvest, and store up to five plants for personal use. The measure would also set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.

Whether this bill will move remains to be seen. It went to the Committee on Committees on January 5 and, as of this writing, it has not advanced or been scheduled for a hearing.

Maryland

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

This bill could move. It was House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) who formed the marijuana working group, and Clippinger is not only chairman of the group but also chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to which it has been referred.

But Jones's counterpart, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D), seems more inclined to support getting a straight legalization bill passed before November than going down the referendum route. Either way would work.

Missouri

Missouri has two marijuana legalization initiatives already cleared for circulation and one measure in the legislature that would, if passed, result in a public referendum on the issue.

Legal Missouri 2022 has filed an initiative that legalizes marijuana for people 21 and over and automatically expunges criminal records for past nonviolent marijuana offenses. It also includes social equity provisions aimed at broadening participation in the industry. The group kicked off its signature gathering campaign in December and needs at least 107,246 valid voter signatures by July 28.

A different group, Fair Access Missouri, has filed multiple initiatives aimed at creating a system of legal marijuana sales for people 21 and over. The group describes itself as a "grassroots coalition of activists, patient advocates, and entrepreneurs working to give Missouri voters an open market with low taxes and low barriers to entry." Fair Access Missouri is also now in the signature gathering phase.

And then there is Rep. Shamed Dogan (R), who has filed a joint resolution, House Joint Resolution 33, to put a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot. He filed the same bill last year, but it did not advance. It is not currently scheduled for a House hearing.

New Hampshire

And another hybrid. The House has already approved a marijuana legalization bill this year, as in years past, but all such bills so far have gone on to die in the Senate. Maybe this year will be different, but in case it is not, three House members have introduced bills to place marijuana legalization constitutional amendments on the ballot. The measures are CACR 20 from Rep. Renny Cushing (D),CACR 34 from Rep. Joshua Adjutant (D) (D), and CACR 35 from Rep. Abdrew Prout (R).

These bills face a significant uphill battle. First, they have no win a 60 percent supermajority in both the House and Senate, which would be a tough slog in the GOP-controlled legislature, and then two-thirds (67 percent) of the voters would have to approve it.

Getting two-thirds of the voters to approve it, though, may not be as challenging as it appears. A recent poll had support for marijuana legalization in the state at 75 percent.

Ohio

And another hybrid. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is campaigning to put a marijuana legalization initiative before the legislature, which would then have four months to approve it. If the legislature votes no or fails to act, the initiative would then go to the voters in November, provided the campaign successful completes another round of signature gathering.

Right now, the campaign is struggling to get past the initial round of signature gathering. The initiative needs 132,887 valid voter signatures to begin the process at the statehouse, and it handed in more than 200,000 raw signatures early in January, but state officials determined that only 199,925 were valid. Campaigners then did a final round of petitioningand came up with an additional 29,918 raw signatures. State officials have yet to confirm the signature count, but less than half of those raw signatures need to be valid to get the campaign past the hurdle.

Oklahoma

Two different marijuana legalization initiative campaigns are underway in the Sooner State.

Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action is behind State Question 819, which would amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana. The measure would legalize up to eight ounces for people 21 and over and has strong home grow provisions, allowing for up to 12 plants (and the fruits of their harvest). It also includes employment and parental rights protections and would make some changes to the state medical marijuana program.

The deep-pocketed national drug reform powerhouse New Approach PAC is behind State Question820, which would allow people 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six mature plants and six seedlings at home.

SQ 819 is a constitutional amendment, so it has a higher signature requirement that SQ 820, which is an initiated statute. SQ 819 will need at least 177,958 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, while SQ 820 will only need 94,911. Once the campaigns get the go-ahead for signature gathering, they have 90 days to get it done, with a June cut-off date for latecomers.

South Dakota

South Dakotans approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020 with 54 percent of the vote, only to have the will of the voters overturned by the state Supreme Court. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML), the folks behind the 2020 effort, are back again with a new, trimmed-back initiative that does not include business licensing, sales, or regulations, instead leaving that to the legislature.

The campaign is in the midst of signature gathering, having turned in some 15,000 raw signatures in December. A 2022 initiated measure requires 16,961 valid signatures from registered South Dakota voters to qualify for the November ballot, but the campaign has until May 3 to complete signature gathering. It says its goal is 25,000 raw signatures.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered former Kentucky sheriff is in trouble, a former Connecticut cop gets nailed for helping out a target of a DEA drug investigation, and more. Let's get to it:

In Covington, Kentucky, a former Greenup County sheriff was arrested last Thursday for allegedly stealing more than $50,000 in cash that had been seized from drug suspects. Former Sheriff Keith Cooper, 68, is accused of making cash withdrawals from the agency's asset forfeiture fund, which holds proceeds from properties seized in drug investigations and can only be used for law enforcement purposes. But Cooper used the money for personal ends and "otherwise unauthorized uses as he deemed fit," according to the federal indictment. He also had deputies try to falsify records once he realized an investigation was happening. He is facing one count of mail fraud and one count of theft of property from a federally funded agency.

In East Haven, Connecticut, a former East Haven police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he used his official position to access a law enforcement database on behalf of a suspect in a DEA drug investigation. Jason Andino, 30, went down when a DEA wiretap picked up a phone conversation where a man associated with the DEA target asked if there was anyone inside the department who could provide information about police activity near his home. Andino was allegedly the person who could -- and did -- provide the information. He is charged with two counts of felony third-degree computer crimes for the alleged illegal use of law enforcement databases.

In Mobile, Alabama, a former Escambia County Detention Center guard was sentenced last Friday to 18 months in prison for smuggling contraband including drugs into the jail. Lakerdra Shanta Snowden, 31, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted taking cash payments totaling more than $5,000 for her efforts. She also copped to bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds, providing contraband to a federal prisoner, and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

Medical Marijuana Update

Fourteen months after voters approved medical marijuana at the polls only to see it thrown out by the state Supreme Court, Mississippi legislators have reached an agreement on a medical marijuana bill, and more.

Idaho

Idaho Bill Would Allow Use of Spray Derived from Marijuana. A pair of Republican legislators have filed a bill, House Bill 446, that would allow people suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders to have access to a pain relief spray derived from marijuana. The spray, Nabiximols, is manufactured by GW Pharma and is currently undergoing clinical trials for possible approval by the Food & Drug Administration. It contains a mix of CBD and THC, and would be the second such drug. The legislation was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee on a voice vote and can now come back to the committee for a public hearing. Idaho has been one of the most recalcitrant states when it comes to marijuana law reform. Last year, a medical marijuana bill in the House didn't even receive a hearing, while the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature -- not voters in an initiative -- sole authority to legalize marijuana or any other drugs.

Mississippi

Mississippi Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Medical Marijuana Bill. House and Senate lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on medical marijuana legislation and were preparing to finalize details of the legislation this week before sending the bill to Gov. Tate Reeves (R). The bill was amended in the House to reduce the amount of medical marijuana available each month for patients, in line with the concerns of Gov. Reeves. The agreement comes more than a year after voted approved a medical marijuana initiative only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Nebraska Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill Filed in Bid to Blunt Initiative Campaign. Conservative state Sen. Mike Groene (R-North Platte) has filed a bill, LB 1275, that would allow patients with stage IV cancers, uncontrollable seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy, or a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in the form of an oil or pill. Patients under 19 would need written certification from three different practitioners. Groene was open that his bill is an effort to blunt an ongoing medical marijuana initiative campaign. "I don't want it to pass," he said. "I want the elected officials in charge of the future of this, to define it and change it over time if necessary, to have the medical people in (the Department of Health and Human Services) write the bills."

Ohio

Ohio Bill to Add Autism as Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition Advances. The House Health Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 60, which would add autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House Rules and Reference Committee, which decides which bills get a floor vote. Bill cosponsor Rep. Bill Seize (R-Cincinnati) said he was optimistic the bill would get a floor vote. "This is a good, bipartisan bill," he said, pointing out that 14 other legislators from both parties are cosponsors.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana to (Finally) Be Debated. Senator Tom Davis's (R-Beaufort) Senate Bill 150, the South Carolina Compassionate Use Act, will finally be debated on the Senate floor this week. Davis has been trying for seven years to get to this point. Befitting the conservative state, Davis's bill is also conservative. It bars the use of smokable marijuana, requires an in-patient doctor's visit and a written treatment plan, and limits the conditions that can be treated to a specified list including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma. sickle cell anemia and autism. Davis says he thinks he has enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate and send it to the House, but House leaders have not indicated whether they would take it up before the session ends.

MS Lawmakers Reach Agreement on MedMJ Bill, Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decrim, More... (1/26/22)

Thailand takes another big step toward marijuana decriminalization, San Francisco is turning a blind eye to drug use at a Tenderloin services center, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms got some attention in Seattle, Oklahoma City and Richmond this week. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Medical Marijuana Bill. House and Senate lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on medical marijuana legislation and were preparing to finalize details of the legislation this week before sending the bill to Gov. Tate Reeves (R). The bill was amended in the House to reduce the amount of medical marijuana available each month for patients, in line with the concerns of Gov. Reeves. The agreement comes more than a year after voted approved a medical marijuana initiative only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Ohio Bill to Add Autism as Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition Advances. The House Health Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 60, which would add autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House Rules and Reference Committee, which decides which bills get a floor vote. Bill cosponsor Rep. Bill Seize (R-Cincinnati) said he was optimistic the bill would get a floor vote. "This is a good, bipartisan bill," he said, pointing out that 14 other legislators from both parties are cosponsors.

Psychedelics

Oklahoma Republicans File Bills to Decriminalize Psilocybin, Encourage Research on Medical Benefits. State Reps. Daniel Pae (R) and Logan Phillips (R) have filed a pair of bills that would promote research into psilocybin's therapeutic potential, and one of them would also decriminalize small-time possession of the drug. The bills are designed to give lawmakers different options to reach similar objectives, but Pae's bill would also decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce and half of psilocybin.

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

Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution. The city council on Monday night approved a resolution to decriminalize a wide range of activities around psychedelic drugs, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline. It was already Seattle policy not to arrest or prosecute people for personal drug possession, but this resolution further protects the cultivation and sharing of psychedelic plants for reasons of "religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices."

Harm Reduction

Wisconsin Legislature Passes Bill to Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips. Both the House and the Senate have approved a bill that would decriminalize fentanyl test strips. Under current law, the overdose prevention tool is considered drug paraphernalia. At least one public health initiative, Vivent Health (formerly the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin), has already distributed nearly 46,000 test strips anonymously, with no questions asked.

San Francisco Allowing People to Use Drugs Inside New Tenderloin Treatment Linkage Center. The city is turning a blind eye to drug use in an outdoor area of the mayor's new Tenderloin Linkage Center in United Nations Plaza. At the center, the city offers basic hygiene services, food, clothing, and referrals to treatment and housing services inside the building. The drug use is going on in a fenced-in area outside the building. Critics have accused the city of running an "illicit drug consumption site," but a spokesman for Mayor London Breed (D) said that the "emergency initiative is about doing everything we can to help people struggling with addiction, and getting them connected to services and treatment. As part of that, the linkage center is serving as a low-barrier site to bring people off the street."

International

Thai Narcotics Control Board Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced Wednesday that the Narcotics Control Board had approved the removal of marijuana from the country's list of controlled substances. The delisting will next be formally singed by Charnvirakul and will go into effect 120 days after notice is published in the government gazette. The move definitely clears the way for the cultivation and production of medical marijuana and hemp, but it was unclear is marijuana possession would no longer be an arrestable offense.

SD House Votes to Ban MedMJ Home Grows, MN Usual Suspects Form Anti-Marijuana Coalition, More... (1/25/22)

Life just got a bit easier to Empire State medical marijuana patients, a Wisconsin GOP lawmaker wants to reinstate drug testing of some welfare recipients, and more.

South Dakota medical marijuana patients will not be able to grow this at home under a bill that just passed the House. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Groups Unite to Oppose Marijuana Legalization. The usual suspects are at it again. Faced with a renewed push for marijuana legalization by Democratic lawmakers, the state's police and peace officers association, the state Catholic Conference, and business interests have formed a coalition to oppose any such move. Calling themselves Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization, the coalition is warning of truck drivers driving under the influence amid a lack of roadside drug tests and workers failing drug tests, thereby exacerbating worker shortages because of the pandemic.

Medical Marijuana

New York Medical Marijuana Program Expands. The State Office of Cannabis Management launched a new certification and registration system for the state's medical marijuana program on Monday, expanding patient access and eligibility as it did so. Now, doctors, dentists, and nurse practitioners can recommend medical marijuana for any condition if they think it will benefit a patients instead of being limited to a list of specified conditions. The office has also doubled the amount of medical marijuana patients can obtain and it permanently waived patient and caregivers registration fees.

South Dakota House Votes to Override Will of Voters, Ban Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The House on Monday voted 41-29 to approve House Bill 1004, which bans the home cultivation of medical marijuana by patients and caregivers. The vote directly contravenes the will of the voters, who approved Initiated Measure 26 legalizing medical marijuana with home cultivation with nearly 70 percent of the vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Republican Files Bill to Require Drug Testing for Welfare Beneficiaries. State Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) has released a bill that would reinstate drug testing and work requirements for people receiving benefits under the state's FoodShare program. The measure is part of a larger package of legislation introduced by Republicans that seeks to undo an expansion of welfare benefits during the pandemic. The state already had such requirements for some welfare recipients, but Democratic Governor Tony Evers waived those requirements until September, saying the state doesn't have enough jobs for those seeking them. Born's bill, LRB 5571, would require Evers to begin implementing the existing work and drug testing requirements, including withdrawing any waiver or suspension of the requirements.

VA GOP Bill Would Gut Marijuana Social Equity Funding, Mexico Murders May Have Peaked, More... (1/24/22)

North Dakota marijuana initaitive campaigners will have to go back to the drawing board, social equity funding is on the chopping block in Virginia's GOP marijuana implementation bill, and more.

The South Carolina will -- after seven years -- debate a medical marijuana bill this week. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. Activists behind an effort to put a marijuana legalization ballot measure before the voters in November have failed to come up with enough signatures to do so. The deadline for handing signatures for the campaign was Saturday, and the group had only gathered 19,500 raw signatures by then. They needed 31,164 valid voter signatures to qualify. The activists said they are already looking ahead to medical marijuana access and marijuana legalization initiative campaigns for 2024. The legislature took up marijuana legalization last year, but that bill was killed in the state Senate.

Virginia Republican Files Legal Marijuana Implementation Bill that Cuts Taxes, Reduces Social Equity Funding. Delegate Michael Webert (R-Fauquier) has filed legislation to implement marijuana legalization approved by last year's Democratic state legislature, but that legislation makes some changes to what the Democrats envisioned. The bill, House Bill 950, would cut the tax on retail sales from 21 percent to 10 percent in what Webert said is a bid to undercut the black market. It would also eliminate the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, which would have allocated 35 percent of tax revenues to providing scholarships, community programs and business loans to people and communities "historically and disproportionately targeted and affected by drug enforcement." Instead, those funds would now go to repairing or replacing school roofs. The bill also eliminates preferences for people with past marijuana convictions but would allow priority access for people who live in communities with higher than average enforcement, as well as people who are economically disadvantaged or who attended a historically black college or university in the state.

Medical Marijuana

South Carolina Medical Marijuana to (Finally) Be Debated. Senator Tom Davis's (R-Beaufort) Senate Bill 150, the South Carolina Compassionate Use Act, will finally be debated on the Senate floor this week. Davis has been trying for seven years to get to this point. Befitting the conservative state, Davis's bill is also conservative. It bars the use of smokable marijuana, requires an in-patient doctor's visit and a written treatment plan, and limits the conditions that can be treated to a specified list including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma. sickle cell anemia and autism. Davis says he thinks he has enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate and send it to the House, but House leaders have not indicated whether they would take it up before the session ends.

International

Mexico Killings Declined Slightly Last Year. The country's annual death count, driven largely by drug prohibition-related violence, was down for the second year in a row, official figures indicated. Homicides hit an all-time high of 34,690 in 2019 before dropping to 34,544 in 2020 and dropping again to 33,308 last year. More than 340,000 people have been killed since the government of then-President Felipe Calderon deployed the military in a bid to stem rising levels of violence -- only to see the number of killings rise year after year for more than a decade. Current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador created a new security force, the National Guard, to deal with high levels of violence, but the decline in killings is more likely related to social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Citizen Observatory, a civil society group.

DEA Proposes Scheduling Five Tryptamines, RI Governor to Push for Marijuana Legalization, More... (1/21/22)

Legislators in a pair of red states attempt to deal with mounting pressure for medical marijuana, a Washington state bill moves to end employment-related marijuana testing, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms could be decriminalized under a New Hampshire bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Governor Renews Push for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Dan McKee (D) has included marijuana legalization in his Fiscal Year 2023 budget, calling for the "phased-in introduction of retail licenses." The state Senate overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization in the last session, but the legislature adjourned with no vote in the House. Lawmakers are reportedly working on a compromise between the Senate bill, which envisioned up to 150 retail outlets, and the governor's initial plan, which called for only 25 retail licenses. Both the Senate bill and the governor's plan include social equity provisions.

Washington State Bill Would End Employment Drug Tests for Marijuana. State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) has sponsored Senate Bill 5517, which would amend the state's employment drug testing law to exclude marijuana -- with a couple of notable exceptions. One exception would allow employers to continue to screen for marijuana if they create "drug-free workplace" written policies, including employee education and supervisor training. The other exception would be for federal employees, because marijuana remains federally illegal.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Bill Would Allow Use of Spray Derived from Marijuana. A pair of Republican legislators have filed a bill, House Bill 446, that would allow people suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders to have access to a pain relief spray derived from marijuana. The spray, Nabiximols, is manufactured by GW Pharma and is currently undergoing clinical trials for possible approval by the Food & Drug Administration. It contains a mix of CBD and THC, and would be the second such drug. The legislation was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee on a voice vote and can now come back to the committee for a public hearing.

Idaho has been one of the most recalcitrant states when it comes to marijuana law reform. Last year, a medical marijuana bill in the House didn't even receive a hearing, while the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature -- not voters in an initiative -- sole authority to legalize marijuana or any other drugs.

Nebraska Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill Filed in Bid to Blunt Initiative Campaign. Conservative state Sen. Mike Groene (R-North Platte) has filed a bill, LB 1275, that would allow patients with stage IV cancers, uncontrollable seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy, or a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in the form of an oil or pill. Patients under 19 would need written certification from three different practitioners.

Groene was open that his bill is an effort to blunt an ongoing medical marijuana initiative campaign. "I don't want it to pass," he said. "I want the elected officials in charge of the future of this, to define it and change it over time if necessary, to have the medical people in (the Department of Health and Human Services) write the bills."

Psychedelics

DEA Proposes Labeling Five Psychedelic Tryptamines as Schedule I Controlled Substances. The DEA announced last Friday that it intends to criminalize five tryptamines as Schedule I controlled substances. The five are: 4-Hydroxy-N,N-diisopropyltryptamine (4-OH-DiPT), 5-Methoxy-alphamethyltryptamine (5-MeO-AMT), N-Isopropyl-5-Methoxy-N-Methyltryptamine (5-MeO-MiPT), N,N-Diethyl-5-methoxytryptamine (5-MeO-DET), and N,N-Diisopropyltryptamine (DiPT).

The agency has been monitoring the substances as drugs of concern for more than two decades, sent data on them to the Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 and received medical and scientific reports on them from DHS in 2012. Last year, the agency noted that, "These five tryptamines have no known medical use in the United States and are not marketed internationally as approved drug products. They have all been reported as drugs of abuse in the US by law enforcement authorities and identified in seizures."

It's not a done deal yet, though. Anyone can visit the Federal Register to comment on the proposal until February 14. Some psychedelic sciences companies have already registered their objections.

New Hampshire Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Bill Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators have filed House Bill 1349-FN, which would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms. The bill would decriminalize the possession of up to 12 grams of 'shrooms, enough for several psychedelic experiences.

MS House Passes MedMJ Bill, MO Drug Decrim Bill Filed, More... (1/20/22)

A marijuana services company has filed a federal lawsuit over massive cash seizures by cops in California and Kansas, the Colombian Constitutional Court puts the kibosh on spraying coca crops with herbicide, and more.

Colombian coca farmers will not have to worry about having toxic herbicides dumped on their fields. (DEA)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Amends Medical Marijuana Bill to Lower Possession Limits, Then Passes It. The House on Wednesday approved the Senate's medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 2095, but only after amending it to lower the amount of marijuana flower patients can possess each month from 3.5 ounces to 3 ounces. The Senate had previously lowered the limit from 4 ounces to 3.5 in a bid to soothe the concerns of Governor Tate Reeves (R), who has expressed worry that the bill allowed patients too much marijuana. The bill now goes back to the Senate. If the Senate rejects the House's amended limit, the bill would then go to conference committee to hash out the differences.

Asset Forfeiture

Marijuana Services Company Sues Cops in California and Kansas Over Seizures of $1.2 Million in Cash. Empyreal Logistics, a company that uses armored cars to transport cash to and from marijuana businesses, has had its vehicles stopped and cash seized on five separate occasions since last May by sheriff's deputies in Kansas and California. The stops resulted in no citations or criminal charges, but the deputies seized $1.2 million in cash under state civil forfeiture law.

Now, with the help of the Institute for Justice, Empyreal has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the seizures violate state law, federal law, and the US Constitution. In a complaint it filed last Friday in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Empyreal says it is "entitled to protection from highway robberies, regardless of whether they are conducted by criminals or by the Sheriff and federal law-enforcement agencies acting under color of law."

In both California and Kansas, local sheriffs handed the seizures over to the DEA in a bid to circumvent state laws limiting seizures and who profits from them. The lawsuit charges that the DEA's involvement violates the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, a spending rider that bars the Justice Department (which includes the DEA and the FBI) from using any of its funds to interfere with the implementation of state laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. Because the DEA violated that restriction, the company says, it also violated the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. And because the seizure was motivated by the prospect of financial gain, the lawsuit says, it violated the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process.

Drug Policy

Arizona Bill Would End Restriction on Food Stamp Benefits to Drug Felons. A bill that would remove requirements that people with past felony drug convictions agree to random drug testing and to taking part in a drug treatment program in order to access the Supplemental Nutritional Program (SNAP) has passed its first hurdle. Sponsored by Rep. Walter Blackman (R-Snowflake), the measure, House Bill 2060, was approved unanimously on Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Missouri Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Rep. Peter Merideth (D) has filed a bill to decriminalize a range of drugs including marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and cocaine. The measure, House Bill 2469, would make low-level drug possession an infraction punishable by a maximum $100 fine or participation in a drug treatment program if ordered by a court. The bill would decriminalize up to 10 grams of cannabis, one gram of heroin, one gram of MDMA, two grams of methamphetamine, 40 units of LSD, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 units of methadone, 40 oxycodone pills and two grams of cocaine. The bill also lowers charges for possessing some quantities greater than personal use from felonies to misdemeanors. It currently has no hearing scheduled.

International

Colombia High Court Blocks Government Plan to Spray Coca Crops with Toxic Herbicide. The country's Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that the administration of conservative President Iván Duque cannot spray the herbicide glyphosate on coca crops without the consent of rural communities. That effectively blocks the proposed renewal of spraying. The ruling came after rural black and indigenous communities sued to block the plan, saying the herbicide causes disease, destroys traditional crops and pollutes the water.

The court imposed a one-year deadline for agreement to be reached to allow spraying, effectively blocking the Duque administration, which leaves office in August, from moving forward before then. Spraying the coca crop with glyphosates was done in the past but blocked by the Constitutional Court in 2015. President Duque has spent the four years of his administration trying to get it going again.

Drug War Issues

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