Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

New Mexico Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization, Governor Will Sign Bill [FEATURE]

New Mexico has become the second state in as many days to see lawmakers approve marijuana legalization. New York did it on March 30, and with the approval of House Bill 2, the Cannabis Regulation Act, and Senate Bill 2, the Expungement of Certain Criminal Records Act, by legislators in Santa Fe, New Mexico got it done on March 31.

The Land of Enchantment is about to get a bit more enchanting.
In both states, Democratic governors have said they will approve the bills. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said after the Albany vote he looked forward to signing the legislation, and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who called a special session precisely to get legalization passed, made her intentions clear earlier in March, saying "We're going to get cannabis because I am not going to wait another year."

She was even more clear after the bills finally passed: "This is a significant victory for New Mexico," she said in a post-vote statement. "Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue. Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry. And those who have been harmed by this country's failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state's smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions."

Once Lujan Grisham signs the bills, New Mexico will become the 17th state to legalize marijuana and the fourth to do it via the legislative process, after Vermont, Illinois, and New York. Virginia is about to join this group -- the legislature has already passed a legalization bill, but Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has proposed an amendment to speed up the implementation of legalization from 2024 to this coming July. The General Assembly will take up the amendment in a one-day session to consider vetoes and amendments on April 7, and is expected to approve it.

"This year is proving to be nothing short of monumental for the cannabis policy reform movement. State legislatures across the nation are recognizing the urgent need to end cannabis prohibition and are rising to the challenge," Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement greeting the vote.

In New Mexico, House Bill 2 allows people 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of marijuana grow up to six mature plants at home. It also sets up a plan for taxed and regulated sales to begin next year, with a maximum 20% tax. And the bill includes measures aimed at easing entry into the industry for those disproportionately impacted by pot prohibition. While the bill was stripped of some provisions that would have helped ameliorate the impact of the drug war on the most effected communities, it does provide and entrée to the industry via low-cost licenses for small producers, and it will allow some people with drug convictions to get in on the legal industry.

Senate Bill 2 provides for the automatic expungement of past marijuana possession convictions. It also provides for a review of the sentences of about one hundred state prisoners currently doing time for pot crimes.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has had a New Mexico office since 2000 and has been plugging away on a wide range of drug reform issues, including marijuana legalization ever since. It lauded the victory.

"New Mexicans are finally able to exhale. After many years of hard work, another whirlwind legislative session, and input from stakeholders throughout the state, social justice-centered cannabis legalization is on its way to the governor's desk, where she has already agreed to sign," DPA Senior Director for Resident States and New Mexico Emily Kaltenbach said in a statement after the votes.

The Land of Enchantment is about to get a bit more enchanting.

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

Medical Marijuana Update

With blue states already looking at marijuana legalization and beyond, the medical marijuana action these days is taking place in red states:

Kansas

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Wins House Committee Vote. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee voted Monday to approve a medical marijuana bill, House Bill 2436. The bill would create a medical marijuana program for patients with one of 21 specified medical conditions, but would ban smoking or vaping it. The legislation would establish a medical marijuana program for qualified patients. As drafted, it listed 21 conditions that would qualify patients for the program, including chronic pain, HIV and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it was amended on Monday to expand that list. Smoking and vaping products would be prohibited. It would also not provide for home growing.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote A Nebraska committee on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Legislative Bill 474. The bill would allow patients with specified qualifying conditions to possess and purchase up to two and a half ounces of marijuana from licensed dispensaries. It would not, however, allow patients to smoke marijuana. The bill now heads for a final legislative floor vote.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee voted 9-5 Wednesday to approve a medical marijuana bill, (Senate Bill 150/ House Bill 3361), clearing the way for a Senate floor vote next week. The bill would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to access medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries.

NY Legalizes Marijuana, US-Mexico Anti-Drug Cooperation at Standstill, WA Drug Decrim Bill Filed, More... (3/31/21)

The New York legislature approved marijuana legalization last night and the governor says he will sign the bill, a drug decriminalization bill has been filed in Washington state, North Carolina Republican senators head in the opposite direction when it comes to fentanyl, and more.

President Joe Biden is not leading the way on marijuana legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Still Opposed to Marijuana Legalization, Press Secretary Says. In response to a question from reporters about whether President Biden would support a push by Democratic senators to legalize marijuana federally, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the president "believes in decriminalizing the use of marijuana" and that his stance opposing legalization "has not changed."

Colorado Bill to Double Legal Possession Quantity Passes House. A bill that would double the amount of marijuana that it is legal to possess, House Bill 1090, passed the House on Tuesday. The bill would make possession of up to two ounces legal, as well as expanding opportunities for people with marijuana records to get those offenses expunged. The bill now heads for a Senate committee.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bills Advance in First Day of Special Session. Marijuana legalization has now been divided into two bills, both of which advanced Tuesday in the first day of special session called to get the legislation passed. The new House Bill 2, which would legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for people 21 and over, passed both the House Taxation and Revenue committee and the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 2 is largely the same as House Bill 12, but has criminal justice provisions, including expungement, stripped out. Those provisions are now embodied in the new Senate Bill 2, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The full Senate will take it up today.

New York Legislature Approves Marijuana Legalization. After hours of debate Tuesday, the state Senate voted 40-23 to approve the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) (Senate Bill 854), which would immediately legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and set the stage for a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market. The House followed up hours later, approving the bill on a 100-49 vote. An embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) reached an agreement with legislative leaders on the bill over the weekend and has said he will sign it into law. Tuesday night, Cuomo said he looked forward to signing the bill. "New York has a storied history of being the progressive capital of the nation, and this important legislation will once again carry on that legacy," he said.

Virginia Governor Asks Legislature to Make Marijuana Legal in July, Not 2024. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has asked the legislature to amend the marijuana legalization bill it approved earlier this month by moving up the effective date for the legalization of marijuana possession to this coming July, instead of waiting for 2024. The move came on the last day for the governor to act on the bill. He also wants to move up allowing home cultivation of up to four plants per household as of July 1, 2021. The bill will now go back to the legislature for final approval.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote A Nebraska committee on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Legislative Bill 474. The bill would allow patients with specified qualifying conditions to possess and purchase up to two and a half ounces of marijuana from licensed dispensaries. It would not, however, allow patients to smoke marijuana. The bill now heads for a final legislative floor vote.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee voted 9-5 Wednesday to approve a medical marijuana bill, (Senate Bill 150/ House Bill 3361), clearing the way for a Senate floor vote next week. The bill would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to access medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries.

Drug Policy

North Carolina Republican Senators' Bill to Increase Penalties for Fentanyl Possession Advances. A group of Republican state senators have filed Senate Bill 321, which would make possession of fentanyl a felony. Possession of fentanyl is currently a misdemeanor, but the bill would make it a Class I felony, putting it in the same class as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday and will be considered by one more committee Wednesday before being scheduled for a vote in the full Senate.

Washington State Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Senators Liz Lovelett (D) and cosponsors have filed Senate Bill 5476, which would decriminalize the possession of "personal use amounts" of drugs. The state is currently without a felony drug possession law after the state Supreme Court threw out that law earlier this month. The bill is now before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Foreign Policy

US Investigations into Cartels Paralyzed by Standoff with Mexico. Cooperation between US and Mexican authorities into Mexican drug cartels has come to a standstill since Mexico last December enacted a law requiring US officials to report their law enforcement contacts in the country to Mexican officials, whom they view as largely corrupt. Investigators on both sides of the border have paused cooperation over fears that the new disclosure rules could compromise cases or, worse yet, get Mexican officials helping the Americans killed. Drug raids on Mexican drug labs have largely stopped and US officials are having more difficulty tracking cocaine shipments through Mexico. The Mexican government acted in December after a retired Mexican general was arrested by the DEA in Los Angeles in October, then released after loud protests from Mexico.

New York Legalizes Marijuana! [FEATURE]

After hours of debate Tuesday, the state Senate voted 40-23 to approve the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) (Senate Bill 854), which would immediately legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and set the stage for a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market. The House followed up hours later, approving the bill on a 100-49 vote.

Riding the New York City subway just got a little happier. (Creative Commons)
An embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) reached an agreement with legislative leaders on the bill over the weekend and has said he will sign it into law. He has 10 days to either do so or veto it or it becomes law without his signature.

Tuesday night, Cuomo said he looked forward to signing the bill. "New York has a storied history of being the progressive capital of the nation, and this important legislation will once again carry on that legacy," he said.

New York becomes the 16th state to legalize marijuana and the third to do through the legislative process. It is also the second most populous state to do so after California. And, along with legalization in New Jersey earlier this year, the Empire State's decision to end its war on marijuana will undoubtedly add pressure on remaining neighboring pot prohibition states to get on the bandwagon.

Under the bill, people 21 and over will be able to possess up to three ounces and grow up to six plants, three of them mature. Past marijuana possession convictions will be automatically expunged. But legal sales will not commence until a state committee sets up rules and regulations for the nascent industry.

Keen recognition of racial injustice in the prosecution of the war on the drugs guided legislators as they crafted their vision of progressive marijuana law reform. As leading bill supporter state Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) enumerated in a statement after the legislation took final form, it features a strong set of social equity provisions, including:

  • Dedicating 40% of revenue to reinvestment in communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war, with 40% to schools and public education, and 20% to drug treatment, prevention and education.
  • Equity programs providing loans, grants, and incubator programs to ensure broad opportunities for participation in the new legal industry by people from disproportionately impacted communities as well as by small farmers.
  • A goal of 50% of licenses going to equity applicants.

Krueger, who, along with other legislative leaders and a broad-based coalition of activists, has been trying to get legalization passed since 2013, pronounced herself pleased in a statement after the vote.

"Today is an historic day for New Yorkers," she said. "I could not be more proud to cast my vote to end the failed policies of marijuana prohibition in our state, and begin the process of building a fair and inclusive legal market for adult-use cannabis. It has been a long road to get here, but it will be worth the wait. The bill we have held out for will create a nation-leading model for legalization. New York's program will not just talk the talk on racial justice, it will walk the walk."

In her statement, Krueger gave shout-outs to Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) and to activist groups such as the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), both of which have been working the issue for years.

"I am proud to have fought so long for this legislation and to finally see it pass," said Peoples-Stokes. "We are providing marijuana justice by ensuring investment into the lives and communities of those who suffered for generations as a result of mass incarceration. The results will be transformative for people across New York State -- it will create economic and research opportunities, jobs across a wide variety of sectors, and a safe and reliable product."

"This day is certainly a long time coming," DPA executive director Kassandra Frederique said in a statement after the vote. When we started working toward marijuana reform 11 years ago, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Because of the sheer extent of harm that had been inflicted on Black and Brown communities over the years, any marijuana reform that was brought forth had to be equally comprehensive to begin repairing the damage. And I can confidently say, the result is something truly reimaginitive. We went from New York City being the marijuana arrest capital of the country to today New York State coming through as a beacon of hope, showing the rest of the country what comprehensive marijuana reform -- centered in equity, justice and reinvestment -- looks like."

And a new day dawns for New York.

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

NM, NY Marijuana Legalization Votes Could Come Any Time, GAO Good Samaritan Law Report, More... (3/30/21)

Marijuana legalization efforts could come to fruition in both New Mexico and New York as early as today, a Louisiana poll has surging support for marijuana legalization, the GAO reports that Good Samaritan laws have positive effects, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Has Two-Thirds Supporting Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from JMC Analytics and Polling has support for marijuana legalization at a staggering 67%, up 13 points from the same poll last year. Support for medical marijuana was even higher at 75%.

Montana Republicans File Marijuana Legalization Implementation Bills. A bill that contains Governor Greg Gianforte's (R) proposal to implement legal marijuana in the state, House Bill 701, was filed Monday. The bill seeks to modify the legalization initiative passed by voters in Novemberby, among other things, shifting from voters in counties having to opt out of marijuana sales to having them have to opt in. It's not the only bill that seeks to change the initiative: House Bill 670, filed last week, would reduce the tax on marijuana sales from 20% to 15% and direct most of the tax revenues to funding public employee retirement systems instead of going to conservation funding as provided in the initiative. Both bills now head for the House Business and Labor Committee.

New Jersey Bill to Allow Home Cultivation Filed. State Senator Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Township), the Majority Conference Leader, has filed a bill that would allow anyone 21 or older to grow up to six marijuana plants at home. "So to truly legalize cannabis home growers should be an option," Gopal said. "It's no different than other states like California who have adopted this… The reality is, as a country and as a state, we've spent billions of dollars on the failed war on drugs. And this is just one piece of making sure that it's truly legalized." Under current law, growing fewer than five plants can get you up to five years in prison.

New Mexico Legislature Takes Up Marijuana Legalization in Special Session. The legislature is now taking up marijuana legalization in a special session after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) called a special session on the topic when the regular session ended without a legalization bill being passed. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) said Monday that the effort could be split into two bills, one to create a framework for a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market and the other to deal with social justice and equity issues, including expungement. "You can understand how some legislators might vote for the licensing bill, but be against criminal justice reforms; and conversely, some vote the criminal justice reforms and against the licensing bill," Cervantes said. "There are some Republicans who have said they support the principle of legalization but may have problems expunging records and letting people out of jail." Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena (D-Mesilla), Vice-Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, confirmed that the bills would be split in two, with the legalization bill starting on the House side and the social justice bill on the Senate side.

New York Marijuana Legalization Vote Coming Any Time Now. Assemblywomen Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) said Monday a vote on the marijuana legalization bill agreed to by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and legislative leaders, Senate Bill 854, could come as soon as today. "I think the results are going to be transformative not just for a lot of people's lives," Peoples-Stokes said. "I think for a lot of communities across the state of New York. And a lot of jobs will be created. And a lot of people will have access to a business that they never had before. So, I'm excited about it."

Harm Reduction

GAO Finds Good Samaritan Laws Have Positive Effects. In a report released Monday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed 17 studies on the effectiveness of Good Samaritan laws, which protect people suffering from overdoses or those assisting them from being prosecuted for drug possession violations: "GAO found that, despite some limitations, the findings collectively suggest a pattern of lower rates of opioid-related overdose deaths among states that have enacted Good Samaritan laws, both compared to death rates prior to a law's enactment and death rates in states without such laws. In addition, studies found an increased likelihood of individuals calling 911 if they are aware of the laws. However, findings also suggest that awareness of Good Samaritan laws may vary substantially across jurisdictions among both law enforcement officers and the public, which could affect their willingness to call 911."

NY Marijuana Legalization Agreement Reached, VA House Speaker Wants Early Legalization, More... (3/29/21)

New Jersey's governor has signed a bill regarding parental notification for teen pot busts, the North Dakota Senate kills marijuana decriminalization, and more.

An embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has reached agreement with legislative leaders on marijuana legalization. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Iowa Poll Has Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll has support for marijuana legalization at 54%, with 39% opposed and 6% undecided. That is about the same results as in the same poll last year. Bills to legalize marijuana have gone nowhere despite popular support.

New Jersey Governor Signs Parental Notification Bill for Teen Pot Busts. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has signed into law a bill that requires that parents be notified if their minor child gets caught buying or possessing marijuana. Lawmakers had passed a "cleanup" bill last week to redress a provision in the state's marijuana legalization law that blocked police from telling parents if their children had been popped for pot.

New York Governor, Legislature Reach Agreement on Marijuana Legalization Bill. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and legislative leaders have reached agreement on a marijuana legalization bill that is expected to pass the legislature this week. The bill legalizes the possession of marijuana by people 21 and over and allows for the home cultivation of up to six plants, three of them mature. It also sets up a pathway to a taxed and regulated legal marijuana industry. It includes social equity provisions as well as funding for expanded traffic safety and the development of roadside drug testing technology.

North Dakota Senate Kills Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. The state Senate last Friday voted 32-13 to kill a marijuana decriminalization bill, House Bill 1201. The vote came a day after the Senate killed a marijuana legalization bill. The moves in the legislature make it more likely that the state will see another marijuana legalization initiative campaign in the near future.

Virginia House Speaker Calls for July Effective Date for Marijuana Legalization. With a Wednesday deadline for Governor Ralph Northam (D) to either sign or request amendments to the marijuana legalization bill passed by the legislature, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said last Friday that she supports moving up the date for legalizing recreational use to July -- not waiting for 2024, as the bill currently does. "The time is now for us past to act," she said. She is also calling for amendments that would automatically seal marijuana convictions and allow for home cultivation.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Wins House Committee Vote. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee voted Monday to approve a medical marijuana bill, House Bill 2436. The bill would create a medical marijuana program for patients with one of 21 specified medical conditions, but would ban smoking or vaping it. The legislation would establish a medical marijuana program for qualified patients. As drafted, it listed 21 conditions that would qualify patients for the program, including chronic pain, HIV and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it was amended on Monday to expand that list. Smoking and vaping products would be prohibited. It would also not provide for home growing.

International

Grenada to Move Toward Marijuana Decriminalization. A member of the island nation's three-person Marijuana Decriminalization Committee has said that legislation to decriminalize small-time marijuana possession is now before the Cabinet of Ministers for discussion, and the next step will be a public consultation. Last December, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said the country would develop its own model for regulating marijuana: "Just like alcohol, like a cigarette, marijuana days for decriminalizing, for legalizing is coming too, that is a fact, the question is how it is done, what extend we go in dealing with the law as it relates to that drug use is something that will come forward," he said at the time.

Indian State of Himachal Pradesh to Legalize Cannabis for Medical, Industrial Use. Under India's Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act of 1985, cannabis is illegal, but the law includes a provision that allows individual states to "permit and regulate" all aspects of a drug, and the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh is now moving to allow for the medicinal and industrial use of cannabis. The states of Uttarkhand and Madhya Pradesh have already made similar moves, and the western state of Gujarat has legalized bhang, a traditional marijuana-based concoction, since 2017.

Milwaukee Pot Fine to Drop to $1, Baltimore Ends Prosecutions for Drug Possession, More... (2/26/21)

Democrat lawmakers in Congress ask the Biden administration to reconsider its policy on past employee marijuana use, a Minnesota bill to provide protections for informants passes the Senate, and more.

France has embarked on a two-year experiment with medical marijuana.
Marijuana Policy

House Democrats Ask Biden to Reverse Employee Policy on Past Marijuana Use. Some 30 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter Thursday to President Biden calling on him to reverse his administration's policy of removing or relocating staffers who had admitted to past marijuana use. The letter comes after reports came out that five staffers had been fired for past marijuana use. While they praised the administration's overall orientation, they said: "We, however, were dismayed to learn that several White House staffers were reportedly suspended, put on probation, or asked to resign after honestly disclosing past cannabis use. We ask that you clarify your employment suitability policies, remove past cannabis use as a potential disqualifier, and apply these policies with consistency and fairness."

Wisconsin's Most Populous County Drops Marijuana Fine to $1. The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to drop the fine for small-time marijuana possession from $275 to $1. The measure passed on a 16-1 vote, and County Executive David Crowley says he will sign it into law.

Law Enforcement

Minnesota Senate Approves Bill to Protect Police Informants. The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved "Matthew's Law," a bill named after Matthew Klaus, who died of a drug overdose while working as an informant for the Rochester Police. "Matthew had been a confidential informant in Rochester, working with the Rochester Police Department on drug buys, and during that whole process Matthew himself became the victim of a heroin overdose and passed away," Sen. Dave Senjem told his colleagues before they passed Senate File 304. The bill would require law enforcement entities in the state create and abide by statewide standards for handling informants and ensuring their rights are protected. The bill has now gone to the House, where it is before the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform and Finance and Policy committees.

Baltimore State's Attorney Makes No Prosecution Policy for Minor Offenses Permanent. Last year, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the country, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby (D) announced the city would no longer prosecute drug possession and other minor charges, and then crime dropped in Baltimore. On Friday, Mosby announced that the changes will be permanent and the city will continue to decline to try drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic, and misdemeanor cases. "A year ago, we underwent an experiment in Baltimore," Mosby said. "What we learned in that year, and it's so incredibly exciting, is there's no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses. These low-level offenses were being, and have been, discriminately enforced against Black and Brown people. Prosecutors have to recognize their power to change the criminal justice system."

International

British Private Members' Bill Calls for Review of Drug Laws. MP Tommy Sheppard (Labor) has filed the Problem Drugs Bill, which seeks to reframe drug policy as a health issue, rather than one oriented around criminalization. It also calls for a basic review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This would allow not only a review of the classification system, but a fundamental reconsideration of Britain's legal framework for drug policy. The bill also calls for drug decriminalization and the approval of safe injection sites. Because it is a private member's bill, it is unlikely to pass, but can provide an opportunity to advance debate on the issue.

France Embarks on Two-Year Medical Marijuana Trial. The Health Ministry has announced that some 3,000 patients will be given medical marijuana while the national medicines watchdog monitors their health. The trial will go on for two years. The parliament had approved the project in 2019, but it was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

NY Gov Says Agreement Reached on Legalization Bill, IL Drug Defelonization Bill Advances, More... (3/25/21)

State legislatures are voting on marijuana all over the place, the Maryland Senate has just approved a bill to legalize drug paraphernalia, and more.

Drug paraphernalia would be legalized under a bill that just passed the Maryland Senate. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 150, has passed out of the House Health and Human Development Committee on a party line vote and now heads for the House Appropriations Committee before getting a shot at a House floor vote. Gov. John Carney (D), who has been lukewarm on legalization, says he still has "concerns."

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, was approved by the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. It now heads to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee before getting a shot at a House floor vote.

New York Governor Announces Agreement on Marijuana Legalization. An agreement has been reached between the governor and legislative leaders on the final shape of marijuana legalization bill, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Thursday. The bill will legalize the possession of up to three ounces and allow the home cultivation of up to six plants, as well as setting up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce with a strong equity component.

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Bill Killed. A marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 1420, that won approval in the House has been killed in the Senate on a 37-10 floor vote. That opens the door for another try at legalizing it through the initiative process in 2022.

Drug Policy

Illinois Bill to Lessen Drug Penalties Wins House Committee Vote. The House Criminal Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 Tuesday to advance a bill that would lower penalties for hard drugs, House Bill 3447. The measure is in essence a defelonization bill, making possession of up to three grams of heroin, fentanyl, or methamphetamine a Class A misdemeanor. The same would apply to up to five grams of cocaine and up to 40 oxydocone or LSD pills. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Maryland Senate Approves Bill Legalizing Drug Paraphernalia. The Senate on Wednesday voted largely along party lines to approve Senate Bill 420, which legalizes the possession of drug paraphernalia. Sponsors said it is necessary to protect the health and safety of heroin users. The bill now heads to the House.

Drug Decriminalization is Starting to Show Up at the Statehouse [FEATURE]

With marijuana prohibition mortally wounded and on its last legs in the United States -- only Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska still allow no form of legal marijuana -- the next frontiers are beginning to open up. Last week, we looked at the spread of interest in the loosening of laws around psychedelics, with eight states seeing legislation this year. This week, we will turn our attention to the spread of broader efforts toward drug decriminalization.

The Washington state capitol in Olympia. Lawmakers there and elsewhere are wrestling with drug decriminalization. (CC)
With both psychedelic drug reform and broader drug decriminalization, voters in Oregon led the way, continuing a tradition of pioneering drug reform that began when it became the first state to decriminalize weed back in 1973 and was among the earliest to adopt medical marijuana (1998) and marijuana legalization (2014). Last November, they broke new ground again by approving Measure 109 legalizing therapeutic psilocybin use and Measure 110 decriminalizing the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs.

With Oregon leading the way, legislators in other states are now taking up the cause. As with marijuana legalization, getting bills actually passed will likely prove to be an arduous, multi-year task, but you have to start somewhere, and here's where it's starting this year (with a big tip of the hat to Marijuana Moment, which provides a list of marijuana, psychedelic, and other drug reform bills to its paying subscribers):

Kansas -- Drug Decriminalization with an Authoritarian Twist

Twenty-year-old freshman Rep. Aaron Coleman (D-Kansas City), who ran on a fairly progressive platform, has filed House Bill 2288, which would indeed decriminalize drug possession, replacing a criminal charge with a maximum $100 fine, as well as reducing penalties for drug manufacture and distribution. But the bill also mandates forced drug treatment -- "the county or district attorney shall refer such person for participation in the certified drug abuse treatment program… or another drug abuse treatment program available in the community" -- and creates a new crime of failing to comply with drug treatment. That would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to five days in jail, six months on probation, and a $250 fine. The bill was introduced February 9 and assigned to the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice, where it has sat without action ever since.

Maryland -- Decriminalization of Drug Paraphernalia

A bill that would decriminalize the possession of "drug paraphernalia to inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled dangerous substance," Senate Bill 0420, was approved by the Senate on March 4. Meanwhile, a companion measure, House Bill 0372, has passed the House, and that bill is now before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

New York -- Drug Decriminalization

State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D, WF-The Bronx) has filed Senate Bill 1284, which "[e]liminates criminal and civil penalties for possession of controlled substances; establishes the drug decriminalization task force to develop recommendations for reforming state laws, regulations and practices so that they align with the stated goal of treating substance use disorder as a disease, rather than a criminal behavior." The bill is in the Senate Codes Committee, where it has sat unmoving since it was filed in January. The House version of the bill, Assembly Bill 6583, died on March 24, when its sponsor, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), removed her support for it. Maybe next year.

Vermont -- Drug Decriminalization

House Bill 422, which currently has 14 cosponsors, would create a board with the Department of Health to set personal use and personal supply quantities and subsequently decriminalize the possession or supply of amounts under those limits. Violations would be punishable by no more than a $50 fine, which could be waived if the person agrees to a drug screening. It was introduced on March 10 and has been in the Committee on Human Services ever since.

Virginia -- Drug Decriminalization Study

A bill that would have directed "the Virginia State Crime Commission to study the propriety and effectiveness of alternative approaches to the Commonwealth's enforcement scheme for the possession of controlled substances, including decriminalization of the possession of such substances," House Bill 530, was introduced in January but killed in a House Rules Committee subcommittee in February.

Washington -- Drug Decriminalization

In February, the state Supreme Court lobbed a bomb into the criminal justice system when it ruled the state's felony drug possession law unconstitutional on the grounds that, unlike all other state criminal laws, it didn't require defendants to "knowingly" possess drugs. That inspired at least three legislative attempts to remedy the situation: Senate Bill 5471 to decriminalize unknowing drug possession; Senate Bill 5475 to make knowingly possessing drugs a crime but also create a working group to study drug possession laws; and Senate Bill 5468, which would simply refelonize drug possession. But before the court decision and all the bills it has lately inspired was a pure decriminalization measure, House Bill 1499. It's still alive, having passed the House Public Safety Committee in February, and is now before the House Appropriations Committee.

If any drug decriminalization bills in the states actually get passed and signed into law this year, that would be a pleasant surprise, but they are now beginning to pop up like they never did before. Getting things done through state legislatures is a frustrating and time-consuming process, as we see when it gets to trying to pass something as popular as marijuana legalization. With marijuana legalization, the early successes came from the initiative process, not state legislatures. Decriminalization victories may well come first from the voters, as in Oregon, not lawmakers. And that could make the prospects for next year better than this year.

Senate SAFE Banking Act Refiled, Vancouver Island Drug Checking Storefront Opens, More... (3/24/21)

New York legislative leaders say they're almost ready to file a marijuana legalization bill as the clock ticks down, South Dakota's governor is proposing marijuana decriminalization as part of a plan to lower the number of plants medical marijuana patients can grow, and more.

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

SAFE Banking Act Refiled in Senate With 29 Cosponsors. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) have reintroduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would provide protections to financial institutions doing business with state-legal marijuana enterprises. A companion bill was filed in the House last week. The bill passed the House last year only to die in the Republican-controlled Senate. But the Democrats are in control this year.

Maryland Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies. The push to legalize marijuana this year has ended after legislation that would have done so died on Monday. That was the date of a legislative deadline for bills to have passed in at least one chamber.

New York Marijuana Legalization Bill "Really Close" After Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Key Issues. Lawmakers expect to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in the next few days after they said they had reached agreement on issues around impaired driving and home cultivation. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-New York City) said the bill was "really close" and legislative aides were working on final language. Any bill introduced now must "age" for three days before being considered, but Stewart-Cousins said it should be approved before the end of the month.

South Dakota Governor Proposes Marijuana Decriminalization. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is proposing marijuana decriminalization as part of a bill that would also limit the number of plants medical marijuana patients could grow. Up to an ounce would be decriminalized, but a second offense would be a misdemeanor. State voters approved marijuana legalization in November, but Noem has sponsored court challenges that have found it unconstitutional. A final decision is up to the state Supreme Court.

Wyoming Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies. A bill that would have legalized marijuana in the Cowboy State, House Bill 209, has died after it failed to meet a Monday legislative deadline for further consideration. The bill had been advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee, but never got a vote on the House floor.

Medical Marijuana

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Dies. A bill that would have legalized medical marijuana in the state had died after it failed to be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure, SB0854/HB0621, would have created a full-fledged medical marijuana system in the state.

International

Canada's Victoria Opens Free Drug Checking Site. A free drug checking site has opened in Victoria's North Park neighborhood to provide anonymous drug testing to anyone who requests it. The storefront site is part of a harm reduction effort run by the Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project, which is headed by researchers from the University of Victoria. "People can bring any sample to us and we're able to try to test that sample and give people as much information as possible," explained Bruce Wallace. "We can be able to detect fentanyl and report on some of the ingredients that might be more linked to overdose, but it's also around creating a respectful, non-stigmatizing area," Wallace said.

NJ Gov "Open" to Drug Decrim, MJ Advocates Press VA Gov to Legalize This Year, More... (3/23/21)

Some Garden State Republican legislators have a problem with the state's new marijuana legalization law, congressional drug warriors file a bill aimed at methamphetamine, and more.

Methamphetamine. Congressional drug warriors are rolling out another bill to try to confront it. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Republican Bill Would "Protect Police" from New Marijuana Law. State Rep. Declan O'Scanlon (R-13) and Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) filed legislation Tuesday that "would protect officers from unfair criminal prosecutions when they encounter underage individuals in possession of marijuana or alcohol." Under the new law, a police officer must adhere to new procedural requirements while investigating underage possession of marijuana or alcohol or face a charge of Official Deprivation of Rights. Previously, to convict an officer of that crime, his unlawful conduct must have been done with the intent to intimidate or discriminate based on race, religions, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. The new law removes the language around intent. The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Virginia Advocates Press Governor to Not Delay Marijuana Legalization. With a marijuana legalization bill that defers actual legalization until 2024 sitting on the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), advocates including the ACLU of Virginia, Marijuana Justice, and New Virginia Majority are calling on Northam to legalize the possession of up to an ounce and reduce the penalty for possession of up to five pounds to a civil citation July 1 this year. Jenny Glass, director of advocacy for the ACLU of Virginia, cited racially disparate enforcement even after the state decriminalized marijuana last year. "Repeal prohibition and don't prolong this," she said. "Don't wait any longer for that to continue and to continue arresting and citing people for marijuana, for something that's going to be legal." Northam has until March 31 to sign the bill, seek amendments from the legislature -- such as moving up the effective date -- or allow it to become law as is without his signature.

Methamphetamine

Feinstein, Grassley, Peters, Curtis Introduce Bill to Confront Methamphetamine. Last Thursday, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA) and John Curtis (R-UT) today introduced the Methamphetamine Response Act (SB 854), a bill declaring methamphetamine an emerging drug threat which would require the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop, implement and make public a national plan to prevent methamphetamine addiction and overdoses from becoming a crisis. How closely ONDCP under BIden would focus on public health approaches, vs. old drug war approaches like increased arrests and sentences, remains to be seen. The bill is now before the House and Senate judiciary committees.

Drug Policy

New Jersey Governor Says He Is "Open" to Drug Decriminalization. During a press briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) responded to a question about Oregon's drug decriminalization thusly: "Am I open-minded to further decriminalization? I suppose so. But I think we've taken the biggest step, and that is marijuana," he said, referring to passage of a legalization bill after voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on the topic. Still, Murphy's willingness to consider decriminalization is another signal of how fast the conversation is moving on the topic nationwide.

NM Legalization Bill Awaits Special Session, Biden Admin Supports Colombia Coca Spraying, More... (3/22/21)

Colorado's governor signs a marijuana socieal equity bill, Arizona's sheriffs and prosecutors don't want to lose civil asset forfeiture, Mexican cartel hitmen gun down 13 cops in Mexico state, and more.

Colombian coca growers face the threat of being sprayed with toxic glyphosate. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Governor Signs Marijuana Social Equity Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) last Friday signed into law SB21-111, which is designed to support social equity licensees in the industry. The bill creates a program in the Office of Economic Development that will provide loans and grants to such licensees and is initially funded with $4 million from the marijuana tax fund.

New Mexico Governor Calls Special Session After Clock Runs Out on Marijuana Legalization Effort. The state's legislative session ended Saturday without a marijuana legalization bill being approved, so Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has announced that she will call a special session to deal with the issue, probably on March 31. "I believe legalization will be one of the largest job-creation programs in state history, driving entrepreneurial opportunities statewide for decades to come," she said. "I look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to get the job done right." The bill that is still alive, House Bill12, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, but never got a floor vote before the session ended.

New York Groups Call on Legislature to Pass Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act. More than 70 groups representing labor unions, civil rights, immigration reform, faith-based organizers, criminal justice and police reformers, parents, treatment providers, drug reform groups, legal advocates and other organizations from across the state of New York sent a letter Monday to Albany's legislative leaders urging the swift passage of the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) to "ensure legalization has justice, reinvestment, and health and social equity at the core." The MRTA (S.854/A.1248) would set a new national model by focusing benefits on those who have been harmed by prohibition, according to the groups.

Asset Forfeiture

Arizona Sheriffs, Prosecutors Urge Governor, Lawmakers to Amend Bill That Ends Civil Asset Forfeiture, Last Friday, nearly two dozen sheriffs and county attorneys urged Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and the state Senate to amend HB 2810 to remove the requirement that a criminal conviction be obtained before seizing currency. The bill overwhelmingly passed by the House bars civil asset forfeiture, but the lawmen want the ban to apply only to seizures of property, not currency. They claim the bill would benefit Mexican drug cartels. The bill must still pass the Senate Rules Committee before heading for a floor vote.

Foreign Policy

Biden Administration Is Supporting Renewed Spraying of Herbicides to Kill Off Colombia's Coca Crop. Earlier this month, the Biden administration made clear that it supports Colombian President Ivan Duque in his bid to restart the spraying of toxic glyphosate on coca crops. In the administration's first annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released March 2, the position was made crystal clear: "The government of Colombia has committed to restarting its aerial coca eradication program, which would be a most welcome development." The World Health Organization warned in 2015 that glyphosate damages the environment and might be carcinogenic.

International

Mexico Cartels Kill 13 Police in State of Mexico Ambush. A police convoy in the central state of Mexico was attacked by presumed cartel gunmen last Thursday, leaving 13 law enforcement officers dead. "The convoy was carrying out patrols in the region, precisely to fight the criminal groups that operate in the area," said Rodrigo Martinez Celis, head of the state Public Safety Department. It is the deadliest attack on Mexican police since October 2019, when 14 officers were killed in an ambush in the western state of Michoacan.

Rahul Gupta Could Be Next Drug Czar, Federal Marijuana Banking & Insurance Bills Filed, More... (3/19/21)

White House staffers get fired or suspended for past marijuana use, NYC mayoral candidates call for safer injection sites, more.

Former West Virginia Health Commissioner Rahul Gupta has emerged as a leading candidate to head the ONDCP.
Marijuana Policy

Biden White House Fires Five, Sidelines Dozens of Staffers for Past Marijuana Use. Five White House staffers have been fired and dozens more suspended, asked to resign, or shifted to remote work programs because of past marijuana use -- even in states where it is legal. Some staffers said they felt sandbagged, saying transition officials had told them some past marijuana use would be overlooked. White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to initial reports on this story with this statement: "In an effort to ensure that more people have an opportunity to serve the public, we worked in coordination with the security service to ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. While we will not get into individual cases, there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated," Psaki said.

SAFE Banking Act Introduced in House. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) has reintroduced the Safe Banking Act, which would protect financial service institutions doing business with marijuana companies and third-party vendors from federal money laundering prosecutions. The bill was unable to pass in the last Congress, but now Democrats control both chambers, so prospects are looking up.

Bipartisan Marijuana Insurance Bill Introduced in Senate. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Rand Paul (R-KY) have filed a bill that would allow legal marijuana and related businesses to have access to insurance, the Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana (CLAIM) Act of 2021. The bill passed the House in September 2019, but was stalled in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans at the time.

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Stanton) has filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 150. The measure would legalize marijuana like alcohol, allowing people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce and setting up a system of taxed and regulated production, processing, and sales. The bill is now before the House Health and Human Services Committee.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. After passing the Senate Judiciary Committee on a narrow 5-4 vote Thursday, a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill12, is now headed for a Senate floor vote. The legislative session ends on Saturday.

Medical Marijuana

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Study Bill Advances in House. The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 82, which would authorize funding for a report on medical marijuana. In committee, the bill was amended to send a copy of that report to the Joint Judiciary Committee and the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee during the interim.

Drug Policy

Former West Virginia Health Official Rahul Gupta Emerges as Leading Candidate for Drug Czar. Former West Virginia Health Commissioner and current top health official at the March of Dimes Rahul Gupta has emerged as a leading candidate to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), according to "four people with knowledge of the selection process who spoke on condition of anonymity."

Under Gupta's leadership, the WV Bureau of Public Health decertified a well-regarded syringe exchange program that had served the city of Charleston, leading to an HIV outbreak the CDC described as the "most concerning" in the nation. Some advocates have speculated that Gupta's hands may have been tied on the matter, however, and note significant progress for harm reduction in the state during his tenure.

Gupta is an ally of key Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). But whoever is nominated will not be a Cabinet member. President Obama demoted the office from the Cabinet in 2009, and neither he nor President Trump restored it. President Biden is not going to restore it either, his administration has said.

Rhode Island Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Six Democratic state senators have filed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs, Senate Bill 604. The bill would replace criminal penalties for drug possession with a $100 civil fine. It is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Harm Reduction

New York City Mayoral Candidates Call for Safe Injection Sites. A half dozen Democrats vying for the party's mayoral nomination have said they support safe injection sites or "overdose prevention centers" to deal with the city's opioid overdose crisis. Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang each said they would create safe injection sites, though Garcia said she would defer to affected communities. Only one, finance executive Ray McGuire, said he did not support the idea.

Psychedelics at the Statehouse 2021 [FEATURE]

A new front in the war against the war on drugs has opened up. It has been less than two years since voters in Denver decriminalized the possession of magic mushrooms, but since then, a number of cities have moved in a similar direction. More dramatically, in last November's elections, Oregon voted to allow the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the primary active ingredient in those mushrooms (as well as voting to decriminalize the possession of all drugs) and Washington, DC, voted to effectively decriminalize "natural entheogens" by making them the lowest law enforcement priority.

Psilocbye mexicana. A magic mushroom. (Creative Commons)
This year, psychedelic reform is making its way to statehouses around the country -- and it has already scored its first victory in New Jersey (see below). Spurred by the potential of psychedelics in treating mental health disorders as well as by the dawning recognition that these drugs are just not that dangerous, and just possibly the racial and class composition of psychedelic aficionados, the movement to end the war on psychedelics is buzzing like never before.

The movement is not without controversy even among drug reformers, with some decrying "psychedelic exceptionalism" and demanding the decriminalization of all drugs, and others wondering why natural psychedelics like psilocybin should be treated differently from synthetic ones like LSD, but those debates are for another article. Here, we simply marvel at the rapid movement on the psychedelic front as we review what is popping up in the state legislatures.

And here is what is going on (with a big tip of the hat to Marijuana Moment, which provides a list of marijuana, psychedelic, and other drug reform bills to its paying subscribers):

California -- Psychedelic Decriminalization

Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) and three cosponsors have filed Senate Bill 519, which would make it legal for persons 21 and over to possess and share psilocybin and psilocyin, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, LSD, ketamine, and MDMA. The bill would also mandate that the Department of Public Health create a working group to make recommendations to the legislature on the regulation and therapeutic use of these substances. The bill has been referred to the Public Safety and Health committees and is set for a hearing on April 6.

Connecticut -- Psilocybin Health Benefits Study

Rep. Josh Elliott (D-Hamden) and five cosponsors have filed HB 06296, which would create a task force to study the health benefits of psilocybin. The measure has been before the Joint Committee on Public Health since January 29.

Florida -- Therapeutic Psilocbyin

Reps. Mike Grieco (D-Miami-Dade) and Nick Duran (D-Miami-Dade) have filed HO549, which would create a path for the use of psilocybin as a mental health treatment by establishing a Psilocybin Advisory Board and ordering the Health Department to adopt rules and regulations and exceptions for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin. The bill would also make psilocybin possession offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. It is now in the Professions and Public Health Services Subcommittee of the Health and Human Services Committee, and has also been referred to two more subcommittees.

Iowa -- Therapeutic Psilocybin

Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Birmingham) has filed House File 636, which would create the Psilocybin Services Act with the Department of Public Health in charge of developing rules and regulations allowing for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin. The bill envisions licensed psilocybin service centers, psilocybin service facilitators, and psilocybin testing laboratories. It is currently before the Senate Public Safety Committee. The bill is a fallback for Shipley, whose earlier House File 459, which would have simply decriminalized psilocybin and psilocyin, has already been killed in subcommittee.

New Jersey -- Reducing Psilocybin Penalties

Senator Nick Scutari (D-Linden) filed S3256, which lessens the penalty for the possession of any amount of psilocybin from a third degree misdemeanor to a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The bill passed both the Assembly and the Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in February.

New York -- Psilocybin Decriminalization

Rep. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) has filed AO6065, which would decriminalize psilocybin and psilocin by deleting them from the state's register of controlled substances. The bill was referred to the Assembly Health Committee on March 8.

Texas -- Therapeutic Study

State Rep. Steve Dominguez (D-Brownsville) has filed House Bill 1802, which calls for a study by the Health Department and the Texas Medical Board of the therapeutic efficacy of alternative therapies including MDMA, psilocybin, and ketamine for the treatment of mental health and other medical conditions, including chronic pain and migraines. The bill was referred to the House Public Health Committee on March 11.

Vermont -- Natural Psychedelic Decriminalization

Rep. Brian Cina (D) and nine cosponsors have filed H0309, which would decriminalize the possession of ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, peyote, and psilocybin and psilocin and "any plants or fungi containing the substances" by removing them from the state's schedule of regulated drugs. The bill has been in the Committee on the Judiciary since February.

We will have to check back on this once the legislators have gone home.

Medical Marijuana Update

Medical marijuana remains up in the air in Mississippi, the South Dakota Senate has blocked the governor's efforts to delay implementation of a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, and more.

Georgia

Georgia Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Filed. State Rep. Pedro Marin (D-Duluth) has filed House Bill 738, which would make it legal to manufacture, produce and dispense medical marijuana to people who need it. "Currently, Georgia law only provides for the prescription of a limited low THC oil for Georgians with severe medical conditions," Marin said. "Legalizing medical marijuana, not just low THC oil, would benefit and help relieve pain that people living with serious medical conditions experience every day."

Mississippi

Mississippi House Kills Substitute Medical Marijuana Bill. The House last Wednesday killed Senate Bill 2765, which had been filed as a more restrictive alternative to the medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November and now under challenge in the state Supreme Court.

Mississippi Senate Revives Substitute Medical Marijuana Bill Killed by House. After the House last Wednesday killed a bill to substitute for a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, Senate Bill 2765, the Senate moved late last Wednesday night to revive it. Although SB 2765 is dead, Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-South Haven) successfully amended another bill, House Bill 119, using the exact language in SB 2765.

New Mexico

New Mexico Senate Votes to Tighten Rules on Medical Marijuana. The state Senate has approved Senate Bill 340, which would prohibit sales to out-of-state residents who do not have a medical marijuana card issued in New Mexico. But first, it rejected an amendment that would have increased the daily sales limit for medical cannabis patients from three grams to two ounces. The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee, but the clock is ticking -- the legislative session ends on Saturday.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma House Passes Bill to Limit Medical Marijuana Businesses. The House has passed House Bill 2272, which would temporarily limit the number of medical marijuana business licenses for growers, processors, and dispensaries in the state. Bill author Rep. Josh West (R-Grove) said the bill was aimed at combatting the black market. "I think that we do have a thriving medical marijuana industry in the state of Oklahoma," West said. "At the same time, we have a thriving black market industry in the state of Oklahoma too so this may not stop it completely, but I think this slows it down." There are currently more than 10,000 licensed medical marijuana businesses in the state.

South Dakota

South Dakota Senate Blocks Governor's Effort to Delay Medical Marijuana Rollout. The state Senate has killed Gov. Kristi Noem's (R) effort to delay implementation of the Measure 26 medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November. The House had already passed House Bill 1100, which would have enacted the delay, but the Senate amended the bill to include immediate decriminalization, and when the two chambers were unable to reach a compromise last Wednesday, the bill died.

NM Marijuana Legalization Deadline Looms, Australia to Fund Psychedelic Trials for Mental Illness, More... (3/17/21)

There are still more than 40,000 marijuana offenders behind bars in the US, Oregon's governor names the members of the state's Psilocybin Advisory Board, Australia moves toward clinical trials of psychedelics, and more.

New Mexico lawmakers are busy at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe as the clock ticks down on the session. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

More Than 40,000 Pot Prisoners in the USA. The Last Prisoner Project, which seeks to free incarcerated marijuana offenders, has been using a figure of 40,000 marijuana prisoners. That's decidedly an approximation -- the numbers readily available are 31,901 in state and federal prisons. But that doesn't include people in jails, juvenile facilities, or immigration detention centers, among others.

New Mexico Legislature Has Only Three Days to Legalize Marijuana. With the legislative session set to end on Saturday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Cervantes (D-Dona Ana County) said he's been told by the Senate leadership that one legalization bill, House Bill12, is undergoing changes before it's ready for committee; while another, Senate Bill 288, awaits its committee hearing. Cervantes said he will schedule a hearing as soon as committee members can analyze HB 12, and that even with a hearing as late as Friday, a bill could still pass.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Senate Votes to Tighten Rules on Medical Marijuana. The state Senate has approved Senate Bill 340, which would prohibit sales to out-of-state residents who do not have a medical marijuana card issued in New Mexico. But first, it rejected an amendment that would have increased the daily sales limit for medical cannabis patients from three grams to two ounces. The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee, but the clock is ticking -- the legislative session ends on Saturday.

Psychedelics

Oregon Governor Announces Membership of Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board. Gov. Kate Brown (D) has named the people she wants to sit on the voter-approved Psilocybin Advisory Board, which is charged with developing rules and regulations to govern the practice of psilocybin therapeutics. Members include doctors, psychologists, harm reductionists, mycologists, and public health experts. The board's timeline includes making recommendations on regulations by June 2022 and beginning the issuance of licenses by January 2023.

International

Australian Federal Government to Fund Psychedelic Drug Trials to Treat Mental Illness. The Australian government will fund clinical trials using magic mushrooms, ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness, Assistant Minister for Mental Health David Coleman said Wednesday. Although final approval must come from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (the equivalent to the US FDA), the government is allocating $15 million to get moving. "It's still at an early stage of clinical trials, but the US administration is accelerating their trials, so let's do some trials and further investigate this area because they show some promise," he said.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A pair of northern California cops preyed like vultures on traffic coming from the state's marijuana producing regions, a trio of South Carolina head for federal prison over their dirty doings, and more. Let's get to it:

In St. Louis, a former St. Louis police officer was arrested November 2 (but the charges remained unpublicized until this week) with illegally searching a man, accusing him of dealing drugs, and stealing more than $200 in cash from his backpack -- all while off duty. Kevin Baroni, 35, is charged with theft and misdemeanor kidnapping for chasing the victim down, cornering him in an alley, and then taking his money. The criminal charges only came to light after the victim filed a civil lawsuit last month.

In San Francisco, two former Rohnert Park police officers were arrested last Friday on charges they engaged in a years-long scheme to pull over travelers on Highway 101 and steal their cash and marijuana. Brendon Jacy Tatum and Joseph Huffaker were assigned to Rohnert Park's drug interdiction team at various times between 2015 and 2017, but a number of drivers they stopped had paperwork to document that they were transporting legal marijuana and Tatum and Huffaker seized their marijuana or cash anyway, without reporting the seizures or turning in the seized items. They are now facing federal corruption charges of conspiracy, extortion, falsification of records and tax evasion.

In Columbia, South Carolina, three former Orangeburg County sheriff's deputies were sentenced Monday to multi-year federal prison terms for their role in a narcotics conspiracy. Former deputies Carolyn Colter Franklin, 64; Allan Hunter, 52; and Nathaniel Miller Shazier, III, 29, went down for conspiring with people they believed to be members of a Mexican drug cartel but were actually undercover FBI agents. The three agreed to help protect trucks containing what they believed were drug proceeds derived from narcotics distribution and they agreed to help protect trucks containing kilogram quantities of mefthamphetamine and cocaine in the future. The three are the last of six Orangeburg County law enforcement officers to be sentenced to prison in the FBI sting, dubbed "Operation Iceberg," which also snared a security guard.

COVID Relief Bill Has Big Bucks for Treatment & Prevention, NY Legal Pot Talks Stalled, More... (3/16/21)

A second marijuana legalization bill gets filed in Texas, New York's push to legalize marijuana hits a slight bump in the road, and more.

Oklahoma has a whopping 10,000 licensed medical marijuana businesses. Some lawmakers say that's enough. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York Marijuana Legalization Talks Stuck Over Impaired Driving Policy. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said Tuesday that talks over advancing marijuana legalization "reached a little bit of an impasse" over a provision on impaired driving. But she added that "I'm optimistic it can be resolved sooner rather than later" and that legalization is "a matter of when, not if."

Texas Representative Files Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D-104) has filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 3248. Under the bill, cities and counties would be able to adopt an ordinance allowing recreational use and sales, which would be taxed at 10%. Another marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 447, filed by Rep. Joe Moody (D-78), would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces and allow for up to 15 plants to be grown for personal use.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Filed. State Rep. Pedro Marin (D-Duluth) has filed House Bill 738, which would make it legal to manufacture, produce and dispense medical marijuana to people who need it. "Currently, Georgia law only provides for the prescription of a limited low THC oil for Georgians with severe medical conditions," Marin said. "Legalizing medical marijuana, not just low THC oil, would benefit and help relieve pain that people living with serious medical conditions experience every day."

Oklahoma House Passes Bill to Limit Medical Marijuana Businesses. The House has passed House Bill 2272, which would temporarily limit the number of medical marijuana business licenses for growers, processors, and dispensaries in the state. Bill author Rep. Josh West (R-Grove) said the bill was aimed at combatting the black market. "I think that we do have a thriving medical marijuana industry in the state of Oklahoma," West said. "At the same time, we have a thriving black market industry in the state of Oklahoma too so this may not stop it completely, but I think this slows it down." There are currently more than 10,000 licensed medical marijuana businesses in the state.

Drug Treatment

COVID Relief Bill Contains $4 Billion for Drug Treatment and Mental Health. The American Rescue Plan Act (D) signed into law last week includes nearly $4 billion in emergency funding for substance use and mental health programs. Included is $1.5 billion in block grants for drug treatment and prevention, another $1.5 billion for mental health services block grants, and $420 million for expansion grants for certified community health clinics, among other programs. Increased stress amidst the pandemic has led to increased use of opioids and stimulants, according to the American Psychological Association.

CA Coerced Treatment Bill Draws Opposition, WY Committee Advances Marijuana Legalization, More... (3/15/21)

New Mexico lawmakers have less than a week to get their act together and legalize marijuana, Republican US senators target drug cartels with a new bill, a fight is brewing over no-knock raids and warrants in the Kentucky House, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics are now the lowest law enforcement priority in DC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Hits Stalemate on Marijuana Legalization. With the legislative session set to end this week, lawmakers remained at loggerheads Monday over two competing marijuana legalization bills. A hearing set for Sunday was called off minutes before it was set to begin, as lawmakers diverge on issues around taxations, licensing, and expungement for past convictions. The two measures under consideration are Senate Bill 288 and House Bill12.

Wyoming Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Judiciary Committee voted last Friday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 209. That is the first time any marijuana legalization effort has advanced in the state legislature. The bill now heads to the House floor.

Psychedelics

DC Psychedelic Deprioritization Initiative Now in Effect. As of Monday, possession or use of a wide range of natural psychedelics is now the lowest priority for law enforcement in the nation's capital. That's because a voter-approved natural psychedelic initiative has gone into effect.

Law Enforcement

GOP Senators File Bill Targeting Drug Cartels. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) have introduced the Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act, legislation that would subject certain foreign criminal organizations like drug cartels to sanctions, including immigration, financial, and criminal penalties. Similar legislation is being sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI). The process would be similar to the system used for designating entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). "Criminal organizations and drug cartels that terrorize our communities and wage war at our borders ought to be treated just like terrorist groups in the eyes of the US government. This bill would help stop cartel violence by ensuring these groups-and anyone who helps them-face dire consequences for their actions," said Cotton. The bill is not yet avialable on the congressional web site.

Sentencing

California Bill Would Allow Forced Drug Treatment for Drug Offenders. A bill that would allow a pilot "secured residential treatment program" in Yolo County, near Sacramento, is drawing increasing concern. Assembly Bill 1542, sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) would "authorize the court to divert an offender to confinement in a secured residential treatment facility if it determines that the crime was caused in whole or in part by that individual's substance abuse." The bill has drawn the ire of critics such as JusticeLA, which warned that "AB 1542 would implement a pilot program in Yolo County that could easily become a statewide model and would jail houseless community members for misdemeanors such as trespassing and minor thefts under the guise of offering treatment," the group warned. "The pilot program tries to sell punishment as treatment. Our communities call for supportive services for people with mental health conditions, including those related to substance abuse -- not a new mode of incarceration."

Kentucky Bill Restricting No-Knock Raids Faces Amendments in House. In the wake of the killing of Breonna Taylor in a botched drug raid last year, the Senate passed Senate Bill 4, which restricted no-knock warrants to cases where there is "clear and convincing" evidence of violent crime and to bar them between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Now the bill faces amendments from House Republicans and former police officers that would instead expand the use of such warrants. At the same time, House Democrats want to amend the bill to make it even more restrictive.

International

Four Mexican Police Officers Killed, Burned in Zacatecas. Presumed drug cartel gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in the north-central state of Zacatecas, killing four officers, then pouring gasoline on their patrol car and burning their bodies. State police said late last Thursday they had captured seven attackers and killed two others. Police also said they discovered a drug cartel camp nearby. The state is increasingly a battle zone as remnant Zetas, the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels and the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel fight for control.

Key Democrat Will Refile Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill, MD House Approves Police Reforms, More... (3/12/21)

A Vermont drug decriminalization bill is filed, Rhose Island's governor rolls out a marijuana legalization plan, Morocco moves toward legalizing hemp and medical marijuana, and more.

The Maryland House has approved sweeping police reforms including limits on no-knock raids. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Key Congressional Chair Will Refile Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), head of the House Judiciary Committee, announced Thursday that he will reintroduce his bill to legalize marijuana this session. The bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed the House last year, but was not taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. This year, the Democrats control both houses.

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization Plan in Budget Proposal. Gov. Dan McKee (D) on Thursday released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022, which includes a plan for legalizing marijuana. McKee is calling for 25 retailers to be licensed in each of the first three years of legalization, with five being earmarked for minority-owned businesses, including those owned by women. Legislative leaders filed their own bill to legalize marijuana earlier this week. Both lawmakers and administration officials said they plan to work together to achieve legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Senate Revives Substitute Medical Marijuana Bill Killed by House. After the House on Wednesday killed a bill to substitute for a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, Senate Bill 2765, the Senate moved late Wednesday night to revive it. Although SB 2765 is dead, Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-South Haven) successfully amended another bill, House Bill 119, using the exact language in SB 2765.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill that would legalize hemp, House Bill 126, which has already passed the House, has now been unanimously approved by the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee and is headed for a Senate floor vote. Idaho is the only state where industrial hemp production remains illegal.

Drug Policy

Idaho Bill to Make Legalizing Drugs More Difficult Passes Senate. A proposed constitutional amendment that would make it impossible to legalize marijuana or any drug through the initiative process has been approved by the Senate and now heads to the House. Under the bill, the legalization of any drug would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. This bill now needs to be approved by two-thirds of the House. If approved, it would then go before voters in 2022.

Vermont Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Reps. Selene Colburn (P) and Logan Nicoll (D) have filed House Bill 422, which would decriminalize the possession and dispensing of personal use amounts of all illicit drugs. Under the bill, personal use quantities would be set by a Drug Use Standards Advisory Board within the Health Department. Persons caught with personal use amounts of drugs would face a $50 fine, which could be avoided by agreeing to be screened for substance abuse disorder.

Law Enforcement

Maryland House Approves Sweeping Police Reform Bill. The House on Thursday approved an omnibus police reform bill, House Bill 670, that, among other things, would require the use of body cameras by 2025, ban chokeholds and create a duty for police to intervene in the face of misconduct, and would limit but not ban no-knock raids. The Senate has already approved a package of nine bills with many provisions similar to the House bill. The two chambers will meet to attempt to reconcile the bills and send them to Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

International

Morocco Government Approves Bill to Legalize Hemp, Medical Marijuana. The cabinet has approved a bill that would legalize non-recreational uses of marijuana, i.e. hemp and medical marijuana. The bill will now be submitted to parliament. The country is seeking to establish a regulatory framework for the entire chain of cultivation, production, processing and marketing of marijuana for medical, cosmetic and industrial uses such as textiles or paper. Morocco has long been one of the world's leading marijuana producers and currently supplies Europe with black market hashish.

Fed Bill Would End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity, SD MedMJ Will Happen on Schedule, More... (3/11/21)

The South Dakota Senate has blocked the governor's effort to delay the implemenation of a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, the Mississippi House has killed a bill that would have substituted for the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative there, and more.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has authored a bill to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. (CC)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Kills Substitute Medical Marijuana Bill. The House late Wednesday killed Senate Bill 2765, which had been filed as a more restrictive alternative to the medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November and now under challenge in the state Supreme Court.

South Dakota Senate Blocks Governor's Effort to Delay Medical Marijuana Rollout. The state Senate has killed Gov. Kristi Noem's (R) effort to delay implementation of the Measure 26 medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November. The House had already passed House Bill 1100, which would have enacted the delay, but the Senate amended the bill to include immediate decriminalization, and when the two chambers were unable to reach a compromise on Wednesday, the bill died.

Sentencing

Bill to End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Awaits Action in Senate. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has filed S. 79, the EQUAL Act, to end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. For years, the disparity was 100:1, but was reduced to 18:1 under legislation passed in the Obama era. This bill would end the disparity entirely, and it would allow for people still serving time for crack sentences under the old law to file motions for reduced sentences. The bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chair, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is sympathetic.

Mexico Chamber of Deputies Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill [FEATURE]

Mexico took a giant step toward ending marijuana prohibition Wednesday night as the Chamber of Deputies approved a legalization bill on a vote of 316-129. The Senate approved the bill late last year, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has signaled he will sign it into law.

But it's not quite a done deal yet. Because the bill was amended in the Chamber of Deputies -- and lawmakers were still debating possible amendments late Wednesday night -- it must now go back to the Senate for approval of the changes.

Still, Mexico, a country legendary for marijuana production since the days of the hippies, is now on the verge of becoming the world's largest legal marijuana market. In the United States, federal marijuana prohibition still obtains despite state-level legalization in an ever-increasing number of states, potentially (and ironically) leaving the US as the odd man out in North America, sandwiched between legal pot pioneers Canada and Mexico.

The legislative move to legalize marijuana is the outgrowth of a Mexican Supreme Court decision three years ago that held marijuana prohibition unconstitutional and gave the congress a limited amount of time to bring the law into compliance with the constitution. Deadlines were repeatedly bumped back, though, especially as the coronavirus took hold, but now the congress was up against another deadline next month. And this time, it beat it.

Mexico uses the military to fight its drug wars. (Creative Commons)
Under the bill, people 18 and up will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants (although one controversial change in the Chamber of Deputies would require home growers to register with the state). The bill also creates a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana commerce. In another change from the Senate bill, this bill would give regulatory control over the new legal industry to the National Commission Against Addictions instead of the independent regulatory body envisioned by the upper house.

Activists bemoaned aspects of the bill, with Mexico Unido Contra la Delinquencia (MUCD) complaining that it represented a "lost opportunity to end the criminalization of users" because it maintains penalties for possession of larger amounts and that it "did not eliminate the crime of cultivation for persons of scarce resources and extreme economic necessity who have dedicated themselves to this as a primordial activity." This would "perpetuate the marginalization and criminal punishment of our peasants, the people most affected by prohibition, who we want to integrate into the market, not maintain in illegality."

MUCD is calling on the Senate to rectify the bill to address such issues. "Above all, we must not create a legal market that only prioritizes the economic benefit of those who participate in sales while we exclude other, less advantaged actors," the group said. "For this, we call on the Senate of the Republic to correct the bill to comply with the mandate of the Supreme Court to eliminate the absolute prohibition of the consumption of cannabis."

The bill would remove one drug from Mexico's lucrative and bloody black markets (DEA)
Still, despite the objections raised by MUCD and others, Mexico is on the verge of shifting from a prohibition regime to legal marijuana regime, and that is a big deal, and a recognition that the country has bigger problems to deal with.

"The damage caused by the prohibition and the war on drugs in Mexico has caused more harm than the health conditions attributed to drug consumption," said Dep. Rubén Cayetano García. "Cannabis is not considered one of the serious public health problems in Mexico."

"For Mexico, given its size and its worldwide reputation for being damaged by the drug war, to take this step is enormously significant," said John Walsh, director of drug policy for the Washington Office on Latin America. "North America is heading toward legalization."

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A narc goes rogue in Baton Rouge, a pervy former Michigan deputy gets nailed for kiddy porn and stolen pain pills, and more. Let's get to it:

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a Baton Rouge Police narcotics officer was arrested February 26 for stealing drugs seized as evidence and giving them to a friend. Corporal Jason Acree, 34, went down after another officer ratted him out for stealing marijuana that had been seized in a recent drug investigation and admitting that he planned to give it to a friend. He is charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and malfeasance in office.

In Eureka, California, a Humboldt County Sheriff's Office correctional deputy was arrested last Tuesday after being caught with drugs at work. Deputy Ricardo Tranquilino Aguirre went down after a witness reported he was smuggling drugs into the jail, which led to a Humboldt County Drug Task Force investigation, and his subsequent arrest. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance while armed, smuggling contraband into a jail, possession of a controlled substance for sales, and transportation/sale of a controlled substance. And he is now a former deputy.

In Chehalis, Washington, a former state reform school guard was arrested last Thursday for smuggling marijuana, narcotics, and mobile phones to youth offenders at the states maximum-security lockup for juveniles. Julio Hayes, 40, allegedly accepted $11,170 in payments from inmates at the Green Hill School before he was fired after an FBI raid in February 2020. Inmates would use a phone app to send money to Hayes, who would spend some of it on drugs and pocket the rest. He faces seven counts of extortion, two counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He will be arraigned on March 16.

In Louisburg, North Carolina, a Franklin County Sheriff's Office detention officer was arrested Monday for his role in a scheme to provide drugs and other contraband to inmates. Officer Chase Garnett Strickland, 28, and three inmates were rolled up after jail staff developed information that he was providing marijuana, marijuana edibles, cigarettes, and other contraband. He is charged with one count of providing contraband to an inmate.

In Lansing, Michigan, a former Osceola County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty February 26 to multiple child sex and drug charges. Andrew Wernette, 39, went down after a tip led to a raid of his home, where authorities images and videos of child sexually abusive material and drugs that he had pilfered from the department's drug takeback program, which he supervised. Wernette pleaded guilty to three different kiddie porn counts, as well as one count of larceny (for stealing pills), one count each of possession of morphine and OxyContin, and one count of maintaining a drug house. If give the maximum on all counts, he's looking at up to 72 years in prison.

Medical Marijuana Update

Florida Republican lawmakers continue to try to intervene in the state's medical marijuana program, the South Dakota Senate agrees to a medical marijuana delay but only if pot is decriminalized now, and more.

Florida

Florida Bill to Cap THC Levels for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. The House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would cap THC levels in medical marijuana at 10% and 15% for edibles. The vote to advance HB 1455 came despite testimony from doctors and patients that the measure was an assault on medicine. It still needs to be approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee and the House Health Care Appropriations Committee before going to a House floor vote.

South Dakota

South Dakota Senate Agrees to Medical Marijuana Program Delay, But Only with Decriminalization Now. The Senate approved a House bill to delay implementation of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana program, HB 1100, but only after dramatically amending it to include the immediate decriminalization of up to an ounce of marijuana and repeal of the state's unique felony drug ingestion law. Now, the House and Senate have to try to come to an accord over the bill, most likely in conference committee.

Tennessee

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The Senate Government Operations Committee last Wednesday approved SB0854/HB0621, the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act. It is a full-fledged medical marijuana bill that would allow use of the substance for a set of specified qualifying medical conditions. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HI & NM Marijuana Legalization Bills Advance, NJ Harm Reduction Bills, More... (3/10/21)

Marijuana legalization bills advance in Hawaii and New Mexico, a pot prisoners' group calls on President Biden to grant clemency to federal marijuana offenders, a California bill to end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses advance, and more.

Marijuana legislation is popping up all over the place. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Last Prisoner Project Calls on Biden to Grant Clemency to Federal Marijuana Prisoners. The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cannabis-related criminal justice reform, has launched 'A Time To Heal,' an advocacy campaign calling on President Biden to leverage his clemency power to commute the sentences of thousands of people unjustifiably incarcerated due to federal marijuana-related violations. The advocacy organization is also encouraging the President to issue grants to the tens of thousands more still struggling because of the collateral consequences of a federal cannabis conviction. "President Biden himself has acknowledged that 'nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime'. We're encouraging him to turn his words into action and use the most immediate tool at his disposal to provide this desperately-needed relief," said project director of strategic initiatives Natalie Papillion.

Arkansas Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) on Monday filed SB499, which would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana an infraction punishable by a $200 fine. Possession is currently a Class A misdemeanor.

Hawaii Senate Approves Expanded Decriminalization, Marijuana Legalization Bills. The state Senate approved two separate marijuana policy reform bills on Tuesday. Senate Bill 767 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over, while Senate Bill 758 would expand the amount of marijuana that is currently decriminalized from three grams to 30 grams. Both measures passed by veto-proof margins. The bills now head for consideration by the House.

New Mexico Senate Committee Approves Two Marijuana Legalization Bills. The Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on Tuesday approved a Senate bill to legalize marijuana, Senate Bill 288 on a unanimous vote and also approved a House bill to legalize marijuana, HB 12, on a 7-4 vote. Two other legalization bills were shelved by sponsors as the legislature seeks consensus on a final measure. The two remaining bills now head for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Legislation must be approved there and on the Senate floor before the session ends on March 20.

New York Coalition Forms for Final Marijuana Legalization Push. Dozens of organized labor groups, progressive organizations, and businesses are set to launch on Wednesday a coalition to make a final push for the legalization of adult-use cannabis products in New York. All told, more than 40 groups are signing onto the coalition called New Yorkers for New Revenue & Jobs, highlighting what advocates contend is one of the main selling points of legalized marijuana in New York: the millions of dollars in revenue the measure would provide in the coming years for the state and local governments. The coalition includes the New York AFL-CIO, as well as the New York Cannabis Industry Association and the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Texas Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D-Dallas) filed a marijuana legalization bill, HB 3248, on Monday. The bill would legalize the possession of up to 2 ½ ounces and 10 ounces at home. It has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bill to Cap THC Levels for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. The House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would cap THC levels in medical marijuana at 10% and 15% for edibles. The vote to advance HB 1455 came despite testimony from doctors and patients that the measure was an assault on medicine. It still needs to be approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee and the House Health Care Appropriations Committee before going to a House floor vote.

Psychedelics

New York Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelic Mushrooms Filed. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D) filed a bill to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms on Monday. AO6065 is similar to legislation Rosenthal filed last year that went nowhere. It would remove psilocybin and psilocin from the state's list of controlled substances. It is now before the Assembly Health Committee.

Harm Reduction

Coronavirus Relief Bill Includes Funding for Addiction Treatment, Harm Reduction. The American Rescue Plan Act, the coronavirus relief bill passed this week by Congress, includes nearly $4 billion for substance abuse disorder and mental health, including funding for harm reduction activities such as needle exchange services, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) said Wednesday. In addition to $1.5 billion for block grants for prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, the act includes $30 million in community-based funding for local substance use disorder services like syringe services programs and other harm reduction interventions.

New Jersey Harm Reduction Bills Filed. Far-reaching harm reduction expansion legislation was introduced in the Senate Health Committee earlier today. The bill package, sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, would reduce overdose deaths, prevent infectious disease, and connect people who use drugs to non-judgmental support. It would do this by creating a statewide standing order for naloxone (brand name Narcan), the medicine that reverses an overdose (S3491); lifting the onerous municipal ordinance requirement that limits harm reduction services (S3009); decriminalizing syringes and expunging previous convictions (S3493); making HIV prophylaxis medication available at pharmacies without a prescription (S1039); and allowing harm reduction programs to offer mail-based services (S3065). Companion measures have been filed in the House.

Sentencing

California Bill to End Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Advances. The Senate Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve SB 73, which would repeal state laws enacted in the midst of the drug war that created mandatory minimum sentences for many drug offenses. It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Drug War Issues

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