Drug War Chronicle

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Mexico's President-Elect Looks for Ways to End the Drug Wars [FEATURE]

Last Sunday, leftist politician Andres Manuel López Obrador -- often referred to with the acronymic AMLO -- won the Mexican presidency in a landslide. When he takes office in December, with his party in control of both houses of the Mexican Congress, Mexico's drug policies are likely to see some radical changes.

AMLO in front of picture of his favorite Mexican president, Benito Juarez (Creative Commons)
Just what AMLO does will have significant consequences on both sides of the border. His policies will impact how much heroin and cocaine make it to the streets of America, as well as how many Mexicans flee north to escape prohibition-related violence, and how much drug money flows back into Mexico, corrupting politicians, police, and the military.

That AMLO -- and Mexico -- want change is no surprise. A vigorous campaign against the country's powerful and violent drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- unleashed by rightist president Felipe Calderon in 2006 brought the Mexican military into the fight, but instead of defeating the cartels, the campaign, still ongoing under President Enrique Pena Nieto, has instead led to record levels of corruption and violence.

In 2012, when both the U.S. and Mexico had presidential elections and the drug war death toll was around 15,000, Mexico's drug prohibition-related violence was big news north of the border. But in the years since then, as US attention to Mexico's drug wars wavered, it's only gotten worse. Last year, Mexico saw more than 30,000 murders, and the cumulative drug war toll in the past dozen years is more than 200,000 dead and tens of thousands of "disappeared."

But the toll runs deeper than just a count of the casualties. The relentless drug war violence and the endemic corruption of police forces, politicians, and even sectors of the military by cartels have had a deeply corrosive effect on the citizenry and its belief in the ability of the country's political institutions to address the problem.

López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, campaigned heavily on the need for change, especially around drug policy, corruption, and public safety. "Abrazos, no balazos" ("hugs, not gunfights") was one of his favorite campaign slogans. AMLO campaigned cautiously, hammering away at crime, corruption, and violence and mentioning different drug policy-related changes, but not coming out with specific policy proposals. Still, from his own remarks and those of people who will be assuming key positions in his administration, we can begin to sketch an outline of what those policies may look like.

Marijuana Legalization

Mexico is one of the world's largest marijuana producers (although the local industry has been taking a hit in recent years from completion north of the border), it has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of the herb, and it has legalized medical marijuana.

AMLO's pick for interior minister, former Supreme Court official Olga Sánchez Cordero has made no secret of her plans to seek full legalization and said this week that AMLO may seek a public referendum to gauge popular support for it. "Why maintain pot prohibition when Canada and US states are legalizing it, she said. "What are we thinking? Tell me. Killing ourselves. Really, keep on killing when... North America is decriminalizing?"

Drug Legalization

The possession of personal use amounts of all drugs has been decriminalized in Mexico since 2009, but that hasn't stopped the violence. AMLO and his advisors say he is open to considering taking the next step and legalizing all drugs.

"We'll analyze everything and explore all the avenues that will let us achieve peace. I don't rule out anything, not even legalization -- nothing," AMLO told the New Yorker during the campaign.

"The war on drugs has failed," wrote Sánchez Cordero. "Nothing contributes to peace by legislating on the basis of more criminal punishment and permanent confrontation. Violence is not fought with violence, as López Obrador rightly points out."

Drug legalization would be a radical step, indeed. It probably isn't going to happen under AMLO, since that would pit Mexico not only against the US, but also against the international anti-drug treaties that serve as the legal backbone of global drug prohibition. But he is putting the idea squarely on the table.

Amnesty

As a candidate, AMLO floated the idea of amnesty for those involved in the drug trade, a notion that created huge controversy and forced his campaign to clarify that it did not mean cutting deals with bloody-handed cartel leaders or their henchmen. Instead, his campaign clarified, he was referring to peasants growing drug crops and other low-level, nonviolent workers in the illicit business.

"Kidnappers? No," said Sánchez Cordero about possible amnesty recipients. "Who? The people working in rural areas, who are criminals because they work in the illegal drug business, but haven't committed crimes such as murder or kidnapping."

Mexican soldiers have been enlisted to fight the drug war. AMLO wants them to return to the barracks. (Creative Commons)
Demilitarization and Policing Reforms

For the past 12 years, the Mexican military has been called on to fight the cartels and suppress the drug trade. But the level of violence has only increased, the military is implicated in massive human rights violations (as can only be expected when a government resorts to soldiers to do police work), and finds itself subject to the same corrupting influences that have turned state and local police forces into virtual arms of the competing cartels.

With regard to cartel violence, AMLO repeatedly said on the campaign trail that "you don't fight fire with fire" and that what was needed was not soldiers on the streets, but social and economic assistance for the country's poor and unemployed -- to give them options other than going to work for drug gangs. Just this week, AMLO announced a $5 billion package of scholarships and job training support for the young.

Still, AMLO isn't going to send the soldiers back to the barracks immediately. Instead, says one of his security advisors, his goal is to do it over the next three years. He has also proposed replacing the military presence in the drug war with a 300,000-person National Guard, composed of both military and police, a notion that has been bruited by earlier administrations as a means of effectively replacing tainted state and local police participation.

Here, AMLO is not nearly as radical as with some of his other drug policy proposals. He as much as concedes that the bloody drug wars will continue.

"I'm not overwhelmed by any of it," Eric L. Olson, an expert on Mexico and security at the Wilson Center in Washington, told the Washington Post. "It falls well within the norm for what other politicians have been saying."

The US-Mexico Relationship

Over the past couple of Mexican administrations, Mexican security agencies have cooperated closely with their U.S. counterparts in the DEA and FBI. It's not clear whether that level of cooperation will be sustained under AMLO. When he was running for president in 2012, he called for blocking US intelligence work in Mexico, but during this campaign, he insisted he wanted a strong relationship with the US on security and trade issues.

While Mexico may chafe under the continued threats and insults of President Trump, it benefits from security cooperation with the US and would like to see the US do more, especially about the flow of guns south across the border.

"We are going to ask for the cooperation of the United States" on gun trafficking, said Alfonso Durazo, one of AMLO's security advisers, repeating an ongoing refrain from Mexican politicians.

Mexico has also benefited from DEA intelligence that allowed it to kill or capture numerous cartel figures. But AMLO is a much pricklier personality than his predecessor, and between Trump's racist Mexico- and immigrant-bashing and his imposition of tariffs on Mexican exports, US-Mexico relations could be in for a bumpy few years. AMLO's moves on changing drug policies at home are also likely to sustain fire from the White House, further inflaming tensions.

"The bottom line is he's not going to fight the drug war in the way that it's been fought in the last few decades," David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego who is an expert on security issues in Mexico told the Post. "That is potentially a huge change."

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Paterson, New Jersey, cop gets ready to pay for going buck wild, a New Mexico state trooper uses stolen drugs to woo women (and girls), a Florida deputy gets nailed for falsely busting people for drugs, and more. Let's get to it:

In Bunker Hill, Indiana, a state prison guard was arrested last Friday after she got caught smuggling suboxone and methamphetamine into the Miami Correctional Facility. Officer Talleigha Titus went down after being tripped up by surveillance of inmate phone and payment records. She is charged with attempting to traffic, possession of methamphetamine and possession of a controlled substance.

In Farmington, New Mexico, a state trooper was arrested last Saturday for stealing drugs during arrests and giving them to women with whom he was romantically interested, including a 16-year-old girl. Officer Daniel Capehart went down after a meth user told investigators Capehart had been texting her for months and they set up a sting where he offered to split drugs with her from any bust she set up. In the case of the teen, Capehart sent numerous texts to set up deliveries of marijuana, but the teen had handed her phone over to the cops, and he was actually communicating with a San Juan County sheriff's detective. He is charged with distribution of methamphetamine and marijuana.

In Fernandina Beach, Florida, a Nassau County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Saturday for not testing drugs found in the field and making false claims that some drugs were illegal. Deputy Kyle Tholl, 38, is now a former deputy. Tholl repeatedly pulled people over for traffic violations and charged them with drug possession when the drugs were either prescribed over the counter medications. He is charged with perjury and filing a false police report. Some 30 of his drug cases have now been dropped.

In Paterson, New Jersey, a former Paterson police officer pleaded guilty last Wednesday to stealing drugs, dealing drugs from his squad car, and beating up a wheelchair-bound hospital patient. Ruben McAusland, 26, went down in April in a federal probe. He admitted in federal court to dealing heroin, cocaine, crack, and marijuana from his squad car while in uniform, as well as the unprovoked attack on the hospital patient, which he and his partner videotaped. He copped to drug possession with an intent to distribute and deprivation of civil rights under color of law. McAusland will be facing up to 50 years in prison when he gets sentenced on Oct. 9. The ex-cop must also forfeit $13,650 -- the amount of money he made on drug deals.

In Great Falls, Montana, a Fort Peck tribal police officer was sentenced last Thursday to a year and a day in prison for stealing drugs and money from the tribe's drug investigation office. Mikkel Shields, 33, had previously pleaded guilty to burglary in the case, which compromised more than two dozen drug cases. In September, he broke into the Fort Peck Tribal Law and Justice Building and used a crowbar to get into the drug investigations office, where he took opiates, methamphetamine and cash. He had been diagnosed with PTSD after serving in the military and had undergone substance abuse treatment, but relapsed in August.

Can Magic Mushrooms Treat Cocaine Dependency?

The hunt for a pharmacological agent to help people strung out on cocaine get off the marching powder has been a long one, and non-traditional types of treatments are among the possibilities being studied. Ibogaine is one pharmacological therapy being studied. Another is href="https://www.uab.edu/news/research/item/9565-study-can-taking-a-hallucinogen-curb-cocaine-use" target=_blank_>psilocybin, the chemical that puts the magic in magic mushrooms.

Scientists at the University of Alabama-Birmingham's (UAB) School of Public Health are now conducting a clinical trial to see whether psilocybin can help break cocaine addiction.

The trial currently has almost 20 people enrolled, but researchers are looking for more subjects -- people who are currently using cocaine and have a strong desire to quit.

"Our goal is to create a tool or drug that provides significantly better outcomes for individuals addicted to cocaine than those that currently exist," said Sara Lappan, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Health Behavior

In the trial, participants receive a dose of psilocybin and are monitored for six hours, about the duration of the experience. Then, the researchers track his or her cocaine use.

"Our idea is that six hours of being under the effects of psilocybin may be as productive as 10 years of traditional therapy," Lappan said.

The researchers theorize that psilocybin works on three levels: the biochemical, the psychological, and the spiritual. In terms of biochemistry, psilocybin disrupts brain receptors thought to reinforce addictive behaviors. Psychologically, the drug is believed to reduce cravings, increase motivation, and increase one's sense of self-efficacy. Spiritually -- or transcendentally -- psilocybin (along with other psychedelics) is thought to increase both a person's sense of purpose and his or her sense of universal connectedness or oneness.

"If our hypotheses are supported, this has the potential to revolutionize the fields of psychology and psychiatry in terms of how we treat addiction," Lappan said.

But don't run out and start gobbling down magic mushrooms to quit cocaine just yet, the researchers cautioned.

"We aren't advocating for everyone to go out and do it," said Peter Hendricks, Ph.D., associate professor of health behavior in the School of Public Health at UAB. "What we are saying is that this drug, like every other drug, could have appropriate use in a medical setting. We want to see whether it helps treat cocaine use disorder."

They're not the only ones looking into the secrets of psilocybin. UAB is one of a half-dozen universities studying its potential medicinal benefits. The others are Johns Hopkins University, Imperial College London, New York University, University of California-San Francisco and Yale.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Medical Marijuana Update

A powerful Senate committee calls marijuana's Schedule I status an obstacle to research, an Arizona appeals court ruling gets ignored, Oklahoma sees its first medical marijuana clinic, and more.

National

Senate Committee Slams Marijuana's Federal Classification, Saying Schedule I Blocks Research. The Senate Appropriations Committee has issued a report criticizing marijuana's continued classification as Schedule I drug, saying that the classification is a bar to research. "The Committee is concerned that restrictions associated with Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act effectively limit the amount and type of research that can be conducted on certain Schedule 1 drugs, especially marijuana or its component chemicals and certain synthetic drugs," the committee wrote a new report called "Barriers to Research."

Arizona

Arizona Appeals Court Rules Patients Face Can Be Arrest For Hashish, Extracts. The state Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday that medical marijuana patients can still be arrested for possessing hashish or extracts because they weren't included by name in the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative in 2010. The ruling came in the case of card-carrying patient Rodney Jones, who was caught with 0.05 ounces of hash. After spending more than a year in jail, he waived his right to a jury trial, but not his right to appeal. "If the drafters wanted to immunize the possession of hashish they should have said so," the ruling said. "We cannot conclude that Arizona voters intended to do so." Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, which is supporting Jones, said the ruling will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Arizona Marijuana Industry Leaders Say They Will Ignore Appeals Court Ruling Barring Extracts. Last week's state appeals court ruling that because hashish and marijuana extracts were not explicitly mentioned in the state's medical marijuana law they are illegal is being met with vows to ignore it by the industry. Dispensary associations and operators say they will wait for a final ruling from the state Supreme Court before complying. That could leave them open to criminal prosecution, even though the state Department of Health Services said last Friday it is still trying to figure out what to do.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Sees First Medical Marijuana Clinic. That didn't take long. Just hours after the polls closed last Tuesday and voters approved a medical marijuana initiative, the Tulsa Higher Care Clinic opened for business. The clinic provides doctors who will write medical marijuana recommendations, but it isn't selling any product… yet.

Oklahoma Governor Says No Special Session for Medical Marijuana. Despite saying before the June 26 election that the successful medical marijuana initiative would require a legislative special session to be implemented, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said last Friday that she and House and Senate leaders have decided that a special session isn't necessary. Instead, the Health Department will be charged with promulgating emergency rules.

Utah

Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative Foes Seek Emergency Restraining Order to Block it from Ballot. The Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah, which includes the Utah Medical Association, the Eagle Forum, the Utah Police Chiefs Association and other law enforcement groups, last Friday asked US District Court Judge Clark Waddoups to issue an emergency injunction. They argued marijuana remains illegal under federal and state law. But the state attorney general's office opposes the injunction. "There is no emergency," argued Assistant Utah Attorney General David Wolf. "The election is months away, and the voters may reject the Initiative and moot the constitutional issues that, in Plaintiffs' view, justify an emergency (preliminary) injunction."

Utah Medical Marijuana Foes Drop Lawsuit Seeking to Block Initiative. Drug Safe Utah, which had sought to block the medical marijuana initiative from appearing on the November ballot, has given up on that tactic. An attorney for the group said its challenge lacked "ripeness," in that it sought to block the law before voters had a chance to vote on it. The attorney said the group may try to challenge it after it passes.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: NJ Dems Say Legalization Happening Soon, Swiss Move to Relax Marijuana Laws, More... (7/5/18)

Democratic legislative leaders in New Hampshire and New Jersey are pushing forward on marijuana legalization, a powerful Senate committee slams marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug, the Swiss government is moving toward pilot programs on marijuana legalization, and more.

Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Top Senate Democrat Kicks Off Campaign to Legalize Marijuana. Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn has launched an online petition campaign to pressure Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on marijuana legalization. Sununu has vowed to veto any bill that would do that, but Woodburn said, "We're in the business of listening to what the people want, and we need to get our heads out of the sand and recognize the reality that all of our neighbors are moving towards." The campaign hopes to have 10,000 signatures by October when legalization goes into effect in Canada. Once that happens, New Hampshire will be totally surrounded by states or countries that have freed the weed.

New Jersey House, Senate Democrats Say Legalization is Coming Soon. Gov. Phil Murphy promised that marijuana legalization would happen during his first 100 days in office. It didn't, but state Democratic legislative leaders now say it could happen before Labor Day. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) says lawmakers are "rounding the corner" on marijuana and is predicting legislation could be passed by the end of August. "I know the speaker and I are committed to getting the marijuana bills done this summer. That's our goal," Sweeney said.

Medical Marijuana

Senate Committee Slams Marijuana's Federal Classification, Saying Schedule I Blocks Research. The Senate Appropriations Committee has issued a report criticizing marijuana's continued classification as Schedule I drug, saying that the classification is a bar to research. "The Committee is concerned that restrictions associated with Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act effectively limit the amount and type of research that can be conducted on certain Schedule 1 drugs, especially marijuana or its component chemicals and certain synthetic drugs," the committee wrote a new report called "Barriers to Research."

Arizona Marijuana Industry Leaders Say They Will Ignore Appeals Court Ruling Barring Extracts. Last week's state appeals court ruling that because hashish and marijuana extracts were not explicitly mentioned in the state's medical marijuana law they are illegal is being met with vows to ignore it by the industry. Dispensary associations and operators say they will wait for a final ruling from the state Supreme Court before complying. That could leave them open to criminal prosecution, even though the state Department of Health Services said last Friday it is still trying to figure out what to do.

Utah Medical Marijuana Foes Drop Lawsuit Seeking to Block Initiative. Drug Safe Utah, which had sought to block the medical marijuana initiative from appearing on the November ballot, has given up on that tactic. An attorney for the group said its challenge lacked "ripeness," in that it sought to block the law before voters had a chance to vote on it. The attorney said the group may try to challenge it after it passes.

International

Switzerland Moves Toward Relaxing Marijuana Laws. The Swiss government said Wednesday it aims to institute pilot studies on ways to relax its marijuana laws. "The scientific pilot studies would be limited and restricted to specific areas," the government said. "Participant numbers would also be limited, and minors would be excluded." The government noted that some 200,000 Swiss use marijuana regularly: "Although current laws forbid its consumption and seek to punish it, this number is not declining. At the same time, the black market is flourishing, and the safety of consumers cannot be guaranteed due to a lack of quality control." Between now and October 25, a consultation on the pilot study proposal will take place.

Chronicle AM: Vermont Marijuana Legalization in Effect, Acting DEA Head Named, More... (7/2/18)

Vermont becomes the 9th legal marijuana state, the DEA gets a new acting administrator, Mexico elects a new president who has new ideas for ending drug war violence, and much, much more.

You can now legally grow your own marijuana in Vermont. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Issues First Pot Shop License. The state's Cannabis Control Commission on Monday approved its first license for a retail marijuana outlet. The commission approved a license for Cultivate Holdings to open a retail shop. The shop already exists but has operated as a medical marijuana dispensary up until now.

North Dakota Could Vote on Marijuana Legalization in November. A little-noticed legalization initiative now looks like it may qualify for the November ballot. Organizers with Legalize ND say they have 16,000 raw signatures and are aiming at 20,000 before they turn them in next week. The initiative needs 13,452 valid voter signatures to qualify.

Northern Marianas Islands Legalization Bill Advances. The island US territory's House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations has recommended passage of a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 20-62. Now, the measure awaits a go-ahead from Speaker Ralph Demapan (R) for it to head for a House floor vote.

Vermont Marijuana Legalization Is Now in Effect. As of Monday, it is legal to grow and possess small amounts of marijuana. People 21 and over can possess up to an ounce and two mature and four immature plants. But commercial sales have not been legalized.

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Governor Says No Special Session for Medical Marijuana. Despite saying before the June 26 election that the successful medical marijuana initiative would require a legislative special session to be implemented, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said last Friday that she and House and Senate leaders have decided that a special session isn't necessary. Instead, the Health Department will be charged with promulgating emergency rules.

Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative Foes Seek Emergency Restraining Order to Block it from Ballot. The Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah, which includes the Utah Medical Association, the Eagle Forum, the Utah Police Chiefs Association and other law enforcement groups, last Friday asked US District Court Judge Clark Waddoups to issue an emergency injunction. They argued marijuana remains illegal under federal and state law. But the state attorney general's office opposes the injunction. "There is no emergency," argued Assistant Utah Attorney General David Wolf. "The election is months away, and the voters may reject the Initiative and moot the constitutional issues that, in Plaintiffs' view, justify an emergency (preliminary) injunction."

Drug Policy

Acting DEA Head Named. The White House has named Uttam Dhillon as acting DEA administrator. Dhillon is a former career federal prosecutor who has also served in the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Trump White House.

International

South Australia to Crack Down on Marijuana. Resolutely moving firmly backward, South Australia's Liberal government is moving to crack down on marijuana users as part of a larger drug war offensive. Under a proposal from Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, fines could increase from $500 to $2,000, and users could face up to two years in jail. Another member of the Liberal government, Health Minister Greg Hunt, even resurrected the hoary old "gateway drug" canard. "Marijuana is a gateway drug. The risk of graduating to ice or to heroin from extended marijuana use is real and documented," Hunt said.

Indonesia Taking Softer Line on Drugs?. The National Narcotics Agency and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced last week that the country would now push for drug users to be rehabilitated rather than imprisoned. UNODC country manager Collie F. Brown said both institutions agreed that the best way to stop the spreading of drugs is through rehabilitation of drug addicts, rather than sending them to prison. [Ed: Does that mean they're going to stop killing people?]

Luxembourg Approves Medical Marijuana. A bill legalizing medical marijuana passed the parliament on June 28. The bill specifies qualifying conditions including chronic pain, chemotherapy-related nausea and muscle spasm as a result of multiple sclerosis. The marijuana will be imported from Canada and will only be available by prescription from pharmacies located within one of four hospitals in the 98-square mile country.

Mexico Elects President Who Will Likely Try New Approaches to Drug War. Andre Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) was overwhelmingly elected president of Mexico on Sunday. During the campaign, AMLO suggested a willingness to negotiate peace and even offer amnesty to some people in the drug trade. On Sunday night, he talked in the same terms. "The failed strategy of combating insecurity and violence will change," Lopez Obrador said. "More than through the use of force, we will tend to the causes that give rise to insecurity and violence," the president-elect added. He said his team will immediately begin consulting with human rights groups, religious leaders and the United Nations to develop a "plan for reconciliation and peace."

Chronicle AM: Senate Votes for Legal Hemp, State Department Pushes Aerial Coca Eradication, More... (6/29/18)

The US Senate votes to legalize hemp, the State Department gets behind Colombia's plan to reintroduce aerial fumigation of coca crops, an Arizona court rules that hash isn't medical marijuana, and more.

The Trump administration is down with dumping herbicides on the heads of these Colombian coca farmers. (DEA)
Medical Marijuana

Arizona Appeals Court Rules Patients Face Can Be Arrest For Hashish. The state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that medical marijuana patients can still be arrested for possessing hashish because it wasn't included by name in the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative in 2010. The ruling came in the case of card-carrying patient Rodney Jones, who was caught with 0.05 ounces of hash. After spending more than a year in jail, he waived his right to a jury trial, but not his right to appeal. "If the drafters wanted to immunize the possession of hashish they should have said so," the ruling said. "We cannot conclude that Arizona voters intended to do so." Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, which is supporting Jones, said the ruling will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Oklahoma Sees First Medical Marijuana Clinic. That didn't take long. Just hours after the polls closed Tuesday and voters approved a medical marijuana initiative, the Tulsa Higher Care Clinic opened for business. The clinic provides doctors who will write medical marijuana recommendations, but it isn't selling any product… yet.

Hemp

US Senate Votes to Legalize Hemp. The Senate passed the omnibus Farm Bill Thursday, and that bill includes an amendment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that legalizes the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp. For years, the DEA has refused to recognize hemp as distinct from marijuana, but that distinction will be enshrined in law if the bill is signed into law. "Consumers across America buy hundreds of millions in retail products every year that contain hemp," McConnell said in a floor speech on Thursday. "But due to outdated federal regulations that do not sufficiently distinguish this industrial crop from its illicit cousin, American farmers have been mostly unable to meet that demand themselves. It's left consumers with little choice but to buy imported hemp products from foreign-produced hemp."

Asset Forfeiture

Idaho Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms Go into Effect on Sunday. Reforms passed by the legislature and signed into law earlier this year go into effect on Sunday. The new law doesn't end civil asset forfeiture but does ban the seizure of vehicles for simple drug possession, requires that a connection is shown between seized property and a crime, and states that simple possession of a large amount of cash isn't grounds for it to be seized. The bill also requires for the first time statewide reporting of civil forfeitures and includes a provision allowing people accused of crimes to retain their property until found guilty.>

Foreign Policy

State Department Supports Resumption of Aerial Coca Eradication in Colombia. The US State Department Thursday expressed its support for resuming aerial coca spraying in Colombia. "The United States believes that all tools must be used to reverse the sharp increase in cocaine production," a department spokesperson said. Aerial fumigation was banned in 2015 because of environmental damage and health concerns for residents of areas being sprayed. Colombia produced a record amount of cocaine last year.

Chronicle AM: Schumer Files MJ Decriminalization Bill, Canada Releases Legal MJ Regs, More... (6/28/18)

Chuck Schumer files a federal marijuana decriminalization bill, a Delaware legalization bill wins a majority but not the needed supermajority, Health Canada releases legal marijuana regulations, and more.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) files a bill to federally decriminalize marijuana. (Flickr/DonkeyHotay)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Democratic Leader Introduces Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana at the Federal Level. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would decriminalize and de-schedule marijuana at the federal level by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. The bill would also take some initial steps toward reducing the decades-long damage of marijuana criminalization. One provision would provide $20 million annually for state and local programs to expunge or seal the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana possession. It also creates a small business trust fund at the federal level (based on a fraction of the money generated by the marijuana industry) to give loans to small businesses owned by women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

Arizona Poll Has Narrow Majority for Legalization. A new Emerson College poll of Arizona voters has support for marijuana legalization at 53%, with 39% opposed. The poll noted that the group most split on the issue was Hispanic voters, with 45% in support and 44% opposed.

Majority of Delaware Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill, But It Fails. A bill that would legalize marijuana, House Bill 110, won a majority of votes in the House on Wednesday, but failed to advance because it needed the votes of at least 60% of representatives, and fell four votes short. The bill needed a supermajority because it contained provisions dealing with taxes and fees.

Las Vegas Will Try Again to Legalize Marijuana Lounges. The city of Las Vegas is again looking at ways of allowing social use venues for marijuana. The city held a public workshop Wednesday to discuss a draft ordinance to allow for such public use. Officials said the earliest the city council might vote on the issue is about three months from now.

International

Health Canada Rolls Out Legal Marijuana Regulations. Health Canada has released some 400 pages of regulations for the country's about-to-emerge legal marijuana industry. Among the highlights, criminal records won't necessarily bar employment in the industry; there will be subclasses of licenses for micro, standard, and nursery cultivation; pre-rolled joints will be limited to one gram of weed; and strict branding and packaging regulations.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's a special Northeast edition of corrupt cops this week, with bad apples being harvested from the Big Apple, Albany, and upstate, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut. Let's get to it:

In New York City, an NYPD officer was arrested Monday for not turning in all the cash he seized from a drug suspect, returning the suspect's cell phone, accepting a $250 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label scotch as a thank-you gift, and offering to fix the man's pending court case for $20,000. Officer Johnny Diaz, a 23-year veteran, also helped transport a kilo of cocaine from the Bronx to upper Manhattan in exchange for $4,000. He is initially charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance, but more charges are pending, officials said.

In Geneseo, New York, a Livingston County correctional officer was arrested last Thursday for allegedly smuggling synthetic cannabinoids into the jail. Raul Santiago, 38, went down after an internal investigation and is now charged with bribery, promoting prison contraband, and official misconduct.

In Hamden, Connecticut, a state prison guard was sentenced last Wednesday to three years' probation for using and peddling steroids. Police serving a search warrant found 25,000 steroid pills and 530 steroid vials. Nicholas Aurora, 34, was using the drugs and selling them to some of his co-workers, authorities said. He pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute anabolic steroids.

In Albany, New York, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to a year and a day in federal prison for coordinating the delivery of 120 pounds of marijuana back in 2011. Brad Rushford, 35, Rushford admitted to providing a driver and scout cell phones to be used in delivering the marijuana. He went down after the shipment got busted en route.

In Toms Rivers, New Jersey, a former Ocean County sheriff's deputy was sentenced last Friday to three years in prison for stealing cocaine that was intended to be used training drug dogs. John C. Adams, 41, admitted using the cocaine himself and falsely reporting that it had been accidentally thrown away with other dog training supplies. He pleaded guilty in November to official misconduct and theft. Adams must serve two years before his eligible for parole.

Medical Marijuana Update

The first marijuana-based drug wins FDA approval, Oklahoma legalizes medical marijuana, the Maine legislature approves an overhaul of that state's medical marijuana program, and more.

National

FDA Approves First Marijuana-Based Drug. The Food and Drug Administration has approved GW Pharmaceutical's epilepsy drug Epidiolex. The drug is approved for use in patients two years and older with Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, both rare and treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy. "This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

Senate Approves Allowing VA Docs to Recommend Medical Marijuana for Vets. The Senate passed the Veterans Administration FY 2019 appropriations bill on Monday. The bill includes a provision that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their veteran patients. The House Rules Committee blocked that language from being included in the House version of the bill, so now it will be up to a conference committee to decide whether it gets included in the final bill.

Arkansas

Arkansas Supreme Court Removes Cultivator License Roadblock. The state Supreme Court last Thursday threw out a ruling that effectively blocked the state's five approved medical marijuana cultivators from receiving licenses. The ruling ends a series of legal challenges to the awarding process from applicants who did not receive licenses and removes an injunction blocking the state from moving forward with licensing.

Maine

Maine Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Overhaul. The legislature has passed a sweeping overhaul of the state's medical marijuana program. The bill removes current qualifying conditions and allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any ailment and allows caregivers to expand their operations in exchange for tighter regulations. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Legalizes Medical Marijuana. One of the reddest of red states went green on Tuesday. Voters in Oklahoma approved a remarkably progressive medical marijuana initiative by a healthy margin of 56% to 43%. The initiative, href="https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/questions/788.pdf" target="_blank">State Question 778, allows registered patients to possess up to three ounces of marijuana anywhere and up to eight ounces at home. Patients also have the right to grow up to six mature and six immature plants or have designated caregivers do it for them. It also creates a system of licensed dispensaries, cultivation, and processing facilities and sets taxes at a relatively low 7%. The initiative also bars localities from using zoning laws to block dispensaries (although they wouldn't be allowed within 1,000 feet of a school). But what is most striking about Question 778 is that it does not restrict access to medical marijuana to a list of qualifying conditions. In fact, the initiative language explicitly states that "[T]here are no qualifying conditions" and that the only limitation on a doctor's recommending medical marijuana is that it must be done "according to the accepted standards a reasonable and prudent physician would follow when recommending or approving any medication."

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Research Bill Into Law. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) last Friday signed into law House Bill 2477, which amends the state's medical marijuana law so that its medical marijuana research program can proceed. The bill moved through the state House and Senate last week before landing on Wolf's desk.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: OK Legalizes MedMJ, Colombia Drug War Could Be Gearing Up, More... (6/27/18)

Oklahoma voters pass a very progressive medical marijuana initiative, legalizers win the Democratic gubernatorial nominations in Colorado and Maryland, Maine passes a major medical marijuana overhaul, and, with rightists now in power in Washington and Bogota, it looks like a new drug war is looming in Colombia.

Cocaine supply is at record levels and Colombia's newly elected president wants to do something about it. (CBP)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Legalizers Win Democratic Gubernatorial Nominations in Two States. Colorado US Rep. Jared Polis, a leading congressional proponent of marijuana legalization, won the nomination in his state, while former NAACP head Ben Jealous, who has also called for marijuana legalization, won the nomination in Maryland.

Florida Medical Marijuana Proponent Now Wants 2020 Legalization Initiative. Orlando attorney John Morgan, the man behind the state's successful 2016 medical marijuana initiative, now says he wants to put a legalization initiative on the 2020 ballot. It would "pass overwhelmingly," Morgan said. The longtime Democratic fundraiser pointed to President Trump's recent comments on marijuana: "And I believe in light of President Trump's position, America is ready and willing."

Texas Poll Has Narrow Majority for Legalization. More than half of Texas registered voters polled in the newest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll support legalizing marijuana. Some 53% said they favored legalizing either small amounts (30%) or any amount (23%). Another 31% would support legalizing medical marijuana, leaving only 16% against legalizing marijuana in any form. A much larger majority -- 69% -- supported reduced penalties for the possession of small amounts.

Medical Marijuana

Maine Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Overhaul. The legislature has passed a sweeping overhaul of the state's medical marijuana program. The bill removes current qualifying conditions and allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any ailment and allows caregivers to expand their operations in exchange for tighter regulations. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage.

Oklahoma Legalizes Medical Marijuana. One of the reddest of red states went green on Tuesday. Voters in Oklahoma approved a remarkably progressive medical marijuana initiative by a healthy margin of 56% to 43%. The initiative, State Question 778, allows registered patients to possess up to three ounces of marijuana anywhere and up to eight ounces at home. Patients also have the right to grow up to six mature and six immature plants or have designated caregivers do it for them. It also creates a system of licensed dispensaries, cultivation, and processing facilities and sets taxes at a relatively low 7%. The initiative also bars localities from using zoning laws to block dispensaries (although they wouldn't be allowed within 1,000 feet of a school). But what is most striking about Question 778 is that it does not restrict access to medical marijuana to a list of qualifying conditions. In fact, the initiative language explicitly states that "[T]here are no qualifying conditions" and that the only limitation on a doctor's recommending medical marijuana is that it must be done "according to the accepted standards a reasonable and prudent physician would follow when recommending or approving any medication."

Harm Reduction

Ohio Officials Dragging Feet on Federal Needle Exchange Funds, Advocates Charge. The advocacy group Harm Reduction Ohio is accusing the state Health Department of using a bureaucratic delaying tactic to prevent needle exchange programs from accessing any of the funds the state is expected to receive for HIV prevention. Group head Dennis Cauchon said the department is failing to submit a necessary form to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Preventing HIV, hepatitis and drug overdoses are crucial health measures and save massive amounts of money and treatment," Cauchon wrote. Surrounding states submitted the necessary paperwork in 2016, he noted. "The Ohio Department of Health's refusal to support this would be nothing short of reckless, irresponsible and ignorant."

International

UNODC Says Cocaine, Opium Supplies at Record Levels. In its 2018 World Drug Report released Tuesday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that both cocaine and opium supplies were at their highest ever recorded levels last year. UNODC also described the non-medical use of prescription opioids, such as fentanyl, as a major threat to public health. "Drug markets are expanding, with cocaine and opium production hitting absolute record highs, presenting multiple challenges on multiple fronts," said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov in a statement. "The real problematic issues for us have been the increase in opium production in Afghanistan and the massive increase in cocaine production, particularly because of Colombia," added Thomas Pietschmann, a drug research expert at the UNODC, and one of the lead authors of the report.

Colombia's New Rightist President-Elect Welcomes Trump's Support in New War on Drugs. President-elect Ivan Duque said Monday he welcomed Donald Trump's support for his agenda of a "head-on fight against drug trafficking" during a congratulatory phone call from the US leader. "Today I received a call from the US president where he congratulated us for the results achieved in the last elections and also his commitment to support our security, justice agenda, our agenda of a head-on fight against drug trafficking," Duque told reporters. The US wants Duque to clamp down hard on coca cultivation, which is at record levels. During the campaign, Duque vowed to reinstate the forced eradication of coca crops and the aerial spraying of herbicides over coca farms.

Colombia's Outgoing President Authorizes Use of Drones for Aerial Coca Eradication. Outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday authorized the use of drones to spray herbicides on coca crops. The move comes a day after the US said Colombian coca cultivation had increased 11% last year and cocaine production jumped 19%. Santos' government suspended aerial eradication of coca crops with glyphosate in 2015 after the World Health Organization linked it to cancer. Using low-flying drones would limit the dangers associated with glyphosate, he said.

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

In Drug Case, Supreme Court Holds That Unauthorized Rental Car Drivers Have Rights, Too

Criminal Court & Legal Affair Investigative Journalist Clarence Walker can be reached at [email protected].

The US Supreme Court recently annulled a major search and seizure case around a rental car filled with heroin with a ruling that could impact the legal rights of Americans who may get stopped by police while driving a vehicle rented by another person. That case is U.S. v. Terence Byrd (#16-1371).

The Fourth Amendment applies even to unauthorized rental car drivers, the Supreme Court rules.
On May 14, Supreme Court Justices released their decision in Byrd's case, announcing when the Fourth Amendment was applied to the evidence in the case that Terence Byrd had "reasonable expectation of privacy while driving a car rented by another party."

Pennsylvania state troopers had arrested Byrd with a large cache of heroin in a car rented by his girlfriend. Police told Byrd he had no right to refuse to consent to a search because Byrd's name was not on the rental agreement. Byrd copped to ten years in federal prison when a district court ruled earlier that Byrd had no expectations of privacy while driving an unauthorized rental car.

The thorny issues the justices had to untangle was whether a second party driver of a rental car like Byrd could legally refuse a police request to search the rental vehicle unless police had a warrant or probable cause, and further whether Byrd was still entitled to protection the under Fourth Amendment. In a unanimous decision, the justices rejected the government's argument that Byrd had no expectation of privacy because he wasn't listed as a second party driver.

"People who borrow rental cars from friends or family are legally entitled to the same protection against police searches as the authorized driver," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion. "There may be countless innocuous reasons why an authorized driver might get behind the wheel of a rental car and drive it."

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. (USSC)
White House Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco had urged the justices to hold Mr. Byrd to the terms of the rental agreement. "It is common knowledge that car rentals are a personal transaction that does not make the car available for general enjoyment and that the straw man car rentals disserve society by frustrating law enforcement efforts to prevent smuggling and other crimes," he argued.

What is unusual about the Supreme Court ruling in this case is the fact the high court affirmed the defendant's conviction but the justices sent back to the lower appellate court to address important issues as it relates to whether the defendant was entitled to expectation of privacy and not be subjected to "unreasonable search and seizures."

Here are the remanded issues the appeals court, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, must now consider

(1) Whether an individual "who intentionally uses a third party to obtain a rental car by a fraudulent scheme for the purpose of committing a crime lacks a reasonable expectation of privacy in the rental car driven by the defendant."

(2) Whether the officers had probable cause to search the rental car, and whether these or other issues warrant further remand to the District Court or such issues should be addressed by the court in the first instance.

(3) And if police had any other probable cause to stop Byrd other than the original traffic stop.

New York criminal defense attorney Robert M. Loeb, who argued Byrd's case before the high court, told Drug War Chronicle, "Now we must revisit the same issues that the District Court and the Third Circuit have already decided in favor of the government," he explained. "If the lower court reiterates that officers had probable cause to stop and search the car and seize the drugs under their probable cause theory," Byrd stays in prison," because then the Fourth Amendment doesn't protect him," Loeb explained.

David Rudovsky, a Penn State Professor and search and seizure expert, told the Chronicle, "As the court stated, there is no bright-line rule for second drivers; my view is that long as the driver is not a thief or carjacker, there is a good claim to an expectation of privacy."

The ACLU and the National Criminal Defense Lawyer Association filed a friend brief in Byrd's case, claiming the Supreme court's ruling would likely have an outsized effect on black and Hispanic drivers. "There is a commonly held misconception that car rental is a luxury reserved for the wealthiest individuals," the ACLU filing said. To prove their facts, the ACLU noted that a 2010 tax study found "that more car rentals occur at neighborhood locations than at airport locations."

Studies have shown that black drivers are more likely than white ones to be pulled over by the police and more likely to be searched during the stop.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, Byrd's attorneys had argued: "Whether he was on the car rental agreement was actually irrelevant to whether he had a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment."

Byrd's attorney had also previously argued before the Third Circuit and the Supreme Court that "millions of car rentals take place annually in the United States." They insisted that if the government won, "Police would have an incentive to pull over a rental car driver who commits a traffic violation because police would know they could search the car if the driver wasn't listed on the rental agreement."

Suspicious Traffic Stop

Terence Byrd's journey to the nation's Supreme Court began on September 17, 2014, at a Budget car rental in Wayne, New Jersey. While Byrd waited outside, Latasha Reed, his girlfriend with whom he sired five children, went into Budget and signed an agreement to rent a new Ford Fusion. Reed's car rental agreement explicitly stated that additional drivers would only be allowed with "prior written consent." Reed did not add Byrd or any other drivers onto the rental agreement.

Driving a rental doesn't mean you give up your rights (Creative Commons)
Once a Budget employee finalized the paperwork, Reed gave the keys to Byrd, who began his trek toward Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. While driving near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Byrd came upon State Trooper David Long who later claimed he stopped Byrd for either driving too long in an illegal left lane or while Byrd gripped the steering wheel at the "10 and 2" position, which is known as a "hand play" that many drivers use while holding a vehicle's steering wheel in an unsafe manner, notwithstanding an additional fact that Byrd's driver's seat was too far back reclined!

After running Byrd's driver's license the trooper discovered Byrd had given an alias name of James Carter, and also under Byrd's real name, he had a New Jersey arrest warrant. Ignoring Byrd's right to refuse to consent to a search--officers later claimed Byrd consented to the search--the officers searched the vehicle's trunk and hit the jackpot: 49 bricks of heroin and a police vest. Officers arrested Byrd and subsequently charged him with possession/intent to sell heroin and possession of body armor by a felon.

At a suppression hearing on June 16, 2015, held before Judge Caldwell, State Trooper David Long reiterated the suspicious events that led him to pull Byrd over, which included the officer saying he was unable to see Byrd due to the reclined seat, the "10 and 2" driving position, and the traffic violation.

Byrd's attorney was incredulous: "So the only reason you pulled out to stop my client was the fact he was at "10 and 2" -- and you couldn't see him in the car because his driver's seat reclined too far back?" the lawyer asked. Trooper Long nodded affirmatively.

Byrd's lawyer also drilled the officer about the notion that Byrd's race may have played a role for the officer to stop him. Then, surprisingly, Trooper Long mentioned a third factor that triggered the stop. "In a rental vehicle, he said. "That's what drew my attention to it, yes."

This is when the vehicle rental contract collided with the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable search and seizure. Trooper Long said he explained to Byrd that he was free to search the car without Byrd's consent because Byrd's name wasn't on the car rental agreement.

After a federal judge refused to throw out the evidence, Byrd accepted a plea bargain for a 10-year prison sentence in exchange for the right to appeal the conviction based on the argument the search violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Whether Byrd prevails at the lower court during a hearing scheduled either later in June or July remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Byrd and his attorneys await the outcome with bated breath. Hopefully, the Fourth Amendment wins again. Stay tuned -- we will keep you informed of the outcome.

150 Organizations Condemn Trump's Call for Drugs Death Penalty, While Reformers Rally

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2018

CONTACT: David Borden, Executive Director, StoptheDrugWar.org, [email protected]

More Than 150 Organizations Condemn President Trump's Call to Execute People for Nonviolent Drug Offenses

UN to Release Annual "World Drug Report" While Reformers Rally Worldwide

Groups Accuse Singapore of Using False Drug Use Data to Justify Death Penalty

China is doing less of this, but Trump wants more. (Amnesty International)
A growing coalition with over 150 organizations as of this writing (140 when release was first done) has condemned President Trump's call to institute the death penalty for drug offenses. A copy of the statement, which was organized by the US-based NGO StoptheDrugWar.org, is online here.

The statement was submitted to the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, to be considered for inclusion in a report on the death penalty being presented to the General Assembly next fall. David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.organd the statement's author, explained, "We decided to release the statement at this time because of the immigrant family separations and the US's withdrawal from the Human Rights Council, as another example of President Trump's assault on human rights."

The statement also coincides with the June 26 release of the annual UN World Drug Report, and with the annual Support Don't PunishGlobal Day of Action for health- and human rights-based approaches to drug policy.

Among the statement's signatories are the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Latino Commission on AIDS, the William C. Velasquez Institute, Death Penalty Focus, the National Association of Social Workers, and Housing Works.

The US has never brought a death penalty case for a drug offense, but following the president's call for executions last spring, Attorney General Sessions sent a memo to prosecutors urging them to consider seeking the death penalty in some cases.

The statement argues, with references, that the president's claims of success for drug death penalty approaches in other countries is "premised on falsehoods." It notes that the world's leading executors for drug offenses, China and Iran, have scaled back their use of executions for drug offenses; and accuses Singapore's government of using "faked data" to justify their drugs death penalty.

The statement also makes note of President Trump's suggestion that police officers should bash suspects' heads on car door frames when arresting them, made during a police officers' convention in July 2017; and his repeated calls for violence against protesters at his rallies during the presidential campaign, recorded on video on seven different occasions.

The statement also notes Trump's praise for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal campaign of extrajudicial drug war killings, which Duterte administration figures suggest has claimed 20,000 lives to date. The statement has strong representation in the Philippines as well as the Filipino American community, with more than ten endorsing organizations including the iDEFEND human rights coalition, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service Foundation, and the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA).

The statement calls on Congress to repeal the US's never-used drugs death penalty statutes; to enact bipartisan sentencing reform legislation that is pending in Congress; and to pass legislation sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to impose human rights conditions on some aid to the Philippines while funding public health work and human rights advocacy.

Borden said, "We are committed to recognizing if and when the Trump administration takes good steps in drug policy or criminal justice. Recently the president released Alice Johnson, a 63-year old grandmother who had been imprisoned since 1996 on a drug offense, and he suggested there could be many more pardons. He has offered tentative support for legislation to give formal federal permission to states enacting marijuana legalization, though Republican leadership has blocked the bill from moving. We hope the president follows through on both these promises. In the meanwhile, however, the overall Trump administration record in the drug war is a horrific one."

The full text of the statement and signatory list is online at: https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/trump-death-penalty.pdf.

Oklahoma Passes Most Progressive Medical Marijuana Initiative Since California’s Prop 215

One of the reddest of red states went green on Tuesday. Voters in Oklahoma approved a remarkably progressive medical marijuana initiative by a healthy margin of 56% to 43%.

coming soon to Oklahoma (Creative Commons)
The initiative, href="https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/questions/788.pdf" target="_blank">State Question 778, allows registered patients to possess up to three ounces of marijuana anywhere and up to eight ounces at home. Patients also have the right to grow up to six mature and six immature plants or have designated caregivers do it for them.

It also creates a system of licensed dispensaries, cultivation, and processing facilities and sets taxes at a relatively low 7%. The initiative also bars localities from using zoning laws to block dispensaries (although they wouldn't be allowed within 1,000 feet of a school).

But what is most striking about Question 778 is that it does not restrict access to medical marijuana to a list of qualifying conditions. In fact, the initiative language explicitly states that "[T]here are no qualifying conditions" and that the only limitation on a doctor's recommending medical marijuana is that it must be done "according to the accepted standards a reasonable and prudent physician would follow when recommending or approving any medication."

That is the most wide-open language for a medical marijuana since California's groundbreaking Proposition 215 back in 1996. Prop 215 included a list of qualifying conditions, but also allow recommendations for "any other chronic or persistent medical symptom… that may cause serious harm to the patient's health."

That Prop 215 language allowed medical marijuana to flourish in California and establish itself as something very near to actual legalization. Basically, anybody in the state who had the money to pay for a doctor's visit could get a medical marijuana card -- and they did.

Oklahoma isn't likely to play out like California, but Oklahomans for Health, the folks behind the initiative ought to be feeling pretty good right about now. They have successfully passed a very enlightened medical marijuana law in the face of opposition from the state's Republican and religious establishment.

Conservative religious figures calling themselves Oklahoma for Faith teamed up with the likes of U.S. Sen. James Lankford in a last-ditch effort to derail the initiative. Lankford issued a press release early this month warning that the initiative would be "harmful to the social fabric of Oklahoma."

But voters on Tuesday showed they weren't buying what he was selling.

Chronicle AM: Support Not Punish Rallies at UN & Worldwide, NH Dems Endorse Marijuana Legalization... (6/26/18)

The UN's global anti-drug day sees anti-drug war rallies in dozens of cities worldwide, the Senate approves letting VA docs recommend medical marijuana for vets, New Hampshire Democrats endorse marijuana legalization, and more.

Activists at last year's Support, Don't Punish Global Day of Action (Facebook)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Bill to Put Legalization to New Vote Dies. A bill from marijuana legalization foe Sen. Scott Cyrway (R-Benton) that would put legalization up to another popular vote has died. LD 667 went down on an 18-13 vote.

New Hampshire Democrats Endorse Marijuana Legalization. The state Democratic Party has adopted marijuana legalization as a party platform plank. Party officials approved the measure during the party convention on Saturday. "We believe that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated."

Medical Marijuana

Senate Approves Allowing VA Docs to Recommend Medical Marijuana for Vets. The Senate passed the Veterans Administration FY 2019 appropriations bill on Monday. The bill includes a provision that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their veteran patients. The House Rules Committee blocked that language from being included in the House version of the bill, so now it will be up to a conference committee to decide whether it gets included in the final bill.

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Research Bill Into Law. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) last Friday signed into law House Bill 2477, which amends the state's medical marijuana law so that its medical marijuana research program can proceed. The bill moved through the state House and Senate last week before landing on Wolf's desk.

International

It's Global Anti-Drug Day, Activists Rally for End to Drug War at UN. In response to the UNODC's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, drug reform activists gathered Tuesday at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, opposite the United Nations Headquarters in New York, to call for global drug policy reform. The campaign is called Support, Don't Punish, and is hosting events in dozens of cities worldwide Tuesday, as well as the UN action.

More Than 150 Organizations Condemn President Trump's Call to Execute People for Nonviolent Drug Offenses. A growing coalition with over 150 organizations as of this writing has condemned President Trump's call to institute the death penalty for drug offenses. A copy of the statement, which was organized by the US-based NGO StoptheDrugWar.org, is online here. The statement was submitted to the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, to be considered for inclusion in a report on the death penalty being presented to the General Assembly next fall. David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org (publisher of this newsletter) and the statement's author, explained, "We decided to release the statement at this time because of the immigrant family separations and the US's withdrawal from the Human Rights Council, as another example of President Trump's assault on human rights."

Chronicle AM: FDA Approves First Marijuana Drug, Mexican Ire Over Border Policy, More... (6/25/18)

The first marijuana-based drug is approved by the FDA, Oklahoma votes on medical marijuana tomorrow, Trump's border politics are raising ire and threatening cooperation in Mexico, and more.

Trump's immigration policies are threatening Mexican cooperation with the drug war and other security issues. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Attorney General Wants to Let Localities Extend Marijuana Business Moratoria for Another Year. Attorney General Martha Healey wants to let municipalities extend marijuana business moratoria for twice the time she originally said they needed. She had previously said the moratoria could only last for a year but now wants to double that to two years. The Marijuana Policy Project isn't on board with that: Towns have zoned for tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals for years," said MPP's Jim Borghesani. "It is a fiction that they need more time to figure out how to zone for cannabis. The only people who will benefit from Maura Healey's ruling are the criminals who have controlled cannabis sales for decades." About 160 cities and towns have a moratorium of some sort in place, most of which were set to expire at the end of the year.

Medical Marijuana

FDA Approves First Marijuana-Based Drug. The Food and Drug Administration has approved GW Pharmaceutical's epilepsy drug Epidiolex. The drug is approved for use in patients two years and older with Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, both rare and treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy. "This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

Oklahoma Votes on Medical Marijuana Initiative Tuesday. Sooner voters will go to the polls tomorrow to cast their verdict on State Question 788, an initiative that would create a full-fledged medical marijuana program in the state. Democratic voters will also have a chance to vote for former state Sen. Connie Johnson, one of the state's leading medical marijuana proponents, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Foreign Policy

Colombia Cocaine Production Levels "Unacceptable," US Says. Head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) Jim Carroll said Monday that the record level of cocaine production in Colombia is "unacceptable" and blamed increased supply for pushing increased levels of cocaine use in the US. Given that Colombia's newly elected president, Ivan Duque, is a drug war hard-liner -- a shift from the policies of former President Santos -- Colombia is likely to return to pre-Santos policies attacking coca production, including aerial fumigation.

Citing Immigration Policy, Mexican Legislators Call for End to Security Cooperation With US. Mexican lawmakers last week proposed ending cooperation with the US on immigration, counterterrorism, and fighting organized crime (drug trafficking) "as long as President Donald Trump does not act with the respect that migrants deserve." The proposal came from the Congress's Permanent Commission, which meets while Congress is in recess. The lawmakers asked the presidency to "consider the possibility of withdrawing from any bilateral cooperation scheme" with the US on these issues.

International

Russia Poll Finds Very Strong Opposition to Legalizing Soft Drugs. An annual poll conducted by the research firm VTsIOM has 89% of respondents opposing to legalizing "soft drugs," a term generally considered to refer to marijuana. The numbers are in line with poll results from other years, ranging from 85% in 2004 to 93% last year.

Russia Says Canada's Marijuana Legalization Violates International Law. The Russian Foreign Ministry said last Thursday that Canada is violating international drug control treaties by legalizing marijuana. Those treaties do not allow for "flexible interpretation," the ministry said, adding that it expected other Western countries to chastise Canada. "We expect, that Canada's 'arbitrariness' will merit a response from its G7 partners, since this group has repeatedly declared its commitment to the rule of law in interstate relations," the ministry said.

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

Trump Country Is Opioid Country

The two fevers gripping the land -- opioid addiction and support for Donald Trump -- are related. A new study from University of Texas researchers finds that counties with the highest opioid prescription rates were also more likely to favor Trump in the 2016 election.

One more sign that social distress may drive Trump support. (Creative Commons)
The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open. The cross-sectional analysis examined data from the Census Bureau, Medicare Part D, and uselectionatlas.org to try to understand what has been deemed the "Oxy electorate."

Focusing on legally available prescription pain relievers, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, codeine and morphine, but not illegal substances like heroin, the study examined Medicare Part D records for some 3.7 million people in 3,128 of the 3,142 counties in the US. Researchers designated people who had received at least one 90-day supply of prescription opioids as "high opioid users."

Some 693 counties, typically with populations smaller than one million, had rates of opioid prescribing that were significantly higher than the national mean. Another 638 counties were identified as having significantly lower than average opioid use.

In those high opioid use counties, Trump won 59.96% of the vote. In the low opioid use counties, he won only 38.7% of the vote. (Trump won 45.92% of the overall vote.)

Those counties with both high opioid use and high Trump support were largely in the South, Midwest, and southern Appalachia.

The researchers found that the link between opioid use rates and Trump support was as strong as the link between other commonly cited socioeconomic factors -- such as unemployment, household income, and education levels -- and support for Trump. In the high opioid use counties, those other indicators also suggested high levels of social distress. Those counties had higher unemployment rates, fewer adults with a high school diploma, and lower household median incomes than the country as a whole.

Does that mean Trump got the opioid addict vote? No.

"With an ecological analysis, you can't say that. And not only can't you say it, but it's probably not true," said lead author Dr. James Goodwin, chair of geriatric medicine at the UT Medical Branch in Galveston. "If you're stoned out on opioids, you're probably not voting," he told Dallas News.

Instead, he and others suggested, high levels of opioid use tend to correlate with those other indicators of social distress, exacerbating feelings of being left behind or disenfranchised and making voters more likely to support candidates promising to shake things up.

"Trump tapped into something in that segment of voters," said Katharine Neill Harris, a drug policy fellow at the Baker Institute, a nonpartisan think tank of Rice University in Houston. "It's about more than just prescriptions. This is a very complex relationship, and representative of a deeper problem... of problems we are not addressing as a society," she told Dallas News.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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

Chronicle AM: NFL Players Challenge Trump on Sentencing, First MA MJ License, More... (6/22/18)

NFL players respond to a challenge from President Trump with one of their own, Massachusetts gets its first licensed marijuana cultivator, a US watchdog notes that Afghan opium production is at record highs despite the billions we've spent to suppress it, and more.

The US has spent billions to suppress the Afghan opium crop. It hasn't worked, a watchdog says. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Approves First Provisional Marijuana Growing License. A year and a half after voters legalized marijuana in the Bay State, the Cannabis Control Commission has awarded its first provisional license to a marijuana grower. Sira Naturals of Milford has been awarded a Tier 3 cultivation license, which means it can grow marijuana on up to 20,000 square feet of its cultivation facility. Sales are supposed to begin on July 1, but the state has yet to license any retailers.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Supreme Court Removes Cultivator License Roadblock. The state Supreme Court Thursday threw out a ruling that effectively blocked the state's five approved medical marijuana cultivators from receiving licenses. The ruling ends a series of legal challenges to the awarding process from applicants who did not receive licenses and removes an injunction blocking the state from moving forward with licensing.

Sentencing and Pardons

NFL Players Ask Trump to Change Excessive Sentences for Nonviolent Drug Offenders. A group of NFL players organized as the Players Coalition wrote a New York Times op-ed challenging President Trump to pardon more nonviolent drug offenders. They said they were pleased by Trump's pardon of Alice Marie Johnson, who had served 20 years of a life sentence for a first-time drug conviction, but noted that "there are a lot of people out there like Ms. Johnson that should be pardoned that don't know a celebrity or an NFL player." The players said that while Trump had challenged them to come up with more names for pardons, that's not the solution: "A handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that NFL players have been protesting," the letter to the New York Times read. "These are problems that our government has created, many of which occur at the local level. If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn't been listening to us."

Foreign Policy

Afghan Opium Production at Record Levels Despite Nearly $9 Billion in US Anti-Drug Efforts, Watchdog Finds "There's more opium being grown now than when we started, there's more heroin being produced than when we started, there's more heroin being exported, there are more profits from the heroin going to the Taliban and to the other terrorist groups than when we started," said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). "If you apply all of the tests, we failed." The latest SIGAR report finds that opium production has topped 9,000 metric tons this year. The US has spent $8.7 billion trying to suppress the crop since it invaded in late 2001.

Chronicle AM: Record Marijuana Poll, Canada Legalization 10/17, Russia Drug Censorship, More... (6/21/18)

A new marijuana poll has the highest support yet for legalization -- and expungement -- a key House GOP chair blocks another reform measure, Canada's marijuana legalization will go into effect October 17, and more.

68% said legalize it in this new Center for American Progress poll. (CAP)
Marijuana Policy

New Poll Has Highest Support Yet for Marijuana Legalization. A poll released Wednesday by the Center for American Progress and the research firm GBA Strategies finds that 68% of Americans now support marijuana legalization. Forty percent "strongly" support while 28% "somewhat" support it. Only 32% of respondents were opposed, 17% of them "strongly." The poll also found strong support for expunging the records of past marijuana convictions, with 70% saying states should "automatically seal the records of individuals convicted of nonviolent felonies or misdemeanors if the person has completed his or her sentence and has not committed another criminal offense."

New York Activists Challenge De Blasio's Marijuana Arrest Moves. Advocates, community organizations, and Council Members held a press conference and rally Wednesday challenging Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD's newly-announced marijuana enforcement policy, urging the Mayor to end racially biased marijuana arrests completely. The mayor and NYPD Commissioner announced the policy shift Monday in the culmination of their 30-day review period to assess marijuana enforcement in NYC. Due to exclusions in the Mayor's new policy, advocates raised concerns that racial disparities in marijuana arrests could continue -- and perhaps increase. They stood strongly opposed to marijuana continuing to be used as a pretext for unnecessary NYPD interactions with community members.

Drug Policy

House Republican Leadership Blocks Resolution Apologizing for War on Drugs. A congressional resolution apologizing "to the individuals and communities harmed by the war on drugs" has been blocked from getting a floor vote by perpetual obstacle to reform House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX). In a Rules Committee action Tuesday night, the committee failed to approve the bill for action.

International

Canada Marijuana Legalization Goes Into Effect October 17. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that marijuana legalization will go into effect on October 17. The delay will allow provinces time to set up retail sales schemes, he said. "It is our hope as of October 17 there will be a smooth operation of retail cannabis outlets operated by the provinces with an online mail delivery system operated by the provinces that will ensure that this happens in an orderly fashion," he told reporters.

Amnesty International Accuses Russia of "Repressive Act of Censorship" for Huge Fine Against Media Outlet for Interview Where Drug Legalization Was Discussed. The Russian government's media regulator has fined the online magazine 7x7 the equivalent of $13,000 for broadcasting an interview with a politician who expressed support for drug legalization. "The extortionate fine imposed on 7x7 is ridiculous," Marie Struthers, Amnesty International's Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said. "This is an act of censorship and a blatant violation of freedom of expression that must be reversed immediately." 7x7 was prosecuted under the country's law against "propaganda for narcotics offenses." "The Russian authorities seem to believe that they can address topical societal issues by shutting down any public debate about them -- on this occasion, by using draconian laws to persecute an independent media outlet," Struthers continued. "The government has already banned public discussion of various topics, such as LGBTI rights, and has labeled peaceful political dissent as 'extremism'. The fine against 7x7 is, without doubt, a message to all Russian media that there will be severe consequences for discussing subjects of public interest that are uncomfortable for the government."

Medical Marijuana Update

The congressional shield for medical marijuana states remains alive, New York announces it will add opioid use as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, and more.

National

Senate Panel Approves Medical Marijuana Protections. The Senate Appropriations Committee last Thursday approved an amendment that shields legal medical marijuana operations from federal interference. The amendment to the Justice Department appropriations bill bars the department from using its funds to go after state-legal medical marijuana. A similar measure was approved in the House version of the bill.

Florida

Florida Smokable Marijuana Ban is On Again. The on again-off again ban on state medical marijuana patients using smokable forms of marijuana is on again. A state appeals court ruled Monday that the state's ban will remain in effect "pending final disposition of the merits of (a recent) appeal." A circuit court judge had invalidated the ban, but the state Health Department appealed that decision, and now the ban is on until the case is decided.

Maine

Maine Supreme Court Rules Workmen's Compensation Doesn't Cover Medical Marijuana. In a ruling last Thursday, the state Supreme Court held that employers do not have to pay for medical marijuana under the state's workers' compensation system. In a 5-2 ruling, the court held that federal law takes precedence and that making employers pay for medical marijuana would force them to violate federal law.

New York

New York Health Department of Health Announces Opioid Use to be Added as a Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana. The Health Department on Monday announced it will develop a regulatory amendment to add opioid use as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. "The opioid epidemic in New York State is an unprecedented crisis, and it is critical to ensure that providers have as many options as possible to treat patients in the most effective way," said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "As research indicates that marijuana can reduce the use of opioids, adding opioid use as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana has the potential to help save countless lives across the state." Opioid use joins 12 other qualifying conditions under the state's Medical Marijuana Program. Currently, patients can be eligible if they have been diagnosed with one or more of the following severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions: cancer; HIV infection or AIDS; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Parkinson's disease; multiple sclerosis; spinal cord injury with spasticity; epilepsy; inflammatory bowel disease; neuropathy; Huntington's disease; post-traumatic stress disorder; or chronic pain.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Canada Legalizes Marijuana! [FEATURE]

With final approval by the Senate Tuesday night, the Canadian parliament has legalized marijuana. That makes Canada the second country to legalize marijuana (after Uruguay), with what will be the world's second-largest legal marijuana market (after California).

Canada also becomes the first G7 country to free the weed. While nine US states and the District of Columbia have also legalized marijuana, it remains illegal under federal law here.

The move, fulfilling a campaign promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the ruling Liberal Party, puts an end to nearly a century of marijuana prohibition in the Great White North. It didn't come without a struggle, with Conservative senators seeking to delay the measure and succeeding in pushing back the actual rollout date from a once-promised July to what Trudeau announced Wednesday would be October 17.

Under the Cannabis Act, people 18 and over (19 in some provinces) will be able to legally possess up to 30 grams of pot in public, and each household can grow up to four plants. The House of Commons and the government turned back a Senate amendment that would have allowed provinces to ban home cultivation.

The law retains criminal penalties for possession of more than 30 grams or growing more than four plants, and includes an especially harsh provision mandating up to 14 years in prison for sales to minors.

Each province will have its own scheme for handling sales, with some considerable variation. In Ontario and New Brunswick, for instance, sales will be handled by the province, while in most other provinces, sales will be handled by the private sector or private-public collaborations. Marijuana will also be available for sale online.

But Canadians will have to wait for edibles. Marijuana-infused foods will not be available for purchase for some months until the government develops regulations for them.

Marijuana is already big business in Canada, generating an estimated $4.5 billion in sales in 2015, and Canadian marijuana producers are already geared up to produce a huge legal marijuana crop -- in fact, maybe too huge. The two largest producers, Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth, are set to produce a million pounds each, while second-tier producers will be adding to a possible glut.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has fulfilled a campaign promise. (Creative Commons)
But those are worries for down the road. Tuesday evening for was for celebrating.

"It's been too easy for our kids to get marijuana -- and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that," a triumphant Trudeau tweeted just after the final vote.

"We've just witnessed a very historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition," Liberal Senator Tony Dean told reporters. "It ends 90 years of needless criminalization, it ends a prohibition model that inhibited and discouraged public health and community health in favor of just-say-no approaches that simply failed young people miserably."

Not everyone was pleased. Senator Leo Housakos, a Quebec conservative, tweeted forebodingly that passage of the law would be "catastrophic for Canadian generations to come."

But while Canadian conservatives foresaw disaster, American activists saw a model to emulate.

"Canada should be applauded for taking bold and decisive steps towards ending the failed prohibition of marijuana," said Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Canada's progress will galvanize support for drug policy reforms in the US and all around the world."

Hetzer also lauded Canada's federalist approach to the issue and called for redressing the damage done to individuals by pot prohibition.

"Canada's decentralized system will give provinces the freedom to tailor marijuana legalization to their local needs and contexts, allowing us to study and learn from the many different models that will emerge," she said. "Canada should ensure that the harms of marijuana prohibition are rectified, especially by expunging people's marijuana arrest records and by investing in communities most harmed by prohibition."

"This is a historic step forward for the movement to end marijuana prohibition," said Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert. "We commend the members of Parliament and the prime minister for their extraordinary demonstration of leadership on this issue. Canada will set a great example for countries that are considering similar reforms, and it will inspire much-needed debate in those that are not."

While the US states have taken the lead, it's an end to federal prohibition that is required, said Tvert. "It is time for the US to take similar action and adopt a more rational federal marijuana policy. There has been a lot of positive movement in Congress lately, so hopefully, members will be inspired to finally address this issue head-on, as Canada has."

Chronicle AM: Canada Legalizes Marijuana! (6/20/18)

Canada has become the second country to legalize marijuana after final votes in parliament Tuesday, the Supreme Court agrees to hear an Indiana asset forfeiture case, Eleanor Holmes Norton files a bill to allow marijuana in public housing in states where it's legal, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Eleanor Holmes Norton Files Bill to Allow Marijuana Use in Public Housing Where It's Legal. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has filed a bill that would allow residents of public housing in states and localities where marijuana is legal to use it at home without fear of being evicted. Under Norton's bill, a person may not be denied federally-assisted housing for the use of marijuana in jurisdictions where medical or recreational marijuana has been legalized. Under Norton's bill, smoking marijuana would be treated the same as smoking tobacco in federally-assisted housing. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

Asset Forfeiture

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Indiana Civil Asset Forfeiture Case. The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of an Indiana man who used the proceeds of his father's life insurance policy to buy a $42,000 Land Rover only to have the vehicle seized after he was caught selling heroin with it. When authorities moved to forfeit the vehicle, Tyson Timbs challenged the action and won in the Grant Superior Court, with the judge finding the vehicle was purchased legally and that its forfeiture would be "grossly disproportionate" to Timb's offense. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, noting that the maximum fine for Timbs' offenses was only $10,000 and suggested the seizure amounted to an "excessive fine." The state Supreme Court then reversed, Timbs appealed, and here we are.

Reproductive Rights

Federal Appeals Court Panel Rejects Wisconsin Woman's "Cocaine Mom" Lawsuit. A three-judge panel on the US 7th Circuit of Appeals on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's "cocaine mom" law, which permits the detention of pregnant women who are suspected of abusing drugs. The panel dismissed the case because the woman, Tammy Loetscher, had moved out of the state. A US district court judge last year found the law unconstitutional and issued an injunction barring it from being enforced, but the law has remained in force while the state appealed. The appeals court panel's ruling leaves the law in force for now. "Today's decision means that all women in Wisconsin have to worry that when they seek health care, if there's even a chance they might be pregnant, the state can take them into custody, lock them up in a drug treatment program, a mental hospital or a jail -- whether or not drug treatment is really needed," said Nancy Rosenbloom, director of legal advocacy for the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which represented Loertscher.

International

Canada Legalizes Marijuana. With final votes in the House of Commons and Senate on Tuesday, the Canadian parliament has approved the marijuana legalization bill, C-45. The bill legalizes the possession of up to 30 grams in public and allows the cultivation of up to four plants per household. It will also allow for regulated and taxed marijuana businesses, with regulations of sales left to the provinces. Provincial and territorial governments need s few weeks to prepare for retail sales, so the actual rollout of legalization is expected to happen in mid-September.

Australia Festival Pill Testing a Success, Should Be Emulated, Report Finds. A study released Wednesday by the Safety and Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events finds that pill testing at the Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra in April was "an overwhelming success" and the federal government should take a leadership role in introducing a plan for broader pill testing. "The pilot demonstrated that such an intervention is possible and that people are willing to use the service, despite the limitations arising from the tight timelines, inauspicious physical infrastructure and the lack of dissemination strategies on-site during the festival," the report said. Less than half the drugs tested at the festival were relatively pure.

Different Psychedelics Share a Common Trait: Enhancing ‘Neural Plasticity"

New research suggests that different classes of psychedelic drugs all share the tendency to promote the growth of new brain cells, especially the kind that reach out and forge connections with other brain cells. This finding could help explain both the mind-expanding properties of the drugs and the mechanisms by which they appear to act as valuable treatments for a broad range of psychiatric disorders.

Earlier research had identified the dissociative anesthetic ketamine as promoting growth in key brain cells (as well as being a fast-acting and effective treatment for depression), but this new research finds similar effects in amphetamine-based psychedelics such as DOI (2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine), ergoline psychedelics (such as LSD), and tryptamines (such as DMT).

Using experiments in cell culture and with animals, researchers led by Dr. David Olson of the University of California at Davis found that various classes of hallucinogenic drugs acted on the structure and function of cortical neurons using the same mechanisms as ketamine. The findings could point to new treatment approaches for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction, the researchers wrote last Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Reports.

"The state-of-the-art, prototypical, fast-acting antidepressant is ketamine -- a compound that promotes neural plasticity and repairs circuits involved in mood and anxiety disorders," Olson told MedPage Today. "Our work demonstrates that psychedelics produce comparable effects on neuronal structure and function, providing a potential explanation for why MDMA, psilocybin, and ayahuasca seem to have antidepressant and anxiolytic effects in the clinic."

Using test tubes, as well as rats and fruit fly larvae, the researchers found that all of these classes of psychedelics increased "neural plasticity," the ability to create new connections among brain cells. The drugs all excited the growth of dendritic spines and axons, the cerebral hangers-on that brain cells use to reach out and create connections, or synapses, with other brain cells.

That's the opposite of what happens with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. The current theory is that these disorders may occur when neurites retract, not allowing brain cells to connect at synapses.

"One of the hallmarks of depression is that the neurites in the prefrontal cortex -- a key brain region that regulates emotion, mood, and anxiety -- those neurites tend to shrivel up," Olson said in a statement.

Olson's research found that the neural plasticity effect found with ketamine was also "remarkably potent" with even very small doses of LSD, which could help explain the popularity of "microdosing" among people seeking happier and more creative lives. Chemical compounds that mimicked psilocybin and MDMA also increased neural plasticity on the same level as ketamine, and that could mean new opportunities for researchers working with psychiatric disorders.

The studies also showed that the effect outlasted the action of the drugs. In rats, for example, psilocybin produced results that lasted for hours after the drug had left the body. Similarly, rats given a single dose of DMT not only saw an increase in dendritic spines similar to ketamine but saw that effect last for 24 hours when the drug itself had been eliminated within one hour.

This is potentially very good news for researchers working on treatments for anxiety, depression, and addiction, which all seem to act on the same brain circuits.

"Prior to this study, there was only one player in town and that was ketamine. This opens up some new doors," Olson said. "As the diversity of chemical structures capable of producing ketamine-like plasticity effects continues to grow, so does my hope that we will find a safe and effective fast-acting treatment for depression," he said.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Book Review: The Power and Promise of Psychedelics: Michael Pollan Show Us How to Change Our Minds

Can psychedelic drugs improve our lives? Michael Pollan thinks so, and he makes a pretty persuasive case in his latest book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

This is good stuff. Pollan elegantly blends science, medicine, memoir, travel writing and history in a dazzlingly authoritative dive into his subject matter. If you want to read only one book on psychedelics, make it this one.

The subject is something of a departure for Pollan, who has risen to prominence as the consummate foodie, authoring such well-known tomes as The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules, and In Defense of Food. But it's not entirely surprising: In his 2001 The Botany of Desire, Pollan delved into the world psychoactive substance to examine the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and marijuana. (He also described our relationship with apples, tulips, and potatoes.)

In his current effort, Pollan dives into the science of psychedelics, going deep into brain chemistry and the actual mechanisms by which these drugs alter consciousness. Basically, the science suggests, psychedelics damp down the brain's default mode network, the cerebral mechanism that allows us to maintain normal consciousness. When the default mode network is weakened, new neural pathways open up, brain parts that don’t usually communicate with each other start talking, and the going gets weird.

And that opens the door not only for trippy imagery, but also for spiritual epiphanies or, less grandly, coming to terms with oneself and one’s issues. As Pollan reviews the current research taking place in this psychedelic revival, he encounters terminal cancer patients whose closely guided trips help them grapple with their own mortality, spiritual seekers finding enlightenment, and drug users who find themselves able to break noxious addictions.

He also tries psychedelics himself -- something he hadn't done before -- taking LSD, magic mushrooms, and toad venom containing DMT. His description of his experiences is vivid and compelling, and he tries his best to express those ineffable "truths" the psychedelic experience offers. Describing the subjective reality of an acid trip is a difficult feat, and Pollan does better than most.

And speaking of magic mushrooms, who knew that the term was coined by a Time/Life publicist in the 1950s? I didn't. But that was indeed the case as Life editors were putting together the groundbreaking tale of Gordon Wasson's experience eating psilocybe cubensis with Mexican shaman Maria Sabina.

Pollan's book is full of such delicious little tidbits of psychedelic lore and history, including an account of the Stoned Ape hypothesis, favored by some mycophiles, which argues that hominids ingesting magic mushrooms led to the development of human consciousness.

But it also tells the tale of psychedelics as never before, revealing a "secret history" of lost research on psychedelics in the 1950s and 1960s, where thousands of subjects ingested them in more than a thousand scientific experiments. Some of the results were impressive -- LSD appeared to help curb alcoholism, as well as helping people come to terms with mental disorders or terminal illnesses -- but that body of research was largely forgotten as the federal government and scientific establishment led a severe crackdown once Tim Leary and the hippies got ahold of acid.

Naturally, Leary remains the central figure of the 1960s psychedelic scene -- and a highly contentious one -- but one of Pollan’s biggest contributions is showing how psychedelics were busily leaking out of the lab and into the culture at large in ways that had nothing to do with Leary. Hollywood actors and other elites were taking LSD in therapeutic sessions, spreading the word and participating in group sessions that in some cases seemed more like acid parties than therapy sessions.

Still, once Leary shed his researcher's objectivity to become a messianic acid missionary with his slogan of "tune in, turn on, and drop out," and undertook a mission to cure not sick people but the culture itself, it was game over for the first wave of psychedelic research:

"The fact that by their very nature or the way that first generation of researchers happened to construct the experience, psychedelics introduced something deeply subversive to the West that the various establishments had little choice but to repulse. LSD truly was an acid, dissolving almost everything with which in came into contact, beginning with the hierarchies of the mind (the superego, ego, and unconscious) and going from there to society’s various structures of authority and then to lines of every imaginable kind, between patient and therapist, research and recreation, sickness and health, self and other, subject and object, the spiritual and the material. If all such lines are manifestations of the Apollonian strain in Western civilization, the impulse that erects distinctions, dualities, and hierarchies, and defends them, the psychedelics represented the ungovernable Dionysian force that blithely washes all those lines away."

For the past half-century, psychedelics have been making a slow, but now rapidly accelerating recovery from the repression sparked by Leary's proselytizing and the specter of a psychedelicized America. Again, Pollan shines with his explication of the mind-blowing research taking place and the possibilities being opened up. If there was any question that psychedelics are enjoying a scientific and medical renaissance, Pollan puts that to bed.

Yet, in awe of the power of psychedelics, Pollan stops short of calling for their legalization. Instead, he seems to want every trip to be guided, every journey to have a destination. Has he been captured by the very scientists and researchers whose stories he tells? He writes about the spiritual and the psychological, religion and science, and "shamans in white lab coats," but he doesn't want to talk about recreational use of the drugs.

But the psychedelics are here, and they are being used just for fun. The molecule is in our midst and the fungus is among us. Neither is going away nor are they staying in the lab.

How to Change Your Mind  is a major addition to the literature on psychedelics. Reading it will blow your mind. Do it now.

Chronicle AM: Acting DEA Chief Stepping Down, NYC to Change Marijuana Arrest Policy, More... (6/19/18)

A second acting DEA administrator is set to resign, New York City Mayor de Blasio has a plan to reduce Big Apple marijuana arrests, the Canadian legalization bill heads for the goal line, and more.

NYC Mayor de Blasio announces plan to reduce marijuana arrests, but activists say it's not enough. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York City Mayor Announces New Policy to Reduce Marijuana Arrests. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that the NYPD will not arrest many people caught smoking pot under a new policy set to begin September 1. But people on probation or parole or who have open arrest warrants would still be arrested. Around 17,500 people are arrested for marijuana possession each year; de Blasio said the policy shift would turn about 10,000 of those arrests into citations instead.

Advocates Slam Mayor de Blasio's New Marijuana Arrest Plan. The Drug Policy Alliance and VOCAL-NY said the mayor's announced move doesn't go far enough and does not address the racial disparities in arrests that prompted the policy shift in the first place. "It's frustrating that as the New York State Health Department moves toward legalization, the City is continuing its shameful history of racist marijuana enforcement. It is also confusing because the new policy does not appear to address racial disparities at all, which was the issue that supposedly prompted this in-house review," said Civil Rights Campaign Director Nick Encalada-Malinowski and Drug Policy Alliance New York Director Kassandra Frederique. "The exceptions that the Mayor has laid out -- arrests for people on parole or probation, people with criminal records, people with warrants or lacking ID, or for 'officer discretion' -- will compound existing collateral consequences and all but guarantee the status quo of racial disparity continues."

Medical Marijuana

Florida Smokable Marijuana Ban is On Again. The on again-off again ban on state medical marijuana patients using smokable forms of marijuana is on again. A state appeals court has ruled that the state's ban will remain in effect "pending final disposition of the merits of (a recent) appeal." A circuit court judge had invalidated the ban, but the state Health Department appealed that decision, and now the ban is on until the case is decided.

Drug Policy

Acting DEA Head to Step Down. Acting DEA administrator Robert Patterson told staff at the agency Monday he is retiring. Patterson said in an email to staff that he "realized that the administrator of the DEA needs to decide and address priorities for years into the future -- something which has become increasingly challenging in an acting capacity." Patterson is a 30-year veteran of the agency who replaced the previous acting administrator, Chuck Rosenberg. Rosenberg resigned over policy differences with the Trump administration.

International

Canada House of Commons Votes to Legalize Marijuana, Sends Bill Back to Senate. The House of Commons voted 205-82 Monday to approve some Senate amendments to the C-45 legalization bill, sending the bill back to the Senate for continued debate and a final vote. The Commons rejected the Senate's proposed ban on marijuana companies selling branded merchandise and allowing provinces to ban home cultivation.

Drug War Issues

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