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Celebrate Double Marijuana Wins and Continue Your (Doubled) Support!

Posted in:

Dear supporter,

As you may have read about in our newsletter, last week held historic wins for marijuana reform! The US House of Representatives passed a comprehensive bill -- the MORE Act -- which means marijuana legalization across the US is on the horizon. And in a major win globally, the United Nations removed marijuana from its most restrictive category, recognizing its medical value.

Are you able to contribute today to support our efforts to pass the MORE Act in the US Senate and make it law? Any contribution will be matched and your impact will be doubled!

If you are not able to contribute to our work monetarily, please consider sharing the link to our facebook fundraiser on your personal facebook page so we can connect with more allies.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act passed the US House last Friday December 4, making it the first ever marijuana legalization legislation to pass in any chamber of Congress. The MORE Act is especially notable for its focus on justice and equity through clearing past marijuana convictions and earmarking funds to reinvest in the communities most harmed by prohibition.

The vote on marijuana as medicine took place at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, where it approved recommendation 5.1 made by the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. Previously marijuana was in Schedule IV of the 1961 convention, which recommends UN member states use their most strict controls for it.

Contribute to our marijuana legalization and other legislative efforts here. Donate to our UN and other educational and charitable programs (tax-deductible) here.

Learn more about the MORE Act news in our newsletter here. Learn more about the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs vote here. Read about our work at the UN and other international programs here.

Thank You for your support!

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016
https://stopthedrugwar.org

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A western Pennsylvania deputy had a most interesting stash hidden behind his basement wall, a south Alabama small town police officer tries his hand at meth dealing, and more. Let's get to it:

In Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, a Dauphin County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Tuesday after a search of his home uncovered firearms, drugs, and thousands of dollars in cash hidden behind a wall in his basement. Deputy Christopher Reid, 27, went down after a months-long investigation by Susquehanna Township police. The search turned up 11 guns, a half-pound of marijuana, and $28,000 in cash. He is facing a felony drug manufacturing/delivery charge, a misdemeanor drug charge, and a charge of endangering the welfare of children.

In Fulton, Missouri, a state prison guard was arrested last Tuesday for plotting to smuggle drugs into the prison there. Officer Randi Duvall, 35, went down after an investigation by the local sheriff's office, the Department of Corrections, and the US Postal Inspection Service. Postal inspectors tracked a suspicious package to Duvall's post office box, prompting a deputy to meet with Duvall, who then confessed. She is charged with the Class E felony of acceding to corruption.

In El Paso, Texas, an El Paso police officer was arrested last Friday for allegedly helping a cocaine dealer by running license plates of undercover police vehicles doing surveillance on him. Officer Monica Garcia was trying to thwart a DEA investigation of a dealer, and for her efforts, she now faces charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to unlawfully use a communication facility and conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premise. She's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In Pensacola, Florida, a south Alabama police officer was arrested Monday after being caught in a sting in which he was attempting to purchase meth for resale. Lt. Isaac Lopez, 36, of the Flomaton Police Department, is now charged with drug trafficking and using a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony. He was still sitting in the Escambia County Jail in Florida at last report.

In Greenbelt, Maryland, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Tuesday to 27 months in federal prison for smuggling drugs and other contraband into the Maryland Correctional Institute at Jessup in exchange for cash payments. Janel Martin had earlier pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges. She is the third state prison guard to be convicted a broad anti-smuggling case that also saw nine other people charged.

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Delayed Until Next Year, Wyoming Poll Has Majority for Legalization, More... (12/9/20)

More than a dozen marijuana reform bills have been filed in Texas, Canada will allow a small number of health professionals to possess and use magic mushrooms to help them better serve their mushroom-using patients, and more.

Even in Wyoming, there is now a majority for marijuana legalization. (kr.usembassy.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. In a bid to fend off a marijuana legalization initiative in 2022, state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas County) has filed a bill to achieve that goal legislatively. He filed a similar bill last session. "The way you convince your colleagues is to sit down with them and say, guys, we can can either deal with this at our level or the people of the state of Florida are going to deal with it via constitutional amendment," said Brandes. The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Texas Sees More Than a Dozen Marijuana Legalization, Decriminalization Bills Filed. More than a dozen bills to legalize or decriminalize marijuana have been filed for the forthcoming legislative session. Two bills would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of weed and allow up to 12 plants to be grown at home. "I think there is an excellent chance we are going to have a meaningful conversation on legalization, but more importantly where we find common ground on decriminalization and medical access that's where we see a real opportunity for this legislative session," said Heather Fazio, head of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

Wyoming Poll Has Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC) at the University of Wyoming has support for marijuana legalization at 54%. That's a continuation of a steady upward trend since 2014, when support was at only 37%. It rose to 41% in 2016 and 49% in 2018.

International

Canada to Allow Small Number of Health Care Professionals to Use Psychedelic Mushrooms, Health Care Minister Says. Health Minister Patty Hadju has said in a recent interview that Ottawa will let a small number of medical professionals possess and consume magic mushrooms to allow them to better treat a growing number of patients who now have permission to use the drug. The interview is the first sign of the ministry's response to therapists who have applied to use the drug. "I also am happy to say that yesterday [December 5] Health Canada granted exemptions to a number of health care professionals who wanted to possess and consume mushrooms containing psilocybin," Padju said. She added that the decision was "controversial for some and not for others, but the doctors that prescribe this therapy wanted to understand what it would feel like and how to best use it to help their patients that are struggling."

Mexico's Chamber of Deputies Delays Vote on Marijuana Legalization Until Next Year. The Chamber of Deputies had decided to delay approving a marijuana legalization bill until next year to give deputies more time to study the bill. The Congress will not be in session again until February. The Mexican Supreme Court has mandated that the plant be legalized and regulated, but an end of December deadline imposed by the court appears to have gone up in smoke.

CBO Says Marijuana Legalization Would Help Federal Budget Deficit, DEA Virtual Lecture Series to Begin, More... (12/8/20)

A state senator is leading a push for a marijuana legalization initiative in Nebraska, the new progressive Los Angeles County DA is getting down to work, and more.

"Drug Kingpin" Ivan Velasquez Caballero upon extradition to the US. He's been replaced. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Budget Office Says Marijuana Legalization Would Help Federal Budget. In an analysis of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3384), which passed the House last week, the Congressional Budget Office reported that revenues from legal marijuana businesses and shrinking federal prison costs could shrink the federal budget deficit $7.3 billion during the remainder of this decade. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a staunch legalization supporter, liked what he saw in the report: "It shows that the MORE Act would reduce 73,000 person-years of prison time," Blumenauer said. "It would increase revenues by $13.7 billion. It would provide $3 billion for job training and legal aid to people harmed by the war on drugs. While doing all of this, it would reduce the deficit by $7.344 billion."

Nebraska State Senator to Draft Marijuana Legalization Initiative for 2022. Marijuana reform proponent state Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln) announced last Saturday that she has a team drafting a marijuana legalization initiative for the 2022 ballot. She, along with Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, is already involved with drafting a medical marijuana initiative for 2022.

Law Enforcement

DEA Virtual Lecture Series to Begin with Look at Kingpin Strategy. Former Administrator Robert C. Bonner will lead off the first installment of the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum & Visitor Center's fiscal year 2021 lecture series Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy. Mr. Bonner will speak about leading DEA as it put the "Kingpin Strategy" into place in the early 1990s to combat violent and powerful drug trafficking organizations. "The Kingpin Strategy attacks drug organizations' most vulnerable areas-leadership, production, distribution, and assets. DEA designed the strategy to weaken, destroy, and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations," the DEA press release said. Given the Kingpin Strategy's results in places like Colombia and Mexico, someone should ask how that's working out so far. Virtual tickets are available at the link.

New Los Angeles County DA to End Cash Bail, Review Sentences, Divert Low-Level Offenders. Incoming Los Angeles County DA George Gascon said Monday upon taking office that he will end cash bail except for violent offenses and review sentences in thousands of cases. He said the latter move could affect at least 20,000 cases. He also said his office will work to divert people arrested for low-level offenses related to poverty, addiction, homelessness, and mental health issue to behavioral health services.

NJ Governor, Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Marijuana Bill, Mexico Strikes Back at DEA, More... (12/7/20)

South Dakota's attorney general's office intervenes against a challenge to the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization, New Jersey's governor and lawmakers reach an agreement on their marijuana bill, and more.

No random marijuana tests for NBA players next year -- and maybe ever.
Marijuana Policy

NBA Won't Test Players for Marijuana Next Year. In a continuation of a policy adopted this year, the National Basketball Association (NBA) will not drug test players for the presence of marijuana -- and it could be moving toward a permanent suspension of such testing. "Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the NBPA [NBA Players Association] to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020-21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse," an NBA spokesperson said. The pause only applies to random drug tests; a player could be tested for marijuana for cause.

New Jersey Governor, Lawmakers Approve Framework for Recreational Marijuana Bill. "We're proud to announce today that we've reached an agreement on legislation providing the framework for legalization, which is a critical step in reducing racial disparities and social inequities that have long plagued our criminal justice system," the office of Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said in a statement last Friday. Among the areas of agreement are that 70% of marijuana sales tax revenues will go to social justice programs and that licenses will be issued to 37 growers for the first two years. An amendment to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms will be removed and considered separately.

South Dakota Attorney General's Office Asks Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Victorious Legal Marijuana Initiative. State Assistant Attorney General Grant Flynn last Thursday filed a request with a district judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging the legality of the voter-approved initiative that legalizes marijuana in the state. "The State respectfully requests that Contestants' Election Contest be denied in all respects and that Contestants' Complaint be dismissed with prejudice, in its entirety, and judgement be entered in favor of the state," says the filing authored by Flynn. The plaintiffs are arguing that the measure violates the state constitution because it deals with "a multitude" of topics, not just legalizing marijuana. Those include medical marijuana and hemp. "The State denies that Amendment A includes a 'multitude' of different subjects," Flynn wrote. Attorneys representing the initiative campaign have also joined the case. All sides have until January 8 to file motions and briefs.

Foreign Policy

Mexican President Proposes Stripping Diplomatic Immunity for DEA Agents. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has proposed removing diplomatic immunity for DEA agents working in Mexico. Under the proposal, DEA agents would have to submit all the information they collect in the country to the Mexican government. Also, any Mexican government officials contacted by the DEA would have to report on that contact to the Foreign Relations Department. A DEA spokesman said, however, that sharing information with Mexico "is not going to happen," citing corruption in the Mexican government. The proposal after former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested on drug and corruption charges in Los Angeles, only to see the charges dropped weeks later by US prosecutors who cited "sensitive and important foreign policy considerations."

In Historic Move, House Votes to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition [FEATURE]

Breaking almost entirely along party lines, the House on Friday voted to approve the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 or the MORE Act of 2019 (HR 3884). The vote was 228 to 164, with only a handful of Republicans voting "aye" and a handful of Democrats voting "nay."

Friday was an historic day on Capitol Hill. (Creative Commons)
The MORE Act would effectively end federal pot prohibition by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act's list of scheduled substances and eliminating federal criminal penalties for its possession, cultivation and sale. The bill would not affect state laws that criminalize marijuana, but it would end the conflict between states that have already legalized marijuana and federal law.

The bill also includes strong social equity provisions, including the creation of a fund to support programs and services for communities devastated by the war on drugs, a provision for expungement of past federal marijuana offenses, and a provision that bars the federal government from discriminating against people for marijuana use. The latter would protect immigrants from being deported for past marijuana convictions and would ensure that earned benefits are not denied to marijuana users.

The historic vote marks the first time either chamber of Congress has voted for legalization. But there is virtually no chance that the Republican-led Senate will take up -- let alone approve -- the measure in the remaining days of this session, meaning this is a battle that will continue in the next Congress.

Still, drug policy reformers were quick to celebrate the victory.

"Today's vote marks a historic victory for the marijuana policy reform movement. It indicates that federal lawmakers are finally listening to the overwhelming majority of Americans who are in favor of ending prohibition and comes at a critical time as this important measure addresses two key challenges we currently face," Marijuana Policy Project executive director Steven Hawkins said in a statement moments after the vote ended.

"Serious criminal justice reform cannot begin in our country without ending the war on cannabis," Hawkins continued. "The MORE Act would set federal marijuana policy on a path toward correcting an unfair system and help restore justice to those who have been victimized by prohibition. This legislation would also help address our country's fiscal and economic challenges by empowering states to implement programs that can stimulate economic growth and generate new tax revenue at a time when both are desperately needed. We call on the Senate to listen to the American people and pass the MORE Act without delay."

"This is HUGE!" said the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in a blog post announcing the vote. "This is an historic day for marijuana policy in the United States. This vote marks the first time in 50 years that a chamber of Congress has ever revisited the classification of cannabis as a federally controlled and prohibited substance, and it marks the first time in 24 years -- when California became the first state to defy the federal government on the issue of marijuana prohibition -- that Congress has sought to close the widening chasm between state and federal marijuana policies."

"The criminalization of marijuana is a cornerstone of the racist war on drugs. Even after a decade of reform victories, one person was arrested nearly every minute last year for simply possessing marijuana," Maritza Perez, director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) said in a statement. "Today the House took the most powerful step forward to address that shameful legacy. But the MORE Act as passed is imperfect, and we will continue to demand more until our communities have the world they deserve."

DPA is particularly irked by the insertion of language during the legislative process that limits expungement and resentencing provisions to people with nonviolent marijuana offenses and language that blocks people with marijuana felony convictions from fully participating in the industry. The group said in the statement that it would work with Congress next session "to remove these additions and pass a bill that fully aligns with our principles."

"Getting to this point definitely gives us hope, but the fight is far from over. We will continue to build support for an even stronger, and more inclusive bill in the next session," Queen Adesuyi, policy manager for DPA's Office of National Affairs, said in the statement. "We are grateful that members of Congress have rightly come to the realization that the drug war has exacerbated the racial injustices in this country and ending marijuana prohibition is a concrete tangible action they can take to benefit our communities now."

Not everyone was happy, though. America's leading anti-pot activist, Kevin Sabet, president and co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana lashed out at the vote and the House leadership in a statement that called it "a useless show vote."

"The pot industry has won a post-season exhibition game, but they're treating it like Game 7 of the World Series," he snarked. "The bill is a smokescreen for Altria Phillip Morris and their Big Tobacco gang of investors. As we have seen in state after state, marijuana commercialization does not lead to any tangible benefit for disadvantaged communities and social equity programs continue to be manipulated. Legalization simply results in rich, overwhelmingly white men getting richer while using predatory marketing tactics to expand substance abuse in the communities that were somehow supposed to benefit. Big Pot doesn't care about social justice or equity, its only concern is profit."

But while Sabet goes on about his mythical "Big Pot," he neglects to mention who actually supports the bill: the American people. In the latest Gallup poll, released less than a month ago, 68% said they wanted legal marijuana. They may have to wait for NORHWWE Congress to get in done at the federal level, but passage of the MORE Act is in line with what the public wants, even if prohibitionists don't wish to acknowledge that.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of Drug War Chronicle.

Washington, DC
United States

MORE Act Heads for House Vote, San Francisco Bans Apartment Cigarettes -- But Not Pot-Smoking, More... (12/3/20)

Tomorrow will be an historic day for marijuana policy, New Jersey lawmakers struggle over legal marijuana and decriminalization, Peru and the US diverge on the size of last year's coca crop, and more.

There will be no tobacco smoking allowed in apartment buildings in San Francisco. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

MORE Act Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. The House Rules Committee on Wednesday approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3884), clearing the way for a House floor vote on Friday. The committee also approved a rule that the bill will be closed to amendments on the floor. Debate on the bill began today.

New Jersey Lawmakers Want to Put Marijuana On The Ballot Again, to Steer Revenue to People Hurt By Drug War. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and three other Democratic senators are promoting a constitutional amendment that would ensure that marijuana tax revenues would go to "impact zones," or communities harmed by the war on drugs. At the same time, lawmakers are removing a psychedelic mushroom provision from the pending decriminalization bill to remove one roadblock to its passage. With the removal of the mushroom provision, the bill is expected to pass by month's end.

San Francisco Bans Cigarette Smoking in Apartment Building but Allows Pot Smoking. The city's Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 on Tuesday to ban tobacco smoking from apartment buildings with three or more units but relented on its plan to ban marijuana smoking in the face of strong opposition. Activists pointed out that banning pot-smoking in apartments would remove their only legal place to smoke since pot smoking is banned in public places. The ban also includes e-cigarettes.

International

Peru Reports Lower Growth of Coca Cultivation Than US Did. The anti-drug agency DEVIDA said coca cultivation increased only 1% last year to about 135,000 acres and was a slowdown from higher growth the previous year. That's dramatically lower than what the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) reported in June. ONDCP reported that cultivation had increased by 38% to 180,000 acres. DEVIDA said 70% of the country's production was in the VRAEM (Valleys of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers) in the south-central part of the country.

In Historic Vote, UN CND Votes to Remove Cannabis from Most Restrictive Drug Schedule [FEATURE]

In an historic vote Wednesday, the 53 member states of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN body charged with setting drug policy, voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the United Nations' drug classification system as they met in Vienna.

Vienna International Centre
The vote followed an independent scientific assessment undertaken by some of the world's leading experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017 and 2018. The Geneva-based WHO is charged under the UN drug conventions with assessing the harms and benefits of substances and making scheduling recommendations. In January 2019, the WHO formally recommended that cannabis be removed from Schedule IV and that CBD cannabis preparations containing less than 0.2% THC, such as tinctures and extracts, be removed from the schedules altogether.

While civil society groups gave the WHO's recommendations decidedly mixed reviews, including its "very questionable rationale for keeping cannabis in Schedule I," they also applauded its "obvious recommendations deserving support." The removal of cannabis form Schedule IV in particular would signify UN recognition that cannabis really does have therapeutic uses.

As explained in an October briefing paper from the International Drug Policy Consortium and the Transnational Institute, cannabis is currently both a Schedule I and a Schedule IV drug under the international drug treaties. Schedule I includes "substances that are highly addictive and liable to abuse or easily convertible into those (e.g. opium, heroin, cocaine, coca leaf" -- although Bolivia begs to differ on the latter), while Schedule IV includes Schedule I drugs with "particularly dangerous properties and little or no therapeutic value" (e.g. heroin, carfentanil).

Wednesday's vote removing cannabis from Schedule IV means the global anti-drug bureaucracy now recognizes the therapeutic value of cannabis and no longer considers it "particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects."

With medical marijuana legal in dozens of countries in one form or another, the ever-increasing mountain of evidence supporting the therapeutic uses of cannabis, not to mention outright legalization in 15 American states Canada and Uruguay, with Mexico about to come on board, this decision by the CND is long past due, but nonetheless welcome.

"With this decision, the UN closes a 60-year denial of what has been documented as being among the most ancient medicinal plants humankind has domesticated," said independent researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, who has monitored the CND process for years.

It will be 60 years in March since cannabis was placed in Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic without ever having been subject to any scientific assessment.

"As a medical patient myself I know how necessary this change in international law is, to help reduce the suffering of millions of people and how it adds a much needed pain treatment with promise in mitigating reliance on opiates at a key moment in history," said Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (USA), one of the global civil society groups that has been pushing for reform at the UN.

While the CND accepted the WHO's recommendation to remove cannabis from Schedule IV, it failed to advance some other recommendations, including rejecting a recommendation on medical CBD. That means CBD remains unscheduled, outside treaty controls, and liable to national bans. The failure to adopt more progressive WHO recommendations was "disappointing and represents a lost opportunity to make the treaty best fit to purpose," activists said.

But this is the United Nations, and change comes at a glacial pace and even then, only incrementally. Still, Tuesday's vote is a long overdue step in the right direction and lays the groundwork for more progress in years to come.

GOP Snipes at Dems Over Looming House Legal Pot Vote, Congressional Report on Hemispheric Drug War, More (12/2/20)

Republicans seek to make political hay out of the looming House vote on marijuana legalization, a New Mexico criminal justice reform coalition gears up to push for pot legalization there, and more.

A vote on marijuana legalization looms in the House. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Republicans Use MORE Act Vote to Snipe at Democrats. GOP lawmakers are trying to score political points by attacking House Democrats for holding a vote this week on a marijuana legalization bill, the MORE Act (HR 3884). In a seemingly coordinated campaign, GOP members attacked the Democrats for taking up the MORE ACT before additional coronavirus relief is passed. Here's a representative tweet from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): "This week, your House Democrat majority is tackling the tough issues by holding a vote on legalizing pot and banning tiger ownership. Nothing for small businesses. Nothing for re-opening schools. Nothing on battling the pandemic. Just cannabis and cats."

New Mexico Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Gears Up to Press for Marijuana Legalization. Advocates for marijuana legalization have formed a criminal justice reform coalition, New Mexico Safe, to push for marijuana legalization. The group presented information to state lawmakers Tuesday night ahead of next year's legislative session, which begins next month. "This priority is one that obviously generates revenue and reinvest some of those dollars back into the public health system and back into communities that have been most harmed by substance use disorder," said Emily Katzenbach of the Drug Policy Alliance, which is a member of the coalition.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Adds Two More Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana. The state Department of Health has added sickle cell disease and chronic vocal or motor tic disorder to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The change will go into effect in August 2021. An effort to an anxiety as a qualifying condition was denied but will be revisited next year. The state currently allows medical marijuana for 15 qualifying conditions.

Foreign Policy

US Congressional Commission Report Calls for Overhaul of War on Drugs in Latin America. The congressional Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission is calling for a "smarter" approach to hemispheric drug policy in a bipartisan report to be released later this week. The current approach has not stopped drug smuggling or reduced high rates of violence and corruption in the region, the report says. "An increasingly complex threat requires a more agile, adaptive long-term strategy," the report says, stressing that the COVID pandemic has only increased the problem. "The pandemic has exacerbated conditions that are worsening our ongoing opioid crisis, such as lack of adequate treatment, economic distress, and social isolation," said the report. It also noted that some anti-drug policies, such as forced coca eradication and the targeting of "drug kingpins" have had harmful and counterproductive consequences.

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges Over Oxycontin, House to Vote on Legal Pot This Week, More... (12/1/20)

It's now legal to possess and grow your own marijuana in Arizona, the House Rules Committee takes up the MORE Act on Wednesday, Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to three federal criminal charges, and more.

Marijuana Policy

House Rules Committee Takes Up Marijuana Legalization Bill Tomorrow Ahead of Looming Floor Vote. The House Rules Committee takes up the MORE Act (HR 3884) tomorrow, paving the way for a House floor vote on the bill later this week. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sent the bill to the Rules Committee with some modifications, the most significant of which revolve around taxation. The bill originally imposed a 5% tax on marijuana products, but Nadler has amended the bill to remove that language and replace it with a scheme that would allow increases in the tax rate until it reaches 8%.

Arizona Marijuana Legalization Now in Effect. Marijuana is now legal in the state. It became so after the state secretary of state certified the election results, affirming that Prop 207 indeed passed. It is now legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and up to five grams of concentrates and to grow up to six plants for personal use. The legal, regulated marijuana market won't be in effect until sometime next year.

Virginia Legislative Working Group Issues Report Outlining Path to Legalization. A working group on marijuana legalization requested by the legislature issued its report Monday and concluded that the end of pot prohibition "cannot be created quickly." First, the state needs to invest in data collection, craft new regulations, and undertake a public education campaign, the report said. That pushes legalization down the road: "Setting up an adequate regulatory structure will require a significant up-front investment, in time, patience, and budgetary resources," the report reads. The report sets an 18-24-month timeline for legalization and up to five years before there is a fully developed legal marijuana industry.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Federal Criminal Charges Over Oxycontin Role in Opioid Crisis. OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as well as two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. The move came after a plea deal agreed to in October that also includes a historic $3.544 billion fine and a $2 billion criminal forfeiture. The company will now be dissolved and its assets used to incorporate a "public benefit company" designed to serve the public, not the company's bottom line.

ALERT: House of Representatives Voting on MORE Act This Week!

Posted in:

Dear reformer:

The US House of Representatives is scheduled to take an historic, first-ever vote on marijuana legalization this week! A hearing before the vote is scheduled for tomorrow morning (Wednesday), so please take action as soon as you can!

The MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019) will remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, decriminalizing it at the federal level and allowing states to move forward with legalization. It will allow marijuana businesses access to banking services. And it will enact social justice measures to help the communities most impacted by the drug war, like expungement of past convictions and equity measures for the legal marijuana industry. Read more about the MORE Act here.

If you're a US voter, please write your member of Congress using our online action alert. When you're done, please call them too -- use the Congressional Switchboard main number, (202) 224-3121, then ask to be transferred.

This historic moment is also a really important one. I hope we can count on your support to get the MORE Act through the House of Representatives now, and then as we take it from there!

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
https://stopthedrugwar.org

Giving Tuesday: double your impact today!

Posted in:

Dear supporter:

As 2020 comes to a close, the global fight against the war on drugs does not. Your support can make a monumental difference as we advocate to protect human rights and connect drug policy movement organizers from all over the world. Whether you're pushing for change in Latin or North America, in Middle Eastern or African nations, your support is urgently needed this Giving Tuesday. Contributions up to $10,000 will be matched - so double your impact and donate today!

Much of the world is moving toward compassionate drug policy this year as legalization and decriminalization campaigns find success, but human rights and democracy are still at risk. We need your support to fund our work on marijuana and other drug policy at the UN; our Stand with Human Rights and Democracy campaign in partnership with Filipino advocates responding to President Duterte’s drug war killings and President Trump’s support for Duterte; and to continue the Drug War Chronicle newsletter, a critical resource for all drug policy reform issues in the US and abroad.

After a week of eating and online shopping, Giving Tuesday kicks off December with a focus on helping others. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to our educational activities, or click here to make a non-deductible contribution for our lobbying work.

In a year where help is critically needed, we hope you can give to our cause of fighting for an end to drug war injustice. Thank you!

Photo above: On October 27, 2020, we organized “Autocrat Fair,” an event in Washington, DC launching the Stand for Human Rights and Democracy campaign. Autocrat Fair was co-organized with Movement for a Free Philippines, a group concerned with President Rodrigo Duterte's extrajudicial drug war killings. One of the signs highlighted the 30,000 drug war killings that human rights groups believe the government has perpetrated so far.

Linking Duterte's abuses to larger world problems, demonstrators held signs and wore masks representing ten autocratic world leaders, eight of them holding and pulling the strings of Trump marionettes. Autocrats represented in this photo, from left to right, include Victor Orban of Hungary, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, Donald Trump of the United States and Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi.

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016
https://stopthedrugwar.org

House to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Bill This Week, Mexico Senate OKS Legal Pot, More... (11/30/20)

Marijuana legalization is on the move in Washington, DC, and Mexico City, Washington state activists push for therapeutic psilocbyin and broader drug decriminalization, British police chiefs call for expanding a heroin maintenance pilot program, and more.

Marijuana legalization has passed the Mexican Senate, and the Chamber of Deputies should soon follow suit. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Bill This Week. House Majority Leader Stony Hoyer (D-MD) said late last week that a marijuana legalization bill, the MORE ACT (HR 3884) would receive a House floor vote this week. First, though, it will go before the House Rules Committee. A floor vote should come between Wednesday and Friday.

Drug Policy

Washington State to See Push for Psychedelics, Drug Decriminalization. In the wake of victories for therapeutic psilocybin and drug decriminalization in Oregon this year, drug reformers in neighboring Washington are now looking to push similar reforms there. One push is for therapeutic psilocybin for end-of-life patients using existing administrative mechanism, while a second is aiming at a statewide drug decriminalization initiative that also legalizes psilocybin for broader therapeutic purposes. Meanwhile, advocates plan on lobbying the legislature for drug decriminalization this year, too.

International

British Police Chiefs Call for Expansion of Heroin-Assisted Treatment Program. The National Police Chiefs Council is calling for heroin-assisted treatment to be rolled out "across the country" after a year-old pilot program reported "very promising" results. Jason Harwin, the drug policy lead for the group, said his colleagues should ponder following that lead. We should look at expanding it across the rest of the country," Harwin. "Not in every place, not everywhere needs it. But where clearly there’s a heroin problem and particularly drug-related deaths and an impact on criminality and organized crime, it’s clearly a solution that actually helps "individuals and the wider communities as well."

Colombia Defense Minister Says Aerial Fumigation of Coca Crops Must Restart. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said last Friday that the country needed to restart spraying coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate in order to shrink cocaine production and shrink the income of illegal. "There is no doubt at all. Colombia needs to reestablish aspersion, aerial fumigation with glyphosate for national security reasons," Holmes Trujillo said. "Logically it needs to be reestablished with assurances for health and the environment." Doing so would cut off resources "for those who commit massacres and kill social leaders," he added.

Mexican Senate Votes to Legalize Marijuana. The Senate overwhelmingly approved a marijuana legalization bill last Thursday. The bill now goes to the Chamber of Deputies where it is also expected to pass. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has not publicly backed the bill, but his ruling MORENA Party, which supports the bill, holds majorities in both chambers. Under the bill, adults could possess up to an ounce and grow up to four plants at home, while a system of taxed and regulated legal sales would also be set up.

NJ to End Pot Possession Prosecutions, OR County to End Drug Possession Prosecutions, More... (11/27/20)

The impact of voters' choices earlier this month is beginning to be felt, a new poll has New Yorkers ready to legalize marijuana, Vancouver's city council votes to move toward drug decriminalization, and more.

Drug decriminalization begins to take hold in Oregon, so we're going to be seeing less of this. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Attorney General Orders End to Marijuana Possession Prosecutions. In a Wednesday letter to city, county, and state prosecutors, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal ordered them to put a halt to small-time marijuana possession prosecutions until at least January 25. "It simply does not make sense or serve justice to proceed with prosecutions on charges that may be foreclosed soon through legislative action," Grewal said in a statement. "Fairness demands that we suspend prosecution of marijuana possession-related cases while we await direction from the Legislature.".

New York Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at All-Time High. A Sienna College poll released Tuesday has support for legalizing marijuana at an all-time high, with 60% saying it is time to free the weed. That's up five points from the same poll in February, when 55% supported it. Meanwhile, the number of people who opposed it dropped from 40% in February to 32% now.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Court Rules State Must Change "Unreasonable" System to Decide Who Can Sell Medical Marijuana. A three-judge appellate court ruled Wednesday that the state's system for determining who get can medical marijuana dispensary licenses was not transparent, created confusion in the industry, and was "unreasonable." The court threw out a 2018 decision awarding six licenses and ordered the health department to come up with a better rating system.

Drug Policy

Oregon County to End Low-Level Drug Possession Prosecutions. Prosecutors in Clackamas County, just outside Portland, sent a letter to local police chiefs Monday telling them that while they disagreed with voters' decision to decriminalize drug possession earlier this month, they will heed their wishes and drop drug possession cases. "Having officers investigate and submit cases for a prosecution in the weeks leading up to February 1, which will not lead to any sanction or court supervised treatment, is not the most effective use of criminal justice resources," the prosecutor's office said.

International

Canadian Government Gives Formal Response to Petition to Decriminalize Psychedelics. Responding to a petition presented to parliament signed by more than 15,000 Canadians calling for the decriminalization of psychedelics, government ministers formally replied that no such move would take place until psychedelics underwent further study. The ministers also pointed to ways some people could obtain exemptions to use them legally despite federal prohibition.

Vancouver City Council Unanimously Approves Motion to Seek Decriminalization of Drug Possession. The Vancouver city council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a motion asking the federal government to let it decriminalize simple drug possession. The motion was spearheaded by Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who cited high drug overdose death numbers. "On the same day that the B.C. Coroners Service confirmed that a person a day continues to die in our city due to drug overdose, Vancouver has once again decided to lead the way on drug policy in order to save lives," Stewart said. "If approved by the federal government, we will begin a robust process to determine how decriminalization will be implemented in Vancouver."

Minneapolis Makes Feeble No-Knock Warrant Reforms, CT Dems Vow Legal Marijuana Push, More... (11/25/20)

Connecticut Democrats threaten to let voters have a say on marijuana legalization, Georgia opens applications for cannabis oil producers, and more.

Minneapolis enacts minor changes to its policy on no-knock raids, but activists say it isn't nearly enough. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Democrats Will Put Marijuana Legalization Before the Voters if Legislature Fails to Pass Bill. Incoming House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) said Tuesday that if the legislature failed again to legalize marijuana, Democrats will do an end run and let the voters decide the issue via a ballot referendum. "I think it'll be a very, very close vote in the House," Ritter said. "But if we do not have the votes -- and I'm not raising the white flag -- I want to be very clear: We will put something on the board to put to the voters of the state of Connecticut to amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana." That, however, could take until 2022 and possibly even 2024.

Detroit City Council Passes Recreational Marijuana Sales Ordinance. Ending its refusal to allow anything other than medical marijuana sales in the city, the Detroit city council on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve an ordinance allowing adult-use sales. The measure weights licensing preferences to favor longstanding city residents. Those "legacy Detroiters" will be eligible for half of the 75 licenses the city is proposing.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Opens Applications for Medical Marijuana Producers. Businesses that want to produce cannabis oil for medical use can now apply for state licenses. That's because the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission has finally given the go-ahead. Applications are available on the group's website and must be in by December 28.

Law Enforcement

Minneapolis Announces Small Reforms to No-Knock Warrant Policy. Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo have announced changes to the city's policy on no-knock raids, but the changes aren't enough for local activists. Under the policy shift, no-knock raids are not ended, but police officers will instead have to announce their presence as they enter premises -- and keep doing so periodically while they are inside. The move comes in the wake of unrest after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. "This is about proactive policymaking and instilling accountability," Frey said. "We can't prevent every tragedy, but we can limit the likelihood of bad outcomes. This new, no-knock warrant policy will set shared expectations for our community and clear and objective standards within the department." Michelle Gross is president of Communities Against Police Brutality. The move was "pretty disappointing," she said. "Nothing about this would decrease the number of no-knock warrants," she said. "It simply enhances, to a certain degree, the announcement as officers move from room to room. But I don't see this as being a big advance, I really don't."

UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs to Take Up Cannabis Scheduling Next Week

The 53 member states of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN body charged with supervising the application of the international drug control treaties that form the legal backbone of global drug prohibition, is set to meet in Vienna on December 2-4, and it will take up the question of making some modest scheduling changes to the way cannabis is classified.

Vienna International Centre, home to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs
As explained in an October briefing paper from the International Drug Policy Consortium and the Transnational Institute, cannabis is currently both a Schedule I and a Schedule IV drug under the international drug treaties. Schedule I includes "substances that are highly addictive and liable to abuse or easily convertible into those (e.g. opium, heroin, cocaine, coca leaf" -- although Bolivia begs to differ on the latter), while Schedule IV includes Schedule I drugs with "particularly dangerous properties and little or no therapeutic value" (e.g. heroin, carfentanil).

With medical marijuana legal in dozens of countries in one form or another, the ever-increasing mountain of evidence supporting the therapeutic uses of cannabis, not to mention outright legalization in 15 American states Canada and Uruguay, with Mexico about to come on board, the harsh scheduling of cannabis is out of touch with both the science and the tide of history. Led by dedicated public health officials in the UN bureaucracies -- with equally dedicated activists monitoring the process and advocating -- the push is underway to revise those schedules.

But this is the United Nations, and change comes at a glacial pace and even then, only incrementally. The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) is charged under the UN drug conventions with assessing the harms and benefits of substances and making scheduling recommendations. For the first time in its history, it assessed cannabis in 2018, through an examination by WHO's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD). In January 2019, the WHO formally recommended that cannabis be removed from Schedule IV and that CBD cannabis preparations containing less than 0.2% THC, such as tinctures and extracts, be removed from the schedules altogether.

Now the recommendations are back in Vienna, where the CND after several delays is finally expected to vote on them. As the official discussion at an October intersessional meeting of the CND shows, governments with regressive drug policies have argued that recognizing marijuana's medical benefit could lead to increased abuse of the drug, and some have questioned WHO's scientific analysis.

While civil society groups gave the WHO's recommendations decidedly mixed reviews, including its "very questionable rationale for keeping cannabis in Schedule I," they also applauded its "obvious recommendations deserving support." The removal of cannabis form Schedule IV in particular would signify UN recognition that cannabis really does have therapeutic uses.

Stay tuned. The CND session and possible progress on cannabis liberalization at the international level are just days away.

San Francisco Ponders Smoking and Vaping Ban for Tobacco and Marijuana, Mexico Mass Grave Has 113 Bodies, More... (11/24/20)

Fort Worth, Texas, prosecutors will dismiss minor marijuana charges with one big caveat, Colombia's defense minister says coca eradication is on track, and more.

Colombian coca field (DEA Museum)
Marijuana Policy

Fort Worth to Dismiss Small Time Pot Cases -- If People Pass Three Drug Tests in Three Months. The Tarrant County (Fort Worth) Criminal District Attorney's Office has announced it will dismiss minor marijuana possession cases, but only if the defendant passes three drug tests in three months. Possession of less than two ounces of marijuana is the most common criminal charge in the county. "One of the goals of the criminal justice system is rehabilitation; sobriety is the beginning of that rehabilitation, "Tarrant County Criminal DA Sharen Wilson said. "When you bring proof of three months of sobriety -- 90 days -- the charge will be dismissed."

San Francisco Bid to Ban Smoking, Including Marijuana, in Apartment Buildings Draws Opposition. City Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee has introduced a measure that would bar people from smoking or vaping tobacco and marijuana in their apartments. The measure would apply to buildings with at least three units. But the move is drawing opposition from progressive LGBTQ groups and medical and recreational marijuana advocates. Yee's plan allows for medical marijuana, but that isn't soothing advocates. A vote before the full board is set for December 1.

International

Colombian Defense Minister Says County Will Meet 2020 Coca Eradication Target. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday that the country will meet its 2020 coca eradication target. The government had set a target of 320,000 acres eradicated and has so far eradicated about 300,000 acres. That's an increase of 30% over last year. The program includes aerial eradication operations involving the probably poisonous substance herbicide glyphosate, and is unlikely to make more than a short-term dent in cultivation.

Mass Grave With At Least 113 Bodies Found in Mexico's Jalisco State. A mass grave in Jalisco state that was discovered on October 2 has now yielded at least 113 bodies. Jalisco is one of the most violent drug cartel battlegrounds in the country and is the home of the most bodies found in clandestine mass graves since 2006, according to a recent government report.

Mexico Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization, SD Cops Seek to Void Legalization Vote, More... (11/23/20)

A CDC study finds that marijuana legalization is linked to declining teen marijuana treatment rates, an EU court throws out France's ban on CBD, and more.

Mexico is poised to become the world's largest legal marijuana market.
Marijuana Policy

Teen Marijuana Treatment Admissions Fell Sharply in States That Legalized, Federal Report Shows. A peer-reviewed research report released last Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds steep declines in teens sent to drug treatment for marijuana use in states that have legalized it. But medical marijuana legalization appeared to have no impact on teen drug treatment admissions for marijuana use. "Consistent with prior research on medical marijuana and adolescent marijuana use, medical legalization status does not appear to correspond to treatment admission trends," the study says. "Notably, however, 7 of 8 states with recreational legalization during the study period fall into the class with the steepest level of admissions decline."

South Dakota Sore Loser Cops File Suit to Overturn Marijuana Legalization. Pennington County (Rapid City) Sheriff Kevin Thom and state Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller have filed a lawsuit seeking to void the state's voter-approved recreational marijuana constitutional amendment. The lawsuit filed last Friday argues that the measure should be considered a revision of the constitution, not an amendment, and that it violates the state constitution by addressing multiple topics. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group behind the initiative, says it is confident it will be upheld.

International

Australia Study Finds Strong Support for Pill Testing. A long-running election study by the Australian National University finds that nearly two-thirds of the public support the harm reduction tactic of pill testing at music festivals. Some 63% favored the idea even though governments across the country have largely refused to implement it despite high-profile drug-related deaths at those festivals.

European Union Court Rules French Ban on CBD Is Illegal. The European Union's Court of Justice ruled last Thursday that France's ban on CBD products is invalid. CBD doesn't qualify as a narcotic drug because "it does not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health," the court held. Under French law, only hemp seeds and fiber -- not the flower containing CBD -- are legal. France's law violated EU law on the free movement of goods, and the French need to modify their hemp law, the court said. "The national court must assess available scientific data in order to make sure that the real risk to public health alleged does not appear to be based on purely hypothetical considerations," the court wrote. "A decision to prohibit the marketing of CBD, which indeed constitutes the most restrictive obstacle to trade in products lawfully manufactured and marketed in other [EU] member states, can be adopted only if that risk appears sufficiently established."

Mexican Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Senate voted overwhelmingly last Thursday to approve a marijuana legalization bill. The bill passed 82-18, with seven members not voting. The congress is under pressure from the national Supreme Court to get legalization done before the end of next month, and the measure now heads to the Chamber of Deputies, where it is also expected to pass. Final passage of the bill would make Mexico the world's largest legal marijuana market.

Book Review: How to Regulate Stimulants

How to Regulate Stimulants: A Practical Guide by Steve Rolles, Harvey Slade, and James Nicholls (2020, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, 304 pp., $20 PB)

Marijuana is now legal, taxed and regulated in 15 states, with most of the Northeast likely to join them next year. The movement for psychedelic liberation is flexing its muscles. Oregon just voted to decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs. Brick by brick the wall of drug prohibition is crumbling in the United States.

And now, the good folks at Britain's Transform Drug Policy Foundation are out with a how-to guide for turning that wall into nothing more than a pile of bricks. When it comes to attacking prohibition, marijuana and psychedelics are the low-hanging fruit -- it's easier for members of the public to consider that the harms attributed to their potential abuse or misuse may be far outweighed by the harms of prohibiting them -- but with stimulants such as meth, Ecstasy, and cocaine, the case for prohibition is more popular because the potential harms of their abuse or misuse are much greater.

Still, Steve Rolles and his coauthors make a strong, thoughtful case for dealing with these drugs as we do other non-banned psychoactive substances: Regulating and offering them to consumers with restrictions based on the degree of risk involved. Caffeine is a stimulant, but one with low risk levels for users and society. It is subject only to the regulations of normal commerce -- quality control, informational packaging, and the like.

Coca leaf, coca tea, and oral coca products (lozenges, hard candies, pouches) have a similar risk profile to caffeine -- that is, not much. But both international and US law fail to differentiate between such products with low levels of the cocaine alkaloid and cocaine itself. A regulatory regime based on reason and science would treat coca tea like coffee, not cocaine. But that doesn't mean cocaine would be prohibited.

Indeed, Rolles et al. explicitly differentiate between different forms of stimulants to create a three-tiered regulatory system based not only on science, public health, human rights, but also recognizing the need to prevent corporate takeover and promote social equity. The first tier is the tier of coca tea and coffee.

The second tier, that of medium risk drugs in their typology, produces what they call their "standard model" for dealing with stimulants. Included here are MDMA pills, amphetamine pills (or meth pills -- Desoxyn, anyone?), and cocaine powder. For this tier, they recommend pharmacy-style retail sales at state-owned shops where specially trained druggists dispense not only the dope but also targeted harm reduction information.

And they recommend rationing of these substances, either by purchase amount limits or by means of licensing requirements. The idea is to limit harm by restricting access to these particularly binge-inducing drugs. Rationing is what we do with legal marijuana by restricting purchases, typical to one ounce per day. We don't do that with alcohol, however; you can walk in and buy multiple kegs of beer or cases of hard liquor and no one bats an eye.

Purchase limits -- say one gram of 70% pure powder cocaine per month -- would probably work for most cocaine consumers, who use it recreationally and infrequently. But it wouldn't work for the party host who wants to supply his guests, and more importantly, it wouldn't suffice for the needs of serious drug users, who make up a huge percentage of the sales of any drug.

If the object is to take drug consumers out of the illicit market, rationing is going to have to be flexible enough to address their needs and demands. The authors suggest a tiered system that would allow larger purchases contingent on periodic brief discussions of risks and harm reduction with trained pharmacy vendors.

When it comes to the hardest forms of stimulants, such as injectable meth or cocaine or smokable meth or crack, the model shifts from regulatory retail to harm reduction. The authors advocates measures such as supervised consumption sites and harm reduction kits for crack users. They envision no retail sales of drugs in such forms, but also no criminalization of their users. That might leave users to get their goodies in the black market (or get creative with less harmful forms of the drug, such as converting cocaine powder into crack at home), which could undercut one of the primary rationales for regulation: killing off the illicit market.

But instead of sticks, Rolles et al. offer carrots. Perhaps hardcore tweakers and cokeheads can be induced into using less harmful forms of their drugs of choice, switching from shooting meth to eating oral amphetamines or being offered less-potent powder cocaine formulations with a price incentive. Not discussed is whether users of tier three substances would have some way of obtaining a regulated supply of them through a medical or other non-sales framework.

Regulating stimulant drugs is tricky, with all sorts of different considerations to undertake. But we have a freedom interest, a social justice interest, and a public health interest in moving away from coercive drug prohibition. The Transform Drug Policy Foundation shows us some of the possible paths and is acutely aware of the intricacies of the task. This is very useful stuff. We should all probably send copies of this book to our state and federal elected officials, but not wait for them before starting down the path ourselves.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's all jail and prison guards gone bad this week. Let's get to it:

In La Grange, Kentucky, a state prison guard was arrested Monday after she was caught with a large quantity of drugs at the prison. Guard Ashley Scrogham Sanford, 25, was found with two different drugs and investigators found she had been paid for smuggling them in. She is charged with trafficking in a controlled substance, trafficking in synthetic drugs, possession of a controlled substance, possession of synthetic drugs, promoting contraband, and official misconduct.

In Rome, Georgia, a former prison guard pleaded guilty last Friday to taking bribes to smuggle methamphetamine, marijuana and tobacco into the Floyd County Correctional Facility. Former guard Michael L. Jones, 31, supervised inmates at a recycling center and used that position to collect packages of drugs from inmate family members (usually for $200 a package) and give them to inmates working at the center, who would then smuggle them back into the jail. He was charged with conspiratorial drug trafficking and extortion under the color of official right. He pleaded guilty to both.

In Valdosta, Georgia, a former Valdosta State Prison guard was sentenced last Wednesday to 46 months in federal prison for smuggling meth and cellphones into the prison. Melissa Crawford, 53, went down after somebody snitched her out and her vehicle was subjected to a "random" search as she arrived at work. She first attempted to drive off, nearly hitting another guard, but was stopped and admitted she was carrying drugs. A car search turned up nearly an ounce of meth, some marijuana, and four cellphones. She had previously pleaded guilty to one count of methamphetamine distribution.

Medical Marijuana Update

The will of the voters is being challenged in Mississippi, a New Mexico panel recommends higher purchase limits for medical marijuana, and more.

Mississippi

Mississippi High Court Takes Up Challenge To Medical Marijuana Measure. Whether voters will actually get the medical marijuana program they approved at the polls earlier this month is now in question after the state Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will take up a challenge to its validity. The challenge was filed by the mayor of the town of Madison days before the election. It argues that the measure is invalid because of a state signature-gathering requirement that is impossible for any initiative to actually comply with. Initiatives are supposed to only get one-fifth of their signatures from each congressional district, but the state now has only four.

New Mexico

New Mexico Panel Recommends Higher Purchase Limits for Medical Marijuana. The state medical cannabis advisory board on Monday recommended allowing medical marijuana patients to buy 15 ounces of marijuana every three months, nearly doubling the current purchase limit. The state health secretary will decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation, although it is unclear when that will happen.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Advisory Board Rejects Insomnia as Qualifying Condition. The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board has refused to add insomnia as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use. Board members said they hesitated because insomnia is often caused by an underlying medical issue. The board voted 7-4 against adding insomnia last week.

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances, Senate Approves Meth "Emerging Drug Threat" Bill, More... (11/19/20)

Madison WI ends penalties for pot use and possession, Vancouver, BC to take up a drug decriminalization ordinance, Mexican marijuana legalization bill heads for a Senate floor vote, and more.

seized methamphetamine in Georgia (Warner Robbins PD)
Marijuana Policy

North Carolina's Governor Racial Equity Task Force Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization, Study of Legalization. Gov. Roy Cooper's (D) Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice has recommended that the state study marijuana legalization and enact decriminalization in the meantime. Attorney General Josh Stein (D) who co-chairs the task force, made the case succinctly: "You cannot talk about improving racial equity in our criminal justice system without talking about marijuana," he said.

Madison, Wisconsin, City Council Votes to Remove Penalties for Marijuana Use, Possession. The city's Common Council unanimously approved three marijuana-related ordinances Tuesday that should reduce pot arrests in the state's capital. One allows adults to possess up to an ounce, another allows them to consume it on public or private property, and a third decriminalizes the possession of pot paraphernalia.

Methamphetamine

Senate Approves Meth Bill by Unanimous Consent. The Senate on Monday approved SB 4612, the Methamphetamine Response Act. The bill declares meth "an emerging drug threat" and requires the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) to come with a response plan within 90 days. That plan, which must be updated annually, must include an assessment of threat, as well as treatment and prevention programs and law enforcement programs. It must also set the level of funding needed to implement the plan. The House version of the bill, HR 8210, is parked in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is where it has been since being introduced.

International

Vancouver Mayor to File Motion to Decriminalize Drug Possession. Vancouver, British Columbia, Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced Wednesday that he will file a motion to decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs in the city. "It's not a criminal issue, it's a health issue," he said, saying the move is "long overdue." If the council passes the measure, the city will ask the federal government to "decriminalize personal possession of illicit substances within the City's boundaries for medical purposes."

Mexico Denies Threatening to Expel DEA Agents After Ex-Defense Minister's Drug Arrest. President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador denied Thursday that Mexico had threatened to expel American DEA agents to retaliate for the arrest of ex-Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos upon arrival at LAX last month. At the same time, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico had threatened a review of security cooperation because the US did not provide advance notice that Cienfuegos was under investigation, but said there was no specific threat to expel DEA agents.

Mexican Senate Committees Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill. The marijuana legalization bill has been formally approved by the Senate Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies committees and is headed for a full floor vote soon. The bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce by adults and allow the cultivation of up to four plants for personal use. It would also set up a taxed and regulated marijuana market.

Fed Judge Approves Purdue Pharma Settlement, US Drops Case Against Ex-Mexican Defense Minister, More... (11/18/20)

Mississuppi's higest court agrees to a hear a challenge to the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, New York City public hospitals say no more drug testing pregnant women without their consent, and more.

Purdue Pharma will cop to serious felonies and pay $2 billion in a settlement with the DOJ. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi High Court Takes Up Challenge To Medical Marijuana Measure. Whether voters will actually get the medical marijuana program they approved at the polls earlier this month is now in question after the state Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will take up a challenge to its validity. The challenge was filed by the mayor of the town of Madison days before the election. It argues that the measure is invalid because of a state signature-gathering requirement that is impossible for any initiative to actually comply with. Initiatives are supposed to only get one-fifth of their signatures from each congressional district, but the state now has only four.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Federal Judge Approves Purdue Pharma OxyContin Settlement. A federal judge in New York has approved a settlement in a case brought by the Justice Department against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Under the agreement, the company must plead guilty to "multiple serious felonies" in coming days. It will cop to conspiracy to defraud the United States, breaking laws against kickbacks, and one other count. The settlement also includes a $2 billion payout, with the federal government getting $225 million and states getting $1.775 billion to fight opioid addiction.

Drug Testing

New York City Public Hospitals Will Stop Drug Testing of Pregnant Women. Responding to an announcement that the city's Commission on Human Rights is investigating racial bias in the drug testing and reporting to child welfare authorities of pregnant women at three major hospitals, the city's public hospitals have announced they will no longer drug test pregnant women unless they have written consent. This is a change from the previous policy of the City Health and Hospitals Corporation, under which doctors and nurses did not need to inform pregnant patients they were being drug tested.

Foreign Policy

US Abandons Drug Case Against Former Mexican Defense Minister. Federal prosecutors made the surprise announcement Tuesday that they are dropping drug charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos, who was arrested at LAX after arriving in the US last month. The announcement came in a joint statement with Mexican attorney general's office. "The United States has determined that sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweigh the government's interest in pursuing the prosecution of the defendant," prosecutors said. Cienfuegos was accused of using his position to shield the H2 cartel and going after its rivals. But his arrest without prior notification of Mexican officials has strained ties between the two countries, with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador threatening to look again at agreements allowing DEA agents to operate in the country.

International

Thailand Loosens Drug Laws to Allow Sale and Possession of Drugs for Research Purposes. The Public Health Ministry has issued new regulations loosening controls on Category II drugs, such as cocaine, opiates and opioids, and ketamine. Under the new rules, such drugs can be sold and possessed for medical and scientific research, medical treatment and disease prevention, or for other government purposes. The new rules go into effect in 240 days.

NJ Marijuana Decrim Sputters, NM Panel Recommends Patient Purchase Limit Expansion, More... (11/17/20)

The New Jersey legislature is trying to pass a marijuana decriminalization bill but isn't there yet, the New Jersey governor and legislative leaders are seeking agreement on legal marijuana taxes, and more.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is seeking agreement with legislative leaders on pot taxes. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Senate Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. The Senate has approved a marijuana decriminalization bill, A1897 / S2535. The bill would allow people to possess up to six ounces and to distribute up to one ounce with no criminal penalties. A first offense would be met with a written warning, followed by a fine for any subsequent offenses. The bill would also expunge previous marijuana possession offenses and end the smell of marijuana as probable cause for a law enforcement search. And it includes an amendment that would decrease the penalties for possession of psychedelic mushrooms.

New Jersey Assembly Postpones Vote on Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. An Assembly vote on the marijuana decriminalization bill, A1897 / S2535, didn't happen Monday after some Assembly members balked at a provision in the bill that would have lessened penalties for the possession of psychedelic mushrooms. That provision was added in the Senate, prompting Assembly bill sponsor Jamel Holley (D-Union) to call the move "irresponsible and poor judgment." The bill is now expected to come up for a vote next week.

New Jersey Governor, Senate Leader Reach Agreement on Marijuana Taxes. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) have apparently come to an accord on the thorny issue of how to tax legal marijuana, but Assembly Leader Craig Coughlin (D) is not on board yet. Sweeney, who opposed any marijuana tax increases has yielded to the governor, agreeing to let the state's Cannabis Regulatory Commission charge growers a 7% sales tax instead of the 6.625% envisioned in the voter-approved initiative that legalized marijuana. Once Coughlin gets on board, the bill to set up regulations for the legal marijuana industry, A21 / S21, could start moving again.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Panel Recommends Higher Purchase Limits for Medical Marijuana. The state medical cannabis advisory board on Monday recommended allowing medical marijuana patients to buy 15 ounces of marijuana every three months, nearly doubling the current purchase limit. The state health secretary will decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation, although it is unclear when that will happen.

NJ Decrim Advances in Wake of Legalization Vote, NYC to Investigate Hospital Drug Test Racial Bias, More... (11/16/20)

Virginia's governor says he supports marijuana legalization, New Jersey does marijuana and mushrooms decrim in wake of initiative, the White House releases Bolivian coca production estimates, and more.

Marijuana legalization is advancing in Mexico. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Man Imprisoned Since 1994 for Selling Marijuana Seeks Release. The Michigan parole board will take up the case of Michael Thompson on Tuesday. He was convicted in 1994 of selling three pounds of marijuana to a snitch and has been behind bars ever since. Given that marijuana is now legal in the state, Thompson's bid for early release has the support of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the prosecutor's office that convicted him. He has suffered serious health problems in prison, including testing positive for COVID-19.

New Jersey Legislature Approves Marijuana Decriminalization, Magic Mushrooms, Too. The state Senate and Assembly have approved a measure that decriminalizes the possession of up to six ounces of marijuana, and defelonized the possession of magic mushrooms, too. The move is an interim measure until legalization takes place in January after voters approved it on Election Day. It also includes expungement of past nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Virginia Governor Supports Marijuana Legalization. Following the release of a study that found the state could generate $300 million in marijuana taxes, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday that he supports marijuana legalization. He plans to work with the General Assembly once it convenes in January, but the process could take up to two years to play out. The state decriminalized possession last year.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Advisory Board Rejects Insomnia as Qualifying Condition. The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board has refused to add insomnia as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use. Board members said they hesitated because insomnia is often caused by an underlying medical issue. The board voted 7-4 against adding insomnia last week.

Drug Testing

New York City to Investigate City Hospitals Over Possible Racial Bias in Drug Testing. The City Commission on Human Rights announced Monday that is investigating allegations of racial bias at three top city hospitals over their policies around the drug testing of pregnant women and newborns. Advocates said that Black and Hispanic families are being reported to state child abuse authorities following a single positive drug test, even though, they said, just a single positive test result does not merit a report. The commission cited studies that show Black women are much more likely to be subjected to maternal drug testing than white women, even though both groups use drugs at similar rates.

Foreign Policy

ONDCP Releases Data on Coca Cultivation and Cocaine Production in Bolivia. Last Friday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the United States Government's annual estimates of coca cultivation and cocaine production potential for the Plurinational State of Bolivia. According to these estimates, Bolivia remains the third largest producer of cocaine in the world. Bolivia's coca cultivation totaled 42,180 hectares in 2019, an increase of 28 percent over 2018. Commensurate cocaine production potential increased 20 percent to 301 metric tons. The Yungas region remained the largest coca cultivation area in Bolivia, while the Chapare region represents the second largest. Cultivation exceeded the 22,000 hectares limit established by the Bolivian government by an estimated 20,180 hectares, or 92 percent.

International

Mexican Senate Committees Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill with Floor Vote Planned Soon. Last Friday, three Senate committees gave preliminary approval to a marijuana legalization bill, with a formal vote set for this week. The bill would let people 18 and over possess up to an ounce and grow up to four plants for personal use. Advocates are still hoping for further revisions to promote consumers' rights and social equity in the legal market.

Drug War Issues

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