Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

In Historic Come-from-Behind Victory, Denver Magic Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative Passes [FEATURE]

Hours after numerous media outlets (including us) had the Denver magic mushroom initiative going down to defeat Tuesday night, it managed a near-miraculous last-minute comeback to squeak out a victory by a margin of 50.56% to 49.44%, late Wednesday afternoon, according to unofficial Denver Election Division results.

Denver
Election officials tweeted that "the results remain unofficial" until the city certifies them on May 16. If they hold, Denver will become the first locality in the United States to effectively decriminalize the use and possession of a psychedelic substance.

Even Decriminalize Denver, the group behind the measure, had conceded defeat Tuesday night, with group leader Kevin Matthews saying "it's not a loss, it's a lesson," as the measure trailed by thousands of votes throughout the evening. But then the worm turned, and now Denver has broken new ground.

With passage of I-301, the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative, voters have told the city they want to "deprioritize, to the greatest extent possible, the imposition of criminal penalties on persons 21 years of age and older for the personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms." The measure also "prohibits the city and county of Denver from spending resources on imposing criminal penalties on persons 21 years of age and older for the personal use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms."

Personal possession is defined under the measure to include growing one's own mushrooms, but the mushrooms not be "used or displayed in public." The measure does not decriminalize sales, saying they are still subject to prosecution under state law.

Decriminalize Denver campaigned on the criminal and social justice implications of the proposal, as well as touting the potential therapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms. Interest in those benefits is part of a psychedelic renaissance underway for years now that is manifested not only in significant increases in the number of young people reporting having used hallucinogens, but also an explosion of research into the therapeutic properties of psychedelics.

magic mushrooms (Greenoid/Flickr)
Denver may be the first place where the psychedelic renaissance passes an electoral test, but it won't be the last where it's tried. The Oregon Psilocybin Society is already in the signature-gathering phase of its 2020 Oregon Psilocybin Service Initiative, while just to the south, a group calling itself Decriminalize California is just beginning efforts to get on the 2020 ballot with a statewide decriminalization there. Those same activists tried but failed to get on the ballot last year.

For the Drug Policy Alliance, Wednesday's victory in Denver was only the beginning.

"No one should be arrested or incarcerated simply for using or possessing psilocybin or any other drug," said the group's Colorado state director, Art Way. "If anything, this initiative doesn't go nearly far enough. Given the scientific and public support for decriminalizing all drugs, as Portugal has done successfully, we need broader reforms that can scale back the mass criminalization of people who use drugs."

The state -- and the nation -- need to go further, Way said: "More than a million people are arrested each year in the US for drug possession, but this has done nothing to reduce the availability of drugs or the harms they can cause. More comprehensive is necessary to achieve the cost savings and public health outcomes that will maximally benefit Colorado."

But Denver's magic mushroom decriminalization is a beginning.

Drug Policy Alliance is a financial supporter of Drug War Chronicle.

Legal Marijuana Is a Job Creation Machine [FEATURE]

As the marijuana business comes out of the shadows and into the legal marketplace, jobs in the legal industry are coming with it -- by the hundreds of thousands, with more on the way. In fact, the legal marijuana business is forecast to see the greatest increase in demand of any profession over the next ten years.

More than 200,000 people work in the marijuana industry now. (Sandra Yruel/DPA)
That's according to the marijuana information clearing house Leafly, which crunched the numbers in its recently-released Special Report: 2019 Cannabis Jobs Count. That report finds that legal marijuana has already created 211,000 full-time jobs, with more than 64,000 added last year alone, and tens of thousands more being created this year.

The marijuana workforce increased 21 percent in 2017, jumped by another 44 percent last year, and Leafly expects at least another 20 percent growth this year. That's a more than doubling of the industry workforce in just three years.

By way of comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently listed the industries with the fastest job growth prospects. Home health care aide positions are expected to jump 47 percent, while openings for wind turbine technicians and solar voltaic installers are expected to double. But that's in the next 10 years; the marijuana industry did it in three.

Because marijuana remains federally illegal, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't count pot jobs. That left Leafly's data team, working in conjunction with Whitney Economics, to come up with the numbers. They did so using state-reported data, industry surveys, on-the-ground reporting, Leafly's own proprietary data, and economic formulas devised by Whitney.

The upward jobs trend is likely to continue for years to come, rolling through the individual states as they embrace medical marijuana and recreational legalization. So far, 34 states have some form of legal medical marijuana, but only ten have achieved full-blown legalization, so the medium-term job creation potential is substantial.

We can see this playing out in the legal states. Early legalizers Colorado and Washington saw double-digit jobs growth last year -- 17 percent and 26 percent, respectively -- but these numbers actually represent a plateau as their legal markets mature. Triple-digit job growth figures are common as states come online. In Florida, when medical marijuana dispensaries opened up last year, the state added more than 9,000 pot jobs, a stunning increase of more than 700 percent.

The Sunshine State wasn't alone in seeing huge job increases last year. Nevada added more than 7,500 jobs, Pennsylvania went from 90 pot jobs to nearly 4,000, and New York nearly tripled the number of full-time positions. By year's end more than 5,000 New Yorkers worked in the industry.

This year, Leafly predicts the biggest harvest of new jobs in the industry will come in California, where hiring was flat last year because of disruptions caused by the shift from the unlicensed medical system to tightly regulated adult-use legalization. The Golden State should see 10,000 new cannabis jobs, bringing total employment to around 60,000.

Massachusetts, where the adult-use market is just getting started, is set to add some 9,500 positions, while Florida's rollout of medical marijuana should see jobs there increase by 5,000 this year, bringing the total for the state to 15,000. In Oklahoma, there were no legal marijuana jobs in 2018, but with the November 2018 victory of a medical marijuana initiative, there are more than 2,100 jobs now, which should more than double to 4,400 by year's end. Similarly, in Arkansas, where the first dispensary is set to open any day now, the number of industry positions is expected to go from 135 now to nearly a thousand before the year is up.

Now, just imagine what happens when states such as Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York manage to actually get legalization bills through the legislature. The jobs will follow in a wave that will eventually make its way to the last stubborn prohibitionist holdouts in places like South Carolina and South Dakota. The marijuana job boom isn't ending; it's just getting underway.

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

Medical Marijuana Update

A trio of federal bills dealing with veterans and medical marijuana hit some bumps, the New Hampshire Senate approves home cultivation, Texas CBD bills pass the House, and more.

National

Trump Administration Opposes Bills Easing Medical Marijuana Access for Veterans. In testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health, officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs said the agency opposes three bills aimed at easing medical marijuana access for vets. The bills are the Veterans Equal Access Act (HR 1647), the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (HR 712) and the Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act (HR 2191).

Congress Members Call on DEA to Approve More Marijuana Growers. Some 30 members of Congress have sent a letter to the Justice Department and the DEA Tuesday asking the agencies to speed the process of approving new federally authorized marijuana growers. There is currently only one authorized cultivation facility, at the University of Mississippi. Although new applications are supposed to be approved, the representatives called the process "arduous and long."

House Committee Votes on Veterans Medical Marijuana Bills Canceled. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, cancelled votes on two bills concerning medical marijuana and veterans that were set for Wednesday. He said he now plans to hold a later hearing on the legislation but gave no reason for canceling the votes or the delay.

Louisiana

Louisiana Bill Allowing Vaped Medical Marijuana Advances. A bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to vape their medicine was approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday. HB 368 would also do away with the list of qualifying conditions and allow physicians to recommend it for any debilitating medical condition. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Louisiana Bill to Ease Access to CBD Advances. A bill that would ease access to CBD products by removing low-THC hemp from the state criminal code passed the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice Wednesday. HB 138 now heads for a House floor vote.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The Senate on Thursday approved HB 364, which would allow patients to grow up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings at home. The House has already passed the bill but will have to vote again to approve amendments made in the Senate. If it does so, the bill will then head to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Texas

Texas House Passes CBD Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The House voted Monday to advance HB 1365, which would add Alzheimer's, Crohn's disease, muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism and a bevy of other illnesses to an existing state program that currently applies only to people with intractable epilepsy who meet certain requirements. The bill would also increase the number of dispensaries the state can authorize from three to 12, as well as authorizing marijuana testing facilities. The state's medical marijuana law allows only for the use of CBD. The bill still needs one final House housekeeping vote before heading to the Senate.

Texas House Passes Second CBD Medical Marijuana Bill. The House on Tuesday gave final approval to HB 3703, which would add multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spasticity to the list of debilitating conditions that qualify for cannabis oil. It passed a similar bill, HB 1365, on Monday. Both now head to the Senate.

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

Chronicle AM: Urge NC Gov to Veto Overdose Homicide Bill, Mexico Wants Out of Plan Merida, More... (5/9/19)

Congressmembers call on DEA to permit more research marijuana grows, the Denver magic mushroom initiative comes up short (or so we thought at publishing time), Mexico's president wants an end to Plan Merida and economic development help instead, and more.

Mexico wants less drug war aid, more economic development. (Borderland Beat)
Marijuana Policy

Majority of State Attorneys General Tell Congress to Pass Marijuana Banking Bill. Attorneys General from 38 states and territories have called on Congress to pass legislation that would allow marijuana businesses to gain access to the financial system. "Businesses are forced to operate on a cash basis. The resulting grey market makes it more difficult to track revenues for taxation and regulatory compliance purposes, contributes to a public safety threat as cash-intensive businesses are often targets for criminal activity, and prevents proper tracking of billions in finances across the nation," the attorneys general wrote in a letter to congressional leaders on Wednesday.

Medical Marijuana

Congress Members Call on DEA to Approve More Marijuana Growers. Some 30 members of Congress have sent a letter to the Justice Department and the DEA Tuesday asking the agencies to speed the process of approving new federally authorized marijuana growers. There is currently only one authorized cultivation facility, at the University of Mississippi. Although new applications are supposed to be approved, the representatives called the process "arduous and long."

House Committee Votes on Veterans Medical Marijuana Bills Canceled. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, cancelled votes on two bills concerning medical marijuana and veterans that were set for Wednesday. He said he now plans to hold a later hearing on the legislation but gave no reason for canceling the votes or the delay.

Texas House Passes Second CBD Medical Marijuana Bill. The House on Tuesday gave final approval to HB 3703, which would add multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spasticity to the list of debilitating conditions that qualify for cannabis oil. It passed a similar bill, HB 1365, on Monday. Both now head to the Senate.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

ONDCP Releases Report on the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released a report on the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The report "outlines the progress the Trump Administration has made to curb addiction and tackle drug demand and the opioid crisis through prevention, interdiction, and treatment." It cites an ad campaign, decreases in opioid prescribing, prosecutions of fentanyl traffickers, and an increase in access to buprenorphine, among other highlights.

Elizabeth Warren Unveils Opioid Package. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) rolled out the CARE Act on Wednesday, a $100 billion plan to fight the opioid crisis. "The ongoing opioid crisis is about health care. But it's about more than that. It's about money and power in America -- who has it, and who doesn't. And it's about who faces accountability in America -- and who doesn't," Warren wrote. "If the CARE Act becomes law, every single person would get the care they need… We should pass it -- not in two years, not after the 2020 elections -- but immediately." The measure would provide $100 billion in federal funding over the next decade, with $2.7 billion annually for what Warren described as the "hardest hit" counties and cities, including those with the highest rates of overdoses. It would also give $500 million each year to expand access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) filed a companion bill in the House.

Andrew Yang Calls for Opioid Decriminalization. Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang is calling for the decriminalization of opioids as part of his platform. "We need to decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of opioids," Yang says. "Other countries, such as Portugal, have done so, and have seen treatment go up and drug deaths and addiction go down. When caught with a small quantity of any opioid, our justice system should err on the side of providing treatment."

Psychedelics

Denver Magic Mushroom Initiative Narrowly Defeated. [Update: Last-minute mail-in ballots put the initiatve over the top by the following morning.] An initiative that would have effectively decriminalized the possession of magic mushrooms and psilocybin was defeated at the polls Tuesday. The initiative would have made the drugs law enforcement's lowest priority. It lost by a preliminary margin of 52% to 48%.

Sentencing

North Carolina Overdose Homicide Bill Goes to Governor. A bill that would make people who provide drugs to others who later overdose on them subject to murder charges has passed the legislature and is now on the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper (R). Harm reductionists are calling for the measure, HB 474, to be vetoed and urging folks to let the governor know their opposition.

International

Mexico President Wants End to Plan Merida, Economic Development Aid Instead. Mexican President Andres Lopez Manuel Obrador said Tuesday he wants the US to end the anti-drug Merida Initiative and instead invest in economic development in southern Mexico and Central America. "We want the Merida Initiative to be completely reoriented, because it hasn't worked. We don't want cooperation on the use of force, we want cooperation on economic development. We don't want the so-called Merida Initiative," Lopez Obrador told a press conference. "The proposal we're making is a development plan for southeastern Mexico and Central America. We want investment dedicated to productive activities and job creation. We don't want attack helicopters."

(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 website. 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: TX CBD Expansion Bill Advances, New Zealand to Vote on Marijuana Legalization, More... (5/7/19)

A man who has done 39 years in federal prison for pot gets out tomorrow and faces an uncertain future, Arizona activists lay plans for a 2020 legalization initiative, so does the New Zealand government, and more.

A CBD expansion bill advances in the Texas House.
Marijuana Policy

Nation's Longest-Serving Marijuana Prisoner to Be Freed Tomorrow. A Cuban national who has served more than 39 years in federal prison on marijuana trafficking charges is set to be freed Wednesday -- but then faces possible deportation. Antonio "Tony" Bascaro had been trained in aviation by the CIA as it worked with rightist Cuban exiles to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro and later turned his skills to marijuana smuggling. He's hoping his time aiding the CIA will help him avoid deportation.

Arizona 2020 Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Gearing Up. Marijuana activists are gearing up with another initiative effort after one in 2016 narrowly failed. Strategies 360, which is running the campaign, says it plans to launch signature-gathering in July. The group has a 12-month window to gather 237,645 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Texas House Passes CBD Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The House voted Monday to advance HB 1365, which would add Alzheimer's, Crohn's disease, muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism and a bevy of other illnesses to an existing state program that currently applies only to people with intractable epilepsy who meet certain requirements. The bill would also increase the number of dispensaries the state can authorize from three to 12, as well as authorizing marijuana testing facilities. The state's medical marijuana law allows only for the use of CBD. The bill still needs one final House housekeeping vote before heading to the Senate.

Sentencing

Justice Department Fights Compassionate Release of Terminally Ill Inmate Because He's Not Dying Fast Enough. A federal drug prisoner with terminal brain cancer has won early compassionate release under a provision of the First Step Act, but only after the Bureau of Prisons twice denied it and federal prosecutors argued against it. Steve Brittner, 55, who is wheelchair-bound, was diagnosed with the cancer in January 2018 and his oncologist described his prognosis as "poor," recommending he begin hospice care in November 2018. But prosecutors argued he wasn't dying fast enough to qualify for early release. "This is a very telling case," said Families Against Mandatory Minimums president Kevin Ring. "On one hand, the First Step Act's reforms to compassionate release worked as intended and this family prevailed. On the other hand, it blows my mind that the Justice Department and BOP still fought tooth and nail to keep a low-level drug offender who is dying of brain cancer and bound to a wheelchair away from his family for the final weeks of his life. They'll say they were just doing their jobs, but their job is to do justice."

International

Brazil Police Kill Eight in Rio Drug Raid as Police Killings Jump Dramatically Under Bolsonaro. At least eight people were killed Monday in a police raid aimed at drug trafficker in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. The raid triggered a massive shootout between police and suspected gang members. Police said all the dead were gang members. It's only the latest of hundreds of killings by police since Rio Governor Wilson Witzel, an ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, took over on January 1. Since then 434 people have been killed by Rio police, an 18% increase from last year and the highest figure recorded since state records began in 1998.

New Zealand to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Next Year. The three political parties that make up the country's governing coalition announced Tuesday that they had agreed on the basic elements of a binding referendum on marijuana legalization to be held during the 2020 elections. "Officials are now empowered to draft the legislation with stakeholder input, and the Electoral Commission will draft the referendum question to appear on the ballot," Justice Minister Andrew Little said.. "The voters' choice will be binding because all of the parties that make up the current Government have committed to abide by the outcome. We hope and expect the National Party will also commit to respecting the voters' decision," he said, referring to the leading opposition party that is not part of the governing coalition.

Chronicle AM: IL Governor Unveils Marijuana Legalization Bill, Mexico Ponders Drug Decrim, Legal Sales, More... (5/6/19)

Reform measures are piling up on the Colorado governor's desk, the Illinois governor rolls out a marijuana legalization bill, Denver votes on decriminalizing magic mushrooms tomorrow, and more.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador pushes forward with drug reform plans. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Governor, Legislators Announce Marijuana Legalization Bill. Gov. JB Pritzker (D) and key legislators on Saturday announced a long-awaited marijuana legalization bill and were set Monday to introduce the measure as an amendment to an already filed Senate bill. The bill would legalize the possession of up to 30 grams for state residents (15 grams for non-residents) and allow up to five plants to be grown for personal use. Taxes would be 10% on pot with less than 35% THC, 20% on all infused products, and 25% on pot with more than 35% THC. The bill contains social equity provisions, including restrictions on ownership to prevent consolidation by a small number of businesses. It also has an expungement provision.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas's First Dispensary Approved, Will Open Shortly. The Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, which regulates medical marijuana, has issued its first approval for a dispensary, Doctor's Orders RX in Hot Springs. The shop underwent final inspection last Friday and could be open for business as soon as the end of this week.

Colorado Medical Marijuana Bills Head to Governor's Desk. The legislature last week approved two medical marijuana bills and sent them to the governor. SB 19-013 would give physicians the option of recommending medical marijuana for any condition that is being treated by opioids, while SB 19-218 would allow dentists and advanced practice practitioners to recommend medical marijuana.

Hemp

Florida Legislature Approves Hemp Bill. A bill to legalize hemp production has unanimously passed both the House and Senate. SB 1020 now heads to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Psychedelics

Denver Votes on Decriminalizing Magic Mushrooms Tomorrow. Voters in the Mile High City go to the polls Tuesday to vote on Ordinance 301, the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative. If approved, the measure would make adult psilocybin possession the city's lowest law enforcement priority" and bar the city from criminally penalizing adults found in possession of the drug.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Asset Forfeiture Practices Challenged in Federal Court. Attorneys in Birmingham have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court challenging the state's asset forfeiture laws and practices. The lawsuit seeks to have the laws declared unconstitutional because it allows civil courts to determine whether the law enforcement agency involved can keep the property. It also alleges that the state fails to provide notice of a hearing, fails to hold prompt hearings, allows excessive fines, and allows police to have a direct financial interest in proceedings that could profit them.

Sentencing

Colorado Drug Defelonization Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. A bill that would turn drug possession felonies into misdemeanors won final approval in the legislature last Thursday and now heads for the desk of Gov. Jared Polis (D). HB 19-1263 would, if signed into law, make the state the sixth to defelonize drug possession since 2014.

International

Mexico President Proposes Drug Decriminalization, Legal Drug Supply Via Prescription. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has submitted to the Congress a plan to remove criminal penalties for drug possession and divert drug addicts into drug treatment programs. The plan also suggests providing drug users with a "supply of doses with prescription," indicating a form of legalization.

Chronicle AM: VA Governor Vetoes Overdose Homicide Bill, VT Legal MJ Sales Bill Advances, More... (5/3/19)

A Vermont bill to legalize recreational cannabis sales takes another step forward, a New Hampshire bill to let patients grow their own goes to the governor's desk, Virginia's governor vetoes an overdose homicide bill, and more.

Twenty states have passed overdose homicide laws. Virginia won't be next, but North Carolina might. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Lawmakers Demand End to Policy Punishing Immigrants Working in Marijuana Industry. Four Colorado US representatives have sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security asking them to end a policy that bars immigrants who work in the state-legal marijuana industry from gaining US citizenship. The US Customs and Immigration Service has ruled that working in the industry means immigrants lack the "good moral character" required for citizenship.

Vermont Recreational Sales Bill Wins First House Committee Vote. The House Committee on Government Operations voted 10-1 Thursday to approve a bill that would legalize marijuana sales in the state, SB 54. The bill would tax marijuana sales at 16% and give localities the option of adding another 2%. The bill now goes to the House Ways and Means and Appropriations committees before getting a House floor vote. The bill has already passed the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The Senate on Thursday approved HB 364, which would allow patients to grow up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings at home. The House has already passed the bill but will have to vote again to approve amendments made in the Senate. If it does so, the bill will then head to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA, Drug Distributors Team Up to Block Release of Opioid Delivery Information. The DEA and the nation's largest drug distributors worked together Thursday to block the public release of information that would show the number of opioid pain pills the companies delivered to pharmacies across the country. Lawyers for the Washington Post and two West Virginia newspapers had sued for release of the information, arguing that distributors and DEA only sought to withhold the information because it would be embarrassing for companies that shipped massive amounts of opioids to states and towns that were arguably unjustifiable, and the DEA doesn't want to explain its actions. In oral arguments in the US 6th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, judges hearing the case expressed skepticism about DEA and distributor claims, but issued no ruling.

Pharmaceutical Company Founder, Executives Found Guilty of Bribing Doctors to Prescribe Opioids. Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor and four colleagues were found guilty by a federal jury in Boston Thursday of participating in a scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe its fentanyl spray, Subsys. The bribery scheme involved retaining doctors to act as speakers at sham events that were supposedly meant to educate other doctors about the drug. They're looking at 20 years in federal prison. but maintain their innocence and plan to appeal.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill into Law. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) on Thursday signed into law a bill reforming civil asset forfeiture, HB 1286. The bill doesn't end civil forfeiture but raises the evidentiary standard for seizures from "a preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence." It also includes a proportionality test to block seizing property worth more than the criminal penalty for the offense. And it adds reporting requirements for courts, prosecutors and the attorney general.

Drug Policy

Amy Klobuchar Releases $100 Billion Proposal to Fight Drug Addiction. Democratic presidential contender and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Friday released a $100 billion policy proposal for tackling drug addiction. While short on specifics, the proposal focuses on funding prevention programs and treatment centers across the country. She also calls for bringing down the price of naloxone and curbing "doctor shopping." Klobuchar's father was an alcoholic, and that makes the issue personal for her. "The one thing I hear over and over again across the country is people’s stories of battling with mental health and addiction," she said in a statement. "People need help, but they just can't get it. I believe everyone should have the same opportunity my dad had to be pursued by grace and get the treatment and help they need." [Ed: Sometimes what's called "doctor shopping" is really pain patients whose doctors they went to are afraid to provide the prescriptions they need.]

Sentencing

North Carolina Senate Approves Homicide by Overdose Bill. The Senate voted on Thursday to approve SB 375, which would allow people who distribute a drug that results in an overdose death to be charged with murder. That means that drug users who share with friends, partners who use from the same supply of drugs, and people who sell to support a drug habit could face murder charges even when the death is an accident. The bill now heads to the House.

Virginia Governor Vetoes Homicide by Overdose Bill. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday vetoed HB 2528, which would have made it easier for state prosecutors to go after drug dealers with a felony homicide charge when users die of an overdose. "The disease of addiction has long devastated our communities," Northam said in his veto message. "While I share the goal of addressing the opioid crisis and ensuring drug dealers are punished for supplying dangerous drugs, this bill goes beyond drug dealers and would punish individuals who are themselves struggling with addiction. The way to help individuals struggling with addiction is to ensure they receive proper treatment."

(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 website. 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: Trump VA Rejects Vets' MedMJ Bills, Philippines Drug War Called Out, More... (5/2/19)

The Trump VA rejects medical marijuana bills for veterans, DC's mayor unveils a bill to allow for taxed and regulated marijuana sales, the Louisiana legislature is moving on medical marijuana issues, the Philippines is in the hotseat as global harm reductionists gather, and more.

sending a message to Duterte (Steve Forrest/HRI/Workers' Photos)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Regulators Approve Draft Changes for Onsite Consumption. The Marijuana Control Board has given initial approval to draft changes in the state's recently-approved onsite consumption regulations. The new draft would allow stores to seek an edibles-only endorsement, which would allow for onsite consumption without the business having to build a separate building for smoking marijuana.

Colorado Marijuana Delivery Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. The legislature gave final approval Wednesday to HB 19-1234, which would allow deliveries for medical marijuana patients beginning in 2020 and for recreational users beginning in 2021. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Connecticut Legislative Panel Advances Marijuana Tax Proposal. The Finance Committee voted Wednesday to approve a measure setting taxes for a system of legal, regulated marijuana commerce. The tax proposal will be merged in coming weeks with an overall bill to legalize and regulate marijuana. The General Law and Judiciary committees have previously approved legalization in bills that focused on regulatory and legal aspects.

DC Mayor Unveils Legal Marijuana Sales Bill. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Thursday announced legislation that would legalize and regulate marijuana sales in the District, potentially setting up a confrontation with the federal government. The city approved the legalization of possession and cultivation in 2014, but has been blocked from full-on legalization by a federal budget provision that bars the city from enacting or enforcing full legalization. The mayor doesn't want to wait for Congress to remove that anti-marijuana language. The bill is the Safe Cannabis Sales Act and would impose a 17% sales tax on marijuana products, allow for expanded marijuana production in the city, and would allow regulators to okay onsite consumption at pot shops and hookah lounges.

Seattle Mayor Calls for Nationwide Evaluation of Marijuana Legalization. Mayor Jenny Durkin (D) wants a nationwide review of marijuana legalization and prohibition, she said Wednesday. "We need to have a real evaluation nationwide," she said. "We need to make sure we do it in a way that decriminalizes people, doesn't have a criminal justice intervention when its not appropriate, and focus those criminal justice resources on those things that are real threats to communities," she continued. She added that states need a "unifying force" to ensure consistency in state laws.

Medical Marijuana

Trump Administration Opposes Bills Easing Medical Marijuana Access for Veterans. In testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health, officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs said the agency opposes three bills aimed at easing medical marijuana access for vets. The bills are the Veterans Equal Access Act (HR 1647), the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (HR 712) and the Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act (HR 2191).

Louisiana Bill Allowing Vaped Medical Marijuana Advances. A bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to vape their medicine was approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday. HB 368 would also do away with the list of qualifying conditions and allow physicians to recommend it for any debilitating medical condition. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Louisiana Bill to Ease Access to CBD Advances. A bill that would ease access to CBD products by removing low-THC hemp from the state criminal code passed the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice Wednesday. HB 138 now heads for a House floor vote.

Kratom

Arizona Governor Signs Kratom Regulation Bill. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Tuesday signed into law the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, HB 2550. The bill prohibits the sale of kratom to minors and creates requirements for product labels. Selling kratom products in violation of this law would be a class two misdemeanor.

International

Human Rights Advocates, Harm Reductionists Rally Against Philippine Drug War. Attendees at the 26th Harm Reduction International Conference in Porto, Portugal, gathered to send a message to the government of the Philippines: Stop the killings carried out in the country'' bloody anti-drug campaign. "The Philippine government's barbaric campaign against the drug trade is severely harming the health and security of its communities. The evidence that punitive drug policies don't work is irrefutable. People around the world have sent a clear message to the government today -- stop the killings and invest in the health and human rights of your people," Naomi Burke-Shyne, Harm Reduction International executive director, said.

Philippines Rejects Call from Ex-New Zealand Prime Minister to Decriminalize Drug Possession. The Malacanang palace on Thursday rejected a call from former New Zealand prime minister, former UN Development Program administrator, and current member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy Helen Clark for the country to decriminalize drug possession. "The suggestion of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to decriminalize the use of drugs as an alternative to the drug war, similar to the proposal by the European Union made two years ago, had already been thumbed down by the President," said a presidential spokesman. "The other countries' experiences in addressing illegal substances while educational relative to their method of solving their own drug menace, decriminalizing the use of drugs in the Philippines will not only aggravate but multiply the problem. Take out the criminal liability of those involved and you induce and encourage others to be a part of the dreaded evil," he added.

Medical Marijuana Update

No medical marijuana for South Carolina this year, a Mississippi medical marijuana initiative signature-gathering campaign is rolling along, New Hampshire could see a home grow option, and more.

Colorado

Colorado Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana Instead of Opioids Passes House. A bill that would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana in lieu of opioid pain medications passed the House Tuesday. SB 13 was approved by the Senate in February but needs to go back to the upper chamber for approval of changes made in the House before going to the office of Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Iowa

Iowa Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. As the legislative session ended Saturday, the Senate gave final approval to a medical marijuana expansion bill, HF 732. The bill removes the 3% cap on THC and replaces it with a 25-gram limit per patient every 90 days. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

Mississippi

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Signature-Gathering in Good Shape. Medical Marijuana 2020, the group behind a state medical marijuana initiative campaign, has already collected 96,000 raw signatures with months to go. The campaign needs 86,000 verified voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. The campaign will likely need to collect several tens of thousands more signatures, in order to have that many left after the inevitable disqualifications. But things appear to be on track.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Senate Committee Advances Home Grow Option. A bill that would allow medical marijuana patients and caregivers to grow some of their own medicine has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. HB 364 now heads for a Senate floor vote. The House passed a similar bill last month. The Senate bill allows up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings.

North Dakota

North Dakota Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Package. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has signed into law four bills related to the state's medical marijuana program: HB 1417 will allow greater amounts of marijuana for cancer patients; HB 1519 expands qualifying conditions to include (among others) anorexia, bulimia, and brain injury; HB 1119 provides for the removal of social security numbers from program documents and declares an emergency to do so; and HB 1283 amends parts of the written certification requirements.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Implementation Bill Advances. A key piece of legislation that sets the framework for municipal enforcement of the state's medical marijuana laws has passed the House on the final day for non-appropriations bills to pass. SB 1030, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) instructs police on how to handle drivers in possession of marijuana without their medical marijuana licenses and sets limits on local zoning laws. The bill also cuts the state excise tax from 7% to 6% and lowers the state sales tax from 4.5% to 1% to give room for local governments to add their own taxes.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Pushed to Next Year After Flurry of Late Amendments. The Compassionate Care Act, SB 366, is being pushed to next year, the second year of the legislative session, after the Senate Medical Affairs Committee was swamped with a deluge of last-minute amendments, including one that would that would drop herbal marijuana from the bill, instead allowing only oils and creams. "We're in the first year of a two-year process," said bill sponsor Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort). "We have a comprehensive amendment that addresses a lot of concerns that people have expressed. Time is on our side here."

Utah

Utah Will Limit Number of Growers at Ten. Regulators announced last Friday that they will only allow ten growers to be licensed to produce medical marijuana. Each grower will be limited to growing no more than four acres outside or 100,000 square feet indoors. Dispensaries are set to open in the state nest year.

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

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An NYPD narc gets busted for lying to create drug cases, a former Philadelphia cop heads to prison in a scheme that also saw eight Baltimore cops jailed for drug stealing and dealing, and more.

In New York City, a former NYPD narcotics detective was arrested last Wednesday for making false statements in court and in court documents that resulted in multiple unlawful arrests. Joseph Franco, who was assigned to Manhattan South Narcotics Division, allegedly lied during at least three arrests for drug crimes in 2017 and 2018. Three innocent men pleaded guilty in those crimes, and two of them went to prison. The Manhattan DA's Office has since moved to vacate those convictions. Franco is charged with perjury, offering a false instrument for filing, and official misconduct.

In Baltimore, a former Philadelphia police officer was sentenced last Friday to nine years in federal prison for conspiring with officers in Baltimore to sell cocaine and heroin seized on that city's streets. Eric Troy Snell, 34, was paid thousands of dollars to serve as a conduit between crooked Baltimore cops and his brother, who sold the drugs in Philadelphia. He had pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs after one of the Baltimore cops testified against him. In all, eight Baltimore cops involved with the Gun Trace Task Force, including two commanding sergeants, have been convicted and imprisoned in the case.

In Atlanta, a former state prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for trying to smuggle meth into the facility. Mark Edward Jeffery, 34, tried to sneak the drugs in through his beverage container last year, but the drugs were found during a search. He copped to one count of possession with intent to distribute in February.

Chronicle AM: TX GOPers Pronounce Pot Decrim Bill Dead, Oakland Psychedelic Resolution Coming, More... (5/1/19)

Texas Republican leaders move to squash a cannabis decriminalization bill, the Oakland city council will consider a resolution to effectively decriminalize the use and possession of psychedelics, global NGOs use the International Harm Reduction Conference to launch a call for human rights, health, and drug decriminalization, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Key Senator Won't Commit to Considering Marijuana Banking Bill. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, said Tuesday he would not commit to the SAFE Banking Act, which would provide protections for banks and other financial institutions doing business with state-legal marijuana businesses. The bill is moving in the House, where a floor vote is expected by next month.

Texas Republicans Announce They Are Killing Decriminalization Bill. A day after the House passed HB 63, which would end the possibility of jail time for the possession of small amounts of marijuana but keep possession as a misdemeanor, key Republicans pronounced the bill dead. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chair John Whitmire (R) told reporters there was not "an appetite" for reform in the Senate, and Senate President and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) flatly declared the bill was dead.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana Instead of Opioids Passes House. A bill that would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana in lieu of opioid pain medications passed the House Tuesday. SB 13 was approved by the Senate in February but needs to go back to the upper chamber for approval of changes made in the House before going to the office of Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Psychedelics

Oakland Could See City Council Take up Resolution of Psychedelics This Summer. Activists with the Decriminalize Nature campaign say they have found a city council sponsor for a resolution that would bar city police and other officials from participating "in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of "psychedelic drugs. The group says it has already met with the offices of four of the eight council members, with more meetings scheduled for coming weeks. Councilmember Noel Gallo (D) has agreed to sponsor the resolution.

International

NGOs Call for Harm Reduction, Drug Decriminalization. More than 300 non-governmental organizations have used the 26th International Harm Reduction Conference in Portugal to call on the international community to address the ongoing global health and human rights crisis among drug users. In a sign-on letter released Wednesday, the groups called for reconsideration of the role of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), given its law enforcement approach and its lagging behind other UN agencies in embracing harm reduction. They also called for national governments to embrace increased harm reduction interventions, the inclusion of communities and civil society in drug policy decisions, "proportionate" sentencing for all drug offenses, and the decriminalization of drug use and possession of personal use amounts of drugs.

Chronicle AM: TX House Approves No Jail for Pot, HI Bill to End Civil Forfeiture Goes to Governor, More... (4/30/19)

There's too much pot in Oregon and the Senate is doing something about it, the Texas House passes a quasi-decrim bill, a study of an underground American safe injection site finds good things, and more.

The InSite safe injection site in Vancouver. An underground American SIJ is producing good results, a study finds. (vch.ca)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Senate Approves Temporary Freeze on Marijuana Production. Faced with chronic oversupply of marijuana from licensed growers, the Senate on Monday approved SB 218, which would freeze marijuana production at current levels for the next two years. While the state will not issue new licenses to growers, current growers will be able to renew their licenses. The bill now heads to the House.

Texas House Approves Quasi-Decriminalization Bill. The House on Monday voted 98-43 to approve HB 63, which would remove the threat of jail time for people caught with an ounce of marijuana or less. Under the bill, such people would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor but face a fine of $500 instead of arrest and jail time. Bill sponsor Joe Moody (D) had originally had small-time possession as an infraction but restored it to misdemeanor status in a bid to win votes. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Baltimore Judges Deny State's Attorney's Request to Dismiss Thousands of Marijuana Convictions. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced in January plans to throw out nearly 5,000 marijuana possession convictions, but has been thwarted by rulings last Friday by two city judges. The jurists held that Mosby's order failed to show how those convicted faced significant collateral consequences and that the request amounted to a "blatant conflict" because Mosby represents the state. The judges also criticized Mosby for having earlier asked police to crack down on drug dealers and users in West Baltimore. Mosby said she is planning her next moves.

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Legislature Approves Ban on Civil Asset Forfeiture. A bill that would end civil asset forfeiture in the state won final approval last Friday and has been sent to the desk of Gov. David Ige (D). HB 748 would allow asset forfeiture only in felony cases where the owner has already been convicted of a criminal charge.

Harm Reduction

Secret American Safe Injection Site Saved Lives, Study Says. There are no officially permitted legal safe injection sites operating in the US, but one underground site has seen some 9,000 injections and 26 overdose events reversed by naloxone, according to research presented at the 26th International Harm Reduction Conference in Portugal. There were no fatal overdoses at the site. "My hope as a scientist is that we can really try them in the US, that we could perhaps pilot a larger scale operation that we can pilot and evaluate," said Dr. Barrot Lambdin, who presented the results. "We're seeing data from the site that is very positive."

Chronicle AM: Houston Drug Cases Dismissed as Scandal Grows, WA Hemp Bill Becomes Law, More... (4/29/19)

A fatal botched drug raid continues to reverberate in Houston, hemp bills advance in Louisiana and Washington, North Dakota legislators vote to lower penalties for marijuana possession, and more.

Small amounts of marijuana would be effectively decriminalized under a bill that passed the North Dakota legislature. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Regulators Approve Home Deliveries. The state Cannabis Control Commission voted 4-1 last Friday to give preliminary approval for home delivery of marijuana. Under the plan, for the first two years, delivery businesses would be limited to social equity and economic empowerment applicants -- those who are from areas of the state that were disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement and criminalization.

North Dakota Legislature Lowers Penalties for Possession. On the last day of the legislative session last Friday, lawmakers approved HB 1050, which would make possession of up to a half ounce an infraction, which requires a court appearance but no jail time. Possession of up to 500 grams would be a Class B misdemeanor, while possession of more than 500 grams would be a Class A misdemeanor. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Doug Burgum (R).

Medical Marijuana

Iowa Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. As the legislative session ended Saturday, the Senate gave final approval to a medical marijuana expansion bill, HF 732. The bill removes the 3% cap on THC and replaces it with a 25-gram limit per patient every 90 days. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

Utah Will Limit Number of Growers to Ten. Regulators announced last Friday that they will only allow 10 growers to be licensed to produce medical marijuana. Each grower will be limited to growing no more than four acres outside or 100,000 square feet indoors. Dispensaries are set to open in the state next year.

Hemp

Louisiana Hemp Bill Advances. A bill that would let farmers in the state grow industrial hemp was unanimously approved last Thursday by the House Agriculture Committee. HB 491 now heads for a House floor vote.

Washington Hemp Bill Signed into Law. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) last Friday signed into law SB 5276, which will establish a licensing and regulatory program to allow hemp production in the state.

Law Enforcement

Houston Drug Cases Linked to Officers in Botched Fatal Drug Raid Dismissed. The Harris County DA is dismissing dozens of drug cases involving former Houston Police narcotics officers Steven Bryant and Gerald Goines. The pair are under investigation for lying about the circumstances of a January drug raid that left a Houston couple dead and five officers injured. Last Friday, prosecutors sought dismissal of more than two dozen criminal cases in addition to another five dismissed earlier. Goines is accused of lying about an informant buying heroin at the house raided. After homeowner Dennis Tuttle and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, were killed, police found only personal use amounts of marijuana and cocaine.

Marijuana With a Mission: Brother David's Quest to Turn the Cannabis Industry Truly Green and Good [FEATURE]

With the advent of legalization, the marijuana cultivation industry is being transformed -- and not always for the better. What was once an illicit lifestyle with mom and pop growers hiding in the hills and playing cat and mouse games with prohibition enforcers is now a legal, above-board economic sector that increasingly resembles industrial agriculture, complete with massive indoor grows the size of football fields that gobble up energy, suck up water, and require large inputs of nutrients and pesticides.

sun-grown cannabis mixed with other crops on a northern California farm (Brother David's)
These sorts of practices are not exactly environmentally-friendly and they turn a blind eye to the climate change crisis that is already having an impact in this country, whether it's ever-more-drenching downpours during hurricanes, more frequent and intense tornados, shorelines inundated by rising sea levels, or -- closer to home for the legal marijuana industry -- drought and forest fires in California and the Pacific Northwest.

Now, some stalwarts of environmental and drug reform activism are partnering with one of California's most environmentally and socially-conscious cannabis distributors to try to tip the industry and marijuana consumers toward embracing ecologically-aware best practices that protect family farms, produce highest-quality product at competitive prices, and are good for the planet.

David Bronner, grandson of the founder of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and the company's CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer), is joining forces with small, sun-grown farmer champion and sustainable cannabis supply chain company Flow Kana to create Brother David's, a nonprofit marijuana company for consumers who value where their weed was grown and care about how it was produced. The venture will also promote a "beyond organic" Sun + Earth certification that all its products will carry.

Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, pot farmers who wish to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable, environmentally-sound organic agriculture practices cannot avail themselves of the label "organic," which is a federal program operated by the US Department of Agriculture. Sun + Earth certification seeks to fill that gap, and then some.

The Sun + Earth label "certifies that cannabis brands are holistically, responsibly, and regeneratively grown for the well-being of all people, farmers, and the planet," the group's web site explains. "We set the standard above and beyond organic." As seen in draft standards released for public comment last August, compliance with standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements is just the beginning. The standards go above and beyond organic by promoting biodiversity and preserving ecosystem health, water conservation, carbon sequestration, growing plants in natural light only, and promoting soil conservation, among other requirements.

Such standards are wholly in line with the cutting edge save-the-planet practices now known as regenerative agriculture, which its practitioners define as following: "Regenerative Agriculture aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming and ranching communities."

That's exactly what Bronner and Flow Kana want to create in the marijuana industry.

Brother David Bronner (courtesy Brother David's)
"The problem with cannabis production now is the same as with industrial agriculture in general," Bronner said in a phone interview last week. "Now that we're post-prohibition, we have all the same problems as every legal commodity crop. We're seeing huge, indoor corporate grows that rely on chemicals and are energy-intensive and are displacing small farmers. There's a way we should be growing our crops that is regenerative, that builds top soil and creates biodiverse habitat for wildlife -- not dumping huge amounts of pesticides and fertilizers on the land and forcing farmers off the land to work for slave wages."

Flow Kana has the pot farmers Brother David's is looking for. Dedicated to creating the first sun-grown cannabis brand while supporting the state's small, independent marijuana farming ecosystem, the company has partnered with more than 200 Northern California growers using organic farming practices. Not every Flow Kana partner farmer is Sun + Earth certified, but every partner farmer whose product is destined for Brother David's is.

"It took us awhile to find Flow Kana," Bronner noted. "We didn't know of any distribution entity of any size that wasn't trying to integrate with massive grows. But there is a real cool family at the heart of the company; they have really good ethics about partnering with farmers, they're very transparent, and their top farms are all totally regenerative organic. These are multigenerational back-to-the-land farmers who've been growing cannabis alongside vegetables for decades."

"The Emerald Triangle's ecosystem of small farms is a rare one that regenerative pioneers like Dr. Bronner's have spent decades creating in their supply chain. The cannabis industry already has this and we have to fight to preserve it from the ways of industrial agriculture," said Michael Steinmetz, Flow Kana CEO. "This movement is not only about saving these environmental and community values but making this decentralized model of agriculture the gold standard for others to follow across the cannabis industry and beyond. This fight requires everyone's involvement and careful collaboration across many operators, distributors, retailers, and brands working in tandem to preserve, protect, and evolve our industry and world."

Veteran Washington, DC activist Adam Eidinger, who organized the District's successful 2014 marijuana legalization initiative, is a longtime Bronner ally who describes himself as "a missionary" for Brother David's. He accompanied Bronner on Emerald Triangle scouting trips looking for the right farms.

"We visited all the farms," he recalled in a phone interview. "They're all advocate farms. They've been in the space since before it was legal, some of them 30 or 40 years. These are well-established, multigeneration cannabis farmers. But they're also farms that can grow their own nutrients on-site, they usually also have livestock, veggies, greens, perennials, maybe 40 crops on a small amount of land. And no-till agriculture. You end up losing a lot of topsoil every time you till," he added.

"Brother David's is an activist brand," Eidinger emphasized. "This is people who have consistently been fighting for reform for 20 years, and we're jumping in now, kind of late, because we want to identify cannabis that consumers can trust and we want to support regenerative organic farmers, small-scale producers who have transitioned to the legal market. With this brand, consumers can put their money where it will do the most good."

That's because Brother David's is not only operating under agricultural best practices, it's operating as a nonprofit, with all net proceeds going to support regenerative ag and drug and criminal justice reform efforts.

"Brother David's is dedicating 100% of net profits, and a big chunk of that will go to drug policy reform groups, and not just cannabis reform," Eidinger explained. "David committed $5 million to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) through Dr Bronner's, but there is still more need with more studies and initiatives. Some of the money will go to criminal justice reform in general, not necessarily about drugs, things like prisoner reentry and sentencing reform. If this takes off, we can do more for the community, and that's the mission. Other companies' mission is to make money."

"The cannabis legalization movement has achieved significant victories in the last 20 years. Now, we need to advance consumer and environmental interests by implementing regenerative organic agriculture in the cannabis industry," said Bronner. "As society moves closer and closer toward the federal legalization of cannabis, we need to chart a new course before it's too late. We need to promote Sun + Earth and other high bar standards -- because it's best for the Earth in this age of climate crisis, and produces the cleanest, greenest and most ethical cannabis possible."

Brother David's is rolling out beginning in May in select California dispensaries. It will offer nine strains from eight different Sun + Earth certified farms partnering with Flow Kana. The strains are priced to compete in the mid-price premium market. For pot people who want to do their share to save the planet, it's time to get woke and bake with Brother D.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org, the publisher of this newsletter.

Chronicle AM: VT Legal Sales Compromise Broached, MI Forfeiture Reform Passes, More... (4/26/19)

Vermont could yet end up with a regulated marijuana market, Iowa gets ready to grow some hemp, asset forfeiture reform advances in Michigan and North Dakota, and more.

Iowa is about to become the next state to legalize industrial hemp. Only seven states have failed to do so. (votehemp.org)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Democrats Could Compromise on Driver Saliva Testing to Get Legal Sales Bill Passed. Gov. Phil Scott (R) said last week that he would not sign a bill to create a regulated legal marijuana market unless it included saliva testing of drivers, and now Democratic legislative leaders are signaling that they may support the testing, but only if police officers are required to obtain a search warrant before doing the testing. "I don't see any way the Senate would support saliva testing without a search warrant," said Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and cosponsor of the bill, SB 54.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Committee Advances Home Grow Option. A bill that would allow medical marijuana patients and caregivers to grow some of their own medicine has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. HB 364 now heads for a Senate floor vote. The House passed a similar bill last month. The Senate bill allows up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings.

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Implementation Bill Advances. A key piece of legislation that sets the framework for municipal enforcement of the state's medical marijuana laws has passed the House on the final day for non-appropriations bills to pass. Senate Bill 1030, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) instructs police on how to handle drivers in possession of marijuana without their medical marijuana licenses and sets limits on local zoning laws. The bill also cuts the state excise tax from 7% to 6% and lowers the state sales tax from 4.5% to 1% to give room for local governments to add their own taxes.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Pushed to Next Year After Flurry of Late Amendments. The Compassionate Care Act, SB 366, is being pushed to next year, the second year of the legislative session, after the Senate Medical Affairs Committee was swamped with a deluge of last-minute amendments, including one that would that would drop herbal marijuana from the bill, instead allowing only oils and creams. "We're in the first year of a two-year process," said bill sponsor Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort). "We have a comprehensive amendment that addresses a lot of concerns that people have expressed. Time is on our side here."

Hemp

Iowa Hemp Bill Passes, Heads for Governor's Desk. The House on Thursday gave final approval for a bill to legalize industrial hemp farming, HF 781. A companion measure has already passed the Senate. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Poll Examines Public Attitudes Over Opioid Epidemic. A new NPR/Ipsos poll examining American attitudes toward the opioid crisis has a slight majority (56%) saying pharmaceutical companies should be held responsible for making the opioid crisis worse, and nearly three-quarters said drug companies should help fund opioid addiction treatment (73%) and distribute naloxone kits (72%). A strong majority (71%) said they were willing to have the government intervene to restrict opioid redistribution, while 66% said they supported more widespread distribution of naloxone. More than one in three (35%) said they had been personally affected, while nearly a quarter (23%) said they knew someone who had overdosed. The survey is not reported to have asked about pain patients' problems with accessing opioid medications.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Bills to End Most Civil Asset Forfeiture Pass Legislature. A trio of bills that would end most civil asset forfeiture in the state has passed both houses of the legislature and is now headed for the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who has signaled she will sign the bills into law. The bills require a criminal conviction before police can keep assets worth less than $50,000 seized in connection with a crime.

North Dakota Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes House Over Sponsor's Objections. The House on Friday approved HB 1286, which reforms the state's asset forfeiture laws, but only after diluting it to such a degree that the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck), ended up voting against it. The bill would require a higher evidentiary standard of clear and convincing evidence for forfeiture, and it includes a provision to not forfeit property worth more than the associated criminal penalty. But it also allows seizure of property if there is evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" of the property's criminal involvement. "It's very, very confusing. It's a very odd loophole," Becker said of the latter exception. "It's putting a criminal proceeding standard into a civil proceeding with no trial."He also criticized the bill's reporting requirements as too weak. "I'm looking at the words in front of me," Becker said. "We had such good opportunity for real reform, and I'm happy to come back in two years and try again."

Chronicle AM: MS MedMJ Petitioning On Track, Kamala Harris on Pardons for Drug Prisoners, More... (4/25/19)

Texas decriminalization gets walked back a step, a Mississippi medical marijuana initiative already has lots and lots of signatures, Kamala Harris talks pardons for drug war prisoners, and more.

The Texas decriminalization bill just became a misdemeanor and expungment bill.
Marijuana Policy

Texas Decriminalization Bill Modified to Not Quite Decriminalization. Ahead of House floor debate set for today, Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), the author of the decriminalization bill, HB 63, has rewritten the measure so that possession of an ounce or less remains a misdemeanor, but with a near automatic expungement of any criminal record if the person completes probation. "Without leaving some criminal component in it, I probably couldn't get the bill through the process and across the governor's desk," Moody said. "I didn't want to come this far and make perfect the enemy of good."

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Signature-Gathering in Good Shape. Medical Marijuana 2020, the group behind a state medical marijuana initiative campaign, has already collected 96,000 raw signatures with months to go. The campaign needs 86,000 verified voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. The campaign will likely need to collect several tens of thousands more signatures, in order to have that many left after the inevitable disqualifications. But things appear to be on track.

North Dakota Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Package. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has signed into law four bills related to the state's medical marijuana program: HB 1417 will allow greater amounts of marijuana for cancer patients; HB 1519 expands qualifying conditions to include (among others) anorexia, bulimia, and brain injury; HB 1119 provides for the removal of social security numbers from program documents and declares an emergency to do so; and HB 1283 amends parts of the written certification requirements.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Defends Administration Opioid Policy. Addressing the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta Wednesday, President Trump said his administration had made "tremendous progress" on the issue in the face of critics who argue that the drug czar's office (ONDCP) has done little to combat the crisis and that a law passed last year did not adequately fund drug treatment.

Pardons and Commutations

Kamala Harris Says She Will Pardon Low-Level Drug Prisoners If Elected. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said Wednesday she would pardon low-level drug prisoners if she becomes president. "Absolutely," she said when asked about using the power of commutation. "We have to have the courage to recognize that there are a lot of folks who have been incarcerated who should not have been incarcerated and are still in prison because they were convicted under draconian laws that have incarcerated them… for what is essentially a public health issue." Her remarks came at a She the People town hall in Houston.

(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 website. 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.)

With Marijuana Policy and Democratic Presidential Candidates, Joe Biden is the Odd Man Out

The ever-swelling field of Democratic presidential contenders has plenty of things to disagree about and plenty of issues where candidates can try to set themselves apart from the pack. But on the issue of marijuana policy, support for some form of marijuana legalization is almost universal.

Joe Biden's drug warrior past may come back to haunt him. (Creative Commons)
With one glaring exception: Joe Biden. The former vice-president already leads the polls even though he has not formally announced -- that is expected to happen this week -- but his history as a drug warrior and his last-century attitudes toward marijuana may well be a drag on his effort to reinvent himself as a 21st Century Democrat.

Since the last time Biden ran for elective office in 2012, the marijuana policy terrain has undergone a seismic shift. The first two states to legalize marijuana did on the night of Biden's reelection as Obama's vice-president. Now, there are 10 legal states, as well as Washington, DC, and two US territories. Two or three more states could still join those ranks this year.

And public opinion has shifted dramatically as well. A CBS poll released last week had support for legalization at 65%, an all-time high for that poll and in line with other recent poll results on the topic. The Democratic field can read poll numbers, and that's evident from the positions they are staking out.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was first out of the gate on legalization, filing the Senate's first-ever legalization bill in 2015 and making it a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign rhetoric. Sanders has also signed onto New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker's Marijuana Justice Act, reintroduced in February, and he's not the only contender to do so. Also supporting the bill are Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Warren also sponsored the STATES Act, which would block the federal government from interfering with state-legal marijuana programs. One of her cosponsors is yet another Democratic contender, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar also told the Washington Post recently that she is down with legalization.

Two House members seeking the nomination, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Tim Ryan of Ohio, have signed onto the Marijuana Justice Act's House companion bill, while Gabbard and another contender, California Rep. Eric Swalwell are cosponsors of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. That bill would reclassify marijuana at the federal level and protect cannabis commerce in states that have legalized it.

Beto O'Rourke isn't in Congress anymore, but he has a strong drug and marijuana policy history going back to his days on the El Paso city council a decade ago. While he was in Congress, he supported bills that aimed at protecting legal states from federal intervention and just plain ending federal marijuana prohibition. Since announcing his presidential bid, O'Rourke has again called for the end of federal marijuana prohibition.

John Delaney isn't in Congress anymore, either, but when the Maryland Democrat was there, he cosponsored a number of marijuana reform bills, including the 2013 Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. In March, Delaney told a CNN Town Hall that marijuana should be reclassified at the federal level.

Among contenders who aren't current or former senators or congresspeople, support for marijuana legalization is just as strong. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has said that marijuana legalization is "an idea whose time has come," while former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro is calling for legalization and expungement of arrest records, and political newcomer Andrew Yang had made legalization part of his platform.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, whose state was among the first to legalize it, told CBS News Radio it was time for the rest of the nation to follow. He has also announced plans to pardon thousands of people for their misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose state beat Washington to the punch by a matter of hours, didn't support legalization at home in 2012 and isn't quite ready to end federal prohibition now, telling a CNN Town Hall in March that he would instead support leaving it up to the states.

And then there's Biden. He has a terrible record on marijuana and drug policy going back to his days as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. His signature piece of crime legislation, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, established the notorious 100:1 weight disparity in sentencing crack and powder cocaine offenders, along with numerous other policy ills, sending a generation of black men to prison for years for amounts of the drug that could be contained in a cigarette pack. It took five grams of crack to generate a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, but 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn the same amount of time.

The provision itself wasn't Biden's brainchild, and former Biden aides told the New York Times he wasn't for the mandatory minimums. But neither did he didn't stop the provision from getting included in the bill. Biden did push for reform of the provision, and other criminal justice reforms like reentry, since at least 2007, according to the Times.

Biden has admitted he "hasn't always been right" about drug policy -- and he's certainly right about that. Besides pushing through draconian crime bills, he also takes credit for dreaming up the notion of a "drug czar," and he worked for years with the Reagan administration to turn that dream into fact. In 1989, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) came into being. Sometimes the ONDCP has been a vehicle for positive if incremental reforms, At other times, though it's been used for propagandizing, and for government-sponsored campaigning against legalization efforts.

While former drug czars Barry McCaffery, Lee Brown and others talked about relying less on incarceration, under William Bennett the ONDCP pushed for more arrests, more prisons, and more federal funding for the war on drugs. It did more than that, and Biden helped there, too. During the 1996 reauthorization of ONDCP, Biden voted for a bill that basically required the drug czar to block any studies of marijuana legalization and "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of such substance (in any form)." That is, Biden supported requiring the drug czar to lie by law if there are any benefits of marijuana legalization.

If the office has sometimes been a counterweight to straight law enforcement voices in DOJ, it hasn't always helped the agenda of shifting drug policy toward public health. When the Clinton administration was considering lifting a ban on the use of federal AIDS grant funds given to states to support syringe exchange programs, McCaffrey opposed it, despite overwhelming scientific evidence -- advocates believe that if Donna Shalala had gotten on a certain Air Force One flight, instead of McCaffrey, the ban would have been lifted then.

Other than criminal justice reform, Biden has not had much to say about drugs or marijuana lately -- perhaps realize how out of step he's become. But what little he has said doesn't indicate that he's come around on marijuana policy.

In remarks on marijuana legalization, in a 2010 ABC News interview, he promoted the debunked "gateway theory" that smoking pot lead inexorably to the needle, saying: "There's a difference between sending to jail for a few ounces and legalizing it. The punishment should fit the crime. But I think legalization is a mistake. I still believe it is a gateway drug."

Four years later, and just weeks after President Obama said that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, Biden still wasn't ready to go any further: "I think the idea of focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people is a waste of resources," he told Time magazine. "That's different than legalization. Our policy for our administration is still not legalization, and that is and continues to be our policy."

It's now been five years since Biden took that stance, and a lot has changed. The question is whether Biden has changed -- or whether he can. And whether he can overcome his drug warrior past in the Democratic Party of 2020.

(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 website. 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.)

Medical Marijuana Update

The action is all down South this week as Arkansas vows to reissue medical marijuana cards, a Texas medical marijuana bill heads to the House floor, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Tuesday to approve HB 243, the CARE Act, which would create the Alabama Cannabis Commission, establish a patient registry system, and extend an earlier law that allowed the University of Alabama-Birmingham to study the effects of CBD on epileptic patients. This bill would allow for the use of medical marijuana, not just CBD.

Arkansas

Arkansas to Reissue Medical Marijuana Cards. The state Department of Health said it will automatically reissue its year-long medical marijuana cards to qualifying patients who have received them in the months before the drug could be sold. The cards will be sent to patients and caregivers when the first dispensary opens so they can be used for the full year term.

Texas

Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Heads to House Floor. A bill that would add over a dozen conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana, HR 1365, is heading for a House floor vote after passing its last committee hurdle on Wednesday. The bill would add cancer, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Tourette syndrome, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis to the list of qualifying conditions.

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

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Prison guards go wild, a Customs and Border Protection agent heads for federal prison, and more. Let's get to it:

In Ridgeland, South Carolina, a state prison case worker was arrested last Wednesday after being caught trying to smuggle drugs into the prison in a paper bag. Steven Allen Washington got nailed carrying nearly four pounds of marijuana, 262 doses of ecstasy, 30 grams of meth, and nine grams of cocaine. He is charged with manufacturing and possession of drugs with intent to distribute, trafficking in more than 100 doses of ecstasy, trafficking in more than 28 grams of meth, possession of cocaine and attempting to furnish contraband to a prisoner.

In Charleston, West Virginia, a state prison guard was arrested last Friday for plotting to smuggle meth into the South Central Regional Jail. Guard John Roach II went down in a sting where an undercover agent provided him with four ounces of meth and money to smuggle the drugs into the jail. He is charged with delivery of a controlled substance.

In Millbrook, Alabama, two state prison guards were arrested Monday in unrelated cases. Guard Darryl Jerome Bradley, 25, was charged with promoting prison contraband and unlawful possession of marijuana. Following his arrest, Bradley resigned from his position. Meanwhile, Guard Wiggins Washington, 50, was arrested at a local business and charged with methamphetamine trafficking. Washington also faces additional federal charges for being in possession of a firearm at the time of his arrest.

In Los Angeles, a Customs and Border Protection officer was sentenced Monday to 151 months in federal prison for helping to move hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from Southern California to Chicago as part of a drug trafficking ring. Manuel Porras Salas, 52, had been found guilty in December of one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of making false statements to law enforcement.

Chronicle AM: Bill to Cut CA Marijuana Tax Advances, Prison Population Continues to Decline, More... (4/24/19)

A bill to cut California marijuana taxes is moving, a New Hampshire legalization bill gets a hearing, the US prison population continues a decade-long decline, and more.

The Golden State is looking to cut marijuana taxes in a bid to boost the legal market. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Federal Bill Would Seal Records of Old Marijuana Convictions. Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) have filed the Clean Slate Act, which would automatically seal federal criminal records for marijuana convictions. It also contains a provision that would allow people to ask federal courts to seal records for other nonviolent offenses that aren't automatically sealed, such as those involving other drugs. The bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

California Bill to Cut Marijuana Tax Advances. A bill that would temporarily suspend the marijuana cultivation tax in a bid to boost the legal market has been approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, but only after a provision that would have reduced excise taxes was removed to satisfy the committee chair. AB 286 now heads for the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the last stop before an Assembly floor vote.

Maine Releases New Draft Rules For Recreational Marijuana Market. State regulators have released new draft rules for the legal marijuana program approved by voters two years ago. The draft contains proposals for how the market will be monitored, regulated, and launched by the Office of Marijuana Policy.

New Hampshire Legalization Bill Gets Hearing. A legalization bill, HB 481, got a Senate committee hearing Tuesday. The bill would legalize possession and cultivation by adults as well as set up a commission to develop regulations for a legal marijuana market. The bill has already passed the House, but faces a veto threat by Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Tuesday to approve HB 243, the CARE Act, which would create the Alabama Cannabis Commission, establish a patient registry system, and extend an earlier law that allowed the University of Alabama-Birmingham to study the effects of CBD on epileptic patients. This bill would allow for the use of medical marijuana, not just CBD.

Arkansas to Reissue Medical Marijuana Cards. The state Department of Health said it will automatically reissue its year-long medical marijuana cards to qualifying patients who have received them in the months before the drug could be sold. The cards will be sent to patients and caregivers when the first dispensary opens so they can be used for the full year term.

Hemp

Texas House Approves Hemp Bill. The House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to HB 1325, which would allow farmers in the state to legally grow industrial hemp. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Sentencing

Number of Federal, State Prisoners Continue to Decrease. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released prisoner numbers for the end of 2017 and finds that the number of inmates under state and federal jurisdiction dropped 2.1% from 2016 to 2017. That continues a decade-long trend that has seen prison populations decrease 13% since 2007. Drug offenders constitute 48% of federal inmates, but only about 20% of state inmates.

Missouri Omnibus Sentencing and Criminal Justice Reform Bill Advances. A bill that would reform mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders, reform civil asset forfeiture, reform racial profiling statutes, and more has passed the House Fiscal Review Committee. HCB 2 now heads for a House floor vote.

New York And Pennsylvania Will No Longer Suspend Driver's Licenses Over Drug Crimes. With new laws going into effect this month, Pennsylvania and New York will no longer suspend drivers licenses of people convicted of drug crimes. Before this, any drug conviction, even if it had nothing to do with driving, triggered a mandatory license suspension of at least six months.

International

British Columbia's Top Doctor Calls for Drug Decriminalization. In a report released Wednesday, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has proposed decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use in a bid to reduce the harms caused by the province's ongoing overdose crisis. "As the Provincial Health Officer of BC, I recommend that the Province of BC urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use," Henry said. "This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC." The report is Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of People Who Use Drugs in BC.

DHS Considers Classifying Fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction [FEATURE]

The military affairs and news web site Task & Purpose has obtained an internal memo from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that shows the agency is considering designating the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) "when certain criteria are met."

fentanyl (Creative Commons)
Typically produced in China and then smuggled through Mexico or sent directly to the US via package delivery services, fentanyl has been implicated in tens of thousands of drug overdose deaths in recent years. The drug is doubly dangerous because not only is it dozens of times stronger than heroin, it is all too often mixed in with other drugs so that consumers ingest it unwittingly.

The memo obtained by Task & Purpose was dated February 22, 2019 and titled "Use of counter-WMD authorities to combat fentanyl." It was prepared for then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen by DHS Assistant Secretary for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction James F. McConnell, who sketched the background of the drug and noted how some members of the federal government see it as a potential "mass casualty weapon."

McConnell is a long-time homeland security official who has led the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office since he was appointed by President Trump in May 2018.

"Fentanyl's high toxicity and increasing availability are attractive to threat actors seeking nonconventional materials for a chemical weapons attack," he wrote. "In July 2018, the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate assessed that '...fentanyl is very likely a viable option for a chemical weapon attack by extremists or criminals'," he wrote.

But other parts of the memo suggest DHS is considering the move not only as part of a war on fentanyl but as a means of obtaining more funding for the agency's WMD activities. Indeed, funding for the counter-WMD program has declined under Trump, whose homeland security priorities are focused on the US-Mexico border, despite crime rates at the border being lower than in other parts of the country.

"[Counter-WMD] Office efforts will focus on quantities and configurations that could be used as mass casualty weapons," McDonnell wrote as he tried to sell the idea. "However, many activities, such as support to fentanyl interdiction and detection efforts, would tangentially benefit broader DHS and interagency counter-opioid efforts. Within the past couple years, there has been a reinvigorated interest in addressing fentanyl and its analogues as WMD materials due to the ongoing opioid crisis," he added.

The Counter-WMD office could help in the fight against fentanyl by developing and managing new technologies, deploying sensors, and helping other agencies in the field, McDonnell told Nielsen. He also claimed that senior Defense Department leaders "had proposed formally designating fentanyl as a WMD material."

Neither the Defense Department nor DHS would comment to Task & Purpose on the report, but members of the counter-WMD community contacted by the web site reacted with bemusement and skepticism.

Fentanyl as a WMD is a "fringe scenario," chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense expert Dan Kaszeta reacted. There are "literally dozens" of toxic chemicals that could be easily weaponized, he said.

"This is like declaring ecstasy as a WMD," said another member of the Defense Department's counter-WMD team speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It reads like somebody is laying the administrative background for trying to tap into pots of money for detecting WMD and decontaminating WMD," Kaszeta told Task & Purpose. "It's an interdepartmental play for money, that's all it is."

But McConnell is planning to move ahead. In the memo, he said his office would continue to brief DHS on fentanyl-related counter-WMD efforts and would schedule an interagency planning event on fentanyl.

An unnamed senior Defense official told Task & Purpose that while such a meeting was probably "a good idea," it was far more likely that someone seeking a chemical WMD would instead turn to sarin or mustard gas. "Anybody with a college level degree in chemistry can manufacture chemical weapons agents," he said.

"I cannot see any scenario where a nation-state would use fentanyl on the battlefield, or for that matter, a terrorist using a really toxic chemical like fentanyl in an attack when they could just sell it for funding the purchase of firearms and explosives or steal an industrial chemical instead," the official added.

In that light, McConnell's memo appears more as a cynical bureaucratic exercise aimed at increasing program budgets rather than a serious effort to address homeland security.

Chronicle AM: CO Drug Defelonization Bill Advances, Mexico Murders, Colombia Massacres, More... (4/23/19)

Drug prohibition is engendering new levels of violence in Mexico and Colombia, the Denver city council deals a blow to would-be social consumption business operators, the FDA approves generic naloxone, and more.

The black market in cocaine is fueling violence in Mexico and Colombia. (USCBP)
Marijuana

Denver City Council Rejects Easing Restrictions on Social Consumption. A resolution to make it easier for businesses offering on-premises consumption by halving the 1,000-foot buffer between them and daycare centers, drug treatment centers, and city-owned parks has failed in the city council. The council voted 7-5 to approve the measure, but because it would have amended the city's voter-approved 2016 social consumption, it needed nine votes to pass.

Harm Reduction

FDA Approves First Generic Naloxone. The Food and Drug Administration announced last Friday that it has approved the first generic formulation of naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug. The agency also said it will prioritize its review of other applications for generic variants of products intended to treat opioid overdoses. "In the wake of the opioid crisis, a number of efforts are underway to make this emergency overdose reversal treatment more readily available and more accessible. In addition to this approval of the first generic naloxone nasal spray, moving forward we will prioritize our review of generic drug applications for naloxone," the FDA said.

Sentencing Reform

Bipartisan Drug Defelonization Bill Advances in Colorado Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill 3-2 Monday that would reduce the penalties for drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. The bipartisan legislation, HB19-1263, which was approved by the full House on April 18, will now advance to the Senate Finance Committee.

International

UN Report Finds Massacres on the Increase in Colombia. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has issued a report revealing a large increase in massacres carried out in Colombia, reflecting new criminal dynamics in key areas of the country. OHCHR noted just 11 massacres in 2017, but that number nearly tripled to 29 cases last year. Most of the massacres occurred in the departments of Antioquia, Cauca, Norte de Santander and Caquetá, areas particularly affected by Colombia's ongoing armed conflict. In the wake of the peace agreement between the FARC and the government, old and newly emerging criminal groups are fighting over who will control coca and poppy-growing areas and distribution.

Mexico Murder Rate Keeps Increasing. Data released this week from the National System for Public Security show that the homicide rate in the country has soared in the first two months of this year. Some 8,493 people were killed between January 1 and March 3, a 9.6% jump over the same period in 2018. Most -- but not all -- of the violence is related to fighting between rival cartels and clashes between cartels and members of the state security apparatus. The previous two years had both seen record numbers of killings, with some 33,341 reported last year, but if the rate seen in early numbers this year continues, the toll could reach 50,000 by year's end.

Chronicle AM: NC Overdose=Murder Bill Hearing Set, Malay MedMJ Provider Escapes Death Penalty, More... (4/22/19)

It's a step back for harm reduction in one Michigan county, a potential step back in North Carolina, a Malay medical marijuana provider escapes the death penalty but stil faces hard time, and more.

People who share drugs that result in a fatal overdose could be charged with murder under a North Carolina proposal. (CC)
Harm Reduction

Michigan County Blocks Needle Exchanges. Commissioners in Grand Traverse County voted last week to block needle exchanges in the county. In a 3-2-1 vote, the commission voted against allowing the county health department to contract with a private provider to implement a needle exchange program and to stop Harm Reduction Michigan from expanding its existing program. Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley opposed the initiative, saying: "The majority of these users are probably illegal drug users. This only serves to promote safe illegal drug use. The sheriff's office is in the business of stopping illegal drug use whether it's safe or not… By approving this, you are endorsing safe, illegal drug use."

North Carolina Overdose Equals Murder Bill Gets Hearing Friday. A bill that would allow people who distribute a drug that results in an overdose death to be charged with murder gets a hearing this Friday, and harm reductionists are gearing up to fight it. HB 474 would make even drug users buy jointly or share with friends liable for murder. The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition is calling on people to attend the hearing to tell legislators to vote no.

International

US Arrests Guatemalan Presidential Candidate for Seeking Help from Sinaloa Cartel. Guatemalan presidential candidate Mario Amilcar Estrada Orellana was arrested with one other man at the Miami airport last Friday and charged with soliciting campaign funds from the Sinaloa cartel. Estrada Orellana was allegedly seeking between $10 and $12 million in exchange for providing "state-sponsored support" for the group's trafficking activities. Estrada also pledged "unfettered access" to the country's ports and airports. Estrada is running as a candidate for the center-right National Change Union.

Malaysian Medical Marijuana Provider Escapes Death Sentence, But… A man who once headed a medical marijuana group has gotten something of a reprieve. Mohd Zireen Zainal was caught with two pounds of medical marijuana and originally faced the death penalty after being charged with drug trafficking. But he has now been allowed to plead guilty to possession only and will have to serve 15 years in prison and absorb 10 strokes of the cane. He's already been in prison for more than five years.

Chronicle AM: New CBS Pot Poll, CO Drug Defelonization Passes House, More... (4/19/19)

A new CBS poll has record support for marijuana legalization, Vermont's governor throws up an obstacle to the tax and regulate bill, the US immigration agency says using marijuana or even working in the state-legal industry makes immigrants "morally unfit" to become citizens, and more.

Marijuana is all over the news today. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New CBS Poll Has Support for Legalization at All-Time High. The latest annual CBS news poll on attitudes toward marijuana legalization has support at 65% -- an all-time high for the poll. Most respondents also viewed marijuana as less dangerous than alcohol. Legalization is now favored even by Republicans (56%), and the only age group to not have majority support for legalization -- people 65 and older -- is now evenly split with support at 49%.

Federal Bill Would Let People Use Marijuana in Public Housing in Legal States. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has filed the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act, which would allow people who use marijuana in compliance with state laws to live in public housing. Current federal law prohibits people using federally illegal drugs from being admitted to public housing and allows their eviction if caught. The Norton bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

Montana 2020 Legalization Initiative Planned. A new group calling itself Coalition406 has announced plans to create a 2020 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Big Sky Country. The latest polling has support for legalization at 51%. "Coalition406 will sponsor a statewide listening tour over the coming weeks to discuss preliminary thoughts for a November 2020 initiative to hear from real Montanans on this issue," said Coalition406 campaign manager Ted Dick, a former executive director of the Montana Democratic Party.

Vermont Governor Won't Support Regulated Marijuana Without Saliva Testing for Drivers. Gov. Phil Scott (R) said for the first time Thursday that he would not sign legislation to tax and regulate marijuana unless it had a provision that would allow saliva testing of motorists. The tests are opposed by many civil rights and liberties groups, but the House Judiciary Committee that same day reviewed a draft proposal for language around saliva testing that could be inserted in SB 54, the tax and regulate bill that has already passed the Senate.

Wisconsin Legalization Bill Filed. For the fourth time, Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) has filed a marijuana legalization bill. The bill would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce as well as a process for expungement of old marijuana convictions. "Far too many lives and communities have been damaged by out of date and backwards cannabis policies, and we must take this important and necessary step towards rectifying these damages," Sargent said in a press release. "The simple truth is, the most dangerous thing about marijuana in Wisconsin is that it is illegal." A January Marquette University poll has support for legalization at 59%, but the Republican-controlled legislature does not favor the proposal.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Heads to House Floor. A bill that would add over a dozen conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana, HR 1365, is heading for a House floor vote after passing its last committee hurdle on Wednesday. The bill would add cancer, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Tourette syndrome, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis to the list of qualifying conditions.

Drug Treatment

Pennsylvania Bill Would Bar Addiction Centers from Requiring Positive Drug Tests Before Treatment. State Rep. Jack Rader (R-Monroe County) has cosponsored a bill that would ban addiction treatment centers from requiring people to test positive for opioids or other drugs in order to get admitted for care. Rader said he cosponsored the bill after a constituent told him her son had applied for drug treatment but had been required to test positive for opioids in order to begin treatment. He had gotten off opioids while waiting for treatment, but then used some to qualify for treatment and instead overdosed and died. The measure is HB 1024.

Immigration Policy

Using State-Legal Marijuana or Working in the Industry Makes Immigrants Morally Unfit to Be US Citizens, Federal Agency Rules. In a rules clarification Friday, US Citizenship and Immigration Services held that using marijuana or working in the industry even in states where it is legal violates the requirement that immigrants demonstrate five years of "good moral character" before applying for citizenship. In a memo detailing the ruling, USCIS said that "violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, established by a conviction or admission, is generally a bar to establishing [good moral character] for naturalization even where the conduct would not be a violation of state law." That includes working in the state-legal marijuana and medical marijuana industries. There is an exception for one-time possession of less than an ounce.

Sentencing Policy

Colorado House Approves Bipartisan Bill to Lower Penalties for Drug Possession Offenses. The House on Thursday approved HB 19-1263, which would defelonize drug possession in the state. The measure passed the House on a 40-25 vote and now heads to the Senate.

Chronicle AM: Louisiana Cannabis Poll, Feds Raid Appalachian Opioid Prescribers, More... (4/18/19)

A new poll finds Louisianans are ready to free the weed, Georgia medical marijuana patients will soon be able to access CBD cannabis oils, a Peruvian clash that left two coca-growers dead raises international concern, and more.

A new Louisiana poll suggests the Bayou State is ready to legalize marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Has Majority Support for Legalization. A new Louisiana State University poll has support for marijuana legalization at 55%. Four out of five (80%) of 18-29-year-olds were down with it, as well as two-thirds (67%) of people aged 30 through 49. Only people over 65 were opposed, with 69% rejecting legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Governor Signs Bill Improving Access to CBD Cannabis Oil. Gov. Brian Kemp has signed into law HB 324, which makes it legal to possess CBD cannabis oil and bring it across state lines. The bill also sets up a framework for the growth and sale of CBD cannabis oil in the state. Currently, state law allows the use of CBD oil, but there is no way for patients to obtain it.

Pennsylvania Patient Loses Bid to Gain Section 8 Housing. An Indiana County medical marijuana patient whose Section 8 housing voucher was previously denied because of her medical marijuana use lost again in Common Pleas Court Wednesday, even though the judge in the case expressed sympathy for her plight. He acknowledged that medical marijuana is legal under state law, but said federal law doesn't allow the use of federally illegal drugs in federal housing programs. The patient will now appeal to the Commonwealth Court.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Conducts Massive Raids Against Appalachian Opioid Prescribers. Federal agents led by the DEA raided doctors' offices and pharmacies across five Appalachian states Wednesday, arresting 60 people, including 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners, and seven other licensed medical professionals. They are accused of writing or fulfilling more than 350,000 illegal prescriptions to 24,000 people in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia.

The DEA press release says that resources are available to help patients caught up in the situation, but for most of the states included in the listings, only addiction services are listed, not physicians or clinics with expertise in pain control, much less who are willing to provide it to patients so close to an alleged criminal situation.

Reporting notes that the indictments allege physician misconduct including performing unnecessary dental work to justify prescribing opioids, and exchanging prescriptions for sex. But there is no detail yet available for assessing whether the charges are justified, whether conduct of that type has been alleged for all the professionals targeted in the indictments, or how many people receiving prescriptions may be actual pain patients.

International

Human Rights, Policy Groups Call for Transparent Investigation of Peru Coca Farmer Killings. In a letter to Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra and anti-drug agency leader Ismael Ruben Vargas, dozens of human rights groups, drug policy groups, and individual academics and researchers have demanded a "transparent investigation" into the killings last week of two protesting coca-growing peasants in a confrontation with police and coca eradication forces. The letter cites a local witness who says police fired "indiscriminately" during the confrontation between growers and newly-arrived eradicators. The letter also called on the government to create a new coca registry in the region to allow farmers to participate in the country's legal coca industry.

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