Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

CT Senate Votes to Legalize Marijuana, VT Governor Signs Marijuana Social Equity Bill, More... (6/8/21)

Louisiana is one signature away from marijuana decriminalization, Colorado's governor signs a bill tightening up medical marijuana regulations, and more.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has just signed a bill designed to bring social equity to the state's retail pot sector. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Senate early Tuesday approved a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 1118. The House is set to take up the bill Wednesday, the end-of-session deadline. The bill is the product of weeks of negotiations between Gov. Ned Lamont (D) and legislative leaders, and final language was only introduced on Saturday.

Louisiana Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Goes to Governor's Desk. With a final vote in the Senate Monday, a bill to decriminalize the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana, House Bill 652, is now headed for the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

Nevada Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Marijuana Consumption Lounges. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) last Friday signed into law a bill that paves the way for marijuana consumption laws in the state, Assembly Bill 341. It creates two new licensing categories for marijuana businesses, "retail cannabis consumption lounge" and "independent cannabis consumption lounge."

Vermont Governor Signs Marijuana Social Equity Bill. Gov. Phil Scott (R) has signed into law Senate Bill 25, which will establish a fund to help people of color and others affected by past marijuana laws open businesses in the new marijuana market. Retail marijuana sales are set to begin in October 2022 after a bill allowing them passed last year.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Restrictions Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Monday signed into law House Bill 1317, which includes added medical and mental health reviews during patient applications, an expanded medical marijuana tracking system, and a required dosage amount.

Pennsylvania House Approves Making Medical Marijuana Pandemic Revisions Permanent. The House on Monday approved a bill which would make permanent changes temporarily put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the bill, patients could continue to pick up their medicine outside a dispensary instead of coming into the building and could purchase a three-month supply instead of a one-month supply. The measure now heads to the Senate.

CT Marijuana Legalization Vote Coming This Week, British MPs Call for Festival Pill Testing, More... (6/7/21)

Connecticut is poised to become the fourth state to legalize marijuana this year, Mississippi's governor calls on the legislature to create a medical marijuana program, and more.

Connecticut could be the next state to legalize marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor, Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Marijuana Legalization Bill. Legislative leaders announced Saturday that they had reached a deal with Governor Ned Lamont (D) on a marijuana legalization bill. Some lawmakers had concerns with Lamont's initial proposal, particularly around what they portrayed as a lack of social equity provisions, but those have now been addressed, and the bill is expected to be voted on this week. The new compromise legalization bill is Senate Bill 1118.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Says Legislature Should Create Medical Marijuana Program. In the wake of a state Supreme Court decision invalidating the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, Governor Tate Reeves (D) says he wants lawmakers to craft a medical marijuana program. "I support the will of the voters. ... I think we will have a medical marijuana program in Mississippi," he said. It is imperative that we get it done, and get it done quickly."

International

British MPs Call for Pill Testing Amid Fears of Rise in UK Festival Deaths. The parliamentary Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee has called on the home secretary to roll out widespread pill testing services ahead of this year's musical festival season, saying it had reviewed the evidence and found "compelling" arguments that the procedure saved lives. "There have been no drug-related deaths at any festival [with pill testing]," the committee noted. The committee also noted that the government said in 2018 it would not "stand in the way" of pill testing, but that hadn't always been the case, especially since it required the okay of local police departments. "We are highly concerned that a compressed festival season, the likely circulation of high-strength, adulterated drugs and increased risk-taking after lockdown will lead to a spike in drug-related deaths at festivals this summer," the committee noted. "We heard compelling arguments that drug checking saves lives, but in many cases service providers and police forces are being constrained by a lack of clarity in the legal framework and the need for a stronger evidence base."

Czech Lower House Approves Medical Marijuana, Hemp Changes. The lower house of parliament last Wednesday approved a bill amending the country's laws around medical marijuana and hemp. Under the bill, medical marijuana exports would be legal, tinctures and isolates could be sold, medical marijuana could be grown by multiple licensed private groups, and hemp products with less than 1 percent THC would not be considered addictive substances, clearing the way for the production of hemp products. 

VT Legalizes Limited Buprenorphine Possession, Human Rights Watch Supports MORE Act, More... (6/4/21)

A leading international human rights group gets behind the MORE Act, a psychedelic research bill goes to the governor in Texas and another is filed in New York, and more.

Buprenorphine. A new Vermont law allows people to possess a two-week supply without a prescription. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Human Rights Watch Urges Congress to Support the MORE Act. In a letter to House leaders of both parties, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch urges passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617)and calls on leadership figures to show their support by signing on as cosponsors of the bill. "Human Rights Watch again calls upon members of Congress to take the necessary steps to further racial justice by swiftly ending marijuana prohibition and repairing the harm it has caused," the letter said.

Idaho Activists Launch Limited Legalization Initiative Campaign for 2022 Ballot. Idaho activists have launched a new campaign for limited marijuana legalization aimed at the 2022 ballot. The proposed initiative would make it legal for people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces on private property and provide protections for people who travel to neighboring states to procure legal marijuana there by specifying that "transporting a personal amount of marijuana from a jurisdiction where the marijuana was legally purchased" would be legal. Campaigners have until May 1, 2022 to collect about 65,000 valid signatures from registered voters to make the ballot.

Harm Reduction

Vermont Becomes First State to Legalize Limited Possession of Buprenorphine. With the signature of Gov. Phil Scott (R) on House Bill 225 Tuesday, Vermont has become the first state to legalize the possession of buprenorphine, a prescription drug used to treat opioid use disorder. The new law will allow people to possess a roughly two-week supply of the drug without a doctor's prescription. The new law, however, sunsets in two years unless the legislature decides to renew it.

Psychedelics

New York Bill to Create State Sponsored Psychedelic Research Institute. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) this week filed a bill that would mandate that the state create an institute to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs. "There is growing evidence to suggest that psychedelics, including psilocybin, can be a useful tool in treating symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and to help individuals recover from a substance use disorder," Rosenthal explained. "Psychedelics provide a host of benefits without the same risk of overdose or dependency that other medications may provide. This bill would provide New York State the opportunity to research the use of psychedelics and the many benefits they can provide."

Texas Psychedelic Research Bill Heads for Governor's Desk. Both houses of the legislature have now approved House Bill 1802, which would expand research on therapeutic psychedelics. The bill is now on the desk of Governor Greg Abbott (R).

The Push to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition This Year Is Now Underway [FEATURE]

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) took to the House floor last Friday to begin the push to end federal pot prohibition this year with the introduction of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

Can marijuana legalization get through Congress this year? And would Biden sign it? (Creative Commons)
"For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one's views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the federal level has proven unwise and unjust," Nadler said as he addressed his colleagues. "In my view, applying criminal penalties, with their attendant collateral consequences for marijuana offenses is unjust and harmful to our society. The MORE Act comprehensively addresses this injustice, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation."

The bill's initial cosponsors are Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY. A similar version of the MORE Act passed the House last year, only to die from inaction in the Republican-controlled Senate. But this year, the Democrats are in control, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he is preparing to file a bill in the upper chamber soon.

"Last year, we saw more progress toward cannabis legalization than ever before. This has been driven by unprecedented reforms at the state level. Now, Congress must deal with the problems created by the failed federal policy of prohibition," said Rep. Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus in a press release. "With a strong base of support in the House and in the Senate, the table is set. It's past time that we stop federal interference with cannabis banking and research, as well as the terrible pattern of selective enforcement that has devastated communities of color. The MORE Act will help address all of these problems and more."

The MORE Act has three main provisions:

  • It removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, making it legal at the federal level and clearing the way for states to legalize it at home.
  • It mandates that federal courts must expunge past marijuana convictions and allows them to hold resentencing hearings for those still behind bars or under non-custodial supervision.
  • It makes an effort to redress drug war wrongs and racially disparate enforcement by assessing a 5 percent sales tax on marijuana and pot products, which will be used fund three different grant programs for drug war victims, loans to small businesses "owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals," and to eliminate licensing and employment barriers for people "most adversely impacted" by drug prohibition.

The bill would also make legal marijuana businesses eligible for Small Business Administration funding, bar discrimination against people who use or possess marijuana (such as in federal housing) and require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on industry demographics to monitor how much poor people and minorities are actually participating in the industry.

"The MORE Act would not only decriminalize marijuana federally, but also take steps to address the harmful impacts of federal prohibition, particularly on communities of color," said Rep. Jackson Lee, Chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. "We need to pass the MORE Act as an important component of a broader effort to reform our drug laws, which disproportionately harm racial minorities and fuel mass incarceration. That is why I am also working to advance additional legislation to achieve comprehensive reform of our criminal justice system."

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is part of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups (155 organizations in all) that are backing the bill. It worked closely with Rep. Nadler on the original language of the bill last year and has been closely involved ever since.

"It is clear, by the overwhelming extent to which they passed the MORE Act last session, that the House understands this for the urgent racial and social justice issue it is," DPA Director of the Office of National Affairs Maritza Perez said in a statement. "Our communities that have borne the brunt of marijuana prohibition have waited long enough for justice. We urge House leadership to move swiftly to bring the bill back to the floor this session, so that we can continue the momentum and move a marijuana justice bill in the Senate as well."

Unsurprisingly, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is also onboard.

"It's clear that Americans overwhelmingly support ending cannabis prohibition. Reintroducing the MORE Act is a powerful way to reorient negotiations around legalization that gives our entire nation the power to choose cannabis for medical and adult use, strengthens a blossoming industry that is creating jobs and fueling economic growth, and begins to rectify the harms of the racially motivated war on cannabis and its disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities through criminal justice reform and social equity initiatives, MPP Executive Director Steve Hawkins said in a statement. "We endorse this bill and urge Congress to pass it."

But the leader of the loudest anti-marijuana reform group in the country, Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, also unsurprisingly, thinks it's a bad idea.

"As we have said since the initial introduction of this short-sighted bill two years ago, the MORE Act is a complete non-starter and the wrong approach we need when it comes to federal drug policy," he said in a statement warning of Big Pot. "This bill would fully legalize marijuana; it will not simply decriminalize the drug -- which would only remove criminal penalties for possession. Rather, it's nothing less than the wide-scale commercialization and normalization of a drug that does not resemble the old marijuana of the 1970s."

It's pretty lonesome where Sabet is, though. The most recent Gallup poll had more than two-thirds (68 percent) favoring legalization and still trending up. Now, if somebody will just tell the Senate. And the president, who is so far standing firm not for legalization but for decriminalization. The question is: What will Biden do if he MORE Act lands on his desk?

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Oregon cop is in trouble for getting too wasted on drugs he stole from the evidence locker and wrecking his cruiser, a Philadelphia prison guard goes down for acting as a dope DoorDash for inmates, and more.

In Albany, New York, a New York State Patrol trooper was arrested May 26 in the bust of "large-scale narcotics operation." Trooper Robert Coleman, 46, a 20-year veteran, was "abusing narcotics" and was caught in possession of heroin and cocaine, prosecutors said. He's facing one count of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 7th, a class A misdemeanor.

In Brownsville, Texas, a now-former Brownsville police officer was arrested last Tuesday for using his residence to store and distribute methamphetamine and cocaine. Jose Salinas, 52, faces federal drug trafficking conspiracy charges.

In Klamath Falls, Oregon, a now-former Klamath Falls police officer was indicted last Wednesday after of stealing methamphetamine and fentanyl from an evidence locker and then overdosing on the drugs in his police cruiser. Then-Officer Thomas Reif's cruiser jumped the median and veered into oncoming traffic, causing a multi-car crash back in November. After the crash, he was revived at a local hospital, and toxicology results came back positive for meth and fentanyl. Police also found a bag of meth in his locker at the police station. He's accused of using an unauthorized key to remove the drug from another officer's evidence locker, and faces two federal counts of possessing a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.

In Pell City, Alabama, a Pell City police officer was arrested last Thursday on drug charges. Officer Barry Wathen faces two counts of distribution of a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance. And that's all the information we have.

In Philadelphia, a state prison guard was arrested last Friday for allegedly taking more than $11,000 in bribes to smuggle drugs, cell phones, and other contraband into the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center. Guard Haneef Lawson, a 23-year veteran, took the contraband and cash from a relative of one of the prisoners, delivering roughly $69,000 in phones and Suboxone to inmates between last fall and April of this year. He faces an unspecified conspiracy charge.

Medical Marijuana Update

The Florida Supreme Court upholds the state's corporate-friendly medical marijuana rules, the Texas Senate approves a medical marijuana expansion bill, and more.

Colorado

Colorado Bill with Stricter Rules for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. After a lengthy hearings, the House Public& Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill, House Bill 1317, proposing stricter rules for medical marijuana patients and physicians, as well as new packaging requirements for commercial marijuana concentrate and state-funded research into the mental-health effects of potent marijuana products. The bill now goes before the House Finance Committee.

Florida

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Restrictive Medical Marijuana Rules. In a ruling Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld the state's restrictive medical marijuana rules, rejecting a challenge from a grower who was denied a license. The grower had argued that the state's regulation did not comply with the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana. A 2017 law created steep barriers to entry in the industry by mandating that licensees had to operate in every aspect of the business.

Texas

Texas Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate last Tuesday approved House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Amazon Comes Out for Marijuana Legalization, CA Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Passes Senate, More... (6/2/21)

A new poll finds surprising but still minority support for therapeutic uses of psychedelics, a Nevada bill to allow marijuana consumption lounges heads to the governor's desk, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other psychedelics could be decriminalized in California. (Pixabay))
Marijuana Policy

Amazon Will Support Federal Marijuana Legalization, Drop Marijuana Drug Testing for Some Jobs. Amazon consumer boss Dave Clark said in a blog post Tuesday that the company's public policy team would actively support passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act and will quit screening potential hires for marijuana use except for positions regulated by the Department of Transportation.

Nevada Lawmakers Send Marijuana Consumption Lounge Bill to Governor. The state Senate on Monday approved a bill allowing marijuana consumption lounges, Assembly Bill 341. The measure had passed the Assembly last week and is now headed for the desk of Governor Steve Sisolak (D).

Psychedelics

Poll: More Than A Third of Voters Say Psychedelics Have Medicinal Use. A new Hill-HarrisX poll finds that more than a third (35%) say psychedelic substances such as magic mushrooms have a medical use. The poll comes amid increasing excitement in the research community over the medicinal potential of psychedelics and as voters in various locales begin moving to decriminalize and/or allow their therapeutic use.

California Senate Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill. The state Senate on Monday approved a bill to decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of psychedelics, Senate Bill 519. The bill now heads to the Assembly, where it must be approved before going to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom (D).

Duterte Issues More Death Threats to Drug Dealers, AL Law Applies "Implied Consent" to Saliva Tests, More... (6/1/21)

Myanmar may see a rebound in opium production in the wake of the coup and the pandemic, Philippines President Duterte stays true to thuggish form, and more.

More trouble down Mexico way. It's getting hot in the Michoacan's Tierra Caliente.
Drug Testing

Alabama Law Increases Use of Saliva Tests to Catch Drug-Impaired Drivers. Governor Kay Ivey (R) has signed into law a bill that will treat saliva tests the same as breath and blood tests, meaning drivers in the state will have given "implied consent" to be tested and will lose their driving privileges for three months if they refuse. Previously, saliva tests did not carry that "implied consent" provision and drivers accused of driving under the influence could refuse them without sanction.

International

Mexico Cartel Violence Flares in Michoacan. After confrontations with National Guard members last week, warring cartels burned vehicles and blocked highways in the Tierra Caliente region of the state of Michoacan. Eleven roads were reported blocked in five municipalities: Apatzingán, Buenavista, Parácuaro, Tepalcatepec and Aguililla. In Aguilla, gunmen from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel burned vehicles to block more security forces from entering, while in Buenavista guardsmen and state police were attacked with sticks and rocks by local residents. Meanwhile, members of the rival United Cartels blocked roads in Apatzingan, Buenavista, and Paracuaro. No word on any casualties.

UN Warns of Likely Bump in Myanmar Opium Production After Pandemic, Coup. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is warning of a potential rise in opium production because of economic dislocation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the February 1 military coup. Myanmar is the world's second largest opium producer, behind Afghanistan. Production had been trending down since 2014, but the twin threats could reverse that: "The opium economy is really a poverty economy; it functions in a sense the opposite of what the licit economy does. As people exit that economy and they need to make money, they are going to be looking at places they can make it, and often people that are in poor areas and poverty-stricken areas look to make money from the opium economy," said Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC's representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "Probably 12 months out, 18 months out, we're going to be looking at an expansion unless past history is wrong. There's a cycle of this happening in the country over its history," he added.

Philippines President Rejects Providing Full Details on Drug Crackdown, Threatens to Kill More Drug Dealers. President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised speech Monday that he would not open up police records about killings in his bloody anti-drug crackdown, comparing the campaign to the government's war against the communist New People's Army. "This is a national security issue like the NPA," he said. The Supreme Court disagrees, noting in a 2018 resolution that anti-drug operations do not usually "involve state secrets affecting national security" like those dealing with "rebellion, invasion, terrorism, espionage, infringement of our sovereignty or sovereign rights by foreign powers." Duterte also warned drug dealers that: "If I am there, I will really kill you. I don't care if there's TV around. I will really kill you."

Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed in House, MD Governor Vetoes Paraphernalia Decrim, More... (5/28/21)

The proposed Biden budget retains the ban on selling and taxing marijuana in Washington, DC, marijuana consumption lounge bills are moving in California and Nevada, and more.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has vetoed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of drug paraphernalia. (Creative Commons
Marijuana Policy

Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced in House. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D=NY) reintroduced a marijuana legalization bill Friday morning, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act. The House passed a similar version of the bill last year, only to see in die in the GOP-led Senate. This year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he will filed a legalization bill shortly.

Biden Budget Keeps Ban on DC Marijuana Sales. President Biden's first proposed budget retains congressionally imposed on selling and taxing marijuana in the nation's capital. House Democrats could ignore that that proposal and vote to undo the budget rider that blocks the District from moving forward, but that could get complicated in the evenly divided Senate.

California Assembly Approves Bill to Allow Food and Drink Sales at Marijuana Consumption Lounges. The Assembly on Thursday approved Assembly Bill 1034, which would alter the state's marijuana laws, which already allow consumption lounges, to allow those lounges to sell non-marijuana foods and drinks. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Nevada Assembly Approves Marijuana Consumption Lounge Bill. The Assembly on Thursday approved Assembly Bill 341 on a 29-12 vote. The bill would allow existing pot retailers to open a consumption lounge at one of its facilities. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill with Stricter Rules for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. After a lengthy hearings, the House Public& Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill, House Bill 1317, proposing stricter rules for medical marijuana patients and physicians, as well as new packaging requirements for commercial marijuana concentrate and state-funded research into the mental-health effects of potent marijuana products. The bill now goes before the House Finance Committee.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Restrictive Medical Marijuana Rules. In a ruling Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld the state's restrictive medical marijuana rules, rejecting a challenge from a grower who was denied a license. The grower had argued that the state's regulation did not comply with the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana. A 2017 law created steep barriers to entry in the industry by mandating that licensees had to operate in every aspect of the business.

Drug Policy

Federal Bill to Make Fentanyl Schedule I Filed in House. A bipartisan pair of congressmen filed the Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act on Thursday. The drug and its analogs have been temporarily placed in Schedule I, a classification that was set to expire earlier this month, but was extended to October 2022. This bill, and companion legislation already filed in the Senate, would make the move permanent.

Illinois Legislature Approves Bill Restoring Food Stamp Benefits for Drug Felons. With a vote in the Senate Thursday, the legislature has approved House Bill 88, which would provide that a conviction for a drug crime would no longer make people ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (food stamps) benefits. The ban is federally imposed, but contains a provision allowing states to opt out from enforcing it, and nearly all states have.

Harm Reduction

Maryland Governor Vetoes Drug Paraphernalia Decriminalization Bill. Governor Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bill that would have decriminalized the possession of drug paraphernalia on Wednesday, Senate Bill 420. He cited public safety concerns in his veto message. But bill sponsor Senator Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) has vowed to override the veto. The bill passed with a veto-proof majority in the House, but not the Senate.

Good Pot Polls in NH & UT, ME Drug Decrim Advances, More... (9/27/21)

Little Rock makes small-time pot possession the lowest law enforcement priority, a Texas medical marijuana expansion bill is now one House vote away from passing, and more.

Marijuana legalization has overwhelming support in new polls from New Hampshire and Utah. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the University of New Hampshire has 75% support for marijuana legalization, with even a slightly higher number (78%) saying they supported letting people by it from licensed retailers if it is legalized. Support for Governor Chris Sununu (R), who opposes legalization, by contrast, is at 51%.

Utah Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Change Research and released by the US Cannabis Council had support for regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at 73% and support for federal marijuana legalization at 66%.

Little Rock Makes Marijuana Possession Lowest Law Enforcement Priority. City directors approved a municipal ordinance to make misdemeanor marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority on a 7-3 vote Tuesday. Although the police chief said the department hasn't sent anyone to jail for small-time pot possession for several years, directors said without a formal policy there was a risk of selective enforcement.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate late Tuesday approved House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Drug Policy

Maine Joint Committee Advances Drug Decriminalization Bill. The Joint Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved a drug decriminalization bill, LD 967, but was split on how to handle decriminalization as the bill goes forward. The bill would make drug possession a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine, which could be waived if they submit to an "evidence-based assessment for proposed treatment for substance use disorder."

International

Morocco House Votes to Legalize Hemp, Medical Marijuana. The House on Wednesday approved a bill legalizing hemp and medical marijuana. The bill would allow for "the legal uses of cannabis, medical, cosmetic and industrial," with the aim of "converting illicit crops that destroy the environment into sustainable legal activities that generate value, money and employment." The bill must still be approved by the legislature's upper house.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Minnesota deputy cops a plea for being on fentanyl during a deadly high-speed pursuit, a small town Maine police offcer's problems just got much worse, and more. Let's get to it:

In Muleshoe, Texas, a former Bailey County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday on unspecified drug charges. Ex-Deputy Jorge Torres was arrested along with two other people. All three are charged with possession of a controlled substance between 3 and 400 grams. The charge is a first-degree felony. Torres was a deputy until he was fired upon arrest.

In Bangor, Maine, a former Calais police officer arrested in February was indicted last Friday on 35 counts, including multiple counts of stealing drugs and guns from the police department. Jeffrey Bishop, 53, was originally arrested for providing drugs to a teenage girl in a high school parking lot, but now is in much deeper trouble. He now faces five counts of stealing drugs from the department and 24 counts related to 16 stolen guns police found in his home in February. He also was indicted on four charges of aggravated furnishing of drugs and one charge of unlawful trafficking in drugs.

In Fergus Falls, Minnesota, an Otter Tail County sheriff's deputy signed a plea agreement Sunday after being found to be under the influence of fentanyl during a police pursuit that resulted in the deaths of two innocent people. Deputy Kelly Douglas Backman, 43, went down after the post-crash investigation revealed he had fentanyl in his system and had failed to submit evidence in narcotics cases. He will plead guilty to official misconduct and serve 30 days of electronic home monitoring. A misdemeanor DUI charge was dismissed. Prosecutors dismissed several drug cases Backman investigated because he would be considered an unreliable witness in court.

Medical Marijuana Update

Mississippians rallied Tuesday to demand a legislative special session to restor the voter-approved medical marijuana law, a New Mexico patient sues over purchase and plant limits, and more.

Colorado

Colorado Bill to Restrict Concentrates Causes Uproar. A bill that would bring new medical marijuana restrictions, House Bill 21-1317, is generating resistance from parents of child medical marijuana patients, who say it would cause severe barriers to their care. The bill would require physicians to include THC potency level, daily quantity, and directions for use. The bill also imposes new restrictions on medical marijuana for young adults in the 18-to-20 group, who would be required to see two physicians from different practices in order to qualify.

Minnesota

Minnesota Governor Signs into Law Bill Legalizing Smokable Medical Marijuana. Governor Tim Walz (D) on Tuesday signed into law a medical marijuana expansion bill that includes allowing adult patient to use smokable marijuana products. That policy must take effect by March 1, 2022, or earlier if rules are developed and the state's cannabis commissioner authorizes it.

Mississippi

Mississippians Rally to Demand Special Session to Pass Medical Marijuana. Protestors marched Tuesday from the Supreme Court to the governor's mansion calling for a special session of the legislature after the state Supreme Court last week threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana law. The measure had passed with 74% of the vote, but the court tossed it because the state constitution requires signature gathering requirements in five US representative districts and the state has only had four of them since 2000.

New Mexico

New Mexico Patient Sues State Over Medical Marijuana Purchase Limits, Plant Counts. Medical marijuana patient and activist Jason Barker is suing the state over limits on medical marijuana purchases. Under the state's new marijuana legalization law, people can buy up to two ounces at a time, but under state rules, patients may only purchase eight ounces every 90 days. "The law is clear, all medical cannabis patients may purchase at least two-ounces of medical cannabis at any one time, tax free, beginning on June 29, 2021," Barker's lawyer said. Barker also alleges the state's 1,750-plant cap on medical marijuana producers infringes on patients' rights by reducing supply and increasing prices.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Bill to Make Pandemic-Era Lessening of Delivery Restrictions Permanent Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health Committee on Monday approved a proposal to make permanent pandemic-related loosening of the state's medical marijuana rules permanent, House Bill 1024 The state Health Department allowed curbside pickups and the purchase of three-month supplies during the pandemic, and this bill would retain those changes. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Texas

Texas Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Monday to approve House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, and if it does, then go back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate. since 2000.

IL House Passes Marijuana Equity Bill, Mexican State Police Commander Gunned Down, More... (5/26/21)

A new poll shows strong support for marijuana legalization in the Mountaineer State, a Louisiana bill to end the threat of jail time for pot possession advances, and more.

Minnesota medical marijuana patients will soon be able to smoke their medicine. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois House Passes Marijuana Equity Bill. The House on Tuesday passed House Bill 1443, which would revamp the state's system for awarding marijuana dispensary licenses with an eye toward increasing minority participation in the legal industry. The bill would create two new lotteries for dispensary licenses creating 110 new licenses in addition to the 75 already licensed. The bill now heads to the Senate, which has until Monday's legislative deadline to pass it with a simple majority.

Louisiana House Panel Advances Bill to Lower Marijuana Penalties. The Senate Judiciary C Committee voted on Tuesday to approve House Bill 652, which would remove the threat of jail time for low-level marijuana possession offenses. Pot possession would remain a misdemeanor, but punishable only by a $100 fine. The bill has already passed the House and now heads for a final Senate floor vote.

West Virginia Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Change Research finds strong support for marijuana legalization in the state. Some 70% of registered voters supported marijuana legalization, 77% supported Congress doing it this year in light of legalization in other countries, and 89% supported allowing medical marijuana to be dispensed in VA facilities.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Governor Signs into Law Bill Legalizing Smokable Medical Marijuana. Governor Tim Walz (D) on Tuesday signed into law a medical marijuana expansion bill that includes allowing adult patient to use smokable marijuana products. That policy must take effect by March 1, 2022, or earlier if rules are developed and the state's cannabis commissioner authorizes it.

Mississippians Rally to Demand Special Session to Pass Medical Marijuana. Protestors marched Tuesday from the Supreme Court to the governor's mansion calling for a special session of the legislature after the state Supreme Court last week threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana law. The measure had passed with 74% of the vote, but the court tossed it because the state constitution requires signature gathering requirements in five US representative districts and the state has only had four of them since 2000.

International

Mexico's Head of State Police in Sinaloa Gunned Down. Presumed cartel gunmen ambushed Joel Ernesto Soto, director of the Sinaloa State Police, on Monday, killing him. He was found dead in his bullet-riddled car on the outskirts of Culiacan, the state capital. Sinaloa is the home of the Sinaloa cartel, which is now embroiled in internecine violence as well as armed conflict with the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel.

LA House Passes Legal Pot Study Resolution, Peru Coca Zone Massacre, More... (5/25/21)

An Illinois marijuana equity bill heads for a House floor vote, a loosening of medical marijuana regulations during the pandemic may be made permanent in Pennsylvania, the Texas legislature advances bills to reduce penalties for pot concentrates and to study the therapeutic use of psychedelics, and more.

The Shining Path is suspected of massacring villagers in a coca-producing region of Peru. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Marijuana Equity Licensing Bill Heads to House Floor. A bill designed to get more people from drug war-ravaged communities involved in the legal marijuana industry, House Bill 1443, has passed out of the House Rules Committee and is now headed for a House floor vote.

Louisiana House Passes Marijuana Study Resolution. The House on Monday approved House Resolution 1, which directs the House Criminal Justice Committee to conduct a study of the impact of the use and legalization of marijuana. The move comes after efforts to approve legalization stalled in the legislature last week.

Texas Legislature Approves Bill to Lessen Penalties for Marijuana Concentrates. The Senate has approved House Bill 2593, which would reduce the penalty for the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana concentrates to a class B misdemeanor. The measure has already passed the House and now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill to Make Pandemic-Era Lessening of Delivery Restrictions Permanent Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health Committee on Monday approved a proposal to make permanent pandemic-related loosening of the state's medical marijuana rules permanent, House Bill 1024. The state Health Department allowed curbside pickups and the purchase of three-month supplies during the pandemic, and this bill would retain those changes. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Texas Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Monday to approve House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, and if it does, then go back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Methampheamine

Oregon Bill Would Re-Legalize Over-the-Counter Pseudoephedrine Sales. In 2006, Oregon became the first state to ban OTC sales of cold and allergy remedies because they contain pseudoephedrine and could be used in home meth manufacture. Now, a new bill, House Bill 2648, would end the ban and allow anyone over 18 to buy products containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription, has been filed. It is currently before the Senate Health Care Committee.

Psychedelics

Texas Senate Approves Therapeutic Psychedelic Study Bill. The Senate has approved House Bill 1802, which would require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and MDMA. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of a budget-neutrality amendment passed in the Senate.

International

Peru Coca Zone Massacre Leaves 14 Dead. At least 14 men, women, and children were killed in a massacre in the Ene River Valley, one of the country's most important coca-growing areas. Pamphlets from a Shining Path splinter group were left at the scene, and authorities were pointing the finger at the group. Shining Path, a Maoist-inspired guerrilla group, led a brutal insurgency that left 70,000 dead in the 1980s, but had largely been eliminated since 1992. But remnants remain in the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), where they have morphed into coca and cocaine traffickers.

Philippines Senator Lobbies for Death Penalty for Drug Offenses. Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who once led the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs, argued that the death penalty for drug offenses should be reinstated Tuesday during a hearing on a bill that aims to toughen the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. He complained that imprisoned Chinese drug lords were still running their businesses from behind bars, saying "the frustration of law enforcement is that had these drug lords been executed, we would not have these problems now." But drug reform advocate Dr. Lee Edson Yarcia pointed out that under the proposed bill, the death penalty is not imposed on top drug lords or syndicates: "This was included in the provision about persons who are in possession of dangerous drugs during parties, social gatherings, or meetings," he noted. The House passed a reform bill last year, but the Senate has yet to file one. This was a preliminary hearing.

House Marijuana Legalization Bill Coming Soon, CO Doubles Legal Pot Possession Amounts, More... (5/21/21)

The House could see a marijuana legalization bill as early as next week, an Illinois marijuana social equity bill heads for a state House floor vote, and more.

Marijuana Policy

House Marijuana Legalization Bill Could Be Filed as Early as Next Week. House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) could refile the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act as soon as next week, according to Capitol Hill sources. This year's version omits language that would have barred people with marijuana convictions from being able to operate in the legal industry. And it adds language that broadens help for economically disenfranchised people.

Colorado Governor Signs Bill Doubling Legal Possession Amounts. Governor Jared Polis (D) on Thursday signed into law House Bill 21-1090, which doubles the amount of marijuana adults can legally possess from one ounce to two ounces. It also streamlines the record-sealing process for past marijuana possession convictions and expands record-sealing eligibility to include additional marijuana offenses. The new law takes effect immediately.

Illinois Marijuana Social Equity Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill designed to increase participation in the legal marijuana industry for people from distressed communities, House Bill 1443, is now headed for a House floor vote. "The bill will correct a flawed license lottery system that has prevented minorities from ownership in the industry," Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) the bill's chief sponsor, said during a news conference Thursday.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill to Restrict Concentrates Causes Uproar. A bill that would bring new medical marijuana restrictions, House Bill 21-1317, is generating resistance from parents of child medical marijuana patients, who say it would cause severe barriers to their care. The bill would require physicians to include THC potency level, daily quantity, and directions for use. The bill also imposes new restrictions on medical marijuana for young adults in the 18-to-20 group, who would be required to see two physicians from different practices in order to qualify.

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, NM Patient Sues Over Purchase Limits, More... (5/20/21)

The Louisiana House rejected marijuana legalization but is now considering a legalization study resolution, Arizona's governor signs into law a bill legalizing fentanyl test strips, and more.

magic mushrooms (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana House Committee Approves Resolution Calling for Study of Marijuana Legalization. Days after a marijuana legalization bill died in the House, a House committee has approved a resolution calling for the creation of a committee to study the impacts of legalization. The committee would include legislative leaders, prosecutors, sheriffs, medical marijuana industry representatives, criminal justice reform advocates, LSU, and Southern Ag.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Patient Sues State Over Medical Marijuana Purchase Limits, Plant Counts. Medical marijuana patient and activist Jason Barker is suing the state over limits on medical marijuana purchases. Under the state's new marijuana legalization law, people can buy up to two ounces at a time, but under state rules, patients may only purchase eight ounces every 90 days. "The law is clear, all medical cannabis patients may purchase at least two-ounces of medical cannabis at any one time, tax free, beginning on June 29, 2021," Barker's lawyer said. Barker also alleges the state's 1,750-plant cap on medical marijuana producers infringes on patients' rights by reducing supply and increasing prices.

Harm Reduction

Arizona Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill that legalizes fentanyl test strips in a bid to reduce drug overdoses in the state. The bill is SB1486. Drug use claims far too many lives each year," Ducey said in a signing statement. "We want everyone who is using drugs to seek professional treatment. But until someone is ready to get "help, we need to make sure they have the tools necessary to prevent a lethal overdose."

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill that would decriminalize the possession of psychedelics, Senate Bill 519, has passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now headed for a Senate floor vote. The bill would remove criminal penalties for possessing or sharing numerous psychedelics -- including psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine, LSD and MDMA -- for adults 21 and older. Mescaline derived from peyote is not included because of concerns about its scarcity for Native American Church religious purposes.

Mississippi's Medical Marijuana Law Struck Down Before It Can Take Effect [FEATURE]

Mississippians want medical marijuana. They said so at the polls last November when 74% of them voted for Amendment 65, the medical marijuana initiative that had jumped through all the procedural hoops to make it onto the ballot. They also said they wanted that specific language, rejecting a watered-down Alternate Amendment 65A sponsored by the Republican-dominated state legislature in a bid to seize control over the issue.

Mississippi Supreme Court (mississippi.org)
But before the voters had spoken, long-time Republican Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed suit to have the initiative thrown out on what can fairly be described as a technicality. And last Friday, the state Supreme Court, consisting of five justices appointed by Republican governors and four selected in nonpartisan elections, agreed, overturning the clear will of the voters because the legislature has failed to act for two decades on a constitutional housecleaning issue.

Under a provision of the state constitution added in the 1990s, Section 273, initiative campaigns are required to get one-fifth of signatures from each of five congressional districts, which seems straightforward enough. The only problem is that since congressional reapportionment after the 2000 census, the state only has four districts, making it impossible for any initiative to comply with the constitutional language.

Since 2000, the state has seen numerous initiatives, with many, including a 2011 voter ID initiative, becoming state law. None of them have been thrown out because of the conflict between the Section 273 language and reality. Until now.

In its 6-3 decision in Butler v. Watson (Watson being the secretary of state), the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the state's loss of a congressional seat renders the Section 273 language "unworkable and inoperable on its face," and instead pronounced itself bound to find Amendment 65 "insufficient" because it cannot meet the five district requirement. And it pointed a finger back at the legislature:

"Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress," the court held. "To work in today's reality, it will need amending -- something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court."

The decision is not going over well, and not only with medical marijuana advocates, but also in the state legislature, where this week calls arose among lawmakers for a special session to deal with medical marijuana and with the constitutional initiative problem.

"The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi," Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a statement. "Patients will now continue the suffering that so many Mississippians voted to end. The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people's constitutional right. It's a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn't matter."

"The Supreme Court's decision effectively told the people of Mississippi: 'You have no voice, no vehicle for voter initiative, y'all's power is over,'" said Diesoul Blankenship of Mississippians for Medical Marijuana. "It's nothing short of erroneous and illegal."

"228,000 Mississippians signed petitions to put medical marijuana on the ballot last year, and an overwhelming majority of the state voted to approve it in November," said Angie Calhoun, Board Member of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association. "In addition to silencing the votes of three-fourths of the state, today the Supreme Court squashed the hope of thousands of patients like my son, who will now not be able to find relief through medical marijuana. As a mother of a patient, I am heartbroken and outraged that this was allowed to happen."

National supporters of Amendment 65 chimed in, too.

In a statement last Friday, Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich called it a "cruel and tragic day" for Mississippi patients and described the court decision as "deeply flawed."

"As a result, tens of thousands of Mississippians with debilitating health conditions will be denied safe, legal access to something that can alleviate their pain and improve their quality of life. Instead, they will once again be treated as criminals under the law, Schweich said. "To add insult to injury, this decision not only nullifies the will of hundreds of thousands of voters, it also effectively eliminates Mississippians' right to bring forward ballot initiatives to amend their state's constitution. The legislature must take action to fix the ballot initiative requirements and honor the will of their constituents by enacting Amendment 65 into law through the legislative process."

"Our hearts are broken for the patients in Mississippi who need access to medical cannabis, as well as their families who will continue to watch their loved ones needlessly suffer. We stand with them. The fight for a compassionate medical cannabis law in Mississippi will continue."

There are growing bipartisan calls for a special session to rectify the situation.

Republican House Speaker Phillip Gunn said Monday he is open to the special session. "If the legislature does not act on an issue that the people of Mississippi want, then the people need a mechanism to change the law. I support the governor calling us into a special session to protect this important right of the people," the Republican representative said in a statement.

Democratic state Rep. John Hines told said Tuesday the court's decision against the electorate was shocking and Reeves needed to act. "The governor's in the driver's seat when we're out of session," he said. "It's his prerogative to call a session or not call a session."

A poll released Tuesday could add to the mounting pressure on the governor. It found 60% of respondents disapproved of the Supreme Court ruling and wanted Reeves to call a special session.

Reeves, though, is so far noncommittal. In remarks Tuesday, he said: "The people have spoken. They made their voice heard and voted overwhelmingly to have a (medical marijuana) program and Mississippi should have that."

But when asked directly about calling a special session, his response was: "We are a long way from being able to make that decision."

And the people of Mississippi wait, thwarted.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A New Jersey cop gets caught with a meth lab in his basement, a Florida deputy gets nailed for planting dope on drivers, and more. Let's get to it:

In Long Branch, New Jersey, a Long Branch police officer was arrested on Sunday after a domestic disturbance call at his residence with another resident telling police he was involved in drug activity and the State Police Hazmat Unit responding and finding chemicals and equipment consistent with a meth lab, as well as meth residue in some glassware. Officer Christopher Walls, a 19-year veteran of the department, is now charged with first-degree maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) production facility, as well as second-degree counts of possession of a firearm during the course of a CDS offense, risking widespread injury and endangering the welfare of a child. He also faces third degree charges of manufacturing and possession of meth. He has now been suspended without pay.

In Ridgeland, South Carolina, a former state prison guard was arrested Monday for smuggling lollipops laced with methamphetamine into the Ridgeland Correctional Institution. Ex-Sergeant Dana Fisher, 39, went down after she brought a bag of Blow Pop suckers into the prison and a contraband officer noticed that the wrappers appeared to have been altered with glue. The lollipops then tested positive for methamphetamine. Fisher is facing charges of distribution of methamphetamines, providing contraband to an inmate and misconduct in office.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a former Baton Rouge Police Department detective was arrested for a third time Tuesday amid an ongoing investigation of corruption within the entire narcotics division. Ex-Detective Jason Acree had resigned from the department earlier this month after his second arrest. His first arrest, for allegedly stealing marijuana from the evidence room came in February. He was then hit with obstruction of justice charges earlier this month. And he's now hit with new charges of making false statements in an affidavit, maintaining false public records and malfeasance in office. 

In Marianna, Florida, a former Wakulla County sheriff's deputy was convicted Tuesday of planting drugs on innocent drivers during traffic stops. Ex-Deputy Zachary Wester went down after internal affairs investigators found a stash of drugs in his patrol car that he would use to plant during traffic stops. He was charged in a dozen traffic stops where he arrested drivers and passengers on bogus charges and ended up being convicted on 19 counts. Prosecutors had to drop charges in nearly 120 cases involving Wester.

Medical Marijuana Update

Busy, busy. There's action at statehouses all over the place, plus Ohio regulators okay three new qualifying conditions, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Becomes Newest Medical Marijuana State. With the signature of Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Senate Bill 46, medical marijuana is now set to become legal in the state. The new law allows the use of medical marijuana for a set of specified medical conditions and creates the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee how marijuana is grown.

Kansas

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. A medical marijuana bill, House Substitute for Senate Bill 158, has been approved by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee after it approved several amendments. This is the second time the committee has approved the reform proposal for this session. But in March, the House sent the bill back to the committee for further consideration.

Minnesota

Minnesota Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion, Smokable Marijuana. On the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill that will expand the state's medical marijuana program by allowing patients to smoke the buds of the dried plant. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz (D).

Mississippi

Mississippi Supreme Court Voids Voter-Approved Medical Marijuana Law. The state Supreme Court last Friday threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, ruling that it did not meet the state's requirement that 20% of signatures come from each of five congressional districts. The problem is that the state has only had four congressional districts since the 2000 census, and legislative efforts to redress the issue have yet to succeed. Three justices strongly dissented, saying that the secretary of state has rightfully put the measure on the ballot. "The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi," Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a statement. "The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right. It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter."

Mississippi Lawmakers Ponder Special Session on Initiative, Medical Marijuana in Wake of Supreme Court Ruling. A day after the state Supreme Court invalidated a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative because of an unfixed flaw in the state's initiative law, some lawmakers are calling on Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to call a special session to fix the initiative process, while others want a special session to craft a medical marijuana bill. The governor says he's thinking about it.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Killed, Setting Stage for New Initiative. A bill to legalize and regulate medical marijuana, LB 474, was killed in the legislature last Wednesday night. That sets the stage for another drive for a medical marijuana initiative, which is likely to be less restrictive than the bill that just died. The bill died when supporters were unable to go up with enough votes to stop a filibuster by opponents.

Nebraska Activists Relaunch Medical Marijuana Initiative After Legislature Blocks Bill. After medical marijuana foes in the legislature filibustered and killed a bill there on Wednesday, activists aren't wasting a minute in relaunching a campaign to put the issue before voters next year. State Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln), who led the legislative effort, took to Twitter Thursday to urge supporters to go to a website to volunteer and/or sign the petition.

Ohio

Ohio Medical Marijuana Panel Approves Three New Qualifying Conditions. A panel of the Ohio Medical Board has added three new qualifying conditions allowing state residents to use medical marijuana: arthritis, chronic migraines and complex regional pain syndrome, all of which fall into the existing category of chronic or intractable pain.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Killed. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 150House Bill 3361, has died as the legislative session came to an end last Friday. "Quite frankly, I thought this was the year of medical marijuana, which I think has great public support," said Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto. "That will be at the top of the agenda when we come back."

South Dakota

South Dakota Board Okays Medical Marijuana on School Grounds. The state Board of Education Standards has approved a policy that allows adults to give medical marijuana to children for whom doctors have recommended it. Only a "registered caregiver" can administer it, and it must only be in non-smokable form.

West Virginia

West Virginia Regulators Considers Allowing Patients to Grow Their Own. The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is considering a possible recommendation to allow state medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants. Patient advocates cited the cost of buying medical marijuana dispensaries and obstacles to access for residents who do not live near dispensaries. A decision will come some weeks down the road.

LA House Vote Kills Marijuana Legalization Effort, AZ Legislature Approves Needle Exchanges, More... (5/19/21)

A Connecticut poll has strong continuing support for marijuana legalization, a Pennsylvania poll has surprisingly strong support for drug decriminalization, and more.

A bill that would allow for needle exchanges is now on the desk of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R). (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Sacred Heart University show continuing strong support for marijuana legalization even as the governor and legislative leaders struggle to come to agreement on rival proposals. The poll had support at 64% (35.8% strongly and 28.1% somewhat). That's a slight decrease from overall support at 66% in February, but still strong.

Louisiana House Kills Marijuana Legalization Effort. Marijuana legalization is dead for the year after the House on Tuesday failed to advance House Bill 434, which would set up a tax structure for marijuana sales. That bill needed a two-thirds majority because it is a tax measure, but didn't even get a majority, failing 47-48. That prompted bill sponsor Rep. Richard Nelson (R-Mandeville) to pull the legalization bill itself, which he also sponsored.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion, Smokable Marijuana. On the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill that will expand the state's medical marijuana program by allowing patients to smoke the buds of the dried plant. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz (D).

Drug Policy

Pennsylvania Poll Has Majority Support for Drug Decriminalization. A new poll from Data for Progress has found that 60% of voters support having their district attorneys eliminate "criminal penalties for simple possession of a controlled substance." Some 71% of Democrats supported the proposal, while only 43% of Republicans did.

Harm Reduction

Arizona Legislature Approves Allowing Needle Exchange Programs. The legislature has passed a bill that would allow needle exchanges in the state, with the House voting 57-2 to advance it Tuesday. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

Indigenous Group Opposes Peyote Decriminalization as Shortages Loom, MS MedMJ Mess, More... (5/18/21)

Colorado is set to double the amount of marijuana adults may legally possess, South Dakota okays medical marijuana use for school children, and more.

Peyote. Should decriminalization be foregone because of looming shortages? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Legislature Approves Doubling Pot Possession Limit. The legislature has approved House Bill 1090, which double the amount of marijuana adults can legally possess from one once to two ounces. It also clears past arrests for possession of up to two ounces for record clearance and past Class 3 marijuana felony. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers Ponder Special Session on Initiative, Medical Marijuana in Wake of Supreme Court Ruling. A day after the state Supreme Court invalidated a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative because of an unfixed flaw in the state's initiative law, some lawmakers are calling on Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to call a special session to fix the initiative process, while others want a special session to craft a medical marijuana bill. The governor says he's thinking about it.

South Dakota Board Okays Medical Marijuana on School Grounds. The state Board of Education Standards has approved a policy that allows adults to give medical marijuana to children for whom doctors have recommended it. Only a "registered caregiver" can administer it, and it must only be in non-smokable form.

Psychedelics

Citing Conservation Efforts, Indigenous Groups Oppose Including Peyote in Psychedelic Decriminalization Campaigns. The Indigenous Peyote Conservation Communication Committee (IPCCC) is taking the position that peyote should not be included in psychedelic decriminalization efforts because it would be "very disruptive" to ongoing efforts to conserve the slow-growing cacti. Peyote takes 7 to 12 years to mature, and supplies are already in decline because of overharvesting. The group says it is not opposed to decriminalization in general. "but because there is an entire conservation strategy already underway." But Decriminalize Nature, the group behind a series of successful psychedelic reform initiative, says decriminalization and conservation are not mutually exclusive and that peyote "is a key ally in our collective struggle to awaken the masses from the fear-based slumber of disconnection from ourselves, each other and nature.

AL Becomes Latest MedMJ State, MS Supreme Court Throws Out Voter-Approved MedMJ Initiative, More... (5/17/21)

Ohio medical marijuana regulators expand the list of qualifying conditions, West Virginia medical marijuana regulators ponder allowing patient home grows, Kenyan Rastafaris petition seek to have their marijuana use legalized, and more.

The Mississippi Supreme Court. It just threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative. (mississippi.org)
Medical Marijuana

Alabama Becomes Newest Medical Marijuana State. With the signature of Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Senate Bill 46, medical marijuana is now set to become legal in the state. The new law allows the use of medical marijuana for a set of specified medical conditions and creates the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee how marijuana is grown.

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. A medical marijuana bill, House Substitute for Senate Bill 158, has been approved by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee after it approved several amendments. This is the second time the committee has approved the reform proposal for this session. But in March, the House sent the bill back to the committee for further consideration.

Mississippi Supreme Court Voids Voter-Approved Medical Marijuana Law. The state Supreme Court last Friday threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, ruling that it did not meet the state's requirement that 20% of signatures come from each of five congressional districts. The problem is that the state has only had four congressional districts since the 2000 census, and legislative efforts to redress the issue have yet to succeed. Three justices strongly dissented, saying that the secretary of state has rightfully put the measure on the ballot. "The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi," Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a statement. "The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right. It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter."

Ohio Medical Marijuana Panel Approves Three New Qualifying Conditions. A panel of the Ohio Medical Board has added three new qualifying conditions allowing state residents to use medical marijuana: arthritis, chronic migraines and complex regional pain syndrome, all of which fall into the existing category of chronic or intractable pain.

West Virginia Regulators Considers Allowing Patients to Grow Their Own. The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is considering a possible recommendation to allow state medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants. Patient advocates cited the cost of buying medical marijuana dispensaries and obstacles to access for residents who do not live near dispensaries. A decision will come some weeks down the road.

International

Kenyan Rastafaris File Petition Seeking to Legalize Marijuana. The Rastafarian Society of Kenya has filed a petition challenging the constitutionality of the country's drug laws and seeking the suspension of that section of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1994 dealing with marijuana when it comes to Rastafaris. "The Petitioners aver that followers/believers of the Rastafari faith use bhang or cannabis by either smoking, drinking, eating, bathing and/or burning of incense for spiritual, medicinal, culinary and ceremonial purposes as sacrament as the ultimate of manifesting their religion as a Rastafari to meditate and or reason with others in order to connect with their God," the petition said.

MN House Votes to Legalize Marijuana, AZ Bill Legalizing Fentanyl Test-Strips Goes to Governor, More... (5/14/21)

A Mississippi appeals court upholds a life sentence for a man busted with 1.5 ounces of marijuana, the Minnesota House votes to legalize marijuana, a South Carolina medical marijuana bill dies, and more.

Allen Russell is doing life without parole in Mississippi for 1.5 ounces of weed.
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill to Protect Marijuana Users from Losing Public Housing Filed. Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC) has refiled a bill that would let people who live in federally subsidized housing use marijuana in compliance with state laws without fear of losing their housing. Under current federal law and policy, marijuana users can be evicted from public housing even in states where it is legal. "Individuals living in federally assisted housing should not be denied admission, or fear eviction, for using a legal product," Norton said on Thursday. "Adult use and/or medical marijuana is currently legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and over 90 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana." The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

Minnesota House Votes to Legalize Marijuana. The House on Thursday evening approved an omnibus marijuana legalization bill, House File 600. The bill would legalize weed for people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. The bill has the support of Gov. Tim Walz (D), but faces dim prospects in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Mississippi Man's Life Sentence for Marijuana Possession Upheld. A state appeals court on Tuesday upheld a life without parole sentence for Allen Russell after he was arrested with 1.5 ounces of marijuana in 2017. His sentence came after he was designated a habitual offender for having previous burglary and firearms possession convictions. The usual sentence for possessing 1.5 ounces of marijuana is up to three years in prison.

Medical Marijuana                                                   

Nebraska Activists Relaunch Medical Marijuana Initiative After Legislature Blocks Bill. After medical marijuana foes in the legislature filibustered and killed a bill there on Wednesday, activists aren't wasting a minute in relaunching a campaign to put the issue before voters next year. State Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln), who led the legislative effort, took to Twitter Thursday to urge supporters to go to a website to volunteer and/or sign the petition.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Killed. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 150House Bill 3361, has died as the legislative session came to an end Friday. "Quite frankly, I thought this was the year of medical marijuana, which I think has great public support," said Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto. "That will be at the top of the agenda when we come back."

Harm Reduction

Arizona Bill Legalizing Drug-Testing Strips Heads to Governor's Desk. The House has approved a bill that legalizes test strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl, SB1486. Under current state law, the strips are considered drug paraphernalia. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

WA Governor Signs Misdemeanor Drug Possession Bill, VT Senate Approves Buprenorphine Bill, More... (5/13/21)

Look for a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative next year after the legislature killed a bill this week, a Pennsylvania poll finds broad support for criminal justice reforms, and more.

The Vermont legislature has approved a bill legalizing the possession of limited amounts of buprenorphine. (Pixabay)
Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Killed, Setting Stage for New Initiative. A bill to legalize and regulate medical marijuana, LB 474, was killed in the legislature Wednesday night. That sets the stage for another drive for a medical marijuana initiative, which is likely to be less restrictive than the bill that just died. The bill died when supporters were unable to go up with enough votes to stop a filibuster by opponents.

Drug Policy

Washington Governor Signs Bill Making Drug Possession a Misdemeanor. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 5476, which makes the possession of personal use amounts of drugs a misdemeanor, not a felony. The bill came after the state Supreme Court threw out the state's felony drug possession law earlier this year, and the legislature grappled with whether to do nothing and effectively decriminalize drug possession or act to ensure drug possession remained a criminal offense, even if not a felony.

Harm Reduction

Vermont Senate Approves Bill to Legalize Buprenorphine Possession. The state Senate on Wednesday voted to approve a bill legalizing the possession of limited amounts of the opioid maintenance drug buprenorphine, House Bill 225. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott (R). It would allow people to possess up to 224 milligrams of the drug, enough for a two week supply, without a doctor's prescription.

Law Enforcement

House Democrats File Bill to End Pentagon Shipments of Excess Equipment to Police Departments. Eighteen House Democrats led by Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-NY) filed a bill Thursday to end the program that lets the Pentagon ship surplus equipment to local police departments. At the same time, more than 150 organizations signed on to a letter to lawmakers backing the bill. "The 1033 program has contributed to a military-style police culture and has endangered countless lives, particularly in communities of color," the 155 organizations wrote in the letter. "It is our assessment that the 1033 program is irreparable and should be abolished, especially in light of the fact that past attempts to reform the program were ineffective."

Pennsylvania Voters Support Criminal Justice Reforms, Poll Finds. A a new poll from Data for Progress and The Lab finds broad support for criminal justice reforms in the state. Voters approved of sentence reductions for good behavior in prison (75%), ending probation when supervision is no longer necessary (68%), limiting the use of cash bail (64%), and decriminalizing drug possession (60%).

Making a Better Good Samaritan Law in North Carolina [FEATURE]

The push is on in Raleigh to overhaul the state's Good Samaritan law, which protects from prosecution people who report a drug overdose to medical authorities. The state passed a limited Good Samaritan bill in 2013, but the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition calls it "currently one of the weakest in the country."

The current Good Samaritan law is unclear on whether its protective provisions apply to the person actually suffering the overdose, and as a result, people like Jordan Dean end up being arrested for suffering a heroin overdose. Dean, 27, and a buddy were both passed out in a car in a grocery store parking lot, an employee called it in, and although both EMS and police came to the scene, Dean ended up in the back of a squad car on the way to jail.

As North Carolina Health News reported, his case is not the only one. The state-level health media outlet cited similar cases of overdoses followed by arrests in Vance and Franklin counties.

Groups such as the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC) and the North Carolina AIDS Action Network (NCAAN) are now getting behind an effort to strengthen the law with House Bill 852. The bill specifies that immunity from prosecution applies to the overdose victim as well as the person who reports the overdose.

Similar legislation passed the Senate in 2019, but failed to get through the House.

HB 852 also extends that immunity to include all drug possession offenses. Under the current law, people who overdose and are in possession of more than one gram of heroin or cocaine can still be charged with drug possession. And it includes a broader range of substances, including most significantly, fentanyl, that would be subject to those same protections.

"Our [current] law is actually one of the most limited in the country," said NCAAN executive director Lee Storrow, who, along with members of the Department of Health and Human Services opioid overdose prevention team, is helping lead the push for the bill. "When the Good Samaritan Law was enacted, our drug supply looked very different," he added. "Right now the main case of drug overdose in North Carolina is fentanyl -- but possession of fentanyl is not protected under our Good Samaritan Law, so it's a real barrier for people calling 911."

Another provision in the bill applies those same protections to overdose calls involving underage drinking.

The two groups joined with family members of overdose victims for a press conference and rally outside the General Assembly on Tuesday to call on lawmakers to save lives by advancing the bill.

"If people fear that they're still going to be arrested, the idea that they're protected from prosecution doesn't necessarily feel all that helpful," said Lee Storrow, head of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network.

Families who have suffered overdose deaths also spoke out.

"There can't be any question when people are together and someone overdoses of whether or not they should dial 911," said Randy Abbott, who lost his 24-year-old daughter to a drug overdose in 2015, when her friends panicked instead of seeking help.

"We know they panicked, and we know the things that happened when they panicked, like getting stuff out of the house, putting it in her car, lots of different things that the detectives were able to figure out," Abbott said. "But they didn't dial 911."

"As a nurse practitioner that works in addiction medicine and who lost my younger brother to overdose, I felt called to come to the General Assembly to support HB 852. This bill would save countless lives," said Charlotte resident Elisa Edgerton.

NCHRC and the other advocates at the Tuesday press conference are working to make it so. After the media event, they headed inside to lobby members of the House Judiciary Committee.

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